Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Options and Advantages

In the NY Times article "Getting Into College: Strumming His Own Tune" (June 6, 2007), Samuel Freedman extols the easy-going attitude of one Kevin Robinson, who decided to let his own merits speak for themselves instead of stressing over and prepping for college applications.

Still, there’s no denying the reality of inequality, if you’re a middle-class mother watching people with a lot more money buy their children advantages.

“It frustrates me to know there isn’t a level playing field,” Ms. Robinson said as we talked in a coffee shop. “You have some kids with options and advantages that others don’t. And the colleges have no way of knowing. They think they’re comparing apples and apples when they’re not.”
Somehow I don't feel sorry for Kevin or his mother. I know that being a single mother is tough; but this white, middle-class, single-parent family still has, without any extra effort of their own, access to vastly more "options and advantages" than the thousands of poor, minority children who are underserved by our nation's education system.

Consider as an indicator of Kevin's advantages the free public high school he attended. This year, 88% of Central Bucks High School West achieved a proficient or higher score in reading on the Pennsylvania System of Schools Assessment, and 75% in math;[1] whereas, only 71% of white 11th graders state-wide were rated proficient in reading, and 57% in math.[2]

Ms. Robinson didn't have to buy Kevin advantages--he already had them. He grew up in a nice middle-class town home, had enough food to eat and clothes to wear, and was privileged with an excellent free public school. If we're going to talk about the lack of options and advantages, let's at least look at poor and minority students who really don't have any, when their families struggle to provide food and shelter and their schools consistently fail them.

[1] Central Buck HS West Academic Achievement Report

[2] PA 2005-2006 NCLB Report Card

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