‘Diversity’ keeps Asians out of top colleges

Do Diversity Initiatives Indirectly Discriminate Against Asian Americans? asks Andrew Giambrone in The Atlantic.

I’m not sure “indirectly” is accurate, but otherwise the answer is “yes.”

Students for Fair Admissions has filed a federal suit charging that Harvard’s admissions practices violate Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act by discriminating on the basis of “race, color, and national origin.” A similar suit targets University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

The suit cites an Asian-American applicant who was turned down despite perfect SAT scores and AP Scholar status. The applicant was the captain of the varsity tennis team, a volunteer fundraiser for National Public Radio, and tutored classmates.

Highly qualified applicants are routinely rejected,” writes Giambrone.

The Harvard complaint notes that Asian Americans comprised more than 27 percent of applicants at the three most selective Ivy League colleges between 2008 and 2012 but represented only 17 percent to 20 percent of their admitted students . . .  according to the complaint, Asian Americans made up roughly 46 percent of applicants in 2008 “with academic credentials in the range from which Harvard admits the overwhelming majority of students.” That threshold was defined as an SAT score higher than 2200, out of 2400 total points.

According to No Longer Separate, Not Yet Equal, published in 2009, Asian-American students need about 140 more SAT points than white applicants, 320 more than Hispanics and 450 more than African-Americans to get into elite, private colleges.

“Asians are the new Jews” at elite colleges, writes Charles Murray.  In the mid-90s, when the Ivies limited Asians to 16 percent of enrollment, plus or minus 2 percent, Asians at meritocratic CalTech rose from 28 percent to 39 percent of enrollment.

If Caltech is too narrowly science-oriented for you, consider the comparison between Stanford, which uses the same “holistic” admissions procedures as the Ivies (“holistic” means considering the whole applicant, not merely academic achievement) and Berkeley, the most elite of California’s public universities, which is required by law to have a transparent set of criteria for admission. Stanford’s Asian enrollment averaged 23% from 1995–2011. Berkeley’s Asian enrollment averaged 41% during the same period—almost double Stanford’s.

Stuyvesant, one of New York City’s nine specialized (elite) public high schools, admits students based on test scores: 73 percent of  “Stuy” students are Asian, 22 percent are white, 2 percent are Hispanic, and 1 percent is black. And the admissions process is under attack as a result.

Stanford player promotes reading

Wayne Lyons will read the quarterback when he covers pass receivers for the Stanford Cardinal in Tuesday’s Foster Farms Bowl. He’s into reading, reports Elliott Almond for the San Jose Mercury News.  A Fort Lauderdale native, the 22-year-old architectural design major started a virtual book club to encourage his high school friends and team mates to read.

Stanford football safety Wayne Lyons, photographed in the Stanford Business Library, started a book club to keep his high school team mates eligible. (Gary Reyes/Bay Area News Group)

Stanford football safety Wayne Lyons, photographed in the Stanford Business Library, started a book club to keep his high school team mates eligible. (Gary Reyes/Bay Area News Group)

Lyons believed 20 minutes a day of reading would help classmates build knowledge that would make them better students — and eligible to play football.

He encouraged students to read and write about their book in a text or on Facebook.

An honors student and class president at Dillard High, Lyons took community college classes in high school and became class valedictorian.

His friend and teammate Wilkervens Tamar, who’d left middle school with a 1.0 grade-point average, graduated No. 3 in his class, earned a Bill Gates Millennium scholarship and attends Georgia Tech.

After seeing how excited some of his classmates got about reading, Lyons expanded the project to reach younger students with a mentoring program he called P.A.R.T.Y. — Pick Up Anything and Read To Yourself. He also matched upperclassmen with middle school kids so the younger ones would know what to expect upon entering Dillard.

Lyons once told his mother, “I feel bad for a lot of these kids. They don’t have study habits. They’re doomed before they even get into high school. I’ve got to get them reading, because that’s the start.”

His mother, Gwen Bush, a computer science teacher, taught her children to read fluently before they started kindergarten.

Lyons plans to graduate in June, but has another season of academic eligibility. He may return to Stanford or go on to the NFL.

Learning how to discover

Americans need to learn how to discover, writes David Edwards in Wired.  Over the next 20 years, as population rises by 2 billion people, we need to discover new ways to feed people,  “new science, engineering, design, and architectural methods, and pioneer economic models” to deal with climate change, “new approaches to medical treatment” and so on.

Neri Oxman lays in her Gemini Chair (Photo by Michel Fuguet)

Neri Oxman lays in her 3D-printed Gemini Chair, which simulates being in the womb, at Le Laboratoire in Cambridge, Mass. (Photo by Michel Fuguet)

A new kind of learning by doing is catching on, writes Edwards, who teaches a class called “How to Create Things and Have Them Matter” at Harvard.

