Tuesday, November 03, 2015

Academia’s Rejection of Diversity

Arthur Brooks makes good points below but seems not to realize that Leftists have no principles. If it suits them to advocate diversity they will but only because it persuades others, not because they have any real belief in it.  So appeals to general principles will not influence them.  Only what feeds their hates of the day will influence them.  If you understand that Leftism is hate, everything falls into place. They can be defeated but rarely converted.  Age is usually the only thing that mellows them

ONE of the great intellectual and moral epiphanies of our time is the realization that human diversity is a blessing. It has become conventional wisdom that being around those unlike ourselves makes us better people — and more productive to boot.

Scholarly studies have piled up showing that race and gender diversity in the workplace can increase creative thinking and improve performance. Meanwhile, excessive homogeneity can lead to stagnation and poor problem-solving.

Unfortunately, new research also shows that academia has itself stopped short in both the understanding and practice of true diversity — the diversity of ideas — and that the problem is taking a toll on the quality and accuracy of scholarly work. This year, a team of scholars from six universities studying ideological diversity in the behavioral sciences published a paper in the journal Behavioral and Brain Sciences that details a shocking level of political groupthink in academia. The authors show that for every politically conservative social psychologist in academia there are about 14 liberal social psychologists.

Why the imbalance? The researchers found evidence of discrimination and hostility within academia toward conservative researchers and their viewpoints. In one survey cited, 82 percent of social psychologists admitted they would be less likely to support hiring a conservative colleague than a liberal scholar with equivalent qualifications.

This has consequences well beyond fairness. It damages accuracy and quality. As the authors write, “Increased political diversity would improve social psychological science by reducing the impact of bias mechanisms such as confirmation bias, and by empowering dissenting minorities to improve the quality of the majority’s thinking.”

One of the study’s authors, Philip E. Tetlock of the University of Pennsylvania, put it to me more bluntly. Expecting trustworthy results on politically charged topics from an “ideologically incestuous community,” he explained, is “downright delusional.”

Are untrustworthy academic findings really a problem? In a few high-profile cases, most definitely. Take, for example, Prof. Diederik Stapel of Tilburg University in the Netherlands, who in 2011 faked experiments to show, among other things, that eating meat made people selfish. (He later said that his work was “a quest for aesthetics, for beauty — instead of the truth”).

This kind of ideologically motivated fraud is mercifully rare. As a social scientist working in universities and think tanks, I have never met a colleague who I believe has engaged in this sort of misconduct.

These concerns aren’t a modern innovation. In one classic experiment from 1975, a group of scholars was asked to evaluate one of two research papers that used the same statistical methodology to reach opposite conclusions. One version “found” that liberal political activists were mentally healthier than the general population; the other paper, otherwise identical, was set up to “prove” the opposite conclusion. The liberal reviewers rated the first version significantly more publishable than its less flattering twin.

The World Bank has found a similar phenomenon at work among its own staff. In a recent exercise, the organization presented identical data sets to employees under two different pretexts. Some employees were told the data were measuring the effectiveness of a skin rash cream, while others were told the same data measured the effects of minimum wage laws on poverty. The politicized context of the second question led to more erroneous analyses, and the accuracy of left-leaning respondents plummeted when the data conflicted with their worldview.

Improving ideological diversity is not a fundamentally political undertaking. Rather, it is a question of humility. Proper scholarship is based on the simple virtues of tolerance, openness and modesty. Having people around who think differently thus improves not only science, but also character.

Many academics and intellectuals see their community as a major force for diversity and open-mindedness throughout American society, and take justifiable pride in this image. Now they can be consistent and apply those values to their own profession, by celebrating ideological diversity.


Obama Weighs in on Virginia Bathroom Battle

Lawyers for the departments of Education and Justice filed a legal brief Wednesday coming to the defense of a transgendered student who’s suing her school district to use the boys' bathrooms. Gavin Grimm, 16, was told by the Gloucester County School District in Virginia that, no, she could not use the boy’s restroom.

The case made it to the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals before Barack Obama’s lawyers filed an amicus brief. Prohibiting this student from using the boys' bathroom would violate Title IX of the 1972 Education Act, Obama’s lawyers argued. “Treating a student adversely because the sex assigned to him at birth does not match his gender identity is literally discrimination ‘on the basis of sex,’” they wrote.

