Affirmative Action and College Admissions: A Legal and Ethical Analysis
The institution of public education has been one of the most controversial establishments in the United States since its inception. More specifically, equality in the conditions and the opportunities it provides has been sought as one of its major goals. There is little doubt that minority ethnic groups have struggled to achieve educational equality, just as they have struggled for equality in other aspects of life. One way that minorities have tried to achieve equality in education is through lobbying for help in college admissions for their respective groups. This social practice has been debated on many grounds, including necessity and ethical permissibility.
The debate over the necessity of equal opportunity in education for minority groups can be traced back to the post Civil War era. The well-known debates between African-American intellectuals W.E.B. DuBois and Booker T. Washington focused on this issue. DuBois believed that the newly emancipated blacks should be slowly integrated into the culture of white America. He argued that the best way for African-Americans to further themselves in society was to embrace their differences and not try to be subjected to the same educational system as the majority population.
On the other hand, Booker T. Washington believed that blacks needed to be declared completely equal to whites in every way. He wanted immediate integration into all social institutions that were available to whites, including public education. Washington believed that this was the only way that equality could ultimately be achieved was to break down the social barriers between the races immediately and deal with the consequences as they came.
More recently, affirmative action has been integrated into social policy, and it has been intensely debated ever since. Proponents of affirmative action believe that it is a necessary step toward racial equality. Opponents argue on the basis of “reverse racism,” which claims that affirmative action keeps certain members of the majority ethnic group out of jobs or other positions that they deserve solely because of quotas that must be filled. The positive effects of affirmative action are the basis behind the arguments of those who support considering ethnicity and race as a part of admissions.
All of the basic principles of these contentions have spilled over into the avenue of admission standards in institutions of higher learning. The main question surrounding this issue, and the focus of this paper, is: Should college admissions consider ethnic background as a factor when admitting students? Both the supporters of separate admission standards and their opponents have strong arguments derived from many years of past struggles. The following is an analysis of the legal background surrounding the issue, as well as an investigation of the arguments of both sides of...