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The Real Affirmative Action Program
Sep 29th, 2007 by Sam

Would you be shocked to learn that about 15% of students at elite schools failed to meet their institution’s minimum standards?  No?  Okay, quick – what image comes to mind?  Any chance it was a black or latino student?  Well, guess again, because there is an affirmative action program out there, and it ain’t for blacks and latinos…

Documented evidence of the real affirmative action program has come to light, and the beneficiaries are [gasp] white kids who are in some way connected to people the school wants to keep happy – alumni, donors, faculty, administrators and politicians.

Well, knock me over with a feather – I am shocked, shocked!

Yes, indeedy – schools like Harvard, Wellesley, Notre Dame, Duke, and the University of Virginia are much more likely to admit those with cash and connections than everyone else.  And in doing so, they are turning away students who aremuch more qualified.  Let me be clear – it isn’t that the rich students are as qualified and just have the money and connections.  They are less qualified.

The schools say they have to do this because it is how they keep their donors happy and keep the money coming in.  However, a look at schools with endowments greater than $500 million revealed that they are helping disproportionately fewer students who qualify for Pell Grant money.

So, advantages offered to those who already have them.  Disadvantages (i.e. not even being accepted) to those who do not.

Further:

“…young people from the wealthiest fourth of society are about 25 times as likely as those from the bottom fourth to enroll in a selective college, [and] over the past two decades, the middle class has been steadily getting squeezed out of such institutions by those with more money.”

So much for meritocracy in America, because these students, who truly were born on third base, who do actually think they hit a triple and have actually fouled out, have entered the pipeline to the elite jobs in this country that can lead to their running the largest corporations, running the country, and making and judging the laws of this country.

This is what I call affirmative action!  It’s just that it’s informal – not mandated, not regulated

Isn’t it strange that conservatives continue to be in a lather over affirmative action that benefits blacks and latinos, while more than twice as many white kids with mediocre grades are getting into these elite institutions?  Conservative students at Tufts University recently caused a brouhaha due to a satirical piece in a university-funded newspaper making fun of black students, assuming they (i.e. the black students) had benefited from affirmative action.

Why all the concern over blacks and latinos, rather than over the rich, connected white kids?  Well, it’s understandable why the rich connected white kids cause a fuss.  They don’t want attention drawn to their special status.  But, it’s a little harder to understand the poor white conservatives.  Maybe it’s because they know they can never be black or latino, but they can fantasize about and aspire to be rich and connected.  Seems a little counter productive though – yes, occasionally a white person or family can jump classes, but the greater the divide between the haves and have-nots in America, the harder it will be to bridge that gap.

How ironic is it that those very conservative white students responsible for the newspaper piece could very well have benefited from the affirmative action afforded to wealthy connected students.  I mean, are the white students told they are part of the privileged 15% who didn’t meet the academic standards?  Is there an asterisk next to their name on all the records, indicating their ‘special status?’  I doubt they even know it – here they go blithely through their college experience, never aware that they weren’t supposed to be there.  Perhaps black, latino and poor white students at Tufts should write their own satirical essay about the wealthy whites who don’t deserve their place at Tufts…

And, left unchecked, this is how we end up with an aristocracy….  I mean, it isn’t like there always was an aristocracy in Europe – it took a while, but money, resources and power ended up in the hands of a few and ultimately they pronounced themselves kings and queens.

In the meantime, as Peter Schmidt, deputy editor of The Chronicle of Higher Education and author of “Color and Money: How Rich White Kids Are Winning the War Over College Affirmative Action” says in the article,

“When social mobility goes away, at least two dangerous things can happen. The privileged class that produces most of our nation’s leaders can become complacent enough to foster mediocrity, and less-fortunate segments of our society can become resigned to the notion that hard work will not get them anywhere.”

Well, resigned doesn’t sound too dangerous to me.  Hope they remain resigned.  Because, the alternative is what is dangerous.  Marie Antoinette can say a thing or two about what a ‘let them eat cake’ attitude can lead to.

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