Sunday, October 03, 2004

I'm not a Republican, I swear...A belated commentary on the increased UC minimum GPA from a decidedly "left" thinker.

Okay, so we've all read and heard too much reaction to this as it is (especially from bloggers), but now it's my turn to put in my two cents. (Just in case you were living under a rock for the past two weeks [I guess Berkeley housing is more scant than I thought], the Daily Cal article is here.) Where to start?

Okay, the most obvious critique of the backlash first. What's with this argument? "Hey, minorities can't get 3.0 GPAs! Rather than attempt to provide said minorities with more educational resources in high school that would afford them the chance to get better grades, let's just keep the standards low! It's the American goddamned way!" I'm not gonna pull that cute "the protesters are racist" claptrap that some of my conservative blogging friends have tried to pass off as insight. But I don't see why the solution to the problem of lack of diversity should be a flimsy bandage; the solution needs to by systemic because the causes are systemic. Obviously making poor schools more equipped to produce college students is expensive, but if all the energy and money invested in fighting raised standards were invested into root-cause programs such as Teach for America, the dent would be significant.

Second, GPAs aren't SAT scores; they're fairly comprehensive, and not determined by for-profit organizations. Grades in high school are for the most part given relative to a person's classmates, and take into account how hard he's willing to work (not just how well he does on tests...even in my college prep classes in high school, exams never made up more than half my grade). If you can't muster a B average in high school, well, you don't belong in the UC system. Apparently an epidemic problem in the UCs is that students get in, then get left in the dust because they can't compete; I don't happen to think that it's the university's job (especially not at Berkeley) to hold students' hands and show them how to handle college life. If a student can't manage as many A's and C's in high school, then I fully support her going to Cal State Long Beach or a JC, easing into the college experience, getting awesome grades the first two years, then transfering to a UC if she wants. What I don't want is unqualified students feeling sorry for themselves when Berkeley kicks their ass the first year. I sucked it up here at Cal my first semester, but rather than complaining that the university wan't offering me enough resources, I got my shit together the second semester, and every year's GPA has been better than the previous for me. It's not that hard!

And, for the record, the 3.0 GPA minimum is on an unweighted 4.0 scale, so the availability of AP classes isn't a factor in who gets to come to a UC. Also, only 1% of Cal had a high school GPA under 3.0, so this measure isn't affecting the most selective UCs that much anyway.

Anyhow, it's not that I don't think that ethnic diversity on is an unimportant issue; it bothers me that my campus is disproportionately un-black/Latino/southeast Asian/etc. These demographics are indicative of the systemic discrepancies between wealth and education. I grew up among the poorest of the poor, and I know how much poor schools get shit on. The job of the state is to stop shitting on poor schools, not to lower the standards that make these universities desirable places to attend to begin with.


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