Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Who will save your soul?

I know I said I'd have a full reply to the Malcolm Gladwell piece on Harvard, Jews, and well-roundedness, but first, from the NY Magazine cover story on the study about how gosh darn smart the Ashkenazim are:

“I have always believed that the smartest people in the world are Asians,” declares Ed Koch, former mayor of New York (and, let’s face it, a pretty smart Ashkenazi Jew). “If you look at the special schools in New York City, they have so many. I think Stuyvesant’s 40 percent Asian now, and Bronx Science is 50”—actually, 53 and 49 percent—“so this paper is something I question."

This is all oh so scientific. Who applies to Stuyvesant or Bronx Science? I have no idea--I didn't do a census of my fellow eighth graders when I took the test. If Jews are, as alleged, so brilliant and good with money, then a lot might already be in private schools and not bother with the specialized high schools. And the racial makeup of two schools in NYC is supposed to reveal which race is smartest in the world? And which Asians, for that matter? It makes no sense, and is not worth worrying about. Koch is adorable, but is not helping make the case for Jewish genius with his observations.

But more importantly, as I left for my usual Monty Python album-fueled run this evening, clad in the finest tank top and red UChicago butt shorts, I once again ran into some folks more observant than myself, celebrating a holiday I was ignoring. These three Hasidic boys asked if I was Jewish. I couldn't tell what they were asking until I took the headphones out. They informed me that it was Sukkot and asked if I would shake and pray over their lulav and etrog. So I figured what the hey--this wasn't like Chabad with its incessant emails--but felt awfully silly standing there on Flatbush Avenue, dressed as I was, saying a prayer for a holiday I would never have thought to observe. They didn't seem especially surprised that I not only knew it was Sukkot but knew enough Hebrew to easily say the prayer. As I was running, another group of Hasidic boys passed and I'm almost certain the young one also asked if I was Jewish and would, I imagine, have had me shake and pray once more. I'd have told him I'd already done this, thanks, but I am not capable of such complex religious thought while running, which may have something to do with why all of the other more religious types in the park were walking at a leisurely pace.

8 comments:

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Anonymous said...

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Phoebe Maltz Bovy said...

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Rachel said...

If Asians are naturally so smart, why are Asian countries so poor?

Anonymous said...

Rachel,

You mean poor like Hong Kong, Singapore, Tokyo, and Seoul? Or just talking bullshit?

Phoebe,

Did you feel guilty jogging instead of building a wooden fort?

Rachel said...

Yeah, Seoul is really nice . . . if you are one of the 3% of Koreans who can afford it. HK and Singapore are practically still British colonies. I'm talking about the 2 billion excrutiatingly poor people who live on the Mainland (and Taiwan) on the subcontinent and in the fun and fancy little alcoves of Brunei and Myanmar. Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Indonesia, Malaysia . . . Yeah, I'm sure you would want to live in those nice, wealthy places where people starve to death and die of easily-preventable diseases . . .