The Integrity Conumdrum

I have this list of aphorisms by my desk that I re-read regularly.  The first one is:

Never do more than you have to because you desire or expect recognition or praise.  For, more often than not, you will open yourself to increased criticism and risk. You do more than you have to because you have integrity.

A 2015 article in the NY Times, No Time to be Nice notes how incivility is increasing at the  workplace and the pernicious effect it has been having.  It highlights the long-term health consequences but also discussed the immediate impact.  The authors describe how it hijacks workplace focus and produces demoralized employees; employees contribute less and lose their conviction.  “Power can force compliance. But insensitivity or disrespect often sabotages support in crucial situations…..How we treat one another at work matters.  Insensitive interactions have a way of whittling away at people’s health, performance and souls.”

So, those are the two baselines:  integrity and civility/kindness. This includes really listening and paying attention and responding to concerns; it means doing the best that you can to act on every situation before you and it means giving the same level of concern and respect for every person you interact with.

A few years ago I got this letter from a former student.  This is why we do what we do- food for the soul, so to speak:

“Some day you’ll be applying to grad school.”

I remember you saying this to me shortly after meeting you, and hearing my expression of my absolute contempt for school. It seemed dismissive, but for some reason I wasn’t offended, while jokingly dismissing me you were acknowledging my criticisms more than most “adults.” I knew you had my best interest in mind, and you had a glow about you, you seemed more sincere than most of the staff at MHS. You proceeded to really contort and perform backflips in order to get me out of that school in 4 years with a 2.0 GPA, if it were not for you I would not have graduated High School. This semester is ending, and now at the age of 26 I am becoming a Junior in college, with a plan to eventually continue to attend grad school and become a History professor. I couldn’t help but think of you this semester, and acknowledge all that you did for me. 11 years later I am writing you to let you know you were right, some day I will be applying to grad school…… but you knew that all along.


STEM “Magic”

Back in the 50’s, Eisenhower shed light on the dangers of the “military-industrial” complex which had a huge vested interest in influencing public policy. We now have the Testing and Admissions Complex (TAC), of testing agencies and college admissions offices, that is equally problematic.

For years, the federal and state government have tried to determine educational policy and change outcomes for students, and they have had little affect on what actually happens in the classroom. In response to No Child Left Behind, Race to the Top and the Education and Secondary Education Act, there were few changes in what has been taught to students and how it was taught. But the TAC, along with ancillary pressures by the NCAA and state governments, has had a much bigger impact on what is taught to students.

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A Plea for Change in College Admissions

Who started it?: “We expect applicants to take the most demanding schedule available to them?” That is the source of the one of the most cruel, and truly unnecessary, abuses of our children . These words send students, so many students, into depression and despair and hopelessness. The words are meant for those elite students who can do it all. The words have the greatest effect though, a truly pernicious one, on those who aspire to stay in the ball park for a ball that is likely to forever be out of reach.

The biggest shame, and it should be embarrassment, is that so many colleges say this when meeting with students and it’s simply not true. When I hear it, my ears perk up: “NO YOU DON”T ,” I say to myself. “I see who you admit and this is simply not true”.

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Comments on Student Schedules

There was an article on a comment I wrote “A Plea for Change in College Admissions” in Inside Higher Ed and below is a comment on it:

I am struck by, stay with me here, how this abuse of students is, like in the #me too movement, perpetuated by the nature of the unequal power position. Except most of this discussion is not about adults, it is about children. There was an opinion piece today in the NY Times, ‘Aziz Ansari is Guilty. Of not Being a Mind Reader‘ with the author stating that the woman who accused him had agency to be explicit about her concerns or to leave. And I thought about how these students are acting and reading some of the comments implying that there are many fish in the sea and students don’t have to play this game. But, by their very nature, children do not have agency. This competitive cycle begins early in high school or even in middle school for many. We adults need to protect our children and we are not. We as parents, as schools, as media are sometimes tacitly or at other times actively pushing our kids to their limits with the premise that it potentially improves their future. Number one, that’s all a lie. How many adults do you know that are where they are due to contacts they made in college? How important is it for experienced professionals what undergraduate college they went to when seeking employment? And how much of a setback is it that a kid only went to Cornell rather than U Penn or Vassar rather than Tufts or Drew instead of Muhlenberg?

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The Faustian Bargain

The trade-off is sickening. The tax bill, if you can call it that is one of the biggest scams to ever be pulled on the disadvantaged in our society. The lowest income earners may get a small decrease in taxes this year, and possibly for the next few years. But, in return, everything around them that makes their lives better will be changing for the worse. There will be less money to pay for your child’s college, or their teachers, or to fix up their homes and their schools and their roads and their parks. There will be fewer police officers protecting their communities. Their health insurance rates will sky-rocket. Those with physical and developmental disabilities will have their lives become harder. And next they’ll be going after every one of society’s safety nets, from providing formula for infants, to caring for the elderly who are sick to giving the elderly protection from hunger and homelessness. Yes, that bus that brings the disabled to a meaningful job will not be running anymore. Something needs to give to get those wealthy people their tax breaks. And they may pull it off. Haven’t they screwed the poor enough? Do they really need to squeeze more blood out of them? That is a rhetorical question for this is what you get when you elect leaders who care more about campaign contributions than to protect and serve the people who chose them.


Colleges Doing Right- Will Testing Agencies Follow?

It is really a great service to kids for colleges to allow them to self-report scores.  Kudo’s for a simple solution to solve a number of issues.  For one, there is all this angst with score choice and the idiotic policy of only being allowed to send one sitting.  What, it’s too complicated for an organization making hundreds of millions of dollars to write a simple algorithm to report the highest subtests from any of the tests, ie, to superscore?  Also, I can see the fee being in place from the days they had to mail out scores.  There were actual physical costs:  paper envelopes, stamps, even possibly some human labor.  But as everything became electronic and their costs went down, did they reduce the fee?  No, they actually have increased it!

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Don’t Give a S**t Index

So I so this list of the 500 colleges with the highest yield rates (above 23%) at Lendedu
Well, I did a bit of data manipulations and came up with a list of where I divided the yield rate by the accept rate, getting a figure I called the DGS factor (Don’t Give a S**T)..
In particular, it is a list of colleges by how much they care whether you really want to go there.
I’ll use a personal example.  My two older kids were very strong college applicants- straight A’s, strong scores, mostly AP’s.  Son a National Merit Scholar, Daughter a National AP Scholar.
Son went to visit number 14 on the list and went to sign in.  He asked where he should sign in and they said they don’t have such a list!
Daughter applied to number 200 as a safety school (she was admitted to places like Middlebury and Swarthmore).  She got stuck in traffic so visited the college after admissions was closed.  She was waitlisted.
So when students ask you whether it is important for them to let the colleges know how much they want to go there, check out the DGS index.  If colleges are not on the list, I suspect that they have yield rates under 23%.
Check it out at the link below: