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Webster et al. define
affirmative action as “an active effort to improve the employment or
educational opportunities of members of minority groups and women” (76). Historically,
the society has discriminated various groups such as women, children, or any
other marginalized people. As a result, they miss out on employment, education,
and other essential services which they would otherwise deserve. In school,
affirmative action policies seek to avail equal opportunities to all groups in
the society. The objective of this research paper is to explore various ways in
which affirmative action has contributed to the provision of educational
opportunity to marginalized groups in the community. Some of the aspects of
education to be reviewed include admission to higher learning institutions.
Upon outlining the effect of the policies on the educational development of
women, the paper will advise on the policy framework to help policymakers avail
the services to all.

Background of Affirmative
Action

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Affirmative action came into existence in
March 1961 when President John F Kennedy signed an executive order meant to
fight discrimination in America. At the time, the country was experiencing
racial discrimination, with blacks being its primary target. Before 1960, no
African-American student had gained admission to a public university.
Affirmative action was initially meant to protect African American students
from discrimination (Brown 14).
Towards the end of 1965, the president confirmed
new executive orders that required employers to avoid discrimination in their
hiring process on the basis of gender, origin, or race. By the same year, five percent of undergraduate students were
of African descent. Hence, the initiative had started yielding fruit. In 1967,
affirmative action incorporated gender into the anti-discrimination list.

In the subsequent years, many colleges and
universities have adopted affirmative action policies. Following this new
development, the number of students from minority groups in America, enrolling
for studies had drastically increased. By 2007, slightly above 56% of African
American high school students would gain admission to institutions of higher
learning. The majority of students were whites, with 70% of them transitioning
to universities. The number of Hispanic students was found to be relatively low
compared to the whites. Given these facts, one can affirm that the
anti-discrimination policies have significantly affected higher education in
America. The population of students enrolling in universities and colleges by
2011 had risen to 65%. On the other hand, the Hispanics’ had increased to 63% (Gurin,
Patricia et al. 362).
The growth trend indicates that the policies have contributed, in no small
extent, to the growth of education sector.

Impacts of Affirmative
Action on Education

As
clearly illustrated, affirmative action goes beyond admission policies. After
admission, colleges and universities reach out to various discriminated groups.
The government facilitates affirmative initiatives by increasing the funding on
colleges. The institutions will then go ahead to offer scholarship
opportunities to less represented groups. More women and African American
students have greatly benefited from the policies. The policy also incorporates
various support programs on the campus. The primary aim of the support program
is to help the students improve their academic performance.

Through affirmative action, the number of
applications to join various universities has consistently risen. However, in some states, which have abolished the policy,
the number of minority applicants has increased. Some of the states that have
destroyed the laws include California and Texas. According to statistics,
universities in the two states have experienced a drop in the number of
underrepresented applicants. Without the law, the school would only serve the
interests of the majority in the community. However, the policies allow
proper representation of all groups in the states and the entire society.

Another effect of affirmative action is
that it has empowered its beneficiaries to land on job opportunities. Through
the provision of paid scholarships and bursaries, many students have
accomplished their careers. They have entered the job market, improving their
living standards. Affirmative action has provided an opportunity for less
fortunate members of the society to study in competitive institutions. Through
solid academic and professional backgrounds, the students have acquired
corporate skills necessary for well-paying jobs. Apart from formal employment,
others have earned self-reliant skills. As a result, they have opened up
business enterprises, employing and empowering other people.

Affirmative action has also
encouraged multi-cultural integration in learning institutions. Through the
policies contained in the regulation, every organization must provide equal
opportunity to all. In implementing this legal requirement, the schools admit
students from all countries of the world. People from different
racial, social-cultural, and religious backgrounds converge in these learning
and vocational training institutions. The platform prepares the students to
meet diverse cultures and co-exist among various groups upon their graduation.
Through integration, students all over the world can interact freely, promoting
international cooperation.

