(Revised) An Institutional Analysis and Academic Meritocracies

Weiqing Lin

Professor Steven Alvarez

English 110

29 April 2012

An Institutional Analysis and Academic Meritocracies

My Ideal College Life

Mention an utopian college, and you might get these responses: lovely campus, good food quality and a lot of social activities. If I can make some changes in QC and make it an ideal place, there would be three parts I would like to change. For example, better food quality, more social activities and less general education requirements. In my opinion, by improving these issues to the campus, Queens College will be an utopian.  Even so, there’s always a gap between dream and reality. Nevertheless, I will reconsider my utopian vision based on the actual  material conditions which I experience daily on campus. After reading the article ‘The ‘Cooling-Out’ Function In Higher Education’’ by Burton R. Clark, and ‘The Economy of Symbolic Goods” by Bourdieu Pierre, I understand how ‘Cooling-Out’ works. ‘Cooling-out’ is the adjusting student goals or aspirations to become more realistic. Usually students who fail out of school, believe it is their fault. They don’t blame the school at all.

Gap Between Dream and Reality

The consequences for students when they can’t reach their dreams, they do not blame the school but themselve. Schools only care about students whose get good grades. Students whose usually begin cool-out, they started lose passions and it made them confused about why they should go to college.

Most students go to college confident, but the reality leads them to give up, because of something called ‘Cooling-Out’. Students often get disappointed about college and they are frustrated because they work hard but still fail. In some of large classes, I have found the students come to class less and less, and they were not doing what they suppose do. Some fell asleep, some watch TV shows and do others things. Or, there’s some students never show up, because students aren’t at all satisfied with the situation, so they decided to give up the class. In this essay, I will argue that in our democratic society, there is inconsistency between the encouragement to achieve, the realities of limited opportunity and social inequality. ‘Cooling-Out’ function exists in Queens College. Not only it exists, but also little bit too much. This problem leads some students who think they could achieve the goal. The results of ‘cooling out’ sorted into who can become the dominant and who are the dominated, and who can succeed or who will fail.

The ‘Cooling-Out’ Processes

The ‘Cooling-Out’ function in higher education creates a wide gap found in democratic institution.  Such as the multiple processes of reorienting such as transfer colleges, take vocational training, and take remedial courses. Speaking of which, many students want to do well, and they tried hard but still failed. Statistics prove that most students who attend community college don’t graduate. In the article ‘Cooling-Out’, Clark states: ‘‘the cooling-out process in higher education is one whereby systematic discrepancy between aspiration and avenue is covered over and stress for the individual and the system is minimized. The provision of readily available alternative achievements in itself is an important device for alleviating the stress consequent on failure and so preventing anomic and deviant behavior. The general result of cooling-out processes is that society can continue to encourage maximum effort without major disturbance from unfulfilled promises and expectations.’’ (Clark 576) More and more people go to college, it becomes a way to gain succeed. Higher Education in The United States wants to do their best to encourge the students to achive their goal. However, there’s wide gap between students hope and their realization. For example, some of students understand they aren’t succeeding the way they should. In so doing, the students who fail out of school start to believe it is their fault, and they don’t blame the school at all.

Some students take colleger courses, but they does not yet has a degree. In other words, they attended college, and earned some credits, but never graduated. Students  who finished  community college would like to transfer to a four-year college . Some dropped out for numerous reasons, or they taking some college courses. Clark stated, ‘‘the trend is toward an ever tighter connection between higher education and higher occupations, as increased ensure that more persons will need more preparation. The high school graduate, seeing college as essential to success, will seek to enter some college.’’(Clark 570) Students took some classes but have not yet finished a degree, and college degree is a prerequisite of the better position in business and the professions. On other hand, ‘Cooling-Out’ process also leads a lot of students face the challenges and adjust the society, so they have a chance transfer to a four year college. In such case, students have more alternatives to get success.

The video ‘Chad goes to community college’ is an example of cooling out function. It shows Chad taking the entrance exam at Greendale Community College. It gives him a hard time as he feels the exam is difficult. However, the exam is known to be simple. The professor says to Chad: ‘‘your exam score is the worst I have ever seen, and you answered every question wrong, and community college don’t turn away anybody.’’ In fact, community colleges accept all students who applied, which means it’s open admission, four year colleges are selective. In addition, Community colleges are easier due to the classes are simpler. When I was a high school senior, I applied to six CUNY colleges, and I put Queens College as my first choice and then Baruch College. However, my last choice was Queens Community College, because my guidance counselor told me that everyone should put a community college on their application, so that if any of four year colleges won’t accept you, you have a chance to get into a two year college. QCC was the first college which accepted me. As a result, QCC was disturbing me by sending me bunch of acceptance letters and emails.

