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Social Mobility and Race in Higher Education

social-mobility-limo

The discussion thread on yesterday’s posting “Supreme Court Upholds Michigan Referendum Banning Affirmative Action In Higher Education” is uncharacteristically ugly, with more slinging of insults than thoughtful debate. A notable exception is a contribution from long-time commenter Stan, who I believe is a retired professor at the flagship University of Michigan campus.

I understand the emotions of Michigan voters in banning affirmative action at UM, but when I’m on campus I’m disturbed by the small number of black and Hispanic students. Michigan is a state with a bad history of race relations, and I’m pretty sure that the university leadership instituted its affirmative action program in an attempt to integrate minorities into the general society and to help white students and faculty feel more comfortable with African-Americans. Based on my personal experience as a professor in the Michigan engineering college, I can’t say that I noticed any marked difference in ability between the white and African-American students in my classes. The performance of the African-American students upset some of my own preconceived notions about racial differences in the US, and I hope it did the same for white students and faculty in general.

I’m afraid of the development of a two-tier society in the US, and I think the Supreme Court’s decision is a big step in the wrong direction. At every stage of education, from kindergarten to graduate school, we spend more money on the education of well off white kids, like mine, than on the poor of both races. I think this is a horrible mistake.

The lack of social mobility for poor and otherwise disadvantaged students, who are disproportionately black and Hispanic, is a real problem that should concern Americans of all races and political ideologies. I’m an opponent of state institutions giving preferential treatment on the basis of race alone for a variety of reasons, not least of which is that it’s increasingly anachronistic nearly seven decades after Brown vs. Board of Education and nearly half a century after the Civil Rights Act of 1965.

I don’t think it’s quite right that “we spend more money on the education of well off white kids.” Rather, we spend more money on the education of well off kids, who are disproportionately white. Nowadays, while race of course remains an issue, it’s quite possible that parental and community social class is a bigger issue in terms of children’s achievement. Indeed, while race per se is undeniably much less of a barrier to success than it was half a century—or, indeed, a quarter century—ago, we’re seeing a steady decline in social mobility. Increasingly, demography is destiny.

The “two-tier society” Stan fears is already with us. Ironically, this is largely a function of higher education becoming increasingly “meritocratic.” I use the scare quotes because, while we’ve genuinely attempted to sort students into schools based on measurable achievement and aptitude, we’ve unintentionally created a scholastic arms race that the sons and daughters of the well off are winning. And, adding insult to injury, they more than ever think they deserve their victory because, after all, they’ve been busting their asses for years taking advanced placement courses, doing the “right” extracurriculars, volunteering, and otherwise earning their place among the elite of the elite.

Placement at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor  is a big deal, bringing life-long advantages to those who make the cut. While not quite a “public Ivy,” it’s currently 28th on the infamous US News rankings, just behind Tufts and just ahead of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill among national universities. By contrast, Michigan State ranks 78th. Eastern Michigan ranks 77th in the Midwest. The difference in tuition between the three schools, all of which are a bargain for in-state students, is modest; the difference in prestige conferred and connections gained is enormous.

There are all manner of grants, loans, and scholarships to help underprivileged students who matriculate at Michigan pay for school. But they’re on their own in getting accepted in the first place.

First off, it requires even understanding that it matters. Students whose parents didn’t go to college are unlikely to fully understand how much difference the name on one’s diploma makes; simply “going to college” is a lofty enough ambition for them. Further, as Stan notes, they’re more likely to live in communities with lousy public schools. If extracurriculars beyond sports are available at all, their parents are less likely to be able to cart them back and forth. They’re less likely to have a house full of books and the encouragement to read them. They’re certainly not summering in Europe or Japan; indeed, they’re likely unaware that “summer” can be a verb. On the lower end of the spectrum, they’re more likely to be dining at the soup kitchen than volunteering there. And, naturally, they’re not taking private piano lessons or being tutored for their SATs.

I haven’t the foggiest how to solve these problems. In an ideal world, we’d divorce funding for public schools from community affluence, pooling the money at least at the state level and spending the same across the board. But, even if we could somehow make that happen, we’d likely see the rich become even more likely to take their kids out of the public schools altogether and fight even harder against paying for good public schools.  But, even if we could magically guarantee all our kids a great public education, I don’t see how we’d remove the huge non-economic advantages that the sons and daughters of the well-to-do (or even educated professionals like Stan and myself) have over those who didn’t win the genetic lottery.

Regardless, I think we’re more likely to have a productive conversation focusing on economic and social mobility rather than race. While I share Stan’s preference that places like the Ann Arbor campus reflect the racial diversity of their community (the state of Michigan is 14% African American; its flagship campus only 4.7%) there’s no reason we shouldn’t achieve that by addressing non-racial barriers.

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About James Joyner
James Joyner is the publisher of Outside the Beltway, an associate professor of security studies at the Marine Corps Command and Staff College, and a nonresident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. He has a PhD in political science from The University of Alabama. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter.

Comments

  1. steve says:

    A tough problem to solve, but there are two things we should do now. First, we should make aid income based and not race based. This would still help minorities, but would also help poor white kids, especially in rural areas where poverty rates are higher than in the cities. Second, we should redefine meritocratic. As Unz noted in his study, if you take two kids with equal SAT scores, the one who works part-time or does 4H has a decreased chance of being admitted to an elite school. Vacationing in Belize or wherever should not count as merit, at least for the kids (maybe for the parents). We should acknowledge that a 2300 (or some lower point) on the SAT for a kid living in poverty (or lower middle class) probably shows as much merit as a 2400 for the kid from the upper middle class.

    Steve

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 16 Thumb down 0

  2. Scott says:

    For those who don’t have kids in college or on their way to college, here aresome of the benefits of being in good upper/middle class school district: Lots of AP classes (e.g. my son is taking 2 as a sophomore and will take 5 as a junior), SAT prep (both inschool and out of school) adding 100s of point to the score, personal training for sports, tutoring, and no lack of school supplies. The disadvantage in being in a poor city or rural district is huge.

    I also believe that class-based affirmative action is a good solution. Texas has a rule that the top 10% of a graduating class is automatically accepted to the state school of their choice (although UT is now down to top 7%).

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 0

  3. C. Clavin says:

    An excellent post, James.
    However the party you support is bound and determined to make it even harder for poor kids.
    How do you reconcile that?

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 18 Thumb down 5

  4. Anon says:

    I’m a professor at a medium-sized research university. I definitely see too few African-Americans. (There are many more Hispanics.) However, I think that long-term, race-based preferences do more harm than good. I’d rather see race-based aid before college. In other words, give race-based preference for help K-12, financial and otherwise, but not admittance for college.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  5. Jack says:

    @Anon: I believe the voucher system is trying to do just that. Why, oh why, vouchers are opposed at both state and federal levels vexes me. I am truly vexed.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 5

  6. Matt Bernius says:

    Very thoughtful post James.

    I agree with the notion of class based affirmative action. However I will note a problem with it.

    @steve wrote:

    A tough problem to solve, but there are two things we should do now. First, we should make aid income based and not race based.

    This intersects with a point that @Scott was getting to:

    One of the benefits of being middle/upper middle class is access to a network to help game the system. I remember, when my parents were preparing for my brothers and I to enter college, that they were invited to attend a financial planning seminar for college.

    My father came home from the class very disturbed. It turns out that the accountant was essentially teaching how to hide assets to appear poorer than you were in order to qualify your children for additional financial aid. He was appalled by the idea. But I’m sure a lot of people avail themselves of this type of service — why wouldn’t they? They’re just trying to get their kids ahead.

    I think people really fail to appreciate the extra trappings that privilege provides in this process. And as with James, I have a really hard time thinking of a policy approach to reduce, let alone remove, the effects of privilege from the equation.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 0

  7. Just Me says:

    I think an admissions policy based on economic status would actually make schools far more diverse than one based in race-especially at elite schools where most of the minorities admitted are likely to be wealthy or upper middle class than poor.

    My kids attend school in a very poor school district. There are only two AP courses and outside of sports there aren’t many activities. My daughter at her college has a friend who had about 30 hours of AP credit (he attended a great public school in a wealthy district).

    Also, if the goal really is diversity-there is far more ways to get real diversity than focusing on race. Using social class for admission decisions IMO would likely result in more diversity than just focusing on race since race alone is likely to admit well off minorities but leaves poor minorities and whites to struggle.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  8. stonetools says:

    Of course, the problem here is that what Michigan did is to take away the little bit of advantage that racial preferences may have have given and replaced that, not with class based preferences, but with NOTHING. In effect, Michigan said, “We are fine with developing a two tiered society. What matters above all is that no whites be disadvantaged by any race based preferences whatsover.”

    I’m an opponent of state institutions giving preferential treatment on the basis of race alone for a variety of reasons

    The bolded word is the point of the demogoguery against AA policies It was never based on race alone. Race was always one of several factors to be weighed.

    Regardless, I think we’re more likely to have a productive conversation focusing on economic and social mobility rather than race

    When liberals even begin that conversation, conservatives yell “CLASS WARFARE”. Conservatives don’t want to have that conversation. They’re fine with a return to a caste system based on race , class, and property.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 2

  9. stonetools says:

    John Scalzi sets out an interesting way of describing the advantages held by a white male in American society.

