Jewish World Review April 3, 2003 / 30 Adar II 5763

Thomas Sowell

Thomas Sowell
JWR's Pundits
World Editorial
Cartoon Showcase

Mallard Fillmore

Michael Barone
Mona Charen
Linda Chavez
Ann Coulter
Greg Crosby
Larry Elder
Don Feder
Suzanne Fields
Paul Greenberg
Bob Greene
Betsy Hart
Nat Hentoff
David Horowitz
Marianne Jennings
Michael Kelly
Mort Kondracke
Ch. Krauthammer
Lawrence Kudlow
Dr. Laura
John Leo
David Limbaugh
Michelle Malkin
Chris Matthews
Michael Medved
Kathleen Parker
Wes Pruden
Sam Schulman
Amity Shlaes
Tony Snow
Thomas Sowell
Cal Thomas
Jonathan S. Tobin
Ben Wattenberg
George Will
Bruce Williams
Walter Williams
Mort Zuckerman

Consumer Reports

The grand fraud: Part III | If you would like to be taller than you are, do you think that joining a basketball team would help? After all, statistics prove that members of basketball teams are taller than other people.

If this seems like a strange way to reason, it is the same kind of reasoning used by those who argue that minority students need affirmative action to get into top-rated colleges and universities, because graduates of those institutions have more upscale careers.

I am sure that my graduating class at Harvard has had a high income. After all, it contained a Rockefeller and the Aga Khan, so even if the rest of us became unemployed bums, the class would still have a high average income. Of course, that wouldn't do the rest of us any good.

As hand-wringing begins in many quarters over the prospect that affirmative action might end, and fewer black students get admitted to Ivy League schools and flagship state universities, it is well to keep in mind that statistics about how well the graduates of such institutions do in later life may have little or no relevance to those black students who are admitted under lower standards.

Most black students who enter college do not graduate -- and that is especially so for those admitted with qualifications well below those of the other students at the same institution. So how well the graduates of this or this college or university do in later life has no relevance to those who do not survive to make it up to the graduation platform.

These casualties of the double-standards admissions process do not even get the dignity of being recognized as the "collateral damage" of affirmative action. They would have been far better off succeeding on some campus where the admissions standards matched their academic background and capabilities.

For example, a study some years ago showed that the average black student at MIT scored in the top 10 percent in mathematics among students nationwide -- but in the bottom 10 percent at MIT. One-fourth of these black students failed to graduate.

There is neither glory nor money to be had from flunking out of MIT. But you can have a fulfilling professional career after graduating from Texas Tech or Cal State Pomona.

The end of affirmative action in the state-supported universities of California and Texas was decried and denounced by those who said that it would mean the end of black students' "access" to college, the "resegregation of higher education" and other irresponsible rhetorical flourishes.

In reality, the end of affirmative action in California and Texas state institutions meant that fewer black students would go to Berkeley or Austin, and more would go to other state colleges and universities in the same systems. There are now more black students in these systems than there were under affirmative action.

A liberal think tank in New York has joined the hand-wringing over the current University of Michigan affirmative action case, currently under consideration by the U. S. Supreme Court, by publishing statistics supposedly showing how the percentage of minority students will decline in selective colleges. But being admitted to a selective college does not make anyone become a better student, any more than joining a basketball team makes anyone taller.

In reality, affirmative action increases the chance that a minority student will fail where the standards are higher, instead of succeeding where the standards are at a level that matches the student's academic capabilities.

Incidentally, when a minority student is admitted to a highly rated college without meeting the standards, do you think that the white student who is displaced to make room is likely to be a Rockefeller or the Aga Khan? Or is the white student who is turned down more likely to be the son or daughter of some working-class family who is kept out so that the son or daughter of a black doctor can get in and make the statistics look good?

Both those who are kept out, despite meeting the qualifications standards, and those who are let in without meeting those standards, are likely to lose from affirmative action.

Enjoy this writer's work? Why not sign-up for the daily JWR update. It's free. Just click here.

JWR contributor Thomas Sowell, a fellow at the Hoover Institution, is author of several books, including his latest, "Controversial Essays." (Sales help fund JWR.)


Thomas Sowell Archives

© 2002, Creators Syndicate