Affirmative action in higher education is supposed to be a free lunch

Wednesday, March 24th, 2021

Arnold Kling discusses the academic corruption from affirmative action:

Taking the pool of high school graduates as given, it is very hard to give African-Americans the comfort of being fully qualified for admission to a selective college as part of a large cohort of qualified African-American students. They can either be part of a small cohort or part of a large cohort that includes less-qualified students.


But my view is that college is not the place to try to fix racial inequalities. The attempt to fix these inequalities has to take place much earlier in young people’s lives, so that more black students graduate high school with strong educational backgrounds.

Affirmative action in higher education is supposed to be a free lunch. You can reduce social inequality and improve race relations without corrupting our standards. My guess is that you corrupt your standards without reducing social inequality, and you make race relations worse. If I am correct, then the unintended consequences of affirmative action have been severely adverse.


  1. Gavin Longmuir says:

    Lefties are always corrupting the language. The original idea of “Affirmative Action” was that there were qualified people who would not even apply for opportunities because of perceived discrimination. “No Irish need apply”.

    So the idea of “Affirmative Action” was that a business looking for plumbers would make a special effort to reach out to qualified Irish plumbers and ask them to apply, even though all their existing plumbers were Italian.

    Affirmative action is a great concept, but it has degenerated into straight out discrimination. And, whisper this softly, the main beneficiaries of this active discrimination are not Americans of African heritage — the main beneficiaries are upper middle class white daughters of privilege.

    Kling is right — the issue of college admissions should be dealt with by restoring real standards in grade schools.

  2. Bruce says:

    In 1960 we had a talented tenth but no black middle class and there was widespread agreement that something should be done. Affirmative action was something, and it rewarded D loyalists so it got D votes, and we did get a black middle class. In 2020 there are enough D loyalists whose jobs depend on Affirmative Action that they are getting R and independents fired.

  3. Kirk says:

    Only an academic would trot this out as a sudden shocking insight.

    Everyone else could tell you from the beginning that this was a result. It goes on everywhere that the crooked bastards implement “affirmative action”.

    In the Army, it has multiple pernicious effects. One, it promotes the unfit, discourages minorities from seeking to improve themselves, and discourages everyone else from bothering, because it makes the attainment of “merit” meaningless.

    Once you get past Staff Sergeant in the Army, it’s all centralized promotion boards for the senior enlisted ranks. At those boards, they do the first sweep through the records, and then they look at the racial/ethnicity backgrounds. Not enough of a certain group? Fine; slice off the “lower end” of the white boys, and we’ll hand out promotions to the minorities that didn’t make the grade.

    I watched men with drunk driving convictions, reliefs for cause, and a multitude of other show-stoppers for a white guy get promoted ahead of me, and selected for even higher positions. You think this doesn’t tend to piss off the white guys? LOL… That’s an understatement. I entered the Army as one of the bright shining products of the 1970s racial brainwashing, loving everyone and thinking that everyone of every color was my brother and just as good as I was. I left the Army deeply cynical on the issue of race, distrusting of any minority who was a stranger to me, and a lot less friendly towards the entire pack of lies I’d been sold as a kid. Mostly because of that whole “merit” thing turning out to be a lie–Nothing I did had anything to do with my “getting ahead”, it was all down to playing petty politics and what skin color or ethnic background I claimed. Do your job well, wherever they put you? Too bad, so sad, sucker. You’re not getting promoted unless you’re in the right job, at the right time in your career, and you suck the right dick, politically speaking. Hard work and merit really mean nothing.

    The rot has been there from the beginning of the whole racialist regime we call “affirmative action”, and it probably affects the minorities even worse than many imagine. I worked for years with a black officer whose initial impression on me was not… Great. Turned out, once I got to know him, the man was both brilliant and a decent human being. He’d just acquired this protective coloration as a “frat bro” football-player type in order to a.) hide his light from other blacks who would have called him out for “acting white”, and b.) blend in better with said whites, meeting their projections. You didn’t get to know the “real man” unless you paid attention, and didn’t behave like an ass around him. It was a genuine reverse “Stepin Fetchit” deal with him, and he was contemptuous of everyone that fell for it.

    Saddest thing was, he was genuinely competent and a great guy to work for and around. Eventually, he was running the entire demilitarization program in Northern Iraq, and doing a hell of a job. The sad part of all that was that even other black officers looked at him and wondered–I had another old acquaintance, a black lieutenant colonel I’d known way earlier in my career, and who was working for CENTCOM at the time… Well, he comes up to me and asks “Who was really running the demil program… It can’t be Captain “X”, ‘cos… I mean, look at him…”.

    That was another black officer, who automatically made the assumption that there was someone else behind the scenes running things, and he’s coming up to me to ask who it was, because he knows me and trusts me. What. The. F**k?

    If there was ever a single incident that blew my belief in “affirmative action”, that would have been it. Even the “other blacks” knew the deal with what non-merit based promotion implied. And, were working around it.

    The place to start with never should have been from a standpoint of “equality of outcome”. It should have been doing the analysis of “What is holding these people back…?”, and then working directly on these issues. If the minorities weren’t willing to work on what held ‘em back, f**k ‘em. What we should have done was work on enhancing educational systems and giving them remedial training/education, in order to give them an honest chance at the brass ring.

    I think a lot of this “affirmative action” BS stems directly from the contempt the educated elites hold the “rest of us” in. They don’t think that the professional attainments of firefighters, police, or any of the military services mean anything real; you can just hand out those jobs like so much booty, and there’s no big deal to it all. The requirements we’ve had in place are apparently meaningless to these people, and they don’t grasp the way they’re destroying those career fields at all. Not to mention, the pernicious effects they’re having on the minorities themselves.

    The irony is that they’ve corrupted their own fields and arenas just as badly with this crapfest of incompetent unqualifieds. Even the academics are going sideways, losing all respect for the basics of it all, like good grammar and the ability to communicate in standard English. They’ve self-dumbened their own arenas so much that it’s not even funny…

    Ah, well. Someone, someday will write the “Decline and Fall of the American Republic”, and I expect there will be a chapter or twenty in there on “affirmative action”.

  4. TRX says:

    “Mostly because of that whole ‘merit’ thing turning out to be a lie”

    Chicago PD’s “merit” system doesn’t care what race you are; you’re not going anywhere unless the fix is in from above.

    In a way, I’m surprised the Second City Cop blog lasted as long as it did before they managed to get it shut down.

  5. LGC says:

    File under things everyone knows but no one talks about. Because of affirmative action, any minority you meet, you automatically assume they ONLY got the job because they were black, female, brown, yellow, whatever. And of course you have to watch yourself very carefully around these people because they know that they only got the job not on the merits and they are deeply insecure about it. Of course they can’t be fired either (for the same reasons) and they know this too. So job performance is nil.

    The so called black middle class only exists because most of them with their useless “studies” college degrees are employed by different levels of government. In the real world (where results used to matter and they are not just make work job) their appearance is rare.

    Also I agree with Kirk above, (we must be about the same age), literally every single thing we were told over the last 50 years (from race to merit to the USSR to nutrition to whatever) is a bright shining lie (to steal a book title).

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