U. of M. should disregard race

Ninety-three University students gathered in support of affirmative action on the steps of the U.S. Supreme Court yesterday while judges inside debated whether race should be considered in admissions at the University of Michigan’s law school and undergraduate program.

Amid the debate on the topic — which is divided both inside and outside the courtroom — it is easy to forget the purpose of a university: to prepare the most capable people for society’s most intellectually demanding jobs.

Tax money goes toward higher education because it benefits everyone. Even those who never attended college use products and benefit from services that college educations make possible. They pay taxes for skilled computer programmers and doctors, so a university has an obligation to provide those things.

Affirmative action in college admissions works against this by occasionally excluding better students in favor of those with lower grades.

Though not perfect, grades and test scores are the best tools we have for determining who will be best in the work force. For example, ‘A’ English students are probably best at making points clearly, which is important for lawyers. Grades are meaningful, but affirmative action weakens their impact.

Though grades pull the most weight at U. of M., blacks, Hispanics and American Indians earn an instant 20 points toward admission on a 150-point scale. Race, in this case, counts for 13 percent of a student’s worth. Children of alumni also earn points, as do those from certain regions of the country. This gives grades less weight.

Lawyers for U. of M. are arguing that students can learn more at a diverse campus. Justice Clarence Thomas, the court’s only black justice, said yesterday that diversity in the classroom could help achieve racial harmony, according to CNN.com.

Racial harmony isn’t what anatomy class is for. If the court supports affirmative action in Michigan, a student elsewhere who had trouble in the class may end up behind a surgeon’s mask while an ‘A’ student stares at his or her medical school rejection letter. Though diversity is a noble goal, the main goal in the emergency room is saving someone’s life. We want the student who got the ‘A,’ regardless of race.

This is not to say the current system is fair: It isn’t. But the problem is at the other end of the educational system. We must find a way to improve struggling grade schools and high schools. Then, everyone will have the necessary fundamentals. But once they’re 18, it’s too late.