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ERIC Number: ED520376
Record Type: Non-Journal
Publication Date: 2005-Apr-6
Pages: 26
Abstractor: ERIC
Reference Count: 0
The Affirmative Action Myth. Policy Analysis. No. 540
Gryphon, Marie
Cato Institute
In the wake of the Supreme Court's 2003 decision upholding admissions preferences, affirmative action remains a deeply divisive issue. This tendency to frame the argument over preferences in terms of fundamental values is common to both sides of the debate. Because the nation's history with respect to race is so painful, the resulting argument is heated, personal, and ultimately unproductive. Overwhelmingly, such debates turn on considerations of "fairness" or "merit," as if there were one best way to admit students to college. There is no "fair" way to admit students to elite public institutions at the expense of taxi drivers and construction workers. Subsidies to particularly talented and capable students are especially difficult to justify. In the private sphere, on the other hand, institutions deserve broad latitude to create the educational environments they deem effective for their institutional mission. The most broadly appealing argument against racial preferences in college admissions is that they are uniquely harmful, both legally and socially. In public universities, preferences have broken down constitutional protections against classification by race--protections that form a still insecure bulwark against habits of racial abuse and oppression that have festered for centuries. Erosion of the legal doctrine of racial neutrality is a high price to pay for a system of preferences that moves only a few thousand students a year from one college to another, but it is a price the Supreme Court has unwisely chosen to pay. Preferences are only permitted, not required, however, and policymakers should reassess whether the benefits of racial classification in schools outweigh the costs. This Policy Analysis addresses support for racial preferences on the narrowest possible ground: the claim that they benefit formerly oppressed racial groups and promote racial healing. This study shows that this claim is untrue. Administrators and policymakers of all political persuasions should therefore oppose racial preferences in universities. (Contains 2 figures and 150 notes.)
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Publication Type: Reports - Evaluative
Education Level: Higher Education
Audience: Administrators; Policymakers
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: Cato Institute