The War on Competence

Decades ago, the Left played the class-war game. These days it’s a war on competence and achievement, hiding beyond claims of racial and sexual equity.

In Virginia, we are to believe that on their own, high school administrators in seventeen schools decided not to inform those of their students who had scored high enough on their scholastic aptitude tests to be named National Merit semi-finalists. Of course, it was not coincidental. Two factors are involved: The spurious claim that schools can achieve the impossible -- equal outcomes for all -- a claim which must not be challenged by contrary facts; and prejudice against high-achieving students -- most likely, given historical records, majority Asian and white. Hugh Hewitt thinks this was a clear violation of the students' civil rights for which Fairfax County may end up paying heavy legal damages. 

A Massachusetts congresswoman,  Ayanna Pressley (who represents, inter alia, most of Boston and Cambridge, Massachusetts), plainly revealed what is the basis for the war on intellectual achievement:

“IQ is a measure of whiteness.”

It isn’t, of course. It’s a combination of genetics (dare we say this?), home environment, including familial respect for achievement, personal interests and motivation, and to a certain extent, the caliber of the education received.

This is not just a K-12 excrescence. For some years now it has metastasized to higher education.  

Richard Vedder noted four years ago trends in this direction which have only accelerated since then.

1. A decreasing portion of institutional resources is going to fund academics -- teachers and researchers. Spending on disseminating and creating knowledge is being crowded out by massive increases in administrative staff overseeing student affairs, new sustainability and diversity bureaucracies, intercollegiate athletics, etc.

2. Students on average are spending far less time on academics than they did a generation or two ago, and almost certainly are learning less from their schooling.

3. America’s clear global lead in research is rapidly ending as other nations, especially China, are vastly increasing research spending relative to that in the United States, where political leaders increasingly forfeit future investment and national greatness for immediate political job security.

4. The hallmark of a vibrant collegiate intellectual environment is campus debate -- the non-violent but vigorous discussion of alternative perspectives. That is declining on many campuses where speakers are suppressed by protesters and faculty profess near uniform left-wing perspectives.

5. While students are learning less as academics are downplayed, the cost of creating and disseminating knowledge is actually rising even faster than standard cost measures (e.g. tuition fees) indicate. Students are learning less for more.

6. The notion that “college is for all,” along with federal government financial aid programs, simultaneously raised enrollments and college costs, leading to a glut of college graduates and stagnation in the earnings advantages of a college degree, as more graduates are now "underemployed."

7. This is now leading to enrollment declines and falling public support. As a consequence, more colleges are failing. The creative destruction that Joseph Schumpeter said made capitalism so successful is finally coming to higher education. 

Having a population, a significant portion of which is smart and well-educated, is a national treasure, an asset which is being rapidly diminished by the pernicious emphasis on DIE (the acronym for a policy which emphasizes Diversity, Inclusion, and Equality and which, to be frank, is a policy designed to downplay talent and achievement).

When you are ill, is it more important to you that your doctor knows what to do to improve your health or that your physician is someone schooled in the nonsensical Diversity, Inclusion, and Equity propaganda many medical schools are adding to their mandatory programs? What about the engineers and architects who must know math to build things which are safe? Not important to the DIE crowd, which for some time now has been demonstrating bias against straight white men who excel in these skills: So an article in the American Math Society blog contends straight white men should quit or take a demotion: The once well-regarded publication Nature argues that there are too many white men in STEM fields and “on the need for greater diversity, equity and inclusion” at scientific institutions worldwide. 

Read another way, it’s a call to increase bias in these fields against the most demonstrably capable of the applicants -- men, mostly white and mostly heterosexual.

Popular publications overwhelmingly report on bias against women in science and math fields, less well-covered is the bias against men, like this article in Inside Higher Education (a publication worth reading if you have any interest in what is happening in colleges and universities in this country). 

“Our data suggest it is an auspicious time to be a talented woman launching a STEM tenure-track academic career, contrary to findings from earlier investigations alleging bias, none of which examined faculty hiring bias against female applicants in the disciplines in which women are represented,” the authors conclude. “The perception that STEM fields continue to be inhospitable male bastions can become self-reinforcing by discouraging female applicants, thus contributing to continued underrepresentation, which in turn may obscure underlying attitudinal changes.”

Williams said in an email interview that the study built on her and Ceci’s existing research. In particular, a previous hiring analysis revealed that women were a smaller fraction of the applicant pool for faculty positions in STEM, but those who applied were given jobs at a higher rate than the men who applied. But those real-world hiring data didn’t take into account differences in applicants’ accomplishments, she said. The new study aimed to test whether women received more job offers, controlling for their qualifications relative to men.  

Despite her and Ceci’s previous work busting dominant theories about gender bias in STEM hiring, Williams said they were still not expecting the results they observed.

“At one point we turned to each other while we were coding email responses from faculty across the U.S. and said we hoped that the large preference for women applicants over identically qualified men applicants would slow down because it seemed too large to be believed!” she said. “It never did slow down, and the final tally was roughly a 2 to 1 preference. So, we were surprised.”

The bias exists not only in academia. Resume Builder’s study shows DIE practices have resulted in demonstrated bias against hiring men: 

52% believe their company practices “reverse discrimination” in hiring

  • 1 in 6 have been asked to deprioritize hiring white men
  • 48% have been asked to prioritize diversity over qualifications
  • 53% believe their job will be in danger if they don’t hire enough diverse employees
  • 70% believe their company has DEI initiatives for appearances’ sake

The Supreme Court is due shortly to finally decide two significant cases on the related affirmative action policies in colleges: The first case, against Harvard and its bias against Asian applicants, the second, involving the University of North Carolina alleges bias against white applicants

From the comments of those who sat in on the arguments or read transcripts of them in those two cases, it appears the notion of “diversity” and “affirmative action’ playing roles in admissions does not sit well with the court. Let’s hope they are right. This unconstitutional and dangerous achievement-denying practice has continued for too long and must be scotched.

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