California to punish excellence

Larry Elder

11/23/2001 12:00:00 AM - Larry Elder
University of California Regents recently voted to change their admissions criteria. Previously, the UC system (consisting of nine universities) chose half of its incoming class primarily on test scores and grades. The admissions department selected the remainder based on an array of criteria, including, but not limited to, credit for "overcoming adversity." Now, the admissions officers will select the entire admitting class based upon a flexible set of criteria. In 1996, Californians passed Proposition 209, the initiative that discontinued the use of race and gender in admissions. Following 209, the numbers of blacks and Hispanics in the elite UC campuses of UCLA and Berkeley dropped off. Yet the overall number of blacks and Hispanics did not decline, with many now going to the less-competitive schools. Is the change a subterfuge to ensure the admission of a certain number of blacks and Hispanics? The president of the University of California, Richard Atkinson, denies this, but did say, "Minority communities go off the deep end when they talk about the SAT. I think they have good reason. It's a mystery what the SAT measures and why their kids don't do as well as other kids." Nationwide, the forced mismatching of lesser-qualified blacks and Hispanics in top-flight institutions results in a lower-than-average graduation rate for these students. Those admitted under "special criteria" or some other code word for lowered standards, drop out at a much higher rate than their peers. A study of seven Michigan colleges by the Detroit News reveals that "among black students who were freshmen in 1994, just 40 percent got their diplomas after six years, compared to 61 percent of white students and 74 percent of Asians ... Universities knowingly admit students who have a high chance of failing ... The 10 years' worth of data analyzed by The News shows that the more selective a university is in choosing its students, the more likely its students are to graduate." Similarly, in the University of California system, students admitted under special criteria -- code for affirmative action -- also graduate at a lower rate than do regularly admitted students. The new UC policy punishes Asians. At the prestigious UCLA and Berkeley campuses, the percentage of Asians stands at 40 percent. If the system relied primarily on test scores and grades, the percentage of Asians would be higher still. At the distinguished, hard-to-get-into San Francisco public Lowell High School, Chinese-American applicants required higher admissions scores than did other ethnic groups. A lawsuit finally stopped it, but the new UC admissions policy follows suit, giving God-like powers to admissions officers, who punish academic excellence, while doing nothing to improve the substandard K-12 education many receive. Apparently, punishment of Asian excellence is a world-wide phenomenon. Generations ago, many poor Chinese left China for countries like Singapore and Malaysia, only to face government-backed discrimination by envious natives. Consider this recently received letter: "I was born in Malaysia and my grandfather was an emigrant from China. He came to Malaysia with only the clothes on his back and paid off the debt of his immigrant boat fare by working as a clerk. He managed to father four sons and seven daughters ... and buy two homes by the end of his life. "Around Southeast Asia there is also a problem of racism but the problem is that the natural natives of these countries are envious of the Chinese immigrants. ... It's because the Chinese in Malaysia, the Philippines, and Indonesia are more well off economically. And it's not because the immigrant Chinese are the ruling class and get benefits, it's because they have a culture of working hard, and community support through family and clan associations. Family help one another, giving loans or by working in the family business. "What happens in Malaysia are things where the natives get benefits like 5 percent housing discount, and racial quota limits on university entrance. The excuse by the other race here is not 'the system' but that Chinese are 'greedy, cheaters and opportunistic.' "In the Philippines, jealousy and racism of Chinese has come to the point where Chinese businessmen have to be constantly on guard from kidnappings. Chinese in the Philippines even have their own community Fire Brigades to protect themselves." The new UC admissions policy ignores the real problem -- the substandard K-12 education many students receive, especially those attending public, inner-city schools. Yet, many of the very same liberals willing to use "holistic" means in college admissions remain adamantly opposed to allowing parents, through vouchers, to select their children's school. What do the UC admissions officers say to parents who bought smaller homes, didn't go on vacation, and lived below their means to ensure a better education for their children? Should they stand at the back of the bus because of the educational establishment's failure to provide a quality education for others? To those parents, the UC admissions policy says quite bluntly, "sucker."