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Jewish World Review May 28, 2003 / 26 Iyar, 5763

Walter Williams

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Consumer Reports

Affirmative action grading | Dr. Mike S. Adams, an associate professor of criminal justice at University of North Carolina's Wilmington campus, has given me an excellent idea for grading students, which appeared in his commentary in the web-based Agape Press newswire. For 35 years, I've taught economics and graded students on the racist, culturally biased standards of individual performance. In today's America, that's unfair and insensitive.

Starting next fall semester, in the interest of diversity and multiculturalism at George Mason University, I'm going to change the way my students are assigned grades. In my Ph.D. microeconomics class, students must complete three or four problem sets, plus an essay midterm and final examination. In the past, weights were assigned and total points computed. Ninety percent of the course work and above earned the student an A, 80 to 89.9 a B, and so forth.

Next fall, assignments, graded work, weights and computation of student grades will be the same as in the past. In the interest of promoting diversity and multiculturalism, there'll be one difference: I will compute averages by race. I'll compute a class average for white males, and another for white females. Group averages won't be computed for black male and female students, and other non-white students.

Having computed the class grade average for my white students, affirmative action -- or you might call it compensatory -- grading will be a breeze. Say the class average for my white male students is 80 and a particular white male earns a 92 score for the course. In the past, being insensitive to the goals of diversity and multiculturalism, I'd assign that student an A. But having seen the importance of diversity and multiculturalism, next fall I'll simply subtract twelve points from that white student's score and add it to a black student's score, leaving the white male student with the white male class average of 80.

You might ask: "What if the black student had a 95? Would you still employ compensatory grading?" The answer is yes, of course. With 12 points added to the black student's score, he'd have an A-plus.

Initially, compensatory grading might seem unfair. Some might make flimsy excuses such as that white student never held slaves, engaged in the mistreatment of blacks or even discriminated against blacks; his parents might have marched in the civil rights struggles of the '50s and '60s. They might also say, "Williams, the black student that you gave the 12 points to might have a father who's a dentist and has a family income much higher than the white student from whom you subtracted points."

At best, such arguments are simply cover for anti-diversity and anti-multiculturalistic attitudes. The overriding principle of the matter is that a white student need not have ever engaged in discrimination to have points deducted and a black student need not have ever been a victim of discrimination to receive the white student's points. This is widely accepted political thinking, plus it's settled law. After all, U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan, in an affirmative action case now before the U.S. Supreme Court, upheld the constitutionality of University of Michigan's race-based law school admissions policy, agreeing that a race-neutral policy was no way to achieve the state's compelling goal of diversity. Therefore, meritocracy must yield to broader social concerns.

Creating an advantage for one American by creating a disadvantage for another American, based upon race, has become an entrenched feature in our age of racial enlightenment. I'd be very interested in hearing any objections to my new grading procedure from politicians, university administrators and civil-rights experts. Of course, by fall, before my new agenda gets off the ground, the U.S. Supreme Court might rule it unconstitutional.

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© 2002, Creators Syndicate