Two stories, then?
My batch in B-school comprised of 180-odd students. At the end of the year, 5 people had to go on a slow-track (they will complete the MBA in 3 years instead of 2 years). We were joined by 3 students from the previous batch (those who were in slow track the previous year). Then came the time for placements. It was a tough year (not the bumper crops which are reaped these days). At the end of Day 3 (the last day of placements) and 80 companies, our batch was left with 7 people who were not placed. We tried our best, but couldn't make it happen, no. It was that tough.
I was part of a college, which had unduly high reservations (22% I think). Fair enough. I somehow managed to get the cut-off. This other boy, M, also almost didn't make it (through his interviews) and made it through waiting list. The 'reserved', by the way, had a lower cut-off (a full 5 or 10 per cent as far as I remember).
At the end of 3 years, in the top 8 (that's how far I remember) there were no one from the 'reserved' category. M was tops. Then S, S, N, V, me, S and S. All from the general category.
I can tell many such stories, but that's not the point of this. For those on the side of common sense have as many stories as the other side (pun unintended).
The stories are here, just to express my disappointment. Disappointment that blogs known for clarity of thought have gone down the path of anecdotes and fallacies to make their case. For examples, see here (which gives the example of the same college, I think, where the author is not perhaps studying as hard as we did) and here (which I will talk about hereforth). These sometimes become so popular that even Desipundit will plug them. Let me make an attempt to bring to light some of these fallacies.
The 'pro-reservation in higher education' bloggers who I have read till now, basically try to argue using ad hominen and other fallacious arguments,
"Lastly, all those opposing “Mandal II” should tell us whether they are non-OBC. Upper castes are no doubt meritocratic (which is why sons inherit fathers’ businesses), and they are no doubt oblivious to caste (just see the matrimonial pages), but there is the hint of vested interest here. And if you are opposing reservations because admissions will become tougher for you, you won’t get the point of affirmative action anyway."
It is like saying, "All those who oppose drug trafficking should tell us whether they have ever had a friend who used to do drugs. For then you obviously have vested interests and are..." In fact not only is it a clear ad hominen argument, it also is ambiguous.
Secondly, they assume that just because some bloggers are opposing the reservations in higher education, they also must be against affirmative action. For what I feel about the distinction, please read Falstaff's discourse here. This is clearly another fallacy of composition. This is in fact the most common fallacy in these blogs. Just because I am against a part of something, I must be against the whole.
"You are against reservations, then you must be against the the increase in opportunities to the poor". How very logical? Like saying, "You don't like eating beef, so you must be from RSS."
Thirdly, as I have stated before, they only offer anecdotal evidence.
"In my college 22 or so per sent seats are reserved for Christian students. Fair enough: the college was established by Christian missionaries and wishes to preserve its Christian character. As a result I have Christian classmates who got much less marks in their Class 12 exams than I did. But many of them are performing much better in their academics than I am. Quotas and the issue of merit is much more complicated than what it is being made out to be. Quota doesn’t mean that an absolute nutcase is going to sit in an engineering class. It means that a student with 65% marks could be studying in a class with a student who got 95%. To say that the two can’t co-exist is absurd."
Yes, and "in my college, a monkey used to destory the windows in our bathrooms. As a result, we had to shave without mirrors. Monkeys and mirrors are a much more complicated issue that what it is being made to be. Unshaved doesn't mean that I am careless about my bearing. It means that I might not have shaved well, because a monkey destroyed my mirror. To say that the it can't be generally true is absurd." By the way, the monkey story is true.
Fourthly, they appeal to the gallery and exhibit a special case of arguing from ignorance.
"I wish we lived in a world where there was no need for reservations. This wish informs the way I react to them. But of course, I know we don't live in such a world, nor do I think we will get to such a world any time soon. (I honestly wish, too, that I am wrong there). Therefore, all things considered, I think reservations are the best answer -- or the least bad answer -- to a thorny problem."
This is like saying, "I wish we live in a world where India will win every cricket match. But of course, we don't live in such a world, nor do I think we will get to such a world anytime soon. (I honestly wish, too that I am wrong there). (Loud applause at this moment) Therefore, all things considered, I think playing all matches against Zimbabwe is the best answer -- or the least bad answer -- to a thorny problem." If I don't have any other solution, refuse to think, then this must be the correct answer. All that is left is shifting the burden of proof.
Fifthly, the blogs introduce red herrings in the argument to confuse us. Two examples:
"...How long should we carry on with reservations? This is a prickly issue, and I don't have a good answer. My feeling is -- maybe this is wishful thinking -- that when reservations have benefited some critical mass of people, they will themselves call for an end to them..."
"Lastly, as an aside, will you believe me that I have met Mandal? No, not Justice BP Mandal but Ashok Mandal. He is a rickshaw puller in Delhi University and hails from Murho in Madhepura. Just where Justice Mandal came from."
Largely irrelevant, just as irrelevant if I was to tell you suddenly (in between why reservations in higher education is not needed) that my mother tutored two kids of my maid-servant and she's paying for one of them's education. They are poor, but not a SC/ ST or OBC.
Sixthly (!), these blogs are guilty of the straw man fallacy. They will misrepresent someone else's position so that it can be attacked more easily, knock down that misrepresented position, then conclude that the original position has been demolished.
"Merit is left to rot. Maybe so, but for one thing, how much have we truly valued merit anyway? Why should we assume that those who benefit from quota admissions, say, will all automatically be poor students?... There's rampant abuse. But any system will be abused. But that some people take advantage of a scheme is not, by itself, reason to throw out that scheme...."
Yes, as also, if I assume that two wrongs will not make a right, then your entire argument fails. "Two wrongs never make a right. Hitler's holocaust to protest against centuries of alleged oppression by Jews and the Babri Masjid demolition to protest against alleged temple demolition being cases in point. Hence, no two wrongs will make a right. Hence, there is no reason to introduce another wrong (reservation) to set the wrong of Dalit oppression right." Makes sense, no?
I can point out various other fallacies in what some of these reputed blogs are saying. But I have work to do (alas!). In case you would like to demolish their (for that matter, my) arguments, go read this.
In the end let me point out the supreme statement made by a blogger, in the heat of the moment. "If Aditya Sarma does immolate himself, all those of you igniting this unwarranted frenzy - all the bloggers and editors and the chai-shop gossipers - you will be responsible for it." Huh? How did that happen? Make your own conclusions.
Update: Apologise to Dibyo, Maverick, Mama, Bobo, PJ and others. The monkey's name is Mojo.
Update 2: In case you want to get some sense of the logical fallacies I have commited, do go here. I don't agree with some of the examples the author writes about (which also means that I agree with some), but seriously, I have moved on, for now. However, if the point was that "You don't add value to the debate by resorting to 'logical fallacies', you don't inform it with further questions and facts, you don't enlighten the subject at hand" then I have to disagree.