Keep race out of college admissions

Racial considerations in college admissions have been voted down twice in California (“A More Diverse America Turns Against Racial Preferences,” The Wall Street Journal, Oct. 14). Yet colleges persist in trying an end run around the issue.

College is not for everyone.  Certainly, it is not for applicants whose race is a factor in admitting them.  I say pure merit should be the only consideration.  If that results in a study body composed of students from only one race, so be it.

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ACT scores shouldn’t be written off

The average score on the ACT fell to its lowest level in more than three decades (“ACT Test Scores Drop to Lowest Level in More Than 30 Years,” The Wall Street Journal, Oct. 12). It’s easy to attribute the decline to the pandemic, which certainly played a part.  But I think there’s more to the story.

Standardized tests are attacked for a host of reasons. They are hardly perfect, but they shouldn’t be dismissed for their technical shortcomings.  I say that because the U.S. has no national curriculum.  As a result, it’s impossible to know how much learning is going on.  Ideally, standardized tests are best used for diagnostic purposes. Nevertheless, they provide valuable feedback.

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Medical school is not for everyone

When 82 of the 350 students in an organic chemistry class at NYU signed a petition charging that Maitland Jones, Jr. made the material too hard, he was fired (“The N.Y.U Chemistry Students Shouldn’t Have Needed That Petition,” The New York Times, Oct. 7). There is some truth to both sides of the issue, but I maintain that in the final analysis there is only one consideration.

The fact is that med school is not for everyone.  It takes a certain innate intelligence to succeed that has little to do with economic and social factors.  Trying to engineer diversity in any medical school is bound to harm patients who are less interested in race than in competency.

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Bachelor’s degree is no assurance of competency

Corporations are beginning to recognize that their insistence on possession of a four-year degree for employment is counterproductive (“Seeing Promise, and a Model to Copy, in Job-Training Programs,” The New York Times, Oct. 3).  The truth is that those with skills acquired through alternate means are fully qualified to handle today’s jobs.

Fortunately, companies are dropping the four-year degree requirement for hiring and looking toward the wherewithal that people possess. Since nearly two-thirds of adults do not have a bachelor’s degree, the change can make a significant difference in their lives.

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Private-school grads have leg-up in college admissions

It’s no secret that graduates of private schools have a distinct advantage in gaining admission to elite colleges and universities (“There’s Still One Big Trick for Getting Into an Elite College,” The New York Times, Oct. 2).  Counselors there have connections that too often make the difference between admission and rejection.

But aside from these connections and the outperformance of private school grads over their public-school counterparts, there’s another reason.  The truth is that students whose parents are able to spend $50,000 at the best private schools are highly likely to be generous when gift-giving campaigns are launched.  Don’t think for a second that admissions officers don’t take that into consideration.

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Base admissions to high schools on performance

New York City, home of the nation’s largest school system, finally is getting real about admissions to its schools (“In a Reversal, New York City Tightens Admissions to Some Top Schools,” The New York Times, Sept. 29). From now on, it will base admissions on student performance, rather than on diversity.

I’ve never understood how we help students by admitting them to schools largely on their race.  When students of any race find out that they can’t handle the rigorous work, they will either drop out or act out. If admitting students solely on their previous grades results in a lopsided class of any race, so be it.

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Classic literature is in jeopardy in high school

The list of classic novels that are regularly assigned in high school English classes is known as the canon (“These High School ‘Classics’ Have Been Taught for Generations – Could They Be on Their Way Out?”, Sept. 29). But since they do not represent the nation’s diverse student body, reformers say that the list needs to be changed.

As a former high school English teacher, I understand their concern.  But I’d like to know first what the purpose of literature is.  If it’s to cultivate lifelong readers, then I agree. We all tend to repeat behavior that is enjoyable. That’s why teaching Shakespeare is so difficult.  The language turns off most students.  As a result, I doubt they will ever want to read more of his work.

If the purpose is to train young people to read and analyze media, then it behooves teachers to give their students practice reading non-fiction in the form of op-eds and other essays. Reading fiction will not be nearly as effective in achieving that goal.

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Meritocracy is a bad word in education today

It’s impossible to have a rational discussion today about merit because the term itself is not politically correct (“A Belief in Meritocracy Is Not Only False: It’s Bad for you,”, Sept. 24).  Rather than accept the reality that some people are smarter or willing to work harder than others, critics say it’s not fair.

The fact is that most people act in their own best self-interest. That does not make them selfish.  It’s a sign of taking responsibility. If that results in some being more successful than others, so be it.  Does luck sometimes play a role in their success?  Of course it does.  But luck is part of life.

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Advanced Placement course shortchanges Blacks

The College Board has lowered its standards by offering a new course on African-American studies (“The College Board’s Racial Pandering,” The Wall Street Journal, Sept. 27). I make that charge because the new course will do little, if anything, to help the black students it is intended to serve.

What black students need is help improving their reading, writing and arithmetic skills. Instead they are getting a course that will only exacerbate their situation because African-American studies will be little more than a form of ideological indoctrination. How will such a course improve their ability to get a well-paying job?

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Redshirting boys is good for them

Delaying the start of schooling for boys can turn out to be a wise decision (“Redshirt The Boys,” The Atlantic, Oct. 2022). That’s because the brains of boys develop more slowly than that of girls.  As a result, they find themselves at a distinct disadvantage.

The benefits of redshirting, as the process is called, is most apparent for low-income students.  But delaying school entry means having to provide child care for another year, which is hard for them. As a result, I don’t think redshirting will catch on.

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