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Peter Schmidt is available as a speaker
Peter Schmidt is available to speak at colleges, bookstores, schools, churches, and at gatherings of education associations. His past speaking engagements are listed at the bottom of this Web site. If interested in having him appear, e-mail him at email@example.com. He also is available as an expert source for journalists covering affirmative action. Those on a tight deadline should email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Hear interviews with Peter Schmidt
Color and Money Is a College Course!
Wednesday, April 30, 2008
Anyone born when "A Nation at Risk" was issued is now about old enough to have earned an advanced degree. But two new reports released this month, on the 25th anniversary of the issuance of that landmark study, suggest that it is far more likely that anyone born then dropped out of college or never even made it through high school.
The first of the two reports, titled "A Stagnant Nation" and published by the advocacy group Strong American Schools, concludes that efforts to carry out the recommendation of "A Nation at Risk" have been "stymied by organized special interests and political inertia." (The Chronicle of Higher Education blog has a summary followed by lively comments from readers available here.)
The second of the two reports, written by a long list of prominent education experts and titled "Democracy at Risk," calls on the federal government to greatly increase its spending on teacher training, education research, and other efforts to improve schools. As noted in a Chronicle summary of its key findings, it says: “For an annual investment of $4-billion, or less than what we are currently spending per week in Iraq, the nation could underwrite the high-quality preparation of 40,000 teachers annually (enough to fill all the vacancies that are filled by unprepared teachers each year), seed 100 top-quality urban teacher-education programs, ensure mentors for every new teacher hired each year, provide incentives to bring expert teachers into high-need schools, and dramatically improve professional-learning opportunities for teachers and principals."
Both new reports offer food for thought to interested in improving college access.
Monday, April 28, 2008
The reviewer--Paula M. Krebs, the magazine's editor--finds some flaws in the book but reaches this bottom-line conclusion: "Peter Schmidt’s nuanced account of the class and race politics behind how affirmative action became a way to provide 'diversity' experiences for privileged white students is sobering for anyone who cares about educational access in the United States for students who are not both white and rich."
The full review is available here.
Tuesday, April 22, 2008
When the topic of race-conscious admissions policies came up in the April 16 Democratic debate in Philadelphia, however, she let Barack Obama take a few steps out on that limb and then refused to follow. He stated a position that is actually more centrist than the ones she has expressed in the past--saying that some affluent young black people, such as his own children, perhaps should not be given extra consideration. Ms. Clinton then positioned herself to the right of him by giving an answer Ward Connerly could endorse, refusing to talk about affirmative-action preferences at all and instead focusing on the need to make college accessible for all Americans.
As Color and Money discusses at length, the Clintons have long had an ambivalent relationship with affirmative action and the broader cause of racial integration. When they first moved to Washington DC, they refused to enroll their daughter Chelsea in the heavily black and Hispanic DC public schools, choosing instead to enroll her in a highly exclusive private school, Sidwell Friends. In winning election in 1992, Bill Clinton did not reiterate the Democratic Party's support for affirmative action. When up for reelection in 1996, he avoided expressing opposition to the Proposition 209 ban on affirmative-action preferences before voters in California, for fear of losing that state. At the same time, however, Bill Clinton appointed a staunch advocate of affirmative action and integration, Norma Cantu, to head the Education Department's civil-rights office. And, based on a sweeping review of federal affirmative action policies, he famously declared that the federal government's approach to affirmative action should be "mend it, don't end it."
As described in this Chronicle of Higher Education blog post on the Philadelphia debate, Hillary Clinton had been a fairly strong supporter of the use of racial preferences by colleges prior to the Pennsylvania contest, which is expected to hinge on the votes of blue-collar whites. It will be interesting to see how she answers questions on the subject if she stays in the race through the upcoming primaries in North Carolina, Kentucky, and Puerto Rico.
Wednesday, April 9, 2008
The plaintiff in the lawsuit is a white woman who applied in January for undergraduate admission at UT-Austin and was rejected despite having a 3.59 GPA, solid SAT scores, and a record of participation in extracurricular activities in high school. She is being represented by the Project on Fair Representation, a Washington-based organization that has been pushing the Bush administration to weigh in against UT-Austin's policy.
As discussed at length in Color and Money, Texas public universities were barred from considering race and ethnicity under a 1996 ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit in the case Hopwood v. Texas. Black and Hispanic enrollments plunged, but then seemed--at least for the most part--to rebound after lawmakers passed a measure guaranteeing students in the top 10 percent of their high school class admission to the Texas public university of their choice.
