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Author Topic: Why Affirmative Action is Justified  (Read 88940 times)

habeas dorkus!

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Re: Why Affirmative Action is Justified (by red.)
« Reply #80 on: June 09, 2006, 08:50:38 PM »
I give up ... BAFF.
Stop being so cryptic, fuckers.

Lurking Third Year

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Re: Why Affirmative Action is Justified (by red.)
« Reply #81 on: June 09, 2006, 09:15:09 PM »
But, according to Sanders' study, the LSAT does accurately reflect african americans' performance in law school.  If the LSAT was not accurately reflecting african american applicants' potential to do well in law school, wouldn't we expect african americans to perform, as a group, at a higher level than their scores would indicate? 

Okay, a fair question that deserves a full answer. I'm a bit tipsy at the moment, and I'll attempt to do some justice to the answer tomorrow morning.

Hey red., did you ever get around to thinking about this?  Sorry if you responded and I missed it.

I don't mean to sound like a broken record, but if, due to stereo type threat, the LSAT was understating URMs ability on the LSAT, we would expect the achievement gap to close in law school, but that is simply not the case.  Thus, the implication, and this was spelled out by Sanders, is that the LSAT is effectively measuring URMs ability to perform in law school.

if you accept red's studies, the primes that would affect some URM performance on the LSAT may also be present in law school exams.  The studies used primes of "an evaluation of one's intellectual ability"  Interesting the control primes were actually diversionary rather than traditionally neutral (ie: measures of psychological performance, which could be a positive prime).

overall, the nature and type of primes weren't scrutinized carefully in the studies.  In one scenario the controls are diversionary and in another it's neutral.  Another big question in the white female study is the primes involved stereotypical differences, but it wasn't clear if the mere mention of any negative difference, irrespective of group connotation may also produce a difference in test subjects.  Until that is determined, the jump to pervasise stereotypical effects is still in question.  So basically it'd be helpfu if there was an additional control group that was primed on negative differences that did not have a stereotypical basis.  [As a side note, the age range and field of study of the test subjects was interesting.. esp the selection of psychology students for math tests]





Well, Red.'s first post indicated that this problem was unique to standardized testing.  One of her points was that, holding UG gpa constant, URM LSAT scores were lower.  There was no indication that stereotype threat had any impact on UG grades, and so I don't see why it would on law school exams. 

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Re: Why Affirmative Action is Justified (by red.)
« Reply #82 on: June 09, 2006, 09:29:48 PM »
But, according to Sanders' study, the LSAT does accurately reflect african americans' performance in law school.  If the LSAT was not accurately reflecting african american applicants' potential to do well in law school, wouldn't we expect african americans to perform, as a group, at a higher level than their scores would indicate? 

Okay, a fair question that deserves a full answer. I'm a bit tipsy at the moment, and I'll attempt to do some justice to the answer tomorrow morning.

Hey red., did you ever get around to thinking about this?  Sorry if you responded and I missed it.

I don't mean to sound like a broken record, but if, due to stereo type threat, the LSAT was understating URMs ability on the LSAT, we would expect the achievement gap to close in law school, but that is simply not the case.  Thus, the implication, and this was spelled out by Sanders, is that the LSAT is effectively measuring URMs ability to perform in law school.

Hey, yeah. Here's the thing, I actually went back to read Sanders' study just to make sure that I hadn't skipped over something important when I read it for the first time a while back.

This is what he does, in terms of the r/ship between what he calls "admissions credentials" (i.e. the index score) and law school performance:

1) black kids do worse on the index score and they do worse in law school

2) I don't see what else could explain it except for the stereotype threat

3) but it's hard to pin down exactly how much of the law school performance gap the proponents of the stereotype threat believe it can account for

therefore

4) I'm going to go ahead and rely on a legal writing class grade distribution at my UCLA to assert - even though the sample size is too small - that it is not stereotype threat or anything other than black law students are simply not up to par with their peers at a particular law school.


I am not impressed by that kind of reasoning. It does nothing to address the issue of stereotype threat. By his own admission, he sidesteps it.

