The Affirmative Action Debate

The Affirmative Action Debate - The Affirmative Action...

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The Affirmative Action Debate For more than a quarter century, controversy about affirmative action has tormented American politics. It still arouses intense passions, spawns litigation, and frustrates public dialogue. Some commentators explain the fierceness of the debate by noting the conflicting interests of groups competing for a limited number of coveted jobs and educational opportunities. Others point to the symbolic importance that affirmative action has assumed for each side in the debate. "Proponents regard the continuation of affirmative action as a litmus test of our nation's commitment to racial justice," Glenn Loury has written. "Opponents see it as an unacceptable violation of the ideal of equality of opportunity, and the principle that government should treat its citizens in a color-blind fashion." Both these ways of framing the issue, Loury suggests, are "mired in confusion." And both have at times preempted a broader discussion of strategies to address the problem of racial inequality. A variety of rationales has been put forward to justify affirmative action programs. The single most important, writes Robert K. Fullinwider in an essay for this special Report , grew out of a recognition that abolishing facially discriminatory policies would leave in place a complex of long-established attitudes and informal practices that were likely to thwart rapid progress toward equal opportunity. In the years following the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, this recognition gave rise to a new legal concept of discrimination, and provided a limited justification for racial preferences in hiring and admissions. William A. Galston, in his "status report" on affirmative action, looks at how the resulting policies have affected a range of institutions, from the military to public universities. He also analyzes the judicial and political constraints that have recently been placed on preferential programs, and suggests alternative strategies for promoting equal opportunity as certain forms of affirmative action are dismantled. Opponents of affirmative action have long argued that color-conscious selection procedures can only undermine meritocratic standards. In their essay for this issue, Judith Lichtenberg and David Luban consider the role that merit plays in modern economic life, and the role that it ought to play. Without accepting the view that judgments of merit are merely subjective, they identify imperfections in the usual processes by which institutions define and detect it. They explore the fate of the merit principle in a "winner-take-all" society. And they argue that a just society, in its allocation of posts and rewards, would make considered trade-offs between merit and other important values. In recent years, many employers and university officials have placed the idea of diversity, rather than
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This note was uploaded on 03/16/2012 for the course FENS 101 taught by Professor Selçukerdem during the Fall '12 term at Sabancı University.

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The Affirmative Action Debate - The Affirmative Action...

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