The reality of affirmative action in Higher Education

William Ayers‘ with one of the best takes I’ve ever read on the matter:

But here’s the reality: the kind of “who gets in and who doesn’t” arguments about affirmative action and college that the Right wants to fight about don’t have an impact on the broader societal problems we want to solve. If you want to lift families of color out of the cycle of poverty, having a different set of rules about who gets into Harvard or Michigan isn’t the way to do it.

What’s the real barrier? Money.

The vast majority of college students in the United States attend public regional universities. These aren’t the schools that the New York Times writes about, but they are where people actually go. In particular, they are the primary recipients of first-generation students who are the key to altering family trajectories.

These universities don’t have an affirmative action issue. [emphases mine] Most of them accept 90%-95% of their applicants, and those they don’t accept aren’t decided by race but by basic capability factors (generally, high school GPA and ACT or SAT score). The Wright States and Millersvilles and SW Missouri States and Wisconsin-Green Bays of the world will take any and all students they can get who qualify. They are truly race-blind in admissions…

What keeps minority students from attending regional public universities isn’t that they can’t get in. It’s that they can’t afford it. And while there are lots of arguments about what is driving the cost of higher education, for regional publics the primary barrier to affordability has been the long, slow, inexorable march by most state legislatures to defund their higher education systems…

If you believe in higher education as a pathway to success for families of color, this is the battle you need to be fighting. Forget about admissions rules and arguments about whether race can or can’t be included in deciding who gets in to college. If you want to really move the needle on societal equality, and lift millions of disadvantaged people out of the poverty trap, get more public money put into higher education.

I don’t for a minute believe that this is an easy task. But as folks are marshaling political resources for a mostly symbolic battle of little practical significance, I ask them to consider focusing those resources instead on the battle that has the greatest impact on people’s lives. Don’t fall for the bait of arguing about Harvard’s admissions practices. Harvard isn’t going to solve our problems. But more money in public higher education just might.

Photo of the day

From Wired’s space photos of the week:

Cassini captured a shot of Saturn’s moon Prometheus barely illuminated by the sun, sitting between Saturn’s A ring and the much thinner F ring.  NASA.  

Charlottesville (for Slovakian consumption)

I’m glad to know that even in Slovakia, they are aware of the fact that Trump is unwilling to condemn white supremacists.  I was contacted by my journalist friend at Pravda for a few comments.  Figured I might as well share my response here, too.

1. President Donald Trump was criticized for his reaction to events in Charlottesville. What would be your reaction, was Trump too soft on white supremacists by not even named them?
My personal reaction– Trump’s “many sides” response was cowardly and despicable.  But, forget my reaction, I’m a liberal.  I think the reaction of some very conservative Republicans, Orrin Hatch, Cory Gardner, Marco Rubio, etc., essentially calling out Trump for being too soft on white supremacists is very telling.  This tells us just how far out of the mainstream our president is on the issue.  On the one hand, it is encouraging how many voices– including from the right– have spoken out appropriately against this.  On the other hand, it is extremely, extremely distressing that our very president, is clearly unwilling to criticize white supremacists.
2. How important (unimportant?) is for Trump and GOP to keep at least some support of far right extremist elements of the US society?
Well, obviously Trump thinks they are important.  He has spoken his mind– far too freely, shall we say– about all sorts of issues and opponents, yet when it comes to white supremacists (and Vladimir Putin, of course), he pretty much always pulls his punches.
As a political scientist, I can say that it is simply incontrovertible that the GOP has built its current national majority, in significant part, on politically exploiting sentiments of racial animus.  I do not think that the far right is a key element of that, but, when you politically exploit more subtle racial resentment, empowering this kind of far right extremism can be seen as a natural consequence.

Quick hits (part II)

Here’s your part II– right on time, bright and early.  Enjoy.

1) I strongly suspect that police unions do more harm than good.  Especially since they seem to think that there is no police officer so incompetent that they shouldn’t be fired.  It’s too hard to fire bad cops and, unfortunately, the failure to do so can be tragic.

2) Spending money to save money is, quite often, not actually an effective strategy for saving money.

3) New Yorker’s Michael Luo on how the NRA manipulates gun owners and the media:

In April, at the N.R.A.’s leadership forum in Atlanta, Trump became the first sitting President since Ronald Reagan to address the association.

Feldman told me that this kind of political success can actually be problematic for the N.R.A. “The N.R.A. is not so much interested in winning,” Feldman told me. “They’re interested in fighting, because fighting is great for fund-raising and membership recruitment.”

