Affirmative Action And Measuring Merit

-Submitted by David Drumm (Nal), Guest Blogger

The Supreme Court will soon hear arguments on the affirmative action case of Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin. Opponents of affirmative action claim that the process is inherently unfair: a non-white student gains admittance over a more qualified white student. That certainly seems unfair.

A key question in verifying the unfairness of affirmative action is an objective measure of each student’s qualifications.

A recent study helps to shed some light on the objectivity of determining qualifications. While the study involved the question of gender disparity in academic science, its results apply to other areas of qualification determination.

The randomized double-blind study took two identical resumes except that one was labeled as from a candidate named John and the other from a candidate named Jennifer. Faculty members studied the resumes and reported on the applicant’s qualifications. The results of the study are shown in the graph at the right. An amazing finding was:

It is noteworthy that female faculty members were just as likely as their male colleagues to favor the male student.

The study shows that cultural stereotyping can effect the perceived qualifications. A female, looking to make a career in a scientific field, has had to deal with stereotyping throughout her school years.

It is not unreasonable to conclude that cultural biases exist throughout the classrooms of America and that these biases can lead to lower performance scores. An objective measure of a student’s qualifications for university admittance should include any relevant biases that might impact high school grades and SAT scores.

H/T:  Caroline Mala Corbin.

36 thoughts on “Affirmative Action And Measuring Merit”

  1. rcampbell,

    I agree that more students need to see education as including 4 years of college. It shouldn’t be a question raised at the last minute. Their high school choices should be with college in mind.

    I was the first in my family to go to college (since my great great grandfather studied theology, but I never met him). That includes all my aunts and uncles and cousins. I was the eldest grandchild and I knew since forever that I was going to college. It was never a question. The money would be found somewhere. I’m not sure how much difference it made to my brothers and sisters, and cousins, that I went to college but at least half of them attended college. At least half of those graduated, some with advanced degrees. There is now a new tradition in the extended family – everyone considers college as a normal extension of their education.

    Of great help is the availability of financial aid which most of us used/are using. It wasn’t available to the previous generation.

  2. It is Texas after all….. If rules can be bent or broken they will be….. But in the article cited….. They just admit more students….. NOT BASED on race or sex…… Strange that the plaintiff scheduled to be heard on Oct 10th is a WHITE female…denied admission……. I wonder what her beef is….. More black males, females, Hispanics, Asians are being admitted before her…… Shame on her…..

  3. Elaine M, what’s plaguing our educational system is thugs like Big Bird. I say let’s show them what happens to big birds, come this Thanksgiving.

    Story: When my kid was 2, I made him a big bird costume for Halloween. He loved costumes. He had a beak, ping pong ball eyes, real yellow feathers from the craft shop all over him, stripey socks and orange felt covers on his little sneakers. We went to a costume party and when it was time to give out prizes, they announced “Second Prize goes to the Chicken.” He wouldn’t step up for his prize and when I tried to urge him to do so he began to cry. “I’m not a chicken, I’m BIG BIRD!” he protested. I had to make them change their designation to say: “The chicken is disqualified; second prize to Big Bird.”

    I sure hope the “Save Big Bird” contingent has enough votes to neutralize Romney’s threat!

    1. Malisha………………….. to cute……………. I say we vote for Big Bird in Nov lol lol lol

      have a great day

  4. Elena Kagan has recused herself from the case. I favor affirmative action. The non minority students at the ivy league and smaller liberal arts schools certainly benefit from it. Their experiences are only enriched. My daughter’s high school experience was enhanced at a private high school because the school valued diversity and practiced affirmative action. The University of Texas at Austin is now a majority minority school as is the state. The change in the student body since I first visited the school twelve years ago is quite noticeable, and I think it is for the better.

  5. The point of Affirmative Action was to try to narrow the gap between those who had ready access to college and the opportunities it affords (connections for future job, business and social opportunites) and those for whom the idea of attending college and advancing in our society was nearly unimaginable. The hope was to build an awareness of the need for advanced studies in minority communities and to open avenues to that end. It was (is) iimportant particularly for the poor and disenfranchised to have a culture in their home that understands that going to school is a 16 year proposition which includes college.

    What I believe should have been done at the time Affirmative Action programs began in the 1960’s was to put a time limit on the concept. We could have said these will be unassailable for 40 or 50 years and then they would go away. This would allow for two or three generations of access to higher education and begin to develop the cultural changes to continue into the future. This way, AA would not be forever and folks would able to begin to compete on a more level playing fielf. Some of these programs have been in affect that long or longer, but some (too many) went by the wayside falling victim to the same forces that created the educational aparthied in the first place. If at first we said all programs must stay in effect for 50 years and then disappear, I think the positive affects would have been greater and the resistance less.

    I’d like to see the same experiment applied by temporarily outlawing all guns for 50 years and then lifting the ban. If we can get guns out of our society for a while we can start dealing with some of the senseless deaths and psychological damage they’ve done. Perhaps we’ll have a more responsible view of them and their use a couple of generations down the road. .

  6. rafflaw,

    Didn’t you know that money-grubbing teachers and their unions are the cause of all the problems plaguing our educational system?


  7. rcampbell,

    I certainly don’t begrudge poor kids who are talented athletes getting a college education. My point was that it isn’t just kids of color who get the benefits of “affirmative action” or preferential treatment. Rich kids, kids whose families have connections, talented athletes, actors and actresses often get preferential treatment when it comes to college admissions.

    BTW, I have a nephew who was star football player in high school who got a “full boat” to a large state university. He’s a fine young man who was a good–but not a great–student. I was happy for him–and his parents.

  8. Raff
    So what your saying is that tax money from one neighborhood should go to other neighborhoods ?

  9. Elaine

    I’m less concerned about athletic and other talent-based scholarships because they often cross racial, ethnic and socio-economic backgrounds. They’re not automatic like legacies. And, as raff pointed out, they may provide an opportunity for an education that might not otherwise be available to the student.

  10. Bruce,
    Teachers unions are not the cause of an alleged lack of improvement in urban centers. It is greed that allows for money to improve those programs and schools and neighborhoods to go elsewhere.

  11. This might go back to busing, instead of improving the innercity schools and better preparing students for the future. oh the power of the teachers unions.

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