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Affirmative Action and Subjective Merit

By la princesa in Culture
Wed Feb 20, 2002 at 06:01:11 PM EST
Tags: Culture (all tags)
Culture

Many Americans object to affirmative action (AA) programs on the grounds that they are little more than quota systems for minorities and white women. These opponents of affirmative action often sugget that using race or gender as part of the selection process for college entrance or employment is unfair. The supposition is that all such selections should be made entirely on merit. In taking college entrance requirements as the working example for this discussion, one notes that merit is generally considered determinable via standardised test scores by AA opponents. However, given current testing tools and selection processes, the ideal of selecting college students solely on merit is impossible if merit is taken to be exam scores.


Though standardised tests appear objective, they are in practice subjective in their ability to evaluate supposed merit. The design of typical standardised tests does not permit statistically useful measurement. One reason is that the design of exams such as the SAT presupposes a homogeneous cultural background. While some efforts have been made to incorporate other cultures into these tests, these attempts fail by definition to create a truly acultural test, which has yet to be developed in any form. By selecting some cultures and not others for a 'standard' exam, an element of irreducible bias permeates standardised tests, skewing results implicitly towards those with opportunity to adapt to the cultures utilised in the exams.

Another reason standardised tests produce statistically subjective results is the variety of test-taking conditions. Conditions ranging from accomodations for disabilities to taking exams multiple times to achieve a maximal score serve to further erode the objective measuring abilities of standardised tests. There remains to be devised a methodology for test-taking that ensures conditions are equalised across all spectrums for all groups. Additionally, while state-mandated standardised tests vary in difficulty, they can often be substituted for the national SAT and ACT exams in college admission requirements, whether they are easier than those exams or more difficult. This variance in the various standardised tests themselves adds another subjective element to ostensibly objective measuring tools.

The net result of these elements of standardised tests is that at present, as a whole standardised tests lack sufficient precision to be objectively useful by themselves. When combined with even more subjective measures such as grade point average (curricula in public and private secondary schools vary even more in difficulty levels than national and state standardised tests), a slight increase in objective determination is found, but the overall result is that merit is subjective if assessed using standardised tests and thus not a genuinely quantitative measure of a college applicant's abilities. This means that so far as AA goes, its opponents must await development of truly objective methods of measuring intellectual ability to justifiably deny others use of different but similarly subjective methods of assessing merit.

With regard to different methods of assessing merit, one comes to selection processes for college entrance. Many AA opponents suggest that the use of race or gender as a criterion in selection is insufficiently objective in considering applicants. However, these same opponents rarely wish to eliminate other subjective criteria such as region, athletic status, or nepotism (admitting students with alumni relatives). What is overlooked by AA opponents is that at present people are selected for college (or employ) based on criteria that are mostly subjective (like or dislike of an application essay, race, unusual talent, high grades, numerous extracurricular activities, et al.) Switching to usage of standardised tests simply because their subjective measure is numeric and thus appears objective does not alter that basic fact. Objectively measuring human intellectual ability remains beyond the scope of the sciences developing testing instruments (psychology and sociology.)

Essentially, race is as subjective as any other criterion currently used to select college students and should not be removed on that basis. Now, if there were to be devised a method of objectively assessing an individual's intellectual or academic ability that could account for individual differences without introducing result-skewing biases, then it would be reasonable to eliminate race and other subjective measures entirely from college admissions and employment considerations. Until such measures are devised, if indeed they can be, steps should be taken to permit all ethnicities and both genders equal opportunity to acquire employment and college education. Among these steps is AA, which is a partial solution, and simply giving all children equal educational opportunities from early childhood-- a more complete solution, but one rarely considered by either AA advocates or opponents. This second solution would require major societal alteration, and as society reconfigures itself to make that option feasible, partial solutions that serve to allow minorities and white women the same opportunities as white males should not be cast aside simply because they involve using subjective measures, given that the measures opponents of these solutions would adopt are similarly subjective.

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Affirmative Action and Subjective Merit | 135 comments (128 topical, 7 editorial, 0 hidden)
subjective? (3.80 / 10) (#1)
by gibichung on Wed Feb 20, 2002 at 03:17:37 AM EST

Your thesis is that because some methods of student evaluation (standardized tests, grades, etc.) are "subjective," it is justifiable to admit students based on irrelevant considerations such as race, gender, or shoe size?

-----
"No man is above the law and no man is below it; nor do we ask any man's permission when we require him to obey it." -- Theodore Roosevelt
Race and gender aren't irrelevant. (3.00 / 4) (#3)
by la princesa on Wed Feb 20, 2002 at 03:28:12 AM EST

If they actually were, one wouldn't need to resort to half-measures like affirmative action in the first place. For example, given that on this very site you have people believing that white males are genetically predisposed to enter technical fields, or that women don't think in a way conducive to excelling in technical fields, one can note that race and gender remain relevant in denying opportunity. Thus, they have to be considered in permitting opportunity until/if the day arrives that race and gender are irrelevant in denying opportunity. What passes for meritocracy in America is the idea that some(white/asian) people get jobs and education strictly on merit, while those other (black/hispanic) people are only getting in unjustly through quotas and couldn't possibly be qualified. When that hypocrisy ends, race and gender will be like shoe size.

[ Parent ]
huh? (5.00 / 2) (#7)
by gibichung on Wed Feb 20, 2002 at 03:52:49 AM EST

What passes for meritocracy in America is the idea that some(white/asian) people get jobs and education strictly on merit, while those other (black/hispanic) people are only getting in unjustly through quotas and couldn't possibly be qualified. When that hypocrisy ends, race and gender will be like shoe size.
That's the problem, isn't it? Quotas suggest that women and minorities NEED an unfair advantage to succeed. Not only do they foster resentment (and sometimes even racism) in the people they discriminate against, but they suggest to prospective minority students that less is expected of them. They suggest that minorities somehow have an insurmountable disadvantage, that can only be overcome by lowering of standards. This only reinforces the low self-image and, yes, generally bad attitudes prevalent in minority cultures. If history has taught us anything, it is that, ultimately, only you can be responsible for yourself: blaming others is self-defeating. Positive attitudes get positive results, and there are enough successful women and minorities today to prove it.

-----
"No man is above the law and no man is below it; nor do we ask any man's permission when we require him to obey it." -- Theodore Roosevelt
[ Parent ]
Low self image is not prevalent in all minority... (none / 0) (#10)
by la princesa on Wed Feb 20, 2002 at 04:31:59 AM EST

cultures. The idea that blacks and hispanics sit around feeling sorry for themselves and would easily get equal opportunity if they just bucked up and liked themselves more has been proven false both historically and currently. The problem is a pervasive negative culture portraying blacks and hispanics as having 'bad attitudes'. It permeates American society and is effectively inescapable. Being a minority and judged ill for it in numerous subtle and unsubtle ways from birth until death creates an environment where one by default cannot attain equal opportunity without outside intervention.

Immigrant cultures, both African/Caribbean (black) and South Asian/Indian/European (white/asian), tend to have high achievement because their social environment in their home country is not one where the slightest misstep is considered a negative reflection on the entire ethnic group. Being the majority in one's home country serves to immunise non-American blacks from the negative miasma enveloping American culture. They haven't been told in thousands of tiny ways that they are inherently unworthy, that no matter how successful they are, they are either exceptions or thieves, stealing power and access from more merit-worthy (lighter-skinned) ethnicities via access-enhancing methods such as affirmative action. So non-American blacks still have colour prejudice to deal with, but they are not handicapped with an unrelentingly negative social environment their entire lives.

Blaming others is the least of American black and hispanic concerns. The major concern is functioning in a society that has not moved all that far from considering these ethnic groups something other than fully human. Once the American social environment starts reflecting a less negative view of blacks and hispanics, then one can safely remove access aids such as affirmative action.

[ Parent ]

a 180 degree turn? (3.50 / 2) (#13)
by gibichung on Wed Feb 20, 2002 at 04:58:10 AM EST

Being a minority and judged ill for it in numerous subtle and unsubtle ways from birth until death creates an environment where one by default cannot attain equal opportunity without outside intervention.
Ridiculous. While there are millions of exceptions to your generalization, you should consider your previous statement:
The problem is a pervasive negative culture portraying blacks and hispanics as having 'bad attitudes'.
Don't you think that by demonstrating such an attitude right here and now you're not helping your case? And finally,
Once the American social environment starts reflecting a less negative view of blacks and hispanics, then one can safely remove access aids such as affirmative action.
is an obvious fallacy, as affirmative action itself is one of the biggest reasons that attitude still exists. If there is one thing that Americans respect, it is hard work. As long as quotas displace qualified people, the recipients will never have the same respect as those who worked harder to get there. On the other hand, there is nothing more American than overcoming a disadvantage to be successful. Which path do you think leads to greater respect?

-----
"No man is above the law and no man is below it; nor do we ask any man's permission when we require him to obey it." -- Theodore Roosevelt
[ Parent ]
AA beneficiaries work hardest for success. (none / 0) (#15)
by la princesa on Wed Feb 20, 2002 at 05:11:46 AM EST

Quotas don't displace qualified people-- they place people as qualified who would not normally be considered due to historical factors there. AA students pass their classes as well as non-AA students, but relying solely on subjective and biased test scores, AA students would not have the chance to prove this. Because other measures are used, they do get the chance to prove their worth. The belief that affirmative action recipients benefit solely due to race is false. Race is ONE FACTOR OF SEVERAL. Why aren't you saying anything about athletic quotas, or nepotism? Why are people let into school using that additional criteria fully qualified, but people let in using the additional criteria of race are not? Also, noticing things like the not-overly-subtle associations of blacks with crime (an example of the negative social environs) does not mean a person has a 'bad attitude'. Should people simply shut up and smile when they are judged ill for their ethnicity, since identifying prejudice is apparently showing a 'bad attitude' and implied disinclination to work hard?

[ Parent ]
not true (3.33 / 3) (#16)
by streetlawyer on Wed Feb 20, 2002 at 05:12:29 AM EST

As long as quotas displace qualified people, the recipients will never have the same respect as those who worked harder to get there

George W Bush, a beneficiary of the Yale alumni children quota system and of the Bush family informal "quota" in republican politics, currently enjoys one of the highest approval ratings ever measured as US President, while the extremely intelligent and diligent Al Gore is universally and correctly derided as a loser and a whiner.

--
Just because things have been nonergodic so far, doesn't mean that they'll be nonergodic forever
[ Parent ]

Al Gore (none / 0) (#31)
by elefantstn on Wed Feb 20, 2002 at 10:37:41 AM EST

The "extremely intelligent" Al Gore twice failed out of graduate school at Vanderbilt, a prominent school in a state which his father represented as a Senator. He's certainly a better speaker than Bush (though not nearly as good a speaker as Clinton or Reagan), but he's no bright bulb himself.

[ Parent ]
Brilliant (5.00 / 1) (#20)
by Fan Fiction Friday on Wed Feb 20, 2002 at 06:13:56 AM EST

On the other hand, there is nothing more American than overcoming a disadvantage to be successful.

I take it then, that in order to be as American as possible, it's necessary to be disadvantaged? Does this mean Stephen Hawking is possibly the most American person in history?

[ Parent ]

You got it all wrong. (none / 0) (#41)
by nr0mx on Wed Feb 20, 2002 at 11:21:56 AM EST

Immigrant cultures, both African/Caribbean (black) and South Asian/Indian/European (white/asian), tend to have high achievement because their social environment in their home country is not one where the slightest misstep is considered a negative reflection on the entire ethnic group.

Hold it right there ! Wherever did you get that idea.

Immigrant cultures, by their very nature cannot be compared to the African/Caribbean cultures. Taking an example, when you find an Asian in the U.S, it is not because of the reasons you mention. It is because this person is highly motivated to succeed, highly qualified, extremely hard-working, or any combination of the above.

Don't you realize that only a select few make it to the U.S from Asia ? They did not get there by having negative attitudes. Those ones are still back home. ( plz, this is not to imply the reverse association )



[ Parent ]

you're completely misinformed (4.20 / 5) (#26)
by eLuddite on Wed Feb 20, 2002 at 09:27:04 AM EST

you're comment is typical of the intentionally induced stupidity on the subject of AA.

Quotas suggest that women and minorities NEED an unfair advantage to succeed.

Stop right there. AA is not about quotas at all.

"Affirmative action consists of actions taken to increase the numbers of an underrepresented demographic group in an organization. Affirmative action plans are not permitted to involve strict quotas or to force the organization to hire or promote unqualified employees. But, they may involve consideration of demographic status in making government decisions. Discrimination in employment decisions is assessed by comparing the selection ratios for different demographic groups. In such analysis, the comparison group consists only of those actual or potential applicants who are qualified for the position." Bennet-Alexander

They suggest that minorities somehow have an insurmountable disadvantage, that can only be overcome by lowering of standards.

Again, AA promotes equality according to demographics[1]. AA is not an issue unless both candidates are qualified. If both candidates are qualified for a position, then they obviously are equally qualified to do the work demanded of that position. At that point, "discrimination in employment decisions is assessed by comparing the selection ratios for different demographic groups." That way, whites are not chosen based on their skin color much as they have been throughout American history, and black people are give the chance to raise themselves out of their historically imposed, artificially depressed demographic.

Now that you understand the issue a little better, examine the hiring logic implicit in AA policy. What do you suggest recruiters do -- flip a coin? Since both candidates are qualified, why not do the right thing and redress a little social inequity in the bargain? Stop framing the issue according to imaginary, self-perpetuating racial insults and resentment. That's precisely the problem to begin with.

