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Old 06-09-2008, 11:37 AM   #1
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Universities elitism?

I was watching some moronic news report the other day, so bad was it that I can't recall if it was news night, but something of that ilk.

The standards of students was being discussed and Imperial College London, said the calibre (lack of) of A Level exams meant they were bringing in their own entrance exams. The news reporter then accused the dean of being 'elitist'. I'm sorry but I don't want this idiot of a news reporter ever being allowed on national TV again. Imperial is one of the top 5 uni's in the country, of course its meant to be frigging well elitist.

Surely the point of the best universities is to have the best students studying there, both of which are elitist, and I myself have no problem with this...

Thoughts?

(Warning if you are a member of the Political Correctness Police, do expect to be intellectually assassinated by me )



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Old 06-09-2008, 12:09 PM   #2
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Wow... a good college being called elitist? When did the world go crazy?

Of course they're going to be elitist, they try to get the best in there!

I don't get who brining in their own entrance exams when the feel that the A-Levels are too easy makes them elitist though? Could somebody explain this to me?

(Of course, having next to no idea what an A-Level is makes it easier for me to say that! )
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Old 06-09-2008, 12:23 PM   #3
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If nearly everyone who applies to the university gets really high scores on their A-levels (it sounds like they do), then yes, a more difficult test would be useful to differentiate those people rather then allowing them in by random chance. That's more of an attempt to be fair to the applicants than elitism.


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Old 06-09-2008, 01:05 PM   #4
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Originally Posted by Samuel Dravis View Post
If nearly everyone who applies to the university gets really high scores on their A-levels (it sounds like they do), then yes, a more difficult test would be useful to differentiate those people rather then allowing them in by random chance. That's more of an attempt to be fair to the applicants than elitism.
Question: Is there anything wrong with 'elitism' anyway?



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Old 06-09-2008, 01:22 PM   #5
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Originally Posted by Jonathan7
Question: Is there anything wrong with 'elitism' anyway?
Yes there is.

Well, I should say that on the large scale there is, on the small scale there isn't as many problems with it.

I don't want people to start getting jobs because they're grandfathered in, nor do I want to get my job because I went to <Insert College Here> not because of the rest of my qualifications.

Also, elitism will eventually evolve into the caste system, and those don't seem like they'd be beneficial for long term, sustained growth, in almost any sense.

Also, it encourages prejudice to those 'below your station' and creates a persecuted group, which will come around to bite you in the rear later on.


But, on the small scale, yeah, its okay. I'd almost expect an elitist view from a good college, not a "Everybody and anybody is welcome." if discrimination is necessary for the population to have good schools and a good standard of life, then so be it... on the small scale.
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Old 06-09-2008, 01:26 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jonathan7 View Post
Question: Is there anything wrong with 'elitism' anyway?
You probably want to clarify what you mean by "elitism"

That term gets used quite loosely these days and means lots of things to lots of people.
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Old 06-09-2008, 01:41 PM   #7
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You probably want to clarify what you mean by "elitism"

That term gets used quite loosely these days and means lots of things to lots of people.
Elite = the best

So for example, if your the manager of a football team you want the best players for the job in your team and you wouldn't play those who aren't up to the task.



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Old 06-09-2008, 01:55 PM   #8
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So the question is: "Is there anything wrong with wanting the best people anyway?"

It depends. In your football scenario, you definitely want the best player on the team. In other scenarios though, you might select for fit rather than raw skill.

Academically, I don't think there is anything wrong with ensuring that there are intellectually challenging environments for every level of academic performance. If receiving an education from such an institution better prepares one to become a captain of industry, then I don't think it's okay to lambaste the institution or the individual for their success.
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Old 06-09-2008, 02:34 PM   #9
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It isn't really anything wrong with it (your type anyway), however people often use it as an excuse to discriminate because of other reasons. Right now for instance, I got into a good school in Russia despite my grades being far from excelent. A gay student who can speak Russian with better grades didn't get in...


