Random selection is not generally an approach that most people opt for in the selection of doctors or even restaurants or a movie. However, it appears to be the new model for some in higher education. Former Barnard College mathematics professor Cathy O’Neil has written a column calling for “random selection” of all college graduates to guarantee racial diversity. It is ever so simple: “Never mind optional standardized tests. If you show interest, your name goes in a big hat.” She is not the only one arguing for blind or random admissions.
Recently, University of California President Janet Napolitano announced that the entire system will no longer base admissions on standardized tests — joining a “test-blind” admissions movement nationally. Others have denounced standardized testing as vehicles for white supremacy. Education officials like Alison Collins, vice president of the San Francisco Board of Education, have declared meritocracy itself to be racist. There is a growing criticism that the problem with higher education is that it relies on merit rather than status as the driving criteria for admissions. …
Not the way to train doctors or engineers:
O’Neil and others are arguing not just for blind but actually random selection to achieve true diversity. O’Neil argues that it would also “take the pressure off students to conform to the prevailing definition of the ideal candidate” and allow them “to be kids again, smoking pot and getting laid in between reading Dostoyevsky and writing bad poetry.”
In her column, O’Neil admits that there is a “downside” like the fact that “applications to the most selective colleges would soar, causing acceptance rates to plunge and leaving the ‘strongest’ candidates with little chance of getting into their chosen schools.” However, she treats the downside of eliminating the value of actually doing well in high school and tests as just a question of privilege: “The kids who struggled to get perfect grades, who spent their high school years getting really good at obscure yet in-demand sports, the legacies and the offspring of big donors, would lose their advantages.” …
Schools really strongly want to discriminate on the basis of race:
Blind selection is the final default position for many schools. Universities have spent decades working around court decisions limiting the reliance on race as an admissions criterion. Many still refuse to disclose the full data on scores and grades for admitted students. If faced with a new decision further limiting (or entirely eliminating) race as a criterion, blind selection would effectively eliminate any basis for judicial review. …
China moving up, USA moving down:
The push for blind or random admissions is the ultimate sign of the decadence of society. What O’Neil is describing is a system designed for the intellectual dilettante. Of course, countries like China are moving to dominate the world economy with kids who are not focusing on good sex and bad poetry. Higher education has long been based on intellectual achievement and discovery. Admission to higher ranked schools has been a key motivating factor for millions of students, including the children of many first generation Americans. Their achievement has translated into national advancement in science and the economy. It has served to bring greater opportunities and growth for all Americans.
And, when the world discovers that bad poetry holds the key to the new global economy, we will once again rise as a world power.