Diversity in colleges: How much and how long?

Few colleges, I think, are immune from the growth of “Diversity and Inclusion” (D&I) initiatives, including ours. And they’re spreading over time, not only among colleges but also within them, so that D&E programs are often quite large. (This is of course also happening in the workplace—since colleges are apparently not “workplaces.”) The College Fix (a right wing site, but the only source of statistics I could find readily) reports that the University of Michigan has 100 full-time diversity officers, and UC Berkeley a full 175.!  In 2018, the budget for the Michigan diversity office was almost $8.4 million per year.

These initiatives are aimed largely at increasing the enrollment of students of color, generally including African-Americans, Latino(s), sometimes Asians (though Harvard apparently tried to reduce the overrepresentation of Asians), and students from the Middle East. Other forms of diversity, like ideological, class, or socioeconomic, are not the main goal. (The University of Chicago does explicitly try to increase socioeconomic diversity.)

Although the Right rails at these initiatives, I think there’s much of value in them—so long as they construe “diversity” more broadly than just racial diversity. The expansion of D&E programs brings up three questions. I’ll pose them to readers, and also proffer my own take.

1.) Do we need these programs? My answer is “yes”, but mostly as a form of reparations, rather than the “innate good” that, in the view of the courts, is the “compelling state interest”for affirmative action (this started with the Bakke decision in 1978). The reason I take the reparations-oriented view is that it seems easier to identify those who have been denied equal opportunity on the grounds of race, class, sex, or other characteristics rather than decide what diversity constitutes the optimal “innate good”.  It’s undeniable that some groups have been discriminated against in the past and that, to this day, this has deprived group members of the “equal opportunity” which I see as the moral sine qua non of “equality”.

2.) How long should these programs persist? When affirmative-action programs were introduced in my youth, it was always with the proviso that these were temporary expedients, meant to apply only until groups were fairly represented in schools and colleges. (I discuss below what “fair” means.) Well, it’s well on half a century now, and the programs are still with us; indeed, they’re growing and show no signs of disappearing. They will be with us for a long time to come, and for two reasons.

First, once you establish a D&E program, its officers have an interest in maintaining it. After all, it’s their charge and their jobs! That means that, to justify their existence, the programs must not only persist but grow. In some cases they’ve grown past the point of reason, as in the mandatory indoctrination of many first-year college students which often borders on the ludicrous. Some programs are deeply affected by Critical Race Theory (CRT) which views things through the lens of pigmentation with the accompanying claim that virtually all parts of society are infected by “structural racism”, even if it’s not part of the structure. (The New York Times‘s 1619 Project is an explicit expression of CRT.) You can tell when a program is overstepping its mandate when it begins agitating against “hate speech” in ways that would infringe on legal interpretations of the First Amendment.

How long should the programs persist? In my view, until we can ensure that equal opportunity is achieved for all groups (see #3). As that will be a long time, these programs should be in place for an equally long time. But I am wary of their uncontrolled expansion. But of course once they’re established they will be with us forever, whatever the societal outcome.

3.) How do we know when proper “equity and inclusion” is achieved? Some people say the D&I programs should strive for equal representation of all “minoritized” groups in college, which is a requirement for equal outcomes.  Given that different groups may differ in preferences or abilities not due to discrimination, I favor the alternative of equal opportunity:  everyone, from the beginning of school (or before), should have the same chance to achieve, with no barriers to entry based on anything except ability.

But we are a long way from that goal: all you have to do is observe the environmental differences between groups based on oppression or factors beyond their members’ control. Inner-city schools, which I’ve visited, are prime examples of children not getting an equal shot of going to a good college—or any college. That, of course, is due to environmental differences that are, for instance, the residuum of racism. (Yes, the 1619 Project is correct in its claim that we still have profound inequalities that stem from slavery.)

So I can’t answer this last question, except that the answer requires an America very different from the one we see today. We need greater investment in education for the poor, an assurance of good teaching for all, and home environments that prize education and allow kids to have good meals and a supportive atmosphere.

Some will claim that these environmental differences are not beyond the control of oppressed groups—that they are the result of the groups themselves failing to strive and accepting a poorer educational environment. (That’s the “Just World” theory that flows in part from accepting Libertarian free will.) I don’t believe that—not for a minute. People simply aren’t that different. And if you accept that different groups have unequal opportunities for reasons beyond their “control”, then I don’t see how you can oppose a.) vigorous programs to rectify these inequalities, and b.) programs of affirmative action that persist until the rectification is achieved.This goes, as I said, not just for racial differences, but for class and socioeconomic differences.

