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Op/Ed: Affirmative Action Isn’t Hurting Asian Americans in College Admissions

On Cusp of Supreme Court Ruling, Scholars Say Test Scores Don’t Fairly Measure Merit

By Janelle Wong and Viet Thanh Nguyen

Students in lecture hall

Janelle Wong, director of Asian American studies and a professor of American studies and of government and politics, and a research colleague argue that race-conscious admissions won't alone solve the problem of racial inequality, but prevent that problem from being worse.

Photo by iStock

The U.S. Supreme Court is poised to release its hotly anticipated ruling this month on whether Harvard University discriminates against Asian Americans in admissions, a decision that will have broad consequences for affirmative action policies in higher education.

The University of Maryland’s Janelle Wong, director of Asian American studies and a professor of American studies and of government and politics; and Viet Thanh Nguyen, Aerol Arnold Chair of English and professor of English, American studies and ethnicity at the University of Southern California, argue in a new Los Angeles Times essay the data don’t reveal evidence of an Asian American penalty in race-conscious college admissions.

Potent myths about admissions circulate within and outside Asian American communities: “Asian Americans have to score higher than other students to get in” and “Asian Americans shouldn’t check the Asian box on applications.” These myths are often endorsed by college admissions advisors and accepted by parents and students, though not a single Asian American student has testified that they faced discrimination in the high profile Harvard case.

The faulty evidence for these myths rests in large part on the assumption that tests like the SAT are the best and fairest measures of merit. But the SAT has never been fair and is rooted in racism, developed by a racist eugenicist, Carl Brigham. Standardized test scores are more highly associated with parental education and family income than with college success or completion.

Read the rest of the essay in The Los Angeles Times.



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