If you know me, you know I’m picky about my grades. If you really know me, you know I’m stressing out about sharpening my ends into something Harvard and the likes might notice (i.e, becoming world class at something or another. You want a really depressing article? Here’s one: http://blog.prepscholar.com/how-to-get-into-harvard-and-the-ivy-league-by-a-harvard-alum)
Actually, if you really, really know me, you know I easily get sad about small things, e.g reading about Ivy League colleges. But more on that another time.
I had a revelation about education the other day. Take high school math—PreCalculus, for example. There’s Pre-AP Precalculus, and there’s regular Precalculus, and they’re tailored to different levels of adeptness at Precalculus. For the sake of simplification, let’s say people are smart or dumb. So the smarter people are in Pre-AP Precalculus, a course taught at a faster pace, covering more ground more in-depth. The dumber people are in regular Precalculus, which is slower and less rigorous, but suited to the dumber people.
Basically, if smart and dumb people were taught in the same level, the smart ones would be bored and not pushed to their full potential, and the dumb ones would be overwhelmed and unable to maximize their potential either.
So there must be a divide, hence different levels of each math, English, science, and history course. Hence, also, Harvard, Yale, versus Smith, Emerson, versus UT Austin, versus UT Arlington, community colleges. Because we don’t specialize into broad categories of intellectual advancement/maturity/overall excellence any earlier (magnet high schools, boarding schools aside), the college application process is where that happens.
It’s like separation into regular, Pre-AP, and AP, but in a macrocosmic way.
The issue is, no one wants to be the dumb one. The college application system is so controversial and so complex because it’s the ultimate affirmation of one’s place on the dumb-smart, average-exceptional hierarchy. The smartest and most exceptional will thrive at Harvard and get the most out of its rigorous environment, and the dumbest and most average will do the same at a community college. I want to go to Harvard very badly, but if I don’t get accepted, maybe it’s because I’m simply not at the top of the tier.
But no one wants to think of it that way. We talk about how the system is broken, it’s like a lottery, maybe to reassure ourselves that it’s not because we’re too dumb that we didn’t get in, that they just didn’t like us, that it’s all subjective. Maybe it is. Or we talk about how excellent an obscure program is, try to elevate our college to a brighter spot on the radar, to subsequently prove our own brightness.
I know that to me, going to the smart college would be an affirmation of my own smartness. If it wasn’t for the system, there would be no specialization, separation—so much lost potential. It just hurts to know that maybe for the next geniuses of the world to develop at the top-notch colleges, I may be excluded.
These are just thoughts that occurred to me while I was eating blueberries. I may have given colleges too much credit for being fair, etc. I also didn’t go into what makes a college a “smart” college, etc. Let me know what you think!
Over ‘n out,
Isabella – 6/10/16