Tuesday, February 9, 2010
Accumulative Advantages & Outliers
Gladwell’s chapter “The Matthew Effect,” a title which refers to the biblical Scripture the Parable of Talents, illuminates how the talented greatly increase their talents. Biblical and popular retellings of the parable of talents often concentrate on the lesson that if talented people do not use or maximize their gifts, those gifts could be relinquished. But Gladwell, a writer always interested in providing an alternative take on familiar ideas, concentrates on the gifts talented people receive prior to attaining their most notable achievements.
Gladwell draws on a body of research from various scholars and reveals that all-star hockey players, for example, do not simply become all-stars because of their accomplishments as professional athletes. Instead, their achievements are rooted to a larger system of rewards offered early in their childhoods and which continually compound, a process known as “accumulative advantage.” To illustrate his point, Gladwell shows how, on average, young people born in the early months of a given year get a literal and significant head start over their peers who are born in later months of the same year in youth hockey and soccer leagues.
A cursory search of “accumulative advantage” on the internet connects that concept to inequality, showing how those fortunate enough to be born or situated in the right time and place receive tremendous advantages and benefits. But what do you think about the workings of accumulative advantage and how it plays out on the field of a college campus, so to speak, like SIUE? Or, how should we be thinking and talking about apparently hidden systems of rewards or disadvantages that exist at universities?
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Last time, a number of people mentioned seniors getting to register early as an example. But what else? And what kind of advantages (or disadvantages) do students of a common classification have?
I think that many people do not even notice all of these advantages and/or disadvantages that are occurring around them because they just conform and think that that is the way it works. Some know and feel that it is unfair for them to wait to register later for classes, but there is not really anything they can do about it. If they do not wait, they will not register.
On the other hand, there is an advantage among students in the university in that they are basically not alone if they need help. They all have equal opportunities in using tutors, professors, or computers for their academic needs.
Unfortunately, there is a disadvantage in that not all fields of study offer the same amount of help. For instance, there are at least 2 math tutoring facilities with extended hours and many people availabe to work and help those who are struggling in any aspect of mathematics. How about philosophy or psychology? Many students struggle to find tutors for these fields of study because there are not many on campus. So are there preferences for students of certain fields of study too?
Only potential accumulative advantage I can come up with is for students who come into SIUE and may not have had regular experience with computers. Using Blackboard, Cougarnet, and Webmail is difficult enough, but I cannot think of what it may be like adjusting to an on-line learning system with little computer experience.
Instead of focusing on your course material, you are instead trying to figure out a completely new way of doing things. This could affect your grades, not because you don't understand the material, but because you don't understand the learning platform.
The best way to address known accumulative advantages is to identify them and make changes accordingly. All of my professors provide the necessary help if we do not understand a particular program, but it still cannot replace regular experiences over time.
In all my classes, the professors let us know the new school policy about printing out papers. This is just to save the school money and help out on their budget. They do not think of all the students that really can not afford to spend a few dollars a week just to print out homework that they need in order to receive a good grade in their classes. They do not take into consideration the hundreds of dollars students pay to take each class. But in order to pass these classes, they have to be able to afford to print out their homework throughout the semester. People who have parents, or student loans paying for their schooling do not find it as hard to afford these small things. What about the minority of students that are struggling to put themselves through school and can not possibly work full time in order to keep up their grades?
Also, in this scholarship itself, people playing sports are not penalized for missing a mandatory scholarship meeting. My job does not care if I am getting free money for going to a mandatory meeting about once a month. It doesn't matter to them. All that matters to them is having someone there to do my job. My scholarship is not benefiting their company in any way. I think that this scholarship should give us a set schedule for the year, so I have the ability to request off the days I have to miss work to be there. All the athletes have that advantage. They know and have a set schedule, and even if they didn't they would still be excused.
As far as a disadvantage, I believe that most of the Professors create a disadvantage for students. They teach as though we already have a degree and know everything about that subject. Sometime teachers act as if it is a crime when you ask a question during their lecture.
Although the Professors SIUe has taught the same style for years, change is necessary for some. I shouldn't feel like I can't go to the Professor for help. But, this is how most students feel and it creates a disadvantage in our lives.
As far as Advantages, I have not come across any in SIUe. But, I'm sure I will soon since I am aware of accumulative advantages.