It is very important to emphasize that AA has a rather precise legal definition which differs markedly from the ignorant, commonplace and frankly racist spin you are repeating in this thread. AA is a well defined and regulated policy, not an ad hoc initiative implemented according to managerial reverse racist indiscretion. I have no doubt that the human element introduces a few pathological cases, just as I have no doubt that the human element introduces the likes of a lying racists such as Jesse Helms (talk about AA -- for whites!) into American "democratic" government.

But there is an additional problem with slinging the word "underqualified" around -- namely, the assumption that you are in a position to recognize qualification and measure it absolutely. One of the things that AA does is alert people to previously unobserved, unexplored and unappreciated abilities in the very people it targets. What you mean by "unqualified" is often "what I dont understand", or "what some white guy who didnt get the job told me in a pathetic defense of his noncompetitive abilities". By making business organizations ponder their standards and the effects of their management policies, affirmative action has promoted equal opportunity and has had the same effect as if they paid for effective consultation services instead of having received it free from the State. Unless you equip organizations with correct information intelligently presented and argued, organizations will not make pro-active and insightful decisions.

[1] Do you have a similiar problem with Federal and State grants, subsidies and programs going to depressed areas? Most white people living in depressed areas do not. (Hell, even affluent white Silicon Valley residents dont resent their government's role in the creation and subsidization of the the high tech industry.)

---
God hates human rights.
[ Parent ]

Well said (none / 0) (#38)
by nr0mx on Wed Feb 20, 2002 at 11:04:41 AM EST

So AA is not about quotas, is it ? I now see what you are talking about. This sounds more reasonable, actually implementable. Well, AA certainly has my sympathies in this case. Thanks for the post.

This is radically different from what the author of the post wishes to convey. Your interpretation of AA ( and I am assuming this is the correct one ) is based on the assumption that people can be objectively compared, and if they are found to be equal in all respects, then AA comes into play, right ?

This does not sound a bit like what the author is proposing. My interpretation of this post was that the author wishes to say that there is no way to objectively compare subjects who differ in their race/sex, so subjectivity is inevitable. Dancing down this path will have you knocking at the "We need quotas, and now!" door in no time.

To wander off a bit, we had this particular rule in school that when two or more students got the same marks, and the prize could be awarded to only one, birthdates came into play. i.e. the earlier born was deemed to have won. ;) Well, no one really questioned this rule as it was deemed fair enough if it came to the wire. The present situation is different, but not by much.



[ Parent ]

Not exactly (none / 0) (#101)
by Woundweavr on Thu Feb 21, 2002 at 08:19:58 AM EST

First of all, sometimes AA does mean quotas. If a school requires that 15% of the student body is minority race A(say numberically thats x), then x number of As must be admitted by that policy. At the xth member may be less qualified than the first nonA to get rejected, it creates an articifial unfairness when quotas are involved.

Secondly, when the tie breaker goes to the minority that is unfair. If somehow the two candidates were exactly equally qualified, each individual should have equal oppurtunity for the spot, regardless of race.

Minority status does not equate to economic hardship. If one was to make AA based on poverty, there would be alot less complaints.

No one claims the merit is based absolutely. The only thing that can be done is test as accurately as possible. Pretending that making a trait as irrelevant as race a factor increases this accuracy doesn't hold up.

[ Parent ]

Empathy (none / 0) (#66)
by medham on Wed Feb 20, 2002 at 02:34:10 PM EST

Have you ever thought about what it might be like to be an oppressed minority? In your haste to consider yourself as a victim because of picayune measures such as A.A., you've lost your ability to understand what true adversity is.

Having said this, I think it is clear that the working class constitutes an internationally oppressed group, and that the Cletus-like among us deserve a helping hand as much as anyone.

The real 'medham' has userid 6831.
[ Parent ]

If people with smaller feet... (3.00 / 2) (#6)
by Tezcatlipoca on Wed Feb 20, 2002 at 03:43:44 AM EST

Had less access to education and jobs, were consistently being paid less for doing the same job, were consistently ostracized to reach managerial positions in companies, if all that happened only because other people were discriminating solely based in shoe size, then shoesize would be an important criteria to take into account while dealing with discrimination.



---
"At eighteen our convictions are hills from which we look;
at forty-five they are caves in which we hide." F. Scott Fitzgerald.
[ Parent ]
It's all about perspective. (none / 0) (#9)
by gibichung on Wed Feb 20, 2002 at 04:29:49 AM EST

It is certainly possible for people with small feet to succeed in America today, some just have to work a little harder than their larger-footed brethren to get there. The one clear difference I've observed in those who succeed and those who fail is attitude. Some see it has a handicap, a perpetual disadvantage that can never be overcome. They're quick to blame any shortcoming on their feet, and the only thing they ever do about it is complain. Others see it as a challenge. They know it can be overcome, even if they have to work harder than some. It's obvious which attitude you've chosen, but don't you realize you're holding others down with you?

-----
"No man is above the law and no man is below it; nor do we ask any man's permission when we require him to obey it." -- Theodore Roosevelt
[ Parent ]
Anedoctal evidence doesn't disprove facts. (none / 0) (#11)
by la princesa on Wed Feb 20, 2002 at 04:38:11 AM EST

And quite unfortunately, it is easy enough to find numerous examples of nonwhite/asian groups being denied equal access to advanced schooling and employment. Meritocracy does not exist in America. Why do you believe it's ok for small-footed people to always have to expend more effort to have the same opportunities as large-footed people? Why should some groups always have to do more to get the same things as groups that do much less? Your argument sounds like 'n group ought to work 3x as hard for half as much and if they think it's unfair, they've just got a bad attitude', which is pretty much the sort of thing segregationists were fond of espousing.

[ Parent ]
Why? (5.00 / 2) (#18)
by gibichung on Wed Feb 20, 2002 at 05:26:29 AM EST

Why should some groups always have to do more to get the same things as groups that do much less?
Because it is a fact of life, and it is something no amount of whining, complaining, or special treatment can change. Some people are born with more, and some with less. But never before in history has there been such widespread opportunity. In the past, access to education depended on social status or money, but today noone is denied education because they are poor. The ultimate potential of anyone in the country is the same -- even if some have to work harder to reach it. Affirmative action can never even the playing field, it can only lower standards for some.

-----
"No man is above the law and no man is below it; nor do we ask any man's permission when we require him to obey it." -- Theodore Roosevelt
[ Parent ]
Access to education still depends on social status (2.50 / 2) (#19)
by la princesa on Wed Feb 20, 2002 at 05:51:27 AM EST

And apparently you seem to advocate the notion that preferential treatment is fine so long as nonwhite/asian ethnic groups are not recipients of such treatment. Which goes back to the notion that 'some people are born lesser and should be content with less' which is endemic in America.

[ Parent ]
Contradiction (none / 0) (#21)
by marx on Wed Feb 20, 2002 at 06:23:49 AM EST

The ultimate potential of anyone in the country is the same -- even if some have to work harder to reach it.

This is a contradiction. If some have to work harder to reach the same level as the rest, then the rest could reach even higher by working that same extra amount.

It sounds more logical to make the system fair in the first place.

Join me in the War on Torture: help eradicate torture from the world by holding torturers accountable.
[ Parent ]

By the way, (3.88 / 9) (#2)
by xriso on Wed Feb 20, 2002 at 03:27:01 AM EST

White Males are a minority. And subjective as it may be, tests are actually related to academic success. Now, please stop advocating racism. I thought we were trying to get rid of it?
--
*** Quits: xriso:#kuro5hin (Forever)
Tests are nominally related to academic success. (3.33 / 3) (#4)
by la princesa on Wed Feb 20, 2002 at 03:34:00 AM EST

Which means not very much. That could change if/when more accurate testing instruments are devised, but right now using them the current way is more subjective than objective in practice. And last anyone checked, white males in America still have the highest social status and maximal opportunity compared to other ethnicities. Numerically they are a minority, but in terms of financial and social power, they remain a vast majority.

[ Parent ]
relation of tests to success (5.00 / 1) (#55)
by Pink Daisy on Wed Feb 20, 2002 at 01:02:19 PM EST

Tests are strongly correlated with academic success because they are designed to measure ability to achieve academic success. It would be very easy to change that; either changing the tests to measure different characteristics, or changing academia so that success is based on different characteristics.

Advocating changes in tests is disingenious, since the tests do an excellent job of measuring what they are supposed to measure.

I'll nominally agree with your comments on white males, since they seem intuitively correct and I have no evidence to the contrary. I will also suggest that one of two approaches is best. One is to shift the criteria that give social status and opportunity so as to favour a broader group of people. I have doubts about this working, but who am I to say for sure. The other is to wait. There are fewer barriers now than ever before in American history, and they are being knocked down all the time when circumstance proves them to be entirely nonsensical. Eventually the situation will rectify itself given only time and the innate ability of all ethnic groups. The disadvantage is that may take a long time. I'm just glad I don't have to come up with a complete solution, because I don't have one.

[ Parent ]
Meaningless statement (none / 0) (#99)
by aphrael on Thu Feb 21, 2002 at 03:18:26 AM EST

White Males are a minority

This statement is absolutely meaningless without either a geographic or population qualifier. Eg., it is unclear if you mean "Of all the people in the world, White males are a minority", "Of all the people in the US, white males are a minority", "Of all the people in Topeka, Kansas, white males are a minority" or some such. There are clearly geographic and population qualifiers which make the statement true (all the people in the world); geographic and population qualifiers which make the statement false (white males in folsom, california); and geographic and population qualifiiers where it is hard to determine.

Besides which, the interesting thing is not whether or not white males constitute a majority of the population, but whether or not they constitute a majority of those with powerful positions in the business or political world; in the United States, at least, a cursory look at a list of members of the board of powerful corporations, or members of state and federal legislatures, demonstrates that while white males are a minority, they nonetheless constitute a *huge* majority of those in positions of power; this suggests that there might possibly be something unequitable going on along the way.

[ Parent ]

I disagree, but... (4.66 / 9) (#5)
by Pseudoephedrine on Wed Feb 20, 2002 at 03:37:04 AM EST

I voted +1 anyhow. An interesting article, and it raises some good points, albeit I would interpret the points differently than the author has chosen to.

Firstly, I look at the cultural aspect quite differently. As I understand it, the number one factor in whether one goes to university or not is familial and social (in the sense of friends, not government) support. If your mother wants you to go to university, no ifs ands or buts about it, chances are most of us would go. Likewise, if all my friends have their hearts on university, chances are I myself will want to go.

As well, the cultural point deserves another rebuttal. All children being tested by the SATs have gone through a relatively similar culture - the culture-molding of public schools. Isn't the point of progressive schooling to turn children into 'good citizens' (as opposed to a classical education, which evidently bred well-educated rebels who were then clever enough to get rid of that problem)? If children are going through a relatively similar cultural experience in high school, then cultural difference diminish.

I'll make two important clarifications before I move on. Firstly, I realise that not all schools are equal - some are obviously inferior academically to others, and that this inferiority is unfairly biased towards black people in specific (Asian and Hispanic immigrants tend to be upwardly mobile within a generation or two, as were the Irish and German immigrants of the 19th century). I disagree that the solution to the problem is to accept black candidates that are inferior to others. Rather, if the problem is inferior schools, then the solution is to fix the schools.
Secondly, while children's levels of academic achievement within the system vary, this in and of itself is only a secondary goal of the system. The primary goals are perhaps most clearly explained in John Gatto's Six Lesson school teacher (http://www.cantrip.org/gatto.html, among many other URLs). Children _are_ inculcated in a common culture through public schools, even if that culture happens to celebrate black history month once a year.

Anyhow, getting back on topic, I agree with the fact that modern psychometric tools are crude at best, but I disagree that we should therefore simply throw everything out the window and just pick socially acceptable criteria designed to advance social agendas.

Universities are giant knowledge factories. Their job should not be primarily to advance social agendas (that should come about as the result of having an informed and active population of bright people collected together in one place), but rather to select the best candidates to transmit this knowledge to.

As a result of this view, the only criteria that should be considered are those that demonstrate the candidate is intelligent, willing to learn, and capable of adapting to new situations and stress well. In that light, _some_ extra-curricular activities _are_ relevant, while others are not, including notions such as race, sex, nepotism and athletic ability. If I learnt to play the violin at age six (which I didn't, thank god), then that is a relevant factor in considering me, since it demonstrates a great deal of potential and capacity to learn new things.

I don't think we should get rid of some sort of standardised test altogether - I come from Canada, personally, where our marks in high school along with extracurriculars and things like 'race' are all that determine our entrance or refusal from university, and I know for a fact that it has excluded many bright people simply because they lack the necessary six OAC credits. Frankly, the system does not work well. A standardised test, even if it is not the SATs (and frankly, I think they should revise the test significantly from what I have seen of it) should be used to score purely academic knowledge and suitability to enter university. Giving a poor black guy an opportunity to enter university won't matter a damn if he reads at a 9th grade level.

Anyhow, I think a combination of standardised scoring of purely academic knowledge _and_ a review of _relevant_ (emphasis on the relevant) criteria towards a student's suitability to enter into a giant knowledge factory should be used. I also disagree that race is a suitably relevant criteria of a candidate's suitability, and thus, should not be used.


