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December 07, 2012

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AB

"I wonder whether the Brown polling data reveal evidence of a generational shift on the relevance and meaning of race in education."

I hope so. Even a number of the minorities I know are tired of the preferences (because people assume the minorities did not really deserve the positions they hold). The preferences often given in legal academic hiring are especially striking. And when the preferences are not given you see this outrageous, unsupported backlash like recently happened at GW.

anon

It is far past the time when the open, single-minded racially motivated aims of some are put in their proper place.
For example, constant references to "middle aged white men" that are laced with hate and intolerance are finally starting, thankfully, to turn off most of us.
This is especially true among young people, who know so many privileged people who have milked the prejudices and preyed on the guilty feelings of the baby boomers.

Eric Muller

It's not my habit to engage with anonymous commenters on blogs; I think that if you have an opinion worth expressing, you should be willing to attach your name (and reputation) to it.

Still, I think anyone who has actually looked carefully at the impact of affirmative action in student admissions will have a hard time recognizing the "privileged people ... milk[ing] the prejudices and prey[ing] on the guilty feelings of baby boomers" of whom you write.

AB

Eric, I generally agree with you about anonymous commenters, but attaching your name (and reputation) to this opinion would be death in the academic world. While diversity of viewpoints is supposedly valued, even suggesting opinions like the above would ruin a professor. Look at the beating Prof. Sander has taken over his book Mismatch. Sure other professors face critical attacks, but it is rare to see such incredibly bitter barbs and I am sure he lost many friends in the academy on account of his brave book.

Jim Gardner

There's no question there's been a generational shift of some kind, but I'm not entirely sure just what these numbers demonstrate. I teach Con Law, and here's my experience of teaching the affirmative action cases. When I started, in 1988, the topic generated some terrific and passionate discussions. As time passed, it became harder and harder to get a decent conversation going. Finally, I realized that at least one reason why the students wouldn't -- or more accurately couldn't -- talk about the subject was because they had become completely unfamiliar with the arguments *for* affirmative action. The only account they had ever heard was the post-Reagan opposition to affirmative action as reverse racial discrimination. As a result, I now begin this section of the curriculum with a 45-minute lecture on the history of affirmative action, starting with the JFK, LBJ, and RMN executive orders. I especially enjoy reading them excerpts from the LBJ speech in which he made the famous remark: "You do not take a man who for years has been hobbled by chains, liberate him, bring him to the starting line of a race, saying, 'you are free to compete with all the others,' and still justly believe you have been completely fair...." This is news to them, and they find it absolutely astonishing that a U.S. President could ever have articulated such a sentiment. Giving them this background still doesn't provide the basis for a good substantive discussion because it's too new to them, but at least it lays out a perspective with which they are unfamiliar, one that has been all but shouted off the public stage.

David Bernstein

Still, I think anyone who has actually looked carefully at the impact of affirmative action in student admissions will have a hard time recognizing the "privileged people ... milk[ing] the prejudices and prey[ing] on the guilty feelings of baby boomers" of whom you write.

That's hyberbole, but it's also try that affirmative action is benefiting lots of people who most people don't think of as the targeted beneficiaries. Whites with distant Indian ancestry, if that, fair skinned Hispanics of European ancestry, children of African diplomats and kleptocrats, among others.

noname

Jim Gardner -> you teach or did at Buffalo, right? I had you as my prof and I can tell you that what happened in the late 1990s was the political correctness had become so powerful that most students knew it was just a better idea to keep their mouths shut than engage the topic. That was, after all, the whole point of PC. And that is my recollection of SUNY Buffalo.

Jacqueline Lipton

Eric,
I also wonder how one should read those survey questions. Some people who favor diversity in faculty and student bodies would not like the idea of "affirmative action" for many of the reasons others have already stated in their comments here. So I think there's a good chance that, despite the fact that such a large proportion of survey-takers said that race shouldn't be a factor in admissions and hiring decisions, those same folks might still be in favor of a racially diverse faculty and student body. The survey questions seem to conflate the more generalized concept of faculty and student diversity with the specific steps one takes to get there (e.g. checking a box on an application form).

Anon

Eric,

Thank you for posting this information. I like the fact that you are using a current study to express your point.

With that said, I think that this may show that the academy is out of touch with the realities of their students and society as a whole.

In these comments, you state, "It's not my habit to engage with anonymous commenters on blogs; I think that if you have an opinion worth expressing, you should be willing to attach your name (and reputation) to it." If you express concerns for straight, white males in the academy, you have to be ready to kiss your career good bye.

The academy has become closed minded in regard to race and done an excellent jobs of silencing dissenting views. Frankly, it's become a mark of shame to be a straight, white male in the academy. I think we need to end that.

Anon

Professor Lipton, I think that trying to rationalize the realities of what this survey reflects are troubling. This is especially true when "diversity" as become a code word for not hiring straight white males.

Jacqueline Lipton

Anon,
I'm not sure I understand your concern about my comment. I wasn't trying to "rationalize" or explain away the survey results. It could well be that a large proportion of folks couldn't care less about diversity and that wouldn't surprise me at all. I was simply observing that the survey questions may not have been expressed very well, depending on what the survey designers were specifically trying to get at. I studied "rats and stats" as a psych major for several years in one of my other lives and was just observing that when drawing conclusions from surveys, it's often useful to consider the survey methodology. I wasn't attempting to impose any kind of value-judgment on the survey takers or the survey results. Just an observation about research methodology. That was all I intended anyway.

Reggie Greene / The Logistician

There are many complexities associated with affirmative action programs and policies. However, one issue which we continually ignore, as is the case with most government related programs and initiatives, is whether it is effective in addressing past wrongs. Think about this: How many beneficiaries of affirmative action programs have actually shared their good fortune with other members of their particular ethnic group, as opposed to using their increased opportunities and wealth to distance themselves from the masses of minority citizens? http://tinyurl.com/3gw6lkp
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