The mainstream media seem to be studiously ignoring Naomi Schaefer Riley’s summary banishment on May 7 as a blogger for the Chronicle of Higher Education. She had written a post severely criticizing black studies programs at universities and suggesting that they be eliminated. But some media people who cover the media online, though they are political liberals out of sync with Riley, are just as outraged at the firing as Riley’s supporters. Betsy Rothstein, editor of Fishbowl DC, a widely read media-news website, and Brad Phillips, who writes the MrMediaTraining blog, excoriated the Chronicle’s editor, Liz McMillen, for caving to pressure from–and apologizing profusely to–Chronicle’s college-professor readers who had been screaming racism and demanding Riley’s head for several days. This despite the fact that Riley’s 500-word post for the Chronicle blog Brainstorm, had contained nothing that could be construed as a personal attack, libelous, or factually incorrect.
Continue reading A Peculiar Performance by the Chronicle
Taking note of a posting by Naomi Schaefer Riley, John Rosenberg took a hard look at what passes for cutting-edge scholarship in Black Studies–and wasn’t impressed with what he found. Rosenberg’s post became all the timelier when the Chronicle announced that it had removed Riley from the Brainstorm blog.
In an editor’s note that could have doubled as a parody of political correctness, Liz McMillen “sincerely apologize[d] for the distress” that publication of Riley’s post caused. McMillen claimed that Riley’s sharply-written but seemingly factually accurate post did not conform to the Chronicle’s “journalistic standards,” though she elected not to provide an example of how, specifically, the post failed to conform to these standards. Perhaps she feared causing further distress to the Chronicle’s extremely sensitive reading base.
The move left FIRE’s Adam Kissel to express wishes of “good luck to Chronicle bloggers! Whoever is left, that is, after the necessary purge to restore quality,” since Editor McMillen is determined to ensure “only ‘fair’ opinions henceforward.”
Continue reading Writer Purged for Causing Distress
Now that the world of higher education’s twitter (or is that now tweeter?) over Elizabeth Warren’s keen sense of her own Cherokee-ness is dying down, the two leading monitors of academic fads have each recently found and amplified new interest in black studies.
The Chronicle of Higher Education has recently published two pieces glorifying the field, “Black Studies: ‘Swaggering Into The Future‘” and “A New Generation of Black-Studies Ph.D.’s,” as well as a blog post by Naomi Schaefer Riley that has ignited a firestorm of controversy in the comments, “The Most Persuasive Case for Eliminating Black Studies? Just Read the Dissertations.” For its part Inside Higher Ed has a rather fawning interview with Ibram H. Rogers, an assistant professor history at SUNY Oneonta and author of a celebratory new book on The Black Campus Movement: Black Students and the Racial Reconstitution of Higher Education, 1965-1972.
Continue reading Are Black Studies a Great Failure?
The New York Times had a fairly long online colloquy over the weekend on a very short study titled “Whites See Racism as a Zero-Sum Game That They Are Now Losing.” Prepared by Michael I. Norton of Harvard Business School and Samuel R. Sommers of Tuft University’s Department of Psychology, the study appeared in Perspectives on Psychological Science. It is straightforward enough: A large national sample of black Americans and white Americans was asked to use a 10-point scale to indicate the extent they felt that blacks and whites were each “the target of discrimination in each decade from the 1950s to the 2000s.&rdquo The Times colloquy on the study included folks from left (Patricia J. Williams, Paul Butler, and Victoria C. Plaut), right (David E. Bernstein and Abigail Thernstrom), and center (Jeffrey Rosen), as well as the study’s authors.
Dr. Thernstrom and Professor Bernstein made good contributions to the colloquy, putting the study in a historical and legal perspective, respectively. My own thoughts can be summarized as: What’s good (or at least plausible) in the study isn’t new, and what’s new isn’t good.
The results are well-summarized in the study’s graph (figure 1). Basically, it shows (a) that blacks and whites agree that discrimination against blacks has gone dramatically down over the last half century, and that discrimination against whites has gone up; but (b) that blacks believe there is more antiblack discrimination still than whites do; and, finally, (c) that whites believe that there is now actually more antiwhite discrimination than antiblack discrimination, while blacks think that the amount of antiwhite discrimination is still negligible. None of this is particularly new or surprising. Who can deny that there is less discrimination against blacks now than in 1950; or that, with the rise of affirmative action, there is not at least some discrimination against whites now which was nonexistent a half century ago? And who can be surprised that blacks are more sensitive to remaining discrimination against them, and more dismissive than whites of the extent of politically correct discrimination against whites now?
