Why I Resist The Coalition Ambition

Getting young ones launched in life is a noble mission and my life’s work and I’m happy to report that I’ve been more successful than ever as I hone my skills and take on even greater challenges.  The trick is keeping up with the accelerating chaos created by well-intentioned college admissions folk who are utterly clueless about their applicants’ reality, and either don’t know that or are not willing to go there.

Is that ignorance or arrogance?  Hmmm…probably a shade of each.

The recent Coalition commotion has caused a minor stir in the everyday world but a major one in the world of guidance counselors.  No one describes this better than my esteemed colleague, Will Dix, who has kept up a steady stream of superb pieces aimed at reaching the hearts and minds of our former colleagues in college admissions.  Will understands the needs of both cohorts well and is doing his best to stop the generational meltdown that will surely come as a result of the silly Coalition expectations.  GCs everywhere are near apoplectic over these expectations since they can easily anticipate the unintended consequences that will ensue.  Yet, oddly, they have never been included in the Coalition’s planning, which is where the ignorance and arrogance come in.

Admissions officers and guidance counselors have long seen themselves as partners in the launching of young adults, but this decision to change the college admissions process without consulting their GC partners and then dissing their protests over same has revealed just how broken the process is.

Anyone who every worked as a college admissions officer will feel their Bravo Sierra barometer engage as they read the Coalition’s plans since this proposal doesn’t pass the smell test, meaning that even the most experienced among us can’t imagine how creating an online ‘locker’ for 9th graders to post their work for review by college admissions officers years later could possibly lead to more underprivileged Black and Hispanic kids being admitted to top tier schools, which is supposedly the point of the whole exercise.  It doesn’t take an MIT PhD to see that this scenario will just spawn a new cottage industry of consultants eager to help advantaged 9th graders produce admissions worthy documents from the get go, thereby throwing the advantage to the wealthy once again while increasing the stress levels of young teenagers who are already medicated in unprecedented numbers to get through their days, courtesy of our helpful medical community in bed with the pharmaceutical industry.  No matter that data shows these meds are counter-indicated for teenagers.  No matter they actually trigger suicidal behaviors in growing brains.

Who cares?  At least those advantaged teenagers will have a better shot at getting into an Ivy school.  And isn’t that what life is all about?

Let’s face it. Underprivileged minority students are not in the Ivy + schools’ applicant pools, but not because they just need to plan earlier by putting 9th grade assignments in a Time Capsule Locker.  They aren’t there for a million different reasons and here’s where the cognitive dissonance comes in.  These schools know that, but at the same time they are looking for that one diamond-in-the-rough kid who pulled himself up by his boot straps and earned all As and at least a 2100 on the SATs.  In the real world, this is an urban legend, but that myth has kept those admissions officers hooked in its illusion.

For the past 30 years these schools could have taken minority students with mixed grades and/or low scores and leveled the playing field but they haven’t.  Know why?   Do you think for one minute that Harvard will let its SAT mean score drop and lose the coveted top place in the USNWR ranking system, just to bring social justice in the admissions process that is stacked against certain populations of kids?  Nah.  It won’t happen, folks.  We’re talking Big Business, Big Egos here, not education.

Look at what these schools DO, not at what they SAY.

Bottom line: the Coalition’s big ambition will only widen the access gap by creating a system that the wealthy know how to play very well and, count on it, they will win the day, leaving another generation of disadvantaged kids locked out of the American dream.  And over time, the difference between the haves and the have nots will wreck all that’s good about America.

So here’s a big shout out to Will Dix, a champion for children and a true hero to the rest of us in this fight to rescue education from the corrupt clutches of Big Business.  You aren’t alone, Will.

There are many of us out here calling Bravo Sierra on this idea because nothing short of the future of our Republic is at stake.

Yeah, it’s that important.

Toddlers With Hormones

I actually saw a commercial on TV in the wee hours one morning a month ago that made me stop in my tracks and watch, it was so compelling.  It featured a young toddler (you know, the ones who struggle for balance and walk like Godzilla), teetering from side to side in slightly slow motion as he walks down his home’s long corridor toward the glass paneled door.  The ad is for Air B&B and though many thought it creepy, I love it.

That little human, so proud to be up on two legs, struggling to hold his balance as he moves towards the object of his desire (what’s out there in the big world?) reminds me of teenagers getting ready to apply to college.

