Lessons of Affirmative Action ignored by left
by Melvyn L Fein
January 21, 2013 12:38 AM | 2145 views | 12 12 comments | 5 5 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Most fair-minded people believe that everyone deserves an equal chance — irrespective of race, gender or religion. Nowadays this frequently boils down to providing everyone with an opportunity to acquire a good education.

The question, however, is how best to achieve this? Many people, especially liberals, assume that this must entail what has been called “affirmative action.” They want to make sure that minorities are not excluded from higher education and therefore they support balanced admission “objectives.”

According to the advocates of this policy, colleges should set admission targets for African-Americans — but not quotas. In practice, of course, these come down to exactly the same thing. They also say that race should serve only as a tiebreaker when candidates’ credentials are fairly close.

In fact, affirmative action has been used to admit minorities to elite colleges for which their academic preparation is wholly inadequate. The effects of this strategy have recently been chronicled by Richard Sander and Stuart Taylor in their book, “Mismatch: How Affirmative Action Hurts Students It’s Intended to Help, and Why Universities Won’t Admit It” (Basic Books, 2012).

As this work’s title suggests, the lead author’s research demonstrates that students who are admitted to colleges for which they are unprepared suffer serious injury. Many do not graduate, or if they do, they do so poorly that they have difficulty entering the job market.

Good intentions do not always produce good results. For a long time critics have been asking how it benefits a student to be admitted to a school, but then flunk out. Now the data is in and it confirms the worst fears of the doubters. The supposed beneficiaries of affirmative action do less well than their peers who do not receive this presumed assistance.

Sander, a law professor at UCLA, has spent over a decade studying the admissions policies of law schools. He finds, and this has been confirmed by other researchers, that students with low grades and test scores cannot keep up with the demands of the more rigorous schools. He also finds they become discouraged and drop out. Or if they graduate, they cannot pass the bar exam and therefore do not become lawyers. Meanwhile, students who are better matched with lower ranking schools get better grades and do pass the bar.

The point is that what matters is how well a student’s academic grounding fits the standards of a particular school. The better the fit, the better the outcome. Efforts to vault people into programs they cannot handle does them no good. It only leads to frustration and bitterness.

One of the worst aspects of this discovery is how it has been dealt with by academics. For the most part, they are in denial. So committed are they to affirmative action that they refuse to alter their programs.

Thus, when California, by law, forbade its university system from using race to determine college admission, the professors and administrators were up in arms. They predicted complete disaster, with African-American students totally excluded from top-tier schools.

Indeed, the number of blacks admitted to Berkeley fell substantially. But the surprise was that the number who graduated increased. Since only well-prepared students were accepted, these could, and did, keep up.

So what was the lesson that the academics learned? Well, they didn’t learn. They were so determined to keep affirmative action in place that they changed their admission policies. Instead of relying on grades and test scores, their practices became more “holistic” and hence subjective.

In other words, the university officials cheated. They stacked the deck to bring back minorities in the desired numbers. As an academic, I was mortified that scholars who supposedly believe in empirical facts rejected these in favor of touchy-feely moral sentiments.

So where does this leave us? Will our colleges institute reforms that actually make things better, or stay in the same anti-intellectual rut?

Melvyn L. Fein, Ph.D., is a professor of Sociology at Kennesaw State University.
Comments
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Kevin Foley
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January 26, 2013
Anonymous - Are you sure you weren't one of Fein's students?

"Anyways" "Anyways," this writer is right on and you just labeling him a racist says a lot about you. People like you are absolutely idiotic.

Read more: The Marietta Daily Journal - Lessons of Affirmative Action ignored by left
B D Lane
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January 25, 2013
Thanks, Berkeley student. I believe firmly in changing education standards at the lower grades so that all students can live up to their true potential and succeed if they choose to go onto university. I don't know Mr. Fein, but I bet he would support that viewpoint as well.

As you do, I also recognize that some highly qualified students have opportunities stolen from them because of affirmative action, and I don't understand why no one seems bothered about that dirty, little fact.

Another big difference with President Obama is that he had the correct undergirding. He went to an excellent private school where I'm sure he got a decent foundation. That's the issue with a lot of minority kids. The public school system has failed many of them for decades. They can be in the top 1% of their school and performing in what would be the bottom half of a different school where academic performance is stressed. This is a serious problem that should be addressed.

As for Mr. Foley.... Anyone who writes in a public forum has some scathing abuse sent in his or her direction. That's just the nature of writing in a forum like this, and I think we all understand that. But I would contend that there is a difference when a person who writes for that same paper says someone with whom he doesn't agree "doesn't like black people" or "doesn't like Muslims"--in the world where "is" means "is"--is a racist. A little beyond the pale, I think. Perhaps Mr. Foley should direct his comments to the MDJ editorial board if he strongly feels that they continually publish racist commentary. But that's just my opinion.
Kevin Foley
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January 23, 2013
BD - You obviously are unfamiliar with Fein's scurrilous, unsupported attacks on Obama.

