So Much for Alma MaterDomestic Policy, Education — By Rachel Motte on January 27, 2009 at 11:00 pm
Did you know that your formal education was intended to transform you into a specific sort of person?
That’s right. Most people think they attend school in order to learn a set of philosophically neutral facts that will help them succeed in life, get good jobs, etc.
It’s a nice belief, but it just isn’t true. For one thing, a complete, formal education of the sort that all American children need in order to be considered literate cannot be philosophically neutral.
And that’s OK.
What’s not OK is the fact that so many people are unaware of just which philosophies undergird and inform everything taught in the schools.
Philosophy can be sneaky; for good or bad, it’s very easy to inject a set of assumptions into an unprepared, unquestioning mind. Even unexamined assumptions lead to logical conclusions – and these unconscious conclusions easily lead to thoughtless actions.
It’s been said that ‘the unexamined life is not worth living.’ Nowhere is this more true than in the classroom, where students are spoon-fed a carefully-planned out set of ideas about the world without even knowing what’s happening to them.
It used to be that the aim of a good education was to turn you into a Lady or a Gentleman; a good citizen, responsible, honest, virtuous and good. A well-educated man or woman was expected to think clearly, to be discerning, and to know right from wrong. This is largely not the case anymore. Today’s educational beaurocracy tends to be more concerned with feeding you its own opinions than with teaching you to ask good questions. The classroom is more politically-charged than many care to admit.
Take, for example, the University of California. It has managed to find a way to both dumb down its admissions policies while simultaneously skirting state law:
The University of California administration and faculty senate appear to be making an end-run around the admissions policy which rejects race as an admissions factor. By proposing drastic changes to the policy, they contend they are merely trying to make the process “fairer” by eliminating some technical barriers to admission.
But the changes go far beyond removing a few “technical barriers.” Although key supporters of the proposals claim that changing the ethnic composition of the UC student body was not a basis for their action, they are employing the same methods used in other states to promote diversity, without directly using race as a factor.
Ward Connerly, a former president of the Board of Regents who opposes the changes, said,”In this case, the faculty senate is trying to devise a system that will admit more students from low-income and underperforming high schools, which will translate into more black and Latino students.”
Californians, however, officially established — by law — their desire for the state to be color-blind in such matters. In 1996, they chose to end affirmative action by voting Proposition 209 into law via the referendum process. Connerly, who spearheaded the successful campaign to pass the referendum, said there have been “continuing efforts to circumvent Prop 209,” and suggested the faculty senate proposals are one more such effort.
The proposed changes are on the agenda for the upcoming Board of Regents meeting on February 4. They will have at least three major effects:
1) Reducing the importance of standardized tests. The requirement to take two SAT II subject tests will be eliminated, because they and the SAT I reasoning tests are so strongly correlated that both are often unnecessary. The role of the SAT I tests will be also diminished.
2) Elevating the role of high school class rank as an admissions criterion.
3) Giving “comprehensive” or “holistic” reviews that include highly subjective, non-academic criteria such as “life experiences,” greater importance for many students than before. (Emphasis mine)
Not only do the proposed changes make it easier for low-achieving students to enter the UC system, but they also echo those made at the University of Texas in response to a drop in racial diversity after affirmative action was declared illegal. The elevation of class ranking as an entry requirement ensures that more students will be admitted from lower-income school districts, districts that are likely to contain a high percentage of minority students. Now obviously the problem here isn’t that officials are essentially inviting more minorities into the classroom, but rather that this is a roundabout way of inviting these students into the classroom because they are minorities. Shouldn’t students be admitted into college based on merit and ability? But then, why worry about ethics and legality when you can exploit a loophole instead?
These students will not be helped by being artificially pushed up to the top of the admissions list. Take a note from Dash on The Incredibles: saying that everyone is special is another way of saying that no one is special. This is a lose-lose situation for everyone, except perhaps for the UC administrators who have proposed the changes – though what even they stand to gain from it I don’t know.
Our educational system has failed quite enough people already, and, despite the many millions of dollars spent attempting to fix this problem, things don’t appear to be getting better anytime soon. Why is the leadership of the University of California so intent on further corrupting the system? So much for alma mater – looks like this ‘nourishing mother’ wants to starve her students in order to gorge herself.
Note: I posted a slightly modified version of this post on another blog yesterday, and a very intelligent liberal friend of mine posted a response here. I thought her take on what may be happening at UCLA was well worth reading.