A recent column written by Purdue President Mitch Daniels touts the value of GPAs when used hand-in-hand with ACT and SAT scores to determine the “grit” of college applicants, a thesis statement clouded by his contradictory rhetoric and antagonistic view of students’ mental health.
Think that sentence was confusing? Try reading Daniels’ piece.
The column first addresses the implications of the fact that several universities, including Columbia, Yale and Harvard, have dropped standardized test score requirements in order to be more subjective in vetting incoming freshmen. In doing this, Daniels argues the colleges lose the ability to accurately predict their students’ performance, as letter grades can’t serve as perfect representatives of high school rigor by themselves.
A high school GPA is “a reliable indicator of discipline, persistence and resilience,” he writes. But he says there are problems with knowing how to differentiate GPAs earned through hard work versus those earned via grade inflation.
Daniels’ premise is fair. Undertaking a topic as nuanced as college admissions certainly requires a delicate touch, and Daniels discusses two sides of using GPAs to judge college applicants. His approach, however, leaves much to be desired.
Daniels employs paradoxical rhetoric with regard to the perception of GPAs. In recent years, he has touted the University’s respective incoming classes as having the highest collective grade point average yet, but he demonizes universities that use GPAs as a measure of student accomplishment. Admonishing colleges for using the same measure he uses to advertise Purdue seems at best counterintuitive and at worst damningly hypocritical.
Further muddling his argument, particularly in the eyes of those about whom he’s writing, Daniels takes a shot at students who seek counseling on campus. Looking for answers to the ever-increasing need for counselors and therapists on campus, he references a book titled, “The Coddling of the American Mind.”
According to the president, the co-authors of the book “write that many young people, having too rarely handled problems or adversity on their own, now instinctively run looking for an adult at the first whiff of difficulty.”
Surely this phenomenon isn’t true for a university as diverse as Purdue. Further, Daniels’ writing frames running to an emotionally stable person for help as an inherently negative action. His rather buried argument that those used to grade inflation in high school may receive a rough shock in university is valid, so his decision to mask that argument through jabs at people who talk to counselors is baffling.
What can students do when they feel uncomfortable, unhappy or distressed upon entering their first years of adulthood? Apparently consulting a peer, friend or mentor is out of the question.
On first reference, the president’s reference to the reality of college students’ “psychological problems and mental illness” is a welcome and key point in the piece.
“College students’ psychological problems and mental illness are very real,” Daniels writes. “Every school I know of approaches the matter with utter seriousness and responsibility.”
In the next paragraph however, he effectively equates the main cause of these problems to “emotional fragility.” This frailty means universities require more mental health professionals, a nationwide trend.
Although Daniels references the ongoing work colleges across the country to advance the scope and quality of their respective mental health programs, he neglects to mention Purdue’s problems with Counseling and Psychological Services, which continue to fester.
Barreling forward without pausing to thoroughly address the abundance of reasons one may pursue therapy, Daniels launches into his subsequent argument, bringing up the oft-quoted case against “too many participation trophies.”
This tangent doesn’t productively contribute to his overarching claim for “Grit Potential Assessments,” as he calls the desired form of GPAs. Instead, this side debate, along with several other shallow contentions brought up over the course of his piece, only serve to discredit Daniels’ overall, and actually agreeable, main point: Universities need to look at all aspects of a college applicants’ high school career.
Unfortunately for Daniels, examining all aspects of his column results in the same disappointment he may feel while considering the inflated transcript of a “coddled” applicant: the wish for him to be better.
– This editorial represents the majority opinion of the Editorial Board which consists of our campus editor, assistant campus editor, city editor, photo editor, assistant photo editor, graphics editor, managing editor, sports editor and editor-in-chief.