Affirmative Disaster

Heather MacDonald, The Weekly Standard, February 20, 2012

A growing body of empirical evidence is undermining the claim that racial preferences in college benefit their recipients. Students who are admitted to schools for which they are inadequately prepared in fact learn less than they would in a student body that matches their own academic level. As an ongoing controversy at Duke University demonstrates, however, such pesky details may have no effect on the longevity of the preference regime.

Duke admits black students with SAT scores on average over one standard deviation below those of whites and Asians (blacks’ combined math and verbal SATs are 1275; whites’ are 1416, and Asians’, 1457). Not surprisingly, blacks’ grades in their first semester are significantly lower than those of other ethnic groups, but by senior year, the difference between black and white students’ grades has shrunk almost 50 percent. This convergence in GPA might seem to validate preferential admissions by suggesting that Duke identifies minority students with untapped academic potential who will narrow the gap with their white and Asian peers over their college careers.

Now three Duke researchers have demonstrated that such catching-up is illusory. Blacks improve their GPAs because they switch disproportionately out of more demanding science and economics majors into the humanities and soft social sciences, which grade much more liberally and require less work. If black students stayed in the sciences at the same rate as whites, there would be no convergence in GPAs. And even after their exodus from the sciences, blacks don’t improve their class standing in their four years of college.

This study, by economics professor Peter Arcidiacono, sociology professor Ken Spenner, and economics graduate student Esteban Aucejo, has major implications for the nationwide effort to increase the number of minority scientists. The federal government alone has spent billions of dollars of taxpayers’ money trying to boost minority participation in science; racial preferences play a key role in almost all college science initiatives. The Arcidiacono paper suggests that admitting aspiring minority scientists to schools where they are less prepared than their peers is counterproductive.

The most surprising finding of the study is that, of incoming students who reported a major, more than 76 percent of black male freshmen at Duke intended to major in the hard sciences or economics, higher even than the percentage of white male freshmen who anticipated such majors. But more than half of those would-be black science majors switched track in the course of their studies, while less than 8 percent of white males did, so that by senior year, only 35 percent of black males graduated with a science or economics degree, while more than 63 percent of white males did. Had those minority students who gave up their science aspirations taken Introductory Chemistry among students with similar levels of academic preparation, they would more likely have continued with their original course of study, as the unmatched record of historically black colleges in graduating science majors suggests. Instead, finding themselves in classrooms pitched at a more advanced level of math or science than they have yet mastered, preference recipients may conclude that they are not cut out for quantitative fields—or, equally likely, that the classroom “climate” is racist—whereas the problem may just be that they have not yet laid the foundations for more advanced work.

Attrition from a hard science major was wholly accounted for in the paper’s statistical models by a freshman’s level of academic qualifications; race was irrelevant. While science majors had SATs that were 50 points higher than students in the humanities in general, students who had started out in science and then switched had SATs that were 70 points lower than those of science majors. {snip}

The Duke paper, whose methodology is watertight, deserves widespread attention among educators and policymakers. An amicus brief seeking Supreme Court review of racial preferences at the University of Texas (in a case called Fisher v. Texas) has brought the paper to the Court’s attention. Predictably, however, a number of black students, alumni, and professors have portrayed the research as a personal assault. Members of Duke’s Black Student Alliance held a silent vigil outside the school’s Martin Luther King Day celebration in protest of the paper and handed out fliers titled “Duke: A Hostile Environment for Its Black Students?” In an email to the state NAACP, the BSA called the paper “hurtful and alienating” and accused its authors of lacking “a genuine concern for proactively furthering the well-being of the black community.”