That leaves me with one question. I think ideological diversity is an innate good, but doesn’t fall under a “reparations” view. Although conservatives moan about being discriminated against, it’s hard to make the case that they don’t have opportunities equal to those of liberals. Somehow, colleges must ensure that both students and professors embody a diversity of ideas—political and social. Given the liberal/Left leaning of most American colleges, that may be just as hard as achieving equity for race and class.

So those are my opinions, and I welcome readers to weigh in below on these questions.

38 Comments

  1. Mike Mayer
    Posted May 22, 2020 at 9:34 am | Permalink

    My problem with these programs is that they focus on the end of the “to-college” pipeline. Unless there are academically qualified students being passed over for enrollment the only way to increase the number of qualified applicants from any group is to improve their K-12 education.

    It is the same problem with those who focus on companies like Google. They are already hiring “marginalized” people at rates above the percentage of college graduates. The only way to have more is to start in elementary school.

    I suspect the reason they don’t is that their salary depends on the current situation continuing.

    • merilee
      Posted May 22, 2020 at 9:42 am | Permalink

      +1

    • Posted May 22, 2020 at 10:25 am | Permalink

      I agree. We’re not going to correct the “diversity” problems without correcting education at the K-12 level, and I don’t see how that can’t be corrected until we change the way we fund public schools.

      My understanding is that currently most (if not all) public schools get their money from property taxes…which means that poorer neighborhoods will continue to have poorly funded schools, and thus poorer overall education (it’s hard to see anything that has a greater impact on the overall quality of schools than their funding). Thus, we have a self-reinforcing cycle of decreased opportunity starting at the beginning of the educational process. And since economic disparity in our country tend to correlate strongly with racial characteristics (legacy of the issues PCC(E) mentioned as stemming from slavery), the racial outcomes are predictable and will continue.

    • Nicolaas Stempels
      Posted May 22, 2020 at 10:50 am | Permalink

      Yes, it starts at primary, if not in Kindergarten.
      My 9 year old is in a (formerly, now the overwhelming majority of the pupils is ‘brown’ or ‘black’)’white’ school. He gets his daily homework via WhatsApp, and it is q

    • Filippo
      Posted May 22, 2020 at 11:54 am | Permalink

      ” . . . the only way to increase the number of qualified applicants from any group is to improve their K-12 education.”

      For starters, I think part of that improvement also necessarily includes some self-directed effort by any group to increase their regard for intellectual curiosity and consequently academic achievement. (Re: Richard Hofstadter, “Anti-Intellectualism in American Life.”)

  2. eric
    Posted May 22, 2020 at 9:49 am | Permalink

    I support an admissions office having staff that are trained to consider diversity. UC Berkeley’s last freshman class was a bit over 14,000 people. The applicant pool would be even higher, so to help with ensuring diversity is considered in applications, 175 sounds okay. That’s probably over 100 applications reviewed per staff member, every year. Maybe more like 200.

    As for teaching diversity and different perspectives, I would think that was best handled by social science professors in their respective departments, not by a large non-academic (or at least, non-academic-department) set of personnel. However, I guess one thought is you have this giant workforce that you need fully employed from about November-May; since you want them to stay employed with you and not leave for more full time work, if you can find something useful for them to do the rest of the work year, that probably helps greatly with retaining highly qualified experts.

  3. Ken Kukec
    Posted May 22, 2020 at 10:20 am | Permalink

    Well, it’s well on half a century now, and the programs are still with us; indeed, they’re growing and show no signs of disappearing. They will be with us for a long time to come …

    I dunno. In the 2003 case Grutter v. Bollinger, Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, a moderate on affirmative action, wrote the majority decision holding that race-conscious university admissions programs are subject to “strict scrutiny” (usually the death knell for whatever law or rule or regulation is under consideration), and although upholding the specific program under consideration there, added that the “Court expects that 25 years from now, the use of racial preferences will no longer be necessary to further the interest approved today.”

