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What Makes a Fair College Admissions Process? | JSTOR Daily
"Move Away from Meritocracy
Nadirah Farah Foley

Especially in the wake of the recent news of a coordinated bribery scheme, many people seem to agree our selective college admissions process is broken. There is far less consensus, however, about why we think it’s broken, and what a better, fairer admissions process would look like. Some think that the process would be fair if it were conducted without special considerations for legacy students, development cases, or athletic recruitment. Others go further, focusing on the myriad mundane ways—aside from bribery and donations—that the system allows privileged people to leverage their resources to secure and perpetuate their advantages. But I contend the process is inherently unfair because it is based on meritocratic principles designed to produce unequal outcomes. A truly fair system would reject meritocratic logics and instead operate on the principle that high-quality education is not a reward for the few, but a right of the many.

Our current process, in which applicants are stratified into a hierarchical higher education landscape, takes a meritocratic ideology as its foundational premise. Meritocracy, the term popularized by British sociologist Michael Young’s 1958 The Rise of the Meritocracy, is typically imagined as a system in which all have equal opportunity to compete on a “level playing field” on the basis of “talent” and “ability,” and all are rewarded equitably based on their “merit.” While this system sounds fair at first blush, a meritocratic ideology poses two problems, either of which should be sufficient cause to critically question it, and perhaps abandon it entirely.

First, upholding meritocracy necessarily entails accepting and upholding inequality. In the case of college admissions, we currently have a system in which some schools have more resources, are more prestigious, and are deemed “better” than others, and those schools have limited seats. We try to allocate those seats “fairly,” on the basis of demonstrated past success and evaluations of future potential. It’s far from a perfect system, but we can rationalize it as ideologically consistent with a meritocratic ideal of equal opportunity and reward for individual talent, effort, and ability. But perhaps, rather than focusing on who “deserves” the “best” schooling, our societal commitment should be to making a high-quality education available to all. Such a commitment would require a rejection of the stratification and inequality presupposed by a meritocratic system and lead us to question whether a stratified society—and assignment to places in an unequal education system—could ever be just.

Second, even if one were inclined to find inequality and stratification acceptable, the reality is that we are so far from the ideals of equal opportunity and a level playing field that the unfairness is glaringly obvious. As sociologist Jonathan Mijs argues, opportunities for demonstrating merit are far from equally distributed. In the United States, where racial residential segregation and local control of schools combine to disproportionately relegate nonwhite (especially black) students to underfunded schools, the claim that anything approaching equal opportunity exists is laughable. Our emphasis on standardized tests, which have roots in racist, ableist, eugenicist science, evinces a narrow understanding of what intelligence is or could be. Holistic admissions evaluations, which provide necessary latitude to consider students’ contexts and lived experiences, also provide privileged applicants another opportunity to show off well-filled extracurricular profiles and essays carefully coached and edited by counselors and consultants. In sum, our current admissions process is—top to bottom—built to misrecognize privilege as “merit,” and thus advantage the already advantaged. To say wealthy white applicants are gaming the system belies the fact that they’re really just playing the game—a game in which only they have full access to the equipment. Perhaps the way to fix this is not to try to change the rules, but to stop playing the meritocratic game entirely.

If that seems a drastic proposal, let me try to convince you it’s a necessary one. We could try to work within the current system, striking the policies that are most obviously and egregiously unfair: legacy, donor admissions, early decision, recruitment of athletes in country club sports. While an improvement, this does nothing to address the fact that even with those components stripped out, the process still falls far short of fairness, because our very metrics of merit are skewed toward privilege. We could try to calibrate for disadvantage, but that’s essentially what holistic evaluation tries to do now—and it’s not enough. Meritocracy is an arms race, one in which the privileged are always better equipped.

We could, as many scholars have proposed, move toward a lottery, which would go a long way toward making explicit the role of luck in college admissions. But I’m concerned by the way some thinkers discuss a potential admissions lottery. Proponents of a lottery often suggest that there should be some baseline level of “merit” in order to enter the lottery. Such a formulation of the lottery doesn’t entail a rejection of our metrics of merit, meaning it would likely reproduce existing inequalities. To avoid that, a lottery would need to not use simple random selection, but instead be carefully calibrated to ensure the resulting class is not just representative of the pool (in which wealthy white students are overrepresented), but of graduating high school students. That could be achieved by assigning different weights to students depending on their background, or by using a form of stratified random selection, in which the applicant pool would be divided into smaller pools based on, for example, demographic factors, and a certain number of students would be accepted at random from each pool.

The lottery is an exciting idea, but one likely to run into legal challenges. And beyond that, it doesn’t do enough to address the unfairness inherent in our unequal education system. I think we need to go a step further than asking what constitutes a fair admissions process, and instead ask what constitutes a fair society. We should recognize that our college admissions process is merely holding a mirror up to our society, reflecting how competitive, individualistic, unequal, and unfair the United States is. A truly radical solution would require the reorganization of our entire class structure and the redistribution of resources, thus obviating the need for such a high-stakes college application process.

