Tue, Sep 16, 2014 ●
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The Right View: Equal opportunity shouldn't guarantee equal outcome

Opinion

The Right View: Equal opportunity shouldn't guarantee equal outcome

This is for all of you hard-working parents with kids in college, or who are sending one off to school for the first time this fall, and are enjoying the soaring tuition costs our country has been experiencing since 1980 (almost 800 percent in fact, according to Cecillia Barr of Debt.org).

It behooves you (and all of us) to understand what types of programs your hard-earned money is paying for, and what is filling the heads of our kids who are graduating $1 trillion in debt.

For instance, Professor Emeritus W. Lee Hansen of the University of Wisconsin-Madison in his July 16th op-ed for the John William Pope Center for Higher Education Policy, calls out that university on its “diversity policy,” claiming the school is recommending assigning grades based on race.

He states, "Especially shocking is the language about 'equity' in the distribution of grades. Professors, instead of just awarding the grade that each student earns, would apparently have to adjust them so that academically weaker, 'historically underrepresented racial/ethnic' students perform at the same level and receive the same grades as academically stronger students.”

Patrick Sims, chief diversity officer and interim vice provost for Diversity and Climate (seriously?) at UW-Madison, points to the “UW System Inclusive Excellence framework” adopted by the Board of Regents in 2009 in defending the university.

That framework embraces the idea of "Representational Equity," which comes from the research of Estela Bensimon, co-director of the Center for Urban Education and professor of higher education at the University of Southern California. It is defined as "Proportional participation of historically underrepresented racial-ethnic groups at all levels of an institution, including high status special programs, high-demand majors, and in the distribution of grades."

On the UW website, Sims writes, "This approach is not reflected by UW-Madison's (diversity) plan. However, Hansen's interpretation is out of context and reflects a misunderstanding. Bensimon's point of proportional equity is intended as an outcome of plans like inclusive excellence being implemented and valued by institutions.”

What?

The only thing that’s clear about that statement is Bensimon’s assertion that her own framework of “proportional equity is intended as an outcome.” Equality of outcome. At least they’re saying it out loud now. Maybe I should have used the excuses of being female, part Cherokee, and historically under-represented to demand certain grades when I was in school.

One of the best arguments I’ve ever read supporting the superiority of choosing equality of opportunity over equality of outcome for a nation’s path, as we did at our founding, comes from a Sri Lankan immigrant to Australia, no less.

In 1996, Dr. Mark Cooray wrote in "The Australian Achievement: From Bondage To Freedom," that “equality of opportunity in the sense of identical opportunity for all individuals is impossible. Equality of opportunity is best expressed in the phrase: career open to talents. Equality of opportunity does not include power to force others to pursue their vocation in a certain way. In business, equality of opportunity means freedom to engage in a trade. It does not mean a right to compel someone else to afford you an equal chance of participating in his trade.

"Equality of outcome attempts to ensure that everyone finishes life at the same time. That is the goal of radical socialism. Everyone must be a winner and equal. Socialists do not really point towards absolute equality, but rather to vague ideas of fairness and justness.

"... If rewards are based not on achievement and effort, but on fairness, what incentive is there to work? Who is to decide on fairness? What are the criteria of fairness? There is an inescapable conflict between the ideal of fair shares and freedom. Action for equality must necessarily involve government regulation and reduce liberty."

Before you send your child off to college, perhaps arm them with this information they can use to have discussions with their professors, who will no doubt demand tolerance and diversity of thought. I’m sure they will appreciate an opposing point of view.