My concern is that a system like that is hugely preferential to wealthy people. I guess if you don't think that promoting economic mobility should be a goal of our education policy, though, a merit-only system make sense.
Its not to protect wealth, but to entitle a man to his own sweat. Economic mobility should be promoted by education, not by a cherry picking external system built into academic bureaucracy. It doesnt take a wealthy man to eschew a social life for 5 months to study for the LSAT, and it doesnt take a wealthy man to go to a state school, attend class, join a club or two, and get above a 3.0.
It does take a lifelong supportive environment to instill those sorts of values and discipline in individuals - family, friends, school systems, etc.
The argument is that there is a strong correlation between wealth and these sorts of support systems needed to make a successful student and person. It's isn't an absolute correlation, and no one is pretending it is, but is there nonetheless.
Strong arguments can be made that race has a discriminatory factor that influences, and/or can go beyond these types of support systems. Hence the (almost universally accepted) need for "diversity" in the work place and educational system (among other reasons).
There will always be self made people, much like there will always be socially made and unmade people. Surely we not ignore one for the sake of the other?
'Socially made and unmade'?
I'm going to try and make an argument, it's my first time, so be gentle.
Race based AA violates basic American democratic values of equality and merit.
It violates the fundamental moral principle against treating someone differently because of the color of their skin.
Race based AA does not hold minorities to the same standards, so they are less likely to hold themselves to these standards.
The link between inferiority and race is reinforced by preferences.
Race based AA can place minorities in educational environments that are inappropriate for their level of skills and preparation.
It creates a “spoils system,” in which groups compete for benefits rather than individuals being evaluated on their merits.
It creates increasing cynicism, as academic decisions are believed to be politically motivated.
It undermines the initiative of both those who benefit and those who don’t.
It perpetuates ways of categorizing people.
It suggests that if you're black you have a right to compensation for the substantial systematic violation of your ancestors rights. This leads to a “Restorative Justice Handicapping System” that would give each individual an AA score, either positive or negative.
It discounts disadvantage. You can be advantaged and a minority, and be disadvantaged and white.
It's perfectly reasonable for minorities to support preferences since they will get advantages from them, even if they know that preferences are wrong.