The Jeffersonian Perspective

Commentary on Today's Social and Political Issues
Based on the Writings of Thomas Jefferson


Affirmative Action vs. Equal Rights

The first obstacle to a rational discussion of Affirmative Action is defining precisely what it is. Because its use has been limited in certain respects by court decisions, certain descriptors are avoided, even if it is not entirely clear that they do not rightly apply. Affirmative Action is often defined by its intended result: a way of correcting historical wrongs suffered by certain minority groups, especially blacks. But that could apply to any kind of compensatory program, whether financial or educational, including one that directed certain actions to be taken. Any attempt to define Affirmative Action specifically launches one immediately on controversy, because it introduces the very elements that are so hotly contested. Nevertheless, we will attempt such a definition in order at least to have a starting point for evaluation and criticism.

Affirmative Action we tentatively define as a program for giving preference to individual applicants for positions in educational institutions, or in employment, based on that person's membership in a previously discriminated-against racial, ethnic, or gender minority. This is not a complete description, but rather a general category. Such a program may or may not include quotas, even though the use of quotas is now considered illegal. Other restrictions, such as President Clinton's "No preference for people who are not qualified," limits Affirmative Action in its practical application, but does not alter the basic definition. Similarly, explanations for why Affirmative Action is considered necessary provide added information with respect to whether the preference is justified or not, but do not alter the basic fact that it is a system for giving preference in selection to certain applicants over others. That is its basic and controversial characteristic. Affirmative Action may also include acceptance of a minority applicant in cases where other applicants would be considered unqualified, even though no qualified applicant is displaced. Affirmative Action is mainly involved in applications to educational institutions, and in employment hiring and promotions.

In all discussions about Affirmative Action, there is one phrase that is almost universally omitted, but is crucial when considering the question of whether Affirmative Action involves a violation of equal rights. That phrase is, "the best qualified." Even opponents of Affirmative Action seem to ignore the significance of that phrase, as if it were irrelevant to the discussion of fairness and equality But it is our position here that it is not only relevant, but it relates to the very essence of justice and equality, and is essential to the foundations of a free society.

The concept of Equal Rights includes the right of an individual to utilize his best talents and abilities in the pursuit of his happiness and in his acquisition of property. The right to happiness and to acquire property is no guarantee that any specific individual will obtain either one, of course. But "Equal Rights" means he is entitled to make the effort, and to gain whatever results his talents and abilities enable him to acquire. If he is denied the enjoyment of the results of his talents and abilities, whether they are equal or not equal to the results obtained by others, then the right to pursue his happiness becomes a meaningless goal, and the inalienable right to the pursuit of happiness is a farce. It is like saying, "You can pursue your happiness, but your efforts cannot be allowed to achieve results." As Jefferson stated with respect to property,

    "Our wish... is that... equality of rights [be] maintained, and that state of property, equal or unequal, which results to every man from his own industry or that of his fathers." --Thomas Jefferson: 2nd Inaugural Address, 1805.

This right to property would have little meaning if a man were restricted by unequal, arbitrary rules in the application of his own industry to its acquisition, and especially if this were done in order to favor someone else. The pursuit of happiness would have little meaning if that pursuit by others was given precedence over his own. "All men are created equal" was the FIRST principle enunciated in the Declaration of Independence before man's inalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness were even mentioned, because without that equality, those rights are implicitly curtailed and become meaningless. Moreover, the essential element is equality of rights, not equality of results. The right to life does not mean the right to the same number of years allowed everyone else, but rather the right to whatever number of years one obtains through careful living and healthy genes. One has the equal right to pursue happiness, and to acquire property, but the actual attainment of those ends is the responsibility of each individual. And since the results of these efforts depend on each individual's efforts, those results will vary, depending on how much effort each individual expends and how much expertise they bring to bear. But it is the right to exercise one's abilities that is the essence of liberty, and that right has characterized this nation which was founded on inalienable rights. An intrinsic part of these liberties, therefore, is the equal right of each individual to exert effort in the pursuit of happiness and the acquisition of property, and to reap the benefits of their effort, whether more or less than someone else. It is a violation of that right to take from one, just because he has been successful, or to give to another, just because he was not.

