Tuesday, May 30, 2023
In the affirmative-action debate, all eyes are on the Supreme Court, which will soon make two high-stakes rulings on the subject. Meantime, a 2-1 decision from a Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals panel offers a sideshow worth watching.
In the case at issue, the leaders of Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology, or TJ—a highly selective public magnet school in Fairfax County, Virginia—bemoaned the demographic imbalance that resulted from the school’s academics-focused admission policies. (The class of 2024, for example, is more than 70 percent Asian, and Hispanics and blacks fall far short of their general-population proportions in the overall school district.) The school board then switched TJ to a different system that, while not considering race directly, reduced Asian admissions by about a quarter. Among other changes, the new policy ditches standardized testing and guarantees admission to at least 1.5 percent of each middle school’s eighth-grade class.
Last year, a district court held that this policy violated the Constitution’s equal-protection guarantee, in a ruling I wrote about for City Journal. The Fourth Circuit majority disagreed.
The case raises important issues for education at all levels. Historically, different rules have applied to the use of race in college vs. K–12 admissions: colleges have more leeway to consider race directly in the interest of promoting diversity. But if the Supreme Court ends the explicit use of race in college admissions, as now appears likely, college administrators will engage in much behavior that strongly resembles the decision-making at issue in the TJ case.
As the litigation over TJ high school shows, the struggle (I suppose that's the correct word) to keep on discriminating by race in spite of the upcoming SCOTUS decision is well underway. One can see it even at my small and formerly cute university. It's not particularly difficult. One just excludes white males from the applicant pool and deny that one has done anything of the sort. And make sure one doesn't let anything untoward go down in writing. It's a rare applicant or job seeker who will sue anyway.
One more reason to be glad I'm getting out. It's one thing to be associated with moral wrongs and another with moral and legal wrongs. The first is like working for the legal junk food industry, the latter like working for a Cartel. But I suppose at least some narcotrafficantes know what they're doing is wrong.