« On Affirmative Action-BECKER | Main | Response to Comments on Affirmative Action--Posner »

08/27/2005

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Chicago Student

Really Professor Becker, you should learn the difference between "sex" and "gender".

Fred

"Sex" is the proper word to distinguish between males and females. "Gender" is a word that has been imported from grammar, which doesn't distinguish properly between the sexes, because there are other types of gender (such as neuter).

However, modern PC forces were unhappy with the implications of the word "sex" and its biological ties, so tried to force a new meaning on the word "gender." They seem to be succeeding, if Chicago Student is any indication, but I'd hardly say the fight for usage is over.

Chicago Student

Remember this quote, "People have sex, nouns have gender."

Prof. Becker is using "gender" when he means "sex", not the other way around.

Back to the subject (hopefully Becker will do a quick Google search and see the light on gender) I have a good friend who is an engineering professor at a very good university. He hates affirmative action because of the effect on individual students, specifically the African-Americans.

If they're there on their own merits, they are dismissed as being affirmative-action admits.

If they are affirmative-action admits, they are buried under work for which they are unprepared. Some staggering number of African-Americans in his department were on academic probation, something like 60% in any given term.

oliver

I concede the point that some European countries (sweden, UK, Belgium) do have affirmative action for women when it comes to political representation (at least x% of the people on the ballots should be female). For some jobs and in some countries there is what is called 'positive action' for disabled people: 'all other factors being equal' ('ceteris paribus') the person with the physical handycap should be hired for the job. Finally, in some multi-ethnic cities the police force tries to hire members from specific immigrant groups. In Northern-Ireland they hire both protestans and catholics.

In my comment I only wanted to stress that AA for racial groups is, until now, not practiced in European nations, for a whole raft of historical reasons which we shall leave for future discussions. There is one directive of the European Union that asks to inscribe 'equal treatment / non-discrimination' in the national laws of the member states, that states that a person should not be refused to rent a house or to get a job based on his race or religion, again 'ceteris paribus'.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Affirmative_action#Other_nations

It does surprise me that both Posner and Becker are willing to add water to their wine when it comes to AA. I have the impression that abolishing AA would force government to construct measures that try to level the playing field at a younger age (universal education and healthcare) in order to assure meritocracy at a later age. Apparently this early-age intervention is unacceptable for conservative commentators, because it implies the supply of educational and health services which the private sector currently does not. Therefor they defend the notion of restricted AA, while that remains a measure that comes way too late in a person's professional life.

Oystein Sjolie

Norway does not require a certain percentage of cabinet members to be women. It has been common practise for the past to decades that at least 40 per cent of the cabinet are women, but this is not regulated by law.

However, a couple of years ago our parliament decided that the board of all public limited corporations shall have 40 per cent of each sex. This law has not come into full force as yet, but it is waiting.

Take a look at this:
http://odin.dep.no/bfd/english/topics/gendereq/004051-990346/dok-bn.html

lincoln

Intersting and very touchy topic.I'm going to give some med school perspective.First,I speak as someone
whose MCAT's were stratospheric and whose performance in med school was mediocre.The tests probably give a good first approximation of ability,but not of discipline,work habits,care for patients feelings-all the things that are part of being a dr.However,as important as all these are,there is a certain intellectual level thatis necessary to do the work.And it is silly to think intangibles are in inverse ratio to measurable factors.
Now, a little admission data.Please be advised it's 25 years (almost) since I had anything to do
with admissions.Our program added MCAT and GPA to
list highest to lowest among entering students on
a numerical scale.Our lowest entering student (and I pulled up old files ) had a 2.16 MCAT anda 2.21 GPA.(WE did have an entering student with a slightly lower MCAT,but a higher GPA.This was not someone who had a snowball's chance of doing professional school work.It wasn't someone who could have received a Bachelor's in a science -based major.And it was someone who failed his/her first year.(I don't know what happened after that.)

I don't know the answer to this .I do know I resisted reading the Murray/Herrnstein "opus",partly because I was afraid of what I might
read. But I feel time is running out on the taboo of talking frankly about affirmative action and ethnic differences .

Bill

This discussion on AA is likely to go nowhere because it focus only on admissions, as if the process of going through college or graduate school depends exclusively on innate individual ability or traits.

In the most competitive educational programs it makes a big difference whether or not a student has either a network of acquantainces or a mentor who already went through that experience successfully.

I explain.

If we focus on grades, there are tricks that newcomers into the system do not know. Examples are getting past exam collections and professors' research papers. Even if a newcomer catches up, it is more costly to get them in money and time.

If we focus now on the job prospects, there are traits like social networking skills, knowing how to sell oneself and fraternize with superiors, that are even more relevant than grades. Particularly in those programs where grade inflation is present i.e. grades become a non-informative signal. Like in a university whose name begins with 'H'. There are many others.

Let's not forget that in the upper echelons of academia the game is not only of intellectual competition but also of political competition for power and funding. It hardly resembles a free competitive market.

Unsophisticated individuals are simply not aware the importance of politics and of maintaining a certain image, not to mention they do not have it to begin with.

Again, when (if) they catch up, it's too late already, you only have one chance to impress your professors. They already made up their mind about you.

Many times minorities are either too shy or not used to deal with different people. Particularly in academia, where people are usually not 'normal'. For example, they might take personally the aggressions or condescendence of mean professors. There are a great many of them. So it is difficult for them to get into the 'club' without an introducing member's help and guidance.

What minorities, poor whites or any newcomer into the educational system need is not a free admission pass or lower standards but a substitute support network.

Many times, outstanding minorities are where they are now thanks to their abilities AND high profile sympathetic mentors. Thomas Sowell would be the textbook case.

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