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Nothing discriminatory about excluding kids who can't cut it

By Charley Reese

Published in The Orlando Sentinel, June 2, 1998

You want to know how nutty this country has become? City University of New York just voted to exclude students who can't read, write or do math from its four-year college programs. And the move is controversial.

Heavens, how bigoted to expect college students to know how to read or write. A hodge-podge of minority groups is screaming discrimination. Now let me make sure that I understand their position.

If you require a person desiring a college degree to know how to read, write and do basic math, you are discriminating against minorities. Does that mean minorities are dumb? Or is the argument that reading, writing and math are some difficult white man's supersecret code that you can't break without certain genetic characteristics?

I don't know which is more nutty -- people who say that having to know how to read and write is discrimination or City University admitting students who can't read or write to their degree programs for the past 18 years.

The basis for alleging discrimination is that more blacks and Hispanics flunk the basic tests than do white students. In saner days, all that would have meant was that blacks and Hispanics need to work harder. That is, after all, the normal response when we don't do something as well as we would like.

If you finish last at a track meet, you don't say you're a victim of discrimination. You train harder. Same with the bookish stuff. The bar is on the same level for everyone. If you can't clear it, you have to work harder.

A university, of course, ought to discriminate against people unqualified to do college-level work. People who can't do college-level work don't belong in college, just as people who can't play football don't belong on the football team. College degrees handed out to functional illiterates are worthless.

It is a hopeful sign, however, that City University -- once a proud and distinguished institution -- is recovering from the madness of the 1960s and 1970s, when leftists politicized everything and demanded and got open admissions regardless of qualifications.

The substitution of group politics for individual achievement is a dangerous and ultimately self-defeating proposition. It institutionalizes incompetence and immorality (it's immmoral to demand what one knows one has not earned). Who the devil wants to have open-heartsurgery with a surgeon who has a political degree?

It's discrimination when somebody says you can't come in, because they don't like people with black skin or Spanish accents. It is not discrimination when someone says, ``Here's the test. Pass it and you're in. Flunk it and you're out.''

Understanding that difference does not, it seems to me, require a genius intelligence quotient. Imposing racial and other minority quotas on the job market and institutions is just politics that is both corrupt and hypocritical. If you applied a racial quota to the National Basketball Association, only 12 percent of the players could be black.

If merit-based hiring is OK for the NBA, it's OK for college admissions, the private job market and public-service jobs. There should, in fact, be nothing in America but merit-based admissions, hiring and promotions.

What distinguishes us is that we were traditionally a nation of individuals, with individual rights and individual opportunities. The assigning by the government of group rights and group opportunities is as foreign to the American ideal as communism or aristocracy.

It should cease forthwith.

[Posted 06/01/98 8:09 PM EST]


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