Advice for Notre Dame
As you may know by now, Hornung said of his alma mater that we cant stay as strict as we are as far as the academic structure is concerned because weve got to get the black athlete. We must get the black athlete if were going to compete. A good old-fashioned racial gaffe. For a moment I was afraid he was going to add that he deplored Condoleezza Rices disgraceful halftime performance at the Super Bowl.
By the next day, of course, Hornung had apologized all over the place and retired to a Trappist monastery.
But what had he said that affirmative action itself doesnt say? When universities try to tighten scholastic standards for athletes, minority spokesmen complain that this is discriminatory and racist. Once upon a time, they demanded the elimination of double standards; now they insist that double standards are essential to minority success!
What a claim! With spokesmen like that, who needs the Ku Klux Klan? They may as well just say outright: We are inferior. Treat us as such.
Colleges with sports programs have had lower standards for athletes for a long time. But with minorities in the mix, dumb jocks have ceased to be a joke and have become a progressive social program. Maybe Hornung himself is still a dumb jock. He says Notre Dame must lower its academic standards for its own good.
Odd word, minority. Jimmy the Greek, as his name implies, was a member of a numerical minority. But Greeks arent a minority in the current sense. They dont claim to be victims and arent assumed to be inferior. The rest of us take for granted that they will be judged by, and will generally meet, the same standards the rest of us assume.
President Bush hits the nail on the head when he speaks of the soft bigotry of low expectations. Thats exactly what minority implies: people of whom we have low expectations. We dont expect them to achieve; we dont even expect them to behave.
I once read an article with the irresistible title The Dirtiest Word in the Language. That word was minority. The author recalled that his father, a conspicuously Orthodox Jew, bristled when called a minority member. He sensed what it meant, and he wanted no part of it.
Thats the healthy reaction to minority status. I vividly remember my three black teachers in junior high school; they were all very different from each other, but they were all intelligent and honorable. Today they might be accused of acting white. If thats what they were doing, I thank them for teaching me to act white. In those days, we called it acting civilized.
All three of these men had made it through college without affirmative action. One taught geography, one taught math, and one taught science. But they all taught something else too: self-respect. They had plenty of it, and they set good examples for all of us. They were like fathers to us demanding, warm, sometimes hilarious. But permissive, never. You didnt want to let them down.
If anyone wants to accuse me of wanting to return to the good old days, well, yes and Im just getting started. I came from what was then called a broken home, though its almost the norm today. And I realize how much I owed, and still owe, to all those fatherly men, black and white, who paid me the compliment of high expectations. If theyd treated me as a troubled boy who mustnt be expected to keep up with normal boys, I might have flunked out of school and spiraled downward into some disreputable racket like journalism.
Hornung has inadvertently told us how far weve come down the wrong road. He thinks Notre Dame needs more dumb jocks. Strange advice for a venerable university.
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