Making a Mistake and Not Admitting it
The quote is from a recent LA Times editorial attacking the refusal of the state bar of California to allow Richard Sander, a UCLA professor, access to data that he wants to use to test his thesis that affirmative action actually hurts minority law students.
Sanders' argument, which he has supported with such data as he could get, is that affirmative actions puts minority students into the wrong schools. A student who would have done fine at a second tier school, grouped with other students of his own ability, is accepted by Stanford instead, takes classes aimed at and populated by students abler and/or better prepared than he is, fails to learn, fails the bar exam, and ends up having wasted three years and a good deal of money. It is the same argument that Thomas Sowell made long ago in the context of college admissions, pointing out that black students at MIT were much better at the relevant subjects than the average student, black or white, but much worse than the average MIT student.
What struck me about the passage I quoted above was the implicit assumption that if the result of learning that Sanders was right was the abolition of affirmative action in law schools, that would be a bad thing--that in that case the refusal to provide Sanders the data he needs might be justified. If Sanders is right, affirmative action in law schools is a mistake, hurting the very people it is supposed to help, and abolishing it would be a net gain.
Perhaps there are better solutions, as the editorial suggests. But whether or not there are better solutions, it is worth discovering the truth and acting on it. The only serious argument against doing so is that discovering the truth might mean discovering that a lot of people have done a lot of damage while claiming to do good. That would make those people, some of whom no doubt have influence in the California bar, unhappy.
Which seems the most likely explanation of the refusal to release the information.
When I was little, one of my father's pieces of advice was that making a mistake and not admitting it is only hurting yourself twice.