Although many liberals have expressed initial relief that the Supreme Court decision in Fisher v. University of Texas did not kill affirmative action outright, when the dust settles it will become clear that the ruling made it substantially harder to justify race-based affirmative action programs. The Supreme Court adopted a new, higher standard, requiring that judges "must ultimately be satisfied that no workable race-neutral alternatives would produce the educational benefits of diversity." Unlike the earlier ruling in Grutter v. Bollinger, the Court won't simply take the word of universities that race is a necessary consideration; universities will receive "no deference" on that issue, the Fisher court ruled. Procedurally, the justices simply sent the case back to the lower court, but make no mistake, the ability to use race as a qualification for admission has been scaled back by this decision.
For the Supreme Court, the key question in Fisher v. University of Texas was this: “Is diversity in college admissions a compelling interest for the government, and are race-conscious policies a legitimate way of pursuing that interest?”
Put another way, is racism over and do we still have to deal with it?
To my—and many other’s—surprise, the Court decided to sidestep this question. Rather than support UT’s claim that its race-conscious policies fall within the Court’s standards for affirmative action, or Fisher’s claim that race-consciousness has no place in the business of college admissions, the Supreme Court—in a 7–1 decision written by Justice Anthony Kennedy—sent the case back to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals on a technicality.
The last week or so has seen several polls on the popularity of affirmative action, as a preface (of sorts) to the Supreme Court’s anticipated ruling in Fisher v. University of Texas. But major differences between the polls make it difficult to judge where Americans stand on racial preferences
When news broke Tuesday that the Louisiana Supreme Court struck down Louisiana’s voucher system, which uses public dollars to pay for low-income students to go to private schools, the fight over vouchers made its way back into the headlines. The Louisiana program, pushed hard and publicly by Republican Governor Bobby Jindal, offers any low-income child in the state, regardless of what public school they would attend, tuition assistance at private schools. It’s something liberals fear will become commonplace in other states in the future if conservative lawmakers get their way on education policy.
The Economic Policy Institute published a report yesterday on the supposed shortage of professionals in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). You've probably heard of the crisis by now. America is not producing enough STEM degrees. This will be the death of innovation and global competitiveness. We must reorient higher education to convert more liberal arts students into STEM students. And so on.
The problem with this alleged crisis is that it is not real. As the EPI report lays bare, the common wisdom about our STEM problem is mistaken: We are not facing a shortage of STEM-qualified workers. In fact, we appear to have a considerable STEM surplus. Only half of students graduating with a STEM degree are able to find STEM jobs. Beyond that, if there was an actual shortage of STEM workers, basic supply and demand would predict that the wages of STEM workers would be on the rise. Instead, wages in STEM fields have not budged in over a decade. Stagnant wages and low rates of STEM job placement strongly suggest we actually have an abundance of STEM-qualified workers.
This, from YouGov, tells you everything you need to know about contemporary race relations in a single, compact chart:
For 66 percent of white Americans to agree with this statement—“Irish, Italian, Jewish, and many other minorities overcame prejudice and worked their way up. Blacks should do the same without any special favors”—there needs to be either large scale amnesia or willful ignorance about what happened in the previous 150 years of this country’s history.
(“It’s His Fault,” political cartoon, 2003, from Washington Post Writers Group.)
In almost every argument I’ve had about affirmative action in college admissions, someone eventually trots out the idea that the beneficaries of affirmative action are somehow “stealing” spots that rightfully belong to more “deserving” students. Ignoring, for a moment, the implicit assumption—that minority students are somehow less deserving—it’s simply a fact that college admissions don’t work that way. In open-admission pools where no one has a guaranteed spot, universites use a large number of factors to determine whom they accept and whom they deny. Sometimes, it turns on race and ethnicity, and sometimes it doesn’t.
With the release of Stuart Buck's book Acting White: The Ironic Legacy of Desegregation, there's been some interesting discussion over whether there is actually racialized antipathy toward educational achievement among young African Americans -- the basic premise of Buck's book. At The New Republic, John McWhorteragrees, and at Slate, Richard Thompson Ford seems to agree, too.
Over at The New Republic, John McWhorterlavishes praise on Stuart Buck's book, Acting White: The Ironic Legacy of Desegregation, which probably isn't terribly surprising. The thrust of Buck's book -- that blacks lag in educational outcomes because of a dysfunctional pathology that demonizes academic excellence -- has been McWhorter's pet cause for years.
A former champion of No Child Left Behind has written a book criticizing the policy as a failure, especially because it relies on standardized testing. Assistant Secretary of Education Diane Ravitch also says school choice is a bad idea:
"There should not be an education marketplace, there should not be competition," Ravitch says. "Schools operate fundamentally — or should operate — like families. The fundamental principle by which education proceeds is collaboration. Teachers are supposed to share what works; schools are supposed to get together and talk about what's [been successful] for them. They're not supposed to hide their trade secrets and have a survival of the fittest competition with the school down the block."
You'd think that National Review would be trying to put things like its proud advocacy of white supremacy during the Civil Rights Movement to rest, but Fred Schwartz wants you to know that William F. Buckley was right, dammit: