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Inside Higher Ed :: Opening Up the Elites

June 2, 2006

Jerome Karabel gave a paper last week at the the Educational Testing Service and the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching which is outlined here. In short he argues that the elites should compensate for SES just as they do for race.

Consider:
Percentile Percent admitted
Top 74%
middle 17%
lower 6%
lowest 3%

While detractors argued, rightly, that attention should also be paid in ensuring that all lower SES are well equipped for college work, I am reminded at the W.E.B. Du Bois (top 10th percent) versus Booker T. Washington (“smart” education for the masses).

On the one hand you have a meritocritous attempt to reward those who started at a disadvantaged but who have continued to race despite obstacles (Karabel wants to factor in parent’s education level, type of secondary school, neighborhood, etc. into the addmissions calculas) and wanted to reach those who are supposed to be racing but may have slowed, wandered off course, etc. (the metaphor gets really strained–but the idea here is that the masses may not have the personal drive of the talented top).

So, where, assuming that resources are limited, do you spend your efforts? Do you educate at Ivy the best and brightest? Do you seek to equal the playing field for all? Do you seek to elavate the masses, whether they want it or not?

Some middle ground?

I don’t know…but I do know that you can lead a student to knowledge, but you can’t make him think.

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