Looking at Affirmative Action

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Legal journalist Stuart Taylor and law professor Richard Sander examine what affirmative action has become, arguing that while the objective is laudable, the effects have not always been positive. In their book Mismatch they make the case that Affirmative Action hurts the students it’s intended to help and looks at why universities are reluctant to admit it and address problems.


Richard Sander and Stuart Taylor

Comments [12]

I don't think I heard anything hear to make me disagree with the basic premise that using AA to promote the unqualified helps no one. I also heard nothing to deal with the premise that American educational opportunity and hiring should be based on merit. It is not.

As one of my least favorite - but most honest - VP's from my corporate days put it, "People hire and promote people they like." Explains a lot...Nepotism, legacies, good ol' boy networks, fraternities, guilds, unions, et al.

The business unit we were in was sold and her comeuppance was that since her paycheck was larger than mine, it made sense to cut her first.

@John from Williamsburg -

You certainly DID have the opportunity to go to college...You just had to pay for it. I bought my state university degree for about 1,200 hours per year of minimum wage labor. Busted my hump summers and winters...Catch as catch can during the school year. If google is right, CUNY tuition was something like $300 for a year when Koch first did away with free college.

Since wages have fallen relative to tuition that path is no longer open.

BTW, your dad had it wrong. They didn't ruin it, the civil rights movement called and end to one more unearned privilege.

Nov. 14 2012 10:22 AM
John from Williamsburg

I call BS with these Plutocrats. I am a blue collar first generation white Irish American who never had the opportunity to go to college. Reason? Former mayor Ed I Koch took out the free college to ALL students in NYC when I was ready to go. Dad in the late 70's didn't have that small scratch.

Dad always said "The Niggers fucked it up for all of us son".

Stuart and Richard remind me of Robert McNamara , 1960's SoD Kennedy/LBJ - metrics as the sole endgame for the thesis. That worked out well in Vietname, oui?


Nov. 14 2012 02:08 AM
Wayne Johnson Ph.D. from Bk

In the real world there are about 80% less African Americans attending the California University and College system since the passage of Prop 209.

Nov. 13 2012 03:16 PM
fuva from harlemworld

...AFFECT their self-esteem...

Nov. 13 2012 02:11 PM
fuva from harlemworld

Black Americans have more problems due to deficiencies in "urban institutions"? So rural blacks fare better? And centuries of brutality and exclusion have nothing to do with it? Cognitive dissonance...

(NABNYC from SoCal, yes. The problem is that (self-determined) blacks are not leading these discussions, and so nonsense goes unquestioned and uncritically accepted.)

Nov. 13 2012 02:06 PM
fuva from harlemworld

So, instead of getting these kids more support in the elite colleges, we should instead perpetuate the long tail of segregated k-12 education by steering them to less elite schools? Schools invest more in athletic programs than academic support? Cool, as the elites become even more homogenous, just steer these non-legacy students to lesser schools. No, that won't effect their self-esteem...

Nov. 13 2012 02:01 PM
fuva from harlemworld

The authors seem to believe that black middle and upper-class kids have the same socioeconomic experience and access as white middle and upper-class kids. If so, it invalidates their built-on-sand thesis. Cluelessness in the Moynihan tradition, once again.

Nov. 13 2012 01:57 PM
NABNYC from SoCal

The purpose of affirmative action is to bring women and non-whites into professions from which they have historically been excluded. The reason we want to have representative members of society in the professions is (1) to remedy past exclusion and (2) because we believe all society benefits when all professions include people from the major population groups. We want to have male and female, black, white, asian and hispanic dentists, doctors, lawyers, university professors, scientists. When the top-paying and most prestigious positions are reserved for only white men, that is seen as an injustice to all society.

The question isn't whether all students who get in under AA will perform as well as others. The question is whether society has the resources to provide AA students with tutors, for example, if they need extra help. The goal isn't to get the best grade in the classroom; it is to allow all our people to join the different professions in our society.

The white men who run society have no end to the excuses they make to rationalize excluding the majority from equal participation. Women perform as well if not better than men in law school, yet after 5 years in practice they often are unable to find work because the white men who run the field continue to exclude women. Judges in my area are 80% white men; equity partners in law school are 80% white men. This is not because women are AA students, or did not perform as well -- it's just sexism.

I'm not sympathetic with the people who want to argue that because AA students from low-income backgrounds do not perform as well as kids from wealthier communities, that means the AA students should be excluded. If the goal is to grant equal access to good jobs to all people, our society just needs to work harder to accomplish that.

Nov. 13 2012 01:50 PM

Can your guests elaborate on the origins of affirmative action?

Nov. 13 2012 01:37 PM
Dan from Midtown

What of the argument that race-based affirmative action serves as a tool to reach groups with the most untapped potential of success in higher education?

Nov. 13 2012 01:31 PM
M A I from Long Island


I benefited greatly from AA and other minority programs. However, my concerned is that race plays a bigger role than class. Of all the people that I met while participating in undergraduate research or in graduate school only me and other two colleagues were from the working class. Most of my colleagues no matter their race were middle or upper class. Where are the poor, rural, white men? Where are the poor, rural, African American women?

Nov. 13 2012 01:20 PM
Laura from UWS

Can you say anything about a different form of quotas which pre-dates Affirmative Action; namely, 'geographic distribution'!

Students from the NYC Area could probably fill all the best universities but students from other regions are admitted instead, in order to represent the whole nation.

Nov. 13 2012 01:10 PM

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