Leveling the Playing Field: Justice, Politics, and the College Admissions

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Leveling the Playing Field examines the admissions policies of contemporary American colleges and universities in light of the assumption that enhancing the educational opportunities of lower-income and minority students would make American society more just. It asks how current admissions policies affect the prospects of such students, and it evaluates alternative approaches. The book treats a variety of topics relevant to answering these questions. What does it mean to reward people according to merit? Is the American system of higher education a meritocracy, and should it be? How do the missions of contemporary institutions of higher education bear on admissions? What are the implications of the Supreme Court's landmark affirmative action decisions of 2003? What is the proper role and significance of standardized tests like the SAT? How does "lower" education prepare students, or fail to, for higher education? In answering these questions, the book examines legacy preference, early admissions policies, financial aid, the test-prep industry, college counseling, and athletics, evaluating their effects on the distribution of higher education in the United States, not only for lower-income and minority students but for college-bound students in general.

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Editorial Reviews

Morton Owen Schapiro
This provocative, engaging, and timely book deserves a wide audience. It provides a lens through which the world of selective college admissions can be viewed in a new and insightful way.
Harry Brighouse
A terrific book, and a wonderful model of how to do applied normative philosophy. It pursues hard and interesting questions of value in the context of detailed and careful empirical analysis of the situation in higher education. ...I hope that everyone who works in philosophy of education and applied normative philosophy generally will read the book and learn from it... I also hope that policymakers and college officials will read it and implement their recommendations
Michael McPherson
Well-reasoned, well-informed, comprehensive, and accessible—this excellent book is the right place to start for understanding how the college admissions process shapes educational opportunity in America.
Library Journal
Following the recent decisions by the Supreme Court in Gratz v. Bollinger and Grutter v. Bollinger, even the most current studies of affirmative action in higher education (e.g., the Bakke case) have become dated. Fullinwider and Lichtenberg (both of the Univ. of Maryland) embed a lengthy analysis of these decisions within a broader discussion of diversity, standardized testing, and other issues that have led critics to question the college admissions process over the past several years. Like Nicholas Lemann's The Big Test and Christopher Avery's The Early Admissions Game, this book questions a variety of assumptions about merit, admission to selective colleges and universities, and social mobility in the United States. Supporters of affirmative action as a means of assuring racial and ethnic diversity on campus will be challenged by some of the strongly worded criticism of familiar arguments found in this work, but all readers should find merit in its largely balanced and thoughtful critique of the status quo and of the means that have been used in the past to reform it. Recommended for all academic libraries but especially for those serving institutions currently revising their admissions processes in light of the decisions in Gratz and Grutter.-Scott Walter, Washington State Univ. Lib., Pullman Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780742514102
  • Publisher: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc.
  • Publication date: 4/28/2004
  • Series: Issues in Academic Ethics Series
  • Pages: 280
  • Sales rank: 951,792
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

Robert K. Fullinwider is a senior research scholar at the Institute for Philosophy and Public Policy, University of Maryland, College Park. Judith Lichtenberg is associate professor of philosophy and a senior research scholar at the Institute for Philosophy and Public Policy, University of Maryland, College Park.

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Table of Contents

Part 1 Introduction: April Is the Cruellest Month Chapter 2 Another Side of the Story Chapter 3 The Flux of Supply and Demand Chapter 4 Selectivity Chapter 5 The Perspective of the Colleges Chapter 6 Higher Education and the Enhancement of Opportunity Chapter 7 Justice for Whom? Chapter 8 Outline of the Book Part 9 Demystifying Merit Chapter 10 Detecting Merit Chapter 11 How the Rewards of Merit Ramify Chapter 12 Merit and Other Selection Criteria Chapter 13 Merit and Its Limits Chapter 14 Merit and Desert Chapter 15 Sports: a Case Study Part 16 The Multiple Missions of Modern Universities Chapter 17 Let a Thousand Colleges Bloom! Chapter 18 The Social Roles of the Modern University Chapter 19 Historical Roots Chapter 20 The Facets of Liberal Education Chapter 21 Constituencies and the Whole Chapter 22 Missions and Admissions Chapter 23 Justice and Differentiation Part 24 Open Admissions and the Community Colleges Chapter 25 Open Admissions at CUNY Chapter 26 Dilemmas of Remediation Chapter 27 From Policy Voted to Policy Enacted Chapter 28 Remediation, Second Chances, and Community Colleges Part 29 How the Academically Rich Get Richer Chapter 30 Irrelevant Advantages Chapter 31 Money Chapter 32 The Legacy of Legacy Chapter 33 Early Decision Chapter 34 An Uneven Outbreak of Disabilities Chapter 35 College Counseling and Conspicuous Educational Consumption Chapter 36 The Rich, the Poor, and the Rest Part 37 The Test: Understanding the SAT Chapter 38 The Regatta Question Chapter 39 Is the SAT Fair? Chapter 40 Is the SAT Valid and Reliable? Chapter 41 How Useful Is the SAT? Chapter 42 Cultural Bias and Unfairness Revisited Chapter 43 A Porsche Held Together with Duct Tape Part 44 Admissions Tests: Uses, Abuses, Alternatives Chapter 45 The SAT and Real-Life Admissions Choices Chapter 46 The Real Costs: Race Revisited Chapter 47 A Radically Different Approach? Chapter 48 Test Prep Chapter 49 Some Conclusions Part 50 The SAT on Trial Chapter 51 A First Attack: the SAT and the Regents Scholarships Chapter 52 A Second Attack: the SAT and the NCAA Chapter 53 A Performance-Based Solution Chapter 54 Legal Threat to the SAT? Part 55 Affirmative Action and the Legacy of Bakke Chapter 56 The Legal Foundation Chapter 57 Bakke: Fractured Law, Opaque Guidance Chapter 58 The Other Side Chapter 59 Missed Opportunities Chapter 60 Coda: The Vagaries of Title VI Part 61 Justifying Affirmative Action Chapter 62 Blind Universities Chapter 64 A Compelling Interest: The Answer Supplied Chapter 65 The Link Between Ends and Means Chapter 66 Moral Principles Chapter 67 "Treat Persons as Individuals" Chapter 68 "Do Not Discriminate" Chapter 69 A Last Word On Affirmative Action Part 70 Sowing the Seeds of Higher Education Chapter 71 Class Preferences and "X Percent Solutions" Chapter 72 Pre-College Interventions Chapter 73 GEAR UP and College Now Chapter 74 The Persistence of the Black-White Achievement Gap Part 75 Summing Up, Looking Ahead Chapter 76 Theory and Practice Chapter 77 Affirmative Action and the Missions of American Universities Chapter 78 The Use of Standardized Tests in Admissions Chapter 79 Closing the Gaps Chapter 80 Reforms at Selective Colleges

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