"We who have passed through their hands feel suffocated when we think of that legion, which is stripped bare of human ideals" -Alexander Solzhenitsyn
culture (none / 0) (#44)
by linca on Wed Feb 20, 2002 at 11:43:21 AM EST

About your first rebuttal. Culture is a generic word, maybe too generic. But what your mum wants you to do is probably part of "culture". We all know the stereotype of the jewish mother. However, it seems the jewish cultural group ends up as one of the most educated. On te other hand, if neither your parents nor your friends' ever went to college, your will to go their will certainly be weaker. That is exactly what is called "cultural disadvantage", and is the justification for AA. Now the problem is that in the US, races and disavantaged cultures are often the same.

[ Parent ]
Then why AA? (5.00 / 1) (#58)
by Pseudoephedrine on Wed Feb 20, 2002 at 01:29:30 PM EST

If the problem is lack of familial and social support, how does AA help? Plenty of white people come from broken homes, and plenty of black people come from warm and encouraging households. While I will concede that there are a proportionally greater number of black children coming from broken homes, I still don't think that AA changes anything.

You are labouring under a misapprehension. It is not the case in general that people from these broken homes apply to university and are then helped along by AA. The groups whose families are broken and who do not encourage them to attend university do not even apply to university for the most part. Thus, AA is _not_ helping people with disadvantaged families attend higher education. Rather, it is helping middle-class blacks who would attend university anyhow get into universities that they otherwise might not qualify for.

A simple blanket solution such as 'Visible minorities get fifteen extra SAT points' does not really address the problem, since the part of the population AA is intended to help never even try to get into university in the first place.

If anything is to be done, I'm of the opinion that it must work on a much lower level than university, which a relatively small percentage of the population actually ever attends. Charter schools seem a much more viable and successful option to encourage black youth to attend university, probably at least in part because they help build a community of friends equally interested in success.


"We who have passed through their hands feel suffocated when we think of that legion, which is stripped bare of human ideals" -Alexander Solzhenitsyn
[ Parent ]

Equality. (4.50 / 8) (#8)
by nr0mx on Wed Feb 20, 2002 at 04:08:39 AM EST

Your article, and the subject we are discussing, hinges on the notion of 'equality', and if Affirmative Action helps in achieving that. You do not dispute the fact that it is a glorified 'quota system', but instead you seem to think that this is necessary. Fair enough.

My questions :

  • Can you objectively analyze the criterias for the quotas ?
  • How do you decide which of these factors are important, and how important they are.
You mention race and sex as being important. And you disagree with shoe size. How do you justify this, and in the process are you being objective or subjective ?

Taking a broader outlook, would you be willing to accomodate the poor from other countries who wishes to immigrate to the U.S ? After all, this is one easy way to bring about equality in the world. Or are we just talking about equality within the U.S context ?

Or how about this... (3.25 / 4) (#12)
by Zeram on Wed Feb 20, 2002 at 04:46:39 AM EST

Afrimative Action is bad because anytime you just hand something to a person it means nothing. If you don't have to work for something (essentially if there is no cost associated with something) it has virtually no value.
<----^---->
Like Anime? In the Philly metro area? Welcome to the machine...
Affirmative Action (2.00 / 1) (#43)
by linca on Wed Feb 20, 2002 at 11:33:14 AM EST

is not "handing out". it is considering that if the black guy has a sat score of 1300, and the white guy has a SAT score of 1350, their achievement is similar, they both worked as hard, but that the black guy was disavantaged from the start.

[ Parent ]
A view from the outside (3.60 / 5) (#14)
by Hopfrog on Wed Feb 20, 2002 at 05:07:44 AM EST

I've never been in the US, so have never had to deal with or face affirmative action and like positive racism.
But in my uneducated opinion, it seems like a good idea.
People born in the ghetto tend to stay in the ghetto. If your mother and father are uneducated labourers, you will often end up as the same. This is a fact, and I see that in the Turks here in germany. The blacks and half-blacks, mostly 1st and 2nd generation migrants are overrepresented in TV, and the Turks, the largest german minority are under-represented. They also have high out-of-work rates, and low school finishing rates. This is mostly because of the ghetto mentality: the Turks came as menial labourers in the 70s and 60s, and many are already 3rd generation, and are still menial workers.
They are stuck in a social strata. Affirmative action is a way of quickly getting people out of a low social strata and into the upper ones. If there where no affirmative action, blacks in america would still be low class.
It is easy for rich white kids to think it is easy to leave a poor neighbourhood and become succesful, but it is not. Thats why affirmative action is there: to make the blacks equal in practise, and not just in rhetoric.

Hop.

bullsh*t (none / 0) (#104)
by Ender Ryan on Thu Feb 21, 2002 at 11:11:11 AM EST

There are plenty of white, hispanics, asians, etc. that are living in poverty. I know this because I know plenty of people living in poverty. I also know that people who continue to live in poverty are those that have little work ethic, not those that are "disadvantaged".

I know successful whites and blacks. The most successfull people I know are black and did not become successfull through "affirmative action". They became successfull by working instead of whining.

I'm affraid that the continuation of blacks living in poverty (and other people, race is not a factor in reality) is a cultural problem, the fault being their own. Law should make no distinction between races and genders, as people shouldn't either.

Now if you want "affirmative action" for all poor people, then that would be different. But affirmative action today is simply a ridiculous quota system that serves no one and hurts everyone, as other have already pointed out that when minorities attain good positions people will always wonder if they acheived that through qualification or through affirmative action, because they want to believe they are qualified, not because they believe their race/gender is inferior.

Affirmative action is racist, because anything that makes a distinction between races is inherently racist.


-
Exposing vast conspiracies! Experts at everything even outside our expertise! Liberators of the world from the oppression of the evil USian Empire!

We are Kuro5hin!


[ Parent ]

Just one comment (3.70 / 10) (#17)
by streetlawyer on Wed Feb 20, 2002 at 05:15:36 AM EST

There's already a lot of comments blaming all sorts of things on "culture". "Culture" is a result of history. The American blacks are more or less unique among the ethnic groups of the USA in that they did not create their history.

Malcolm X put it best: "We never landed on Plymouth Rock! Plymouth Rock landed on us!"

--
Just because things have been nonergodic so far, doesn't mean that they'll be nonergodic forever

Re: Just one comment (4.00 / 3) (#22)
by BadDoggie on Wed Feb 20, 2002 at 07:36:06 AM EST

However, when they came over, the Italian, Irish and Jewish immigrants were just as hated as the Blacks already living in the country and discrimination against them was just as rampant. Only in parts of the South were there direct repressionary laws aimed solely at Blacks, and you may note that not a lot of the above-mentioned groups bothered going below the Mason-Dixon Line.

Instead of complaining and looking for a place to blame, these groups helped themselves, built up internal support structures and excelled so that they would look just as good as "the Man".

The same thing happened to the Vietnamese and Korean immigrants in the '70s and '80s. And wouldja look at all the Pakis and Afghans driving taxis in NYC? I challenge you to find a taxi in NYC that isn't driven by someone named "Muhammad" (or similar variant) or "Khan". From 20 people in a 2-room tenement to decent apartments for the family, if not the greatest job in the world, and all without screaming about perpetual racism, much less demanding special treatment.

I had an economics teacher who made a damned good case for AA, but it only holds in certain cases. Merit, ability and potential must all be considered.

woof.

This ain't flamebait. And remember that Malcolom X also explained that when he was in jail and learned proper English by reading the dictionary, he realised that only by first gaining knowledge and understanding could he then achieve, a leson which sadly falls on many deaf ears today.
Truth is stranger than fiction because fiction has to make sense.
[ Parent ]

Yes, but were Italian families seperated (3.50 / 6) (#25)
by georgeha on Wed Feb 20, 2002 at 09:24:50 AM EST

at Ellis Island, and prevented from ever seeing each other again? Were Irish couples forcibly separated, with the husband being taken to another city 100 miles away? Did New York City pass laws that prevent Jews from being educated?

Gosh-o-mighty, there's a world of difference between an ethnic group that willingly emigrates and is able to move into a ghetto with similar emigres, and an ethnic group that is forcibly kidnapped and separated and placed into living situations where they have little in common besides skin color.

[ Parent ]

Get over it and move on. (5.00 / 4) (#48)
by Guncrazy on Wed Feb 20, 2002 at 12:05:57 PM EST

Nobody living today can credibly claim that ancient wrongs committed against his ancestors of 10 generations ago are responsible for his sorry state of affairs today. There are simply too many successful blacks (as well as successful immigrants) for that argument to have any weight.

The only thing holding back blacks in America today is their own prevalent cultural attitude which accepts the premise that they are socially handicapped because of their unfortunate history.

Race is irrelevant 99.999% of the time. And the 0.001% of the time it is relevant, someone is looking for a donated organ.
[ Parent ]

Generations (5.00 / 2) (#91)
by Woundweavr on Wed Feb 20, 2002 at 06:26:55 PM EST

Show me one black person in the US was a slave. Show me one person whose grandparents were slaves. It has been 150 years since then. Get over it.

How about Scots and Irish? Have you ever heard of The Highland Clearances where Scots and Irish were forced to move to the US or Australia? My grandmother was forced (literally) to move from the Isle of Skye, her ancestoral home as a child by boat to Nova Scotia, and her older brother was killed (he was either trying to find his girlfriend or trying to escape).
Or the real history of The Great Hunger in which one in four Irish died, and many were forced to emigrate to Oz or the US? Do I need to mention Cambodians or Jews or Russians/Eastern Europeans?

Blaming current problems is just as pathetic as someone who blames all their problems on their parents, if not moreso. American blacks share heritage just as much as Koreans, Italians, Brazilians or Germans do, even if their more distant ethnic backrounds may not be the same. Get over it.

[ Parent ]

really? (3.80 / 5) (#28)
by streetlawyer on Wed Feb 20, 2002 at 09:41:20 AM EST

However, when they came over, the Italian, Irish and Jewish immigrants were just as hated as the Blacks already living in the country and discrimination against them was just as rampant.

How come, if you are correct that the Irish, Italians and Jews were kept as slaves for one hundred and fifty years, they still can't sing the blues?

--
Just because things have been nonergodic so far, doesn't mean that they'll be nonergodic forever
[ Parent ]

the blues (none / 0) (#39)
by HCase on Wed Feb 20, 2002 at 11:20:33 AM EST

a good number of the better current blues artists are young and white. at least one i believe is of irish decent, but i'm not sure, so don't quote me on the irish bit.

[ Parent ]
Not creating history (5.00 / 2) (#36)
by ucblockhead on Wed Feb 20, 2002 at 11:00:24 AM EST

There's a certain other ethnic group that ended up places they didn't want to be. Perhaps you may have heard of them...they were the ones who lost Plymouth Rock in the first place

They seem to be the forgotten minority, both in and out of the US.

People talk of reparations for slavery, but somehow no one thinks to suggests simply honoring the fucking contracts these people had.
-----------------------
This is k5. We're all tools - duxup
[ Parent ]

absolutely true (5.00 / 1) (#40)
by streetlawyer on Wed Feb 20, 2002 at 11:21:06 AM EST

Nothing above should be interpreted in any way as denigrating (great word) the claim of the American Indians to America.

--
Just because things have been nonergodic so far, doesn't mean that they'll be nonergodic forever
[ Parent ]
Nope; nobody's forgotten them (none / 0) (#92)
by epepke on Wed Feb 20, 2002 at 08:19:23 PM EST

It's just that there haven't been many people, at least the ones I've heard of, who get bent out of shape over this kind of affirmative action. I haven't heard anybody rail about tax protection under the 14th amendment or free state university tuition.

As for contracts, well, yes they should have been honored. Also, freed slaves should have gotten 40 acres and a mule. However, in the absense of a time machine, there isn't much that can be done about it except act outraged, which you are doing nicely.

Besides, you have your history a bit off. The Pilgrim/Plymouth Rock story was based on a poem by a mediocre Welch poet, Felicia Dorothea Hemans, who had never traveled to America and wrote it based on a small article in the newspaper. In 1826. It, and much about the early history of colonization, is bogus in almost every important respect.


The truth may be out there, but lies are inside your head.--Terry Pratchett


[ Parent ]
To some extent, yes (none / 0) (#42)
by epepke on Wed Feb 20, 2002 at 11:25:00 AM EST

This is probably the best argument in favor of general affirmative action for Black Americans. However, that's not the way AA laws are written. I think you probably know this and are just engaging in diversionary argument.

Let's take an example. Tallahassee, FL had a set-aside program in the early 1990's. It was decided that the set-aside program should be used to construct the new prison. The "logic" that was used, which still makes my head spin, is that since most of the people in the prison were Black, then Minorities should build it. OK, let's pass over that and assume it's politics as usual.

However, when the contracts were awarded, 93% of them went to a construction company owned by two white women. To justify this action on the basis of "Black Americans didn't choose their history," while about par for modern argument, is at best highly disingenuous.


The truth may be out there, but lies are inside your head.--Terry Pratchett


[ Parent ]
holy hang the hell on a minute! (none / 0) (#47)
by streetlawyer on Wed Feb 20, 2002 at 11:53:08 AM EST

I think it's a bit poor to call me "disingenuous" on the basis of one general comment about one argument in favour of AA laws, and assume that I can be brought into whatever single case you're using this week as a poster child for abuse of the laws. For the record, I have no opinions about public procurement in Tallahassee, Florida. If you want to discuss this issue, I suggest writing a letter to the town officials of Tallahassee, Florida. They almost certainly know more about it than me, and this situation is unliekly to change any time soon.

