Critics of affirmative action generally argue that the country would be better off with a meritocracy, typically defined as an admissions system where high school grades and standardized test scores are the key factors, applied in the same way to applicants of all races and ethnicities.
But what if they think they favor meritocracy but at some level actually have a flexible definition, depending on which groups would be helped by certain policies?
At issue is research from Frank L. Samson, a sociologist at the University of Miami, who has tested the fluidity of whites’ definition of “meritocracy.”
The white adults in the survey were also divided into two groups. Half were simply asked to assign the importance they thought various criteria should have in the admissions system of the University of California. The other half received a different prompt, one that noted that Asian Americans make up more than twice as many undergraduates proportionally in the UC system as they do in the population of the state.
When informed of that fact, the white adults favor a reduced role for grade and test scores in admissions – apparently based on high achievement levels by Asian-American applicants.
The takeaway is amusing, in a sardonic sort of way. The research suggests a lot of white folks are thinking, “College admissions should be based solely on quantitative metrics of academic skill – unless that puts white students at a competitive disadvantage in the admissions process, in which case, never mind.”