A Case For Affirmative Action

 A Case For Affirmative ActionTomorrow the US Supreme Court will hear the case of Abigail Noel Fisher, a white student who was denied entry to the Univ. of Texas in 2008.  She contends that the university’s admissions policy to create a class that more closely represents the population of Texas “violates the Constitution’s equal protection clause and Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964”.  While I don’t know much about the law, I do find myself groaning inside and thinking, “oh no, here we go again”.

I believe in the policy of affirmative action in education for many reasons, but mainly because I’ve been trained to take the long view.  I was raised up in the profession of college admissions by the people who were raised up by B. Alden Thresher, known as BAT, the father of private college admissions in the US.  Bat Thresher made the case early on in his seminal work, “College Admissions and the Public Interest”, that college admissions must serve the public interest, must support the future of democracy, and must not revert to the kind of aristocracy it began with, when a college education was reserved for the privileged few.

Education raises people up, it inspires and ennobles.

BAT knew that it offered the quickest way to bring equity to all populations in this big and wildly diverse nation. He knew that a peaceful society is anchored in tolerance and acceptance of difference.  For whatever reason, Nature created us humans to be different from one another, all unique aspects of the same primal voice.  This is one of the secret ingredients that makes our Republic work – the promise of upward mobility, the promise of a good life and the pursuit of happiness.

We Americans of this era rarely seem to take the long view anymore, choosing instead instant gratification and me me me.  We go into victim when we don’t get what we want.  This is so demeaning to who we are as citizens.

Take Ms. Fisher, for example.  As I understand it, she fell below the top 10% of her class, which was outside of the admit zone, and she was turned down.  She is convinced it was because she was white and looks outside of herself to blame the system.  In fact, Ms. Fisher seems ashamed that she went to Louisiana St. instead of UT.  Here’s why she sued.  She feels like she got ripped off because “Just being in a network of U.T. graduates would have been a really nice thing to be in. And I probably would have gotten a better job offer had I gone to U.T.”

This girl needs to grow up and deal with rejection because the world is filled with it in every conceivable variation.  We do her no favors by believing the fears and self-loathing popping out through her shadow side.

Do we want to leave our great-grandchildren something good or not?

Because if we don’t do something to balance opportunity for everyone in the US, the split between the few haves and the many have nots will grow, over time our social fabric will erode and we will begin to crumble.  We already see the beginnings of this phenomenon in the Occupy Wall Street movement and the now iconic term, “the 99%”.  Affirmative action should last 3-4 generations, enough time to anchor in a solid middle class, enough time for the collective memory of the pain of discrimination to dampen a bit, enough time for everyone to feel equal in their minds.  It’s only then, when most Americans find themselves in the middle class with a more equitable distribution of wealth and assets, when they worry more about mortgages and their kids’ education than they do about who is getting the lion’s share of the good life, that America will be at peace.

This is a generation away, folks.  Take the long view.  Think of your great-grandchildren.

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