--
Just because things have been nonergodic so far, doesn't mean that they'll be nonergodic forever
[ Parent ]
This is absurd (2.00 / 1) (#53)
by trhurler on Wed Feb 20, 2002 at 12:49:05 PM EST

Most blacks in the US did not create their economic circumstances; that much is true. However, they most certainly DID create their culture. Culture is always a reaction to your circumstances; the fact that their circumstances were not created by them is not unique.

At most, you might claim that since they had less control over their circumstances, those who had more control had some influence on their culture, but this totally ignores the growing numbers of the black middle class who have essentially adopted the culture of the middle class as a whole, and so on. People have choices.

Culture is not something you are born into and cannot change, and pretending otherwise - pretending that these people are helpless victims of dead white guys from 150 years ago - is both ridiculous and demeaning. I cannot imagine a worse message than telling kids "it is ok if you're a fuckup because your culture predisposes you to it."

--
'God dammit, your posts make me hard.' --LilDebbie

[ Parent ]
heh (none / 0) (#54)
by streetlawyer on Wed Feb 20, 2002 at 12:59:28 PM EST

"Make make their own history, but not in circumstances of their own choosing" -- Karl Marx.

Culture is not something you are born into and cannot change

So why do wiggas always seem so terribly, terribly fake?

Nobody disputes that it is possible, through very great effort, for black people to shrug off the burden of history. But white people start life without ever having to carry that burden. This is "white man's justice", which is to say, no justice at all.

--
Just because things have been nonergodic so far, doesn't mean that they'll be nonergodic forever
[ Parent ]

Two things. (5.00 / 2) (#56)
by trhurler on Wed Feb 20, 2002 at 01:16:56 PM EST

First off, the "wiggas" you're thinking of aren't so fake when you're in the middle of LA or some other place where they really grow up that way; the reason they seem fake where you've seen them is that they aren't even really members of that culture; they just wish they were. I would give you a hundred bucks to walk up to some "wigga" in the urban core of LA and call him a poser to his face. Of course, you'll spend more than that on bodyguards if you want to survive the experience, but whatever. (The same applies to hispanics from the same area, as it happens.)

Second, there are "disadvantaged" white people too. Maybe not as visible, maybe not as important to lefties, maybe without organizations like the NAACP to yak for them, but they're there, and in great numbers. Visit a trailer park sometime. Just because they aren't all living in neat urban cores where you can easily count them and see them and where TV cameras can film them doesn't mean they don't exist. Where do you think all the early 80s Camaros and 5.0 Mustangs have gone? :)

--
'God dammit, your posts make me hard.' --LilDebbie

[ Parent ]
Come out of your cube (none / 0) (#75)
by medham on Wed Feb 20, 2002 at 04:00:13 PM EST

Really. Everyone knows that the term "wigga" refers to a pampered suburban white teen male (the predominant type around here) who affects a degree of "urban" culture in a desperate attempt to inject some meaning into their anomic lives.

These folks don't exist in "urban" L.A.

You have simple gangsters in mind, a long-established, trans-racial subculture.

The real 'medham' has userid 6831.
[ Parent ]

As far as I know, (none / 0) (#85)
by trhurler on Wed Feb 20, 2002 at 04:53:47 PM EST

The term was originated by some white supremacist groups in support of their "destruction of the white race" garbage, which made me surprised to see streetlawyer using it. The meaning certainly varies from audience to audience, regardless of what you may think.

--
'God dammit, your posts make me hard.' --LilDebbie

[ Parent ]
Does this make any sense? (none / 0) (#87)
by medham on Wed Feb 20, 2002 at 05:05:13 PM EST

The term was originated by some white supremacist groups in support of their "destruction of the white race" garbage
Well, does it?

The real 'medham' has userid 6831.
[ Parent ]

I think he meant... (none / 0) (#95)
by skunk on Thu Feb 21, 2002 at 01:12:37 AM EST

WHITE SUPREMACIST: "Black people are destroying the white race! Wiggas unite, yo!"

(or something like that)



--SS
[ Parent ]
Where do you think the name comes from? (none / 0) (#119)
by Woundweavr on Thu Feb 21, 2002 at 08:50:11 PM EST

Look at the word. White + ? = wigga. Is it a stretch that white supremecy groups would use it in propaganda claiming blacks are ruining the nation? I've heard the same thing but I don't really know whether or not its true.

[ Parent ]
Burden of History? (5.00 / 1) (#57)
by Woundweavr on Wed Feb 20, 2002 at 01:24:56 PM EST

I don't even know what burden of history is supposed to mean. Blacks were slaves and poor in the past so they are weighed down forever more by this? Guess what? So were the Irish, Scots and Indians by the English, the nonpure Spanish by the pure Spanish, the southeast Asians by the French etc etc etc. Asians, hispanics, and every other ethnic group is "American" by the third generation. Is a Cambodian family who owns two cars and a house in the suburbs no longer Cambodian? No and nor does that change the fact that they may have been decimated by the Khmer Rogue. Black people can suceed like any other person, as long as they are willing to learn and work (like any other). The fact that they aren't even now with full Civil Rights, I blame on the disrespect that 'hip hop' or 'thug culture' has for education, itself and the society that houses it. The good guys and girls who try to get out of the ghetto like all those other ethnic groups did are often ridiculed or harmed for "acting white". Its not considered "black" to want to be a white color honest worker in the inner city and that has more to do with it than any "burden of history."

[ Parent ]
well, you've convinced me (1.00 / 3) (#90)
by streetlawyer on Wed Feb 20, 2002 at 05:53:37 PM EST

I guess it must just be because niggers are born bad then. You can't teach it out of them, any more than you can teach a cat to fetch sticks.

--
Just because things have been nonergodic so far, doesn't mean that they'll be nonergodic forever
[ Parent ]
Whatever (3.00 / 1) (#93)
by Woundweavr on Wed Feb 20, 2002 at 08:31:02 PM EST

You know quite well thats not what I said, and you sound like a moron. No one claimed that black people couldn't match or exceed the accomplishments of members of other races. Stating that different cultures value different things including education is not racism and if you can't understand this difference than you must really be slow

[ Parent ]
I call ..... "racist"! (none / 0) (#96)
by streetlawyer on Thu Feb 21, 2002 at 02:02:11 AM EST

Stating that different cultures value different things including education is not racism

Nor is it a theory of why those cultures got that way, which was the question being discussed. My theory is that black culture has a problematic relationship with education because of its history. You seem to have no theory, which makes it look very like you subscribe to a racial theory.

--
Just because things have been nonergodic so far, doesn't mean that they'll be nonergodic forever
[ Parent ]

My daddy spanked me (none / 0) (#100)
by Woundweavr on Thu Feb 21, 2002 at 08:05:38 AM EST

Culture is how one reacts to history, not its history itself. Nearly identical parallel histories can create different cultures and not be based in the slightest on racial issues. Pretending you can accurately ascribe cultural traits because of some historical precendent is hogwash. If you blame the situation on white persecution as you seem it, do you also credit white slavery for the creation of blues, jazz, etc? No.

A culture, a community is not some ephemerial abstraction. It is a group of individuals who are each responsible for their own actions, and beliefs. Blaming this on the actions or hardships of ancestors is the same type of elitism that elevates grandchildren of celebrities or politicians to celebrity status. One is not guilty of the sins of the father, nor is one virtious because of the hardships of a grandmother or abused because of the abuse of a great uncle.

[ Parent ]

so in other words (3.00 / 1) (#107)
by streetlawyer on Thu Feb 21, 2002 at 02:17:15 PM EST

Your view on the Negro question in America is that a few million individual people, all of whom just happen to share a skin colour and a history, all independently chose as an act of free will, that they would rather be the worst paid, most incarcerated and least educated members of society.

Fair enough ...

--
Just because things have been nonergodic so far, doesn't mean that they'll be nonergodic forever
[ Parent ]

I smell.... blindness! (3.00 / 1) (#113)
by Woundweavr on Thu Feb 21, 2002 at 03:21:41 PM EST

No.

Lets go through this step by step. Tell me where you disagree..

Different cultures have different values, they value different things both as a group and in the individual.

There is a "black" culture in America.

This "black" culture does not value education as much as middle class whites, or many other poor cultures.

This devaluation is along with said poverty, the primary reasons that black people do not receive the level of education of other racial groups.



[ Parent ]

Address the point please. (none / 0) (#114)
by streetlawyer on Thu Feb 21, 2002 at 03:36:03 PM EST

No. You've ommitted the first step.

How did the black population of America happen to get this "culture"?

--
Just because things have been nonergodic so far, doesn't mean that they'll be nonergodic forever
[ Parent ]

How did .... (4.00 / 1) (#116)
by Woundweavr on Thu Feb 21, 2002 at 07:21:19 PM EST

How did anyone get any culture? Can you truly tell me this for any culture? No, you can surmise factors but one cannot specifically say "Property A is caused by Condition B."

Furthermore, it is irrelevant. Just as one can not blame the child of a murderer for the sins of the father, you can neither excuse the actions and attitudes of the child of the victim. Even if you successfully create a cause and effect relationship between the current state of "hip-hop" culture on the actions of "white" culture, it changes nothing in this context. Whatever the cause, the attitude still remains a major factor as for the different educational levels of average members of different racial groups.

Furthermore, AA doesn't attemt to change these attitudes, but instead tries to make individuals of this group have an advantageous path towards becoming educated.

No one is claiming the persecution of blacks in the US. However, this does not exempt the culture from critism, just as backround does not excuse an individuals actions.

Now if you still disagree, tell me which of my previous basic statements you disagree with and we can discuss that.

[ Parent ]

tell it to a cushion (none / 0) (#117)
by streetlawyer on Thu Feb 21, 2002 at 07:57:31 PM EST

Even if you successfully create a cause and effect relationship between the current state of "hip-hop" culture on the actions of "white" culture, it changes nothing in this context.

Changes nothing, explains everything.

Now if you still disagree, tell me which of my previous basic statements you disagree with and we can discuss that.

No, you supercilious ass. Why don't *you* go up to my original post in this thread, see which statements of *mine* you disagree with, and then explain to me why I should waste any more of my time with someone who apparently has nothing oiginal to contribute, and who types boilerplate "them people are just like that" rants without ever seeming to engage with a word I write.

Otherwise, go tell it to a cushion.

--
Just because things have been nonergodic so far, doesn't mean that they'll be nonergodic forever
[ Parent ]

You didn't say anything (none / 0) (#118)
by Woundweavr on Thu Feb 21, 2002 at 08:40:25 PM EST

You didn't say anything for me to contend in your original post. You claim that blacks didn't create their culture. I disagree. You can claim that black people are not responsible for their attitudes and their culture but to my eyes thats a damn condescending attitude. If you ascribe to this theory that culture is some kind of Newtonian reaction with no regard to the actions of the individuals within the culture, then black culture can not be blamed on white culture either. For history is shaped by culture and economics. Economics is based on supply and demand and which is based upon set resources (that would have existed if you go far back enough regardless of culture) and a cultures reaction to it. Thus by your logic, no culture is responsible for its attitudes and values.

A culture's values are merely the sum of its individual members values. There is no Overmind of black people (or white or Asian or whatever). A black guy who ascribes to a middle class lifestyle is no less black than someone in the middle city. In fact, you seem to disrespect the hip-hop lifestyle with your 'wigga' comment. How about Eminem? He's white yet he's just as much a 'thug' as any black man. Is he fake because of his race? Who's the fawking racist here?

Very few ethnic groups "created" their history, a property you claim unique to slaves. I invite you to look up The Highland Clearances, Native Americans, the Bloody Fields of Cambodia, and other refugee groups. Not everyone who came to this country was searching for economic prosperity. Many were unwilling or simply trying to save their own lives. Claiming that blacks are the only ones who faced hardships is patently false, and they cannot even claim they had it the worst realistically (see Native Americans).

Its irrelevent to the topic anyway. Who made something the way it is does not change the fact that it is the way it is, so it doesn't make statements blaming culture more or less valid.

[ Parent ]

Blacks and Native Americans (none / 0) (#65)
by Wing Envy on Wed Feb 20, 2002 at 02:32:14 PM EST

How do you suppose blacks are any more special or burdened by their history than Native American decendents?

My grandmother was a Blackfoot Indian. My great-grandparents immigrated from Germany and bought a farm which my grandfather, and after his death my Junior yr. in highschool, my father inherited, so by that point, all financial aid was no longer available because my father "made too much money".

He made about $40,000/yr. and supported 5 children and a wife, but because of the farm, and because he was "white", he was "worth" more, so I, a "white female" never had a single break.

From my standpoint, whether you're in favor of or against AA, newsflash to you- IT DOESN'T WORK! Nor is it politically correct, IMO.


You don't get to steal all the deficiency. I want some to.
-mrgoat
[ Parent ]

you twat (2.00 / 1) (#97)
by streetlawyer on Thu Feb 21, 2002 at 02:10:41 AM EST

My grandmother was a Blackfoot Indian. My great-grandparents immigrated from Germany

How did your German great grandparents contrive to have a Blackfoot Indian child?

Your dull piece of genealogy completely undercuts your point. You cannot compare the experience of an immigrant family with one American Indian member, to that of families descended from slaves.

