My husband and I got in a bit of a war of words last week. He was traveling for work and the local school had their kindergarten orientation. While we’re still note entirely sure where our kiddos will be heading to school, there’s a good chance we’ll choose the local school. The day prior to orientation, I brought in our forms and signed up for an orientation slot. Well, the problem came up because I apparently hadn’t yet read all the information about the potential lawsuits on Harvard and other Ivy League schools (and likely other Tier 1 schools) that Asians have to hide their Asian-ness. According to Business Insider, Harvard and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill were sued last year by “Students for Fair Admission,” a nonprofit group based in Austin, Texas, made up of recently rejected applicants who argue that affirmative action policies should be banned at colleges across the nation.
Yes, I know, I’m white, but our kids are mixed. Previously forms had a spot for “choose one” and one of the options was multi-cultural.
From the local public school’s enrollment form
Student’s Race: Choose one or more
American Indian/Alaska Native
Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander
We encourage you to select an answer for both parts. If either Part A or B is not answered, the US Dept of Education requires the school to assign a race to the child. Now, my husband thinks we should have left it blank and let them assign it. OR, just choose white. Why?
(Note: for any white bigots out there, please note you’re in the same category as those of Middle Eastern descent)
Now, however, they are pretty explicit and the US Department of Education apparently says that if a parent doesn’t disclose, then the school can assign one to the student!
In some instances, it may be necessary for the Department to request additional information about the race and ethnicity of individuals in elementary and secondary schools (such as the individual responses as discussed under question 2 above) in order to resolve specific issues, e.g., those presented in a discrimination complaint or compliance review.
Race sticks with you, whether you like it or not
My husband asked I go back and change it or leave it blank, but I know that can’t be done. Why? Look at the US DOE website. In 2008, they made this statement:
a “two-part question” to be used to refine the selection of race and ethnic categories
actions to be taken when a self-identified response is not complete
retention of original responses
time frames for when the Department will begin collecting and reporting data by new racial and ethnic categories.
Yes there are new racial and ethnic categories, and people are always changing and mixing and mingling and procreating, can someone click all the above? Would that impact their data? What percent matters? And how much Hispanic is Hispanic? All? Half? Quarter? What race are Indians? I mean, Indians, according to the US census, have been white, Asian, middle eastern and many others through the years. Can we hope that in the next 10 years Indians will be white again?
Why race matters and why it doesn’t
There is major bias against Asians getting into universities in the US. There are racial quotas for many top-tier universities. There have been issues with whites getting in as well. Back in the late fall/early winter 1997, I had applied to University of Michigan and cried when I got my letter that I was wait listed. Later in the spring, I was offered admission into their forestry and ecology program, but I had no interest in that field (look at me now!), so I had chose another school, and then changed my mind again. The next year, there were lawsuits against University of Michigan for their biased admissions policies.
You see, admissions to selective schools seeks to have a balanced class of students. As in, not all from elite families, not all from the same background. Students and their professors discuss the world, and one worldview is not okay. But, Asians are no longer okay with having to work harder to get the same admission slot. I get it, I see both sides, but I also don’t like that I potentially have to lie or omit information in hopes that my children can pass as white enough.
While most of us inherently know that test scores aren’t everything, but we are headed to more of a test score for admission route with common core. I can tell you while in India test scores were so important to most around me. Why? Because admissions to colleges and universities are entirely based on test score cutoffs. Yes, those from backward castes (that’s what they call it) they get affirmative action, but even in India many are asking that those be looked at differently because it is more of a CLASS issue than a background issue.
Diversity is more than just race
The goal of admissions bias appears to make sure there’s diversity at Harvard and other schools. Two children with similar amounts of money will have a lot in common versus two people of the same race (or in India caste) if there’s a large disparity in income. Paying for academic summer camp and tuition-based tutoring classes has a major impact, as does private elite schooling – more so than skin color.
Do they look at which school they attended? I don’t remember there being any asking of income on admissions forms? Did they ask if we I grew upon welfare? Did they care that I came from a single family home? Does that make for more diversity than ensuring no more than 20% of the incoming class is from one racial or ethnic background? Should someone’s test scores correlate with their race alone?
What we disclose at age 5, will impact them at age 17/18.
Then again, perhaps my kids will have no desire to go to an elite university. We don’t know, but should what I have placed on their enrollment forms now really have that much of an impact on them more than a decade from now?
I wonder how this impacts those Asians adopted at birth by white couples? Is it nature or nurture that impacts Asians scoring higher on tests?
Schools want a good mix, but what is the good mix and how do we ensure it if we look merely at impact of race alone on what someone needs to score to gain admission to a so-called elite/top university?
Why do I have to worry about that when my kids are 5 and 7? I have little faith in common core doing the job of educating all students better. Yes, some students will get better, some parents will need to try harder. But, tests and math books that don’t teach long division will do more to serve an agenda of filling specific job roles over having a more balanced, educated and better world.