Why is this news?
Why has it taken decades for people to discover that affirmative action and diversity-based admissions are hurting minority children?
Case in point: New York City private schools have worked long and hard to increase the numbers of minority students.
I cannot imagine why it’s surprising, but when minority children debark at Dalton or Calhoun or Trinity they discover that they do not fit in.
Through no fault of their own. And through no fault of the large coterie of wealthy children who make up the student body.
It’s not about the rich and the middle class; it’s about the chasm between the hyperrich and the lower middle class. The income and status gap is too large to ignore.
Minority children at these schools do not come from the same neighborhoods, do not go on the same vacations, do not attend the same camps, do not go to the same restaurants or shows or athletic events.
Thus, the children self-segregate. Whites over here. Blacks over there. Whites are friends with white; blacks are friends with blacks.
Supposedly, all children will benefit by being exposed to children from different socio-economic backgrounds. In reality, the children self-divide by race, by ethnicity and by status.
Those who suffer the most are minority children.
The New York Times explains:
Students report feeling estranged, studying among peers who often lack any awareness about their socioeconomic status and the differences it entails. They describe a racism that materializes not in insults, but more often in polite indifference, silence and segregation.
Pervading their experience, the students say, is the gulf between those with seemingly endless wealth and resources and those whose families are struggling, a divide often reflected by race.
Worse yet, when minority children attend the best private schools they become alienated from their local community. Not feeling that they belong anywhere they suffer from anomie.
The Times reports on the experience of these students:
They struggle to bridge the two worlds, and some grapple with guilt if they pull away from neighborhood friends. They describe feeling like a guest at someone’s house: you can stay and look, but you don’t belong.
Why did no one understand this before? Are the school administrators so oblivious to human reality that they did not understand that children from grossly disparate backgrounds, having nothing in common, were not going to become best friends? Worse yet, they were not even going to get along.
Do school administrators believe that everyone is the same and that putting them all together in one school is all that is needed to get them to get along?
Or do they, as the Times suggests, believe that the solution to this problem is to make more movies exposing the problem, teaching enhanced sensitivity and hoping against hope that social reality does not exist.
Can anyone be that ignorant about the basics of human psychology?
Of course, minority children suffering from anomie are obviously not going to perform at their best. They will have difficulty taking pride in their achievements when many of their classmates believe that they are simply the beneficiaries of preference programs.
The Times article does not break down minority students by race. It includes Asian-Americans, African-Americans and Hispanic students. If SAT scores are any indication, these children do not perform at anything like the same level. An underperforming African-American child will not be seen the same way as an overperforming Asian-American child.
For many years now Shelby Steele has drawn attention to the fact that affirmative action programs unfairly stigmatize black achievement.
And Thomas Sowell has often argued that putting minority children in schools where they cannot perform at the same level as the other students renders them a disservice.
Even when a black child was accepted in a private school or a university on his merits, the existence of affirmative action makes his achievement suspect.
Richard Sander and Stuart Taylor argued in a recent essay that university affirmative action programs hurt minority students.
There is now increasing evidence that students who receive large preferences of any kind—whether based on race, athletic ability, alumni connections or other considerations—experience some clear negative effects: Students end up with poor grades (usually in the bottom fifth of their class), lower graduation rates, extremely high attrition rates from science and engineering majors, substantial self-segregation on campus, lower self-esteem and far greater difficulty passing licensing tests (such as bar exams for lawyers).
The most encouraging part of this research is the parallel finding that these same students have dramatically better outcomes if they go to schools where their level of academic preparation is much closer to that of the median student. That is, black and Hispanic students—as well as the smaller numbers of preferentially admitted athletes and children of donors—excel when they avoid the problem of what has come to be called "mismatch."
Would the same be true of the minority children who are attending New York’s most prestigious private schools?
Unfortunately, the New York public school system is so bad that one hesitates to speculate.