Vầy là một mùa apply nữa lại bò đến, và chỉ mấy tháng nữa thôi bầy đàn VA chúng ta sẽ lại chứng kiến danh sách dài dằng dặc các bạn trẻ Việt Nam được nhận những học bổng to béo để sang Mỹ cưỡi đầu Tây trắng. Cùng lúc đấy, ở phía chân trời xa xôi, có không ít các nhân tài Mỹ quốc, kẻ 36 ACT, người 2400 SAT, anh valedictorian, chị school president đang ôm đầu khóc hận trước hàng chồng thư reject. Con số perfect applicants với top standardized test scores and humanly impossible ECA records bị đá đít ở Trung Hàn Nhật lại càng thê lương hơn. Con số các siêu sao apply bị từ chối kiểu này thậm chí nhiều hơn số siêu sao apply Việt Nam sản xuất mỗi năm.
Nhìn lại chính mình, các bạn trẻ Việt Nam có bao giờ tự hỏi tại sao điều đó lại diễn ra không nhỉ? Câu hỏi này lại càng valid hơn khi chúng ta suy tính đến việc profile của một số bạn - thẳng thắn mà nói - thì không thể nào compare với các bạn Trung Nhật Hàn bị rejected. (Yes, an applicant CAN totally have an absolute superiority over another applicant). Tại sao những bạn Việt Nam average với SAT < 2000, activities lẹt tẹt, essay chưa sửa hết lỗi ngữ pháp (thậm chí còn chưa đóng đủ tiền cho trường) lại thẳng tiến vào U.S. colleges, trong khi các siêu nhân Hàn Xẻng lại ngồi nhà ôm mẹ tự kỉ ?
I, so far, can only think of three explanations:
- Mid-range schools fear that top applicants will eventually end up in top-range schools, so they reject them and accept more average kids instead.
- Schools want to promote diversity and therefore accept applicants from multiple backgrounds.
- Schools want to promote social equality by giving opportunities to under-represented minorities, international students included.
The first explanation is sufficiently logical. However, it would be impossible to dismiss the second and third explanation, considering how unanimously institutions of higher education have been chanting their "diversity" and "equality" rhetorics.
The problem of an admission policy aimed to promoting diversity is, indeed, that it would lead to the rejection of bright kids who unfortunatly come from well-represented backgrounds. The Koreans mentioned above, for example, suddenly become disadvantaged just because there are many similarly bright Koreans applying. The Vietnamese applicants, meanwhile, benefit from university administrations' need for an extra bit of amusement.
Having read until this point, some readers may point out how I overlook diversity's value. I do not. My concern for the use of diversity in dictating admission decision, however, is that diversity cannot be quantified. Because it cannot be quantified, it cannot be used as a measurement - just how do you compare a Vietnamese diversity and a Cambodian diversity? And because it cannot be used to measure, I believe, diversity does not function well as a decisive factor in the application process.
Also, consider how some schools have admitted Vietnamese on a regular basis. What improvement in diversity will these schools achieve by admitting another Vietnamese in addition to their current Vietnamese students - some of whom sometimes come from the same high school with the froshy? Moreover, if diversity is their goal, wouldn't it make more sense for schools with a healthy Vietnamese population to admit students from more obscure countries, say, Laos, where the marginal return of diversity would indeed be greater?
Having slighted (but not dismissed) the role of diversity, I move now to consider the need for a fairer treatment to minority. Admit Vietnamese, because their country suffered from a horrible war. Admit gays and transgenders, because they need more recognition from society. And admit blacks, because this country has for so long discriminated against them. But then, the need for fairer treaments, when used as a criteria for admission, becomes the backbone of affirmative action, a controversial policy of which morality is still being debated.
Affirmative action is controversial because it disadvantages those whose backgrounds seem statistically more advantaged and advantages those whose backgrounds seem otherwise. It seems fair, but does not seem just. Affirmative action is not just because, unlike standardized scores or extra-curricular records, one cannot by any mean change his background. Therefore, regardless of what he aspires to achieve, an individual from a stereotypical white, middle-income and Christian family suffers an automatic handicap, a handicap that will stick with him for life. From another angle, affirmative action gives aid to underqualified applicants.
I have rambled enough. People, if for just a moment you are not bogged down by application essays, research papers or impending finals, tell me what you think. Do you believe that Vietnamese applicants benefit from affirmative action? Do you think affirmative action in college application is fair/just?