    Dudes. Imagine life here in the US — or indeed, pretty much anywhere in the Western world — is a massive role playing game, like World of Warcraft except appallingly mundane, where most quests involve the acquisition of money, cell phones and donuts, although not always at the same time. Let’s call it The Real World. You have installed The Real World on your computer and are about to start playing, but first you go to the settings tab to bind your keys, fiddle with your defaults, and choose the difficulty setting for the game. Got it?

    Okay: In the role playing game known as The Real World, “Straight White Male” is the lowest difficulty setting there is.

    This means that the default behaviors for almost all the non-player characters in the game are easier on you than they would be otherwise. The default barriers for completions of quests are lower. Your leveling-up thresholds come more quickly. You automatically gain entry to some parts of the map that others have to work for. The game is easier to play, automatically, and when you need help, by default it’s easier to get.

    Read the whole thing, including the comments. The dudebro section of the community just would not admit that white males had any special privilege, and Scalzi had to sometimes use the Mallet of Loving Correction to quell the more racist outbreaks.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 2

  10. Matt Bernius says:

    @stonetools:
    To your point that the Michigan program wasn’t simply based on race, I point everyone to another comment made by @Stan on the other thread:

    You’re misrepresenting the point system used in the Michigan admissions program under discussion. The document you cited states that Michigan used 150 total admission points. 80 points were based on GPA, 12 on SAT or ACT, 10 on having attended a high school with good academic standards, and 8 on having taken an academically rigorous program. We’re now up to 110 points out of 150. 20 points were given for being a minority or being economically disadvantaged, and 16 for being from the Upper Peninsula, the area of the state immediately south of Lake Superior. These standards helped minority students gain admission, but they were far from being decisive. Ceteris paribus, a poor white kid from the UP was helped more by the admissions standards than a middle class black kid from Detroit.
    [source: http://www.outsidethebeltway.com/supreme-court-upholds-michigan-referendum-banning-affirmative-action-in-higher-education/#comment-1910869 ]

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 0

  11. Moosebreath says:

    @Jack:

    “I believe the voucher system is trying to do just that.”

    Really, you have seen race-based voucher systems? Please provide details.

    “Why, oh why, vouchers are opposed at both state and federal levels vexes me. I am truly vexed.”

    Because the people proposing vouchers have not exactly hid their agendas to undermine public schools, and because nearly all voucher systems I have seen have not had an income cap to limit the effect to aiding lower income students. Instead, most plans would subsidize middle or upper income families, many of whom already choose to send their kids to private schools.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 21 Thumb down 1

  12. Matt Bernius says:

    @stonetools:
    I was considering linking to that article as well. Great minds or something.

    Even if we take the “white” part out of the equation, part of the challenge is that for middle-middle class and above, easy mode also provides access to a lot of the “cheat codes” (to extend his metaphor) that help to game the system.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  13. James Joyner says:

    @stonetools: I’m not arguing that race is ever the sole criterion for admission, even under the pure quota forms of affirmative action outlawed by Bakke. I’m saying that I don’t think that race, in and of itself, should be an admissions criteria. Rather, I’d rather see policies that have the effect of increasing racial diversity by removing barriers caused by disadvantaged status.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 1

  14. DrDaveT says:

    At the risk of opening a can of worms, let me point out that there are (at least) two different categories of problem to be fixed here, and the same solution will not work for both.

    There’s lots of discussion above about the benefits of money and social status. It’s all true, and we need compensatory measures to make sure that the geniuses among the poor and disadvantaged can still get the education they deserve and that the nation benefits from giving them.

    There is no discussion above about the fact that some subcultures — most notably, the descendants of black slaves — underperform even after you adjust for socioeconomic status. The evidence is overwhelming that this is a cultural problem, not a socioeconomic or (as the racists would have it) genetic problem.

    Privileged America created this problem, just as surely as the other, and it is both America’s responsibility and in America’s long-term best interest to help solve it. But like any 12-step program, you first have to admit you have a problem, and that is politically almost impossible.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 0

  15. James Joyner says:

    @DrDaveT: But surely taking steps to ensure that a greater share of the descendents of slaves are well educated will help change said subculture?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  16. beth says:

    @Moosebreath: What I’ve also seen are voucher programs that pay for part of the tuition (which doesn’t help poor families who can’t make up the difference) and offer no transportation options to those good schools (poor, working families don’t have the option of mom taking the kids to school in the second car).

    @Matt Bernius:

    I agree with the notion of class based affirmative action.

    I agree that this would be a fairer and more effective option however I think you’re still going to hear the same complaints from the same people. How long before some rich kid’s parents sue a college because their kid didn’t get admitted over a poor kid with worse scores. Is this method any more “Supreme Court proof” than the Michigan statute?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 1

  17. PD Shaw says:

    @Just Me: “if the goal really is diversity-there is far more ways to get real diversity than focusing on race.”

    Diversity is the only goal the Courts have recognized as being a compelling state interest to distinguish on the basis of race. Its the only legitimate goal, though obviously those who want to remedy past racial discrimination will try to bootstrap an impermissible goal by using a permissible goal.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  18. Franklin says:

    @Matt Bernius:

    It turns out that the accountant was essentially teaching how to hide assets to appear poorer than you were in order to qualify your children for additional financial aid.

    From what I’ve heard, you don’t even need to “hide” them. Currently, anything in retirement accounts they won’t touch. But if you’ve been forking over money to a 529 thinking that you’re “planning ahead” and “saving money”, congratulations: you’ve lost all potential access to financial aid because they see you can afford it.

    Of course I don’t want to complain too much because there’s a difference between not saving money and not being able to save money, but it’s nearly impossible to tease out the difference after the fact.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  19. stonetools says:

    @DrDaveT:

    The evidence is overwhelming that this is a cultural problem, not a socioeconomic or (as the racists would have it) genetic problem.

    You should understand that this is disputed. Ta-Nehisi Coates and Jonathon Chait had a big back and forth on this. Start here for that discussion.
    Now that issue is slightly different from the one you raise, but the discussion is relevant.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  20. Stan says:

    @James Joyner: Thanks for your kind comments about my posts. I agree that affirmative action based on economic factors is better than race based affirmative action. Unfortunately, admitting poor kids to college requires a big economic commitment in terms of scholarship aid and tutoring. Private universities with big endowments can do this. Public universities can’t. Fiscal policy in the United States is heavily influenced by our governing class, and as this graph shows (see http://tinyurl.com/23qv5r), our wealthy classes are adamantly opposed to public expenditures. So I think the University of Michigan, like other good public universities, will continue to be bastions of the rich and the upper middle class.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  21. stonetools says:

    Also interesting comment here from Neil deGrasse Tyson:

    The question is basically, why are there so many more men working in science than women. As someone in the audience follows up, is it a question of genetics? Tyson answers the question going beyond the lens of gender and pushing his answer to include his area of familiarity: race barriers. Speaking about his aspirations to become an astrophysicist at a young age, teachers would ask the young Tyson if he wouldn’t rather be an athlete. “I wanted to become something that was outside of the paradigms of expectation of the people in power,” he said in response.

    These social barriers expanded as Tyson got older, ingraining in him the idea that he was unwelcome in certain spaces.

    “Before we start talking about genetic differences, you gotta come up with a system where there’s equal opportunity,” he said. “Then we can have that conversation.”

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  22. Rob in CT says:

    I don’t think it’s quite right that “we spend more money on the education of well off white kids.” Rather, we spend more money on the education of well off kids, who are disproportionately white.

    And why, exactly, are well-off kids disproportionately white? Ah, there’s the rub. It circles back, James. It’s very much like the debate over women making 77 cents on the dollar. The counter argument is that if you adjust for various factors (education level, precise job title, etc) the gap closes somewhat (81%, 84%, 93%… depending on the adjustments). But the next question has to be huh, why are women underrepresented in lucrative fields? Why is it, exactly, that they are overwhelmingly the ones to drop out of the workforce to take care of the kids? And then you’re back to square one, because such things do not occur in a vacuum.

    So while I agree with you in theory, in practice I think this ends up being a distinction w/o much difference.

    I’m not strongly ideologically opposed to changing AA to a “class based” instead of “race based” (which is a bit of a misnomer, if I understand things correctly) system. I do harbor suspicions, though, as to just how such a “colorblind” system will operate. We have not exactly covered ourselves in glory to this point, have we?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 1

  23. al-Ameda says:

    What is interesting to me is that we never hear of cases where a white student has sued a public university because another white student with lesser qualifications (that is, with lower grades and lower test scores) was admitted instead of the white student with stronger qualifications. It is always assumed that a deserving white student was denied admission because less qualified non-white students were admitted.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 0

  24. Rob in CT says:

    @Rob in CT:

    Sorry, a followup thought:

    Whenever the “class vs. race” argument comes up (typically but not exclusively in lefty circles), it occurs to me that in American History, you cannot untangle the two. This country spent roughly three and a half centuries (early-17th century to mid-to-late-20th) creating and maintaining a specific peon class demarked by race. Roughly 50 years ago, a fairly slim majority decided that wasn’t really right and started working on reversing it. Rather gently, I might add, and not without opposition.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 1

  25. James Pearce says:

    @DrDaveT:

    “The evidence is overwhelming that this is a cultural problem, not a socioeconomic or (as the racists would have it) genetic problem.”

