Comment of the Day: “Rationalization #30 (“It’s a bad law/stupid rule”) Chronicles: Vijay Chokalingam’s Affirmative Action Fraud”

On the bright side, Dr. Nick improves the diversity of the medical profession...

On the bright side, Dr. Nick improves the diversity of the medical profession…

Joed68 comes through with his second Comment of the Day, this one in reaction to the post here on Mindy Kaling’s brother and his proud confession that he gamed an affirmative action program to gain admission to medical school years ago.

Allowing skin color to enable a less deserving applicant to vault over a more deserving one in college is one thing—still ethically dubious, but defensible in the abstract—and letting low-lights into elite training for professions with life and death responsibilities is another. The only explanations I can mount for those who indignantly defend affirmative action in the latter (such as CNN’s Jeff Young, quoted in the post) is that they are in thrall of the ends justifies the means mentality currently infecting much of Progressive World, or they don’t know how difficult it is to become a doctor. The first malady is beyond remedy; joed68’s submission addresses the second.

Here is his Comment of the Day on the post “Rationalization #30 (“It’s a bad law/stupid rule”) Chronicles: Vijay Chokalingam’s Affirmative Action Fraud”:

Affirmative action for medical school has to be the poster child for its wrongness. It’s wrong for obvious reasons, like the fact that these are people who will dig around in people’s bodies with sharp instruments and carefully select sub-lethal doses of poisons as chemical re-arrangers. It’s also wrong because of the fact that pre-medicine is as much a rite of passage and a stress-test to see if you have the chops for medical school, as it is a thorough, rigorous foundation of science. As an example, this is my list of courses for my certificate: pre-calculus, calc I and II, statistics, physics for engineering I and II, general chemistry, analytical chem, organic chem, organic synthesis, biochem, physical chem, cell biology, molecular biology, microbiology, genetics, genomics, and anatomy and physiology I and II, and labs for all courses except math. Not to mention, a semester of studying for the MCAT.

This is grueling stuff. It demands your undivided attention, and God help you if you screw up a class. The first analogy that comes to mind as I write this is riding a bull. Everything’s great as long as you maintain your rhythm and exertion, but the second you let up, you fall off and you’re not likely to get back on. I almost went into a fatal tailspin when I missed an organic chem lecture one time. I spent the next week trying to catch up by pulling all-nighters, neglecting my other courses and exponentially compounding the original problem. This reverberated through everything for the next few weeks, and that was almost all the previous work down the toilet. One bad grade often can make the difference, with med school acceptance being so competitive. I had to go above and beyond with my courses to give me an edge, hoping to balance out my age as a factor. No spare time, no family time, just studying. After that, along comes someone with a middling GPA and MCAT score, and he or she can possibly take my seat because of skin color?

And people wonder why someone might get pissed when he’s accused of enjoying white privilege.

17 thoughts on “Comment of the Day: “Rationalization #30 (“It’s a bad law/stupid rule”) Chronicles: Vijay Chokalingam’s Affirmative Action Fraud”

  1. So, is it racist if someone insists on only going to white or asian male doctors based solely on the idea that it is more likely that a they made it through med school on ability? Statistically, they are probably right.

    • Do you perhaps mean ‘made it _into_ med school on ability’ or are you suggesting that that variable admission standards equate to variable graduation standards? If the latter, do you have evidence or is it supposition?

      • Does it matter much? There is such a dearth in med school seating (Yale admits 3% of applicants, UCONN 6.3%), and a much more favorable graduation rate, that that equation can essentially be made.

        • I think it matters.

          Variable admissions is a question of ethics or maybe just fairness. Making an accusation of variable graduation standards is tantamount to an accusation of negligence on the part of the school, a far more serious matter.

          • That is, in effect, what is going on. People rarely just drop out of medical school after all of what I just described, nor do they cram the night before for their USMLE’s. Give someone a seat over a more qualified student, and this lesser candidate is very likely to become a doctor.

      • Because med school capacities are dictated by the AMA, there is a vast shortage of physicians in this country by design. Because of this shortage, bad doctors are not punished with revocation of their license, the rationale being “a bad doctor is better than no doctor at all”. Also because of this shortage and because of the heavy debt incurred by medical school, graduation rates are close to 100%. A former student was given outrageous allowances to allow her to graduate, just because the med school feels that if you took out $100,000 in loans already, you deserve to be a physician.

        I know too many horror stories about the physicians in my town to believe they are all equally qualified and that the medical licensing standards are a sufficient guarantee of quality. The fact that a physician in town is forbidden to operate in a hospital THAT HE CO-OWNS because the other owners know that his mortality numbers will actually significantly lower the average success rate of the entire hospital tells you all you need to know about this (why does he have a license if he is so bad?).

  2. I agree with your points here. That said, if we remove all the objectionable parts of graduate-level affirmative action programs, we’re left with the underlying conditions that led to the (albeit misguided) programs in the first place.

    There is an answer, and it lies in far earlier intervention, aimed not at equal outcomes at the grad school level, but at equal access and opportunity, mainly at the pre-school level.

    It’s increasingly obvious that a $200K family in the Boston suburbs will raise kids who get exposed to good schools, and who have iPads and the like at home. Mere miles away are kids mostly of color, with much less income, with crappy schools, who if they’re lucky get to see an old computer at school a few times a week.

    Just the access to apps and high speed Internet at home is already a hugely differentiating factor for kids; honestly kids without that access are up against the wall by second grade. Growing income disparity growing de facto housing segregation in this country are just exacerbating it.

