Newsweek senior editor and columnist Jonathan Alter told a gathering of hundreds of high school guidance and college admission counselors that they are gatekeepers of America’s promise for the country’s success in the 21st century. Alter gave the keynote address on Wednesday as part of the NYSACAC conference hosted by Hobart and William Smith Colleges.
Alter noted that even though this will likely be named “China’s Century because of the massive expansion of trade and industrialization in that nation, the United States can capitalize on its educational facilities to ensure that as a society, we keep our competitive edge which Alter defined as open mindedness, flexibility and creativity. Alter reminded the group that part of America’s advantage for competing in the world in the 21st century is its educational system — 18 of its universities are ranked in the world’s top 20, he said.
“You are in arguably the most important positions in the world of opportunity that is American society. You are the gatekeepers of American life and America’s promise. So that’s a heavy responsibility, and I know many of you work long hours fulfilling it.
“I want to salute you and challenge you, he said.
Over the years, Alter has written extensively on the country’s education system and recently was a judge in Kaplan’s high school essay contest. He is the author of a widely acclaimed Newsweek column that examines political, media, social and global issues. He is also an originator and author of the weekly “Conventional Wisdom Watch, which uses up, down and sideways arrows to measure and lampoon the news.
In his address Wednesday afternoon on the Stern Lawn, Alter also expressed concern over parts of the college admission process, including the focus on Advanced Placement courses in high school and the minimal emphasis on the essay traditionally submitted with the application. He also called for more emphasis on experiential learning including that found through community service.
He closed his address expressing concern over the increased rate of students who do not finish college.
“We really don’t have a person to lose when you talk about the opportunity costs and what they could have contributed if they could have gotten on track … I say this to all of you not to be a heavy but to make an attempt, as Abraham Lincoln said, to think and act anew.