    Just want to clarify your meaning, Dave. When you are describing the “cultural problem,” are you referring to the sub-culture or the wider common culture?

    Jonathan Chait and Ta-Nehisi Coates went a few rounds on this topic recently. Me personally, I see problems in both the sub-culture and the common culture. Solve one and you leave the other.

    And, hate to say it, but I’m not so sure that education alone can fix either.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  26. Gavrilo says:

    Placement at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor is a big deal, bringing life-long advantages to those who make the cut.

    No, no, no, no. Graduating from the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor is a big deal. Simply getting in when you are unprepared only results in a waste of your time and a lot of debt.

    There is a huge discrepancy in graduation rates between blacks and whites at the University of Michigan. In 2005, it was 21 percentage points. These universities are doing a huge disservice to black students by letting them in when so many can’t handle the work. I’m sure it makes the lily-white administrators and professors feel good about themselves when they see black faces around campus, but the reality is that thousands of black students are being hurt by these policies.

    It is better to be a graduate of Michigan State than to be a dropout from the University of Michigan.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 2

  27. Rob in CT says:

    It is better to be a graduate of Michigan State than to be a dropout from the University of Michigan

    Well, that’s obvious. But is it whether it’s better to be a highschool grad only or a Michigan State dropout with some debt. How much debt? Actually, third possibility: grad of a lesser school with comparable or less debt? The big factor here that is getting worse and worse is the debt. Which is being driven by multiple factors, very much including cuts to state funding.

    I’m suspicious of the idea that the only reason there is a gap in graduation rate is that black students are unprepared, though. But a significant part of the reason? Sure, ok. There are other ways of coming at that problem before kids are applying to universities, of course.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  28. grumpy realist says:

    @stonetools: I remember that the percentage of women in my class at MIT was highest for areas such as Civ E, Chem E, and Bio. Not so much in Comp Sci, and very very few in physics. Higher percentage of women in math than in physics.

    My guess was that if you were female and absolutely loved mathematics, you stuck with the math. If you were female and interested enough in math and engineering and the other “hard stuff” but not a math-lover, you were more likely to jump over the stereotypes completely and park yourself in a discipline that paid well. Those of us in physics were just the few 6-sigma types that found physics and math fascinating and didn’t care too much about future employment.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  29. James Pearce says:

    @Gavrilo:

    “These universities are doing a huge disservice to black students by letting them in when so many can’t handle the work.”

    I think I understand your point, Gavrilo, though I can’t say I agree with much of it. It’s a “huge disservice” to give someone an opportunity? Um…….not really.

    But larger than that…..are you aware of how racist your statement sounds?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 6

  30. John D'Geek says:

    @Rob in CT: Once you start into history, it becomes far more “tangled” than most people believe, even among the liberals. The dominant class in America was not just “white”, as we are often led to believe — it was English. There are exceptions, but they they tend to prove the rule.

    I am of predominantly Celtic background; my family/clan has never been “in power” in America. We’ve always been part of the Poor/Repressed. (Hint: My mother hails from West Virginia).

    As bad as it is now, it’s actually much better than even just a hundred years ago when “white” just meant “darned if I know!” (much the same as “black”)*.

    * Personal knowledge. I had the chance to scan a prison ledger from the early 20th century in Central PA. There were almost no “white” races listed — race was indistinguishable from “nation/area of origin” in this central PA city unless they couldn’t figure it out. Then they used “White”, “Black”, or “American”. I did not see any Hispanic, Mexican or Native American in the ledger; nor was there any indication of the difference between “American” and “White”.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  31. John D'Geek says:

    @beth: Unfortunately, you have a point. The constitution guarantees that we do not have a class system; any system of Class Preference would have to be carefully designed so as not to trigger this prohibition.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  32. James Joyner says:

    @Gavrilo: Well, yeah. But the sad fact of the matter is that getting in to a school is really the key hurdle. It’s no harder to graduate Michigan–or Harvard—than Michigan State or Eastern Michigan. The hard part is getting the chance.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 2

  33. Rob in CT says:

    @John D’Geek:

    Indeed. “White” has changed over time. It used to basically mean “anglo-saxon protestant.” Over time, it expanded to include groups that would have not been considered white before (e.g., my Sicillian Catholic side).

    What about this do you think that liberals, generally, don’t know?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  34. dennis says:

    @DrDaveT:

    DrDave, I agree with you on all counts, even though they sting a bit. I was reluctant to weigh in, until I read your post.

    There’s lots of discussion above about the benefits of money and social status.

    That is true. I am able to make sure my daughter is in a top-tier school. She’s finishing her freshman year in high school, and took four pre-AP classes in the four main disciplines. She has been accepted to the G&T program for her sophomore year, and will take four AP classes. She’s also in JROTC right now, and speaks of going into Navy ROTC and aviation medicine. I will cross hell and highwater to see that happen.

    But that is thanks to a few White people who saw talent in me and paved and steered some direction for me. After that, military service then federal service. The nine years I spent in the private sector between those two reintroduced me to the ugliness of race preferences that White men in power give to other White men to bring them up and along. More power to them. There’s a lot more evenhandedness in federal service, though race tension is not totally eliminated.

    There is no discussion above about the fact that some subcultures — most notably, the descendants of black slaves — underperform even after you adjust for socioeconomic status.

    Yes, we have some problems. I was aware of that even as a teenager. I think that a lot of the underperformance is due to lack of exposure to things outside the “hood.” For example, when I took the ASVAB way back when, my score was 76. It wasn’t that I wasn’t smart; it was because most — no, almost all — the mechanical questions, tool questions, and low-level basic engineering questions I was unable to answer because, well, in the ‘hood, I had no exposure to these things. My peers, on the other hand, who grew up in Texas, for example, new about tools and mechanics, fixing cars and all kinds of things. Advantage, them.

    That is why I expose my daughter to everything I can, sometimes against her will. That way, she can recognize and understand new things when she encounters them. I’m pretty sure her trips to New York and Europe this summer are going to help with that. Yeah, we are privileged; it’s not just White people.

    The evidence is overwhelming that this is a cultural problem, not a socioeconomic or (as the racists would have it) genetic problem.

    Only in that we, collectively, have to stop equating education and brain power with Whiteness.

    Now, let’s all admit here: it’s good to be White, and better to be a White man, in America. Doors open easier and access to almost everything is at your fingertips. I marvel at some of my friends who are clearly smart, but don’t aspire to use their — advantage, I’ll say — to be more and do more. But I guess they have that privilege of not feeling like they have to keep striving. And, White people have to stop calling poor Whites ‘poor White trash.’ It’s just a slap in their faces at their failure to capitalize on their natural advantages in this country. That’s why you see so much resentment (I won’t say hate) against the president from that segment of our population. Because now, even if you “ain’t a n****r,” you still look like a loser if you’re White and struggling in America. Well, in the eyes of well-off White folk, anyway.

    Finally, the best “Affirmative Action” I received was that haircut and military training back in the day. That opened many doors of opportunity for me that I never would have been able to open myself.

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  35. John D'Geek says:

    @Rob in CT: Well, in a nutshell, “Race is arbitrary”. This is something taught by certain (liberal) academics, but not paid attention to … at least, not by the liberals in media*. My experiences (the aforementioned book; time in 80′s South Africa) have taught me that quite clearly …

    @dennis:

    Only in that we, collectively, have to stop equating education and brain power with Whiteness.

    True enough. I would add that we need to stop equating “education” with “school”. Thinking about this more and more, I’m coming to the conclusion that this is something that money (by itself) & school systems cannot fix. It’s really exposure to ideas and learning specific mind-sets or modes of thinking.

    I’d love to say that I came up with that all by myself, but it was really Robert Kiyosaki and his Rich Dad/Poor Dad trilogy that got the ball rolling for me.

    * Self-corrected.

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  36. dennis says:

    Oh, and let me add that I learn a LOT of good and useful things from you White guys on this blog. Even from good ol’ Eric, who constantly reminds me how much harder I need to work at being a better human being.

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  37. dennis says:

    *and women. Sorry, beth…

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  38. Stan says:

    @Gavrilo: The engineering deans most closely associated with the affirmative action program at Michigan were Jim Duderstadt, who later became president of the university, and his successor and friend, Chuck Vest, who wound up as president of MIT and of the National Academy of Engineering. I wasn’t close to either one, but I knew them well enough to know that they weren’t the fatuous liberals of your imagination. The eighties and nineties were periods of racial tension in Michigan, the eighties because of the deterioration of the auto industry and the nineties because of the industry’s continuing problems and the aftermath of the Rodney King beating in Los Angeles. Duderstadt and Vest tried in their own way to improve the racial situation by increasing enrollment of minorities in the engineering college and by diverting substantial sums of money to tutoring and mentoring to see the students through to graduation. They deserve better than to be sneered at as people who just wanted to feel good about themselves.

