Jan 28 2012

Justice at Last

Category: diversityamuzikman @ 10:44 am

A great piece from Fred Reed

The Look Like America bill, originally H.R. 1533, seemed a perfectly ordinary piece of feel-good legislation when proposed by Barack Osama Obama. “Our diversity is our strength,” he said. “We must increase the representation of minorities in our institutions to reflect our diverse population and ensure the fairness for which America stands.” Congress passed the bill without reading it. It was the sort of thing one passed. Besides, there was no money involved, and the bill was not obviously anti-Semitic.

Not obviously. But then one of the obscure policy shops that abound in Washington, the Committee for Ethnic Piety, filed suit against Harvard for noncompliance. The proximate cause was an article in the Harvard Crimson, the school newspaper, about a course called Math 55, the hardest math course at the university and thus, Harvard liked to think, in America. The students in Math 55, reported the Crimson, were 45 percent Jewish, 18 percent Asian, and 100 percent male. The class didn’t, said the Committee for Ethnic Piety, look like America.

It certainly didn’t.

Harvard, ever sensitive to questions of justice, which it conflated with federal funding, agreed to make the class Look Like America. The administration asserted that only through inadvertence had it failed to notice the clear racism, sexism, and continent-ism occurring under its nose. It established a committee of reform, which set to work.

The first and most ticklish hurdle was The Jewish Question. Jews were two percent of the American population. At 45 percent in Math 55, they were over-represented by a factor of over twenty. The injustice was undeniable. Two percent of a class of twenty-five meant that Math 55 should contain half a Jew. It would then look like America. The Jewish students would have to go.

As news of the proposed ethnographic hecatomb spread across the country, alarm erupted among the prejudiced. Over seven hundred departments of engineering across the country protested. They could see where Looking Like America was going. Math departments, Silicon Valley, the National Institutes of Health, all reeked of injustice, meaning Koreans, Jews, Indians, and Chinese, and were conscious of sin. They didn’t Look Like America. They Looked Like Math 55. In the Bay area, the proportion of geniuses from India in computing was alarmingly high. Some laboratories Looked Like the Punjab. These malefactors knew well that the coming of justice would gut their enterprises.

Desperate to maintain their positions of racial and patriarchal privilege, they pointed out that the Jewish kids, like all the students in Math 55, had 800 math Boards and had done things like independently develop tensor calculus by the age of three. The view from the Gulch was expressed off-the-record by Dr. Gud Soma Darjeeling, president of Santa Clara Neurocomputing, which employed seventy PhDs in solid-state physics, including three Anglos. “Look, the US is in intellectual collapse. The average American university wouldn’t qualify as a high-school in Japan. It’s crazy. The whole world know it’s crazy. But take out the Kims, Khans, Nguyens, Wangs, and Cohens, and what’s left is Albania in 1750.”

The lead attorney for CEP, Patricia Mikoyan-Gurevich, wasn’t having it.

“Ability doesn’t exist, and occurs equally in all groups, and anyway justice is more important than patriarchal-racist abstractions. Sexism is clear at Harvard. When an entire class is male, it isn’t by accident.”

With this, no one was in disagreement.

Asians were as problematic as Jews. If a Jewish population of two percent required half a Jew in a class of twenty-five, then a six percent population of Asians required an Asian-and-a-half. Various solutions were proposed. Perhaps a short, lightweight Gujarati would do, or maybe a prodigy of ten from Mumbai. Otherwise, admitting three Asians every two years might serve.

The paucity of females in Math 55 was easier to address. Harvard had already established that there was no difference in mathematical ability by firing a president who thought there might be. Since ability didn’t exist and was found equally in everyone, the sexual balance was quickly rendered equitable by eliminating entrance requirements.

Harvard then set about the intricate matter of making the class thirteen percent black, sixteen percent Hispanic, a tenth of a percent Iroquois, and so on.

