Please Stop

Jennifer Britz, the Dean of Admissions at Kenyon College reports that she is sad to say that she is admitting boys who are less qualified than female applicants in order to maintain gender parity.

Had she been a male applicant, there would have been little, if any,
hesitation to admit. The reality is that because young men are rarer,
they're more valued applicants. Today, two-thirds of colleges and
universities report that they get more female than male applicants, and
more than 56 percent of undergraduates nationwide are women.
Demographers predict that by 2009, only 42 percent of all baccalaureate
degrees awarded in the United States will be given to men.

I have four reactions.

One.  Yeah!  Lets take a moment to celebrate a victory for women.  Its great to see us talking about "too many" qualified women flooding colleges, just a few years after feminists were still writing books about schools failing girls.

Two.  I finally get to say something that I have wished for decades to hear from members of various minority groups that have been the benficiary of affirmative action:  Stop giving us men a special break.  Boys in high school are falling behind girls in their achievement, and are not going to get the message as long as you keep taking less qualified boys instead of more qualified girls.  The colleges I attended 20+ years ago survived fine with 2/3 men, they can do the same with 2/3 women.

Three.  This just reinforces my advice I have been giving to Ivy League and other great schools: Find a way to grow!  The new challenge for the 21st century is not to spend an incremental 5% more on the same top students, but to recognize that there are so many more great, polished graduates that are Ivy ready than ever before.

  In this article you can get a little peek at how the college admissions process has turned volunteerism from, well, volunteerism to a grim requirement.  Among eleven-year-olds in my son's class, I saw kids get turned down for an honor society despite having 4.0+ grade point averages, playing multiple sports at a very high level, and doing about 20 hours of community service over the year.  Apparently, this level of community service was not robust enough -- people with lower grades make it, people with no sports make it, people with no leadership activities make it, but NO ONE makes it without a lot more than 20 hours of community service - at the age of eleven.  Believe it or not, my son now keeps a log book of time spent on activities he can count as service -- we have better documentation of this work than we do of his grades!  Volunteerism has become nearly the one minimum requirement that of all the various components is never waived in college admissions.


  1. Max:

    It seems something is completely amiss in US schools and universities, if community work (forced or voluntary) is more important than grades (perhaps that is part of the problem why more girls "are fit" than boys). I have nothing against voluntary work, but there must be a limit and should never be the only requirment or the most important.

    It shows that your schools are in a sorry state, if grades are not more important than the activities during free time!

    I also think that todays schools are not good for boys at all, because they are streamlined of female learning abilities rather than men. I have come to see this in drop out rates and in my own recent experience in German Gymnasium (High School + first year college). They just can't motivate boys with their social approach to teaching.
    Perhaps home schooling and personal teachers are a better way to cope with this problem.

  2. Ringo:

    I've been bothered by this focus on "volunteering" for a long time. I can't help but wonder what's really at the bottom of it, and I keep coming up with two explantions. Both are predicated to some degree upon the idea that volunteering (I'm tempted to keep putting it in quotes.) competes for a person's time with other activities, especially employment or entrepreneurship.

    1. Perhaps those who set college admission standards are bringing anti-captialist values to the table, and one way to try to filter for compatibility is to select those who engage in activities "in service to society" or in unpaid work rather than gainful employment.

    2. While I hate to even give any credence to class warfare of any kind, doesn't it seem at least possible that, as a form of conspicuous consumption, it's a way of selecting for those who are members of the "correct" socio-economic stratum? ie. those who can easily afford to give away their labor for free

    Of course, it could also be something else entirely or perhaps a combination of both of these and something else, or, as seems likely, differing factors for different decision makers.

  3. dearieme:

    Where do academic fashions come from? In Britain at the moment, it's fashionable to insist that parents help children with their homework - and yet it's obviously a pernicious idea.