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  39. Matt Bernius says:

    @John D’Geek:

    Well, in a nutshell, “Race is arbitrary”. This is something taught by certain (liberal) academics, but not paid attention to … at least, not by the liberals in media*. My experiences (the aforementioned book; time in 80′s South Africa) have taught me that quite clearly …

    No… just no.

    This is a fundamental mixing up of theory versus application. Yes, race is an imaginary construct and changes over time. But in any given moment, “race” can also be very real and have profound implications for people classified, in that moment, as one race or another.

    Put it a different way, there is no such thing as a “real” classification system. On some level everything is socially constructed and fluid. But the abstract nature of these systems doesn’t prevent them from having real effects on every moment of our lives.

    Beyond that, cultural practices and legislation have a long history of making so called “imagined classifications” de facto “real” classifications.

    We just need to look at the plight for freemen during the active years of slavery in the US or people deemed “Black” living in a segregated state to see the profound reality of race at that moment in time. Or, to this point, the non-White caucasian living in a turn of the century ghetto.

    In each of these cases race was something incredibly real. And the fact that the determination of race was aribtrary (as it was in recent cases where Shiks, for example, were attacked because the attacker determined them to be Muslim) doesn’t mean a hill of beans in any of these cases.

    The point of the academic critique of race as being arbitrary is to demonstrate that there are no inherent (or pre-mediated) races. The hope is to help demonstrate why, ultimately, race-based laws or predujustices need to be questioned.

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  40. Rob in CT says:

    @John D’Geek:

    The way I’ve learned it (mostly after graduating from college) is this: race is an artificial construct, but nonetheless very real. Look at it this way: my house is artificial, but it’s quite real.

    Race was created by people to serve certain ends. This was bolstered by public policy, generation after generation. So, here we are in the 21st century and we can sit down and agree with one another that the whole thing is bullshit. But that doesn’t make it all go away, right?

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  41. Rob in CT says:

    [Warning, Tangent! Also, too: rambly. YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED]

    We just need to look at the plight for freemen during the active years of slavery in the US or people deemed “Black” living in a segregated state to see the profound reality of race at that moment in time.

    If one reads Eric Foner’s Free Soil. Free Labor. Free Men., which is about the formation of the Republican Party and the development of its ideology, and his Reconstruction, you will find Republicans (the progressive party of the time) saying (apparently with straight faces) in 1866-1870 that “now it is time for the blacks to stand on their own,” as they voted down bills to provide some land and/or other capital to freedmen (what today would be called “reparations”), or seriously fund the Freedman’s bureau, or balked at sending in federal troops to protect the rights of black Americans, etc.

    [in case anyone things this is me picking on the mid-19th century, GOP, certainly not. They were miles and miles better than the Democratic Party of the time, whose slogan was "This is the White Man's Country. Let the White Man Rule."]

    We’re basically still having that argument, with addition of examples of previously non-white groups (Italian immigrants, Jews, etc) becoming accepted into the white mainstream, while Those People keep not making it. Superficially, I understand the confusion. I think the reason is that most people either do not know or do not want to accept the extent to which public policy was rigged specifically against black Americans in a way it really wasn’t rigged against others (things often were rigged against others – sometimes less egregiously, and always for shorter periods of time. It really wasn’t the same.). When these things are brought up, the response of many is to say “quit whining, my grandpappy encountered some obstacle and if he overcame it so can others,” without understanding just how rigged the game was, well beyond what we know of as Jim Crow. I didn’t get this until recently. Basically, via various measures (housing policies in particular), black Americans were shut out of the middle class. And then people are all like “why are they still poor? Something must be wrong with them.”

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  42. stonetools says:

    From Booman Tribune, a note on geographic preference:

    It’s pretty interesting to read about the history of selective admissions at Ivy League schools. Having grown up in Princeton, I had many Jewish and half-Jewish friends, so I’d heard about the history of Anti-Semitism in admissions but didn’t know exactly how they’d implemented their screening process. And I especially didn’t realize that they began giving preference to geographical diversity as a way to avoid letting Jews test into too many open slots. It always seemed odd to me that I’d meet Princeton students from Oklahoma or Alaska who were smart but who wouldn’t have been in the top echelon of students at Princeton High School. They got in because of where they were from, whereas countless Princeton High students didn’t get in because of where they were from. If you were from Princeton, you needed to be one of the top five students or so to have any chance to get in, so most people with Ivy-level credentials looked to Harvard, Yale or Columbia, where they had a better shot. So, ironically, kids in my generation (at least) were losing out to kids from out west or down south because of a system put in place to prevent too many Jews from attending Columbia or Harvard.

    Of courser, no one sees anything wrong with geographic preference-its not like that EEVUL “reverse discrimination” racial preference.

    And in the comments:

    Also, Princeton really does do legacy admission in a fairly big way, although the admissions office doesn’t admit that.
    For Princeton’s class of 2015, 33% of legacy applicants were admitted. The overall admissions rate for that class was 8.5%. hat’s a huge advantage!

    The Michigan constiutional provision doesn’t touch legacy admissions. Sotomayor nails it:

    Sotomayor agreed in part with the reasoning of the lower court that struck down the ban. In essence that court said that individuals who want a school to consider non-racial factors such as legacy status, geographic origin and athletic skills in its admission plan have the ability to lobby the popularly elected governing boards of the schools. But those black, Latino and other minority citizens who seek to restore the consideration of race as one factor in admissions were blocked from doing so by Proposal 2.

    Sounds like seperate but unequal consideration of preferences to me!
    Anyway, this makes it clearer than ever that liberals have to make sure they have do everything they can to defend the Senate majoriy in 2014 and elect a Democratic President in 2016. We need a couple more liberals on the High Court.

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  43. Rob in CT says:

    Ah, yes, legacy admissions. Totally different, because reasons.

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  44. Rafer Janders says:

    @Franklin:

    But if you’ve been forking over money to a 529 thinking that you’re “planning ahead” and “saving money”, congratulations: you’ve lost all potential access to financial aid because they see you can afford it.

    Well, yes. But what’s wrong with that? If you’ve managed to save so much money that you can pay for college upfront without financial aid, then…you don’t need financial aid.

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  45. Gavrilo says:

    @stonetools:

    A. Princeton is a private institution. Michigan is public.

    B. The voters of Michigan do get to determine the admissions standards at the institutions that they support with their tax dollars. The voters in Michigan are free to determine that legacy status, geographic origin, or athletic skill constitute a legitimate preference while skin color does not.

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  46. anjin-san says:

    @ Dennis

    I have an old classmate who’s career path has been molecular biologist > MD > Flight Surgeon > Astronaut. She has had an amazing career, and she is not done yet.

    Best wishes for your daughter :)

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  47. John D'Geek says:

    @Matt Bernius: @Rob in CT: I think we’re agreeing more than we’re disagreeing, so let me try to explain it this way:

    What is “race” in this country? It’s an arbitrary distinction based on heritage and/or skin color. How useful is that arbitrary distinction?

    The answer is “that depends”.

    Context, IMHO, is a much better way to view things of this nature. Who is “black”*? We are supposed to believe that this is determined solely by the color of one’s skin, and in some contexts that is true — but not enough contexts to be useful.

    A former co-worker is Jamaican. Is he “black”? To paraphrase his words, “That depends”. Among American Blacks alone, he’s “black” sometimes (i.e. when they need his political support) but not others (i.e. never when he’s talking to a “black” woman. Then he’s just another foreigner with a “seductive accent”).

    Does Bill Cosby’s children have the same context as some of his Philly friends’ children? In part yes, in part no. “Which parts?” is the key question.

    This type of behavior is a “no brainer” — arrogant, racist, disrespectful, and entirely unacceptable. (Not to mention the entire “assult” thing …) Would Bill Cosby’s daughter’s have this trouble? Yes — unless, of course, the person(s) in question knew who their father was (and quite possibly even then).

    Would they have the same troubles getting into Harvard (and paying for it) as a random well-qualified “black” graduate of the Philly school district? Hardly.

    Does a South African Zulu have the same issues (and context) as a “black” person from Rural Alabama? No.

    The problem isn’t that “race” has no utility — it’s that it’s nowhere near as useful as most political activists (both Conservative and Liberal) would like to believe it is. To get back to the question at hand: how useful is “race” as a context when dealing with educational issues?

    Not very.

    Diversity? Not really. An old friend of mine adopted several children, a couple of them happen to be Black. So they are Black children raised by White parents. (Sound familiar). I’m not going to say that they never have problems based on race — they do — but culturally they are just like … well, my Nephew. Being raised in the middle of nowhere (Pa; but I repeat myself) is more important to their context however.

    There are better ways to guarantee diversity than Race. In fact I would posit (and other authors better written than myself have said as well) that today’s Affirmative Action does more to cover up racial inequalities than to deal with it. (Hmmm, I just used Race as a meaningful category …)

    That said: I’m all for two “Affirmative Action” systems that I’ve seen. One is the UT system’s “top 10%” system. If the Top 10% high school graduates in every PA school district were guaranteed admission to the PA System school of their choice, that would make a huge difference here.

