RACISM What’s The Score?Wednesday, July 21st, 2010
Author Tony De Maio
I have watched with some amusement over the years at the attempted implementation of “Affirmative Action”, “Leveling the Playing Field”, “Equal Opportunity”, and other euphemisms for favoritism, discrimination, and preferential treatment. I guess it’s somewhat of a coincidence that all these attempts results in “pleasing” some privileged faction, obtaining votes for various politicians, or currying political favor with some population or group. Since the decisions are often based upon race, it is not unreasonable to call it “racism”. It is unfortunate that the methods of implementing such decisions/policies are made in apparent ignorance, and many times operate to the detriment of the population that is being “assisted”.
Consider the practice of lowering the score on entrance examinations for entrance into various areas for certain groups. Oh, heck, lets keep it simple, be politically incorrect, and look at allowing blacks into college with lower SAT scores than whites. It is essentially the same paradigm across many similar situations—political appointments, jobs, college entrance, committees, medical school, etc.
Such a procedure raises the hackles of many people—on both sides of the issue. Battles occur as the question of just how much of a difference should be allowed—or even IF a difference should be allowed. I find it entertaining to listen to such debates. It is much like listening to a politician—much talk but little action; much rhetoric but little substance; much opinion, but few facts; much emotion, but little logic; much yelling, but little reason or common sense. I suggest to you that it may make MUCH sense to use lower scores for blacks. Alternatively, it may be absolute NONSENSE—indeed, counter productive—to use lower scores for blacks. Consider the following.
The first (perhaps the only) question one must ask in addressing this situation is, “What is the goal?” If the goal is simply to get more blacks INTO college, then it is simply a matter of determining what percentage is desired, and setting the cutoff score so that the desired percentage is obtained. Under such a perspective, perhaps a score of “zero” on the SAT may be an acceptable score. Such a goal is not amenable to analysis or science, and belongs more in the realm of politics or sociology. In terms of “fairness”, perhaps the question belongs to the realm of philosophy. Any “answer” that is obtained is subject to the initial assumptions, which may be (and most probably are) somewhat arbitrary and most probably determined by “negotiation”.
If the goal is to get people “out of college” (i.e. graduate), then the question can be addressed scientifically. The first thing one must realize is that there is no intrinsic interest or worth to the SAT score. The score is of little use other than to predict how well the student will do in college (often in conjunction with high school grades. Such grades are not relevant to the present discussion). Clearly, if there is differential performance in college between black students and white students with the same SAT score, it makes little sense to require identical scores for entrance. Conversely, it would not be expected that two students would perform identically with different SAT scores. One must understand it is the college performance—in particular, graduation—that is of interest—not the SAT score.
Suppose a group of black students and white students were to take the SAT test, and ALL were allowed to enter a given college. Suppose that four years later, a follow-up study was performed that looked at the performance of the students in terms of their SAT scores and whether or not they graduated. Suppose furthermore that it was determined that of the whites that obtained a score on the SAT of 1,100 or greater, eighty percent graduated from college; and of the blacks with a score of 900 or greater, eighty percent graduated from college. If eighty percent graduation is the appropriate (or agreed upon) graduation rate, would it not make sense to require the higher score of 1,100 for whites and the lower score of 900 for blacks to enter the college? Alternatively, the situation may be that fifty percent of the whites with a score of 900 graduate from the college and fifty percent of the blacks with a score of 1,000 graduate. In such a case would it not be appropriate to require a HIGHER score for blacks?
It is a trivial statistical problem to equate the two sets of scores in terms of the desired outcome—if such is desired. Analysis may show that identical scores result in identical graduation rates for the two groups. In such a case, it would make little sense to use different (entrance) scores for the two populations—in terms of scientific prediction. It may make a lot of sense to use different scores in terms of political pandering/posturing.
As previously stated, it may well make much sense to require different scores for blacks and whites (indeed, for MANY groups, e.g. males/females) from a strictly scientific approach to the problem. Unfortunately, such is not the usual procedure; efficiency, fairness, and effectiveness are generally NOT the goals. As each group curries favor with the (political) powers that be, an effort is made to appease, placate, and pander to that group, and the cut-off scores for that group are set by “negotiation”. Such a method does not lend itself to scientific inquiry, but it does garner votes. Like many methods of obtaining votes, it is often not only nonsense, but it is often counter productive. Allowing students to enter a college where they have no chance of success not only wastes their time and money and prevents them from entering a path where they WOULD be successful, but it usurps resources that could be used for other students that would graduate. Placing such people in employment positions where they cannot succeed could be considered brutal—even if they are not fired. As a matter of fact, I suggest it is crueler to leave them in the positions to experience failure day after day than it would be to release them.
Unfortunately, our leaders elect to use political criteria to make decisions instead of scientific criteria. They make decisions on the basis of feelings, emotions, and “political reality” rather than facts and logic.
On the other hand, perhaps this decision-making process is not based upon ignorance. Perhaps the process is reasonable and sensible when one considers the original question:
Which is: “What is the goal?”
The behavior of the politicos is quite rational, logical, and appropriate if their goal is for them to stay in power at any expense—including harming the very people they profess to assist. If our leaders decry “racism” while they practice it, it must be realized that they answer to a higher calling. They are not subject to the laws they pass that the rest of us must follow.