A Tad Rant-ish About Affirmative Action

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A Tad Rant-ish About Affirmative Action

by baldilocks

This morn­ing on Face­book, one of my friends shared a sta­tus about Wan­gari Maathai (19402011), who was the first African woman to receive a Nobel (Peace) Prize. I know of her pri­mar­ily because, along with my father and hun­dreds of other Kenyans, Tan­za­ni­ans and Ugan­dans, she came to Amer­i­can via the Mboya Air­lift – also known as the Kennedy Air­lift. I’ve men­tioned the Air­lift sev­eral times, includ­ing here and here.

The intent of the air­lift was to take East­ern Africa’s best stu­dents, give each of them a west­ern edu­ca­tion, then send them back to their coun­tries to pre­pare them for inde­pen­dence from Euro­pean colonialism.

A piece shared by Gail Heriot at Instapun­dit reminded me of this.

Trump appeals court nom­i­nee and first gen­er­a­tion South Korean immi­grant [sic; he’s either a first-​generation Amer­i­can or a South Korean immi­grant, but not both] Ken­neth Kiyul Lee wrote exten­sively in oppo­si­tion to col­lege affir­ma­tive action pro­grams as an under­grad­u­ate and an attorney.

Lee, whose nom­i­na­tion was for­mally sent to the Sen­ate last week, wrote that Asian Amer­i­cans were “caught between” affir­ma­tive action “poli­cies that limit their admis­sion to select col­leges and oppor­tunis­tic con­ser­v­a­tives” try­ing to “woo the Angry Yel­low Male vote,” in Angry Yel­low Men, a 1996 New Repub­lic piece writ­ten while a stu­dent at Cor­nell University.

The African stu­dents who were cho­sen for the Mboya Air­lift were selected because they were the best stu­dents in the schools observed and those who did the choos­ing felt that, by offer­ing a qual­ity edu­ca­tion to these best and bright­est, their efforts and money would not be wasted. No stan­dards were low­ered, not even lan­guage stan­dards. (I’d ven­ture to say that all of the Air­lift stu­dents spoke Eng­lish – bet­ter than many Amer­i­cans of the time; they were edu­cated under British standards.)

If America’s higher edu­ca­tion Affir­ma­tive Action oper­ated like this – by restrict­ing accep­tance to the best and the bright­est – many of the con­ver­sa­tions and crit­i­cisms about it would never have occurred. Alas, it does not.

My Amer­i­can par­ents – my mother and “step” father – have always been against AA because they could see the unspo­ken impli­ca­tions of it: that blacks needed it because we are allegedly infe­rior to other groups. And the way AA has often been imple­mented, by cre­at­ing a lower bar of aca­d­e­mic excel­lence for blacks and browns to inflate the num­bers of stu­dents accepted into four-​year schools also inflated the num­ber of drop-​outs of those same students.

To me, this cause-​and-​effect tends to entrench the idea of black and brown infe­ri­or­ity in the minds of observers and, prob­a­bly, in many of those same stu­dents. Why not skim off the top instead?

Of course, I know why; there would be fewer black and brown stu­dents accepted into four-​year uni­ver­si­ties and these kind of pro­grams are more about optics and wast­ing money than about effectiveness.

I bet the grad­u­a­tion rates would be much higher. But I won’t hold my breath wait­ing for the Higher Ed Estab­lish­ment to accept this, however.

Juli­ette Akinyi Ochieng has been blog­ging since 2003 as baldilocks. Her older blog is here. She pub­lished her first novel, Tale of the Tigers: Love is Not a Game in 2012. Fol­low her on Face­book, Twit­ter, and Gab.

Hit Da Tech Guy Blog’s Tip Jar for his new not-​GoDaddy host

Or hit Juliette’s!

by baldilocks

This morning on Facebook, one of my friends shared a status about Wangari Maathai (1940-2011), who was the first African woman to receive a Nobel (Peace) Prize. I know of her primarily because, along with my father and hundreds of other Kenyans, Tanzanians and Ugandans, she came to American via the Mboya Airlift – also known as the Kennedy Airlift. I’ve mentioned the Airlift several times, including here and here.

The intent of the airlift was to take Eastern Africa’s best students, give each of them a western education, then send them back to their countries to prepare them for independence from European colonialism.

A piece shared by Gail Heriot at Instapundit reminded me of this.

Trump appeals court nominee and first generation South Korean immigrant [sic; he’s either a first-generation American or a South Korean immigrant, but not both] Kenneth Kiyul Lee wrote extensively in opposition to college affirmative action programs as an undergraduate and an attorney.

Lee, whose nomination was formally sent to the Senate last week, wrote that Asian Americans were “caught between” affirmative action “policies that limit their admission to select colleges and opportunistic conservatives” trying to “woo the Angry Yellow Male vote,” in Angry Yellow Men, a 1996 New Republic piece written while a student at Cornell University.

The African students who were chosen for the Mboya Airlift were selected because they were the best students in the schools observed and those who did the choosing felt that, by offering a quality education to these best and brightest, their efforts and money would not be wasted. No standards were lowered, not even language standards. (I’d venture to say that all of the Airlift students spoke English – better than many Americans of the time; they were educated under British standards.)

If America’s higher education Affirmative Action operated like this – by restricting acceptance to the best and the brightest – many of the conversations and criticisms about it would never have occurred. Alas, it does not.

My American parents – my mother and “step” father – have always been against AA because they could see the unspoken implications of it: that blacks needed it because we are allegedly inferior to other groups. And the way AA has often been implemented, by creating a lower bar of academic excellence for blacks and browns to inflate the numbers of students accepted into four-year schools also inflated the number of drop-outs of those same students.

To me, this cause-and-effect tends to entrench the idea of black and brown inferiority in the minds of observers and, probably, in many of those same students. Why not skim off the top instead?

Of course, I know why; there would be fewer black and brown students accepted into four-year universities and these kind of programs are more about optics and wasting money than about effectiveness.

I bet the graduation rates would be much higher. But I won’t hold my breath waiting for the Higher Ed Establishment to accept this, however.

Juliette Akinyi Ochieng has been blogging since 2003 as baldilocks. Her older blog is here.  She published her first novel, Tale of the Tigers: Love is Not a Game in 2012. Follow her on Facebook, Twitter, and Gab.

Hit Da Tech Guy Blog’s Tip Jar for his new not-GoDaddy host

Or hit Juliette’s!