    Now, this latter assertion was dictum (which is to say not strictly necessary to deciding the case and, therefore, not binding precedent). But, given the two new Trump appointees on SCOTUS, I’m all but certain there are five solid votes on the high Court right now to do away with race-conscious admissions program completely, should an appropriate case come before the Court.

    Such a holding would apply only to state universities, of course, but many private universities take a cue from what is permitted by law in state schools. And congress could, presumably, extend such a ruling to private universities that accept federal funds (which is to say, nearly every private university).

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted May 22, 2020 at 11:02 am | Permalink

      I offer the above purely as a matter of descriptivism, as a depiction of where we’re at as a practical matter. As a matter of prescriptivisim, of where we should head, I’m in general agreement with what has been set forth above by our host.

      • EdwardM
        Posted May 22, 2020 at 11:31 am | Permalink

        I like how the legal term you used dictum (short for orbiter dictum?) means for lawyers the opposite of what normal people 🙂 mean. It can mean a formal pronouncement from a authoritative source (a normie term) or nothing much, merely an aside from an authoritative source (legal eagleism).

        • Ken Kukec
          Posted May 22, 2020 at 1:56 pm | Permalink

          Obiter dicta are dicta that are not merely non-essential, but even further off the point’s beaten path.

          As you implicitly point out, dictum falls into the category of contronym (or auto-antonym or Janus word, as they’re sometimes called) — words that can mean both a thing and its opposite. Other examples include “cleave” and “sanction.”

          I do my best to remain bilingual — fluent in both legalese and “normal.” 🙂

  4. Jim Swetnam
    Posted May 22, 2020 at 10:50 am | Permalink

    This comment may be somewhat tangential, but still relevant. The first commentor, Mr. Mayer has identified a critical factor in college diversity: educational support for all disadvantaged children must begin in pre-school. That’s what Head Start was all about. Head start is based on socioeconomic disadvantages, and it is race neutral. That program has been with us for half a century now, and I believe the results have been positive. Early gains tend to fade, however, as children remain in sub standard schools. What we lack is vigorous support for public education from preschool to college. The current attack on public education at all levels is one of the most serious dangers coming at us now from Mordor.

  5. Trevor H
    Posted May 22, 2020 at 10:59 am | Permalink

    I’m conflicted on this – given I have been a repeated victim of it

    I’m in a male-dominated industry so always lose when against a female – no matter the skills

    Given the fact that I come from a poor household, and have a mild disability – neither of which I got any benefit for – because I literally didn’t ‘tick the box’, or there wasn’t a ‘socio-economic’ box

    I appreciate the idea behind this, but am troubled by the idea of solving discrimination by introducing a new discrimination…

    • eric
      Posted May 22, 2020 at 1:23 pm | Permalink

      AFAIK, nobody is promoting “no matter the skills” diversity choice. This is certainly not the case with competitive college applications. The situation there is more like “we have 5x the number of academically qualified candidates as we have spots. So what non-academic factors do we use? Extra-curriculars? Background? Do we just keep raising the academic requirements until we get to the right number? Maybe we use a lottery?…”

      All of these systems have advantages and disadvantages. But again – and I expect this applies to most workplaces too – it’s not really a question of ignoring qualifications, it’s a question of how to make a selection when everyone is decently qualified.

      • Adam M.
        Posted May 22, 2020 at 7:28 pm | Permalink

        As someone who works partly on the interviewing side at a very large software company, I can say that there definitely is a thumb – and in some cases two – on the scale when it comes to hiring people who aren’t white males (even though white males tend to be significantly underrepresented in software companies these days). While I’ve never seen a “diverse” candidate hired “no matter the skills”, it’s standard for people from certain demographics to be hired even if they’re not “decently qualified”, because there’s no other way to increase the number of them… qualified black and Hispanic programmers – especially female ones – are just too rare.

  6. Curtis
    Posted May 22, 2020 at 11:28 am | Permalink

    To put the money in prospect, the programs add almost $200 ($8 million / 44,000) to the tuition fee to Michigan students which is over 1% of the cost for in state students.

    And that is a low estimate because these people will receives state pensions for decades which, in my state at least, eventually doubles the cost.

  7. Ken Kukec
    Posted May 22, 2020 at 11:33 am | Permalink

    I think ideological diversity is an innate good, but doesn’t fall under a “reparations” view. Although conservatives moan about being discriminated against, it’s hard to make the case that they don’t have opportunities equal to those of liberals. Somehow, colleges must ensure that both students and professors embody a diversity of ideas—political and social. Given the liberal/Left leaning of most American colleges, that may be just as hard as achieving equity for race and class.