Continue reading Non-Garbage In, Garbage Out
Stigmatism, n. A variant of astigmatism, particularly virulent in academia, in which visual impairment derives not from an irregularly curved cornea but from ideologically distorted vision that in many cases prevents its victims from perceiving the stigma from which they suffer and in others prevents them from recognizing the source of the stigma they do perceive.
A nice, almost perfect example of rampant stigmatism can be found in Disrespected?, a recent article by Penn anthropology professor John L. Jackson Jr., who apparently is the Chronicle of Higher Education‘s designated commentator on blackademia.
Jackson writes that he’s been “collecting unpleasant and disconcerting stories from senior black faculty,” most of whom “are incredibly accomplished and wildly influential in their fields” but all of whom feel “disrespected, profoundly disrespected,” all “with similar stories to tell of humiliating slights interpreted as race-based disrespect.”
Continue reading A Case of Stigmatism
According to a recent article in the Chronicle of Higher Education, leaders of the American Philosophical Association and the American Anthropological Association are worried about cuts in their fields at Howard University because “such moves at the historically black institution would harm attempts to bring black scholars into their disciplines.”
In a letter to Howard president Sidney Ribeau, Peter J. Markie, chair of the APA’s Committee on the Status and Future of the Profession, declared ponderously that “[t]he future of Philosophy depends on the development of minority scholars [and] the expansion of philosophical research into new or long-neglected areas of inquiry….”
In a separate letter to president Ribeau, Kwame Anthony Appiah, a philosopher at Princeton and Chair of the Board of Officers of the American Philosophical Association, was also almost exclusively concerned with race, beginning at some length with his own apparently race-based qualifications to discuss race:
Continue reading Do We Need More Black Philosophers And Anthropologists
(And Fewer Black Scientists)?
In “Rising Admissions Standards Have Kept Top Colleges Out of Many Minority Students’ Reach,” Peter Schmidt reports in the Chronicle of Higher Education on yet another study of blacks and Hispanics being “channelled” into less selective colleges.
The most selective colleges have raised the bar for admission over decades in which more black and Hispanic students have gotten into the game, leaving such institutions as out of reach for many minority applicants as they had been decades ago, a new study found.
As a result, long-term improvement in the academic preparation of black and Hispanic students and growth in the share entering postsecondary education has not translated into their increased representation at highly selective colleges. Instead, it has left the nation with a higher-education system in which rising numbers of such students are channeled into less-competitive colleges while the most-selective institutions become increasingly associated with students who are relatively wealthy and, for the more part, white or Asian American, the study revealed.
The study was conducted by Michael Bastedo, an associate professor of education at the University of Michigan, and several graduate students there. They analyzed long-term data on students who were high school seniors in 1972, 1982, 1992, or 2004. A paper based on the study, “Access Without Equity: Longitudinal analyses of institutional stratification by race and ethnicity, 1972-2004,” can be found here.
Continue reading Are Blacks and Hispanics More “Holistic” Than Whites And Asians?
Should all-black colleges exist in 2010? No, some say. After all, it’s been almost fifty years since segregation was outlawed in America. And most Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) are of also-ran status, doing their best, but hardly the bastions of excellence that so many were in the old days. Graduation rates are low and not one of them made the top half of Forbes’ ranking of more than 600 schools nationwide. Of the “black Ivies”– Morehouse, Spelman and Howard– only Spelman made US News and World Report’s top 100 list of Liberal Arts colleges in 2010. Graduates of HBCUs don’t make as much money, on average, as their equivalents who went to mainstream schools.
To many, all of this means it’s time to just shut these schools down. That argument, if based solely on the facts above, is ultimately an ill-considered reaction, unlikely, I suspect, from anyone who has ever spent time at one of the schools.
Yet it is hardly wrong to start conceiving of HBCUs as time-limited. I don’t find that easy to write as a black person – but I do find it true. I presume all agree that HBCUs were necessary in the days of legalized segregation, and that they produced legions of top-rate black thinkers and professionals. The question is what their value is today.
