Dear Editor:

Recently 14 Salida High School alumni submitted a program proposal to the school promoting “equity.”  They’d like the school to implement multiple changes to imbed this higher education derived belief system in our schools. 

The word “equity” has a comforting closeness to “equality,” but in university settings it becomes “equal outcomes social justice.”

I feel this “equity” conflicts with our country’s great cultural/ethnic variety. Blaming every disparity in 2021 on some “ism” is inaccurate and divisive.

So before imprinting adolescents with contentious theories, equity program advocates should convince the public of its merits. 

To start that discussion, here’s an example of “inequity.” It’s an opportunity for student equity advocates to inform the public as to how their Salida program would respond.    

The 2019 University of California freshman class at Berkley was 52.2 percent Asian, 25.5 percent non-Hispanic white, 18.3 percent Hispanic and 3.4 percent black. This compares with a California population that is 15.2 percent Asian, 37.5 percent non-Hispanic white, 40.4 percent Hispanic and 5.6 percent black.  

Clearly, Asians are overrepresented relative to their population percentage. The other three groups are underrepresented. 

A Berkley admission is desirable because it’s a leading public university with in-state tuition far lower than comparable private schools. 

California law prohibits discrimination by race, and this law was soundly reaffirmed last November by its famously blue-state voters.  So what might be causing this disparate student demographic? 

One possibility is that Asian students are better prepared for the competitive entrance exams, and National Science Board data supports this explanation.

The Board’s 2018 Science and Engineering Indicators report (latest available) shows that in 2013 (yes, that year is correct) 50.3 percent of Asian students took calculus or higher in high school, as did 22 percent of whites, 14.6 percent of Hispanics and 9 percent of blacks.

Similar academic subject disparities are found in advanced placement classes for physics, chemistry and biology. They also persist when comparing these groups within the same socioeconomic rank.

A study in the proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences examined why Asian-American students academically outperform white students. 

It concluded Asian culture puts greater emphasis on education. This translates into Asian families making great sacrifices to insure their children use their formative, precollege years productively.

Stressful, unhealthy home environments with limited emotional and financial parental resources present substantial, possibly prohibitive, hurdles.

But forcing proportionality (equity) on universities by admitting less prepared students will produce either disillusioned dropouts or lowered standards, which harm the best students. You’ll also violate people’s sense of fairness. 

The cultural linkage is clear. Motivation and sacrifice in the formative years promotes success in schooling, leading to greater success in high paying, high demand jobs. It’s a credit to Asians and a benefit to America.

Conversely, making racism the cause of every disparity robs its “designated victims” of human agency. Agency is the most important force, no matter the hurdles, within each individual life.

Certainly, help surmount socioeconomic barriers, condemn existing racism, and treat people with compassion. But by all means, promote human agency – one’s own drive and motivation – as critical to success. 

Bob Engel, 

Salida