“Mismatch”: Six notes

I want to add six notes to Paul Mirengoff’s posts on Justice Scalia’s reference to the phenomenon of “mismatch” created by “affirmative action” in higher education. Richard Sander and Stuart Taylor, Jr., document the phenomenon in Mismatch: How Affirmative Action Hurts Students It’s Intended to Help, and Why Universities Won’t Admit It. The mainstream media demonstrate studied ignorance of the phenomenon and the book. Paul explains the operative taboo. The taboo is more effectual than the Victorian reticence about sex. The Atlantic nevertheless published a brief excerpt adapted from the book online as “The painful truth about affirmative action.”

Note 1: The operative taboo derives from the the ideology of “diversity.” The ideology of “diversity” has become ubiquitous in American life. NAS President Peter Wood’s Diversity: The Invention of a Concept, provides a natural history of the the ideology. Wood is an anthropologist by training. He puts his training to great use in the book.

Note 2: Wood observes up front: “The concept of diversity in its contemporary social and political sense is fairly new. It was admitted to the union, so to speak, by one man, Justice Lewis Powell, in Junce 1978, in his stand-alone opinion in the Supreme Court case Regents of the University of California v. Bakke.” Powell’s “stand-alone opinion” in Bakke approved “affirmative action” and provides the backdrop to the Fisher case in which Justice Scalia brought up the subject of “mismatch” last week.

Note 3: Here are a few tenets that seem to me at the heart of the ideology of “diversity”: (a) outcomes must be equal among racial and ethnic groups, except when they accrue to the advantage of a racial or ethnic “minority” (including women); (b) disparate outcomes among racial and ethnic groups represent some form of institutional bias to be rectified by government action; (c) all cultures are equal, except for that of the United States, which is eternally guilty of racism and other -isms under (a) and (b) above; (d) the expression of views dissonant with (a) through (c) must be must be stigmatized as “racist” and/or suppressed.

Note 4: To return to Wood for a moment, he observes in his conclusion: “I see no real good in attempting to make [diversity] a principle for reordering our society into a system of privilege based on group rights, group identity, perpetual resentment and self-pity.” That is an observation that looks prophetic in the context of recent events on campuses around the country.

Note 5: Sander and Taylor’s astounding book was published in October 2012. Amazon does not indicate that a paperback edition is forthcoming. You might want to pick up a copy of the book before it becomes a collector’s item.

Sander and Taylor contribute separate prefaces to the book. In his preface Sander refers to “the culture of secrecy and double-talk” with which the subject of the book is enshrouded in academia. The culture of secrecy and double-talk extends well beyond academia.

Sander is a professor of law at UCLA who describes himself as a former community organizer. He became interested in the subject of affirmative action in law schools when he joined the UCLA Law School faculty.

Sander himself wrote chapters 4 and 5 of the book. Chapter 4 discusses Sander’s research on the effects of “affirmative action” (racial preferences) in law schools. Sander’s pioneering account of this research was originally published in the 2005 Stanford Law Review as “A systemic analysis of affirmative action in American law schools.”

Chapter 5 of the book is Sander’s account of the extraordinary lengths to which supporters of “affirmative action” went to suppress the publication of his law review article. It is worth the price of admission to the book. Why would the supporters of “affirmative action” seek to suppress the publication of Sander’s law review article? See note 3 supra, as they say.

Note 6: Paul refers to the review of Mismatch that ran in the Claremont Review of Books. The review is by Thomas Sowell, who has been talking and writing about mismatch for many, many years. Sowell’s review is “The perversity of diversity.”

Sowell is a master of exposition; his review gives us mismatch for dummies. It is a brief review that is well worth your time if you have any interest in the subject.

Sowell says about the book: “Sander and Taylor have written an outstanding book that deserves to be read and pondered in many places for many years. They have performed a major service for all those who have an open mind on affirmative action, however modest the number of such people may be—and a still more important service for those who think that black students on campus should be there to advance their own education and lives, not to serve in a role much like that of movie extras, whose presence enhances the scene for others.”

Sowell says about the taboo that has precluded acknowledgment of the book among the organs of the mainstream media: “[A] highly successful strategy used by academic administrators and other defenders of racial preferences in higher education has been to simply ignore any and all evidence that goes against their policies or the assumptions behind those policies.”