The voluntary affirmative action plan is a paradigm shift from the American philosophy of "only merit, not privilege". Do you agree? Give two reasons

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

This one is tough.  No doubt about it.  If one were to assess affirmative action in a vacuum and without any sort of context, I do believe that an argument could be made that it goes against the American philosophy of "only merit, not privilege."  However, I think that one cannot, in good faith, ignore context and circumstances.  The initial supposition here would be to question the American philosophy of "only merit, not privilege."  This premise presumes that everyone in America starts off at the same commencement, faces the same hurdles, and there is not a set of social and political institutional conditions that do not impact some more than others.  We simply know this to be not true.  At the same time, I think it also presumes that everyone in America "gets ahead" because of "only merit, not privilege."  Once again, we simply know this to be not true.  In my mind, questioning the premise of the philosophy has to be done in order to assess whether or not affirmative action does change paradigms in American culture.  I can see how affected individuals would respond to affirmative action in such a manner, believing it to violate American philosophy.  Yet, I think the reality of social conditions and contexts that impact different Americans in different ways have to be accounted and questioning the notion of what "hard work" means in said different conditions and contexts are of vital importance.  All of this is to underscore that another premise of American philosophy is the idea that power distribution and representation should follow or echo the will of the people.  American thought has not been an advocate of one group or one body controlling everything in the position of power.  Representation has been a stated and theoretical reality that has been sought.  In this light, affirmative action does meet this aspect of American philosophy.