They say that human development is one big spiral, repeating over and over as we age. Teenagers go through toddlerhood (you’re not the boss of me!) but in a more sophisticated way. They share the same biological imperative to move on up, albeit with much more fear than they had when they were two and learning to literally keep up with the others around them.

When they were two and fell one hundred times learning to stand upright, modern teenagers were greeted by smiles and loving encouragement from the adults around them.  No adult would think of criticizing a little cruiser trying to walk.

But God help them if the same Big Toddlers fall when they are in high school.  All hell rains down on them.  They are most often medicated to adjust their attitude.

I’ve had several students call me in a panic over the past month.  They were over-committed in their senior year and their grades went down this spring after their college acceptance because “I was hurrying to get all I could from my high school experience”, meaning “I was struggling to meet everyone’s expectations of me.”  The colleges they committed to on May 1 were suddenly not as committed to them.

It used to be that seniors’ grades slipped due to ‘senioritis‘, as they blew off school to do nothing.

Now their grades drop as they try to finish the many commitments they developed in order to please the adults in their world and get admitted to college.

Sorry, college admissions colleagues, but you guys are culpable here.  You can’t expect teenagers to be perfect over-achievers in order to give you bragging rights when you admit them and then cut them off when they struggle to keep up at the end.  Kids live in the real world where things are complicated and genuinely unforgiving.

Admissions officers live in a vicarious one, making decisions on applications – not real humans – and think they understand KidWorld because they read so many essays.  Nothing could be further from the truth.

Kids will always tell admissions officers what they think they want to hear.  They inflate their applications and have many other adults write their essays.  I’ve experienced applicants one way as an admissions officer and a completely different way as an educational consultant in the trenches with them.  All admissions officers should spend a year or two as an independent consultant before becoming Gatekeepers again so they can get rooted in the reality of applicants’ lives.

The focus on pleasing the Gatekeepers (admissions officers) supercedes everything because in this era, it’s about spin.

Kids just want to keep moving and are doing what adults tell them is necessary to get in.  Admissions officers want to admit “the best” to leverage their position on USNWR and to brag to their board of trustees, alumni and specific audiences.  Gone are the days of the real and true ‘match’.  It looks to me that all of the nations’ best universities, maybe even including my own beloved MIT, have been usurped by a business model and so are driving down the wrong road, however well-intentioned.

If all of us adults involved in college admissions would see applicants as Big Toddlers (or better yet, Toddlers with Hormones), we would be more likely to do things right and train the next generation of human beings to revel in their authenticity.

And their authenticity is why they have come.

Flag Of Treason

After yet another mass shooting by a young male on psycho-pharmaceutical drugs, this one in a beloved sanctuary, the oldest of its kind in the US, a church that has survived slavery, Jim Crow and hands-up-don’t-shoot, it is really time to ask the politically incorrect question why my fellow citizens from the South continue to fly the confederate flag.

The confederate flag was, and still is, a flag of treason.

Many of my fellow citizens get all warm and teary-eyed over treason???  Really?  That’s sobering.

The stars and bars represents division, hatred, us-against-them, and the senseless death of scores of thousands of Americans who slugged it out in horrific fashion over four years more than 150 years ago in a war concluded in the blink of an eye at Appomattox court house in VA.  Note that at the South’s surrender, General Ulysses S. Grant treated his counterpart, General Robert E. Lee, with dignity and respect, allowing him to keep his gun, his horse and his head.  In many other nations, and perhaps even if this outcome had been reversed, the losers would have been executed, Nuremberg style.   As it was, Grant ordered his army to salute Lee as he rode away.  He did this in a noble attempt to heal the gaping hole torn in America’s heart by that unspeakable war.

In an editorial earlier this week, David Brooks points out that Robert E. Lee, that sacred son of the South, was a traitor to his nation.  Yes, he was kindly and smart and, most importantly to Southerners, well-mannered, but he was also the valedictorian of his West Point class who swore an oath to protect and uphold the Constitution of the US.

Spoiler alert – he didn’t.

In fact, while 40% of his Virginian classmates honored their oaths and fought for the Union, kindly old Robert E. Lee decided to war on them instead.

