Saturday, April 16, 2005

Orwell in Academia

Jonah Goldberg on "The Darker Side of Quotas":

This confirms data from California and Texas that when racial preferences are lifted, whites don't gain much, but Asian admissions jump through the roof. At the University of Texas-Austin, when preferences were removed, Asian freshmen jumped to 18 percent in a state where Asians comprise only 3 percent of the population.

In other words, what is denied with Orwellian savoir-faire by defenders of the Diversity-Academia complex is just plain obvious to people who are not professionally or ideologically invested in denying the existence of the elephant in the corner: The diversity "racket" discriminates against some minorities for the benefit of other minorities.

At this point, most anti-quota tirades tend to follow fairly predictable lines about the merits of meritocracy, the "soft bigotry" of low expectations, etc. These are all important and worthy arguments. But I think the Asian-American example highlights a point that often gets lost: Diversity regimes would be unfair even if minority applicants were completely qualified.

Today, the debate over diversity is driven largely by the unavoidable fact that, on average, African-Americans and Hispanics are less academically qualified than whites and various other demographic groups. This was highlighted a few years ago during arguments over the University of Michigan Law School's quota system. Justice Antonin Scalia noted during oral arguments before the Supreme Court that the easiest way to increase diversity would be to lower the law school's standards. If diversity is "important enough to override the Constitution's prohibition of racial distribution, it seems to me it's important enough to override Michigan's desire to have a super-duper law school."

This is where the Orwellian savoir-faire tends to kick in. The school's lawyers, along with columnists such as The Washington Post's David Broder and countless others, insisted that increasing diversity never comes at the expense of quality.

Well, if the trade-off didn't exist, we wouldn't be having this debate. If there were a surplus of high SAT-scoring, straight-A blacks and Hispanics, no one would sue because they lost their slot to a less-qualified minority. The entire affirmative action controversy is predicated on the unavoidable fact that there is a greater demand for well-qualified blacks than there is a supply. Period.

"All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others."
-George Orwell

No comments: