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Americans of intellectual integrity and good will on either side of this crucial debate recognize that affirmative action was never intended to be a permanent solution to racial inequality in educational opportunities.

Affirmative action did not come with a stamped expiration date, at least until June 29, 2023.  But it did dawn in 1961 with a conceptual acknowledgement that it would not last forever, hopefully because it would not be necessary forever.

The idea was to fix—not just to eternally manage—a fundamental societal inequity. Only a deeply disingenuous or hopelessly naïve observer would claim that the problem has now been fixed. It has not.

So, in my mind that makes Thursday’s 6-3 SCOTUS decision striking down affirmative action at best premature, and at worst a tragic unwinding of progress previously achieved.

Sounds like a complex and nuanced issue?  That’s because it is. We err when we attempt to frame it in binary and—yes—“black and white” terms. We Americans are not very good at avoiding binary and “black and white” thinking. That would account for the anti-polar “morning after” reactions that have quickly grown hotter than Cotulla.

Hooray for our side. Boo you.

The first thing we should all attempt is to understand the other side’s argument, because both sides present compelling cases. Yes, there IS something that rightly makes us uncomfortable about what amounts to racial quotas. Yet there can be no honest denial that generations and centuries of racial discrimination and suppression continue to leave many aspiring students of color at an often severe competitive disadvantage.

It’s telling that both sides base their positions on the principle of equality under the law. Neither side is incorrect in taking that stance. Both sides claim to seek “fairness.” They simply frame and define the term differently.

The fact is that racial discrimination has not impacted every black or brown individual applicant equally. Yes, all have been historically impeded in one way or another, but not all have been damaged to the same degree. Simply checking a box on a college application marked “race” does not even attempt to address those different experiences.

Resulting numerical quotas are even more inadequate and sometimes dehumanizing.

Deep breath time. All that got struck down Thursday were box-checking and cold racial quotas, neither of which I can honestly defend.

The salient question is not, “What is your race?” It’s “How and in what ways—if any—has your race impacted your individual life journey. Why? And show your work.”

Applicants remain free and are encouraged to answer those questions in their application essays, which frequently reflect intellectual achievement and potential to a much greater and accurate degree than do high school grades and standardized test scores.

The sky need not fall. Legitimate personal disadvantage can and must continue to be addressed and corrected in the admissions processes.

Yes. Societal racial discrimination has created generations of socio-economic suffering. But ultimately it is now those resulting socio-economic gaps—and not mere pigmentation—that drive educational disparities. Admissions boards can still take economic and educational hardships into account.

In the hour following the announcement of the SCOTUS decision, I heard a network tv analyst say, “Today’s ruling almost guarantees that we will have less diversity on college campuses going forward.”

Why? That need not be the case. That must not be the case.

Paraphrasing JFK’s famous 1962 “moon speech” at Rice Stadium: “We seek equality of opportunity for every American citizen, not because it’s easy but because it’s hard.”

First, we must acknowledge that it’s hard. It’s really, really hard. That’s no reason to quit.

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Paul's Bio

I clearly have the attention span of your median fruit fly.Look! Airplane!

Sorry. I’m back.

It’s both a curse and a blessing. I’ve never bought this stuff about, “He who dies with the most toys wins.” But I do think that a wide range of life experiences helps us grow as people, and helps us better relate to other people. I’ve been fortunate. And I am beyond grateful.

I show up on time. I go like hell. I’m a good listener. I hold myself accountable. I own my mistakes. And I have a natural and an insatiable curiosity. I’m never afraid to say, “I don’t know,” when I don’t. But then I try to find out.

The flip side is I’m a lousy ballroom dancer and my clothes sometimes fit me funny.

Stuff matters to me. I care. But while I take that stuff seriously, I try hard to never take myself seriously. As a result, I have sometimes been told, “Paul, it’s hard to tell when you’re serious and when you’re just having some fun. Which is it? Serious or fun?”

My answer is “yes.” But I think that is a legitimate criticism. I promise I’m going to work on that.

This has been the quickest and strangest half-century I’ve ever experienced. During that period, I’ve been afforded amazing opportunities in news and sports journalism across all platforms. I have taught wonderful students at the high school and collegiate level. Always, I learned more from them than they did from me. I’ve been a high school administrator. I spent ten seasons as a high school varsity football coach. I’ve been an advertising executive. I’ve hosted nationally syndicated television entertainment shows. In maybe the biggest honor I ever received, I was selected by NASA to be “Chet The Astronaut” for the “Land The Shuttle” simulator at Space Center Houston. (All I can say there, is “Do as I say, not as I do.” I put that thing in the Everglades more often than not.) Most recently, I just wrapped up a decade as a television news director, during which time our teams distinguished themselves in holding the powerful accountable, achieving both critical and ratings success.

What does all that mean? It means I am profoundly grateful. It also means I’m ready for “next.” So here we are. Radically Rational. It’s an idea I woke up with in 2017. I scribbled “Radically Rational” on a piece of notebook paper and used a magnet to stick it on our refrigerator. I saw it every day, and it just would not leave me alone.

I am second in charge at Radically Rational, LLC. My wife, Jo (also known as BB), is the president. Clearly, I have failed in my attempt to sleep my way to the top of this organization.

I hope you will learn that I’m loyal as a Labrador. But I will admit that this doggie can bite every now and then. My promise to you? I will show up on time. I will go like hell. I will listen to you earnestly and attentively. I will hold myself accountable. I will never be the least bit hesitant to say, “I don’t know,” when I don’t.

But then I’ll try to find out. Let’s do it.