My great-great grandfather was one of those murdered during the Civil War (and no, it is not called the War of Northern Aggression, as the Southerners like to refer to it).  A teenage soldier who had emigrated from Germany, William Schulz enlisted in an all-German speaking US army regiment out of Albany NY, was taken prisoner at the siege of Petersburg and died of starvation 18 months later at the infamous Andersonville POW camp in Georgia.  He was just 19 when he died.  He never saw his only child.

For the Southern states to weave the symbol of treason into their state flags and license plates is nothing more than petty-ass, passive-aggressive silliness.

The South lost the war.  They rejoined the Union.  Time for them to cowboy up and get with the program.

Brooks is so right in his piece.  He says that the signals that society sends to its children through its preference for certain symbols are subliminal and therefore very powerful.

Allegiance to that flag symbolizes an acceptance of racism and apartheid.  Simple as that.

It’s so heartbreaking that the cold-blooded murder of those welcoming and loving parishioners who had come together to pray should be the tipping point on this terrible subject.  The screwed up punk loner who murdered them was encouraged by his culture’s tacit belief in white supremacy, a concept that is on the wrong side of history.

In honor of William Schulz and all nine murdered at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal church in Charleston, SC,  I call on our Southern brethren to finally own this one.

Dump the flag of treason once and for all and leave it in a museum where it belongs.

Am I The Only One Mad About This?

Stanford’s Math Tournament, the largest high school math tournament in the US and maybe the world, was abruptly cancelled within 36 hours of the event this past weekend.  The 2015 competition was the largest ever with over 1000 registrants from across the US, China, Russia and India.  It’s safe to say that some of the best young mathematicians in the world were planning to duke it out for the pure love of math.

What happened?

Evidently there was a White House Summit on Cybersecurity and Consumer Protection on Stanford campus scheduled for the same time (Obama was a speaker) and the university decided not to risk…I don’t know what exactly.  Too many seriously smart kids doing their thing within 1 mile of White House personnel maybe?  Are they kidding?

It seems that everyone except for the SUMO (Stanford University Math Organization) students who organized this world-famous math competition knew about the presence of the White House event on campus for months. So why did university officials notify the SMT 2015 organizers at the last possible minute?   The timing couldn’t have been worse.

The Beijing teams were already on the ground when the plug got pulled and many teams were en route.

Luckily, an organization in nearby Santa Clara called A-Star, working in conjunction with Rice University and Johns Hopkins, literally created a math tournament overnight to fill the void.  They ended up with a smaller 50 team event but the best players got to compete as planned.

Meanwhile, there appears to be no statement from Stanford about this.

Am I the only one who thinks of universities as sacred sites in the secular world?  That education itself is sacred?  Universities are there for their students, not to kiss up to any president for any reason.  Obama and his team could’ve gone anywhere, but it’s clear that ego won the day and the Stanford president was all too keen to say yes to the DC Big Dogs and no to the best young mathematicians on earth.

I have no particular beef with the US President, but there was that disturbing event over the holidays when a couple had to move their wedding in Hawaii, scheduled for the next day, because the President wanted to play golf at the site on their wedding day.  The Feds alerted the couple at their rehearsal the day before.  Thank God they were both Army officers and were OK with that decision.  And not to worry, Obama called them to apologize and congratulate them.

What, he didn’t offer to pick up their tab?  Or send a gift or host them at the White House later to make it up to them?  His wife Michelle didn’t say, “You did WHAT??” and then quickly act to make it right, since her own focus is military families?

I guess just a call from a busy president is all it takes to make it all better.

But be honest.  If your wedding had to get moved at the last minute because somebody else wanted to play golf, wouldn’t you be angry?  Or if you had been planning an A-list party for 1000 superstars for months and your landlord cancelled it the day before because somebody more special than you and yours was in the house, wouldn’t you be angry?

There’s an arrogance here that just dissed high school math stars, the kind of people universities compete for and White House administrations should want to reward.  But come to think of it, when was the last time you saw a White House reception for the US Math Olympiad team instead of NCAA basketball or Superbowl winners?

How are these same math stars supposed to think about Stanford now?  Maybe when the time comes to apply to college, they’ll remember just how important they were to Stanford on Valentine’s Day 2015.

Don’t Let the News Affect Your Joy

I know the deaths of so many children in CT is unbelievable.  It’s even worse than unbelievable.  It’s heinous, heartbreaking, horrifying.