Checking out seems not to do much.
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Old 06-09-2008, 02:44 PM   #10
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It isn't really anything wrong with it (your type anyway), however people often use it as an excuse to discriminate because of other reasons. Right now for instance, I got into a good school in Russia despite my grades being far from excelent. A gay student who can speak Russian with better grades didn't get in...
Does the Russian School's application ask for sexual preference??


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Old 06-09-2008, 03:11 PM   #11
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Imperial is one of the top 5 uni's in the country, of course its meant to be frigging well elitist.
'Top 5' meaning what, exactly? That it can fudge the statistics well enough to be listed as number four in the Sunday Times' much lauded league table? Those tables shift so much every year (e.g. the University of York managed to move from second in the Telegraph in 2003 to fourteenth in 2007) that I very much doubt their credibility and an obsession with them is only adding to the problems which we have in our education system at present.

How do you quantify excellence?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Samuel Dravis
If nearly everyone who applies to the university gets really high scores on their A-levels (it sounds like they do), then yes, a more difficult test would be useful to differentiate those people rather then allowing them in by random chance.
University admission, particularly to places like Oxford and Cambridge, has forever been a black art in this country. If you start your personal statement with a quotation the admissions tutor might bin you for lack of originality; you might be the next Shakespeare or Newton but they'll still do it. If you are invited to interview at the eerily silent and studious ivory towers (the weather was out in force on my interview day; torrential rain... how fitting) then mentioning that you like a certain author might win you a place over someone who, in the end, turns out to discover the secret to cold fusion.

There's no logic in the system and entrance exams probably wouldn't help the matter; it'd simply cause able students with parents who aren't of the most encouraging sort to doubt their ability to even apply.

Cambridge applicants have to fill in something called the Cambridge Application Form or C.A.F. which involves you writing your A-Level scores -- not grades but scores out of 300 and 600 -- down. Aside from leading to that wretched moment where the interviewer sits down, looks down his crooked nose from over his horn-rimmed spectacles and says in a disapproving tone, "So... I see you got 290/300 in Biology... but only 280/300 in English Literature; why aren't you applying for Natural Sciences instead of English?", filling that information in can come as a bit of a shock. Not once are grade 'A' students told of the importance of their marks if they want to apply to Oxbridge and you may be a perfectly able candidate who would flourish in such a... bookish, shall we say, environment who had a bad day on a particular exam, whose score slipped down to just above the grade boundary. You wouldn't fill the form in, not with countless internet forums filled with people flaunting their 600/600 in Further Maths and their Distinction in the Sophisticated Philosophy in Ancient Greek Advanced Extension Award. Add to that the pressures of writing out a second personal statement (in addition to the one you've already sent off to your chosen universities via UCAS) and answering questions about 'What you would contribute to King's College' and puzzling over oddities like 'Can you hit a six and catch a rugby ball?' then you cut out a large portion of potential candidates.

If we allow this to seep down to the other 'elite' universities like Bristol or Imperial then we'll see a lot of highly talented applicants giving up before they even start to apply.

You don't fatten the pig by weighing him all the time. If A-Levels don't discriminate as well as they used to -- which they don't, I accept that -- then raise the standards, include more in the courses and challenge, seemingly, increasingly able students. More open questions to challenge vibrant minds and higher academic standards are the key to making grades spread themselves out naturally.


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Old 06-09-2008, 05:33 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jonathan7 View Post
Question: Is there anything wrong with 'elitism' anyway?
No. This book is a good read, if you're interested.

Quote:
Originally Posted by ForeverNight View Post
Yes there is.

Well, I should say that on the large scale there is, on the small scale there isn't as many problems with it.

I don't want people to start getting jobs because they're grandfathered in, nor do I want to get my job because I went to <Insert College Here> not because of the rest of my qualifications.
What makes the rest of your qualifications any less elitist than where you went to college? And I'm not sure what you mean by 'grandfathered in.' Please clarify. You don't mean nepotism, right?

