Supreme Court Rules Against Affirmative Action

From The Wall Street Journal:

The Supreme Court found it unconstitutional to consider race in university admissions, eliminating the principal tool the nation’s most exclusive schools have used to diversify their campuses.

Thursday’s 6-3 decision will force a reworking of admissions criteria throughout American higher education, where for decades the pursuit of diversity has been an article of faith. University officials have insisted no substitute for racial preferences exists that can ensure that a representative share of minority applicants—particularly Black students—gains admission to selective institutions.

No longer able to give such applicants an automatic boost, admissions offices now must decide where racial diversity ranks among priorities that can include academic performance, achievement in extracurricular activities such as athletics, and preferences for alumni and donors.

Before the court were admissions practices at two pillars of American higher education: Harvard College, the Ivy League titan whose name has symbolized achievement and power for centuries, and the University of North Carolina, a public flagship which, like other land-grant institutions, provides an elite education subsidized by taxpayers for state residents. Both schools said that, consistent with decades of Supreme Court precedent, a minority applicant’s race could serve as an unenumerated plus factor that raised chances of admission. 

Lower courts agreed, rejecting lawsuits organized by Edward Blum, a former stockbroker who has brought a number of cases against laws and policies that make distinctions based on race or ethnicity in areas such as voting and education. 

The 14th Amendment ensures that individuals receive equal protection of the laws from state agencies including public universities, a standard that also applies to most private colleges that receive federal funding. In general, the court has permitted racial preferences only to remedy specific acts of illegal discrimination, not compensate for general social injustices said to stem from historical practices. 

For 45 years, the Supreme Court has recognized a limited exception to that rule for university admissions, one based on the schools’ academic freedom to assemble classes that support their educational mission. Diversity was a compelling interest, the court had found, and race-conscious admissions as implemented at Harvard and similar schools were narrowly tailored to avoid unnecessarily disadvantaging other applicants. 

. . . .

In a 1978 case, Regents of the University of California v. Bakke, the controlling opinion by Justice Lewis Powell struck down a policy that set aside a minimum of 16 seats for minorities applying to the public medical school in Davis, Calif. 

. . . .

But while racial quotas were barred, the opinion permitted consideration of race as one of several characteristics a student could bring to the campus environment. Powell reasoned that under the First Amendment, a university’s academic freedom “to make its own judgments as to education includes the selection of its student body.”

As an example, Powell referenced the admissions policy at Harvard. When choosing among academically qualified students, “the race of an applicant may tip the balance in his favor just as geographic origin or a life spent on a farm may tip the balance in other candidates’ cases,” the university said then. “A black student can usually bring something that a white person cannot offer.”

Powell’s opinion was a compromise position; the other eight justices had evenly split, with four conservatives finding no justification for racial considerations and four liberals arguing that setting aside seats for racial minorities was permissible. 

. . . .

Higher education—and much of American corporations—embraced the diversity rationale, but conservatives have viewed affirmative action as a form of social engineering that elevates group identity over individual achievement. Public opinion, even among minority groups likely to benefit, was at best lukewarm to racial preference policies.  

By the 1990s, activists were challenging affirmative action in several arenas—at university boards, through voter initiatives and with test cases in court. A turning point seemed to come in 1996, when California voters passed a ballot initiative ending affirmative action at state universities and agencies and a federal appeals court struck down race-conscious admissions at the University of Texas. 

But when the issue reached the Supreme Court again in 2003, the justices in a pair of cases involving the University of Michigan affirmed Powell’s Bakke opinion. The justices struck down the undergraduate admissions formula that automatically gave minority applicants a 20-point boost on a 150-point admissions scale, but upheld the law school’s policy allowing consideration of race in “a flexible, nonmechanical way.” 

. . . .

But at oral arguments, several justices focused on another passage in O’Connor’s 2003 opinion, where she noted that minority enrollment had increased in the 25 years since the Bakke case. 

“We expect that 25 years from now, the use of racial preferences will no longer be necessary,” she wrote. 

Link to the rest at The Wall Street Journal

PG understands that this is nothing to do with books and hopes any comments will remain collegial and polite.

For those visitors from outside of the United States, affirmative action, race preferences in college admissions, has been a faultline in American politics.

