Trump/Scalia Question for the Debate

by Roger Clegg

Over the weekend, Donald Trump joined the liberal chorus in criticizing Justice Scalia’s line of questioning last week when the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in Fisher v. University of Texas, in which that school’s use of racial and ethnic admission preferences is challenged. Justice Scalia was raising, albeit a bit inartfully, the problem of “mismatch” when such preferences are used: Students who are admitted with substantially lower academic qualifications than the rest of the student body’s are likely to struggle and flunk out, drop out, switch majors (especially from a STEM discipline to a non-STEM one), or get lower grades.  So we might expect question like this a tomorrow night’s debate, followed by my suggested answer:

Q: Do you agree with Donald Trump that Justice Scalia was wrong in suggesting that black students should go to lesser schools because they aren’t smart enough to keep up with white students, or are you in favor of affirmative action?

A: Wow, what a question — I feel like we’re back on CNBC. [Laughter.]  Look, I think the point that Justice Scalia was making is that any student, of whatever color, who is admitted to a school with significantly lower academic qualifications than the other students’ is likely to have a tough time. There’s a lot of data supporting the existence of this problem at schools that use racial preferences in admissions. So it’s a mistake to have racial double standards, and I’m confident in the ability of African-American students to meet the same standards that other students are held to. 

By the way, this is just one of many problems that result when schools discriminate on the basis of skin color or what country someone’s ancestors come from in deciding who gets in and who doesn’t. It’s fundamentally unfair — and it’s not just white kids that are being discriminated against, by the way, but Asian-American kids more and more, too. Plus it creates resentment, and it reinforces racial stereotypes, and schools have to decide how many of these boxes they should have and which student goes into which box — the list goes on and on.  

I’m against this sort of “affirmative action,” and I think most Americans agree with me.  [Thunderous applause.]

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