Banning the SAT as Racist Is an Insult “Against Black Intelligence”

The soundness of Prof. McWhorter’s argument is neither increased nor decreased by the fact that he is black. His courage in stating the argument is increased by the fact that he is black.

(p. 4) . . . lately, evidence has mounted, steadily, that the SAT is in fact useful in demonstrating students’ abilities regardless of their economic backgrounds or the quality of their high schools. Some studies show scores correlate with student performance in college more strongly than high-school grades, and that without the standardized test data it is harder to identify Black, Latino and lower-income white kids who would likely thrive in elite universities.

. . .

The SAT as racist, objectivity as white privilege, making academic training easier to attract Black majors and graduate students — there is a family relationship between them. Namely, an assumption that it is graceless or unfair to require Black people to grapple with detail, solve puzzles and make sense of the unfamiliar. At least, we are not to be expected to engage in such things nearly as much as, say, white people.

. . .

I’m sorry, but I find this a diminished, not to mention depressing, and downright boring racial self-image. It just doesn’t correspond with so very much that Black people do, and are, and seek and always have.

. . .

No coherent admissions assessment would use the SAT as the sole measure of an applicant’s potential. However, the elimination of such tests from the process is less a favor to than an insult leveled against Black intelligence.

For the full commentary, see:

John McWhorter. “No, the SAT Isn’t Racist.” The New York Times, SundayOpinion Section (Sunday, March 17, 2024): 4.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date March 14, 2024, and has the title “The Best Way to Find Out if We Can Cool the Planet.”)

Dissenters from Orthodoxy Can Be Easily Blackballed When They Are Required to Write Diversity Statements

(p. A15) Amidst the explosion of university diversity, equity and inclusion policies, Texas Tech’s biology department adopted its own DEI motion promising to “require and strongly weight a diversity statement from all candidates.”

. . .

The biology department’s motion mandates that every search committee issue a report on its diversity statement evaluations. Through a Freedom of Information Act request, I have acquired the evaluations of more than a dozen job candidates.

To my knowledge, these documents—published in redacted form by the National Association of Scholars—are the first evaluations of prospective faculty DEI contributions to be made publicly available. They confirm what critics of DEI statements have long argued: That they inevitably act as ideological litmus tests.

One Texas Tech search committee penalized a candidate for espousing race-neutrality in teaching. The candidate “mentioned that DEI is not an issue because he respects his students and treats them equally,” the evaluation notes. “This indicates a lack of understanding of equity and inclusion issues.”

. . .

The biology department’s search committees also rewarded fluency in the language of identity politics. An immunology candidate was praised for awareness of the problems of “unconscious bias.” “Inclusivity in lab” was listed as a virology candidate’s strength: “her theme will be diversity, and she will actively work to creating the culture—e.g. enforce code of conduct, prevent microaggressions etc.”   . . .

Many critics rightly point out that diversity statements invite viewpoint discrimination. DEI connotes a set of highly contestable social and political views. Requiring faculty to catalog their commitment to those views necessarily blackballs anybody who dissents from an orthodoxy that has nothing to do with scientific competence.

For the full commentary, see:

John D. Sailer. “How ‘Diversity’ Policing Fails Science.” The Wall Street Journal (Tuesday, Feb. 7, 2023 [sic]): A15.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date February 6, 2023 [sic], and has the same title as the print version.)

Campus D.E.I. Perpetuates “a Strong Political Orientation Bias”

(p. A24) The same week that a U.C. Berkeley protest ended in violence, with doors broken, people allegedly injured, a guest lecture organized by Jewish students canceled and attendees evacuated by the police through an underground passageway, a group of academics gathered across the bay at Stanford to discuss restoring inclusive civil discourse on campus. The underlying question: In today’s heated political environment, is that even possible?

. . .

Hosted by Stanford Law School and the Stanford Graduate School of Education, the conference brought together professors, deans and academic leaders who were largely liberal, with libertarians and a few conservatives and progressives in the mix. Unfortunately, one of the organizers told me, most of the invited progressives, which is to say the group that currently dominates campus debates, refused to come.

. . .

Amna Khalid, a historian at Carleton College, endorsed the goal of diversifying staffs. The problem isn’t principle or legality, she said; it’s practice. Diversity according to whom? And in what context?

“It’s always ‘historically excluded and underrepresented,’” she said. “But historically when? Conservatives could argue they have been historically excluded. What’s underrepresented at Hillsdale College will be different from what’s underrepresented in the U.C. system.”