It seems that we cling to meritocracy as a way of clinging to some hope of a better life in an increasingly unequal world. But rather than investing our hope in a fairer admissions system, I think we should dream bigger, and invest our hope in a more just society—one in which we live in community rather than competition. That might look like taking up Harvard professor Lani Guinier’s call to emphasize “democratic merit,” or it might look like dispensing with merit—and its attendant acceptance of deserved inequality—entirely.

Everyone deserves access to education. A fair admissions system would have that as a core premise and reject ostensibly just, “meritocratic” inequalities."
juliepark  christineyano  nadirahfarahfoley  2019  admissions  colleges  universities  meritocracy  lottery  collegeadmissions  highered  highereducation  merit  inequality  academia  academics  education  school  schooling  us  firness  laniguinier  democracy  privilege  jonathanmills  race  racism  michaelyoung 
march 2019 by robertogreco
Trump as a scam — Medium
"There are three consistent features to all of conservative talk radio: Anger, Trump, and ads targeting the financially desperate.

The ads are a constant. Ads protecting against coming financial crisis (Surprise! It is Gold.) or ads that start, “Having trouble with the IRS?”

The obvious lessons being 1) Lots of conservative talk radio listeners are in financial distress. 2) They are willing to turn to scams.

Turning to scams kind of generally follows being in financial distress. But why? Well, desperation, duh. Right, but again, why?

What desperation really is about is limited options. Think about the ultimate scam: Lotto tickets.

Lotto tickets are often called stupidity taxes by economists, implying that the buyers must be dumb.

But Lotto tickets are the only form of leverage poor folks can get. The only way, no matter how long the odds, to turn $1 into a million.

As I wrote before, Lotto buyers aren’t any dumber than anyone else.

[screenshot of text]

You just have to look at people’s financial decisions within the framework of their options.

To stretch a little bit. You can reframe Trump that way (as I often have): He is a scam, selling himself as the only option to the angry.

Which is exactly Trump’s history. Selling false and expensive illusions of wealth to those who are desperate. (Trump University!)

With recent revelations it is pretty clear that Trump, no matter what the result of the election, will financially benefit.

He initially ran with the goal of increasing his brand name. For money. (He saw Sarah Palin and Mike Huckabee do exactly that)

When he started to win he realized,

A) It was profitable to run (skimming from campaign)

B) It would be very profitable to be president

He sees in the presidency amazing opportunities for graft and business connections. For him, for his friends and family.

Trump is in it for the money. (He looks at the Clintons. Not with disgust, but admiration for the wealth obtained.)

Trump fits perfectly on conservative talk radio because he is no different from the ads hawking financial scams.

Trump is nothing more than another person charging usurious rates to angry people with few options. Selling long odds at a huge cost.

And many Trump voters are angry (often rightfully), often desperate, people. And like Lotto buyers, they ain’t stupid, they just don’t have many options.

PS: As pointed out, almost all politicians are in it for the money. The difference with Trump is who he is selling himself to: Mostly the poor. Like most folks who try to make money off the poor, he is doing it by charging a lot of interest."
donaldtrump  politics  poverty  money  2016  election  chrisarnade  scams  scamartists  lottery  anger  talkradio  precarity  fear  economics  intelligence 
june 2016 by robertogreco
McKenzie Wark | Digital Labor and the Anthropocene «DIS Magazine
"For worker and hacker alike, the dominant affects are those of envy and jealousy, and covetousness. One is supposed to hate those with just a bit more than you, while at the same time loving those with much, much more. Those with a bit more must be undeserving; those who own everything apparently do so with unquestionable right.

For worker and hacker alike, there is a struggle to achieve some kind of class consciousness, and a social consciousness even beyond that, against the atomizing affect of the time. I just don’t think it is quite the same class consciousness.

For labor, it is always a matter of solidarity and equality. For the hacker, class consciousness is always modulated by the desire for difference, for distinction, for recognition by one’s real peers. It is a sensibility that can be captured by the bourgeois individualism propagated by the vectoral class, but it is not the same thing. Winning the stock-option lottery is not the same thing as the respect of one’s peers. Nor does it translate into any agency in giving form to the world."



"This is the meaning of the Anthropocene: that the futures of the human and material worlds are now totally entwined. Just as Nietzsche declared that God is dead, now we know that ecology is dead. There is no longer a homeostatic cycle that can be put right just by withdrawing. There is no environment that forms a neutral background to working and hacking.

Just as the category of ‘man’ collapses once there is no God, so too the category of the social collapses when there is no environment. The material world is laced with traces of the human, and the human turns out to be made of nothing much besides displaced flows of this or that element or molecule.

The dogma that ‘reality is socially constructed’ turns out not so much to be wrong as to be meaningless. What all the workers and hackers of the world are building is more and more of the same impossible, nonexistent world. We are building third nature as the hyperreal.

Two tasks present themselves, then. The first is to think the worker and hacker as distinct classes but which have a common project. The second is to think that common project as building a different world. Can this infrastructure we keep building out, this second and third nature, actually be the platform for building another one? Can it be hacked?"