    I think ideological diversity on campus is an innate good, too. And, presumably, a system of equal opportunity will result in a cross-section of political and cultural viewpoints.

    This will not be the case completely, though, given the different inclinations and abilities prevalent on the Left and Right. The Trumpist base, for example, is largely composed of the non-college-educated (almost all white, and mainly male). And, while many Leftist intellectuals are drawn to academia, people of comparable intellectual abilities on the Right seem more inclined toward other fields, such as high-finance and entrepreneurship. That’s why, over the past half century, bona fide right-wing intellectuals — people like William F. Buckley, Jr., or Russell Kirk or Allan Bloom or Milton Friedman — have been something of American rarae aves.

  8. Posted May 22, 2020 at 11:40 am | Permalink

    “It’s undeniable that some groups have been discriminated against in the past and that, to this day, this has deprived group members of the “equal opportunity” …”

    But it’s not obvious that 18-yr-old members of such groups are being discriminated against today. It’s weird to argue that current group members should benefit from “reparations” based on past treatment of part group members.

    “Inner-city schools, which I’ve visited, are prime examples of children not getting an equal shot of going to a good college—or any college.”

    But that’s an argument for policies that favour children from those schools (rather than children of particular races).

    Aren’t policies that are race-blind — but which take into account economic status and school background — a better way of doing this?

    • eric
      Posted May 22, 2020 at 1:31 pm | Permalink

      It’s weird to argue that current group members should benefit from “reparations” based on past treatment of part group members.

      My limited understanding is the argument is based on the notion that the costs (or benefits) of theft/disadvantage carry over generations. I steal from you, and because of that I get rich, then my kids grandkids etc. beneift from my theft. At the same time, your kids grandkids etc. are worse off due to the poverty I caused you. When our grandkids meet, nobody is saying my grandkid should go to jail for his grandpa’s theft. What they say, however, is after 150 years of this, because it’s either too late or practically impossible to force my family to pay yours without causing even more innocent victimization, instead, society will help give your family a leg up. The great-great etc. grandkids of slaveowners don’t personally owe the great etc grandkids of slaves. That would be unfair. But society has a lot of pooled resources, and it seems eminently fair (at least to me) to use some of them to give the grandkids of slaves etc. a leg up.

      • Posted May 22, 2020 at 1:38 pm | Permalink

        But, even so, plenty of black kids can be in well-off families with high-status parents; and plenty of white kids can be in poor families with dead-beat parents.

        So, if your aim is to equal up deprivation caused by past circumstance, then the sensible thing to do is to take into account the poverty level and status of the parents and the schooling.

        There’s no need to bring race into it. (But if, owing to history, a higher fraction of black kids are in the low-income families that get helped then fine.)

      • davelenny
        Posted May 22, 2020 at 5:15 pm | Permalink

        ‘Grandkids of slaves’? My oldest grandparent was probably born about 1880 and my grandchildren currently attend school, so 2-3 more generations, please.

        Of course, racism didn’t stop with the emancipation of slaves and large-scale theft can affect more than one generation,, but a reparations policy for current generations based on selected past circumstances rather than people’s circumstances now, ignores the ups and downs from multiple causes which can affect all families, regardless of race.

        Society’s pooled resources are in significant part taken from individuals, many of whose families did not benefit from theft.

        I support giving people a leg up, but think many affirmative action policies are poorly targeted (do Obama’s children qualify for affirmative action?)and ineffective.

    • Posted May 22, 2020 at 6:55 pm | Permalink

      But it’s not obvious that 18-yr-old members of such groups are being discriminated against today.

      I dunno about that. Try sending two identical resumes to apply for jobs, one bearing the name “Jamal” and the other “Chad”.

  9. Posted May 22, 2020 at 11:46 am | Permalink

    Also: “… that they are the result of the groups themselves failing to strive and accepting a poorer educational environment. […] I don’t believe that—not for a minute. People simply aren’t that different.”

    But *culturally* groups can be that different. Just for example, an ISIS-style culture that says girls should not be educated would produce very different outcomes.

    Cultural attitudes might be playing a large role in young people’s attainment.

