Schuette decision

Discussants of these issues have been making a muddle, confusing themselves and others. Let us try to sort things out.

1. The original concept of "affirmative action" was to make efforts to encourage underperforming students to meet common standards, not to lower standards so that more of them could have the appearance of success but not the substance of it. It did not contemplate quotas.

2. But "efforts" can't be measured, so because minorities were not immediately advancing in proportion to their numbers, and because it was presumed that aptitude and motivation were equally distributed among every group, there was a leap to using quotas as a way to measure effort, to remediate the conjectured effects of past unfair discrimination, and to attribute continuing underperformance to further unfair discrimination. These are mistakes that need to be corrected.

3. Each individual is solely responsible for educating himself. The young are not passive vessels into which education can be poured. They have to want to learn, and to have the ability to learn. If they don't, no amount of effort or resource expenditure will educate them to any particular level we might set for them.

4. More talented and industrious people tend to marry similarly talented and industrious people and are more likely to produce more talented and industrious offspring. Over the course of generations, this will tend to result in stratification of society by talent and industriousness. Of course there will always be some from the lower levels who will have what it takes to rise to higher levels, and they should be encouraged and the way cleared for them, but this stratification can be expected even if there is no unfair discrimination against the less fit. Discrimination based on merit is not unfair.

5. Lack of motivation to become educated is not just the result of family or community cultures that don't value educational advancement or that discourage educational achievement, and those things are not just the legacy of past unfair discrimination. Many groups have suffered unfair discrimination throughout history and responded with increased determination to advance. We need to examine how the lack of such determination may be a rational choice based on accurately perceived lack of personal aptitude. The less-talented generally are aware they are less talented and adjust their expectations accordingly. They may also hate themselves for their shortcomings and angrily inflict that hatred on others. We might want them to try harder, but there are limits to how much that desire will increase their motivation, and legal interventions are likely to be counterproductive.

6. We also need to confront the evidence that aptitude is not uniformly distributed among all groups. That is not just the result of flawed measures. Some of the measures might be flawed, but even if we correct for flaws we still have the evidence that does not support the aspirations almost all of us share that there be no such differences. If there are differences we need to deal with that reality, not ignore it or attempt to explain it away. "Nature cannot be fooled."

7. In this case the Supreme Court was being somewhat disingenuous in holding the decision should be left to the voters, because they agreed with this decision by the voters. If the voters had decided to do something unfairly discriminatory, they would have overturned that decision, and properly so.

8. These issues may not have satisfactory solutions until we can genetically engineer our offspring to all be superior by present standards, not only in aptitude but in character. But we also have to anticipate that such engineering will not always be done or have salutary results. For at least the next century things are likely to get rough.


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