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Pros and Cons of Affirmative Action

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I need 5 to 10 good and negative things about affirmative action. Thank you.

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This solution explores Affirmative Action from both sides of the debate, looking at the pros and cons through the lens of the proponents and opponents of Affirmative Action. Extra resoruces and articles are all included looking as myths and a historical view from its inscription. Last Updated May 25, 2009.

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My original response (posting 31594.doc) in the atached file, but i have updated and summarized the response below which clarifies it and amkes it easier to draw on. I also included the article below the updated material and some attached information for further research.

UPDATE MAY 25, 2009:

Pros: (Proponents of Affirmative Action)

1. It is a Fair and Necessary Program

Proponents of Affirmative Action say that it is necessary to ensure that minorities have a fair opportunity in employment and education. The American Civil Liberties Union Briefing Paper #17 lists a number of reasons why Affirmative Action remains vital; among the statistics shared:

* Schools that serve predominantly minority inner-city children receive about half the money per student that schools in surrounding white suburbs receive.
* In 1990, the average black male worker earned $731 for every $1,000 earned by a white male worker. Latino men earned $810 for every $1,000 earned by similarly-educated white men.
* Although white men make up only 43 percent of the total US workforce, they hold 97% of the top executive positions at the nation's 1,500 largest corporations. (http://managementhelp.org/org_perf/org_perf.htm)

2. Rectifies racism and reverse the effects of both past and present discrimination.

3. Provides Equal Opportunity for Minority Groups and Increases Diversity in Schools and Universities.

Supporters of affirmative action believe that the policy helps give individuals from diverse backgrounds an equal opportunity to learn at an institution that has historically accepted individuals of a certain background or income bracket. It redistribute college-bound minorities from less academically selective schools to more selective ones.

4. Compensates for the disparities between socio-economic classes.

In essence, individuals who support affirmative action believe that although students should certainly compete against each other based on merit, individuals from certain socio-economic classes are much more likely to be exposed to advantageous resources than others. (http://www.helium.com/items/698371-the-pros-and-cons-of-affirmative-action-in-the-college-admissions-process)

B. Cons (Opponents of Affirmative Action)

1. It is Reverse Discrimination

Opponents to Affirmative Action believe that the process leads to reverse discrimination, and that it leads to hiring people based on race, gender, etc., rather than merit. They argue that Affirmative Action actually makes people more biased against each other, as it increases the sense of "us versus them." It has also been argued that since growing numbers of minorities are entering upper-management ranks, Affirmative Action has worked, and discrimination is decreasing. (http://managementhelp.org/org_perf/org_perf.htm)

2. Preferential selection procedures that favor unqualified candidates over qualified candidates.

People who do not support affirmative action policies believe that college admissions officers simply seek out students from certain minority groups, regardless of their academic merit. These individuals believe that students should be judged on an equal or standard basis. (http://www.helium.com/items/698371-the-pros-and-cons-of-affirmative-action-in-the-college-admissions-process)

3. A large percentage of White workers will lose out if affirmative action is continued."

Government statistics do not support this myth. According to the U.S. Commerce Department there are 1.3 million unemployed Black civilians and 112 million employed White civilians (U.S. Bureau of the Census, 2000). Thus, even is every unemployed Black worker in the United States were to displace a White worker, only 1% of Whites would be affected. Furthermore, affirmative action pertains only to job-qualified applicants, so the actual percentage of affected Whites would be a fraction of 1%. The main sources of job loss among White workers have to do with factory relocations and labor contracting outside the United States, computerization and automation, and corporate downsizing (Ivins, 1995, as cited in http://www.lwvka.org/10myths.html).


* The Myth: Preferential Treatment, October 24 (Includes audio)

* The Myth: Affirmative Action was a Radical Social Policy out of Step with American Ideals, October 25 (Includes audio)

* The Myth: Affirmative Action Is No Longer Needed, October 26 (Includes audio)

* The Myth: Affirmative Action Constitues the Admission of Unqualified Students in College and University Admissions, October 27 (Includes audio)

* The Myth: Affirmative Action is an African American Entitlement Program, October 30 (Includes audio)

* The Myth: Affirmative Action Should be About Class, Not Race, October 31 (Includes audio)

* The Myth: Affirmative Action Stigmatizes its Beneficiaries, November 1 (Includes audio)

