Jason Riley, my colleague at the Manhattan Institute, is one of the few journalists in the mainstream media willing to say the quiet part out loud when it comes to affirmative action: It failed (“Racial Preferences Harm Their Beneficiaries, Too,” Upward Mobility, Oct. 5).
Mr. Riley defines failure here in two ways. First, in terms of academic “mismatch,” or what happens when a student finds herself at a school for which she is academically unqualified. It’s not a pretty picture: The student may fall behind her more qualified peers, become dejected and switch to an easier major or drop out altogether. Second, in terms of the discrimination Asian-American high-schoolers have been subjected to since the 1980s on account of their race and ethnicity. Not a pretty picture there, either.
But racial preferences have failed on another front, too. We can see how if we shift our focus from the policy’s original justification—helping blacks enter the middle class—to its current one: diversity. This change occurred as a result of Justice Lewis Powell’s landmark opinion in University of California v. Bakke (1978), in which he posited that affirmative action was needed to foster greater diversity of political and social thought on college campuses. Justice Sandra Day O’Connor reiterated this view in Grutter v. Bollinger (2003).
Precisely the opposite has happened. For example, a Knight Foundation-Ipsos study from January found that 65% of college students felt today’s campus climate prevents people from saying what they believe for fear of offending someone. This was even higher among conservative students.
The Supreme Court is likely to overturn affirmative action in the coming months for the simple reason that it is illegal. But as Mr. Riley reminds us, this policy should also be tossed out because it has failed.
Policy Analyst, Manhattan Institute
In reading Mr. Riley’s column and the same-day editorial “Illinois’s Shocking Report Card.” one can connect the issues discussed in the two articles. The “need” for race-based affirmative action for college admissions would cease to exist if the root cause was seriously addressed.
Nothing could be more important than ensuring that all children attain reading and math proficiency. Students, not only in Decatur, Ill., but in all inner-city schools, deserve nothing less. While family and social dysfunction may hamper these efforts, charter schools have proved that success is possible.
What better way to combat supposed white supremacy than by providing the ways and means for these children to succeed? Advancing students to the next grade level when they don’t yet have the necessary competency kicks the can down the road until it arrives at college admissions time.
Read the full piece at the Wall Street Journal here.