Quote:
Originally Posted by ForeverNight
Also, elitism will eventually evolve into the caste system, and those don't seem like they'd be beneficial for long term, sustained growth, in almost any sense.

Also, it encourages prejudice to those 'below your station' and creates a persecuted group, which will come around to bite you in the rear later on.
This doesn't exist now? I would argue that indeed it does.
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Originally Posted by ForeverNight
But, on the small scale, yeah, its okay. I'd almost expect an elitist view from a good college, not a "Everybody and anybody is welcome." if discrimination is necessary for the population to have good schools and a good standard of life, then so be it...
Agreed.


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Old 06-09-2008, 05:36 PM   #13
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Ooo nice. I'll have to check that out.

Here is one for you.
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Old 06-09-2008, 05:45 PM   #14
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Ooo nice. I'll have to check that out.

Here is one for you.
You would have a counter-book. I should have expected that.

Thanks; I'll see if it's in our local library.

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Old 06-09-2008, 05:51 PM   #15
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It's not a counter-book. It's an also-book
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Old 06-09-2008, 06:11 PM   #16
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It's not a counter-book. It's an also-book
Ahh. My mistake

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Old 06-09-2008, 08:13 PM   #17
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I don't really think that "elitism" is wrong. These students that are at this college have earned their way into it. The best of the best I guess. I am sure that there are other colleges for those that don't make it into Imperial. If not, try again later....I guess....

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Old 06-09-2008, 08:49 PM   #18
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Elitism depends on how it's executed. As it was said before, if it's being used to promote nepotism and blood over skills and achievements, then it's a bad thing. If it's being used to screen the beast of the best for the better, then it's ok, usually. There's always an exception.

Tests are, IMO, a very bad way to judge a person's skills. Yes, I realize they are the stanrad unit of measure persay, to attempt to gauge a person's abilities, but they are rather limited in most regards and don't take into account a person with good skills who simply does poorly on tests.

Lets face it, in real life, you're not going to be writing a 100 page paper on how to build a house. You're test if going to be building the house and ensuring that it is done in the proper manner so it passes inspection. You're not going to be given a cross-section of a diagram of a frog and asked to identify the parts, you're going to be given a real frog and told to cut it up and identify the parts.

Standardized tests were invented because high education institutes got tired of checking out each person on a personal level and decided to give them a pen and paper and tell them to answer a hundred math questions.

I, for example, excel at math, however, I test horribly in it, I avoided the SAT for this reason, I knew my score would not reflect my ability to do math, only my ability to get brain fried.

If the University want's it's own tests, that's fine, though it becomes difficult at some point to differentiate knowledge from intelligence. I know sever friends who are VERY smart, can give you dates, facts, numbers, and equations, but they couldn't tell you why it's not a good idea for a white person to walk around South Central LA at night unarmed. A person may be very intelligent, but not know the answers to questions B55 through F88. The only way to improve upon them is to give them better education, by deciding that book smarts outweigh the ability to learn, schools are going to be losing out.


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Old 06-09-2008, 10:57 PM   #19
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I have to say that I agree with that. Tests don't show the persons work ethic, ect. It is what it is, a test.
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If it's being used to screen the beast of the best for the better, then it's ok, usually. There's always an exception.
There is always an exception to most things. However, I do agree with what you said.

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Old 06-10-2008, 07:36 AM   #20
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'Top 5' meaning what, exactly? That it can fudge the statistics well enough to be listed as number four in the Sunday Times' much lauded league table? Those tables shift so much every year (e.g. the University of York managed to move from second in the Telegraph in 2003 to fourteenth in 2007) that I very much doubt their credibility and an obsession with them is only adding to the problems which we have in our education system at present.
To be honest it was only a guess on my part, I have never really bothered reading university league tables, for several reasons, not least departments vary between uni's as to their quality.

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How do you quantify excellence?
Interesting question, I'd answer that the current educational format is in no risk of producing excellence, so its a moot question If excellent students emerge from the current system it is despite the system, not because of it, that they have emerged.

