Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Are College Admissions Rigged?

Of course, the game is rigged. Today’s issue is the college admissions game. Everyone knows that it’s rigged… in favor of minorities and against whites and Asians. Clearly, if you rig the game to favor some students you are also rigging the game against others.

As it happens, diversity and affirmative action programs do not really advantage minority candidates. It does get them accepted in schools where they will underperform, but it also stigmatizes the work of any minority students who would have outperformed. Thus, other students see their minority classmates as not really belonging. Shelby Steele has been writing about this for two decades now. The message has not managed to seep in.

So a mother writes to therapist Lori Gottlieb to ask how she can explain to her son that the game is rigged against him. It is rigged against him because he is white, male and upper middle class. She might have added that if he were Asian the game would also be rigged against him. Asian students have sued Harvard over this issue. The case is now in court. In truth, more students and their parents should sue these schools for discriminating on the basis of race and ethnicity, but that is not Gottlieb’s point. 

For the record, here is the letter:

My son is in the middle of the college-application process. He has very good grades and very good SAT and ACT scores; he is an Eagle Scout and a captain of the cross-country team. He is also white, male, and upper-middle-class—and that is the problem.

According to all of the statistics and reports, he should be accepted at Ivy League schools, but he has not been. He will eventually get into a “good” school, but it is my guess (based on what we are seeing with his peer group) that he will be overqualified for the school he ends up at.

He is very frustrated and very upset. How do you explain to a bright, eager boy that the system is rigged against him? For example, his twin brother, who has similar grades and an almost identical resume, is going to the U.S. Naval Academy, and his application process, though difficult, was smooth and straightforward.


Gottlieb responds that life is not fair. She has a point. She responds that the mother’s attitude will shape the way that her son responds to the situation. This is slightly more dubious. If the mother chooses to teach her son that it's OK for the system to be rigged against him, she is not doing him a favor. Gottlieb also responds that the young man has very little to gain by retaining any resentments over the situation. This is true, but only up to a point.

So, Gottlieb offers mature adult advice. And yet, she is missing the larger point. The truth is, the college admissions system in many colleges is rigged. A single individual does not have very much power to change the process… though the Asian students who sued Harvard might.

Would it really be so bad if the young man learned to be slightly angry that he is not being judged by his merit but by the color of his skin and his gender? In a culture where far too many people believe in diversity for the sake of diversity, we ought to have a few voices standing up against the nonsense. Or at least, understanding that the nation is sabotaging itself by making it appear that what really matters is diversity, as opposed, say, to competitiveness. 

The young man may or may not want to become a social activist. He will probably not want to take up arms against diversity programs… doing so would undermine most of his career prospects. At some point in his life he can lead a campaign to persuade alumni of these schools to stop contributing to them. That, more than anything else, would get their attention.

Obviously, he is going to acquiesce.  But he ought to understand that, yes, the system is rigged. And that there is something seriously wrong with a system that is biased against people like him. True enough, he will probably get a better education at a non-Ivy League school. Apparently, his twin brother understood the process and is going to the Naval Academy.

In truth, he should not want to be part of an institution that rigs the admissions process. If the best and the brightest young people start boycotting the Ivy League, will that have an effect? Why should anyone want to attend a school that will skew the curriculum to make it appear that diversity candidates are just as good as non-diversity candidates? Why attend a school that will spend countless hours brainwashing him into thinking that it is not rigged? 


whitney said...

The mother is writing because she's upset that her son is justifiably angry about this. This is the mothers problem, not the sons. He seems to be responding appropriately

David Foster said...

50 years ago, Peter Drucker asserted that America has a huge advantage because we have NOT established a small group of 'elite' colleges as gatekeepers:

"One thing it (modern society) cannot afford in education is the “elite institution” which has a monopoly on social standing, on prestige, and on the command positions in society and economy. Oxford and Cambridge are important reasons for the English brain drain. A main reason for the technology gap is the Grande Ecole such as the Ecole Polytechnique or the Ecole Normale. These elite institutions may do a magnificent job of education, but only their graduates normally get into the command positions. Only their faculties “matter.” This restricts and impoverishes the whole society…The Harvard Law School might like to be a Grande Ecole and to claim for its graduates a preferential position. But American society has never been willing to accept this claim…"

We as a country are a lot closer to accepting Grande Ecole status for Harvard Law School and similar institutions than we were when Drucker wrote the above, and it is to our considerable detriment.

Indeed, it could be fairly said that the true social function of these institutions is to limit social mobility at the higher levels. WHY American society has been willing to accept, this and to partially fund it, is an interesting question.

That said, unless someone wants to pursue a career in certain specific industries (law, consulting, investment banking), he can still do quite well without an Ivy League degree.

Anonymous said...

Depending on his desired career and assuming he does not want to become a lawyer, he might consider studying in Germany. For dentistry, try the Baltic states. #WalkAway

Anonymous said...

There is a way to rectify this problem. If the people who are alumni at these institutions of higher learning stop giving money to them it will set an example. Furthermore, They should find schools like Hillsdale, who takes no federal funds and give to them. Help those schools to become the place to matriculate by becoming like Rose Hulman in the engineering profession.
Even though I graduated from two Universities, I give money to Hillsdale. Find a great institution of higher learning and become a catalyst for excellence in education by creating an alternative to leftist indoctrination. We do not have to allow education in this country to be subjected to this blather. We have a choice.

UbuMaccabee said...

Only white people can be racists. If the Asians continue down this path, they will join white people in being uniquely racist. They need to accept that diversity is the highest form of excellence.

Peter B said...

There has always been affirmative action, and it's always been about money. Back when the money came directly from parents or other family members, if the family had money, a place would be found for an underachieving son; if alumni donors let it be known that they'd rather have a fast backfield than a mathematical prodigy... James Thurber's University Days describe how it was before gummint money got involved.

Today, between the carrot of federally guaranteed student loans and the stick of discrimination complaints it's a different class of likely underachiever that gets preferred admission to colleges.

David Foster said...

" Back when the money came directly from parents or other family members, if the family had money, a place would be found for an underachieving son"

Alumni preferences haven't gone away by any means, although the degree to which the son or daughter may get away with being "underachieving" is probably not so great as it once was.

Indeed, it strikes me that alumni preferences are an intergenerational asset in the same way that a farm or a business is.