Wednesday, August 07, 2013

The Asian ceiling in elite schools revisited

Charles Murray on the despicable racism of America's Leftist university administrators

Last December, I wrote at length in this space about Asian-Americans as the new Jews. My point, drawing on a detailed, data-driven analysis by Ron Unz, was that the Ivies have converged on about 16%, plus or minus a few percent, as the appropriate proportion of Asian-Americans in their institutions, even though collateral evidence tells us that a fair proportion based on their qualifications would be much higher. An article published last week in the New York Times drives this point home from a new perspective.

The title of the article is “Confessions of an Application Reader: Lifting the Veil on the Holistic Process at the University of California, Berkeley,” and it is required reading for anyone who wants to understand how admission to elite universities works. It reveals what everyone involved in the admissions offices of elite universities has long known: “Holistic admissions” is admirable in theory and corrupt in practice when a school has an underlying agenda. The subjectivity of the holistic process permits the school to produce whatever admissions outcomes it wants without the embarrassment of coming right out and saying what it’s doing.

The article is fascinating on its own, but what caught my attention was the contrast between the treatment of Asian-American applicants in the holistic process and the admissions results. By California state law, race and ethnicity are not supposed to be considered in the state’s university system. But as the article makes clear, the holistic process de facto downgrades the role of academic qualifications (where Asians have their greatest advantage) in the admissions decisions, so that “underrepresented minorities” (Latinos and African Americans) can get an edge. And yet, in 2012 Asian-Americans still constituted 43% of the freshman enrollment, about four times their representation in the California population of 15–19 year olds.

That a group can have the deck stacked against it and still produce the results that Asian-American applicants got is dazzling. What would have been the percentage of Asian-Americans in Berkeley’s freshman class if academic qualifications were decisive? Sixty percent? Eighty percent? There’s no way of knowing, but it would surely have been a lot higher than 43.

California has a higher concentration of Asians than the rest of the nation, so we shouldn’t expect the Ivies to have as high a proportion of Asian applicants. But the same is not true of Stanford, just forty miles down the road from Berkeley. Same region of the same state. Even more prestigious than Berkeley. Even more of a magnet for the most ambitious, academically superior students. And yet just 19% of its freshman in 2012 were Asian-Americans, barely higher than the Ivies’ average of 16% and less than half the percentage at Berkeley.

There is no benign explanation for this disparity, unless benign includes “We think a ceiling on Asian-Americans in our student body is appropriate.” That’s what America’s elite universities have decided, and it’s time to demand that they justify it publicly. So let’s have that much-touted conversation about race, but let’s do it about Asian-Americans. Here is the sub rosa rationale for the Asian-American ceiling:

“Yes, they get high test scores and grades in high school, because that’s all they and their ambitious parents care about. They aren’t intellectually curious. They don’t add to classroom discussions. They don’t have any interests outside academics or maybe music. They don’t come from diverse socioeconomic backgrounds. They don’t add as much to the university environment as other kids whose test scores and grades aren’t as high.”

I didn’t write that down because I believe it, or because I think any admissions officer in any elite university in the country will defend it in public, but because something like that logic is the only justification for a ceiling on Asian-American admissions. Otherwise, it’s just discrimination against hard-working, high-achieving young people because of the color of their skin. And that would be despicable.


Explaining College Cost Inflation

Tuition at America’s institutions of higher learning, both public and private, has been rising faster than any other component of the cost of living, including healthcare, for about two decades.

There are many explanations for this currently on offer, such as reductions in teaching loads for senior faculty members, but that can’t be the full story because gray-haired, research-active and more generously paid scholars increasingly have been replaced in the classroom by cheaper instructors (graduate students, adjunct and “clinical” professors).

I prefer two, much simpler explanations. First, colleges and universities predictably have raised their tuition charges in order to capture large fractions of the rising taxpayer-financed subsidies for financial aid (Pell Grants, guaranteed loans at below-market interest rates, and so on). Such third-party support boosts the demand for post-secondary educations and, other things being the same, drives up (tuition) prices. The economic evidence suggests that the link here is nearly dollar for dollar: A $1 increase in subsidy leads to slightly less than a $1 increase in tuition at the average U.S. institution of higher learning.

That link could be broken – or at least moderated – if subsidies were paid to students in the form of “vouchers” rather than directly to the educational institutions to which they have been admitted.

One other “unintended” consequence of public policies that encourage everyone to attend a four-year college is to fill classrooms with students who are unprepared for post-secondary educations, more interested in “checking boxes” that qualify them for jobs than in learning, or both.

The second explanation, obviously related to the first, focuses on the robust growth in the number of administrators employed by many colleges and universities. Adding administrators to the office of the university president or its provost (the chief academic officer at many schools) adds nothing to the institution’s teaching or research missions. Indeed, most members of the faculty (including me) would argue that these “educrats” actually interfere with fulfilling our responsibilities mainly because of the make-work internal reporting and committee assignments they impose in order to justify their existences.

In the long run, which may already have arrived, America’s institutions of higher learning will be in as steep of a decline as its public (government) K-12 schools now are.


Australia:  Qld. school subject review considers axing mandatory languages

Language studies rarely lead to fluency so would probably not be missed

LANGUAGES could be dropped as a compulsory subject in state schools in a move teachers warn would disadvantage Queensland children.

A review of mandatory languages in Years 6, 7 and 8 is also considering whether the subject should be dropped in primary school, after Education Queensland (EQ) recommended the subject start in Year 7, once the year level moves into secondary.

In documents obtained under Right to Information, EQ says a Prep to Year 6 languages focus "is not recommended".

"Commencing languages in Year 7 would allow for efficient focusing of curriculum time in Junior Secondary," a Ministerial briefing note states.

"Consequently, in Prep - Year 6 it would allow more time for schools to focus on EQ core priorities as stated in United in our Pursuit of Excellence. A second consideration is whether languages are mandated."

In the note Education Minister John-Paul Langbroek is warned of problems sourcing language teachers in rural areas, with more than 1200 students learning the subject through Distance Education, and that some school communities and parents are against it being mandatory.

Mr Langbroek said a review into the mandatory languages policy was under way.

Japanese is currently the most popular language in state schools, followed by German, French and Mandarin.

Modern Language Teachers' Association of Queensland president Cynthia Dodd said she believed Year 7 was too late to start languages because students attitudes had hardened by then and research showed children were more receptive to languages in the early years.

P&Cs Qld CEO Peter Levett said research showed it was beneficial for students to learn a language, although there were two schools of thought on whether it made a difference if it started from Prep or not.


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