Gary Horton | COC Is Education, Affirmed

Gary Horton

“Affirmative action,” or rather, the Supreme Court killing of it, has been in the news with some angst and some celebration over the past month. While a modest majority of Americans overall support traditional affirmative action practices, many folks on the fringes are either jumping up and down or cringing and crying, depending on their bias. 

“Affirmative action” came to national awareness in 1961, when President John Kennedy issued Executive Order 10925, requiring federal contractors to “take affirmative action to ensure that applicants are employed, and that employees are treated during employment, without regard to their race, creed, color or national origin.” Later, after Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination, colleges and universities expanded the practice to address the unfairness and upward mobility friction imposed on minority persons through decades and centuries of institutional legal, economic and educational bigotry. 

The concept was to slightly tip the scales of education access, helping balance things for minorities who, after so long, had them heavily tipped against them. School segregation, collegiate “legacy preferences,” redlining real estate, and general bigotry had set Blacks and other minorities far behind whites for access to prosperity. Affirmative action was intended to correct these injustices through affirmatively inclusive policies. 

Always controversial, affirmative action nevertheless paved the way for perhaps millions of minorities to gain access to schools and jobs never before possible. Of course, for every position gained by a minority over a white candidate, “reverse discrimination” was protested … and so, discontent, with varying degrees of validity, has long simmered in conservative quarters, ultimately leading to this court decision. 

Never intended to last forever, last month the conservative Supreme Court affirmatively killed affirmative action for colleges and universities. Revealingly, they created an exemption for military colleges, which are still allowed to recruit and place candidates using race as a deciding factor. A skeptic may conclude that to this Supreme Court, Blacks and other minorities don’t have an affirmative right to learn, live and prosper; however, they certainly have an affirmed right to be selectively recruited to fight and die for the rest of us. Deep-rooted decimation remains on display in our highest courts. 

None of this affirmative action brouhaha impacts California colleges. Way back in 1996, “liberal” California passed Proposition 209, which prohibits government institutions from considering race, sex, or ethnicity, specifically in the areas of public employment, public contracting and public education. Further, more recently, our “woke state” defeated Prop. 16, which would have negated Prop. 209 and allowed affirmative action programs back into our educational systems. California beat the conservative Supreme Court to negate affirmative action by decades. They say, “As California goes, so goes the nation,” and in this case, “they” are correct. 

All this shines a light on the bright, ever-affirming star we have right here in the Santa Clarita Valley. Right here, we have an enduring model of the very best of affirmative action. Right here, we have the very best model of diversity and inclusion. And right here, we have the wonderful example of how our own College of the Canyons supplies affirmation and inclusion to everyone. White, Black, Asian – any race. Rich, poor, middle class. Any economic background. Connected politically or even homeless — it doesn’t matter. Everyone is affirmed.  

College of the Canyons stands out to affirm access and inclusion of advanced and continuing education to absolutely everyone. It’s the best affirmative action precisely because there are no biases in acceptance, at all. Everyone is welcome and everyone gains access. And, if you can’t pay for it – or even if you can – COC offers two years of associate’s degree free tuition to all who apply. 

Fifty-two percent of COC students are “minority.” Students here are of all ages, genders, backgrounds. Beyond a two-year associate’s degree school, each year hundreds and thousands take advantage of COC’s preferred transfer status, and matriculate to California state colleges and universities. Indeed, as higher education costs explode, doing the first two years of a bachelor’s degree at COC increasingly makes sense for more and more families from all economic backgrounds. 

Many of our local politicians attended COC. Tons of our local business leaders either attended COC or have kids who have. Nurses by the thousands get their nursing degrees right here at COC. Ditto culinary experts and a host of other vacation-specific studies… 

Today, COC stands out as perhaps the most successful example of affirmative action and diversity and inclusion policy possible. Turning zero-sum educational political warfare on its head, instead, COC elegantly invites … everyone. Here’s a place where we’re all OK. Here’s a place where we’re all equal. And here’s a place we can all, regardless of race, background, age, or wealth, launch our careers and dreams as high as our hopes. 

While speaking at COC, senior citizen social justice warrior Angela Davis stressed that universal access to quality education is the “ultimate justice for all” America can provide. And we do that flawlessly at COC every day and have done so for decades. 

Imagine. All this quality education available for everyone – right here under our noses in the Santa Clarita Valley. 

At COC, ours is a different kind of “affirmative action.” It’s education access, affirmed for everyone. And nowadays, it’s accessible on both sides of our valley! 

So, let the Supreme Court diminish educational access. Here in the SCV, we proudly advance it. 

Gary Horton’s “Full Speed to Port!” has appeared in The Signal since 2006. The opinions expressed in his column do not necessarily reflect the opinions of The Signal or its editorial board.

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