Monday, February 19, 2007

Who Really Stands Against the Merit System?

With the recent drubbing that overt race/gender-based preferences took in heavily Democratic Michigan (the MCRI banning race-based preferences was voted in a 60/40 landslide), those so inclined realize they need new ways around the old problem of “disparate impact.”

“Disparate impact” has been the rallying cry of all those opposed to standardized exams in any form or venue.

While race and gender-based preferences in school admissions have been fueled largely by a misguided sense of redress, in employment, they’ve been fueled by something far more sinister.

Consider that to date, the overwhelming bulk of race/gender based preferences have been consigned to Civil Service positions that have traditionally been filled, at least since the days when nepotism and cronyism were eradicated by the Civil Service Merit System (CSMS), by various Civil Service standardized exams.

The interview process used in the private sector is innately subjective, but has withstood the most intense legal scrutiny, as have the battery of professional exams – the Law Boards, the five part CPA exam, various medical licensing exams, etc. which all suffer the same demonstrable "disparate impact" that all standardized exams do.

Only the lowly Civil Service exams have not been spared.


Not very likely.

So, then who is the real enemy of the CSMS?

Is it women and/or blacks?

Certainly a number of groups representing plaintiffs from both those groups have filed numerous federal lawsuits usually based on the claim of “disparate impact,” but that is hardly indicative of any consensus among either of those groups against standardized testing nor the merit system.

The New York City Fire Department (FDNY) has had lawsuits filed against it by both women’s groups and the Vulcans (a black fraternal organization) over the years. While women’s groups have argued that the physical portion of the firefighter’s entrance exam (weighted at 50% of the final score) is “discriminatory” against females because of its emphasis on upper body strength, the Vulcans have argued that the written portion of the exam is “discriminatory” against blacks because of, yes, “disparate impact.”

Both groups point to the fact that the FDNY is over 90% white and male as proof of some form of insidious, though unprovable discrimination.

The FDNY has always had the highest standards out of all the City’s Civil Service positions. Like all such Municipal positions, those standards have been watered down over the past three decades.

Still, the question remains WHO is the real enemy of the CSMS?

The only answer should be the most obvious one of all – the various Municipal governments are the real enemies of the CSMS.

Bottom-line, there are very few politicians who like the CSMS. It takes Municipal hiring out of political hands and puts those jobs, jobs that could be used as patronage positions to reward supporters, into an open and uniform system with a single standard for everyone applying for the various positions.

Politicians like patronage. They also like nepotism and cronyism. They don’t much like the CSMS.

Could that be why, while professional exams, like the Law Boards and CPA exams, tests that also suffer “disparate impact” have been defended and protected by court rulings, New York City, like other Municipalities have done little, if anything to defend the standardized exams forced upon those municipalities to remedy a very real, very deliberate and overt form of discrimination – patronage and cronyism?

Of course it could.

While many blacks and most women oppose segregated standards as much as they oppose any form of segregation, municipal governments oppose those standards because they’ve taken hiring decisions out of politician’s hands.

An end of the CSMS would mean a return to day when local politicians directly control the hiring within that municipality, returning a lot of leverage to local politicians that had been stripped away for decades.

While some “women’s groups” and some black fraternal organizations (like the FDNY’s Vulcans) have been used as tools to assail the CSMS, its municipal governments who’ve had the most to gain and therefore the deepest antipathy for the Merit System.

No comments:

American Ideas Click Here!