The National Assessment of Educational Process last week released "The Nation's Report Card: Reading 2000." It found that students in the dreadful Washington, D.C., school system are the worst readers in the country, despite annual per-pupil expenditures of $9,650 (second highest in the nation in 2001) and teacher salaries that rank among the nation's highest. But D.C. students who don't learn to read shouldn't worry. If they are minorities (as most are), they can count on affirmative action to get them into college, illiterate though they may be. This is the message the Supreme Court has sent in its decision.
We don't apply affirmative action in professional sports where minorities have succeeded disproportionately to their numbers in society. That's because of their skills. If skills are paramount in sports, why should they also not be paramount in education? Not everyone can be a professional athlete, but everyone can learn.
While the court's decision directly affects admissions only at public, tax-supported institutions, it is likely to have a ripple effect. Expect the ruling to influence private colleges and universities, as well as government and business.
For the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment to be equal and to protect everyone, only a person who can prove he or she was discriminated against should be able to petition government for a redress of grievances. To allow race as a factor - even a small factor - in giving minorities advantages in college admission is still discrimination, and it is unconstitutional, even if a bare majority of Supreme Court justices say otherwise.
Cal Thomas is co-author (with Bob Beckel) of the book, "Common Ground: How to Stop the Partisan War That is Destroying America".
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