    • davelenny
      Posted May 22, 2020 at 5:34 pm | Permalink

      A paradox of left-wing social analysis is that race and culture are enormously important, but it can never be conceded that cultural practices might have significant negative self-consequences.

  10. Jon Gallant
    Posted May 22, 2020 at 12:09 pm | Permalink

    We know that most departments in reputable colleges and universities will go to great lengths on their own to enlist both
    faculty and students from minority groups An obvious conclusion is that a large and ever
    expanding bureaucracy to ensure this action is largely, perhaps wholly, superfluous. Why, then, is it there?

    Imagine this thought-experiment: some time in the past, universities allowed departments of “Critical Planetary Theory” to be formed. This contrived subject consisted of a little
    matter best left to Astronomy departments, a lot of Astrology, and a sprinkling of post-modern word-salad as academic mimicry. In time, many graduates emerged with degrees in Critical Planetary Theory, untrained to do
    anything in the real world. Jobs for them would have to found, and universities could help with this by establish Planetary offices with an ever-increasing web of Deans, Ass’t. Deans, Vice-Deans, Vice-Presidents, and similar paper-pushers—all devoted to the great work of, uhhh, what was it again? Oh yes, the unending struggle for Planetaryism.

  11. Jim Swetnam
    Posted May 22, 2020 at 12:22 pm | Permalink

    “Aren’t policies that are race-blind — but which take into account economic status and school background — a better way of doing this?”

    This observation is spot on.

    It’s worth reading the long commentary on the 1619 Project on the World Socialist Web Site, which may be the most comprehensive critique, and is one which puts “identity politics” in a larger context. Racial divisions are exploited by both Republicans and Democrats to obscure the real problem: socioeconomic inequality across the board, real class divisions and exploitation.

    It’s not “Workers of the world unite!,” but “Races of the world divide!”

    https://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2019/12/28/nytr-d28.html

  12. JohnE
    Posted May 22, 2020 at 12:51 pm | Permalink

    Sadly, like most of our big, contentious issues, this one defies simple solutions. We can pour all the money we want into better quality elementary education, but it does little good when kids come from broken homes, where they don’t get enough to eat, where they are witnesses to terrible violence and drug abuse, where there are no books and no computers (save video games), and where education simply isn’t valued because no one in their sphere of influence actually knows anyone who rose above their impoverished circumstances through education. Folks on the right love to point to stories about some underprivileged kid who achieves success as proof that anyone who’s motivated can succeed in America, but of course those folks are oblivious to the fact that the reason such stories are newsworthy is because they are so exceedingly rare.

  13. Richard Cozart
    Posted May 22, 2020 at 4:28 pm | Permalink

    I think Jerrys heart is in the right place (he is a liberal, after all) but to think that the DIE bureaucrats are going to go away – so long as outcomes vary between peoples and races, there will always be the argument that the disparity, per se, is proof of the evil, be it racism, sexism, classisms, etc.- is mere wishful thinking. And this means that even if all those -isms are eradicated, the culprit will inevitably be lack of equal opportunity. Jerry mentions and implicitly criticizes Critical Race Theory – this holds, among other things, that there is structural, systemic racism woven into the very fabric of our modern institutions. And, importantly, this differs from “ordinary” racism, because, like the Coronavirus, it’s invisible and can only be detected post-facto by the existence of disparities in outcome. So as long as there are any disparity, their is invisible racism at work, which must be eradicated and operates as full employment for the bureaucrats, who have the special x-ray vision to see it. As Jerry notes, these programs have been around for what seems like forever, and yet there are still disparities in outcomes. He almost comes close to acknowledging what many people think is a major contributing factor in black communities to the problem of poverty and the disadvantages that flow from that: fatherless homes and exploding rates of illegitimate children being raised by single mothers. Of course, this isn’t the only reason for poverty, but both the American Enterprise Institute and the Brookings Institution agree that this factor is a leading indicator of poverty for children. He mentions explicitly the need for home environments that prize education. Clearly, there is a cultural difference between Jewish and Asians families on the one hand, and African-Americans on the other, on this dimension. But he seems to indicate that people aren’t all that different in accepting poorer educational environments – I think he’s engaging in wishful thinking on this point – even President Obama noted the “acting white” problem that young black boys in particular experience if they are academically oriented, See, e.g., https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2019/07/acting-white-charge-origins/594130/ . So yeah, pour more money into the schools, etc, but I don’t see how mo money will really solve it unless there is at least a recognition that, notwithstanding history, past performance doesn’t guarantee future outcomes.

