Tuesday, September 14, 2004

You’re a gentleman and a scholar

This bothers me, in the same way that any affirmative action program bothers me: It's justifying the further production of inequality in attempt to remedy inequality. "I had someone to call and say, `I got three A-pluses at one of the world's greatest educational institutions,' and have that be validated by people who aren't saying, `'Well, you got three A-pluses, but you're gay so it doesn't count," Schell said. Homophobes who would deny an applicant access to scholarship funds merely for the fact of being gay are unquestionably reprehensible; I don't think many would challenge that, nowadays. But to enact the opposite is just as bad. It's like saying 'You got three A-pluses, but you're gay, so it counts for as much as four A-pluses from a straight student.' Why is this relevant at all? The mere fact of being who you are isn't worthy of admiration or special treatment, no matter what the racial, social, cultural or physiological conditions in play. Grades and accomplishments should be all any scholarship organization cares about. That makes this claim all the more confusing: Sexual orientation alone usually is not enough to get these scholarships. Success against the odds, scholastic aptitude, extracurricular activities and leadership also are needed to qualify -- the same qualities philanthropists have always sought to celebrate by endowing college scholarships. If sexual orientation alone isn't the deciding factor, why is it necessary to restrict the pool of otherwise-qualified applicants? I'm not against rewarding perseverance and leadership skills. I just think doing it in this manner is divisive, and wrongly justifies separate standards for different people on utterly inconsequential grounds. It's not strictly affirmative action, true; for it to be so, schools themselves would have to be making the decision to set a quota for admitting X number of LBGTQ students every year. But it's coming from a similar mindset that seems to be uncomfortably obsessed with what types of victimhood any particular person can claim, rather than only what gender-, sexuality- and race-neutral accomplishments they can be proud of. Equality of opportunity is the most fair and just goal for which we should strive. (Via Drudge.)


Blogger The Tiger said...

Had a look at the article. The reporter's being sloppy -- the scholarship is being held by someone who is a student at Berkeley -- it isn't a scholarship to Berkeley.

Big difference.

In one, the admissions standards are being affected. In the other, financial support is being provided.

I agree with equality of opportunity, and I don't care for most affirmative action programmes. ... On the other hand, sometimes people have families who cut them off because of their sexual orientation -- I met one gal who was most of the way through at Yale when she came out (well, her family found out; not exactly voluntary), and then she got cut off. She had to drop out. ... If private foundations want to bridge the gap, I think that's a good thing.

The broader awards, though, are a bit troubling.

9/15/2004 11:51:00 PM  
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