Wednesday, February 24, 2010

California Students Sue To Restore Affirmative Action In Universities

Both friends and foes of Affirmative Action (AA) need to be aware of what is going on here in California. The friends have an unlikely benefactor, California Attorney General Jerry Brown, the man running for governor of the state (again), come this November. When asked for an opinion by the State Supreme Court on Prop 209, which banned Affirmative Action, Brown's brief offered, "ironically, by effectively disadvantaging racial minorities and women in the political process, without an evident compelling governmental reason for doing so, [the amendment] seems to accomplish the very evil it purported to eliminate...racial and gender discrimination."

The lawyers for the students are claiming violation of the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment of the US Constitution (story here). Recall that it was equal protection violation that brought down segregation in Brown v. Board of Education. The students would say that Prop 209 wrongly blocks them, base on race and gender, from seeking remedies allowed under the 14th Amendment. In effect, they are barred from presenting exclusionary results, as evidence of prejudice-based, rather than race and gender-based, discrimination.

The exclusionary results they present are as follows: UC has the same number of minority students as the leading universities in the Deep South and therefore is suffering from the same racism that can only be driving these results in those southern schools. The second exclusion states that UC’s minority student percentages do not match the percentages of minorities graduating from California high schools, thereby proving racism. These are erroneous arguments for sure, but illustrative, nonetheless, of the overly broad nature of 209.

I don’t blame the students for their faulty logic. They are victims of bad schooling that would rather give them back-end bonus points for ethnicity, rather than their proper and deserved K-12 education. They are using the only lever they feel they have. And, I’m not saying that some of what is driving that poor K-12 experience is not racism, but it is also much more, starting with the teacher’s union, poor curricula, and abdicating parents.

In essence, the State Supreme Court, should they choose, is likely to take a similar position to what the highest court did in Michigan and pare back 209 to a point where CA schools are allowed to consider race in admissions and contracting, as long as it is not the overriding factor. Unfortunately, this will seem like a victory, but the net impact will be that our K-12 schooling will remain poor; stranding the bulk of needy students long before any last-ditch rescue from AA.

James C. Collier


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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Any comment on the recent events at UCSD? I find the whole situation hilarious.