"Lenin conducted a vigorous campaign to excommunicate Bogdanov, one which the Marxist tradition has strikingly never really revisited or attempted to reverse. This is among other things a great injustice. Bogdanov’s kind of experimental, open-ended Marxism, which neither tries to dominate, ignore, or subordinate itself to the natural sciences, became something of a rarity. His closest contemporary analog is, I think, Donna Haraway. Or so I argue in Molecular Red."
2014  mckenziewark  alexanderbogdanov  marxism  digitallabor  labor  work  anthropocene  lenin  donnaharaway  hacking  paradigmshifts  solidarity  climatechange  equality  class  classconsciousness  difference  distinction  individualism  lottery  agency  socialconsciousness  vladimirlenin 
november 2014 by robertogreco
The closing of American academia - Opinion - Al Jazeera English
"Academia is vaunted for being a meritocracy. Publications are judged on blind review, and good graduate programs offer free tuition and a decent stipend. But its reliance on adjuncts makes it no different than professions that cater to the elite through unpaid internships.

Anthropologists are known for their attentiveness to social inequality, but few have acknowledged the plight of their peers. When I expressed doubt about the job market to one colleague, she advised me, with total seriousness, to "re-evaluate what work means" and to consider "post-work imaginaries". A popular video on post-graduate employment cuts to the chase: "Why don't you tap into your trust fund?""
sarahkendzior  wealth  internships  publishing  lottery  meritocracy  elitism  education  debt  work  labor  teaching  adjuncts  2012  highered  highereducation  access  academia 
september 2012 by robertogreco
Laurent Haug » Dream jobs of pre teens: today vs 25 years ago
"A fascinating comparison of pre teens aspirations, today vs 25 years ago. Much of the evolution of society can be seen in these numbers. From middle class, scientific, requiring-long-studies jobs to entertainment, instantaneous, artistic professions."
instantgratification  teens  perspective  generations  fame  fortune  entertainment  aspiration  lottery  2011  1986  theproblem  society  careers 
september 2011 by robertogreco
Laurent Haug » Blog Archive » Dream jobs of pre teens: today vs 25 years ago
"A fascinating comparison of pre teens aspirations, today vs 25 years ago. Much of the evolution of society can be seen in these numbers. From middle class, scientific, requiring-long-studies jobs to entertainment, instantaneous, artistic professions."
instantgratification  teens  perspective  generations  fame  fortune  entertainment  aspiration  lottery  2011  1986  theproblem  society  careers 
september 2011 by robertogreco
Recession or no recession, many NFL, NBA and Major League - 03.23.09 - SI Vault
"Recession or no recession, many NFL, NBA and Major League Baseball players have a penchant for losing most or all of their money. It doesn't matter how much they make. And the ways they blow it are strikingly similar"
athletes  money  economics  lottery  finance  2009  sports  celebrities  income  via:timcarmody 
may 2011 by robertogreco
Some Dark Thoughts on Happiness -- New York Magazine
"I almost became a professional philosopher," Martin Seligman says. "I had a fellowship to Oxford. I turned it down."…

"My education was Wittgensteinian," he continues. I’d heard this about Seligman too—how fascinated he was by Ludwig Wittgenstein, a famous depressive who nevertheless told his landlady as he was dying, Tell them it’s been wonderful. Seligman’s interested in many famous depressives—Lincoln, Oppenheimer. He identifies himself as a depressive, too. "But in retrospect," he continues, "I think Wittgenstein suborned three generations of philosophy, including mine, by telling us that what we wanted to do was puzzles and that somehow by solving puzzles, problems would get solved. I spent 40 years struggling out of that mode."

Seligman spent almost as long struggling out of the mode of traditional psychology… It is Seligman’s contention that psychology’s emphasis on pathology has marginalized the study of well-being."
happiness  psychology  philosophy  culture  well-being  martinseligman  wittgenstein  positivepsychology  politics  2006  chrispeterson  danielgilbert  shanelopez  babyboomers  malcolmgladwell  georgewbush  pathology  talben-sahar  lottery  wealth  despair  depression  maximizers  satisficers  optimism  pessimism  boomers  self-help 
march 2011 by robertogreco
The Quick and the Ed - If It's Random, Say It's Random
"friend who’s worked for 2 college admissions departments. One... traditional liberal arts college in the NE, the other a highly competitive college in greater DC. At the former...mostly sane process where they more or less knew high schools of students, had time to read student’s personal statements & truly thought about whether student would be a good fit...in DC, at competitive school...totally different. Mainly because of sheer size of applicant pool...had to rely much more heavily on all-important numbers — GPA & SAT — rather than thinking holistically about student. The admissions office, even after setting a relatively high standard, had 1000s of applicants to choose from & very little time to do so. During admissions season, each officer was given 500 applications per week. At 40 hours/week, not counting breaks and meetings, the admissions officer had 10 minutes to make a decision about an applicant. Ten minutes (unless, as my friend points out, they’re athletes or legacies)."
admissions  colleges  universities  sat  gpa  assessment  luck  unschooling  deschooling  lottery  chance  education  policy  schooling  us 
march 2009 by robertogreco
I love my life the way it is
"...a mass collection of unscratched lottery tickets... a small statement that says a lot of things to different people."
happiness  art  conceptual  gambling  lottery 
june 2008 by robertogreco

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