A prescient letter from 1969 about what would happen on campuses

Over at Heterodox Academy, you should have a look at this post by Jonathan Haidt (click on screenshot):

Haidt’s thesis stems from his observation that many high profile American universities, like Yale, Brown, and Amherst, despite enacting strong policies “devoted to social justice and racial equality”, have been wracked with racial protests in the last few years. Haidt blames this on those affirmative action policies that incorporate quotas for admitting minorities students (he’s not opposed to some affirmative action): Here’s a quote that contains one of his earlier observations (the Wall Street Journal piece is behind a paywall):

A simple resolution of the puzzle is the hypothesis that the anti-racist policies these schools pursue give rise, indirectly, to experiences of marginalization for black students. Lee Jussim and I suggested this hypothesis in an essay last Saturday in the Wall Street Journal. We noted that we support affirmative action in general – taking vigorous steps to increase the recruitment, training, retention, and ultimate success of black students. But we raised concerns about the most controversial element of affirmative action: the use of racial preferences in admissions. Here is the key passage:

But as practiced in most of the top American universities, affirmative action also involves using different admissions standards for applicants of different races, which automatically creates differences in academic readiness and achievement. Although these gaps vary from college to college, studies have found that Asian students enter with combined math/verbal SAT scores on the order of 80 points higher than white students and 200 points higher than black students. A similar pattern occurs for high-school grades. These differences are large, and they matter: High-school grades and SAT scores predict later success as measured by college grades and graduation rates.

As a result of these disparate admissions standards, many students spend four years in a social environment where race conveys useful information about the academic capacity of their peers. People notice useful social cues, and one of the strongest causes of stereotypes is exposure to real group differences. If a school commits to doubling the number of black students, it will have to reach deeper into its pool of black applicants, admitting those with weaker qualifications, particularly if most other schools are doing the same thing. This is likely to make racial gaps larger, which would strengthen the negative stereotypes that students of color find when they arrive on campus.

In support of this thesis, Haidt cites a letter written in 1969 by Macklin Flemin, a justice of the California Court of appeal, to Louis Pollack, the dean of Yale Law school. Responding to the school’s policy that there would henceforth be a quota of 10% black students admitted to Yale as a whole, Fleming essentially presages what Haidt predicted 47 years later, and what has indeed come to pass. Here’s a bit of Fleming’s letter:

No one can be expected to accept an inferior status willingly. The black students, unable to compete on even terms in the study of law, inevitably will seek other means to achieve recognition and self-expression. This is likely to take two forms. First, agitation to change the environment from one in which they are unable to compete to one in which they can. Demands will be made for elimination of competition, reduction in standards of performance, adoption of courses of study which do not require intensive legal analysis, and recognition for academic credit of sociological activities which have only an indirect relationship to legal training. Second, it seems probable that this group will seek personal satisfaction and public recognition by aggressive conduct, which, although ostensibly directed at external injustices and problems, will in fact be primarily motivated by the psychological needs of the members of the group to overcome feelings of inferiority caused by lack of success in their studies. Since the common denominator of the group of students with lower qualifications is one of race this aggressive expression will undoubtedly take the form of racial demands–the employment of faculty on the basis of race, a marking system based on race, the establishment of a black curriculum and a black law journal, an increase in black financial aid, and a rule against expulsion of black students who fail to satisfy minimum academic standards.

And indeed, all of this has happened. (Haidt gives examples.) One more quote from Flemin’s letter:

The American creed, one that Yale has proudly espoused, holds that an American should be judged as an individual and not as a member of a group. To me it seems axiomatic that a system which ignores this creed and introduces the factor of race in the selection of students for a professional school is inherently malignant, no matter how high-minded the purpose nor how benign the motives of those making the selection….

The present policy of admitting students on two bases and thereafter purporting to judge their performance on one basis is a highly explosive sociological experiment almost certain to achieve undesirable results.

As I said, Haidt is not against affirmative action, but against those forms that create preferential admissions for groups of students who, on average, have credentials not as impressive as those of other groups (yes, you’ll be thinking about Asians here, who, compared to whites, have to be more qualified to get into many schools).  Haidt doesn’t discuss the advantages of diversity, which those schools cite as reasons to use differential standards for group admissions.  And there’s some justification for this, for who wants a completely homogenous student body?

