Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Affirmative Action

So it happened. Academia accepted its so-called minority students. And after the pool of ‘desirable’ minority students was depleted, more ‘provisional’ students were admitted. But the academy was prepared to do little more for such students. (Getting admitted to college was for many nonwhite students the easiest obstacle to overcome.) The conspiracy of kindness became a conspiracy of uncaring. Cruelly, callously, admissions committees agreed to overlook serious academic deficiency. I knew students in college then barely able to read, students unable to grasp the function of a sentence. I knew nonwhite graduate students who were bewildered by the requirement to compose a term paper and who each day were humiliated when they couldn’t compete with other students in seminars. There were contrived tutoring programs. But many years of inferior schooling could not be corrected with an hour or two of instruction each week. Not surprisingly, among those students with very poor academic preparation, few completed their courses of study. Many dropped out, most blaming themselves for their failure. One fall, six nonwhite students I knew suffered severe mental collapse. None of the professors who had welcomed them to graduate school were around when it came time to take them to the infirmary or to the airport. And the university officials who so diligently took note of those students in their self-serving totals of entering minority students finally took no note of them when they left.

Richard Rodriguez, writing in his book Hunger of Memory (1982) about the introduction of affirmative action in U.S. colleges during the 1960s.

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