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College Admission & Unfairness

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That college admission is a commodity for sale is an open secret—one I was aware of even in my naïve student days. As with any such practice, there arose a set of norms and laws governing the legal and acceptable ways of buying admission. For example, donating large sums of money or funding a building are well within the norms and the laws. Recently, however, celebrities and other elites broke the norms and the laws in their efforts to get their children into elite colleges. On the face of it, there is no real need to argue that what they did was morally wrong—such an argument would garner almost no opposition. What is more interesting is considering the matter in the context of fairness. Image Credit On the surface, the actions of the accused fraudsters are clearly unfair. While the tactics varied from student to student, they included altering admission test results, bribing coaches to accept non-athletes as recruited athletes, and direct bribes. Interestingly, much of the commentary on these misdeeds makes note of the fact that these elites could have used the above-mentioned legal and acceptable methods of getting their children into elite institutions. As far as why they did not, one explanation is that for some mere admission was not enough, their children had to believe that they earned their admission. It has also been claimed that status beyond that of mere admission was desired. The unfairness arises because the children did not earn their admission or their status by their merits, thus they might have unjustly taken the places of students who merited admission or status. While the parents did act unfairly, it is worth considering this unfairness within the broader context of our society. As others have noted, the normal admission system is unfair. Children who are born to parents who lack wealth will generally live in poor neighborhoods and attend inferior schools. They will also have far less opportunity to engage in the application buffing. . .

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News source: A Philosopher's Blog

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