Jordan Stella

Student,

This conversation is closed.

Should the U.S. continue to employ Affirmative Action, or should private schools be allowed to discriminate?

Affirmative action refers to policies that take factors including "race, color, religion, gender, sexual orientation or national origin" into consideration in order to benefit an underrepresented group, usually as a means to counter the effects of a history of discrimination. (Wikipedia definition). In the U.S., these policies have led to an increasingly difficult situation for students applying to college; both types of universities (public and private) are being subjected to these outlandish policies which, in my opinion, represent the government overstepping its boundaries.

By definition, a private university is PRIVATE; it exists thanks to the donations of private investors, not thanks to government grants. These types of schools should not be subject to the same principles as public schools, since they are not government-run. Just like every individual is born with certain inalienable rights, so to are corporations or groups formed inside a free society. A private group should be able to discriminate if it so chooses.

Further, affirmative action attempts to make up for past wrongs by committing the same deed. By giving favor to minorities, one is still separating them from the rest of the population, and ultimately is discriminating against those not of the minority groups. Some people call this positive discrimination, but in my book discrimination is discrimination and should be stopped.

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    Aug 12 2011: I wanna thank all who were so kind to give me thumbs up and the conversations I have had here were so kind.
    Helen
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      Aug 12 2011: Thank you for providing such great insight.
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        Aug 12 2011: Jordan....It has been a journey for me too. I learn from these conversations too and I am so glad that you provided the opportunity for us to talk.
  • Aug 10 2011: Jordan, I'm not a religious man, and I don't believe any right is unalienable, but I will quote the bible on this one:'Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day, teach him to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.'

    Now, by lowering standards for certain groups, or by creating quotas that take these (clearly racist) factors into account, I believe you are essentially giving people fish. There are a myriad of problems with this concept, and I think any mildly intelligent person can figure most of them out.

    Of course, it's a much bigger investement to teach someone to fish. First, you have to take the time to teach them. Then, they still don't get to eat right away, as they have to go and catch themselves a fish now. That isn't even guaranteed, as it may turn out they're a lousy fisherman. But in the end, you'll have a whole bunch more people with the skill to feed themselves, who aren't looking for a handout, unless they really need one.

    And to your point about "should business be allowed to discriminate". The answer is "absolutely". In fact, I dare them to. Go ahead and openly discriminate, see what happens. In this day and age, social networks would eat their soul.
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      Aug 10 2011: I'm confused. You don't believe in inalienable rights?

      I agree completely with you. I believe our government is way too soft on people these days, as is shown with the so called "socially progressive" programs like Social Security, unemployment pay, affirmative action, etc. Our government needs to allow people to try for themselves. If one tries and fails, they are a better person for it.

      I also agree completely with you that in this modern world if a business or organization chooses to discriminate, they would be condemned by people thanks to social media. That is an excellent point that has yet to be brought up in this conversation thus far.
      • Aug 10 2011: To be more specific, any right can be taken away from you. Therefore nothing is "inalienable". I mean this in a very fundamental way. I do support constitutionally guaranteed rights, I simply don't believe there is any natural law that grants us anything from birth. I think I was being a bit of a nitpicker.
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          Aug 10 2011: I would have to disagree with you on that account. I believe there are rights that we are born with. The right to living a happy, productive life. The right to free will. The right to having your own thoughts. We are born with countless inalienable rights that cannot and should not ever be violated.
      • Aug 10 2011: Jordan, let's be blunt here. First off, Free Will is not a "right", it's an inherent quality you are born with. It allows you to choose how you respond to different situations. But as for "living a happy productive life"...how on earth is this an "inalienable right". Please go tell the Somalians this, apparently they don't realize it. Hell, tell nature this because thousands of newborns die every week.

        Anything can be taken away from you. That's why rights are paired with responsibilites. If we choose to fashion a society in which we deem certain rights to be "inalienable" then we must also take on the responsibility to safeguard these rights. None of us should ever forget that, because I think for the last 10 years that's exactly what many of us have done.
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          Aug 11 2011: I am mostly speaking from having lived in the U.S. my entire life, so I apologize for not taking into account people across the globe. I have a friend that lives in Venezuela, and he is always reminding me how the fact that I live in America really influences how I see the world. He reminds me frequently that because I was born in the U.S. and haven't had my rights taken away, I often forget that there are places in the world that don't have the same freedoms.

          What do you mean with your last statement?
      • Aug 11 2011: By My last statement I mean tha since 9/11 people have been very willing to sacrifice their liberties for what they deem to be "security". Understandably, there was a great deal of shock and horror, and it caused people to seek security. As a result, between then and now the constitution has been treated like a roll of toilet paper.

        But to be honest Jordan, what I find interesting is your statement "I forget there are other places in the world that don't enjoy...". Really? How can you fail to realize that? Furthermore, you seem to not realize that those rights you speak of are only inalienable as long as the document they are enshrined on remains in force. Democracies have become totalitarian in the past, and will in the future. Your rights and freedoms are not inalienable. All it takes is a big enough stressor, and you watch how quickly they are flushed away.
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          Aug 11 2011: I agree with your statement about 9/11. We have strayed far from the principles upon which the U.S. was founded.

          As to your second comment, I think you explained it for yourself. I agree with you and I do realize that these inalienable rights which I have are viable only while there is something set in place to protect them; I would say that that is likely why I sometimes neglect to take into account places where people don't have the same rights. I don't believe it is only me either. Many people in the U.S. forget this sometimes.

          I apologize for this lack of respect for people in places where their rights aren't guarded as closely as mine are.

