Current Reading

This blog is primarily for me to blog my responses to books that I'm reading. Sometimes I blog about other stuff too, though.

I'm currently reading Notes on the Death of Culture: Essays on Spectacle and Society by Mario Vargas Llosa.

Word cloud

Word cloud

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

The competition to be less competitive

This article on admissions highlights an effort to select students who aren't so focused on competing to be the best and get ahead.  On one level, I do sympathize with that.  Anybody who's ever taught pre-meds knows what it's like to deal with grade-grubbers.  On another level, though, the  competition to be less competitive is a folly.  You can look for students who want to serve humanity rather than themselves, but if you are making high-stakes decisions (e.g. admission to a highly prestigious institution that provides access to valuable networks) then you can count on students with social capital and economic capital to undertake outrageously elaborate volunteer work to demonstrate their commitment to serving others.   You can count on privileged students to find tutors and coaches who will help them write essays to articulate  all of the right values.  This effort has all of the same problems that I highlighted in my critiques of Lani Guinier's Tyranny of the Meritocracy.

I don't know the "right" way to pick 18 year-olds for admission to the most elite schools.  Maybe there is a right way.  Godspeed to those who can identify it.  But I think we're better off focusing on paths to opportunity outside of the top schools, rather than finding better ways to pick a class at the top schools.

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