Anything Goes: Let’s Talk Affirmative Action

This past October, I started a new and exciting series on my blog called Anything Goes.  In this series, I am going to be tackling topics that are taboo or uncomfortable for many to talk about, and will be including guest posts, interviews, and some of my own writing.  I plan to address stigmas and issues that surround subjects like feminism, mental health, and more, in hopes that they can bring light and fuel conversation between me and you and others.  Look out for a new installment to this Anything Goes series every last Sunday of the month 

Latest Anything Goes Posts:

-Let’s Talk Period Poverty ft. Chelsea VonChaz, CEO of Happy Period

-Let’s Talk Mental Illness

-Let’s Talk Slow Fashion

Today’s topic is one that people tend to stay away from when it comes to college admissions in the US: affirmative action. Affirmative action in the college space is a policy that gives universities the right to actively work towards diversifying their college by elevating the admissions of minority groups. The policy is meant to help minorities and lessen education discrimination. America treats the topic as a taboo and because of this educated conversations about the issue are rare and spoken in hushed whispers. I got the opportunity to write an essay on this topic for my English class, which I am going to share within this post.

Also, after reading this post make sure to check out the resources I have linked below to further your education and understanding of Affirmative Action. The Vox video linked HERE is a must watch, as it gives a fantastic and clear description of the policy.

QUICK FACTS ABOUT AFFIRMATIVE ACTION

  • While research varies, affirmative action in college admission offices is the equivalent of adding 150 to 310 points on an SAT score for a minority (Do Something).
  • Affirmative action targets many people who continue to face opportunity barriers, including women, Native Americans, Latinos, Asian Americans,South Asians, African Americans, Arab Americans, and others (ACLU).

AFFIRMATIVE ACTION ESSAY

A man walks into his first class in his freshman year of university.  As he pushes the heavy wooden door open, he’s met with a reflective sight.  Just like him, his fellow classmates are all white, majority male, and have been in middle class America for most of their lives.  This would be the scene in the prestigious universities of America today if it wasn’t for affirmative action.  Affirmative action in the college space is a policy that gives universities the right to actively work towards diversifying their college by boosting the admissions of minority groups (Bautsch).  The policy has been in place since the early 1970s and has been modified through various court cases and instances of public outcry since.  Affirmative action is imperative in today’s society as it promotes diversity in the US college classroom, which creates new perspectives and opportunities for both minority and white students.

            An integral part of understanding the pro-affirmative action side, is understanding the history and causes behind it that still affect our society today, making the policy necessary. Although it is typically more indirect than it once was, remnants of historical discrimination still linger today.  Bias and intimidation of minority groups is prominent in America, which ultimately leads to the same being prominent on America’s college campuses (Cooper). A lot of bias against minority groups in education is filled with the stereotypes that “certain identity groups are less intelligent or less capable in academics [than others]” (Turetsky).  This stereotype leads to the undercutting of these groups and their abilities to learn and perform well in the classroom and also has been proven to create more worry within the groups about whether or not they will be judged according to the racial stereotype (Turetsky). In the college admissions process, both ring true.  Some see affirmative action as a way to penalize one race while boosting another in the college application process (“What We Get Wrong”), but without it more discrimination would persist than already does.

            Through affirmative action, college classrooms are diversified, giving new perspectives and opportunities to all parties involved.  As Vox pointed out in their video on the issue, “research shows that [diversity] exposes students to different ways of thinking, which helps them better solve unique problems.” The healthy addition of diversity to university spaces allows students and their peers to flourish in ways they would not have been able to prior to affirmative action.  In a study by Professor Astin from the University of Texas at Austin, research showed that students who interact with students from different backgrounds are more successful and have a higher academic development and achievement in college (Michaelson).  Affirmative action is beneficial in helping diversify as well as unify university students in higher learning and success.

            Those against affirmative action argue that the policy promotes mismatch in the college space.  Mismatch is the supposed effect caused by schools using a student’s race to justify their acceptance into the school even if the student does not meet all the school’s acceptance criteria. Thus, according to the mismatch theory, the student will find themselves in a higher academic achieving class than they were prepared for (Richard).  As one critic stated, “One would not expect a barely literate high-school dropout to be successful at a selective college; admitting that student to such an institution could cause them to end up deep in debt with no degree” (Chingos).  Even though the likes of former Supreme Court Justice Scalia and the majority of President Trump’s administration have cited the mismatch theory to discredit affirmative action (Turetsky), it is not as true as people claim it is.

            The mismatch theory is just that—a theory.  Although a few plausible research studies have proven the slight reality of mismatch, only in rare cases is it applicable. Experiments have shown that lower test scores can be due to psychological stress and not lower academic ability (Turetsky).  Also, in a study by professors William Bowen, Michael McPherson, and Matthew Chingos, it was “found that students were most likely to graduate by attending the most selective institution that would admit them. This finding held regardless of student characteristics—better or worse prepared, black or white, rich or poor” (Chingos).  Contrary to this mismatch theory, affirmative action does not promote placing a student into a university or classroom where they academically do not fit.

            In this modern world, the over 50 year-old policy of affirmative action has yet to grow irrelevant and still benefits today’s society. Therefore, it is important to keep around.  Despite its critics, affirmative action’s promotion and successful placement of diversity in college classrooms gives new outlooks and experiences to everyone involved.  America needs to move past the whitewashed ways of the past and expand its classrooms, views, and ways of life to encompass all races.  Affirmative action is a positive and equitable step in the right direction.

RESOURCES USED THROUGHOUT PAPER (recommended reading)

Affirmative Action Overview (Bautsch)

Are Minority Students Harmed by Affirmative Action? (Chingos)

The Economic and Societal Advantages of Affirmative Action (Cooper)

Affirmative Action in College and University Admissions (Michaelson)

The Painful Truth About Affirmative Action (Richard)

What Science Has to Say about Affirmative Action (Turetsky)

Don’t forget to check out the latest installments of my Anything Goes series. The posts are linked at the beginning of this one!

Love, Olivia

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