    "To take from one because it is thought that his own industry and that of his father's has acquired too much, in order to spare to others, who, or whose fathers have not exercised equal industry and skill, is to violate arbitrarily the first principle of association--'the guarantee to every one of a free exercise of his industry and the fruits acquired by it.'" --Thomas Jefferson: Note in Destutt de Tracy's "Political Economy," 1816. ME 14:466

Therefore, a fundamental, though often unemphasized aspect of a free society is the naturally occurring competition that results from persons with equal rights all working toward the pursuit of their personal goals. This pursuit of excellence that is necessary to achieve their goals, and the naturally occurring competition in a free society, has resulted in the flourishing of capitalism and the free enterprise system in free societies. It has also resulted in the pursuit of excellence in scholarship, science, and industry, and in the ever-increasing standard of living enjoyed by all. Healthy competition between citizens enjoying the equal right to pursue their goals is what has made this nation great. And the only time such competition is rightly curtailed, whether that of individuals or of corporations, is when it interferes with the equal rights of others and tries to suppress their efforts to achieve excellence. The right to pursue excellence is a subsidiary right to the rights to liberty and to pursue happiness; it is the birthright of every American.

But there are always those, whether as capitalists or as individuals, who discover some advantage to themselves in denying others their equal rights to pursue their ends. It was the denial of these equal rights, the reservation of greater rights in the hands of certain privileged individuals (the British King and Parliament), that was the cause of the Revolutionary War and our separation from Great Britain. This goes to the very essence of what America means, and why it was founded. Therefore, Jefferson writes,

    "To unequal privileges among members of the same society the spirit of our nation is, with one accord, adverse." --Thomas Jefferson to Hugh White, 1801. ME 10:258

And it is for these reasons that Jefferson said the primary role of government should be the securing of these rights to every individual.

    "[The] best principles [of our republic] secure to all its citizens a perfect equality of rights." --Thomas Jefferson: Reply to the Citizens of Wilmington, 1809. ME 16:336

If, in order to compensate some members of society for past injustices, the principle of equal rights, and the natural competition which that engenders, is destroyed, then we are destroying the foundations of a free society itself in order to rectify that previous error. For as Jefferson wrote,

    "An equal application of law to every condition of man is fundamental." --Thomas Jefferson to George Hay, 1807. ME 11:341

And further,

    "The most sacred of the duties of a government [is] to do equal and impartial justice to all its citizens." --Thomas Jefferson: Note in Destutt de Tracy, "Political Economy," 1816. ME 14:465

It is frequently stated that, Yes, Affirmative Action results in some injustice to a very small number of individuals, but this minor loss is more than compensated by the help it renders people who were injured by past discrimination. But a free society cannot be built on injuries done to individual rights. That is a contradiction in terms. Past injustices are not remedied by present injustices, but by Justice Now! Martin Luther King once said,

    "Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that." --Martin Luther King, Jr.

And surely, we could add to that, "Injustice cannot drive out injustice; only justice can do that." Even if unjust measures against a small number of individuals are approved by the majority of citizens, this can never make them right. Instead, it establishes precedents which tend toward the destruction of a free society, because it undermines the very reason why we have created such a society in the first place. It is important that those seeking to redress injustice be irreproachably just themselves, otherwise they undermine their own moral position and to that extent, justify the injustices they formerly received themselves.

    "The majority, oppressing an individual, is guilty of a crime, abuses its strength, and by acting on the law of the strongest breaks up the foundations of society." --Thomas Jefferson to Pierre Samuel Dupont de Nemours, 1816. ME 14:490

The rule of "Two wrongs do not make a right" surely applies here. Injustice is not healed by more injustice; rather it is multiplied by such policies, and carries resentment and hostility in its wake. And well it should, because this nation was founded in a resentment of, and hostility towards, social injustice.

    Providing Encouragement to Minorities

In his writings on education, Thomas Jefferson spoke often of the need for making educational opportunities available to the poor at public expense.

    "By... [selecting] the youths of genius from among the classes of the poor, we hope to avail the State of those talents which nature has sown as liberally among the poor as the rich, but which perish without use if not sought for and cultivated." --Thomas Jefferson: Notes on Virginia Q.XIV, 1782. ME 2:206

He proposed a system for selecting those youths of talent from amongst the poor, and providing them with free education to match their abilities.

