Double Standards Won’t Close the Racial Learning Gap

Amy Wax, a tenured professor at the University of Pennsylvania Law School, was recently barred from teaching certain courses there. Her crime? During an interview in September with Glenn Loury, a black economist at Brown University, Ms. Wax remarked on the academic underperformance of black students at Penn Law.

“Here’s a very inconvenient fact, Glenn: I don’t think I’ve ever seen a black student graduate in the top quarter of the class, and rarely, rarely, in the top half,” said Ms. Wax. “I can think of one or two students who scored in the top half of my required first-year course.”

In his announcement amending her teaching responsibilities, Penn Law School Dean Theodore Ruger accused Ms. Wax of speaking “disparagingly and inaccurately” about the performance of the school’s black students, whom he characterized as “extremely successful.” Like Ms. Wax, Mr. Ruger didn’t offer any empirical data to back up his claim; school administrators are known to guard such information as closely as the president guards his tax returns. But it’s an open secret that highly selective schools like Penn lower their standards significantly for black applicants to achieve a predetermined amount of racial diversity on campus. Harvard is currently being sued over this practice, and the plaintiffs have complained that getting demographic data on admissions from the school is like pulling teeth.

Moreover, the evidence is overwhelming that students (of any color) who do not meet the normal standards applied to other students at a school tend to have lower grades and graduation rates.

Read the full article at the Wall Street Journal.

Photo credit: COD Newsroom (Creative Commons) – Some rights reserved

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