Here’s some food for thought, at least until many of us dig in to real food tomorrow: should college admissions be reexamined, even moreso than in recent controversy and administrative panels? A Harvard junior argues so, in a Harvard Crimson editorial piece titled “The Lottery: The only fair way to admit people to Harvard is to randomize admissions.” Dylan R. Matthews ’12 argues that the current admissions system used by Harvard and other private universities across the country works against the goals it sets out to achieve:
William R. Fitzsimmons ’67, Harvard’s long-time dean of admissions and financial aid, has said that 80 to 90 percent of Harvard applicants are qualified to be here. Harvard should identify that 80 to 90 percent, and then randomly accept 1600-1700 of them.
Some will no doubt object that this will undermine the “excellence” of Harvard’s student body. It will, and that’s exactly the point. For one thing, “excellence” in the Harvard admissions process—and at Harvard—has a lot less to do with virtuous character traits than with an ability to game the system. By placing a premium on students who go above and beyond in extracurricular realms, Harvard has attracted a number of truly incredible people but has also encouraged a high school arms race wherein kids cram their schedules with activities in an attempt to attract admissions officers.
By selecting for this kind of behavior, the admissions process doesn’t encourage real excellence, but, to use the novelist Walter Kirn’s term from his hilarious book and essay “Lost in the Meritocracy,” “aptitude for showing aptitude.” This may well be of use in students’ careers after college, but it is orthogonal if not antithetical to the goals of a liberal arts education.
The post is already alive with discussion, which are viewable with the full text of the article at the Harvard Crimson’s website. Where do you stand on the proposal? Does this seem fully applicable to Wesleyan’s admissions policy? Would this be a change in the right direction, or is change even necessary at all here? Share your thoughts in the comments, before your post-colonial guilt seeps into the flavor of the systematically butchered turkey and poisons the already genocide-tinged taste of your gluten-free stuffing.
[Article via anonymous Shoutbox tip.]