Meanwhile, CEP turned its attention to the lush pastures of music. The New York Philharmonic, being in New York, was discovered to consist disproportionately of Italians, Jews, Hungarians, and so on. It Looked Like New York, which wouldn’t do. The American Association of the Musically Hopeless, consisting of the deaf, tone-deaf, mutes, and amputees, filed suit on grounds that their membership was not represented at all. (They carefully overlooked the fact that they were over-represented among rock bands.) This brought up an important juridical question: Since most Americans could not play an instrument, should not the orchestra reflect this?

Thirteen years after the passage of the Look Like America bill, the United States ranked in international measures of mathematics just behind the Central African Republic, the New York Phil couldn’t play Happy Birthday, and racial and sexual justice flourished. Yet the vexed problem of Math 55 had not been entirely solved. Progress had been made, yes. The class looked almost like America, counting on its fingers and showing no trace of patriarchalism, which in any event it couldn’t spell. However, CEP’s Committee on Oppressed and Marginalized Indigenous Peoples of Color noted that the class contained no student from oppressed peoples of the Amazon rain forest. CEP regarded national boundaries as essentially phallic, since they were longer than they were wide, and thus beneath notice.

Harvard, distraught at finding yet another instance of its institutional racism, cast about for a suitable indigene.

After a laborious search the university discovered Wunxputl, a member of the Tloxyproctyl tribe of the Amazon Basin, consisting of twelve people who lived on yams and the flesh of the Three-Toed Sloth. Wunxputl was at Wellesley, where he served in a minor administrative position that had no responsibilities. He had been brought there seven years earlier by the anthropology department, so it could atone for White Guilt. It didn’t matter that Wellesley was guilty of nothing. The atonement was a pleasant form of narcissism, allowing the faculty to congratulate themselves on their moral purity.

Harvard arranged with Wellesley to borrow Wunxputl for three minutes every seven years, which it had calculated would satisfy the demands of ethnic proportionality. Justice, at last, had been achieved.

A very funny piece, funny because it is so absurd.

A very sad piece, sad because it is not far from the truth.

Jul 21 2010

Poor White Christians

Category: diversity,higher education,race,universityharmonicminer @ 7:51 am

Daniel Foster writes to express his disappointment in some responses to a New York Times editorial about the plight of poor, Christian whites when it comes to current diversity policies at many universities and colleges:

I’m disappointed by both Tim Fernholz‘s and Adam Serwer‘s takes on Ross Douthat’s column yesterday. Responding to empirical evidence that poor, white Christians are among the least well-represented “minority” groups at elite colleges, they both more or less default to saying ‘yeah, well, it sucks to be poor.’

Except Douthat’s point is that, when it comes to elite college admissions, it sucks more to be poor and white than it does to be poor and black, and a fortiori, that poor blacks’ chances improve as they get poorer, while just the opposite is the case for whites. Either Serwer and Fernholz are okay with this or they aren’t. But they won’t say, leaving us to assume that they view it as acceptable collateral damage in the battle for diversity.

They also dismiss as so much whining the feelings of alienation from “elite” culture felt by poor, working class whites, at their peril and ours.

Later, Foster points out how often African and Caribbean elites are admitted under “diversity” policies, as if they are those who were harmed by American racism in the past, and should now be favored under affirmative action quotas by another name (“diversity”).

There is much more at the links above, and the Douthat column is worth reading completely.

His final paragraph:

If universities are trying to create an elite as diverse as the nation it inhabits, they should remember that there’s more to diversity than skin color, and that both their school and their country might be better off if they admitted a few more R.O.T.C. cadets, and a few more aspiring farmers.

Well, yes.  But as many have pointed out, and as we’ve linked and written extensively on this blog, “diversity” as a word in the university lexicon has a meaning unrelated to its normal meaning.  It is not about seeing that the university represents a microcosm of all the cultural elements of society represented proportionally in the university’s faculty, policies and student body.  Rather, it is an unvarnished mouthpiece for the Left, a way to do affirmative action quotas by another name (since the public does not like the idea of quotas), a way to slide most of the Leftist agenda into most aspects of campus life under the guise of being “open” and “accepting” of others…..  except, of course, white evangelical Christians, especially poor ones, and conservatives of any stripe.