“We all know that there’s a strong political orientation bias being perpetuated,” she continued. “‘Not a good fit,’ they’ll say. It’s fundamentally dishonest, and it creates more problems than it addresses.”

. . .

“What they want are non-straights, nonwhites and non-men,” said Musa al-Gharbi, a sociologist at Stony Brook University. “But they don’t say it that way. There’s a lack of forthrightness that breaks people in these situations.” In his field, men are underrepresented, and queer scholarship is overrepresented. “But it strains credulity to say that anyone would read a D.E.I. statement about someone’s queer work and say that’s an overrepresented group.”

For the full story, see:

Pamela Paul. “Civil Discourse on Campus Is Put to the Test.” The New York Times (Friday, March 8, 2024): A24.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date March 7, 2024, and has the same title as the print version.)

Palestinian Group Defaces Portrait of Balfour, Who Tried to Save Jewish Lives

Pro-Palestinian slashes portrait of Arthur James Balfour at University of Cambridge. Source: NYT article quoted and cited below.

The Balfour Declaration of 1917 advocated the establishment of a Jewish homeland (Dershowitz 2003, p. 35). “In 1937, 1947, and 2000-2001,” Jewish leaders accepted the establishment of a Palestinian state, but Palestinian leaders “each time . . . rejected the offer and responded with increased terrorism” (Dershowitz 2003, p. 159). If Israel had existed by the 1930s, “hundreds of thousands—perhaps even a million or more” European Jews could have immigrated to it before the Holocaust, saving their lives (Dershowitz 2003, p. 52). Arthur James Balfour’s portrait should be honored, not “slashed and spray-painted” (article quoted below).

(p. A6) A pro-Palestinian group slashed and spray-painted a century-old portrait of Arthur James Balfour at the University of Cambridge on Friday [March 8, 2024], defacing a painting of the British official whose pledge of support in 1917 for “the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people” helped pave the way to Israel’s founding three decades later.

For the full story, see:

Marc Tracy. “Balfour Portrait at University of Cambridge Is Defaced.” The New York Times (Saturday, March 9, 2024): A6.

(Note: bracketed date added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date March 8, 2024, and has the title “Activists Deface Portrait of Balfour, Who Supported Jewish Homeland.”)

Dershowitz’s heavily referenced book, cited above, is:

Dershowitz, Alan. The Case for Israel. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 2003.

If Standards of Merit Are Too Narrow, the Solution Is to Improve Them, Not to Reject Merit

(p. A17) In recent decades, . . ., it has become clear that the definition of merit reflected in quantitative standards was too narrow and created new forms of exclusion. This has led some thinkers to reject the idea of merit and view it as an affront to individual equality and social solidarity.

This overreaction is wrong in theory and damaging in practice. Whenever the ability to do a task well matters, so does merit. Our current challenge is not to discard merit, but rather to understand it better—and use this new understanding to extend opportunities to all who can take advantage of it.

For the full commentary, see:

William A. Galston. “POLITICS & IDEAS; Merit Means More Than Grades and Tests.” The Wall Street Journal (Wednesday, July 26, 2023): A17.

(Note: ellipsis added.)

(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date July 25, 2023, and has the same title as the print version.)

“Discrimination on the Basis of Race, Which DEI Does, Is Literally the Definition of Racism”

(p. B1) Ackman and Musk, two billionaires with wide followings on X, which Musk owns, have . . . taken up the fight against DEI, giving it a bigger platform.

“Discrimination on the basis of race, which DEI does, is literally the definition of racism,” Musk posted in January [2024].

. . .

Ackman has frequently focused on DEI in the context of college campuses, where he says such initiatives foment antisemitism.

For the full story, see:

Tali Arbel. “Diversity Groups Urge Ackman, Musk Pushback.” The Wall Street Journal (Thursday, February 8, 2024): B1 & B10.

(Note: ellipses and bracketed date added.)

(Note: the online version of the story was updated Feb. 7, 2024, and has the title “The Case Against Ackman and Musk’s Anti-DEI Stance.”)

Henry Louis Gates, Jr. Wrote that the Source of Modern Black Anti-Semitism Is a Post-MLK Generation of Academics Who Oppose Black Integration

(p. A13) More than 1,000 black pastors are pressing President Biden to restrain Israel in its war with Hamas and threatening that if he doesn’t do so, it will cost him black support in November [2023].

. . .

What makes the Palestinians more worthy of sympathy—especially since, unlike these other groups, they have turned down numerous offers of statehood and have made terrorism their tactic of choice?

