Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Stop Educational Snobbery

An open letter to NPR Ed and Ms. Shereen Meraji:

I thought your article (I almost hate to link to it and give it any more traction) about why smart, low-income students aren't applying to elite schools would be interesting - that is until I read this line:

"These students often wind up in community college or mediocre four-year schools."

I was angered to read that, to say the least.  So I have written NPR Ed. and while the adrenaline is still pumping, am writing this blog post.

I am a proud graduate of a community college; the college at which I later proudly taught.  I am also a proud graduate of a state college now university.  I am also a proud graduate of a private Catholic liberal arts University.  Not elite schools, but I would describe my education at them all as excellent.

We need to dispel the notion that not being an Ivy Leaguer is a condemnation to educational "Siberia" and a roadblock to success.  Take Dr. Yvonne Thornton, author of The Ditchdigger's Daughters.  She attended Monmouth College (yes, here in NJ!) and became the first of their students to be accepted in to a Medical School (Columbia U., College of Physicians and Surgeons), so I think her undergrad experience at Monmouth U. ended up serving her pretty well.  She was also very talented, of course, and extremely motivated.  I've long felt that educationally, the student's motivation and efforts are what determine his or her achievement.

Of course, the article states that graduates of elite colleges turn out better financially.  But I'm not at all sure of all the reasons for that.  There may be biased perceptions that lead employers to favor graduates of elite schools, even if the two candidates are otherwise equal.  Graduates of elite schools probably also have access to more as well as higher-powered networks. There may be more at play here so just looking condescendingly at non-elite colleges isn't bringing those factors to the discussion.  And by not discussing them, we're not getting closer to actually addressing them.

This is an issue that deserves our attention, but this article doesn't come close to doing it justice.

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