“……nor shall any State…..deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.” – Amendment XIV, U. S. Constitution
“I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.” – Dr. Martin Luther King
After the Adarand and Hopwood court decisions of the mid-1990’s and the passage of Proposition 209 in California, many of us were encouraged that our nation was finally on a path toward the realization of the ideals embodied in the two passages above. Alas, the vested interests of race-based preferences in hiring, college admissions, and contracting have mounted aggressive counterattacks that have taken several forms, in and outside the judicial process. These efforts, to me, are particularly egregious in our elite institutions of higher education, which ostensibly have as their mission the pursuit of truth but which have practiced a considerable degree of intellectual dishonesty in fighting to preserve race-based admissions preferences. As a result, we get the various “X% rules” that guarantee admission to a certain top percentage of each high school graduating class, proposals to replace standardized tests such as the SAT with more “holistic” admissions criteria, and the promotion of “diversity” in admissions as a compelling
public interest. Of course, diversity is defined for this purpose in terms of color or ethnicity, not thought or ideas or political philosophy, and, at least in the top business schools, is said to be driven by the demands of the market and prospective corporate employers. Most of these companies have been shaken down by the affirmative action establishment, and they seem to lack the moral authority to insist on true excellence from minority students. Shelby Steele of the Hoover Institution believes this is the reason that the white leadership of American institutions keeps trying to engineer results rather than asking for development. It’s as though they feel they must seek racial moral authority by proving a negative – that they are not racist. The problem for Steele is that this moral authority comes at the expense of minority development.
The corruption this promotes is pervasive. We are led to believe that diversity initiatives have nothing to do with racial quotas and that they are crucial to learning, academic excellence, and the pursuit of truth. In fact, there is ample evidence that many in higher education leadership believe that achieving a certain racial mix on campus is more important than maintaining educational standards.
There are any number of strategies that we should emphasize in lieu of this deeply flawed approach. As I have written in a previous issue, enrollment parity for economically and socially disadvantaged students will come only when these students are much better prepared for higher education by our public school system. Some of our leading universities are beginning to pay more attention to this seamless “K-16” nature of education and develop initiatives to address the college preparation problem. This is a much better use of talent and resources than worshipping at the altar of engineered diversity, but it will require a different brand of moral authority to succeed.