This Is the Danger of Sacrificing Merit for Equity in Education - The American Spectator | USA News and Politics
This Is the Danger of Sacrificing Merit for Equity in Education

Under the framework of critical race theory, we have been encouraged to view all institutions and elements of our society as products or promulgators of white supremacy. Among these newly “racist” doctrines is the role of merit in education and careers.

A 2021 Vox article declares that “meritocracy perpetuates inequality and racism.” The same year, Duke University published an article titled “The deep-rooted myth of meritocracy is widening the racial wealth gap.” A National Institutes of Health paper even goes so far as to suggest that “meritocratic ideology may act as a negative health determinant for African Americans.”

This understanding of merit as a construct of racism, paired with the fact that black and Hispanic students traditionally score lower on average on standardized tests, has led many institutions of higher education to abandon merit as a means of selecting qualified candidates for their programs.

This trend is reflected in the ever-shrinking number of colleges that require students to submit an SAT or ACT score. Nearly 90 percent of colleges that utilize the Common Application to collect student applications do not require students to include any standardized test scores.

Universities that do not require tests include Brown University, the California Institute of Technology, Columbia University, Cornell University, Duke University, Harvard University, Johns Hopkins University, New York University, Northwestern University, Ohio State University, Princeton University, Purdue University, Rutgers University, the University of Michigan, the University of Notre Dame, the University of Pennsylvania, and Yale University.

The pressure for universities to drop testing requirements to aid in diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts is not purely internal. Outside organizations are also pushing for more “equitable” admissions criteria. Multiple lawsuits allege that the University of California is violating the rights of minority students by requiring applicants to submit SAT or ACT scores.

At one point, the College Board, the organization that administers the SAT, planned to add an “adversity score” to students’ overall test scores. This would have effectively boosted the overall score of minority test takers and diluted the effect of merit on what’s meant to be a merit-based exam. Ultimately, after tremendous public outcry, the College Board was forced to reverse course and abandon the adversity score.

On Nov. 18, an American Bar Association (ABA) panel voted to do away with the LSAT as a requirement for admissions into accredited law schools after an ABA committee found that the test may be hurting diversity in law schools. Yale and Harvard’s law schools have both voiced their opposition to the requirement in the past, believing it not to be equitable.

For decades, universities have used affirmative action practices to dilute the importance of merit in their admissions criteria, but colleges now seem to wish to do away with merit-based admissions completely.

It is difficult to imagine an action that could be more devastating to the quality, nature, and efficacy of the American educational system. Admissions to high-end institutions must be based upon capability, capacity, and conscientiousness to ensure the most advantageous outcomes for both the institutions and the pupils.

If universities wish to promote high-level scholarship, they must admit only the most qualified candidates. This should be only common sense. Low-quality students necessarily detract from, rather than contribute to, the academic caliber of an institution.

In addition to hurting the universities, non-merit-based admissions criteria also negatively impact the very students they seek to advantage. Affirmative action policies have led to a drastic increase in the number of black students who drop out of college because some students are admitted to universities at which they do not have the capability to succeed. Some studies even suggest that such policies have increased the income gap between white and black Americans.

University of California Los Angeles professor Richard Sander, who has done extensive research on the negative impacts of affirmative action policies, makes the case that “preferences often ‘mismatch’ students in campuses where they will struggle and fail.”

Sander also offers some examples of the ills brought on by mismatch. These are observable, according to Sander, “[i]n American law schools, where African-Americans (and some other students) tend to receive very large preferences and then, very often, are never able to practice law because they cannot pass bar exams.” He also cites studies that show that “students receiving large preferences, facing these pressures, tend to abandon STEM fields in large numbers.”

The conclusion appears obvious. To have a rigorous academia that promotes successful institutions and students, merit must be the defining factor in decisions of admittance and matriculation.

Kyle Reynolds is a business student at Indiana University. He writes for the College Fix and Campus Reform, and his work has appeared in the Daily Caller, Washington Times, and Washington Examiner.

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