Affirmative Action Reduces Number of Black Scientists

Malcolm Gladwell, in chapter three of David and Goliath, persuasively argues that science students who would thrive at a solid public university, may be at the bottom of their class at Harvard, and in discouragement switch to an easier non-science major. Gladwell’s argument has implications for affirmative action, as noted by Gail Heriot in the passages quoted below.

(p. A13) . . . , numerous studies–as I explain in a recent report for the Heritage Foundation–show that the supposed beneficiaries of affirmative action are less likely to go on to high-prestige careers than otherwise-identical students who attend schools where their entering academic credentials put them in the middle of the class or higher. In other words, encouraging black students to attend schools where their entering credentials place them near the bottom of the class has resulted in fewer black physicians, engineers, scientists, lawyers and professors than would otherwise be the case.

But university administrators don’t want to hear that their support for affirmative action has left many intended beneficiaries worse off, and they refuse to take the evidence seriously.
The mainstream media support them on this. The Washington Post, for instance, recently featured a story lamenting that black students are less likely to major in science and engineering than their Asian or white counterparts. Left unstated was why. As my report shows, while black students tend to be a little more interested in majoring in science and engineering than whites when they first enter college, they transfer into softer majors in much larger numbers and so end up with fewer science or engineering degrees.
This is not because they don’t have the right stuff. Many do–as demonstrated by the fact that students with identical entering academic credentials attending somewhat less competitive schools persevere in their quest for a science or engineering degree and ultimately succeed. Rather, for many, it is because they took on too much, too soon given their level of academic preparation.

For the full commentary, see:
GAIL HERIOT. “Why Aren’t There More Black Scientists? The evidence suggests that one reason is the perverse impact of university racial preferences.” The Wall Street Journal (Thurs., Oct. 22, 2015): A13.
(Note: ellipsis added.)
(Note: the online version of the commentary was updated on Oct. 21, 2015.)

Heriot’s report for the Heritage Foundation, is:
Heriot, Gail. “A “Dubious Expediency”: How Race-Preferential Admissions Policies on Campus Hurt Minority Students.” Heritage Foundation Special Report #167, Aug. 31, 2015.

Gladwell’s book, mentioned above, is:
Gladwell, Malcolm. David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants. New York, NY: Little, Brown and Company, 2013.

Key Roman Institution Was Citizenship for All

(p. C5) . . . , early in the fourth century B.C., everything changes. Somehow Rome’s wars began to escalate in scale, their victories turned into conquests, their victims into allies, and Roman expansion became a bow wave rolling across Italy. Exactly how this “great leap forward” was achieved remains unclear. There are fragments of laws, a tradition of civil conflict leading to political reform, and the tombs of the first generation of great military leaders. But, as Ms. Beard says, “the pieces in the jigsaw puzzle become hard to fit together.”
The best we can say is that, sometime in the early fourth century, consuls, senators and people emerge rapidly from the shadows, carrying all before them. By the time this was noticed by the other great powers of the day–Phoenician Carthage in what is now Tunisia and the Macedonian kings who had ruled everything east of the Adriatic since Alexander the Great–it was too late to stop Rome. Roman institutions did not drive this expansion, as Polybius had thought. In fact they played desperate catch-up for the rest of the Republic, trying to create ways of governing an empire that was not exactly accidental but certainly not planned. The one institution that Ms. Beard leaves in place as a motor of expansion rather than a response to it was Rome’s unusual capacity to absorb the defeated and redirect their arms and resources to its own ends. “SPQR” ends with the logical culmination of that process, the extension of full citizenship to almost every one of Rome’s 60 million subjects in A.D. 212.

For the full review, see:
GREG WOOLF. “Dawn of the Eternal City.” The Wall Street Journal (Sat., Nov. 14, 2015): C5-C6.
(Note: ellipsis added.)
(Note: the online version of the review has the date Nov. 13, 2015.)

The book under review, is:
Beard, Mary. SPQR: A History of Ancient Rome. New York: Liveright Publishing Corp., 2015.

“Growing Emphasis on Climate Aid Is Immoral”

(p. A13) . . . aid is being diverted to climate-related matters at the expense of improved public health, education and economic development. The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development has analyzed about 70% of total global development aid and found that about one in four of those dollars goes to climate-related aid.
In a world in which malnourishment continues to claim at least 1.4 million children’s lives each year, 1.2 billion people live in extreme poverty, and 2.6 billion lack clean drinking water and sanitation, this growing emphasis on climate aid is immoral.

For the full commentary, see:
BJORN LOMBORG. “This Child Doesn’t Need a Solar Panel; Spending billions of dollars on climate-related aid in countries that need help with tuberculosis, malaria and malnutrition.” The Wall Street Journal (Thurs., Oct. 22, 2015): A13.
(Note: ellipsis added.)
(Note: the online version of the commentary was updated on Oct. 21, 2015.)