          I must say I respect your stern attitude. You seem to be a man with a lot of integrity, one who sticks to his convictions and I respect that. It's people like you that I enjoy speaking to and why I love this website.
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          Aug 11 2011: So, I have been following your guy's conversation, and hope this clears things up. I feel inalienable rights are not something a paper dignifies, but we dignify ourselves. Our choice is our inalienable right whether we live in totalitarian or democracy. Every situation presents its choices. We have the right to claim them no matter what.

          Everyone has the needs for a body and everyone has a brain that will function for those needs and make choices for them - that is what I believe inalienable rights are.

          So when country says it will protect your inalienable rights, they mean, giving you an increase range of choice without effecting the health of the state or person and providing an increase standard of living where the body is taken care of.

          I hope that made sense. So yes a paper really can protect these rights, but we will always be born with a freewill mind and situation with thousand of choices that we alone can dignify ourselves with.
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          Aug 11 2011: Ah you may have just hit that one right on the head. I do agree we have rights that we are born with as I said above, though I believe Jason has some credence in his point that in reality, these rights are only manifested and viable in a society which respects them.
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    Aug 11 2011: No government could truly give another the full right of an individual to life, liberty, and the pursuit of his own happiness without it conflicting in some way with another's pursuit. The ideal sounds beautiful in writing, but unfortunately, the indiviudal must coexist with many many other individuals with various beliefs on what makes him or her happy or free. My pursuit may interfer with your pusuit of happiness and vise versa.

    We do not have very different ideologies really. I believe in these priciples. However I tend to see it from a larger perspective that extends beyond just the individual. The original quote by the way is as follows...

    "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."

    No where did it say "the pursuit of his own happiness". ALL men, all human beings have the right to these pursuits. My point, is not in taking away these rights, but it is the fact that in order to make these rights available to all that have this right, we must make some sacrifices, individual sacrifices, to protect not just my right, but your, his, hers, and all others.
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      Aug 11 2011: Well spoken indeed.

      I never said that the Constitution says "his own happiness", that is merely the way I interpret the wording.

      Since no government has ever truly given its citizens complete freedom, and likely never will, it seems we will never really know whether or not the system would work. There are those (like myself) that believe that it would function superbly and would lead to a free, prosperous society. Then there are those that disagree (such as yourself). Who is actually right, we will never know.

      I must ask though, why do you believe that in order for these rights to be available to everyone, we must make sacrifices? What sacrifices must we make? and for what reason?
      • Aug 12 2011: When you say "no government has ever given its citizens freedom" Jordan which do you mean and what do you mean by freedom? Obviously some government has, you can participate in this sort of discussion.
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          Aug 12 2011: I meant to say that there has never been a society in which the individual was given complete and total freedom. Yes, I have many freedoms as a U.S. citizen, but the government still interferes in my business.

          I'll say it again, I don't believe the government should exist to interfere with its citizens. The only time government interference is justified, is when they are protecting the rights of the individual.
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        Aug 13 2011: Jordon, you asked "why do you believe that in order for these rights to be available to everyone, we must make sacrifices? What sacrifices must we make? and for what reason?"

        I will respond with a basic answer where government had to get involved with private institutions, families and business in order to protect these rights for the whole...when Abraham Lincoln abolished slavery. In the constitution it says ALL men are created equal. Yet families and plantation owners bought and sold slaves. The reason behind Lincoln's decsion may not have been completely moral, as his decision would most definately effect the south's economy during a time of civil war. The plantation owners depended heavily on slaves. This was their private business, and perhaps their belief that blacks were not equals.

        In order to give slaves their due freedom and equal rights, the governemnt must get involved. It does not mean that they needed to change their beliefs, but they most certainly had to change their system in business and abide by a law imposed on by the government. Sacrifices have to be made in order to protect rights of the whole. A shift in many areas had to be made.

        Now even though blacks were now free, were they truly free? Did not ideoligies of those that did not believe blacks were equal find loop holes? Making sure not to give another a job out of discrimination. Not being allowed to attend public schools with whites. Having separate water fountains, being told where you're allowed to sit, etc. .

        I believe we do have an obligation to our larger human family, because in protecting others rights, we also protect our own in the grand scheme of it all. There are times we must sacrifice some of our own personal beliefs in order to protect the rights of the whole.
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        Aug 14 2011: As far as affirmative action goes, like I said before, it isn't what I would want idealy, as I do not wish to build any walls between any minorities and gender. However, racism and discrimination still exists on many levels. I have lived in the northeast, the midwest area, and the south, so I have seen the difference. My mother held open a door for an elderly black woman in a rural part of Florida just 5 years ago, and she could not believe the glares she got from other white people who noticed. I have heard a story where a white guy was losing business for hiring minorities and blacks.

        It is easy to just say on paper that all are created equal and have the same rights, but people always find a way to be unjust and it would not be illegal for how do you proove it?

        I don't think it is just about making up for past mistakes, I feel it is a way to break barriers of racism and discrimination that still exists today...even in businesses and schools.

        I am open to any other solutions. i'm just not sure what they are right now...
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    Aug 10 2011: Birdia...I just read the links you provided and I will tell you that Erich Fromm's "The Art of Loving" is my Bible. I treasure his insights and as I mentioned to Jordan, I live by the Golden Rule because I choose to as it resonates in my heart and not because someone told me to. Many years ago a kind priest told me that Sarte posed many a good Question so I started to read his stuff but at the time it was too profound for me and I quit. Now I understand.............
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    Aug 10 2011: I simply believe that all of our institutions should reflect the make up of our populations. If we have a population that is half women, why are we not finding ways to ensure that our institutions reflect that? If we are 10 percent black or asian or Bantu for heaven sake those people should be represented and have a voice. If we have people facing physical challenges they bring a view of life the no one else has and we are all less rich without their voice. This is not about affirmative action but rather about creating societies that have ears for all sorts of different voices because those voices are saying things and knowing things that we all need.

    Anything less reflects an outmoded and ill informed version of what 'intelligence' is or of what we should be valuing in people.
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      Aug 10 2011: It is not our job to ensure that everyone has an equal voice. The purpose of democracy is not to ensure that each percentage of people has proportional voice; the purpose of democracy is to give everyone the right to achieve said voice.

      I am all for a multicultural society. In fact, I believe that that would bring the greatest benefit to the world; however, we cannot forget the basic rights we are all given in our attempt to achieve said society.
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        Aug 10 2011: Spoken clearly as a priveleged white guy. Its not pretty and you have not lived long enough to understand human frailty and vulnerability.
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          Aug 10 2011: Saying that my opinion is mine based upon my race and gender is precisely what we should not do in the world. I know plenty of people of minority groups that believe in the same principles as I do, so you cannot say that my opinions are mine based upon my external traits.
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        Aug 10 2011: Let me guess! I bet you are another Ayn Rand fan!
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      TED

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      Aug 12 2011: Several comments in this thread of the Conversation have been removed for being off-topic. We ask you to engage in respectful discussions and refrain from posting off-topic comments.

      Thank You,
      TED Conversations Admin
      conversations@ted.com
      • Comment deleted

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    Aug 10 2011: completely agreed. private organizations should not be subjects to such limitations. the government, as always, is using a blunt tool to solve a delicate problem. the result is of course damage and injury.
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      Aug 10 2011: Damage and injury that you hear about whenever the ones being left out are the rich white guys! Your world view does little to understand or promote the kids who are every bit as bright and every bit as worthy who are trapped in poverty or who do not have "legacy' parents to promote their interests.
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        Aug 11 2011: it is a relaxing feeling to think that the government is working on the issue, so we don't have to. but be warned, disappointment is coming.
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      Aug 10 2011: I believe you misunderstood me. I was not trying to imply that minority students get accepted to private schools based solely upon their race, I was just saying that the affirmative action policy is trying to make up for years of discrimination, with discrimination. Yes, there are most of the minority students who work their hardest and achieve success based off of hard work, or sheer talent (as it seems to be in your case), but my point in posing this question is that discrimination is discrimination. I don't believe that there should even be a question about race, sex, religion, etc. on applications. It is not those traits that makes the person, so why does it matter? By asking these questions, and creating affirmative action policies, the government is doing nothing more than again separating the minority groups from the majority groups; even though no harm is coming from this discrimination (hence why some call it positive discrimination), it is still discrimination.

      My political views would be closest to libertarianism, so I believe in freedom without bounds. I believe the underlying larger problem here is not just the simple discrimination that is happening, but the fact that our government is overstepping its bounds. Private corporations (and any individual person) has the right to discriminate if they so choose; I am not advocating that this is a good idea, because it is not. I am strictly against discrimination. I am solely attempting to point out that private entities are not subject to governmental interference.
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    Aug 9 2011: I just posted something and now it is gone. Oh well let me try again.

    What would be the benefit of discrimination?
    Would a school be able to keep its accreditation? Not likely. "The institution has an orderly and ethical program of admission.." *1

    I can't imagine it would be a difficult case to prove discrimination based on race, sex, creed is unethical.

    Besides schools advertise and sell themselves to students based on their diversity. "The University of Notre Dame is committed to diversity in our University community because it is a moral and intellectual necessity"*2


    *1 http://cihe.neasc.org/standards_policies/standards/standards_html_version#standard_six
    *2 http://diversity.nd.edu/commitment/
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    Aug 16 2011: Jordan I see your point about private schools not being forced to discriminate in the form of affirmative action and your statement that discrimination is discrimination sounds logical too. Then you contradict yourself in your own summary heading when you ask "or should private schools be allowed to discriminate". Please clarify what you meant by that statement. If you are talking about the right of a private institution to be all male or all female I might theoretically be able to go along with you, as in equal but separate (didn't we have that in name before?). Or if you meant that a private institution should have the right to maintain high standards and not have to lower them in some cases to create racial balance, then I am with you as long as there is a truly color blind admittance procedure that really admits the best students on their merits alone. On the other hand I don't know of convincing evidence that this reverse discrimination you speak of is actually stopping any motivated and talented uncolored students from getting an education.
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      Aug 16 2011: What I meant was exactly what it sounded like. I believe that the government has no right to intervene in the rights of a private institution, be it a school, business, etc. I am in no way advocating discrimination in this conversation, I am merely arguing that if a private institution chooses to discriminate in its application process, then that is fine. I don't know if you've read the entire conversation, but an interesting point was brought up that in this day and age, we wouldn't need the government to step in and stop the discrimination, because social media would lash out against said institution and fix the issue for us.

      I agree with a truly color blind admittance as you said. The color of one's skin does not factor into one's intelligence.
  • Aug 15 2011: I don't want to sound hostile here but the simplest way to put this is this:

    the reason you don't understand the human element you are missing is because you just don't understand /that/ you don't understand it.

    That's fine, nobody is born with a profound understanding of the complexities of human nature or enough experience with other cultures or environments to truly understand until and/or if they find themselves in that environment so i don't expect that to change.

