Discussion Questions on Nicolas Lemann, "Taking Affirmative Action Apart"

1. Is Lemann in favor of retaining or eliminating affirmative action? What does he see as its main problems? What does he see as its main virtues?

2. In his 1965 speech, Lyndon Johnson said, "We seek . . .not just equality as a right and a theory but equality as a fact and equality as a result." Is this a noble and justifiable goal or is it an unjust and unjustifiable goal? What do you think and why?

3. "Affirmative action" has many meanings, and originally its meaning was quite different than its meaning now. What are some of the different meanings?

4. Lemann is critical of an education-based meritocracy. What is an "education-based meritocracy"? Has it always been a feature of the United States? Is Lemann right to be critical of it?

5. Lemann believes that during the 70s and 80s the American establishment -- the (mainly White and male) people who effectively control political power -- generally supported affirmative action. Why? What was their reasoning?

6. Do you find anything strange about the history of affirmative action as told by Lemann?