Friday, November 10, 2006

Affirmative Reaction, pt. 3 - As implemented in the educational setting today, affirmative action appears to be predicated on the notion that in order to have black professionals graduating from first-tier schools, those schools must accept second-tier black applicants. Ironically, most individual beneficiaries of affirmative action in college admissions to so-called elite universities would probably be able to get into the vast majority of colleges anywhere in the world without affirmative action. Clearly, these students will get admitted to a college somewhere. The only question in that case is whether they or their parents will be on the hook for $30,000 or more a year in tuition at an elite school or $10,000 or less a year someplace else. (Paradoxically, the argument that admission to elite colleges will help blacks break into the “old-boy network” is a tacit admission that affirmative action proponents are not as concerned about proper definitions of “merit” as they are about group-based privilege.)

And of course, there is the question of what can be done for students who do not go on to college. Affirmative action provides no help or hope for those who do not graduate from high school or those graduates who have no intention on continuing their education. In his seminal work on the subject of affirmative action, Reflections of an Affirmative Action Baby, Stephen L. Carter describes one of the central flaws of affirmative action.

[I]t is something of a puzzle that critics of affirmative action continue to be told they do not appreciate the disadvantage of the black people who are most deprived. The degree of one’s support for affirmative action in the professions bears no relation to the degree of one’s concern about the situation of the black people who are worst off, for the programs do them little good. In this sense, affirmative action, to borrow a phrase from W.E.B. DuBois, has been haunted by the ghost of an untrue dream. All the efforts at seeking to justify racial preferences as justice or compensation mask the simple truth that among those training for business and professional careers, the benefits of affirmative action fall to those least in need of them.
But the real tragedy is that affirmative action does little in the way of providing an impetus for educational reform that will impact the greatest number of black students. If anything, it enables the current system of “separate and unequal” education to continue by masking its results. The school systems that educate most African American children allow for roughly 50 percent of them to drop out of high school prior to graduation in many areas, with those who do graduate woefully unprepared to move into the job market. (The fact that most of these school systems are dominated at every level by liberals ought not escape notice.)

Still more to follow...

No comments: