Wednesday, June 12, 2013

3/4 Americans Oppose Race-Based College Admission Programs

As I'm sure everybody has seen by now.

I'm surprised that there's so much agreement about this. I'm torn about affirmative action; I don't see how any sensible person could not be torn about it... But, since I am torn, this finding concerns me a bit.

My guess is that this view is a consequence of two things: (a) sound moral judgment and (b) lack of appreciation of the facts. True, one shouldn't show preference on the basis of race. However and of course, that's not really what the programs in question do. Rather, they seek to correct for past illegitimate preferences, and for past injustice. Or, at least, that's how the best arguments go. If we had a level playing field, then there would be a very, very strong (though not conclusive) argument against affirmative action. But we don't have a level playing-field.

On the bright side, my guess is that Americans are generally in favor of taking individual students' socio-economic background into consideration. And that, IMO, is what we really want to be doing anyway. Race is just a proxy for what we're really interested in here. If Smith is black, but comes from an extremely well-to-do family, has gone to a private high school, and so forth, the arguments for giving him some affirmative-action-based advantage over white Jones, who is extremely disadvantaged, are vanishingly weak. But, since being black is still a notable disadvantage in the U.S., taking socio-economic background into effect will help out blacks significantly, shouldn't it?

I can't wait for us to start having the male affirmative action discussion...  Females now outnumber males in college, and, on average, tend to do better in high school and college than males. My own institution is nearly 60-40 female-male now, and there are rumors that steps have been taken to prevent those percentages from getting even more out of whack. If that discussion ever happens, it's going to be very, very interesting....


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