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[–]cycyc 234 points235 points  (37 children)

It turns out that, like anything in life, there are no perfect solutions. Any system can be gamed, but a system that relies on a few unreliable data points is going to be gamed pretty easily. That's why you often see college admissions boards turning more towards "holistic" evaluations of candidates instead of narrowly focusing on GPA and SAT scores, which tell only a very limited picture about the applicant.

If test scores are so easily gamed, why don’t black and Hispanic people game it more?

This is probably way too deep of a topic to get into here, but I'll note that a lot of this is rooted in the cultural history of standardized testing in Asian countries. For instance, in China, there is a long history of giving standardized exams for entrance into civil service. This was great because previously government jobs were handed out based on family connections; using standardized exams was a step towards having more of a meritocracy.

Nowadays there is the Gaokao, which is a grueling 9-hour exam high school students take that for the most part entirely determines where they will go to college. However, the reliance on this single standardized test has reached the point where cram schools and a test-prep cottage industry are the norm for college-bound students, and high school students focus nearly all of their studies on rote memorization of topics that will be covered in the exam instead of actually actively learning.

This is all a roundabout way to explain that, culturally, many Asian families in the US (especially first-generation immigrants) carry this same work ethic and approach to school admissions here. It's not uncommon to find middle school students already preparing to take the SAT.

And this is OK. There are pros and cons to instilling a strong work ethic towards scholarly activities from a young age, I don't want to make a judgment one way or the other about it. But you have to expect that any metric that is used in a competitive admissions process will be gamed by good portion of applicants. So if the goal is to design an application process that is more resistant to gaming, then we should probably focus on more holistic assessments instead of more narrowly-focused assessments.

[–]SgtSmackdaddy 2 points3 points  (0 children)

Regardless though in a meritocracy we should select for the best and brightest - whatever their skin colour is. I agree we should equalize the access to additional help/tutors/after school programs. If the kids have the drive to work that hard it sickens me to think their skin colour could get in the way of their success.

[–]karlsonis 3 points4 points  (7 children)

And that’s how you get discrimination the way Ivy League admissions officers discriminate against Asians today. When the final decision is up to extremely subjective “holistic” criteria, it’s all about what mood the admissions guy was in that particular day.

[–]cycyc -3 points-2 points  (6 children)

I don't think that's an accurate depiction of the admissions process at Ivy League universities. In fact, that's a rather cynical and lazy depiction of the way it actually works.

[–]nigaraze 2 points3 points  (4 children)

Mood would be too generous in that sense, its rather a systemic effort by Ivy leagues to explicitly limit the number of Asian kids to roughly around 20%. If you want a true meritocracy system where race is blind, you would get schools like UC Berkeley or UCLA where Asians compromises 40-50% of the population despite being just 9% of the US total population. This is literally a form of institutional discrimination, yet no one speaks about it since it only occurs at the top, but in the end, discrimination, is still discrimination. And you dont have to believe me, just look at the numbers from the colleges themselves.





[–]cycyc -1 points0 points  (3 children)

You do realize that you just cited UCs as examples, which take the vast majority of their students from in-state. The Asian population in California is around 15%. Berkeley’s Asian percentage is 42%. Harvard’s is 22%.

22/9 = 2.44

42/15 = 2.8

Not quite a slam dunk proof of racial bias in admissions is it?

[–]nigaraze 2 points3 points  (2 children)

For one, a 15% difference in admission is pretty big and you can have an admission criteria by Harvard that places a higher selectivity for one group of people lower than the other. The actual student body representation is just the result of the process and not the selection itself.

[–]cycyc 0 points1 point  (1 child)

That 15% difference could be easily explained away by Harvard’s preference towards legacy applicants and towards normalizing for socioeconomic status (these objectives are of course at odds with one another, but what can you do).

My point is that the statistics that you threw out are not quite proof of racial bias in admissions. There may be other factors, correlated with race, that are used in the admissions process that give the impression of racial bias but are not actually racially motivated.

Also, please stop downvoting me for having a different opinion from you. It’s not a disagree button.

[–]nigaraze 1 point2 points  (0 children)

That 15% difference could be easily explained away by Harvard’s preference towards legacy applicants and towards normalizing for socioeconomic status (these objectives are of course at odds with one another, but what can you do).

That's precisely the fucked up part though and why there is an undergoing law suit


You can just read from all the comments there to know what it means to be categorized as Asian in the admission process. Its not even about having an even playing field, just by admitting the fact you're Asian, the process for admission is automatically paved against you


In court papers, Arlington, Virginia-based Students for Fair Admissions said an Asian-American male applicant with a 25 percent chance of admission would have a 35 percent chance if he was white, 75 percent if he were Hispanic and a 95 percent chance if he were black.

