The increasing racial diversity of college debate is directly attributable to the work of these…
By Guest Contributor Megan Red Shirt-Shaw
When I first stepped onto the University of Pennsylvania’s campus, I vowed I would never join a sorority. I had seen the process happen before – girls were made to parade in the streets during rush and at the time, I could think of nothing less mortifying. Yet when my group of girlfriends decided to rush (and I realized I might be friendless for a week), I found myself standing outside during rush in a line of girls wearing a dress in the Philadelphia slush.
I was skeptical throughout. I felt ridiculous coming into every house with a line full of girls waiting to talk to me. The houses were perfectly polished – immaculate, really – and I had the same conversation over fifty times. Where was I from, did I like the punch, I like your shirt, I like your dress, I like your face, on to the next girl. I continued to wonder throughout whether or not I would feel like any of these places were right for me. The thought of peppy girls and peppy events – I couldn’t wrap my head around it. But then I walked into a house called Sigma Kappa.
Read the Post Being Lakota, Becoming Greek
In the New York Times, Richard V. Reeves is smacking sacred cows, positing that there is no way for everyone to win in our society. Writing on “The Glass-Floor Problem,” Reeves looks at mobility and “sticky floors,” noting:
It is a stubborn mathematical fact that the top fifth of the income distribution can accommodate only 20 percent of the population. If we want more poor kids climbing the ladder of relative mobility, we need more rich kids sliding down the chutes.
Even the most liberal parents are unlikely to be comfortable with the idea that their own children should fall down the scale in the name of making room for a smarter kid from a poorer home. They invest large amounts of economic, social and cultural capital to keep their own children high up the social scale. As they should: there is nothing wrong with parents doing the best by their children.
The problem comes if institutional frameworks in, say, the higher education system or the labor market are distorted in favor of the powerful — a process the sociologist Charles Tilly labeled “opportunity hoarding.” The less talented children of the affluent are able to defy social gravity and remain at the top of the ladder, reducing the number of places open to those from less fortunate backgrounds.
Many New York Times commenters rejected this framework entirely – the idea that someone else has to lose for another to win was too unsettling to consider. And yet, when we compete in an economy of “elites” and there are limited spots available for the most desired schools, jobs, and neighborhoods, that is exactly what has to happen. However, what interested me more than Reeves’s initial argument was a large piece of his solution: access to more elite colleges.
College matters a lot for social mobility. For someone from a poor background, getting a four-year degree virtually guarantees upward mobility. Elite colleges act as gateways to the best career paths. Getting more poor kids into colleges, and getting the brightest into the best colleges, ought to be a national mission.
In essence, Reeves wants to solve a problem by reinforcing the foundation of the problem. Read the Post Is Economic Mobility Destined to be a Zero Sum Game?
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