Haidt’s solution? First, the courts should step in (presumably to get rid of quotas, which they’ve already in fact done). But his main solution is this:

What’s the alternative? In our WSJ article, Jussim and I praised the US Army for the principled way that it addressed its severe racism problem in the 1970s by implementing affirmative action without racial preferences. (See this brief summary of Moskos & Butler, 1996, All That We Can Be: Racial Integration the Army Way.)

Let us hope that a few bold university presidents break from the pack, break the cycle, and try a different approach.

And here’s part of that brief summary, which in fact is a Kirkus review of the Moskos and Butler book:

 Moskos and Butler characterize the Army as a race-savvy, not race-blind, service that pragmatically subordinates trendy peripheral concerns (ethnic diversity, multiculturalism) to its primary goal of combat readiness. The authors go on to argue that “the Army does not patronize or infantilize blacks by implying that they need special standards in order to succeed.” Instead of lowering its standards, they point out, the Army elevates veterans as well as recruits with a wealth of instructional courses and programs. Among the lessons to be learned from the accomplishments of the Army and its black soldiers, they cite the need to focus on opportunity and to link affirmative-action efforts to supply- rather than demand-side exigencies or aspirations. In a concluding chapter, the authors call for a national service corps to offset the loss of opportunities caused by downsizing of the US military. An important, eye-opening study that delivers fresh, matter- of-fact perspectives on a divisive issue in need of more reason and less rhetoric.

Now I’m not sure how this system would work to maintain diversity, as the inequities that Haidt mentions start at a very young age: when children begin going to schools that have different standards; in other words, a lack of equal opportunity from the outset. And how are “remedial courses” for some students going to reduce their sense of inferiority?

Finally, why don’t white students feel that they have inferior status with respect to Asians, then, and ask for redress? Probably because they’ve historically dominated the student population. Why don’t Asians feel bad because they’re expected to meet higher standards than anybody else? Perhaps they do; I don’t know.

Haidt’s argument makes sense to me, especially because he does favor programs, however ineffectual they seem, to redress historical inequities. The only thing that doesn’t comport is the fact that women students, who have at least as high achievement as men, are also demanding redress in the same way as blacks, yet Haidt’s argument doesn’t explain why there is, to my mind, as much demand for equity based on sex as on race.

I don’t know the answer, but what I feel is that inequities have are best redressed not by meeting the “demands” of groups of students already in college, but by affording everyone, regardless of sex, race, or ethnicity, equal opportunity from the outset: from when children first start school. And that is a much harder thing to do, especially in the era of Trump.


  1. Craw
    Posted November 27, 2017 at 12:32 pm | Permalink

    “from when children first start school. And that is a much harder thing to do, especially in the era of Trump.”

    I disagree with that part. It may well be easier in the era of Trump, if DeVos implements more school choice and breaks the power of school administrators. We haven’t see much yet, but I think there is a chance we will.

    • Posted November 27, 2017 at 12:34 pm | Permalink

      deVos’ aim is to break public education completely. Don’t count on her.

    • tony walters
      Posted November 27, 2017 at 4:33 pm | Permalink

      Yes. The less power and earnings teachers have, the better students will perform. Teachers should compete and those who don’t perform should be fired. DeVos just wants to get rid of unions and other means of turning what should be a competitive profession into sinecures for the credentialed.

      • GBJames
        Posted November 27, 2017 at 4:36 pm | Permalink

        The less earnings the better?

        I’m sure you agree that this is true in your line of work, too.

        • darrelle
          Posted November 27, 2017 at 4:50 pm | Permalink

          That may have been sarcasm. But then, I’m having a “glass half full” kind of day.

          • GBJames
            Posted November 27, 2017 at 4:53 pm | Permalink

            Point taken. Hard to tell sometimes. I may have fallen prey.

            • Posted November 27, 2017 at 5:05 pm | Permalink

              No, I don’t think you have. Tony here is a MAGA guy. He’s serious. See his moments elsewhere.

            • darrelle
              Posted November 27, 2017 at 5:06 pm | Permalink

              I don’t know, after reading another comment downstream my optimism may be misplaced. But I don’t really understand either comment very well. Confused.

      • Ken Kukec
        Posted November 27, 2017 at 5:09 pm | Permalink

        How ’bout we start by not turning cabinet positions into sinecures for the incompetent?

        • Craw
          Posted November 27, 2017 at 8:29 pm | Permalink

          If we start then we haven’t before. I grant you Obama had a bunch of clunkers, but Truman had some fine people.