This case is among a handful of bathroom battles playing out across the nation, like the San Francisco school that declared its elementary school bathrooms gender neutral, or the case of the Missouri high school student who wanted to use the girls' bathroom after gym class.

This filing shows that the Obama administration isn’t simply content to let this matter work its way through the courts. Instead, it must insert itself into the situation and try to effect top-down change. And you thought Obama was content to use his phone and pen.

When there’s a conflict involving religious liberty, governments are compelled to find a reasonable workaround — which in these situations would be a unisex bathroom. Forcing schools to allow a boy that identifies as female into the female locker rooms (or vice versa) is not.


Free Stuff Can Turn Out to Be a Bad Buy

Free college! That’s what the Democratic candidates were offering in their presidential debate. And it’s likely that, if the subject had come up, they would have offered something like free home mortgages as well, to judge from Hillary Clinton’s statement that she had urged Wall Street to stop mortgage foreclosures. Sounds a lot like free houses!

Free stuff sounds good to many people, and it’s not just Democrats who promise it. Republican candidates have been talking about reducing college costs, too, and George W. Bush was as passionate a supporter as Bill Clinton of encouraging home ownership for blacks and Hispanics.

Such policies are not necessarily examples of political demagoguery, though some are. They are based on observations of undisputed facts. College graduates over the years tend to make more money than non-graduates. Homeowners over the years tend to accumulate wealth and to build communities more than renters.

From these observations policymakers have drawn the following conclusion. If we just get more people — especially minorities — into college, they will make more money. If we just get more people — especially minorities — to become homebuyers, they will accumulate more wealth. And what easier way to do that than to make these things free, or close to that?

This argument has special appeal to those oldsters born in the 1940s — Bernie Sanders, Bill and Hillary Clinton, George W. Bush, Donald Trump. Back then most Americans did not own homes, and only a small minority graduated from college.

These politicians saw how public policies such as the FHA and VA home loans and the GI Bill of Rights, together with unexpected postwar prosperity, changed that. By 1960 more than 60 percent of Americans were homeowners. By the 1970s most high school graduates were going on to some form of higher education. If old public policies could increase college attendance and homeownership, shouldn’t new public policies be able to increase them still more?

Over the last quarter-century we have had such policies, with some unhappy results. By 2007, 69 percent of American adults were homeowners. In 2009, 70 percent of young Americans went on to some form of higher education. But those numbers have slipped down since.

Government grants and subsidized loans have enabled many people to afford higher ed. But they haven’t guaranteed that recipients graduate or that graduates find satisfactorily remunerative work. The availability of government subsidy has prompted colleges and universities to raise tuitions far more rapidly than inflation, with much of the proceeds going into administrative bloat. That has left many borrowers with enormous debts that they cannot shed in bankruptcy.

Government policies, aided and abetted by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, promoted low- or no-down-payment mortgages for buyers, especially Hispanics and blacks, previously considered not credit-worthy. Policymakers, lenders and buyers all assumed that housing prices would always rise so that homeowners could always refinance any money problems away.

Oops. Housing prices fell sharply starting in 2006, and financial firms ended up with mortgage-backed securities that regulators classified as safe but for which they suddenly could find no buyers — and the economy crashed. Mortgage foreclosures soared, and by my estimate about one-third of those foreclosed on were Hispanics in California, Nevada, Arizona and Florida, whose recent low- or no-down-payment mortgages left them deep underwater when prices plummeted.

In response, many politicians, mainly Democrats, are calling for iatrogenic policies: more of the medicine that caused the malady. Free college (actually, just free tuition) falls in this category, giving colleges and universities a more direct pipeline to government funds but not guaranteeing better results for students. Junior college is already largely free, but most enrollees don’t graduate.

And the Obama administration is seeking to reinstate Clinton and Bush administration policies providing low- and no-down-payment mortgages to blacks and Hispanics who do not meet traditional credit standards. What could go wrong?

Recent experience should tell us that college and homeownership are not for everyone. Many people lack the cognitive skills for higher education but have other abilities that can make them productive and successful adults. Many people, like those who move frequently, are better off renting than paying the transaction costs of buying a home.

Maybe policymakers got causation backwards. Increased college and homeownership, they thought, would upgrade people, and for a long while it did. But we seem to have reached the point of diminishing returns, when making things free will hurt the intended beneficiaries more than help.


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