    >

  14. Adam M.
    Posted May 22, 2020 at 8:18 pm | Permalink

    I support the goal of equal opportunities for everyone – or at least opportunities for everyone who meets facially neutral criteria relevant to performance. (E.g. I’m fine with the military deciding that you have to meet certain physical criteria to be accepted, and outright rejecting those who don’t.)

    But I don’t support any program based on achieving equal outcomes (i.e. the elimination of disparities) because the evidence is just too strong that there are significant differences in average cognitive ability between races. (Such programs will never meet their goals and will breed resentment.) If you don’t think so, how do you explain the following?

    While poverty correlates with intelligence and academic achievement, the poorest whites and Asians still do better on both measures than the richest blacks. (And you if you think poverty is the cause of poor achievement, then you have to explain why dirt poor Chinese and Korean immigrants do so well.)

    Adoption studies show that blacks adopted and raised in well-off white households and sent to good schools perform about as well as their biological siblings (i.e. relatively poorly) and end up with an IQ similar to their biological siblings, not their adoptive siblings. Similarly, twin studies show little effect of upbringing (absent serious abuse) on achievement. The home environment and the school don’t make much difference in eventual IQ or academic ability.

    Programs like Head Start make no long-term difference. The intensive training helps kids perform better than their peers at a young age, but by adulthood the advantage is lost. This is similar to findings from adoption studies, twin studies, and studies of the effects of parenting style, which show that the early environment (absent serious abuse or malnutrition) can temporarily boost or depress a person’s IQ and ability, but these effects disappear by adulthood or so.

    Increasing school funding above a certain base level has little effect. For example, for a long time, Washington DC had about the highest per-student funding in the nation, plus black teachers, staff, politicians, and an all-black school board (so they could hardly blame systemic racism from whites), but produced dismal results. If you compare schools with similar student demographics and socioeconomic status, you’ll find that funding levels don’t make much difference. The best predictor of school performance is simply the racial makeup of the school. Socioeconomic status is also a good predictor, but not as good as the races of the students.

    There is no country in the world – including countries in Africa that have never been colonized and where blacks have always been in charge, so they can’t blame racism – where blacks perform anywhere near the world average in cognitive ability. There is no country where blacks have an average IQ near 100. Everywhere in the world that the races live together, the same pattern emerges with Ashkenazi Jews and northeast Asians on top, whites in the middle, and blacks on the bottom. It is a constant that can’t be explain by slavery, Jim Crow laws, or other historical details specific to the United States. There is no country in the world where the racial achievement gaps have been closed.

    • Filippo
      Posted May 23, 2020 at 8:57 am | Permalink

      1. “Adoption studies show that blacks adopted and raised in well-off white households and sent to good schools perform about as well as their biological siblings (i.e. relatively poorly) and end up with an IQ similar to their biological siblings, not their adoptive siblings.”

      I feel the need to look at at least a few of these studies. Can you provide a few links?

      In your first sentence above, were “blacks” replaced with “whites,” and “white” (“households”) with “Northeast Asian,” do you hold that your statement would remain no less true?

      2. “Similarly, twin studies show little effect of upbringing (absent serious abuse) on achievement. The home environment and the school don’t make much difference in eventual IQ or academic ability.”

      Is it an accurate summary of your comments that biology/genetics primarily if not solely determines cognitive development, intellectual curiosity, academic achievement?

      To be perhaps repetitive, I gather that you hold that culture has little if any influence on the matter. Speaking for myself, I grew up in an Appalachian South sub-culture/home environment where I had to be vigilant about who saw me reading, for fear of being accused of “having my nose stuck in a book” (instead of being drawn into gossip about the private lives of other Peyton Place denizens).

      I think culture a quite significant factor. Do you hold, e.g., that Northeast Asian high regard for education (and the concomitant regard for hard work) is a myth or the by-product of genetic endowment?

      Do you hold the same for the sentiments expressed by the below authors:

      “Anti-Intellectualism in American Life” (Richard Hofstadter)

      “The Age of American Unreason” (Susan Jacoby)

      • Adam M.
        Posted May 23, 2020 at 9:55 am | Permalink

        I feel the need to look at at least a few of these studies. Can you provide a few links?

