March 24, 2006

"It is the dirtiest little secret in higher education..."

That's a quote from one of the letters responding to that article about discriminating agains women in college admissions that we were just discussing. One Vaughn A. Carney writes:
Having served as an educator, administrator and admissions officer, I am obliged to note that the practice of "gender norming" in college admissions is hardly new.

It is the dirtiest little secret in higher education, primarily because it operates in favor of young white male applicants in the form of quotas. Without this practice, nearly all of the elite, historically male colleges would be more than 80 percent female.

37 comments:

Karl said...

> 80%? That's just preposterous. The whole story smells like a ruse to make affirmative action programs more palatable to white males.

Daryl Herbert said...

Males are over-represented at the highest part of the IQ bell curve (as well as the lowest part), so I doubt that the most elite institutions are the ones at risk of testosterone devoidancy. More likely it's the middle-range institutions that would suffer excess feminization.

Bruce Hayden said...

Daryl Herbert

But how do the admissions offices know that all these guys are so brilliant? SATs? Grades?

I suggested in the previous thread that part of the problem is that K-12 had become so female oriented that getting good grades was getting harder and harder for guys, in comparison to girls.

One example I used was that homework had become so important in many classes that even if a guy gets the highest test grades in the class, he can end up with a B or C in the class if he doesn't get in his homework. Back in the 1960s, when I was in high school, I would often get an A in the class for doing that.

From a guy's point of view, if the purpose of homework is to learn the subject matter, then if he can get an A on the tests (and, in particular, if he can get the high grades), without doing the homework, then homework is make-work. And, on average, girls are IMHO significantly better at doing that sort of make-work in order to make their teachers happy with them.

That the guys may be brilliant is really irrelevant, or, maybe even counterproductive. My experience is that the smarter the guys, the less willing they are to put up with arbitrary BS (like make-work homework that they see as wasting their time).

So, how do the colleges identify those brilliant guys? From a combination of grades and SATs? No, because often their grades are lower than those of girls with comparable SATs and IQs. But if the schools actually hold their grades to a lower standard, then they are doing what that article suggests - giving them preferences.

downtownlad said...

I don't believe the 80% number for a second.

Two out of three parts of the SAT section are verbal though, and that is surely a way to pull female scores up. But men are still better test takers. But women do have better grades than men in high school. That is an indisputable fact.

But I have no problem with discriminating against women. Striving for a 50/50 sex ratio seems like the right thing to do. If you're a female, you have a much easier chance of getting into MIT or Cal Tech than if you are male. So it works both ways.

downtownlad said...

Since when is homework easy?

I was in the top 1% of my high school class, and I can't recall one person finding homework easy. If you did - you were obviously in the wrong class.

The AP classes are extremely challenging. And homework involved reading novels, writing 20-page essays, doing science experiments, etc. You couldn't skip that stuff and still expect to ace the exams, unless you were an Einstein.

Maybe it was easy back in the 1950's, but not anymore.

So I don't buy the homework excuse.

I think it's obvious why girls do better than men in high school. Not because women are smarter, but because they try harder. Plus, men have a stronger sex drive (especially as a teenager) and that has got to be more distracting to them than it is to women.

Bob said...

Already the faculty is 97% non-male.

Dave said...

I say we encourage men to boycott school! Clearly, school is biased against young men, and we are depriving our young men of their best years by forcing them to go to school.

One need only look to the inner city to see the fulfilling lives led by young men who forgo their education!

Can we all stop the bitching here? Look, what matters in life is that a person, male or female, get into college, get a degree, and have marketable skills that can pay a decent salary. One doesn't need to go to Princeton for that, and one doesn't need to take AP exams in high school or ace the SATs. Last time I checked, there were tens of thousands of less-than-stellar high school students getting into college, getting degrees, and earning salaries far above the media.

I should know--I was one of those less-than-stellar high school students who nonetheless got into college, got a degree (in three years no less!) and earn a good wage.

Elizabeth said...
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Elizabeth said...

Dave, bravo.

Elizabeth said...

These confident statements about the differences between men and women in school are way overblown. I too spent my high school years blowing off homework and acing exams, and I wasn't an anomoly among the girls I went to school with.

Now, as an instructor, I have women who have to be prodded to do the work, who show up for the quizzes and think that's good enough, and men who are on time with every little thing.

Boys have managed to do their sums, copy, memorize, work their problems on the board, and so forth, for generations. I think there's a lot of romanticizing going on; Ann's pointed out the "women do it better" meme that crops up in comparisons of men and women. I'll propose the "men just need to be free" meme that seeks to blame "excess feminization" for problems with numerous sources.

