‘Is the average student overtaken by the poor student in the right to a scholarship?’

Read Tjener’s opinion piece

The scholarship system is broken: Here’s how we can fix it

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But even this traditional view of privilege is being attacked from a progressive angle. In her recent rant against Western society, Servant-Miklos’ call for scholarships that don’t help the best poor students, but rather average poor students, is a blatant example of a cheap bait that turns out to be an expensive buy. Poverty has historically been a good reason to help people. It is interesting to see that being poor is now a privilege funds. These students are now out of the useful category! Being poor is not enough! The endless dance to the finish line goes on and on.

Servant-Miklos argues that a scholarship program should be judged on the level of helping average poor students, a commendable effort. But given that resources are limited, it will put academically strong poor students at a disadvantage, so that academically weaker poor students can be supported. My immediate concern here is: what will these criteria look like in a year? Will the academically average poor student be overtaken by the academically poor student when it comes to eligibility for a scholarship? And that students with a proven bad track record are selected for a grant! Does anyone else think education is the right way to go?

Real solution


Brian Godor

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Ronald van den Heerik

Tjener-Miklos argues convincingly about the obstacles some students face. Some of these obstacles come from the system, others can be attributed to individual students. This last point is important to clarify. Everyone recognizes that we have groups of students who face enormous problems: poor (at best) education, intergenerational poverty and problematic home situations. But what is totally missing in Tjener-Miklos’ cannonade about modern education are real solutions and well-considered angles to tackle the problem.

Bill Gates

The tennis racket analogy, for example, is clever but grossly unfair. How is it that progressives like to try to find the top 1 percent (Roger Federer) and then pit it against the rest of us in their perceived and socially constructed categories. This is comparable to being placed in the same category as Bill Gates because I am a white man. Because that’s where the comparison ends. Honestly, just look at my bank account: a lot of zeros and a pile of dust! Many are willing to transfer the characteristics of the 1 percent to the remaining 99 percent as a justification for demonizing the entire group. For a change, let’s use some statistics and academic thinking. In a normal distribution is the 1 percent different from the rest! This applies to all phenomena that follow a certain distribution, from shoe size to IQ. Size 50 shoes are statistically different from the average size 44. These 1 percent arguments are weak at best and unfair in their application.

Tjener-Miklos uses circular reasoning when it comes to the ‘virtue model’. In fact, she shows her own prejudice against these students (or maybe it’s their success?). If a student succeeds ‘against all odds’, a student who, in her opinion, will should have failed because of the inequality of the system, that success is not enough and may even be invalid. Because according to Servant-Miklos, that success takes place within a biased system. And since it takes place within that system, that success actually “perpetuates inequality” because it operates within the system. Really? Student success is completely ignored because it is achieved within the system. To be clear, in other words, when diverse students are successful within today’s education system, they are actually contributing to a legacy of “colonialism and patriarchy.”

Most crushing

To me, this is the most crushing and insulting statement in this diatribe. Why? When I look at my teaching students, I see a wonderful diversity. Does servant-Miklos really claim that all the success stories in my department are fake and superficial? That they maintain ‘colonialism and patriarchy’?

It is often argued that higher education is dominated by men. In some ways it is true, in others it is not. My department consists of majority from women. I think Servant-Miklos would still argue that these teachers are perpetuating inequality by increasing the academic success of different students because it is happening within the current system.

Directly opposite each other

Servant-Miklos brings up interesting points when it comes to selecting students for scholarships or access to special programs. I completely agree with Tjener-Miklos that these processes can be messy at best and sometimes downright discriminatory. However, what drives the selection of these initiatives is the idea that education must work in a society. It is plain, simple and incredibly difficult to achieve.

And that’s where servant-Miklos and myself are diametrically opposed. What should guide the selection process? She states “don’t judge them by their numbers, judge them by their passion for change and the potential for exponential impact in their own communities.” It sounds good, but once the party is over, we regret: an infinite void that does not apply to reality. Why? Because this forward-looking perspective places the function of education as a passion-driven social change agent. It sounds good, but I’ve never seen a job posting for that kind of job. Our students come to higher education to develop intellectually, but also to gain knowledge about specific domains. These domains are generally associated with certain professions, such as doctor, lawyer, manager or healthcare analyst.

I think Tjener-Miklos is doing his students a disservice by selling activism as a major. Her students and the world would be better served with a greater focus on a future as a professional, and then combine that with activism. This last statement is definitely not hyperbolic, I really mean this. If you want to change the system, you need to be able to get effectively and deeply into the system to change things. For example, if college admissions practices are discriminatory, study education and then join the Ministry of Education to make changes. You can of course also occupy the ministry during a protest, the choice is yours. If you think current clinical practice is harming certain groups, read clinical science and get these professionals involved!

admirable work

I will conclude my own rant by pointing out some key points. The work that Servant-Miklos is doing with his foundation is fantastic, admirable and should be broadcast from the highest towers of Erasmus University. We often preach social impact, well… there we have one. Kudos for that. The success stories she has illustrated give me hope that much is still possible in this world, within these crazy and often insane walls of academia. But having said this, let me illustrate my point. Servant-Miklos can work in the system to create success stories, and these brilliant stories are pieces of evidence of a system that can work (though certainly not perfect!). I hope that Tjener-Miklos can see that her own changes within this system are breaking down ‘colonialism and patriarchy’, just like the successes I see year after year with my students.

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