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Friday, October 24, 2014

GRIGGS vs DUKE POWER COMPANY

"Qualified minorities who performed well on an intelligence or aptitude test and would have been offered a job directly 30 or 40 years ago are now compelled to attend a college or university for four years and incur significant costs."

You've probably heard of some US Supreme Court cases that have had a significant impact on our lives, and ones that were just awful (Roe vs Wade, Dred Scott v. Sandford, Kelo v. City of New London).  The courts can have immense effect on culture, law, policy, and economics often without meaning to.
Like ripples spreading on a pond, as George Will notes in a column a few years back, a decision can have wide reaching consequences far beyond what was intended or understood at the time.  In theory, justices are to have the wisdom to understand this kind of thing, but they don't always, and sometimes are blinded by their personal viewpoints.
One case you've likely never heard of is Griggs vs Duke Power Company, decided in 1971 in the Warren court.  The backstory is basically this: Duke Power Company required any employee who wanted a promotion beyond a certain point to have a high school diploma and to pass an aptitude test.  Willie Griggs decided the test was racis' and sued along with a group of other black employees who were unable to pass the test and had no diploma.
Duke Power Company pointed out that they provided funding for people to get a GED and that white employees had failed to pass and were not given promotion as well, and courts agreed all along the line... until they got to Chief Justice Warren's leftist-packed Supreme Court.  I'll let Bill McMorris tell the tale:
The Supreme Court wasn’t buying it. This was North Carolina after all. The court compared the tests to Aesop’s fable of the Fox and the Stork, in which a fox offers a dish full of milk to a stork, whose beak prevents it from satisfying its thirst. The implication that black and white workers were of a different species did not strike any of the justices as racist, unlike the objective tests. Griggs found that if blacks failed to meet a standard at a higher rate than whites the standard itself was racist—a legal doctrine known as disparate impact.
That's right, the court ruled that requiring blacks to face the same challenges as other ethnic groups to achieve promotion was racist because... well apparently they thought blacks were somehow incapable of taking the tests, or were innately different as human beings.  Even the civil rights acts of the 1960s specifically stated that tests not designed to be racist or discriminatory were perfectly acceptable for employment standards, but the Supreme Court ordered congress to change that.
So now what were employers to do?  The tests worked - as McMorris points out businesses were just following the military's successes against "the two most efficient peoples known to man" in WW2 and decided they'd use the same system of aptitude testing to place and screen candidates.  It worked, while it was legally possible.
Without testing, businesses turned to colleges and universities to handle it for them.  They reasoned  about this court ruling that these institutions would weed out the less able in a field and pass the more able, so they could use diplomas.  "This is, of course, just one reason why college attendance increased from 5.8 million in 1970 to 17.5 million in 2005," as George Will wrote in 2009.
But it was basically free to take an aptitude test and get a high school diploma.  It costs more than a car to get a college degree.  So poor blacks, the very kind that the Griggs decision was supposed to help, are the very ones that now have a harder time getting and advancing in jobs.  In fact, the GI Bill resulted in only 1 of every 8 vets coming home going to college; the rest were able to use aptitude testing to get into jobs, something no longer possible.  Meanwhile education costs have gone up and up. 
With more people pushed into the university system to get higher paying jobs, combined with massive government programs to help pay the bills, colleges and universities began raising their fees, costs, and rates.  Since Griggs was handed down, the average cost for a college education has gone up 440%, far more than the rate of inflation. 
The Project on Student Debt showed that the average college student today takes out nearly $30,000 in debt, graduating into a job market with an unemployment rate around 20% for their age group.  Some point to a stat showing that unemployment for college graduates is just under 5%, but even during the worst of the Carter years, it was under 2%.
Ive written several times about why those costs have gone up and where that money is going (hint - nearly none of it to education), but with that supreme court decision, businesses have gone from individual testing to just letting colleges handle it.
In the process, colleges and universities changed how they promoted themselves, trying to get more people into their doors.  McMorris again:
By the late 1970s, universities were in crisis mode. The baby boom produced more students than they knew what to do with, but declining birth rates left them with a smaller pool of tuition-paying students. Their new role as the gateway to respectable careers and higher salaries solved that problem. They replaced comprehensive liberal arts education with career-oriented majors that displaced the apprentice, rise-from-the-bottom system that had previously defined the American labor market. Curriculum quality and homework rates plunged, but endowments swelled.

