Higher ed complicit in perpetuating dangerous stereotypes, researcher says
- American Educational Research Association conference keynote speaker, University of Illinois's William Trent, told a New York audience Saturday that higher ed is complicit in perpetuating the kinds of stereotypes that are fueling tensions in this country by not doing enough to diversify their populations and make sure students are exposed to enough people from different backgrounds.
- For one thing, he said, "you send admissions officers out with a 'yield list' to recruit in places where their efforts will be rewarded with a high number of qualified student applicants, who can pay." Those areas are often whiter and richer, he said — an idea which was confirmed by a study presented by two other researchers at the meeting.
- When they arrive on campus, "we quickly get students indoctrinated to the kind of racism we practice," he said, noting that "within a couple of weeks, they know which neighborhoods [around campus] to avoid." Even the language around education as an enterprise is problematic, he continued saying, "conceptually, why have we allowed historically majority-minority schools to be a problem, but not majority white schools. Why is a majority-white school not a racially identified school? Our very language, the very way that we talk about this privileges the structure that doesn’t facilitate the type of change that we need."
"Segregation, whether it’s a wall, concrete, or the segregation that comes with the kind of social structure in which we exclude in a very thorough way, they both serve to perpetuate vicious stereotypes," said Trent, who pointed out that with first-graders across the country already being majority-minority, "this has to stop." "We can either choose to do our best for the children who come to us, or we can suffer the consequences ... of having poorly trained people who perform our medical services" and other critical services that will be staffed by today's students down the line.
School and neighborhood segregation funnel up to segregation in higher education, where schools concentrate limited recruitment budgets on the top schools to get bigger bang for buck. This is where policies like the controversial 10% rule in Texas — which guarantees admission to the state's public universities for the top 10% of students at every high school across the state in hopes of accounting for differences between school quality — come into play to level the playing field. But affordability is still an issue for students who come from impoverished neighborhoods and schools, and as Sen. Lamar Alexander pointed out on a panel discussion hosted by the Reagan Institute Thursday, other barriers, including convoluted financial aid forms, still exist.
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