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Race rather than merit part of Caddo's education problems

Yesterday I gently rebuked John Hill. As an opinion writer, he draws upon a vast knowledge and makes logical arguments so I respect him even when we disagree. On the other hand, some opinion writers display rather an incomplete grasp of the issues about which they write but, worse, their argumentation is specious if not downright illogical.

That’s what we have here with Gregory Hudson’s lame attempt to criticize the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals decision that forces a lower court to consider that a race-conscious admissions policy by Caddo Middle Magnet School, and thus any such policy for any school admission, is unconstitutional.

Let’s begin with this model of discombobulation:

While most people agree every child deserves the very best education possible, it shouldn't be achieved at the expense of another child. That I agree with. However, that is not truly the case. Just because a black child is admitted into one of the "desired" magnet programs, that doesn't mean a white child's place is being taken. I say "desired" programs because there have been career-related magnet programs established at Booker T. Washington, Green Oaks and Fair Park and there has been virtually no white interest.

This is convoluted, but it appears he’s trying to advance the argument that because not many whites take places in magnet programs at majority-black schools they somehow are voluntarily “forfeiting” their chances at a magnet program and therefore, even if higher scorers than blacks wanting admission into majority-white magnet programs/schools, they should be denied entrance to those program/schools in favor of the blacks.

If so, notice the lack of credibility in this by comparing to job-seeking in the private sector. Assume that there are two employers, but one is considered to offer a much more desirable job and workplace to prospective applicants. Just because the worse of the two offers a white applicant a job doesn’t mean this applicant automatically loses the opportunity to get a job with the better employer, assuming both are basing hiring criteria solely on merit and this applicant is assessed to be a high-quality candidate. If you are truly admitting by merit, his argument makes no sense.

But that’s because “merit” isn’t a part of Hudson’s plan:

Part of the problem with the public perception of this issue is that somehow black students who are enrolled at schools such as Caddo Middle Magnet, Eden Gardens, South Highlands and Caddo Magnet High do not deserve to be there …. Contrary to the accepted myth concerning affirmative action-type policies, black children are just as qualified to be admitted as any other student.

Notice how he tries to shift the argument towards “desert” and “qualification” rather than what the court sees as the constitutional imperative, merit. In his view, you get admitted because you meet some kind of minimum standard, not because you rank high enough relative to all other applicants. This is a standard trick of defenders of affirmative action in how it has evolved: redefine “merit” to mean it specifies an arbitrary level, and then if too many applicants are there for too few spots, use other criteria such a race to decide who gets in, rather than acknowledging the competitive aspect that the X most meritorious applicants take the X number of spots regardless of other factors.

Of course, the admissions policy in Caddo Parish to the magnet schools is more complicated than this, but also is more blatantly discriminatory by race. Before any decisions are made on the basis of merit, other non-merit factors shape the eligible pool. But once those are out of the way, the school district very openly creates a double standard where whites for admission are forced to get higher scores just because they’re white with no mitigating circumstances whatsoever to justify this. (And the Court ruled even if Caddo Middle Magnet’s policy still were under the consent decree, the discrimination was so blatant it still would have found it unconstitutional.)

None of this makes a difference to Hudson who in fact is bothered that anybody would see a problem with this at all:

Some people recklessly suggest that for every black child admitted to these schools, some deserving white child has to look elsewhere for education. That is not true, but that is part of the perception problem perpetuated by some.

Again, he tries to push forward this “desert” standard rather than the appropriate concept of merit. And while a turned-away applicant can go to another school, the simple fact is, on the basis of merit, this rejected white applicant had a greater moral claim on the slot but was refused it only because of his race. That is not perception nor reckless; that is fact and perceptive.

Trying to salvage the argument, Hudson presents a pair of pieces of evidence to show that, miraculously, no anti-white discrimination occurs by this admissions policy:

The school at the center of the court challenge is 82 percent white in a school district that is more than 60 percent black. Do those numbers really suggest discrimination against white applicants?

This is specious: if there were no double standard, the proportion might be 90 percent white. (The Court calculated a 10 percent bias in favor of nonwhites.) And,

Contrary to the accepted myth concerning affirmative action-type policies, black children are just as qualified to be admitted as any other student. If they or any other student can't cut the curriculum they will not pass.

Of all the illogic in this column, this may be the prime example (again note a third attempt to equate “qualify” to “merit”). The point of a merit-based, rank-ordered admissions program is to create the highest possible quality pool of students because then, in the aggregate, they have the best chance of passing the curriculum. It’s a waste of resources to admit less-capable students who therefore have a greater likelihood of flunking out and thereby perform a disservice to the rejected applicants who would have passed. It squanders the educational function’s full potential, deprives worthy students of the opportunity, and sets up unworthy students to fail where they would have succeeded if lesser demands were placed upon them. Rather than demonstrating the argument, it reveals the bankruptcy of it.

While Hudson’s Swiss cheese argument replicates received wisdom among the fuzzy-thinking, disingenuous defenders of policies such as the one in controversy, at least the justices of the Fifth Circuit saw clearly through that. And we wonder why Louisiana's educational system has ranked so dismally? With Caddo Parish 35th in Louisiana?

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