Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Next Big Controversy: Affirmative Action?

The Journal-Sentinal is running a story today about the brewing battle between the UW and legislators over affirmative action.

UW system is moving toward something called "wholistic" admissions that will take into account many different features of a persons situation during admissions decisions.

Ward Connerly, a Californian opposed to any differential policies toward admissions, will testify in Madison against the policy.

My own feeling is that it would be nice if society were race and class blind and we didn't have to worry about these things. The fact is that we are not. Racism and discrimination is deeply embedded in our society and history. To pretend that is does not exist will make it worse. In order to make sure everyone has a chance, a student's circumstances must be taken into account.

On top of that, standardized testing is a piece of junk. It has been shown time and time again that it is deeply biased in favor of rich, white kids. To base admissions decisions only on numbers is to create a highly distorted student body that will not serve the public interest.

I probably should say more on this controversial topic, but it is back to grading. . . .


lammers said...

To my way of thinking, the one thing I would want to know before making an admissions decision is, "Will this person be able to benefit from what we have to offer here?" In other words, if we exert the state's time, energy, and resources on this person, will he or she succeed academically, will s/he graduate and become a productive member of the workforce and a responsible citizen? I believe that EVERYONE for whom the answer is "yes" should be admitted.

The question then becomes, "How does one predict which applicants will be able to succeed here?" I do not know the answer, but I do recognize it is the question we need to ask: What are the best predictors of success in college?

One would expect track record to be a useful predictor. But one knows so little about the myriad school districts, their expectations, standards, faculties, etc. I've seen students who were top dog at their high school flounder miserably in college, and others who were mediocre back then flourish in college. Standardized testing is a way to control for this variation, but as pointed out it can have problems, too. So I'm not sure what the answer is. But I do think that all participants in these discussions would do well to keep their minds on THAT question -- What are the predictors
of collegiate success?

Anonymous said...

This is not really an issue at UW Oshkosh. We are trying to build our numbers and so admit anyone in the top half of their class or an ACT above 18. If need be, we will take folks who don't meet either standard.

The real concern is all the kids fighting to get into Madison. I wish there was a fight to get into here, but there just isn't.