Naturally, the BSA has leveraged its protest into demands on the Duke administration for more black faculty and administrators and for more funding of black-themed programs. {snip}

{snip}

In a different world, the Duke administration might have tried to dispel some of the distortions of the Arci-diacono paper, given the authors’ patent lack of invidious intent and the rigor of their work. Instead, Duke’s top bureaucrats left the authors twisting in the wind. In an open letter to the campus, provost Peter Lange and a passel of deanlings declared: “We understand how the conclusions of the research paper can be interpreted in ways that reinforce negative stereotypes.” It is hard to imagine a more hypocritical utterance. To the extent that the paper reinforces “negative stereotypes,” it does so by describing the effects of Duke’s policy of admitting black students with lower academic qualifications than whites and Asians. It is Duke’s predilection for treating black students as a group whose race trumps their individual academic records that constitutes “stereotyping,” not the authors’ analysis of the consequences of that group thinking. {snip}

But perhaps a concession to black anger had to be made to clear some space for a defense of the Arcidiacono paper? Not a chance. The deanlets and provosts followed their invocation of “negative stereotypes” with an anodyne generalization about academic freedom: “At the same time, our goal of academic success for all should not inhibit research and discussion to clarify important issues of academic choice and achievement.” In other words, don’t blame us for what these wacky professors might say.

{snip}

Finally, as is de rigueur in all such flaps over “diversity,” the administration pledged to try even harder to be sensitive to Duke’s black students. “We welcome the call to action. Many people have been working for a long time to create a positive climate for African-American students. We look forward to ongoing conversations with BSA and others about ways that we can improve,” Schoenfeld penitently announced. Of course, as Schoenfeld meekly hints, Duke has been engaged in color-coded programming and funding for decades, pouring money into, to name just a few endeavors, a black student center, a black student recruiting weekend, and such bureaucratic sinecures as a vice provost for faculty diversity and faculty development and an associate vice provost for academic diversity, who, along with the faculty diversity task force and faculty diversity standing committee, ride herd over departmental hiring and monitor the progress of the 2003 10-point Faculty Diversity Initiative, which followed upon the previous 10-year Black Faculty Strategic Initiative. {snip}

{snip}

The uproar over the major-switching paper has had its intended effect: Lead author Arcidiacono may be browbeaten out of affirmative action research. “Honestly, I’m not sure how much further I want to go with this line of inquiry,” he says. “I may have been naïve to think I could do this work.” {snip}

A handful of scholars have been documenting the negative consequences of so-called “academic mismatch,” but the scourging of Arcidiacono and his fellow authors cannot encourage many others to enter the fray. Nevertheless, the evidence is already strong that preferences are contributing to the undereducation of minorities. In 2005, UCLA law professor Richard Sander demonstrated that blacks admitted to law schools because of their race end up overwhelmingly in the lowest quarter of their class and have much greater difficulties passing the bar than students admitted on their merits. {snip}

{snip}

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  • Southern__Hoosier

    It takes three Duke researchers to demonstrate what your average AMREN readers already knows.

  • holyflower

    “The uproar over the major-switching paper has had its intended effect: Lead author [Peter] Arcidiacono may be browbeaten out of affirmative action research. ‘Honestly, I’m not sure how much further I want to go with this line of inquiry,” he says. “I may have been naïve to think I could do this work’”

    ===

    Duke University economics professor Peter Arcidiacono meet University of Chicago professor of human genetics Bruce Lahn, the unfortunate discoverer of a genetic differences in brain development by race: 

    “…at the University of Chicago a professor of human genetics, Bruce Lahn, presented evidence to show that mutations that affected the brain had occurred in Asia and Europe but not in Africa. Dr. Lahn, an immigrant from China, did not understand political correctness and reportedly considered it ‘a triumphant moment’ when he published two articles in the highly regarded journal, Science, maintaining that DNA changes had taken hold and spread widely in Europe and Asia but were not common in sub-Saharan Africa. One magazine described Lahn’s research as ‘the moment the antiracists and egalitarians have dreaded,’ and the media department at the Chicago medical school feared that the work would be too controversial for the university. As one story in the Wall Street Journal noted, by 2006 scientists were accustomed to dealing with many physical differences, but they ‘tense up when it comes to doing the same sort of research on the brain.’

