Sunday, October 16, 2016

The Diversity Police at Harvard

Apparently, certain groups of Harvard students do not feel that they belong. One suspects that their fellow students treat them accordingly, and that this creates considerable anguish.

Someone with a warped mind might suggest that when you institute aggressive diversity programs any student who might have profited from these programs will be seen as having profited from them. Concomitantly, he or she will be seen as somehow different from those students who were admitted fairly.

Shelby Steele made this point many moons ago. It is still true. As more colleges use diversity as a criterion for admission it becomes truer.

Moreover, a student who has SAT scores (on a 1600 point scale) three to four hundred points lower than other students will probably not be able to compete in most academic disciplines. Even in an era of grade inflation, students who might have been admitted for diversity reasons will be treated differently in classroom discussion and in study groups.

Worse yet, students who fulfill a diversity quota will incite resentment. If your friend or family member with a far better record was rejected in order to open more places to affirmative action candidates you are not going to feel very good. After all, diversity programs rig the system and people do not look kindly on rigged systems and on unearned privilege.

There are various obvious ways of addressing this problem.

First, one can abolish affirmative action programs. If colleges admit all students according roughly to the same criteria, the stigma that Steele noted will disappear.

Second, one can recommend that those who were admitted for reasons of diversity work harder to compete more effectively against those who were admitted under different criteria. Protesting injustice because you do not feel like you belong does nothing for your GPA. Only hard work in the library and the lab will do that. If you are profiting from what is essentially a rigged system, you should do everything in your power to show that you belong.

Third, as seems to be the policy at Harvard, you can try to control the minds of students who were admitted under the standard criteria, the better to make them believe that every student who is at Harvard is equal. If the affirmative action candidates feel like they do not belong, everyone must treat them as though they belong. At every level of behavior. Thus, the mania against microaggressions, including looking askance at a minority group member and using the wrong language. To do this you will be forcing students to live a lie. Since they all know it's a lie, you will need to exert pressure to coerce them to overcome their sense of reality and their sense of fairness.

Fourth, you can double down on diversity. You can admit more students who contribute to campus diversity and hire more faculty members who do the same. These new students and professors will probably be inferior, and this will cause people to think less of members of minority groups. This will obviously aggravate the problem, but campus bureaucrats, believing firmly in mind control, will happily show you how to ignore reality.

Fifth, you can attack the standards that were used to admit white and Asian students. You can say that these criteria smack of white privilege. You might need to explain why there are so many Asian students at these schools, apparently profiting from their “white” privilege, but you probably do not want to go there.

Sixth, you can suggest that students who do more poorly on aptitude tests contribute something else to campus. This involves changing admissions criteria, giving special credit for customs and mores from different cultures. And having special programs to celebrate their cuisine and holidays.

On Minding the Campus (via Maggie’s Farm), Gilbert Sewell wrote about what is happening at Harvard:

As with other Ivy League universities, two years of race-fueled protests and threats have cowed [Harvard] university administrators. The Black Lives Matter banner and Rainbow flag fly over the First Parish Church in Harvard Square. In a December 2014 open letter to Harvard students, College dean Rakesh Khurana proclaimed, “I have watched and listened in awe of our students, faculty, and staff who have come together to declare with passion, grace, and growing resolve that ‘Black Lives Matter’ and to call for justice, for ally-ship, and for hope.”

(Note what happened. Khurana gave Harvard’s backing to a controversial and aggressive racial group that many who fully support racial justice want to hold at arm’s length.)

Apparently, if some students cannot compete, it’s a sign of systemic injustice. It means that professors have failed to recognize the cultural value of wrong answers and bad writing.

To justify an admissions process that is manifestly unfair, everyone on campus must act as though all cultures are equal and as though all cultures have contributed equally to… whatever.

Late Harvard professor Samuel Huntington must be spinning in his grave. If he was right that civilizations compete against each other, for prestige and dominance, some have done better than others. If students are being taught how best to compete in the world market, it would seem rational to want them to do their best. And it would be better to inculcate the values of cultures that have shown themselves to be most successful.

If you do otherwise, you will be depriving them of tools they need to compete. Just because some students cannot compete effectively in a rigged system does not mean that the world is going to abolish competition. As the theory of mismatch says, a student who cannot compete at Harvard might excel at another institution.

If the academy does not believe in the value of competition, it is practicing diversity in the name of an aesthetic, in the name of the aesthetic pleasure they gain by seeing students of different cultures and of different colors on campus. This means that they do not care about what is best for students who serve the greater good of adding color to campus.


Ares Olympus said...

Stuart: If he was right that civilizations compete against each other, for prestige and dominance, some have done better than others. If students are being taught how best to compete in the world market, it would seem rational to want them to do their best.

To be fair, we do need to consider what competition and talent really means. And there certainly is an "arms race" of test scoring, and some people are very motivated and skilled at taking tests, but that doesn't necessarily make them the best students.

