What Happens When Schools Abandon Merit?

George Leef:

America’s educational institutions used to adhere to objective standards of excellence. Students and faculty members had to strive and were rewarded (or not) according to their performance. What their background might be or where their ancestors lived didn’t matter.

That was true until a corrosive idea called “disparate impact” began taking hold in the country some 50 years ago. What that meant was that objective standards were objectionable if they resulted in poorer performance by certain racial groups. The obsession with disparate impact was kick-started by the Supreme Court’s 1971 Griggs v. Duke Power decision and has been growing in destructive force ever since.

In her latest book, When Race Trumps Merit: How the Pursuit of Equity Sacrifices Excellence, Destroys Beauty, and Threatens Lives, Heather Mac Donald surveys the landscape and sees profound changes in crucial institutions: our schools and colleges, law-enforcement, medicine, and the fine arts. Everywhere, merit is being eroded due to the acceptance among “progressive” elites of what Mac Donald calls the bias fallacy—namely, that any underrepresentation or outcome disparities for blacks and Hispanics must be caused by bias against them.

Mac Donald sees profound changes in crucial institutions: colleges, law-enforcement, medicine, and the fine arts.FacebookTwitterEmailPrintMac Donald rebuts that notion, writing, “The underrepresentation of blacks in many professions is the result of the unequal distribution of skills, not of bias. Sixty-six percent of black twelfth-graders nationally were ‘below basic’ in math skills in 2019, as measured by the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) exam.” Without good math skills, many opportunities are foreclosed, no matter your race. Bias is a facile but utterly mistaken explanation.

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