As the OP describes, racial considerations in college admissions spread to racial considerations in employment decisions. In some cases, this took place via federal and state legislation and in others via judicial opinions in both federal and state courts.

Affirmative action has, from its origins in the Supreme Court cases that established it and follow-on litigation and legislation, has been a divisive topic in both legal and general public opinion. As mentioned in the OP, at least one of the justices involved in the series of Supreme Court decisions establishing and continuing the consideration of race in college admissions viewed it as a temporary means of rectifying the effects of prior racial discrimination.

In various other federal and state court decisions since that time, PG felt that at least some of the appellate judges were still uneasy with racial preferences in college admissions and hiring decisions of government and some large corporations.

The final quote from Justice O’Connor included in the OP suggested that court approval of racial preferences would be a temporary method of resolving past discrimination, which, at least for PG, was an indication that she, like many others in the United States, felt the court-approved racial discrimination, even to rectify past discrimination, was not a comfortable exception to the clear and general rule of the Constitution which provides for equal treatment under law in a race-blind manner.

PG expects that more than a little additional litigation on this subject will continue across a wide array of existing state and federal government and private agencies and actors as the 45-year impact of the original Supreme Court decision is reversed on the ground. There will also be a huge number of press and personal discussion of the implications of this judicial earthquake.

For those who choose to comment on this post or elsewhere on TPV, PG requests comity and tolerance of opposing opinions.

UPDATE: PG just checked and the published Supreme Court decision requires 237 pages of printed opinions. Even using wide margins in its published opinions, there is a whole lot of stuff in this decision that lots and lots of people in the US will have to consider.

The WSJ obviously wanted to get the news out to its readers as quickly as possible, but almost certainly had only the time to report the results and and a fraction of the details regarding what the the learned women and men on the Supreme Court had to say on the topic.

38 thoughts on “Supreme Court Rules Against Affirmative Action”

  1. If there were no context in which affirmative action arose and continues to operate, today’s decisions would be pretty well incontestible. They would be the Ideal Gas Law:

    PV = nRT

    which is completely accurate, and works perfectly…

    …on the blackboard. In the classroom.

    In real laboratories, not so much. In real systems (like that broken heat pump out back with a pinhole flaw in the compressor coil — you know, the one your dad says should be patched with either folded aluminum car-body stuff and a soldering iron, or duct tape), definitely not so much.

    I don’t pretend to know what would be better than affirmative-action programs as they exist.† But continued reliance on legacy admissions, and children-of-the-famous admissions, and preferences for donors, isn’t it. Continued credentialism all the way back to the identity of kindergartens isn’t it. And perhaps most to the point, lazy-ass continued sorting of individuals by tribalist characteristics so as to mollify various tribal “leaders” isn’t it. In short, more needs to change than whether “race” is a check-block or explicitly-acknowledged-nonquantized factor in admissions decisions. I’m not sure how to do that; but however it is done, the arrogant pretense that we’re not talking about the leftovers after otherwise-favored-for-reasons-that-these-candidates-don’t-get-to-rely-upon needs to be at minimum acknowledged, and preferably eliminated by not allowing “leftoverism” in the first place.

    Prospective students shouldn’t be judged by their parents’ circumstances. Any of those circumstances.‡ That leaves open the question of how to accurately evaluate those prospective students, but that’s — again — something that I don’t pretend to have an answer to, either in general or in specific instances.

    And the irony that for both of the universities before the Court in these matters, for a substantial part of the undergraduate body the admissions decision is one to credentialism is one carefully unconsidered at any stage.

    † In that, I have at least some humility; certainly more humility than those who establish and direct admissions objectives and policies at Harvard, one of the losing litigants here. I acknowledge irony of proclaiming that I have more of the virtue of humility than they do…

    ‡ Exhibit A: Second- and third-generation military academy cadets. Exhibit B: Second- and third-generation doctors, lawyers, and clergy. Exhibit C: Second- and third-generation scholarship athletes with entirely unsuitable personalities. Exhibit D: There is no Exhibit D; the Daley family has prohibited use of that letter.

    • what percentage of admissions are legacy, donors, etc? From what I’ve seen, those are a small enough number not to be significant to the admissions process that is being discussed here.

      What is being discussed is how to choose who to admit who ISN’T in the legacy, etc category.