    The other is what I call the “Temple University” System: They have a 5-year 4-year degree program, and actively admit students from failing school districts. The first year of studies is “stuff you should have learned in high school”. This is, naturally, targeted towards the Philly school district but he concept is sound. It “just so happens” that the majority (if not vast majority) of these failing school districts are majority minority; but that’s not required for it to work. And, the best part, they get a real shot. They have to work harder, but get all the support they need to make it work.

    In neither case is “race” targeted — even though it disproportionately helps some minorities** more than “Whites”. In both cases it would stand the test of time: no need to update these programs when “race” becomes a non-issue. (A failing-school is a failing-school is a failing-school …).

    Well, not necessarily financial support, that would have to be addressed. But I could handle having more (“generic”) scholarships and assistant-ships.

    * – “Black” vs. “African American”: Among my friends (I do have a couple. Friends, that is.) “Black” is the preferred term. And since my friends are more important to me than a bunch of strangers on the internet, that’s the term I’ll use.
    ** – You may have noticed that Asians are actively discriminated against in race-conscious admissions, even worse than Whites. These programs wouldn’t help Asians; but Asians wouldn’t be hurt by them either.

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  48. John D'Geek says:

    @Rob in CT:

    in 1866-1870 that “now it is time for the blacks to stand on their own,” as they voted down bills to provide some land and/or other capital to freedmen (what today would be called “reparations”), or seriously fund the Freedman’s bureau, or balked at sending in federal troops to protect the rights of black Americans, etc.

    At one point I honestly believed that the Civil War was about slavery and that it abolished slavery. Not so. At this point I have come to believe that it actually exacerbated the problems, which lasted well into the 20th century.

    Wikipedia has something interesting (and, to me, shocking) to say regarding slavery:

    This lasted well into the 20th century, with the last state Maryland finally abolishing it as late as 1972. While most history books teach that slavery in the United States ended with the Emancipation Proclamation, or the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution, exhaustive research conducted by journalist Douglas A. Blackmon and reported in his Pulitzer Prize winning book Slavery By Another Name which was also made into a PBS documentary, demonstrates that thousands of African Americans were re-enslaved with shocking force and brutality after the period of Reconstruction was over.

    So, yes, the Civil War has been over for a century and a half — but in spite of all the bloodshed and a military victory, the Abolitionists lost that war. At least, if viewed in terms of “ending slavery” as a victory condition. (The jury’s still out on “Preserving the Union” as a victory condition).

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  49. dennis says:

    @anjin-san:

    Thanks, anjin. I, of course, wish nothing but the best for her. Which all parents do. Which brings us to the salient point I’ve been thinking about this afternoon:

    We can’t really and legitimately blame the privileged for their status, particularly if they were born into it. That’s why I never held a grudge against the well-off. I had to walk to work while in high school. Work was on the edges of Boston’s North End and downtown. I crossed that Tea Party (the REAL Tea Party!) bridge every day, and not once begrudged the rich for their status.

    The problem is, when the “privileged” are being dicks about it, wondering why everyone else is not just like them …

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  50. DrDaveT says:

    @James Joyner:

    But surely taking steps to ensure that a greater share of the descendents of slaves are well educated will help change said subculture?

    Absolutely. But the evidence is clear that Affirmative Action, as it has been implemented, does not improve educational outcomes for said subculture. It isn’t working; we need to try something different. Something that gets at the root cause of the problem, rather than trying to treat the symptom.

    If I have a drug that treats Disease X, and I have significant evidence that this drug does not work on (say) women over 50, then I need to find a new drug if I want to help women over 50 who have Disease X. It’s silly to insist on public programs to provide the drug for them if they are too poor to afford it, on the grounds that we need to do something about Disease X — because it doesn’t work.

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  51. DrDaveT says:

    @James Pearce:

    Me personally, I see problems in both the sub-culture and the common culture.

    Absolutely. And, if you want to be perfectly blunt, the ruling culture created the subculture, whether we want to face that fact or not. I am trying not to make this about blame. I’m also not denying the truth of what Neil deGrasse Tyson was quoted as saying upthread — but I am insisting that it isn’t the whole picture. Those barriers are very real for kids who start out curious and wanting to explore and learn and create and do, but get nudged away from that. They are not the problem for the kids who never had those urges in the first place, or lost them before they got through elementary school.

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  52. DrDaveT says:

    @James Joyner:

    It’s no harder to graduate Michigan–or Harvard—than Michigan State or Eastern Michigan.

    You cannot possibly believe that, so I’ll have to assume that you intended to say something slightly different. What was it?

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  53. Matt Bernius says:

    @DrDaveT
    Given (well documented) grade inflation at the Ivy’s, it is entirely possible that it’s easier to graduate from Harvard than it is Michigan State.

    BTW: I write that as someone who has taught at one Ivy.

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  54. Scott says:

    @dennis: Well said. And I’m on the opposite end: Fairly well off and working to teach my kids to understand and appreciate their privilege and not to grow up and be dicks.

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  55. superdestroyer says:

    @stonetools:

    If one wants to look at the admission process at the University of Michigan that was found unconstitutional, here is the work sheet with the points. http://iws2.collin.edu/lstern/mich_index.gif

    If you notice, an applicant would get 4 points for being a legacy but 20 points for being black or hispanic but not for being Asian.

    What most people miss is theey keep thinking that the affirmative action is meant to help black or latino children in poor, inner city schools. However, even the 20 points for being black would not make up for low SAT scores, lack of AP/IB classes, and a low GPA from a Detroit public school.

    What the 20 points was meant to do was to help the children of middle and upper middle class white collar black families whose children attended predominately white suburban schools but who did not have the grades or test scores to compete heads up with whites or Asians. Those middle class blacks were generally admitted to the university but kept out of the majors that most people would consider the hardest such as engineering. That way the university can brag about its diversity but not lower its graduation rate very much.

    Since the University of Michigan College of Engineering has its own admission process http://www.engin.umich.edu/college/admissions/undergrad which is much tougher than just getting into the University of MIchigan, it was probably not affected by affirmative action. IN 2013, the UM College of Engineering admitted roughly 1300 new freshmen out of 11000 applicants. http://www.engin.umich.edu/college/about/news/stories/2013/august/new-school-year-2013

    Somehow I do not think that admitting someone who had a 500 on the math portion of the SAT due to their race is going to be much of a favor and I assume that the admission people at the University of Michigan know that as well.

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  56. superdestroyer says:

    @Matt Bernius:

    If you look at four year graduation rates, Harvard is one of the easiest schools to graduate from. In Michigan, UM is easier to graduate from than MSU which is itself easier to graduate from than the directional state universities are.

    Collegeresults.org can be everyone the four and six year graduation rates along with the differences in graduation rates based on race or ethnicity.

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  57. beth says:

    @DrDaveT:

    Absolutely. But the evidence is clear that Affirmative Action, as it has been implemented, does not improve educational outcomes for said subculture. It isn’t working; we need to try something different. Something that gets at the root cause of the problem, rather than trying to treat the symptom.

    Isn’t the Republican cry that Barack Obama was an affirmative action admittance to Harvard? Isn’t that what all the wailing about releasing his transcripts is all about? If true, then I’d say there’s at least one person it helped. I suspect I could round up quite a few African American college graduates who are sure it worked for them too. I’m not sure you can make a blanket statement that it isn’t working. It just isn’t working at the level we’d like it to.

    I’d like to see the whole conversation turned to elementary and high schools – if you can’t solve the problems at that level, going to college means nothing. Wholesale correction of the problems at the lower levels would render the whole affirmative action debate moot.

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  58. Dave Schuler says:

    @John D’Geek:

    While you’re looking things up in Wikipedia you might want to check out incorporation. Slavery was abolished in the United States in 1865 regardless of what any state did or did not do.

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  59. Just Me says:

    You can’t just look at graduation rates of the Ivies and say they are easy to graduate from, because the Ivies admit the elite students and most of their rejections are for kids who still have competitive grades and test scores. Ivies also tend to admit mostly elite minorities-a minority is a 2300 SAT score is going to graduate from any school they attend.

    My daughter attends a top 50 school-not an Ivy but a highly competitive school. I can tell you that her classes are not easy (she is an mechanical engineering major). She is doing fine but she has to study a whole lot more for her college classes than she did for any of her high school classes. She will graduate but it’s a misnomer to say its easy.

    As for income inequality-one need to look at the plight of rural poor in Appalachia-mostly white and mostly stuck in a cycle of poverty. These rural poor were what inspired the original war on poverty but they don’t get 20 extra points in their college applications or any kind of extra points for being poor. Most of these people are stuck in areas with poor schooling and no way out of their situations but education.

    I would rather see an affirmative action program that gives these rural poor a leg up than a middle to upper middle class African American.

    And frankly somebody coming from a poor rural area would bring more diversity than somebody from another wealthy school district in a suburb.

