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How to have your cake and hate it too

It just doesn’t make any sense. The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled on the issue repeatedly, most recently just last year.

So why is Attorney General Jeff Sessions trying to set affirmative action in university admissions on fire?

This week, the AG kicked off his campaign to stop the “intentional race-based discrimination” at colleges in an internal announcement at the Justice Department. The new initiative was spurred by the refusal of career staffers who declined this new directive because it was contrary to the departments long-standing approach to civil rights in education.

Republican pundits are unabashedly hailing the move as a smart play to appease the white political base that supports President Trump who “believe slots for their kids are being taken, whether it’s by illegal immigrants or by other groups.”

Like Sessions, a strong portion the white base that believes “other groups” are taking opportunities away from kids. This belief is at odds with the fact that college enrollment has actually declined every year since 2013, meaning there are actually more opportunities for their kids.

A new poll shows many Republicans (58%) believe that colleges negatively impact the country. For educated Republican voters, this is just more confirmation of an alarming trend of the dumbing down of their party. The GOP is now the party of choice for 59% of white registered voters with a high school degree or less as well as 57% of white registered voters who failed to graduate college.

Last year in Nevada, Mr. Trump declared his love for “the poorly educated,” as they were integral to his winning that state’s nomination. For the educated minority of the GOP, their jaws have yet to come up off the floor.

Despite the feelings of the majority of Republican voters, the importance of a college degree to businesses is only increasing. But a third of students who enter college don’t graduate.

While college is not the ambition of every high school graduate or individual in the workforce, having a good paying job generally is. Many of those jobs require post-high school credentialing in the form of continuing education or a more advanced cadre of skills. Credentials and skills that employers in Pennsylvania note are sorely absent from a majority of new entrants into the workforce.

Furthermore, 93% noted some level of difficulty in recruiting qualified applicants who met the education, training and/or skills required to fill their workforce needs.

Given those statistics, the bizarre preoccupation with affirmative action only serves to obscure the actual threat to the nation: our underfunded public education system isn’t preparing students to succeed in college or work. Adequate investments in the system which graduates a majority of the country’s workforce, would give districts the resources to update curricula, modernize technology, and upgrade our students’ skills so they can compete in a global economy.

Tragically, this era of crude and rude politics is only diverting our eyes from the prize of creating a world class educational system that prepares all students, regardless of color, to be career ready. This distraction will only add to the basket of unemployables.

 

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“One way to improve upon the shallow racial understanding of affirmative action opponents is to ensure diverse educational environments that promote clear thinking and honest conversation about racial issues.” Erwin Chemerinsky, dean of University of California, Berkeley School of Law, and Nancy Leong, professor at the University of Denver Sturm College of Law.

READ “Don’t use Asian Americans to justify anti-affirmative action politics”