Posts Tagged ‘Preferential Treatment’

How elitism masquerades as meritocracy

June 22, 2012

Christopher Hayes, author of Twilight of the Elites (which I haven’t read),  wrote an article in The Nation about how systems supposedly based on merit are subverted to benefit the privileged.

Chris Hayes

Hayes was a student at the elite Hunter College High School in New York City, where admission is based on scores on a three-hour test.  In the 1990s, when Hayes attended, admission really was based on merit.  The student body was 12 percent black, 6 percent Hispanic and a large percentage the children of immigrants.

But with the rise of the test preparation industry, Manhattan’s elite sent their children cram schools charging thousands of dollars to teach how to game entrance exams.  Some consultants charged up to $90 an hour for one-on-one instruction on test-taking.  As a result of the ability of wealthy parents to game the system, Hunter High’s student body now is only 3 percent black and 1 percent Hispanic.  What happened with Hunter High is not unique, or even usual.  It is a typical example of how the privileged game the system.

Test preparation schools are contrary to the whole purpose of education.  They teach students how to pass tests without having learned anything.  They get the credential, but not necessarily the knowledge that the credential supposedly represents.

Yet I imagine the students who pass the tests through these methods think they have succeeded solely through their own individual effort and brilliance.   And because they think that, they think they have no obligation to anyone else.

Click on Why Elites Fail to read the whole article.

Click on The Age of Illusion to read an interview with Chris Hayes in Jacobin magazine.

Click on An Elite Like Any Other? Meritocracy in America for a review of Chris Hayes’ Twilight of the Elites by Mike Konczal in Dissent magazine [added 6/24/12]

Who gets preference on college admissions?

June 20, 2012

Daniel Golden wrote in his 2006 book, The Price of Admission, that at least a third of the students at elite American universities got special treatment in the admissions process, and the figure was at least half at liberal arts colleges.

A typical student body, according to Golden, is:

  • 10 to 25 percent children of alumni (“legacies”)
  • 10 to 15 percent minorities
  • 10 to 15 percent athletes
  • 2 to 5 percent children of potential large donors (“development cases”)
  • 1 to 3 percent children of faculty members
  • 1 to 2 percent children of politicians and celebrities.

Preferences for minorities seem to generate a lot of outrage, other preferences not so much.  Why do you think this is?

Click on Poison Ivy for a review of Golden’s book in The Economist.

Click on The Best Education Money Can Buy for a review in the Washington Post

Click on Daniel Golden’s “The Price of Admission” for a review in the University of North Carolina’s Carolina Review.

Click on A Response to Daniel Golden for a lame attempt at rebuttal in the Brown University Spectator.

I don’t think anything has changed since Golden wrote his book (which I haven’t read).  The moral I draw from these figures is that graduating from an elite university is not a guarantee of superior intellect.

I don’t favor the government interfering with admissions policies at private universities, except to forbid them to exclude people on the basis of race, religion or national origin.  I do favor restoring the state university systems so they once again can provide a good and affordable college education to anyone capable of doing college work, while rejecting the myth that you need a college education in order to be qualified for a decent job.

Hat tip to Christopher Hayes in his article Why Elites Fail.

Edited for clarity 7/9/12.