Black students and some professors at Duke University are up in arms over a study that shows that black students drop out of science majors disproportionally, behavior that is wholly explained by their status as the beneficiary of racial preferences, as I write about here. That switch in majors is the reason that black and white GPA’s converge somewhat over students’ time at Duke, rather than because black students are narrowing the achievement gap with whites.
The study belongs to a growing body of empirical work called “mismatch theory,” which argues that preferences hurt their recipients by placing them in classes for which they are underprepared, causing them to learn less than they would among their academic peers–a proposition that may seem obvious to anyone outside the mind control of a university. I certainly wouldn’t last a minute at Cal Tech and wouldn’t regard it as a favor to be placed there.
The incident at Duke further limns the distortions of discourse that flow from affirmative action. As has been apparent for years, first we must pretend that it doesn’t exist. Virtually all high school students know their classmates’ SAT’s; they can see the large discrepancies between those of so-called “underrepresented minorities” and those of whites and Asians who are admitted to comparable schools. At Duke, the SAT and grade gap is more than one standard deviation. Black students know the score as well, and have been reported as announcing on occasion that they don’t have to work as hard because their race will get them into schools. And yet in college, everyone is required to act as if all students have been admitted on equal grounds, and any reference to the preference regime will be judged as racist and hurtful.
But now it turns out that you also can’t refer to the consequences of the preference regime–its effect on students’ learning and academic performance–without also being labelled a racist. Such a result is of course not surprising, since the offense necessarily includes the prior infraction of acknowledging that affirmative action exists at all. Still, it rounds out the picture of just how all-encompassing the unreality bubble on campus really is and how impossible it will be to eliminate it.