Friday, November 27, 2015

Mismatched: When Students Attend the Wrong Colleges

Stuart Taylor suggests that there has been insufficient discussion of the proximate cause of the current wave of campus protest. Had he been reading this blog he would know that I have on several occasions made the point that minority students at major college campuses have encountered problems because they have been admitted under affirmative action programs and thus find themselves incapable of competing with Asian and white students. They are, as Taylor and Richard Sander argued in a recent book, mismatched.

One remarks that college administrators have missed this point completely.

Now Taylor explains it all in great detail and his analysis is well worth our continued attention. I can add very little, and so will quote him at considerable length:

After saying that there has not been enough discussion of the use of racial preferences, Taylor describes the minority students who are leading the protests:

Most are, rather, victims of the very large admissions preferences that set up racial-minority students for academic struggle at the selective universities that have cynically misled them into thinking they are well qualified to compete with classmates who are, in fact, far stronger academically.

The reality is that most good black and Hispanic students, who would be academically competitive at many selective schools, are not competitive at the more selective schools that they attend.

That’s why it takes very large racial preferences to get them admitted. An inevitable result is that many black and (to a lesser extent) Hispanic students cannot keep up with better-prepared classmates and rank low in their classes no matter how hard they work.

What are the consequences of this mismatch?

Studies show that this academic “mismatch effect” forces them to drop science and other challenging courses; to move into soft, easily graded, courses disproportionately populated by other preferentially admitted students; and to abandon career hopes such as engineering and pre-med. Many lose intellectual self-confidence and become unhappy even if they avoid flunking out.

This depresses black performance at virtually all selective schools because of what experts call the cascade effect. Here’s how it works, as Richard Sander and I demonstrated in a 2012 book, :

Only 1 to 2 percent of black college applicants emerge from high school well-qualified academically for (say) the top Ivy League colleges. Therefore, those schools can meet their racial admissions targets only by using large preferences. They bring in black students who are well qualified for moderately elite schools like (say) the University of North Carolina, but not for the Ivies that recruit them. This leaves schools like UNC able to meet their own racial targets only by giving large preferences to black students who are well qualified for less selective schools like (say) the University of Missouri but not for UNC. And so on down the selectivity scale.

As a result, experts agree, most black students at even moderately selective schools — with high school preparation and test scores far below those of their classmates — rank well below the middle of their college and grad school classes, with between 25% and 50% ranking in the bottom tenth. That’s a very bad place to be at any school.

The consequences are not merely academic. They are also social:

This, in turn, increases these students’ isolation and self-segregation from the higher-achieving Asians and whites who flourish in more challenging courses. At least one careful study shows that students are more likely to become friends with peers who are similar in academic accomplishment.

Taylor notes that extra effort on the part of the mismatched students cannot close the gap:
[Minority students] who may work heroically during the first semester only to be lost in many classroom discussions and dismayed by their grades.

As they start to see the gulf between their own performance and that of most of their fellow students, dismay can become despair. They soon realize that no matter how hard they work, they will struggle academically.

But due to racial preferences, they find themselves for the first time in their lives competing against classmates who have a huge head start in terms of previous education, academic ability, or both.

Researchers have shown that racial preference recipients developnegative perceptions of their own academic competence, which in turn harms their performance and even their mental health, through “stereotype threat” and other problems. They may come to see themselves as failures in the eyes of their families, their friends, and themselves.

Next, he offers a case study:

Consider the case of a student whom I will call Joe, as told in Mismatch. He breezed through high school in Syracuse, New York, in the top 20 percent of his class. He had been class president, a successful athlete, and sang in gospel choir. He was easily admitted to Colgate, a moderately elite liberal arts college in rural New York; no one pointed out to Joe that his SAT scores were far below the class median.

Joe immediately found himself over his head academically, facing far more rigorous coursework than ever before. “Nobody told me what would be expected of me beforehand,” Joe later recalled. “I really didn’t know what I was getting into. And it all made me feel as if I wasn’t smart enough.”

But just as surprising and upsetting was the social environment in which Joe found himself. “I was immediately stereotyped and put into a box because I was African American,” he recalled. “And that made it harder to perform. People often made little derogatory comments.…There was a general feeling that all blacks on campus were there either because they were athletes or they came through a minority recruitment program.… That was just assumed right away.”

Of course, the nation is so thoroughly wedded to the notion that affirmative action programs will level the playing field that they are incapable of seeing the truth:

Not many mismatched students complain — even if they figure out — that the root of their problems is that they are not well-qualified to compete with their classmates. The universities, the media, and others do their best to conceal and deny this connection. And it is human nature to seek less humiliating, more sinister explanations.

It is, unfortunately, also human nature to refuse to accept that one’s policies are a failure. It’s not just that the administrators do not want to humiliate the mismatched minority students—though that is certainly the case—but that they do not want to admit that they themselves and the policies they have wholeheartedly supported have produced the problem:

The grievance-prone college culture offers ready targets for these frustrated students to blame for their plight: wildly exaggerated and sometimes fabricated instances of racism, trivial perceived “microaggressions,” and the very real racial isolation that is largely due to racially preferential admissions — all leading to a supposedly hostile learning environment.

Another common reaction is to withdraw into racial enclaves within the campus. Many universities encourage this by creating black dormitories and even by assigning entering students to them.

As I mentioned in my last post on this topic, one easy solution would be for minority students to refuse to apply or attend colleges where they will be mismatched, but to aim for schools in which they can excel. That choice, after all, is wholly theirs. Just because you can be you are accepted by Harvard does not mean that you have to go to Harvard.


Anonymous said...