      Why should a student with a 4.5 GPA and perfect (or at least 1590) SAT scores and lots of community service and other qualifications be passed over for someone with a 3 GPA and 1400 SAT scores?

      If you say that the SAT scores aren’t a good prediction, that’s fine, propose something better, but the current system was overtly racist (mostly against Asians in practice)

      • P.S. a lot of the ‘2nd and 3rd generation..’ isn’t due to preferences, but due to the family culture encouraging kids to do what their parents do. If they are military, the kids will tend to go that direction, if they are doctors, they tend to go that direction.

        It’s not insiders being exclusive, it’s kids picking up what the parents think is important in dinner table conversation.

        If parents consider a good education very important (even if they are not highly educated themselves), their kids will tend to do better in school and qualify for better schools. And if the parents make fun of people who talk/dress ‘properly’ or are studious, the kids are not going to do well in school.

      • Percentages of legacy/donor/famous-parent admissions are not at all public, and any figures that we do see are probably lies anyway. Instances certainly are prominent enough to become senior DC persons, both appointed and elected.

        As to the specific example cited (4.5 GPA, 1590 SAT, community service, rejected in favor of a 3.0 GPA and 1400 SAT): It happens all the time. It’s called “athletic scholarships,” even though it’s really neither. It’s called “legacy and donor admissions.” And aside from that, I strongly suspect that such a traceable extreme really doesn’t exist, notwithstanding the stories told by disappointed applicants (or, more likely, their overbearing parents) everywhere. What’s much more likely is that the community service is happy-happy-resume-building instead of waiting tables to earn enough after school for the family to eat; that the GPA is inflated and/or meaningless and/or from noncomparable circumstances and schools that don’t jack up GPAs for AP courses (or may not even offer them)†; that someone has swallowed the BS and believes that a 1590 SAT reflects an accurate and meaningful distinction from a 1400 SAT (it’s approximately 99th percentile versus 95th percentile… and the actual raw-score difference is about 3–5 questions out of 150 or so, from a single sitting).

        The extremist examples offered throughout the debate (those in the item to which I’m responding are far from the most extreme I’ve seen!) do not appear to reflect actual conditions. That it’s possible to call the particular mechanism of affirmative action “racist” — which to at least some extent it undeniably is — is somewhat out of context. Chief Justice Roberts was oh so wrong in Grutter, because the little aphorism in question assumes that prior racism stops having effects just because we’ve declared that We Don’t Do That Any More. As a commanding officer in the 1980s, believe me I got to see that up close and personal! Fixing problems always has other problems…

        † Specific example from my misspent youth nearly half a century past: My classmate’s 3.2 GPA at a heavily grade-inflated, rather-poor-quality public high school, which was astoundingly high for a refugee from Laos who was attending formal school for the first time in six years and learning English at the same time. His parents couldn’t read the report card, or the admissions letters.

        • nobody is claiming that the path forward is going to be easy, but again to mangle a quote “the best way to end racial discrimination is to stop discriminating because of race”

          As long as the race of the applicant is used as a factor in what are supposed to be objective evaluations, there is no end in sight, at most you can have a shuffling of what ‘races’ are favored vs disfavored

          Even this court could have approved something if there were objective measurements and a definition of what success (and the end of the program) would look like. The schools failed to provide either.

          • Years ago there were scandals around racism and sexism in orchestra hiring, so for decades they moved to blind auditions (where the people doing the evaluation could not see or know the name of the person playing)

            In the last few years, people started declaring that the results were not proportional to the population, and so blind auditions have been deemed ‘racist’

            This is a perfect example of “Affirmative Action” being used to make race more important rather than less important.

            (and I won’t get started on the issue of how who you decide to have sex with can possibly affect how good you play an instrument)

            • In the last few years, people started declaring that the results were not proportional to the population, and so blind auditions have been deemed ‘racist’

              Interesting (N.B. in my misspent youth I was a serious classical musician and know waaaay more about auditions than I want to remember) — have you got a specific citation? I’ve seen complaints that blind auditions seemed to turn out racist results because the applicant pool didn’t reflect the population, but not a direct accusation that the auditions are racist without acknowledging that the applicant pool is itself nonrepresentative.

