Monday, November 14, 2016

Real Talk About Affirmative Action

At various points in the campaign, commentators have referred to Affirmative Action as one of the issues driving white working class and middle class support for the Trump campaign
There are a lot of misconceptions about Affirmative Action in college admissions which I need to clarify. It always surprises people in my classes when I present them with this information.

When it comes to admissions preferences by universities, especially by elite universities, advantages given to under-represented minorities come in a distant THIRD. Here in order of importance are the way admissions advantages are distributed

1. Admissions advantages given to children from very wealthy families who can pay full tuition and/or make contributions to the school. These advantages used to benefit only wealthy Americans, now they benefit global elites as colleges scour the globe to recruit full tuition payers. For documentation of this read Peter Schmidt's book "Color and Money:How Rich White Kids are Winning the War Over College Affirmative Action." The situation is actually worse now when colleges have gone "global" to seek wealthy students

2. Recruited athletes. Every Ivy League school gives 20% of its admissions sports to recruited athletes, the vast majority of whom are white. They are in sports like volleyball, soccer, lacrosse, sailing, tennis, golf, hockey softball and swimming as well as football and basketball. My children both went to Yale on sports affirmative action- my daughter because she was ranked 37 in the nation in junior tennis; my son because he was a left handed pitcher who threw 85 miles an hour. Both were smart kids, but it was sports that got them into one of the nation's most competitive schools For documentation of this read Bowen and Shapiro "The Game of Life"

3. Underrepresented minorities, a category which keeps shifting over time. Ironically, the vast majority of those recruited for elite schools under this rubric are from middle class families.
Now, if you are wondering why Affirmative Action remains such a source of resentment among many whites, consider this: most working class and middle class white kids fall into NONE of these categories.

But overwhelmingly, their resentment is directed at the SMALLEST group among those getting admissions advantages- those falling into category three.

And so we repeat one of the most depressing themes in US History: economically disfranchised whites are much more prone to blame those below them than those above them for their plight