November 28, 2012

Good Intentions Gone Wrong

Marc Comtois

Michael Barone writes:

In "Mismatch," law professor Richard Sander and journalist Stuart Taylor...[tell] a story of good intentions gone terribly awry. Sander and Taylor document beyond disagreement how university admissions offices' racial quotas and preferences systematically put black and Hispanic students in schools where they are far less well-prepared than others.

As a result, they tend to get low grades, withdraw from science and math courses and drop out without graduating. The effect is particularly notable in law schools, where large numbers of blacks and Hispanics either drop out or fail to pass the bar exam.

This happens, Sander and Taylor argue, not because these students lack ability but because they've been thrown in with students of exceptional ability -- the mismatch of the authors' title. At schools where everyone has similar levels of test scores and preparation, these students do much better. And they don't suffer the heartache of failure.

That was shown when California's state universities temporarily obeyed a 1996 referendum banning racial quotas and preferences. UCLA Law School had fewer black students but just as many black graduates. The university system as a whole produced more black and Hispanic graduates.

Similarly, black students interested in math and science tend to get degrees in those subjects in historically black colleges, while those in schools with a mismatch switch to easier majors because math instruction is pitched to classmates with better preparation.

University admissions officers nevertheless maintain what Taylor in the preface calls an "enormous, pervasive and carefully concealed system of racial preferences," even while claiming they aren't actually doing so. The willingness to systematically lie seems to be a requirement for such jobs.

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Affirmative action has been a disaster in higher education. The progressive rationalization that it is only shifting an arbitrary selection between two equivalent individuals is totally false and contradicted by nearly every study of the issue. LSAT scores and GPAs of minority law school applicants are statistically far lower than those of applicants who do not receive preference. This does literally everyone a disservice, serving only to create inefficiency and resentment by holding back some applicants from their potential and setting others up for failure. I witnessed many minority students struggle in law school and either drop out or graduate with a GPA that was effectively an employment death sentence. Furthermore, if they do somehow get a job, they will be the "affirmative action hire" for the rest of their lives even if they do achieve. It's a crime what progressive policy has done to such people. Besides the practical matter that the policy simply doesn't work, there is the whole moral dimension. Enough of this ends-justifying-the-means, two-wrongs-making-a-right progressive utilitarianism. Discrimination begets discrimination, wrong begets wrong.

Posted by: Dan at November 28, 2012 9:50 AM
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