Relationship Between Dominated and Dominant

Dominated and dominant can be found in everywhere. At Queens College, the students are known to be dominated by the professors of the classroom. Because we are the ones who need to follow the rules, the professor is like a king who is in charge of us. As you know, the grade is based on how much you put into the class. Although the students deserve what they get, but the professors determine what’s going to be on the exams, what assignments will be given, whether they offer extra credits or curve and other such things will affect your final grade for the class. In other words, the dominant’s way of thinking is determined by the dominated one’s interests. In relation to ‘The Economy of Symbolic Goods’’, Bourdieu stated, ‘‘the dominated perceive the dominant through the categories that the relation of domination has produced and which are thus identical to the interests of the dominant.’’(Bourdieu 121)  In my anthropology 102 class, the professor is the one who never stops talking and we don’t have a chance to participate. because of that, students dont learn anything and they give up. Conversely, in some of the smaller classes, there’s more room for discussion. Dominated and dominant exist in society today. For example, the relationship could be between rich verse poor, authorities verse students or army, and boss verse workers.

Transfer to the video ‘A Girl like Me’, dominated and dominant can be seen in the relationship between African American children and white society. The results from these experiments varied. The experiments showed that which color doll children would rather prefer resulted in majority of the children choosing the light skinned dolls. As a result, 15 out of 21 African American children preferred the white doll over the black doll. They were very sensitive and absorbed everything they heard and saw. The world we live in affects the way we think. They ready affect by domination and social hierarchy. They are discriminating against their own race. Overall, since that time people were not equal, there was race discrimination. Hence, they started to believe in white supremacy. For them, color is more important than skin deep, they were children at young ages who already have in their mind they are bad and ugly, and whites are pretty and good. No matters what, the dominant alway‘controls’ the dominated, which is seen in the video is saying that ‘white is good, black is bad’.

Inevitable Problems In Colleges

At the beginning of the semester, every class room was filled with so many students and it was not easy to find a seat. But, after a few week,  students come to class less and less, especially happens in lage classes; the class room seems empty. Some students just left during the class time because they feel they don’t learn anything; they texing or playing with their phone instead of learning in large classroom. There is an another example of ‘Cooling-Out’. In relation to the newspaper article ‘Dropouts Loom Large for Schools’. Bowler stated: ” It will be a huge challenge. Thirty percent of college and university students drop out after their first year. Half never graduate, and college completion rates in the United States have been stalled for more than three decades. The colleges want us to think everyone graduates, but in fact a huge number don’t, and many leave with significant loan debts and job skills totally inadequate in the 21st century.”  In my opinion, college students need more supports, most students in their freshmen did not do well because they were not ready for college. Students who being cool out usually who graduated high school without the foundations for success. As a result, failure is inevitable. Colleges should ensure equality, not inequality. If school could do something to prevent cooling out, I think students will have powers to do well in college and they will fit in with the society.

Comparing Theories of Higher Education to My Actual Experience at QC

Traditionally, getting a higher education in America means that people will have a chance be able to gain succeed. If you fail, you will not able to succeed. Everyone thinks differently about their ideal college. In other words, everyone has a different dream of what college life should be. But, there’s always a gap between a student’s dream and the reality. Queens College, part of the CUNY system, from my experience and observation on the campus, the ‘Cooling-Out’ function does exist and it’s alive in QC. I have found out that students come to class less and less in some large classes; some students who regularly attend class were usually doing something else. They were neither concentrated nor copy notes. Clark stated, ‘‘the wide gap found in many democratic institutions between culturally encouraged aspiration and institutionally provided means of achievement leads to the failure of many participants. Certain social units ameliorate the consequent stress by redefining failure and providing for a ‘soft’ denial; they perform a ‘cooling-out’ function.’’ (Clark 576) People who go to college can figure out what to do with their life. Since jobs require degrees, many students come into college aspirating to be teachers, accountants, lawyers, and all other professions. In fact, some students realize that they will fail, so they blame themselves. Students whose destiny will normally be early termination, they didn’t do well on the exams, so think that it their fault. Because students aren’t at all satisfied with the situation, so they decided to give up the class.

