Sunday, March 04, 2007

Colleges Regroup After Voters Ban Race Preferences

The college affirmative action debate is a REALLY tough issue that I have mixed feelings about.  To be clear: at the end of the day, I would have voted against Prop 2 in Michigan (which passed, banning racial preferences) because I think our nation will be better off if a more representative number of blacks and Latinos attend top colleges and universities, but I think affirmative action is a LOUSY way to address the problem.
Cut through all of the pretty language and affirmative action (as it applies to college admissions) is very simple: try to get more ethnic diversity by lowering the bar for students from under-represented ethnic groups.  And it's not lowering the bar a little at top schools -- it's A LOT -- like a couple HUNDRED SAT points!  (These facts have slipped out here and there and if you doubt them, just talk to my friend who used to be an admissions officer at an Ivy League school.)
Now, with laws like Michigan's preventing some state schools from practicing overt affirmative action, they're saying this:
Many officials worry that they will lose top minority candidates to selective private universities.

“We know from colleagues in Texas and California that if we can’t take race into account, we’re at a competitive disadvantage,” said Julie Peterson, a spokeswoman for the University of Michigan, where two-thirds of the applicants are from out of state.

Forgive my political incorrectness, but allow me to translate this: "We're upset because private universities can lower their bar more than we're allowed to."  This is really lame.
Supporters of affirmative action (like me) would get A LOT more traction if they highlighted the REAL problem: that painfully few black and Latino children are finishing 12th grade with strong academic records, ready to tackle college -- see the slide at the end of this email that highlights HOW painfully few. 
There are, of course, many reasons for this, but one of the big ones is that black and Latino children disproportionately go to failing schools, characterized by WAY too many lousy teachers, low standards and expectations, grade inflation and a weak curriculum.  See the attached slides for more on how important a rigorous curriculum is.
Instead of spending their energy fighting to keep the bar low, why don't university presidents all get together and use their influence to fight for genuine reform of public schools, especially the worst ones, which would benefit low-income minority students the most, so that more kids are better prepared for college?!  I'm sure it's happened, but I have NEVER ONCE heard a university president speak out with any boldness about the need to reform public schools (other thanthe usual, easy "answers" like spend more money and reduce class size).
January 26, 2007

Colleges Regroup After Voters Ban Race Preferences

With Michigan’s new ban on affirmative action going into effect, and similar ballot initiatives looming in other states, many public universities are scrambling to find race-blind ways to attract more blacks and Hispanics.

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