I completely agree with Andrew. Since I have been here, I have felt that a majority of my classes rely too heavily on Blackboard. Not only does it have grades posted on there, but lecture notes, powerpoints, and supplemental course materials are also given. While this is of course a major advantage for those who are familiar with this type of technology, students with little to no computer background are unable to utilize these materials to their benefit.
Often times when one of my professors is unable to go over all the material, he or she will simply tell us the uncovered material will be on Blackboard. Obviously, this would be a huge disadvantage for those who have trouble using technology.
As far as disadvantages for registering from class classification, I think it's far. Priority should come to those that need more. For instance, a senior that needs that one class to graduate, and its taken by a sophomore, the senior should have priority over the sophomore. A disadvantage I have noticed is for commuters. The students that have to commute to campus everyday for class. They will be affected by weather conditions, more-so than those that stay on campus. While, the Universities driving paths are plowed immediately, those that come from small towns have to wait an excessive amount of time for their paths to be plowed. Meaning, that they'll have a harder time getting to campus for classes.
This is the only disadvantage I can see on this campus. I am sure there's more, but we're so use to them that we've become accustomed to them and don't think of it as disadvantages. I must say though, its so ironic how this "accumulative advantage", at an early age can have such a drastic affect on your life. Also, on another note, it's also interesting from chapter one, I know we're on chapter two, but reflecting on chapter one. How much you, is really owned by you. Everything that was special or unique about you, is all constructed because where you're from? Would my life be completely different, would I still have the same personality if I was from somewhere else.
First of all, the hockey example blew my mind! I don't know how Gladwell even thought to see that example.
However, I thought that it was a terrible equalizer for those who may be in a younger or less developed class who may stand out with people in the same class, but blend into the norm by qualifying in the class above them. Does this make sense? For example, a sixth grader who is upped a grade or two is looked at exactly the same as the rest of his graduating class by a college. He is no longer a prodigy.
Another thought is about the Haley scholarship itself. Because, partly, of my ethnicity, I'm given a scholarship to help me achieve what may be out of my reach. My academic success looked even better because my graduating class was very small and I had a lot more one-on-one time with my teachers. And because of my membership of the Haley Academy, I have access to the SOAR office and all it offers. This, in turn, puts others at a disadvantage, even if they have the same credentials as me, only white.
I feel like when people come to a university their slate is wiped clean again. How and if they get to the university is the part where accumulative advantage takes place i.e. kids from low income school districts are less likely to even make it to college.
Though, if i had to pick a way students receive advantages, I would say kids who don't have to work through college have an advantage to those that do. They have more time to study and don't have money to worry about. More time=more study time= better grades and more opportunities.
I think that a good example of accumulative advantage is the quality of high school education students received prior to attending SIUE. Depending on where you lived, you could have been in a district that really prepared you for college or and district that was losing accreditation. Students who's parents enrolled them in private schools also have an advantage over other students because they had access to better resources and smaller class sizes.
Students who went to bad schools had to work harder even to get into SIUE. Once in school, some have to take remedial classes before they can take their actual classes, thus putting them behind their peers and getting them off track to graduate on time.
It took me a while to find something that I could see as a disadvantage/advantage for others.
Well it's about that time to turn in housing here at siue and I realized that the way siue strategizes where people are going to live is sometimes unfair to others.
I believe students first pick out where they want to live and then from there it might become first come first serve. But it also goes along with who has the better GPA and how many points you have.
But what happens to those who may not get in where they want and end up in cougar village with no car? Vs. The students who can just walk back to their dorms (Yeah the school has buses that go to Cougar Village and from campus but not at all hours of the night and on the weekends...especially on Sundays.) That student kind of gets put in a bad situation especially if they were to get stuck somewhere on campus and then may have to depend on someone else they know to come get them.
Maybe that student wanted to live on campus because it was more efficient for them. It's unfair if they end up somewhere they didn't want to go.
For those who have the better GPA and get in where they wanted to go are at an advantage and that's good for them and for those who don’t get what they asked for are at a loss.
What comes to my mine when I think of accumulative advantage is that people that have a greater history of a certain subject can still enroll in introductory classes. A student that may have already taken a similar course, perhaps in high school, and is already knowledgeable of most of the course material. This creates an uneven playing field dealing with potential grades for students who are literally just being introduced to this new subject, topic, or etc.