Some classes sizes at QC are huge for some courses, such as my Anthropology class,  students don’t feel a connection with the material they study, so they begin to cool-out. All  students want to try their best in school, but they failed the exams, and students started lose passions ,then they decided to not to come to the class. Clark also stated: ‘‘the latent terminal student may ignore the counselor’s advice and the test score. Here the student is divested of expectation, lingering from high school, then, receiving low grade.’’(Clark 573) On the other hand they may take the professor’s advice in trying to improve. If they don’t, then they will fail the class. In other words, the student who uses the cooling out technique would stay in the class, other students would leave. Higher education is a means to determine who can be the dominant or dominated. Unfortunately, many students strive in school, but they didn’t achieve the goal. As a result, many students are frustrated because they work hard but still fail. This problem forced students who failed to give up; it gradually let the students down.

How Can Queens College Improve?

In conclusion, schools should pay more attention on students who are dominated. For example, some classes could be smaller, so there is more room for discussion, also professor will know every students, and student could pay more attention from the instructor. Further,  there could be more professors or teacher assitants in larger classes. Why do I have to come to the lecture if I could download the notes online? Some classes sizes are too big, so the professor just use power point to present the lecture and after the class he posted on online. Although my Anthropology 102 class is a big class, but there is only about twenty students show up. Students usually fell asleep all the time and nobody wants to learn. They just wasting their time and destroying their future. As a result, many students begin to cool-out, they failed the exams, so they decided to drop out. Although the system is set up for failure, the ‘Cooling-Out’ also leads students face the challenges and adjust the society. The ‘Cooling-Out’ function in a higher education servers to sort out who can succeed and who will fail. However, Queens College is a good college but not a perfect; I have learned how to adapt to it.


Works Cited

‘‘A Girl Like Me.’’ YouTube. Mediathatmatters. 4 May. 2007. Web. 29 Apr. 2012.

Bourdieu, Pierre. “The Economy of Symbolic Goods.” Practical Reason: On the Theory of Action. Trans. Randal Johnson. Stanford: Stanford UP, 1998. Print.

Bowler, Mike . ‘‘Dropouts Loom Large for Schools.’’ US News 19 August 2009 . A5. Print.

“Chad Goes to Community College.” YouTube. Blamesocietyfilms. 6 Oct. 2009. Web. 29 Apr. 2012.

Clark, BurtonR. “The ‘Cooling-Out’ Function in Higher Education.” The American Journal of Sociology 65.6 (1960): 569-576. Print.

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1 Response to (Revised) An Institutional Analysis and Academic Meritocracies

  1. salvarez says:

    Weiqing, this is some incredible writing, I can tell you worked very hard on this essay. Your writing has improved a great deal over the semester. If you check back to some of your old blog posts at the beginning of the semester and compare them with the writing you have here, you’ll notice some big differences. I hope going to the Writing Center helped with some of this. I’m very proud of you for the writing you have done here.

    I like how you used some former material, but how you also put things together here into this essay. The media is great as well.

    I only have a few suggestions for revisions, but over all I think this is some great work, and by far some of your best writing for the semester. Remember to use PIE pargraphs in your essays, they really work!

    For revisions:
    –Make sure to capitalize all the important words in your subtitles, for example, if this was your subtitle

    Queens College and cooling-out commuter-style

    You would have to write

    Queens College and Cooling-Out Commuter-style

    Capitalizing all the important words like in a regular title, and like you did in the works cited section for the titles there.

    –I think you should add one more short paragraph in the section “Gap Between Dream and Reality”. Write some more about this, what are the consequences for students when they can’t reach their dreams? How do they deal with failure? How do schools use failure as maybe a threat? This short paragraph you add will go BEFORE what you have already, it will sort of introduce some of the ideas in your thesis before you go into it and how it deals with QC.

    Your thesis is this: “I will argue that in our democratic society, there is inconsistency between the encouragement to achieve, the realities of limited opportunity and social inequality.” I suggest two more sentences about how you see this at QC. For example, “This leads to a sense of entitlement for some college students who think they deserve to achieve their dreams. At Queens College, these entitled students contribute to the cooling-out of some students.” Or something like that.

    7.8 out of 8 points.

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