    "A bill for the more general diffusion of learning... proposed to divide every county into wards of five or six miles square;... to establish in each ward a free school for reading, writing and common arithmetic; to provide for the annual selection of the best subjects from these schools, who might receive at the public expense a higher degree of education at a district school; and from these district schools to select a certain number of the most promising subjects, to be completed at an University where all the useful sciences should be taught. Worth and genius would thus have been sought out from every condition of life, and completely prepared by education for defeating the competition of wealth and birth for public trusts." --Thomas Jefferson to John Adams, 1813. ME 13:399

This was not meant just as a gift to the poor, but was an important measure for the benefit of the whole nation. In a free society, the lives of all are enhanced by the work and contributions of other members of society. If the breadth of those contributions can be increased, the whole nation will reap the benefits.

    "The object [of my education bill was] to bring into action that mass of talents which lies buried in poverty in every country for want of the means of development, and thus give activity to a mass of mind which in proportion to our population shall be the double or treble of what it is in most countries." --Thomas Jefferson to M. Correa de Serra, 1817. ME 15:156

But it is important to notice one facet of all this. While favoring special assistance to students who lack the means for pursuing their education, there is no mention of lowering the standards in order to accommodate them, much less giving them preference over other students who are equally or even better qualified. Rather, it was proposed that students from poor backgrounds who show talent should be selected and given as much education as they require to develop fully. There is little doubt that children growing up in poverty were disadvantaged in many respects then as they are now. But there was no suggestion of unmerited preferences just to compensate for these disadvantages, or altering school standards so that those from a poor backqround may be given an unmerited chance. Jefferson's idea was to select those students who demonstrated talent, and to provide the opportunity for developing that talent if the student's family could not afford it. It was not just because students were poor, but because they were smart as well as poor.

Affirmative Action has been described by Lani Guinier as "an effort to open opportunities to people who have been excluded previously," and certainly this is a worthy aim. If talented students have been excluded, such barriers should certainly be torn down. But it is only called into question when it means depriving someone else of an opportunity, especially someone more qualified than the person being helped and therefore better entitled to the opportunity as a matter of equal rights. If some persons are not really talented, but merely find themselves at the low end of the talent scale, that is no reason for providing the opportunity to them, and taking it away from the more talented person. When unmerited aid is made public policy, it is contrary to the principles of a free society. It becomes not a matter of facilitating individual pursuits, but of arbitrarily rewarding the untalented with achievements that are rightly won only by the talented. When such awards displace those that are due the talented, then it becomes a vicious and destructive policy.

    Benefits of Affirmative Action

It has been said that Affirmative Action should not be eliminated, because many minority persons have benefitted from it.

Well, of course some people have benefitted! Some people always benefit from the violation of the rights of others! That is always the chief incentive for violating human rights. Injustice always works to the advantage of someone, else there would be no injustice. But benefits cannot be placed in the balance to weigh against injustice.

Affirmative Action is also cited as helping colleges and workplaces achieve racial diversity. This is desirable, of course, but can never be used as an excuse for unfairness and the violation of another person's rights. It then becomes a matter of using discrimination to achieve social ends. There are other, more sound ways of encouraging the participation of minorities in the institutions of society; ways based on hard work and fair competition result in real gains for all concerned. To justify Affirmative Action on the basis of diversity is to abandon all moral pretensions whatsoever. It is to abandon what is right for what is wanted. It is the equivalent of saying that mediocrity has a right to be represented on the Supreme Court.

    Undesirable Results of Affirmative Action

The eliminated of Quotas has been mandated by the courts, and is now accepted policy. But Affirmative Action as we have known it cannot function without quotas, so their existence is often disguised. Anytime selection is based on anything less than "the best qualified," there must be a quota, otherwise everyone selected will be less than the best, and we will be in the absurd position of deliberately embracing mediocrity. There is no better way for an enterprise to experience decline, than to cease hiring the best employees they can find for a job.

Therefore, a policy that requires hiring employees who are qualified, but not "the best qualified," is a kind of enforced mediocrity. This is not the way a free enterprise system in a free society works. The competition that is a natural part of economic interaction is what has made the free enterprise system the creator of the high living standards that we all enjoy. Where this is absent, as in the communist countries, there is a degradation of the economy and of the society. By advancing those who are less than the most competent, we make our economy less efficient, and reduce our competitiveness with respect to the rest of the world. As Lee Iacocca said, "Incompetency begets incompetency. The last thing a guy who isn't sure of himself wants is a guy backing him up who is sure of himself." The more incompetent people we advance, the more incompetency we will have in the people below them.

