National Review Online has an insightful article written by Heather MacDonald illustrating the problems inherent within our government’s affirmative action programs, especially in race-based college admissions. The story is about Kashawn Campbell, a black student who graduated from South Central Los Angeles High School in 2012 with a 4.06 GPA and was subsequently admitted (via racial preferences) to the University of California, Berkeley.
Kashawn seems to be a nice young man, and his efforts to succeed at the university are to be commended. The problem is that Kashawn isn’t ready for the academic rigors of a university. He’s not even ready for the academic rigors of a junior college or even high school! Even though Kashawn graduated from a public high school in South Central Los Angeles (a gang-infested ghetto on L.A.’s south side), this means little if he’s unable to write and think critically as is required by university students. Like many black and Hispanic students within our inner-cities, they are given passing grades even though they fall dramatically short of the state’s academic requirements. A good many of these same students are given acceptable grades out of the misplaced kindness of their teachers. If the students show up on time and make some semblance of effort, they are given a passing grade even though they’re unable to satisfactorily perform basic math, reading comprehension, and writing.
According to the original article in the Los Angeles Times, Kashawn’s essays were pockmarked with misplaced words and odd phrases, his writing often didn’t make any sense, and he struggled to comprehend the required readings of his college writing class and to think critically about them. Kashawn had difficulty understanding that there was even a problem. He was, apparently, used to his teachers from high school accepting anything he wrote and not critically assessing its content. The papers he submitted at Berkeley were poorly written and even though he had to revise them constantly, they were still completely unacceptable. His papers were frequently filled with words that sounded academic, writing the way he thought a college student should write, and using big words he had no command of. It was all a charade.
Kashawn’s grade-point average at Berkeley was 1.7 and he was failing every class except one: African Studies 5A! Who would have ever guessed? The only reason he did well in this class – a survey of black culture and race relations – was because he was engaged in the subject and spoke up during class discussions. The course’s relatively low standards along with Kashawn’s enthusiasm helped him to get a B on his midterm exam – the best grades of his freshman year. His writing abilities, however, still remained very weak.
After much help and input from his instructors in an effort to improve his writing skills to at least an acceptable level, Kashawn made little real improvement. All of this took a psychological toll, and he began to feel like a failure. He became depressed. Kashawn tried to lift his spirits with positive affirmations of “I can do this!” and “It’s time for Kashawn’s comeback!”
Kashawn was on the verge of flunking out of Berkeley, and he knew he might not be returning for his sophomore year. When he returned home at the semester’s end, he prayed that his GPA would be high enough for him to at least eek by. Upon checking his grades online, he discovered to his amazement that he had a GPA of 2.06 and would be permitted to continue at Berkeley. As expected, he received an “incomplete” in his College Writing course. Can you guess which course passed him? Surprise, it was his African American Studies class which gave Kashawn an A- !
Kashawn’s story illustrates many of the problems that exist with Affirmative Action, and how disingenuous white liberals end up harming blacks in spite of their do-gooder efforts. Because the university disregarded Kashawn’s level of academic preparation – viewing him merely as another racial preferences quota they could cite as proof of their institution’s vast ‘diversity’ – the results were predictable.
The first is that Kashawn would likely not have struggled as desperately had the public schools he attended not academically passed him each successive year. Kashawn’s writing abilities were clearly a major stumbling block which should have been observed and rectified many years prior to entering Berkeley.
His teachers probably gave him high grades not because he was so academically gifted, but because he actually made an effort in school and, thus, stood out among most of the black underachievers and slackers. Kashawn’s teachers, though perhaps well-meaning, did him no favors. By undeservedly passing Kashawn, these same teachers were admitting in their own way that blacks cannot intellectually and academically compete with whites and Asians. They would never publicly admit this, but many teachers have privately conceded to it.
The second is that Berkeley did Kashawn no favors either and, in effect, they continued the same harmful tradition that began when he first attended L.A.’s public school system. By giving Kashawn an A-, his African American Studies professor helped him only in the short-term. Eventually, Kashawn is going to take a course which actually has rigorous academic standards and which granting high grades out of sympathy or out of racial solidarity has no place. What will he do then? How many more professors will have to cover for him?
The third is that college is not for everyone. Contrary to popular opinion, there’s a whole lot of people who have no business setting foot in college or an institution of higher learning. It’s not that their bad or even stupid. It only means that their skills or abilities exist in other realms – perhaps in the service industry or in one of the many available trades? Many folks simply don’t have the intellectual acumen, the discipline or passion to pursue a college degree. And do you know what? That’s okay! There’s nothing wrong with it. We each have our unique place in the world.
Kashawn is one of those who, it appears, doesn’t belong in a university environment. His writing and test scores prove it, despite the well-intentioned people who told him throughout the years how smart he was and how he belonged in college. Sadly, it seems, a lot of educators – namely, white liberals – lied to Kashawn and persuaded him of things that just weren’t true. I suspect, though, that had a teacher told Kashawn the truth, he would not have believed it. He was much too accustomed to being ‘affirmed’ and assured that he had no limits. It was only later when he entered the real world of academia that he realized how woefully unprepared he was. Once again, whenever liberal whites try to ‘help’ blacks in ways that are not realistic, they only exacerbate their problems.
An ‘Affirmative Action’ cupcake sale