The College Republicans of Boston University are offering a Caucasian Achievement and Recognition Scholarship as a protest against racial preferences in admission.

The opponents argue that the CR’s have “polluted” reasoned discourse on this issue. It’s hard to accept this considering that anyone who questions racial preferences is immediately labeled a racist and considered a member of the KKK by the supporters of such preferences. The fact is there has been no reasoned discussion on racial preferences because ad hominem attacks are thrown the minute the subject is brought up.

One legitimate argument is that legacy admissions do tend to benefit white students and are not given on the basis of merit. It is impossible to argue against racial preferences on the basis that they don’t recognize merit and still stand behind legacy admission policies. Either admit on the basis of merit or be honest that there are more important things.

However, this doesn’t mean that racial preferences have produced any real results or any real reduction of the racial achievement gap. White students still perform better than black students in college. After 30 years of affirmative action policies, it doesn’t appear any real progress has been made.

It is time that there is a real discussion about racial preferences, or more generally, the racial achievement gap. Affirmative action simply has not worked and it is naïve to think that keeping it for another 30 years will somehow yield results. Any policy to deal with this problem must have an exist strategy.

Switching to an economic-based model where those who are poor get special consideration might appease some on the right who want to get away from race-based preferences. As long as minorities are disproportionately poor, they will still get the bulk of the benefit so you’d think they’d be happy too. However, this doesn’t solve the problem either.

Academic achievement has been tied to many other factors than just the ability to show up. For instance, family stability has been flagged as an important factor and minority communities also have a higher incidence of broken homes. Probably one of the most important factors is the quality of K-12 education, which is indisputably poor across the nation but certainly in minority communities.

If we want to address the racial achievement gap, we must address the fact that minority families (particularly poor ones) have children trapped in public schools that tend not to care about them. It is time to give those families the ability to choose something better. It isn’t a matter of school funding; it’s a matter of school accountability. If the money follows the students schools start being more responsive.

While the College Republican’s of Boston University have brought up a good discussion, it’s time to move passed inflammation to the proposal of solutions to fix the problem. Affirmative action has failed. It’s time to give school choice a chance.

John Bambenek is the Assistant Politics Editor for Blogcritics and is an academic professional for the University of Illinois. He is a freelance columnist who blogs at Part-Time Pundit and the executive director of The Tumaini Foundation which helps AIDS orphans in Tanzania with education. He is the current owner of BlogSoldiers, a blog-only traffic exchange.

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