Saturday, September 4, 2010

Affirmative Action

      Affirmative action should be abolished in the United States because it constitutes reverse discrimination, undermines the academic performance of minorities, and does not significantly improve the quality of education for majority-race students.  Affirmative action is a policy used in the United States and countries worldwide that aims to expand the educational and career opportunities available for women and minorities.  This is done by granting people in these groups preference in areas including college and graduate school admissions.  Critics of affirmative action claim that favoring certain races and ethnic groups over others fosters not only resentment, but deteriorates educational and professional standards by considering race and ethnicity over achievement and qualifications.  However, supporters contend that the practice is necessary to compensate for past discrimination.
     One reason why affirmative action should be abolished is that the practice constitutes reverse discrimination by lowering the chance of admission for better-qualified white students or applicants.  It is justifiable for high school students applying to college to be embittered when they are rejected based on the conditions of their race, gender, or ethnicity.  Affirmative action goes against the founding principles of this nation.  For instance, the Declaration of Independence states that "all men are created equal" and the Civil Rights Act of 1964 requires all Americans to be treated equally "without regard to their race, color, or national origin" (New York Times Upfront).  Yet since the the mid-1960s, the United States has largely disregarded the principle of equality set forth in these documents by prioritizing the admissions of women and minorities to compensate for past discrimination.  While it would be an ethical necessity for slaves to receive compensation from their masters, it is unfair to have the descendants of slaves receive compensation from the descendants of the masters.  The policy of affirmative action is subsequently discriminating white people.  For every person that is granted admission to college or given a job because of affirmative action, one better qualified person is unfairly denied that same opportunity.  Discrimination of any type is morally and ethically unacceptable.  Until applicants are judged solely by merit, the United States will remain divided as a country.  It is time to move on from past discrimination.

     Contradicting the evidence that affirmative action is harmful to society as a whole is the following viewpoint by Graciela Geyer:

Graciela Elizabeth Geyer of the United States Student Association argues that affirmative action policies promote equality. These policies, in which colleges consider race in admissions, ensure that minorities have an equal opportunity to attend college, she asserts. Because discrimination is pervasive in the admissions process, claims Geyer, race must be considered in admissions. Believing that affirmative action is an effective response to racism, Geyer maintains that eliminating affirmative action creates a hostile environment and segregates colleges (Carroll).

     In her viewpoint, Geyer claims that affirmative action is an essential policy that promotes equality.  She insists that abolishing affirmative action would literally re-segregate schools and society.  Geyer cites the drop in enrollment of colored students that were accepted into the University of California (UC) system over the last five years as one of the negative effects of repealing affirmative action.  She believes that institutionalized racism is necessary to tear down the barriers minorities face and claims that not considering race and gender in the admission process sends out the message that all people have equal opportunity regardless of their race or gender, a message which she deems as false.

     In her viewpoint, Geyer fails to take into account the effect of affirmative action on society as a whole.  While citing retribution for past discrimination as a justifiable reason to use affirmative action, Geyer ignores the fact that America is a meritocracy and that affirmative action contradicts the founding principles of this nation.  Although affirmative action may help disadvantaged individuals be competitive in universities and businesses, these people are often less qualified than their majority peers, resulting in them performing poorly in relation to these peers (Becker).  While affirmative action may give minorities the necessary boost they need to get into college or get a job, it harms the self-esteem of these minority students and workers.  Geyer also fails to mention the fact that when rejected, qualified majority applicants feel as though they were cheated out of a well-deserved opportunity.  In their pursuit of diversity, the appropriate solution for businesses and universities is to work harder in their search for qualified minority students, not to lower their standards by giving special consideration to disadvantaged minorities.

     Another advantage of abolishing affirmative action is that it undermines the academic performance of minorities.  For instance, if white students believe that many of their black peers would not be at a college were it not for affirmative action and, more important, if black students perceive whites to believe that, then affirmative action may indeed undermine minority-group members' academic performance by heightening the social stigma they already experience because of race or ethnicity (Charles).  In addition, individuals who have negative beliefs about their race will find that they feel more so when they know that they themselves fall well below the institutionalized average for SAT scores.  Also, when asked to perform academically, individuals who feel that they are representing their race will feel more pressure and responsibility when their race's SAT score is well below that of other students at the institution.  This stress can be attributed to the psychological need minority-students have to prove that they're worthy of admission at any particular institution.  Given the number of college rating services available, this is a very common issue minorities across the country are experiencing.  Disparities in performance between minority and majority peers can sometimes be observed in class as well.  A study conducted by The Chronicle of Higher Education on the academic effects of affirmative action revealed that the greater the difference in SAT scores between minority students and others on campus, the lower the grades earned by black and Latino students as a group on that campus.  These findings suggest that significant gaps in test scores between minority and majority students creates a social dilemma in which it is harder for minority students to perform academically.  The reality is that affirmative action enhances the social stigma minorities feel and increases the pressure they feel to perform academically resulting in undermined grade performance.

