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Putting The Affirmative In Affirmative Action

1794 words - 8 pages

Imagine this: it’s 1961, and President Kennedy has just signed Executive Order 10925 into action, forcing government contractors to take affirmative action so that minorities will have an equal chance to find employment. It’s the first order of its kind, and it will lead affirmative action to become utilized in both the workplace and college admissions. But even though Executive Order 10925 was intended as a sympathetic and well-intentioned gesture, affirmative action has sparked many debates across the country. Many declare that affirmative action is necessary and just while others claim that it should be abolished because it actually leads to reverse discrimination. In addition, ...view middle of the document...

They go on to say that “[he] instead finds himself at Duke, where the professors are not teaching at a pace designed for him.” This leads to lower grades, a drop in self-esteem and ultimately, a failure to benefit from a prestigious education. The results of this can be seen in a study conducted at Duke University by Peter Arcidiacono, Esteban M. Aucejo, and Ken Spenner which showed that even though more black students showed interest in an engineering, natural sciences, or economics major, 54% would switch out of these majors compared to 8% of white students. The problem is not a lack of interest from black students in getting a major, but rather with the academic credentials that they enter college with—especially in a field where math and science are key and everything builds on what you’ve previously learned. Take, for example, the case of Kashawn Campbell, a black teenager who was the salutatorian of his high school class and graduated with a 4.06 GPA. He was accepted to UC Berkeley, but now has a 1.7 GPA and says that “sometimes we feel like we’re not wanted on campus” (qtd. in Streeter). Campbell’s plight demonstrates that mismatch can lead to impacts on a personal level as well. In addition to a severe drop in grades, he is suffering from social stigma and stress. Even though Campbell lifted his GPA just enough to pass freshman year, it is likely that he will continue to face stereotyping by others. This stereotyping may eventually be internalized, causing a detrimental self-fulfilling prophecy. The theory of mismatch is further established in California’s passage of Proposition 209, which banned racial preferences in admission. Sander and Taylor note that although the number of minority admissions decreased after Prop 209, the number of minority graduates receiving bachelor’s degrees was the same for the five years before Prop 209 as for the five years after. Thus, Prop 209 actually increased the graduation rate among minorities by reducing the number of mismatched candidates who were admitted. However, no colleges noted this fact. They only focused on the fact that minority admissions decreased, leading to their failure to treat mismatch as an actual problem. They do not even acknowledge its existence or the fact that it must be reformed, which leads to mismatch undergoing a snowball effect and becoming a bigger problem than it already is.
Even though mismatch is a big problem, many things can and should be done to reduce its impacts, including a reform in K-12 education. President George W. Bush himself once declared that “There’s an achievement gap in America that’s not good for the future of this country,” (qtd. in Tough). Affirmative action is centered on the idea of closing this achievement gap between races or genders, but this help is coming much too late. According to a recent U.S. Department of Education Report, fourth-grade black students scored up to 68 points behind white students on a 500-point scale on average in a...

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