Sunday, September 30, 2012

Affirmative Action: Right or Wrong?

"Affirmative action" is a hot topic in American education.  Typically, "White" and "Asian" students outperform "Black" and "Latino" students academically in American high schools, so some universities in America will give "minority" students extra consideration.  Sometimes this means Black and Latino students are given extra points toward their admission to universities. Therefore, White and Asian students who scored higher scores and have a higher GPA will be displaced by "poorer" students who are Black and Latino for the sake of diversity on campus.

Many students oppose this "affirmative" or "positive" action meant to ensure racial diversity on campuses.  They feel that the system should be as "objective" as possible and that a student should not receive extra consideration due to his/her race. On the other hand, many people in America realize that Black and Latino students often come from areas of violence and poverty and that they need a little extra help to get into good universities.

For this conversation topic, please have your student read these two articles about Stuyvesant High School in New York City.  This is a great public high school that admits students purely based on a test score on one very difficult admissions test.  This method of admissions, however, has led to a skewed demographic at Stuy.  About 70% of students are Asian, about 25% are White and the last 5% are Black and Latino.  So this is a high school that rejects affirmative action and just takes the "best" test scorers.

A civil rights group has filed a formal complaint against New York City claiming that the admissions test used for Stuyvesant (and other "specialized" schools like it) is racist and that the test must be eliminated.

Possible questions for discussion:

1)  Do you think students should be admitted to any school based on just one test?

2)  Given the lack of racial diversity on Stuyvesant's high school campus, what do you think student life is like there?  Would you want to go to this type of school?

3)  Which is more important: ensuring diversity on campus or ensuring that the "best" students are admitted to schools?

4)  If you were told that you were on the borderline and a Black or Latino student was going to be admitted to a university instead of you, even though his scores were lower than yours, how would you feel?  Would you accept this fact due to your belief in the necessity for racial diversity?

5)  What do you think of the NAACP Legal Fund's argument against the specialized school exam?

6)  What do you think of Mayor Bloomberg's attitude that "life is not fair."

7)  What would you do to help ensure that students of all colors can get into good schools?

8)  How important is diversity to you?  Do you try to make friends from different racial groups?  If not, why not?  How easy/difficult is this to do?

Please be aware that these two articles have amazing new idioms and vocabulary.  Please have your student read through the articles first for new vocab, have the student make a vocab list and then for homework have the student write sentences with these new idioms and words.

Homework could also be an essay:  Do you agree with affirmative action, why or why not?


Yes, I'm the guy who caused the "scandal" in Asia two years ago :P

Yes, I'm also the guy who wrote the very funny ESL book: New York City Sucks, But You'll Wanna Live Here Anyway

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