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November 29, 2004
College Diversity Programs Target The Symptom, Not The Disease

Today's Washington Post editorial decries the sudden dropoff in enrollment for African-Americans at the University of Michigan after a long legal battle upheld the college's affirmative-action programs. The Post tries to blame the publicity surrounding the lawsuit for the stark decline, but in the next breath notes that the falling enrollments belong to a national trend:

Post staff writer Michael Dobbs reports that numerous other large universities are reporting declining black enrollments; these include many campuses in the University of California system, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the private University of Pennsylvania. The University of Georgia experienced a 26 percent drop in African American freshmen this year, Ohio State University a 29 percent drop and the Urbana-Champaign campus of the University of Illinois a 32 percent drop.

The Post correctly deduces the problem -- a failing public-school system -- but then continues to advocate the same tired diversity policies at the college level for a cure. The Post provides no evidence that discrimination exists at the college level at Michigan or anywhere else. In fact, they note that colleges compete heavily for qualified African-American applicants. So why propose further affirmative action for the problem?

The true cause of falling enrollments is a public-school system that locks children into failing institutions with no hope of upward or outward mobility. Middle-class parents of all ethnicities can move to the suburbs or exurbs, where fewer students and greater resources create a better environment for their children. Upper-class parents can afford to send their children to private schools, where teachers have to produce to remain employed. Other parents remain locked into urban school districts that attract few talented teachers and, because of idiotic state laws, cannot expel troublemakers except under the most critical of circumstances, forcing them to spend money on security that would be better spent on education. And without economic mobility, the children must go to these schools, whether they teach well or not.

School voucher programs would solve most of these problems, even if given limited application to failing school districts. In order to produce students who can succeed at the college level, schools must produce successful students in the primary grades first. Once in high school, the battle is all but over; if they have not learned the basics at that point, they likely will fail there, let alone apply to college.

University affirmative-action programs target the symptom and not the underlying disease, which is failing public-school systems in urban areas where African-American children overwhelmingly live. Until we decide to create competition at the primary level for these children through vouchers and private schools who must live or die on enrollments, the Michigans and UCs will continue to see minority enrollments fall precipitously, and we will condemn yet another generation to a life of failure and bitter disappointment.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at November 29, 2004 7:00 AM

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» Failing Schools from Secure Liberty
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