Thursday, February 28, 2013

"Well-Rounded" + "Well-Angled"

There is a new hyphenated word being used in the world of highly selective schools.

It's the word "well-angled."


All of us have some idea of what well-rounded means.

It's always been the lingua franca of the independent school world.

And the foundation of Western pedagogy. 

A well-rounded student has many hyphens in their profile.





A well-rounded student is not necessarily excellent and passionately involved in one "hyphenated sphere."

A well-rounded student is very good and modestly involved in many "hyphenated spheres."

The student is not just into one thing.

But many.

Not singular.

But plural.

I've reported before that the Dean of Admission at Harvard shared with us at the Harvard Summer Institute last year that almost two-thirds of admitted students were "well-rounded."

My guess is that Bill Fitzsimmons could have said that about any applicant.

But dig a bit deeper, and the student admitted, most likely had a "hook."

A hook is a "+1 credential" that helps elevate the applicant from the pack.

Recruited athlete.  +1.

Legacy.  +1.

URM (Under Represented Minority).  +1.

URD (Under Represented Demographic).  +1.

URG (Under Represented Gender).  +1.

Now it is beginning to seem that if a student is "well-rounded" but not "hooked," then the student's only chance at admission is if he or she is "well-angled."

*And let me clarify - this is at the most highly selective schools, specifically universities. 

What then does this mean?

The way I interpret this new term is two-fold:  1)  "well-angled" means that a student bends their academic curriculum toward a particular academic major or discipline.  An example then would be the student who plans on applying to the engineering college within a highly selective university.  He or she then "angles" her curriculum in such a way that he or she drops humanities and languages, and loads up on math and sciences.

2)  "Well-angled"means that a student starts majoring in a major before they major in a major.

 In other words, the student starts taking college-level course work in a specific academic discipline before they are freshman in college.

I've been amazed at how many kids today are looking for or signing up for college-level course/experiences as a way to "angle" themselves.  Highly selective colleges, it seems, are really jumping at the opportunity to create a new revenue stream.  Of course, these kinds of programs advantage the advantaged.  The cost alone is normally too steep for the personis mediocribus.

The concern I have is that 1) this "well-angled" terminology will create a wide spread panic among students and parents, and that as a result, they will start protesting the fact that their student has to take World History, or that they have any general core requirements.  The liberal arts education, over time, as a result, will go kaput.  2)  This "well-angled" terminology will force students to prematurely decide what academic route to take for a career. 

These trends are already starting to creep into our ethos.

We have, for example, students at our school who will graduate and not know what the Renaissance is any real depth.  Why?  They only have to take two years of history.

And at the same time, we are seeing such a heavy attrition of kids NOT matriculating to liberal arts colleges.

Two years ago - only 13% of our class matriculated to lib arts colleges (87% to universities).

Last year - 9%.

To compete then at the university level at highly selective schools, it seems that our kids are being manipulated into curriculum and career decisions that at 15, 16, 17, 18 years old, they should not have to decide.

When I was a senior in high school, I wanted to be a sportscaster on ESPN.

How about you?

It does make me wonder how much longer liberal arts colleges, and in fact, liberal arts curriculum in the independent school world, will be able to survive.

And how much longer it will be until the British/European model of education replaces our model, which then will create a much more specialized student and work force.

Time will indeed tell.

In the meantime, I strive to do the best I can to discern the right academic curriculum each student should take within our graduation requirements and course offerings to give them the best competitive credential possible to gain admission at whatever level of admission selectivity.