In 2003, the Supreme Court essentially invalidated the Hopwood decision by upholding the use of race-conscious admissions in its ruling in Grutter v. Bollinger, involving the University of Michigan law school. But in that ruling, the Supreme Court also held that colleges must consider alternative ways of achieving diversity on campus before they resort to using affirmative-action preferences.
UT-Austin returned to using race-conscious admissions in 2005. The new lawsuit against it probably will hinge largely on the question of whether the alternatives to preferences used by the university in the wake of Hopwood produced sufficient levels of diversity.
"The top-10-percent plan has proven more successful in achieving diversity than did race-based affirmative action," Edward J. Blum, the director of the Project on Fair Representation, argued in a Chronicle of Higher Education interview. "Because of that, we believe the University of Texas is foreclosed from even considering a student's race."
As summarized here on The Chronicle of Higher Education blog and reportered here at greater length in Tulsa World, the campaign on behalf of the measure, the Oklahoma Civil Rights Initiative, filed a motion in the state Supreme Court on April 4 asking that it be withdrawn from consideration.
The campaign needed 138,970 valid signatures to get the measure on the ballot. Largely because Oklahoma law gives referendum advocates just a 90-day window for circulating such petitions, the advocates of the Oklahoma measure gathered just 141,184 signatures, leaving them little buffer room if significant numbers are challenged. Oklahoma's Secretary of State subsequently spotted large numbers of duplicate or otherwise suspicious signatures on the ballot measure, suggesting that it might be in trouble if someone combed through it carefully.
The motion filed by the campaign says: "Based of the number of signatures delivered to the Secretary of State, the validity rate for the signatures would need to be in excess of 90 percent, which is a statistical impossibility given historical validity rates and the limited time to verify the signatures."
The abandonment of the Oklahoma campaign is not expected to have a significant impact on efforts to put similar measures before voters in Arizona, Colorado, Missouri, and Nebraska.
Saturday, April 5, 2008
Reality is a lot more complicated than that. The truth is that the economic payoffs from a bachelor's degree vary greatly depending on parental wealth, according to study findings recently presented by Marvin A. Titus, an assistant professor of higher education at the University of Maryland, at the American Educational Research Association conference in New York.
The study is discussed in greater depth here on The Chronicle of Higher Education news blog. It's bottom line is that, while people from poor backgrounds greatly increase their earning potential by getting a bachelor's, they're unlikely to earn more than people from wealthy backgrounds, including those who never went to college.
Titus calls for more research on how people acquire the "social capital" that keeps the rich ahead of the poor and influences long-term earnings.
Wednesday, April 2, 2008
Among the studies discussed at the symposium was an analysis of College Board data which concluded that elite colleges have undermined their own efforts to promote diversity in recent decades by giving much more weight to applicants' SAT scores. The authors of the study--Catherine L. Horn, an assistant professor of educational leadership and cultural studies at the University of Houston, and John T. Yun, an assistant professor of education at the University of California at Santa Barbara--found that the share of seats at top colleges going to students with exceptionally high SAT scores has increased dramatically in the past 20 years. Although the number of students taking the test and posting high scores has grown, the researchers say the bigger driving force behind the trend they document is a desire by colleges to improve their rankings in college guides--by U.S. News and others--that consider the average SAT scores of colleges' students in judging selectivity.
Among other researchers who spoke at the symposium, Michal Kurlaender, an assistant professor of education at the University of California at Davis, presented an analysis of federal data showing that the share of black and Hispanic college students who end up earning bachelor's degrees by age 30 actually declined over the past three decades. Donald E. Heller, a professor of education at Pennsylvania State University and director of its Center for the Study of Higher Education, presented an analysis showing that only a few states notable for their small minority populations have managed to close the gaps between the races in terms of high-school and college completion.
The bottom-line question that the symposium tackled was whether Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor was correct in predicting, in the court's 2003 Grutter decision dealing with college affirmative action, that the educational gaps between the races will be eliminated in 25 years (or by 2028). The consensus among the researchers here: No chance.
A Chronicle of Higher Education article discussing the symposium in more detail is available to subscribers of the newspaper here. All of the research presented at the symposium is included in a forthcoming book, Realizing Bakke's Legacy, being published by Stylus Publishing in commemoration of the 30th anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court's landmark 1978 decision Regents of the University of California v. Bakke.