Racial Preferences… Help or Hinderance?

According to the LA Times, UCLA Professor, Richard Sanders will be publishing a study that statistically shows what I have always believed. Racial preferences have too often taken intelligent, potentially successful students and placed them in situations where they have not been adequately prepared to be successful.
When I started school at California State University, Chico there were a total of 70 Black students in the freshman class, most of which were affirmative action students. When I graduated five years later, about 10% of those students graduated with me. I didn’t understand why so few had made it. They were just as smart and talented as I was. It wasn’t until I became a tutor for a program called Summer Bridge and worked with incoming freshmen, many of whom were affirmative action placements, that the truth of affirmative action became clear.Many of these students were not able to do basic mathematical computations, such as adding, multiplying or dividing fractions. Additionally, few knew how to write a basic five-paragraph essay, a skill necessary for most college level courses. This is not to say that they were not capable of learning these skills. Rather, they had either, never been exposed to them or the importance of perfecting them had not been adequately imparted. All students experience a certain culture shock when they go to college. Now add to the mix the fact that many of these students come from high schools who’s ethnic and cultural makeup is dramatically different from that of the average college campus. What 18 year-old kid wouldn’t want to return to the comforts and familiar surroundings of home. And as if these students weren’t dealing with enough insecurities, wait until they find out that they have been setup for failure. Like a contractor asked to build a fence, but is given no wood, no hammer or any nails; these students are not given the proper tools to compete at the college level.

The problem is not Affirmative Action, but what it has become. Rather than making sure that ALL students have an EQUAL OPPORTUNITY TO SUCCEED in college, we have set many of those students up to fail by not making sure all students have the tools necessary to succeed once they there.

Everybody wants to take the shortcuts to solve the problem. Conservatives say to eliminate the program. Liberals simply want to throw more money at it. The answer is far more complex than politicians in either of these groups will admit. There is not a level playing field when it comes to access to higher education in this state. Black, Latino & Native American students tend to come from poorer communities with a quality of education that is worse than many third world nations. This must be addressed. But putting bright, potentially successful young men and women in positions where they are not prepared to succeed is not the answer. It is important that we not lower the bar for these students, but provide these students with whatever resources and assistance they need to meet these standards.

In other words… Let us not seek to improve their circumstances. Let us seek to help them improve themselves, so that they can overcome their circumstances.