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Phi Beta Cons

The Right take on higher education.

Disappointing Justice O’Connor



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There’s an article in Inside Higher Ed today that reports on a panel of “leading scholars” at the American Educational Research Association, all of whom concluded that there’s no way in the world that the performance of black and Hispanic students will improve enough to meet Justice O’Connor’s 2028 deadline for getting rid of university admission preferences for them.

Twenty years out, there’s of course no way of knowing if they’ll be right, but even if they are that doesn’t mean (a) that the preferences should continue (or should have been allowed by Justice O’Connor in the first place), or (b) that the Left has any idea of how to close the white-Asian/black-Hispanic gap.

On the first point, I’ll just note that, in order to justify racial discrimination, you need a really, really good reason — and no such reason exists for university affirmative action. Nor, incidentally, is one offered in this article; rather, it is just assumed that every group should have its share of slots, what Justice Powell called “discrimination for its own sake” and rejected many, many years ago in Bakke.

The second point is more interesting. The solution for closing the gap in the article is encapsulated in a wonderfully Orwellian phrase, “the reconceptualization of merit.” In other words, if there’s a gap in SAT scores, just change the definition of merit so that the gap doesn’t matter. (As I’ve written before, the Left doesn’t really believe in standards.)

The panelists are also unhappy at the educational opportunities given black and Hispanic children at many public schools. Did any of them suggest that perhaps those children should be given more choice about where to attend schools, or that incompetent teachers ought to be more easily fired? No mention of that in the article if they did.

There’s also no mention in the article that any of the panelists pointed out that seven out of ten black children are born out of wedlock, or that half of Hispanic children are (versus only one of four whites and less than that for Asians), and that growing up in a home without a father makes academic excellence less likely. See, e.g., a recent Phi Beta Cons posting of mine.

As I’ve also written for NRO — hey, if I don’t cite myself, who will? — “It is ironic but likely that preferences are themselves a critical element in keeping the gap wide. They enable politicians to sweep the real problems under the rug by, to mix a metaphor, using preferences to paper over them; and preferences also remove the incentive for academic excellence at the same time that they stigmatize and encourage a defeatist and victim mentality among their supposed beneficiaries.”



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