Ethics and Education: The Ethics of College Admissions

by Harry on June 11, 2022

Some of you are aware of the Center for Ethics and Education which we founded at Madison a few years again to help build philosophy of education as a field. One of our charges was to develop curricular materials which would make it easier for people teaching in education and/or public policy, but who lacked training and confidence in philosophy of education, to engage with philosophical issues in their teaching. We didn’t do much about this at first, partly because we didn’t really know how to, but in the past 3 years we came up with a plan: develop lesson plans around texts that we think people will want to teach (some of which are not actually philosophical texts, but which lend themselves to philosophical discussion), and develop a series of podcasts to accompany those lesson plans. Then we realized that the lesson plan work was bound to take us more time than the podcasts, so we have ploughed ahead with the podcasts, and started retro-fitting lesson plans to them.

So in the next few weeks I’ll introduce you to some of the podcasts. Which you can listen to! and share!

This week: in the fall we interviewed Jon Boeckenstedt, who is the VP of Enrollment Management at Oregon State University. He’s well known in the enrollment management community for his excellent blogging (see these two blogs, in which you can lose a lot of time) and his leadership during the early part of the pandemic in convincing colleges to go test optional for admissions purposes. We talked to him about that, and more generally about the job of enrollment management, which is not well understood even on, let alone beyond, the campus. For fear of sounding like a wine waiter, this podcast would be a great accompaniment to Paul Tough’s new(ish) book The Inequality Machine (in which Jon plays a significant role).



GregP 06.11.22 at 2:37 pm

What will Mnookin do?


Harry 06.11.22 at 3:46 pm

God, I don’t know!

My general impression is there isn’t much enthusiasm from enrollment management officials to go backward on test-optional (I don’t mean at UW-Madison, I mean generally, though that might be just to do with who talks to me). And public schools have less pressure on them than privates to game the rankings. I’d guess we won’t go back to requiring tests for a while, and that Mnookin will be fine with that. (Her previous institution has excellent enrollment management leadership, though I suppose that she wouldn’t have had much to do with them, being in Law).


Sean 06.13.22 at 5:50 pm

It seems to me that in the USA, you can’t get around the problem that you have so many tiny universities (<10,000 students) and so many whose real function for students is building social networks of people who will be powerful when they are 40. When the University of Toronto admits as many students as the TEN most prestigious universities in the USA, this is not an issue. The student body of a Canadian provincial university is just too big for “he went to X” to confer social distinction or provide access to a privileged social network. And so academic admissions can be about academic admissions, and not about who gets access to privilege.


John Quiggin 06.19.22 at 5:33 am

Following Sean @3 more broadly, this kind of problem seems inevitable once you have a highly stratified system, with only a tiny fraction of places at the top (Ivy League, Oxbridge, Grands Ecoles). Even the next stratum (state flagships, liberal arts colleges etc) in the US is still pretty exclusive.

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