If “diversity” meant “representation proportional to society,” at least half of university faculty hires would be conservatives.  Of course, it does not mean that, not even in Christian universities.

May 22 2010

How To Destroy America

Category: diversity,illegal alien,multi-cultural,racismamuzikman @ 8:00 am

Democrat and  Former Colorado Governor, Richard Lamm first gave this speech in 2004.

The title should pique your curiosity.  The content should give you serious pause

Please read it all.  It was only a five minute speech.  But it is sobering, to say the least.

Mar 06 2010

In honor of Black History month

Category: abortion,diversity,politics,race,societyharmonicminer @ 4:43 pm


The year is 1865. The Civil War finally comes to an end and the Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution officially abolishes slavery.

For awhile, things looked pretty good for freed slaves. Just a year after the Civil War ended, Congress passed the Civil Rights Act, conferring citizenship and equal rights for black people. A few months later, Congress approved the Fourteenth Amendment guaranteeing due process and equal protection under the law to all citizens.

Two years after the Civil War, in 1867, Congress passed Reconstruction Acts. The status of the Negro was the focal problem of Reconstruction. Though slavery had been abolished the white people of the South were determined to keep the Negro in his place, socially, politically, and economically. Enter the notorious “Black Codes.” These codes were regarded as a revival of slavery in disguise. The first such body of statutes was enacted in the state of Mississippi in November 1865.

That same year in Tennessee, a group of ex-Confederate soldiers formed the KKK, a group of domestic terrorists with a focused objective: to intimidate freed former slaves and their white supporters. Klan terrorism succeeded in preventing African-Americans from using their newly won rights. The Klan’s aim was to prevent African-Americans from voting, getting an education, competing for jobs and owning property.

By 1869, Congress approved the Fifteenth Amendment guaranteeing African Americans the right to vote.

Congress approved the Civil Rights Act in March of 1875 and by 1883 it was overturned. On October 15, the Supreme Court declared the Civil Rights Act of 1875 unconstitutional. The court declared that the Fourteenth Amendment forbids states, but not citizens from practicing discrimination.

From 1870 to 1895, many blacks gained elective office throughout the Nation, but outbreaks of violence against blacks in the South became more and more common.

It wasn’t long before America’s cities were over-flowing with former slaves and their extended families. They were migrating north to seek employment opportunities in industrial cities and to escape racism, and violence. The Great Migration from the south to north began around 1915. More than 4 million blacks,former farmers and field workers became bell hops, butlers, maids, doormen, cooks, and nannies–they shined shoes and cleaned toilets. They attended schools—many started businesses or became teachers and by 1920, African American writers, poets and artists emerged in a period of creativity known as the Harlem Renaissance. Black people started to realize the American Dream came not only in white–but black and shades of gray, as well.

Meanwhile, the KKK was raging a lynching war on Negroes in the south and Margaret Sanger and friends were devising an evil plan of their own. She was a staunch believer in eugenic controls to enforce what she called “race hygiene.” She associated with known racists and in 1926 she was the guest speaker at a Ku Klux Klan rally in Silverlake, New Jersey.

In Margaret Sanger’s book The Pivot of Civilization, (published 1922), she also called for the elimination of “human weeds,” for the segregation of “morons, misfits, and maladjusted,” and for the sterilization of “genetically inferior races.

In 1939, Sanger’s NEGRO PROJECT was initiated. The plan was simple-get rid of black people. Kill them off by limiting the growth of the population by abortion and sterilization

She knew that some blacks would figure out their sinister plot so it was decided by Sanger to take the plan to the clergy and charismatic members the black community to have them deliver the death message to their congregations.

In a letter to Dr. Clarence Gamble Sanger stated, “We should hire three or four colored ministers, preferably with social-service backgrounds, and with engaging personalities. The most successful educational approach to the Negro is through a religious appeal. We don’t want the word to go out that we want to exterminate the Negro population. And the minister is the man who can straighten out that idea if it ever occurs to any of their more rebellious members.”