          • Ken Kukec
            Posted November 27, 2017 at 8:57 pm | Permalink

            We could argue back and forth about Obama’s “clunkers,” but he didn’t appoint any total stinkers like Carson or Perry or Sessions — or ones whose goal was to rot their own departments/agencies from within, like Pruitt or Zinke or DeVos.

          • Filippo
            Posted November 28, 2017 at 6:00 pm | Permalink

            Do you regret that that shining beacon of humaneness and high regard for the working class, Andrew Puzder, did not become Trump’s secretary of labor?

      • Filippo
        Posted November 29, 2017 at 5:09 pm | Permalink

        In Catholic schools teachers seem to have the power; not so much the earnings. I gather that Catholic schools have had an excellent academic reputation.

      • Posted January 21, 2018 at 1:07 pm | Permalink

        I don’t think it is good for students to be taught by teachers who became teachers because they were wanted nowhere else, and are now teaching with tails between legs.

  2. Posted November 27, 2017 at 12:32 pm | Permalink

    Why don’t Asians feel bad because they’re expected to meet higher standards than anybody else? Perhaps they do; I don’t know.

    I know one asian, 18 year-old, top student and her family who are not pleased at all that quotas prevented her from attending her first choice.

    • Brian Jung
      Posted November 27, 2017 at 12:56 pm | Permalink

      . . . what I feel is that inequities have are best redressed not by meeting the “demands” of groups of students already in college, but by affording everyone, regardless of sex, race, or ethnicity, equal opportunity from the outset: from when children first start school. And that is a much harder thing to do . . .

      It certainly is a much harder thing to do, and, of course it’s absolutely necessary. But is it sufficient? Do we just give up on everyone older than a kindergartner whose opportunities and education have already been compromised by a biased system?

      • Craw
        Posted November 27, 2017 at 8:29 pm | Permalink

        Assumes facts not in evidence.

      • Posted January 21, 2018 at 1:11 pm | Permalink

        I do not think it is necessary. To me, the task of the university is to pick the best available applicants and to give them the best possible education. Total justice to everyone is outside the scope of university education, and is an ideal that will hardly ever be reached.

    • Posted November 27, 2017 at 8:11 pm | Permalink

      Isn’t that technically racist?

  3. Posted November 27, 2017 at 12:49 pm | Permalink

    Another case in which we ignore military educational efforts, which are often a source of good models for the rest of the system, but they are generally ignored.

    • Posted November 27, 2017 at 1:03 pm | Permalink

      Yeah, maybe. But combat readiness is not college admissions. Not even close. The goals and directives of the military are entirely different in details and in their nature, than those of any college. Not least of which is the rigid command structures and the absence of civilian concepts of fairness and due process in the military.

      At best, in my ***highly*** limited knowledge and understanding, I think the experience of the military in this regard is limited to; “see it is possible”. Beyond that, not so much.

  4. GBJames
    Posted November 27, 2017 at 12:51 pm | Permalink


  5. Posted November 27, 2017 at 12:57 pm | Permalink

    “As I said, Haidt is not against affirmative action, but against those forms that create preferential admissions for groups of students…”

    How does this work? How does one effect a policy of affirmative action without preferential admission? Quotas seem to be the chief source of the “highly explosive” nature of the social experiment. But even affirmative action policies that don’t have quotas necessarily deny admission to some who are qualified. But the policies do so based not on their actual qualifications, rather it is based on their membership in a group.

    • Craw
      Posted November 27, 2017 at 1:14 pm | Permalink

      One idea is to identify certain non-racial detriments and correct for them. For example, you got a good LSAT despite attending a dreadful school system (eg Detroit’s) then you get a nudge. Grew up poor (no tutors, math camps, etc)? A nudge. Aced the vocabulary but first learnt English at 16 as your third language(Joseph Conrad) you get a nudge.

      • Posted November 27, 2017 at 1:26 pm | Permalink

        Good LSATs and acing vocabulary seem to me basic academic qualifications – how are these Affirmative Action policies if when used for acceptance one doesn’t also include membership in a racial group?

        I can see thing like income disparities used in an Affirmative Action policy that is race blind but results in greater admission rates for targeted racial groups.

        • Posted November 27, 2017 at 1:49 pm | Permalink

          FTR, I know some very serious, very intelligent and knowledgeable people in University admissions have done the work on this. I *know* such policies exist and can be workable. It is far outside my area of expertise, so I don’t see all the angles. Hence my questions.

        • Craw
          Posted November 27, 2017 at 1:52 pm | Permalink

          It’s not the LSAT score, it’s a bonus for getting the *same* LSAT score as someone who went to Choate when you went to a Detroit school.