This issue can be acceptable if a student needs certain introductory classes for their general education credits or their major, but if it is just an "easy A" for someone, it seems unfair.
This problem is difficult to be fixed however because an easy solution could be to review a students past classes and the grades recieved in them. Then they could be given a test to see if the "know too much" to take this class fairly but the student could also do poorly on the test on purpose. Another problem is that the student really does want to take the class (again) because of their interests and not for an "easy A".
I live off campus near St. Louis, about 30 minutes away. One disadvantage I have found is in the many different fees students are charged. Because I live off campus (and have lived off campus for the past three years), I have been unable to even occasionally use the various computer labs, the VC, the MUC, and other amenities offered on campus. Yet, every semester I am paying upwards of $500 in fees for these special university offerings. This semester I finally decided to try to use at least the gym even though it is now costing me a bit more in gas. SIUE students are given these fees every semester; however, they seem to affect some more than others. A student living on campus has greater access to these features and can choose whether or not to use them but still have them available. Students living off campus are at a disadvantage because our abilities to use these amenities are limited whether we want to or not. Yet we are still fined, consistently.
Accumulative advantages are all around us and everyone has an advantage over someone in a particular setting. Others have used class scheduling as an example where seniority is used to state who is able to get a certain class at a particular time. In another aspect the housing dormitories on campus is sometimes only specified for underclassmen such as freshman and sophomores. With that being said the rapid growth of the incoming freshman at SIUE may turn on campus living into a tough situation for some. Even those who are commenting on this blog are seen to have a Accumulative Advantage over student who are struggling to pay for tuition here at SIUE but may not have the qualifications that it took some scholars to attain and get the Johnetta Haley scholarship. Different aspects for different situations...
I think that seniors have the right to register early because they worked hard to get to this point so they should choose first. If you think about how many students that attend SIUE trying to register everybody @ the same time will not work in favor of many students. If a freshmen take the spot that the senior needed in the class than that would cost the senior her graduation.
Other advantages is blackboard, cougarnet and our SIUE email account. These are ways we can communicate between our professors and even our classmates.
Disadvantages is that many professors do not know how to use the system. For example my stats professor is older and is learning how to use the system. When i want to go and check my grades I cant because he do not know how to put them up.
Which high school you went to before college would play a pretty huge role in how you perform in college. most high schools prep you for the college setting, but some might do a better job than others. If your high school offered college credit courses or AP courses then you could almost skip a year of college over those that never had the chance. You would graduate earlier than the average person and you could get a higher paying job before the average person.
Whether or not such a system is good or bad cant be debated it simply exists. We live in a capitalist society where competition is the driving force for materialistic gain. Those without the early advantage will have to work harder if they want to beat out the competition. That is what this college education is. Its a race for a better lifestyle and unfortunate there are a limited number of spaces to fill.
You may think this is a disadvantage to us, but it makes us all work even harder to get what we want and makes us that much more qualified to get the job we want.
I believe that in most cases, money is always an advantage for students. If parents can pay to send you to the more prestigious school, or get you the type of help that takes more money. I am also in the Honors Program and I feel as if there is a great advantage for students in the program. We sign up for classes with seniors, have access to classes with more one-on-one attention, and gain more experience—intellectual and leadership—through the projects that we do. The problem with the honors program is it’s not as visible on campus, and it’s hard to find out about it. I think that the honors program should be more like the Haley Scholars and try to become more involved on campus so more students are aware of it and can take advantage of it.
As I was reading through the comments, there were quite a few of them that I agreed with. I feel as though a major advantage/disadvantage in attending SIUE is where you were previously enrolled in school. Being from a small town, I feel as though my high school career did not necessarily prepare me as well as some other schools may have. I feel as though being from a larger school, you may have had more opportunities as compared to others.
But with ever bad, there is always some good. Someone stated that there are equal opportunities when attending SIUE when it comes to tutors, meetings with professors, etc. This is true. Just because people may feel that they were not given an equal opportunity from the start does not mean that this is the way that it needs to end. They may need to work a little harder, but how what they choose to do is up to them. There is nothing that they can do about the previous education. The only thing they can do is everything in their own power to be the best that they can be.
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