Notice that Sanger said the ministers should be “hired.” There are many black ministers, politicians and community organizers today who support abortion, Sanger’s form of ethnic cleansing–most of them are still “hired.” They have sold their souls for “30 pieces of silver.”

Margaret Sanger went on to become the founder of Planned Parenthood an organization that makes most of its blood money by killing children—especially black children.

Abortion providers are still being located for the most part in black neighborhoods and are still delivering the same old message–that black, poor children, living in urban areas–are not worthy of life. America would be a better place without black people.

The KKK brutally killed about 3500 black people since it began in 1865—Margaret Sanger’s Planned Parenthood is responsible for the more than 17 million black deaths since 1973.

Every day more than 5000 babies are slaughtered by the blades of the abortion butchers—decapitated, ripped apart…killed.

How can America say we are better than the regimes of the Holocaust, Darfur, Sudan or China if we allow the butchering of America’s innocent children to continue?

This is Black History Month. Let’s remember why the killing began and then vow in Jesus’ name to end it…

Dec 31 2009

Diversity as Farce

Category: diversity,education,higher education,universityharmonicminer @ 9:23 am

Virginia Tech is strongly committed to diversity.   It is not “academics honoring diversity” precisely because VTech has place diversity on the very top rung of values, below which all other values must fall, whatever protestations of academic ambition may by made.

Virginia Tech Reasserts ‘Diversity’ Folly

Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University—better known as Virginia Tech—is in the midst of an extraordinary campaign to impose a comprehensive regime focusedon “diversity.” Reading through Virginia Tech’s official documents since March is something like watching a colonial power laying out a plan to force its language, culture, laws, religion, and ideals on a subject people. The put-upon natives in this case are, first of all, the faculty of the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences. But the imperial power, of course, doesn’t mean to stop with subordinating the faculty chiefs to the Empire. The rule of Diversity must ultimately extend to every student and every employee.

Diversity? It must surely strike most readers that the ideological campaign for diversity on campus is by this point rather old-fashioned. Diversity as a rallying cry for the campus left took its initial impulse from Justice Lewis Powell’s opinion in the Supreme Court’s decision in the 1978 case, Bakke v. The Regents of the University of California. Powell’s remarks weren’t supported by any other justice and did not have the force of law, but they nonetheless suggested a rationale for using racial preferences in college admissions. A racially diverse college classroom, in Powell’s opinion, was bound to be a more pedagogically enriching one, since it stood to reason that people of different races would learn from each other.

We draw attention to this university once again, however, not as a case study in vapid strategizing. Rather, it serves as a bookend to the whole diversity movement. Marx’s famous remark that great events and personalities in world history repeat themselves, “the first time as tragedy, the second as farce,” seems apt. Virginia Tech, a large regional university known more for its football program and a series of horrific killings, has chosen to play out a spent ideology to its final dregs. That it is does so in the delusion that it is somehow on the cutting edge of academic innovation is what makes this farce.

Farces are not without their victims. Virginia Tech is an institution of modest academic standing that seems intent on winning a certain kind of race to the bottom. Faculty members there have privately reassured us that the administrators aren’t as crazy as they sound. They are just playing the cards that they think they need to. It’s an excuse I don’t buy. The administrators have wrapped themselves in such fervent diversity rhetoric that we have to take them at their word. They may have started off as cynical players, but they are now totally invested in this folly and are surrounded with minions who are clearly true believers.

So the Virginia Tech story does seem worth yet another look. A large state university is spiraling downward into an anti-intellectual orthodoxy, and as it plummets it is busy praising its ability to take flight.

This is the beginning and ending of an article that is well worth reading in its entirety, if you want to understand the origins of the modern diversity movement.

Nov 25 2009

The Left at Christian Universities, part 15: Summer camp was never like this

Category: diversity,education,societyharmonicminer @ 8:34 am

The previous post in this series is here.