--
Just because things have been nonergodic so far, doesn't mean that they'll be nonergodic forever
[ Parent ]

Earth to numbnuts (none / 0) (#105)
by trhurler on Thu Feb 21, 2002 at 02:12:46 PM EST

Has it occurred to you that any given person has more than one set of great grandparents? I mean, I hate to bring reality crashing down on your head, but regardless of any other matter here, you're just being an idiot when you blather about a supposed contradiction on that point.

--
'God dammit, your posts make me hard.' --LilDebbie

[ Parent ]
numbnuts to earth (none / 0) (#106)
by streetlawyer on Thu Feb 21, 2002 at 02:14:51 PM EST

Has it occurred to you that might have been a joke?

--
Just because things have been nonergodic so far, doesn't mean that they'll be nonergodic forever
[ Parent ]
I like your sig (none / 0) (#109)
by trhurler on Thu Feb 21, 2002 at 02:33:38 PM EST

Seriously, that's one of the better ones I've seen lately.

--
'God dammit, your posts make me hard.' --LilDebbie

[ Parent ]
Wow, inbreeding has become popular? (none / 0) (#108)
by Wing Envy on Thu Feb 21, 2002 at 02:26:21 PM EST

I had no idea so many peoples' parents were siblings. It all explains so much these days.

I suppose I am fortunate in the fact that I have 2 different family lines from my parents, which means 2 sets of grandparents.

As for your argument for the "disadvantaged", what, may I ask exactly is your argument based on? Physical appearance, i.e. color, weight, attractiveness, etc. or the strife of the family?

Would I qualify if my grandmother were black, in your book? And if so, how do you see blacks being more impoverished than Native Americans or recent immigrants of a white race?


You don't get to steal all the deficiency. I want some to.
-mrgoat
[ Parent ]

inbreeding (none / 0) (#110)
by streetlawyer on Thu Feb 21, 2002 at 02:34:32 PM EST

Inbreeding must indeed be pretty common if, between the German great grandparents and the Blackfoot grandparents, you only have two family lines.

Since the rest of your post seems to be utterly irrelevant to anything I have posted (including putting words I haven't used in quotation marks as if they came from me), I suggest that you use kuro5hin's excellent search facility to find out who is in fact making the case you are trying to argue against, and then fuck off and bother them.

Because I'm feeling generous, I'll even provide a link to help you do it.

Bye.

--
Just because things have been nonergodic so far, doesn't mean that they'll be nonergodic forever
[ Parent ]

On behalf of your education, I apologize (none / 0) (#111)
by Wing Envy on Thu Feb 21, 2002 at 02:57:25 PM EST

I overestimated your ability to understand things if not spoken to a 5 yr. old. My parents weren't related, their parent's weren't related, my grandparent's weren't related, etc.

The American blacks are more or less unique among the ethnic groups of the USA in that they did not create their history.

Did Native Americans "create" their history? What do you see as being more "unique"? Being taken from your home and used as a slave, or to have your home taken and your family killed?

I would also like to know how you have this ability to create your history. The rest of the world doesn't seem to have this supreme power.


You don't get to steal all the deficiency. I want some to.
-mrgoat
[ Parent ]

The AA paradox (3.00 / 3) (#24)
by loaf on Wed Feb 20, 2002 at 08:36:18 AM EST

As a white, middle-class, degree-educated, man the world (at least here in the UK) is set up for me, because it was formed and and maintained over the last few centuries by people like me.

AA is <sweeping_generality> good </sweeping_generality> because it gives a chance for those outwith the system to fight their way in - as we continually hear about the UK and Europe, it is far better to be on the inside of the tent pissing out, than the outside pissing on the canvas.

But AA is <sweeping_generality> bad </sweeping_generality> because it just swings the discrimination from one group to another. If an able white middle class male is kept from a job or a college place by a less able member of a minority group, then he is being discriminated against because of his background.

Such is the paradox of AA.

Another interesting paradox... (none / 0) (#33)
by J'raxis on Wed Feb 20, 2002 at 10:38:35 AM EST

Is that it is put in place to foster equality, yet it legitimizes the belief that certain groups of people are inferior and need help from the government to succeed in society. (In other words, people who are already racist/sexist can use affirmative action as an argument that they are right.)

— The Raxis

[ J’raxis·Com | Liberty in your lifetime ]
[ Parent ]

leap of logic (none / 0) (#35)
by streetlawyer on Wed Feb 20, 2002 at 10:59:12 AM EST

it legitimizes the belief that certain groups of people are inferior and need help from the government to succeed in society.

Two claims here (that certain groups need the help of government, and that these groups need the help of government because they are inferior). Only one of them can be directly inferred from the existence of the legislation; the other is all your own work.

--
Just because things have been nonergodic so far, doesn't mean that they'll be nonergodic forever
[ Parent ]

Right... (none / 0) (#64)
by J'raxis on Wed Feb 20, 2002 at 02:26:08 PM EST

…Which is more or less what I said. Racists/sexists use the directly-inferrable statement that certain groups need help as justification for their beliefs that said groups are inferior. I, however, do not see how you leapt to the conclusion that I was the one that believed this.

— The Explanatory Raxis

[ J’raxis·Com | Liberty in your lifetime ]
[ Parent ]

Affirmative Action (3.40 / 5) (#27)
by jabber on Wed Feb 20, 2002 at 09:30:28 AM EST

Race should not be a factor in admission to education, work, a restaurant, anything dealing with any aspect of life.. As far as I am concerned, there is only one race that matters, the Human Race..

Religion, sexual orientation, any distinguishing characteristic, whether biological or voluntarily accepted by an individual should not be used to disciminate for or against that individual.. Prejudicial treatment on any grounds is unconstitutional, and more importantly, immoral..

The idea that the same legal system could offer Affirmative Action programs, define something as a "Hate Crime", and preach 'equality' is preposterous!

There is only one, single criterion by which people should be judged when applying to University.. Their ability to pay the tuition. Thank you.

[TINK5C] |"Is K5 my kapusta intellectual teddy bear?"| "Yes"

Er...Whatever happened to Freedom of Association (4.00 / 2) (#63)
by UncleMikey on Wed Feb 20, 2002 at 02:25:32 PM EST

There is only one, single criterion by which people should be judged when applying to University.. Their ability to pay the tuition. Thank you.

If all universities were public universities, I might agree with you. Given the reality that many universities and colleges are private entities, however, I can't.

You see, you leave out one crucial freedom in your rant: the freedom of association. The freedom to say, 'I like you; you can play with me' and 'I don't like you. You can't'. Every private person, and every private entity, has or ought to have the right to select those they associate with based on any criteria they like. The fact that the American government imposes any kind of decision-making requirements on private entities is the real violation of constitutional strictures.

Prejudicial treatment on any grounds is unconstitutional, and more importantly, immoral..

Only partially correct -- I agree with you that it is immoral, or at least undesireable, to discriminate on the basis of relgion, race, gender, or sexual proclivities. However, the American Constitution restricts the government from treating people differently before the law. It does not restrict private individuals from treating other individuals any way they like, or being selective in their associations. The Supreme Court recently upheld this point of view in their decision that the Boy Scouts could exclude homosexuals -- it ruled that they were a private entity, not a public one, and therefore had full freedom of association.
--
[ Uncle Mikey | Radio Free Tomorrow ]
[ Parent ]

Er ... (none / 0) (#98)
by aphrael on Thu Feb 21, 2002 at 03:14:13 AM EST

What's wrong with the concept of a 'hate crime'? I mean, burning crosses on the lawns in front of all the houses owned by jewish families in your town is *qualitatively* different; it's an attempt to intimidate people into going away because you "don't like their kind", and it's perfectly reasonable for the state to choose to prosecute it differently.

[ Parent ]
Preferential treatment to victims (none / 0) (#115)
by jabber on Thu Feb 21, 2002 at 05:09:06 PM EST

There is a problem in giving certain victims of crimes preferential treatment over others.

If two white men gang up on a black man, and this is seen as a 'hate crime' then the penalty will be different than if they ganged up on a third white man..

The problem here is, the motivation of the criminal should not be what is punished, because once you start to infer what a person was thinking when they did something, you bring the mind-police into the picture.

I completely agree that there is a world of difference between burning a cross on a black man's lawn, a Jew's lawn, and a WASP's lawn.. But the law should be impartial, and should punish the actions, not the intentions.. That's a little ambiguous.. Intent, in the sense of 'meaning to' do something is a hairy issue..

Let's put it this way, if I kill a man, I should be held guilty of killing a man, regardless of my color, his color, creed, sexual preference, amount of cash in his pocket, whatever..

In the cross-burning example.. If the racists make a mistake, and plant the cross in front of the wrong house, is it still a "hate crime"?

The legal recognition of "Hate Crimes" is a form of discrimination, which, by law, the Government can not do.

[TINK5C] |"Is K5 my kapusta intellectual teddy bear?"| "Yes"
[ Parent ]

Affirmative Action is Insulting (4.57 / 14) (#29)
by catseye on Wed Feb 20, 2002 at 10:07:12 AM EST

Affirmative Action is insulting to the people it's supposedly protecting. Since I'm female, I have a greater chance of being accepted at a school/employer that uses Affirmative Action than one that doesn't, but I would rather get in on my own merits and skills than have something handed to me simply because I was born with a vagina. If my grades aren't good enough or if my skills aren't good enough, I don't deserve to be accepted.

In the US, in most states at least, schools look at the SAT or ACT, standardized State tests that usually do little more than test basic knowledge and skills, and GPA. While the language parts of the standardized tests may be culturally biased, the math certainly isn't. 1+1=2 wherever you live. And even if the language parts of the test are biased, so what? They're geared towards mainstream America, be it white, black, Asian, or whatever, and that is what the student is going to have to deal with in college. There are books and classes to teach you to prepare for the SAT and ACT. If the student can't get a minimum accepted score on the SAT after actually studying for it or get at least a C in high school, then that student is not prepared to enter college -- at least not the kind of colleges that have high entrance requirements.

If a minority does poorly in school and/or on the SAT and cannot get accepted into a major 4-year university, they should not play the racism card. They should go to a community college or take distance education classes (if possible), learn some study habits, learn to communicate better, learn to take tests, then after doing well there finish a degree at a 4-year university.


----------
How can we fight Islamic Fundamentalism abroad if we do not fight Christian Fundamentalism at home?
It's OK (4.00 / 1) (#59)
by quartz on Wed Feb 20, 2002 at 01:31:46 PM EST

I would rather get in on my own merits and skills than have something handed to me simply because I was born with a vagina

Nah, it's OK really to be accepted by an employer simply because you're female. You'll get paid less than the males anyway, so the biases will even out eventually.



--
Fuck 'em if they can't take a joke, and fuck 'em even if they can.
[ Parent ]
AA should be irrelevant. Population is what matter (3.00 / 2) (#84)
by CokeBear on Wed Feb 20, 2002 at 04:39:31 PM EST

Since females are inherently different from males, they should not be compared. The ideal situation (and this may be what some schools do) is assign 50% of their available spaces to males, and 50% to females, and within those categories, only award spaces on the basis of merit.

Men & Women don't race each other in the 100m at the Olympics, this is no different.

As for race, if you can demonstrate that a group of people is sufficiently different, then assign them a number of spaces based on thier percentage of the population.

[ Parent ]

Nepotism will never die (3.20 / 5) (#30)
by turmeric on Wed Feb 20, 2002 at 10:16:27 AM EST

The colleges need the alumni donations of money.
Alumni are huge financial supporters of colleges.



SAT Biased ? (4.00 / 7) (#34)
by bugmaster on Wed Feb 20, 2002 at 10:45:31 AM EST

Is there any actual documentation on why the SAT tests are culture-biased ? From what I remember, the tests are very generic. Of course, if the study of math and logic is discouraged in your culture, then you won't get a high SAT score -- but I doubt that a member of any culture that purposefully discourages critical thinking will do well in college, anyway.

I suppose it could be argued that SAT is biased toward English speakers -- but then again, people who can't read English won't do well in college, seeing as all the classes are taught in English.

Basically, unless someone shows me some evidence, I am not going to jump on the the "SAT==discrimination" wagon.
>|<*:=

SAT adjustments (3.00 / 1) (#37)
by bobpence on Wed Feb 20, 2002 at 11:00:46 AM EST

The SAT was adjusted a few years ago in an effort to eliminate the perceived cultural bias, and without addressing the effectiveness of that adjustment, the author's argument is weakened.
"Interesting. No wait, the other thing: tedious." - Bender
[ Parent ]
Adjusted (none / 0) (#88)
by bugmaster on Wed Feb 20, 2002 at 05:21:50 PM EST

How was it adjusted, exactly ? Just curious.
>|<*:=
[ Parent ]
SAT adjustments (none / 0) (#102)
by bobpence on Thu Feb 21, 2002 at 09:52:10 AM EST

Don't know, it was after I took it, but I know I heard about it from time to time on NPR. The goal was to eliminate cultural bias, although I would argue that there is more class bias. I'm sure I would research it before posting a long treatise on the matter, which would be my recommendation to the author of this submission. Bob
"Interesting. No wait, the other thing: tedious." - Bender
[ Parent ]
SAT biased ? (4.57 / 7) (#49)
by pb on Wed Feb 20, 2002 at 12:13:09 PM EST

Of course the SAT is biased.

