Phi Beta Cons

Sowell on college prestige

On NRO today, Thomas Sowell has an excellent piece in which he asks whether all the hype about getting into a prestige college or university is really warranted.
As I argued in my review of Color and Money yesterday, the fatal weakness in the affirmative action crusade is the idea that going to an elite institution is such a great benefit to a student. Sowell points out that the quality of instruction at a top-tier school isn’t going to be better for undergraduates than the instruction at a middling school and may well be worse.
In their assumption that a degree from an elite school is so very, very worthwhile that we absolutely must get “critical masses” of students from key (i.e., politically strong) minority groups into them, the affirmative action supporters are acting like the rooster who believed that his crowing caused the sun to rise. He isn’t really all that important and neither are the elite schools when it comes to uplifting those minority groups. Vastly more good was done for the upward mobility of the poor by the repeal of federal trucking regulations — which allowed minority truckers to start companies once the regulatory obstacles to new entrants was swept away — than by all the strutting and preening of schools like Harvard and the University of Michigan over their commitment to affirmative action.

George Leef is the the director of editorial content at the James G. Martin Center for Academic Renewal.