Interestingly a lot of my friends who went to Oxbridge, were the boring work hard ones, the geniuses didn't go there...

Current exams to get to uni, only show who has the best memory, is foolish enough to waste their time learning a whole load of information they will never again requite. ALL the information I use today is self taught, shove that up your *** Blair, Major, Thatcher et al.

A and EW, I shall endevour to add those books to my reading list, from the outline, I think I will agree with them



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Old 06-10-2008, 09:34 AM   #21
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What makes the rest of your qualifications any less elitist than where you went to college? And I'm not sure what you mean by 'grandfathered in.' Please clarify. You don't mean nepotism, right?
Grandfathered in comes from after the American Civil war where if your grandfather was not a slave than you were able to vote. It's basically, your relative went here, so you can too.

The rest of your qualifications any less elitist? Well, if I went to Yale and got a very basic degree in pneumatic engineering, but then applied for a job in hydraulic engineering, but got the job based on the fact that I went to Yale, instead of my degree (Which should disqualify me for the job), that was what I was thinking.

Hope that clears up what I was thinking.
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Old 06-10-2008, 10:05 AM   #22
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Grandfathered in comes from after the American Civil war where if your grandfather was not a slave than you were able to vote. It's basically, your relative went here, so you can too.
So it pretty much is nepotism (or at least a form of it). That's a different argument than elitism, wouldn't you say?
Quote:
Originally Posted by ForeverNight
The rest of your qualifications any less elitist? Well, if I went to Yale and got a very basic degree in pneumatic engineering, but then applied for a job in hydraulic engineering, but got the job based on the fact that I went to Yale, instead of my degree (Which should disqualify me for the job), that was what I was thinking.
Does that actually happen? If it does, then you won't do well at the job (you're not actually qualified) and then you'll do badly and get fired. The company deserves the un-productivity and for you justice will prevail.

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Originally Posted by ForeverNight
Hope that clears up what I was thinking.
It does, thank you.

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Old 06-10-2008, 01:53 PM   #23
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Current exams to get to uni, only show who has the best memory, is foolish enough to waste their time learning a whole load of information they will never again requite. ALL the information I use today is self taught, shove that up your *** Blair, Major, Thatcher et al.
While I agree that memorising all thirty steps of photosynthesis is a pointless exercise and that learning the Periodic Table by rote is absurd, you have to come out of your time in the Sixth Form knowing things.

The A-Levels were never designed to be of practical use, they are purely academic in nature and should remain as such. They are intended to train the academics of the future, not to teach people life skills.

Unfortunately, with the utter destruction of our apprenticeship system there's really no alternative for non-academically minded people (just because you don't like drawing out Nucleophilic Addition-Elimination mechanisms doesn't mean you are stupid, I must emphasise this point) other than to take the A-Level.

Rather than changing the A-Level to teach you skills to use in real life, the government should focus on creating an alternative and parallel scheme to train those who do not wish to ramble about Ovid's 'masterful use of language'. An influx of artisans into the economy could only be beneficial and would go some way to fix our trade deficit. Both pathways should be available to all with advice on which one to choose.

I am not advocating a return to the absurd situation we used to have in the 1950s whereby your fate was decided at 11; if you managed to get into grammar school you monopolised funding and university placement and if you didn't, regardless of any future academic brilliance, you had to learn sewing and metalwork. However, we should make sure that there are optional and equally viable paths for all types of mind, academic or practical.


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Old 06-10-2008, 02:21 PM   #24
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While I agree that memorising all thirty steps of photosynthesis is a pointless exercise and that learning the Periodic Table by rote is absurd, you have to come out of your time in the Sixth Form knowing things.

The A-Levels were never designed to be of practical use, they are purely academic in nature and should remain as such. They are intended to train the academics of the future, not to teach people life skills.
To be honest I wasn't referring to things of a practical nature, but all the philosophy I've read has always been off my own back; and I use that and the science I read quite regularly in discussion.