    I think everyone who gets booted by a less qualified candidate for graduate school, especially those with life-and-death applications, are quite right to feel badly put upon. (Though it’s also no picnic, by the way, for an under-qualified person to be put in there, effectively lied to, and then find themselves under-qualified for however embarrassingly long time it takes for them to get weeded out and fired – that’ll mess with your head for life).

    I suggest it’s incumbent on everyone who complains about affirmative action at later stages in life to expend similar energy on trying to find ways to improve it much earlier in life. It’s easy to complain (and rightly so) about unqualified surgeons; it should (hopefully) be a lot easier to agree about getting iPad access for kids.

    • I agree with you to an extent. I want minorities to have equal access to opportunities, and I very much want to see them succeed. What they’re suffering from is not a lack of opportunity or access-there are many, many academic scholarships, as there should be, and there are certainly no laws that impede access-, but a spiritual crippling at the hands of the very people who claim to be vested in their success. I’ve personally gone to great lengths to convince black young men to avail themselves of these opportunities. I managed to succeed on a couple of occasions, only because I was finally able to convince them that they COULD succeed. Generations of black men fail to guide their children, they hear the mantra that the system is engineered to hold them back, and even their popular culture glorifies criminality. I recall being told by black kids that girls wouldn’t even consider sleeping with them unless they had a “bid” (jail time) under their belt. I won’t argue that there are obstacles, but what they need to hear from leaders is that they’re not insurmountable, and that a good way to eradicate the stereotypes that give rise to these obstacles is to stop lending credence to them.

      • Joed68, I find those thoughtful comments, thanks. I would agree, but put a different emphasis. Here’s a quick story I was part of.
        I was on the board of an inner-city school. One kid was an excellent basketball player, and got a full-ride – academic, not sports – scholarship to Brandeis – a huge opportunity. He was a naturally very bright kid, but his education had been woefully inner-city; his grades were quite good, but in a quite bad school.

        He (and his mother, very influential to him) were afraid of leaving the NYC metro area, fearful it was too far away, Boston was a racist town, etc, and were going to turn down the offer in favor of a local NJ community college.
        I intervened, took him to visit Brandeis for a day, where everyone was great to him. He ended up going, but only lasted a year.

        Despite everyone wanting desperately to help him, and being very nice, and constantly telling him he could succeed, he just couldn’t keep up with the academics, and – I suspect – the constant feeling that he was three steps behind. He was not stupid; far from it. But he could never make up the distance, and I think suffered a lot from the desire to not let down all these people who had given him breaks.

        So he left, banged around for a year, and eventually ended up in a state school, where I’m sure he’s more comfortable. But I worry that he’ll always feel humiliated, less-than, etc. Because he was told not that he couldn’t succeed, but that he COULD; and that was the lie.

        There are lots of take-aways there, but to me the main one is not one of the insurmountable stereotypes. It is the opposite, in fact; it’s that by the time you’re going to college, if you haven’t had a decent enough schooling to get you within range, it’s just flat too late. He didn’t get hit by stereotypes, everyone went out of their way to tell him he could do anything – but by age 18, the sad and hard truth is – you CAN’T do everything. And that’s the truth no one told him.

        • This is exactly my opposition to affirmative action. I saw it happen to friends in college and it was awful.

          What to do about it? Stop funding all majors equally. Only give government subsidized loans for STEM majors or majors that the economy needs. This is government money, it should be used to provide what society needs. If you want a degree in 8th century Middle Eastern Art, then great. Get a private loan. Tell all the kids in school, if you don’t have the money to pay for college, you better pick an area where you can get a job. That is what I had to do. That is what my colleagues had to do. Tell them they better concentrate on their math and science if they want to go to college.

          I look at faculty and I see this advice in action. The STEM area faculty at every school I have seen come from significantly poorer backgrounds than the humanities faculty.

          • I’d say that the federal government has no constitutional authority to provide educational services and support, except for the maintenance of the Armed Forces academies. That function is strictly for the states or through private means.

  3. Joe, congratulations – well-deserved COD honor. Together, you and Charles have introduced what I suspect will be one of T. Regina’s campaign promises: “information access equality.” Watch for it. Screw Obamaphones and Obamacare; we are going to have the Hillarienet. (That is not an intentional abbreviation of Hillarie Antoinette – but we’ll get there, too.) Unequal access (to information) IS an ethics issue, isn’t it? I mean, unless you are T. Regina, and it’s State Department business on your server.

  4. A quote from UCONN’s Med school admissions page: “The SoM has a strong tradition of seeking a very diverse entering class.” ARRRGH !

  5. I’d say that the entire dogma of race, diversity and minorities itself is an anathema to good education. It’s quite true that someone who’s gone to an expensive prep school is liable to have an advantage over someone who went through a public high school… especially today. Reforming public education is a start, but there’s more to it. The incentive to excel has to be instilled in the student along the way. Good character, as well. Superior physical facilities are no substitute for this. Public schools, in either an urban or rural environment, may not compete with Upper Crust Academy in one factor, but they can in the decisive ones of spirit and resolve. That WON’T happen, however, as long as they forward an excuse to their pupils that they are a “disadvantaged minority” of some sort or another and therefore cannot be expected to compete with some who are “privileged”. Being a “minority” or a “little guy” is what those of certain political persuasions infect others with in order to control them. It’s a state of mind and a destructive one to all concerned. That’s also what Dr. King was trying to tell us. Unfortunately, much of that concept was swept away with his death.

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