This issue is discussed in “Justice”, Michael Sandel’s popular political philosophy course.
According to wikipedia, affirmative action refers to policies that take factors including “race, color, religion, gender, sexual orientation, or national origin” into consideration in order to benefit an underrepresented group “in areas of employment, education, and business” usually justified as countering the effects of a history of discrimination.
Giving the advantage based on cultural differences rather than merit in colleges admissions. Is this injurous to justice? I know there is a definite disadvantage for me in applying to some colleges–according to the New York Times and USA today, more and more Asians are leaving the ‘race’ box unchecked to balance the playing field.
Here’s my view on the issue.
Everyone is born into an inescapable caste of ethnic, socio-economic, and other cultural differences. These already established factors that one is born into cannot be avoided. Thus, naturally and perhaps unfairly, the people with the most merit tend to favor certain ethnic and socio-economic groups. The Asian culture, for example, stresses education, and subsequently, produces children of higher educational merit whereas the latino culture does not emphasize the importance of education. Is it fair for colleges then to give an edge to latinos who are statistically and unavoidably under-merited?
We can only be sure that the answer is not easy.
Let say a top university gives an edge to latinos, who are shown to be statistically absent of educational opportunities.
However, there are also some latino individuals who are very much blessed with educational opportunities. What should we do with these people?
I think that affirmative action is a great idea in education. A lower class partaking in education increases socio-economic mobility, which in turn, will give rise to the equal consideration of merit. However, just affirmative action, I fear, will never be available as there will always be exceptions (the latino who is blessed with educational opportunities).
A holistic background examination might be too complicated and subject to human errors to be accurate, but to give an advantage or a disadvantage in a one-factor affirmative action decision is a disturbing mistake. Just because a family is latino. Just because one had no parents. Just because a family is poor. No. Merit should be far most important one-factor affirmative action decision.
To all the high school seniors out there, strut your merit, and good luck.