              Which is to say that I haven’t seen a specific piece drawing such a conclusion that doesn’t acknowledge the problems with the applicant pool, not that no such piece exists.

              • Be careful what you ask for. You might get itm 😉

                From the NYT, one of many:


                All it takes is a web search for “orchestra blind auditions racist”. Dozens of links pop up.

                For extra points, replace “orchestra blind audition” for “racial bindness”, ” color blindness” or for math, hard worker, or pretty much any traditionally positive skill.

                I find it amusing how admitting to red/green color blindness might get somebody vilified. 😉

                • Having read the piece, and commentary upon it like this one ( ), I don’t agree that it holds that blind auditions are per se racist. Tommasini called for an end to blind auditions precisely because they do operate on a distorted pool of applicants for a distorted audience. That is, it wasn’t the auditions, but the auditions and the context in which they exist, that demonstrate the problem.

                • In other words: blind auditions don’t provide special benefits to their chosen ones.
                  Equality of outcome regardless of input.

                  Instead of wondering why the applicant pool is “distorted”–might being an orchestra musician not be cool among that particular community so the musically inclined prefer to go for careers in rap?–they fall back on the handy dandy excuse.

                  Face to face auditions were bad because ” racists” could choose based on melanin and blind auditions are racist because they can’t.


                  What’s the context here?

                  Or how about the NBA? Do we need affirmative action for slow white guys to get them.into the NBA instead of MLB or, ugghh!, *STEM* careers? Look to DOL career breakdowns or universities major choices. (“Math is hard!” “Yeah, math be racist!”) Somebody teach them THE COLD EQUATIONS. Life isn’t easy for anyone.

                  Don’t individuals have agency?
                  Or are they simple captives of their tribal fate?
                  Don’t their choices matter? Their culture? It’s not about blaming the “victim” but of inputs.

                  Want better outcomes?
                  Change the inputs.
                  Teach the kids to dream about other worlds instead of fast money, of making the world better instead of just their lives.

                  What are the statistics of NGO’s?

                  Moynihan was right that much is clear. And humpty dumpty ain’t getting back up. But Humpty junior might *if* taught mainstream values. Because those values are mainstream because they work.

                  Affirmative action, after two plus generations wasn’t.

              • remember, to some folks, difference is result is proof of racist motives on the people making the decision. simple details lie the applicant pool not representing the population of the US is just proof that everyone involved is so racist that they prevent (group X) from even applying.

          • That’s precisely the context-insensitive BS quotation I was referring to in Grutter. Bluntly, the Chief Justice was wrong; that’s a step one takes much farther along the path, after it’s no longer mere formalism at issue and attitudes have fundamentally changed. Given what happened to George Floyd, we’re not there yet.

            One of the Chief Justice’s faults is that the only precedent he appears to believe in appears in judicial opinions. Conversely, so, so many of his writings devalue factual circumstances into which people are thrown as if those circumstances are entirely matters of choice. As to the battle of the books last Friday in St. James’s library, I side with the Moderns; more succinctly, if he’d been actually paying attention, Galileo might have said “Ma non si muove!”

            • Floyd’s death wasn’t the result of racism on the part of the cops; it was part of a larger pattern of police violence, one that has a disparate impact on black people but is more the result of Jim Crow’s legacy making them more vulnerable and their interactions with cops more fraught than for the general population as opposed to racism on the part of the cops themselves.

              • We can disagree at the detail level (there were plenty of complaints in at least two officers’ files regarding overt racism), but this actually makes my point:

                Sloganeering like “don’t do that any more” doesn’t change the context enough. I may not be able to trace out “the rightest most righteous and completely perfect in every way” answer, but I can point out that such sloganeering — even demands from secular priests to change attitudes — is in fact the wrong solution. Not to mention bordering on intellectually dishonest.

                • No, it doesn’t. Affirmative action, like calls to end “police racism,” is solving for the wrong problem. The problem isn’t “cops/college admissions people are racist”–the problem is that they’re dealing with the consequences of decisions made decades before they were born, and asking them to walk on eggshells/admit underqualified people isn’t going to fix the problem.

                  Frankly, if you’re going to do affirmative action, it should be poverty-focused–and, with the way race and class are intertwined here, you’d get pretty similar results.

