Last week, the New York Times slandered the president's Texas Affirmative Access plan in such a way that I think maybe the plan deserves a closer look.
The Texas plan, which allows graduates of high school who finished in the top ten percent of their class to attend college, is a response to the valid point that racial disparities exist in large part because of our segregated secondary education system. In short, minorities go to inner city schools, which are poorer, and thus can't get into college.
Conservatives argue that quotas for minority enrollment are discriminatory and deter motivation by minorities. The top ten percent rule was made to encourage students to excel in their environment, while not having to worry about the fact that they may be denied enrollment based on their locality, a factor largely beyond their control. For the moment, I'm ignoring the debate over locality and school vouchers.
Another benefit of Affirmative Access is that it is constitutional; nowhere in the rules does it say anything about race, religion, sex or anything else that is barred from discrimination by our Constitution.
There are problems with Affirmative Access. For starters, it ties the hands of colleges to utilize selection criteria other than grades. That's a problem, but it isn't one that automatically demands Affirmative Action-style quotas, or even a points system like the University of Michigan Law School applies. However, the New York Times' critique of the program is ludicrous:
"The approach is necessarily flawed since its success depends on perpetuating a system of largely segregated secondary schools." The complaint isn't that the program itself will perpetuate segregation, but rather that fewer minorities will benefit from the program if schools become less segregated.
But that was the point. If schools become less segregated, then the program wouldn't be needed to help minorities anymore. Instead, it would help whoever else ended up in the worst schools. The New York Times mistakenly assumed that Texas is operating under the same delusional hopes that the University of Michigan is: that by using diversity as an excuse for biased admissions, they could get away with the same discrimination that Affirmative Action does.
Unfortunately for the New York Times, Texas isn't trying to help blacks, Hispanics or any other ethnic minority. Texas is trying to help people who became victims of their circumstances. Those who go to poorer schools because they can't afford to move out of the inner city because of societal factors deserve a better shot, but not a better shot than anybody else.
Nobody wanted to solve the problem of wealth and income gaps with ideas, they wanted to have an issue to continue to raise blood pressures nationwide. It wasn't worth it to them to come up with creative, constitutional ways to help the underprivileged. Instead, the left would blame the perpetuation of income gaps on the rich, the white, the southern and the Republican; reaping the benefits of emotional rhetoric while some, albeit few, on the right tried to help poor Americans.
Evan Manrow is a junior at Bowling Green State University in Bowling Green, OH and is an opinion columnist for the BG News, the student-run daily campus newspaper where this column originally appeared. Students at Bowling Green State University watch the Fox News Channel on their campus cable system.