    But here's the deal.. this is TED, this is not some political blog site or youth group where you can argue about things you barely understand in an attempt to learn from others. The majority of the people here are well past that point in life and the purpose of TED is to improve the world in terms of safety, security, technology, education, and overall happiness. Denying anyone an education or arguing that education should be harder to obtain for anyone, for any reason.. is exactly what the entire TED community is here to stop in society.

    And for the record, the reason the government has the right to make these rules is they are the ones bankrolling almost every single "private" college out there. Almost every single student aid loan in the united states is guaranteed by the federal government that if you don't or can not pay for it, they will. Do you really think Chase or Bank of America would give you $80,000 in unsecured money when you have no source of income, no credit history? they wouldn't loan you $100 without a guarantee or a co signer. No more than 1-2% of students in any school could afford it without financing and neither could their parents if they parents are willing to pay for it. Do you really think colleges would stay in business if they lost 98% of their students?

    Oh, and here's the kicker. If you were to run a truly private university with absolutely no government backed student loans you aren't required to follow affirmative action anyway, thus your entire argument is invalid.
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      Aug 15 2011: i would like to ask you not to speak in the name of TED community. you represent your own views, and nothing else.
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      Aug 15 2011: If you read the entire conversation, you would know that no one is arguing to deny education, nor is anyone arguing that education should be harder to obtain. We are only arguing that affirmative action (being discrimination) is a violation of rights (and in some of our opinions, an example of a government overstepping its boundaries).

      And may I ask where you get your statistics from? "Almost every single student aid loan". What kind of a statistic is that? Show me a good hard number. There are plenty of people like me who took out loans with cosigners that have nothing to do with the U.S. government. If the government didn't back loans, I believe that responsible parents would. Yes, they are taking a chance, because if their kid defaults their name is on it too, but still. You asked, would colleges stay in business if they lost 98% of their students? I ask you this: do you honestly believe that they would lose 98% of them? People found ways to pay for education in the past, the government isn't the only way.
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    Aug 14 2011: To all involved in this debate: Since this conversation has ultimately come down to the question of what should the role of government be, I give you this quote from Ayn Rand to explain my view of our government.

    "The only proper purpose of a government is to protect man's rights, which means: to protect him from physical violence. A proper government is only a policeman, acting as an agent of man's self-defense, and, as such, may resort to force only against those who start the use of force. The only proper functions of a government are: the police, to protect you from criminals; the army, to protect you from foreign invaders; and the courts, to protect your property and contracts from breach or fraud by others, and to settle disputes by rational rules, according to objective law."



    I ask this, does this view of government not provide for free, rational discourse between equal individuals?
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      Aug 15 2011: I have given a lot of thought to recent discussions on this topic. I take in to account your point of government crossing lines based upon the principles in which it was founded. I also take into consideration that this structure was put in place "in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity"

      I also remember the 3 most important words to the constitution "We the People". It doesn't say "We The US governement", it says "We the People of the United States". I was then reminded of a quote in a speech by JFK "Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country."

      So many of us, myself incuded, have become dependent and even expectant of the government to solve our problems on various levels. The government isn't really taking away our freedom and liberties, we, in essence are giving it up. Some feel its the governments job is to serve us, however it is suppose to be a governemt run by the people and for the people.

      I have just watched some amazing ways people are getting together in their communities to make a difference. Dave Eggers (check out his wish and talk Once Upon a School), sought to find a solution to help children in his community. He did not protest nor fight against a lacking education system. He did not engange in debates on how education should be reformed and what the role of government should be. Instead, he was looking towards a solution, which engaged many other individuals in his community....which upon its success spread to countless other communities. From there more became involved and active within school systems.

      This is our country and we DO have the power to make positive changes without the debates, or the fights, or dependency upon the government to do it for us. I suppose the government had to get more involved when we chose not to.
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      Aug 15 2011: my old conversation attempted to dissect the problem:

      http://www.ted.com/conversations/697/the_role_of_government.html

      it is closed already, so no new comments, but maybe interesting to read
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    Aug 12 2011: I do not know if people have mentioned this, but in order to have a clear stance on the issue one must first look at the foundation that causes these problems. Often students of color come from under-served communities, for example the Los Angeles Unified school district has had massive budget cuts which have done a great deal of damage to the quality of education students receive, therefore they go on ill-prepared for college. These under-served communities have families which live in poverty stricken communities, therefore the students must go on and get jobs during their high school years which drastically affects their performance in high school. How can a student build up a competitive profile for college when this student is often trying to find a way to help his family earn money for rent or other expenses? The struggling student has to be given some kind of break, because that person was not born into a middle class or elite class family that did not need help paying bills, therefore granting him all the time in the world to focus on his studies and create a competitive profile. The reason I focus on students of color is because the majority of these students live in under-served communities.
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      Aug 12 2011: Alternatively, we can allow nature to take its course. We do not need to provide for everyone. Everyone has the right to live their life; the government should not be obligated to help some and not help others. We could always let those in underprivileged areas not go to college, and they could go on the become working citizens. Blue collar, but still working.

      I'm playing devil's advocate here.
      • Aug 12 2011: Let nature take its course? Oh please. Social Darwinism is dead and buried thank god. Maybe nature should take its course weed out the "bad seed" huh? Devil's advocate or not, how about you being "blue collar" and allowing someone the privilege then of being educated. That would be nice. People deserve help. Yes, I came from a blue collar background, yes, I struggled and was able to obtain much more. Society is not about nature taking its course, but looking out "for the common welfare". Remember, that phrase is in the Constitution also.
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          Aug 12 2011: Social Darwinism is dead? Since when?

