Conscientious Abstension: Why I Choose to Not Participate in Inklings’ Annual Senior List
Isaac Stein, Staff Writer
June 19, 2012 • 124 views
Filed under Opinions
For over a half century, Inklings has compiled and printed a list of its graduating seniors, which indicates where they intend to go on to study after high school graduation.
While the mission of the Senior Lists at some schools is not explicitly stated, Inklings refers to its own as a “graduation tradition.” And I see how this tradition could be used appropriately—as an informational tool for students to know where their classmates are going to college. In theory, it’s harmless and fun.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way in practice.
Because in modern-day Westport, the college process brings out the worst in parents and students alike.
Like any suburban town with a sizable cash flow, Westport has its share of problems. Crazy parents who jockey their kids through youth sports. Students in the school system who cheat to get ahead. Drugs. But all of those problems are dwarfed by the reckless drive to lobby and land Westport students into “prestigious” four-year institutions. And in many cases, I believe that the Senior List is employed as something that it is not supposed to be—a tool for students and parents to seek out and judge students who enroll in all types of academic institutions.
Just recently, I was in the library when I observed a group of students pull up last year’s Senior List on a cluster of laptops. Their first objective was to find all of the people from last year’s class who went to local community colleges, and to question their intellectual capabilities.
I am of the belief that going on to any type of higher education should be considered to be an accomplishment, and therefore I fundamentally disagree with the concept of making fun of people for going to a place that might just fit their wants, needs, or given the ludicrous cost of college, their budget.
I know this group of students personally. We’re on good terms. I even consider a few of them to be friends.
But the corrupt college-driven system that they play into, the same system that the Senior List is used as nourishment for, makes mean-spirited fools of them all.
In a manner that was less overt than the jeering of what they perceived to be the “failures” of Westport Public Schools, the students in the library proceeded to marvel at and idealize certain other students on the list.
These students were the ones that indicated on the Senior List that they would be attending places of learning that rank within the top 20 colleges in the annual “U.S. News and World Report” college rankings.
Similarly, I was talking to another student who explained that he was probably going to choose one college that he was accepted to over the other because it was placed higher in the rankings. Personally, I think that’s a lot of credence to give to a magazine.
Truth be told, I have no vested interest in criticizing the “U.S. News” rankings. The place that I will be attending in the fall was ranked very well.
But I think these rankings are completely bogus.
Take the recent incident at Claremont McKenna College, in California—a school official was accused and found guilty of forging the test scores of incoming students. The reason why? He wanted to manipulate the scores in order to artificially boost the college’s ranking.
Who’s to say the rankings manipulation is just coming from Claremont?
Furthermore, several respected academic institutions have come out to publicly reject the rankings because they know that there is no method to the ranking’s madness. One such institution is Reed College, in Portland, OR. While some may attempt to dismiss Reed as a bunch of drugged –out northwestern hippies, this by all means small college has produced 31 Rhodes Scholars, 2 MacArthur “Genius” Grant winners, and one of the highest matriculation rates to graduate school in the country.
In 1995, Reed was also the first college to refuse to send “U.S. News” information that the magazine asked for in the process of compiling its rankings, demonstrating a refusal to sell out its academic principles. In fact, Reed’s President “informed the editors of U.S. News that he didn’t find their project credible, and that the college would not be returning any of their surveys.”
I have a friend who has a phrase that he uses to refer to something that he deems illogical. That term is “negative sense.” In context, I think it also adequately describes the manner in which the Senior List is a product of a fruitless college rat race. But to me, the List is also a symbol.
A symbol of elitism.
A symbol of hysteria.
A symbol of arrogance.
For these reasons, I cannot in good conscience participate in the Senior List.
The day I sign that list is the day that the ego of Westport finally takes an extended vacation.
It will also be the same day that the cupcake shops and vendors of organic breakfast cereal shutter their windows, and the same day that this town contains just a couple fewer banks. Coincidentally, it will also be the same day that a number of the high-end clothing stores that line downtown will be knocked down and converted into something of use to the common upstanding citizen.
Like a bowling alley.