It is a test intended to measure intelligence, but instead measures proficiency in English, grammar, spelling, Math, algebra, geometry, algebra II.... It is also biased because some people study specifically FOR the SAT, and by doing so increase their scores by hundred(s) of points; this would not raise your score significantly in a real intelligence test. A person's intelligence is not dependent on which subjects they study in school; therefore, the SAT is largely a test of knowledge, less so a test of reasoning, and hardly a test of intelligence.

True intelligence tests have little to do with english or math and more to do with reasoning about more basic structures, such as patterns and shapes, like Raven's Progressive Matrices, arguably the best measure of pure ("fluid") intelligence we have (although this generally requires sight, I suppose a similar test could be created for the blind). By this token, IQ tests aren't very good tests either, but likely have less bias than the SAT.

As for cultural biases in the SAT, it is geared towards a very "vanilla" US culture, and will therefore favor the average uncultured US citizen from 30 years ago, and not the average US student. But considering the nature of the test, it would be hard to correct this.
---
"See what the drooling, ravening, flesh-eating hordes^W^W^W^WKuro5hin.org readers have to say."
-- pwhysall
Ummm ... (none / 0) (#67)
by Simon Kinahan on Wed Feb 20, 2002 at 02:37:37 PM EST

Surely the Standard Achievement Test measures academic achievement ?

Simon

Simon

If you disagree, post, don't moderate
[ Parent ]
Groan (4.00 / 1) (#69)
by jabber on Wed Feb 20, 2002 at 02:58:05 PM EST

The Scholastic Aptitude Test is intended to gauge a a College candidate's potential for doing well in College. It does not measure achievement.. The High School diploma does that..

The Diploma is as effective at ascertaining achievement as the SAT is at measuring aptitude.

[TINK5C] |"Is K5 my kapusta intellectual teddy bear?"| "Yes"
[ Parent ]

Hey (none / 0) (#71)
by Simon Kinahan on Wed Feb 20, 2002 at 03:28:31 PM EST

I'm not American. You should be amazed I even know what SATs are, let alone knowing what they stand for. If you can tell me what a GCSE is without looking it up, then you can groan.

Simon

If you disagree, post, don't moderate
[ Parent ]
Double groan (5.00 / 1) (#72)
by jabber on Wed Feb 20, 2002 at 03:42:58 PM EST

If you don't know, disclaim the fact, instead of trying to come off as an opinionated authority.. Or at least do a simple bit of research before clicking 'post'.

I'm not an American either. What I am amazed at is the number of people who offer not just an opinion, but a whole definition, without knowing what they are talking about.

I wouldn't dare presume to define GCSE, or any other unfamiliar acronym, without finding out what it stands for. HAND

[TINK5C] |"Is K5 my kapusta intellectual teddy bear?"| "Yes"
[ Parent ]

I didn't (none / 0) (#73)
by Simon Kinahan on Wed Feb 20, 2002 at 03:53:08 PM EST

There was a question mark. It was a question, and an honest one, based on my (incorrect) memory.

Simon

If you disagree, post, don't moderate
[ Parent ]
mode = PEDANTIC_ASSHOLE (none / 0) (#79)
by jabber on Wed Feb 20, 2002 at 04:04:46 PM EST

Surely the Standard Achievement Test measures academic achievement ?

The question this asks is whether something called "the Standard Achievement Test" serves to measure academic achievement. It's begging the question, out of the context of the discussion, since the name of the test implies it's function. But, since the name is assumed, not known, it's definition is contrived. Given that you were trying to define the term "SAT", my unloading unrelated frustrations on your post is completely justifiable. :)

[TINK5C] |"Is K5 my kapusta intellectual teddy bear?"| "Yes"
[ Parent ]

Actually (5.00 / 1) (#74)
by pb on Wed Feb 20, 2002 at 03:55:09 PM EST

The SAT was renamed to the "Scholastic Assessment Test" a few years back, and more recently that has been dropped as well; now it is merely the SAT, and it doesn't stand for anything. (which nicely sums up my feelings on the matter as well; who cares what it stands for, since it never really stood for anything in the first place ... :)

Here is an example of the flawed reasoning that surrounds "intelligence" testing. Yes, the SAT is used for predicting college performance. Yes, it is a subject test. No, it does not measure intelligence.
---
"See what the drooling, ravening, flesh-eating hordes^W^W^W^WKuro5hin.org readers have to say."
-- pwhysall
[ Parent ]

And come to think of it ... (none / 0) (#77)
by Simon Kinahan on Wed Feb 20, 2002 at 04:01:02 PM EST

Scholastic Aptitude still isn't the same thing as intelligence.

Simon

If you disagree, post, don't moderate
[ Parent ]
Of course it isn't. (5.00 / 1) (#81)
by jabber on Wed Feb 20, 2002 at 04:10:42 PM EST

So in my effort to torment you with unnecessary correction, I've managed to kill two birds with one stone. Today just keeps getting better, doesn't it?

Intelligence, from the perspective if academic administration as represented by the admissions process, is not the primary attribute desired from incoming students. If I had a nickle for every intelligience-impaired PhD I've met, I'd be a rich man..

Aptitude for absorbing material, and regurgitating it correctly onto the examiner's table, is the quality sought in students by Universities. Well, that and the ability to pay for the tuition.

[TINK5C] |"Is K5 my kapusta intellectual teddy bear?"| "Yes"
[ Parent ]

SAT isn't about intelligence. (none / 0) (#94)
by seebs on Wed Feb 20, 2002 at 11:59:21 PM EST

The SAT isn't a test of intelligence, it's a test of doing well in school. These are known to be different, and no one is saying otherwise.

If I'm a brilliant thinker, but I have a very hard time with studying for tests, I will do badly on the SAT - and I will do badly in school, too.

(Disclaimer: Never took the SAT.)


[ Parent ]
d00d! (none / 0) (#122)
by Estanislao Martínez on Fri Feb 22, 2002 at 03:00:12 AM EST

long time no see. I just have a small question for you.

True intelligence tests have little to do with english or math and more to do with reasoning about more basic structures, such as patterns and shapes, like Raven's Progressive Matrices, arguably the best measure of pure ("fluid") intelligence we have (although this generally requires sight, I suppose a similar test could be created for the blind).

Excuse me, but what is "intelligence"? And for that matter, what is "pure" intelligence?

--em
[ Parent ]

em ! (none / 0) (#125)
by pb on Fri Feb 22, 2002 at 04:20:09 PM EST

Howzitgoin'?

You're not catching me in that logic trap unawares; I already read through that discussion thread you linked from this article with great interest. However, I will merrily trap myself somewhere, regardless. :)

Intelligence is a tricky thing to define, and while I was looking for more information about tests like "Raven's Progressive Matricies" (which I took long ago, but could never obtain the results of my testing due to the secretive nature of the testing people and likely the local administration as well) I saw a discussion about how intelligence means different things to different people, and that this leads to much confusion ...

Also in my readings, I saw references to "fluid" and "crystalized" intelligence, which in context I gather to mean that the first type has more to do with the unconscious reasoning skills developed on a day-to-day basis, likely built up at an early age and largely unrecognized (like knowing about right/left vs. east/west, for example :), whereas the second type has more to do with the sort of "learning" that goes on in schools, the sorts of higher-level concepts on which the SAT is intended to focus.

When I talk about intelligence I generally mean "fluid" intelligence, which is more like potential--I used "pure" to mean "unspoiled", and I think it is more pure than crystalized intelligence, which IMO by reinforcing certain concepts rules out other ones (like learning Scheme after learning C or vice versa...).

If you have the potential, you should be able to learn what you need to know in college, although it may require more classes to get to the same level of "crystalized" intelligence that someone with more familiarity with the subject matter may have.

As to dividing "intelligence" into different categories based on aptitude in a particular field (i.e. "emotional intelligence", "mechanical intelligence" ...), I think it's a misuse of the word ("aptitude" would be a better fit), but due to word usage it might end up being a necessary evil, and still useful for categorization purposes; the US Army, for instance, has done something like this for decades in their evaluations of personnel, although I don't recall if they use the word "intelligence" anywhere. For instance, I would be very good on the cognitive skills, and roughly nil on the mechanical skills.

So, yes, intelligence means many things to many people, and people who think they should be considered intelligent sometimes feel the need to discuss (read: nitpick) such issues, which likely further complicates the meanings and word usage...
---
"See what the drooling, ravening, flesh-eating hordes^W^W^W^WKuro5hin.org readers have to say."
-- pwhysall
[ Parent ]
Boy, are you confused. (4.75 / 8) (#51)
by seebs on Wed Feb 20, 2002 at 12:25:00 PM EST

It's not entirely clear that standardized testing is inherently biased - but in particular, it's not clear that the "biases" are wrong. A standardized test of graduate level math skills is a horrible way to find out whether someone is going to be a good basketball player, but it's a pretty good test for mathematical background. The "biases" of many standardized tests appear to correlate positively with future success in various fields, whether or not those fields are measured entirely in standardized tests.

Your point about race and college admissions is a good one; we certainly use lots of other means to identify "good" students. So, let's see how serious you are about it: Do you think a college should be allowed to give strong preference to white males, *just* because they're white males?

If not, you're as bigoted as the rest of the crowd. You can't say that *some* discrimination is okay; you have to either agree that it's okay, or agree that it's not okay.

I think affirmative action is insulting, demeaning, and stupid. When you take students who appear to be less "qualified" by the best measurements you have, you set them up for failure. Which is worse, a college with a slightly under-represented black population, who do just as well as everyone else, or a college with a "normalized" black population - with a much lower GPA, because you're accepting people who really aren't quite ready for this?

Long-term solutions to this will have to involve early education and dealing with the real problems, not after-the-fact attempts to cover up our mistakes.


University entrance doesn't need to be objective (4.25 / 4) (#52)
by Scrymarch on Wed Feb 20, 2002 at 12:43:26 PM EST

... it just needs to reflect what makes good uni students and professionals.

Many cultures place an emphasis and a value on learning and the status of a professional in society. People that grow up in these cultures are more likely to do well at university exams, university and professional careers. The best professionals are selected - and I want the best doctors and engineers possible.

These effects only appear on average. Some individuals succeed in fields regardless of their original culture.

It dismays me that some cultures don't value learning. That includes cultures that believe in sporting scholarships. But they exist. Consider a Mongol tribesman from Genghis Khan's army applying for university. They would probably be both decisive and adaptable. But (unless they're a cultural freak) they probably shouldn't get into uni.

University entrace should have a cultural bias - towards scholarship and professionalism.

Merit and Economic (3.50 / 4) (#60)
by Woundweavr on Wed Feb 20, 2002 at 01:44:17 PM EST

The first thing that came to my mind to say has already been posted but I'll reiterate. The SAT is meant to test what will make a good student. Its not intended to test some abstract ideal virtue as you seem to suggest. It is supposed to help determine who will be a successful student. In this is it fairly accurate, much moreso than admission through racial quotas or AA. Claiming the amount of melanomin(sic) in your skin is an important factor in University admitance and that math skills are too subjective is patently foolish.

Also, the SAT is being massively destressed and some Unis have already disregarded it. In addition, for years the SAT has been making strides to try and make the test more ethnicly neutral to assure that it does only test for university important skills.

Secondly, you haven't given any examples about how this skews results so that women and minorities have less academic opportunities. White women go to the same schools and have access to the same classes as white men do and there is no signifigant difference between the number of women that go the universities (except tech schools) and those of men of the same race. A minority which sends less people to Universities is generally based on two factors. Factor one is economic. If high schools are poor, then education will be poorer and the University will know this and the SAT and similar tests will reflect this. Factor two is cultural. Different cultures value education differently. Asian cultures value it quite highly, even moreso than middle class American culture. Black communities are more likely to look down on higher education however.

Afirmative Action addresses neither of these concerns in its present form. Making the assumption that AA is primarily orientated to benefit the student (as taking by race is not likely to help or, if we take your assertions, hurt the school), a black/hispanic/asian child of a millionaire will receive preference over the child of a poor blue collar white factory worker. Despite tendancies, there is no guarentee of individual corrolation between racial backround and economic prosperity and thus previous educational opportunities based on money. AA will likely exacerbate cultural apathy towards education as it makes it easier to attain and thus lessens its value if it would have any affect.

Thus if you wish to enact AA, I think the only plan that would make sense is based on economic prosperity rather than gender or race.

SAT (none / 0) (#76)
by Estanislao Martínez on Wed Feb 20, 2002 at 04:01:01 PM EST

The SAT is meant to test what will make a good student.

Nope. The SAT is marketed as predicting performance in the first year of college. Last I heard, it fails to predict performance throughout the 4 years.

--em
[ Parent ]

Still stands (none / 0) (#83)
by Woundweavr on Wed Feb 20, 2002 at 04:27:22 PM EST

Its fairly irrelevant. It is still a valid tool for admissions as it reflects some portion of academic performance, as opposed to race which has no corrolation. At best its an argument against the SAT, not for AA.

[ Parent ]
Funny how... (4.28 / 7) (#61)
by SvnLyrBrto on Wed Feb 20, 2002 at 01:58:10 PM EST

In the course of suggesting that racism and discrimination are okay, so long as it's directed at only certian groups, some people, la princesa in particular, are so quick to lump asians in with those "evil white male oppressors".

Anyone ever look at the history of asian immigrants in the US? They were treated on the west coast, much like the irish and italians were on the east coast, and how hispanics are now: imported to do the worst, most menial, dirtiest, work (most commonly, the most dangerous railroad work) that was "beneath any respectable white man".

