Thursday, April 27, 2006

Steroids ... in academics?

... Parents seek to have their children classified as learning disabled so they can receive unlimited time on the SAT. Children invent clubs so they can list themselves as president of something on college applications. Scott White, a guidance counselor at Montclair High School in that New Jersey suburb, recalls the envy of one student for a classmate with cancer because "he'll have a great college essay now."

From this NYT story about the kinds of things students think they should do/have to get into elite universities in the US. I particularly wanted to highlight the story's negative framing of students who spend a lot of money to get themselves a 'great portfolio':

Such is also the story of admission to the elite colleges and universities in this country. Under the pretense of fair competition, tens of thousands of high school students and their families employ the scholastic equivalent of steroids — test-prep courses, private consultants, Internet mills for massaging if not entirely creating their essays, exaggerated or cynical accounts of their community service.

Strong words, those.

Just a few days ago, I saw a similar analogy in the context of ... reservation! Someone called 'nevermind' (who left a comment on this post) said:

... [When] one is competing with Ben Johnson on steroids (read money, privilege and a culture of intellectual achievement), however world-class your physiology, you would need some steroids yourself if you want to compete on equal terms.