Another effect of affirmative action is
that it compensates for socioeconomic disparities in the society (Featherman et al. 123).
Typically, the high-income members of the community can access affluent
educational opportunities. They can raise sufficient levels of money to cater
for their education and training fees. On the other hand, the majority of the
population is the low-income earners. As a result, they cannot afford to pay
for their educational expenses. Therefore, they cannot attain the high
professional standards required in the corporate world. Affirmative action has
helped to bridge the gap between the rich and the poor. Through admission
opportunities, low-income individuals have received opportunities to improve
their skills, hence raising their standard of living.

Limitation of Affirmative
Action

Despite
the positive effects, affirmative action has been subject to various critics. Firstly, some people
(from who?) feel that the idea is outdated. It was created with the view of
fighting discrimination. Over the years, the policy has ended up promoting the
vice it was meant to control. Critics argue that students have been accorded
opportunities based on their racial extractions rather than academic merit.
Initially, the limited opportunities were available to all. However, the
creation of these policies has negatively impacted this aspect since the value
is overlooked. In some universities, professors favor the minority student
groups, who end up giving them unearned grades.

Critics have also faulted
affirmative action for lowering academic standards for students. In serving the
interests of the underrepresented groups, the institutions are forced to reduce
the grades and points. For example, most of the policies in the school system
favor the women over men. As a result, their grade standards are lowered so
that they can compete equitably with their male counterparts. However, the
strategy ends up demeaning the set standards. The students targeted by the
policies become complacent. They do not seek the ideal standard, but only work
to achieve the minimum requirements.

Another limitation of the
policy is that it may not benefit the targeted economically disadvantaged
students. Empirical evidence has indicated that the procedure helps the middle
and high-class minorities (Leiter
and Leiter 53). There is also no recognized framework to
follow up on the policy and ensure that the real targets benefit from the
initiatives. Opposes of affirmative action have cast aspersion on the policy as
the one promoting racial prejudice. There is no correlation between people’s skin
color and their level of intelligence. Therefore, strategies end up favoring
the underrepresented groups without regard to merit.

Recommendation   

Having
presented the positive and negative effects of affirmative action, it becomes
possible to make various suggestions to improve the policy. Some of the
recommendations proposed, include the following:

Firstly,
the strategies should focus more on equal opportunity for all. As it is, the
affirmative action serves the interests of minority groups. Consequently, it
ignores the welfare of the majority groups. An
example here is a policy to admit African American students in American
universities. In this case, the institution encourages the minority students to
apply for admission. The organizations then take in the students, providing financial
support to them. Moreover, the universities offer various support programs to
enable minority students to excel in their studies. By doing so, the
institutions ignore the majority of the students, whose welfare is equally
important.

Secondly,
government institutions should come up with a legal framework to enhance
compliance with the policy (No Author 89). As
seen earlier, affirmative action does not benefit the low-class students. On
the contrary, the low and high-class students gain from the initiatives. Since
government institutions spent many resources to implement the affirmative
action, it is essential that the right people benefit from the work.

Conclusion too long

So
far, the essay has outlined crucial information regarding affirmative action.
It has targeted mainly in the areas of education and employment. The article
has explored the impact of the affirmative policies on the two sectors. Through
affirmative action, underrepresented groups have secured admission in higher
learning institutions. Beyond access, the schools have offered them various
support initiatives to enhance their performance. It is also evident that
affirmative action, through training opportunities, has provided relevant
skills and empowered the students to obtain excellent employment opportunities.
Consequently, employment has improved their living standards. The policy has
brought together students from different cultural and racial backgrounds. As a
result, they have learned to work with people from diverse cultures, preparing
them for employment opportunities.

The policies have also helped to bridge
the gap between the rich and the poor, by empowering the low-class students and
employees. However, the regulations have faced several critics, who consider
that affirmative action compromises academic standards and make minority groups
more complacent and less accountable. The policies do not always benefit the
intended targets. It is evident that the system has both positive and negative
effects on education and employment. Therefore, the government should be
advised to develop comprehensive regulations governing affirmative action to
benefit the target groups, hence improving their education and employment
prospects.

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