“To keep their mammoth plants financially solvent, many institutions have begun to use hard-sell, Madison Avenue techniques to attract students. They sell college like soap, promoting features they think students want: innovative programs, an environment conducive to meaningful personal relationships, and a curriculum so free that it doesn’t sound like college at all,” academic Caroline Bird noted
Standards have been steadily lowered, educational quality - judging by the difference between Freshmen and graduates - has declined, and costs have gone up.  More than half of new graduates (about 17,000,000 young people) are working in fields that have nothing to do with their degree: getting that diploma doesn't help you get a great job.
And yet businesses today require a diploma even for jobs that have nothing to do with a college education, because they can't use aptitude testing to screen or find gems in their applicants.  But the increased numbers of people getting bachelor's degrees is decreasing its value to employers.  In fact, the need to find work to pay off huge college debt is pushing students into fields they are technically overqualified for:
There are 100,000 postal workers, 317,000 waitresses, and 18,000 parking lot attendants with undergraduate degrees. One out of every four bartenders has a diploma, and though they listen to moping for a living, few majored in psychology. Nearly 6,000 janitors have doctorate degrees.
And every one of those guys is taking a job that someone without qualifications or a degree could have done, but now cannot get.
This kind of decision, meant well, but poorly considered, has had very negative impact on the economy, lives of people, education, and culture.  It was poorly decided (like many of the Supreme Court cases from that time period) to fit an agenda and has had poor impact on the nation.
So if you ever wondered why that management job at the Pizza Shack required a college degree, or why the Personnel department treats any degree at all as better than clear experience and skill in a job well, now you know.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

SOCIAL JUSTICE KITTENS

Bitterness is cancer - it eats upon the host. It doesn't do anything to the object of its displeasure.
-Maya Angelou

Over at American Digest I saw a strange and humorous, yet miserable sight recently.  It is of a real calendar that you can order from SquareUp called the Social Justice Kittens Calendar.  It is a series of adorable pictures of kittens coupled with social justice statements and quotes.
I cannot tell if this is meant to be ironic, satirical, or is a serious product, but I'm leaning toward satire.  Each picture has quotes on it like this (some are Not Safe For Work and contain foul language):

The sentiments put in these calendar pictures are the sort that certain classes in some colleges and universities will promote and professors will say, even unrelated to the topic at hand.  And they seem extreme but I've read these quotes or things like them from people who are not saying them as a joke, but with absolute earnest and honesty.
The bitterness, anger, and even hate that radiates from them is shocking to me.  "This conversation doesn't make me feel safe" is genuine, actual college speak, in the "microaggressions" school of thought.  The purpose is to silence speech that the listener does not care for or that threatens their worldview.
They care nothing for liberty, or truth, or honesty, they do not want a world where people interact and learn from each other, they want nothing save a continual, comforting womb of support and confirmation of their worldview.  And they're more than willing to crush anyone or anything that threatens this.
This attitude might be a byproduct of the bubble wrap children, who were raised so carefully, protected, and supported that they never encountered anything that challenged or made them question themselves.  It might be a subversive method of silencing speech and dissent from a political agenda that cannot survive rational discussion.  It might be the result of a psychosis that cannot abide being questioned.  It might be a combination of some or all of those things.
Certainly it is uncomfortable, even frightening when someone challenges your presumptions in a convincing and rational manner.  Nobody welcomes being wrong, particularly on deeply held presumptions about life and belief. 
For as long as there has been human life on earth, there have been a majority who never even consider their worldview, only live it out.  And among those people have always been some who find any doubt terrifying and intolerable, people who have great certainty only because they refuse to consider or even listen to an alternate viewpoint.
This is no bastion of the left or right, or any other political persuasion.  It is a human characteristic to one degree or another to reject things that trouble, threaten, or weaken our resolve.  Some in any group are like this.
What's most troubling to me is that the loudest, most insistent, and most publicly conspicuous of this group are those who at the same time insist that they are lovers of liberty and will not tolerate intolerance.
And yet here we are, in the 21st century, where academics have churned out an entire system designed to do exactly the opposite of what academia is meant to be: silence any debate, questioning, or interaction that in any way threatens one specific certain viewpoint.  And its done with passive-aggressive behavior taken to an astounding depth of creativity and precision.
These are the chocolate sipping onesie boys of the world, who emote without thought and cringe at perceived aggressions by people who challenge their certainties.  Brutality, bullying, rape, they cry.  And in a polite society, their approach tends to shut down any talk.
Its the flip side of the Online Forum Effect where there is a tourettes-like tendency of some to bring up in any conversation and any occasion their pet political viewpoints.  They do it loudly and angrily, and become so unpleasant that everyone around them learns to just shut up about some topics in the hopes that they won't provoke another episode that ruins everything for everyone.
And in the process, they win by silencing any dissent or alternate viewpoint.  By not allowing anyone to gainsay or question their absolute certainty on a topic, all that everyone is left with is their regular outbursts on every subject.
And in time, that wears down all but the most strong of wills by the Big Lie. After all, I don't hear anyone disagreeing with them or showing how they are wrong, and they wouldn't be so very strong and insistent about this if it wasn't at least somewhat true.  They aren't crazy or lying all the time, nobody would do that...
And until this changes, until this atmosphere at institutions of higher learning changes, until this approach toward academia and culture is different, then the entire exercise of education is pointless.  How can you expect anyone to get an honest, valuable education in this kind of atmosphere?  What kind of worldview and what sort of behavior is being inculcated by this kind of attitude?  Nothing healthy.

