Thoughts on Things On Which I Have Little Authority To Speak: Affirmative Action Edition

I bet you didn’t know you wanted to hear about Affirmative Action today! Well, you did, and I’ve got the perfect blog post.  A plethora of follow-ups, addenda, qualifications, nuances, exceptions, new thoughts, etc. are likely on their way.  

Affirmative action has well-intentioned and even effective underpinnings.  In practice, however, formalized affirmative action lends itself to rigid quotas and uses minority status as a proxy for all kinds of potentially unrelated characteristics.  It’s a huge disservice as it only furthers negative stereotyping, bitterness, and distance between majorities and minorities.

It makes sense to recognize that success and potential success don’t always translate into GPAs and SATs or degrees. That one must take into account the whole person — including background, race, gender, geography, income, family, etc. — when reviewing an application.  And, most importantly, it makes sense to promote and reward and empower people from historically underserved communities.

Because having a role model who looks like you, who talks like you, who comes from where you come from, who has banged up against the same glass ceiling as you did can make or break your own path to achievement.

But when all you are is a minority to a college admissions counselor or an employer, the totality of your experience is lost in the balck-and-white waves, and your success or failure becomes a metaphor for the success or failure of those you represent. U of Mich philosophy professor Carl Cohen:

Preferences…“do serious, long-lasting injury to the minorities concerned. Terrible damage,” said Cohen. “It raises questions about their competency for their whole lifetimes. It reinforces outrageous racial stereotypes.” If those admitted with lower academic qualifications turn out to do less well, “racists will say, ‘We told you so,’” he predicted.

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Snoop Dogg Knows Whattup, Ctd. — and a cute puppy

Again, if you just spent your day scrolling through Facebook or watching Funny or Die videos, you should slowly transition to serious mode.  But there’s a picture of a cute puppy at the end of the post as a reward.

As I was saying, intellectual modesty and governing.

The problem is that humility and doubt are great principles for your own life, but they don’t give you much direction when it actually comes to making things work for a large group of people with different interests, abilities, and circumstances.

Be open to new insights all you want, but at some point, you have to pause the hunt for new information, you have to shut down the uncertainty, and you have to make some damn policy.  David Brooks on conservative thinker Michael Oakeshott:

Well, if you want to sit in a cottage and bet on horses, fine. But if you actually want to govern, such thinking is of limited use. It doesn’t make sense to ask how an Oakeshottian would govern because an Oakeshottian could never get elected in a democracy and could never use the levers of power if somehow he did. Doubt is not a political platform. Hope is.

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Snoop Dogg knows whattup

Let’s have a word. Maybe more than a word.

This could get heavy.  If you’ve just spent four hours scrolling through your facebook feed or chortling at lolcatz, you might need to transition slowly.

[insert slow transition here]

Okay then.

Intellectual modesty — the principle that none of us knows all, should ceaselessly hunt for a diversity of thought, and accept that our well-constructed opinions may change — is a precious, rare voice that is easily drowned out by talking heads and committed ideologues. What’s even rarer is to see that voice walking the walk.

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