    “At first Lahn stood by his research, saying, ‘society will have to grapple with some very difficult facts.’ But Lahn had second thoughts after he learned more about the extent to which his research had touched a raw nerve. The University of Chicago abandoned a patent application it had filed to develop a test that would draw on Lahn’s work in developing a correlation between DNA and intelligence. And some of Lahn’s coauthors were uncomfortable with the publicity their work was receiving. Lahn then turned to other projects, saying that he had second thoughts about ‘whether some knowledge might not be worth having.’ This statement predictably led to much criticism on the World Wide Web. ‘Welcome to the new Dark Ages,’ one writer scoffed. Another wrote that Lahn had been made ‘to stand before the altar of equality and recant. The sun moves about the earth.’” (“Race And Science” by Raymond Wolters, Occidental Quarterly, Summer, 2007, pp84-85) http://tinyurl.com/6as9k3b

  • bluffcreek1967

    This doesn’t surprise many of us. I have not known Blacks to be particularly intelligent. I cannot even recall a small handful of Blacks who intellectually stood out above the rest in school. Those Black students who seemed brighter than their fellow Blacks were only slightly so (perhaps on par with an average White student?). None of them were what I would consider ‘academically gifted,’ and they never excelled above the White and Asian students. 

    I have also noticed that even when Blacks do obtain graduate degrees and pursue an academic profession, they do not surpass the intellectual acumen and depth that comes naturally to so many White scholars. Black author, Thomas Sowell, has written some excellent books on economics, but one would be hard-pressed to argue his insights were greater and far more original than Milton Friedman.  

    Blacks, historically, have not been known as great thinkers and nothing they have produced on a literary level can be fairly compared to the great philosophers and scientists of  Eurpope and America. Even Asians, with a far higher IQ and intellectual discipline levels than Blacks, have not excelled Whites in these areas. 

    • shmo123

      Ergo, you have people like Barack Obama elevated to a status way above what he normally would achieve for politically correct reasons. If, as his supporters constantly proclaim, he is so intelligent, why are his academic records missing or locked up? Why has he never written book of substance; his last book was a children’s book.

  • Oil Can Harry

    Why would an intelligent writer like Ms. McDonald be surprised that the Duke administrators hung these researchers out to dry considering their craven response to the Duke Lacrosse rape hoax?

    Also, the article mentions that black students learn science more adeptly in black colleges- more proof that segregated schools are better for all races.  

  • radical7

    I read an artilce in te Wall Street Journal in 2009 that stated that a disproportionate number of White females major in elementary education and White males from lower middle class families tend to major in either secondary education or physical education.

    These are hardly the most difficult majors to pursue.

    • Beloved Comrade

      Post it.

      Put up or shut up.

  • Anan7

    Affirmative entrance is bad enough, but the practice of affirmative graduation is much more pernicious in this man’s words:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dmA6Kdy12jU&feature=BFa&list=FLwOjIcZdXY7UK5F61B57B2A&lf=mh_lolz

  • JohnEngelman

    Meanwhile, at the University of Chicago a professor of human genetics, Bruce Lahn, presented evidence to show that mutations that affected the brain had occurred in Asia and Europe but not in Africa.  Dr. Lahn, an immigrant from China, did not understand political correctness and reportedly considered it “a triumphant moment” when he published two articles in the highly regarded journal, Science, maintaining that DNA changes had taken hold and spread widely in Europe and Asia but were not common in sub-Saharan Africa.
    http://www.toqonline.com/archives/v7n2/v7no2_Wolters.pdf

    ——————– 

    The same kind of mutations lightened the skin of Caucasians and Orientals. As they evolved in climates where they had less exposure to sunlight they were less likely to get skin cancer, and more likely to get rickets. Those with lighter skin had more of a competitive advantage than those who lived in Africa. Caucasians originated urban civilization about five thousand years ago in the Mid East. In what is now China Orientals independently originated urban civilization about one thousand years later. The Bantu, from whom American Negroes are descended, adopted agriculture about three thousand years ago. They never developed indigenous civilizations equivalent to the Incas and the Aztecs.    

     Civilization places more evolutionary pressure on superior intelligence than a paleolithic or neolithic existence because it takes more intelligence to maintain. Men who have had more intelligence have usually been more affluent than men with less, so more of their children survived and reproduced.

