Saturday, December 25, 2010

At what point does merit supersede affirmative action?

In my childhood, I always dreamed of being a professional athlete. I played football and baseball in high school. Though I was recruited to play football at a local college, my true love was basketball, a sport I did not play well in high school. I apparently lacked the requisite skills to play that particular sport and was not invited to play on the school basketball team.

It really was no fault of my own. In fact, some of the factors that made me good at football and baseball were a hindrance in basketball. I was cursed with short legs and a low center of gravity. I simply didn't have the necessary genetic make-up to excel at that sport. As I attended my high school basketball games as a spectator, I watched our basketball stars soar through the air as they slammed the ball home in dramatic form, and thought how unfair life was. Hold that thought.

This past week I attended my daughter's high school Christmas celebration, grateful my children could attend a high school that still allowed the season to be called Christmas. She was a member of the school's choir. As the program advanced, I was struck by the amount of apparent preparation and planning that went into the presentation by both student and faculty. I also noted the presence of three students who were obvious special-needs kids. They were on stage participating with the performing artists, and clearly performing well below the mean. Two looked to be having a load of fun wandering around the stage, singing on occasion and clapping their hands with the music, while the third didn't seem to be aware of much of anything. I'm sure their families were having a great time watching them on stage and thought their participation on the program a wonderful thing and good for their kids. For them, as well as some in the audience, no doubt it was all good. Not so much for me.

You may think me an uncaring bigot. I assure you, I'm not. While I have a great deal of respect and sympathy for the families of these kids, believing the over-all performance of the group was hindered by their presence causes me no small degree of guilt. They were distracting to the other kids, had no appreciable music skills to contribute to the performance, and their presence seemed some sort of nod to the surreal that - IMHO - detracted from the general performance. In short, it was like watching me in a Laker uniform.

I clearly understand the differences between a professional basketball team and a high school choir. But the experience brings a question to my mind. I see the above as metaphor that extends beyond the high school stage. At what point between the high school choir and the Los Angeles Lakers does merit and performance supersede affirmative action? Where is that line? Where can I see it? It seems to be an illusive point moving through politically correct space based solely on the perceptions of intellectual elitists that happen to find themselves in policy-making positions. Unfortunately, those policy makers are quite often our liberal socialists bent on hammering the majority of us into their socialist template where the majority loses their right to excellence to the minority definition of fairness. How unfair life truly is.

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