Three new desi Rhodes Scholars

It’s our favorite scheme by a racist diamond magnate to civilize the natives by re-educating them in jolly old England! Three desis are Rhodes Scholars this year:

Who School Hometown Major How saving the world
Ian Desai Chicago Brooklyn, NY Ancient studies South Asia Watch
Swati Mylavarapu Harvard Gainesville, FL Human rights Nicaraguan democratization
Kazi Rahman Harvard Scarsdale, NY Social studies Bangladesh Rural Advancement Committee

Mylavarapu is an ex-debater. Word.

Although technology drives history (fire, metal, stirrups, guns, electricity, airplanes, computers…), technologists are usually excluded. I’m not bitter, really.

13 thoughts on “Three new desi Rhodes Scholars

  1. You’re missing the point:

    1. What engineers want to go to the UK? The best scholars are here.

    2. Rhodes rewards all round leadership. For quite a while most Rhodes winners were athletes, now they’ve picked up more student activity types. But engineers are often neither, perhaps by temperament (to generalize wildly).

  2. Nobody breaking deep new ground is an all-rounder, because research takes a hell of a lot of time. They’re all deep rather than broad (Einstein, Edison when he was inventing more than managing).

  3. Right, but the Rhodes is explicitly designed for all-rounders. It’s one of the major criteria. Hence the dearth of engineers.

  4. ‘All-rounders only’ may have been its initial purpose, but the two dominant college scholarships in the public mind are the Rhodes and the Fulbright. It’s perceived as ‘highest contribution to society’ rather than ‘can play a mean game of football.’

    That’s ok. The Rhodes Scholarships for technologists are lexite IPO cubes.

  5. It’s not just the original purpose, it’s explicitly still their goal. You can’t force them to change, just b/c they’re prestigious and you want them to be something else. They’re explicitly designed to find and reward all-rounders.

  6. You can’t force them to change, just b/c they’re prestigious and you want them to be something else.

    My, that sounds petulant when you put it like that. I’m suggesting they’re mis-branded.

  7. I’m not petulant, I’m just confused. It’s like buying a sports car and then complaining that it doesn’t have the storage of a minivan. They say they are looking for all around excellence, and that is what most people understand by excellence at the undergraduate level in any case. For you to say, well they oughta reward people who are excellent but narrow, b/c that’s also excellent is besides the point.

    Moreover, most college awards have similar requirements for being all round or being of “good character” (i.e. having spent alot of time in service activity). These too implicitly discriminate against geek excellence, but the public doesn’t want to reward narrowness. If it did, then Caltech would be as prestigious as the liberal arts institutions, it isn’t.

    So I’m reading your objection as, the Rhodes doesn’t reward the kind of excellence that Manish most values, and I’m saying that’s besides the point, even if you’re right in valuing it.

  8. You’re missing the element of time. What the public thinks is irrelevant when the awards are founded, they’re a private institution. But many decades later, when they’ve achieved eminence, their public brand is out of sync with their internal criteria.

    Recently, college students have built significant technology including broadly-used software like Winamp and Napster, self-driving cars, solar cell-powered cars, smart dust, palm-sized spycraft and rescue robots used in Iraq, and so on. It’s as if the Oscars had never added a foreign film category despite the rise of films like Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. Awards need to adapt over time.

    The public highly values technologists who solve mass problems– in Geoffrey Moore’s chasm model, the 2′s who apply tech to an objective than the pure 1′s who solely create it, but technologists nevertheless.

  9. Or new awards need to be created to reward creativity and specialization.

    What I question is your claim that the branding is out of synch with the public. I suspect that the public knows and wants all rounders, and doesn’t expect the Rhodes to reward specialized excellence. This is consistent with most popular media depictions of university as a place where people go to gain breadth before they specialize in the “real world.” Now, the people might be wrong to value one kind of intelligence over another, but that’s a separate argument. The public has a very much retro conception of what college is about.

  10. went to the rhodes scholar site and checked out recent winners, and i saw a lot of math, physics and bio people (bio related stuff seemed almost as prominent and government majors).

  11. gotta agree with manish.

    The Rhodes has been corrupted by PC.For example, I seriously doubt this woman will advance the cause of “Nicaraguan Democratization”. Hell, she probably thinks the Communists were in the right!

    For another example..can you imagine a Pim Fortuyn type winning a Rhodes to support human rights in Europe by limiting the influx of people who believe in spreading medieval theocracy by the sword? No…

    The same PC takeover has happened with the MacArthur and the Nobel Peace Prize. Engineering/science is less vulnerable to this kind of thing, and it is responsible for the continued prestige of those awards.

    But if you look at the humanist recipients, they are becoming kookier and kookier leftists – or leftist idols. I would have said the bottom had been hit with the nomination of Arafat, but they keep scraping along (this year’s Nobel for Literature went to yet ANOTHER Communist, for example).

  12. Hey now! I got it as an engineer, and out of Caltech, no less. Rhodes has been explicitly moving to get more science/engineering types in recent years.