Sometimes discovery learning is called maker classes, after-school innovation programs or innovation prizes, he writes. “Discovery environments are showing up as culture and entertainment, from online experiences to contemporary art installations and new kinds of culture labs.”

The ArtScience Prize lets students “learn the thrill of discovering the undiscovered.”

The maker movement is reinventing education, according to Newsweek.  At High Tech High’s network of San Diego charter schools, learning happens mostly through “kids making, doing, building, shaping and inventing stuff,” says CEO and founding Principal Larry Rosenstock.

Stanford’s design program, known as the d. school, is very cool. I toured the Product Realization Lab yesterday as part of Reunion Weekend. Students design, make a prototype, see what works, modify their design and, eventually make final products. Bending sheet metal changes students, said our guide, Jonathan Edelman, a consulting assistant professor in mechanical engineering. “It opens up their creativity.” So does silversmithing.

However, few students have the chance to take shop classes in middle or high school, Edelman said. Unless they’ve gone to maker fairs or competed in FIRST robotics, even would-be engineers don’t know how to turn a screwdriver.

The d.school welcomes students from art, architecture, biology and chemistry (think biomedical devices) and humanities and social science disciplines.

What’s the best college for the country?

Washington Monthly’s 2014 college rankings show the most “public-minded” institutions based on social mobility, research and public service.

We all benefit when colleges produce groundbreaking research that drives economic growth, when they put students from lower-income families on the path to a better life, and when they shape the character of future leaders. And we all pay for it, through hundreds of billions of dollars in government-financed financial aid, tax breaks, and other spending.

. . . Instead of crediting colleges that reject the most applicants, we recognize those that do the best job of enrolling and graduating low-income students. Our rankings measure both pure research spending and success in preparing undergraduates to earn PhDs. And by giving equal weight to public service, we identify colleges that build a sense of obligation to their communities and the nation at large.

Only two of U.S. News‘ top ten schools, Stanford and Harvard, make the Monthly‘s top ten, which is headed by the University of California  at San Diego.

Categories include the best bang-for-the-buck schools, which looks at value for the cost most students will pay, not the sticker price. That’s how Amherst makes the top five.

The Monthly also lists the affordable elites (the University of California campuses do well).

America’s Worst Colleges have high tuition and high dropout and default rates. Of the worst 20, 11 are for-profit colleges and nine are private nonprofits. Art schools and historically black colleges do poorly in the ratings.

The 13 most ridiculous college courses include Skidmore’s Sociology of Miley Cyrus, Tufts’ Demystifying the Hipster and Rutgers’ Feminist Perspectives: Politicizing Beyonce,  according to Thomas K. Lindsay on See Thru Edu.

Occidental has a course titled Stupidity, which teaches that it is “the double of intelligence rather than its opposite.” I don’t follow the math on that. I may not be stupid enough.

Cost is #1 college worry

Stanford is the number one dream college for students and parents with Harvard in second, according to the Princeton Review’s annual  conducts our annual College Hopes and Worries survey. Respondents are readers “Best Colleges” guidebook readers and users of the Princeton Review website.

 The number one worry is college costs.

Half of students and parents say the biggest benefit of earning a college diploma will be a better job and higher income, while the rest are split between “education” and “exposure to new ideas.”

Find the top college — for you

Stanford is America’s top college, followed by Pomona, Princeton, Yale and Columbia, according to Forbes‘ new rankings.

The magazine also lets college aspirants input a grade point average, SAT/ACT score and annual cost to find a “college you can get into and afford.”  Using the total cost — not the average net cost after financial aid — is liable to scare away all but the wealthy — and those planning to attend a military academy.  (West Point ranks #7.)

How the elite college students eat

Steve the hasher was serving our table in the college dorm dining hall.”Hey, Steve,” said one of my table mates. “You’ve got your thumb in the mashed potatoes.”

Steve said, loudly, “I’m the only guy here who will admit he masturbates.” Then he plopped the bowl on the table.

I skipped the mashed potatoes that evening.

Dining at Stanford has gone upscale, according to How Students Eat Now in Stanford Magazine.

During the past decade, Stanford has built one dining commons and renovated older ones, replacing “cook and park” steam tables with stations where items are made to order. They’ve recruited chefs with a flair for vegetarian and ethnic cuisines, as well as experts in food safety, nutrition and allergen-free cooking.

At one dining area, students can watch their meals being prepared through a glass wall, then go upstairs to browse “an expansive salad bar topped with white ceramic bowls of organic oranges.”

On the back wall, a pizza oven blazes. Whole chickens, rubbed with pungent fresh oregano, twirl slowly on the rotisserie.

The executive chef, David Iott, worked at Ritz-Carlton hotels before coming to Stanford.

There are no plastic cafeteria trays, except upon request. Instead, diners stroll around holding china plates, as they would at a hotel buffet. Hormone-free skim milk, fair-trade Starbucks coffee and Crysalli Artisan Water are on tap. A Pepsi machine is tucked away in a corner. “We have to have that,” Iott says, a bit sadly. Then he brightens as he points out roasted organic carrots and an array of miniature decorated cheesecakes.

An elite university needs high-quality food service, says Eric Montell, executive director of Stanford Dining. The magazine adds, “From New Haven to Berkeley, American universities are pouring hundreds of millions of dollars into environmentally sustainable residences and dining facilities.”

I thought universities were trying to control costs so college will be financially sustainable for students and their parents. All that overpriced organic food and Artisan Water will turn into student debt.

Stanford undergrads pay $1,700 to $2,000 per quarter — up to $6,000 a year — for their miniature cheesecakes and Starbucks coffee. That doesn’t cover the full cost. Of course, most students receive financial aid to defray the cost of tuition, room and board, but fancy eats means the aid won’t go quite as far.

The greatest food in human history is the McDouble cheeseburger, writes Kyle Smith in the New York Post, quoting a Freakonomics commenter. McDonald’s McDouble is nutritious (390 calories, half a daily serving of protein) and usually sells for $1.

Study: Disadvantaged students in U.S. are gaining

U.S.15-year-olds fare better on the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) exam when the data is adjusted to compare similar students concludes a study by Stanford Graduate School of Education and Economic Policy Institute researchers. Low-income students in  the U.S. are gaining on disadvantaged students elsewhere, the study found.

Overall, the U.S.  ranked 14th in reading and 25th in math out of the 33 countries in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), notes the Hechinger Report.

The United States has a larger proportion of economically disadvantaged students than do higher-performing countries. Finland, for example, reports that 4 percent of its students live in low-income families. In the United States, nearly a quarter of children live in poverty.

(Stanford Professor Martin) Carnoy and his coauthor Richard Rothstein of the Economic Policy Institute also contend that low-income students were oversampled in the U.S. results on the 2009 PISA test. About 40 percent of American PISA-takers attended a school where half or more of students were eligible for free or reduced-priced lunch, although nationwide only 23 percent of students attend such schools.

The most educationally disadvantaged U.S. students, as measured by the number of books in children’s homes, have been improving in reading and math since PISA was first given in 2000, the new analysis concludes. Test scores among similar students in Canada, Finland and South Korea have been dropping.

“We’re making progress with the kids at the bottom,” said Carnoy.  However, the most economically advantaged U.S. students in America are slipping compared to similar students in the countries analyzed.

To “go after the academic issues in the U.S. schools,” it’s necessary to tackle Poverty, Carnoy argues. “If you do policy that significantly reduces poverty in the U.S., I guarantee you, you will reduce the distance between top and bottom in our own country … and you’ll certainly raise those kids relative to kids in Finland, [South] Korea and Canada.”

Perhaps we can’t be Korea or Finland, but it would be nice to up there with Canada.

Kids make cool stuff, learn ‘grit’

Teaching kids to make things teaches problem-solving, perseverance and “grit,” reports Wired.

When Eugene Korsunskiy and seven of his fellow students from Stanford University’s d.school set out to tour the nation in a brightly painted truck full of laser cutters and rapid prototyping machines, they thought they were bringing a chance to play with high-tech maker tools to school kids who hadn’t had one yet.

And they were: SparkTruck, the educational make-mobile, made 73 stops this summer, treating 2,679 elementary and middle school students to hands-on workshops covering the basics of electrical engineering and digital fabrication, and giving a chance to make cool stuff in the process, like small robotic creatures and laser-cut rubber stamps.

The SparkTruck team learned to let children struggle with design problems, get frustrated, beg for help — and then figure it out. “Once you make it clear that you’re not there to provide the answer, they completely rise to the challenge,” said Korsunskiy.

American kids are said to be low on “grit,” the ability to learn from setbacks instead of giving up, Wired writes. Design teaches problem-solving, Korsunskiy said. Students learn to brainstorm, test ideas and go back to the drawing board.

Minnesota: Free online courses are illegal

It’s illegal to offer free, online courses in Minnesota, state education officials have told Coursera, which partners with universities to provide massive open online courses, or MOOC’s. Under state law, a degree-granting institution must pay get state authorization and pay a registration fee to offer instruction.

It’s a matter of  “consumer protection for students,” Tricia Grimes, a policy analyst for the state’s Office of Higher Education, told the Chronicle of Higher Education. 

Stanford, Columbia, Michigan, et al don’t charge students for Coursera courses and don’t offer degrees to MOOC students. That doesn’t matter, another official tells Slate.  Students can’t waste their money, but they might waste their time in a non-authorized course, says George Roedler, manager of institutional registration and licensing at the Minnesota Office of Higher Education.

Coursera added a terms of service notice telling Minnesotans not to do any learning, unless they go out of state. I predict ridicule will lead to a MOOC exception very quickly.

Update:  Ridicule works! Minnesota education officials have issued a statement saying free higher ed doesn’t require state approval.