“…I was surprised by, and perhaps even suspicious of, those numbers…”
By Jim Jump
Ronald Reagan famously used the phrase “Trust, but verify” to describe his posture toward discussing nuclear disarmament with the Soviet Union.
His use of that phrase was brilliant on a couple of levels. Talking about trusting an adversary was on one level an expression of good faith, but adding verification made it clear that any idealism was also tempered with a dose of realism. The additional genius of the phrase as applied to the Soviets was that it was adapted from a Russian proverb, “Doveryai, no proveryai.”
The Operation Varsity Blues scandal trials currently taking place serve as a reminder of the fine line between trust and verification in college admission. Colleges trust applicants to be honest and truthful in what they list on their applications. While we wouldn’t want that to change, Operation Varsity Blues serves as a cautionary tale. The widespread fraud, including constructing elaborate and false athletic résumés for sports the students involved didn’t even play, was not uncovered by admission offices. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice…
The trial is not the only “ripped from the headlines” story that provides a test case for the interplay of trust and verification. Last week U.S. News & World Report published its annual “America’s Best Colleges” rankings. I have since received numerous emails from colleges trumpeting their ranking, and my local newspaper has published its annual story highlighting small changes in local institutional rankings as if they signified major news.
This year there was considerable speculation about how U.S. News would treat test scores in its rankings recipe, given the rise of test-optional policies during the last admissions cycle. U.S. News resisted calls to remove consideration of test scores from the formula…
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