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  60. DrDaveT says:

    @stonetools:

    Ta-Nehisi Coates and Jonathon Chait had a big back and forth on this.

    I followed your link, but I only saw the ‘forth’ — Chait’s reaction to Coates. Not surprisingly, I think Chait has the right end of this stick.

    More importantly, I think this is a fundamentally different discussion (though, again, nuance is hard to preserve in these areas). I am not making anything like a claim that could be interpreted as “Black culture is lazy.” McWhorter doesn’t either — his analogous claim is that American black culture is non-intellectual or actively anti-intellectual, and that this is crippling. (That’s a separate claim from his “culture of victimhood” position.)

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  61. DrDaveT says:

    @Matt Bernius:

    Given (well documented) grade inflation at the Ivy’s, it is entirely possible that it’s easier to graduate from Harvard than it is Michigan State.

    Let’s compare notes. I went the other direction: undergrad at a top-20 USN&WR university, grad school at an Ivy (top 3 department), then taught at a reasonable semi-public university (top 20 department). Let’s call them TTU, ILU, and SPU.

    Of the undergrads I taught at SPU, the top few would have succeeded everywhere. The B students would have scraped by at TTU and probably at ILU as well. The C and D students would never have graduated from TTU or ILU, in my opinion — but they mostly went on to get good jobs.

    At the graduate level, I was the worst student at ILU to actually get my degree, and I was head and shoulders above all but a couple of the grad students I saw at SPU. PhDs from the two schools are not remotely comparable.

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  62. DrDaveT says:

    @beth:

    I’d like to see the whole conversation turned to elementary and high schools – if you can’t solve the problems at that level, going to college means nothing.

    I couldn’t agree more — especially at the elementary level. I’ve tutored Jr. High and High School students for years, and most of them don’t need a tutor — they need to go back and learn those elementary school skills that they never learned. You can’t learn algebra if you can’t add 7 and -12 in your head, and can’t multiply 15 by 4 even when the tutor prompts you with questions about quarter-hours.

    I don’t think it helps to invoke President Obama here, though. Data is not the plural of anecdote; there are exceptional individuals everywhere. The real question is why, on average, do black American kids do significantly less well than black African immigrants, or Vietnamese boat people, or other equally-poor low-status groups, when given the same kind of assistance? And what can we do to fix that?

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  63. Matt Bernius says:

    @DrDaveT
    I was definitely thinking about undergrads. My experience was that the best undergrads I ever encountered were at a private, graduate focused University in the Windy City. The top undergrads I taught at the Ivy where I did my PhD studies were hitting at near the same level. However, the lower level undergrads at Ivy U were not all that much better than those at the top USN&WR regional school where I did my undergrad and later taught.

    And I totally know the feeling of being the “worst student” at ILU. :)

    Of course, it’s probably not a good idea to project the experience at any one school across all the others. But having talked with other grads at other schools, I’m feeling like my experience isn’t entirely unique.

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  64. DrDaveT says:

    @superdestroyer:

    Harvard is one of the easiest schools to graduate from

    No, it graduates a higher proportion of its students. Which is not at all the same thing, unless you believe the underlying student populations are the same everywhere.

    Students who drop out of Harvard often eventually graduate from other places. The converse is not true. Isn’t this indicative?

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  65. dennis says:

    @superdestroyer:

    What the 20 points was meant to do was to help the children of middle and upper middle class white collar black families whose children attended predominately white suburban schools but who did not have the grades or test scores to compete heads up with whites or Asians.

    sd, I’m getting the idea that you believe Blacks are genetically inferior, and that that explains our intellectual under-performance. Why do you believe that?

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  66. superdestroyer says:

    @DrDaveT:

    The old joke is that the only thing harder than getting into Harvard is failing out of Harvard. But Harvard is also one of the few schools where your undergraduate major has little relevance to future career prospects. So Harvard students, if they so choose, can major is in an easy subject and still get great grades. One can major in economics at Harvard and get a Wall St job. Majoring in economics at Michigan States gets a person a job in sales.

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  67. superdestroyer says:

    @dennis:

    Genetics has nothing to do with it. However, when you correct for parental education and parents incomes, blacks underperform versus whites and Asians. One of the interesting results of No Child Left Behind was the demographic test results reporting. Even in the suburban high schools with all of the advantages and academics programs, blacks under-performed versus whites and Asians. When we can honestly discuss why those results occur, then we will know that the U.S. is really ready to have a discussion on race and ethnicity.

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  68. Stonetools says:

    @Gavrilo:

    Not surprisingly, they allowed preferences like legacy admissions that benefitted already advantaged folks while prohibiting a preference aimed at the worst, most virulent and violent form of discrimination in American history. It’s kind of amazing how people like you just forget that history- but then again, maybe it’s not all that amazing.

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  69. stonetools says:

    @DrDaveT:

    The real question is why, on average, do black American kids do significantly less well than black African immigrants, or Vietnamese boat people, or other equally-poor low-status groups, when given the same kind of assistance? And what can we do to fix that

    Actually, there are good historical reasons for this, which I need to go into, since apparently some folks either don’t know (or forgot about ) the historical background.
    During slavery, blacks were prohibited, on pain of severe penalty, from learning to read or write. Remember the line from Solomon Northrup’s ” 12 years a Slave?” The plantation mistress told Solomon, ” If I hear you’ve been learning to read, that will earn you a hundred lashes”
    In 1865, most slaves were naturally, illiterate. Then followed a century of Jim Crow. Southern business and plantation owners wanted no “uppity”nigg3rs in their work force, and so discouraged education among blacks. The South maintained a system of separate but unequal education for blacks, and barred blacks from the professions and most universities ( Yes, Gavrilo, and SD, all this actually happened).
    Even when blacks came North, they got the worst schools and were barred from the professions and faced relentless discrimination from whites in employment.
    Faced with all this, its unsurprising that there is a tradition of anti-intellectualism in the black community. Its also not surprising that the blacks who make it through crappy schools and discouragement within and without the community arrive unprepared to do elite intellectual work. I’m sure many feel lucky just to have made it that far!
    Asians have a different history. Many Asian immigrants, even those who start out in low status jobs actually are educated and come from middle class backgrounds. They can teach the kids what is need to excel at college because often they went there themselves-or had an uncle or aunt that went. Same for African immigrants.
    The key here is that you can’t look at the present status of blacks, and just ignore the history, which is pretty much what the anti AA people want to do. For such folks, history apparently began in 1964 with the CRA and they want to ignore or discount what happened before.

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  70. dennis says:

    @superdestroyer:

    You didn’t answer my question; but, I’ll leave it alone.

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  71. DrDaveT says:

    @stonetools:

    Faced with all this, its unsurprising that there is a tradition of anti-intellectualism in the black community.

    Again, I am not trying to blame blacks for the self-defeating aspects of current black culture. We did it to them, collectively. But we’re not going to be able to fix it by continuing to do the same things that have not been working for the last 30 years, including Affirmative Action as it exists today. The problem is no longer (solely) a lack of access, so programs that provide access (but nothing else) do not help.

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  72. michael reynolds says:

    Blacks were systematically barred from all the usual intellectual pursuits. As mentioned above, they were quite often murdered for learning to read. And we’re not just talking slavery, we’re talking well into the modern era. My mother used to tutor kids from segregated schools in the Florida panhandle – a practice that earned us a threat from the KKK.

    Jews, by contrast, tended to be systematically forced into intellectual pursuits by being barred from participation in many or even most jobs, and encouraged by their law-based, written word-based religion. They were excluded from the military, from police and similar forces, from possessing or using weapons, among many other restrictions in Western and Eastern Europe.

    It would be bizarre if such extreme pasts failed to have an impact on the current state of both populations.

    The knock on blacks was that they were less intelligent. The knock on Jews was that they (we) were cowardly. Now we have Israel, which stuck a fork in the myth of Jewish cowardice. Blacks have a different counter to the IQ attack: music. Excluded from formal education they created, within an astoundingly short period of time, Blues, Gospel, Jazz, and laid the foundation of rock.

    What African-Americans accomplished musically in this country is the intellectual equivalent of the art explosion in Florence that we think of as the flower of the Renaissance. They did it with nothing. Without education, without money, without support, and against a constant assault from all quarters.

    Let me put it this way: the most profound artistic/creative accomplishment in the history of the United States, is almost entirely African-American.

    White folks with sadly limited and if I may say, rather unintelligent notions of intelligence, should look in awe upon the accomplishments of both these despised minorities. You can take everything from the Jew, humiliate him, slaughter him, and despite it all, he ends up charging you $600 an hour for his legal advice. And you can enslave, rape, beat and murder the African-American and he will precipitate an explosion of creativity that is the equal of Greek sculpture, Florentine painting, or German philosophy.

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  73. michael reynolds says:

    @superdestroyer:

    Read my note above, then tell me what you’ve ever accomplished you nasty little racist twat. Because I’ll bet you haven’t yet managed to move out of your mother’s basement.

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  74. DrDaveT says:

    @michael reynolds:

    Excluded from formal education they created, within an astoundingly short period of time, Blues, Gospel, Jazz, and laid the foundation of rock.