As the news of this is breaking, so many are being admitted early to the college of their choice.  They are in hog heaven and should be, since they’ve worked so hard for this moment.

As awful as this sounds, this is how life is…it goes on.

I have lost many loved ones in my life.  And each time someone close dies, it’s a shock when the world goes on, as if my parent or sibling or loved one didn’t matter in the most existential way…when my world has come to a complete halt.  Or at least that’s how it seems.

If your child was admitted somewhere early, please make an effort not to talk about this awful tragedy.  Let them enjoy the moment without guilt or disappointment.  Let them have their day.   It’s OK for your family to rejoice even as other families are experiencing the worst news possible.

I send the families involved Light and love, and every Sacred Being I can muster, to carry the families through.  I have been through a few worst moments but nothing can compare to the pain of the parent of a 6 yr old who was murdered.   Unbelievable.  Unspeakable.

Thank God It’s Not Me

This is Thanksgiving weekend and here’s what I’m grateful for:

I’m grateful that I’m not applying to college now.

I’m grateful that I don’t have to apply to 12 colleges in the hopes that just one will take me; that I don’t have to write 24-30 short supplemental essays to the tune of hours of work for those 12 applications, totally guessing at what the admissions officers want to read since I have no earthly idea what they are looking for; that I don’t have to respond to endless email requests from colleges that bought my name from the College Board or the ACT in order to show “demonstrated interest” to schools I’ve never heard of just in case I need them as safeties; that I don’t have to pay a boatload of money to visit campuses in order to show same for fear those colleges will not admit me when I apply because I never showed my love by visiting their campus; that I don’t have to do all of that while keeping my coursework up and sports and activities going too; that I don’t have to cure cancer or male pattern baldness to get into the college of my choice.

This is what it’s come to (or at least it seems like that).

I work with all kinds of teenagers.  US, international, wealthy, poor and everyone in between.  And the one thing they all have in common is this getting-crazier-and-crazier process we call the college admissions process.

I swear, college admissions officers really have no clue what the lives of their applicants are really like.

They think they do, of course, because they read hundreds and hundreds of applications and meet teenagers all the time.  But I respectfully remind them that they are reading the virtual applicant and meeting students on their absolute-best-behavior-ever, kids who are dying to be who the officer wants them to be just to get in.  Not authentic at all.

Last year the Common Application underwent a radical upgrade and was a catastrophe for all involved.  This year it’s Naviance, a beautiful product that needed no major changes but they did it anyway and now it’s twitchy, leading to more frustration.  Oh, and if that’s not bad enough, Harvard et al the elites plan to create a third new application platform (joining Common App and the Universal App) for reasons I don’t quite understand though I’ve read their press release multiple times.  I know what’s being said.  I just don’t believe it.

Yup, folks, just keep piling on the chaos.  The great masses are expected to just suck it up and deal.

Can you tell how frustrated I am that the college admissions process largely serves the wealthy, is ego driven and no longer functions with education at its core?  That it teaches young people to be cynical and manipulative, which is the worst crime of all?

My heart goes out to teenagers today who have little time to do anything but perform for adults, who get less than 6 hrs of sleep nightly and have no place to be silly (social media is owned by adults now) without the prying eyes of adults who want to sell them a product or judge and prod them.

People, they’re kids, for God’s sake, and if you haven’t noticed, we’ve left them a world of trouble

because we adults are too immature to get a grip and act like it.

Like I said, I’m grateful I’m not 17 again.  I don’t think I’d have the nerves or maturity for it.

The Game Is Up

If you are one of the loyal jillions who follow my blog, you know that I’ve been warning anyone who will listen how college admissions is based on a business model now, no longer with education at its core.  Want proof?  Read this most extraordinary descriptionof Northeastern University’s “meteoric rise” on the USNWR rankings, climbing in 17 years from #162 to #49.  This ranking creep was orchestrated with singular purpose by NEU’s previous president, Richard Freeland, who began his presidency during the university’s decline, inheriting wide-spread layoffs and declining enrollment.  Being a resourceful kind of guy, Freeland saw that the quickest way to stop the downward spiral was to pull a UPenn and “game” the USNWR algorithm.

It’s been done before.  The USNWR ranking is well known to be gameable.

As a reader, I couldn’t help but empathize with his situation and imagine what I would have done to improve Northeastern’s situation had I been in Freeland’s situation.

