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ISSUE 117 VOL 13 PUBLISHED 3/12/2004

Affirmation of beliefs: Chavez advocates higher standards in education

By Julie Gunderson
Sports Editor

Friday, March 12, 2004

It was a long journey for Linda Chavez to the podium in Boe Chapel on Wednesday night, both figuratively and literally. Chavez, who addressed the St. Olaf audience on the subject of affirmative action, opened by explaining her adventurous trip, which started on Monday. Her plane out of Washington, D.C. experienced technical problems and was forced to circle the city in the air, for over an hour. By Tuesday, Chavez had picked up the flu, at a Board of Directors meeting she was attending in San Francisco; the sickness, however, did not stop Chavez from keeping her engagement at St. Olaf.

Politically, Chavez voyage has been just as long and treacherous. Chavez, who was once a member of the Young Socialists and a participant in marches of support for race-based preferences during her undergraduate years at the University of Colorado, has come full-circle.

Today, as a Hispanic-American woman and child of first-generation immigrant parents, she wears the label as the Most Hated Hispanic in America. She is an outspoken opponent of racial quotas and racial preferences used by public schools for admission policies.

Affirmative action, Chavez claims, is something that hurts our society and the movement towards equality.

"Many people believe that if you are opposed to affirmative action, you are against equal rights or civil rights," Chavez said. "Affirmative action and racial quotas, however, go against what the Civil Rights Movement fought for: the goal of working towards a colorblind society."

In 1995, Chavez founded and became president of a public policy think tank, the Center for Equal Opportunity (CEO), that is devoted exclusively to the promotion of color-blind equal opportunity. Chavez and the CEO have conducted studies nationwide looking at the effects that affirmative action policies have on public education.

Chavez and the CEOs research found that students who were admitted with lower academic standards based on affirmative action guidelines were two to three times more likely to not graduate with a degree within six years of their admittance. Their test scores and GPAs were also shown to lag behind their peers throughout their academic careers.

Graduate programs that the CEO researched also showed a similar situation, with students who were admitted to medical and law school programs under affirmative action preferences being less likely to take or pass their state licensing exams.

"These policies are sending a damaging message to young blacks and Latinos," Chavez said. "We are telling them that we dont expect them to measure up."

Chavez did agree that a large skills gap exists between students from inner-city public schools and students who attend suburban schools. Closing this gap, Chavez said, is essential in enabling all Americans access to equal education. To achieve this, Chavez said their needs to be more attention given to the real trouble behind public education: low standards.

"More money is not the solution: higher standards are," Chavez said. Chavez cited the example of the District of Columbia school system, which spends more money per pupil than any school district in the country, but produces low-test scores. The school district recently passed legislation allowing for school vouchers.

To Chavez, our societys view of education, race and ethnicity, in regards to education, needs to be reexamined.

"We need to ask ourselves: what society do we want to be? One that hands out benefits based on skin color and ancestry, or one that strives for equal opportunity regardless of race or ethnicity?" Chavez asked.

Along with her work at the CEO, Chavez also writes a weekly syndicated column that appears in newspapers across the country and works as a political analyst for FOX News..

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