Affirmative Action, as a policy, intends to address the need to give underrepresented populations access to higher education. However, in practice, it does not always achieve that goal. Americans, as a whole, are becoming less amenable to a racial Affirmative Action policy, and more supportive of an economic Affirmative Action policy. As minority people are gaining prestige and power (see: President Obama, Oprah Winfrey) people are seeing that access to education is more completely denied to people of low socio-economic status than it is to people of color. However, what the general public does not see as a real issue “anymore” is the real lack of racial diversity in schools. Our K-12 schools are still extremely racially segregated, even in higher-performing schools, and this seems to be a product of self-selection, though it can be addressed through policy.
The New York Times article (link below) perfectly illustrates the self-selecting segregation that is occurring in New York City public schools.
It becomes a moral issue about whether to use race as factor in admissions, because this can be seen as a kind of reverse discrimination. Diversity can be achieved in other ways.
The United States is a country where everyone has the right to education K-12, though it needs to work on making good education more accessible to all. Making a school more racially and economically diverse would benefit both those underrepresented populations as well as the majority population, teaching all students how to work with those that are different them themselves, an important skill in today’s multi-cultural U.S. and globalized world (Good Schools, 2013). New York City is uniquely able to have schools with students from many different races, ethnicities, and socio-economic backgrounds due to the diversity of the city, as well as the school choice system. But it does not occur, mostly because of self-selection. Policy can be used to change this.
Kahlenberg presents different universities that have implemented alternative acceptance policies to Affirmative Action that are not based on race, but still raise the amount of diversity within a school. “If universities can achieve racial diversity without racial preferences, then that is the preferred course to take” (Kahlenberg, 2012). Using strategies such a strategic financial aid plans, recruitment in under-represented high schools, and using students combined academic achievement with the obstacles this students had to face to measure a students merit have all positively affected diversity rates in universities.
Though Affirmative Action is not having the intended effects, there are still policies available that will increase the diversity of a school in a positive way, that is fair for students.
Great Schools (2013). How important is cultural diversity in your school?
Kahlenberg, R. (2012). A better affirmative action: State universities that created alternatives to racial preferences. The Century Foundation.