Column #22, posted March 6, 2006

Abdicating educational responsibility

What is it about the New York Times and its view on education? Yes, I know, they are just reporting what others say. But, nevertheless they seem to be lamenting the fact that suddenly all high schools aren’t reporting class ranking and that this is making colleges unhappy:

Mr. Shain of Vanderbilt said an internal review showed that the admission rate at Vanderbilt was highest for students with a class rank and lowest for those whose schools provided neither a rank nor general data about grades."You're saying your grades don't matter and that you won't tell us what they mean," Mr. Shain said. "I think it's an abdication of educational responsibility."

Really? An abdication of educational responsibility? So, it is the responsibility of high schools to make life easy for college admission officers?

How about this instead? -- Universities are abdicating their educational responsibility by allowing high school to be irrelevant to today’s students. Class rankings not only ensure serious cut throat competition, but they also force students to care about grades instead of taking a chance and trying something hard.

Who is supposed to decide what children learn? Obviously the universities need to enforce ideas about what courses should be taken and make sure that the winners gain admission to their schools. This is exactly what the President of Harvard was trying to do when he established the high school curriculum now in place in high schools across the U.S.

Oh, did I forget to mention that the president of Harvard who did that did it in 1892? And, by the way, that the curriculum he established is still in place today?

You know who the bad guys are in high school education? The college admissions officers that’s who. They are in charge of making high school into a meaningless competition about who is best suited to go to college in 1892.

"If we're looking at a particular student's file and we can't find a proxy for class rank, then we move on and we make a decision without it," said Martha F. Pitts, assistant vice president for enrollment management at the University of Oregon. "The question is, how good is that decision? Have we made a decision that is not as well informed as it could have been?"

No, you have made a decision that still enforces the university’s view of high school: a meaningless experience meant entirely to help college admissions officer’s lives easier.

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