          I’m not saying it’s a good idea, I’m just saying this is the sort of scheme that is sometimes proposed.

  6. J. Quinton
    Posted November 27, 2017 at 1:03 pm | Permalink

    I worked for the Army as a civilian for 8 years. In some random briefing I was at, completely unrelated to anything to do with affirmative action or social justice, I saw a slide that had a racial breakdown of Army officers.

    This slide (I think this briefing was around 2014-2015 or so) said that 16% of Army officers are black. Meaning that not only are 16% of the people with at least a bachelor’s degree in the Army black, but it might be higher since not every servicemember with a degree wants to become an officer (I don’t fit in that file because I wasn’t active duty military).

    This is related to a briefing I attended that was explicitly about affirmative action. In this one, they said that the role of the government wasn’t to meet any sort of racial quotas, and hadn’t been for quite a long time, but that it was more of an affirmative exposure program. Meaning that they spent more time in minority areas for recruiting purposes. They weren’t lowering their standards for entry by any means, just making sure that opportunities in the Army or other military services and government agencies were being exposed to minorities who were qualified.

    This might be why the Army has been more successful than universities.

  7. Derek Freyberg
    Posted November 27, 2017 at 1:27 pm | Permalink

    One major difference between the military and universities is that the military is a career to the extent you are both capable and interested – you might be interested in only putting in enough time to (get GI college benefits, learn a trade, etc.); but a university is a way station on the way to a career. And the military pays you to attend, so to speak, whereas you pay a university.

    • Posted November 27, 2017 at 1:37 pm | Permalink

      The nature of the two institutions are wholly different. With some important exceptions, there is little need for academic qualifications for entry into or success in the military. The military was attempting to address policies on racial issues that had nothing to do with differences in academic success.

      • Craw
        Posted November 27, 2017 at 2:02 pm | Permalink

        They are very different but I think you are wrong about the military and education. The all voluntary army is very different from what it was in 1970. The military is *more* educated than the populace, and the officer corps quite a bit more. It’s also very bureaucratic and layered, so credentials can lead to advancement and higher pay.

        The real difference between the organizations is the cost. As a student or prof I suffer little if an under qualified student is present. An under qualified sergeant gets you killed.

        • Posted November 27, 2017 at 2:27 pm | Permalink


          The military IS more educated than the general populace (I just googled it!) but it is not more educated than those attending college nor do those in the military score better on academic measures than those who are accepted to college. There is a reason for this and it is the nature and the mission of the two institutions that account for it. In addition, there are several reasons why prior to abolition of the draft the military was less educated, not the least of which is college deferments.

          • Craw
            Posted November 27, 2017 at 4:57 pm | Permalink

            Mikey, does any group play more chess than chess players? Or any group trim more hedges than people who trim hedges? Of course no group has more education than those who have the most education. So it’s not a very telling comparison.

            You are counting whiteness studies grads in that latter bunch btw.

            • Posted November 27, 2017 at 5:14 pm | Permalink

              Wait. You claimed (correctly) that the military today is better educated than the population as a whole. This is true. But that doesn’t mean they are better educated than those who go to college. That’s what we are discussing – college applicants (see the title of the WEIT post we are commenting on).
              We are trying to discuss Affirmative Action policies in academia vs the military. That means we must compare the groups admitted to both.

              The military (with some notable exceptions) do not base admittance on academic success beyond a high school education (or GED). This is where the “educated better than the populations as whole” comes in. That is the extent of their requirements and except for placements is used only as one of the minimum requirements. Colleges require some degree of academic success beyond a high school education because they have a completely different mission than the military does.

              In so far as academic requirements go, the problems and the solutions (if any) to under representation differ in almost every respect between the military and the academy.

              • Posted November 27, 2017 at 5:20 pm | Permalink

                I guess what I’m saying Craw, is that the comparison to the relative success of the military in integrating and normalizing racial differences is to be lauded and commended, to the extent that they’ve worked, but we have to be careful in assuming that the solutions they used can also work in academia. It’s (to me) a mostly apples to oranges thing.

            • Craw
              Posted November 27, 2017 at 8:34 pm | Permalink

              Then doesn’t it cut the other way? We are talking about university undergraduate admissions. That’s where AA is generally applied. How many undergraduate applicants already have a degree?

        • Posted November 27, 2017 at 2:46 pm | Permalink

          An under qualified sergeant gets you killed.

          And get himself killed, either by the enemy or his own side or his equipment.

