Author: Stephen T. Asma

Unmaking Affirmative Action

On July 3, the Trump administration rescinded the Obama approach to race-based college admissions. This returns the U.S. to the philosophy of George W. Bush’s White House, which argued that race should not be a significant factor. The Trump initiative may have no immediate impact since the Supreme Court upheld race-based admissions policies in Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin in 2016. But an impact is surely coming. Consider that Justice Scalia died before he could vote against affirmative action in the Fisher case. Now Justice Kennedy is retiring and Trump’s Supreme Court will certainly tilt against the policy with dissenters like Justices Roberts, Thomas, and Alito. Previously, Justice Thomas asserted that, “a State’s use of race in higher education admissions decisions is categorically prohibited by the Equal Protection Clause.” And Justice Roberts is on record as saying that “the way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race.” The end of affirmative action is a horrifying prospect for many liberals, but it may better reflect …

Reason and Reality in an Era of Conspiracy

Did Nelson Mandela die in prison or did he die years later? Many people reading this probably lived through such recent history, and know perfectly well that he died decades after his release. Many of our students, however, do not know this because they didn’t live through it, and they haven’t been taught it. That is trivially true, and not particularly worrisome. But in 2010 a quirky blogger named Fiona Broome noticed that many people she met – people who should know better – incorrectly believed that Mandela had died in prison. She dubbed this kind of widespread collective false memory the “Mandela Effect” and began gathering more cases, inspiring others to contribute examples to a growing online database. Ask your students if they’ve heard of the Mandela Effect and you will find that 95 percent are familiar with it. They are fascinated by it because it is a highly successful topic of countless YouTube videos and memes. Examples of the Mandela Effect are amusing and easy to find online. Everyone thinks that Darth Vader …