     Disputing the consequences of affirmative action is the following viewpoint by Gary Orfield: 

Gary Orfield contends that the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in the University of Michigan affirmative action case was right: college admissions policies that value diversity, such as affirmative action programs, are necessary and important for the nation. Orfield asserts that schools and communities across the country are deeply divided, with whites increasingly being isolated from blacks and other racial groups. But the nation and the world are comprised of diverse racial and ethnic groups and diversity on college campuses is important for the success of future leaders in our nation (Langwith).

     Orfield believes affirmative action programs are necessary since whites only account for three in five students in America.  He insists that census data shows that communities and schools across the nation continue to be divided and racially unequal despite progress made during the civil rights era.  Gary even goes on to claim that schools are now more segregated than they were in the 1960s regarding race and income.  Orfield asserts that many students appreciate diversity because they believe it positively impacts their education by allowing them to better work with others, and analyze legal issues from the perspectives of multiple cultures and backgrounds.  Gary concludes that to successfully adapt to a rapidly diversifying nation, affirmative action programs must be existent.

     Contradicting Orfield's viewpoint is the reality that affirmative action programs are unnecessary and discriminatory.  Perhaps the most fundamental principle of this nation is equality.  But recently, this principle has been ignored and replaced with diversity.  Most Americans believe that judging one by the color of their skin or their country of origin is profoundly wrong.  However, altering the standards of admission for minorities and women is never considered discrimination, just a necessary approach to form more diverse institutions and organizations.  Since recent movements have claimed that affirmative action has such a redeeming value, a frighteningly large number of Americans are insisting diversity be achieved by any means necessary (Langwith).  The reality is that affirmative action programs promote a quota system in which the outcome of a competitive process is engineered to achieve proportionality based on group identity and that such programs are unnecessary and discriminatory.

     Affirmative action should also be abolished since racial diversity does not significantly improve the quality of education for majority-race students.  A study by Duke University analyzed data on graduates of 30 selective universities to test the frequently argued but little-tested hypothesis that increasing the presence of minorities in elite colleges enhances the quality of education for majority-race students.  To do this, they examined the College and Beyond data set compiled by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation which includes the SAT scores, major subject, and means of exit (whether by graduation, transfer, or withdrawal) of all students in participating universities.  The study analyzed a broad range of outcomes from earnings to academic success.  In addition, the satisfaction individuals had with both their life and job were taken into account.  The study's authors failed to observe any evidence that whites and Asians attending relatively diverse institutions do better later in life (Arcidiacono and Vigdor).  More thorough analysis of the data revealed that affirmative action programs are actually counterproductive if their goal is to enhance to quality of education for majority-race students.  The evidence is clear, affirmative action programs only produce educational benefits for the minorities they are targeted at and have no spillover effects whatsoever on majority-race students.

     America has been coined the "melting pot of the world" for being so racially diverse and tolerant of different cultures.  This level of diversity has surely had immeasurable advantages.  While it is true that being around people of other races and cultures has unprecedented benefits, such interaction does not yield any educational benefits.  For those that are given a job or admitted into college through affirmative action, the psychological strain and pressure they feel to prove themselves worthy of admission can sometimes be unbearable.  Disparities in performance between minorities assisted through affirmative action and majority-race students can often be observed in class as well.  For every beneficiary of affirmative action, one qualified individual is turned down.  In their pursuit of diversity, institutions should ramp up their efforts to find qualified minorities, not lower their standards by giving special consideration to disadvantaged minorities.  Engineering the outcome of a competitive process to achieve proportionality based on group identity is profoundly wrong and until individuals are judged solely by merit, the United States will remain divided as a country.  The time to move on from past discrimination has come, and it is for these reasons, that abolishing affirmative action is in the best interest of the United States.  

Works Cited

Arcidiacono, Peter, and Jacob Vigdor. "Does the River Spill Over? Estimating the Economic Returns to Attending a. Racially Diverse College." Duke University (2008): 34. Web. 

"Affirmative Action in College Admissions Ensures Equality." Students' Rights. Ed. Jamuna Carroll. San Diego: Greenhaven Press, 2005. Opposing Viewpoints. Gale Opposing Viewpoints In Context. Web.

Charles, Camille Z., et al. "Affirmative-Action Programs for Minority Students: Right in Theory, Wrong in Practice." The Chronicle of Higher Education 55.29 (2009). Educator's Reference Complete. Web.

"Preferences Cover Problem They Claim to Correct." The Chronicle of Higher Education 55.10 (2008). Educator's Reference Complete. Web.

"Affirmative-Action Programs Are Necessary." Discrimination. Ed. Jacqueline Langwith. Detroit: Greenhaven Press, 2008. Opposing Viewpoints. Gale Opposing Viewpoints In Context. Web.

"Affirmative-Action Programs Are Unnecessary and Discriminatory." Discrimination. Ed. Jacqueline Langwith. Detroit: Greenhaven Press, 2008. Opposing Viewpoints. Gale Opposing Viewpoints In Context. Web.

"Is it time to end affirmative action? California, Michigan, Washington, Florida, and Nebraska have banned its use in public education and hiring." New York Times Upfront 16 Feb. 2009: 22. Popular Magazines. Web.

1 comment:

  1. Brilliant,however, as sad it is to say somethings take longer to understand than others, and dare I say its not that people do not want to stand to fight against but rather the fear of race mongering towards those who do so.


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