* The Myth: Existing anti-discrimination laws are adequate to create equal opportunity, November 2

* The Myth: Individual effort and hard work determines who becomes prosperous and wealthy in the United States, November 3 (Includes audio)

* The Myth: Colorblindness is, and always has been, a basic American ideal, and its advocates oppose affirmative action not because they oppose racial progress, but because it contradicts our societal consensus on colorblindness, November 6, 1st segment (Includes audio)

* The Myth: Absent affirmative action, race is as empty and meaningless as skin color; it is affirmative action that creates racial differences., November 6, 2nd segment (Includes audio)

* The Myth: Affirmative action is a domestic policy that reflects an obsession with race that is peculiar to America., November 7, 1st segment (Includes audio)

* The Myth: Opposing Affirmative Action is consistent with the vision of equality articulated in Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s Dream of a colorblind America., November 7, 2nd segment (Includes audio)
(from http://aapf.org/focus/)

See other myths at http://www.lwvka.org/10myths.html.


You may find the following article highly relevant and informative. Embedded within the article are many suggested pros and cons of the affirmative action program. As you are reading, make note of both the proponents that are for and those that are against affirmative action:


Affirmative Action

"Affirmative action" means positive steps taken to increase the representation of women and minorities in areas of employment, education, and business from which they have been historically excluded. When those steps involve preferential selection -- selection on the basis of race, gender, or ethnicity -- affirmative action generates intense controversy.

The development, defense, and contestation of preferential affirmative action has proceeded in two streams. One has been legal and administrative, as courts, legislatures, and executive departments of government have applied laws and rules requiring affirmative action. The other has been public debate, where the practice of preferential treatment has spawned a vast literature, pro and con. Often enough, the two streams have failed to make adequate contact, with the public quarrels not always very securely anchored in any existing legal basis or practice.

The ebb and flow of public controversy over affirmative action can be pictured as two spikes on a line, the first spike representing a period of passionate debate that began around 1972 and tapered off after 1980, and the second indicating a resurgence of debate in the 1990s. The first spike encompassed controversy about gender and racial preferences alike. This is because in the beginning, affirmative action was as much about the factory, firehouse, and corporate suite as about the university campus. The second spike represents a quarrel about race. This is because the only burning issue now is about preferential admissions in higher education.[1]

1. In the Beginning
2. The Controversy Engaged
3. Rights and Consistency
4. Real-World Affirmative Action -- The Workplace
5. Real-World Affirmative Action -- The University
6. Equality
7. Diversity
8. Desert Confounded, Desert Misapplied

1. In the Beginning

In 1972, affirmative action became an inflammatory public issue. True enough, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 had made something called "affirmative action" a remedy federal courts could impose on violators of the Act. Likewise, since 1965, federal contractors had been subject to President Lyndon Johnson's Executive Order 11246, requiring them to take "affirmative action" to make sure they were not discriminating. But what did this 1965 mandate amount to? The Executive Order assigned to the Secretary of Labor the job of specifying rules of implementation. In the meantime, as the federal courts were enforcing the Civil Rights Act against discriminating companies, unions, and other institutions, the Department of Labor mounted an ad hoc attack on the construction industry, cajoling, threatening, negotiating, and generally strong-arming reluctant construction firms into a series of region-wide "plans," in which they committed themselves to numerical hiring goals. Through these contractor commitments, the Department could indirectly pressure recalcitrant labor unions, who supplied the employees at job sites.
While the occasional court case and government initiative made the news and stirred some controversy, affirmative action was pretty far down the list of public excitements until the autumn of 1972, when the Secretary of Labor's Revised Order No. 4, fully implementing the Executive Order, landed on campus by way of directives from the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare. Its predecessor, Order No. 4, first promulgated in 1970, cast a wide net over American institutions, both public and private. By extending to all contractors the basic apparatus of the construction industry "plans," the Order imposed a one-size-fits-all system of "underutilization analyses," "goals," and "timetables" on hospitals, banks, trucking companies, steel mills, printers, aircraft manufacturers -- indeed, on all the scores of thousands of institutions, large and small, that did business with the government -- including a special set of institutions with a particularly voluble and articulate constituency, namely, American universities.

