Friday, September 08, 2006

A blot on what?

Peter Swanson, who must be about as busy at work as Spot, left a long comment to Spot’s post White whine with crackers. That post was about Katherine Kersten’s column tut-tutting over a Minneapolis law firm having to live with the obloquy of representing some whiney white kids who couldn’t get into the University of Michigan Law School. Katie said that the bow-tied whiney white kid vindicators didn’t deserve the blot on their escutcheon. Spot said, oh yes they do.

Whereupon, Peter draws himself up to his full rhetorical height, whatever that might be, and in vice-presidential fashion, peppers Spotty with birdshit birdshot. Peter asks Spot several questions which Spot has, of course, no intention of answering directly. But Spot invites Peter, and you, boys and girls, to consider the following.

First of all Peter, let’s understand that you don’t have any special genetic standing to oppose affirmative action or the promotion of diversity or whatever you want to call it. You get to have your opinion all right, but so does Spot.

The proposition put forth by the whiney white kids is this: the law requires a strict meritocracy based on a standard of merit written by people for whom the standard has already worked. It’s sort of the people like me are meritorious standard. This is the only way that people can be equal before the law.

Of course, according the whiney white kids (perhaps hereafter just “WWK”), under law the rich and the poor are equally enjoined from sleeping under bridges.

Perhaps more than anything else, affirmative action or diversity admissions are recognition that you won’t achieve essential fairness if you just rely on a high-stakes test. Not only that, but you’ll probably miss some people who deserve a chance because of obstacles they have overcome, the background of experiences they bring to an institution, or gasp, the strength of their character. Most people implicitly recognize this with respect to some characteristics but some can’t accept it with respect to minority communities.

Conservatives are okay with, in fact rather like, the idea that some people are just “better” than others. Equal protection just means an equal shot at proving how superior you are to somebody else. Competition is healthy, but at its perimeter, it’s just a sick obsession. Spot thinks low self-esteem is the root of the problem. Right, Katie?

Most of us probably know a person who is exemplary in all ways but testing well on high-stakes test like the LSAT. Why should that be the only way to prove your value to an institution or the society that will pay for a chunk of your education?

Peter also asks if it is fair to ostracize the bow ties. He says the bow ties’ firm has an open pro bono practice, in other words the lawyers can pretty much take up the cases they want. The whole phrase is pro bono publico which means “for the public good.” And to Spot, that means more than just not getting paid; it means doing something in the public interest, which representing the WWKs was not.

Finally, Peter, Spotty stands squarely against boiling shrimp.

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