Friday, July 4, 2014

The Affirmative Action Debate Continues

There has been a lot of discussion on affirmative action over the past few years.  Professors Richard Sanders and Stuart Taylor, Jr. have argued that affirmative action actully harms minorities who receive it in their book, Mismatch: How Affirmative Action Hurts Students It’s Intended to Help, and Why Universities Won’t Admit It (2012).  From the Abstract:

"Sander and Taylor have long admired affirmative action’s original goals, but after many years of studying racial preferences, they have reached a controversial but undeniable conclusion: that preferences hurt underrepresented minorities far more than they help them. At the heart of affirmative action’s failure is a simple phenomenon called mismatch. Using dramatic new data and numerous interviews with affected former students and university officials of color, the authors show how racial preferences often put students in competition with far better-prepared classmates, dooming many to fall so far behind that they can never catch up. Mismatch largely explains why, even though black applicants are more likely to enter college than whites with similar backgrounds, they are far less likely to finish; why there are so few black and Hispanic professionals with science and engineering degrees and doctorates; why black law graduates fail bar exams at four times the rate of whites; and why universities accept relatively affluent minorities over working class and poor people of all races."

Now, Professor Harry G. Hutchinson has written a review of  the book, Affirmative Action: Between the Oikos and the Cosmos.

 Abstract:     

This essay reviews Sander & Taylor’s book, MISMATCH: HOW AFFIRMATIVE ACTION HURTS STUDENTS IT’S INTENDED TO HELP, AND WHY UNIVERSITIES WON’T ADMIT IT (MISMATCH) by situating its claims within a context. Context is supplied by examining three things: first, by reflecting on the contradictions embedded in the modern world; second, by exploring the paradoxes of Supreme Court jurisprudence; and finally, by observing the gulf between the cosmopolitan ideal predicated on appeals to Americans as citizens of the world who are provoked by reason and love of humanity and bounded only by universal moral obligations on the one hand, and a vision that sees citizens of the United States as individuals who are bounded by the primacy of their commitment to the nostos comprised by the local community of birth and the particularities of family and nation, on the other.

Several reasons spark this review of MISMATCH. First, the authors contend that they have “demonstrated that the present system of racial admissions preferences has grave problems and has shown a remarkable incapacity to heal itself,” a thesis that is made all the more puzzling given their corresponding claim that the United States “Supreme Court seems to be the only hope for serious and stable reform” of our current affirmative action system. Second, William Kidder and others have raised a number of serious issues that indicate Sander & Taylor have too often relied on either questionable data or incomplete data analysis. Third, the Court’s recent decision upholding the state of Michigan’s ban on racial preferences. Fourth and finally, the possibility that diversity as practiced within leading American universities has been transmuted into racial commodification. These factors, taken together, suggest that it is a propitious time to review the authors’ scholarship.
 
 
P.S. The Texas A & M Law Review recently published my article, How to Help Students from Disadvantaged Backgrounds Succeed in Law School.  Rather than rehashing the affirmative action debate, it might be better to make sure that all students succeed in law school.

http://lawprofessors.typepad.com/legal_skills/2014/07/the-affirmative-action-debate-continues.html

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