Thursday, October 24, 2013

The Terribly Uncomfortable Truth About Standards

Recently there has been a spate of pieces about “race realism,” “race and intelligence,” and plain old “racism” itself.

ALL of those topics tend to boil down to the efficacy of standards.

The argument that race has little, if any impact on IQ has always appealed to me precisely because it undercuts the basis for lowering standards or instituting preferences for any groups based on poor performance. After all, (1) each exam is merely a “snapshot in time” subject to change at any moment and (2) counting by race and gender only exacerbates and fuels more tensions between groups.

After all, once we accept that race itself does not handicap someone cognitively, then ANY and ALL race-based remedies are invalid.

How about the argument that more American blacks are poor?

What about it?

That DOES NOT amount to a racial argument, nor lend itself to a race-based remedy.

I suppose we could argue the efficacy of a “needs-based” form of preferences, but I believe the evidence supporting such a scheme is lacking, given the fact that many great students and business leaders have come from impoverished backgrounds WITHOUT any such “help.”

What about the fact that “traditional physical standards” that are weighted heavily toward upper body strength “discriminate” against females, as attested by the recent spate of failings in the Marine Corps Officer Training course;

A Third Pair of Female Marine Lieutenants has Failed to Complete the Corps’

The Washington Times
Wednesday, July 3rd, 2013

“Infantry Officer Course at Quantico, Va.
The Marine Corps Times embedded a reporter with the latest class of candidates. It reported Wednesday that one of the women was pulled for falling behind schedule. The other made it to the course’s end but did not meet its standards, as did six men, the newspaper said.

“Corps commanders have said they will not lower standards to ensure that women can qualify for direct ground combat units.”
I certainly hope that last line (Corps commanders have said they will not lower standards to ensure that women can qualify for direct ground combat units.) is true. After all, if women ARE truly equal, then there exists absolutely no reason why they shouldn’t be held to the same standards men are.

We’ve seen physical standards lowered and watered down for Police and Fire Departments across the country with predictably very poor results.

It had been complained that because of NYC’s Fire Department’s past (and continuing) focus on upper body strength, as few as under 1% of all females can expect to pass such physicals with high enough scores relative to males to expect to be hired.

Likewise the FDNY’s written criteria (written “exams” calibrated to 7th & 8th grade reading levels) have been accused of “discriminating” against (primarily) black applicants.

Apparently the problem with such standards is that they seem to show that NOT all people are equal in all areas. THAT is the terrible truth about standards, they expose the inherent inequality between individuals. Standards meant to compare individuals are NOT designed to compare groups, and those who do that, tend to be poor at math and logic skills and elicit a lack of even basic understanding of how and why such standards are valid.

It seems obvious that the clearest way to reduce racial and gender tensions is to simply hold ALL applicants to the highest possible standards, let the chips fall where they may and STOP counting by race and STOP inanely insisting that an equal proportion of females as males will be adept at Policing, firefighting or in combat units. Interestingly, you don’t see such a mad dash for females to get into mining, trucking or commercial fishing, as those professions appear dangerous WITHOUT the high profile natures of Policing, firefighting and they lack the “fast-track potential” of military combat units.

In short, I am encouraged by those here who take issue with the idea of a racial component to ability, as that view eliminates completely the primary reason for supporting race-based preferences and undermines the inane policy of “disparate impact,” based upon the view that things like race and gender DO hamper or handicap many high caliber applicants.

I am part of a group (Merit Matters) that has vigorously opposed the use of disparate impact and opposed ANY and ALL programs of race or gender-based preferences in either reemployment or College admissions.

ALL are welcome to join us:

For those who claim that, “Whoever is in charge of setting standards will set them to favor people who look like themselves,” t he SATs have proven incredibly accurate predictors of College performance. Sadly, although interestingly enough they tend to OVER-predict for blacks. They are NOT actually IQ tests, as IQ exams (like the Wonderlick, the Wexler & Stanford-Binet IQ tests, all test one’s ability to process information in different forms). In short all such standardized instruments are good at what they’re designed to do.

Moreover, Asian-Americans, as an example, are not only NOT hampered/held back by such standards (and neither Wexler, nor Stanford or Binet were Asian, nor was Carl Brigham, who developed the SAT), they greatly benefit from them AND are harmed by ANY and ALL race-based preference schemes...AND Asians look nothing like the people who designed those standards!

Interestingly enough the SAT exam was designed NOT to weed out non-patrician whites, quite the reverse; “In 1933, James Bryant Conant, on becoming president of Harvard, decided to start a new scholarship program for academically gifted boys who did not come from the Eastern boarding schools that were the regular suppliers of Harvard’s students. He gave Henry Chauncey, an assistant dean at Harvard, the task of finding a test to evaluate candidates for these scholarships. Chauncey met Carl Brigham, and came back to Conant with the recommendation that he use the SAT. Conant liked the test because he thought it measured pure intelligence, regardless of the quality of the taker’s high school education.”(
It sounds righteous to criticize such methods devised to include more diverse (economic and ethnic) groups as “tools of systemic discrimination,” but the facts don’t support such charges.

IF affirmative action were limited to “outreach and recruitment,” we could all support it without reservations (so long as that outreach & recruitment were based primarily on economic NOT ethnic considerations), however people of good conscience cannot really support the existing race-based segregated standards, at least not without quite a bit of cognitive dissonance and angst.

The only proper response to past discrimination is to eliminate discrimination going forward, NOT seeking to rationalize “more discrimination,” or “discrimination targeted toward a different group.”

I’m (at present) skeptical, but heartened that the Marines have, to date, refused to lower their combat physical standards to ostensibly pass more females through. Our Fire and Police Departments SHOULD be encouraged, not vilified to do the SAME.

I personally DO NOT believe that physical standards that emphasize upper body strength put an “unfair,” or at least not an unnecessary competitive burden on females. I believe that for such fields those physical standards are very much “job necessities.” SOME females will be able to compete. If that “some” is 3% or even 0.5%, what does that matter? What SHOULD matter is that the force is the BEST qualified overall.


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