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robertogreco : gamingthesystem   6

All the Greedy Young Abigail Fishers and Me 
"Years ago, I helped Abigail Fishers get into college in Texas. That was my job: I “tutored” entitled teenagers through the application process. Specifically, and ominously for my later life, I taught them to write a convincing personal essay—a task that generally requires identifying some insight, usually gained over some period of growth. And growth often depends on hardship, a thing that none of these 18-year-olds had experienced in a structural sense over the course of their white young lives. Because of the significant disconnect involved in this premise, I always ended up rewriting their essays in the end.

My students were white, and without exception. Their parents were paying me $450 per session, and this was Houston; of course they were white. The means were the essays, and the end was the assurance that the benefits of whiteness would continue to vest themselves even as Texas demographics and UT admissions practices began to put their lovely families in a bind.

Texas parents—as ability permits, and like parents throughout the country—pay good money to live in good school zones. These schools are “good” in a double and mutually reinforcing sense: they are academically vibrant, supportive, and competitive; they also draw from a wealthy population, which means most of the students are white. As Abigail Fisher’s case, a.k.a. Becky With the Bad Grades v. UT Austin, reminded us: the top 7 percent (formerly 10 percent) at all Texas high schools get admitted to UT’s flagship campus automatically. This means that a second-rate student at a first-rate school, a.k.a. an Abigail Fisher, does not automatically get in. This means that a portion of white kids don’t get the educational success those property taxes were supposed to pay for. The 10 percent policy is implicit discrimination against “good schools,” the party line goes.

Most of the UT student body gets in through the Top 10 rule. The rest—approximately 8 percent, the year Fisher applied—are admitted through a holistic evaluation process, which takes into account things like extracurriculars, leadership, personal essays (thus the $450), and race. This is the part of UT admissions policy that Fisher’s case was challenging. Note that it was easier for her (or the anti-affirmative-action zealot who bankrolled her) to take a margin of UT admissions to the Supreme Court than to envision a version of justice in which she had, along with 92 percent of admitted students, straight-up earned her way in.

Because UT Austin is a terrific place—the rare kind of school that radiates both capaciousness and prestige—it is the top choice for many Texas high school students, and its unique admissions policy carries a lot of weight. It is discussed ad nauseam during application season; however, the reasoning behind this policy—behind the 10 percent rule, behind affirmative action—is not. I figured that part out only after I left the state and saw how much about my previous surroundings had been determined by the fact that rich white people can still game the system simply by living—that they are still reaping the benefits of centuries of preferential access to everything that sets a person up for success.

Today, certain measures have been enacted to level the playing field. But, as the Abigails among us can’t seem to admit, the mere existence of these measures does not mean that the need for them has expired. White people remain uniquely able, in a monetary sense, to game the system. For a summer, at $150 an hour, I was paid to help.

And I did. The kids were sweet, and I knew how to elicit and identify whatever topic would make their voice speed up when they talked about it. We wrote about canoes capsizing at summer camp, about football injuries, about girlfriends freezing us out at youth group. For the most part, they got in where they wanted, and I worked a leisurely three hours a day, helping them cheat.

I’ve had a lot of relatively demeaning jobs in my life. I never thought I deserved better than any of them—first because I didn’t, and second, because a sense of entitlement means nothing without capital to back it up. I’ve waitressed in short shorts and cowboy boots. I’ve street-canvassed for recycling. When I was 16, I was paid minimum wage to participate in a reality TV show in Puerto Rico that included challenges like eating mayonnaise on camera with my hands tied behind my back.

This job—writing college essays for Abigail Fishers—was the only job I have ever been truly ashamed of, and I am so ashamed of it now that it hurts. I did it, too, for a particularly embarrassing reason: because it paid so well that I could keep my earning hours to a minimum, and for four months spend most of my time writing fiction so I could get into an MFA program. Once I did get in, my boyfriend started looking at me reproachfully when he came home from work and saw me sending invoices. “Stop doing this,” he said flatly, in the late afternoon one day."



"It took me until some time later to realize what is so obvious to me now, why my boyfriend hated my job so much, which was that I was the one letting the Abigails get away with everything. That I was feeding and affirming and making possible the entitlement of mediocre white high schoolers, many of whom believed themselves to be facing structural discrimination, and needed to hire a ghostwriter to stay on top. Luckily, they could afford to. Luckily, I liked them when they weren’t talking about affirmative action. Luckily, we all made out just fine in the end.

We were all lucky, weren’t we? In 2005, I applied to college—not in the Philippines or Canada, where my parents had gone, but in America. I was salutatorian at my high school; I had perfect SATs. I was a cheerleader, the editor of our yearbook, cast in every musical, an officer in every club. And still, when I got into colleges, I felt lucky. I never felt like I’d simply gotten what I deserved.

