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Editorials and Opinions

Opposing Viewpoints: The system of affirmative action is a step in the right direction

By Jonathan Schmidt
Published: March 2010

Attempting to create a level playing field, affirmative action offers more equal opportunities than would occur otherwise. The system of affirmative action tries to compensate for the racial and economic disparities between different racial groups.

Without this system, an individual belonging to a minority would, on average, need to achieve more to reach the same socioeconomic standing.

Affirmative action is defined by the U.S, Commission on Civil Rights as “any measure beyond simple termination of a discriminatory practice, adopted to correct or compensate for past or present discrimination or to prevent discrimination from recurring in the future.

Before seeing whether or not this system corrects for discrimination, we must examine what discrimination it attempts to solve for and keep from occurring in the future.

An academic gap exists between white students and minority students, leading to an overrepresentation of white students in universities and employment.

This gap has multiple reasons for existing: racism, cultural differences, qualities of school systems, and most importantly, the socioeconomic gap.

The disadvantage minorities face becomes even more shocking when considering income: one of the most influential factors of one’s academic success.

Unfortunately, the income gap is not the only factor that gives minorities a disadvantage.

Minorities, with their academic futures in question, receive affirmative action in order to allow for equal opportunity when applying for higher education and employment.

Affirmative action makes colleges and employers look at this initial disadvantage and calculate, from there, which individual worked harder and achieved more, basically stating that if one started at 0 and made it to 30, that individual is more deserving and has more potential than someone moving from 20 to 40.

Statistics in university enrollment indicate that, thanks to this system, minorities have significantly elevated their positions.

But in order for this representation to continue, maintaining affirmative action is essential.

A study from Carnegie Mellon notes that a lack of affirmative action would shrink minority presence at top tier universities by more than one third.

Another study from the University of Chicago finds that without affirmative action, minorities would lose significant representation across the board.

A loss of representation would not only hurt minorities but also would decrease diversity, which is considered highly beneficial for all students as it provides a melting pot of ideas, cultures and opinions.

Affirmative action sends more minority students into universities, but in order for the system to be beneficial, we need to look beyond simple moral reasons and look at the effects after education.

Minority graduates, whose numbers are augmented by affirmative action, are the main way we will stop discrimination in the future.

Given enough time, the system of affirmative action will no longer be necessary.  The Association of American Medical Colleges found that minority students who finish college are four times more likely to work in economically deprived areas.

An influx of professionals into poor regions will lead to increased funds in poorer schools.

The increase in school funding will occur because in the U.S, school systems are dependent on local taxes for funding and professionals make on average more money, which will eventually reach the schools.

As a system for equal opportunity, affirmative action achieves its own goals at such a slow pace that, while it is beneficial, it cannot solely solve the problems existing in the United States.

The gap between whites and minorities in graduation rates, income, and achievement has been closing, but the rates are so slow that the disparities between the two groups are unacceptable.

Affirmative action is a step in the right direction, but it is by no means a solution to the problems out society faces.

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