Monday, June 05, 2006

Supreme Court to Rule on Affirmative Action in Public Schools et al

Supreme Court to Rule on Affirmative Action in Public Schools - Washington Post

Alito in Action - Washington Post

It is important for us to acknowledge and understand the position from which affirmative action is being argued in recent years, versus in the past. The change is not obvious to everyone, but has implications on what victory or defeat means or does not mean to Blacks.

In the past, affirmative action was argued as a response to discrimination which held Blacks beyond full opportunity. These days the revised 'diversity' affirmative action argues that the best learning environments are those that have a representative balance of the population, and therefore Blacks and others are required for the greatest benefit to all.

In this revised approach, schools can give under-represented minorities additional weighting, beyond standard measures, in the form of ‘plus factors’, that have the effect of raising their admissions ‘scores’, relative to other candidates. Colleges are using this approach, supported by the high court, to circumvent traditional affirmative action.

Proposition 209 in California, outlawing any use of race in admissions to public universities, expressly closes this alleged ‘loop-hole’, that the justices have provided college admission committees. Other states have ballot initiatives that will seek to follow in California’s approach to mitigating the high court.

The current challenge, relative to high schools, seeks to block administrators from using the same ‘plus factor’ systems for admitting Black and Hispanic kids to competitive programs for which they otherwise do not qualify, without race. Since most high schools are segregated, in line with their neighborhoods, the potential impact is low, in general, but nonetheless significant in certain high demand venues.

In any event, affirmative action is no longer a strategy for moving large numbers of Black, or Hispanics, up from the lowest economic strata of the country. We should acknowledge that the short run character of this ill-fated long-term strategy has finally run its course. Our attention must turn towards analysis and programs that get to the underlying under performance issues of Blacks and Hispanics.

Fewer Black kids, especially Black males, are ever reaching the point where traditional affirmative action can have an impact on their lives. Their situation is dire and we cannot afford to continue to expend resources on programs that simply cannot and do not work.

James C. Collier


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