Why We Do What We Do: Addendum

The inspiration for this post was taken from this article that one of my Facebook friends posted.

I graduated from Moses Brown School in June of 2012. Moses Brown is one of the best private high schools in Rhode Island. I took this line from their website.

Moses Brown School is an independent, college-prep, Quaker day school in Providence, RI, for girls and boys in nursery through grade 12.

I went to go to college at Northeastern University. Northeastern isn’t an Ivy League school so I may not be the right person to comment on this article but I’ll give it a shot.

As anybody who has gone through the college application process you should know that you need to put your best foot forward to get into the best school that you can. To get your best foot forward you need to start doing the “right things” early on. I can’t fully say how early, early on means. The latest I would say would be the beginning of high school but it can be hard to radically change yourself into the pinnacle of academic success and achievements if you didn’t start earlier than high school.

If everybody starts on equal footing at high school then the playing field looks a little more even, everybody had a fair shot at achieving first (first meaning whoever got into the best school) so you cant complain about what school you got into. My question is why should it be about being first. I am not saying slacking off is OK but similar to the article I am saying that the only right way in life is achieving a 4.0 unweighted GPA with 10 extra curricular activities,  and 10000 hours community service in a country only the select few have heard of.

I think this goes hand in hand with the mentality that college is the only way to success in the real world. College does play a big part in getting a good job but it isn’t the only path. Many high school kids may be pushed into attending college when that may not be the best path for them but right now the culture dictates high school > college > job. This arises because people live off money and not hopes and dreams. Without a good education you could have a very bad quality of life that you or your parents wouldn’t want.

This is where risk comes in, the article mentioned that it seems like kids have “a violent aversion to risk” and with risk comes the chance of failure. Maybe writing a paper in a style you want to try but haven’t used ever brings upon a bad grade and ruins your perfect GPA in that class. Maybe you have a really awesome idea for a competition but it doesn’t fall in line with what other competition winners have done in the past. I think our generation has grown up on the idea that participation still counts and you don’t have to be first for everything but I don’t think this transferred over to academia.

One of the other problems I see is that schooling is hard to get right. How do you prove that somebody learned something besides giving them a test and seeing how many things they got right. How do you prove a class of kids learned something, how do you prove a school of kids learned something? Kids need to learn the basics, how to add, how to read, how to talk, how to write, but is it possible to teach common sense, is it possible to teach kids how to find themselves. Schools are trying their best on giving a kid what they need to succeed in life and they need a way of rating them. A points system is easy, the more points you get the better you do. If you look at a couple kids you can rank them by who has the most points. Whoever has the most points must be the best, right?

How does an Ivy League school pick who would be a good candidate for their institution. Why would you pick somebody with a 3.1 GPA and only 1 extra curricular over our previously mentioned super student with 416.7 days of community service in that country you haven’t heard about. Who cares if the first student had really strong passions outside of regular applicatble (things that can be put on an application) activities. That doesn’t scream I am the best. Colleges however don’t just pick the best students but instead they try to fill the college with some sort of diversity (not just in race).

I don’t have any answers to the problems the article brought up. The article stated this,

Preferences for legacies and athletes ought to be discarded. SAT scores should be weighted to account for socioeconomic factors.Colleges should put an end to résumé-stuffing by imposing a limit on the number of extracurriculars that kids can list on their applications. They ought to place more value on the kind of service jobs that lower-income students often take in high school and that high achievers almost never do. They should refuse to be impressed by any opportunity that was enabled by parental wealth.

One thing I would want to avoid is discarding what is the current “perfect student”. It’s still impressive to have 1.142 years of community service in a county that is so third world it doesn’t come up in a Google search. We just need to value other kinds of students. I see college as a growing experience. As the article stated,

College is an opportunity to stand outside the world for a few years, between the orthodoxy of your family and the exigencies of career, and contemplate things from a distance.

College lets you try to find out who you really are, what you really want to do, where you really want to go, it is one of the last chances you are normally given to discover yourself in an open environment with tons of people your age. After college you are expected to get a job, start a career, get a house, and raise a family. Between all of that there isn’t much time for yourself. Why do we do this? Asking that question brings more questions than answers when you get past the easy answers. What I think it comes down to though is what we truly value in life.