Friday, February 02, 2007

Our Own Kevin McGee on Affirmative Action

The Northwestern Editorial page carried an article about affirmative action on Thursday. (I imagine it is part of their 'get community members to write editorials for free initiative).

In it, he argues that race is too blunt an instrument to deal with the problems of access to higher education. Instead, that category should be superceded by poverty.

He is makes a good argument, but I wonder if he is too facile in dismissing the discrimination that people of color face, no matter what their economic level. I am thinking about recent studies that have shown that women at elite colleges perform worse on tests when they are given negative cues like being told that women are worse at the project at hand.

It is these subtler means of discrimination that we need to be aware of. An economist has a desire to reduce all problems to simple economics, but discrimination goes much deeper.

11 comments:

Bill Wresch said...

I dislike some of the interdisciplinary digs I sometimes see on this blog. "An economist has a desire to reduce all problems to simple economics"??? Somehow that seems over the top.

What comes next, "an English prof reduces everything to simple language?" "Physics profs only think about particles?" We have a pretty hard time getting our students to respect the general education concept and respect the ideas they encounter in subjects outside their majors. We would do well to model better behavior ourselves.

Anonymous said...

While I agree there is the potential problem with taking shots, the conversation can include a discussion of the difference between economists and critical political economists. The latter frequently makes similar comments. So is it fair when they criticize each other?

Anonymous said...

Racial prejudice is very difficult to quanitify and a frequent charge against quantitative disciplines such as economics is that they often fail to adequately measure the impact of racial or religious bigotry.

Anonymous said...

Isn't just about any newspaper editorial "facile"? Isn't that why we have 60 minute or 90 minute lecture periods because you can't do complex ideas justice in 500 words or less (or 30 seconds or less)?

babblemur said...

Name one black economist.

Anonymous said...

Julieane Malvaeux is a black econmist and a woman

But you have a point, African- Americans are undersrepresented in many academic disciplines. Which suggests that barriers still exist

Anonymous said...

>>Which suggests that barriers still exist<<

Sometimes the barriers we erect ourselves are just as effective in holding us back as those others impose on us. For example, embracing the image of "gangsta" rap is not going to get anyone very far in this country. This was the message actor Bill Cosby (an Ed.D. from Temple, iirc) was so castigated for a few years ago. Whatever external barriers operate today, they are surely not as daunting as the gruesome lynchings and legalized segregation of early Twentieth Century America.

Anonymous said...

Walter E. Willams is a black economist. A champion of black education, he is highly critical of inner city schools.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Walter_E._Williams

Lake Winneblogo said...
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Anonymous said...
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Lake Winneblogo said...

I hope that everyone here saw Michael Burayidi's response a few days later:

http://www.thenorthwestern.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20070205/OSH06/702050381/1190/OSHopinion&GID=CqMponiIpBTnc26uWwiJ609vU+o6Uk8NOf3lk63HFl8%3D

I think that all disciplines have biases. Economists are no different. I make the comment particularly in light of the study I posted a while back about the discussion of free-market bias among Econ 101 courses.