[–]mr_indigo 27 points28 points  (10 children)

It turns out that, like anything in life, there are no perfect solutions. Any system can be gamed, but a system that relies on a few unreliable data points is going to be gamed pretty easily. That's why you often see college admissions boards turning more towards "holistic" evaluations of candidates instead of narrowly focusing on GPA and SAT scores, which tell only a very limited picture about the applicant.

These are also easily gamed, but by the people setting the criteria. It's a really convenient way to filter out black, latino and poor students without explicitly discriminating against them.

[–]Daria_M 60 points61 points  (1 child)

Speaking as a poor latino student that graduated from one of these elite specialized high schools, it definitely did not discriminate against the poor. The test is race blind, solely based on score. There is no influence of teacher's preferences or other factors that may affect one's ability of being able to get in. Almost 80% of the students qualified for free lunch paid by the city, many of them being first-generation immigrants and some of the hardest working people you'll ever meet.

The reason for the lack of minority students is not the test but the education that is being offered in areas that have these demographics. There is a huge discrepancy between the schools that are filled with latinx and black students. Although free programs to study for the SHSAT are being offer to these students, many don't know about these programs or are afraid to even try as they have this mentality of "why bother, I'm not going to get in". I knew so many people, including the valedictorian of my school (who was a latina), who were afraid to take the test and took their chance in their local high schools/high school that they applied to.

And addition to that, these school don't even cover the topics that the test has. In my middle school, which was supposably a "magnet" school, pre-algebra wasn't isn't even touched on until after the test was given in October and I was in the honor's class. A number of my high school classmates families struggled to pay for their cram schools like IVY and MEGA in order to be able to take the test. They spend their summers and weekends studying, kicking their asses to get into these schools and they were POOR. It wasn't uncommon for kids to have a one bedroom apartment for their whole family.

The issue is not the test but the attitude and education these demographics are being given in and outside of school. And to this day, I still think getting rid of the logic portion of the test in order to make the test easier was a HUGE mistake.

And don't get me wrong, I still believe in affirmative action, the country has a LONG way to go before they need to move away from it. But this plan that De Blasio has in the works is one of the worst moves in the department of education. It will absolutely affect the future high school students of New York.

[–]mrbighughjass -5 points-4 points  (0 children)

Complains about racism being bad, —————-> openly supports racist affirmative action policies. So which is it? Is racism good or bad? You can only pick one.

[–]Dezipter 9 points10 points  (2 children)

It's a really convenient way to filter out black, latino and poor students without explicitly discriminating against them.

So equivalent representation doesn't seem like the ideal form, and the current method of rewarding by rote memorization seems challenging. Why would balancing the two Holistically be more wholesome?

[–]mr_indigo 17 points18 points  (1 child)

Oh, I don't mean to suggest other selection mechanisms aren't problematic themselves! Only that "holistic" approaches replace one set of problems with another.

[–]Dezipter 1 point2 points  (0 children)

Quite so, I'm of the note the OP is biased, but he makes an interesting arguement over the asian pipeline / tiger mom&dad being focused on education.

Perhaps its to find a way to emulate the pipeline in communities of color instead of promoting their traditional pipeline of sports.

Think Captain Sisko in DS9.

I worked at a University Tutoring center for college atheletes, and most of these atheletes are there only because of their coaches fining them or "punishing them"...

I felt it would be be better if they spent the money elsewhere or opened the tutoring center to all university students. But oh well...

[–]Dont____Panic -4 points-3 points  (0 children)

It strikes me that an “elite” program NEEDS to filter based on a mixture of aptitude and work ethic. If that discriminates, then that’s unfortunate. I’m all for designing tests of aptitude and work ethic that are as unbiased as possible, but if other social or economic factors make it unequal to start with, it’s not the purview of an entrance exam or some specific school admissions criteria to try to right these, at the expense of overall quality of education.

[–]Winter77777 3 points4 points  (1 child)

That's why you often see college admissions boards turning more towards "holistic" evaluations of candidates instead of narrowly focusing on GPA and SAT scores, which tell only a very limited picture about the applicant.

"Holistic" is also an easy way to enforce an Asian quota without calling it one. It's what Harvard is being sued for currently. And there have been some studies looking at extracurriculars as well and found that Asian applicants were being discriminated against even when achieving the same in sports or arts or academic competititions

[–]jinhong91 2 points3 points  (0 children)

Holistic is also subjective which means it depends on the personnel accessing.

[–]newpua_bie 1 point2 points  (0 children)

Nine hours over two days ? Ours was 24 hours over four days at minimum, often more.

[–]JMEEKER86 1 point2 points  (0 children)

On a quasi-related note, Gaokao Love 100 Days is a fantastic Chinese visual novel about a boy preparing for the Gaokao exam while dealing with all kinds of high school stuff. There are a ton of different endings, but one of my favorites is when he drops out and goes to live in an Internet cafe.

[–]Sabu113 2 points3 points  (1 child)

I thought we used objective measures to avoid human biases, racism and politics from affecting the decision.