              • As a former Control and Restraint, sorry… I mean Prevention & Management of Violence psychiatric nurse, sorry… I mean mental health nurse etc., etc. T&CA, E&OE.

                The one thing I observed with Floyd’s death was the incredible ineptitude of the restraint process. It was like no one had taught the Police how to safely restrain someone.

                Safely restraining people involves a lot more than simply holding someone down. Not that British Police are any better, but they tend to Mace miscreants rather than directly impede a persons ability to breathe.

                Yes, people can die from being Maced if they have a breathing condition.

          • Part of the problem with measuring “legacies” is that, as I asserted, what we get are lies; another part arises from the irony that “mere connection to a prior graduate” is a reliance on ancestry that I find abhorent for exactly the same reasons as anything else that visits either the virtues or the sins of the ancestors upon the children; another part arises from the legitimate-yet-often-twisted “educated home life leads to later educational success” meme (which often has a rather distorted view of both, particularly when there’s little relationship among the kinds of “education” being considered — the CPA’s daughter who wants to be a French professor, or vice versa).

            But it’s definitely an eyebrow-raising proportion, especially in graduate and professional schools (the state-flagship law school immediately east of where I went to law school myself was nearly half legacy-admits and notorious for it).

            And in about ten minutes, we’ll find out whether the racially- and privilege-distorted biases in the purported “need-based” student-aid systems are confronting those issues even tangentially, or just with complete disdain. So no matter what, it’s complicated — by things like “Your financial need, and thus eligibility for grants, is initially determined by a mandated family contribution of $x thousand per year” that utterly fails to consider “Umm, I’m from a single-parent family and that parent never had enough education to get an above-minimum-wage job.”

    • “Democracy is the worst system of government, except all others.”

      The excuse for racial preferences was supposed to be pragmatic. Yes, it violates the 14th amendment but “we have to do *something*”. Surely something woukd be better than nothing?

      But like Roe v. Wade, it something settled nothing and instead led to an endless procession of grievances and cases before the court. The current court seems to be in a gordian knot-cutting mode. ” Go away. Try something else.”

      Sandra O’Connor, the fifth vote in the 2003 Grutter v. Bollinger decision expressed her ambivalence about racial preferences by suggesting a time limit. In her opinion for the Court, she wrote, “We expect that 25 years from now, the use of racial preferences will no longer be necessary.”

      Close enough.

      20 years after Grutter and 45 years after Bakke, two full generations, not only has Affirmative Action not improved anything, it has made them worse. Identity politics are worse, self segregation in colleges is rampant, and both anti-asian and anti-semitism are on the rise. Bypassing the 14th amendment has solved nothing.

      Maybe, instead, the answer lies in supercharging it. It can hardly be worse. (Do away with all preferences. Including student athletes. Except, maybe, an economic status one.)

      And while we’re at it, reviving the 10th amendment should help things along.
      The brits called it devolution.

      Enough social engineering already.

      • “Economic status” for admission is still social engineering, Felix.

        Admission should be based solely on academic record and demonstrated aptitude for the intended course of study (which, to my mind, should be declared on application).

        Economic status should be the sole determining factor for financial aid (which, again to my mind, should always be grants, not “loans.”)

        • That’s why I said “maybe”.
          At least that has the virtue of being something *different*.

          I do like the declaration of major in the application, though.
          Maybe with caps on political science and “non- vocational” majors. 😀

          • In my mind, the justification for paying attention to economic status is that it provides an insight as to how hard the person probably had to work to achieve the same academic record.

        • That’s a sensible plan. I would amend the financial aid part to specify whether it’s merit-based (grades) or need-based. There are the kids whose parents will not help them in any way, even if they actually have the money. Unless you mean to include work-study in this (which would get around the intransigent-parent factor).

          Of course, if I were queen for a day, companies would offer apprenticeships, perhaps in lieu of college altogether. Because something needs to break the crippling credentialism we have now. For instance, journalism students are expected to do internships starting in their junior year. Those internships are only available if you’re in college, but in reality college itself is not required to gain the skills needed to be a reporter / photojournalist / videographer. I’d rather kids not have to pointlessly go into debt just to practice a profession that their grandparents learned to do on the job back in the day. More and more the sheepskin isn’t worth it; the school is just an indoctrination factory that produces “27-year-olds who know nothing.”