    Oh, it’s better than that. Blues, ragtime, stomp, stride, swing, jive, jazz, gospel, bebop… All in less than 50 years. The mind boggles.

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  75. michael reynolds says:

    @DrDaveT:

    And all without so much as a single Medici to cover expenses.

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  76. Monala says:

    @Rafer Janders: Can we get some clarification on that? Because as a parent with a 529 plan, I know that I’ll be able to use it to pay for some of my daugther’s education, but no where near all of it. Does the mere fact of having a 529 plan preclude you from financial aid, no matter how much or how little is in that plan?

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  77. Grewgills says:

    @michael reynolds:
    The modern Medicis were there to take the rights and the money.

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  78. superdestroyer says:

    @michael reynolds:

    I always find it odd that progressives resort to personal insults for quickly. When the usually response to a pile of statistical data is a combination of personal insult and the race card, is it in wonder that voters are so quick to vote down affirmative action when given the chance.

    What is amazing is that progressives have been talking about voting rights while at the same time standing in front of the Supreme Court arguing that it does not matter what the voters do and that voters should not have any say in changing government policy.

    I guess progressives see voting as good only as long as they get the policies that they want.

    Also, you should look up the chapter in McWhorter’s “Losing the Race” on blacks and music. It is not nearly as glowing as your rambling is.

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  79. Rob in CT says:

    What is amazing is that progressives have been talking about voting rights while at the same time standing in front of the Supreme Court arguing that it does not matter what the voters do and that voters should not have any say in changing government policy.

    This is a lie. That’s not the argument, and you know it full well.

    You wonder why people insult you? Because you insult them with every single post, either by insulting their intelligence with blatant bullshit, or by insinuating all sorts of nasty crap without actually calling anyone specific a name. That’s not polite, super, and everybody here knows it, and most of us aren’t inclined to pretend otherwise. Whining about civility while posting your invariably nasty comments is transparent as hell.

    As for the original issue, affirmative action: I certainly don’t think it’s accomplished much. Some, but not much. If someone acting in good faith has a better idea, I’m all for listening and considering. Note that this excludes racist jackwads who have no intention of operating in good faith.

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  80. michael reynolds says:

    @superdestroyer:

    Not quickly at all. We’ve seen you here for years lying, race-baiting, losing every argument but always keeping up the Storm Front propaganda. Not a snap judgment. You’ve made very clear your obsessions.

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  81. stonetools says:

    @DrDaveT:

    The problem is no longer (solely) a lack of access, so programs that provide access (but nothing else) do not help.

    I think one of the problems with AA was that we expected miracle quick cures on the cheap. That said, AA helped a little and replacing it with nothing doesn’t help at all. As to anti-itellectualism among blacks, a few thoughts….
    First, providing access to college does help to foster a black intellectual class in a scatter shot way.
    Second, the examples of Neil deGrasse Tyson, (both) Obamas, and even Dr. Ben Carson (darn his politics!) do provide role models for the next generation to emulate, other than athletes or entertainers.
    Thirdly, this article by Emily Bazelon gives me some hope. There are things the Mighigan universities can do to circumvent the ban:

    Kahlenberg has found that in seven of the 10 states with affirmative action bans, the leading public universities figured out how to maintain the previous level of African-American or Hispanic representation in the student body and admit more low-income students. Some of the schools have taken income and wealth and neighborhood into account. Some have plans that admit the top 10 percent of high school graduates statewide. Three have banned legacy preferences.

    The Michigan university system can do things like rejigger preferences to favor students from areas afflicted by urban blight, students from families with incomes of <$20,000.00 or students from single parent families. The racists wll of course howl: "These are disguised racial preferences and so it's more reverse discrimination". The courts will most likely uphold these, though. Even Scalia is on record as favoring class-based preferences.
    President Obama has an idea (universal pre-K) but the usual suspects oppose it, because how can we afford this program if we have to give tax cuts to billionaires?
    There is probably no silver bullet here, but just several programs each of which will offer incremental progress. THe USA is now the country with the least amount of social mobility, so rapid progress is now a pipe dream. That sucks , once again, for black Americans, but there it is.

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  82. Pharoah Narim says:

    Am I the only person wondering why we have allowed our society to be structured to where University Institutions are THE definitive gateway the middle class and beyond??? As Michael Reynolds noted there are multiple manifestations of IQ–each with a benefit to society. To further expound on MR’s musical analogy–Missisippi, the state we like to highlight as being the best at being last… has also produced volumes of some of most revolutionary works of music and writing. Academic Intelligence has become the be all and end all for who gets let into the club to exist beyond subsistence living. Why Why Why?!?!?!?

    You can’t build a house with one corner and neither can you build or maintain a society by stocking all of it’s power centers with people who, by and large’ are only there because or their academic aptitude.

    We are fighting the wrong problem. We need to be engaged on how we can make college admission and achievement LESS influential on the future of our children. It wasn’t that long ago that you had to prove yourself in a field…THEN you went to college (courtesy of your company). We also need to ensure our children are getting a real education about life through experiences and developing social intelligence, and real problem solving skills, which (gasp), are only honed by succeeding and failing at solving real problems. Every culture needs a cadre of academics–as a complement to larger cadre of those gifted to excel in other endeavors.

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  83. Rob in CT says:

    @Pharoah Narim:

    I think that’s a fair point: that we’ve overvalued a degree. With the price skyrocketing and the debt load on students mounting, it certainly seems to be the case.

    I really don’t know how to change that, though.

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  84. DrDaveT says:

    @Rob in CT:

    I really don’t know how to change that, though.

    Traditionally, the trades were the gateway that got families from poverty (in the form of subsistence or small-scale farming) to the middle classes. First, you become tailors or grocers or blacksmiths or printers or tinkers or coopers or wainwrights or what have you. Then, once you have some disposable income, you send your kids to school. They become teachers and lawyers and accountants and managers. Their kids become doctors and professors and engineers.

    We’ve gutted the trade system, though. We want everyone to jump two steps in the process and go straight to the reading-based education-required professions — and we’ve pretended that a college degree is important for plumbers and electricians.

    The only answer I can see is a radical expansion of apprenticeship programs in educationally undemanding trades that support a solid middle-class level of affluence. Plumbers, electricians, cable/satellite technicians, professional chefs and caterers, wedding planners, musicians, etc. These are things best learned at the feet of a master, on the job, rather than in a classroom.

    When Obama was first campaigning for President, his rhetoric on education included this idea, and my wife and I were very happy to hear it. We have been extremely disappointed in his reversion to “everyone should go to college” since then.

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  85. michael reynolds says:

    @Pharoah Narim:

    Exactly. We’ve decided that the only intelligence that matters is essentially engineering intelligence, for lack of a more precise term. But how many engineers does it take to equal a Jimi Hendrix?

    We have this enormously complex civilization which has convinced itself that all that matters is building more and better stuff. If you’re not building stuff then you’d better be moving money around and skimming off a bit as it goes by. Engineering and finance. Otherwise you’re a semi-savage sitting around a drum circle howling at the moon.

    Why should society organize itself around the building of stuff and the skimming of passing money? Very few people stop to ask the question, let alone attempt an answer.

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  86. michael reynolds says:

    @DrDaveT:

    Personal anecdote. I have two kids, one with a genius level IQ, one with less wattage but more inherent competence. The first wants to go into computer science, the second wants to be a chef. The first is in HS the second is just finishing middle school.

    My wife and I are not tied to any one place geographically, we can live anywhere. As we survey the educational opportunities across the US, there are an endless number of high schools catering to the computer kid. There are almost zero high schools catering to the chef.

    The few programs for trades in high schools are clearly little more than dumping grounds. They have some cooking programs, but only in the last two years of HS, and they seldom involve more than the most basic carrot-chopping skills. These programs exist solely to keep likely drop-outs on the rolls.

    The result for us is that computer kid is being stressed beyond all decency by his obsessively test-driven, high performance HS, and the chef is struggling to learn crap that will never, under any circumstances be of any use in her life. One worked and stressed to the point where I worry about self-harm, and the other feeling small and stupid because she doesn’t get algebra.

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  87. Dave Schuler says:

    @michael reynolds:

    But how many engineers does it take to equal a Jimi Hendrix?

    I have a prescription for correcting that problem. We could try throwing away our televisions, iPods, iPads, CD players, DVD players, etc. and all listen only to live music and go to live theater performances.

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  88. Just Me says:

    I would love to see a greater promotion of trades. I think the push for college for all is a bad one.

    Another issue with race in general is that while many black women are attending college and graduating few black men are-I think our society is losing it’s black men and affirmative action for college isn’t going to help them. They need to focus on black boys and building the attitudes that will help them succeed.

    I can’t remember the study now but several years back there was a study that looked at the issue of peer influence and educational outcomes. Many black teens-especially boys-rejected education because their peers looked down on it (a black student in a poor public school district would be accused of acting white and other labels if they tried to do well).

    There is a problem here that needs to be addressed before students ever reach college admission decisions.

    Also as a conservative who isn’t in favor at all of race based AA I think programs geared towards the poor, children of single parents, children from poor school districts or other factors is more fair and targets the people in need.

