How Identity Politics Admissions Hurts Most College Students

from The Wall Street Journal,

Despite good intentions, the school’s racial diversity goal was thwarted, parents were disappointed and no student was well served.

Regarding Heather Mac Donald’s “Diversity Delusions at North Carolina” (op-ed, Feb. 11): A simplified example of the direct counterproductive outcomes of lowered admissions standards for minority STEM applicants was clearly on display at my daughters’ small, rural Virginia middle school in the 1990s.

Several parents petitioned the school principal to offer an accelerated math class for seventh-graders who were tested to be ready for a more challenging curricula, math being particularly susceptible to “losing” students who are bored by already mastered concepts. The ascending seventh-graders were tested, and 22 students were shown to be ready for the advanced class. The principal, a very capable woman, then proclaimed there weren’t enough black faces in the group. She lowered the cutoff to achieve the racial quota she deemed appropriate. The expanded group couldn’t cover the more complex material as anticipated, as some of the students were clearly not ready. Despite the good intentions, the goal was thwarted, parents were disappointed and no student was well served. Even more tragic, almost all of the children who were in the two classes because of the lowered standard, failed the final test and had to repeat math class the following year. So much for improving self-esteem.

No one ever dared ask this principal why there were so few “white faces” on the basketball and football teams, but of course political correctness quashed that question then, as now.

Racial preferences aren’t the solution to black and Hispanic underrepresentation in STEM, they are a cause of it. Admitting students with academic qualifications significantly below those of their peers puts them at a disadvantage, whatever their race. Students who are catapulted by preferences into schools for which they are academically mismatched struggle to keep up in classrooms where the teaching is pitched above their level of preparation. Studies have shown that African-American and Hispanic freshmen in preference-practicing schools who intend to major in STEM switch into softer majors at a high rate once they realize their fellow students are much better prepared to do the work. Had those students enrolled in schools that matched their level of preparation, they would be more likely to graduate with a STEM degree.

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