Changes in Elite Education in the United States

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To speak of “changes in elite education” in America is a difficult task. The first challenge is to define “elite” (cf. Khan 2012a). Does it refer to the status of the institution or the families who populate it? Quite obviously, these two are related, but they are not the same. For example, Stuyvesant High School in the city of New York has one of the most competitive systems of admission of any school in the world. And it provides students with one of the world’s best educations. Families from around the city prepare their children to take an entrance exam, and only 3 percent of those students who take the exam are accepted (making it twice as hard to get into as Harvard). But elite families do not overwhelmingly attend Stuyvesant-no doubt in part because the strict admissions competition means they’re not that likely to get it. For this “pure meritocracy” does not favor their status and as an “open” institution it does not quite service their needs. For much of the twentieth century Stuyvesant was a heavily Jewish institution, and it has steadily shifted to being predominantly Asian. In 2014 almost 75 percent of the students from Stuyvesant are from Asian families. So, is Stuyvesant an elite high school? If we were to look at selectivity and academic excellence, the answer is unquestionably yes. And such excellence results in a high degree of social influence. Yet prominent and wealthy families rarely send their children to Stuyvesant. And as such, other aspects that mark elite institutions-their social, cultural, and symbolic transference to children-are less pronounced at Stuyvesant than at other far less competitive schools. By such criteria, Stuyvesant is not an elite school.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationWorld Yearbook of Education 2015
Subtitle of host publicationElites, Privilege and Excellence: The National and Global Redefinition of Educational Advantage
PublisherTaylor and Francis
Number of pages12
ISBN (Electronic)9781317663041
ISBN (Print)9781138786424
StatePublished - Jan 1 2015
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Social Sciences


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