I want to start off by saying something very controversial - I'm for affirmative action. I'm for diversity. I even believe that race should be a criteria in university admission. I do not believe, however, that an admissions office should favor the son of an upper-class African-American family over the daughter of a poverty-stricken Asian family. That is wrong.
Affirmative action, based mainly on race, is counterproductive. Financial conditions, geography, disability, background, religion, and other characteristics of an applicant are just as important as race in determining college admissions. We should help the truly disadvantaged - not the well-to-do who receive most of society's benefits. But most campuses and universities around the country still promote race-based admissions policies.
Don't get me wrong - diversity is very important. Diversity promotes discussion and learning from one another. All students, including white students, benefit from learning first-hand about other cultures. But race-based affirmative action is not the answer to promoting racial diversity.
The answer is to start with the schools. Not with the 4 year universities, the 2 years colleges, or the vocational schools. Not even with the high schools or junior high schools. We need to start with the elementary schools, the kindergartens, and even the nursery schools. What separates the achievers from the drop-outs is the desire to learn. You cannot teach that desire to an eighteen-year-old; the passion for learning must come at an early age. It must come when students are being taught to read and to do simple arithmetic. Those who come from a strong family background have an advantage, of course, but all is not lost for those who come from broken homes. The schools can, in some cases, act as a second home to reinforce the love of learning, the desire to attain knowledge, and the appreciation of thought.
But to say or even to infer that the problems of lack-of-lust for learning can be solved by raced-based measures is utter nonsense. Raced-based measures at the collegiate level only promote stereotypes and discrimination of thought (i.e. racism). Though we may never get to that elusive color-blind society, we can try to mend the gaps by attacking the roots of the problem - not the symptoms of it.
Auren Hoffman is a regular contributor to the Spectacle and writes the SUMMATION column for The Internet Herald.