Super Student Syndrome

A recent NY Times OpEd, written by James Atlas, talks about the rise of the super people, almost as  partial answer to issues I raised in an earlier blog. How can kids with PERFECT scores on ACT and SAT not get accepted to any college they apply to? He explains.

The issue is that there are more and more of these super kids every year, while the number of slots open to them remains fairly constant.  According to one source in the article “Ivy League and other elite institutions educate something less than 1 percent of the U.S. college-age population (and that is)  a percentage that’s going to shrink further as the population of college-bound students continues to grow.”

No space for the genius test-takers, eh? It seems it isn’t enough to excel academically and to be, overall, a well rounded student. Nope. These days you need to be ‘pointy’ not well rounded. Students need a spike in their achievements, like being editor of the paper, president of the class or a student with a heavy travel experience. Something that is a little ‘out there’. Some of these are experiences that only money can buy.

Atlas’ concern is that the situation of education is contributing to the class divide in this country. If acceptance into Ivy League-caliber schools requires a set of experiences that can only be afforded by the wealthy, that provides an effective barrier to those of a lower economic scale.

Per Atlas, his old college friends often say that, were they apply today to their alma mater, they wouldn’t be accepted. Statistically, this is quite true. 19 percent of applicants were admitted to his Ivy League school for the class of ’71; 6 percent were admitted for the class of ’15.

The other interesting thing he talks about is how this upper crust of education filters out those who can’t. There’s no dumb kid in the back of the room who doesn’t get long division and who causes breaks in the instruction flow because they don’t get it and need help or don’t get it and choose to provide distraction instead.

His article comes perilously close to making helicopter parents seem sane, as they make their person mission their students success. Early on in my parenting, I realized that I couldn’t ever let my kids embarrass me. They were individual entities who could mess up all on their own. That also meant that I couldn’t take credit for their successes. They were individual entities who managed to excel all on their own.

It’s great that some kids have so much going for them. It isn’t great that the others, who are indeed MANY children left behind, will never be able to catch up.




Categories: General


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