Here's an alternative explanation for the score gap which is actually wider in LGPA than it is in the LSAT:

1. Stereotype threat gets worse in law school because law school exams are scarier than the LSAT

2. The existence of an AA program itself, ironically, causes increased stereotyping and increased susceptibility to the stereotype threat



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Re: Why Affirmative Action is Justified (by red.)
« Reply #83 on: June 09, 2006, 09:33:28 PM »
Here's an alternative explanation for the score gap which is actually wider in LGPA than it is in the LSAT:

1. Stereotype threat gets worse in law school because law school exams are scarier than the LSAT

2. The existence of an AA program itself, ironically, causes increased stereotyping and increased susceptibility to the stereotype threat

See, this is one reason why I'm nervous about resting the whole premise on stereotype threat.  The same factors that give way to stereotype threat will give way to other mechanisms throughout law school and we can measure those too.  Stereotype threat is merely one of many reasons to explain this gap and it's entirely valid.  Only a look at the whole picture can explain the institutions that give way to these discrepencies.

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Re: Why Affirmative Action is Justified (by red.)
« Reply #84 on: June 09, 2006, 09:40:23 PM »
What is an alternative way of framing the issue?

EDIT: from what I've understood of your position,

1. stereotype thread facing URM applicants is one (important?) way in which systematic societal & institutional racism is transmitted into the applications process.

2. rather than address stereotype threat as an independent entity and rather than remedy for that, it would be better to remedy for the underlying racism.

3. consequently, we should pursue AA as a matter of social justice and fundamental fairness.

My view is that we have at least an overlapping consensus on these points?

Lurking Third Year

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Re: Why Affirmative Action is Justified (by red.)
« Reply #85 on: June 09, 2006, 09:50:40 PM »
But, according to Sanders' study, the LSAT does accurately reflect african americans' performance in law school.  If the LSAT was not accurately reflecting african american applicants' potential to do well in law school, wouldn't we expect african americans to perform, as a group, at a higher level than their scores would indicate? 

Okay, a fair question that deserves a full answer. I'm a bit tipsy at the moment, and I'll attempt to do some justice to the answer tomorrow morning.

Hey red., did you ever get around to thinking about this?  Sorry if you responded and I missed it.

I don't mean to sound like a broken record, but if, due to stereo type threat, the LSAT was understating URMs ability on the LSAT, we would expect the achievement gap to close in law school, but that is simply not the case.  Thus, the implication, and this was spelled out by Sanders, is that the LSAT is effectively measuring URMs ability to perform in law school.

Hey, yeah. Here's the thing, I actually went back to read Sanders' study just to make sure that I hadn't skipped over something important when I read it for the first time a while back.

This is what he does, in terms of the r/ship between what he calls "admissions credentials" (i.e. the index score) and law school performance:

1) black kids do worse on the index score and they do worse in law school

2) I don't see what else could explain it except for the stereotype threat

3) but it's hard to pin down exactly how much of the law school performance gap the proponents of the stereotype threat believe it can account for

therefore

4) I'm going to go ahead and rely on a legal writing class grade distribution at my UCLA to assert - even though the sample size is too small - that it is not stereotype threat or anything other than black law students are simply not up to par with their peers at a particular law school.


I am not impressed by that kind of reasoning. It does nothing to address the issue of stereotype threat. By his own admission, he sidesteps it.

Here's an alternative explanation for the score gap which is actually wider in LGPA than it is in the LSAT:

1. Stereotype threat gets worse in law school because law school exams are scarier than the LSAT

2. The existence of an AA program itself, ironically, causes increased stereotyping and increased susceptibility to the stereotype threat




Hey red.

A fair response.  But, I can't help but think, whether due to stereotype threat in law school or some other reason, the LSAT still does seem to accurately reflect URMs ability to perform in law school.  This is all the LSAT is supposed to do, and it seems to be working.  If your argument is that schools should look beyond factors that bear only on performance in law school, and particularly in the first year of law school, I'd agree.  But this kind of holistic review should be across the board, not just for URMs.

