Thomas Sowell

If you would like to be taller than you are, do you think that joining a basketball team would help? After all, statistics prove that members of basketball teams are taller than other people.

If this seems like a strange way to reason, it is the same kind of reasoning used by those who argue that minority students need affirmative action to get into top-rated colleges and universities, because graduates of those institutions have more upscale careers.

I am sure that my graduating class at Harvard has had a high income. After all, it contained a Rockefeller and the Aga Khan, so even if the rest of us became unemployed bums, the class would still have a high average income. Of course, that wouldn't do the rest of us any good.

As hand-wringing begins in many quarters over the prospect that affirmative action might end, and fewer black students get admitted to Ivy League schools and flagship state universities, it is well to keep in mind that statistics about how well the graduates of such institutions do in later life may have little or no relevance to those black students who are admitted under lower standards.

Most black students who enter college do not graduate -- and that is especially so for those admitted with qualifications well below those of the other students at the same institution. So how well the graduates of this or this college or university do in later life has no relevance to those who do not survive to make it up to the graduation platform.

These casualties of the double-standards admissions process do not even get the dignity of being recognized as the "collateral damage" of affirmative action. They would have been far better off succeeding on some campus where the admissions standards matched their academic background and capabilities.

For example, a study some years ago showed that the average black student at MIT scored in the top 10 percent in mathematics among students nationwide -- but in the bottom 10 percent at MIT. One-fourth of these black students failed to graduate.

There is neither glory nor money to be had from flunking out of MIT. But you can have a fulfilling professional career after graduating from Texas Tech or Cal State Pomona.

The end of affirmative action in the state-supported universities of California and Texas was decried and denounced by those who said that it would mean the end of black students' "access" to college, the "resegregation of higher education" and other irresponsible rhetorical flourishes.

Thomas Sowell

Thomas Sowell is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institute and author of The Housing Boom and Bust.

Creators Syndicate