I was captivated by paul Burka’s observation in “What’s Black and White and Red-faced All Over?” [December 1997] that “the only way to open the door to more minority students is to broaden—that means reduce—the standards for admissions.” The real question for society is this: Shall we lower our standards to a level easily met by all members of society or shall we maintain high standards and honestly seek to elevate all segments of society to those standards?
Affirmative action appears to lower-income whites as a method by which the elites in this country have expanded their slice of the pie by getting their daughters into medical schools and their minority members into law schools at the expense of nonmembers. The Hopwood case especially struck me as a “no white trash need apply” sort of situation—a poor white woman working her way up from trailer parks versus the standard coddled UT admittee. I’ve been aware of these issues, being 50 percent Greek and having grown up in trailer parks while my dad was transferred about in the military. Greeks and other Southern Europeans (Spaniards, Italians) are less likely to graduate from college or graduate schools than are blacks or Hispanics. Meanwhile, many individuals obtaining affirmative-action benefits are in the upper economic echelons.
I would suggest that affirmative action, in whatever form it takes, should not exist to ensure that doctors’ children get into medical school, that rich alumni receive free education for their children, and that “trailer park trash” be taught to keep their places. This means one of two approaches. Either we go with standardized tests or we divide society up by every denominator and reserve a specific slice of the pie for every measure of race, religion, and national origin. Either we have a color-blind society or we have a truly balkanized one that will tear us apart. I’m for the color-blind society. But then, my whole life I’ve dealt with the crowd trying to keep “those people” in their place. Only when I’ve had access to blind admissions procedures have I been able to escape that sort of thing.
Stephen R. Marsh
The dallas independent School District needs to be broken up into about fifteen districts [Behind the Lines: “School for Scandal,” December 1997]. No district with 155,000 students will ever be responsive to the community it is supposed to serve. You asked how someone so incompetent and corrupt could ever get appointed head of the DISD. A district can hire only from among those who are issued superintendent certificates by the TEA, which uses that power to eliminate candidates who possess the skills necessary to manage a large enterprise. A Lee Iacocca couldn’t get a superintendent’s certificate from the TEA.
Thank you for publishing “Legends of the Fall” [November 1997]. I have a question about the statement that Sammy Baugh led TCU to a national championship in 1935. Perhaps there was some rating system that rated TCU as number one, but there can be no doubt that when undefeated TCU met undefeated SMU in Fort Worth to decide which team would go to the Rose Bowl, SMU won 20—14.
W. Michael Griggs
Editor’s note: According to The Official 1997 College Football Records Book, published by the NCAA, TCU received a number one ranking in the Williamson System special supplemental poll, which came out after that year’s bowl games. Thus, it considered not only TCU’s narrow loss to SMU for the conference championship but also TCU’s Sugar Bowl win and SMU’s Rose Bowl loss.
Donna Smolik doesn’t think it is right for students to be tested for drugs [Reporter: “Testy,” November 1997]? I’d bet that if a drug-crazed kid came to school and shot her kid, she and the ACLU would be jumping to sue the school for not protecting her child.
Nora R. Powell
Love, War, and LBJ” [Behind the Lines, November 1997] points to an inescapable fact: Lyndon Johnson was a master politician, but his indecision and publicly expressed anxiety concerning the pursuit of the Vietnam War are proof he was not suited to be commander in chief. His experience as vice president during the Bay of Pigs fiasco should have taught him that half measures do not work. In a role reversal, George Bush was an inept politician but an effective commander in chief. It is unfortunate that the two presidents could not share qualities.
N. L. Simon