- - Thursday, July 5, 2018


More than a decade ago Chief Justice John Roberts suggested a foolproof formula for eliminating racial discrimination, a goal that nearly everyone says he wants. “The way to stop discrimination on the basis of race,” he said, “is to stop discriminating on the basis of race.” Mr. Justice Roberts and his opinion in the case of Parents Involved in Community Schools v. Seattle School District No. 1 did not actually do anything to eliminate “affirmative action,” but nibbled at the edges of it, requiring anything done to ensure racial diversity be “narrowly tailored.”

The Obama administration took the phrase “narrowly tailored” and defined it to suit the Obama purposes. (What could a chief justice know?) “Guidance” from the Education and Justice Departments in 2011, and expanded in 2016, urged schools, from kindergarten through high school and college, to consider applicants by race. That was the only way to eliminate the practice of considering race. The “guidance” argued that “diversity is an important educational goal, and that colleges should be able to use a variety of methods (including the consideration of race and ethnicity in admissions) to achieve diversity.” Words mean exactly what the educationist bureaucrats want them to mean, nothing more and nothing less. (Where have we heard that before, Miss Alice?)

“Institutions,” the Obama administration argued, “are not required to implement race-neutral approaches if, in their judgment, the approaches would be unworkable. In some cases, race-neutral approaches will be unworkable because they will be ineffective to achieve the diversity the institution seeks.” Racial discrimination is permitted, nay, encouraged, if the goal is what the educationist bureaucracy says is worthy. Diversity, the basis of identity politics, is what the bureaucracy deems worthiest of all. Actually teaching students something, like reading, writing and doing their numbers, is too fatiguing for the teachers.

And who, in order to encourage “diverse campuses,” has been discriminated against? Not merely white students. Elite campuses have discriminated against Asian applicants, too. They score too high on academic measurements, the logic goes, and unless they are discriminated against, will dominate elite campuses. It’s “the yellow peril” once more, deja vu all over again.

A lawsuit working its way through the courts pits several Asian applicants against Harvard University. The plaintiffs argue that the university is engaged in “racial balancing,” i.e., penalizing Asian applicants to reduce their numbers on campus. Citing a 2013 analysis by Harvard’s Office of Institutional Research, the [plaintiffs] say in a federal court filing ” that if academics were the only criterion, Asian-American students would have made up more than 43 percent of students who were admitted, rather than the actual 18.7 percent.”

In New York City, Mayor Bill de Blasio is attempting similar chicanery. He wants to change the way the city’s elite high schools admit students in a way that will reduce and ultimately eliminate the entrance exams in which Asian students thrive. “I’m not sure if the mayor is racist,” Kenneth Chiu, chairman of the New York City Asian-American Democratic Club tells The New York Times, “but this policy is certainly discriminatory. It’s like the Chinese Exclusion Act, is what I think.”

This racial approach to admissions creates several problems beyond the inherent unfairness of making decisions based on race. There’s also the problem of “mismatch,” the well-documented finding that if students are admitted to schools they don’t have the ability or earlier training to succeed in, they inevitably suffer. This helps no one, the “mismatched” applicant least of all.

The Trump administration sees the folly and inherent unfairness of this approach. The Justice and Education departments announced this week they were withdrawing the Obama guidance. The Trump administration is further supporting the claims of the Asian students in the Harvard lawsuit.

In that 2007 Seattle decision, Mr. Justice Roberts further said that “simply because the school districts may seek a worthy goal does not mean they are free to discriminate on the basis of race to achieve it.” He was right then and he is right now.

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