Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Diversity in STEM Subjects

First, they came for the Humanities and Social Sciences. Once they had invaded and occupied those academic fields, making them into indoctrination mills, they moved on to the STEM subjects.

The thought police and the diversity police have now set their sights on science, technology, engineering and mathematics. They are sorely offended by the underrepresentation of minorities and women in those fields and are going to change the percentages, whether you like or not. Better yet, whether the quality of education and the quality of work improve or decline. When you are a fanatic, all that matters is how it looks. How it works, we will leave to the side.

In what seems to be an excerpt from her new and much-needed book Heather Mac Donald explains what has been happening in STEM fields. (via AEI and Maggie's Farm) That is, how education is being dumbed down:

Identity politics has engulfed the humanities and social sciences on American campuses; now it is taking over the hard sciences. The STEM fields—science, technology, engineering, and math—are under attack for being insufficiently “diverse.” The pressure to increase the representation of females, blacks, and Hispanics comes from the federal government, university administrators, and scientific societies themselves. That pressure is changing how science is taught and how scientific qualifications are evaluated. The results will be disastrous for scientific innovation and for American competitiveness.

The point bears emphasis. Dumbing down the Humanities and Social Sciences gave us crappy movies and television shows. It also gave us newspapers that insist on propagandizing news coverage. And yet, America has excelled in STEM subjects. In many ways it is a world leader in these fields. This has happened even though it is not sufficiently diverse. Our diversity police refuse to allow this to stand. Thus, they are trying to make America less innovative and less competitive in technology… and that includes telecommunications and military technology. It will also include medical practice.

Mac Donald explains how wasteful this new mania about diversity has become:

The science diversity charade wastes extraordinary amounts of time and money that could be going into basic research and its real-world application. If that were its only consequence, the cost would be high enough. But identity politics is now altering the standards for scientific competence and the way future scientists are trained.

She demonstrates how the diversity police have changed job requirements and academic admissions requirements:

“Diversity” is now an explicit job qualification in the STEM fields. A current job listing for a lecturer in biology at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst announces that because diversity is “critical to the university’s goals of achieving excellence in all areas,” the biology department “holistically” assesses applicants and “favorably considers experiences overcoming barriers”—experiences assumed to be universal among URMs. The University of California at San Diego physics department advertised an assistant-professor position several years ago with a “specific emphasis on contributions to diversity,” such as a candidate’s “awareness of inequities faced by underrepresented groups.” Social-justice concerns apparently trump the quest to solve the mystery of dark energy. All five candidates on UC San Diego’s short list were females, leading one male candidate with a specialty in extragalactic physics to wonder why the school had even solicited applications from Asian and white men.

Entry requirements for graduate education are being revised. The American Astronomical Society has recommended that Ph.D. programs in astronomy eliminate the requirement that applicants take the Graduate Record Exam (GRE) in physics, since it has a disparate impact on females and URMs and allegedly does not predict future research output. Harvard and other departments have complied, even though an objective test like the GRE can spotlight talent from less prestigious schools. The NSF’s Graduate Research Fellowship Program has dropped all science GREs for applicants in all fields.

No longer do we want the best and the brightest doing theoretical physics. We want the physics lab to look like America, regardless of the quality of the science.

It also applies to medicine:

Medical school administrators urge admissions committees to overlook the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) scores of black and Hispanic student applicants and employ “holistic review” in order to engineer a diverse class. The result is a vast gap in entering qualifications. From 2013 to 2016, medical schools nationally admitted 57 percent of black applicants with a low MCAT of 24 to 26, but only 8 percent of whites and 6 percent of Asians with those same low scores, according to Claremont McKenna professor Frederick Lynch. Individual schools have larger score disparities. This achievement gap does not close over the course of medical school, but the URM students who do complete their medical training will be fanatically sought after anyway. Adding to medical schools’ diversity woes is the fact that the number of male URM student applicants has been declining in recent years, making it even harder to find qualified candidates.

Think about it. The next time they wheel you into the operating room, you will feel comforted to know that your surgeon has been chosen to fill a diversity quota. Savvy New Yorkers will tell you that when it comes to choosing a physician, you do best to choose someone from India, because the barriers for entry are so much higher. Sadly, we do not always have the option.