          There’s an obvious incentive to learn in the army. You don’t get to retake your bomb disposal test just because you had an off-day.

  8. Ken Kukec
    Posted November 27, 2017 at 1:29 pm | Permalink

    “The American creed, one that Yale has proudly espoused, holds that an American should be judged as an individual and not as a member of a group.”

    So says Macklin Flemin in 1969. Ah, but the good gentleman seemed to have been stricken with acute amnesia regarding the quota system (imposed per the numerus clausus method) proudly espoused for decades at Yale and the other Ivies to cap the number of Jews and Catholics and African-Americans admitted, until a scant few years earlier, in the early 1960s.

  9. Ken Kukec
    Posted November 27, 2017 at 1:37 pm | Permalink

    Pity all the poor-little-rich legacy admittees to Yale and the other top private schools, who must suffer the marginalizing stigma of knowing their applications were jumped over those of so many more-qualified, but less-fortunate applicants!

    • tony walters
      Posted November 27, 2017 at 4:43 pm | Permalink

      A terrible example is how the regressive left and animal rights extremists mock the our President’s his children. They may not be as accomplished and skilled as our President, but then again they have been thrown into positions of wealth and power through no fault of their own. How unfair it is to judge them on that basis.

      • Posted November 27, 2017 at 4:56 pm | Permalink


        • Ken Kukec
          Posted November 27, 2017 at 5:14 pm | Permalink

          I’m guessing a Poe?

      • John Taylor
        Posted November 27, 2017 at 6:13 pm | Permalink


      • Posted November 27, 2017 at 8:16 pm | Permalink

        “the our President’s his children”

        • Ken Kukec
          Posted November 27, 2017 at 9:02 pm | Permalink

          Transliterated from the original Russian by Google?

        • Filippo
          Posted November 28, 2017 at 6:14 pm | Permalink

          Re: an old Bill Cosby sports routine:

          Athlete to the kid: “Throw it to me, the ball.” Pick it up first.”

    • somer
      Posted November 27, 2017 at 8:17 pm | Permalink

      I get the impression contacts, wealth and whiteness were important in ivy league entry a couple of generations ago, and not doubt they still are – particularly the former – but according to Steven Pinker demonstration of commitment to politically correct activities play a very significant role in admittance today, at the expense of grade level or attentiveness to study.

      “At the admissions end, it’s common knowledge that Harvard selects at most 10 percent (some say 5 percent) of its students on the basis of academic merit. At an orientation session for new faculty, we were told that Harvard “wants to train the future leaders of the world, not the future academics of the world,” and that “We want to read about our student in Newsweek 20 years hence” (prompting the woman next to me to mutter, “Like the Unabomer”). The rest are selected “holistically,” based also on participation in athletics, the arts, charity, activism, travel, and, we inferred (Not in front of the children!), race, donations, and legacy status (since anything can be hidden behind the holistic fig leaf).”
      “Jerome Karabel has unearthed a damning paper trail showing that in the first half of the twentieth century, holistic admissions were explicitly engineered to cap the number of Jewish students. Ron Unz, in an exposé even more scathing than Deresiewicz’s, has assembled impressive circumstantial evidence that the same thing is happening today with Asians.”
      Just as troublingly, why are elite universities, of all institutions, perpetuating the destructive stereotype that smart people are one-dimensional dweebs? ….What about the rationalization that charitable extracurricular activities teach kids important lessons of moral engagement? There are reasons to be skeptical. A skilled professional I know had to turn down an important freelance assignment because of a recurring commitment to chauffeur her son to a resumé-building “social action” assignment required by his high school. ” “And as Adrian Wooldridge pointed out in these pages two decades ago, test-based selection used to be the enlightened policy among liberals and progressives, since it can level a hereditary caste system by favoring the Jenny Cavilleris (poor and smart) over the Oliver Barretts (rich and stupid).”

    • jay
      Posted November 28, 2017 at 8:57 am | Permalink

      As I’ve mentioned in the past, my wife works at a top tier university.

      One co-worker was looking in the internal computer system to seek a different job, and encountered one entry where the security settings hadn’t been done correctly. At the bottom of the job description, requirements included ‘minority female’.

  10. Ryan
    Posted November 27, 2017 at 1:42 pm | Permalink

    The argument is too circular; you will only agree with its conclusion if you are already outside the “politically correct” bubble.

    For believers, Asians scoring higher than Blacks on the SAT is not evidence of a skill difference between groups; it is proof that the SAT is racist.

