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Saturday, August 20, 2011

Affirmative Action (part 3)

In this series (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4), we will examine concept of 'affirmative action'.

...Allow me to describe a situation where the model I describe (Part 2) might be relevant.

Applications for medical school are a tough business. What does it take to get in? It takes top notch grades for sure. Last year's Ohio State class had an undergraduate GPA averaging 3.7. The next biggest thing is the MCAT--OSU's average is a 33. So lets assume anyone with those numbers is fit to be a good doctor. Then what? OSU says you will need clinical and research experience, 'leadership,' 'volunteer service,' and 'extracurricular activities.' What exactly does all that mean? And how much is enough? who knows.

There are about a million med school applicants with high high GPAs and MCAT scores. So in what activities could an applicant participate to make her application more attractive? Debate team? Orchestra? Baseball? What about becoming a member of Diversity Roundtable, or the Multicultural Student Union. Attend a diversity retreat. Go to events where you are in the racial minority. These options promote the development of any number of important skills for med school: well-roundedness (so you don't go crazy in your first year),  cross-cultural understanding (vital for any doctor who wants to see patients outside her immediate family), relating to different perspectives (collaboration is the new hot trend in the research community), empathy, patience (hello bedside manner!).

Maybe a candidate has a 3.7 GPA AND was a member of the biology honors society, phi beta kappa, and graduated magma cum laude.  But so what? We already said a 3.7 makes you a good doctor, so stick to that qualification, and accept a student who brings other qualifications in addition. My point is, we have determined when a student is academically smart enough to become a doctor, lets makes another priority be that she is socially and culturally smart enough to be a good doctor. If this were more a part of our rubric, I actually think a lot fewer white people would qualify. 

Employers and churches need to understand the benefits that diversity minded hiring can bring. In addition to accessing the skills mentioned above (which any white person may avail herself of), proactively increasing the racial and ethnic diversity in the workplace leads to entrepreneurial success and is the savvy thing to do. People that grow up in a similar way will think a similar way, will tackle problems in similar ways.

If I want advancements in my company's or my church's goals, I need to bring people together that are entirely different from one another, that they might stretch each other and bring new perspectives. We have no idea what innovations we are missing by limiting ourselves to work with those like us. We are loosing vast amounts of brain resources by not actively rectifying and widening the narrow pool we currently think in.

I cringe to think of how long ago we might have had the cure to cancer if we were taking advantage the all brilliant minds that, though historic discrimination, had to struggle through school while they worked part-time to help support their family (it is easy to get into college when you don't have to worry about the next utility bill). Or what about the inventor of an eco-friendly biofuel that couldn't get a job interview because she has a funny name? Or the broker of peace in the Middle East that got teased so much in high school that he didn't have the confidence to apply for college. It happens. And we are screwing ourselves over because of it.

Let's be clear though, our own evangelical and economic benefit is not the primary reason to rectify discriminatory hiring practices, it is only a fringe benefit.  The heart of the matter is...Continued in part 4...

See Also:
Affirmative Action: Part 1Part 2Part 3, Part 4
Reverse Racism 
Academic Admissions

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By Their Strange Fruit by Katelin H is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
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