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The Effects of Affirmative Action on Law Students and Lawyers
Given the opportunity, do African Americans with lower undergraduate test scores and grades succeed in law school? Does admitting African Americans with lower test scores and grades than other racial groups into law schools have a good or bad effect on American society? On one hand it can be argued these students grab the opportunity and use it. Making more African American lawyers is healthy for American society. The presence of more African American lawyers itself means the concerns of their community will be heard and represented in society. Seeing successful African American lawyers will prove to frustrated African American high school students that this really is the land of opportunity in which success is available to those who work hard. On the other hand it can be argued poorly qualified undergraduates drop out of law school or just learn just enough to pass the bar examinations after several tries. This process has a very bad effect on society. By giving preference to less qualified African American students the result is lawyers of poor quality. Poor quality workers produce poor quality work, which in the long run is not good for society. People point to the 1980’s as an example where poor quality American automobiles were rejected by buyers who turned to higher quality Japanese cars.
The article “The Scandal of the Law Schools” by Stephan Thernstrom in the December 1997 issue of Commentary presents both sides of this debate. This article takes information from a study by Linda Wightman favoring preferences and uses it to make the author’s points against preferences. Although this article clearly opposes racial preferences, it does include enough of Linda Wightman’s arguments that a reader is left at the end to make up his/her mind of what the truth is or what needs further study.
Commentary is a magazine published by the American Jewish Association and has an objective of trying to unify by publishing a variety of articles of different views. The American Jewish intellectual community has the reputation of being liberal, but this magazine has a history of being conservative. As a historically oppressed minority itself, the American Civil Rights Movement and Dr. Martin Luther King received strong support from Jewish organizations. Articles about topics related to race relations published in this magazine would be expected to be either liberal or balanced. However, in spite of this background, the magazine continues to be conservative. Even the title of this article gives the reader the expectation of reading a conservative article. The title screams out that the purpose is to put forth conservative criticism of affirmative action.
This article sits on the conservative right of the political spectrum. The article takes the information from a study done by Linda F Wightman, that analyzes admissions of black students into law schools. Stephan Thernstrom agrees with Linda Wightman’s conclusion that eliminating giving preference to black students will reduce the number of them being admitted. But, where Linda Wightman sees this as not good for society, Stephan Therstrom sees this as making American society more healthy. Linda Wightman agrees that black applicants are not as qualified as those of other races, but she points to their graduation rates and rates for passing the bar examinations as proof that when given opportunities, they can perform just as well as those of other races. The concept of an underdog, when given a chance, making something out of himself is in the spirit of America. America is seen as a land where any immigrant can work hard and succeed. Stephan Thernstrom looks at the same numbers and states that they show that the quality of lawyers being produced is less than it would be if all races were given the same opportunity for admission based on objective criteria like test scores. Thernstrom also sees use of preferences as encouraging poor quality black education. If a black person can be admitted into law school with low test scores, there is no motivation to fix the underlying problem of poor black education. This double standard also creates an unhealthy racial climate in which non-blacks now feel discriminated against.