          I was not implying that anyone should be "weeded out", I was just saying that the government should not decide who to help and who not to help. Ok, so you want to help underprivileged children, that's fine, but the government should not be the ones funding it.

          Who gets to decide who is underprivileged? At least the colleges I applied to had financial aid brackets set in so if your combined family income is less than $65,000 then you pay nothing for college, since you are underprivileged. How is it fair to just say anyone below that is free, above it you have to pay? I don't believe anyone has the right to label people as underprivileged, privileged, in need, or not in need.
  • Aug 11 2011: The whole problem is this really: is the societal good done by using affirmative action greater than the individual harm it might cause? I frankly believe that the creation of real multi-culturalism, even forced, is better than not doing it.

    I do believe private institutions should have some leeway here, but don't they really need the cultural value of plurality, real plurality as one of their basic assumptions about education? Isn't that idea of exclusivism, whether it is in Mississippi against blacks, Texas against Hispanics, or New England against "non-intellectual" southerners really wrong and really blocking our educational system?

    The social good, does outweigh the individual harm in this case. We are not atomistic individuals but a society where sometimes the greater good is not individually based.
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      Aug 11 2011: You see I believe that if a university is not limited by affirmative action and other government interferences, then they would be forced by the public to not discriminate. Imagine if Harvard only took in white, Christian, blond boys. The public outcry and the effects of social media would force them to reconsider their decisions.

      I will concede that affirmative action does little harm to the students; however, on principle, the government has no right to interfere with private institutions.
      • Aug 11 2011: I am not sure you are right Jordan about "public outcry" although I would hope that would be the case. Government can and should seek the common good. I guess that is what this boils down to.

        I think Debra is correct. Sometimes it takes a voice and one with authority, to speak out on behalf of those who cannot.

        Is a private institution though the same legally or morally as a private individual?
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    Aug 11 2011: As for the murder analogy, I was simply pointing out that even law finds areas of grey. Hell in an act of war, one the murders will be given a medal, not because he committed murder, but because that was the "bad" that had to be done in order to accomplish some "good". If someone commits murder to protect himself or loved ones while under attack, well, then murder is judges and tried in a different way.

    What I was trying to point out here in this analogy is that even though I do not agree with affirmative action, nor do I believe in war or murder, but in some instances it may be necessary for the betterment of the whole or the innocent.

    To me, the children are the innocent. To me, if we didn't engage in war, then we probably would no longer be the United states. Sometimes we need to make sacrifices for the betterment of the whole.

    As far as govenments not being able to get involved with private institutions, well, they do and have to! Even private schools have to adhere to certain standards, they can't just do anything they please. Corporations can't monopolize. You can't nor are allowed to give false information to consumers. There are principles and laws that yes even privately funded institutions and business and corporations must abide by. And why? To protect others, not just an individuals right to do and say as they believe and choose.

    if the government was put in place to soley protect the indivdual rights and freedom of the individual, then it shows that in order to that, well, there will be laws imposed that not everyone will agree with. That is our sacrifice in a free society. This is a growing and changing governemt, as it should be.
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      Aug 11 2011: The problem of government interfering with private corporations is a vast and complex issue with many facets. I also don't believe the government has a right to rule against monopolies. It is unjust and immoral. If the public does not like the practices of a certain business, they will not use it. If a company monopolizes, it is only a matter of time before a startup company begins to edge in on their business; it creates competition. If a company gives false information to consumers, social media would eat the company up in a heartbeat.

      I believe our biggest disagreement here is rooted in our polar ideologies. I do not at all believe we should ever have to sacrifice ourselves for the betterment of others. I believe only in the right of an individual to life, liberty, and the pursuit of his own happiness. As such, my political, moral, intellectual values stem from this principle.
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    Aug 11 2011: I apologize as TED would not let me respond to your response directly, so not sure where this will be posted.

    I understand that what you are standing for is not to harm others, nor are you against giving youth a better environment and education. I know that you are standing to take the bad with the good for the sake of free choice and freedom itself. For if we just allowed the government to get involved in every aspect of our lives and how we should live it or what we should believe in, then we risk our personal freedom of choice as an individual. As I said before, the question is probably about where we draw the line.

    In the supreme court where the people vs. Larry Flint, he won, and not because anyone believes Larry Flint to be a moral person nor is what he contributes is probably what is best for society, but in giving him his freedom, also protects other individual rights to believe and speak as they choose.

    But lets suppose I am a person that believes the act of pedophilia is natural. Or I believe it is my right to beat a child. That I believe in giving drugs to my children, or force them into gangs, because well, thats my freedom of choice. It is MY child,not yours or the governments, MINE. I should have the right to do and raise as I choose right? So why do we have all these laws to protect the safety of a child? Why all these government programs to try and better the environment and lives of at risk youth? According to you they are not your obligation and should have the right to choose which you stand for and which you do not. The truth is we dont.

    I don't think the founding principles of this government were at all selfishly based as you proposed. I also feel it was in the ideal of being an individual within a united whole. Society, our structure is our obligation, and individuals happen to be apart of it.

    So to my original question, what IS the solution in a free society? Even the founders sought a solution for the whole.
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      Aug 11 2011: I believe your basic premise is wrong here. In the case of child abuse, it is the government's duty to step in and protect the child. The child is a person just like everyone else, and as such he has rights just as adults do. By abusing him, the parent is violating the child's rights and thus the government must step in.