In order to advance the diversity cause our schools are changing the way they teach science. If some students are more apt to learn more quickly, they must be penalized in order to advance students who are less able:

A network of so-called teaching and learning centers at universities across the country is seeking to make science classrooms more “inclusive” by changing pedagogy and expectations for student learning. The STEM faculty is too white, male, and heteronormative, according to these centers, making it hard for females, blacks, Hispanics, and the LGBTQ population to learn. Lecturing and objective exams should be de- emphasized in favor of “culturally sensitive pedagogies that play close attention to students’ social identities,” in the words of the Association of American Colleges and Universities. STEM teaching should be more “open- than closed-ended,” more “reflective than prescriptive,” according to the association. At the University of Michigan, the Women in Science and Engineering (WISE) program collaborates with the Center for Learning and Teaching to develop “deliberately inclusive and equitable approaches to syllabus design, writing assignments, grading, and discussion.” Yale has created a special undergraduate laboratory course, with funding from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, that aims to enhance URM students’ “feelings of identifying as a scientist.” It does so by being “non-prescriptive” in what students research; they develop their own research questions. But “feelings” are only going to get you so far without mastery of the building blocks of scientific knowledge.

Students receive indoctrination, not instruction in chemistry at a place like UC Berkeley:

An introductory chemistry course at UC Berkeley exemplifies “culturally sensitive pedagogy.” Its creators described the course in a January 2018 webinar for STEM teachers, sponsored by the University of California’s STEM Faculty Learning Community. A primary goal of the course, according to teachers Erin Palmer and Sabriya Rosemund, is to disrupt the “racialized and gendered construct of scientific brilliance,” which defines “good science” as getting all the right answers. The course maintains instead that “all students are scientifically brilliant.” Science is a practice of collective sense-making that calls forth “inclusive ways” of being brilliant. Students in this “inclusive” Chem 1A course work in groups arranging data cards in the proper sequence to represent chemical processes, among other tasks. Chemical terms of art are avoided wherever possible to accommodate students’ different academic backgrounds. The instructors hold the teams “accountable to group thinking”; a team can’t question an instructor unless it has arrived collectively at the question and poses it in “we” language.

The goal is to produce students who cover their ignorance with high self-esteem. Of course, if your self-esteem does not allow you to see when you are wrong, or when your experiment goes wrong, how can you ever improve your performance?

What they do know is that students showed a positive shift in believing that they were good at science. Scientific self-esteem is now an academic goal.

What matters is not what it achieves, but how it all looks:

College freshmen are brought into elite academic environments for which they are unprepared, especially in the STEM fields, in order to satisfy administrators’ desire to look out upon a “diverse” student body. Those inaptly named preference “beneficiaries” drop out of their STEM studies at high rates, despite the availability of numerous tutoring and mentoring programs. This experience of academic failure only exacerbates the anti-acting-white syndrome acknowledged in the UCLA study. You can read through report after report on achieving diversity in STEM, however, without coming across any acknowledgment of the academic skills gap.

It is all based on an illusion:

The diversity crusade rests on the claim that absent discrimination, every scientific field would show gender parity. 

The truth is exactly the opposite: lowering standards and diverting scientists’ energy into combating phantom sexism and racism is reckless in a highly competitive, ruthless, and unforgiving global marketplace. Driven by unapologetic meritocracy, China is catching up fast to the U.S. in science and technology. Identity politics in American science is a political self-indulgence that we cannot afford.

The diversity police live in a bubble. Mac Donald is correct to point out that international competition will eventually hurt us all.


Ares Olympus said...

I'm not in a position to judge what is going on at the moment, but I can reflect that my office has 4 women engineers, 2 from Europe, 1 from South America, and 1 from Minnesota. And it seems clear to me that there is an anti-STEM bias in American culture for women, and women need to see other women in these fields to help weaken that bias. One of the women from Europe said her mother was also a civil engineer, so Europe is a generation ahead of us.

I am concerned about the possibility that standards might be lowered, but it seems strange to expect. STEMS don't require upper body strength like fireMEN, but it is true perhaps its an unfair competition when there are men who are focused enough to make their career 90% of their passion and attention of their until age 40 before relaxing a little, while women don't have the same luxury if they want a family. OTOH, it seems fair to consider the nature of "standards" and there are many sorts of important skills and expanding diversity of people in any field is likely to expand the skills of a group as a whole.

Sam L. said...

How many people will have to die before the "progressives" will admit to being wrong?
My guess is a Billion. And that's only for admitting the slightest possibility of being wrong.

whitney said...

Between Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot, Hitler (and he had really low numbers) et al , it was probably more than a hundred million last century. I'm sure we can top that this century

Anonymous said...

Hmm, veterinary schools are 90 percent women. I guess that does not count as STEM.

David Foster said...

"One of the women from Europe said her mother was also a civil engineer, so Europe is a generation ahead of us."

The person who designed the propellers for the extraordinarily fast liner SS United States was a woman. This ship was launched in 1951.

The GE blog just ran a story about two women at GE Power who have been sharing an engineering job for 20 years.

Admiral Grace Hopper was an important pioneer of the computer industry, starting in the 1940s.

Lots more could be mentioned.

A single case from Europe proves nothing. Also, are you aware of research that shows women in more economically-well-off societies tend to choose stereotypically male careers, such as engineering, LESS often than those in less-wealthy countries?