Race and Education: the arguments will have to change

I am so sick of the “test scores” arguments.  The basic argument, which I almost never see,  is:

The relevant test scores [math, sat, reading, etc] are determined by one’s genes.

They reliably reflect intelligence.

Group X’s test scores are much lower than those of white males.

Group X is inferior in intelligence.

Now we all know that these premises are all highly questionable and some are in the same box as creationism.  Or creationism’s version of Darwin.  But what I see – and I assume we all see – are applications of it.  For example, in a fairly recent discussion of Phi Beta Kappa I mention a black student of mine who is going to Caltech in mathematics.  (I can’t quite remember why this was relevant, but I can hardly believe it was for a welcome reason.)  Afterwards, someone who was a very vocal supporter of The Bell Curve** comes over to say that it will be a long time before we see many like that. 

Or, in a recent op ed for the NY Times we get a patriotic argument for not admitting (many?) blacks to the Naval Academy:

Another program that is placing strain on the [military] academies is an unofficial affirmative-action preference in admissions. While we can debate the merits of universities making diversity a priority in deciding which students to admit, how can one defend the use of race as a factor at taxpayer-financed academies — especially those whose purpose is to defend the Constitution? Yet, as I can confirm from the years I spent on the admissions board in 2002 and ’03 and from my conversations with more recent board members, if an applicant identifies himself or herself as non-white, the bar for qualification immediately drops.

Some in the administration have justified the admissions policies on the ground that it “takes all kinds” to be officers. But that’s not really what the academies recruit. They don’t give preference to accomplished cellists or people from religious minorities or cerebral Zen types.

O barf!  I am sick, sick, sick of this stuff.  And one huge problem one has is that there are all sorts of facts involved in these applications that one does not know.  Maybe one should just cut to the chase and say, “If you are suggesting that X’s are inferior in intelligence because of inherited traits…,” but that does about as much good as spitting, and only looks slightly more polite. 

But now the perfect response is becoming available.  I’m just going to say, “O, that’s so last century.  Now the people who are shown to be genetically inferior are poor white people.” 

Actually, that’s probably not right, since the discussion will swing immediately over onto poor “white trash” inbreeding in various dark areas of the continent, and that’s hardly an improvement.  Better leave it at “That’s so last century.”

So what has changed?  Well, it looks at though the gap among the races on test scores is greatly decreasing while the gap between rich and poor is rapidly increasing.  NOT good news in a way, but I bet we don’t hear much about test scores in the near future, except from people living in the last century.

You can see the full article here.

**The Bell Curve,  you may remember, was a statement of the basic argument above, though concentrated on IQ tests.  Written by Charles Murray, whom academic researchers found had massaged his data to get the racist conclusions.  Apprently he has a new book out, which is just as hopeless, but this time is targeting poor whites.

I should say that my judgment of hopelessness is based on the Times review, linked to above, and the facts it says are left out of consideration.

A feminist take on media response to Whitney Houston’s death

Something’s been bothering me about all the media coverage of Whitney Houston’s death. I wasn’t sure what it was until I read Susie Bright’s column about it. This hits on the nail on the head, for me at least.

“Women in pop culture are particularly framed with this “poor little prima donna who destroyed her talent” garbage. When great male musicians die, it’s unusual to have their substance issues splayed forth in the obit headline. Is that what happened when George Harrison died? The Beatles, every one of them, could’ve given Whitney Houston a clinic in drug abuse. When Keith Richards dies, are they going to lead with “heroin destroyed his career”? Why was Billie Holliday’s love affair with heroin so tragic, but Miles Davis and John Coltrane … not so much? Why is Sinead O’Conner a nutcase but Van Halen is just a darling bunch of naughty rockers? Why is Madonna’s mental state on the front page every day, but not Justin Beiber’s? Fuck that noise.”

For more, see here.

Tuskegee pilots: the gender barrier, again!

A week or so ago, J-Bro posted this story on Facebook about Tuskegee pilots Herbert Carter and Mildred Hemmons, two brilliant and determined African American pilots who fell in love mid-air. He went on to a sparkling career in the unit now being commemorated by the film Red Tails. And Mildred?

“She was one of those unfortunate victims of prejudice, bigotry and discrimination,” says Carter, now 94. “She wanted to go as high and as fast as she could.
“If she had been able to get into the Air Corps, she’d have been amazing.”

Herbert Carter is still angry (rightly so) at his wife’s treatment. And now he’s also angry about the school that took only boys to see the movie Red Tails.

Herbert Carter, who flew 77 missions in World War II with only one crash landing, said he was “almost speechless.”

“I’ve heard everything else,” said Carter, 94, in a phone interview. “This is the first time I’ve heard that it was unfit for female students.”…

“My wife would turn flip flops,” Herbert Carter said. “She thought that all human beings were equal, regardless of sex, race, creed or color. She would take great offense to young women being denied this (opportunity).”

Go get ’em, Herbert.

(Thanks, Jender-Parents!)

We’ll compromise: free contraception coverage

Now that’s the kind of compromise with Republicans that I can totally get behind:

After two solid weeks of Republicans rapidly escalating attacks on contraception access under the banner of “religous freedom,” Obama finally announced what the White House is proposing an accomodation of religiously affiliated employers who don’t want to offer birth control coverage as part of their insurance plans. In those situations, the insurance companies will have to reach out directly to employees and offer contraception coverage for free, without going through the employer. Insurance companies are down with the plan, because as Matt Yglesias explained at Moneybox, contraception actually saves insurance companies money, since it’s cheaper than abortion and far cheaper than childbirth. Because the insurance companies have to reach out to employees directly, there’s very little danger of women not getting coverage because they are unaware they’re eligible.

If only all the compromises were like this. For more, go here.