Blogging Karabel

There was only limited reaction in the blogosphere yesterday to Karabel’s NYT opinion piece on making elite universities more accessible to applicants from lower income families.

Looking at the bigger picture was Mad Melancholic Feminista, who wonders why affirmative action debates still get so much attention when it’s clear that few elite kids are losing “their” place in college to less advantaged students.

The Edwonkette, citing research that attendance at an elite college matters particularly for low-income students, laments the whining of elite parents about their children’s college admissions as so many students are shut out of the competitive schools altogether.

Regrettably, others focused much more narrowly. Focusing on the presumed deficits of applicants with lower SAT scores rather than on the larger social issues raised by the growing socio-economic segregation of the colleges and universities at which the nation’s (and world’s) leaders are being educated were two other blogs:

Simply accepting, without question, the assertion that SAT scores are predictive of success in college were the student editors of UC Berkeley’s daily blog who empathetically lament the inequalities in K-12 schooling that produce “inequalities at the college level”. In spite of their own presumably high SAT scores, these student editors seem to have missed the point that Karabel was talking about misguided admissions criteria that underpredict college success, not inequalities in performance once one gets in the door. They’d do well to read Peter Sacks’ account of the shift of the UC system to “comprehensive review” of admissions that looks beyond test scores, and at his rather scathing analysis of the very limited predictive value of SAT scores on college success

Study Hacks , presuming that admissions officers are motivated simply by finding the most pristinely meritorious students, argues that applicants get little benefit from SAT prep courses and that admissions officers can “sniff out” the influences of college counselors. Is Hacks arguing that all of those wealthy and powerful parents who spend thousands of dollars on each are simply naive?

Neither of these writers as much as mentioned Karabel’s parallel critique of the weight placed on long lists of extra curricular activities in admissions decisions, as if (as I wrote in a comment to Hacks)  it’s self evident that someone who captained his high school water polo team is inherently better prepared for college than someone who has cared for younger siblings while parents worked two jobs, has had to take the initiative herself to navigate complicated admissions processes, has excelled in school in spite of the mediocre teachers and limited supplies, who even had the courage to dream things for herself that few others around her could dream.

I do wish that these issues generated more public interest, and I deeply wish for more informed deliberations about all things related to class.

4 thoughts on “Blogging Karabel

  1. janevangalen September 27, 2007 / 7:05 am


    Excellent points. I’ve been following the UC system’s decisions to drop the SAT,and also by the backlash that they’ve had to counter, as they continue to accused — often by pretty powerful people — of admitting “unqualified” students.

    I wish that it were a simple thing to drop the SAT requirement. Essentially, that’s what Karabel was proposing in his intermediate step of admitting a very small number of otherwise qualified students in spite of their test scores.

    I’m beginning to see some colleges declining to participate in the Newsweek rankings, and that’s encouraging. I still do wonder about the role of the Development office in admissions in some places.

    But yes, the sky did not fall in California when they dropped the SAT. Perhaps that is only the beginning.

    We can, indeed, dream.


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