Monday, March 16, 2015

Affirmative Action, or Backdoor Racism

Affirmative Actions programs, especially those used at the college level, have the net effect of increasing the debt of the Black students, reducing the number of Black Americans within the hard sciences, and the number who graduate at all. This conclusion seems counter-intuitive: how can a program intentionally designed to help people actually hurt them instead.

Well, the current program has those pernicious effects because of the concept of mismatch, outlined in the book by that name. The concept is simple; colleges all have academic programs that are geared to certain levels of academic and professional requirements and generally accept students on that basis. But when they accept students at, near or below the minimum requirements than they normally admit students, those students are put on a direct path to failure.

By way of example, take a footrace setup as an "Affirmative Action" program, with each tier a separate competitive race, based on how fast each runner makes it in a 30 minute qualifier:

At first glance, it seems generous. The lower per-tier requirements for Blacks will bring more Blacks  into each tier, allowing for a greater number of Black runners in each tier. But look again - in order to create a lower acceptance floor in each tier, the ceiling needed to be lowered. That creates a circumstance (mismatch) where the Black runners in every are competing against superior White runners. Not because White runners are superior, but because the competitive Black runners in each tier are moved into the next-higher tier where they are not competitive.

The net result of this is that nearly every race will be won by White runners, and that the top tier will have a smaller number of competitive of Black runners than it should as well. Each tier had the strongest Black runners removed and the total number of Black runners artificially inflated. That means more Black runners end up losing their races, including those that should be winning them.

Switch the races, and the end result would be inverted. Black runners (or students) are not inherently inferior, but rather the system is designed, in effect, to put a varsity high-school football team on the field against an NFL team.

It's a perfect system for disguised racism, any accusation can be deflected by pointing out the large "outreach" and recruitment done in part by the lower entry requirements for each tier. But the system's result would be the outcome any white-robed clucker could love.

This is exactly how modern college affirmative action works: it shifts most Black students who could be competitive at a certain tier and moves them to one where they are nearly guaranteed to fail. It is the educational equivalent of putting that high-school team on an NFL field.

But when put on an appropriate level, as in Historically Black Colleges and Universities, Black students succeed at the same level as other groups. Likewise in schools that do not engage in affirmative action. But when the game is rigged against them, of course, they fail.

But it does give college administrators a shield to deflect charges of racism, and to brag about their outreach.

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