Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Elite Universities and "White, Rural America"

This is an interesting conversation that started on Facebook. What's your opinion?

Kurt C. Wiesner A thought provoking op-ed that was somewhat unexpected. What do you think?
To understand the country’s polarization, take a look at the admissions process at elite private colleges.
Bob Chapman
Bob Chapman
Universities can only admit those who apply. Is there any evidence that the rural, white Americans lamented in this article apply to these universities in numbers sufficient so that more FFA presidents or ROTC cadets will be admitted? This is not examined in this article.

Cullen McCarty
Cullen McCarty
I beg your pardon but you need to read the article again for context. Rural, white Americans would have more barriers to climb in the admissions process than their counterparts who are of a different skin color. The columnist makes this very clear and uses evidence from the research to conclude that true diversity is based on the character of the person and not their skin color. Have we forgotten MLK? Lincoln's Second Inaugural Address?

Bob Chapman
Bob Chapman
I read the article. He made a claim. He did not support it. Correlation is not causation.

Is there evidence that rural, white Americans _apply_ in sufficient percentages to be admitted in larger percentages to these schools?

As a former teacher in several rural high schools, the closest I remember to encouragement from faculty to students to apply an elite school was a military service academy. The goals were typically a good state school or a regional private school. How universal is this?

Kurt C. <span class=
Kurt C. Wiesner
I think you're trying to throw out the author's point on a technicality here Bob...I agree with Cullen there. I think that there is truth in the author's claim that those with the decision making power in universities may have more barriers towards rural white Americans who offer little to the paper picture of diversity, and who often need more financial help to pay for the ridiculous price of higher education.

I think your point about encouragement from faculty (as well as the assumptions as to "expectations") is a great point.

I actually reach a different conclusion than you do Cullen. Universities and work places should consider all aspects of diversity. Race is one such aspect, but so is "rural upbringing". (In other-words, "true diversity" INCLUDES character, as well as race.)

I believe the author is calling for an expansion of diversity (not a doing away with affirmative action). After all: money, the quality of prep schooling, and family power are still the dominant forces in higher education...aspects all still stacked towards a group of people who are mostly white. He rightly suggests that the way to expand a pluralistic society is to bring more people of different backgrounds in genuine contact with each other, so everyone grows.

The irony of all of this, is that the "rural, white Americans" who don't get accepted (whether it's a university or a job) end up blaming minorities and immigrants instead of the people who are making the decisions that ultimately hoard resources and power (and who are mostly still white men).

1 comment:

Kurt said...

(Bob replied on FB...and I've transferred it here)

Bob Chapman
Trying to throw out? No, asking a legit question--which can be easily dismissed with another look at the input data.

If there is something behind my question, that means you can't blame the powers-that-be for _past_ performance. Notice I'm emphasizing the word _past_.

The future is another question. But, the solution does not rely on ... See More_admitting_ more rural students. The solution relies on efforts to encourage more rural students to _apply_ to these schools. Don't blame the admission process; improve the public relations efforts.

There is something else to consider. Are those diplomas from state and regional private schools not as valuable as the elite school diplomas? I ask this after attending the memorial service for one of my partner's piano teachers last Sunday in Spokane, Washington. While Margaret "Margie May" Saunders Ott did have a graduate degree from Julliard, her undergraduate education wasn't from an elite school. I would say that her influence on music education and piano performance in the United States--and the world--is immeasurable.