          But if focusing strictly on college, your plan is good.

          • Totally agree on apprenticeships.
            A bigger focus on two year institutes and an expansion of the COOP programs at universities would also help everybody. Reduce student debt, get them employed at graduation, and steer students to labor shortage, high paying professions.


            Also, even in professions where the college education is actually needed, real world employment comes with an effective apprenticeship. As one of my profesors put it, the engineering school is where you learn the profession but the job is where you learn the trade. It’s why the Engineering License is distinct from the college diploma.

            Problem is those sensible and practical programs are too “vocational” and have little use for the “XYZ studies” careers that feed education, politics, and activism. Those majors would have trouble finding for-pay partners.

          • And the other thing is, those internships are usually unpaid; if you’re having to work over the summer to get the money you need during the school year, you’re out of luck.

            • Not coop programs.
              Most pay full employee salaries. Dept of labor demands it.
              (See link.)
              On the day job the coops get paid starting engineer rates and acrue service time/seniority for when they graduate and return as full timers.

              And not all internships are free. Depends on the major. Publishing doesn’t but most STEAM internships pay. No sense stiffing folks you *want* to hire. Chronic staff shortages make it mandatory even if DOL didn’t.

          • > Because something needs to break the crippling credentialism we have now.

            I very much agree, there are very few jobs where what you study in college directly applies to your job (and what does will be obsolete within a few years)

            I managed to make a very good career without finishing a college degree. And even while I was taking the classes, I was questioning the value of many of them as being hype based rather than fact/learning based (in Computer Science, not the ‘soft’ degrees)

            • Even in areas where degrees are necessary, the value add isn’t just from the “credentialed”.

              One only need look to the highest of high tech, say fusion research or new space: who is actualoy building the devices? Not physicists or engineers. Not the theoreticians or the money men.

              There’s a great video that just dropped about all the frantic goings on at SpaceX Boca Chica for the so-called ” mars rocket”. What you see is awesome but if you look past the big toys, what you see is 132 cement trucks bring in 1000 cubic meters of cement. Bulldozers and cranes, trench diggers and pipefitters, welders and construction workers building a giant factory building. They’re spending $2B on the project (vs $26B by the government on a lesser rocket) and the bulk of the money is going to tradesmen, steel mills, pressure tank companies. All making good money in one of the poorest regions of the country.

              Most of that money isn’t going to ivory tower types or even high tech designers. Somebody has to build the stuff fast, cheap, and to the highest precision. One lazy move and you get an RUD (Rapid Unexpected disassembly. 😉 ). Boom.

              And it’s not just SpaceX. The video also shows work at Sierra Nevada building a next gen mini-shuttle Space plane. Similar story. And these are the tech leaders.

              What the heck, here:

              Now, all these projects still need a small army of technicians to do the control systems and electronics, collect and analyze data, but at the bottom line, the tradesfolk are just as important to high tech as anybody. And when STARSHIP launches the new space stations (plural) those workers will have as much to be proud of as Musk himself.

              It takes all kinds in equal measure .
              No room for elitism.

              • Degrees are a simple way to filter. Tests could do the same thing, but the results of tests would show one minority at the top, and another at the bottom. So companies just require a degree and hope the colleges have done the filtering for them.

                Some jobs do indeed require the training documented by a degree, but many more do not.

              • SpaceX is spending $2b This Year on the Starship program, almost all in Texas.

                In May or June they filed court papers saying that they had already spent $3B on the program (some overlap between the two numbers)

                they are by far the largest employer in the area, and when they put out a pitch for the jobs, they said that they were looking for people who were willing to work and think, they would teach any other skills needed.

                • Yup.
                  And Brownsville is the poorest city in Texas.

                  The way they went about recruitment when they went to three shift work is plenty interesting: they told their existing workers (known to be good) that if they knew somebody that could/would do the work (family, friend, neighbor) to bring them in. They’d hire them…but they would be responsible for them. They got their workers and they’ve panned out.
                  It helps that they pay well in a region where even bad pay is hard to find.

                  $5B total is a big investment but the STARLINK side alone is estimated by Forges to be worth $30B by 2025. STARSHIP will be the cheapest way to get there. Also, the last investment round valued SpaceX as it exists at $160B.

