Discussion Questions on Richard Wasserstrom, "A Defense of Programs of Preferential Treatment"


1.  The first of the two arguments against preferential treatment that Wasserstrom discusses maintains that if racial discrimination against one race is wrong, then racial discrimination against another race must be wrong, too.  What is Wasserstrom's response?  Is it plausible?  How does he propose to distinguish between discrimination against Blacks (which he believes to be wrong) and discrimination against Whites (which he thinks may be defensible)?

2.  Wasserstrom distinguishes between two different reasons for insisting that qualifications alone should govern admissions and hiring.  What are these reasons and how do they differ?

3.  Why do those students who are most qualified academically deserve to be admitted before students who are less qualified academically?  What does academic qualification have to do with desert?

4.  Can you think of any circumstances in which you would be prepared to say that a student who is less qualified academically deserves to be admitted to a university more than a student who is better qualified academically?  Does a concern for desert rule out preferential treatment?

5.  Connerly maintains that affirmative action violates political principles demanding that people be treated equally.  How do you think that Wasserstrom would respond to Connerly's claim?