If education is an investment, how does affirmative action impact it?
Without affirmative action, some believe that Asian admission to top universities in US could be higher. There are quite some debates about it. Statistics shows that after the ban of affirmative action in California in 1996, the black and Hispanic students admission dropped significantly.
Now, there was a proposal in 20202 to appeal the BAN and some Chinese parents fought against it. I can totally understand where they came from. University admission is a zero-sum game. More admission for other minority ethnic groups, fewer for Asian naturally. If education is an investment, affirmative action limit what and how many high-quality investments available for other groups to buy.
Chinese highly value education. It is engrained in our collective mindsets or culture. Culture is something a person is born into, just like race. Is it a bit like winning a cultural lottery on this aspect of education?
Many Chinese people would say that is unfair because they work and study very hard. The motivation is exactly driven from this education culture. Besides, many would say that admission should be based on merit. I would highly recommend a book “The Tyranny of Merit” by a Michael Sandel, professor of government at Harvard University. It seems Merit is a societal progress from aristocracy, but it has its own limitation and really needs some refinement. Many students did not have the same starting point. The resource available for them is vastly different based on who their parents are which directly impact their grades and other accomplishments or so called “merit” in the education system.
Ideally, we want to help those disadvantaged groups but still make it fair for other groups. Perhaps, the key is to level the playing field even before a child was born and all the way to high school. Early childhood upbringing is very foundational. For example, what about universal basic income? Unfortunately, we know that it takes time. For now, we need some late patch work which is the controversial affirmative action. That means we are asking Chinese/Asian/White to make sacrifice for other disadvantage groups.