Thomas Sowell is an interesting man to say the least. According to wikipedia, Sowell hates self promotion but only listens “ Rush Limbaugh and a couple of others”, and is an African American graduate of Harvard and Columbia Universities. The man is well educated and light years ahead of my knowledge in the concepts of economics, higher education, and Affirmative Action. I can not say enough great things about Sowell’s education, but I am often confused at his viewpoint.
Sowell is a staunch opponent of race based policy. Affirmative action, quota systems, and diversity initiatives are high on his “target” lists that, in Sowell’s ideal world, would not exist. To him, achievements should be based off merit and not a person’s race. Sowell views any policy not in line with a pure merit philosophy should be eliminated. This is at the crux of my confusion.
I’ve constantly noticed that many education intellectuals focus on affirmative action as the main target for eliminating qualified applicants. Affirmative action, in many people’s eyes, downgrades the application process and accepts students that are destined to fail when their educational resume proves they cannot handle the criteria of top schools such as those within the Ivy League.
While there is some truth to that (and I don’t just mean per race, but just scores in general), I do find his criticism lacking. If the problem is this, then what is the solution? In addition what do you do for a group of people who still struggle based on location and class birth. In many cases lower class individuals will not be well prepared for college as higher class students. How do you handle these issues? In addition, why are we exclusively focusing on affirmative action? There are many other higher education rules that create a disservice in the application process. For example it is well known that foreign students score higher than American students in standardized test scores. Why are we not yelling about those injustices? Or how about the rule that benefits poor class citizens to be accepted to schools as well as achieve grants for college? They are certainly not as qualified when looking at the grand scheme of things. And what about the rule that allows applicants in certain states to be selected over students from other states? Surely that diminishes the application process as well? And what of programs in the business world for small businesses? Should these be done away with? Should the government eliminate its percentage goals to be spent with small businesses because it’s not fair to large entities?
But none of the above issues are ever covered, only policies based on race. Why is that? And why is it only attacked without any concrete solution to replace it?
The truth is, affirmative action is one of many rules put in place to try and create opportunities for those under-represented. You can call it race-quotas (although women benefit from it more than blacks and Hispanics), but the truth is, there are many programs that do the same for different groups of people. Why affirmative action or diversity is targeted I have never truly understood, and I never will.
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