« on: July 04, 2007, 07:33:24 PM »
I don't think any form of affirmative action that results in lowering standards is beneficial, in the long term, for those whom the standards are lowered.
Academic or business performance standards exist because they allow people who make allocation-of-resource decisions to allocate schooling, job training, or project opportunities to those people most likely to benefit from those opportunities. Standards allow these decision-makers to specify pre-requisite skills and knowledge that they have observed, through both study and experience, to be crucial to learning the content and knowledge of a class or developing the project in a way that maximizes its benefits.
Lowering standards that specify crucial pre-requisites sets people up to fail. What's worse is that the time these people spend failing could be better spent developing the pre-requisites that would normally be required.
For example, taking a calculus class definitely requires understanding of basic algebra. A school administrator who allowed someone who didn't take algebra to enroll in a calculus course would likely see that student fail the course. This is tragic, of course. But what's even worse is that the student could have spent the time used struggling through calculus on learning algebra. Thus, lowering the enrollment standards for calculus would not benefit the student at all.
What's worse is that the lowering of standards for the benefitted group can lead to damage to 3rd parties should they be forced to depend upon a professional from that group. Since members from the benefitted group may have graduated college or lead a project only due to the lowered standards, and not because they would meet the normal standards, there is a chance that these sub-quality members cannot perform as expected in their professional life. Thus, there is a chance that a black surgeon who graduated from Harvard Medical School graduated simply due to his race, and not because he learned all of the knowledge and skills necessary to perform as a surgeon. Would you want to be operated upon by an unqualified doctor?
Please note that I am not saying that all blacks are unqualified or anything of that sort. Undoubtedly, many black professionals are very competent and would meet the normal (unlowered) knowledge and performance standards of their industry or educational institution. What I am saying is that lowering standards for minorities will lead to a larger proportion of unqualified minorities entering the professional or educational ranks, to the detriment of their co-workers and clients, who may have had higher expectations of their performance.
Furthermore, damage to 3rd parties due to underperforming, underqualified beneficiaries of lowered standards can cause a backlash against the entire class of beneficiaries. If MIT sophomores selecting lab partners see that many of their black classmates, admitted under affirmative action, are struggling to understand the material presented freshman year, even if they knew one or two black geniuses in their matriculating class, do you think those sophomores would select black lab partners, knowing the numerical odds of finding one are against them because of the policy of lowered standards?
In addition, this backlash can crystallize into solid conclusions, further damaging relations between the beneficiaries of the lowered standards and other groups. Some of those MIT graduates could conclude that all black people weren't capable of graduating from MIT. Of course this is flawed conclusion based on limited sampling, but if those graduates based their conclusion on their own experiences dealing with underqualified classmates, I would be hesitant to morally condemn them. Still, such a conclusion would only hurt black people as a whole in their dealings with other groups.
As I understand it, affirmative action was originally intended to suggest to allocation-of-resources decision-makers that they expend additional effort in finding qualified candidates from underrepresented minorities. I think this form of affirmative action is somewhat beneficial because people from those minority groups may not have had access to recruiters or intense scrutiny by HR departments in the past. However, this form of affirmative action is beneficial only because it maintains the original standards expected of the selected candidates, therefore forgoing all the problems I mentioned above.