  • JohnEngelman

    The Pulitzer Prize–winning historian Carl N. Degler has written a perceptive account of the revived emphasis on DNA, race, and sex as explanations for differences in human behavior. 134
                                         
     Summing up the thesis of the book in his review for the New York Times, Richard A. Schweder, a professor at the University of Chicago and president of the Society for Psychological Anthropology, put it this way: “Anyone who has lived long enough in the social sciences has 
    seen the nature-nurture pendulum swing: from nature in the first decades of  the century, to nurture in the 1930’s, 40’s, 50’s, and 60’s, to nature once again in the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s.” 135 
                                                                                                
    In this instance, the movement may be more than just another swing of the pendulum.  It seems, at least to this writer, that truth crushed to ground is rising once again.    
    http://www.toqonline.com/archives/v7n2/v7no2_Wolters.pdf                                                                            
                                                                                                                                                                                                                 
    —————–                                                                                                                                                                          
                                                                                                                                                                                                                 
    As the truth about the biological differences in average intelligence between the races rises from the ground, it will become more difficult to provide rational arguments in favor of affirmative action. Affirmative action policies were never intended to be permanent. 

  • Up to my neck in CA

    “…however, a number of black students, alumni, and professors have portrayed the research as a personal assault. Members of Duke’s Black Student Alliance held a silent vigil outside the school’s Martin Luther King Day celebration in protest of the paper and handed out fliers titled “Duke: A Hostile Environment for Its Black Students?” In an email to the state NAACP, the BSA called the paper “hurtful and alienating” and accused its authors of lacking “a genuine concern for proactively furthering the well-being of the black community.” 

    Nothing bad can ever be said about the black “man”, even if it is true. Have you all had enough of this horse crap? I have.

  • http://countenance.wordpress.com/ Question Diversity

    Duke admits black students with SAT scores on average over one standard
    deviation below those of whites and Asians (blacks’ combined math and
    verbal SATs are 1275; whites’ are 1416, and Asians’, 1457).

    The one standard deviation difference in the SATs of black and white students admitted to Duke matches the 1 SD IQ gap.

    At first, I thought those SAT scores were too high.  But I remembered that the SAT added an essay section a few  years ago, though since this article says math plus verbal, Duke might disregard the essay section in making admissions decisions.  But still, there has been two (maybe three) score recenterings of the SAT since 1994.

  • http://countenance.wordpress.com/ Question Diversity

    Another thing:  There is something about this article and also the lamestream conservative narrative about affirmative action in general that bothers me.  It’s this contention that AA “hurts blacks.”

    If so, then why are almost all blacks in favor of AA?  I don’t rate black intelligence very highly, but even they aren’t so dumb as to oppose a policy which has plainly and obviously made them materially and socially better off, and has done so at the expense of whites.

    Remember Herman Cain’s little brain flatulence that “blacks are brainwashed into voting Democrat” several months ago?

    Black voters have voted almost monolithically for Democrats in almost every national election since 1932.  If that’s all a result of mere brainwashing, then the Democrat Party of the United States has the most effective propaganda machine in the history of the world.  If they suddenly came back to life, Hitler, Stalin, Mao and Pol Pot couldn’t work up enough combined envy worthy of this Democrat “Brainwashing Machine” that would be truly worthy of its “prowess.”

    Let me posit an alternate and perhaps somewhat crazy explanation:  Black voters vote almost 100% Democrat almost 100% of the time because they’re relatively sane people, even if they’re not high IQ Einsteins, and they’re merely choosing what is for them the more beneficial of the two major parties.  The Democrat Party has been for a long time, is currently, and will continue to be for the foreseeable future, far better than the Republicans (even as hard as today’s Republicans try) at handing out tangible (welfare) and intangible (affirmative action) government goodies to blacks.

    Sometimes, I wonder what lamestream conservatives use for brains.

  • ageofknowledge

    The modern liberal solution, of course, will simply be to dumb down higher education further to accomodate them as they have already extensively done in the K-12th public education system.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_XUNMZOUALEHPCGRP3L4UACGK3M Jerry

    Who is he? The scores are the scores. Your denial of those numbers is as ridiculous as the blacks denial that whites have higher SAT scores. 

  • MekongDelta69

    Let’s see if I can paste the same reply to the 8 Billion articles like this to which I’ve posted in 2 Million forums since the Net began:

    Wait for it…

    IQIQIQIQIQIQIQIQIQIQIQIQIQIQIQIQIQIQIQIQIQIQIQIQ

    Thank you and goodnight…