High schools and colleges suffer from the same problems as college football -- with no standard of regular-season rigor and wafer-thin resumes, they trumpet their relative successes and claim more than they deserve.
Solutions become clearer when college applications take into account some of the factors that BCS polls do, like strength of schedule. The kid who has a 4.4 because he aced Health, Gym, and English (sans AP) is the equivalent of a 9-0 Rutgers wanting a shot at the National Championship.
And now, monsieur, Wisconsin's schedule.
The SAT, the BCS poll of high school seniors, is right now the best way of levelling the playing field. Otherwise every Joe Sixpack with a coddling, nurturing, NCLB-pandering schedule would be upset when their 5.4 GPA and 1150 SAT don't get them into Harvard.
But admissions officers, like college football fans and coaches, wish they didn't have to rely so much on its flawed logic and unfair rhetoric. Maybe high schools, like college football, will find their equivalent of a playoff system to determine the true champions.
Football allegory aside, some of these sissification problems can be traced back even earlier, all the way to the elementary school level. We've have a new generation of kids whose elementary schools practice social promotion and other such craziness, like not using red pens because red makes kids feel bad or banning dodgeball because it made kids cry.
And the root cause of all that evil?
The simplification, destruction, and nerfing of playgrounds. Reduce the risk of injury and (God forbid) skinned knees and splinters, and sure the kids feel good, but have they really accomplished anything by climbing something that was explicitly designed to be easy to climb? I say no. It's the equivalent of giving them full credit because we "knew what they meant," which leads to 5.5 GPAs, which leads to a 10-1 Notre Dame wanting a piece of the national title.
It starts there. You don't even need to look inside the school. The litmus test is right there on the outside for the world to see.
The plastic playground: The I-AA team on your kid's schedule.
Clearly, that will be the basis on which I choose my kid's schools.