The Strengths and Weakness of Affirmative Action

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Affirmative action was formed more than fifty years ago during the Civil Rights movement with the goal of everyone having the same chances in life. A lot has changed since then. So why are we still trying to make up for past sins? Are the people who are benefiting from affirmative action today the ones who were harmed and discriminated against in the past? No. The race card should not be used in an academic environment and diversity should not put a more qualified applicant on the side lines. Academics should be the determining factor for college admissions not race.

According to Kristina Crawley and Tony Magart, "Affirmative action is a program built on racial discrimination, all the while claiming to fight it". In order for a student to achieve advancement other students are unjustly discriminated against or punished. Colleges should be looking at the accomplishments of the students, not what ethnicity they were born. Colleges even post the percentages of each minority attending their schools on their websites. Is this supposed to sway students to attend specific colleges based on who their fellow classmates are to be? Does this guarantee diversity? Shouldn't students be looking at what the college can offer them to help them succeed in life? They have their whole lives ahead of them.

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The primary problem with affirmative action in colleges is it has failed to bring about a major goal to ease racial tension and lessen the color consciousness of college students. The actual results have had the opposite effect. According to Mr. Roberts, "Affirmative action poses a conflict between two cherished American principles: the belief that all Americans deserve equal opportunities and the idea that hard work and merit, not race or religion or gender or birthright, should determine who prospers and who does not". How are students suppose to see each other as equals if they are not considered equals when applying to college? The message minorities are receiving according to Mr. Steele, "Society now tells them that if they will only designate themselves as black on their college applications, they will probably do better in the college lottery than if they conceal this fact". The tensions continue to exist because the white student sees the minority student as undeserving and the minority student sees the white student as racist and part of a group that works against furthering the minority's ability to obtain a college education.

Affirmative action creates reverse discrimination which is defined as "Discrimination against members of a dominant or majority group, especially when resulting from policies established to correct discrimination against members of a minority or disadvantaged group." This is the case when colleges are allowed to consider race when accepting college applications. Aren't colleges actually practicing what the country is trying to eliminate; discrimination? Colleges don't see themselves discriminating against other students. They call it diversification.

There are many ways colleges can diversify without using race to achieve those goals. There are minorities who have qualifications to attend college without affirmative action. Not all minorities are in low income areas which have less than desired school systems. What about those students who break free from the Ghetto? There are many success stories from minorities who have risen above poverty and became very successful. We want students who will succeed in college and have something to contribute to our education, not a free pass.

Advocates of affirmative action believe that for better learning classes must have a diverse student environment. This logic is flawed. According to Mr. McElroy, "Racial diversity does not necessarily lead to diversity of opinion. Students with different interests and talents make a campus life vibrant and ensure that a variety of activities are pursued. Race is a purely external characteristic and has no effect on what a person brings to a community. To suggest that skin color determines ones attitude or what they might bring to the table is racism in itself." Why does skin color dictate ideas or activities a person may pursue? Diversity is not determined by skin color.

Society has been unfair to minorities in the past. Yes, our ancestors did profit from using slave labor. Affirmative action does not make up for wrong doings. According to Mr. Steele, "It is impossible to repay blacks living today for the historic suffering of the race, demonstrating the absurdity of trying to make up for what our ancestors did". Society is discriminating against a new group now in order to compensate for the discrimination of one group in the past. What has been accomplished when discrimination has yet to be conquered? Why does the need for diversity have to keep discrimination alive?

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At Wayne State University Law School in Detroit, despite the ban on affirmative action, the new admissions policy still has the ability to see color. Instead of checking a "race" box officials look at the student's address. They are able to see if the student lives on an Indian reservation or in the heart of Detroit where the population is concentrated mainly with African Americans. What has changed? They still see color knowing who resides in these populace areas. It does not matter that the people voted for a ban on using race in the admission process. The colleges are finding new ways to continue to act in the old ways of admitting college students for the sake of diversity.

According to Mr. Connerly, "If black and Hispanic students are rare at selective universities, the solution is better academic preparation, not special treatment in admissions. Every individual should have the same opportunity to compete." The problem is not about the minority students who are excelling but about the minority students who are statistically failing in the public school system. Statistics show that blacks who were given preferential treatment failed at elite colleges at a much higher rate than other races and affirmative action gave those unprepared students admission to those colleges. When a college uses race in the admissions process and then the students later fail is a real disservice to those students. The color of a student's skin should not be the deciding factor. Society is creating new problems for minority students all the while trying to bring diversity to their colleges.

