Will California’s Prop. 209 Go National?

January 31, 2022 Updated: January 31, 2022


If America is going to continue competing with China, it has to promote the best of the best in industry, science, and academia. This is why it’s a positive sign that the U.S. Supreme Court may adopt the standard of California’s Proposition 209, which banned affirmative action in all state and local programs, as a national policy.

According to ScotusBlog: “The justices agreed to take up two cases asking them to overrule their landmark 2003 decision in Grutter v. Bollinger, holding that the University of Michigan could consider race as part of its efforts to assemble a diverse student body. The decision to grant review in the two new cases suggests that the court’s conservative majority is poised to do just that.

“The cases are Students for Fair Admissions v. President & Fellows of Harvard College and Students for Fair Admissions v. University of North Carolina. The court consolidated them for oral argument, and they likely will be argued early in the 2022-23 term, which begins in October.”

It’s crucial to note the Grutter case did not mandate affirmative action; rather, it only allowed affirmative action to be a policy of a state school system. Other states, such as California with Prop. 209, could do the opposite.

I was writing the California editorials for the Orange County Register when voters passed Prop. 209 in 1996. Although that was a presidential election year, it was obvious President Bill Clinton was going to win reelection, easily carrying California. So the top issue of contention that fall was Prop. 209.

The main proponent was Ward Connerly, a member of the University of California Board Regents, who later advanced similar initiatives to victory in other states. According to media reports, Connerly is half white and a quarter black, with some Irish, French, and Choctaw American Indian heritage. He considers himself to be mixed race and faced some discrimination growing up in his predominantly black school because of his light skin.

During the campaign, we met with him at the Register’s offices. Basically, he didn’t like himself and his family being labeled because of their race. He wanted merit to be the sole criterion. It’s an obvious standard for racial peace essential in the even more diverse America of 26 years later in 2022.

Because the courts upheld Prop. 209, California governments have been forced to follow it, fighting all the way. Last May, the University of California, the country’s largest public university system, stopped using the SAT and ACT tests for admissions and scholarships.

But that won’t help minority students. The problem remains that K–12 public schools in California annually score among the worst of the 50 states. According to the 2019 Nation’s Report Card, produced by the U.S. Department of Education: “The average score of eighth-grade students in California was 276. This was lower than the average score of 281 for students in the nation.”

All banning the SAT and ACT does is cover up the massive failure of the state’s once-vaunted K–12 system. And how convenient for the California Teachers Association and the California Federation of Teachers that there will be no academic standard to hold them accountable for failing the state’s students, as they continue to replace academics with “woke” ideology.

Last year, Gov. Gavin Newsom signed into law the country’s first mandated ethnic studies classes in high school, which are almost guaranteed to be based on critical race theory and become “woke” indoctrination. Even if that somehow is avoided, it still will be hours taken away from real studies.

It would have made more sense to require more foreign language instruction. Language is the introduction to any culture. And learning new languages obviously is a big help for doing business in other lands, even in these times of broad global English proficiency.

The legal experts are saying the Supreme Court, with President Donald Trump’s three conservative appointments, likely will restore the “colorblind” standard of the 1960s civil rights legislation.

Here is the main part of the wording Prop. 209 placed into the California Constitution as Article 1, Section 31 (a): “The state shall not discriminate against, or grant preferential treatment to, any individual or group on the basis of race, sex, color, ethnicity, or national origin in the operation of public employment, public education, or public contracting.”

That standard, if adopted nationally by the court, is a crucial pathway to national harmony and producing the standards of excellence needed in a fiercely competitive global marketplace. And without a return to stressing excellence, America will be unable to meet increasingly dangerous military threats.

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.

John Seiler
John Seiler is a veteran California opinion writer. He has written editorials for The Orange County Register for almost 30 years. He is a U.S. Army veteran and former press secretary for California state Sen. John Moorlach. He blogs at JohnSeiler.Substack.com