Wednesday, November 29, 2006

 

It's not discrimination when we do it

The Vietnam era claim of destroying a village in order to save it was widely mocked but is essentially the arguments put forward today by many proponents of so-called Affirmative Action programs: we must discriminate in order to end discrimination. But Ruth Marcus seems just incredulous that all don’t accept this as self-evident. Today she goes after some parents who don’t like school integration plans in their school districts and the Bush administration that takes their side. Ruth Marcus - A Slide Toward Segregation

Ms. Marcus is very upset that some parents in Seattle and Louisville are themselves upset that their children’s choice of schools can be dependent on their race. Of course it’s not her kids who are being used to assuage some local school boards angst over the past but still... Now few subjects touch me off as much as this modern-day thinking that diversity – as and when defined by the left – is a worthy basis for policy decisions. And that’s all this is: skin-deep diversity for skin-deep diversity’s sake.

Ms. Marcus tries to succinctly encapsulate the cases. Ms. Marcus succinctly gets it wrong:

“A half-century after Brown v. Board of Education, it's come, amazingly, to this: The Supreme Court, in the name of preventing race discrimination, is being asked to stop local schools from voluntarily adopting plans to promote integration.”

Well, local schools long ago “voluntarily” adopted other plans which also differentiated students based on race. The cases discussed here are about whether local school boards can assign (or not assign) students to different schools based on skin color. And in typical leftist fashion, the pro argument is “of course, as long as we’re doing the assigning and our hearts are pure”. Also typically, Ms. Marcus is not arguing that the federal government stays out of all local school systems – just the ones where like-mindeds aren’t in charge.

I have mixed feelings on the cases as I generally prefer letting state and local entities go ahead and make asses out of themselves. Living in Baltimore Maryland, I’m used to it. And I don’t want to go all Chicken Little on the matter; these school selection systems aren’t all about race: preference and siblings are also important factors. And the effect on the student populations as a whole seems small (unless you happen to be the one directly affected). But such instances of respect for federalism must be across the board – it has to be an all or nothing interference policy or else we’re just stuck with selective imposition of leftist policies.

Ms. Marcus lays out just why she thinks such social gerrymandering is a good idea:

For years the federal government has given money to schools, including money for programs that explicitly take race into account in making school assignments, to encourage efforts at integration.

“And for good reason: Students -- and ultimately society -- benefit when black children and white go to school together. These cases don't present the harder, zero-sum issues of affirmative action; no one's being denied admission. Indeed, creating more integrated public schools could help bring about the day when affirmative action in higher education is no longer critical to ensuring a diverse student body.”

This is just so much historical revisionism. The federal government’s earlier efforts were aimed (and often mis-aimed) at instances where students couldn’t go to a school solely because of their color…which is exactly what the parents here are claiming can happen to their children.

Most indicative of my suspicion that she really doesn’t understand these cases is her statement that: “These cases don't present the harder, zero-sum issues of affirmative action; no one's being denied admission.”

No Ms. Marcus, this exactly what they do: children can be denied entrance to a particular school that they want to attend because the school has too many of a certain skin color or another school needs some more of a certain skin color. They then have to go to another school. It is no different than Elite U. denying admission to someone because they have too many Asians. Inside Higher Ed :: Too Asian?

I’ll respect an argument that federalism should trump here as long as that argument is consistently applied. But Ms. Marcus and her ilk seem more interested in just keeping the federal government out of their imposing-on-society exercises in feeling good about themselves…and they'll tell you, as usual, it’s all about the children; just not their children.

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