Friday, August 7, 2015

What Ronda Rousey’s Success Has Proven is That Lowering the Bar ISN’T the Answer

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Ronda Rousey

Ronda Rousey ( was born afflicted with childhood apraxia of speech, very possibly related to a difficult birth, in which her umbilical cord wrapped around her neck. As this was later considered a possible cause for her perceived learning disability, it prompted her parents to move from Riverside, California to Jamestown, North Dakota, at least in part to be closer to the Minot State University speech therapists, who set about developing programs to combat her childhood speech issues.

Subsequently, Ronda Rousey began practicing Judo with her mother (a former Olympian in that sport) at the age of 11. By age 17, Rousey qualified for the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens, becoming the youngest judoka in the entire Games.

Today she is the first and current UFC Women's Bantamweight Champion, as well as the latest Strikeforce Women's Bantamweight Champion. She is undefeated in mixed martial arts, having won eleven of her twelve fights in the first round and nine using her signature move, the armbar. Rousey was the first U.S. woman to earn an Olympic medal in Judo at the Summer Olympics in Beijing in 2008.

In so doing she, like Serena Williams (perhaps America’s preeminent female athlete of all time) has challenged the conventional thinking about what women can accomplish in the physical realm of sports.

Sadly, today many (mostly government bureaucrats) STILL seem to think that the best way to assist women achieve is to lower the bar/standards so that women can simply bypass the often rigorous physical standards that certain jobs have traditionally maintained. Most of these bureaucrats are, of course, men and for the most part, they seem well-intentioned...Neanderthal in their thinking, but well-intentioned none-the-less.

IF anything, the careers and accomplishments of the likes of Ronda Rousey and Serena Williams prove that lowering the bar is NOT necessary to “include more women.”

Standards are NOT mere “barriers to achievement.” Many jobs (mining, Military combat positions, commercial fishing, policing and firefighting among them) require above average physical strength and stamina.

So WHY the push to lower the bar?

Because it’s EASY...and bureaucrats, like most government workers, prefer the easiest path, the one that requires the least amount of work and takes the shortest period of time to effect.

The real tragedy of lowering the bar (physically and cognitively) is that this path encourages, even endorses ALL the negative stereotypes the intended beneficiaries have had to fight against all their lives.

Instead of arguing, “There are women just as capable as anyone of doing such jobs,” the lowering of the bar argues instead, “Sure, women are less physically capable then males, BUT these higher standards are really unnecessary in today’s world.”

That’s a surrender to stereotype. That’s a tacit endorsement of all the “throws like a girl” stereotypes that have dogged even the most athletic and fit females for eons.

The crux of this battle was recently waged in the FDNY, where Merit Matters (MM), a group dedicated to maintaining the already pitifully LOW written (exams calibrated to 7th & 8th grade reading levels) and physical (pass/fail physicals) entrance exams was assailed by city officials because it advocated a different path to diversifying the that wasn’t as easy, nor short term.

Its leader (President, Paul Mannix) was recently disciplined over the allegedly "leaking" of actual examples of disparate treatment (DELIBERATE DISCRIMINATION in the form of more favorable treatment given to various "priority"/quota hires), when such "leaks" ARE (technically) and SHOULD BE (universally) protected under existing whistleblower statutes.

To be sure, such protections are, all too often, selectively enforced. When a Commissioner's driver's son was given "an exception" around an arrest record fifteen years ago, that information was readily "leaked" WITHOUT repercussions (I was one of the very few who assailed that situation, in a number of letters to the Chief-Leader newspaper), as were various DUI arrests of FDNY members in the wake of 9/11, even though NYC’s public school teachers were racking up even more such violations during that same period. ALL such examples of favoritism and disparate treatment (deliberate discrimination/treating one person differently than others) SHOULD BE exposed and addressed.

There appears to be a very real separate and unequal segregation going on in many such agencies, one in which white, male employees are often considered 2nd or 3rd class members.

The irony in all this is that higher standards may actually be the BEST way to assist women and minorities. Sure, this would require NEW and in many ways more arduous standards that focus on endurance, along with upper body strength and might even require active remedial cognitive (test-taking) classes for those applicants saddled with the effects of our under-performing public schools (and NOT simply replacing objective knowledge-based questions with subjective, opinion-based ones), BUT, so long as those standards and the pre-test prep is open to all, there could be no righteous claims of actual discrimination, regardless of the result.

The tragedy here is that the so-called “friends” of the “under-represented” (women and African-Americans) have chosen to simply continuing to lower the bar and combat the symptoms of these disparities, rather than deal with the underlying issues - the actual disease (of low expectations).

All of this brings to mind an old Jewish saying that goes, “God protect me from my friends; I’ll deal with my enemies myself.”

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