And we can't fully neglect resentment - it is a "fair" feeling, if you are excluded from a school because someone else came from a tougher background than you, and its even tougher when you're actually a bit short on the genetic advantages while growing up in the best schools, and you worked really hard to get that score, and you thought it would be enough, but it wasn't.

Myself, I've never been that interested in competition, perhaps because of that zero-sum problem, but the world is a wide place, so why only try to do what everyone else wants to do as a measure of self-worth? And there are many goals that are possible, where our individualistic ego isn't the end-all be-all of human existence.

Diversity can be a legitimate value, in whatever criteria you consider, and this MAY cause the problem of having some REALLY smart kids having to interact with LESS SMART kids, and wow, that's almost like regular life!

My cousin talked about grad school, and he started drinking regularly because he needed to unwind at the end of a day competing with Asian students who think its perfectly natural to study 100 hour/week, and who consider themselves failures if they get below 98% on a test. Perhaps schools should only be filled with students who believe good grades are the only thing that is important?

But that's not actually like regular life. Regular life is full of people who don't like smart-asses who need to compete all the time against everyone around them, and such people who find success that way in school will find something else when they get a job, when they have to show their communication skills, and show they can work well with others, and find common ground without making other people feel stupid.

So whatever the diversity of skills it takes to make well-rounded human beings, probably it couldn't hurt to have some diversity of background of people to interact with, and even if you fail or get C's in class rather than A's, you might still be glad you had the chance to go to a best school.

Apparently a lot of politicians didn't get great grades in school, and we could shame them for that, or we could be glad they didn't let that get them down.

Andrew_M_Garland said...

Colleges have been captured by administrators who don't hesitate to charge elite prices for a certificate which cannot be verified as worth anything educationally, but is now a socially required signal.
=== ===
[There is] A dearth of meaningful assessment. By and large, colleges are unable to say with any certainty whether students have learned what the professors are teaching. This is particularly true of abilities like critical thinking that develop across the confines of individual courses. The absence of explicit descriptions of the desired outcome hampers assessment. So, too, do the independent treatment of individual courses and faculty unfamiliarity with meaningful assessment methods.
=== ===

Colleges oppose any effort to measure the effectiveness and utility of what they teach.

"Colleges resist transparency, especially for information about graduate earnings, and Payscale uses self-reported data. That’s problematic, but more useful than anything legally available at this point until higher education institutions provide the information."

What is the special sauce at Harvard which is not available at Ohio U? Harvard admits only the most intelligent students by test and accomplishment, except for affirmative action students. It teaches for 4+ years, then takes credit for the further accomplishments and incomes of its graduates. We would expect these intelligent people to do well regardless of what they were taught. They would teach themselves absent Harvard.

I think that there is no secret sauce. The evidence is in the performance of the affirmative action students. They feel exluded and frustrated rather than grateful for the elevating effects of the Harvard curriculum. They are regarded as too disbenefitted (dumb) to fully benefit from the curriculum.

A huge benefit of Harvard vs Ohio U is that Harvard is a protected community with its own police force and disciplinary system. This insulates its high-value students from the scandals and misdemeanors of youth. Whatever Harvard teaches, this part alone is worth it, to keep the children of the wealthy out of trouble until they come to their senses.

Why does the larger city and state grant this authority to a school? Because wealthy families support politicians and they want this protection from the law for their children.

Trigger Warning said...

The Diversity Clown Car amuses me to no end. Recently, Hong and Page published a paper, which received quite a lot of Proglodyte attention, with the risible claim that

"We find that when selecting a problem-solving team from a diverse population of intelligent agents, a team of randomly selected agents outperforms a team comprised of the best-performing agents."

To establish their bona fides, they even developed a maff model.

I say maff, not entirely in jest, but to fully describe the embarassing stupidity of their work.

The paper happened to attract the attention of Abigail Thompson, a math professor and topologist at UCal Davis. Dr Thompson responded with a devastating rebuttal in "Mathematical Notices", a flagship journal of the AMA. She observes that H&P's "theorem" is not, in fact a theorem; their data illustrate the effects of randomness, not "diversity" as they define it; and their attempt to equate mathematical quantities with human attributes is fantasy.

Believing H&P's paper is tantamount to believing that a racially and sexually "diverse" group of people could have outperformed the physicists on the Manhattan Project. :-D

Ares and his/it's/zir's/÷&#'s ilk can suck up to this nonsense all they want to, but the fact is that a diversity-driven process is a recipe for mediocrity.

Sam L. said...

There's also the "swimming pool" to consider: Are you able to swim in the ocean, or only in a swimming pool? Harvard is supposed to be a tough school (ocean), but due to govt. directives, has to meet diversity requirements/quotas and allows pool swimmers entry. Who flunk out, or do poorly enough they have to leave.