As long as society is mobile, not an issue. Prime examples, Zuckerberg and Bezos. Twenty or thirty years ago they were “normal people” now among the wealthiest in the world. And Zuck can soon be an example of rapidly falling the other way. My own family is very similar, older hippie brother that is lower middle class and myself which many would ascribe to the evil 1%ers. Raised in a lower class family that made it to middle class when my mother became a nurse.
Now one might argue society is getting less mobile but I don’t think we are in a caste system yet.
I endowed a STEM scholarship at my alma mater many years ago. Purely merit based upon criteria that I chose. Each year, I get a thank you letter written by the recipient (something the university encourages). To date, out of the 15 or so students, recall only 1 male winner.
The point? Make a level playing field, set the standard, let them earn it.
The trick is that determining “level” isn’t trivial. For example, what happens if at Alma Mater U, there are advertisements for your scholarship. And those advertisements have 20 insertions in “Women Students of Alma Mater U” and 2 insertions in “Sports at Alma Mater U” and 2 insertions in “Physical Sciences at Alma Mater U”? And due to that kind of publicity, they have over the 15 years, 400 female applicants and 40 male applicants?
And even further, what happens if recruiters or guidance counselors tend to mention this particular scholarship more to women than to men?
I thought the example offered by Justice Jackson was perfectly on-point:
Jackson’s riddle: One applicant writes in his essay that it is important to him that he be admitted because his family has lived in North Carolina since before the Civil War and he would be the fifth generation of his family to proudly attend UNC. Another applicant writes that his family, too, has lived in North Carolina since before the Civil War, and it is important to him that he attend UNC because he is the descendant of enslaved people and his ancestors were barred from attending the university. Was Strawbridge arguing that the university could give preference to the first candidate but not to the second?
The answer being argued by the “anti-“ side is that “yes”, the first would be perfectly legal, but the second illegal. A “legacy” admission would be fine - even if that precluded an entire race of people from being admitted because it has nothing to do with race.
And so the discrimination perpetuates yet again but we are supposed to do nothing about it since, the only way to eliminate it is to … eliminate it?
This is a decision which will have far reaching consequences for the country, and (obviously) a large swath of the population as well as the preeminent industry of education.
Can we discriminate on the basis of size/weight/speed? (Yes, football scholarships).
Can we discriminate on the basis of test scores? Of course.
Can we discriminate on the basis of history. Sure. Legacy admissions.
Can we discriminate on the basis of ability to pay? Well yes, since the beginning of time.
How about on the basis of sex? Certainly used to. Still do, actually at women’s colleges, among others.
Can we balance because of broad historical racial inequities? NO! That would be wrong!
Make the playing field level? First, get rid of legacy admissions. My daughter, for example, should not get any special treatment from my alma mater just because I went there before. Its a form of institutionalized generational discrimination.
Part of that “level playing field” though extends all the way into primary school. If you go to a crap school system you are in trouble from the get-go. This is part of why Texas implemented what some refer to as Robinhood, to try to equalize school funding, at least to some degree. When schools are funded primarily by local property taxes the good neighborhoods get better schools. This is done on purpose. And not for good reasons.
My alma mater is a “smallish” satellite campus, enrollment around 5000 but has a big outreach via online courses. It has only been in existence since 1967 so barely long enough to have generations attending. What is interesting, they have a big presence of “first generation” scholarships and other resources to help students succeed. Legacy admissions is NOT a thing there like at ivy league schools.