My personal musings about anything that gets on my radar screen--heavily dominated by politics.


Interesting Day

I spent a good part of today down at the State House, and sat in on an Education Committee meeting in the afternoon. The big event was debating a bill brought forward by Sen. Jones--a black Democrat--forbidding the use of racial preferences in the state system, including college admissions. I was unable to stay until the end of the meeting to see if it got out of committee, but I suspect it came out on a 5-2 vote.

The room was full of the usual suspects--NAACP, League of Women Voters, and the like. But in the 90 minutes of debate I heard nobody address what is, to me, the central question: Does It Work?

You have to know two things about me. One, I very rarely have reflexive reactions. So where the far left would answer the above the question with an unqualified YES and the far right would answer NO I tend not to answer right away at all. Two, just about every significant idea goes through the crucible of "Does It Work" for me.

Now, I know that the left would answer that the programs DO work--enrollment is up, minority businesses succeed on the strength of government contracts, etc. . . But I propose that we put the whole question through a much more rigorous evaluative process. For instance, in the case of college enrollments the threshhold should not be do more minorities enroll, but do more minorities GRADUATE! It would be exceedingly cruel to make special exceptions to allow marginally qualified applicants to attend a school that the evidence shows they have little likelihood of succeeding at. Obviously, the data would have to be disaggregated to separate out those who clearly gain admissions based on merit from those who were marginal. But if it could be shown that those who arrive on the wings of a "plus factor" either succeed or fail at rates significantly different than the general population, it should be the central argument in the whole debate.

It calls to mind a basketball analogy. Suppose someone imposed on basketball a requirement that teams use shortness as a "plus factor" in deciding final rosters. Not, of course, when looking at starters, or even the first three or four off the bench; but when you're looking at filling those 11th and 12th roster spots teams need to consider being below, say 5'8" in height (yeah, I picked that number carefully) as a plus factor to increase the "height diversity" of the team. How would that help/hurt the team? Well, given that they hardly ever would play in a game, it probably wouldn't hurt the team, but then the starters would not get to practice against comparably-sized opposition, which would hurt the team in the long run. Are there benefits? Well, one could argue that the shorter players have to rely on different skills to succeed, and could expose their teammates to a different set of skills and perspectives on the game, and that would benefit all involved.

So then the question would be, do these players succeed? Clearly, the answer would have to be "no." I can think of exactly 2 players in the 25 years that I've followed the game that meet the description, and they were exceedingly rare individuals. So you could conclude that putting these players on the roster could reasonably be expected to lead to their failure--hardly the desired outcome of the program.

Does the same sort of logic apply to colleges? Is there data relevant to this point? THAT should be the debate, in my opinion, absent all the hyperbole and hystrionics.

By the way, if anybody wants to create such a basketball requirement, I've got some pretty decent low post moves.

Comes from having a younger brother a full 6 inches taller than me.

Weblog Commenting by HaloScan.com

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?