    Anyone who is willing to acknowledge the connection between SAT and academic performance (or even more dangerous: IQ and wealth) doesn’t need convincing.

  11. Randall Schenck
    Posted November 27, 2017 at 1:50 pm | Permalink

    I do not see how anyone can expect to solve or even make much of a dent at the college. The problems, the inequities, different levels of education for 12 years cannot be corrected by any college. Until we demand a standard “national” education for the first 12 years, forget it. We have no standard that holds up from state to state let alone equal standards by race. Education in the U.S. is becoming more unequal all the time and it is based on money as much as based on color. Lower education is being privatized and that allows the high income people to have their own education.

    I don’t understand the comparison with the military either. If they are comparing college level to military then they must only look at the officer level. Otherwise they have no comparison. The enlisted ranks are not college level.

    • Posted November 28, 2017 at 1:39 am | Permalink

      It’s true that having education managed and — especially — financed at the local or state level is a disaster. On the other hand, a national cursus can also be a disaster, leading to production of identical products, and I pick the word “products” on purpose. No solution is guaranteed, it depends on how it’s carried out.

  12. Ken Kukec
    Posted November 27, 2017 at 2:10 pm | Permalink

    Regarding the “race-savvy” system employed by the US military, my recollection is that when the draft and Vietnam war ended in the early 1970s, and the nation went to an all-volunteer Army, there was a time in which black enlistees outpaced their white counterparts in average IQ and academic achievement. Military morale was at an ebb in those days, and a career in the service presented more opportunity for upward mobility for blacks than it did for whites.

    I do not know whether those racial disparities still obtain, but it certainly remains true that enlisted personnel in the US military continue to come disproportionately from the poor and working classes. The officer corp, especially those who come through the military academies and academic training programs, comprises persons of more diverse economic backgrounds.

    • Randall Schenck
      Posted November 27, 2017 at 3:01 pm | Permalink

      If you really want diversity within the military go to a draft and require all to participate. Highly unlikely. During WWII the death toll from Harvard was nearly as that from West Point. We will never see anything like that again.

      But you are correct – the bulk of military recruits today come from the lower classes. They did during Vietnam in a big way. Even the officer corp comes from the poorer class today because of the high cost of school and the military willingness to pay for it with commitment of course.

  13. Eric Grobler
    Posted November 27, 2017 at 2:23 pm | Permalink

    Prof Coyne,
    “but by affording everyone, regardless of sex, race, or ethnicity, equal opportunity from the outset”

    Do you believe this will result in equal race/gender representation in academic achievement?
    I suspect you do not, but that is the goal of the extreme left, and I think this battle is about “equality of outcome”.

    Jews and Asians dominate fields such as theoretical physics which is appalling to the extreme left and the only explanation they have is that some form of privilege or discrimination is the cause of such an inbalance.

    If society scrutinizes all human achievement through the lense of race and gender we will always have resentment and conflict.

    We have to accept average group differences exist while trying to give every individual child equal opportunity.

    • Posted November 27, 2017 at 2:29 pm | Permalink

      Give our host some credit. Perhaps you haven’t been here long but there is no doubt from reading him on this subject that he is interested in equality of opportunity, not equality of outcome.

      • Eric Grobler
        Posted November 27, 2017 at 2:55 pm | Permalink

        We all know that not all children have an equal opportunity in the US.

        So my question is:
        If the US could give every child an equal opportunity (and racism and sexism is reduced) would that result in equal race and gender representation accross different academic fields?

        • Posted November 27, 2017 at 3:52 pm | Permalink

          Probably not but we won’t know if we don’t try, eh?

        • Travis
          Posted November 27, 2017 at 7:00 pm | Permalink

          Probably not for race and certainly not for sex. Women and men differ far more than whites and blacks do, for example. Hormones are just the first major difference between men and women.

      • Craw
        Posted November 27, 2017 at 4:59 pm | Permalink

        Not so clear. He said a few months ago he was unsure about “equality of outcome”.

        • Posted November 27, 2017 at 5:16 pm | Permalink

          Oh. I missed that.

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted November 27, 2017 at 2:42 pm | Permalink

      Do go on; share with us your theories regarding the cause of these racial disparities in performance.

      • Eric Grobler
        Posted November 27, 2017 at 3:12 pm | Permalink

        Ken, I don’t appreciate your tone.

