December 18, 2005

Higher Education - A Privilege?

This article in the New York Times gives an interesting account of how economically and racially backward people (which is, oftentimes, the same thing) are left out of premier French institutions of higher education.

I strongly believe that one should not take steps to get students into these places just because of their economic or racial position. A potential for academic excellence should be the sole criterion for admission. Having said that, even a cursory look at facts and some thinking informs us that there is no less scope for academic excellence among society's less privileged peoples. It is a great myth to think that intelligence or talent is doled out in abundance to only one particular race or races.

Problem here is much more societal. For instance, as the above article says, the barriers for second-generation immigrants are enormous. Schools in poor, often immigrant neighborhoods get the most inexperienced teachers, who usually move on as soon as they have gained enough tenure for a job in a better area.

Unfortunately this is not a problem specific to only France. Even in the freest and the richest country of the world one can see this. The percentage of African Americans in the US is around 13%. Is that represented, even remotely, in the universities which are the pride of this country? I seriosuly doubt it. At least in my experience it is not the case, and I believe a detailed study would reveal the same throughout the country.


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