On a recent broadcast, Fox News commentator Bill O’Reilly asked whether the United States was becoming a nation whose population demanded entitlement—”Are we a welfare nation?” [and select the Talking Points Memos tab, then the Talking Points: 2/14|Are we a welfare nation? link.]
Then comes an article in The Weekly Standard by Heather Mac Donald titled “Affirmative Disaster.” Here Ms Donald describes a rigorously executed bit of research conducted at Duke University that indicates that students granted admission to Duke according to racial preference criteria rather than academic performance don’t fare as well as classmates who didn’t get an affirmative action boost, but were admitted instead on the basis of academic performance.
What’s interesting here, though, is the hue and cry raised over the paper. Despite the rigor with which the research was carried out, the authors were decried, not so much for being outright racist—not in this day and age—but for “re-opening old racial wounds.” A senior research scholar (Donald’s term, not mine), Tim Tyson, wrote an op-ed that insisted the paper was a “political tract disguised as scholarly inquiry,” and that it was a “crusade to reduce the numbers of black students at elite institutions.”
Others of the school’s leadership were just, plain squishy. Provost Peter Lange bleated
We understand how the conclusions of the research paper can be interpreted in ways that reinforce negative stereotypes.
At the same time, our goal of academic success for all should not inhibit research and discussion to clarify important issues of academic choice and achievement.
None of the criticism (I hesitate to call them critiques) addressed the research itself, just the implications for the efficacy of affirmative action programs and their fairness to the minorities victimizedsupported by them.
[U]ntil it becomes possible to discuss the effects of preferences without being accused of racial animus, it may be impossible to dislodge academic affirmative action, no matter how discredited its purported justifications.
Or, don’t you dare interfere with our affirmative action programs. We deserve them.
I conclude that the answer to O’Reilly’s question is, “Apparently yes.”