Sunday, February 12, 2006

Defending a Meritocracy

Trust People reiterates his point about opposition to the Tory Party "A-List" of candidates; that a party of opportunity does not go about achieving this by discriminating against anyone based on factors beyond their control. It is a valid point, and one made all the more important to discuss when Trevor Philips, the Chairman of the Commission for Racial Equality, is actually in favour of racist selection policies at universities.

A CRE official said: “If you have a black student and a white student with equal qualifications at the front of the admissions queue, we would want the university to take positive action to choose the black student first.”

How about asking the white student how "positive" that action was? If a university admitted it would always take the white student first, it would be accused of being racist. Why is it any different if a student of a different race is taken first?

If we are to believe in meritocracy, then actions taken by anyone must be colour-blind and gender-blind. That works all ways. Trying to solve discrimination with more discrimination only leads to a build-up of anger; it doesn't achieve goals of trying to integrate communities more successfully (of course, the failure of multiculturalism has a lot to do with that).

The problem is that the language war has already been lost, and the prevailing "target culture" means that the CRE can get away with statements like those regarding positive action without being hauled up for what it actually represents.

I've never understood why the target culture means that just about every single job description should be filled by a racially-fixed quota. Surely we want the best people available for each job doing it? That might mean in some cases there are fewer black people in jobs; at the same time, it should mean that in other cases white people are under-represented. Yet under-representation only seems to be an issue if it is non-white people (I'm basing this, from memory, on a study which showed that certain ethnic minorities are technically 'over-represented' at top universities).

A meritocracy should be exactly that - selected on merit. If there is a problem with underachievement with black pupils at secondary schools, it should be sorted out at secondary schools. There should not be an expectation for universities to make up for the failing of government education policy. And it is certainly about time we lost the notion of "positive action". Giving people jobs and positions they don't deserve - be it in universities or in selecting parliamentary candidates - is not a effective way of solving any kind of discrimination.