And when they started to "get out of line", by working to get educated and integrate into society, they were the specific and deliberate targets of some of the country's first immigration and drug laws.

So where are the tears and affirmative action for asians? And WHEN did they become part of the evil white male oppressing majority?


cya,
john



Imagine all the people...

Well... (2.66 / 3) (#62)
by Allusion on Wed Feb 20, 2002 at 02:22:18 PM EST

Just about everything I would have wanted to contribute has already been said, so I'd just like to once again reiterate that the very existence of anything resembling AA makes true equality 100% impossible.


--Allusion
AIM: Allusion420
ICQ: 61966358
Racism (4.80 / 5) (#68)
by onyxruby on Wed Feb 20, 2002 at 02:52:58 PM EST

Essentially, race is as subjective as any other criterion currently used to select college students and should not be removed on that basis.
The KKK couldn't have put it any better.

Now if were done being racist, elitist, must have more of my kind of people bastards, can we all just drop this kind of crap? Equal opportunity does not result in equal results. The important thing is to make sure the opportunity is available to all and that racist propaganda like the author proposes doesn't find it's way back into the government anytime soon. Government sanctioned race discrimination is no more ethically better because it's against whites than it was back when it was against blacks. There is no such thing as reverse discrimination.

The moon is covered with the results of astronomical odds.

So much to argue with ... (5.00 / 2) (#70)
by Simon Kinahan on Wed Feb 20, 2002 at 03:18:40 PM EST

I don't see where the idea that tests are meant to be objective comes from. I'm not totally familiar with American systems of university entrance, so I'll talk about the exams that are used in my own country. We take a series of exams between 16 and 18 in various different subjects. To get into a university course, you have to meet the requirements for grades in various subjects, and sometimes pass an interviiew as well. Foreign students often need to pass a special exam in English. Interviews are obviously not objective. The exams are supposed to guarantee that you've attained a certain level in the subject. The degree to which marking is objective varies with the subject (obviously markers are going to be more consistent in Maths than in English), but if you think your grade does not reflect your abilities, there is an appeals procedure. Even though their marking is somewhat subjective, the exams do generally reflect competence in the particular subject in question.

Why do universities rely on such a process ? Well, in part it is there to ensure you meet the minimum profile of acquired or innate abilities needed to complete the university course. It is also there as a system of rationing: there are only so many spaces, and generally there are more well qualified entrants than there are spaces. Rationing spaces to go to the students with the best grades is generally considered more socially desirable than doing it by ability to pay.

So what of cultural bias ? Unfortunately the article does not make it clear what bias exists in the SAT or how it was measured. I would have though a degree of bias is both inevitable and desirable. If you're going to university that teaches in standard english, you need an ability to speak, write and read standard english. Only being fluent in "ebonics" is no good unless there are universities that only teaches in ebonics. There's surely no argument for allowing fluent speakers of French into English speaking universities because it would be unfair not to, is there ? University entrance surely also needs to include testing for some culture-specific knowledge, because it will be needed to understand the teaching. If these restrictions are unacceptable, and we feel it is desirable to provide higher education and employment opportunities to people who only speak Spanish, then the solution is to set up Spanish-speaking universities and employers, not to admit people to university courses whose material they will not be able to cope with. This is true even if you believe that there can be such a thing as "black science" or "chinese medicine". Those who wish to study those subjects, regardless of background, should go to universities that teach them, rather than attending those that teach "white" science and medicine, because its unfair that they can't. If we, as a society, want to subsidise "black science", then we should set up such universities.

When it comes to using grades above and beyond those that reflect an ability to understand the material, a replacing that with a degree of discrimination in favour of minorities seems just fine to me, just as schools discriminate in favour of the children of alumni, or good athletes. None of these extraneous criteria, however, should affect the need to maintain certain academic criteria for entrance. Of course, if the subjects of positive discrimination would like the attend the "science in society" courses that athletes usually take, then thats just fine, and much good may it do them. Note that this has nothing whatsoever to do with the question of whether tests are objective: whether they are or not, or, as anyone reasonable would agree, if they are somewhat objective, it is still quite reasonable to ration education by other criteria as well as academic acheivementm as long as academic entrance requirements remain sufficient.

As to test taking conditions: this is irrelevant. Surely a hadicapped black student can resit a paper just as many times as an able-bodied white one ? As to handicaps in themselves: well if someone's handicap interfere's with their ability to take a test, surely it will interfere with their studies too ? If not, or if the handicap can be overcome with assistance, then I'm all for giving them help in taking the test, but there's nothing "subjective" about this. If a blind student needs a paper in brail and extra time, that shouuld be provided, but that's no reason to admit someone with a severe learning disorder to a course in mathematical physics if they can't cope.

Simon

If you disagree, post, don't moderate
one thing (5.00 / 1) (#86)
by flimflam on Wed Feb 20, 2002 at 05:04:07 PM EST

I mostly agree with what you say. There's one point you make which in my mind the basis of the argument for afirmative action:

It is also there as a system of rationing: there are only so many spaces, and generally there are more well qualified entrants than there are spaces. Rationing spaces to go to the students with the best grades is generally considered more socially desirable than doing it by ability to pay.
Being that there are more qualified entrants than spaces, a successful afirmative action program will give some degree of preference to minorities while still ensuring that all spaces are filled by applicants that meet the requirements of the post.

There are two reasons why this may be desireable:
1) To redress social inequities/past injustices/etc.
2) To create a more varied population (this applies to an educational environment like a university) to improve the education/broaden the horizons/however you want to put it of the students. For many people this is a worthwhile goal.


-- I am always optimistic, but frankly there is no hope. --Hosni Mubarek
[ Parent ]
Yes, absolutely (none / 0) (#89)
by Simon Kinahan on Wed Feb 20, 2002 at 05:34:22 PM EST

But it is very important not only that academic standards are preserved but that they are also seen to be preserved. It is important for two reasons: firstly, to ensure that the value of the degree remains high, and hence that the esteem in which minority graduates are held is not damaged, and secondly to prevent members of the majority from claiming that they are being descriminated against.

Simon

If you disagree, post, don't moderate
[ Parent ]
Culture and `intelligence' (4.66 / 3) (#82)
by Estanislao Martínez on Wed Feb 20, 2002 at 04:14:04 PM EST

I think this thread between seebs and me is extremely relevant to this discussion.

--em

standardised tests (3.66 / 3) (#103)
by Ender Ryan on Thu Feb 21, 2002 at 10:50:22 AM EST

A train leaves the train station accelerating to 110 MPH at a constant acceleration of 3.5 FPS2. Another train leaves the train station 2 minutes later on a parallel track and accelerates to 112 MPH at a constant acceleration of 3.6 FPS2. Both trains will stop at the next station, exactly 313.5 miles away. Which train will arrive first?

Are questions like this racist or something?

Seriously, what do standardised tests have to do with culture. I personally have never seen anything on any standardised that was very culturally oriented. All questions are almost exclusively fact or language based, both of which have nothing to do with culture, and everything to do with what a person knows.

If people from minority cultures have trouble with standardised tests, they need a better education, not easier standards.


-
Exposing vast conspiracies! Experts at everything even outside our expertise! Liberators of the world from the oppression of the evil USian Empire!

We are Kuro5hin!


The argument goes something like this (5.00 / 2) (#112)
by epepke on Thu Feb 21, 2002 at 03:08:50 PM EST

Maybe the student comes from a culture where trains are uncommon and therefore doesn't have some secret knowledge that would help him and/or her get the right answer.

I didn't say it made any sense, but that's what it is. The criticism seems mostly "informed" by the Postmodernist school of thought. To get an idea how these people work, imagine a small village with one fisherman, who leaves every day at dawn and returns with fish. A postmodernist analysis might be of anything: the status gained by the ritual of fishing, links to sun-worshipping religions, quasi-Marxist analysis, anything at all. The only thing it would omit would be the fact that the fish the fisherman brings back feed the village.

Similarly, a word problem contrived around trains, or baseball, or sewing, or whatever would be analyzed according, maybe, to "baseball word problems are sexist because girls are less comfortable with macho sports, and so it's culturally biased." The only thing it would ignore would be the math.

Of course, you and I know that the purpose of word problems is to test the student's ability to see the underlying math in a language-based description. In other words, the skill is to disregard any aspect of the problem that is about baseball or trains other than the math, so the postmodernist critique is not only stupid but is completely and precisely stupid.


The truth may be out there, but lies are inside your head.--Terry Pratchett


[ Parent ]
What? (3.00 / 2) (#120)
by Estanislao Martínez on Fri Feb 22, 2002 at 02:08:02 AM EST

Maybe the student comes from a culture where trains are uncommon and therefore doesn't have some secret knowledge that would help him and/or her get the right answer.

Your sarcastic comment is, despite its disingeniousness, not as far off the mark as you believe.

Culture *does* influence modes of reasoning. The question about the trains carries a huge amount of cultural baggage: it applies the idea of continuous numerical measure to the speed of moving objects indirectly, based on a non-trivial mapping of the number produced by certain culturally advanced mathematical operations whose inputs are, again, continuous numerical measures of space and time, the latter which requires advanced technology (precise clocks) to measure to any significant degree of accuracy in the scales in question.

And even more basic things are culturally dependent, like spatial reasoning. Different cultures have different manners of conceptualizing space, time and geometric shapes. IIRC cultures whose habitat is in jungles are not as good as city dwellers at reasoning about diagonal lines (or something like that, I really can't remember the exact result right now).

The criticism seems mostly "informed" by the Postmodernist school of thought. To get an idea how these people work, imagine a small village with one fisherman, who leaves every day at dawn and returns with fish. A postmodernist analysis might be of anything: the status gained by the ritual of fishing, links to sun-worshipping religions, quasi-Marxist analysis, anything at all. The only thing it would omit would be the fact that the fish the fisherman brings back feed the village.

I will refrain from analysing the fact that this fantasy scenario of yourse tells us hardly anything about the real world, and the converse to this, that it tells us quite a deal about how little-informed you are on these matters.

If you want to know about cultural bias in "ability" testing, the right place to check is work on cultural and anthropological psychology. E.g. Levinson and his associates' work on spatial reasoning, which relates a culture's spatial orientation system (anthropocentric vs. absolute) to their reasoning about space, by means of psychological experiments.

Of course, you and I know that the purpose of word problems is to test the student's ability to see the underlying math in a language-based description. In other words, the skill is to disregard any aspect of the problem that is about baseball or trains other than the math

And this is precisely part of the ideology dominant in the Western world about what "intelligence" is: "reasoning ability in the abstract", supposedly divorced from actual application. This very idea *is* cultural bias. And, I really believe, ultimately wrong. There is no such thing as "pure reasoning ability"; reasoning has as one of its crucial components a set of learned cultural artifacts, e.g. math.

I commend you, though, on your choice of word: "skill".

--em
[ Parent ]

heh (4.50 / 2) (#121)
by Estanislao Martínez on Fri Feb 22, 2002 at 02:15:35 AM EST

Seriously, what do standardised tests have to do with culture.

Heh. You uttered the word "standard" and then denied that a standard has nothing to do with culture, all in one sentence. Think about that.

I personally have never seen anything on any standardised that was very culturally oriented.

How much do you know about anthropology? How did you arrive at this judgement?

All questions are almost exclusively fact or language based, both of which have nothing to do with culture, and everything to do with what a person knows.

Please explain (a) how come "language" has nothing to do with culture (heh, I think not even *Chomsky* in his most misguided moments would say that), (b) how come "facts" have nothing to do with culture (is it a fact of nature that people in the US drive to the right?), (c) how do you propose that people learn *anything at all* other than by virtue of occupying a particular cultural context.

If people from minority cultures have trouble with standardised tests, they need a better education, not easier standards.

I am sure they can rest assured that you will happily contribute money to this cause.

--em
[ Parent ]

f*cking stupid idioacy (none / 0) (#123)
by Ender Ryan on Fri Feb 22, 2002 at 09:34:19 AM EST

Heh. You uttered the word "standard" and then denied that a standard has nothing to do with culture, all in one sentence. Think about that.

WTF is that supposed to mean?

"I personally have never seen anything on any standardised that was very culturally oriented."

How much do you know about anthropology?

Enough.

How did you arrive at this judgement?

Because the questions are related to facts, 2 + 2 = 4, "Joe jumped over the fence." - jump is a verb in that sentence, etc. If someone doesn't know what "jump" means, or that 2 + 2 equals 4, then they need a better education, not an easier test.

Please explain (a) how come "language" has nothing to do with culture (heh, I think not even *Chomsky* in his most misguided moments would say that), (b) how come "facts" have nothing to do with culture (is it a fact of nature that people in the US drive to the right?), (c) how do you propose that people learn *anything at all* other than by virtue of occupying a particular cultural context.

See above.


-
Exposing vast conspiracies! Experts at everything even outside our expertise! Liberators of the world from the oppression of the evil USian Empire!

We are Kuro5hin!


[ Parent ]

potty mouth (none / 0) (#127)
by Estanislao Martínez on Fri Feb 22, 2002 at 05:37:23 PM EST

Because the questions are related to facts, 2 + 2 = 4,

Now you have to explain how it is that 2 + 2 = 4 is a fact.

(Hint: this is a very complicated issue in the philosophy of mathematics, the nature of mathematical truth. It won't suffice to say that if you take 2 pennies, then add 2 pennies more, you have 4 pennies. Rather, what's at stake is the epistemological status of arithmetic as a whole.)

