This is the personal blog of Ritwik Agrawal. I was a student of mathematics at Hindu College (University of Delhi), an activist with the United Students group and a co-founder of the popular cricket games site PlanetCricket.net - the largest site of its kind in the world. I now blog at http://www.ritwikagrawal.com


Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Reservations - Exploding the Myths Part II.


In continuation with the series on Affirmative Action vis a vis Reservations, today I seek to discuss an important element of the comprehensive Affirmative Action programmes in place in several American Universities - "Outreach Pogrammes". Such programs seek to reach out to students of colleges/institutions that have historically been predominantly "black" or "colored" - which means that a large portion of their pupils belong to historically disadvantaged backgrounds.


Affirmative Action (AA) in education in the USA was first started in the Harvard Medical School (HMS) and Harvard School of Dental Medicine (HSDM) in the year 1968.

The academicians behind this drive understood the need to improve the skill sets and educational accomplishments of students from disadvantaged communities before they were granted admission to Harvard - to bring them on par with others at the University lest a situation arises where they (or others) question their worth or talents. For this purpose Harvard started extensive outreach programmes to traditionally black institutions - helping out with both improvement of infrastructure and facilities as well as by providing counselling services and by inputs in pedagogy & methods of teaching.

"The decision [to extend affiramtive action-Ritwik] resulted in extensive outreach to historically Black colleges; faculty members volunteered time and out-of-pocket expenses to visit schools whose students had never dreamt of applying to Harvard. "
(Leon Eisenberg, M.D.)

Mantaining Standards of Academics & Research
It is clear from the underlying philosophy of outreach programmes, that even during its infancy, Affirmative Action was implemented in the USA keeping in mind that standards of academics and research of an institution must not be allowed to fall; prospective students have to brought to the level of the institution and not the other way round - because if an educational institution started catering to [and therby ignoring] the academic or technical defeciencies of its pupils it loses the credibility to impart learning.

Over the course of the last [nearly] 40 years, outreach programmes have continued to remain and have in fact grown in importance as critical elements of the Affirmative Action policies of all leading American universities and liberal arts colleges, as well as businesses in the USA and other countries. Since AA in such countries as the US is meant to a large degree as a tool of removing inequalities and increasing diversity [and not only a means of "harvesting" votes or an instance of what is popularly known as "vote bank politics"], significant changes have been recorded in the general situation of blacks, hispanics and other minority and disadvantaged communities. A positive change of this sort has only been possible due to their focus on providing AA in conjunction with improving the standards of education and health care at the primary and secondary levels, and also by a large degree through their innovative outreach programmes.

Sources & References
1. Thirty Years of Affirmative Action at HMS: What Has it Accomplished?
Leon Eisenberg, M.D.Professor of Social Medicine EmeritusHarvard Medical School
2. The Origins of Affirmative Action by Marguirita Sykes


Blogger Parul Srivastava said...

I strongly agree with the AA approach ! But when you compare the cast based reservation and AA...u cannot compare the two countries i.e. US and India on the same footing. I mean, the social structures in the two countries are very different. Even if you are talking about US of 1968 and India of today. Deep down the problems are also very different. Its not about approach but acceptance !!

11/18/2006 12:05 PM  
Anonymous Aaditya Dar said...

nice write ups. Reservations on the basis of religion.. sigh! what next?

11/19/2006 12:15 PM  
Anonymous Aaditya Dar said...

mr. liberal democrat: comment moderation, i see ;)

11/19/2006 12:16 PM  
Blogger Ritwik said...

Aaditya - Comment moderation is seemingly part of Blogger's default settings. I've switched it off now ....

Parul - I wholeheartedly agree with you. My point behind starting this series is not to advocate blind acceptance of American models of AA but to bring into the public domain a lot of the things that have not received adequate coverage by the mainstream media.

11/19/2006 2:07 PM  
Blogger AaDar said...

damm... just when i thought i'd got you!

11/28/2006 7:22 PM  

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