Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Affirmative Action for Athletics?

Okay, ha ha. But:

1. If anything, coaches already try to find white players.
2. Some black people have racial prejudices; everyone does. But "racism" is directed at the societal minority, which is NOT white people. Affirmative action tries to overcome racism (which is an aggregate effect), not racial prejudice (which is individual).
3. Performance in sport (as in music, and the military) is objective. The idea of using race in those categories is silly. And of course that's why sports, music, and the military have long been the most integrated parts of U.S. society (although even there white racists said blacks didn't have the "character" to be a quarterback, boxer, etc.). But academics and hiring are more subjective. A bad time in the 40 yard dash means you are slow. A bad SAT score could mean all sorts of things. When I ran admissions at UNC MPA, I was surprised how many low GRE score students did VERY well once they were admitted.
4. Basketball is the key sport among urban populations, many of whom are black. Hockey, swimming, lacrosse much less so. This is sorting, not racism.

Nonetheless, I was amused to see the kids struggle with making ANY of the above arguments. The video does a good job of showing how our "support" for aff-action is a religion, not a considered conclusion.

(Nod to the Blonde)


Pete L said...

Okay, but...

2: The intentions are probably good, but since when is this the best way to guide policy? Most of the research I've seen clearly shows that black people that benefit from AA are one to two standard deviations below the white population on standardized tests and their eventual GPA. e.g., see Sander's paper on AA in law school -- it's very illuminating.

3: Performance in many parts of academia are just as objective (e.g., math, science, etc) and we can clearly produce objective standardized tests. There is no good evidence that standardized tests are any less predictive for black people than they are for white people (if anything, slightly the opposite).

Further, to the extent that there are subjective elements in academics, there is in the "real world" as well. Should we also hold black people to a different standard in their eventual professional life? If we can't expect them to produce the correct answer on academic course work -- how can we expect them to do as well, as a population, on say writing a formal business analysis or programming (which involve all sorts of objective and subjective abilities).

This seems to be woefully misguided. I can see providing needy students with additional assistance and especially early remedial tutoring, but it seems to me that you must eventually demand that they compete as true equals.

4: Sure, but one can make the same arguments for academics. Academic study is a "key" activity amongst upper middle class white people (even moreso for asians) Also, I very much doubt the proportion of blacks in college and beyond is remotely close to the proportion that play basketball at middle and high school (they are, after all, a minority and basketball is very popular with many white people too). Clearly there are other factors at play here and I don't think sorting or racism are satisfactory answers (not if we're being honest with ourselves).

Tom said...

"But 'racism' is directed at the societal minority, which is NOT white people." I think you meant to say racism is directed at those out of power; witness South Africa prior to 1993. In Zimbabwe today, it IS white people.

Affirmative Action is (one example of) the belief that you can do whatever you want, as long as your motives are pure. There won't be any unintended consequences.

Christoph said...

I have to agree with Pete. Mainly your third point is way off. Are you seriously claiming you can objectively rank basketball players? And that the ranking of students in a stats class is more subjective? Please!

Bird said...

According to your 4th point, the best white players in the US would be from large cities. That doesn't seem to be true. Instead, they seem to come from areas where you can't discriminate against white players and still field a team.

Pete L said...

By the way, this is the article I alluded to:

It's well worth the read, if nothing else for its shedding light on the empirical failure of affirmative action (e.g., 50% of black admits in the bottom 10% of nearly ALL law schools, very high bar failure rate, high attrition from big law, etc) to produce anything remotely close to equal outcomes by graduation (too many people are ignorant of these statistics)

While it mainly focuses on the failure of affirmative action within law school, it speaks volumes about the success of affirmative action at the undergrad level too (unless one takes the improbable position that only black law school applicants should underperform their white and asian peers so dramatically).

He goes on to make the point, with some statistical evidence that "benefitting" from AA actually hurts black people...since, on average, they're sent to schools several tiers above their abilities and thus they struggle to keep up...

Dave Thomas said...

I think you missed the point when you said that low GRE students did well. I would suggest that the GRE was accurate and the doing well was a result of grade inflation that makes a modern liberal arts college degree fairly worthless in the real world.

Brad Hutchings said...

I think the first dude said he supported affirmative action before the third trimester?