Currently, the news cycle is being dominated by a “college admissions” scandal. A good synopsis of the scandal can be found here. The gist of the scandal is that wealthy people were doing things to guarantee admission to elite schools for their children. The details are sordid, but basically significant sums of money were changing hands to cheat on the SAT’s, lie about intellectual disabilities and even lie about athletic achievements/abilities. All of this was done to gain admission to an “elite” university. I have two reactions to this news.
My first reaction is…no s!@%. Of course, the wealthy are gaming the system for the benefit of their children. Does anyone out there actually believe that this has not been happening for a very long time? I am not placing a value judgement on the people that do this, I am just saying that for those of us who cannot throw a few hundred thousand in the right direction to help our kids, we know that the system is susceptible to these kinds of shenanigans. Let’s not be surprised.
Second, the idea that only the best and brightest end up at these “elite” universities based on their “merit” is nonsense and based on the false premise that we live in a meritocracy. Many of the kids that go to these schools are in fact the best and brightest and work hard for what they have achieved. There are even examples and programs that help underserved get into “elite” colleges. The fallacy is that ALL of the students at the elite colleges are the top of the meritocracy pyramid. The fallacy is further perpetrated by the educational system which is designed to glorify quantification and ranking. Think about it. We rank students, teachers and schools based on test scores. College admissions are based on a score on a test. (For those college admission counselors out there who are reacting to this by saying “we look at the entire student”, please give me an example of a student who was admitted to your “elite” college with a great essay and an 800 on the SAT). Within the classroom, students are ranked based on a test. In many States, graduation from high school is based on passing an end of course exam. The system and process of education is so wrapped up in ranking and quantification that no one should be surprised that wealthy parents are gaming the system for their kids. When numbers become the representation of a student, people will work to change the numbers. They are just playing the game.
Can you imagine if educators starting working together to change the rules of the game? Imagine creating schools where grades are not a reflection of students “worth”. Imagine an educational system where students are not moved from room to room like cattle but have the time to learn at their own pace. Imagine creating systems where adult convenience is excised from the education process. What would a school look like that really placed the students at the center of everything they do? Imagine creating a system in education where a student is more than a number, where professional educators concentrate on creating learning experiences for students based on the individual student, not where the student lands on a test. When educators take the task of creating a better system, nonsense like the college admission scandal will end.