Aspasia M. said...

I suggested in the previous thread that part of the problem is that K-12 had become so female oriented that getting good grades was getting harder and harder for guys, in comparison to girls.

What??? Getting good grades in high school is simple. Are you kidding me?

"...if he doesn't get in his homework."

University will present a problem if a student can't meet deadlines.

If the boy is bored then school ain't hard enough. Put him into the AP Calculus, Honors English and AP Chem class.

Boys at Exeter have no problem getting good grades and turning in their work.

Tell 'em to stop being a bunch of slackers.

Yevgeny Vilensky said...
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Yevgeny Vilensky said...

geoduck2 (and to some extent Elizabeth) --

I went to an above-average suburban high-school in a wealthy predominantly Jewish school district. I almost never did my homework, despite being in every single AP class the school offered and then some. Thankfully my teachers didn't care very much since I always scored as one of the top handful of students in the class, and then aced the AP exams as well. About 90% of the girls I went to school with did all of the homework they were assigned. About half of the guys did, the others did not.

Yes, meeting deadlines and doing your work is important. But even in good schools (aside from your Exeters and Andovers), even in the challenging AP classes, the classes are just not terribly challenging. What is the point of doing the homework? For busy-work? Exeter and Andover are more challenging than probably 75% of all colleges in this country. So of course, there, boys do do their homework because if they don't, they won't know the material.

Anyway, there definitely are schools where not doing homework is heavily penalized and boys tend to (in my experience) feel the brunt of the penalization).

As for downtown lad --

Yes, essays are technically homework, though I would classify them as projects. By homework I (and I think others) mean doing dozens of rote exercises out of the textbook for math, physics and chem, doing a little fill-in-the-blanks sheet for your history/social studies class, etc. That kind of day-to-day stuff, not just major papers and projects. I know of places where this day-to-day minutia accounts for upwards of 40% of a student's grade.

Daryl Herbert said...

But how do the admissions offices know that all these guys are so brilliant? SATs? Grades?

SATs yes, grades no (grades are much more complicated than raw estimates of intelligence... SAT isn't perfect but it's a lot closer). Grades are a joke (they depend on the teachers, the classes, whether or not the student gets extra points for "honors" classes, etc.) I also agree(?) that the extra writing section on the SAT is BS, but it's important for boys to learn how to write.

It's better for me this time around because the LSAT is closer to a true intelligence test. Nobody gets any free points for showing up, sitting still or doing make-work. It's an even playing field, like it should be.

From a guy's point of view, if the purpose of homework is to learn the subject matter, then if he can get an A on the tests (and, in particular, if he can get the high grades), without doing the homework, then homework is make-work.

You are preaching to the choir on that point. Story of my life. I had two teachers who understood that, and--surprise, surprise--both were math teachers. One had a formal program for letting students off the hook for not doing homework if they got good enough scores on the weekly quizzes. That's the way it ought to be.

Andy said...

But I have no problem with discriminating against women. Striving for a 50/50 sex ratio seems like the right thing to do. If you're a female, you have a much easier chance of getting into MIT or Cal Tech than if you are male. So it works both ways. - downtownlad

Care to justify this? I can't speak for that summer school, but MIT admissions has stated many times that they are genderblind. (Recruiting, on the other hand, has been heavily targeted at women in an effort to get more women to apply). Yes, women have a higher acceptance rate, but that's a meaningless statistic without correlating the quality of the applicant pools.

bogbinder said...

It is worth noting that the re-norming of the SAT flattens out distinction at the right tail of the bell curve. Fifteen years ago, a genius with a penchant for ignoring make-work homework might score near 1600 and thereby demonstrate incontrovertible mental acuity. Under the new scoring dispensation, Harvard has more "perfect score" applicants than slot (or so I've heard tell).

Ann Althouse said...

Elizabeth: "I'll propose the "men just need to be free" meme that seeks to blame "excess feminization" for problems with numerous sources."

Good point. Feminism has traditionally gone after such assertions, which I remember as being very common in the 60s.

Slocum said...

> 80%? That's just preposterous.

Maybe it isn't, and I think that's due to two factors. The first two involves changes in high school grading in recent decades (as several commenters have noted)--changes that that, on average, hurt males. No longer is it not enough to master the material and demonstrate mastery on exams to get a high grade--you must follow all the rules, do all the busy work and meet all the deadlines (of teachers who are more and more likely to be female--even in math and science at the HS level). High-stakes exams are now considered suspect and so the weighting of tests and homework have shifted. To further assist the dutiful and diligent (but not brilliant) student, extra credit work is almost always available as well.

