According to AboveTheLaw, Sophia Chua-Rubenfeld, daughter of the famous “tiger mom” Amy Chua, has been admitted to Harvard. This is a big deal, as this year Harvard has gotten more selective, admitting only 6.2% of ~35,000 students. However, as a double-legacy, Sophia definitely had points in her favour.
Sophia apparently has a new blog called TigerSophia: new tiger in town, where she writes that she has not made up her mind yet:
To set the record straight, I applied to three schools last fall: Yale, Harvard, and University of Virginia. I was accepted to Yale under Early Action in December. I withdrew my application from UVA, and I was accepted to Harvard this Wednesday. I was shocked and thrilled to receive both acceptances, and I’m seriously considering both Yale and Harvard.
When you go read The Chronicle’s The Shadow Scholar: the man who writes your students’ papers tells his story by Ed Dante (pseudonym), read it outside your preconceptions and avoid judging the numerous examples of students who pay money to have their papers and assignments written for them. If you can do that, you will understand that higher education in America faces a larger problem.
For some reason, students no longer go to school to learn. They go to school to succeed, to graduate with Ivy League pomp and a laserprint diploma with latin words. They go to school to attain high grades, but not to master the material. They use clever minds not to probe, inquire, or study, but to pass their classes at any cost. For those with money, they may turn to services like Ed Dante’s:
In the midst of this great recession, business is booming. At busy times, during midterms and finals, my company’s staff of roughly 50 writers is not large enough to satisfy the demands of students who will pay for our work and claim it as their own.
Using an essay-writing service is the easy out, a way to get ahead without actually getting ahead. Adding a kind of academic debt which they will never be able to repay, because they’ve starved themselves of the learning process and very curiosity that could save them in the future:
They couldn’t write a convincing grocery list, yet they are in graduate school. They really need help. They need help learning and, separately, they need help passing their courses. But they aren’t getting it.
For students, the temptation is easy. If you write poorly, why not pay someone who writes well to get good grades for you? English and other courses, which engineering and science students are often required to take (at Cornell, mandatory freshman writing seminars ring a bell?), are considered by some students as distracting fluff. Not caring enough to learn to read, write, and think critically, they want to immediately jump into the technical field of their subject matter choice. What the western tradition has realized in setting these requirements in the first place is that fundamental skills in philosophy and writing form an underpinning for the domain-specific skills that will be set upon that foundation.
While the house-building metaphor is tired, the results are not. Students without solid language, reading, writing, and analytical skills act as a contagion for those around them, for their peers in the workplace, and their children. Without a solid foundation in this generations students, without fundamentals, America will continue its steep decline1 in educational-quotient:
[E]ducation is the worst. [...] I’ve completed theses for those on course to become principals. In the enormous conspiracy that is student cheating, the frontline intelligence community is infiltrated by double agents. (Future educators of America, I know who you are.)
To continue the discussion, see The Term Paper Artist: The lucrative industry behind higher ed’s failings and this NPR transcript The Paper Market. If you are a student thinking of taking the easy way out, perhaps try to struggle through your work, and by doing so, enriching yourself. If you are a parent or an educator, try to encourage your pupils to learn, to be curious, and to take pride in their work.
Without some kind of change, the easy way will become the normal way.
#1 – See U.S. students advancing in math trails most industrialized nations which ranks the US as 31st of 56 countries in the topic of math, for just one study. There are many others.
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