Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia might have thought he was simply debating the merit of race-based admissions at the University of Texas. But he lit a fire when he cited a friend-of-court brief that argued some blacks would do better at "slower-track" schools instead of being "pushed ahead in classes that are too fast" for them.
Scalia's comment came from "mismatch theory," which ironically advocates for the soft bigotry of low expectations.
According to its proponents, affirmative action harms students who aren't ready for a strenuous academic environment. In a ripple effect, they will avoid struggle by opting for easy majors or dropping out altogether. Therefore, it's best that they be guided to the shallow end of the educational pool: less-selective institutions where they can be more comfortable and successful.
The only thing new about the mismatch theory is the name. It's actually the same old institutionalized racism that steered generations of African Americans into trade schools instead of universities. It's the pernicious whisper beneath current suggestions that perhaps college isn't for everybody.
The mismatch theory gets one thing right: Under-prepared black students will struggle at a demanding educational institution.
I know, because I was one.