Every year, our local paper publishes a 'top graduates' section in June. At every school in the area, I believe all these students are graduating with 4.0 averages (or higher--due to honors/AC classes). These are the Ivy candidates and, on average, 2 out of 3 are girls.

Dovetailing with those grading trends is the trend by colleges and universities to put a lower emphasis on standardized test scores and a greater emphasis on grades (as, I believe, a way of seeking diversity--underrepresented minorties are more competitve in terms of high-school GPA than SAT/ACT scores). One of the interesting things about the University of Michigan Supreme Court case was that the formula used for undergraduate admission decisions was made public. High SAT scores yielded far fewer 'admissions points' than high HS grades.

So, when elite colleges and universities are practicing 'affirmative action' for boys, what I believe they are doing is reverting to the old practice of giving greater weight to SAT scores. I would bet that the admitted males have lower high-school grades than female applicants but not lower SAT scores.

Joe said...

> 80%? That's just preposterous.

I have no doubt that if college applications were stripped of all gender indicators, the percentage of women admitted would be just about that. It seems clear that the school's idea (in general) of their perfect student has been explicitly rejected by boys (assuming that K-12 has informed them correctly what that ideal is).

Sort of like the libertines of the '20 and hippies of the '60s.

Who's right in this disagreement? I don't know, but I do know that the students have been much more consistant over the past 40 years in this than the institutions. And *that* seems very odd.

DR said...

It's true these days that most of "top student" indicators are things more readily mastered (or rather tolerated) by girls than boys.

Dont forget the role of extracurriculars too in the Ivy league derby. Girls do tend to excel at the kind of altruistic, "friend of man" stuff that colleges eat up. Most boys couldnt be bothered.

It's indisputable that boys excel at the SAT/ACT part and if schools weighted that more, the imbalances would likely vanish. But colleges are stressing good grades, extracurriculars, essays, teacher recommendations and the like. Those things do tend to favor girls, big time.

Bruce Hayden said...

I don't see it that boys have rejected schools' idea of the perfect student, but rather K-12 schools have rejected boys and endorsed girls as the perfect students.

And I had forgotten about extra credit. I recently saw a math grade for one girl of over 100% for a term, due to extra credit.

Finally, these are all averages. Yes, there are girls out there who are not into homework and try to get by on testing (and are thus also disadvantaged by giving more weight to such), and there are guys who do all their homework. But on average, I will submit that girls are more likely to get their homework in, and do it right, than boys are, and less likely to find themselves in the position of getting A's on tests, but B's or C's in the class due to their homework grades.

DR said...

Maybe I'm being unfair, but college admissions seems to favor the kind of PC, "paint inside the numbers" profile that favors girls.

But let's be clear, college set their own criteria for admission and they tweak the formula heavily to increase diversity and admit more low test, high "life experience" minority candidates.

Those same criteria disadvantage boys (presumably white and Asian boys) while helping minorities (who have separate admissions standards) and girls.

Eli Blake said...

Bruce Hayden:

Your teachers were apparently way too nice to you.

I teach at a community college and I make homework a substantial part of the grade and here is why: it goes beyond the purely academic knowledge part of the course. It also focuses on keeping a schedule and doing what is required.

Most students plan to gain employment at some time. And when they do, they will be expected to keep a schedule and do what the boss asks them to, whether they 'already know' everything or not.

If you had me, and gotten A's on the tests but not handed in homework (which I count as 20% of the grade), you'd have gotten a 'C.'

Icepick said...

It is the dirtiest little secret in higher education, primarily because it operates in favor of young white male applicants in the form of quotas. Without this practice, nearly all of the elite, historically male colleges would be more than 80 percent female.

Well, then, the colleges must not be teaching the hard sciences or engineering anymore.

I remember when a couple of friends of mine went to an orientation for new students in the engineering college of their university. There were about 120 students in the room, and there was a palable sexual charge in the air: the new class of engineering students had THREE female students! The guys couldn't believe their luck!

When the first speaker got up to talk and thanked everyone for attending the Engineering College, the three young women realized they were in the wrong room and left. The entire room deflated!

Coming out of the hard sciences myself, I find that 80% number to be laughable, and it makes me wonder what this Vaughn A. Carney's educational background is. Probably has a PhD in Education, LOL!