"Joe jumped over the fence." - jump is a verb in that sentence,

How do you know that is a verb? For that matter, what is a verb?

(Hint: "A word that expresses an action", or any sort of naive notional definition, won't do.)

I think we are arguing at odds here, though. You are assuming a Western, industrialized country, and are thinking about tests applied to different ethnic groups within those societies. I'm thinking more globally; e.g. hunter-gatherers vs. Westerners. Which is the right way to think about it to notice that there is essentially *nothing* about these tests that is not culturally dependent.

--em
[ Parent ]

Hunter-Gatherers and Burger Flippers (none / 0) (#130)
by whojgalt on Fri Feb 22, 2002 at 07:18:33 PM EST

"I'm thinking more globally; e.g. hunter-gatherers vs. Westerners"
There is no test in the world that will certify a Hunter-Gatherer with no experience in Western culture as qualified to solder circuit boards, take phone orders, or even flip burgers. Even in some alternate universe where math is culturally variable, the culture in which the skills will be used is the one that determines which skills will be tested for.

If you don't like it, then devise a test to qualify prospective employees of HunterGatherers Inc. Boar Spearing Division then you can gloat when I fail it.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
If you can't see it from the car, it's not really scenery.
Any code more than six months old was written by an idiot.
[ Parent ]

Judgment (none / 0) (#124)
by Khedak on Fri Feb 22, 2002 at 12:29:25 PM EST

Heh. You uttered the word "standard" and then denied that a standard has nothing to do with culture, all in one sentence. Think about that.

Simply because a standard evolves from a culture, that doesn't necessarily imply that people of that culture will best meet that standard. The question is, what "culture" are these tests geared towards, and what "culture" should they be geared towards?

How much do you know about anthropology? How did you arrive at this judgement?

Rather than questioning his qualifications, you could try a counter-argument, if you have one. I don't, even though I agree with your position, but I simply don't have the data. Have you?

(a) how come "language" has nothing to do with culture (heh, I think not even *Chomsky* in his most misguided moments would say that)

Of course they are related. But what do you have against Chomsky? As near as I can tell, Chomsky has been vindicated in linguistic circles again and again. Of the three linguistics courses I've taken at my school, all speak highly of his theories, and they're the only really applicable theories in the field to start with. I'd be all for abandoning Chomsky's work... if there was a more reasonable alternative.`

(b) how come "facts" have nothing to do with culture (is it a fact of nature that people in the US drive to the right?)

Excellent point, but I think avoiding those kinds of "cultural facts" is fairly easy on the standardized tests, and I think the accusations of cultural bias do not come from questsions that require specific cultural knowledge. (e.g., "Today is Yom Kippur. What month is it?") Again, nobody here has the data.

(c) how do you propose that people learn *anything at all* other than by virtue of occupying a particular cultural context.

Ah, but if that is the case, then how can we ever hope to have any kind of standardized test? If our learning is so heavily reliant on our cultural context, then why isn't it a valid argument that selection should be done on cultural criteria? I think that the answer to this question will answer yours as well.

I am sure they can rest assured that you will happily contribute money to this cause.

Speaking for myself, I would pay more taxes if it meant better education. I would prefer to simply pay the same taxes and have more of my money go to education, and less to, say, bombs and national missile defense. I know that you are saying that education improvements are unlikely to make affirmative action obsolete anytime soon, and I agree.

[ Parent ]
Chomskian linguistics (5.00 / 1) (#128)
by Estanislao Martínez on Fri Feb 22, 2002 at 06:11:24 PM EST

But what do you have against Chomsky? As near as I can tell, Chomsky has been vindicated in linguistic circles again and again.

You don't know all that much about linguistics, do you? I don't blame you, though.

Of the three linguistics courses I've taken at my school, all speak highly of his theories, and they're the only really applicable theories in the field to start with.

Eh... there are more theories of grammar around than you may realize.

Let's just be straight about it: the typical Chomskian has much less of a clue about language than she is credited for. In a typical Chomskian graduate program, they are taught technicalities about Principles and Parameters grammar, and barely anything about the basic notions of linguistics.

Heh, and even P&P they might not know very well. I've had a friend show me homework from intro. to ling. courses they have taken, where their prof., a Chomskian, reveals in the questions they ask that they misconceive the competence/performance distinction (which, I must say, along with Chomsky's distinction between the "core" and "periphery" of grammar, mostly seems to exist to allow them to shrug off counterevidence by saying it's "just performance" or "not part of core grammar").

Chomskian linguistics is empirically and conceptually bankrupt in more ways than I can explain right now, and constitutes essentially an academic cult. E.g. chomskians claim the subject grammatical relation is configurationally determined and universal. Faced with evidence that it isn't (e.g. an ergative language like Dyirbal), they alter their claim to preserve their theoretical prejudices, while claiming they were right all along; thus they end up claiming that Dyirbal "underlyingly" has a subject defined by phrase-structural configuration, despite the fact that the whole proposal makes no sense empirically ("underlying phrase structure", frankly, is an absurd concept).

Excellent point, but I think avoiding those kinds of "cultural facts" is fairly easy on the standardized tests

More facts are cultural than you may imagine.

Ah, but if that is the case, then how can we ever hope to have any kind of standardized test? If our learning is so heavily reliant on our cultural context, then why isn't it a valid argument that selection should be done on cultural criteria?

If you say outright that your criteria are cultural, fine. Then we can sit down and debate cultural criteria. What I have no time for is for people who rant about "merit" and "intelligence" and refuse to accept that these are nothing but cultural elaborations.

--em
[ Parent ]

Are you (none / 0) (#131)
by medham on Sun Feb 24, 2002 at 04:27:33 AM EST

A member of the Lakovian cult?

I'm guessing you might be a linguistics grad student and as such it's irresponsible to make authoritative claims to this audience about the 'empirical bankruptcy' of the Chomskyan program when you know perfectly well that there are very complex issues (scary QD problems, e.g.) involved.

The real 'medham' has userid 6831.
[ Parent ]

what's `QD'? (none / 0) (#132)
by Estanislao Martínez on Sun Feb 24, 2002 at 06:34:14 AM EST

A member of the Lakovian cult?

Ugh, no. Lakoff, despite his ideas in the general being somewhat sane, suffers from a reality perception gap. He continually claims he has established much more than what he actually has, portraits himself as an intellectual revolutionary when he merely has hit upon ideas others have had before, etc.

To his credit, he is an amazing walking encyclopedia on problems of the syntax and semantics of English. To his discredit, his behavior in conferences tends to be quite mixed: when he makes data questions, they are really good and useful, when he makes theory or framework questions, he just shows himself to be uncapable of understanding other people's ideas. Weird guy.

I'm guessing you might be a linguistics grad student and as such it's irresponsible to make authoritative claims to this audience about the 'empirical bankruptcy' of the Chomskyan program when you know perfectly well that there are very complex issues (scary QD problems, e.g.) involved.

What are you referring to as "QD"?

Anyway, the empirical problems of Chomskian linguistics are numerous. First of all, a good number of these people just have no respect for data. The typical P&P paper has precious little original data, if any, but rather recycles examples from the literature. A good number of which are just wrong, especially for any language other than English. They build whole edifices of complex pseudotheory around dubious triply-embedded sentences in languages they couldn't speak to save their lives, and for which their only informants are their officemates, if they simply didn't pull out the examples from the literature, paying no regard whatsoever to e.g. mixing examples from multiple dialects of major world languages spoken in 21 countries by hundreds of millions of speakers yet very little known about syntactic variation (guess which one I have in mind). This empirical malaise permeates the whole enterprise, from the petty practicioners to extremely eminent people like Lasnik.

Some advice: trust second-hand reports of language data as little as possible. Always try to get the original source for any empirical claim. Always try to verify even the original claims with native speakers if possible at all. This is not just for P&P people; I've uncovered plainly unsupported claims in all sorts of work, where book by B cites obscure paper by A (which takes 3 months to track down a copy of) to support claim C. Yet examination of the original paper shows that A must have been on crack to claim C based on his patently unconclusive data. And there are even more cases where person B simply distorts what A said.

--em
[ Parent ]

Quine-Duhem thesis (none / 0) (#133)
by medham on Sun Feb 24, 2002 at 03:00:06 PM EST

Incomplete theory unfalsifiable by empirical data, etc.

There's an interesting little volume of interviews of (mostly) former MIT linguists (Ross, Postal, some others) that discuss this (and what you may have referred to as the 'cult' of Chomsky).

I'm not a linguist, and my interest in the subject is dilletantish; so I'm not going to argue the details with you. I'm perfectly comfortable with you accepting this as evidence of the inconsequence of my opinion.

I find Chomsky very interesting philosophically, and I believe the two recent pieces by Searle in the NYRB do him a great disservice (as does the argument presented in Philosophy in the Flesh). I think this type of neorationalism and the social constructivist program have many things to tell each other.

The real 'medham' has userid 6831.
[ Parent ]

ah, philosophy (none / 0) (#134)
by Estanislao Martínez on Sun Feb 24, 2002 at 07:33:05 PM EST

Incomplete theory unfalsifiable by empirical data, etc.

Whatever. I find Chomsky's linguistics wrong enough already without thinking about those issues.

There's an interesting little volume of interviews of (mostly) former MIT linguists (Ross, Postal, some others) that discuss this (and what you may have referred to as the 'cult' of Chomsky).

"The Linguistics Wars", IIRC. Stuff about the 70s. Interesting, but Generative Semantics has long been dead. Though to their credit, they set out to do something Chomsky never seriously has done: clarify the notion of "deep structure". Deep structure (or its contemporary reformulations) essentially is an attempt to reduce grammatical relations (subject, object, etc.) to configurational (dominance, precedence) in an "underlying" phrase structure. The problem is that the notion of "underlying phrase structure" is no clearer than that of grammatical relation. By identifying the former with meaning, this problem could in principle have been solved-- grammatical relations would have turned out to be underlying semantic relations. They didn't manage to get it to work, and Chomsky has kept on not caring about the fact that his "explanation" of grammatical relations is in terms of a concept no more clearer, and a few generations of USian linguists have been brought up not to question authority.

I find Chomsky very interesting philosophically, and I believe the two recent pieces by Searle in the NYRB do him a great disservice (as does the argument presented in Philosophy in the Flesh). I think this type of neorationalism and the social constructivist program have many things to tell each other.

Chomsky would be more philosophically interesting if his "science" were in a good shape. Which it isn't.

--em
[ Parent ]

Sort of (none / 0) (#135)
by Pseudoephedrine on Thu Mar 07, 2002 at 11:16:02 PM EST

The Duhem-Quine thesis is probably most plainly stated as 'There is no evidence so compelling that someone cannot find a justification to ignore it.' In it most extreme form, it posits that the only criteria we use to decide between the validity of any position is how little damage it does to our preconceptions of the issue.

I have to say that personally, while I accept the Duhem-Quine thesis as accurate regarding common discourse such as on K5, I haven't bought it lock-stock-and-barrel in regards to technical (scientific, mathematical and logical) discourse, since I think other mechanisms of disagreement dominate due to the mindset of its practitioners qua practitioners of science, math and logic versus qua human beings. But that's a wholly separate pet argument of mine.



"We who have passed through their hands feel suffocated when we think of that legion, which is stripped bare of human ideals" -Alexander Solzhenitsyn
[ Parent ]
Standardized tests only test knowledge (5.00 / 1) (#126)
by autonomous on Fri Feb 22, 2002 at 04:40:04 PM EST

The whole point of standardized tests is not to eliminate cultural bias, the point is that every person is tested on the same material. I don't think its asking too much to rate everybody on their knowledge of the same material. I don't care if your black, white, yellow, orange or polka-dot, you can still learn the same material any other human is capable of. I also don't care if your rich, poor, old, young, stupid, intelligent or if you come from some amazon tribe. Standardized tests give a picture of how all people do on the same material. There may be biases, but mainly there are excuses on why you could not do as well as someone else because *YOUR* educator didn't talk about the subject using the same words, and now your confused. I think persons who play the "testing bias" card need someone to play the "should have been better prepared" card. When was the last time you heard two PHD's complaining about the cultural bias in exams they have written, I haven't heard any, If you know the material, there is no bias.
-- Always remember you are nothing more than a collection of complementary chemicals worth not more than $5.00
Its not about merit (2.00 / 1) (#129)
by whojgalt on Fri Feb 22, 2002 at 07:03:01 PM EST

This whole idea of trying to objectively determine merit is, as the poster says, futile. In the context of evaluating a candidate for employment, both Quotas (AA) and Objective Merit Testing have the same fatal flaw: they take the decision out of the hands of the only people qualified to decide. Those people being, of course, the ones who will be paying the salary. The main difference is that AA does so at the point of a gun, whereas standardised merit testing is just a sham that some people fall for.

Its not about merit, its about value. Merit is merely one indicator of value, but ultimately, value is subjective. Only the prospective employer can possibly know the value he places on various qualities of a prospective employee. A very meritorious candidate might be highly valued in one context and worthless in another.

A job is not a reward for merit, it is an exchange of labor for money. Every such exchange happens in a different context, even within the same company. No third party has the information necessary to decide the value of the exchange for either of the principles, and it is a moral crime to force any exchange to abide by conditions placed on it by a third party.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
If you can't see it from the car, it's not really scenery.
Any code more than six months old was written by an idiot.

Affirmative Action and Subjective Merit | 135 comments (128 topical, 7 editorial, 0 hidden)
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