                  So not only are they spending more efficiently than the pork barrel rocket guys, they are accumulating big value for the eventual IPO.

                  Easy to see why the unions’ politicians hate them: they make a good case for free market capitalism at a time capital is getting scarse.

                  Worth keeping an eye on Shotwell’s team. They’remaking several industries.

        • Whites outnumber blacks in every economic status category. It’s also very expensive for schools to recruit lower economic status people because they have to provide much more in scholarship and aid.


          And after dropping the SAT a few years back, MIT is now requiring it. Without that filter students being admitted didn’t measure up to past matriculating classes.

  2. I worked with a number of Harvard graduates at the Department. None of them could walk and chew gum at the same time. Many of them coasted on their degree, not actually doing the work, until they left for greener pastures.

    I have seen for years that:

    – Every University is one Class Action Suit away from being asset stripped, bulldozed, and turned into Yuppy condos.

    With around 4000 Universities in the country, producing low standard graduates, charging massive tuitions, I see the future growth of Law Firms that specialize in bankruptcy and reorganization of Universities.

    That is in my Story folders for later books.

  3. Thanks PG for sharing, an interesting item to see from your Northern neighbour. As we all do, when I interpret it from my own lens, I find some aspects of admissions in general quite fascinating as I think about some of my own barriers, that in no way come close to that of the average middle-class black kid at the same age.

    I’m white, and was the first in my family to go to university. (Note that in most provinces in Canada, university is the equivalent of US college and (community) college is the equivalent of local community / state colleges in the US.) My mother only finished grade 9, back near the start of WWII, and left to get a PT job to help support the family and take care of the younger kids. My father graduated high school, and wanted to become a draughtsman but didn’t have the $$ for school so worked in a factory for 40 years. I am the youngest of 6 kids, and I have 2 brothers who got diplomas from the local community college (business, electronic technician) and a sister with some bookkeeping and accounting training from a college too. But we didn’t know any doctors or lawyers, few trade professionals. We knew grunts.

    So when I was finishing high school, I knew nothing about student loan options, how to choose an university, how to choose a career. We did the standard old school aptitude tests that told me I should be either an accountant or something like a clergy (I went to Catholic elementary school). I didn’t even know how one became an accountant. About the only thing I knew you could do with university was go to law school or med school. The rest? Zero clue.

    I went to my local university, smallest in the province, lived at home. My parents had no advice to offer, quite transparently in fact. So I muddled through. I turned down another university, much more prestigious, as my parents had no money to help me through in terms of cash. They fed me and let me live at home, but I had no inkling of moving to another city, taking out loans, figuring out how to pay the tuition and room costs. I had really good high school marks, but zero extra-curricular stuff. I worked after school with paper routes and stuff, I didn’t do school stuff. And I studied, ending up with 92 average in high school. Any university I would apply to would accept me — I only applied to 2, one local that I could afford and one that I could dream about, but ultimately didn’t want anyway.

    When I got to third year, I realized that I wanted to work for govt, do some policy work, although still wasn’t quite sure how that worked or what it looked like. So I focused on grad school — a Masters in Public Administration WITH a joint law degree (a Bachelor of Law, LLB, equivalent of JD in US). Again, I knew NO ONE who had gone to grad school except some professors. And I was only close with one. I ended up going to the university he went to across the country. They had the only joint degree with a co-op option, and I figured out I would do that to pay for things.

    In Canada, at the time, there were 16 law schools, all reasonably good, no scam schools. And they generally would admit based on four factors:

    a. Undergrad marks
    b. LSAT score
    c. Extracurricular stuff on your application
    d. Other aspects not enumerated

    I knew that with my university scores in low 80s, I was “competitive”. I was relatively guaranteed to get in SOMEWHERE in Canada, but I wasn’t sure where. I had no extracurricular stuff — I worked 15-20h a week on top of my 15-20h of class time each week, and a long-distance girlfriend 2 hours away that ate up weekends. And “other aspects”? Nope, nothing special about me.

