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The Debate Over The Implementation of Affirmative Action in Higher-educational Institutions

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Throughout history, many groups of individuals have been denied opportunities because of various forms of discrimination. Today, our society has recognized that these individuals have been severely disadvantaged. Laws and programs have been instituted designed to aid in the rectification of these results. Of these many laws and programs, affirmative action is among the most prominent. It allows for resources to be allocated in helping underprivileged or individuals apart of previously segregated communities, however, there is a significantly large debate concerning the idea of who’s underprivileged and how it should be determined who fits under this term. This debate serves as the foundation for the arguments of both Richard D. Kahlenberg and Nicole Hannah-Jones in their debate over two kinds of affirmative action and their effectiveness in public, higher-educational institutions. As made evident by the article, both of these individuals agree that affirmative action is necessary to remedy the destructive results of segregation, but where their argument diverges is in how it should be implemented. Richard D. Kahlenberg, in his article titled “Affirmative Action based on Income,” argues that racial affirmative action isn’t sufficient enough in aiding underprivileged students and that socioeconomic affirmative action would better address the issues of class inequality than that based on race. On the other hand, Nicole Hannah-Jones, in her article called “Class Action: A Challenge to the Idea that Income Can Integrate America’s Campuses,” disagrees with the notion that socioeconomic affirmative action would better address the issues of class inequality than that based on race due to the fact that “race and class aren’t the same thing.” Upon analyzing the quality of both arguments, it can be concluded that Nicole Hannah-Jones makes the stronger case in relation to this debate on both types of affirmative action.

The main reason as to why Nicole Hannah-Jones’ argument is more effective is because of her ability to recognize the concern of the opposition and recognize their argument while using it to justify her own argument. In his essay, Kahlenberg mentions the benefits of socioeconomic affirmative action. This is clearly witnessed when he says “that the nation’s 146 most selective institutions could almost quadruple the representation of students from the bottom socioeconomic half (to 38 percent, from the current 10 percent) and graduation rates would remain unchanged.” Although this could be noted as a positive outcome, Kahlenberg fails to recognize that poor students aren’t the only ones that are privileged. It “doesn’t change the fact that African Americans and Latinos are disproportionately excluded from selective colleges and college in general.” This reasoning is successfully argued by Hannah-Jones when she states “The bottom line is race and class is not the same thing. There are a lot of ways to be unequal but race is still the worst – it is still the one you don’t want to be.’ Hannah-Jones’ argument is clearly more successful in this example because of her ability to recognize the opposition’s concern – that poor students are underprivileged – and further use this to justify her own argument that being poor isn’t the same as being a racial minority and that socioeconomic affirmative action could never better address the issues of class inequality while aiding the poor at the same time.

Ironically, both Kahlenberg and Hannah-Jones utilized a common source to argue two different points. In his essay Kahlenberg uses Anthony Carnevale and Stephen Rose and quotes them saying that “racial affirmative action tripled the representation of African American and Latino students, compared with admissions from a system based on grades and test scores,

but that those in the bottom economic half received no boost.” On the other hand, Hannah-Jones uses Anthony Carnevale and Stephan Rose to argue a different claim quoting them in saying that “Unless colleges set aside close to half of their seats for class preferences, black and Latino enrollment would decline severely.” It’s clear that the first quote supports the idea of socioeconomic affirmative action and that the second quote disproves the ability of socioeconomic affirmative action’s ability to address issues related to racial inequality.

Although it’s true that socioeconomic affirmative would address class inequality, Kahlenberg fails to connect the idea of this type of affirmative action to the problems associated with racial inequality. The second quote, from Hannah-Jones’ article, is clearly more effective in arguing the central claim because she is able to identify the fallacy in Kahlenberg’s argument and explain how his idea doesn’t connect with the overall purpose of the argument. This is observed through the following quote: ‘We were trying to prove that you get race by getting the right socioeconomic factor. We can never do it.’ Socioeconomic affirmative action may address the issue of class inequality, but not that of racial inequality. Not only in Hannah’s use of identical sources for evidence does she support the fact that socioeconomic affirmative doesn’t address the issues of racial inequality, but she also makes it more grueling for Kahlenberg to disprove the validity of her evidence because in turn he would be disproving the validity of his own.

This disagreement between Kahlenberg and Hannah-Jones’ argument isn’t due to their weariness of affirmative action programs, but their ideas on how these programs should be implemented and who should benefit from them. This divergence of arguments relates to the main idea or question: who is under privileged? While both poor individuals and racial minorities are underprivileged, Hannah-Jones clearly makes the stronger argument of the two by recognizing the fact that racial minorities are severely more disadvantaged than those that are economically disadvantaged.

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The Debate Over The Implementation Of Affirmative Action In Higher-Educational Institutions. (2021, March 18). GradesFixer. Retrieved January 26, 2022, from
“The Debate Over The Implementation Of Affirmative Action In Higher-Educational Institutions.” GradesFixer, 18 Mar. 2021,
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