Jonathan Haidt has an interesting perspective on this:

White men are 31% of the population. For those of you who didn't pass the fractions quiz, that's less than a third. That's allowing for an awfully large victim class in the remainder.

For those who say the white man's success is because of blatant racism, I'd like them to read a good biography of one of the "Robber Baron" industrialists of the late 1800s and point out the silver spoon Carnegie, Rockefeller, Vanderbilt and Ford had put in their mouths while growing up in poverty. What a load of hoseshit.

I would also like an explanation of how Asians have done so well in spite of obvious immutable characteristics... and now find their racial presence is capped on elite college campuses because they're too talented. Which says this has little, if anything, to do with race. This is cultural. Some cultures today are non-functional, to the point of failing.

Black lives matter when the victim class can show up in Michigan Avenue in Chicago and shut it down for Black Friday. Being this is a commercial event, we can all see wheryou political sympathies lie.

This is what we get when a bunch of privileged brats are told they're special, and many get to toot their horns as victims because they've been fed a steady diet of sugar, carbs and tall tales of how their ancestors were somehow "systemically" marginalized. My god, get in line!

On top of such a robust education in victim good and guilt, these special, thin-skinned youngsters are programmed with every activity under the sun, including violin, United Way events and Mandarin lessons... shuttled to and fro as the day goes by. And we're surprised these victim protesters are demanding that someone else lessen their plight?

These kids don't know how to make spaghettios without someone else doing it for them. They're anxious because they have no clue what to do with their free time, how to think for thenselves or how to take care of themselves. They're perfect little leftists and Democrats: someone else will do it for them, and the rich will pay for it.

Happiness is a government program. Success is an entitlement. The independent, industrious American of yore is a sham. Just ask them. It's not just cynicism, it's hopelessness. And with no hope, they're having temper tantrums they never learned to work out as children. Go figure.

Anonymous said...

I hope Lord of the Flies is still in the national English curriculum, as it should be. As it must be, amidst the subjective morass of Salinger. I would love to sit in on a classroom discussion about Lord of the Flies: a tale of a bunch of white boys marooned on an island, and their devolution into savagery. William Goldman may have penned it for the white man's posterity, but the yarn rides high upon human universals. O the wailing and laments of the classroom, and erstwhile attempts to reconcile vinctimhood with the widespread denial of man's corruption, his fallen nature. I sense this is what the left is missing in their concept of man: humility. They have condemned man. In their hearts, they don't believe in the human person, and camouflage it as being encapsulated in this lustful, callous disgust for certain human beings, defined by pedigree and profile. Ah, vanity. Ah, grandiosity. Ah, stupidity. Stupidity is what we're left with. Nothing on which to build. All pointlessness. All lost. Death. -$$$

Anonymous said...

Actually, I wish to add to my comment about Salinger's Catcher in the Rye. It is not only only a pretentiously subjective literary work, it is decadent, in a way that would've made Fitzgerald blush. What does Salinger use to hold us? The question: What is to come of the glorification of the self-loathing, the self-marginalizing man as he comes of age? These are times begging guidance, not some flamboyant glorification of self-satisfaction amidst self-imposed marginalization and withdrawal. I read it in middle school and found it miserable, useless, self-referentially distasteful. Ahem, I was a girl. Others loved it, all of them boys, those on the margins. It gave them the courage to marginalize themselves further. To retreat to their minds at the expense of their bodies. To be clever. Like Ayn Rand's nonsense, it's swell to be an isolated man of principle, but you're still alone. Man wasn't meant to be alone. Religion and science bear this out: God said it was not good for man to be alone, and science shows it's the path to madness, a path to personalizing a volleyball. Yet we encourage young people to turn hormonal eccentricities into lifestyles. Horrible. I will now return to my vodka tonic my husband just brought me, as life is hard enough without self-imposed exile masquerading as courage. Hogwash, spittle and bullshit wrapped in one, to be eloquent about it. And then Mr. Olympiad, this blog's self-deified Holden Caufield, our Schwartzenegger of prose, our Ventura Mind will no doubt will vex us with his meaningless commentary on a great many issues. The proud loner who believes in nothing long enough to write countless words about it, feigning importance. Sigh. I think of him more as Piggy, without the unfortunate ending. Cheers! -$$$

Anonymous said...

My fondness for Lord of the Flies - true fondness, as it gave voice to my skepticism of idealistic humanism - led me back to my bookshelf and the author is William GOLDING, not Goldman. I vocalized in error, and both my husband and son scolded me. Though my husband pointed out William Goldman did write some fine screenplays, and I concur.

Mr. Schneiderman, do continue writing your fabulous blog, which my husband introduced me to some months ago, saying he'd be frequenting and commenting a couple years now. I am thankful. I know I have a sailor's presentation sometimes, but I assure you I am educated, and have borne my husband six children, all whom I honeschooled. You have my undying gratitude and admiration, your toleration of Ares notwithstanding, sir. I recognize every village needs an idiot. And I could whoop your ass any day at sporting clays. Golf with guns. That'd be curling with grenades, Ares. -$$$

Anonymous said...

Salinger wrote much more than the angsty teen favorite. I read it at that age, and thought it was actually Funny.

Franny & Zooey. The Glass Family. The gem-like short stories. Seymour's suicide. I've read every word he wrote. Several times.
I deem them darn good.

He was plagued by PTSD for years after the War. Most of his writing years. Battle of the Bulge.

Maybe it blighted the rest of his life. Success & adulation seem to have soured him. Paradoxical, irrational.

I treasure his other work. Catcher is for teens. -- Rich Lara

Stuart Schneiderman said...

For anon 3:25... my comments on the Haidt remarks were posted here on Nov. 25.