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Demosthenes's avatar

Does affirmative action lead to unprepared students getting into college?

Asked by Demosthenes (12768points) September 13th, 2020

Many defenders of affirmative action claim that it “levels the playing field” but if it leads to students being accepted who do not meet the rigorous standards, they may not be successful in college and will be more likely to drop out. How does this benefit underrepresented minorities in the long run?

Stanford University seems to have acknowledged this issue to a degree by creating a special physics course that provides extra help to minority students who may not have had adequate preparation for a college-level physics course in high school. These students were admitted to Stanford but don’t have adequate preparation for a normal Stanford physics course? That seems to indicate that indeed, affirmative action is allowing students in who do not meet academic standards but are the right race.

Obviously more needs to be done to improve schools so minority students are adequately prepared. But in the meantime, should there be more minority-exclusive courses in colleges designed to provide a leg up?

My 200th question :D

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13 Answers

canidmajor's avatar

Affirmative Action actually allowed students that were more qualified to enter a lot of schools, as they would have been passed over for white, lesser qualified candidates. The schools are very careful, in the vast majority of cases, to make sure that anyone that comes in on the AA ticket will be a credit to them, as it makes the alumni donors more generous and smug.

Demosthenes's avatar

Then why the need for a special minorities-only physics course? Just a misguided move?

To be clear, I’ve always been skeptical of claims that AA requires lowering standards. But sometimes there seems to be some indication that it does.

canidmajor's avatar

That is one instance. I am talking about the general overview of decades. Your question smacks of the crap that was spouted about this in the 60s and 70s. Yes, there were some kids from inner city, under-funded schools that needed some tutoring to catch up, and most of them did, quickly and without much difficulty.

kritiper's avatar

So, you’re asking if the process needs to be dumbed down even more?

janbb's avatar

@Demosthenes Do you really not realize there’s a difference between unprepared and unable students? Is it a problem for you that students who may be very able to benefit from college but are coming from a lousy school system that has been underfunded and undersupported for years need some courses or tutoring to catch up with their more privileged colleagues? How is this stepping on your toes?

If we say that college is the great door to material success in this country but we never give access to minorities unless they already come from the elite classes what are we saying about class in America?

Dutchess_III's avatar

didn’t they do away with affirmative action in the late 90s?

JLeslie's avatar

As long as the student has the qualification and ability I think affirmative action and even quotas make sense if a group is being discriminated against. If the student isn’t qualified then it just sets them up to fail, and I don’t see that as productive.

When I went to college a lot of students there had to take English and math classes to catch them up to 101 classes. They were not prepared for college level, and the school offered those. That is different than getting into a major, when by then you have two years of college level classes under your belt and should be able to do the work without a GPA break in my opinion, but there was a small break at my school for some majors. For instance minorities could have a slightly lower GPA to get into the engineering school than whites and Asians. There was a case when I was there where an Asian student tried to argue he was a minority too.

There is an issue in NYC for magnet high schools that the best schools are being overrun by Asian students, and some argue there should be quotas for other minorities and maybe even whites I don’t remember, but many people are against it because the Asians test higher and so they have earned it. There was a time when Harvard was worried the student population was getting too Jewish, and so they attempted to use quotas and then changed their entrance qualifications to more subjective measures. Personally, I think the Asian students who test better should be allowed to go to the better high school and Jews should not be prevented from going to Harvard, but I understand the other side of the argument.

Demosthenes's avatar

@janbb Check out this article which brings up some of the concerns I’ve been referencing, namely that there is a higher dropout rate among students admitted through AA. That AA admits students to highly selective schools when they would’ve done better at a less selective, less rigorous, but still good school.

“The student who would flourish at, say, Wake Forest or the University of Richmond, instead finds himself at Duke, where the professors are not teaching at a pace designed for him—they are teaching to the “middle” of the class, introducing terms and concepts at a speed that is unnerving even to the best-prepared student.”

The Stanford course was just one example, but this is the kind of thing that the Stanford course is ostensibly designed to remedy. It gained controversy because it supposedly only allowed non-whites in, but there are conceivably white students who come from impoverished school districts and might be unprepared as well (I have not been able to confirm whether the class is only for minorities. It does not state so on the Stanford website, but admission to the class is by special application only).

The existence of unprepared students or a class designed to help them doesn’t “bother me”. Why does everyone always think I’m bothered by everything I ask questions about? This site is left-leaning so I know it will be more pro-AA. I was inspired to ask this question because it was being discussed on another site with more conservatives where everyone was against it, so I wanted to hear the other side. I am bothered by the idea that AA may be hurting minority students in the long run, though.

JLeslie's avatar

The real answer is K-12 needs to be more equal in America and more schools available for children who have the ability to advance. Also, more safety for children, which means addressing poverty.

When a friend of mine taught 7th grade math in a large public school in North Carolina, all 7th graders took the same math class. No opportunity for children who excelled to take a harder or more advanced class. That’s ridiculous. Take care of the K-12 problem, especially 6–12, and the college admittance problem disappears.

Blackberry's avatar

Does nepotism and cheating lead to unprepared students getting into college?

gondwanalon's avatar

I think that you answered your own question.

@JLeslie I think that preschool, head-start and kindergarten are not important for scholastic advancement. I first leaned about numbers in the first grade. I flunked the second grade. I finally learned to read in the 4th grade. I decided to be a good student and by the seventh grade I pretty much caught up with my fellow students. In high school I could get about any grade I wanted. Graduated from a university and worked for 38 years in clinical lab science.

JLeslie's avatar

@gondwanalon I completely agree, that’s why my emphasis is on 6–12. My dad learned to read in 3rd grade, wound up in an accelerated program in school, finished at age 16, graduated undergrad at 20, offered a fellowship at Yale or Scholarship at Wharton for his PhD.

I believe kids can catch up fast. I believe some kids’ brains aren’t ready at age 4 or 5 to read, or they are frustrated or disinterested for other reasons. By age 7 or 8 or so they can learn many things much more easily, their brains are ready.

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