Affirmative Action Debate Heats Up

Scalia

Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia has come under fire for a recent comment he made while on the bench.

The Court is currently hearing the case of Fisher v. University of Texas.  The court’s ruling is expected to determine the constitutionality of affirmative action.

During oral arguments Scalia said,

“There are those who contend that it does not benefit African Americans to get them into the University of Texas, where they do not do well, as opposed to having them go to a less-advanced school, a slower-track school where they do well. One of the briefs pointed out that most of the black scientists in this country don’t come from schools like the University of Texas. They come from lesser schools where they do not feel that they’re being pushed ahead in classes that are too fast for them.”

Many have criticized the Justice’s statement as racist. This is Salon’s response to Scalia,

“Scalia’s suggestion that blacks need “special schools” because they are in essence too dumb and lazy to compete with white students is ahistorical. From their arrival in the United States in chains and bondage in the 17th century through to the post-civil rights era and the 21st century, African-Americans place a very high value on educational success and literacy.”

However, these criticisms appear to miss the point Justice Scalia was making. Justice Scalia was describing an unintended consequence of the affirmative action law known as mismatching.

Mismatching is when students are placed in colleges that are too difficult because of affirmative action. In theory, affirmative action laws create policies where minority students are accepted into top colleges with lower standards. While some of these students are able to catch up, some are not. This leads to students dropping out or majoring in easier subjects. Defenders of mismatching argue, if these students gone had gone to schools where they had the same standards as other students, then they would not have dropped out or gone for an easier major.

 

Supporters of this theory cite a 2004 study that concluded, 

“Law school admissions preferences impose enormous costs on blacks and create relatively minor benefits.”

The study also found that there are 7% less African American lawyers than would have been if affirmative action did not exist.

Justice Scalia was not arguing that black students should not be in top colleges or we need to create a special college for black students.

Scalia was arguing that you should not put students (black, white, or green) in schools they do not meet standards for. When you do they tend to have a worse outcome than if they had attended a school they met the standards.

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