So Much for Alma Mater

Domestic Policy, Education — By 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.


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  • http://thecultureproject.org Mike D’Virgilio

    The right needs to realize that if we continue to stand by and let the left dominate education (and entertainment and the media), conservatism will be a tough sell in America. Conservatives need to think practically and strategically about populating cultural influence professions with more conservatives. Electing more conservatives will never change culture, because culture determines a people’s worldview and thus its politics.
    We started an organization called The Culture Project (http://thecultureproject.org) to address this, and our hope is that the entire conservative movement realizes that the time for sitting on the sidelines and carping is over. It’s time to get in the game.

  • http://TheEverwiseBoonton.blogspot.com Boonton

    It seems like some people on the right want to be selectively color blind. When affirmative action was abolished, supporters said that would result in a huge drop in black and hispanic students. Supporters said so what, that’s the way the cookie crumbles.
    But now a policy is proposed that tries to bring more low income students in. Now all in the sudden it matters that this policy would benefit blacks more than whites?
    What do I think about this? Affirmative Action is toxic because conservatives are dishonest about it. Say one black person is admitted because of AA. Say 50 whites were rejected, 15 minorities, etc. In reality, at best, only one white lost the position due to AA (it’s also possible a non-white got passed up) but critics will make it sound like all 50 whites lost due to AA. On the other side AA is of limited effectiveness because, I suspect, those that take best advantage of it already are pretty well off. Finally AA is problematic because it tars just about all blacks. If people don’t like a black person whose successful, “Affirmative Action baby” rolls too quickly.
    Now the underlying premise of this post is that metrics (grades, SAT scores, those high school resumes padded with all sorts of activities) are the ultimate truth and therefore the only criteria colleges should use. This has NEVER NEVER NEVER been what colleges did. In the past you could get into colleges by scoring good grades but there were always alternative paths as well.
    In the distant past, colleges explicitly put quotas on Jewish students because they felt with merit only criteria they would get ‘too many’ spots. Credit was given for legacies, athletics, and (with colleges like Yale or Harvard that had a religious division) religion. I suspect some admission officers in the past might have even dinged the ‘straight A’ applicant as ‘too bookish’!
    I think the bulk of admissions should come from SAT’s, grades and the traditional stuff but not everything. I don’t have faith that the science of standardized testing and evaluating people with Excel sheets has been so perfected that it identifies all quality all the time. I think there should be ‘other paths’ for people to get into college and if that means slots for people from low incomes or people with interesting ‘life experiences’ then all the better. While I wouldn’t want to return to the old days where colleges viewed their mission as not only education but also maintaining an upper class (hence legacies, quotas against Jews, etc.) but I don’t think College is just for the top 30% of SAT scores.

  • http://homewardbound-cb.blogspot.com ChrisB

    “Now all in the sudden it matters that this policy would benefit blacks more than whites?”
    Connerly’s argument from the beginning was that putting “disadvantaged” students in an environment for which they are unprepared makes them unlikely to succeed and benefits nobody. If this new policy is overemphasizing “socio-economic status” or some other measure to put academically unprepared students in these schools they are undoing what the existing policy was enacted to accomplish.

  • http://TheEverwiseBoonton.blogspot.com Boonton

    The existing policy (getting rid of AA) was enacted to remove race from being considered because we should be color blind. That effort was successful and is now in the past.
    Since these are new policies neither you or Connerly have any data to support the contention that ‘disadvantaged students’ are being harmed by putting them in classes that are too high for them.

  • http://mumonno.blogpsot.com Mumon

    You’re quoting a publication that is put out by the same folks who do Regnery publishing, and you’re complaining about low standards?
    They publish Ann Coulter.
    Remove your plank first.

  • John M.

    I was against affirmative action until the concept of a “level playing field” was explained to me this way:
    Say you have a population with two sub-populations, A and B. Say As are 80% of the overall total and Bs are 20%. Now assume ten percent of each population is prejudiced. 10% of the As don’t like Bs, and 10% of the Bs don’t like As. They are morally equivalent, right? One is no worse than the other. But think! 8% of the total population are racist As, while only 2% are racist Bs. If you are a B, you are FOUR TIMES more likely to encounter somebody who is prejudice against you than if your are an A.
    So the playing field CAN’T be level unless the larger population is significantly LESS racist than the smaller one. This is why I think affirmative action will always be necessary.
    That being said, I agree with the original premise of this post that the university system is a huge political indoctrination scheme. I only escaped unassimilated because I majored in engineering and had less time for the lighter subjects where opinion can be pushed.

  • ex-preacher

    Does anyone else find it ironic that evangelicals, who are so deadset against biological darwinism, are so devoted to social darwinism, especially when helping the poor and disadvantaged is at issue.

  • http://www.alienman.blogspot.com Brad Williams

    Okay, I thought ex-preacher’s comment was ridiculous. However, I think elevating class rank above SAT test scores is not a bad move. I am also somehow missing how this automatically equates to giving minorities preferential treatment. Is that because there are more minority schools? And if they have more minority schools…why are they still a minority if they have the majority of schools? Are they smaller schools.
    I may be a middling intelligence under-achiever, but I don’t get the argument.

  • JillD

    Just one small comment here… I believe that our culture is virtually worshiping “college education” at the moment. Not everyone is gifted academically. Why take people whose gifts could be in the trades or in missions work or you-name-it and try to force them all into the mold of a college education? Why not make more of an effort to find out what each one’s gift is and encourage them to pursue the route that will bring it to fruition? A non-academic person of any color who pursues academics is doomed to frustration.

  • http://TheEverwiseBoonton.blogspot.com Boonton

    I was thinking about this:
    2) Elevating the role of high school class rank as an admissions criterion.
    Ever encounter the big fish/little pond type? He’s the #1 guy and he’s taking it easy because no one is even close to unseating him. Such a person might be a very good admission to a college. While he may not have great SAT’s (if he is in a crappy high school he may not realize how behind he really is) if he is suddenly unseated from his position as the smartest guy in the class he may fight like hell to get it back.
    Again let’s be clear, colleges never relied solely on test scores to do admissions. In the old days it was some test scores and some class prejudice. Then it switched over to test scores and affirmative action. But over time test scores have become more and more important because of the Excel effect. It’s real easy now to put in a bunch of numbers, sort the list and take the top 200.
    But while Excel is very useful, the case HAS NOT been made that reducing everything to a single objective metric gurantees arriving at an objective truth. People have a bias, they too easily mix up stuff that is easy to measure with stuff that is true. It’s easy to say A has a higher SAT score than B but that’s not quite the same as saying A is a better person to admit than B. I’m sure on average SAT scores mean something but I’ve also seen enough examples of people who’ve bucked the statistical trend….the good kid who suddenly goes bad or the bad kid who suddenly goes good….to know that relying only on them would be as foolish as…say….a multibillion dollar bank relying only on credit rating agencies to judge how risky their assets are!

  • John

    A thinly disguised racist rant