Closing the Gap


New at Reason: Now that the Supreme Court has upheld the principle of racial preferences, Cathy Young has a suggestion—how about addressing the gap in academic performance that makes the preferences necessary in the first place?

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  1. This while Dr. Condoleeza Rice is being groomed for the Presidency, Dr. Roger Ferguson could be next in line for the Fed Chairmanship (hope me 🙂 and if they get Clarence Thomas as Chief Justice around 2012 — trifecta!


    JAN CRAWFORD GREENBURG: Do you think that it’s appropriate for the president to take a person’s gender into account, to have a woman on the Supreme Court? Is that important?

    JUSTICE SANDRA DAY O’CONNOR: Well, I was happy that President Reagan made that choice in 1981. He had really made a campaign speech or two when he was running for the presidency, saying that if he had a chance to put a woman on the Supreme Court, he’d like to put a qualified woman on the court. And I was the beneficiary of that decision of his.

    JAN CRAWFORD GREENBURG: Do you think that that’s necessary?

    JUSTICE SANDRA DAY O’CONNOR: I think it was well received by the country. It had been 191 years since we first had a Supreme Court, and maybe it was time that one of its members was of the female sex, because we have more and more lawyers in the country today who are women. When I went to law school, about 1 percent of all law students were women. And last year, over 50 percent were. And that’s just been A… just an incredible change. And I think that people in the country were probably, overall, very pleased to a see a woman put on the court.

    JAN CRAWFORD GREENBURG: I know you’ve said that you haven’t made up your mind about retirement. But have you?


    JAN CRAWFORD GREENBURG: Okay. Would you like to see a woman take your place, or do you think it will be nice to see another woman?

    JUSTICE SANDRA DAY O’CONNOR: I hope there will always be women, plural, on this court.

  3. Stephen –

    Four points regarding your statistics:

    1) No source and no definition of “top

    2) Blacks at top schools are less able (in
    terms of test scores prior to starting
    university and attend lower quality
    primary and secondary schools than their
    white peers. Statistical analysis is
    required to determine how much of the
    difference in dropout rates this explains.
    The raw differences are more or less

    3) You do not define “dropout”. Does this
    mean they go to another, lower quality
    university, or that they never finish
    a degree? The former may not be a problem.

    4) There is pretty clear evidence in the
    economic literature of higher returns (in
    terms of later wages or earnings) to blacks
    from attending higher quality schools.
    Even if there is a difference in dropout
    rates, a cost-benefit type who was not
    concerned with equity issues in either
    direction (someone like the median voter)
    might be willing to trade that off against
    a higher dropout rate.

    Jeff Smith

  4. Wow, the way O’Connor didn’t actually answer the questions, you’d almost think she was a regular ol’ politician. (cough cough)

  5. Top 144 most selective schools; plus the next 250 schools.

    Dropout rate – failure to finish a Bachelor’s within a 6 year time frame.

    All students dropping out averaged approximately a 1.6 G.P.A.

    Richard Kahlenberg, The Remedy.

  6. Stephen

    Interesting – I had not heard of this book,
    which came out during my years in Canada.
    Thanks for the pointer.

    Jeff Smith

  7. The whole scenario is so “The Prisoner” in essence and nonsense. The human beings who are in charge of running the schools involved in the Supreme court ruling are doing the old ‘bait and wwitch’. The whiteys just exchanged repression of minorities to unto themselves, the whiteys. Wrong is still wrong. But now wrong is like down is up. Of course remember, anything that has ‘man’s’ hands involved is going to be corrupt and wrong in the long run.

  8. Why bother critiquing affirmative action? Come on, we have a Supreme Court that celebrates life, diversity, and the pursuit of sodomy?

    What’s the problem with racial preferences? I don’t get it.

    As libertarians, we ought to be in favor of people discriminating wherever and whenever they want. The government shouldn’t have anything to say about it.

