After writing my last piece on Turning the Tide, the recent report by the Harvard Graduate School of Education and Making Caring Common I have noticed a common flaw – the expectation that what has been growing, and developing for quite some time will instantly change. The hope that all of a sudden universities and colleges will fling open their doors to “well-deserving” students and all will be good. Yes, this is an over generalization but one that needs some perspective.
The business of education is exactly that – a business, and a very big business. Money flows in all directions. Those who have been in college advising can hark back to the time the word “admission” was changed to “enrollment management” and thus setting in motion all sorts of data crunching and terminology akin to the business world. These events and countless others began the turning of the tide in the direction that we have now come to loathe, condemn, and banter about.
Turning the Tide is not about this per se. If we look at the title it states two things:
So let’s look at each of these. Turn is to change direction, reverse or rotate. Tide is “a stream or current, tendency or drift of events and ideas”. But if we consider the tide of the ocean as being the tide we are talking about, it is a massive undertaking. In my limited viewpoint, Turning the Tide is exactly that, a massive undertaking to change not only the thinking on admissions, but also hopefully the admission process but also the societal misdirection that is causing us to look at American democracy.
The issue at hand seems to be that while this all sounds promising, what actual actions will universities take to make changes? Also, what actual changes will schools develop to help create the changes asked for? And finally, how will we actually get students to genuinely invest in meaningful Caring beyond the “I will do something because it looks and sounds good”?
Some have made the connection that the Turning Tide project is tied to the Coalition for Access, Affordability and Success and that causes some enormous worry. The new application system will be ineffective in meeting the stated goal of accessing students currently underrepresented and the locker will be filled with vague attempts to prove Caring much like in the days of grit, perseverance, leadership and other lauded verbiage.
Admission to selective universities is not going to become less selective. For that to happen selective schools would need to expand to the point of dilution and thus become ineffective. What Turning the Tide represents is that universities hold a position in our culture to send “a message” that engages both the ethical and intellectual. After all, is this, in part, what a college education is about? To get us to think critically, analytically about society to develop solutions whether they be technological advancements or a more accepting and responsive society.
There are certainly aspects of the report that are broad strokes but the underlying message is clear. We all need to turn the tide. Each of us needs to help make this process better – being mindful of the stress our students are under to bringing collaboration and understanding between peoples of all walks of life. It is the hope that the tide will begin to turn; the schools will embrace responsible citizenship and intellectual advancement. In turn, students and their families will begin to seek appropriate avenues to further education. Finally, that universities will continue to lead the way. This whole endeavor starts with all of us. We are all shareholders or stakeholders in this process. And yes, if Harvard hadn’t said it perhaps no one would have listened. But now that it has been said, do we need to quibble over who said it? Instead, perhaps we should take the risk and see where this will lead.
Hamilton Gregg is the founder of International Educational Consulting and has worked in education since 1985. He helps students and their families understand their personal and educational needs and find the right school to meet their requirements. If you are a student or parent who would like to ask Gregg a question on our blog, please email firstname.lastname@example.org
Photo: Jonathan Combe (flickr)