Continue reading Cognitive Dissonance and Historically Black Colleges
On August 30, I noted here that Title IX Has A Disparate Impact–for Black Women.
The occasion for that piece was an article in the Chronicle of Higher Education, Narrowing the Gap, that fawningly reported the dramatic findings of a new book by Deborah Brake, a law professor at Temple, lamenting the lack of “diversity” in the sports black women play. “Nine out of 10 black women who play college,” the author lamented, “compete in either basketball or track….”
If I had done my homework I would have mentioned that this “underrepresentation” of black women in such sports as soccer, lacrosse, and rowing — a gap that has not only persisted but increased under Title IX — is not new. In fact, it is not even new to the Chronicle, which reported almost exactly the same thing over four years ago, based on an earlier study of the same dispiriting disparities. “While the enactment of a federal gender-equity law 35 years ago has spurred significant growth in women’s intercollegiate athletics,” Black Female Participation Languishes Outside Basketball and Track begins, “certain racial disparities persist. Chief among them: Few black women participate in sports other than basketball and track.”
Since Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 became law, black female participation has soared 955 percent. The growth, however, has been confined to basketball and track and field. In fact, nine of every 10 black female college athletes participate in one of those sports.
In recent years, the racial gap has widened. Between 1999 and 2005, the number of black women participating in collegiate sports increased by only 336, compared with 2,666 for white women. International athletes even surpassed black women, gaining nearly 1,000 spots.
Continue reading Black Women Underrepresented in Soccer – Threat to Diversity?
It has dramatically increased the number of white women (and girls; surely women even today remain girls until some point in their K-12 school years) playing on sports teams, but “most of those teams, especially those at the college level, have remained overwhelmingly white.”
Title IX, it turns out, hasn’t benefited female athletes of color nearly as much as it has their white teammates. And the resulting gap, says one legal scholar in a newly published book, poses a challenge for those who rally passionately around the law.
This news comes from yet another report of yet another “gap” we have to worry about, with its inevitably accompanying “disparities,” in the Chronicle of Higher Education, Narrowing the Gap, which features a new book, Getting in the Game: Title IX and the Women’s Sports Revolution, by Deborah Brake, a law professor at the University of Pittsburgh.
“Title IX did not introduce problems of racial inequality into our nation’s school system,” Prof. Brake acknowledges. “The problem is,” she argues, “Title IX doesn’t do anything about it, either.”
Continue reading Title IX Has A Disparate Impact–for Black Women
Russell K. Nieli’s recent article, “How Diversity Punishes Asians, Poor Whites and Lots of Others,” drew a lot of attention, including a mention in Ross Douthat’s New York Times column. Referring to the book, No Longer Separate, Not Yet Equal, a 2009 study of elite college admissions, Nieli wrote that the authors, Thomas J. Espenshade and Alexandria Walton Radford, found that a student’s chances of gaining admission to an elite college dropped by 60 to 65 percent if they were involved in ROTC, 4H Clubs, Future Farmers of America “and other activities that suggest that students are somewhat undecided about their academic futures.” Several readers, irritated by the implication that future farmers are Red State rubes, sent in lists of important people who have been FFA members. The noted members included Jimmy Carter, Sam Brownback, Nicholas Kristof, Willie Nelson, Taylor Swift, Tim McGraw, Lyle Lovett, Don Henley of the Eagles and Jim Davis, creator of Garfield.
Speaking to the NAACP convention in Kansas City on Monday (July 12), Michelle Obama said that because of “stubborn inequalities” that “still persist — in education and health, in income and wealth — “the NAACP’s founders “would urge us to increase our intensity.”
The White House, for some reason, appears to have heard her call, for on Tuesday, reported the Chronicle of Higher Education, “White House Official Says Civil-Rights Office Will Enforce Fair State Spending for Black Colleges.”
John S. Wilson Jr., executive director of the White House Initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities, said on Tuesday that the Education Department was looking into which states continue to shortchange public black colleges and how the federal government can make sure appropriations are more equitable among public institutions.
