Saturday, December 18, 2010

Hacking Harvard

Hacking Harvard, by Robin Wasserman, is a very unrealistic story about something all of us seniors surely know: the college admissions system. Three extremely intelligent teens (Eric, Max, and Schwarz) have decided to take on what they believe to be the ultimate challenge. This challenge is getting an average, run of the mill guy into Harvard. While this may seem like a long shot, these three teens believe it to be possible and want to prove their point, which is that "there's something wrong with the admissions system" (48) and "to prove it's not perfect" (48).

They choose Clay Porter, a below-average student who has no plans of going to college, as their subject. Though he was at first reluctant, he soon agrees to help them when money is put into the picture. With Clay, they help him with various college admission tasks that they believe should trick Harvard into letting him in.

One admissions procedure they "guide" him with is taking the SAT test. While many students longing to get into Harvard study for days on end to get perfect scores on the test, Clay does not study at all. Instead, Eric and the other two guys help Clay by cheating the system. They install a microscopic camera into Clay's glasses, which transmits the questions Clay is seeing infront of him to a television screen. They then are able to tell him all of the answers through a microphone which is synced to an earpiece Clay is wearing. All goes well, until all of these complex electronics decide to stop working. The teens are then forced to use their brains, and figure out that they can use the light reflected from the pond next to the classroom window to highlight the correct answers onto Clay's test (this part makes no sense to me).

All of their efforts are about to pay off when they start to think about how this will affect other people attempting to get into Harvard. Harvard does not let in many applicants as is, and if Clay, someone who does not deserve to go there, gets in over someone who does want to go there, that would not be right. They are potentially taking the spot of someone who has worked all their high school career to get into Harvard.

In the end, they don't care about the fact that they are taking someone's spot and submit Clay's application to Harvard to be potentially admitted, waitlisted, or denied.

1. The characters in this story believe they played a prank on Harvard. Do you consider what they did a prank, or do you believe what they did broke the law?

2. Clay potential could be taking someone who really wants to go to Harvard spot, though people helped him cheat his way in. In the end, he actually does get in and does go. Do you believe he should ever fess up for cheating his way in?


Sydney C.13-14 said...

1. I think that what the students did was a great experiment to prove the flaws in the college admission process. They did break the law in cheating on the test, and with solely the reason to "pull a prank" on Harvard I don't believe that was right. The students having a mission to bring the admissions system to justice would have been a better reasoning that I may have been more in agreement with.

2. It is unfortunate that a spot may be wasted at Harvard for someone who has worked very hard to get in. I think it was right for the students to consider this in their decision to submit the application, but am not bothered that this did not stop them. I don't think Clay should fess up to cheating on the standardized test, but the right thing for Clay to do would be to deny Harvard's admissions acceptance and be content that the point is proven. The experiment was clever on the students part, but it is not right for Clay to actually attend a school to which he doesn't deserve to go to.

Erika B 13-14 said...

I agree with you with that, though they may have broken the law with cheating on the SAT, what they were really trying to do was prove that even the best of colleges has flaws with their admissions system.

I feel that if Clay fessed up for cheating to get into Harvard, that may mess up his future. Instead, he should have denied Harvard's admission, as you said. If he would have denied they're admissions, the teens point of the admissions being flawed would have been proven, and a spot would have been freed up for someone else who deserved to go.

Julie S. 5-6 said...

I think Clay should just transfer to a school more fitted to him. He not only doesn't deserve to be there he doesn't belong there.

Jacob B 11-12 said...

Do not believe clay should admit to the school that he cheated but i do think that he should at least deny the offer to attend. He was able to prove his point but as an average student who doesnt fit the profile of a harvard student he should not be attending.

Hayley D 11/12 said...

I agree with what others have said, they did break the law but at the same time, I have to admit that what they did was brillant. I honestly don't think that he should go to Harvard, even though he was accepted. It would be so wrong of him to go when some student that has worked so long and hard in order to meet the Harvard standards would lose their chance just because of their prank. And this way, he wouldn't have to confess that he cheated but he would still be able to prove that even Harvard has flaws.

Kyle P. 13-14 said...

I think the idea of trying to prove something is flawed is a good one, but only if the person proving it sheds light on the flaw. I think the boys should admit what they did if he had gotten in but not if he was denied.

Vanessa D. 13-14 said...

I think they should admit to what they did because I don't think it would be fair for a person who worked really hard to get in to Harvard to be denied over a person who does not want to go there.

CorinneS5/6 said...

What they did seems like more than a prank. I think cheating on his tests and doing everything else to get they slacker into Harvard was definitely breaking the law because they are harming other peoples chances of getting in and possibly derailing their life plan.

I think that they should fess up to getting him into Harvard by cheating because they could show how the college admissions process is flawed and show the ivy leagur schools how their system of judgement tends to weed out the kids who truly want to go there and tends to choose the kids with no real passion for learning. Even though they did something wrong, it could greatly benefit other college applicants in the future if they admit their scheme.

Mrs. Sherwood said...

Thread graded