In Minnesota, future teachers may be sent to re-education camp. (more at the link)

Do you believe in the American dream — the idea that in this country, hardworking people of every race, color and creed can get ahead on their own merits? If so, that belief may soon bar you from getting a license to teach in Minnesota public schools — at least if you plan to get your teaching degree at the University of Minnesota’s Twin Cities campus.

In a report compiled last summer, the Race, Culture, Class and Gender Task Group at the U’s College of Education and Human Development recommended that aspiring teachers there must repudiate the notion of “the American Dream” in order to obtain the recommendation for licensure required by the Minnesota Board of Teaching. Instead, teacher candidates must embrace — and be prepared to teach our state’s kids — the task force’s own vision of America as an oppressive hellhole: racist, sexist and homophobic.

What is this article doing in the “Left at Christian Universities” series?  Because it illustrates how thoroughly the buzzwords of “diversity” are owned and promoted by the secular, anti-American Left.  It illustrates the essential impossibility of separating those perspectives from the word “diversity.”

How can “Christian diversity activists” at Christian universities hope to separate the word “diversity” from all its baggage, regardless of the application of other qualifiers?

It is not at all uncommon for much of the language in the article that was referenced here to be heard in diversity and multi-cultural presentations at Christian universities and colleges.  If you are a person of the Left, that probably doesn’t bother you much.  For the rest of us, it is a clear sign that the desire to be well-regarded by the secular Left has triumphed over traditional Christian expectations.

Will all good Christians be required to confess their racism and general bigotry, in writing, as a condition of employment?  Not quite yet, it seems.  But it does not seem impossible, given the way that Christian institutions continue to ape secular ones.

The clear challenge for Christian colleges and universities with education departments or schools is this:  how to satisfy the demands of the state credentialing apparatus without surrendering traditional Christian perspectives on values, the worth of human beings, etc.?

h/t: JW

The next post in this series is here.

Aug 13 2009

“Commitment to Diversity” now a requirement?

Category: diversity,freedom,Group-think,higher educationharmonicminer @ 9:37 am

Victory for Freedom of Conscience at Grand Valley State University: Music Department Axes Political Litmus Test

Grand Valley State University (GVSU) has promised to remove “demonstrated commitment to the principles of diversity” from the stated job requirements for prospective faculty seeking appointment to GVSU’s Department of Music. The department will restate its requirements in terms of relevant experience, not vaguely worded personal commitments regarding a controversial political issue. The change, which came after FIRE asked GVSU to restore freedom of conscience on its campus, is a fresh reminder to public universities that they cannot require prospective faculty to demonstrate personal commitment to “the principles of diversity,” any more than they can require a commitment to “patriotism,” “objectivism,” or “communalism.”

This is exactly right, of course.

Yet, even with this result at GVSU, a great many college and universities insist on clauses like this in job announcements, contracts, evaluative mechanisms, syllabi, etc. Diversity is the new green mud. When all the other monkeys in the cage are rubbing themselves with green mud, you’d better start scooping it up yourself.  Monkeys caught not wearing green mud will be disciplined.

Since diversity is so thoroughly associated with the Left, such clauses amount to a demand that all viable candidates must be Leftists, or pretend to be.

Jul 23 2009

More Inconvenient Truths About “Diversity” on College Campuses

Category: diversityamuzikman @ 9:00 am

From admissions polices, to retention studies, to course offerings, to degree programs, most, if not all colleges and universities are making a concerted effort to achieve “diversity”.  But when one strips away all the rhetoric, the posturing, the prefixes, the suffixes, the self-righteousness, and the good intentions, what’s left  is no more or less than a manipulation of numbers based on race.  How many students of this color and how many students of that color.

In Ward Connerly’s recent essay the latest racial-manipulation admissions plan of the UC regents is revealed, along with some startling information about what may lie behind the changes being made.  Read it all – it isn’t long.

Sadly I must wholeheartedly agree with Connerly.  The goal of most universities is not to be color-blind  It is to be color-coordinated…and white is definitely not in fashion.

