Education Realist Responds To Unz Essay On College Admissions


Education Realist has a long post up entitled “An Alternative College Admissions System.” Here`s a sample:

….the overrepresentation of Asians is explained more by their dominance in GPA, as opposed to test scores. And that’s harder to fix. It’s easy enough to tell white kids with high test scores to go to test prep and maximize their scores, but by junior year, the GPA damage has been done. 

What that means: no more room for, say, the idiosyncratic white boy who scores 2250/34 on the SAT/ACT, scored 4s and 5s in 7 AP tests, got 780, 730, and 690 on the US History, English Lit, and Math 2c, but whose weighted GPA is a 3.8. 

So just raise the GPA, you say. White parents need to raise their expectations for their own kids. Hahahahaha. This is me laughing. Unless the white kid is ruthlessly driven and competitive on his own merit, parental pressure as a means of raising his or her grades to the degree needed to compete with Asians is a non-starter.

Okay, but this isn`t to say that white parents shouldn`t push farther out on the diminishing returns curve than they are doing right now on average.

Amy Chua isn’t kidding. If a white parent tried to drive her kid the way Amy Chua did hers, the kid would end up in therapy, and the therapist would make the parent stop. Asian parenting techniques are abusive in white people world. Full stop. (What disgusts me most about Chua’s story is not her own behavior, as she doesn’t know any better, but that her white husband stood by and let her abuse her daughters. But then, I’m a white parent.) 

Not only does this difference between white and Asian cultural expectations lead to lower GPAs for whites, but smart white kids with B averages are then denied access to AP classes (in most Asian schools, access to AP is strictly limited by GPA), which put even a lower ceiling on their GPA. 

And finally, understand that those Asian good grades do not necessarily translate to a well-educated student. As my primary second job, I teach enrichment at a private educational company (aka, an Asian cram school), which over seven years adds up to a lot of Asian high school students. I love them. They’re great kids. But my experience has taught me to question any straightforward comparison between white and Asian academic credentials. 

All of my enrichment kids, as sophomores, are taking honors English and pre-calc. Maybe 10% of them can reliably read a complex text and offer an interesting or informed analysis without referring to Wikipedia and repeating verbatim what they read there, and in seven years and probably 300 kids I have never once had a student who could explain the derivation of the quadratic formula (that is, the generalized case for completing the square). 

I also teach an AP US History prep course every year, at two different locations, to a dozen students per class. All but a few kids each year will have taken six months of APUSH by the time my class starts, and fewer than a quarter of them have ever known who wrote the Federalist papers, or the most important achievement of the Northwest Ordinance of 1787, when the class begins. Very few of them can even make a stab at naming the presidents in order, or even identify any of the “forgettable” presidents. These are kids attending public schools with some of the highest SAT averages in the country, more than a few of them topping out at 2400. [Northern California]

In comparison, I’ve tutored and taught (in public schools) a lot of bright white kids and their awareness and retention of their own education, including the above benchmark questions, is far superior, on average. There are, of course, white soulless swotters and creative inquisitive Korean eccentrics. But the betting goes the other way. 

So, for the grade manipulation that goes on at the bottom end of the scale, and the cultural skew that goes on at the top end of the scale, grades are just flatly useless. Unless or until we move to a system in which grades are taken out of teachers’ hands and determined by outside standardized tests, grades must be eliminated from any truly meritocratic admissions process. End rant. 

(Two points before I go on: 1) bright Hispanic and black kids are also more likely to retain their knowledge than Asian kids, but they are rarer and are going to write their own tickets regardless; 2) just as Asian test performance may overstate their abilities, black test performance may understate their abilities because the tests focus too much on abstraction and generalized situations. That’s another reason I want a much more competitive test market, to see if perhaps we can find a more meaningful way to test the bottom half of the ability spectrum. )

The real money would likely be for new tests for the high end, however. White people in Park Slope would like some objective test that shows their kids really are as amazing as they think they are.

For 45 years, people have wanted a test that closes The Gap. But, blacks really aren`t going to be that big of a deal in the America of the Future. 

The future of testing will arrive when somebody comes up with a test that Asians can`t crush whites on. 

In theory, blacks and whites could wind up on the same side on testing reform. Some clever Park Slope SWPL might someday come up with a new test that cuts down on Asian advantage over whites and then push it through because blacks do relatively better on it than on old tests. Recruit a third-generation Asian-American to push it as well, and it just might work.