Friday, May 22, 2020

Academic Standards and Social Engineering

San Francisco Chronicle for Thursday, May 21, 2020: University of California system will no longer require SAT, ACT for admissions. During a teleconference meeting Thursday, the board approved UC president Janet Napolitano's plan to make submitting standardized test scores optional for students applying for admission in the fall of 2021 or 2022. Students can still submit scores that will be considered in the admissions process, but those who choose not to submit scores will not be penalized. In 2023 and 2024, the system will become "test blind" and students will only submit scores for scholarship or course-placement purposes. In 2025, the system will either create a new UC-specific standardized test “that better aligns with the content UC expects applicants to have learned and with UC’s values” or eliminate testing requirements altogether. The UC system already dropped the standardized test requirement for students applying for admission in the fall of 2021 due to disruptions caused by the coronavirus pandemic. Critics of standardized testing allege the requirements disadvantage students of underprivileged socioeconomic backgrounds, and the UC policy change could be the first of many at colleges — both public and private — nationwide.

Advocates of social justice and quotas in student admissions have been trying for years to find ways around the academic criteria for admission of applicants, in order to admit minority students whose credentials are inferior. The debate over whether intelligence and aptitude tests actually measure raw intelligence has been going on for just as long. Evaluating reading and mathematics and abstract reasoning skills is generally the only way to test these abilities, but it's obvious enough that if you've never read much, or taken mathematics courses, you're not likely to test well in these areas. So how DOES one measure the likely aptitude of those applying for admission to college degree programs? 

But the simple fact is that students who want to study at a college or university need to have the necessary background in these spheres of knowledge in order to be successful at the college level. It's all very well to claim--honestly or not--that minority students have been "disadvantaged" by their upbringing and social background. But college and university educational systems are not in the business of choosing people for their raw intelligence and possible "potential" over time. And it certainly isn't their business to be rectifying society's ills by de-naturing academic criteria in order to admit applicants who are not qualified academically. The notion that claims of "entitlement" (based on race and ethnic background) should be overweighted in the selection process is social engineering at its very worst. 

How insulting is it to minority applicants to be told that they can't be expected to compete in the same arena as others? That they are incapable of meeting the same challenges and requirements? That there is something in their culture, their racial background, that prevents them from aspiring to the same success in life as others?

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