At first, university administrators and faculty found the new rules murky but hardly a threat to the established order. The number of racial and ethnic minorities receiving PhDs each year was tiny. Any mandate to increase their representation on faculties would require more diligent searches by universities, to be sure, but searches nevertheless fated largely to mirror past results. The Revised Order, on the other hand, effected a change that punctured any campus complacency: it included women among the "protected classes" whose "underutilization" demanded the setting of "goals" and "timetables" for their "full utilization."[2] Unlike blacks and Hispanics, women were getting PhDs in substantial and growing numbers. If the affirmative action required of federal contractors was a recipe for "proportional representation," then Revised Order No. 4 was bound to leave a large footprint on campus. Some among the professoriate exploded in a fury of opposition to the new rules, while others responded with an equally vehement defense of them.[3]

As it happened, these events coincided with another development, namely the "public turn" in philosophy. For several decades Anglo-American philosophy had treated moral and political questions obliquely. On the prevailing view, philosophers were competent to do "conceptual analysis" -- to lay bare, for example, the conceptual architecture of the idea of justice -- but they were not competent to suggest political principles, constitutional arrangements, or social policies that actually did justice. Philosophers might do "meta-ethics" but not "normative ethics." This viewed collapsed in the 1970s under the weight of two counter-blows. First, John Rawls published in 1971 A Theory of Justice,[4] an elaborate, elegant, and inspiring defense of a normative theory of justice. Second, in the same year Philosophy & Public Affairs, with Princeton University's impeccable pedigree, began life, a few months after Florida State's Social Theory and Practice. These journals, along with a re-tooled older periodical, Ethics, became self-conscious platforms for socially and politically engaged philosophical writing, born out of the feeling that in time of war (the Vietnam War) and social tumult (the Civil Rights Movement, women's liberation), philosophers ought to do, not simply talk about, ethics. In 1973, Philosophy & Public Affairs published Thomas Nagel's "Equal Treatment and Compensatory Justice"[5] and Judith Jarvis Thomson's "Preferential Hiring,"[6] and the philosophical literature on affirmative action burgeoned forth.[7]

In contention was the nature of those "goals" and "timetables" imposed on every contractor by Revised Order No. 4. Weren't the "goals" tantamount to "quotas," requiring institutions to use racial or gender preferences in their selection processes? Some answered "no."[8] Properly understood, affirmative action did not require (or even permit) the use of gender or racial preferences. Others said "yes."[9] Affirmative action, if it did not impose preferences outright, at least countenanced them. Among the yea-sayers, opinion divided between those who said preferences were morally indefensible and those who said they were not. Within this last set, different people put forward different justifications.

2. The Controversy Engaged

The essays by Thomson and Nagel both defended the use of preferences but on different grounds. Thomson defended job preferences for women and blacks as a form of compensation for their past exclusion from the academy and the workplace. Preferential policies, in her view, worked a kind of justice. Nagel, by contrast, thought that preferences might work a kind of social good, and without doing violence to justice. Institutions could for one or another good reason properly depart from standard meritocratic selection criteria because the whole system of tying economic reward to earned credentials was itself indefensible.

Justice and desert lay at the heart of subsequent arguments. Several writers took to task Thomson's argument that preferential hiring justifiably makes up for past wrongs. Preferential hiring seen as compensation looks perverse, they contended, since it benefits individuals (blacks and women possessing good educational credentials) least likely harmed by past wrongs while it burdens individuals (younger white male applicants) least likely to be responsible for past wrongs.[10] Instead of doing justice, preferential treatment violates rights (the right of an applicant "to equal consideration,"[11] the right of the maximally competent to a position,[12] the right of everyone to equal opportunity[13]) and confounds desert (by severing reward from a "person's character, talents, choices and abilities;"[14] by "subordinating merit, conduct, and character to race;"[15] by disconnecting outcomes from actual liability and damage[16]).
Defenders of preferences were no less quick to enlist justice and desert in their cause. Mary Anne Warren, for example, argued that in a context of entrenched gender discrimination, gender preferences might improve the "overall fairness" of job selections. Justice and individual desert need not be violated.

If individual men's careers are temporarily set back because of . . . [job preferences given to women], the odds are good that these same men will have benefited in the past and/or will benefit in the future -- not necessarily in the job competition, but in some ways -- from sexist discrimination against women. Conversely, if individual women receive apparently unearned bonuses [through preferential selection], it is highly likely that these same women will have suffered in the past and/or will suffer in the future from . . . sexist attitudes.[17]

Likewise, James Rachels ...

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