    Which meant my LSAT score was going to either put me over the top or leave me in the “maybe” pile for consideration. Again, I would get in SOMEWHERE. But a good LSAT score would lock me in at the better schools. I wrote GMAT and LSAT same time frame, 6 weeks apart, and first practice attempt at home, I got 80th percentile. I studied, practiced more, and increased it to mid-eighties, high-eighties, low nineties, mid-nineties. When I wrote for real, I made 99th percentile (I’m good at tests). Every school in the country that I applied to gave me EARLY admission based on my grades and LSAT score, they never even looked at my application. It’s just automatic at that point.

    Someone reviewing that could see youngest kid, first to go to university, studying their ass off and getting into the program of choice! The system works!

    Except I never went hungry. I didn’t have to support my family. I had opportunities being the after thought child, 16 years younger than my oldest sibling. Most of my time at home, I was youngest of 2, the first 4 were almost grown and out the door before I was old enough to remember them living at home. I had decent schools, no inner-city issues, no huge issues with drugs or violence. People would remember the one and only fight that happened in our grade 11 year, it happened in the school and was not much more than a shrugging match between two white kids who ended up shaking hands afterwards. No knives, no gangs, nada. No funding issues for the schools, although pressure to close with lower enrolment. I never had to move, I had two parents my whole life. I had a pretty damn stable life.

    I am, in effect, the one the system is designed to help. It SHOULD work for me, and it did. But I know others who it didn’t work for, just as bright as me. Their life was not mine, my life was not theirs.

    So when they get to apply for something, and their grades aren’t quite as good as they had to work in their parents restaurant every night, or they have few things on their application because they had to stay home in the afternoon and babysit their younger siblings while Mom went to work nights, how do THEY compete? Maybe they can do the same test prep I can. But maybe the best they can do is make the “competitive but not automatic” pile because they jumped a few extra hurdles to get there.

    I feel if the thumb of the universe is weighing the scale against you a bit, occasionally, a counterbalancing thumb for the same reasons that works in your favour is warranted. I’m not wedded to the tool though…

    • Thanks for sharing.
      A hopeful story.

      Makes a point the “equity” folks ignore: background is no straightjacket. Out in the real world, people choose. And they live with the outcome of those choices.

      My own roots are very similar, despite a few thousand miles.
      Dad’s father died while in his teens and he had to drop out of high school to help the family survive. He got in to a quarry, learned to drive big trucks. Repair them, too. Eventually translated that into a career as an auto mechanic and started his own business. He never got to finish a conventional education but he absolutely positively made sure his kids did. Three girls, four boys. Six went to college. Number seven chose Army. Last seen in Texas as a race car mechanic. He did have a knack for it. Choices. The rest? Three teachers, two engineers, one master mechanic. All chose. Ditto for the next generation. Lots of engineers, male and female, among my nephews. A neurosurgeon, too. “You *will* go to school. You *will* choose a career.” From day one. No ballplayers or popstars. But one of the third generation looks like she might beva concert musician. Then again, she’s 8. TBD.

      On my mother’s side, she too got derailed after ninth grade. Dangerously smart. You don’t mess with her. 🙂

      On that side, I’m the oldest of three instead of the youngest of seven. Brother went into premed, detoured into management. Last seen running a department at one of the biggest Health Care companies. A foodie and world traveler. Sister went into pre-law, got bored. Went army. Police Academy. Found her path in the Hospitality business: chef, resort manager, ran her restaurant twice. Sold off. The world was too small for her. She has stories and stories. Celebrities met, oddballs encountered. And recipes. I keep nagging her to publish both. I’ll keep trying until she gets THE LAST COW ON THE ISLAND out on KDP. Early retirement. Next? TBD.

      One of my high school teachers taught us that in life you either learn to make a living at something you love or learn to love something you can live off.

      Life is not easy, life is not simple. Life is not “fair”. Kids and chimps fret fair. The rest of us make do. One thing I’ve learned myself is that there is a defining difference between having a job and being something. Anything. Being something is your fulcrum in life, the key to your agency.

      Doesn’t matter if its a trade, a skill, or a profession.

      As the saying goes: ” Do anything. Don’t do nothing.”

      We get one life, why waste it in learned helplessness propping up victimhood peddlers? “It’s not your fault! It’s society’s fault! Just meekly vote for me. It won’t change your life but it will change mine. Heh,heh.”


  4. Thanks to all for your responses, observations, etc. And congratulations for not descending into shouting, demeaning one another, etc.

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