In a Washington Post article, columnist George F. Will discusses the unintended credentialism flowing from the Supreme Court decision Griggs (1971).
Many years ago, I prepared for a federal exam only to learn that it had been scrapped because it had a "disparate impact" on "disadvantaged groups." As a substitute, the government (like other employers) required a Bachelor's degree plus three years of relevant professional experience OR a Masters degree. This credentialism disadvantaged "underrepresented" groups even more than the original requirement. How ironic. Civil rights activists had sued to scrap these exams--a classic case of "beware what you ask for, you might get it."
In a graduate course on public policy history, I assign Steven F. Gillon's collection of case studies, That's Not What We Meant to Do: Reform and its Unintended Consequences (2001). Gillon begins by displaying his liberal credentials ("don't blame the messenger!") but the examples of unintended consequences (welfare, deinstitutionalization, the Civil Rights Act of 1964, immigration) offer insight into the fascinating twists and turns of policies promoted by both the Left and Right.
Is credentialism a problem in higher education? Would all Americans, regardless of race, be better off if they could compete for jobs through examinations rather than the credential of a college degree?
The Proposition 209 initiative overturned the Griggs decision in the state of California. The goal was to return California to the Civil Rights Act of 1964, both in language and intent. The state supreme court upheld Proposition 209 in a decision written by Justice Janice Rogers Brown, a libertarian jurist.* Only time will tell if her decision will have unintended consequences.
*I discuss Proposition 209 and Janice Rogers Brown in Race and Liberty: The Essential Reader.
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