I fully agree with Bertrand Russell about the wonderfulness of useless information, but it should interesting.

So, let me use a few examples of my education (I'm now 23, so GCSE's were 7 years ago...)

For example at GCSE history we studied the industrial revolution; what is that about? It was so boring I didn't bother doing any of my coursework; what's even more of our slight on our education system is I didn't bother revising either, and the coursework was worth 40% and I still managed a C.

Don't got me started on AS-level geography; we had to do a project on the width of foot paths - I think watching paint dry would be more fun!

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Unfortunately, with the utter destruction of our apprenticeship system there's really no alternative for non-academically minded people (just because you don't like drawing out Nucleophilic Addition-Elimination mechanisms doesn't mean you are stupid, I must emphasise this point) other than to take the A-Level.

Rather than changing the A-Level to teach you skills to use in real life, the government should focus on creating an alternative and parallel scheme to train those who do not wish to ramble about Ovid's 'masterful use of language'. An influx of artisans into the economy could only be beneficial and would go some way to fix our trade deficit. Both pathways should be available to all with advice on which one to choose.

I am not advocating a return to the absurd situation we used to have in the 1950s whereby your fate was decided at 11; if you managed to get into grammar school you monopolised funding and university placement and if you didn't, regardless of any future academic brilliance, you had to learn sewing and metalwork. However, we should make sure that there are optional and equally viable paths for all types of mind, academic or practical.
Agreed



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Old 06-10-2008, 02:38 PM   #25
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Unfortunately, with the utter destruction of our apprenticeship system there's really no alternative for non-academically minded people (just because you don't like drawing out Nucleophilic Addition-Elimination mechanisms doesn't mean you are stupid, I must emphasise this point) other than to take the A-Level.

Rather than changing the A-Level to teach you skills to use in real life, the government should focus on creating an alternative and parallel scheme to train those who do not wish to ramble about Ovid's 'masterful use of language'. An influx of artisans into the economy could only be beneficial and would go some way to fix our trade deficit. Both pathways should be available to all with advice on which one to choose.

I am not advocating a return to the absurd situation we used to have in the 1950s whereby your fate was decided at 11; if you managed to get into grammar school you monopolised funding and university placement and if you didn't, regardless of any future academic brilliance, you had to learn sewing and metalwork. However, we should make sure that there are optional and equally viable paths for all types of mind, academic or practical.
I was talking to a woman the other day who has done some living in Europe. She was telling me that in Germany, there's test that all students must take. If they score sufficiently, they move on to an academic high school. If not, they go to a trade school.

I can't speak to the accuracy of these statements, since they're second-hand, but it kind of sounds like what you were describing here.

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Old 06-10-2008, 02:50 PM   #26
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Originally Posted by EnderWiggin View Post
I can't speak to the accuracy of these statements, since they're second-hand, but it kind of sounds like what you were describing here.

_EW_
Yup. The Labour government began to deconstruct the grammar school system in the '60s, I think. There was a time when they viewed it as a wonderful tool for social mobility but the views of a party change, I suppose.

Some areas of the UK still have grammar schools but the 11+ (the entrance exam) has changed into an assessment of how well-off you are and whether or not you can afford a tutor to trick the exam rather than something which determines whether or not you have the potential to go far in academia. I guess that's why the then-left wing Labour party opposed them; it's a barrier to social mobility, not an enabler of it.


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Old 06-11-2008, 12:25 AM   #27
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IMO, Elitism is a very good principle, when used correctly. As I see it, it is a demand for excellence. And how is excellence a bad thing, after all? Being 'elite', IMO, is a great thing. A person elite in a career or area of expertise is often a great benefit to society. Encouragement and training of being the best you can be, IE, an 'elitist', is much more contributive to society than what one with average expertise in the same area could provide. Elitism is efficient, and if there's anything the world needs; it needs to be more efficient. The more smart, hard workers we have, the better.


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