In fact I still don’t know what it would be like to feel automatically deserving of something, to have enough of a claim on advantage to give a fuck about giving it up. I have never had a case for any sort of admission, not even when I was a selfish high schooler, not even when it came to the 10 percent rule, because even when I opened my Texas acceptance letter I knew some Abigail Fisher would think that if anyone was coasting on race here, it was me. How the legacy of inequity took hold of me internally even as I clawed through it with a sunny disposition was not obvious to me then, or in college, or after I graduated, on a hot summer where I needed money and I couldn’t ask my parents and I felt lucky—lucky—to be helping Abigail Fishers cheat."
texas  colleges  universities  admissions  gamingthesystem  privilege  jiatolentino  univeristyoftexas  ut  abigailfisher  utaustin  prestige  inequality  affirmativeaction  race  2016  highered  highereducation 
june 2016 by robertogreco
Brown Alumna Recalls What She Failed to Learn - NYTimes.com
"Though I alone was responsible for insulating myself from challenge and failure and meaningful reward, an entire system buffers today’s children from such possibilities. Overprotective parents, schools dedicated to acing exams, a college preparatory system that offers zero capacity for error (unless it provides pathos fodder for the application essay) — all of these elements make it hard for the ambitious child to risk a misstep. There is no room for failure, let alone soap opera afternoons.

Today, perfect children check off boxes at all levels. At a Manhattan preschool last year, word spread about the magnificent child who had won acceptance at 12 — 12! — coveted kindergartens. “How did she manage it?” parents were heard to whisper. And then the answer was passed along the same gossip chain. “When asked to jump, my daughter will not only jump, she’ll ask, ‘How high?’ ” her mother explained."
universities  colleges  experience  riskaversion  fearoffailure  failure  competition  gamingthesystem  assessment  grading  grades  standardizedtesting  testcentricschools  collegeprep  missingthepoint  perfectionism  self-esteem  motivation  incentives  conditioning  checkboxes  schooliness  risktaking  learning  education  2012  princetonkid  pamelapaul 
december 2012 by robertogreco
Why Elites Fail | The Nation
"While smartness is necessary for competent elites, it is far from sufficient: wisdom, judgment, empathy and ethical rigor are all as important, even if those traits are far less valued. Indeed, extreme intelligence without these qualities can be extremely destructive. But empathy does not impress the same way smartness does. Smartness dazzles and mesmerizes. More important, it intimidates. When a group of powerful people get together to make a group decision, conflict and argumentation ensue, and more often than not the decision that emerges is that which is articulated most forcefully by those parties perceived to be the “smartest.”

It is under these conditions that destructive intelligence flourishes."
judgement  wisdom  ethics  smartness  gamingthesystem  class  power  destructiveintelligence  intelligence  psychopathy  empathy  2012  oligarchy  education  us  inequality  elites  policy  society  politics  meritocracy 
june 2012 by robertogreco
Education Week: When Test Scores Become a Commodity
"…when we speak about value-added evaluations, let’s be clear…It is a system that turns student scores into a market &, as such, creates cheating, disreputable practices, & dislocations…let’s also talk straight about the cheaters. Like dishonest or corrupt traders, the educators are not the victims, but rather sophisticated, savvy players. Many will get away with it & be honored for their work, as some cheating administrators & teachers were before they were caught. & many teachers & administrators who don’t technically cheat, but find ways to game the market “legally” will also be duly honored. Where could this lead? Schools could become little more than test-preparation institutes, ignoring subjects & skills that are not assessed, with faculty members who resent & distrust one another. Meanwhile, many honest & dutiful teachers will go down in flames.

If this is the kind of public school system the American people want, then fine. Let’s just be honest about it."

[via: http://willrichardson.com/post/13830805235/ ]
jonathankeiler  testing  education  educationindustrialcomplex  gamingthesystem  thegameofschool  teaching  learning  economics  behavior  valueadded  systemsgaming  testprep  standardizedtesting  dishonesty  cheating  2011  evaluation  corruption  misguidedenergy  policy  schools  schooling  schooliness  us 
december 2011 by robertogreco
Lead Gen Sites Pose Challenge to Google - the Haggler - NYTimes.com
"Of course, this is not just a Seattle problem. Lead gen sites dominate Google results for locksmiths in many cities nationwide, and in more than a few towns. And it’s not just locksmiths. Other service industries, like roofing and carpeting, have a similar problem. If Google is the new Yellow Pages, then lead gen sites have perfected the same game that companies in the predigital age played when they started their names with combinations like AAA1 to land atop printed listings.<br />
<br />
But because few people search beyond the first page online, snookering Google might be far more effective, especially because many people assume that the company’s algorithm does a bit of consumer-friendly vetting."
google  seo  local  googlelocal  fraud  gamingthesystem  search  2011 
july 2011 by robertogreco
‘I am a bad teacher’ - The Answer Sheet - The Washington Post [via: http://www.tuttlesvc.org/ ]
"Last Friday I actually told a child who had left three questions unbubbled on a district periodic math assessment to go ahead and fill something into those circles. He looked up at me nonplussed, “But Ms. B, I don’t know how to do those problems.” And I found myself about to launch into a discourse about how some tests penalize you for guessing and others don’t and this is one of the ones that doesn’t so…

Then I saw his 9-year-old face.

One summer in the 1980s, I earned money by preparing undergrads test for the LSAT, the law school entrance exam. The field of test prep was brand new back then, and its one or two companies paid a princely rate of $30/hr. The class I taught was not about content and knowledge, but rather about how to game the system: how to analyze questions, answers, negations, distractors, etc. We were in our early twenties and gaming the system seemed pretty cool.

Now it’s 25 years later, and I can’t believe I’m teaching this stuff to little kids…"
standardizedtestingt  testing  testprep  2011  sujatabhatt  gamingthesystem  education  policy  reform  valueadded  quanitifcation  accountability  data  teaching  learning  children  corporations  datadrivenmismanagement 
april 2011 by robertogreco

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