Friday, November 7, 2014

Affirmative Action for Americans

It is, or ought to be common knowledge that American students are not world-beaters in mathematics.

American children consistently underperform on tests that are given to schoolchildren around the world.

Of course, American children do have higher self-esteem. This means that, while not doing as well as others, they do not even know when they are not doing as well.

Score one for the therapy culture!

And it isn’t because the Asian students have been following the pedagogical techniques laid down in the Common Core.

Some people blame it on American diversity. They note that the best American students are just as good as the best Asian students.

It feels right. It provides aid and comfort to those who do not wish to institute any serious reforms in the American educational system.

Unfortunately, it does not seem to be true.

When it comes to the quantitative part of the GMATs, the aptitude tests taken by students who want to go to graduate school in business, Asian students are seriously outperforming their American counterparts. The quantitative is one of four parts of the test.

As it happens, the Wall Street Journal reports, the results of the quantitative section are the best predictor of success in business school.

The Journal has the story:

New waves of Indians and Chinese are taking America’s business-school entrance exam, and that’s causing a big problem for America’s prospective M.B.A.s.

Why? The foreign students are much better at the test.

Asia-Pacific students have shown a mastery of the quantitative portion of the four-part Graduate Management Admission Test. That has skewed mean test scores upward, and vexed U.S. students, whose results are looking increasingly poor in comparison. In response, admissions officers at U.S. schools are seeking new ways of measurement, to make U.S. students look better.

Being Americans, they care more about helping students to look better, not helping them to perform better.

The problem is even causing mental health issues:

Domestic candidates are “banging their heads against the wall,” said Jeremy Shinewald, founder and president of mbaMission, a New York-based M.B.A. admissions-consulting company. While U.S. scores have remained consistent over the past several years, the falling percentiles are “causing a ton of student anxiety,” he said.

Trust me, you are not going to cure this anxiety with Xanax.

Being Americans, business school admissions officers have chosen to deal with the problem by instituting affirmative action for Americans. They have chosen to use what they gingerly call holistic criteria when judging candidates.

Keep in mind these same officers say that the results of the quantitative test are the best predictor of success in business school.

More sensible minds point to the fact that American students are not receiving very good instruction in math. I would add that they probably do not have Tiger Moms, either.

The Journal says:

Rather than effectively creating a different standard for U.S. students, one admissions officer at a top-ranked business school said American students need better math instruction, starting in elementary school. Students in South and East Asia tend to have a strong grounding in math fundamentals during school, and spend longer hours studying for the test. According to GMAC, Asia students spend an average of 151 hours in test preparation; U.S. students average 64 hours.

It’s nice that American business schools use holistic criteria for admissions. And yet, the world of international business is a cold, cruel world. For now it looks as though our best students cannot compete with the best students from Asia. Will this eventually affect our competitiveness in the marketplace? The problem is not going to be solved by globalizing affirmative action.

If you are looking for consolation, consider this. American students might not be able to compete in math, but, if they attend Harvard University they will be able to learn how to compete at anal sex.

If only there were a way to include such holistic skills on graduate school admissions forms….

1 comment:

Sam L. said...

I've read for many years that our schools and colleges have been dumbed down; these studies confirm that. The left is good with that; they'll lower the river rather than raise the bridge.