A policy of hiring persons who are not the best qualified is an insult to those persons hired. It says to an individual, "You're not good enough to get this position on your own merit. You're second class, but we'll give it to you anyway." The minority person starts with a sense of inferiority. This destroys their sense of self-esteem, because they realize that the award was not based on real merit or accomplishment, but on a kind of institutionalized favoritism. Alternatively, the person may develop a kind of arrogance that doesn't care, and forces itself into the working environment. Either of those attitudes is fatal to any true advancement of the individual, and will most like prevent that person from ever overcoming the effects of past discrimination, since the empasis is on favoritism instead of merit. There is no real incentive to develop the abilities that would make them excel in the job they hold, since they already hold it without having the best qualifications. And because success in life is based on false values, the development of their character is undermined. Who, after all, will work hard toward self-improvement if they can get the rewards of hard work without exerting the effort?

The idea that someone may be hired who is not the best qualified also generates cynicism amongst those who are not eligible for such preferences. Why should they work hard? Why should they make an extra effort? Their effort is not going to be rewarded, but rather someone else whom everyone knows is less qualified is likely to get the job or promotion. This is doubtless one of the most destructive ideas that could take hold in a society. Those who benefit from such preferences are also not encouraged to work hard. And young people preparing for careers are being told that it is not hard work and application of skills that count.

Providing employment on the basis of being "qualified," but not "the best qualified," gives rise to the thought that, if the standards need to be lowered in order to hire a black person, then maybe they were never really discriminated against in the past. Maybe they just were not the best qualified person who applied for the job. If reverse discrimination is needed for some people to get ahead, then maybe discrimination was not the problem in the first instance, otherwise all that would be needed now to correct the injury is a level playing field. We know, of course, that there was racial discrimination in the past, and that a black person very likely would not have gotten a job, even if he were the best qualified back then. But a policy that lowers standards in order to allow minorities to be hired does nothing to dispel the idea that perhaps there was not as much discrimination as is claimed.

On the other hand, if we say that the real problem was never the denial of placements to black candidates who happened to be the best qualified, and that it was indeed the entire environment of discrimination that created a social system that prevented blacks from acquiring the training and competence to become the best, then we must admit that Affirmative Action is not addressing the source of the problem. If the problem was, and is, the lack of opportunities and encouragements to develop the needed competence, then forcing employers and schools to accept persons who are not the best qualified, does not directly address that problem. Providing additional training and special catch-up seminars are the kinds of things that would directly address the problem of insufficient ability. The real damage of discrimination was done cradle to grave, before the individual ever applied for a job. And it must be corrected the same way: by removing the process of degradation, by supplying the needed corrective training, that will make minority candidates equal participants in the opportunities available to all Americans. It is necessary to correct the source of the injustice, and not create more injustice.

The very existence of Affirmative Action places an emphasis on race, and this in turn creates separatism and division. The very fact that someone is given a preference that they did not earn incites others to jealousy and resentment. The person selected under an Affirmative Action program is subject to feelings of inferiority, because he may feel he was not selected based on merit, but based on the fact that he is a minority. Other persons -- co-workers, clients, customers -- judge the minority person to be inferior before even having any dealings with him, just because they assume that he got his position, not based on ability, but on preference. If the purpose is not only to compensate past racial discrimination, but to lessen and eliminate present racism, then Affirmative Action is not working; it is exacerbating the problem.

The artificiality of Affirmative Action creates uncertainty and fear. If an employee knows that his job, or his advancement, was not merited, but rather a gift based on some extraneous factor, then he also knows his advancement could be lost and that he lacks the capacity to reinstate it. A truly qualified person does not have that fear, because he knows he can do his job, and that he could probably get another job almost anywhere if, say, his employer went out of business. But a person who owes his position to unmerited factors does not have that assurance, and this creates anxiety.

    The Persistence of Racial Discrimination

Entry and advancement in the workplace is always filled with problems. Blacks, who have for so long been excluded from the competitive atmosphere that prevails with most high level jobs, assume that the meanness they experience is directed at them because of their race. Most experienced workers would like to tell such persons, "It's not because you're black; it's because you are breathing." White people are unfair to one another, not just to blacks. The ordinary free enterprise workplace is not a democracy, but an autocracy. It is run and operated by persons who, within certain limits, can do almost anything they want, regardless of the fairness.

