Friday, October 29, 2010

Not true that Yes on 107 has gotten it wrong on higher education

Blog for Arizona has written a piece entitled, "How the Yes on Proposition 107 side gets it wrong on higher education." The article's premise is that gender preferences in universities aren't bad, because women do well anyways, and race preferences for minorities aren't bad, because they aren't doing as well. Note the contradictory arguments. 

The article selectively uses a few cherry-picked success rates for women in higher education, and says that is evidence there is nothing wrong with using affirmative action to put them in more academically competitive universities than they would have qualified for on their own merit. But that is ignoring the whole picture. Just because more women go to college now than men, and do fine at universities like Harvard, does not mean the vast numbers in the middle will do well at some of the middle-to-top-tier universities. Statistics show that the failure rates for women and minorities increase at those middle-to-top tier universities when they are artificially pushed ahead of their abilities. 

Even if women were doing wonderfully as a whole everywhere in higher education, isn't that an argument to get rid of preferences for them?

Regarding minority preferences in higher education, the article claims that because one school, George Washington University, claims to have high minority graduation rates due to its aggressive affirmative action policies, it must not be true that minorities suffer poor graduation rates when pushed into schools beyond their academic abilities. Well, that bold statement from a school which obviously has an agenda contradicts actual evidence from schools after the passage of California's Prop. 209, a similar initiative in California. The 4-year graduation rate for blacks and Latinos at UC-Davis prior to Prop. 209 was a mere 26%, whereas after it passed, it doubled to 52%. That is a huge difference. 

This doesn't mean that some women or minorities are dumber or less capable than others. It just means you can't paint everyone with the same broad brush. Individuals are unique. If there are some who don't perform as well academically, there will also be some white males who don't perform as well academically. Maybe much of it is due to a disadvantaged upbringing. But disadvantaged upbringings aren't a race or gender problem. Putting a band-aid on the problem isn't going to fix the problem. By the time a student makes it into college, it's usually too late to try and catch them up, teach them better study habits, etc. Efforts to help the disadvantaged need to be made earlier on in a child's life, and shouldn't be based on skin color or gender. A Harvard study of affirmative action found that 86% of the blacks at the 28 universities looked at were middle or upper class - affirmative action is primarily helping non-disadvantaged blacks. 

Prop. 107 won't eliminate minority and women recruitment and retention programs, as the article claims. Where similar initiatives have passed in other states, those programs have remained. Not a single one has been eliminated. They have simply made minor adjustments and opened up their membership to non-minorities and men. 

It is time to end the cherry-picked sob statistics and look at the the whole picture. Martin Luther King, Jr. once had a vision of a society where his children wouldn't be judged by the color of their skin. We're never going to get to that stage if we turn around and judge people by their skin right back. 

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