Can we at least agree using race as a metric instead of class is pretty racist. Just against a group that has little political power

[–]cycyc -1 points0 points  (0 children)

Where did I ever advocate for using race as a metric instead of socioeconomic status?

[–]wastedcleverusername 1 point2 points  (0 children)

Why should we favor a system that is harder to game over one that is easier to game? As you've pointed out, any system can be gamed, so my instinct is to pick a measure that everybody has as close to an equal opportunity to game as possible and is a reasonable stand in for scholastic achievement. It's not as if people paying thousands for Timmy to attend lacrosse camp in an effort to be "holistic" is any better than thousands spent for tutoring. By making it harder to game, all you've done is raised the bar for resources needed to successfully apply.

[–]eddy159357 1 point2 points  (1 child)

This is a terrible argument and doesn't apply to Asian Americans. Suddenly we have better work ethic because our ancestors grew up in Asia? We grow up attending the same schools and education system but now we're being punished for doing well? Please realize not all Asians are the same, and this hurts Asian Americans.

[–]cycyc 0 points1 point  (0 children)

Sorry, who is being punished for doing well? I don't think I ever advocated for punishing people that do well. I simply acknowledged that standardized exam scores are not really that great of a measure of aptitude, and that admissions boards should therefore use more holistic methods to assess applicant quality.

[–]parlor_tricks 0 points1 point  (1 child)

From the Indian experience, which I bet carries over to every other cram schools system in the world - There are huge and problematic side effects. I’m curious if what I say next sounds familiar.

I’m betting that this view doesn’t include child suicide rates, and also assumes that cramming = grades = education.

The counter analogy I use is that this system creates mental athletes. These are pole vaulters, sprinters, and power lifters.

People who can do Huge feats of mental gymnastics but do not necessarily translate into problem solvers.

And this will always show up in the culture when you look at the non peak performers - and don’t forget those performers regularly leave their nations and go to the West because the western system rewards merit better (and the currency/standard of living is higher).

In india there are similar rigorous exams - notably the IIT Entrance exam.

[–]cycyc 1 point2 points  (0 children)

I think your experience mirrors a lot of what happens in East Asia as well. You train and select for the best test takers and rote learners instead of the best students. It's like if we wanted to find the best all-around athletes in a country, but we do it by having everybody sprint 100m and timing them. Sure, you'll select a lot of Usain Bolts, and they are certainly very athletic. But put them in a triathlon and they probably won't do that great.

[–]Dont____Panic -1 points0 points  (2 children)

It strikes me that a mix including “academic work ethic”, not pure aptitude is what you should be selecting for in school admissions anyway. It sounds like these tests are working exactly as intended.

You can’t make someone with low work ethic work harder, but someone with innate (or trained) drive can go a long way toward completing difficult topics.

[–]cycyc 0 points1 point  (1 child)

Aptitude and academic work ethic are precisely the attributes that schools should be admitting candidates based on. Nobody disputes that.

My point was about the "trainability" of standardized tests. That is, if you practice for years, if you take expensive test-prep courses, if you buy books of practice exams, etc. you can measurably increase your score. Now, a lot of the resulting score is due to the aforementioned aptitude and academic work ethic, but some portion of it is a function of time and money available to the student.

[–]Dont____Panic 0 points1 point  (0 children)


In some ways, this training could be seen as a proxy for identifying students with a high degree of parental support.

This type of Parental Support is one of the strongest indicators of success in school.

So, it depends on your philosophy about education.

1) We should have few schools that further develop the top students absolutely as far as possible, to ensure there is an elite educated group to ensure maximum productivity in society. Those with strong parental support may have more access to these elite schools, but that's OK, because they tend to be highly successful and driven people.

2) We should ensure all schools serve all people/groups in a highly equal way, regardless of their aptitude, even if this diminishes the education level of elite students and those with a high degree of parental support.

I personally think there is a mix of these that would be a good approach. It's good to diminish intentional discrimination, but I don't think it should be at the cost of 'holding back' elite students, or those who are driven to succeed.

I recognize that the long term implications of "class" and "inequality" dictate some sort of response (and I recognize that serious inequality can be a social ill), but I don't personally believe that aggressively supporting "equality of outcome" is a desirable goal, either, especially at the expense of others.

So in reality, some level of inequality is inherent in a mix of these two things, but I recognize that we can't live in a totally "class divided" society, so I recognize that a mix of the two is desirable.

[–]98smithg -3 points-2 points  (2 children)

The problem with holistic profiling is it is very expensive and time consuming. You would have to do oral exams individually for each potential student

[–]cycyc 2 points3 points  (1 child)

I don’t think holistic necessarily implies an oral interview

[–]98smithg 0 points1 point  (0 children)

How else are you supposed to qualify a 10 year old if not in an interview or exam? I am all ears.