I also think your explanation for the achievement gap is plausible, but I think the simpler explanation -- that the LSAT is predicting what it has been designed to predict and has been proven to predict in other groups -- is the more likely explanation. 

redemption

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Re: Why Affirmative Action is Justified (by red.)
« Reply #86 on: June 09, 2006, 10:07:07 PM »
Hey red.

A fair response.  But, I can't help but think, whether due to stereotype threat in law school or some other reason, the LSAT still does seem to accurately reflect URMs ability to perform in law school.  This is all the LSAT is supposed to do, and it seems to be working.  If your argument is that schools should look beyond factors that bear only on performance in law school, and particularly in the first year of law school, I'd agree.  But this kind of holistic review should be across the board, not just for URMs.

I also think your explanation for the achievement gap is plausible, but I think the simpler explanation -- that the LSAT is predicting what it has been designed to predict and has been proven to predict in other groups -- is the more likely explanation. 

Well, I think where I would disagree is that I don't believe that the LSAT measures ability as effectively as it measures performance in the presence or absense of heightened stereotype threat.

This may seem like a minor quibble, but I don't think it is.

For one thing it very strongly suggests that performance varies greatly according to the manner in which the test is set up, and the ways in which URMs and other students are primed in terms of their expectations and experience of the LSAT and of law school itself.

Looking back at the 21st Century Program for undergraduates at the University of Michigan, for example, the black-white GPA score was eliminated (not just narrowed) when black and white students alike were - essentially - treated as high achievers, exposed to seminars, mentored by professors, etc.

There are other pilot programs like this at some twenty UG iinstitutions , and a review of them has been published by The College Board.

My suggestion is that law schools should re-examine the ways in which they may better acclimate all students to the law school experience by replicating the relevant parts of these prior successful experiments.

As far as admissions is concerned, I believe - with you - in a holistic process.

My argument for AA is conditional on all else remaining the same - as a remedy for a badly broken system that particularly disadvatages URMS. In that circumstance, where nothing else changes, I think that a lack of an affirmative action program would be grossly unfair and unjust.

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Re: Why Affirmative Action is Justified (by red.)
« Reply #87 on: June 09, 2006, 10:24:27 PM »
Here's an alternative explanation for the score gap which is actually wider in LGPA than it is in the LSAT:

1. Stereotype threat gets worse in law school because law school exams are scarier than the LSAT

2. The existence of an AA program itself, ironically, causes increased stereotyping and increased susceptibility to the stereotype threat

See, this is one reason why I'm nervous about resting the whole premise on stereotype threat.  The same factors that give way to stereotype threat will give way to other mechanisms throughout law school and we can measure those too.  Stereotype threat is merely one of many reasons to explain this gap and it's entirely valid.  Only a look at the whole picture can explain the institutions that give way to these discrepencies.

i'd agree that it's one of many factors that only in aggregate can provide a full account.  There's still some open issues w/ the primed threat tests in the cited study.  one obvious question is how long the primed-threat exists, and the distribution of errors/performance gap.  another is the similarity it bears with the frenetic pace of the LSAT which forces one to focus rather quickly and diminish the idle mind chatter.  another is the representativeness of the test subjects.  the common joke is psychology is the extrapolation of the broke college student behavior on the rest of the population.  Studies across different age groups would be most helpful in this study as one might be able to see the primed threat less significant in younger test takers and more significant in the older subjects who have had sufficient time to assimilate the negative stereotypes.  the conditional nature of these results is the presence of the prime.  if it is removed, so is the threat.  To that degree, one wouldn't want to base a significant part of an argument on the prime-threat effect.

But I think overall the preferred answer is to address the admissions system that holds themselves out as the entry gate to institutions of rational discourse and social justice, and do something to make them less beholden to the numbers ranking game in a $5 US News magazine.  Honestly, the absurdity is beyond me.

