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Monday, February 22, 2016
Mandatory National Service before College?
A recent report by Harvard's Graduate School of Education has taken the college admissions world by storm. In essence, the report bemoans the overemphasis on test scores, and calls for an admissions process that better assesses the potential contributions of the "whole student".
Full disclosure: I'm totally on board with this. I can see, however, how difficult it would be to implement. I'm also skeptical that the higher education structure would ever dispense with the metrics of grades and test scores.
In his Forbes op-ed, Steve Cohen pokes holes in Harvard's report, or more accurately, fills in perceived blanks in their plan. I don't have space here to address more than one: his suggestion that the US government institute a mandatory national service.
His plan would make a military component voluntary-so we aren't talking a national draft. However, it would force all people of a certain age to become engaged in public service of some sort. In his estimation, it would level the socioeconomic playing field for those who eventually want to go to college.
Colleges want community service, but the current reality is that service is a luxury largely confined to the wealthy classes. Poor students may actually have to work paying jobs. They may not have the wealth to engage in volunteer tourism. So even if colleges did refocus their interest on the so-called "soft factors" of a student's experience, poorer students would still come up short.
Cohen raises an interesting point, although the likelihood of a mandatory national service is about as feasible as Stanford eliminating the SAT requirement. Still, the conversation once again raises important issues about access to higher education, and the values we prioritize in looking for top students.
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