      I did not say that the founding principles of our government were selfish. I solely believe that a government exists solely for the sake of protecting individual rights. A democratic government only exists based upon the consent of the governed. We are not obligated to pay any debt to society. We are all apart of society, but we have no debt to pay to it.

      I don't believe I understand your question. The solution to a free society is a truly democratic government with a pure form of laissez-faire capitalism. This form of society would ensure the protection of individual rights and provide for the free exchange of goods and ideas between individuals.
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    Aug 11 2011: It's a tricky question. I want to say in a few years or so, then yes get rid of affirmative action because by 2052 minorities will become the majority so there be no need.
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      Aug 11 2011: How does that fix the problem that the government is trying to make up for past wrongs doings by committing the same wrongdoing?
      • Aug 12 2011: They are not committing the same wrongdoing, that is the fallacy of your argument.
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          Aug 12 2011: How are they not? They are trying to make up for separating minority groups from the rest of the citizens by separating minority groups from the rest of the citizens? By providing special help to minorities, they are doing nothing more than discriminating again.

          The word discrimination comes with a very negative connotation, but in my opinion discrimination is discrimination.

          Here's the definition of discrimination: treatment or consideration of, or making a distinction in favor of or against, a person or thing based on the group, class, or category to which that person or thing belongs rather than on individual merit: racial and religious intolerance and discrimination.

          I ask you, how is affirmative action not discriminating? It is taking consideration of a person based on their racial group or sex. How is that not the same moral wrongdoing?
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        Aug 13 2011: Well, I agree with you. Affirmative action was based on amending the wrongdoings in racism and compensating for those lost years.

        But we do still need it. Especially in my state Arizona. I have plenty of illegal immigrant friends that deserve to go to college and cannot. Its usually because their parents came here when they were very young and America has always been there home. With affirmative action, they can get scholarships and not add to the dropout population.

        Without things such as the dream act, affirmative action is the only buffer they have.

        Don't get me wrong, affirmative action is completely not fair. Applying for college was almost impossible. I was able to get no scholarships mostly because I am a white girl not going into engineering or have a military family. And, I have excellent grades too; top 17% in my school. But cannot afford university with just this, and i received no financial aid.

        But, I wonder what would happen if it disappeared.

        As I said, its a very tricky question.
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          Aug 13 2011: Here's my problem with what you just said. They are illegal immigrants. They are not citizens of this country, and thus our government is not responsible for them. Our government is responsible for the rights of U.S. citizens, not citizens of other countries. I agree that it is not the fault of the children that their parents moved here illegally, but it is not fair to real citizens if illegal immigrants are receiving FEDERAL aid.
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    Aug 10 2011: Birdia...Good to see you again. I too believe in freedom wholeheartedly but I do have boundaries, not discriminatory but I am bound by the Golden Rule (:>)
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        Aug 10 2011: Hi Birdia.....What do you mean by authenticity ? Please let me have your thoughts on this.
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        Aug 10 2011: Birdia.......I was just asking because I did not want to misunderstand you. I didn't mean to imply anything. (:>)
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        Aug 10 2011: Hi Birdia......My bad.............I thought you sounded defensive. It is so easy to attach a meaning that is not there if you are not face to face with your correspondent. Thank you for the links...I will surely check them out. Respectfully......Helen
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    Aug 10 2011: I am more than open to do away with affirmative action, for i believe the more we separate each other, the more we build those walls between each other. Martin Luther King Jr had a dream not of black rights, but of equality and all colors and cultures and genders living together peacefully as equals. That's quite a dream and one he advocated knowing he may never see it himself.

    However, I also feel that the demographics and lack of equal opportunity, especially for our children in areas of poverty, where crime and drugs are unsually high, do not get the same opportunities of those children whose parents are those private funders for instance. Is it the child's fault that the parents didn't become wealthy or valued education? So what is the solution for these children, that will in turn become adults, and produce more children who will then become adults and so on?

    We can say that there are those excetional few that broke through that cycle, but are you willing to put your child in that environment to see how he or she fairs, or are you going to try and cultivate him in an environment and educational institution where you feel he/she will benefit most?

    i feel the point of affirmative action to be spread in the schools is trying to give that equal opportunity. It is perhaps a temporary band aid where if more and more minorities can become better leaders, more educated, and become successful in the workforce, they then can become role models for their minority to suceed. If successful it can chip away at stereotypes embedded in society.

    So what is the solution in a free society? A society that both of us are a part of as well as countless others? Do we have an obligation to our larger human family? What is the ideal and progress we are striving for, and are we willing to make some sacrifices in order to get there?
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      Aug 10 2011: I do not believe we have any obligation to our larger human family, nor do I believe that anyone has the right to tell us that we do. Each person is entitled to do whatever he or she chooses. If one chooses to do humanitarian work that is fine; if one chooses to be a greedy robber-baron, that is fine as well. Not the government, nor anyone else has the right to tell you how to live your life. Last time I checked the Constitution gives every citizen the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. It doesn't say we get these rights only if we pay our debt to society.

      I understand that this makes me sound as if I am a blatant egotist, without a care for the world but that is not the case. I solely believe that everyone has the right to do as he or she pleases. If a child is underprivileged, I do not believe that that entitles him to special benefits. Why should it? I understand that a child should not be deprived of opportunities based on his parents' mistakes, but I believe that giving special treatment to these kids is unfair.

      Despite my objections to the morality of affirmative action, I am completely fine if the government wants to enforce it in public schools. Private schools, however, are not subject to governmental law and thus cannot be forced to adhere to said laws.