    AA doesn’t always result in admitting poor students in need-targeting students in need will result in minority students getting admitted while giving non minority students in need an equal shot at getting in as well.

    A poor kid from rural Appalachia is in just as much need as a poor urban minority.

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  89. Just Me says:

    Michael Reynolds-

    I absolutely agree that the current education system can do more harm than good for many students.

    I hate the high stakes testing and how much pressure to perform is placed on students-even kids in first and second grade.

    Our high school had no tech program. There is one very basic home EC style cooking class and that’s it (they let the wood shop teacher gonao they don’t even have a beginner wood shop class). The school will bus kids to the tech school 45 minutes away but it makes it difficult for these kids to complete the required classes for graduation.

    Somehow the push for college for all has resulted in trades for none and makes it hard for those interested in trades to try the out much less get a certificate.

    My kids are all very math/science oriented so the college track model works for them since all want to get STEM degrees (oldest graduates in Decmeber from college with a Bio Chem, younger daughter is an engineering major in her freshman year) and the boys are in high school planning biology and civil engineering respectively. But working in the school I see how littler there really is for kids who don’t want college and who feel pressured to learn classes and subjects they won’t use in the future.

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  90. stonetools says:

    Germany may be an example here. They have great apprenticeship programs , which funnel appentices into high paying factory jobs. Here’s Bloomberg:

    The German concept is simple: After students complete their mandatory years of schooling, usually around age 18, they apply to a private company for a two or three year training contract. If accepted, the government supplements the trainee’s on-the-job learning with more broad-based education in his or her field of choice at a publicly funded vocational school. Usually, trainees spend three to four days at work and one to two in the classroom. At the end, the theory goes, they come out with both practical and technical skills to compete in a global market, along with a good overall perspective on the nature of their profession. They also receive a state certificate for passing company exams, designed and administred by industry groups—a credential that allows transfer to similarly oriented businesses should the training company not retain them beyond the initial contract.

    The advantages are clear. TVET ensures there’s a job ready for every young person enrolled in vocational school, because no one is admitted unless an employer has already offered a training contract. No job offer, no admission. In this way, there is less risk of heartbreak when years of hard work in university go unrewarded by an unforgiving market. Students also know what they’re getting before the first day of class. This contrasts with the U.S., where many young individuals take on exorbitant amounts of debt to attend college and grad school, only to find no placement on the other end.

    Germany has universal health insurance, a generous social safety net, strong trade unions, and 5.1 per cent unemployment. But hang on, Germany is supposed to be the exemplar of sclerotic Eurosocialism and is the birth place of Karl Marx. And do you know who once rose to power in Germany?
    Obviously, we can’t follow their example.

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  91. James Joyner says:

    @DrDaveT: I was making a shorthand version of the argument @Matt Bernius expounded on. Of course students at Harvard and Michigan are on average much better than those at, say, Eastern Michigan. Certainly, not everyone who could graduate Eastern Michigan could succeed at one of those schools if admitted. But the sort of person who would be a candidate for an affirmative action admission to Harvard or Michigan—i.e., a strong student who’s otherwise a borderline candidate for a great school—would be just as likely to graduate if offered admission as the marginal admittees.

    Part of the reason there’s grade inflation at the Ivies is that the students could reasonably argue that, had they instead gone to, say, Michigan, they’d be A students and that they shouldn’t be penalized on their transcripts for having instead gone to, say, Cornell.

    At the same time, though, the incentives at Harvard and Michigan are for professors to provide the path of least resistance to undergrads so they can devote their time to seeking grants and publishing scholarly work. At Eastern Michigan, the professors are expected to make undergraduate teaching their main focus and are likely to be tougher graders. As I’m transitioning back to teaching after more than a decade out of the academy, I’m vividly aware of how much more time and energy is required to hold students to high standards vice just giving everyone an “A” and writing “Great job!” on the paper.

    @DrDaveT:

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  92. michael reynolds says:

    @Dave Schuler:

    If you didn’t have a Hendrix and his peers, there would be no use for iPads. The engineers have made it easier for us to enjoy the work of the people who really matter. Which is excellent of them, and I applaud them for it.

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  93. grumpy realist says:

    @Pharoah Narim: Bring back apprenticeships?

    There’s unfortunately an overlap between dysfunctional families and poor families, aggravated by the War Against Drugs, which has made a lot of minority males “unemployable.” Which circles back to poverty and behavior where at the very best, you probably feel you’re just treading water to keep yourself from drowning. If you’re having to hold down three ill-paid jobs to piece together a living wage, you’re probably too exhausted to read to your kids at night. And if you scramble to get through an “educational program” from one of those for profit colleges to discover yourself at the end even further in debt and still unemployed, it sort of knocks out the “get education, young man, and be rewarded!” meme.

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  94. grewgills says:

    @michael reynolds:

    The engineers have made it easier for us to enjoy the work of the people who really matter.

    That is just as much bullshit as the inverse, that only the engineers matter. The solution to the arts not being given as much attention as they deserve is not to denigrate science or engineering.

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  95. DrDaveT says:

    @michael reynolds:

    The first wants to go into computer science, the second wants to be a chef.

    Ouch. Chef is a tough gig. I admire them greatly, but the hours are beyond appalling.

    The best training for chefs that I know of is CIA, the Culinary Institute of America, in Hyde Park NY. That’s pretty elite, and pretty intense. There are regional variations on that, including some excellent Northern California programs. Those are generally college programs, though — it’s really hard to find useful pre-college organized training.

    My recommendation (for what it’s worth) would be to go for a work-study program in high school and make the work practical restaurant experience. Probably starting with busing tables and washing dishes, but that’s the way apprenticeships work. My future best man did this at a local country club, and worked his way up to sous-chef. He ended up with a PhD in Forestry, but that came much later…

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  96. superdestroyer says:

    @Just Me:

    High stakes testing is one of the most over-rated issues today. The tests that most states use are laughably easy. The math test in California does not begin to test the math skills that a high school senior should have.

    My person experience is high stakes test are something that students should not have to spend one minute prepping for is the schools they attend have properly educated students, have not socially promoted students, and had not watered down the criticulum of the students who are not on the AP/IB track.

    The real reason most educators object to high stakes tests is that they demonstrate how badly most schools perform and they show that senior administration and politicians are not really interested in schools that excel in academic education.

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  97. Monala says:

    @Just Me: Can we stop with a stereotype? I am African-American. I grew up in Cleveland, OH, in the inner city, in the 1970s and 1980s. I attended public schools K-12. I graduated first in my class and attended an Ivy League school.

    Never, ever, was I accused by any of my classmates of “acting white.” I don’t recall any of my academically-inclined classmates having that accusation thrown at them, either. Not that it never happens, but it is not this common attitude that so many people seem to assume.

    In fact, African-American high school completion, college attendance, college graduation and advanced degree completion rates have increased steadily since the end of the Civil Rights Movement — even in the last ten years these rates have continued to grow. That wouldn’t be happening if there were some “anti-intellectual” trend among African-Americans as a whole (no more than the common American attitude of mocking nerds). Yes, we continue to lag behind whites and Asians, but we started from so far behind. Despite that, we have made substantial progress and continue to make it.

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  98. Pharoah Narim says:

    @grumpy realist: Sort of. I really think companies need to evaluate the actual functional qualifications of their positions. If the job being offered doesn’t require 4+ years of disciplined study just to have a foundation from which to START working, the job doesn’t require a University degree. Hire kids out of high school or community college for these positions. I think we”ll find most jobs don’t require the foundation a university degree is supposed to provide. College should be the place where people go to expand their body of knowledge (should they desire) or go to get the baseline knowledge they’ll need to start in fields that require advanced academic aptitude. My bank teller or even my HR person–don’t require college training to excel in their respective fields.

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  99. michael reynolds says:

    @DrDaveT:

    I spent 10 years in restaurants, usually front-of-the-house. And for a couple of years I was the local paper’s restaurant reviewer in Portland Maine and Richmond Virginia. My daughter definitely has eyes on the CIA which only costs. . . let me Google that . . . oh, sh!t.

    I’ve told her that if she’s going into the business she will not only have to start as a bus dog, but should. I have no time for restaurant professionals who can’t perform every job to at least a reasonable level of proficiency.

    At very least if you’re thinking of becoming an owner/operator (which is her end goal) you should be able to bus, carry a full station on a busy night, wash dishes, make a decent drink, do basic kitchen prep and hold down a station in the kitchen. You don’t have to be the best at each job, but you have to know enough to speak with some authority to your people, and to be able to rescue them when they’re weeded.

    I miss the life. Yeah, the hours suck, you’re either behind the line roasting alive in 120 degree heat, or on the floor dealing with the public, and either way you’re on your feet popping Advil and washing it down with shooters, but. . . Hmm, trying to think of what the ‘but’ could be.

    Oh, right: waitresses. But I suppose my wife would have something to say about that.

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  100. DrDaveT says:

    @michael reynolds:

    I spent 10 years in restaurants,

    OK, so you know more than I ever will, and can advise accordingly. I wish her the very best.

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