Readers’ Forum: 6/7/21

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In defense of college admissions’ use of standardized testing

SAT and ACT exams are deeply flawed but they are a better metric than almost anything else out there.

Kids with wealthy parents can gain an edge in college admissions with essay coaches, recommendation letters from wealthy and powerful people, behemoth donations, legacy admissions, grade inflation and fancy extracurricular activities.

The best (and most common) way for a middle-class kid to prove they’re capable of advanced work is through standardized testing.

If the elites wanted to take away any pretense of fairness, what would they choose to do first? Take away objectivity. The SAT is an egalitarian measure of academic achievement that can’t be faked as easily as many other measures of college readiness.

Rich kids have always had an advantage in everything they do. The SAT doesn’t augment that advantage — it diminishes it. Why else would Lori Loughlin and the other members of the college cheating scandal bother to risk their reputations and spend tens of thousands of dollars to fix a subpar SAT score? Because standardized testing is the only element of college admissions that can’t be gamed by throwing large sums of money at it. They had to cheat because they couldn’t use their wealth and connections to tip the odds in their favor.

Instead of eliminating the SAT or ACT entirely, let’s focus on funding school districts evenly and providing equal access to quality education, regardless of whether a student lives on the right side of the tracks. Offer the exact same gifted, advanced and honors coursework at every high school. Identify young, gifted minority children at the same rates as white children. Allow every child to have books and internet access in their homes. Inequality in education is a problem that can’t be fixed by eliminating one of its symptoms.

Cassie Larimer
Portland, Oregon

Environmental efforts at BYU could be improved

I remember as a young boy scout, my scoutmasters would tell me to leave no trace. This meant putting out the campfire and making sure I didn’t leave any candy wrappers in the campsite. Our scout masters would make sure we combed the entire site and wouldn’t let us leave until it was spotless so the next person could equally enjoy the campsite the way we did. Today I’m afraid we don’t see the same importance of leaving no trace on our planet. 

It is really easy to let your car idle at an intersection or to take plastic bags instead of paper at the grocery store. We do these things without even thinking about it most of the time. The other day I sat in the BYU Cougareat and watched person after person take styrofoam cups. The students probably had no idea that after use, styrofoam is burned and becomes a key contributor to pollution. That’s when it hit me: These students weren’t trying to destroy our planet, but rather they were taking what was convenient to them. If paper cups were available, people would’ve taken those instead. 

So, who is ultimately responsible for taking care of our planet? The answer, of course, is all of us, but we need stewards to lead the way. Here, in Provo, Utah, we need BYU to step up to the challenge. No matter what we accomplish at BYU, it’s in vain if we don’t take care of our home.

Universities across the nation are joining the effort to make their campuses more environmentally friendly. One of the many movements sweeping across the country is the LEED certification of buildings. LEED stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design. It represents the efforts of coalitions to set a standard for “green” buildings in America. Fortunately, most universities see the merit of this movement and have been quick to comply. BYU, however, drags their feet: only three of its buildings are LEED-certified. 

BYU cites a commonly quoted scripture: “For the earth is full, and there is enough and to spare.” But in other scriptures we are told to “Preserv[e] what thou hast, that thou mayest be a wise steward.” This earth isn’t a plastic bottle that will be used once and disposed of; the earth will be our home for eternities. This is our inheritance from our Father.  

What is the solution? We need BYU to take action. They must stop using harmful substances for the environment on campus. They must control vehicle emissions. They must LEED certify their buildings. We must rise up as students, as citizens, as God’s chosen, and hold BYU accountable, because if we don’t hold them accountable in coming years, there will be no BYU left. 

Adam Johnson
Woodland Hills, Utah

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