Affirmative Action in Alaska

Attentive readers may recall that I am in Alaska for the rest of the winter. No sooner had I arrived than I found that the battle over affirmative action rages even here.
Yesterday’s Anchorage Daily News reports that federal civil rights officials have ordered the Anchorage school district to cease certain racially discriminatory practices. The Anchorage school district operates a number of special programs and alternative schools. There has been great demand for these programs, and admission is determined by lottery. However, school officials found that relatively few minority students applied for the programs. They therefore adopted a policy whereby students who were members of favored minority groups were automatically allowed to “jump the line” and enter the special schools and programs. Thus, only white students were dependent on the lottery. The principal of one of the alternative schools says that at her school, “About 130 kids are waiting to get in and they’re all white.”
The federal order to stop discriminating provoked outrage on the part of several school board members. “I don’t care if we have to fight this. It’s just frightening. This is essentially getting rid of affirmative action,” one board member said. The rationale for the discriminatory practice was, as usual, diversity: “We worked hard for that. It gives you a diversity of discussion, a diversity of thought. It’s hard to discuss cultural issues if you don’t have any (students) representing that.”
So minority students are given preferred treatment so that they can be treated, in school, as representatives of a minority point of view. “Jimmy, what do you, as a Native American, think of the Battle of Waterloo?” Or “Susie, how do you African-Americans like that short story?” Does it ever occur to these people that being subjected to this kind of patronizing treatment may be one reason why so few minority students choose to sign up for the programs in the first place?

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