Jonathan Zimmerman: Affirmative Action Isn't for White Guys






Jonathan Zimmerman teaches history at New York University and lives in Narberth. He is the author of Small Wonder: The Little Red Schoolhouse in History and Memory (Yale University Press). He can be reached at jlzimm@aol.com.

'Boys have it easy." So said my 17-year-old daughter, observing the annual college sweepstakes at her high school in Lower Merion. When letters and e-mails arrived from university admissions offices this month, most of her male friends got good news. But girls with stronger grades and test scores were rejected, making them think the game is rigged.

They're right. The biggest secret in higher education today is affirmative action for boys - mostly white boys. It's also the biggest scandal, providing extra help to the members of our society who need it least....

...[I]t also sounds a lot like universities' notorious argument against taking in too many Jews back in the early 20th century. "The summer hotel that is ruined by admitting Jews meets its fate ... because they drive away the Gentiles," Harvard president A. Lawrence Lowell warned, "and then after the Gentiles have left, they leave also."

Only after World War II would institutions like Harvard do away with their religious quotas, paving the way for a massive influx of Jewish students. Meanwhile, universities also began small and often secret affirmative action programs to recruit another set of students they had traditionally excluded: racial minorities....



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