DR said...

Another point that bears mention here is how competitive college admissions have become and how the prepping for admissions begins earlier and earlier for kids. There's an increasing emphasis on the right kind of extracurriculars. It's not enough to be on the debating team; one needs to be state champ, or have done some type of extraordinary achievement.

We all know boys mature later than girls, have less tendency to be organized about their lives, especially in early teen years when college prep and strategizing happens.

By the time many boys get their heads together, it's really too late for the top schools and they're 2-3 years behind the girls in planning.

PatCA said...

"dirty little secret"

I don't get the "dirty." Either you choose freshmen on data like grades and scores, and end up with mostly Asians and females, or you introduce social engineering criteria.

In a way, the fact that women are now seen as overrepresented is an indication that they've "made it" in the social engineering model.

It's nobody's right to go to Princeton, even if historically their ancestors were rejected unfairly. The one thing a name school can do is provide students with a network of alumni in high places. But if a kid has to choose between Berkeley undergrad or Cal State Whatever for a liberal arts BA, it doesn't make a whole lot of difference.

Aspasia M. said...

Yevgeny Vilensky,

People are doing busy work in high school? This is a big problem.

In science classes we were tested on labs, written essays and tests.

We didn't turn in daily assignments or worksheets or such. That's third grade nonsense.
We did have to write up the results of our lab work.

For history and my english classes we wrote papers (5 to 20 pages depending on the assignment) and the teacher gave in-class essay tests. The teacher would give in-class pop quizzes to test that we were reading the assigned books. Mostly we talked about the books in class and were graded on class participation. We also gave some in-class public talks.

Civics class: In-class public presentation of our projects, essay papers, in-class tests. I don't remember any daily homework.

Debate Class: In class debates & essays on rhetoric and politics. We mostly researched in the library.

International Cooking class: We did have to judge food. We filled out a ratings sheet after eating their results. It was all finished in class. I wrote one 5 page research paper on Italian food and culture.

Only in math classes were there daily homework assignments and tests.

I went to a public high school in a upper-middle class district. (Late 1980s, early 90s.) The school was well-funded.

I can't imagine doing worksheets or busywork nonsense in high school. That's horrible. I'd probably ignore the busy work too. I'm female and I'd be very annoyed at busy work.

It sounds like our high schools are way too easy.

Elizabeth said...

Ann, I think that debate goes back to Wollstonecraft and Rousseau.

Slocum said...

I teach at a community college and I make homework a substantial part of the grade and here is why: it goes beyond the purely academic knowledge part of the course. It also focuses on keeping a schedule and doing what is required.

Most students plan to gain employment at some time. And when they do, they will be expected to keep a schedule and do what the boss asks them to, whether they 'already know' everything or not.

Yeah, right. Standard teacher explanation -- following every pointless rule may have no bearing on your mastery of the material, but...making yourself do pointless things at the direction of authority figures is an important part of life! Aaarrgghhh!!!

But, fortunately, the world of work really is NOT like that. Hell, most of higher education isn't even like that.

People get a bit behind and then work harder and catch up absolutely all the time. How many people go in for a couple hours on Saturday to clean up work they didn't finish during the week? Do bosses take 'points off' every day for every piece of paper that wasn't 'turned in' that day? Or do businesses set overall expectations and major deadlines and give employees flexibility in working toward them? And do they care about rule following or results? The good employers provide flexibility and care about results.

And so do good schools and teachers. But, unfortunately (as your comment suggests), there seem to be relatively fewer of those than their used to be.

Cousin Don said...

I wonder how much of this all is the trend towards liberal arts colleges. It seems that a liberal arts education has become the 21st century equivalent of the high school degree. Many males used to drop out of high school because they didn't see it as necessary to be a factory worker or mechanic or house painter or whatever profession they aimed at.
Is that why there are less men trying hard to get into college (by doing well in high school), because they just don't see it as necessary step to do what they want to do?

Slocum said...

Most students plan to gain employment at some time. And when they do, they will be expected to keep a schedule and do what the boss asks them to, whether they 'already know' everything or not.

One thing I forgot to add. I have a friend who teaches who was having a faculty meeting where teachers were discussing having consistent penalties for late work. He asked them what sort of consistent penalties would be appropriate for teachers who didn't grade and return tests immediately, who didn't keep lesson plans and grade books up-to-date, etc. You can guess the general reaction to that proposal.

