Affirmative Action

Affirmative Action Was Never Enough

By Alexandra de Graeve, age 13, New York.

When affirmative action was struck down, the New York Times interviewed a bunch of high school students. Connor, from St. Peter High School in Minnesota, said, “I like the idea of having diverse campuses but not at the expense of hard work. I think that everyone is equal so everyone should be treated equally and given the same opportunities. I believe that colleges should look more at the hard work put in by the students than at race.”

I don’t completely disagree or agree with Connor. I agree that everyone should be treated the same way and given the same opportunities, and that colleges should reward hard work. But not everyone gets the same opportunities, which diminishes diversity on campuses. Black students often attend poorly-equipped elementary, middle or high schools. This causes Black students who need help to not get any, which makes it more difficult for them to get into elite colleges. The question is, what should we do to change this for the better? Affirmative action was a controversial solution, but it did help marginalized students have a better chance at getting into good colleges, and on June 29, 2023 the U.S. Supreme Court ended it.

Affirmative action tried to help historically marginalized groups have better chances at getting into good colleges. According to NPR (National Public Radio), when the Supreme Court ended affirmative action, it ended “…the ability of colleges and universities—public and private—to do what most say they needed to do: consider race as one of the many factors in deciding which of the qualified applicants should be admitted.” Unfortunately, lots of people thought that students with lower scores would get into schools over students with higher scores. But, the truth is, if two students had the same SAT scores and the same quality for their essay, affirmative action let colleges pick the student from a marginalized group.

A student named Hamid from Glenbard West High School in Illinois said, affirmative action “…is not picking a minority student over a white student simply on the basis of race. Affirmative action literally means “the practice or policy of favoring individuals belonging to groups regarded as disadvantaged or subject to discrimination, over similarly qualified non-minority individuals.” The idea wasn’t to disadvantage privileged kids, but help less privileged ones. This was important because it would start a chain reaction, allowing less wealthy students to get better jobs, which would also help their kids do better, and their kid’s kids do better because they would have more opportunities.

Ending Affirmative action was a controversial decision. NPR  said, “Indeed, the reality is that in those places where affirmative action has been eliminated, there has been a severe drop in minority, and particularly, African American, admissions.” In its job of increasing diversity at schools, it worked. Affirmative action let more minorities into colleges. But even with it, there was still a severe wealth gap in marginalized groups. Without it, the wealth gap will grow again. Speaking to the NY Times, Amalia, a student at RFHS in Colorado, said, “Increasing diversity in schools, jobs, and major positions of power starts in colleges. So we need to include race in college applications.” We need more diversity among powerful people. We can’t have a congress that only has white and/or rich people in it. While Amalia is right, we also need to consider education at every level. It helps to get into a good college if you go to a good high school; it helps to get into a good high school if you go to a good middle school; it helps to get into a good middle school if you go to a good elementary school; it helps to get into a good elementary school if you go to a good preschool. It’s important to have access to quality education at every stage. Even when you’re really young.

To help students from marginalized groups access higher education we need more than just affirmative action. Tobz, of Baker High School said, “Now, of course, ideally, we wouldn’t need affirmative action. It probably isn’t even that effective at curbing racial biases and inequalities due to how limited its application would be. But it’s not a negative for anyone, and it has a reasonable and logical justification for existing.” While affirmative action is helpful, it isn’t going to change everything. We need more than that. To do well in school, you need accessible teachers, healthcare, a supportive family, food, and a home. Snacks, living close to school, having someone at home to help you, and extra curricular activities are all also very helpful. The government should make sure everyone has what they need to have a good education.

Contrary to what Connor believes, diversity isn’t just going to happen. There are too many things working against people from marginalized groups. For a while, some members of historically marginalized groups had better chances of getting into colleges because of affirmative action. That’s why the Supreme Court’s decision to end it was highly controversial. The truth is, affirmative action was a step in the right direction, but it was not enough. Now that it’s gone, we need to share our resources much more equitably so that everyone has access to a good education.

—Alexandra de Graeve, age 13, grade 7, New York. “I live in New York City but both my parents come from Europe. I speak English and Dutch, and I am taking French and Latin at my school. I don’t know what I want to be when I’m older, but I want math to be a part of it. I was annoyed at my English teacher for talking about affirmative action in a careless way, and so I researched it to find out more.”