The guy had vision and cojones.  But in his calculus to save the school, was he thinking about the future of the nation?

Nah.  Despite his laser-focus on boosting NEU into the top 100 schools, he made no real effort to increase the quality of education there, choosing instead to back-engineer the algorithm and tweak certain parameters like increased number of applications and higher SAT score range.  His dogged pursuit of acceptance by Robert Morse at USNWR is  just as silly as celebrity nominees kissing up to members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to vote them an Oscar or young women trying to out-maneuver each other to win that rose and the Bachelor’s hand in marriage.

What are we doing here?  We have such a short time on Earth to get things right.  Shouldn’t we be thinking about our behavior and its long term impact?

This isn’t entertainment.  Education is sacred and a deeply serious enterprise.

This whole nation has up and moved to LaLa Land, believing in this illusion of prestige.  Is Northeastern really a better university than Ohio State-Columbus (#50) or U. of Texas- Austin (#52)?

Is Princeton really better than Harvard this year who was better than Princeton last year?

Universities just don’t change that fast, so what’s up?   No surprise, Morse changes the weighting on certain aspects of that USNWR algorithm every year or two to create “drama”, which is marketing-speak for “selling more product”.

The USNWR is not God.  It is not neutral.  It wants to separate you from your money by posing as a trusted source, something you need in order to make good decisions.  But is it?  Look at what they are assessing.  Nearly 23% of the ranking is a subjective opinion of US colleges/universities by other university presidents, provosts and deans of admissions.  I used to receive that mailing from Morse every year, being asked to review 900+ colleges for their overall quality, and I wouldn’t complete the forms because I didn’t feel qualified to judge.  You’re gonna ask competitors about their perceptions of peer institutions and pass that off as objective? You can see right there that the USNWR and other ranking systems serve to support the status quo.  Those top 10 schools will always make the top 10 because of the parameters they are judged by.  Harvard is the richest and most famous university so it will always be at the top of the list.

The reality is that there is no best school.  There is just the best school for you.

The only way we’ll stop living in illusion and regain control of our children’s future is to use that critical thinking we all talk about but few of us seem to use.

Consider this: when things don’t make sense, it’s because there is no sense to make.  There’s artifice lurking somewhere.

It’s America, Land of the Spin, where guys like Freeland advance their schools with little regard for truth and integrity and get rewarded for it.  Freeland is now the Commissioner of Higher Education for Massachusetts.

How about we start taking the democracy back by looking past illusion to find the truth.  How about we start reminding ourselves that education is a process that happens wherever we are, that we resourceful humans bloom where we’re planted, that there is no ‘one size fits all’ in the education of the human species.  Rankings built on spin are irrelevant.  The match is what matters.

Can MIT Cut the Gordian Knot?

That deep rumble you feel is the sound of foundations cracking and giving way.

The education system as we’ve known it is undergoing a deep change because it can not be financially sustained into the far future.  There are too many factors affecting the relevancy of it’s ‘form’ – class sizes limited by the size of housing stock; the standard length of 4 years to earn a bachelor’s degree; required classes per major; unionization of faculty at some universities that enforces professional duties based on job descriptions; the financial aid structure; changing research funding sources; rapidly changing research priorities.  Feel free to add about thirty others.

Now once again,  MIT is leading the way by admitting that fundamental changes must be made to the undergraduate education provided there in order to maintain fiscal solvency long term.

I’ve been waiting for the elite universities to ‘fess up to this situation, so kudos to MIT.

Even with deep endowments, they are susceptible to the same economic forces that smaller colleges and large state systems have been confronting for a decade.  No one is immune now.

This is not trivial.  Knowledge is being created at a faster-than-logarithmic pace (what’s faster than that?), when, according to Google’s Eric Schmidt, the entire human knowledge set doubles every two days.  Holy sh*t!  Imagine Lucy on that iconic chocolate faculty assembly line.  Humans can’t possibly keep up with it all.  This includes university faculty whose job is to pass the knowledge torch along to the next generation.  No surprise that most schools’ faculties are teaching information that has long since changed.  It often takes a generation for new knowledge to work its way into college curricula.  Think quantum physics and epigenetics, for example.

Like with most crises, this is the perfect opportunity for the Big ReThink of education.  What should college students be taught now?  What is relevant?  How long should it take to teach it and what form would that take?