Jun 09 2009

The Left At Christian Universities, Part 12: Revisiting the Evangelical Mind

Category: affirmative action,diversity,higher education,Uncategorizedharmonicminer @ 9:48 am

The previous post in this series is here.

At the Carnegie Foundation, we find an article regarding the issue of diversity at Christian universities and colleges:

Rallies sponsored by Promise Keepers, the parachurch movement that appeals to men to renounce their sins, are more racially integrated than faculty meetings at Stanford or MIT, and multiculturalism is as likely to be celebrated at a typical evangelical megachurch as it is at Wesleyan or UC–Santa Cruz. The reason is simple: contemporary American evangelicalism is extraordinarily diverse. African Americans are strongly attracted to Pentecostal and evangelical forms of worship; increasing numbers of Hispanics have left their Catholicism behind to be born again; and Asian immigrants, primarily from Korea and China, have fueled evangelical growth from California to Massachusetts.

Yet despite all this ferment, America’s evangelical colleges are not diverse institutions by any stretch of the imagination. Fuller Seminary in Pasadena, California, which trains more evangelical clergy than any other institution in the United States, is stunningly multicultural, but its success in this area has not been matched by undergraduate institutions. Only about 2 percent of Wheaton students are African American, for example, compared to 8 percent at Earlham and 7 percent at Oberlin, similar but non-evangelical Midwestern institutions. Among universities, Baylor has a relatively robust African-American percentage (6 percent), but it is still lower than at nearby public universities such as the University of Houston (15 percent) or the University of Tulsa (8 percent).

One reason why evangelical colleges lag behind secular ones in their ability to attract a racially diverse student body may be because of their relative lack of religious diversity.

Here the article spends several paragraphs singing the praises of “religious diversity” and praising the choice, where it has occurred, to sacrifice “communal understandings” for the sake of “diversity,” at institutions like Baylor, Boston College, and Brandeis.   And then:

…Does the lack of religious diversity at evangelical colleges contribute to the lack of racial diversity? In theory, it should not. Faith statements say nothing about race and in that sense should attract anyone who subscribes to the faith in question, irrespective of skin color. But in practice, faith statements reinforce a history of appealing to particular communities, particular high schools, and particular churches, which is not the way to bring to campus those who might offer fresh perspectives shaped by backgrounds and upbringings different from those of the Christian students typically attracted to these schools. Diversity, unlike tap water, cannot easily be turned on or have its temperature adjusted.

Boy, ain’t THAT the truth.  As I’ve pointed out in other posts, diversity seems always to come with a giant slice of Left-progressive cake, whether or not it’s iced with God talk and scripture quotations.

But this is what evangelical colleges and universities are trying to do. They want students from many racial backgrounds to attend so they learn to speak in the language of diversity, but they also want to preserve their particular religious identity so they also speak in the language of uniformity. Because evangelical Christianity is itself so multiracial, colleges that speak in its name ought to be more diverse than secular ones. But because they lack sufficient appreciation for diversity in all its aspects—religious and intellectual, as well as racial and ethnic—they fall behind secular institutions in their ability to bring together students from a wide variety of backgrounds.

The writer of this article is nibbling at some truth, but seems reluctant to bite into the gooey center. Yes, it’s true that once a Christian university begins to “diversify” in a certain way, it often brings with it some issues that challenge the mission of the university as it may have been previously understood.  The problem is simple:  Christian universities who want to be diverse have too often selected representatives for diversity who are from the Left.  After awhile, somebody notices this, identifies it as a problem, and is then at risk of being labeled “anti-diversity” or even “racist” when instead they are merely anti-Left and pro-traditional-Christian understandings about faith and values.  The faster a Christian university tries to “diversify,” the more likely it is to have these problems.