Hillary Clinton in the White House, with her support for tougher gun laws, would have been a boon for the N.R.A. Trump’s surprise election meant the association needed to recalibrate, and quickly…

It is, of course, perfectly within the prerogative of an advocacy group to stir anxiety and fear among its members or potential members for the sake of attracting donations. But gun owners, contemplating whether to re-up their forty-dollar annual memberships or hand over their credit cards for the first time, might consider the fact that they’re being manipulated. And for those (rightly) outraged by the intimations of violence in the videos, it is worth weighing the reality that we’re part of the N.R.A.’s strategy, too.

4) Seth Masket on all the “red lines” Trump just keeps crossing with little consequence.

5) Krugman on “universal care” not “single payer” as a Democratic litmus test:

Well, some progressives — by and large people who supported Bernie Sanders in the primaries — are already trying to revive one of his signature proposals: expanding Medicare to cover everyone. Some even want to make support for single-payer a litmus test for Democratic candidates.

So it’s time for a little pushback. A commitment to universal health coverage — bringing in the people currently falling through Obamacare’s cracks — should definitely be a litmus test. But single-payer, while it has many virtues, isn’t the only way to get there; it would be much harder politically than its advocates acknowledge; and there are more important priorities.

The key point to understand about universal coverage is that we know a lot about what it takes, because every other wealthy country has it. How do they do it? Actually, lots of different ways…

I have nothing against single-payer; it’s what I’d support if we were starting fresh. But we aren’t: Getting there from here would be very hard, and might not accomplish much more than a more modest, incremental approach. Even idealists need to set priorities, and Medicare-for-all shouldn’t be at the top of the list.

6) I enjoyed seeing the different takes on the poster for the new “Frozen” broadway musical.  I was a fan of the “too safe” edition.  Here’s the too sci-fi poster:

7) At the retreat I was at this week, we did a lot of the questions from this list of 36 questions designed to increase intimacy from strangers.  We mostly did this with a series of different partners, but I have to say, I felt a real bond with the other Steven after doing about 4 of these together.

8) I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again… if we want to end mass incarceration we’re also going to have to look at violent offenders differently.  Going easier on non-violent offenders alone doesn’t come near solving the problem.  Great NYT Op-Ed:

The American criminal justice system is exceptional, in the worst way possible: It combines exceptionally coercive plea bargaining, exceptionally long sentences, exceptionally brutal prison conditions and exceptionally difficult obstacles to societal re-entry.

This punitiveness makes us stand out as uniquely inhumane in comparison with other industrialized countries. To remedy this, along with other changes, we must consider opening the exit doors — and not just for the “easy” cases of nonviolent drug offenders. Yes, I’m suggesting that we release some of the people who once committed serious, violent crimes.

9) Really interesting and compelling study provides the best explanation yet for how diet soda can mess with your metabolism.  As long as I continue to be healthy by all available metrics, I’ll keep chugging a ton of Diet Coke and Diet Dr. Pepper, but I’ve got to admit that, as this point, the science is increasingly suggesting that you are better off without diet soda.

10) Love Alvin Chang’s cartoon explainer (he’s so good at these) on how school segregation has evolved.

11) I had a student write a terrific senior thesis on investing in and improving vocational education.  It’s an important and generally ignored subject.  West Virginia, of all places, is looking to revolutionize things:

The teachers, who were attending a summer training program, are helping West Virginia in another kind of transformation. Long one of the poorest states, it is now leading the way in turning vocational education from a Plan B for underachieving students into what policy makers hope will be a fuel source for the state’s economic revival.

Simulated workplaces, overseen by teachers newly trained in important state industries like health, coal and even fracking, are now operating in schools across the state. Students punch a time clock, are assigned professional roles like foreman or safety supervisor, and are even offered several vacation days of their choice in addition to regular school breaks. (Many take time off during deer hunting season.)

Traditional math and English teachers have been reassigned to technical high schools, to make sure students on the vocational track still gain reading, writing and math skills.

12) Horrible law schools like the for-profit Charlotte School of Law should not be getting the government-backed student loans that keeps them in business.  The Obama administration looked to change this.  Alas, Betsy DeVos’ Department of Ed would prefer to keep fleecing people who don’t know any better than to go 6 figures in debt on a near-worthless law degree.

13) Sorry, just can’t get myself too worked up over North Korea.  As usual, I think Drum has it basically right– we’ve already been engaged in Mutually Assured Destruction with them for decades and that hasn’t changed.

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