Nick Kristoff, my fellow Imblerian, has a vapid and shallow article on affirmative action up:
It also made sense to accept me over a more qualified applicant from Bronx Science: It’s good for colleges to have hicks from the sticks, to tease city slickers and coach them on the differences between a gilt, a barrow and sows that farrow. And it’s even more important to have black students in those late-night dorm discussions; how can college graduates understand the world and have intelligent views on racial matters (such as affirmative action) if they’ve never mixed with people of other races?
Nick plays up the fact that GW wouldn’t have made it into Yale on merits alone. Probably not. But though that is a point to bring up-that does not negate the position that affirmative action does not do justice to the principle of a meritocracy. As they say-two wrongs don’t make a right. Also, I am interested where Nick thinks black students are widening horizons and opening the dialogue. Let me be frank: the identity politics on campuses creates hermetically sealed social units that have highly formalized and artificial style of communication. In other words-you can go four years in college not getting to know black kids (or white kids) because political correctness tends to restrict what one can explore, and inhibitions created by sensitivity conditioning tends to dampen down the give & take that normally occurs in relaxed social settings. I went to a relatively non-selective college, and even there it occurred. I can’t imagine what it must be like at highly selective schools where underrepresented minorities are simply not in the same class as other students-and everyone knows it.
On Nick’s point about urban vs. rural, this sort of back & forth does occur-I went to a rural high school in eastern Imbler, and was the “dorm hick” so to speak. But the urban vs. rural chasm is not as stark, not institutionally formalized, so there was no great tension when someone accused me of swinging up to Oregon State University’s ag science department to do the deed with some form of even-toed-ungulate. I laughed it off, what else could I expect from jaded city kids from the suburbs of Portland? :)
A final note, as far as affirmative action in higher education goes, private universities can go ahead and practice it, though the diversion of public funds might be cause for concern, but I see no reason that state supported universities should stand for it. State colleges should concentrate on producing professionals with marketable skills-this is explicit in the Land Grant schools, but implicit in the idea of public support for higher education generally, for it will only go to a minority of any generation (to some extent, the working class that pays taxes is partially subsidizing the training of those who might be their future doctors, accountants and engineers). The problem with affirmative action at highly selective state schools is that the kids who get in under quota targets aren’t prepared for academically demanding subjects. So you end up with the creation of “Studies” that focus in on ethnicity, gender, etc. utilizing the full array of post-modern hocus pocus to make sure that they graduate since no one is expected to be rigorous and intelligible anyway (defining deviancy downward so to speak). So state universities end up churning out the next generation of racial activists, not the practical professionals they were intended to produce. (this is not limited to the United States, Malaysia for instance churns out plenty of Malays with Islamic Studies degrees-laudable for the hereafter, but rather useless unless you can get a position as an Islamic judge in some woman-stoning backwater)