In your Dec. 10 article "Eyes on the college prize" (Learning), Pat Fogle says parents who worry most about the prestige of their children's colleges surprisingly tend to be the parents who achieved considerable career success, even with a state university degree.
Why do they worry? Perhaps these parents witnessed firsthand the more limited career opportunities and career paths often available to students who graduate from less prestigious schools.
Many employers clearly prefer students from select universities, particularly for choice positions, and many graduate schools prefer such students as well. Thus, the impact of a college's reputation on career and educational opportunities cannot be ignored as a factor influencing parents' and students' preferences for prestigious schools.
Some magazines provide a valuable service in publishing school rankings, disseminating to a broad audience information that was known previously to a more limited elite. The availability of this information in the public domain better levels the admissions playing field by providing the general student population information about select colleges where they may prosper, and thus consider in their portfolio of educational possibilities, so they can compete for a wider range of opportunities after college.
Having experienced the broader opportunities available to graduates of a highly rated school, I understand why some parents feel prestige is a factor when evaluating college. A wealth of jobs and rewarding careers is available to students who succeed at most colleges, especially when they offer a strong curriculum in the student's intended career path. But the name of a prestigious college on a résumé may open doors to opportunities otherwise more difficult to pursue.
Regarding "Eyes on the college prize": As the parent of a high school junior and the spouse of a college counselor, I have in recent months read many articles about the college admissions process. I have started to believe that media coverage itself is becoming a major factor in the growing hysteria over applying to college.
As I began reading your article, I experienced a familiar feeling as you described parental anxieties. But as I kept reading, I realized your reporting went much deeper than most journalists' work. It is no surprise to me that the Monitor is covering this story to a greater depth and understanding than many other outlets. I'll be looking forward to the next articles in the series.
Regarding your Nov. 26 article "Rights and wrongs on campus": It was not without some historic irony that members of Harvard Law School's Black Law Students Association recently announced their intention to ban offensive, racially charged speech. In this very law school's "marketplace of ideas," eventual Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. studied, taught, and vigorously defended the constitutional right of free, unfettered speech.
For Justice Holmes, the protection of free speech was of particular importance - not only to allow discourse of popular topics, but more critically, in instances such as the current one where unpopular, hateful speech is deemed offensive and punishable.
For increasingly larger numbers of college students, thought that is hated by virtue of ideology cannot exist. Only acceptable biases can be taught or presented; only condoned and stylish beliefs can be promulgated. As author Charles J. Sykes observes: "The fear of hurt has trumped the search for truth."
Richard L. Cravatts
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