George Will has a column on some new research supporting the mismatch theory that racial quotas in education hurt their beneficiaries by putting them into overly elite schools:
"A second brief, submitted by three members of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights (Gail Heriot, Peter Kirsanow and Todd Gaziano), argues that racial preferences in law school admissions mean fewer black lawyers than there would be without preferences that bring law students into elite academic settings where their credentials put them in the bottom of their classes. A similar dynamic is reducing the number of minority scientists and engineers than there would be under race-neutral admissions policies.
There are fewer minorities entering high-prestige careers than there would be if preferences were not placing many talented minority students in inappropriate, and discouraging, academic situations: “Many would be honor students elsewhere. But they are subtly being made to feel as if they are less talented than they really are.” This is particularly so regarding science and engineering, which are, as Heriot, Kirsanow and Gaziano say, “ruthlessly cumulative”: Students who struggle in entry-level classes will find their difficulties cascading as the academic ascent becomes steeper. Hence the high attrition rates. "
I used to think this was true, but I now have doubts. You know whose perspective I'd like to get on this issue?: A widowed black lady named Marian Robinson. See, she repeatedly saw her daughter go to elite schools on racial quotas — Whitney Young HS, Princeton, Harvard Law, and then off to a Big Law firm — But her daughter was in over her head at most of these places, felt like her peers were looking down upon her, struggled with spelling and with passing the bar exam, and quickly gave up practicing law for lower brow jobs in the fixer industry in Chicago. So, the question I'd ask Mrs. Robinson is how did affirmative action work out for your daughter?
But I probably won't be able to go over to her house and knock on the door and ask Mrs. Robinson, because she and her daughter, two granddaughters, and her son-in-law, live in the White House. So, I'm just going to guess that, despite some rough patches, overall it worked out pretty doggone good for Michelle Robinson Obama.
Say I'm a black high school student with a 700 SAT math score and my options are:
1) Without affirmative action, go to Purdue and become an engineer.
2) With affirmative action, go to Penn, major in economics or finance, maybe get an MBA, and go into corporate management
Why would I choose what's behind door #1? My dad was an engineer. A friend of his designed the fastest airplane of all time. But, he was never that kind of genius, so he spent 40 years worrying about whether or not the wings were going to snap off the planes designed by the geniuses.
There are a lot of worse jobs than engineer, but there are better jobs, too.
To compare this topic to my next blog post below, I'd say that getting into a college a little over your head is likely to be a lot less disastrous than getting into a financial transaction a little over your head. Not for profit colleges, especially the elite ones, are pretty coddling places, at least outside of sci-eng departments. If you don't graduate, that will look bad on their USNWRs, so they will help you find a Plan B.
In contrast, you don't want to get into a for-profit educational institution to study something above your brainpower. You'll just wind up with a lot of inescapable debt and nothing to show for it.