A popular belief about why minority applicants are less qualified to attend college is they have not been provided the same opportunities generally provided to white students. This is true. The system in this country does not give minority groups equal access to economic and educational resources. This does not mean that minorities should slide into college without the foundation to succeed. If they are unprepared they are more likely to fail. It would be more sensible to find the source of the problem. School funding should be changed. There should be a system where low income schools get the funding they need to rise above the issues they face every day. Better teachers need to be attracted to these areas to try and make a difference. Yes this is a large order and will take time. No one said solving discrimination would be an overnight process.

Armstrong Williams, a black syndicated columnist stated, "There is a very real danger that we are merely reinforcing the idea that minorities are first and foremost victims. Because of this victim status, the logic goes, they are owed special treatment. But that isn't progress, it's inertia. By putting minorities into the role of victims, we are not helping them to advance, we are holding them in place." Affirmative action places students in situations where their efforts are not measured but the color of their skin is. What does this teach them? How does this give students confidence and control of their actions? Is it more important to bring minority students in the classroom no matter how prepared they are for the sake of diversity?

If you believe in affirmative action you believe some people didn't get a fair shake in life and need help. What's wrong with helping the "little" guy, the one who hasn't gotten a break in life? Many students live in poor segregated communities and the only hope they have to leave is to better themselves at colleges or universities outside their neighborhoods. These students are able to get to the front of the admissions list just by their heritage. This doesn't mean they aren't hardworking students and are just as capable as their white counterpart. Affirmative action levels the playing field for them, but is this really fair?

According to Peter Schmidt, "Proponents of race-conscious admissions policies have yet to produce a study of their educational benefits without some limitation or flaw. Many focus only on benefits to minority students. Others define benefits in nakedly ideological terms, declaring the policies successful if they seem correlated with the adoption of liberal views. A large share relies on survey data that substitute subjective opinions for an objective measurement of learning." Advocates of affirmative action argue that it is unfair to demand more of the research. They feel no education policy has irrefutable proof of its effectiveness.

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There are other alternatives to achieve diversity without using affirmative action. In Florida, the public university system uses the method which admits the top twenty percent of each graduating class. Texas uses a similar program and admits the top ten percentage of each of their graduation classes.

Colleges and universities must look further at both students and teachers if they want diversity. Checking off a "race" box on an application does not necessarily bring more diversity to the classroom. Using college entrance essays will tell the admissions official more than looking at his or her race. A student who has had extensive travels because one of his or her parents is in the military will bring more diversity to a classroom than the black student who has grown up in the suburbs. Teachers also can bring a wide range of diversity with more than their race. Even white teachers can have fascinating backgrounds that can contribute to their teaching styles. Maybe the teacher was in the Peace Corp for a period of time or was raised in another country. How do we know what a teacher can bring to the college by looking at race? There are many good and bad teachers in the educational system. The most important factor would be to find more qualified teachers to give the students a good education and not put the emphasis on diversity.

Affirmative action has made the admission system look too closely at race. Instead they should be looking at all the other characteristics about a person and their achievements. The color of one's skin should not define a student. If two students are raised in the same neighborhood and one is black and one is white how much diversity will the black student bring to campus? Both students grew up in the same environment but the only difference is the black student can check the "race" box. Race is an external characteristic and should not be used to push one student above the other in the admissions process.

Affirmative action does not guarantee diversity. Nor does racial diversity automatically lead to diversity of opinion. Campus life is made up of students with different interests, talents and goals. Affirmative action does not bring diversity to colleges it brings discrimination. Students should be judged on grades, test scores, entrance essays and other achievements. Race should not become a factor because it is outside a student's control.

Works Consulted

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Lynne, Varner. "This Affirmative-Action baby." The Seattle Times. January 21, 2009. http://community.seattletimes.nwsource.com/archive/?date=20030121HYPERLINK "http://community.seattletimes.nwsource.com/archive/?date=20030121&slug=lynne21"&HYPERLINK "http://community.seattletimes.nwsource.com/archive/?date=20030121&slug=lynne21"slug=lynne21.

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Kristina Crawley and Tony Magart. "Bulletin Debates Affirmative Action Cons." February 7, 2003. http://media.www.gonzagabulletin.com/media/storage/paper375/news/2003/02/07/Opinion/Bulletin.Debates.Affirmative.Action.Cons.part.2.Of.4-363725.shtml.

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Peter, Schmidt. "America's Universities Are Living a Diversity Lie." The Wall Street Journal. June 28, 2008. http://online.wsj.com/article/SB121460672212612067.html.

Ilan, Wurman. "Social Science and The Failure of Affirmative Action." December 13, 2006. http://media.www.claremontindependent.com/media/storage/paper1031/news/2006/12/13/Opinion/Social.Science.And.The.Failure.Of.Affirmative.Action-2598560.shtml.