There’s really only one solution for Christian universities that want to “diversify” and still maintain their traditional Christian focus.  The solution is to go slow.  Don’t be stampeded by strident activism on the part of anyone, faculty, students, trustees, administration, or whoever.  Carefully consider each step, each new hire (not just minorities, but everyone), each new policy, each new position, from the standpoint that asks, “How will this affect our traditional understandings of ourselves, our Christian mission, and our institutional heritage?”  Be aware of the danger in bringing to campus as your “diversity representatives, speakers and role models” people whose orientations are not consistent with those of your institution.  That doesn’t mean you should never bring them.  It does mean there is danger in a steady diet of them, and they should be balanced, at a minimum, by speakers who support your institution’s traditional perspectives on major issues, but who also see value in gradual “diversification.”

Either there are plenty of “minority” people who basically agree with an institution’s heritage and traditional perspectives on Christianity, faith and values, or there aren’t such people.  If there are, the institution will be well advised to find them, instead of simply bringing as many “people of color” to campus as possible, from whatever perspective, and hoping that everything turns out well.  On the other hand, if there aren’t many “people of color” that can be identified who will support an institution’s traditions, a choice is required:  either diversify, or maintain the traditional identity.

What a Christian university or college must not do is to pretend that there is no issue here, and that diversity is an intrinsic good that transcends all other considerations.  In an upcoming post, I’ll discuss the issue of “white diversity activists” who frequently seem to be a greater danger to the traditional ethos of Christian institutions than the minority ones.  These white activists, in a spasm of white guilt, seem to believe that their commitment to diversity will only appear genuine if they full-throatedly embrace the agenda of the Left.  But whether from whites or minorities, it is the connection of diversity to the Left that is the problem.  “People of color” who see this problem are at risk of being labeled “Uncle Toms.”

Unstated by the author of the article quoted above is this:  all the institutions that have embraced diversity at the cost of theological community have moved farther Left in the last couple of decades, or were reasonably Left to start with.   It is an open question whether they will identify with any religious roots they may have had, over the next couple of decades.  Even now, a quick visit to their web portals does not reveal any immediate evidence of religious heritage or religious intent, unless a person really digs around a bit to find it.

Christian universities have a choice to make, in the end.  They can please the world, look good in US News and World Report (and on Carnegie websites), make their accrediting agencies smile and dance, and try to look respectable to secular, “progressively” oriented universities (which is to say, most of them), or they can understand that by their mere presence and identity, they ARE the diversity in higher education already, and do not need to make themselves “look like” other institutions for the sake of a soundbite, a photo op, or a bit of statistical data.

The next post in this series is here.

Jun 08 2009

Black-white acheivement gap

Category: affirmative action,diversity,higher education,Uncategorizedharmonicminer @ 9:20 am

Probing The Black-White Achievement Gap

The Kellogg Foundation is funding a survey of four college campuses by Harvard’s W.E.B. Du Bois Institute and the Educational Testing Service to examine how students of color’s experiences on college campuses impact the notorious black-white achievement gap.

Namely, it will examine how the students feel “welcome and unwelcome, respected and disrespected, supported and unsupported, and encouraged and discouraged.”

However, will the researchers be interested in evidence that the black-white achievement gap is connected to aspects of parenting and peer identification that begin long before college? That is, will there be room in their assessment for, as it is put these days, culture over structure?

In his detailed survey of Shaker Heights, Ohio, Black Students in an Affluent Suburb, the late Berkeley Anthropology Professor John Ogbu found that black parents often aren’t aware of how closely they need to attend to their children’s homework and are less likely to confer with their children’s teachers, and that black teens have a tendency to disidentify from school as “white.” Subsequent studies have shown that black students are likely to spend less time on homework than white or Asian students and are less likely to be popular if they achieve in school.

There is, to wit, a culture issue – and not just parenthetically. To mention these things is not “black bashing.” All of them are latter-day results of discrimination in the past, of the kind that Richard Thompson Ford of late described in his The Race Card. They are traits internalized unconsciously – if your parents didn’t help you with your homework because they had modest education and were working two jobs, why would you spontaneously attend to your own child’s, even if you went to college and work just one job?