My kids have had a number of teachers who were inflexible about student work being on time or else (for the good of the kids of naturally)--but were perfectly willing to cut themselves as much slack as they needed in getting grading done and papers and tests returned, in keeping parents informed of student progress, of keeping online course notes up-to-date, and so on.

Aspasia M. said...

Slocum,

There's different types of kids out there. Some are very responsible and do not abuse flexible policies.

Other kids try to take advantage of nice people.

I had a kid who was missing a morning class, on a regular basis. He would track me down in my office around 11:00 am, claim he was sick that morning, and want a repeat of the teaching for the day. He did this at least 10 times before I began to ask him if he had health problems or was simply hung over from alcohol.

I'm all for being flexible for reasonable stuff. But there are kids who try to take advantage and they cause problems for everyone.

The majority of kids are pretty responsible, and when I was teacing I would be very flexible.

But the bold ones - the ones that try to take advantage - can be really outrageous.

For example - the same kid who was missing class (due to alcohol) plagiarized a paper. I caught him with google.

Slocum said...

I had a kid who was missing a morning class, on a regular basis. He would track me down in my office around 11:00 am, claim he was sick that morning, and want a repeat of the teaching for the day. He did this at least 10 times before I began to ask him if he had health problems or was simply hung over from alcohol.

Well, fine, but that's very different that what we've talking about -- employees who show up hung over at 11:00 do get fired quickly. But teachers who decide they'd rather watch a DVD on Sunday night rather than press on and finish grading a batch of tests, and then don't return them until Tuesday or Wednesday face no consequences at all, but that same teacher's students who make the same call with respect to homework due on Monday will typically lose a lot of credit (maybe half, maybe everything). Can you imagine teachers being docked half a day's pay for late work?

Thirteen-year-olds deserve a lot more slack than adult professionals, but in my experience they get a lot less.

Daryl Herbert said...

The "excess feminization" comment was a joke on the "excess whiteness" index (http://academic.udayton.edu/TheWhitestLawSchools/2005TWLS/Chapter5/Regional01.htm) blogged about in different places, including the Volokh Conspiracy http://www.volokh.com/archives/archive_2006_01_22-2006_01_28.shtml#1138139295 and Joe's DartBlog http://www.dartblog.com/data/004872.html )

Elizabeth said...

Slocum, there is a penalty in my university for not holding up my end as an instructor. A tenured instructor was forced to retire last semester based on a series of three semesters' complaints about really extreme failures to keep up with grading, assignments and missing classes. That's an exceptional example. But every faculty member is assessed by students each semester, and in my department, specific questions on those student evaluations make up more than 50 percent of the criteria that determine whether instructors are retained (a sort of lesser version of tenure) and professors move up the tenure track.

I don't assign "busywork" because it doesn't advance the goals of the class. I ask students to write most of their assignments in class (it helps head off plagiarism); out-of-class work has practical applications. Quizzes are to make sure the reading gets done on time so classroom discussions are worthwhile. Most of our students work, and have a good work ethic in class as a result. They're already learning or have long developed time management skills. Though I'm not happy with all of the effects of the modern consumer mentality students have, it does encourage them to get their money's worth from their classroom experience.

Pete Hallman said...

"I teach at a community college and I make homework a substantial part of the grade and here is why: it goes beyond the purely academic knowledge part of the course. It also focuses on keeping a schedule and doing what is required.

Most students plan to gain employment at some time. And when they do, they will be expected to keep a schedule and do what the boss asks them to, whether they 'already know' everything or not."
This ridiculous comment is example 1A (sorry, Ann) of the adage 'Those who can, do. Those who can't, teach'. Has this person ever experienced work in the reality-based business world, where theory sounds nice, but practice is King? Good grief - knowing every little rule is more than worthless; it inhibits actual production. The truly successful have developed personal systems and strategies that work best for them, and don't follow a 'one size fits all' formula. They take basic guidelines and run with them, adding new wrinkles and discarding burdensome ones. As the phrase in 'Ghostbusters' goes, "I've WORKED in the private sector; they expect RESULTS". This teacher would be much more useful if he focused on results, and ditched his insistence on the process. It's not his job to worry about his students potential work success - his job is to teach the subject. The market will ultimately determine who succeeds and who doesn't, and his do-gooding basis of grading on useless factors that HE thinks are important will only hurt his students chances of landing a great opportunity by lowering the GPA of someone who's mastered the subject, but in a manner unacceptable to the teacher. What arrogance!

M. Simon said...

White men aproximately equal white women in colleges.

The shortage is in the men of color area.

Where are they?