April 15, 2005

Past Performance, Future Results

Jesse writes a response to some moron named Thomas Sowell who thinks that test scores are the sole useful predictor of college performance. In fact, said moron thinks that it shouldn't matter that standardized measures of academic performance favor the wealthy, because those scores are the best indication of where someone is going, however they arrived there.

Which is an enormous load of steaming bull droppings.

At my college alone, our local TRiO program only takes students who are in a low income bracket, are the first in their immediate family to attend college, or have a documented disability. According to the director of our program, their students include people recovering from addiction, returning students who may be single parents or who had their first child as a minor, and those who've been homeless at some point in time.

The average GPA of these TRiO participants is 3.4, well above the school-wide average, mainly because often for the first time in their lives these people have mentors who care whether or not they succeed academically. They have emotional support, people who believe in them and are committed to their goals, extensive tutoring, assistance with financial aid, and academic and transfer advising.

These are people whose past academic acheivements may have amounted to bupkiss, but with some help they outperform the rest of the school in average GPA. To me, that's money and time well spent, better spent in fact than providing extra opportunity to people who will probably do well either way. It's an investment in a new destiny for the participants, and a double benefit to a society that loses a straggler and gains a leader.

Why do we necessarily gain a leader? Because often these remarkable and persistent individuals are in a position to set an example for their family, friends, and community. Their life tells the story that it's possible to overcome great obstacles, and that even those at the very bottom rungs of society shouldn't be given up on. Their successes can provide a radically different example for their children, setting other lives on a path to a better future by expanding their perspective of what's possible.

I missed the part where the American Dream was changed to 'don't do any better than your parents,' but I'll leave the last words to Garrison Keillor, from his book, Homegrown Democrat:

... American universities have seen plenty of radicals and revolutionaries come and go over the years, and all of them put together were not nearly so revolutionary as a land-grant university itself on an ordinary weekday. To give people with little money a chance to get the best education there is - that is true revolution.

...genius and courage and artistic energy rise up from below and if a nation puts too great burdens on the young and the poor and the dispossessed, if the strata harden, the nation will stifle its own genius. You don't encourage invention and ambition by giving a quarter-million-dollar tax break to a $15-million-a-year man. Give the bus driver's bright children a chance to get a great education for free. That's an investment.


Posted by natasha at April 15, 2005 06:15 PM | Education | Technorati links |

Thomas Sowell has been an Uncle Tom for Forbes magazine and likeminded folks forever and a day. He's the guy that wants to keep The Talented Tenth exclusive, instead of bringing those in need but with talent and/or brains up the ladder of success. Truly a man about whom the only effort I would make would be the speed with which I wipe him off my shoe.

Posted by: palamedes at April 16, 2005 12:26 AM

Thomas Sowell is an idiot. Test scores are not a predictor of how one will do in college. But we knew that already. I know it up close and personal.

I didn't take the SAT in high school. Instead I went to junior college and only took the ACT because the school was using that for English and Math placement. The one good thing which came out of that was that I got eight hours of credit for Biology as a result. English was OK, and math only confirmed that I would, in later years, still be the person with two university degrees and unable to fill out a Form 1040EZ without screwing up.

Oh yeah. Two university degrees. I went three semesters to JC and applied to University of Texas, which accepted me with no problems, as I had straight As. Two years after I got my college degree, I went to law school.

Anyway, so I never took the SAT and did rather poorly in high school. I shouldn't have been able to get into college, much less get into a decent university and graduate, not to mention go to law school, according to Sowell. He's FOS on that. Personal experience says so.

Posted by: Mirele at April 16, 2005 11:18 AM