And, BTW, I never called Fein a "racist," I just said he probably doesn't like black people. I know for a fact he doesn't like Muslims. That's a recurring theme in his writings.

Finally, your team has called me some pretty vile names and I haven't seen you step in to referee.

anonymous
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January 24, 2013
I graduated from Berkeley and I'm currently a 2L at Columbia. I know firsthand that AA is an absolute mess. I'm quite baffled as to how it is 2013 and we are still judging people on race instead of credentials.

It's a sad truth, but the students admitted because of AA are automatically at a disadvantage the first day of their class 1L year. Because African-Americans, Latinos, Native Americans etc. score poorly compared to asian/white peers, they need a substantial boost to get into schools that they would otherwise have no shot at.

The general rule on top-law-schools.com is that a URM student that gets AA has a 8 LSAT and more than .5 added to their GPA. So basically an asian male could have a 3.8 and a 170 LSAT (99th percentile) and be rejected from Columbia because a male latino with a 3.5 164 was admitted instead. And thats how it works. No one helps the students that come in from AA, they are treated like everyone else. Thus, they naturally tend to do worse once in the program. Which is where $XXX,000 of debt comes in after graduation. It's tough for the AA kids who end up in the bottom 25% of the class to find any kind of job practicing law. They surely will never make biglaw or midlaw. PI will be locked up as well, all the good to best prestigious positions go to the TOP students. I mean the top 5% of HYS CCN and the rest of the T14.

People like Obama are the exception, not the rule. People who do mediocre in Undergrad and then graduate with honors from Harvard LS and make Law Review are not a good reflection of what really happens to the group as a whole. Nonetheless, the POTUS who is half black totally benefited from AA when transferring to Columbia. Which then helped him get into Harvard since we know he didn't graduate with honors from Columbia so he had under a 3.3 no doubt. I'm assuming this is why he doesn't release his transcripts.

Anyways, it's about time SCOTUS ends this AA nonsense and I truly have faith they will make Grutter obsolete. Now, giving a boost to people based on socio-economic factoring could be much more beneficial if you want to actually do something productive.

Anyways, this writer is right on and you just labeling him a racist says a lot about you. People like you are absolutely idiotic.
B D Lane
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January 22, 2013
I have long thought that affirmative action cheapens achievement because it says to groups of kids, "Yeah.... Well.... We can't judge you in the same way as those other students because we all know you can't do as much without our help..." That position is steeped in a form of patronizing racism that is all the more insidious because it hides behind the mask of "good intentions."

Martin Luther King preached that his children, my children, and anyone else's children should not be bounded or defined by the color of their skin because race does not determine potential.

Looking at affirmative action through that prism, it seems as if this column is completely appropriate on MLK Jr. Day to me. And I wish, Dr. Fein, that we would do a better job with public education in the lower grades for ALL of our kids so that more of them would be set up to succeed in life.... even if they can't afford the private schools attended by President Obama.
Kevin Foley
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January 23, 2013
Nice try, B.D., but I know Fein much better than to believe he had a positive motivation for publishing this column on such a solemn day. His writings suggest he hates President Obama. I would posit he dislikes black people in general.
B D Lane
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January 23, 2013
To call a writer a "racist" for disagreeing (even vehemently) with a president's policies--or for expressing a counter view to liberal ideas on affirmative action--is simply scurrilous. I'm sorry to see such a thing here.

Kevin Foley
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January 21, 2013
What a perfectly timed column, coming as it does on an historic day, when President Barack Hussein Obama was inaugurated for his 2nd term on Martin Luther King Day and in the same year as Dr. King's 50th anniversary of his "I Have a Dream" speech.

Doc Fein does it again.
Bob Alue
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January 22, 2013
Dr King said to measure someone by the content of their character, not the color of their skin, which is what affirmative action tries to do. In today's world, opportunities are out there if people want to put forth the effort. We should not reward people for how they are born. Earn your way, it's the American way.
Devlin Adams
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January 23, 2013
Foley, what the h-ll does the inauguration of Obama, or the celebration of Dr. King's birthday, have to do with what Fein is addressing? Not one thing.

Your remarks are, therefore, inappropriate and uncalled for, as most of your remarks are.
Mary Grabar
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January 21, 2013
The objective, since the 1960s, never was to increase enrollment of minorities and women. It was to lower standards. That was the objective of the radicals who were intent on tearing down Western civilization. They admitted unqualified minorities and women to advance their agenda. Minorities and women were used. This is what needs to be said. In the end, they couldn't care less about minorities and women. www.dissidentprof.com
HFH
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January 23, 2013
Exactly, Ms. Grabar. The job of destroying Western civ is all but done. Bamm-o will get the last few shards over the coming 1458 days.

Re Dr. Fein, and he knows this; the only way to "close the gap," which is an IQ gap, is to make whites stupid. They've fallen for the TV, movies, video games, etc., bait. They're now idiots. Compare what Americans knew in 1960 to what they know now. Very sad.
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