Perhaps it is that their antagonists are Jews. In a 1992 article, the historian Henry Louis Gates Jr. pondered the causes of rising antisemitism in the black community. He considered the influence of “Christian anti-Semitism, given the historic importance of Christianity in the black community.”

. . .

He cited the “brutal truth” that the “new anti-Semitism arises not in spite of the black-Jewish alliance, but because of it.” The alliance had been formed by a previous generation of black ministers, led by Martin Luther King Jr., who sought integration. The new generation of Afrocentric leaders, including pastors, needed to keep blacks isolated to establish their own power.

Mr. Gates noted that “it is among the younger and more educated blacks that anti-Semitism is most pronounced” and that this bigotry “belongs as much to the repertory of campus lecturers as community activists.” More than 30 years later, these words seem prophetic.

For the full commentary, see:

Alan Dershowitz and Andrew Stein. “Why Do Black Pastors Oppose Israel?” The Wall Street Journal (Thursday, February 1, 2024): A13.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date January 31, 2024, and has the same title as the print version.)

The article by Gates mentioned above is:

Gates, Henry Louis, Jr. “Black Demagogues and Pseudo-Scholars.” The New York Times (July 20, 1992): A15.

Ivy League Presidents Who Cancel Conservative Speech, Are Fine with Speech that Praises Genocide Against Jews

(p. A22) The presidents of Harvard, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the University of Pennsylvania testified before a House committee on Tuesday [Dec. 5, 2023] about the state of antisemitism on their campuses. It did not go well for them.

. . .

If they are seriously committed to free speech — as I believe they should be — then that has to go for all controversial views, including when it comes to incendiary issues about race and gender, as well as when it comes to hiring or recruiting an ideologically diverse faculty and student body. If, on the other hand, they want to continue to forbid and punish speech they find offensive, then the rule must apply for all offensive speech, including calls to wipe out Israel or support homicidal resistance.

If Tuesday’s hearing made anything clear, it’s that the time for having it both ways, at the expense of Jews, must come to an end now.

For the full commentary, see:

Bret Stephens. “Campus Antisemitism, Free Speech and Double Standards.” The New York Times (Saturday, December 9, 2023): A22.

(Note: ellipsis, and bracketed date, added.)

(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date Dec. 8, 2023, and has the same title as the print version.)

End Double Standards by Consistently Protecting Free Speech

(p. 5) On Wednesday [Dec. 6, 2023], a dear friend emailed me a viral clip from the House hearing on campus antisemitism in which three elite university presidents refuse to say, under questioning by Representative Elise Stefanik, a New York Republican, that calling for the genocide of Jews violates school policies on bullying and harassment. “My God, have you seen this?” wrote my friend, a staunch liberal. “I can’t believe I find myself agreeing with Elise Stefanik on anything, but I do here.”

If I’d seen only that excerpt from the hearing, which has now led to denunciations of the college leaders by the White House and the Democratic governor of Pennsylvania, among many others, I might have felt the same way. All three presidents — Claudine Gay of Harvard, Sally Kornbluth of M.I.T. and Elizabeth Magill of the University of Pennsylvania — acquitted themselves poorly, appearing morally obtuse and coldly legalistic. It was a moment that seemed to confirm many people’s worst fears about academia’s tolerance for hatred of Jews.

. . .

. . . it seems to me that it is precisely when people are legitimately scared and outraged that we’re most vulnerable to a repressive response leading to harmful unintended consequences. That’s a lesson of Sept. 11 but also of much of the last decade, when the policing of speech in academia escalated in ways that are now coming back to bite the left.

. . .

. . . clearly, at many universities, the defense of free speech has been inconsistent. Some elite schools now cloaking themselves in the mantle of the First Amendment to ward off charges of coddling antisemites have, in the past, privileged community sensitivity over unbridled expression. So when university administrators say, as Gay did, “We embrace a commitment to free expression, even of views that are objectionable, offensive, hateful,” many in the Jewish community see a galling double standard.

But as the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression, a libertarian-leaning civil liberties group, said in a statement about the hearings, “Double standards are frustrating, but we should address them by demanding free speech be protected consistently — not by expanding the calls for censorship.” Unfortunately, that is not what’s happening.

For the full commentary, see:

Michelle Goldberg. “University Presidents Walked Into a Trap.” The New York Times, SundayOpinion Section (Sunday, December 10, 2023): 5.

(Note: ellipses, and bracketed date, added.)

(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date Dec. 7, 2023, and has the title “At a Hearing on Israel, University Presidents Walked Into a Trap.”)

