“Education is the path to a better future.”
This statement is widely—almost universally—accepted throughout the world. No sane person disagrees with it. Many might argue about the various components of that education, some arguing for the liberal arts and others placing greater emphasis on more practical pursuits. Others might debate the best environment for education. However, every career choice, from short order cook to nuclear physicist, requires some sort of education.
A Harsh Debate over Admissions Tests
One such dispute is over testing to determine who gets invited into the fellowship of the nation’s best schools. Generally, those who want to uphold academic standards favor testing, while radicals oppose it.
This conflict places the College Board, which administers the Scholastic Achievement Test (SAT), in a very delicate position. On one hand, it represents the “old” way of doing things, dating back to 1926. Its chief developer was Carl Bingham, a professor of psychology at Princeton and a promoter of the now-discredited theory known as eugenics. The test also aids in creating a kind of hierarchy, separating the most intelligent from the merely smart, mediocre and stupid. To the modern leftist, such rankings are problematic since the liberal ethos prescribes extreme equality.
Of course, the College Board’s clients are among the most liberal in the world. Thus, the Board has tried to walk a narrow line—creating a hierarchy while feigning a belief in equality.
To show himself sufficiently egalitarian, David Coleman, the CEO of the College Board, wrote a May 2019 article for The Atlantic. He attempts to present himself as a promoter of equity, even though his products enforce meritocracy. “We need a far humbler view of the SAT….” he said. “Low scores should never be a veto on a student’s life.”
Even The New York Times Argues the Conservative Side
The argument over the SAT was the topic of a recent article in The New York Times. In a strange twist against the usual order of things, the Times was actually on the more conservative side of the argument. The article argues convincingly that the SAT and ACT exams are the best available predictors of academic success.
The Times quoted Dr. John Friedman of Brown University, one of the authors of an extensive study of admissions to Ivy League schools. “Test scores have vastly more predictive power than is commonly understood in the popular debate.” Moreover, the study’s numbers crunchers showed that the tests are a far better indicator of success at the university level than high school grades.
However, even here, the Times’s usual leftist tendencies manifested themselves, at least to the extent that it gave a respectful hearing to its opponents—an opportunity seldom given to its antagonists on the right.
The DEI’s Games of Chance
To the anti-exam advocates, the issue is not to identify the genuinely superior among the nation’s budding intellects; it is diversity. In turn, diverse student bodies will presumably “lift social mobility.”
Eddie Comeaux, Ph.D., is an education professor at the University of California, Riverside. Even though his school has eliminated any testing requirement for admissions, Dr. Comeaux agrees that the SAT and ACT predict later success.
However, he agrees that they should be excised. He would have colleges set only minimum requirements for admission, mainly consisting of the grades the students earned in high school. The college would then winnow down the pool through a lottery. His logic is not compelling. “Having a lottery,” Comeaux said, “would make us radically rethink what it means to gain access and also to learn, rather than accepting the status quo.”
Unfortunately, the Times never asked him what he thought that process would accomplish. Why is it necessary to “radically rethink what it means to gain access and also to learn?” What is wrong with the status quo? Can he really think that a carefully developed exam taken by well-prepared students should be replaced by the logical equivalent of a wheel of fortune or a raffle ticket?
The Illusory Achievement Gap
The most common answer to that last question is the dreaded “achievement gap.” The simple fact is that African Americans and Hispanics are less successful academically than Whites and Asians. No sane person argues that the cause is a lesser degree of basic intelligence—there are simply too many examples to the contrary.
Common sense and experience point to family structure as the primary determinant. Children in stable homes with two committed parents who support education are more likely to succeed than those raised in economic and emotional insecurity by a single parent.
Despite this obvious truth, such statements are anathema to the left. They raise uncomfortable questions about the effects of the vaunted sexual revolution and the moral chaos resulting from it.
A Pointless Search for Relative Truth
Since they have cut themselves off from the truth, the leftists must develop alternate ideas. They have to argue that truth is relative and that “my truth” may or may not be relevant to “your truth.” They “radically rethink” the “status quo,” accepting the logical absurdities that arise from their “conversations.” These absurdities appear everywhere in the form of “Critical Race Theory,” “Intersectionality” and “Diversity, Equity and Inclusion.”
The leftists make their biggest mistake in assuming that gaining admission is synonymous with success. Getting into an exclusive university is only one early step. In and of itself, it counts for very little. Ultimately, the university’s job goes far beyond admission. Having the desired diverse mix of students in the freshman class is far from ultimate success. The university has only completed its purpose when it molds promising young minds into knowledgeable and intelligent adults.
Every day, the evidence increases to show that DEI does not meet any goal other than increasing the number of university administrators and creating more confusion.
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