      You ask what is the ideal and progress we are striving for? I believe that each person lives to ensure his own happiness, and nothing more. I don't believe that anyone has the right to ask another man to make a sacrifice. You may live to pursue your own happiness, but you do not have the ability to step on the rights of others in achieving it.
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        Aug 10 2011: That is the epitome of selfishness.
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          Aug 10 2011: I agree, it is the epitome of selfishness. But I pose this question: what is wrong with that?

          I am speaking strictly about the U.S. here, since I have only lived here and thus I cannot speak for other countries, but in the U.S. we are entitled to selfishness. We are entitled to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. We are entitled to the rights granted to us by the Constitution. No where in the text of the Constitution does it say that we are entitled to be our brother's keeper.

          I am not saying that one cannot do humanitarian work, but I am merely saying that one is not obligated to pay any debt to society.
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          Aug 10 2011: I tried to edit this and place it in the proper location with no success. No, I have always made it clear that I am Canadian. I live on the US border . Are you suggesting that TED questions and debates are for Americans only?
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        Aug 10 2011: Since joining TED, I have been utterly astounded that the word selfish has been propagandized in American society to be considered to be a good thing. Here is the dictionary.com definition- please pay particular attention to the synonyms.

        self·ish   /ˈsɛlfɪʃ/ Show Spelled[sel-fish] Show IPA
        adjective
        1. devoted to or caring only for oneself; concerned primarily with one's own interests, benefits, welfare, etc., regardless of others.
        2. characterized by or manifesting concern or care only for oneself: selfish motives.

        --------------------------------------------------------------------------------

        Origin:
        1630–40; self + -ish1

        Related forms
        self·ish·ly, adverb
        self·ish·ness, noun


        Synonyms
        1. self-interested, self-seeking, egoistic; illiberal, parsimonious, stingy.
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          Aug 10 2011: I believe you are making a false assumption about American society. American society condemns selfishness, and our government does all it can to force it out of existence. The people on TED are just a selection of people from all different cultures, many of which are concerned with the state of freedom in the world. Freedom is becoming extinct, and we must ensure that that never happens. In order to save freedom, we must resort to our selfish ways. We are not obligated to be our brother's keeper. We are not obligated to do anything. I see nothing wrong with the synonym. They are perfectly fine.

          I ask this out of curiosity: are you an American?
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          Aug 10 2011: I was not at all implying that TED is for Americans only. I was implying that that would be why you believe that Americans love selfishness. Americans hate selfishness these days. The government condemns it every chance it gets.

          I was merely interested in your nationality, because it is interesting to see how people, even from such a closely related nation as Canada is to the U.S., can have such varied opinions.

          Regardless of your nationality, I implore you to question your premises. How can a free government force its citizens to be responsible for the actions of others?
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          Aug 11 2011: Thx Debra........You know what this conversation brought up for me ? All the discussions on TED re free will. Interesting, huh ?

          Talking to Jordan sometimes felt like unravelling a ball of thread.
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          Aug 11 2011: What do you mean its like unravelling a ball of thread? haha
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        Aug 10 2011: Jordan..................I think maybe you would change your mind if you were one of the have-nots.
        Apparently you have plenty of whatever it is that makes you happy. Our forefathers fought to establish freedom from and not freedom to. So if you think you can break any law, then you may be surprised that there are consequences. You are right there are no laws against selfishness. One cannot legislate attitude nor respect. If I were dying in front of you and it made you happy to not do anything about it, then I don't know if you could be charged with anything.
        Do you have any good friends or just people who agree with you ?
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          Aug 10 2011: I have plenty of good friends, some that agree with my views, others that do not. I do not force others to believe my ideas, but rather I enjoy discussing them and possibly having them question their premises.

          Freedom to, freedom from? Are you a Margaret Atwood fan perchance?

          I believe our forefathers did not fight solely for freedom from. Our forefathers fought to ensure that we had the freedom to pursue our own happiness, to live our own life; that being said they also fought for freedom from the violation of these rights.
        • Aug 11 2011: Jordan...happiness did not mean for them what it appears to mean for you. It was not care-free, I am the master of my fate, but a deep sense of well being. Of course they cared about government and its role in everyone's life. That is after all why they wrote a constitution in the first place. It was based on the idea of a social compact, not an individualistic worldview.
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        Aug 10 2011: Jordan.....I don't know who Margaret Atwood is.......I am too authentic as I believe what resonates within my heart and I don't take up anybody else's belief. Would you still hold to your present attitude if you were a have-not and really wanting ? If I were dying in front of you and you could save me, would you or would not ? I am trying to get to real situations not abstract ideas. By the way, I am your friend !
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          Aug 10 2011: The words freedom to and freedom from are words used frequently in Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale. If you haven't read it, I highly recommend it.

          I believe that I would. I am by no means someone who has had his life given to him on a platter. I have had to work for my success in life, and by the same token my happiness. I have and always will believe in freedom and man's inalienable rights.

          I would save you if you were dying in front of me if I had the means to do so. As I said earlier, I don't disapprove of selfless acts, if one so choices of their own free will. What I don't believe in is force. One should not feel obligated to commit any act; the only obligation we have is to live and to pursue our own happiness, without violating the rights of others.
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        Aug 10 2011: Well, perhaps I am understanding better what you mean. I, too, don't help others because I am obligated to do so. I help others because I can feel their pain in some way. That is called compassion. It is not conditioned or demanded of me but if I want to feel good about myself (selfish ain't it) when I see a need I respond to it best I can. In a way we are all one........I am you and you are me but still separate and unique. Makes for an interesting world, don't it ? That last statement in your post convinced me that we are on the same page. I remain your friend Helen
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          Aug 11 2011: Helen! Well said! I would have given you several thumbs up but I am all out!

