Sunday, June 07, 2009

Deformative action pt. II

In comments below, ChrisV82 provides this chart which purportedly represents the admissions disadvantages and advantages for different groups in terms of SAT points. It's saying, for example, that being a recruited athlete adds 200 points to one's SAT score. Being an Asian lops off 50 points.

Jewish people are the group most conspicuously absent. Historically, Jews were pointedly excluded from elite universities. Today they make up a disproportionate percentage of the student body at elite schools, particularly in the northeast. I'd guess that if Jews were on the chart, they'd rate something like -150.

I do not know what the best system for college admissions would be. I guess in some ideal world (somewhere similar to France), all students would have the same curriculum in school, take the same tests based on that curriculum, then be admitted, or not, to universities based on the results. But we don't have anything close to an ideal system. We have thousands of schools teaching who knows how many different curricula and the test results track with parents income far more than anything else.

What is best for society? Should test taking ability be the most important criteria? If test taking doesn't produce diversity, should diversity trump test taking, at least for a small proportion of the student body?

Poor chuckling simply does not know. The obvious answer is to have enough good schools for everybody, but that particular solution doesn't appear to be on anybody's agenda.

So for now we'll have to leave it to the professionals. College admissions people feel that it's vitally important to have a diverse student body. Beyond easily identifiable ethnic groups, they also try for socio-economic diversity, for example giving advantage to children who are the first in their family to attend college, and international diversity. What are their reasons for this belief in diversity? Are there data that suggest that's the best way to go? Is it political? At this point, I just don't know, but now that I'm thinking about it will start asking the question.

But as long as the most privileged children in this country are getting a leg up, I don't see how anyone can seriously complain about historically disadvantaged groups, or poor kids, getting a leg up as well.