In a The New York Times’ op-ed, the NAACP Legal Defense Fund’s Sherrilyn Ifill argues that class should not replace race as the primary affirmative action criteria for college admissions. Like many in the progressive camp, Ms. Ifill ignores economics and capital as the basis for any public policy making. When it comes to colleges or the work place, the question should be how does a diversity policy impact the bottom line; the mission of a school or the work place.
A university’s bottom line, in my opinion, is to provide society with the brain power that can drive economic innovation and contribute ideas for a growing and stable social fabric. Sure it would be ideal for this brain power to come from people that represent all ethnic groups, but I don’t think that class or race should be factors that an admissions officer or panel should use for predicting whether a student they are considering can make this type of contribution or has the potential to be molded into one that can. The race or class criteria are really cop outs that make the admissions panel’s job a little easier because they wouldn’t have to get into any deeper thought.
Instead, admissions panels should be looking at a high school students application for indication that the student has been giving thought to social and public policy issues and has demonstrated their pursuit of alternatives for addressing these issues.
I’m not talking about seeking out students that participate in five different sports, play two instruments, and serve as altar boys. Again, that’s too easy and quite frankly simply tells me that they have physical stamina versus deep economic thought.
No, we need to pursue the creative types, no matter what color or wealth background. We need to nurture outside the box thinking from the time kids are in nursery school and identify and bring those kids into our primary think tanks: the universities.
Ms. Ifill is partially right. It shouldn’t be about a student’s class. It also shouldn’t be about a student’s race. Plenty of dumb asses can be found among wealthy kids, and skin color doesn’t make you Jesus or Satan. What we need are students that can take us to the brink of new technological and social frontiers. We need thinkers and doers.