In real life, Mitchell Stevens is a professor in bustling New York. But for a year and a half, he worked in the admissions office of a bucolic New England college that is known for its high academic standards, beautiful campus, and social conscience. Ambitious high schoolers and savvy guidance counselors know that admission here is highly competitive. But creating classes, Stevens finds, is a lot more complicated than most people imagine.
Admissions officers love students but they work for the good of the school. They must bring each class in "on budget," burnish the statistics so crucial to institutional prestige, and take care of their colleagues in the athletic department and the development office. Stevens shows that the job cannot be done without "systematic preferencing," and racial affirmative action is the least of it. Kids have an edge if their parents can pay full tuition, if they attend high schools with exotic zip codes, if they are athletesespecially football playersand even if they are popular.
With novelistic flair, sensitivity to history, and a keen eye for telling detail, Stevens explains how elite colleges and universities have assumed their central role in the production of the nation's most privileged classes. Creating a Class makes clear that, for better or worse, these schools now define the standards of youthful accomplishment in American culture more generally.
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About the Author
Mitchell L. Stevens is Associate Professor of Education and (by courtesy) Sociology at Stanford University. He is the author of Kingdom of Children: Culture and Controversy in the Homeschooling Movement.
Table of Contents
1. A School in a Garden
8. The Aristocracy of Merit
What People are Saying About This
This fascinating book uses fly-on-the-wall reporting to show how decision-makers at a prestigious liberal arts college unwittingly perpetuate an American elite. Mitchell Stevens has done a real service by pulling back the curtain on the secretive college admissions process.
Skillfully blending facts and figures with evocative case studies,
Mitchell Stevens illuminates the process of admissions to an elite college, and shows how vexed and conflicted it is.
Howard Gardner, Hobbs Professor of Cognition and Education, Harvard University
This fascinating book uses fly-on-the-wall reporting to show how decision-makers at a prestigious liberal arts college unwittingly perpetuate an American elite.
Susan Coll, author of Acceptance: A Novel
At the most influential American colleges, growing competition to be selective and to be selected is undermining the democratic values traditionally entrusted to higher education. Rather than serving as routes to social mobility, many college admission offices end up perpetuating the status quo. Mitchell Stevens's thoughtful and eloquent book illuminates the machinations of the system-- and its consequences.
Lloyd Thacker, President, Education Conservancy and editor of College Unranked