Danger looms for higher ed student diversity

The Supreme Court has agreed to consider if it’s lawful for colleges and universities to take into account the ethnicity of a student who applies for entrance when deciding whether to admit him/her. Most institutions of higher education have been required since 1978 to make room for students who may be lower-achieving academically than other candidates because they’re members of ethnic groups recognized as disadvantaged and need the boost of a handicap to raise their area of the playing field to a level which will statistically provide a similar admission opportunity as students coming from ethnic groups with history of better academic performance.

This seems only fair to me, as the measure of a graduate’s success won’t be determined by his/her performance before entering a program of study, but rather, after completing it. The quality of education and the relationships a student builds with colleagues and professors while in school will become part of the intangible matrix which determines that future professional’s career success. Other determinants will be the amount of emotional and life support available in the graduate’s personal life, his/her personal moral and ethical values and the individual’s health, none of which are linked to academic achievement. A student whose family and ethnic community was not capable of preparing a student for academic achievement will not necessarily lack any preparedness for performing well in his/her chosen career of his/her; and his/her family may have outstanding ability to provide excellent support for the graduate as s/he travels down his/her chosen career path.

Furthermore, academic underachievement could be the consequence of discriminatory policies in K-12 educational districts, as demonstrated in a New York Times article published on 06 March 2012:

55 percent of the high schools with low black and Hispanic enrollment offered calculus, only 29 percent of the high-minority high schools did so — and even in schools offering calculus, Hispanics made up 20 percent of the student body but only 10 percent of those enrolled in calculus.

And while black and Hispanic students made up 44 percent of the students in the survey, they were only 26 percent of the students in gifted and talented programs.

The data also showed that schools with a lot of black and Hispanic students were likely to have relatively inexperienced, and low-paid, teachers. On average, teachers in high-minority schools were paid $2,251 less per year than their colleagues elsewhere. In New York high schools, though, the discrepancy was more than $8,000, and in Philadelphia, more than $14,000.

Yale law professor, Peter H. Schuck, is quoted in a New York Times article, “The idea of racial and ethnic diversity altering the kind of conversation that goes on in the classroom is so overrated,” he said, and quoted from his own book “Diversity in America”, “Any experienced, conscientious teacher, regardless of race, could and would get on the table any of the arguments that ought to be there, including ideas normally associated with racism or other analogous experiences not personally experienced by the teacher.” However, it isn’t true that professors not specifically versed in the nuances of social justice issues will be able to accurately identify as either racist or discriminatory, racist practices which are approved by the dominant culture. To argue otherwise discounts the experiences and recorded history of thousands of individuals who have been victimized by racism and in and of itself, seems to be an attitude that encompasses racist tendencies. In its time, slavery was the accepted norm in the United States.

Asian students who are historically high academic achievers would like considerations eliminated which give Latino and Black underachievers better chances of admission to “first tier” colleges and universities and apparently, also require Asian Americans to academically out-perform Caucasian applicants in order to win admission slots. The belief expressed in emails and articles written by Asians on this subject, is that Blacks and Latinos who are not already high-performing students will in any event be doomed to fail at institutions with rigorous academic environments, so keeping them out will save lower performers from the heartache and embarrassment of failure while also (naturally) paving the way for increased Asian enrollment in first tier schools.

I agree that admissions policies should not require Asian students to out-perform Caucasians academically, but the stated Asian position in regards to other ethnic minority students reflects a gladiatorial competition style that’s a bit too bloodthirsty for my taste, and a regard for the value of educational elitism which as far as I’m concerned, is way out of proportion to its actual merit. It certainly doesn’t synch with the win-win type of competition and progress that’s embraced by sustainability advocates, which is the much gentler approach I’ve come to prefer.

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