Wednesday, July 4, 2007

The FDNY, New York City and The Vulcans are Failing New Yorkers

John Coombs (President of the Vulcans - the FDNY's Black fraternal organization, pictured left) seems to believe that written tests “discriminate against black candidates.”

He believes that without any apparent proof.

Disparate impact is NOT proof of either “test bias” nor actual “hiring discrimination.”

Mr. Coombs and those like him, would have you believe that written exams do not measure aptitude but merely learned facts, which means that those from better schools have an distinct advantage.

That argument has been used against the SATs, but ALL available research shows that SAT scores do, in fact, correlate virtually 1 to 1 with how well a prospective student will do in College.

Same for the U.S. Military’s use of a battery of IQ tests and aptitude tests, that are used to determine which areas of service a recruit will serve in.

The IQ tests used DO NOT measure a candidate’s “knowledge” or “known facts,” they actually measure the candidate’s ability to process and absorb information...and they do that quite effectively.

Firefighters and police must process a tremendous amount of information at the scene of an emergency, Firefighters must be able to process and absorb information on Cardio-Pulmonary Resuscitation and Defibrillation, as well as courses in dealing with Hazardous Materials.

There is absolutely no evidence whatsoever that written exams discriminate against black candidates. To argue that, in fact, is a tacit endorsement of "white supremacy." In this case, it's also an endorsement of "Asian and Hispanic supremacy, as those groups have also done better than blacks have on recent standardized entrance exams across the board.

Oddly enough, on the one hand Mr. Coombs argues that the physical exam should be made more competitive, and while I agree and even believe it should also be made more stringent as well, that inconsistent reasoning - opposing a competitive written, while supporting a competitive physical undermines the argument that "arbitrary standards are wrong," as Mr.Coombs and the Vulcans even support "arbitrary standards" when they perceive them to be advantageous.


Now I agree that the physical portion of the exam should be more competitive, but so should the written exam! The argument that essentially goes, "What's the certifiable difference between a candidate who gets a 96 on an exam and, say, a 72," is (1) absurd on its face and (2) is just as valid for arguing that the physical standard should be pass/fail, as well as the written.
In point of fact, ALL standards, are to some extent, arbitrary, BUT the employer, in this case the FDNY and the City of New York, has the right to hire those candidates with the highest overall standards - combined written and physical qualifications. There is no good argument against that.
Hopefully the courts will ultimately acknowledge that disparate impact, a concept that has done tremendous harm to the fabric of America, is not a valid means of assessing discrimination.

The problem is high standards and stringent exams, the problem is with the individual candidates. Those who are motivated to do these jobs will prepare for the exams and do well, those who aren’t as motivated will not.


mal said...

Nothing originial in the protestations, JMK.

I reall a protest by blacks vs. the SAT that employing the word "yacht" in a question was unfair because few blacks had ever had dealings with one.

The black communities complain about their quality of education. Well, maybe if they cleaned up the acts of their students, more quality teachers might apply - especially given their overwhelmingly liberal bent.

Case in point: a friend of my wife, RonnieEllen Fischler, became a gym coach in a NYC school which was largely black. She was beaten up by a group of her students who objected to her requirements for deportment.

Can't speak for SI, my old friend, but in Eastchester, NY, that stuff never has happened.

Therein may lie the real dilemma facing the inner city schools.

JMK said...

Mal here's my problem with the argument in question, arguing that written standardized exams "discriminate against blacks" (they don't) implicitly endorses the view of black inferiority &/or white supremacy.

Moreover, psychometricians have shown that the SATs, for instance, very accurately project a given candidate's grade performance throughout College, just as IQ tests DON'T measure "attained knowledge," BUT one's ability to absorb or attain knowledge.

While I agree that inner city education needs to be improved and that improvement must start in the home, the biggest problem I had with Mr. Coombs' article is his inconsistency - arguing for a pass/fail standard on the written and a competitive physical.

Logic dictates that we be consistent in our applications. If standards are "all arbitrary," then the argument should be that "all entrance exams should be pass fail."

I don't think Mr. Coombs thought this out very well. If I viewed the physical as an advantage to my own group (in his case blacks), I'd argue for a competitive written AND physical, while arguing that they be weighed 60/40, with more emphasis on the physical, on the grounds that "It's a physical job."

The argument itself seems poorly framed, in my view, and that article was written by the new President of the Vulcan Society - the FDNY's black fraternal organization.

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