Legacy preferences are indefensible

Affirmative action is attacked when it applies to race but not if it applies to privilege (“American colleges practicing structural racism,” New York Daily News, Jan. 20).  That’s what legacy preferences are because they automatically give a huge leg up to applicants whose parents graduated from the same school.

According to the College Board, legacies increase their chances for admission by 45 percent. That’s a huge advantage that unfortunately does not receive the same attention as racial preferences. Although some colleges have ended legacy preferences, they still exist because it is thought that their existence results in greater fundraising.

It’s time to rely strictly on merit in deciding admission.  If that results in a lopsided student body, so be it.  We don’t demand racial diversity in sports.  So why do so in admissions?

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Holistic admissions give rise to fakery

Colleges and universities that have made tests scores optional and have placed heavy emphasis on personal essays are setting themselves up for scamming (“How college applicants embellish essays with sob stories, fake patents,” New York Post, Jan. 13).  That shouldn’t come as a surprise.

What impresses admissions officers most of all are stories of personal hardship.  Students who can show how they overcame such obstacles automatically get a leg up in being admitted.  As a result, students are flat out lying about their backgrounds or embellishing their personal histories.  In either case, that’s the predictable outcome of holistic admissions.

Standardized test scores have their own shortcomings, but at least they are objective.

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Undergrad enrollment decline is healthy

Undergraduate enrollment nationwide fell by 3.1 percent last year or 465,300 students (“Undergraduates are ‘continuing to sit out in droves’ “ Los Angeles Times, Jan. 14).  But rather than view the decline as a disaster, I say it’s a good sign. 

A recent study by the Manhattan Institute found that the top 25 percent of high school graduates earned more on average than the bottom 25 percent of college graduates.  Since most young people say a well-paying job is the No. 1 reason they are pursuing a degree, perhaps more of them will consider a vocational curriculum coupled with an apprenticeship.

We have been wildly oversold on the importance of a college degree in this country. College is merely the most convenient place to learn how to learn.  It is not an absolute determinant.

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Lowering bar to attract Black teachers

In an attempt to attract more Black teachers to the classroom on the assumption that Blacks students learn more when taught by their own, Mississippi, Massachusetts and New Jersey have adjusted the cut scores for obtaining a license (“Public Schools Are Struggling to Retain Black Teachers.  These Ex-Teachers Explain Why,” Time, Jan. 5). I say that is the wrong move.

I don’t doubt that some Black students learn more when they have Black teachers than when they have white teachers, but that doesn’t mean much.  They still may be getting a sub-par education if their teachers of any race can’t pass the state licensing exam. Moreover, Black teachers granted licenses will wonder if they really deserved their place in the classroom.

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Religious schools have no right to taxpayer money

Maine is being sued by parents for excluding religious schools from a tuition assistance program for students in communities without a public high school (“The Supreme Court Could Let Religious Schools Take Taxpayer Money. Former Students Say That’s a Mistake,” Time, Jan. 3).

In Carson v. Makin, the plaintiffs argue that Maine’s policy violates their constitutional right to exercise religion. That’s absurd.  They can exercise their right as long as it’s not supported by public funds. Their claim of religious discrimination is a stretch, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the Supreme Court rules in their favor.

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Tenure is an anachronism

South Carolina is considering eliminating tenure in all its public colleges and universities (“Does Tenure Do More Harm Than Good These Days?” National Review, Jan. 3).  I say it’s time to do so.

The original purpose of tenure was to protect professors from being dismissed for their controversial research and teaching.  But today academic freedom no longer exists, as witnessed by the existence of cancel culture. So why persist in the fiction that tenure is needed?

All tenure does today, therefore, is to make it hard to fire professors who are ineffective teachers and mediocre researchers.  In short, tenure gives them the equivalent of diplomatic immunity.  That’s a price colleges can no longer pay.

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Classic books are not for all students

I’m glad that the Freedom and Citizenship program in New York City has allowed students from low-income families who studied the “great books” to attend the Ivies and other elite colleges (“Teach public school kids the classic books,” New York Daily News,” Jan. 4). But I maintain that it’s unrealistic to assume that all students, whether from low-income or affluent families, can handle such books.

Aptitude is not exclusively determined by the socioeconomic status of families.  Some students can indeed thrive by studying classic books.  But others would be far better served by a different curriculum. I see nothing at all wrong by directing students to vocational education.  That goes for all students.

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Boarding schools for Native Americans

Boarding schools operated by Catholic dioceses in the past that were ostensibly designed to educate Native American children were in fact centers of terrible abuse (“Catholic Dioceses Investigate Their Role in Boarding Schools for Native Americans,” The Wall Street Journal, Jan. 1). The number of children who died from accidents, disease and other causes is finally under investigation by the Interior Department.

Although most of these schools were closed in the 1970s, many questions still remain, not the least of which is why the scandal has remained until recently forgotten.  The treatment of Native Americans throughout this nation’s history is shameful.  Yet the focus continues to be on the treatment of Blacks.  Let’s not forget that Native Americans were here long before anyone else.

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Teachers unions are losing public support

As readers of this column know, I support teachers unions, having been a member of United Teachers Los Angeles (“Randi Weingarten’s attempts to rewrite school-closing history won’t fly,” New York Post, Dec. 28). But that doesn’t mean they are always right.

A case in point is Randi Weingarten.  Her refusal to admit that she pushed for school closings in the face of the pandemic will result in former supporters of teachers unions turning against them. The fact is that parents are lining up to get their children admitted to charter schools, which are union-free for the most part.

If charter schools and religious schools were able to remain open without students being infected, why couldn’t all public schools? That’s the question parents want to know.  I advise Weingarten to admit that she was wrong, rather than try to backpedal on the issue.

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Banning ‘Jingle Bells’ in school

There is no end to censorship in public schools these days.  An elementary school in upstate New York banned ‘Jingle Bells’ from the school’s holiday show because of its ties to 19th century blackface minstrel shows (“Backlash after school banned ‘Jingle Bells’ over Christmas,” New York Post, Jan. 2).

We have become too sensitive to anything even remotely tied to slavery.  The song is a harmless tradition, but cancel culture demands that it be eliminated lest it cause harm to children. I wonder where censorship will finally end.

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