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Re: Why Affirmative Action is Justified (by red.)
« Reply #88 on: June 09, 2006, 11:26:33 PM »
I find the “statistical” counter argument to AA interesting, yet flawed. It holds that society should not take a statistical approach when comparing numbers of minorities in higher education and high end jobs.  For to do so overlooks individual cases at the cost of some abstract aggregate. However, did not the enlightened learn from the great American minds, primarily form the 19th century Metaphysical Club, and its social derivatives, when dealing with the concepts of proximate and actual causation, that in the final analysis we are dealing with a policy paradigm and not some objective method for determining causal chains and determining all variables giving rise to distinct events in the cosmos. Similarly, AA is a policy paradigm, the best experiment to correct past injustice. Using a statistical argument to counter AA, which is the best non-AA adherents can muster in heated debates--and rarely--is take us back to the type of thinking the great pragmatists (those congregating in the Metaphysical Club and its followers) worked to dispel.
One cannot conceive anything so strange and so implausible that it has not already been said by one philosopher or another. -- René Descartes, A Discourse on Method

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Re: Why Affirmative Action is Justified (by red.)
« Reply #89 on: June 09, 2006, 11:56:29 PM »
I've seen very little on this thread concerning how URMs are "primed" before taking the LSAT. Are test proctors informing them beforehand that it's a test to prove intelligence differences between the races? I doubt it.

So how are they primed to think about their race before the test? Three explanations have been given: 1) They walk into a test and see that the room is 90% white; 2) They have to self-identify before the test; and, 3)The wording at the beginning about cheating, etc.

Numbers one and three are silly. In many places in the US whites are 90%, or more, of the population. I don't see how walking off a street that is 90% white and into a classroom that is the same is going to suddenly remind URMs of their race.

As far as the pledge concerning cheating goes, this would most likely have an effect on dishonest people, regardless of race.

Having to self-identify before the test is a slightly better argument, but I'm not convinced that this works solely to the disadvantage of URMs. After all, whites have to self-identify, too. Is it possible they experience a sort of reverse stereotype threat? After all, they're supposed to be smarter, right? Maybe they don't want to let down their race by underperforming, thus they take longer to answer questions on a time sensitive test.

Now, I understand the counterargument to this will be that whites don't often even think about their race. Oh really? I'm sure they especially think about when they have to identify themselves as white just before they take a test to try to get into schools that practice affirmative action. Many whites may be under equal or more intense pressure to do well simply because they know they need to in order to get into schools at which they might otherwise have been accepted had it not been for affirmative action.

I see only one other explanation of how URMs are primed: by the culture in general -- they're already primed before they get there. Indeed, they're always primed. This is essentially the answer people here seem to be coming to. It would certainly explain poorer performance on the SAT, in high school, in college, in graduate school, and in the world in general.

But this argument doesn't hold any water either. If this were so, how does one explain the performance of URMs in the control groups of the stereotype threat tests who were not told anything about race before the test?

My best guess is that there are significant cultural factors (other than stereotype threat) that explain this phenomenon much better. What about the astronomical rates of illegitimacy among blacks in the US? I'd like to see someone tell me with a straight face that this doesn't play a role in academic achievment.

Now, I understand that none of this is actually an argument against affirmative action. One could say that it doesn't matter why URMs score lower or perform more poorly academically; law schools should still try to be fair. I think this comes down to a debate over the purpose of admissions councils, which is largely a matter of opinion. Mine is that it is not the job of admissions councils to ensure perfect fairness for all applicants. It is their job to fill the school with students who stand the greatest chance of hacking it. They shouldn't even care about the racial make-up. If the LSAT is the best way they know how to do this, so be it.

(As you could probably guess, I don't buy the diversity argument. Students will do the best when they are around the best and brightest, whatever the racial demographics.)

Finally, law schools admit individuals, not groups. Even if you could prove that stereotype threat has the most effect on those URMs who are the highest achievers, how could you know which ones they were? For example, if a URM applies who "should have" scored a 165 (but due to stereotype threat scored a 159), how do you tell him apart from the URM who was not as high an achiever and got an "accurate" 159.

You don't. You also don't tell them apart from the white kid who got a 164 (and, as pointed out earlier, may also have been effected by stereotype threat). If we're so interested in fairness shouldn't it apply both ways?
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