        I can try, but the references are mostly from footnotes in books and not web links, and it’d mean waiting for the libraries to reopen so I can check them out again, or buying copies. (They’ve all blended together in my mind.)

        In your first sentence above, were “blacks” replaced with “whites,” and “white” (“households”) with “Northeast Asian,” do you hold that your statement would remain no less true?

        I believe the results of adoption studies would show similar results were whites adopted by northeast Asians. E.g. whites adopted by Chinese would end up with IQs that match the white average, not the Chinese average. (But I don’t think Asians are all that interested in adopting white children. Sufficient data probably don’t exist. In any case, I haven’t heard of it.)

        Is it an accurate summary of your comments that biology/genetics primarily if not solely determines cognitive development, intellectual curiosity, academic achievement?

        To be perhaps repetitive, I gather that you hold that culture has little if any influence on the matter…

        I think culture and environment are important in determining how close a person can come to achieving their potential. But a person’s potential is limited, and I fully expect that you won’t find that all groups are, on average, equal in all types of potential.

        I also think culture is not completely separate from biology. A people’s culture (and even the culture of a single household) isn’t completely “random” or learned but was made by them and surely reflects, to some degree, who they are. Culture is very malleable, but I would assert that a hypothetical group with an average IQ of 75 can’t and won’t create the same culture as a group with an average IQ of 110. (And, of course, IQ isn’t the only aspect of the mind.) I also suspect that if you repeatedly stole 100,000 babies from each group and tried to raise them in isolation from existing human cultures that patterns would emerge in the cultures they created. Of course, that can’t be ethically tested.

        Nonetheless, I think twin studies and adoption studies point to intelligence causing wealth more than wealth causing intelligence, and more generally to a person’s genetics exerting a surprisingly strong influence on their behavior and the environment they create for themselves (and their children) as adults. IIRC, there were some interesting examples in one of Steven Pinker’s books. Maybe it was The Blank Slate…

        I’ve only read a summary of Anti-Intellectualism in American Life (and I can’t recall having heard of The Age of American Unreason before), but I suspect it’s broadly true. The persistent strain of anti-intellectualism in American culture hasn’t stopped us from creating many great intellectuals, though. I don’t think Americans are against the intelligent, the capable, the learned, or the elite, except insofar as those people “think they know better than me how to run my own life”. That is, I think it’s connected to feelings of individualism and self-sufficiency, and also an impression that many intellectuals live in ivory towers and pontificate about average Americans without ever having had to bust their asses working at minimum wage or the like (i.e. without ever having been an average American themselves). But I’m just speculating.

        • Jim Swetnam
          Posted May 23, 2020 at 10:37 am | Permalink

          Why do you have to wait for the libraries to open? Numerous studies are available on the internet. I found the one below in 30 seconds. Is one of the studies you’ve read Rushton and Jensen 2005? Well here is is point by point critique of that study which is also a parallel critique of nearly everything you have claimed:

          Click to access more%2520on%2520black%2520iq.pdf

          I come down somewhere in the middle of nature vs nurture myself. I most certainly do not believe that genetics is the most important determinant of intelligence.

    • Adam M.
      Posted May 23, 2020 at 9:07 am | Permalink

      The important point, which I didn’t have time to make, is that policy makers must base policy on reality, not wishful thinking. When policy is based on a false presumption of equal ability among all groups, everything becomes distorted.

      If all groups are equally capable, then any group differences must be explained by some invisible bogeyman like systemic racism, and since all efforts to eliminate “system racism” are bound to fail (because it’s judged to exist whenever disparities are found, and those disparities won’t go away), they’ll keep ratcheting up the effort, the attacks on “whiteness”, etc. and putting ever more resources into unproductive directions.

      If all groups are believed equally capable, then groups that perform less well grow up believing that whites are oppressing them, and they consequently come to hate whites, which only makes race relations all the more difficult. And whites are constantly taught that it’s all their fault and they should feel guilty. (It’s curious that it’s always whites’ fault, given that nearly every measure of white privilege, implicit bias, etc. is much stronger among Chinese, Koreans, Japanese, Indians, etc., and sometimes even Hispanics (e.g. many health-related outcomes.)

      Policy makers should try to make everyone the best they can be, basing policy on the best available evidence and information, not chase after a fantasy of equal outcomes for every demographic.