What should a first college degree actually mean?  What’s its ROI?

We know that college rarely prepares students for specific jobs.  It’s supposed to prepare them for a changing employment scenario by teaching resourcefulness and critical thinking.

So how will tenured faculty who are their own CEOs be pressured to change their ways?  What’s the incentive for them to drink from that fire hose of new knowledge and decide what must be taught now?  Will department heads and Provosts be strong enough to demand the highly focused teaching of relevant material in order to shrink that standard 4 years for a BS/BA to 3 without creating the illusion of a watered-down curriculum? Because that’s what it will take to create an affordable residence-based college experience by decade’s end.

How does a university break the Gordian Knot of the modern era?

It’s a moment for real ingenuity and MIT is all that.  Fingers crossed for them to get this right for the rest.

The Power and Destruction of MSU*

We’ve all been there, finding ourselves in a situation that didn’t make sense, without a full set of real data, leaving us confused and worried.  To regain a sense of control, we start connecting the pieces of info we do know, filling in the gaps with our imaginations.  In other words, we Make Sh*t Up (MSU), creating the reason for this situation that’s confusing us.  Believing that we now know what is going on, we proceed to act on the story we just MSU’d.  And we make our own weather.  And it’s always wrong.  We screw it up and make the situation worse.

MSU is the basis for soap operas, failed love affairs, international relations and college admissions ranking systems.

MSU brought that Malaysian Airliner down over Ukraine.  MSU makes Israel and Hamas launch bombs at each other and kill children and completely innocent citizens who would actually like each other if they were allowed to mingle and connect as human beings.  MSU shatters half of the nation’s marriages.  MSU is the reason why the average private college applicant applies to 12 schools now, sending the entire college admissions process into imbalance, leading to more MSU.

Making Sh*t Up always leads to heartache because when we’re left to figure out what the other party is thinking and doing, we’ll always default to the fear factor.

Examples?  How about:

Why didn’t they text me back? (MSU= I knew they didn’t like me.)  Why did they walk right by me when I said hello?  (MSU= they’re a snob.) Why did that school put me on the wait list? (MSU= they just rejected me because I’m not good enough. )

In reality, they didn’t text you back because they were in meetings all day and haven’t gotten the chance to get back to you.  They walked by you because they are myopic and don’t like to wear glasses in public.  They put you on the wait list because they want to take you after May 1 if they have the space because wait list is “admitted pending space” and not a “soft rejection” as urban legend would have it.

Our culture trains us into the MSU mind set, asking us to vote online to judge people and situations we know nothing about.  It encourages opinions at the end of news articles and allows the anonymity of haters.  It has raised celebrity gossip to a high art, dishing the dirt over the air waves about the perceived foibles of public people.  We make sh*t up about strangers and friends alike, judging them with great emotion.  Feeling all righteous and right.

But MSU is stupid.  It always leads to the wrong conclusion, bringing misunderstanding and pain.  Worse, it reinforces the notion that there are good people and bad people in the world, instead of the real truth that there are just people, each of us wired to be both good and bad.

It makes imperfection a sin when, in fact, imperfection is the genesis of creativity.

So the next time you find yourself making sh*t up (you can substitute ‘stuff’ if you aren’t vulgar like I am), stop and ask yourself what you actually know to be true.  Do you know that they didn’t text you back because they don’t like you?  Do you know for a fact that they are a snob?  Do you know that you were just rejected when in fact you were actually waitlisted?

Time to use our gray matter.  Clarify instead of MSU.

When Right is Short-Sighted

In a conservative blog The Campus Fix (“Student Reported.  Your Daily Dose of Right-Minded Campus News and Commentary from Across the Nation”), a young reporter interviews a UCLA faculty member who has written a book about the use of race in admissions at UCLA.  Since The Campus Fix is covering it, you can assume that this particular faculty member disagrees with how things are done at his school.  In reality, Prof. Tim Groseclose, is a conservative political commentator and author about liberal bias.  He used to be on UCLA’s admissions oversight committee and had reason to believe that the staff there was violating CA state law by using a more “holistic” selection process to increase the number of black and hispanic students enrolling at that top state university.

As Benjamin, my hair dresser/favoriterabbi would say, Oy Vey.

