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How Can We Be Fair? The Future of Affirmative Action (NIF Report)

This 1997 report assembled by Doble Research Associates examines the outcomes of forums held on the topic of Affirmative Action. Find more details & order info on the NIF website.  From the report…

Over the past two years, one of the issues that citizens considered was How Can We Be Fair? The Future of Affirmative Action. Most people went into the forums with misgivings about affirmative action and came out with mixed feelings about the inequality in our society and our attempts to remedy it through preferential treatment for some. But most felt it was important to continue some forms of modified affirmative action under a range of different circumstances. In short, people felt this is bitter medicine but acknowledged that we must continue taking some kind of medicine.

Affirmative action has been discussed time and again over the years, but there still is confusion about what the term means. Absent prompting from their neutral moderators, some forum participants did not define affirmative action in a policy context but rather literally, as “standing up for what you believe in.” Those who did focus on affirmative action as a policy, almost always defined it solely in terms of quotas.

But the more people deliberated in the forums, the more they recognized affirmative action not as one thing, but an array of possible remedies—ranging from outreach and recruiting, goals and timetables, preferences and consideration, as well as quotas and government set-asides—that can be used in a variety of contexts to reduce racial, gender-based and economic inequity. People in the forums wanted to reduce gross inequalities and felt that, other things being equal, a work force should resemble its community. Affirmative action though imperfect and in need of modification, is an important tool to help us reach this nationally agreed upon goal.

More about National Issues Forums and their Reports on the Issues…

The National Issues Forums (NIF) network includes civic, educational, and other organizations, and individuals, whose common interest is to promote public deliberation in America. NIF issue guides introduce participants to several choices or approaches to consider. Rather than conforming to any single public proposal, each choice reflects widely held concerns and principles. Panels of experts review manuscripts to make sure the choices are presented accurately and fairly. Look through all the NIF issue guides and their corresponding moderator guides, DVDs, and other resources at www.nifi.org/issue_books.

Reports are published periodically to communicate the outcomes of forums held across the nation about a particular issue. Making use of participants’ answers to forum questionnaires, reports from moderators, and in-depth studies of selected forums, these reports describe in some detail what happened as people deliberated about the issue at hand. View all NIF Reports on the Issues at www.nifi.org/reports/issues.aspx.

Resource Link: www.nifi.org/reports/detail_issues.aspx?catID=17&itemID=774

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