Let’s agree to knock it off, already

Admissions people, far and wide, it’s time to cool it.

In the last couple days the heat on Suzie Lee Weiss seems to have turned up.  I even got into it with a blog post about her a couple of days ago, implying, but not saying that she was a “spoiled, vapid teenager.”  My point was that the piece was really about our national obsession with the most selective colleges in the country, and she had missed an opportunity to focus on some of the many other places where she could have been happy. Since then, I’ve re-read her essay, and I think a bit differently about it.

It seems a 17 year-old kid was offered a chance through some connections (her sister was a former editor at the Wall Street Journal) to take a swing at writing to the colleges who rejected her, a sort of “screw you” piece directed at both them and the industry of admissions.  Can you blame her for trying?  I can’t.

Can we agree she failed as a writer of satire?  I think so.

Can we understand how the WSJ might have used her because a) a lot of people at the WSJ, a symbol of white economic power and entitlement, are probably  more obsessed with selective college admissions than most, and b) many of their readers are right behind?  Probably.

It is interesting to note, though: It’s pretty clear that this essay was probably edited far less, and by fewer people, than many of the essays that got kids admitted to the places that rejected Suzy.  In short, it reads like it was written by a 17-year old kid whose cerebral cortex is not yet fully developed.  Which, I’ll remind you, is perfectly normal.

Under less-than-brilliant writing, here are some points I think she makes:

  • There is no room for regular, run-of-the-mill kids at the Super Selectives.  Anyone want to argue?
  • The admissions industry tells kids to be themselves, and encourages them to apply, but kids like Suzy who might not be stellar outside the classroom really don’t stand a snowball’s chance.  Dissent?  Didn’t think so.
  • Bringing some kind of diversity to the application seems to be a “hook” in the process.  If there is even a single high school or guidance counselor who hasn’t used this exact term, please let me know.  I will write you an apology.
  • The admissions industry lies to kids.  This stings.  But I know of places that “recruit to deny” because they want to lower an admit rate ; and we all know of places that have admitted to “data reporting irregularities  over the past few years, including some big name institutions.  This is before we count Fast Apps, Snap Apps, VIP apps, and super scoring tests.  But some people hear this, and although they know it’s true, still attack Suzy’s character.
  • Finally, Suzy implies that we expect the 17 year-old kids who come to the application process to be fully actualized adults.  And the reaction of some of my peers has been proof positive that she’s right.

On a national list serve I’m on, I made some of these points.  And the response changed: She’s racist.  She’s homophobic.

I disagree, but it is easy and quick to slap a label on a kid who makes a mistake.  She said she brought no diversity to the application.  And she made a comment about coming out of the closet wearing a headdress.  I don’t know how wearing a headdress makes a young woman a lesbian, or even hints at it, and I think the association is contrived.

However, let’s just say, merely for the sake of argument, that she’s both those things.  She needs some education, and I seem to recall that we’re in the education business.  The fans of liberal arts colleges seem to forget that the Latin root of “liberal” is liberare, to free, as in freeing of the mind.

I’m glad no one asked me to put my opinions in the Wall Street Journal when I was 17.  I would have been labeled a dumb ass by Red Forman, and he would have been right.

Call off the dogs, folks.  Give the kid a break.

3 thoughts on “Let’s agree to knock it off, already

  1. I would just like to point out a slight inaccuracy in your article. You write that Weiss “…made a comment about coming out of the closet wearing a headdress.” and were confused about the association between the two, but she actually writes, “For starters, had I known two years ago what I know now, I would have gladly worn a headdress to school. Show me to any closet, and I would’ve happily come out of it.”

    So she was simply illustrating that if she could have been diverse religiously OR based on sexual orientation, she believed it would have been beneficial to her, not that lesbians wear headdresses.

    This piece was enjoyable to read overall, though! Thank you for offering your opinion to the public :).


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