Affirmative Damage

Peter Kirsanow, National Review Online, June 27, 2006

What if proponents of affirmative action are wrong? That is, what if racial-preference policies don’t increase the numbers of minorities who graduate from colleges, law schools, etc, but rather, do just the opposite? Moreover, what if the harm done to minority academic and employment prospects is compounded by the fact that the policies are blatantly unlawful?

What if affirmative action is a giant, devastating sham?

Startling testimony at a recent U.S. Commission on Civil Rights hearing from Dr. Richard Sander, Professor of Law at UCLA, showed that racial preferences at American law schools are just such a sham. Professor Sander’s two most recent analyses reveal extraordinary disparities between black law students and their white comparatives: The grade-point averages of approximately 50 percent of black law students cluster in the bottom ten percent of the class. Blacks are two and a half times more likely than whites not to graduate. Blacks are four times more likely to fail the bar exam on the first try and six times more likely never to pass the exam despite multiple attempts.

Perhaps the most astonishing statistic is that only about a third of blacks entering law school this fall will graduate and pass the bar exam on the first try. Bleak are the prospects for many black law students.

Professor Sander testified that the primary cause for the black law-school disaster is racial preferences. His systemic analyses describe in unapologetic detail how affirmative action creates a mismatch effect, i.e., black students enroll at schools at which they’re ill-equipped to compete.

Consider the progression resulting in the above failure rates. As my colleague Abigail Thernstrom has noted,

The National Assessment of Educational Progress, “the nation’s report card”, shows that only 25% of black 17 year olds read as well as the average white 17 year old. Nearly 90% of black 17 year olds score below the average white 17 year old in math. More than 90% of black 17 year olds score below the average white 17 year old in science. In the end, the average black high school graduate has the academic proficiency of the average white 8th grader.

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A regression analysis conducted by Robert Lerner and Althea Nagai on behalf of the Center for Equal Opportunity shows that at some schools black applicants are more than 100 times more likely to be admitted than whites with the same GPAs and SATs.

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