There are some limits to arbitrariness, however. An employer cannot violate an employee's civil rights. And since all employers operate their business within the business environment created by society, and thus do so under the protection and permission of society, that society has the right to regulate business enterprises and assure that they operate within societal ends. Therefore, society can demand that business operate in ways that respect the rights of employees, customers, and the general public. Certain levels of fairness can be demanded, if business wishes the privilege of operating. The problem is that motives are easily disguised, and reasons given for certain actions might not be the real reasons. Hence, some kinds of business policy are difficult to monitor and to regulate.

In truth, the workplace is a lot less autocratic now than it was, say, forty or fifty years ago. But it is still very much an authoritarian situation, where pettiness and arbitrariness in the managers has little restraint. Accomplishing anything in such an environment has always been exceedingly difficult. Co-workers are easily subject to jealousy, and sometimes do things behind one's back to defeat one's aims. This is not to say that, among the many reasons for managers and co-workers to be mean and ugly to one another, racism does not play a part. But it is more likely that other sentiments enter into ugly interactions than does race, especially today.

One of the problems in an employment situation is that selecting the best person for the job is almost always the responsibility of a single individual. And that individual, whether the prospective employee is of another race or not, will often be guided by biases and prejudices, and sometimes by just plain stupidity. Judging the potential of a person who applies for a job is extremely difficult, and many employers use irrelevant criteria just to narrow the list of applicants. They do this because the irrelevant criteria are often obvious and specific, whereas the evaluation of a person's skills and abilities is difficult and uncertain. This means that a person who is member of a minority has still one more factor that could weigh against him. Blacks and other minorities do indeed have problems in getting positions and promotions; it would be silly to deny that. But the problem is, how to reduce the racial discrimination without causing injustice to others.

    Rational Selection

A more rational approach to selecting candidates for college placement and for employment would base that selection on talent and potential, not race, gender, or class. There is nothing that requires college placement to be based strictly on SAT scores. But whatever the various criteria, they should be related to the identification of those who are best qualified on the basis of criteria founded on excellence, and it should be done consistently. Reportedly, 60% of colleges admit almost all who apply. There is therefore no necessity for unmerited admissions anywhere, and those judged unqualified for one school can easily attend one that is a lesser ranked, but still acceptable, college. Going to such a lesser school is not equivalent to a denial of the opportunity for an education. Underqualified whites, who probably could benefit by going to an elite college in spite of their qualifications, end up going to lower ranked colleges every year. In fact, it is likely that more students who are not fully qualified will be more likely to graduate from a less demanding college than from an elite university. An autocratical government agency might decree that some persons, for whatever reason, shall not be forced to accept what ordinary citizens must accept; but no one can claim that a free society founded on equal rights should function like that.

The only way to correct historical wrongs is to eliminate the conditions that created those wrongs. To try to compensate for past wrongs with present wrongs only multiplies the wrong. Even if Affirmative Action "works," it is wrong and evil if it destroys the fabric of our society. The program of education outlined by Jefferson was designed to benefit the entire nation and to encourage the development of genius. It was not intended to help the poor to the detriment of the rich, or to aid any one class to the detriment of any other. Still less was it constructed to violate the fundamental rights of some citizens in order to promote the well-being of others. Attempting this, however, creates a constituency for these violations in those who benefit, and an opposition in those whose rights are violated. Attempts to benefit one faction at the expense of another can only create conflict. Dispensing with the demand for special privileges, however, is the first step toward full acceptance in society.

The only time any person seeking a placement or promotion has a rightful claim is if they are the best qualified, but were denied the placement or promotion based on some irrelevant factor, such as race, class, or gender. But this establishes a standard that is hard to access. Most applicants are not familiar with the qualifications of others who applied. And even if they were, the person making the decision may genuinely have a different opinion. Faced with such a dilemma, those who sought to right the situation no doubt chose Affirmative Action as a way of breaking through these imponderables and doing some social engineering. Something had to be done to break up the log-jam.

But is social engineering justified? Can we overturn fundamental rights in order to produce certain social outcomes that we think desirable? It is doubtful that Jefferson and our other Founding Fathers would have thought so, because he wrote:

    "Nothing... is unchangeable but the inherent and unalienable rights of man." --Thomas Jefferson to John Cartwright, 1824. ME 16:48

This is the immutable principle of human existence. When we meddle with that, we are playing God and, indeed, meddling with the moral order which was established by God.

