World issues and their impact here at home

There is an interesting trend going on, primarily on the West Coast, that has interesting implications for education.  

The trend seems to be to allow factors other than grades to influence which students get academic honors and even scholarships.  

The basis for this seems to be that the academics involved argue that not all students are equally qualified to compete. Therefore, in some schools with, for instance, a significant Latino population, they have determined that because of their environment at home (for example, the parents may not be fully fluent in English, then a Latino student with an 89 grade point average should be awarded academic honors or even a college scholarship ahead of a native American with well educated parents from the United States).

On the one hand, there is a logic to this. They would argue that the Latino started with an educational handicap and that for him or her an 89 grade point averages shows more accomplishment than a native born student with a 91 grade point average.  

At this point, however, the argument becomes very contentious.  In part, the extra points for the disadvantaged student are based on the parents’ education.  

If a native born student with parents who went only to grade 12 scores a 90 and a native born student with parents who are both college graduates scores a 93, should the child of parents with only 12 years of education receive the award over the child of the parents who finished college? Should the difference in the education of these two sets of parents be 2 points, or 4 points?  As you can see, the application of this principle can be quite contentious.

Because of the extreme ethnic diversity in California, for example, (white Caucasian, blacks, Latinos and orientals) some schools have decided that each group will get a proportional number of students awarded honors and in some cases school sponsored scholarships.  

In some cases schools of higher education have discounted high school grades and honors and have insisted on independent testing to select students for admission.  Again, no easy answer.

However, the extent to which this is being considered and adopted on the West Coast and, perhaps, other geographical regions, means it is worthy of consideration everywhere.

My memory of attending school in Anna was that we took tests, the teachers marked the correct and incorrect answers and we got our grades. Are there other ways to address the clear discrepancies which have always existed?  

I understand that some schools offer additional classes for those who are identified in the early years as “educationally disadvantaged.” In others, tutors are assigned to help lower scoring students close the gap.  

Each of these has advantages and challenges. How do you factor in the indisputable fact that each of us is born with different capabilities in both the physical and mental realms? I was in high school at a height of  5’10”.  For some reason the basketball coach gave preference to those taller than 6 feet.

I regret that I can not offer you a formula for fair and equitable solutions to these challenges. My intent here is that I see a wave coming toward us from the West Coast on these issues and we should be crafting our responses now.

I guess my moral of this challenging issue is that when such things arise the earlier we start preparing and the more transparent we are with our responses the better off we will be. I would welcome your insights.


(John Reppert is an Anna native and former editor of The Gazette-Democrat. He served in the U.S. Army, rising from the rank of private to brigadier general. He earned a PhD in international relations and taught at the University of Maryland. He also served as the executive director of research at Harvard University’s Belfer Center. He can be contacted by email at

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Anna, Illinois 62906
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