        I have been reading books by Thomas Sowell where he looks at the history of immigrant groups like the Irish, Italians, Germans, Jews, Japanese, Chinese to the US and of course the achievement (or lack thereof) of African Americans vs recent Africans from West Africa.

        Sowell believe group culture is the critical factor, not poverty or IQ and I largely agree with him.

        Regarding your insinuation that I am some sort of racist, I believe there has to be cognitive difference between geographical isolated groups unless you do not believe in evolution. However, these differences are very complex (and relatively small) and we do not understand them.
        I do however find the succcess/dominance of Ashkenazi Jews in various fields since the end of the 19th century facinating, a rich interplay between genetics/culture and society.

        Interesting talk on the subject by Pinker:

        • Ken Kukec
          Posted November 27, 2017 at 3:53 pm | Permalink

          “I believe there has to be cognitive difference between geographical isolated groups unless you do not believe in evolution.”

          That’s a possibility, of course, but it does not follow so ineluctably that its rejection is tantamount to a denial of evolution, as you suggest. It would depend, as I understand it, on the duration of the isolation and the selective pressures on the respective populations, as well as on the gene flow (if any) between populations. In addition, genetically based “cognitive difference” is not an easily quantifiable variable (nor one readily measured in a an abstract, culturally neutral fashion).

          As for my tone, I’m sorry to have given offense. (Hell, you should’ve caught my tone before I tempered it. 🙂 )

          • Jake Sevins
            Posted November 27, 2017 at 4:05 pm | Permalink

            As Jerry’s surrogate, I’ll remind you (Ken) that he likes to keep things polite around here. 🙂

            And I love reading your comments, Ken, which are almost always instructive/funny/insightful. But yeah, being kind while commenting is preferred by our host.

          • Eric Grobler
            Posted November 27, 2017 at 5:47 pm | Permalink

            “It would depend, as I understand it, on the duration of the isolation and the selective pressures on the respective populations, as well as on the gene flow (if any) between populations.”
            Very well summarized.

            However it is more than a “possibility” and rather a question of degree.
            Note than modern humans started to migrate out of Africa around 80,000 years ago and that is enough time.

            That said we know that all human populations around the world are essentially the same in our emotional responses, cognitive abilities, language structures etc, thus genetic differences is from a political/social point of view trivial.
            What makes Japanese different from Italians is mostly culture and not genetics.
            However in principle we might be able to show that Italians are slightly more extrovert than the Japanese genetically once we have a better understanding of the brain, but I suspect it will be a tiny statistical difference.

  14. ThyroidPlanet
    Posted November 27, 2017 at 3:58 pm | Permalink


  15. ThyroidPlanet
    Posted November 27, 2017 at 4:04 pm | Permalink

    … there’s also got to be a factor … I guess the term would be “institutional” – the universities have produced the individuals directly playing a role in all steps – e.g. admissions, grading, teaching… basically running the show – all from this suspected imperfect meritocracy…

    Why not just have a simple cut, producing a class that is nearly all … Is Japan and Korea considered Asian? Isn’t Russia part of Asia?… goodness what a mess this topic is…

    • infiniteimprobabilit
      Posted November 27, 2017 at 5:07 pm | Permalink

      “Isn’t Russia part of Asia?”

      Well, most of Russia is in Asia. But most Russians live in Europe. The ‘typical’ Russian – if there is such a thing – is definitely European.

      Russia is also the largest country in Europe (by area and population) and the largest country in Asia – by land area, not population.

      But you all knew that…


      • infiniteimprobabilit
        Posted November 27, 2017 at 5:18 pm | Permalink

        P.S. Sorry I got sidetracked. I agree with your point – trying to describe people ethnically by their location of origin results in confusion.

        To me (not necessarily anyone else) if someone says “asian” I think first of Chinese / Japanese / Korean, only as an afterthought do I include South-East asians like indonesian, and not at all indians or pakistanis or Middle East arabs.

        So how anyone could have a meaningful quota for ‘asians’ baffles me.


      • Posted November 28, 2017 at 1:44 am | Permalink

        Yes, Russians seem to consider themeselves Europeans. In my opinion, if the EU wants more countries, it’s not to places like Turkey they should turn. The elephant not in the room is Russia.

        That would be a world changer!

  16. Jake Sevins
    Posted November 27, 2017 at 4:23 pm | Permalink

    Jerry: I think effort needs to start even before children first start school. Prenatal care in fact. But I agree with everything you say…

    What a touchy topic. I feel uneasy just reading this stuff.

