The United States
It fails to account for individuality and personal characteristics while exacerbating racial resentment. Additionally, empirically speaking, admitting students on the skewed basis of ethnicity and not academic performance places disadvantaged ethnic groups in a precarious situation where many inevitably drop out because they were unprepared for the academic standards of the accepting institution. Sadly, this case can aggravate already existing social stereotypes about less well performing races and destroy the self esteem of individuals (Thernstrom 406).
In the same field, by admitting students that are set up for failure from the very beginning, students who were prepared and qualified but not admitted must bear the full brunt of the opportunity cost and attend a less prestigious institution (Thernstrom 410). Including consideration of ethnicity in school admissions hurts minority groups, breeds racial resentment, and creates an economic burden on society as a whole. To contrast the argument for procedural fairness, or not including ethnicity in admissions criteria, is a different approach that proponents of procedural fairness fail to address.
Admittedly, use of “group preferences” does not truly address the ethnic disparity at hand and can cause problems of its own, but there is a compromising alternative, namely “multifactor sensitive admissions. ” All programs of Affirmative Action attempt to tackle the significant racial disparities evident at educational institutions, however “multifactor sensitive admissions” does so with a prospective and realistic approach that would to some extent fulfill John Rawls notion of dealing with economic disparity.
The fundamental principle behind “multifactor sensitive admissions” is that it looks to the future to rectify problems that cannot realistically be dealt with at an early age in a society that values individual liberty so fundamentally (Fishkin 30). Instead of using unjust group preferences, “multifactor sensitive admissions” sets minimum thresholds for cumulative GPA and standardized test scores to address the problems associated with ill prepared students while leaving a diverse pool of qualified applicants for the school to choose from at will, so that a diverse student body can be assembled.
By looking closely at each applicant who exceeds the minimum standards for admission, a student body can be molded into an optimal learning environment for all attendees. Ethnicity is one of many factors, other aspects such as talents and geography are included to nurture a dynamic and varied environment. The primary goal of “multifactor sensitive admissions” is for future equality, which takes several forms. First, a diverse student body allows characteristically white professions to become more available across the ethnic spectrum, thereby reducing the perception of African Americans primarily as less well educated (Bowen).
Second, new role models for future generations of minority children will be created, thus eliminating stereotypes that mentally limit capable children (Bowen). Third, there is a societal benefit, in that empirically college educated minorities are more inclined to participate in community service, thereby aiding a more equitable distribution of goods society wide (Bowen). To conclude, “multifactor sensitive admissions” does not provide an immediate solution, but one that in time can create a lasting transformation in the social culture of the United States.
John Rawls, the champion of modern liberal distributive conceptions, sets forth the most morally just method of addressing deficiencies in early life chances. Sadly, however, I would be fooling myself to propose at length a system for realizing equality of opportunity based solely on his conceptions, because for society to advance we must eventually be able to realize what we conceive, and not only theorize about it. My proposal assumes two fundamental premises. First, something must be done to rectify inequality. To not do so would cast us into a realm of socially regressive and exceedingly oppressive societies.
Second, whatever is done to alter admissions methods to selective universities will inevitably create some parasitic inequality of its own. I propose that “multifactor sensitive admissions” is the most error free path to a more just society, and while less idealistically preferable, it provides a solution that has the potential to be realized. Rawls states that it is best to make amendments to “equality of life chances” at an early age however as James Fishkin notes, the American society would never stand to give up family autonomy regardless of the evident consequences (30).