There is a crisis afoot in America: way more "youths" report that happiness and achievement are more important to them than "caring about others." Now, why would anyone think happiness was a greater end than selflessness? That is downright Aristotelian. It must be stopped. But how? Well, since the thing for which all American youths strive is admission to a prestigious college, because they hope that this will lead them to happiness and achievement, we ought to manipulate the criteria for this admission to reward only those who strive selflessly with success. Or, since success is a form of achievement and they're not supposed to desire achievement anymore, let's call it a reward of reciprocated care from the college of their choice, previously known as admission. Instead of selecting applicants for their perceived intellectual aptitude and promise of achievement, colleges should select for perceived sincerity and promise of moral goodness. What could go wrong?
The problem with the SAT was that it correlated too much with family income, and the problem with AP classes was that they stressed students out, and the problem with extracurricular activities was that students did so many that it was hard to tell which were "heartfelt," and the problem with the whole process was that it didn't "measure true ability or intellectual hunger." It was all so reductive and admissions committees are no good at discerning "true ability" from it. But you know what admissions committees are really good at? Determining the relative heartfeelingness and intellectual hunger of complete strangers based on what they claim about their heartfeelingness and intellectual hunger in essays carefully crafted for an audience of admissions committees. Surely it is more difficult to fake sincerity and "passion" than to fake an AP exam score.
Where grades and scores obfuscate "true ability," limitations on advanced coursework and extracurricular activities will reveal it. Grades and scores are so arbitrary that “we might as well be admitting these people on the basis of their height or the size of their neck.” What sense does it make to admit people to academic programs based on their previous records of academic success? It is obvious that people who care a lot about others will be much more capable of studying genetics and French literature than people who merely did well in science and literature in high school. We knew this when we first came up with the idea of holistic admissions in order to evaluate the whole applicant rather than just his practically worthless academic aptitude. But even holism was not enough, since extra-curricular activities only take up a few hours a week, and what we want here is to find the individuals who aren't just thinking about college admission a few hours a week, but every minute of the day. That is why "the nature of students’ day-to-day conduct should
be weighed more heavily in admissions than the nature of
students’ stints of service." Next time you're tempted to cut gym class or not tuck in your shirt, just remember, Harvard is watching.
All this is great news for poor kids, who evidently cannot be expected to demonstrate academic aptitude, but who can still be nice and authentic. If they tend not to score as well on standardized tests, but do tend to take care of family members and work part-time, we can make college more egalitarian by making taking care of family members and working part-time a pre-requisite for admission and getting rid of the standardized tests. Problem solved.
The best part of all this is that we know it will work: parents spend years trying to raise virtuous children, but elite colleges need only "signal" that what they want students to care about is, well, caring, and the youth of America will comply practically overnight. Next year, 90% of the applicants to Harvard and Yale will have suddenly discovered that their grandma - or someone's grandma - needed a lot of care, and will have spent 10 hours a week taking her grocery shopping (as illustrated in the report), and will effuse about what a meaningful experience it was. Of course, they will only help grandma grocery shop out of a genuine and authentic concern for their community, and not because they want to get into Yale. That will just be an incidental benefit. Because as everyone knows, the best way to cultivate authenticity and genuine concern for others is through bribery and manipulation. And the people most susceptible to being bribed into all this caring just happen to be those who prioritize happiness and achievement. Hm.