  15. drosophilist
    Posted May 22, 2020 at 8:49 pm | Permalink

    Story time: I’m in the process of registering my son for kindergarten. I’m an American living in a large city in a blue state, and I looked up my son’s prospective future (public) schools on a nonprofit organization’s website that provides, among other things, each school’s racial makeup and the students’ scores broken down by race.

    For multiple schools, I saw something like the following: white students: composite score on all subjects, 8/10; Latino students, 4/10; black students, 2/10. It’s appalling. In some schools, there are hardly any white students, and in those cases, only Latino and black scores are given. There aren’t any schools in my district, not a single one, where Latino and black students have equal scores to white students.

    How to explain this? These kids attend the same schools, with the same teachers and facilities, and equal funding per capita. Should we postulate that all the teachers are implicit racists who unfairly punish students of color with low grades? As heartbreaking as it is to say, the more likely explanation is lack of a supportive learning environment at home, a culture that does not value education (“acting white”), or some combination of the above.

    All of this is to say, I absolutely agree with Professor Ceiling Cat in principle – every child should have equal opportunity to succeed! – but I just don’t see what can be done in practice. If black kids are averaging 2/10 in elementary school, the vast majority of them will not be qualified to study organic chemistry at MIT, no matter how much affirmative action society provides. I wish I had some good ideas on how to solve this.

  16. Posted May 22, 2020 at 10:13 pm | Permalink

    “1.) Do we need these programs?”

    Even with such programs, as you point out, equity has not been reached, however much organization, administration, skewed selection and money have been thrown at it. How long does it take for us to acknowledge that this approach hasn’t/doesn’t work?

    “2.) How long should these programs persist?”

    I think 40+ years is a long enough test to determine if the process works. What is being done in U.S. school systems that are successful? What is being done in other countries? Has anything been done in the past that seemed to be more successful? How can we modify what we’re doing to achieve greater success for all students? Not all of our universities are successful in turning out educated students of whatever color or culture, and many products of our universities never find employment based on their educations.

    “3.) How do we know when proper “equity and inclusion” is achieved?”

    Without effecting changes in home environments and all school levels emphasizing books and education as being of great value, it won’t happen. If we don’t modify and find a way to provide equitable funding to all levels of school systems, it won’t happen. Until we understand that IQ tests are not dependable evaluators of intelligence(s), it won’t happen. Until we stop ascribing less intelligence to people of color and those of certain cultural backgrounds vs. less pigmented people and those of more fortunate environments, it won’t happen.

    There are many individuals in our country of all colors who have had ancestors who were uneducated and poor, but hard workers. Andrew Cuomo says that neither his grandfather or grandmother were educated. Their children and grandchildren were.

    My grandmother had a 2nd grade education and my grandfather had an elementary school education. They were poor and hard working. Most of their kids had at least an 8th grade education. One had a college education. Both of my parents had no more than an 8th grade education. They also were poor and hardworking and had amazing skill sets. They could do anything they set their minds to do. I have a master’s degree and my brother has had several years of college. Both have not been poor and have been hardworking. All three of my children have some college but no degrees. One was in the Navy for 20 years in a job requiring security clearance, one has been a critical care/ICU nurse for more than 30 years, and the other is a bookkeeper. At all levels of my family, we valued books, ideas and education. Most of us were not creatures of advantages and wealth.

    Even with all the difficulties of reducing or getting rid of the in equities, we must continue to try to find a means to achieve as much equity as we can for all.

  17. g2-a6236bafeec87725484de1a2b609497c
    Posted May 23, 2020 at 12:42 am | Permalink

    Have you seen the Evergreen College Documentary? If not, you should. It’s free on Youtube. Director is Mike Nayna. It’s an inside look at how this diversity effort turns out in the real world.

    Im all about ‘diversity’ on non-ethnic/race/gender grounds. For example, instead of race based affirmative action, there should be income based affirmative action (socioeconomic standards). Race is a very dangerous thing to base a zero-sum admission on. It tends to spiral out of control and in a multiethnic society, brings out the worst in people. If you don’t believe me, just watch the documentary.

    So based on the tribal nature of the issue (which I dont have to remind readers of this blog about), issues regarding race should be based on pure principles that are easy to understand, like Dr Martin Luther King sought: colorblindness.


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