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Jewish World Review / June 29, 1998 / 5 Tamuz, 5758

Thomas Sowell

Thomas Sowell Are educators
above the law?

PRESIDENTS ARE NOT THE ONLY PEOPLE who act as if they are above the law. After California voters passed Proposition 209 outlawing racial preferences and Proposition 227 outlawing so-called "bilingual education," officials of the public schools and of the state universities have both talked openly about how they can defy or circumvent these new laws.

Public school officials are pretending that they just don't know how to "implement" the new law or whether they can, on such short notice. Months in advance is usually considered sufficient notice in most fields but the education establishment moves at a glacial pace, when it moves at all.

At the university level, the brass is even brassier. Berkeley law professor Paul J. Mishkin says: "The very big question is whether there are alternate methods to deal with the access problem other than explicit racial preferences."

In other words: How can we have quotas without calling them quotas? The fact that the voters have said in no uncertain terms that they don't want quotas means nothing to the anointed.

This is the same Paul J. Mishkin who defended racial quotas 20 years ago in the landmark Bakke case. Then he said that the outcome of this case would determine whether minorities would have "meaningful access" and "real opportunities" to enter the learned professions.

It is worth pausing to consider the slipperiness of these words and the sleaziness of their evasions, if only because they demonstrate contempt for other people's rights and for their intelligence.

What "meaningful access" boils down to is that it is not enough to allow everyone to apply and be judged by the same standards and play by the same rules. That would be just plain old garden-variety "access." What makes access "meaningful" is when the likes of Paul Mishkin can decide whom to favor when they pick and choose in the back room, while people outside in the light of day are left out of the decision or even an honest reporting of the decision.

When quotas and preferences reigned, Berkeley administrators were able to gush to the media about the wonderful "diversity" they had -- even though rising numbers of black students on campus coincided with falling numbers of blacks actually getting degrees.

Moreover, even this does not tell the whole story. We will probably never know how many of those overmatched students who did manage to survive were able to do so only by taking drivel courses in ethnic studies and the like, instead of getting a solid education in serious subjects somewhere else.

We are constantly being deluged with statistics about declining minority enrolment at Berkeley and UCLA, without being told that there is rising minority enrolment in some other state-supported universities in California.

Black students are not disappearing. They are redistributing themselves to institutions whose normal standards they meet, without any quotas or preferences. They are far more likely to graduate from these institutions. Being a dropout from Berkeley is no preparation for anything.

Many people are unaware that there are two whole systems of state-supported four-year institutions in California -- and that they are getting misleading statistics from only the top tier of one of those systems.

The first system is called "the University of California system," and the second "the California State University system." Los Angeles, for example, has not only UCLA but also the California State University at Los Angeles, which is a separate institution, miles away, with 18,000 students.

Over all, there are about twice as many students in the California State University system as in the University of California system, even though the latter gets more publicity.

The California State University system is not chopped liver. Students at the California Polytechnic State University at San Luis Obispo score above the national average on both verbal and math tests, and 20 percent of them graduate with engineering degrees. A student is far better off to graduate from Cal Poly than to flunk out of Berkeley.

But, of course, that would not allow Berkeley administrators to gush about "diversity" or Professor Mishkin to feel good about himself.

6/26/98: Random Thoughts
6/24/98: An angry letter
6/22/98: Sixties sentimentalism
6/19/98:Dumbing down anti-trust
6/15/98: A changing of the guard?
6/11/98: Presidential privileges
6/8/98: Fast computers and slow antitrust
6/3/98: Can stalling backfire?
5/29/98: The insulation of the Left
5/25/98: Missing the point in the media
5/22/98: The lessons of Indonesia
5/20/98: Smart but silent
5/18/98: Israel, Clinton and character
5/14/98: Monica Lewinsky's choices
5/11/98: Random thoughts
5/7/98: Media obstruction of justice
5/4/98: Dangerous "safety"
5/1/98: Abolish Adolescence!
4/30/98: The naked truth
4/22/98: Playing fair and square
4/19/98: Bad teachers"
4/15/98: "Clinton in Africa "
4/13/98: "Bundling and unbundling "
4/9/98: "Rising or falling Starr "
4/6/98: "Was Clinton ‘vindicated'? "
3/26/98: "Diasters -- natural and political"
3/24/98: "A pattern of behavior"
3/22/98: Innocent explanations
3/19/98: Kathleen Willey and Anita Hill
3/17/98: Search and destroy
3/12/98: Media Circus versus Justice
3/6/98: Vindication
3/3/98: Cheap Shot Time
2/26/98: The Wrong Filter
2/24/98: Trial by Media
2/20/98: Dancing Around the Realities
2/19/98: A "Do Something" War?
2/12/98: Julian Simon, combatant in a 200-year war
2/6/98: A rush to rhetoric

©1998, Creators Syndicate, Inc.