Some people are honor students, and some people aren’t.
But San Jose State University is eyeing a new category — that of nonwhite equity-based honor students.
The California school aims to create what’s being momentarily called the “(un)honors College.”
Last September, SJSU announced it was looking for “faculty to serve on (an) honors education task force.”
Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs Vincent J. Del Casino hailed the “future leaders of San José, Silicon Valley and beyond.”
In support of those, he invited colleagues to a conversation “intended to attract the attention of [the] region’s BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People Of Color) communities.”
Among the nonwhites nearby, he hoped to “engage the most diverse, creative, and curious as well as self-directed learners…”
Vincent had a vision:
“I do believe there is value in pushing past traditional notions of ‘honors’ to ask: What sorts of creative models could SJSU develop that attract a dynamic student community to our campus to ask questions about today’s most wicked problems as well as explore our communities’ greatest’s strengths and community innovations?”
Call it unconventional:
“In some ways, I would love to see us develop a conversation about an (un)honors College — something that pushes past historical conversations about honors education…”
An interest of Vincent’s: radicalism.
He championed “a dialogue on how [the school creates] radical, new learning spaces responsive to and inspired by the complex and intersectional diversity of our local communities and our students.”
“If you are going to put your name forward,” he wrote, “you are encouraged to think imaginatively — even radically — about this venture.”
As noted by The College Fix, a May task force video revealed the program won’t be comprised of students with high GPA’s.
Rather, (un)honorees will be “marginalized populations.”
From the Fix:
The scholars talked of the program consisting of very small class sizes, peer mentoring, hands-on learning opportunities, and a hyper-focus on an interdisciplinary education.
A major focus: equity.
Professor Walter Adams gets it:
“We need equity every step of the way through this process.”
Is meritocratic selection a good thing?
Not according to Walter:
“Admissions criteria that work against diversity and equity is a bad idea.”
Walter’s not alone.
The past couple years have seen headlines confirming such.
Schools — institutions founded upon promotion based on grades, AKA merits — have definitely taken a turn:
Objective requirements of achievement, as it turns out, aren’t priority one:
Speaking to The College Fix, San Jose anthropology professor Elizabeth Weiss — who isn’t involved with the program — described its target group:
“They want students of color, they want students who don’t have the good GPAs, who don’t do well on SATs and so forth.”
Elizabeth doesn’t sound like a fan:
“Part of this is creating a system for students who are not doing well. In honors programs, classes are smaller, teachers have a lighter load. It’s giving resources at the expense of the regular students.”
If we continue to go down the anti-meritocratic road, how much longer will grades exist at all, much less honors programs?
If equity is the goal, the easiest road to the promised land is the dissolution of all standards.
We’re on our way:
Meanwhile, community members in San Jose may soon get to join a new group.
Will an (un)honors program be launched for white students as well, or might they be let in with the regular bunch?
Either way, the future is going to be different than the past — undoubtedly.
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