However, dramatic conversations about “white privilege” and “legacies” leave these problems unresolved. Our attention must be focused on efforts such as that of the Minority Student Action Network mentoring middle-class black students long before college. Or on replicating as widely as possible the methods of the Knowledge is Power Program academies and other programs that distract black kids from thinking of braininess as racially inauthentic.

Or looking at how in the charter school run by the Harlem Children’s Zone, zeroing in on poverty block by block, study by heavyweights such as Harvard’s star Wunderkind economist Roland Fryer is showing that longer hours spent in school each day are leading to sterling achievement by students growing up in circumstances that we are told condemn all but superstars to failure. Even among eighth graders, considered the toughest nuts to crack intervention-wise.

I learned the latter attending a bookstore talk recently by Harvard sociologist William Julius Wilson on his new book More Than Just Race. The talk, however, was Exhibit A of the kind of unconscious bias that could mar the Kellogg study – a bias that runs throughout academic address of race issues. Wilson’s book argues that culture is key in addressing inner city blacks’ concerns. But throughout the talk, Wilson stressed that structural factors – i.e. “institutional racism” – matter more. He couches the cultural point in gingerly hedging and hair-splitting, e.g. “Parents in segregated communities who have had experiences [with discrimination and disrespect] may transmit to children, through the process of socialization, a set of beliefs about what to expect from life and how one should respond to circumstances.”

Will the Kellogg study be mediated by a like take on the cultural argument, i.e. that it is immoral to address culture when black people are concerned (except parenthetically)? Will the researchers be able to face finding that the black-white achievement gap is not related in any significant way to what happens on campus?

Of course, there will be students attesting that they “experience racism” on campus. However, with protests every couple of years on how “racist” the campus is despite the diversity counseling and black dorms, departments and event budgets, group identification lends the typical student of color a sense of duty to stand up for the idea that racism is part of their experience, even if highly “subtle” (useful: a Stanford survey covered in David Sacks and Peter Thiel’s The Diversity Myth).

To pretend this isn’t true is to exempt people of color from yet another universal human trait, the tendency known to social psychologists as humans’ susceptibility to priming in surveys. Another term is people’s susceptibility to demand characteristics, referring to subjects’ anticipating what the surveyor is seeking and trying to give the “proper” answer. Asking a black undergrad “Have you experienced racism on campus?” in today’s typical campus atmosphere is like asking a white one whether he thinks black people are of lesser intelligence. A certain answer is to be expected.

The real issue: is the amount of racism such students have experienced – and most will attest to something or other – realistically of a kind that would interfere with their schoolwork? This question applies equally to Claude Steele’s famous “stereotype threat” thesis that black students are thrown by private worry that they are not thought of as intelligent. That is, do the students describe experiences that would reinforce this worry specifically?

After all, the notion that any shards of socially unpleasant experience unquestionably hold down black students’ GPAs is an infantilization – given that we assume that Asian students experience unpleasant experierences (and amply attest to such) and yet it does not impact their campus performance. Why are black students supposedly less resilient than Korean ones? And where is the benefit to society in pretending that they aren’t?

Of course, the Kellogg project might actually reveal racism as a serious culprit on campus. I am open to that result if it’s what the data truly reveal. However, the researchers, if their intentions are sincerely to help, face a challenge to be similarly open-minded.

After all, a conclusion that subtle aspects of racism are the deciding factor in our problems is inherently a dead end. It is the last result we should want to find, because no society in human history has ever been perfectly blind to differences of color or tribe. We can’t make America that perfect.

That’s why the Kellogg report will be such a disappointment if it ends up limning the classic portrait of brown-skinned college students going through variations – although “subtle,” of course – on what James Meredith endured in 1962 at Ole Miss. One wonders whether the researchers, however, would be at all disappointed to find this result. If they would instead feel accomplished, vindicated, enlightened to find it, then won’t it color the questions they ask and how they interpret the answers?

Culture matters, and not just parenthetically. Pretend otherwise and certain people feel good, while the ones we purport to be concerned about tread water.

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