Affirmative Reaction

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Until I read about him in the New York Times, I had not heard of Richard Kahlenberg before, but his ideas strike me as very intriguing. At the outset, I want to make clear he is a progressive, I repeat, progressive, academic. He’s also exceptionally well-credentialed:

Kahlenberg graduated magna cum laude from Harvard College in 1985 and cum laude from Harvard Law School in 1989. Between college and law school, he spent a year in Kenya at the University of Nairobi School of Journalism, as a Rotary Scholar.

Kahlenberg has been a Senior Fellow at The Century Foundation, a Fellow at the Center for National Policy, a visiting associate professor of constitutional law at George Washington University, and a legislative assistant to Senator Charles S. Robb (D-VA). He is serves on the advisory board of the Pell Institute and the Albert Shanker Institute.

As reported by the Times, Mr. Kahlenberg believes the present form of affirmative action, be it in the corporate or academic worlds, is completely wrong-headed. Race-based anything, he argues, is destructive, and if any metric is to be used in leveling the playing field, it should be socioeconomic status as opposed to skin color.

The article mentions a sign I often see in the front yards of my virtue-signaling Palo Alto which reads, in one form or another, ““In This House We Believe: Black Lives Matter, Women’s Rights Are Human Rights, No Human Is Illegal, Science Is Real.” As Kahlenberg remarks, ““It says nothing about class. Nothing about labor rights. Nothing about housing. Nothing that would actually cost upper-middle-class white liberals a dime.” Amen to that. And that’s precisely the point. A person can wrap themselves in the cloth of virtue without changing or doing a damned thing. At best, it’s boring.

What he has to say should be hammered out in gold letters:

“If you want working-class white people to vote their race, there’s probably no better way to do it than to give explicitly racial preferences in deciding who gets ahead in life. If you want working-class whites to vote their class, you would try to remind them that they have a lot in common with working-class Black and Hispanic people.”

The article goes on to state the following (and kindly note the reference to the boutique sport of fencing!)

Get rid of preferences for alumni children, as well as children of faculty, staff and big donors. Say goodbye to recruited athletes in boutique sports like fencing. Increase community college transfers. Give a break to students who have excelled in struggling schools, who have grown up in neighborhoods of concentrated poverty, in families with low income, or better yet, low net worth. Pump up financial aid. Look for applicants in towns that do not normally send students to highly selective colleges.

After I finished reading the article, I was immediately reminded of this old sketch from Saturday Night Live. It hits the nail on the head and agrees 100% with Mr. Kahlenberg’s wise philosophy.