Thursday, March 21, 2019

College Admissions

My friend Jon made a good point about the college admissions scandals. Most of the people raging about the news of inequities in college admission have, themselves, benefitted from inequities in this process.
  • Legacies - family members of alumni - have always had an edge (and if your family went to college, that's privilege, right there).
  • Articulate kids with good grades have an edge, and it helps enormously if you speak nice grammatical English because it's in your ear from the house where you grew up (which is normally the case only if you've come from privilege).
  • Kids requiring no financial aid (i.e. grandparents have set money aside) have always had a leg up in the admissions process. Privilege!
  • And, shoot, if you're even talking about college, that's already privilege. Lots of people can't take four years out of their prime earning years for optional education.
Though I didn't come from a fancy background, I benefitted from three out of four of those.

The First World is unimaginably wealthy by all previous standards, and this wildly distorts everything. The admissions scandal is just another ironic and delusional example of slightly-less-fabulously wealthy folks getting indignant about being denied the extra-special perqs of the super-rich. As I wrote last month, in a posting titled "Liberal Materialism", the thinking boils down to this:
We fight not for bread and shelter for the disadvantaged, like our righteous forebears, but for their right to smart watches and Beemers. The have-obscenely-much will be compelled to share their Riedel stemware with the have-slightly-less-obscenely-much. Vive la revolution!
Americans (especially the younger generation) love to pose as anti-privilege. From a more level-headed perspective, it's aristocrats demanding access to the most excessive excesses...which have come to seem like birthright. If I were a genuinely poor person, in some African or Asian village (there are no poor Americans, unless you've mistaken discomfort for poverty), hearing about supposed class warfare in the West, I'd either be laughing hysterically or else sharpening my sticks.

Anyway, no one ever claimed college admissions were like Olympic trials or game shows. Colleges can accept whoever they damned well want to, and it's crazy to imagine that the kid of the guy who funded the new library wouldn't get an edge - or even that he shouldn't. Again: how many edges got you into college?

The conversation continued with a discussion of whether college is even necessary these days.

Me: I've had six careers and no one ever asked about my degree

Jon: Well, but you're a special circumstance. You've been working freelance outside the mainstream.

Me: Ok. But if a degree seems necessary for mainstream work, why not get the cheapest possible state school degree? Unless you're a scholar or pre-med, why spend $$$$$$?

Jon: Yeah, your degree might get you in the door for your first job, but your second job plays mostly out of the first (and so on).

Me: Yep. If, as an adult, you're still boasting about where you went to school, that shows you haven't done much. The luster of that super-expensive credit fades awfully quickly.

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