Quote of the Day:

Bright children are denied opportunity because members of the intelligentsia have come to believe that the selection that got them into the intelligentsia in the first place, is unfair.

London Telegraph columnist Allison Pearson on the U.K. version of “adversity points”


As you no doubt know, the College Board is planning to assign what are being called “adversity points” to test takers.

Adversity points will take into consideration various factors (such a crime rate and poverty level in the student’s neighborhood).

A high adversity score is supposed to help students who otherwise might be overlooked get into a prestige school.

The venerable Oxford University is doing something similar: offering places to disadvantaged students with lower grades who otherwise would never get into Oxford on the merit of their grades.

Telegraph columnist Allison Pearson, who read law at Oxford, writes that she was from a “disadvantaged background.” And she would not have wanted adversity points to help her get into Oxford:

If someone had told me that the college only admitted me because of “contextual data” – my family’s low income, the paucity of books in our house, the fact I was from a broken home, or because, in my touching ignorance, I thought a Reader’s Digest condensed version of Jonathan Livingston Seagull was a literary masterpiece (bless!), I would have been mortified.

I wouldn’t have wanted to be patronised in that way. If I wasn’t good enough to be admitted on my own merits to a university renowned for its excellence, then I’d rather not have gone to Oxbridge at all.

The complaint from supporters of relaxed admission standards for students from disadvantaged backgrounds is that Oxford has traditionally taken students disproportionately from the top schools. It has also accepted a disproportionate number of qualified students from the best grammar schools (non-elite schools).

Pearson explains how the new policy came about:

The trouble starts when well-meaning, guilt-stricken liberals (that’s pretty much all university lecturers) start lowering the bar because too many comprehensives are bad at helping the brightest pupils to reach their full potential. (And too many teachers are Corbynists who detest Oxbridge anyway.)

Consider this perverse logic: those class warriors who are keenest on social mobility are also violently opposed to grammar schools, the greatest-known engine of social mobility, which give poorer children a high-class academic education that enables them to compete on a level playing field with their more privileged counterparts.

Good grammar schools are better at getting introducing people from disadvantaged backgrounds to Oxford, Pearson maintains, than adversity points. And the best grammar schools are good because they promote a kind of selectivity based on hard work and developing ability rather than dumbing down:  

Grammar schools select the most academically able children and develop their minds in classes undisrupted by kids who don’t want to work. Being clever is prized, not disdained. That’s why, back in the Fifties and Sixties, in the heyday of the grammars, state-school pupils began to outnumber the private kids at Oxbridge.

A grocer’s daughter like Margaret Hilda Roberts could pass the 11-plus, go to Kesteven and Grantham School, where she became head girl, and win a place to read Chemistry at Oxford. Our first female prime minister was proof that selection worked. She had no need of social engineering. Just a ferocious brain and a bloody good handbag. It’s not a coincidence that so many of the greatest modern Britons, from Sir Paul McCartney to Nobel-winning Sir Paul Nurse, went to grammar school.

Today, I’m afraid to say, our elites are embarrassed by elitism. They would rather feel virtuous and train up one juvenile drug dealer to study Theology at Balliol than create more grammars and offer thousands of lower-middle-class Amys and Freddies a route out of their mediocre schooling.

Bright children are denied opportunity because members of the intelligentsia have come to believe that the selection that got them into the intelligentsia in the first place, is unfair.

And children who know that they are there only because standards were lowered for them know deep down that they are being patronized.

The real thing relaxed standards show, however, is that elites no longer believe that people can raise themselves by application and hard work.

If adversity points become the norm, we will truly live in a post-merit world.