    • DiscoveredJoys
      Posted November 28, 2017 at 4:47 am | Permalink

      Just imagine how The Bell Curve was received… a quote from Wikipedia:

      The Bell Curve: Intelligence and Class Structure in American Life is a 1994 book by psychologist Richard J. Herrnstein and political scientist Charles Murray, in which the authors argue that human intelligence is substantially influenced by both inherited and environmental factors and is a better predictor of many personal dynamics, including financial income, job performance, birth out of wedlock, and involvement in crime than are an individual’s parental socioeconomic status. They also argue that those with high intelligence, the “cognitive elite”, are becoming separated from those of average and below-average intelligence. The book was controversial, especially where the authors wrote about racial differences in intelligence and discussed the implications of those differences.

      Those issues are still bubbling away, terribly distorted by political attitudes. The whole concept of affirmative action needs to be discussed in a clear, calm, and kind way. An attitude too easily overwhelmed by the shouty ones (of any political stripe).

  17. yazikus
    Posted November 27, 2017 at 6:24 pm | Permalink

    Since I haven’t seen it mentioned, I have a thought. What if the white students have been told that all of their classmates of color are actually less qualified to be there? Would this not impact how they then treat those peers? And if they do treat them differently, treating every person of color as if they were some product of affirmative action, would the students of color not have a grievance?

    • Travis
      Posted November 27, 2017 at 7:08 pm | Permalink

      This is part of my problem with affirmative action (as well as generally just preferring slow change compared to deliberate discrimination). I think affirmative action leads those who get the position to believe they may have gotten it due to their quality X and those who are not quality X to immediately gain a bias (until proven otherwise) that said person is less qualified.
      Also I just remembered our conversation from the other day so instead of digging up that thread I will mention my problem with White Ribbon here (I think that’s what you asked about):
      White Ribbon paints domestic violence exclusively as male perpetrators and female victims. All of their material is based on this and this flies in the face of evidence on the topic. Look into Erin Pizzey if you want to learn more about domestic violence from the person who made the first womens’ shelter ~30-40 years ago. Put simply, it is almost entirely reciprocal (each partner beats each other) and it is a generational problem not just one sex vs the other.

  18. Jon Gallant
    Posted November 27, 2017 at 7:00 pm | Permalink

    The 1969 letter by Judge Macklin Flemin reminds us of that almost pre-historic time when Affirmative Action in universities was actually discussed, and the various pros, cons, and unintended consequences could be weighed against one another and considered. This is no longer the case in the current century. On my campus, and most others, Affirmative Action has ascended to a status comparable to that of the Catechism in holy mother Church, or perhaps a little higher. On this subject, and a number of related ones, Diversity of viewpoint is not tolerated.

  19. Posted November 27, 2017 at 8:12 pm | Permalink

    This is not exclusively an affirmative action or racial issue in our universities. In a number of states, anyone that goes to community college for the first two years are assured a place at one of the state universities. Whether community college or university, there are a high percentage of students who must take remedial courses before they can go on. There are many students in college who want the opportunities and higher incomes supposedly associated with a university degree, but aren’t prepared to be there. Wander around and talk to people at fast food places or other non-professional jobs and you’ll find that many of them have university degrees. I don’t want to pessimistic, and I firmly believe in the value of education, but many of our universities do not exist for the sake of the students but for the administration, professors, TAs, janitors,etc.

    • Craw
      Posted November 27, 2017 at 8:38 pm | Permalink

      A great, giant +1 for this.

  20. Posted November 27, 2017 at 8:50 pm | Permalink

    I’m not convinced there’s an epidemic of overwhelming demands for lowering the standards for black students’ grades and accumulation of credits. Last time I looked, whiny babies of every race, creed, and sex were demanding special snowflake treatment. I have no doubt that you can find a few black students demanding lower standards to be applied to them, but then you can find a few X demanding Y for any values of X and Y.

    The hardest part of Harvard is getting in. Smart students of every race know this, and that explains any resentment about the ease with which others get in. One’s own advantages, not necessarily earned, in previous educational levels, somehow don’t seem so important.

  21. colnago80
    Posted November 28, 2017 at 5:34 am | Permalink

    I get a big laugh out of conservatives who rail against affirmative action. One never hears them railing against legacy admissions which have the same affect, namely that students with lower qualifications are admitted to prestige universities. Case in point George W. Bush who, if his name had been Yoder Krish, wouldn’t have gotten an so much as an interview at Yale, based on his SAT scores which were some 150 points lower then the average for entering freshmen at the time.

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