  9. As long as it’s not the government forcing people to descriminate or not descriminate, I don’t have a philosphical problems. I do, however, have a personal ethical problem, as I feel biased against those who descriminate based on race.

  10. quark2:

    Are you talking about that chick on Seinfeld with the “man hands”? I don’t know about corrupt, but it was pretty gross.

    As for affirmative action, I think it’s a diversionary tactic. It’s a policy designed to appease non-white members of the “professional” classes, so genuine working class pressure (both white and non-white) is marginalized. For working class minorities, I don’t know what the thrill is of knowing you’re being screwed by somebody who looks like you. I’d rather just have the institutions be responsible from the bottom up.

    We’re headed for a situation where both the “professional” caste and the underclass are much more multiracial than at present. BFD.

  11. It doesn’t matter. The Chinese are smarter and make everything anyway.

    Let them go to school and do all the work. Then we can just keep on exchanging little pieces of paper for stuff and not have to do anything except make them feel inferior to us… um, militarily.

  12. Two things surprise me about the debate
    regarding affirmative action in education.

    1) There is not very much good evidence
    regarding central empirical claims on
    both side. In particular, there is not
    much real (i.e., not anecdotes or casual
    impressions or statements by famous people)
    evidence on the “mis-match” hypothesis
    beloved by the right, which says that
    blacks (or others) do worse in schools
    where most students are better prepared
    and/or of higher ability. There is also
    not much real evidence on the proposition
    that “diversity”, proxied somewhat
    improbably by the fraction of black
    students, improves educational outcomes
    for either blacks or whites. [As an aside,
    I do not think there is much hard evidence
    that intellectual diversity, which has a
    more obvious potential causal connection
    to educational outcomes, affects educational
    outcomes, either.]

    2) What evidence there is does not seem to get
    much attention, even by people like Cathy
    Young who normally are pretty good about
    digesting statistical evidence and putting
    into a form and context that non-technical
    folks can read and use.

    Odd, that. The government funds billions of
    dollars in social science research every year,
    yet often there is no, or almost no, evidence
    on important policy questions of the day.

    Jeff Smith

  13. You know KC, calling AA a “diversionary tactic” you’re just setting yourself up to be called a racist.

    I mean, “do you have any black friends?” and “Do you even know anyone black?” etc… Just sayin’.

  14. Jeff Smith might be on to something.

    In my own personal observation — which is, to be sure, just another anecdote — schooling gets a lot more credit than it deserves anyway. Yes, obviously, learning can take place in an institution devoted to Teaching Stuff. But most smart people are gonna be smart, regardless of school. And most dumb people are gonna be dumb, no matter how much they torture and exhaust themselves to “succeed” in college.

    Alas, this whole, ongoing debate has only helped cement the notion that school is some all-powerful good, an end-all-be-all without which society could not function — and that people thus “deserve.”

  15. Jeff & Tower are definitely on to something but who is prepared to risk social suicide by reigniting discussions about “IQ”?
    (except T. Sowell, but he’s an old coot with an isolated choir)

  16. Jeff, the dropout rate for Black students at benefitted by racial preferences in admissions at the top schools ranges between 45% and 55%.

    The dropout rate across the entire student body is a bit under 30%.

  17. “Wow, the way O’Connor didn’t actually answer the questions, you’d almost think she was a regular ol’ politician.”

    She is a politician. Se served 2.5 terms in the Arizona state senate and was {AZ] senate majority leader for a short while.

  18. One other comment on Jeff’s list of criticisms – item number 4). It would be useful to see a study of the SAT scores and grades of the students who succeeded vs. those that didn’t. It is possible that AA made no difference for these individuals since if they were on the higher end of the bell curve they may have gotten into the better schools regardless of lower standards allowed for minorities. One article reviewing a book on this subject that showed up a few days agon on the Reason webpage basically acknowledged that the ‘top’ (Ivy League) schools had the least average discrepancy between the test scores of white and black students. Thus the correlation cited regarding pay and career opportunities for black students that go to better schools.

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