    "Can the liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people that these liberties are of the gift of God? That they are not to be violated but with His wrath?" --Thomas Jefferson: Notes on Virginia Q.XVIII, 1782. ME 2:227

It is ironic that those words were written by Jefferson with reference to the institution of slavery and its violation of the rights of man, and that we must now emphasize these very principles in dealing with mistaken efforts to heal the wounds created by slavery. For Jefferson goes on to say,

    "Indeed I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just: that his justice cannot sleep forever: that considering numbers, nature and natural means only, a revolution of the wheel of fortune, an exchange of situation, is among possible events: that it may become probable by supernatural interference! The Almighty has no attribute which can take side with us in such a contest." --Thomas Jefferson: Notes on Virginia Q.XVIII, 1782. ME 2:227

It was a violation of rights that created these problems to begin with. Shall we violate rights again in an effort to reach a solution? Do we believe that the rights of man are fundamental to his nature or not? When we institute policies that are contrary to the natural rights of man, we only produce inadequate remedies and ask for more trouble. And as usual, such inadequate remedies create their own kinds of difficulties. So, what is the solution?

    A Jeffersonian Solution

The problem, according to Roger Wilkins, is "Exclusion, denial, unfairness, and limited opportunity." But if that is the problem, forcing placement officers to accept those who are less than the best qualified is not the solution. It does not right any of those four problems, but may even subject other persons who are better qualified, and therefore entitled to the position as a result of the operation of equal rights, to a new wave of exclusion, denial, unfairness, and limited opportunity.

Given black candidates who are the best qualified, how can we be reasonably certain they will get the placement they deserve? Well, how can we be reasonably certain that a white candidate who is the best qualified will get the position they deserve? The answer is, We can't be. There is no sure-fire way of eliminating unfairness in person-to-person dealings, except as the result is an injury to the rights of the candidate. At most, we might be able to remedy egregious acts of discrimination. But for ordinary, irrational acts by individuals, we must rely on the growth of good will and a sense of fairness, realizing that there will always be some small amount of discrimination regardless of our society's advancement in consciousness. But we know that the growth of good will and a sense of fairness is less likely to come from programs that violate the natural rights of citizens.

A Jeffersonian solution to this problem would not undermine the system of fairness based on equal rights that inevitably results in unequal results. It would not destroy the pursuit of excellence that occurs when each person exerts their best efforts to achieve their own happiness. A Jeffersonian solution would emphasize the things that Jefferson proposed for all citizens. It would (1) make training available to each one, suitable to the capacity of each, and (2) identify those with talent and provide further training for them, at public expense if necessary, in order to fully develop that talent. It would not provide "special privileges" to some citizens by substantially lowering the definition of what is talent, but would seek to make minority candidates the best qualified, and then let competence and excellence work its way.

Certainly, some types of additional educational programs that would help black people overcome the results of discrimination would be entirely appropriate. Head Start programs were found to be helpful, and should be extended to all black children. Other kinds of programs of that type should be offered to older black students in order to enable them to play catch-up. The idea is to help them to achieve excellence, not to undermine the whole social system so that they might obtain the results that excellence brings. And it is folly to think that by giving them the results of excellence, they will somehow rise to standards of excellence. No one works hard for whatever he can get if he did not work hard. The appeasement of those seeking special privileges not based on merit and achievement will never produce merit and achievement. Only a person who is able to gauge his efforts to his aspirations will forget special privileges and exert the effort necessary to achieve success.

There will no doubt always be some amount of racial discrimination, just as there will always be some amount of unfairness in every human endeavor, but it will become increasingly rare as placements are made on merit and favortisms and their resulting resentments are eliminated. Trying to force less than the best, however, will always be counterproductive. The goal of any government program to compensate for past injustices and discrimination should be a program for preparation, not one of forced placement without regard to excellence. Such a program would aim to develop basic skills and human capacities. It would encourage individual excellence as a solution, and not foster a system of lowered standards and expectations. These kinds of programs are already in existence, and some of them have a good track record. A program of "Affirmative Preparation" would produce better, more meaningful results, and avoid injuries to non-minority personnel and the resentments that those injuries create. It would encourage better race relations and alleviate the racial tensions we now see in American society. Besides producing positive results, it would be in harmony with the principles of a free society.

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Cross References

To other essays in The Jeffersonian Perspective

To Thomas Jefferson on Politics & Government

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© 1999 by Eyler Robert Coates, Sr.