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Diversity Shmersity
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The Supreme Court is hearing arguments today to challenges to Affimative Action in Michigan.

I've blogged on related topics before, but I'd like to focus on the educational aspects this time, having actually taught at both the high school and college level.

In my opinion, the three most important elements to effective learning in a classroom are:

1) Student interest and motivation
2) An engaging, informed instructor
3) Quality education materials (i.e., clear, well-written books)

Also among the top ten would be a comfortable environment, a small teacher-to-student ratio, etc.

I'm not sure I'd even put "diversity" in the top ten. And the name itself comes across as something of a misnomer. What group of people is not diverse in thought and opinion, regardless of background? The first school I taught at, in rural Texas, was predominantly Hispanic (>90%). Were the classes that much worse for the wear without a mixture of whites and blacks to enrich our discussions? I doubt that the educational impact was really that significant. There were plenty of other problems with that school, primarily having to do with the top three elements I mention above.

Now I'm not saying that diversity isn't important, or that learning how to work in an environment populated with different racial and ethnic backgrounds doesn't have educational value in preparing students for the real world. What I'm saying is, it's not near the top of the list when it comes to educational merit.

And I still want to strive for an ideal society where we don't differentiate between people based on the color of their skin. We should eventually be moving toward phasing racial programs out of our public policy, right?

They were discussing the issue on C-Span this morning, and the guest noted that California, Texas, and Florida have already outlawed point-based college admissions policies that include points for race. They use other policies to try to achieve diversity at the State University level. For example, Texas automatically accepts the top 10% of every high school class, which means that the top-performing minorities from predominantly black or hispanic communities are automatically accepted to state universities. This seems reasonable to me.

And I still don't understand why the economic level of students can't be taken into consideration. If there are lingering disparities due to racism, wouldn't they continue to manifest in economic inequality? So why not continue to use a point system, but instead award extra points to those students who come from families below the poverty level? If a disproportionate number of blacks are still below the poverty level because of institutionalized racism, would this not be a fair way of compensating for that continued disparity?

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