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 Thing Hidden Since the Foundation of the World by Rene Girard.

Word cloud

Word cloud

Friday, May 17, 2019

Please allow me to introduce myself, I'm a man of wealth and taste

Clarissa has a heresy-ridden response to the College Board's decision to offer an "adversity score" to measure the disadvantage experienced by test-takers. I agree with everything she says here, but the critics of the SAT have two responses:

1) The SAT doesn't actually measure your vocabulary, math skills, etc.  It measures your ability to take this test, and privileged people do better on it. This assertion is not supported by any systematic data, but it is supported by the anecdotes we've all observed of people who do far better or far worse than their SAT scores would have predicted.  They don't get that statistical predictions just tell us averages and ranges, and some fraction of people will fall outside those ranges on either side.

2) OK, the SAT does measure vocabulary, math skills, etc., but colleges have a duty to "meet students where they're at."  On this I have a tiny amount of sympathy--I do think we need educational institutions that will help people who could go far but have not come out of high school well-prepared.  But that's a long road, it will take far more than 4 years of college (let alone 1-2 years of remedial coursework), and what they really need is a "high school do-over" BEFORE a 4-year degree.  (Some might say that that's what an Associate's Degree is for, but the AA/AS degree is supposed to roughly correspond to the first 2 years of a Bachelor's degree.)

If a Bachelor's degree is to be "accessible" to people who start the program with woefully inadequate preparation, and if we are to fit this into the confines of 4 years of courses on the typical academic schedule, then institutions whose Bachelor's degrees "meet students where they are at" will be conferring credentials that employers and graduate schools justifiably treat as different from those offered elsewhere.  And this will just amplify rather than mitigate the class divisions in higher ed.

Even worse, this will actually work against efforts to diversify the academy.  Everyone out there wants to diversify PhD and faculty ranks.  The schools that disproportionately teach people from under-represented backgrounds disproportionately get under-prepared students because disadvantage has consequences.  If such schools must "meet students where they are at" AND do so within the usual confines of 4 years and roughly 120 credits (give or take), then their degrees WILL mean less.  That is an unavoidable fact.  And why should PhD programs take students whose credentials mean less?  Unless those PhD programs must also "meet students where they are at."  Which will either mean that students take longer to finish (and PhD programs face pressures on this front, including but not limited to the financial pressures of supporting students for longer times) or that students come out less accomplished.

And then people who hire PhDs will have to decide how to evaluate accomplishments...

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