Wednesday, November 2, 2022

The Supreme Court's Diversity Triad

For a brief moment forget about ideology? Forget about your habit of judging people according to the color of their skin and not the content of their character. Or, of course, their merit.

When you look at today’s Supreme Court you see three Trump appointees and three Obama-Biden appointees. Now ask yourself, which cohort, which troika is smarter? Which understands the law better; which is comprised of brilliant jurists and which is comprised of diversity hires. Which group is voting its book, as the saying goes. If diversity hires had been outlawed, these three would probably not be Supreme Court justices. 

A brief review of the reporting tells us that the feminist left has risen up to praise the diversity candidates. The media has thrilled to the verbal parrying that these underqualified justices brought to the hearing. 

No one seems to have noticed this, so they have left the topic for me. It came to mind while Justice Kagan was engaging in the Supreme Court hearings about affirmative action.

These were her words:

Universities are the pipeline to leadership... if universities are not racially diverse, then all of those other institutions are not going to be racially diverse either.

What’s wrong with this picture? Obviously, nothing about it shows the minimum understanding of the difference between being appointed to the job and doing the job. What with rampant grade inflation and taboos of ever speaking ill of minority’s work, we have ended up with major institutions being managed by a band of incompetents who owe their careers to diversity. (See the Biden administration) And who most certainly do not want to hear about.

Writing against the Supreme Court case nearly two decades ago, Grutter v. Bollinger, Justice Thomas declared that this was in exercise in argumentum an aestheticum. People care more about how it looks than about whether it works. In one sense this is a good thing, since it does not work.

Writing in the Atlantic Adam Harris lauds Justice Jackson for having introduced a brilliant argument. In truth, the argument is not even close to being brilliant, so Harris is puffing up Jackson’s self-esteem and advancing the cause for diversity by skewing the argument.

In the first place, Jackson sees life as storytime. She believes that people who are not allowed to state their race are truncating their identity. If your skin color is different your scores presumably have a different meaning. Of course, this is inane. Do we really want to classify applicants by race?

Harris continues to make what he considers the salient issue: 

She [Jackson] was driving toward a fundamental statement about what the programs are for: Race-conscious admissions are designed to help students get into college, not to exclude students as a result of their existence. 

Untrue, of course. If a university has a limited number of places in its Freshman class, giving preference to students who cannot do the work, on aesthetic grounds, will necessarily exclude better qualified Asians. And this will damage their educational opportunities. It does not take advanced math to understand this point,

And, of course, Sonia Sotomayor, another diversity hire, managed to make a fool of herself by showing that she did not know the difference between de jure and de facto.

It is worthy of a first year law student:

So, even if we have de jure discrimination now or segregation now, Congress can't look at that because we certainly have de jure segregation. The races are treated very differently in our society in terms of their access to opportunity.  

She is saying that discrimination is a matter of law, not an extra-legal phenomenon. She should have spoken of de facto situations, point that Justice Alito tried to remind her of, to no avail.

As famed liberal law professor Lawrence Tribe, once opined. Sotomayor doesn’t know anywhere near as much as she thinks she knows.

Another argument favoring diversity tells us that different people from different races have different lived experiences and that we need those in order to have vigorous debate. One dares to suggest that the law is about the law, not your lived experience. There is no black engineering, black mathematics, etc.

Having a different perspective on what it feels like to break an arm is of limited value to the physician who is setting it.

John McWhorter, one of the better writers on these topics, explains it thusly:

And what it comes down to is this: We’re supposed to assume that it’s been proven that this diversity — let’s not get into what we mean, let’s assume that we all zero in on a certain common idea — this diversity is key to a good education. But the question is: Is it?

Except for some classes — yes, the occasional discussion class, sure — but with 95 percent of what a college education is — physics, irregular verbs, systolic pressure — what would diversity have to do with it? Is diversity that important?

And then also there have been many, many studies that aren’t brought up — but so many well-intentioned, brilliant people have shown that if you actually try to measure the extent to which diversity improves education on any measure, you find that really it doesn’t.

We say that we want this kind of diversity and we want, for example, Black students to represent the Black experience in class. But then again, anybody who teaches knows that most Black students, including me when I was one, don’t really want the role.

Heather Mac Donald sums this point up nicely:

Actually, the research cited on behalf of this “diversity” benefit is laughably weak. And “lived experience” shows that students admitted under lowered admissions standards disproportionately drop out of STEM classes and self-segregate in social settings—as the ubiquitous “black” table in student dining halls and the nonstop demand for racially segregated dorms and institutional “safe spaces” demonstrate.


Mind your own business said...

When I was an undergrad at MIT in the 1970's, there was a living group in our dorm that was 100% African-Aamerican black, and they called themselves "Chocolate City." It was clearly self-segregation. I don't know if that arrangement benefited them or not, in that high pressure academic environment. All I know is that there were very few black undergraduates, and the one or two I encountered in classrooms always seemed to be struggling to keep up academically. When placed in team environments, they rarely held up their end of the workload. That gave me a very dim view of affirmative action.

By the time I went to grad school, that no longer seemed to be the case. Everyone there, regardless of race, seemed competent and hard-working, if not brilliant. But that was a long time ago, and wokeness has been penetrating STEM. Law schools were hit much earlier.

Let's just say I'm not surprised we have some underqualified SCOTUS affirmative action appointments.

IamDevo said...

Dear MYOB:
How dare you allow your life experience to disrupt the narrative? The unmitigated gall!

David Foster said...

re Kagan's remark about "pipeline", I added this comment at Ricochet:

The writer and management consultant Peter Drucker wrote, circa 1969:

"One thing it (modern society) cannot afford in education is the “elite institution” which has a monopoly on social standing, on prestige, and on the command positions in society and economy. Oxford and Cambridge are important reasons for the English brain drain. A main reason for the technology gap is the Grande Ecole such as the Ecole Polytechnique or the Ecole Normale. These elite institutions may do a magnificent job of education, but only their graduates normally get into the command positions. Only their faculties “matter.” This restricts and impoverishes the whole society…The Harvard Law School might like to be a Grande Ecole and to claim for its graduates a preferential position. But American society has never been willing to accept this claim…

It is almost impossible to explain to a European that the strength of American higher education lies in this absence of schools for leaders and schools for followers. It is almost impossible to explain to a European that the engineer with a degree from North Idaho A. and M. is an engineer and not a draftsman. Yet this is the flexibility Europe needs in order to overcome the brain drain and to close the technology gap."

American society today has come a lot closer to accepting Grande Ecole status for HLS than it had when Drucker wrote the above passage.