          PS Atwood is a Canadian author. i am surprised that Jordan allowed her into the discussion!
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          Aug 11 2011: I don't know what you are implying by saying you are surprised that I would let her into the discussion. I am not discriminatory towards different nations. And I happen to enjoy Atwood's work.
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        Aug 11 2011: You mention the constitution and the US government upon the principles by which it was founded. I recall the words "We the people..." not ME the people. I very much understand the basis of what you are saying when you speak of the freedom to choose, however the government does and must get involved in the lives of others...even private institutions and family. i suppose the question is where to draw the line.

        There are laws in place to protect the people and the government is suppose to SERVE the people. If it was just a free for all where anyone can choose and do as they please then there would be know need for law, police, courts, politicians, etc. What would be the point? The government most certainly will get involved when someone steals from another, murders andother, assaults another and why? Because the government has a responsiblity to ensure the safety and welfare of the structure and our larger human family. The government, which by the way is suppose to be run by WE the people and by the people. It isn't here just to protect our freedom of choice, but that that freedom does not inflict harm on others.

        I am a citizen of this country and a tax payer, and I personally do care about the welfare of our chilfren and feel I do have, in to some extent an obligation to society and my larger human family. I personally wish to use that money to go towards helping children have a valuable education, but most of it doesn't. I dont get the freedom to choose where my money goes, the government does, which by the way we run. WE, not I, WE.

        As for the black and white view about discrimination, being discrimination regardless if it is positive, then what about the concept of murder? If one murders another out of hate and malicious intent, should it be considered the same type of murder that someone commits in defense in order to protect himself or his family? It is still murder. Someone died. Wouldn't one be considered more "positive" than the other?
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          Aug 11 2011: I must ask you this question: why MUST the government get involved in the lives of others? What gives the government the right to intervene in the actions of private institutions? I don't attempt to refute that the government is run by WE the people, and not a singular person; however, I believe that our government...any government for that matter, exists to protect the rights of its citizens and that is it.

          I believe you are wrong when you suggest that if we were free , we would not need government. We would most certainly need government. The government has institutions like the courts and the police in order to guarantee that nobody violates our own personal rights. I agree with you completely that a government should and must get involved when someone steals, murders, assaults, etc. The goal being accomplished by this government intervention is protecting the rights of the individual. Why do you call the police? Because someone has committed a crime and violated your rights. The courts are a continuation of this process which ensures that the rights of both you and the one who violated your rights are both given your due process.

          I respect that you feel a moral obligation to society; however, you must understand that I in no way am arguing against that. I feel as if you all have misunderstood me, I meant only to say that no one has the right to force me to help others. It is not a legal obligation, but a moral obligation that some feel. I ask you to recognize that I am not trying to tell you not to feel this way, but to understand that you are not obligated legally to do so, and no one can tell you that you are. If you feel your own personal obligation then that is fine, it is your right to feel that way, but it is also the right of others not to feel so. We are not our brother's keeper.
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          Aug 11 2011: Ah your argument about murder is somewhat fallacious is it not? Technically yes, murder is murder just as discrimination is discrimination. The way the courts handle the issue of defensive murder is a totally separate issue entirely. Neither type or murder is considered good.

          The issue at hand is still this: discrimination is discrimination. Regardless of the reasoning behind it, it is the same. One cannot argue that affirmative action is not discrimination because it is.
        • Aug 12 2011: Jordan
          We give the government the right by becoming citizens. You want the freedom, fine, then take the responsibility that goes along with that freedom. Government has every right to speak to you as a citizen, not just "let you be free". What does that word freedom really mean to you?
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    Aug 10 2011: good heavens, if a school would be dumb enough to discriminate then affirmative action shu be enforced. It is immoral to discriminate.
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      Aug 10 2011: what if i count the guests you have received in your house in the last year, and find that white, heterosexual people are overrepresented among them, so i force you to change the composition of your guests, allow more homosexuals and colored people, or else i fine you up to USD 10000. would you agree to that idea?
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        Aug 10 2011: Krisztian .....I did not think about there being a quota or percentage one must abide by in AA so I refute my previous post. I have friends that are not white and everyone is welcome at my house. I stand by my statement that I think discrimination on any basis of race is immoral. Thank you for pointing that out.
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          Aug 11 2011: it is immoral and it is not going to be corrected by stupid government programs. actually, falling back on government programs is a severe case of laziness. something most of us do.
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      Aug 10 2011: What is immoral to one is perfectly moral to another. One's morality is a product of one's personal values, as well as the environment in which one is raised. Morality should not be taken into account in political dealings. Discrimination may not be good, but I believe that private schools, institutions, and every individual has the right to discriminate if he or she chooses.
      • Aug 11 2011: I can't agree with this Jordan. Of course morality is societal. We make laws like "do not murder" because it is the moral thing to do. Yes, each individual is responsible, but that is the point. Each individual is responsible to society.
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    Aug 10 2011: I did not mean to imply that I believe schools should or would discriminate. I was merely posing an ethical question: should the government MANDATE that schools adhere to affirmative action? I believe that private schools should not be subject to government interference.
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      Aug 10 2011: You'll have to forgive me Jordan, I didn't think affirmative action in schools still existed. My state, Michigan, outlawed it years ago.
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        Aug 10 2011: I applaud Michigan then. It does still exist in some states.