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Jewish World ReviewJune 8, 1999 /24 Sivan 5759

Thomas Sowell

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The other side of affirmative action

(JWR) ---- (
THERE WERE 55 BLACK STUDENTS attending the University of California at Irvine in 1997, before racial preferences and quotas were outlawed. In 1998 that number rose to 71 and in 1999 to 81. This was a total increase of 47 percent in two years.

It has been pretty much the same story with American Indian and Mexican-American students. There are now 44 percent more of the former and 67 percent more of the latter at UC Irvine than there were when racial preferences and quotas reigned.

These statistics are radically different from the kinds of numbers we have been seeing and hearing about, where the end of "affirmative action" led to declining minority enrollments at Berkeley and UCLA. Why not at Irvine?

Minority students who did not meet the academic standards at Berkeley and UCLA were not "unqualified." Most were well qualified to be in college, but somewhere else. The University of California at Irvine was one of those other institutions where they could be admitted legitimately, without any double standards.

The average white high school graduate would not succeed at Berkeley or UCLA -- but only the top tier of white students are admitted. It is only minority students who are likely to be admitted to institutions where they are likely to fail.

Now that these double standards have been outlawed, the minority students who are no longer being admitted to the big-name universities are going to places like UC Irvine. That is precisely what critics of racial preferences and quotas have been saying would happen and should happen.

Instead of failing at Berkeley or UCLA, these students have a much better chance of succeeding at Irvine or Cal State Hayward. Instead of having to take sop courses in order to survive at institutions where the pace is too much for them, they can take solid courses elsewhere that will prepare them for a worthwhile occupation or give them a solid foundation for postgraduate work.

It should take just one graduating class admitted without academic double standards to expose the fraud of affirmative action. When minority students begin graduating at a higher rate than before and are able to hold their own academically with their white classmates, it should become clear to any fair-minded person that racial quotas were a bad mistake and that equal opportunity makes everybody better off.

But those who have been pushing affirmative action all these years do not want their dogmas put to the test and discredited. The Clinton administration is leaning on colleges and universities to keep putting racial body count ahead of academic standards. The U. S. Department of Education's Office of Civil Rights recently sent out a booklet which warns that "the use of any educational test which has a significant disparate impact on members of any particular race, national origin, or sex is discriminatory."

In other words, any group that does not score as high as other groups is being discriminated against. Does this make any sense? Different groups have had different test scores all around the world. With or without test scores, they have also had different academic performances.

It doesn't matter whether you are comparing Tamils and Sinhalese in Sri Lanka, Chinese and Malays in Malaysia, Sephardic and Ashkenazic Jews in Israel or innumerable other groups in other countries, different test scores and different academic performances among groups have been the rule, not the exception. Yet, when the same thing happens in the United States, it is defined as "discrimination."

All of this is politics. If you were serious about helping blacks and other minorities, you would try to get them some decent education long before they reached the college level. But that would require upsetting the status quo with things like vouchers. More to the point, it would upset the teachers' union that supplies millions of dollars in campaign contributions to the Democrats. Politicians find it more expedient to sacrifice the education of another generation of minority students and offer the symbolism of getting them into the kinds of colleges where their poor preparation almost ensures that most are going to fail.

Minority students need a realistic prospect of succeeding at places like the University of California at Irvine until such time as they get the kind of education that would enable them to succeed at Berkeley and UCLA. If that kind of education means stepping on the toes of the teachers' union, so be it.


06/03/99: Childish labor laws
06/01/99: Demonizing for dollars
05/27/99: The real public service
05/24/99: Income, taxes and demagoguery
05/18/99: Random thoughts
05/14/99: Aborted knowledge
05/10/99: The new "fairness"
05/04/99: Holding parents responsible
05/03/99: Exit strategies
04/28/99: Tragedy and farce
04/26/99: Guilt and cop-outs
04/21/99: Choosing a college
04/16/99: When success fails
04/13/99: A photo-op foreign policy
04/09/99: Russia and the Serbs
04/06/99: Random thoughts
03/31/99: Irresponsible "experts"
03/29/99: Another Doleful prospect?
03/23/99: Random thoughts
03/22/99: Loving enemies
03/19/99: Naming names
03/15/99: Undermining the military
03/10/99: Joe DiMaggio -- icon of an era
03/02/99: Facts versus dogma on guns
03/01/99: Losing the cultural wars
02/22/99: "Saving" social security
02/18/99: Too many Ph.Ds?
02/8/99: A national disaster
02/8/99: Economic fallacies in the media: Part II
02/5/99: Why economists visit dentists so often
02/2/99: Warning: Good news
01/29/99: What is at stake?
01/26/99:Moral bankruptcy in the schools
01/22/99: Who is going to convict Santa Claus?
01/19/99: Seeing through the spin
01/13/99: A trial is a trial is a trial
01/11/99:Trials and tribulations
01/08/99: Rays of hope
01/04/99: Random thoughts
12/31/98: The President versus the presidency
12/29/98: The time is now!
12/23/98: World-class hypocrisy
12/21/98: The spreading corruption
12/17/98: Politically "contrite"
12/16/98: Polls and partisanship
12/14/98: The "non-profit" halo
12/11/98: Corruption and confusion
12/03/98: The health care "crisis"
11/30/98: Knowing what you are talking about
11/23/98: The impeachment legacy
11/23/98: Random thoughts
11/19/98: Tales out of bureaucracies
11/16/98: Scholarships based on scholarship
11/12/98: Forward march
11/09/98: Moral outrage
11/05/98: Will the Republicans ever learn?
11/02/98: A voter's duty
10/30/98: The poverty pimp's poem
10/29/98: Random thoughts on the election
10/27/98: "Partisan" and "unfair"
10/23/98: Ed-u-kai-tchun
10/21/98: McGwire, Maris and the Babe
10/16/98: Lightweight Boxer
10/14/98: A strange word
10/09/98: Impeachment standards
10/08/98: Alternatives to seriousness
10/07/98: Heredity, environment and talk
10/02/98: A much-needed guide
10/01/98: Starr's real crime
9/24/98: Costs and power
9/18/98: Are we sheep?
9/16/98: Judicial review
9/15/98: Hillary Rodham Crook?
9/14/98: Taking stock
9/11/98: Moment of truth
9/04/98: Random thoughts
8/31/98: The twilight of special prosecutors?
8/26/98: "Doing a good job"
8/24/98: America on trial?
8/19/98: Played for fools
8/17/98: A childish letter
8/11/98: Hiding behind a woman
8/07/98: A flying walrus in Washington?
8/03/98: "Affordability" strikes again
7/31/98: Random thoughts
7/27/98: Faith and mountains
7/24/98: Clinton in Wonderland
7/20/98: Where is black 'leadership' leading?
7/16/98: Do 'minorities' really have it that bad?
7/14/98: Race dialogue: same old stuff
7/10/98: Honest history
7/09/98: Dumb is dangerous
7/02/98: Gun-safety starts with
parental responsibility
6/30/98: When more is less
6/29/98: Are educators above the law?
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

©1999, Creators Syndicate