“Adding Manpower to a Late Software Project Makes It Later”

(p. 24) Dr. Brooks had a wide-ranging career that included creating the computer science department at the University of North Carolina and leading influential research in computer graphics and virtual reality.

But he is best known for being one of the technical leaders of IBM’s 360 computer project in the 1960s.

. . .

Until the 360, each model of computer had its own bespoke hardware design. That required engineers to overhaul their software programs to run on every new machine that was introduced.

But IBM promised to eliminate that costly, repetitive labor with an approach championed by Dr. Brooks, a young engineering star at the company, and a few colleagues. In April 1964, IBM announced the 360 as a family of six compatible computers. Programs written for one 360 model could run on the others, without the need to rewrite software, as customers moved from smaller to larger computers.

. . .

The hard-earned lessons he learned from grappling with the OS/360 software became grist for his book “The Mythical Man-Month: Essays on Software Engineering.” First published in 1975, it became recognized as a quirky classic, selling briskly year after year and routinely cited as gospel by computer scientists.

The tone is witty and self-deprecating, with pithy quotes from Shakespeare and Sophocles and chapter titles like “Ten Pounds in a Five-Pound Sack” and “Hatching a Catastrophe.” There are practical tips along the way. For example: Organize engineers on big software projects into small groups, which Dr. Brooks called “surgical teams.”

The most well known of his principles was what he called Brooks’s law: “Adding manpower to a late software project makes it later.”

Dr. Brooks himself acknowledged that with the “law” he was “oversimplifying outrageously.” But he was exaggerating to make a point: It is often smarter to rethink things, he suggested, than to add more people. And in software engineering, a profession with elements of artistry and creativity, workers are not interchangeable units of labor.

In the internet era, some software developers have suggested that Brooks’s law no longer applies. Large open-source software projects — so named because the underlying “source” code is open for all to see — have armies of internet-connected engineers to spot flaws in code and recommend fixes. Still, even open-source projects are typically governed by a small group of individuals, more surgical team than the wisdom of the crowd.

For the full obituary, see:

Steve Lohr. “Frederick P. Brooks Jr., an Innovator of Computer Design, Dies at 91.” The New York Times, First Section (Sunday, November 27, 2022): 24.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the obituary was updated Nov. 25, 2022, and has the title “Frederick P. Brooks Jr., Computer Design Innovator, Dies at 91.”)

The Brooks’s book mentioned above is:

Brooks, Frederick P., Jr. The Mythical Man-Month: Essays on Software Engineering. 2nd ed. Boston, MA: Addison-Wesley, 1995.

Much of Pandemic Funding to Improve Ventilation in Schools “Is Sitting Untouched in Most States”

(p. 1) As the next presidential election gathers steam, extended school closures and remote learning have become a centerpiece of the Republican argument that the pandemic was mishandled, the subject of repeated hearings in the House of Representatives and a barrage of academic papers on learning loss and mental health disorders among children.

But scientists who study viral transmission see another lesson in the pandemic school closures: Had the indoor air been cleaner (p. 16) and safer, they may have been avoidable. The coronavirus is an airborne threat, and the incidence of Covid was about 40 percent lower in schools that improved air quality, one study found.

The average American school building is about 50 years old. According to a 2020 analysis by the Government Accountability Office, about 41 percent of school districts needed to update or replace the heating, ventilation and air-conditioning systems in at least half of their schools, about 36,000 buildings in all.

There have never been more resources available for the task: nearly $200 billion, from an array of pandemic-related measures, including the American Rescue Plan Act. Another $350 billion was allotted to state and local governments, some of which could be used to improve ventilation in schools.

“It’s a once-in-a-generation opportunity to fix decades of neglect of our school building infrastructure,” said Joseph Allen, director of the Healthy Buildings program at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

Schoolchildren are heading back to classrooms by the tens of millions now, yet much of the funding for such improvements is sitting untouched in most states.

Among the reasons: a lack of clear federal guidance on cleaning indoor air, no senior administration official designated to oversee such a campaign, few experts to help the schools spend the funds wisely, supply chain delays for new equipment, and insufficient staff to maintain improvements that are made.

Some school officials simply may not know that the funds are available. “I cannot believe the amount of money that is still unspent,” Dr. Allen said. “It’s really frustrating.”

For the full story, see:

Apoorva Mandavilli. “Bad Ventilation Remains Threat To U.S. Students.” The New York Times, First Section (Sunday, Aug. 27, 2023): 1 & 16.

(Note: the online version of the story was updated Aug. 28, 2023, and has the title “Covid Closed the Nation’s Schools. Cleaner Air Can Keep Them Open.”)