Monday, October 20, 2014

OLD DOGS

"This old dog can learn new tricks.  I just got better things to do."

The older I get, the better I understand the saying "you can't teach an old dog new tricks." I used to think this referred to some weakness of the mind or obstinance, which I rejected as foolish and even cruel.
I've come to understand That saying differently. The older you get, the less patience, time, and energy you have with new things. You've seen decades of new things and are beginning to tire of their novelty. You only have so much time, and most of it is taken up with the rest of your life. And you have less energy to spend on something new. 
In addition, the older you get, the more experience you have. Starting to learn a new operating system at 20 seems like just a matter of picking up some new tricks, but at 50 you realize just how long its going to take and how annoying its going to be after the previous 5 times through that process. And sometimes it feels like this old Far Side cartoon, where you've filled your mind up with 50+ years of stuff like old phone numbers, how to call information on a rotary phone, and the name of that character on Adam-12. 
So its not so much you cannot teach an old dog new tricks. Its that the old dog has been through this once too often and has better things to do.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

THE FAILURE OF THE LEFT

Just wanted to pass on this article that makes a good point:
The Obama administration - and indeed the left in general - is great at creating new faux crises and threads during peaceful and stable times, but lousy with dealing with actual crises and threats when danger looms.
James Longfield writes at American Thinker:
It is often observed that liberalism is steeped in feelings and emotion.  It is guided by what others think and feel at the expense of dealing with reality.  Perception reigns supreme, and liberals are good at it.

Greg Gutfeld made a salient observation the other day.  He pointed out that liberalism thrives in times in which there are no crises.  In times such as those, liberalism raises lightweight issues and gives them gravitas.  School lunch programs, child obesity, the size of soda drinks, gay rights, free contraception, are their rallying “causes celeb”.

However, when crisis presents itself, we reap the consequences of liberalism in governmental leadership.  More frequent now are the vapid responses to crisis led by the conveniently appointed, those “politically correctly” installed into position of power.  The responses tend to be inept and politically expedient.  Imagery, polls and elections are the focus rather than the required action and solution.  Is seems to be contrary to their DNA to depart from the warm and fuzzy to the tactful, strategic and necessary.

Keynesian economics is owned by the liberals partly because the solution to economic woes is easy, print money. No budgetary trimming or tough decisions here. Does anyone think that the late Secret Service head was installed for her ability, or was it for her gender? Was Susan Rice anointed for her special talents regarding national security or her allegiance to the talking points? Was the head of the CDC installed for his quick thinking and responsive resolve?  All seem to crumble under the weight of responsibility.
Its worth reading the whole thing, but it comes down to an academic, detached understanding of reality I've noted many times in the past.  The left is led by people who are lousy at dealing with real life, but have a head full of offenses and horrors that the rest of the world consider unworthy of serious concern.
This makes them interesting theoreticians, but unequal to the task of any governance or wielding any degree of power.  There are people on the left who aren't in this idiot box, but they aren't the ones in charge.