Diversity is Our Strength — California Lowers its Standards Edition

I recently saw a message from the California bar to its attorney members concerning the passing score standard for the bar exam. The goodthinkers in that state have been very concerned that the pass rate (that is, the fraction of test-takers who actually pass) has been going down substantially in recent years. Accordingly, they want to lower the standards for admission to the profession.

As lawyers say, res ipsa loquitur, so I’ll simply reproduce large sections of the message below:

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The Left is Now Anti-Science

A few years ago, it was Bad to be anti-science, because evil white right-wing Republicans were skeptical of global warming and climate change.

But in [Present Year], it is now Good to be anti-science, because evil white software engineers are skeptical of hopeless social-engineering attempts to increase the number of female computer programmers.

Got that, folks?

If this isn’t a perfect example of the unprincipled, illogical, results-oriented thinking which pervades the entire contemporary Left, I don’t know what is.

 

Google’s Apparent Violation of Cal. Lab. Code § 1101 et seq.

Recently, a Google employee was outed as having published, on an internal Google employee platform, a memo titled “Google’s Ideological Echo Chamber.” This memo decried the stultifying politically correct office culture that has taken hold at the internet giant, speculated Larry Summers style on the causes of the under-representation of women in technology jobs, and urged the company to do a number of things to promote a more open intellectual environment. The writer’s advice included a call to “stop alienating conservatives” and to ditch existing policies “which can incentivize illegal discrimination” and which restrict certain “programs and classes to certain genders or races.”

This memo was leaked to the public and became national news over the past few days. In the wake of the news explosion Google decided to fire the employee in question.

In doing so, Google has just earned itself a lawsuit.

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Orwell Lives On

All learned men will remember George Orwell’s timeless essay “Politics and the English Language.” I still recall the first time I heard it, sitting in a lecture hall in Harvard almost exactly twenty years ago while a professor read parts of it aloud. It is still good writing — fresh, vivid and absolutely spot-on, seventy years after it was published. But while we remember the joy and the glory of that little piece, we must also admit that Orwell lost.

That is, his plain intent in publishing that essay was to help roll-back the use of incomprehensible, jargon-laden, double-negative, overly Latinized English diction in modern, educated contexts. But anyone who has read a modern academic paper, or attended a scholarly talk, will tell you that bad English has won. Clarity, brevity and concise expression are not at all prized — nor even much practiced — among the scholars and professors who fancy themselves the intellectual elite.

Bad writing won because it is often a feature, not a bug. Orwell understood this perfectly well. The political writing of his age was a “defense of the indefensible,” which demanded muddy expression if it was to achieve the aim of avoiding having to face the vividly brutal facts of his day — world war, totalitarianism, nuclear bombs. These days, with no world war in recent memory, bad writing serves slightly more prosaic ends in the hands of accredited and would-be intellectuals. Their theories are often some mix of obvious, oblivious, fashionable, simplistic, stupid and just plain wrong. Muddy expression makes up for these faults in so many (perverse) ways, which is why it is so popular.

If daft intellectuals wrote plainly and spoke clearly, then several bad things would happen: (1) Their theories would look less impressive to others, which would erode their prestige and social position. (2) Quite possibly, laymen off the street would be able to catch them in their foolishness and force them to give up their theories, which would be even worse. And (3), their theories would look less impressive to themselves; reading their own specialist literature would be too simple and easy, removing any sense of intense labor or that satisfied feeling of a hard day’s work which might flow from doing their jobs. To sum up: Illusions of importance; evasion of responsibility; and self-delusion — so many ego-assuaging vices can easily be accomplished through the simple use of bad English!

But back to the heart of the thing. I repeat below what is perhaps the best known passage from that entire essay. I do this because, while reading a Wikipedia article the other day, I felt a strong sharp pang of nostalgia which thrust this passage to the top of my mind.

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The Black/White SAT Gap

The academic achievement gap between black and white students in the United States comes up regularly in the press and in political debates. It is a deeply rooted and intractable thing, and I have long since given up on thinking that it is within our meager human powers to do anything substantial and efficacious about it. However, I also believe that it is important to have a firm grasp of the phenomenon, if only to understand what the noise is about and justify the only appropriate response: A summary dismissal of the latest wasteful education fad that will come along and be touted as The Remedy That Will Finally Work, Dammit.

This chart is the best way I can think of to put the black/white achievement gap in perspective, focusing on SAT scores.

Black-White SAT Score Gap

To put some of this in words: SAT scores rise as family income rises, across all races. However, children of the richest black families ($200,000+ annual income) have SAT scores that are, on average, virtually equal to those of children of the poorest white families (sub-$20,000 annual income). Those same sub-$20k white children outscore, by 35 points, children of black families in the second-highest income bracket ($160k-$200k), and they outscore children of comparable poor black families (sub-$20k) by 180 points. For each income bracket, the black/white gap is around 150-180 points, or 1.5+ standard deviations. In sum, the lowest white group pretty much picks up where the highest black group leaves off, and achievement diverges from there.  Source: JBHE.

To put it in starker terms, the average child of a black family with demonstrably everything — a $200k+ annual income can buy you every possible educational advantage — pulls barely even with the average white child who has virtually nothing — a <$20k annual income doesn’t go very far even in West Virginia. There must be a whole lot of magic pixie dust in that poor white kid’s invisible knapsack to outweigh the after-school activities, European vacations and private SAT tutors that the rich suburban black kid can afford — but the white trailer park kid can only dream about!

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Freedom of Buggery

The Governess of Alabama, Kay Ivey, signed a bill Wednesday protecting the rights of private, faith-based adoption agencies to turn away gay couples. She did so after the bill passed by overwhelming margins in the houses of the state legislature.

Naturally, the goodthinking left-leaning press is very displeased with this result, blathering on about the evils of state-sanctioned discrimination and all that.

But it’s funny, when you think about it, how the left’s message of “tolerance” has evolved from something like:

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Months of Truce

They’re nearly over

I did some research when preparing my recent Holiday Greetings post. Yes, I’m that detail oriented. Laugh if you must, but what I found out has shed some light on a question that’s been nagging me for a few weeks.

Keen observers may note that the pace of Irish misbehavior in Europe and the United States has subsided somewhat in recent months. It has not gone away entirely — the rather ineffective lone-wolf bombings in New York and the solo Minnesota Mall Rampage both took place on the same weekend in September, and a lone “Hispanic” gunman shot several people dead in a Washington state mall the week after.  But we’ve seen nothing recent that has been as spectacular as the July “drunk-driving” incident in Nice, France, or the “NRA-inspired” gay disco kerfuffle which took place in June in Orlando, Florida, or the San Bernardino office party contretemps which took place back in December 2015.

I don’t think this is entirely a coincidence.

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