Raleigh, N. C.—Despite the competing claims of both sides of the affirmative action debate, there are issues in higher education that transcend race, namely the quality of the instruction that students of all races receive. “It is only a few institutions of higher learning that use racial preferences but they are the select ones,” Tom Wood, research director of the California Association of Scholars says.
Wood spoke at the annual conference sponsored by the John William Pope Center for Higher Education Policy here. “You’re talking about a small percentage of minority students on our campuses—10-12 percent—and that’s a problem?” Jose Picart of North Carolina State University asks.
Dr. Picart serves as the Vice President for Diversity and African American Affairs at NC State. “There’s a small cottage industry and I guess they are making good money that has grown up to stem this tide,” Dr. Picart said at the conference at the Brownstone-Holiday Inn. But there is a cadre of “diversity experts” as well.
“Discrimination” is “subtle, often unintentional,” Geoff Maryuma of the University of Minnesota argues. Dr. Maryuma is the interim president of the Office of Multicultural and Academic Affairs at UM.
“Whites get the edge when they have the same balance of strengths and weaknesses,” Dr. Maryuma says. “People with high abilities are treated the same.”
“People with low abilities are treated the same.” Additionally:
• “From Chicago there are studies that blacks and Latinos get greater car mark-ups than whites,” when dealing with auto dealers, and
• “Studies show that people from minorities tend to minimize their disadvantage.”
Dr. Maryuma’s solution to the racial imbalances that he sees today is to “invest in early childhood programs.” Meanwhile, education statistics usually show that late childhood education programs have been an abject failure.
Nationally, “the number of remedial courses has more than doubled in the past ten years,” high school math teacher Carol O’Dell points out. O’Dell has taught at both the high school and college level.
At her school, O’Dell found an increasing number of students with low SAT scores but high grade point averages. Race was not a factor: O’Dell’s school was drawing fewer blacks when the standardized scores went down and East Carolina State University, a historically black college and/or university, found the same anomaly in its incoming freshman GPAs and College Boards.
O’Dell, who has four decades of classroom experience, does not blame the quirks of the SAT itself for the dichotomy. “I’ve had kids with 1600 on the SAT who could not pass calculus,” she notes, “but I haven’t had kids with 820 pass calculus.” Ultimately the failure to ability-group students may exacerbate the problem.
“You cannot serve both the high and low achievers without doing a disservice to one or the other,” O’Dell said.
Malcolm A. Kline is the executive director of Accuracy in Academia.