All Scholarships are a form of Affirmative Action

Not really, but hear me out.

Let’s ask what’s the point of affirmative action.  Well, it started with Johnson’s presidency and the purpose was

  1. to rectify previous injustices, and
  2. to disestablish institutional racism.

Now, the applications of this have been tremendous, especially when it pertains to obtaining a job or going to school.

Critics of affirmative action have been:

  1. it’s the previous generations that have been wronged, not this one.  So why should this minority generation get the benefits when this majority generation didn’t do anything about it?
  2. it could cause resentment of the majority group against the minority groups because it seems that the minority group would get the upper hand, in which case it doesn’t get rid of racism, but seems to bolster it.
  3. people cannot choose their (skin color, nationality, race, sex, creed) so the government shouldn’t propose a program on which an arbitrary factor played into their lives.

Now, I’m not interested whether affirmative action is justified or not, at least not in this post.  What I want to focus on is critique number three: namely that we can’t choose our outward appearances.

Let’s suppose that the critics are right.  So then, affirmative action is wrong and we shouldn’t be “lenient” toward races and genders just because of the fact that they are a certain race or gender.  We treat everyone equally regardless of race or gender.  So then, the argument goes, we should get rid of scholarships that has a race or gender determining factor behind it.  (Actually, I doubt that the schools actually give scholarships based on race or gender, but programs and memorials use the schools to give them away, but let’s ignore that for now.)  Again, remember that we cannot choose our race or gender, so why should we get a “leg up” in life on something that we didn’t choose anyways?

Well, hold on there.  What about academic scholarships?  Basically, these scholarships are given out based on one’s intelligence, and we think that this is a fair way to give out funding because this person earned it or “worked hard for it.”  Well, I’m not so sure.

How is life planned out?  It’s done through two ways:

  1. biology (so basically, genes and DNA)
  2. environment

Now, here’s the rub.  We didn’t choose either of those.  So if one is intelligent, let’s say, then it was just in that person’s genes, just like someone’s race or gender was in someone’s genes.  Simple enough.

But what about environment?  Well, I didn’t choose to live in Utah.  I didn’t choose to live in a surrounding where I had the opportunity to get an education.  I didn’t choose my class or economic standing.  Thus, based on my environment, I was given the education that I had.  If I was born in a ghetto, I would have likely (but not absolutely) not gone to high school, let alone college.  So the environment does have a factor.

Now, I could imagine the reply being this: “but it’s what you do with the environment or the genes.  One still has a choice.  So with the child being born in the ghetto example.  That person still has a choice of raising him/herself up, or still chooses to live life in bad circumstances.  But it’s still that individual’s choice.”  My problem with this sort of reply is that I think it was that person’s genes or environment that “helped” or gave the individual the opportunity to choose.  The environment and biology speak for a lot and it does factor one’s intelligence.

So, just like race and gender aren’t chosen, neither is intelligence.  So then, this is why I wanted to claim that all scholarships are a form of affirmative action because we don’t choose our intelligence, achievements, environment, or biology.

What’s the solution then?  There are two:

  1. Give out no scholarships because they are unfair anyways,
  2. Everyone has the opportunity to get a “scholarship,” thus make college more or less free or at least cheaper.

Now, I’m opting for the second option.  France is doing this and it seems to be working.  They have many public intellectuals and in the philosophy scene, they are actually leading the world (at least in Continental Philosophy, as far as I can see).  I know that I will have many replies to this, so I’ll just leave it at this and see what the replies will be.

About shaunmiller

I have just completed a visiting position as an assistant professor at Dalhousie University. My ideas are not associated with my employer; they are expressions of my own thoughts and ideas. Some of them are just musings while others could be serious discussions that could turn into a bigger project. Besides philosophy, I enjoy martial arts (Kuk Sool Won), playing my violin, enjoying coffee around town, and experimenting with new food.
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4 Responses to All Scholarships are a form of Affirmative Action

  1. Weird Al says:

    only communist countries have free education 😛

  2. Killer J says:

    What about organizations independent from a university? You can’t really control who they give their money to, can you?

  3. shaunmiller says:

    Hello Weird Al,
    Well, in the Communist Manifesto, Marx gives 10 points of what will be in a communist society and point 10 says, “Free education for all children in public schools. Abolition of children’s factory labour in its present form. Combination of education with industrial production, etc, etc.” So that may be a communist idea, but I think it’s a good idea nonetheless. Education for everyone is beneficial for society as a whole.
    Killer J, you are right that organizations from the university does have control over their money. So if there’s some organization that says a scholarship goes to anyone that is Hispanic descent. Well, it’s the organization’s money and it can do whatever it wants with it, and if it wants to use it’s money that way, so be it. I think many people aren’t even aware of these outside organizations for scholarship which is a shame. So I guess I was aiming for the university scholarships.

    However, I have heard that university scholarships are actually these independent organizations, it’s just that the university allocates the money to the students. So the university isn’t giving out money from the university; rather, the university is more of the middle man who gives the money to the students where the money is from these organizations. I’m not sure if this is true or not, so if anyone out there knows how scholarships come about, let us know.

  4. Pingback: Particular Interests of Mine | Shaun Miller's Ideas

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