In my long experience doing college admissions, I found that most faculty who join an admissions oversight committee have agendas; some have children who have entered high school and they want to learn how admissions works, some are frustrated by the quality or composition of the student body.  At some schools, it seems, a few fall under the Groseclose-nightmare-category of committed partisan who is looking to write another book to supplement his media career.

You know this kind of person…the “believing is seeing” kind,

the one who feels they are the only rational person who will speak out about this.  The one who believes that numbers, alone and out of context, can fully describe a human’s past experience and future performance.  Thank God I didn’t have this type on any of my Committee on Undergraduate and Financial Aid (CUAFA) committees over the years.  Thank God MIT faculty are legitimately interested in fact first and then make rational and mature decisions from what is learned through a human perspective.

I’m sorry to hear that UCLA Admissions refused to supply Prof. Groseclose with the data he requested. My philosophy as dean was that members of CUAFA should have complete access to everything in admissions including all data because they were our check and balance, we all wanted to do the right thing and there was nothing to fear.

It just kills me, though, when guys like this – white, entitled, highly educated – judge people who don’t look like them as ‘other’, refusing to see that every coin has two equal yet different sides, that everyone’s unique experience in this world affects their behavior in life. I’ve read some of Groseclose’s writing and he has this simplistic thought process.  He seems to believe the SATs mean something and are predictive of future academic performance. He also doesn’t seem to accept that racism/sexism actually exist and that we humans compulsively judge each other by how we look.

Well, the data is out there if he wishes to find it.

Black kids are treated different from white kids in the US, just as asian kids are treated different from white kids.

The difference is that the stereotypes about these populations are not the same, having much to do with how they came to US shores.  White people love to say that slavery is over and should have no place in the conversation, but that is just not facing reality with the respect it deserves.  The legacy of this terrible national trauma is a lingering PTSD in the form of a concept called ‘stereotype threat’  in which the descendants of the traumatized absorb the culture’s view of them in a deep way.  The same can be said for some hispanic populations who are assumed to be illegal because of a history of border wars and illegal immigration patterns.

The worst thing about Prof. Groseclose, though, is his short sightedness, his lack of long term vision, his failure to think deeply about how his actions will affect the lives of his descendants.  In an era of insecurity, people like him seem to be winning the day.

Here are the facts.  We know that in America, education is the fastest way into the middle class.  We know that societies with broad, deep middle classes thrive in peace and prosperity, because people with homes and kids and jobs they love do not want to go to war.  We know that what we adults do now will affect life for the generations to come.

We also see with great alarm that as education has been usurped by a business model and colleges make admissions decisions based on reputation-building by leveraging their ranking on USNWR and no longer on what is good for the nation, the gap between the upper and middle classes is growing.  Precious financial aid funds that should go toward needy students are increasingly awarded by colleges in the form of ‘merit aid’ to affluent students whose parents can afford the cost of tuition. Every dollar spent on students who do not need funding is one dollar less for students who do.

Projected outward a generation, the US is clearly moving into a society of extremes.

Societies with little or no middle class, societies with extremes, are unstable and dangerous.  The truth is that we are becoming agents of our own demise.

If universities do not educate all races and socio-economic groups, do not dedicate themselves to moving students from the lower classes into the middle class, democracy as we know it will be done within 50 years.  We will have dissension in this country that will bring hardship and danger to our grandchildren.

Is this the legacy we want to leave them?

Affirmative action works, folks.  We are into the second generation of an evolution that will take a full three.  It’s a long-term solution to a long-term problem.

The real problem is, in modern America we’ve lost the knack of investing in a future that we will never see.

We have been acculturated into immediate gratification, which is not only selfish, silly and a relinquishment of our human obligation to leave this world better than we found it, it’s also a damn shame.

No black student is taking an education away from a white student.  There is plenty for everyone.

It takes moral courage to do the right thing here.  It takes university presidents who are willing to be educators and not Salesmen-In-Chief taking huge salaries and benefits to satisfy the needs of their trustees, 1/3rd of whom are business people with sharp pencils focused on short-term gains so characteristic of American capitalism 21st century style.

Education is not business.  Education is the ‘why’ to business’s ‘how’. It is sacred to the human race.

I’m still looking for that university leadership to rise. I’m looking for university presidents to understand that they are in service to the Nation , to Humankind itself, and not just to their own turf.