Sunday, June 12, 2011

Equal Opportunity

Phoebe writes:
Basically, I was struck by part of a comment at Flavia's, re: college admissions: "[T]he true test is not if you can do pretty well with every advantage but if you can do even decently having to fight through obstacles the more privileged can't imagine." Struck, that is, by the idea of there being a "true test," and how this relates to "holistic" admissions, as well as the insistence we have in America (in some parts of the country, that is) with matching students up with colleges that match their unique personalities. Struck also with how this contrasts with Isabel Archer's response, in which she asks, "Isn't it simpler and far more attractive to just have admissions officers focus on [...] picking people who will be good college students?" It strikes me that the way to expand opportunity and reward those who do well in college would be to have everyone just go to a nearby public university, one with as close to open admissions and free tuition as possible, and - in the European manner, sniffs this grad student from her Paris dorm room - allow that a certain (large?) percentage of the matriculating class won't graduate. Sure, kids from upper-class families would probably be better-represented among the "pass" contingent, but there wouldn't be the same initial barriers to getting in, namely the near-need for wealthy and-or with-it parents. There should be a way of expanding opportunity that doesn't involve intricate moral judgements of who has overcome precisely how much suffering - this in part because some types of suffering are neither financial nor racial, and are the kinds of things students might prefer not to - or not think to - put in their application packages.

FLG is a tad disappointed with this proposal from Phoebe. Following the open access, have people flunk out model, has several massive drawbacks, first and foremost among them that the quality of the education suffers.

Sure, in the French system anybody with a baccalauréat can enroll in their local university. But let's be completely honest, France has complicated, but broadly two-tiered system wherein promising and ambitious students attend grandes ecoles, like Sciences Po, ENS, and X, all of which are highly-selective.

In fact, the whole thing reminds FLG of the Economist's Anglo-EU translation guide, which states that "Il faut trouver une solution pragmatique" should be translated as "Warning: I am about to propose a highly complex, theoretical, legalistic and unworkable way forward."


The Ancient said...

1) Withywindle isn't being paid enough.

2) Back before The Flood, colleges like mine would occasionally admit people on "compassionate grounds." It seldom worked out. They just couldn't do the work. (Nowadays, of course, there's a work-around -- the erosion of distribution requirements, grade inflation, and not least the creation of entire departments where you can hide out without anyone noticing how mediocre, or unprepared, you really are.)

3) When the going gets tough, the toffs get going.

The Ancient said...

4) This is also relevant.

Withywindle said...

I want The Ancient to adopt that saying as his own NATO Delenda Est.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.