Continue reading White House to Impose “Fairness” on Education Spending
Writing in the Chronicle of Higher Education on July 4 (“Who Gets to Define Ethnic Studies?”), Kenneth P. Monteiro, dean of the College of Ethnic Studies at San Francisco State, criticizes what he calls “a piece of legislative hubris from Arizona that purports to ban ethnic studies in public schools.”
Monteiro was referring to Arizona House Bill 2281, passed in May, a month after Arizona’s controversial immigration legislation. It prohibits school districts or charter schools in the state from offering any classes that
1. Promote the overthrow of the united states government.
2. Promote resentment toward a race or class of people.
3. Are designed primarily for pupils of a particular ethnic group.
4. Advocate ethnic solidarity instead of the treatment of pupils as individuals.
Continue reading Ethnic Studies: ”White Studies” in Black and Brown?
Yet another statistical study reveals that the high school-age offspring of black immigrant families enroll in America’s elite colleges at a vastly higher rate proportionate to their numbers than the offspring of U.S.-born blacks, and even at a slightly higher rate than whites.
This latest study, published in the journal Sociology of Education (abstract here), raises one more time the question of who exactly are supposed to be the beneficiaries of the race-based “diversity” goals that are part of the admissions policies at all selective colleges, whether Ivy League or in the top tier of public institutions such as the University of Michigan and the University of California at Berkeley.
The study, conducted by researcher Pamela Bennett of Johns Hopkins University and Amy Lutz of Syracuse University, using data from the National Educational Study of 1988, found, first of all, that among all U.S. high school graduates, the offspring of immigrant blacks were slightly more likely to head for college than whites (75.1 percent compared with 72.5 percent) and far more likely than native blacks, only 60.2 percent of whom enrolled in college after graduation. When it came to top-ranked, academically selective colleges, immigrant blacks enrolled as freshman at the rate of 9.2 percent, compared with 7.3 percent for whites and only 2.4 percent for native blacks.
Bennett’s and Lutz’s findings comported with those in a 2007 study published in the American Journal of Education noting that while immigrants or their offspring made up only about 13 percent of black people aged 18 and 19, they made up 27 percent of black students their age at selective public and private colleges and 41 percent of black students attending Ivy League schools.
Continue reading A Success Story: Immigrant Blacks In Colleges
“If I couldn’t study something that’s about myself then I wouldn’t want to be here,” the black sophomore once told me, explaining how crucial to him it was to be able to major in African-American Studies.
It always stuck with me.
The African-American Studies department he was a major in was one of about 300 nationwide; this year is, in fact, the fortieth anniversary of the foundation of the first one at San Fracisco State University in 1969. I have never had a problem with such departments in themselves. After all, despite that we hear this so often it has become a cliche, the story of black people is, to a considerable extent, the story of America.
Slavery helped drive the colonial economy and sparked the Civil War. The Civil Rights revolution was a moral advance unprecedented in the history of the species. Today American popular culture is deeply stamped brown and, in that form, has taken over the world, from hiphop through the worldwide superstar status of actors like Will Smith. The swelling numbers of African immigrants are giving the African diaspora to the New World a whole new meaning. The campaign and election of Barack Obama distilled all of this so profoundly that courses could be taught on it alone – and surely will be, nationwide, starting in the fall.
Continue reading What Black Studies Can Do
A few weeks ago a teenaged pot dealer was shot dead in a Harvard dormitory.
That alone was depressing enough. However, Harvard suspects a black senior, Chanequa Campbell, of an association with the pot dealer — Justin Cosby, also black — and last week was barred from her dormitory and prevented from graduating. Campbell grew up in the depressed Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood of Brooklyn, but was a star student, a product of elite prep school Packer Collegiate Institiute, and four years ago was celebrated for her achievement.
The details have yet to be released. But one of the three men who planned the murder, and a suspect in the shooting itself, Jabrai Copney, is a songwriter from New York who was dating another Harvard undergrad named Brittany Smith who also grew up in Brooklyn. Copney and Smith are black.
Continue reading The Murder At Harvard
By John McWhorter
Debra Dickerson said of the Cornell students who took over Willard Straight Hall at Cornell in 1969, “What they actually wanted was beyond the white man’s power to bestow.” Even after they were granted a Black Studies department as they demanded, a core of black students remained infuriated at Cornell as still “fundamentally” racist.
As we mark the fortieth anniversary of that day, I am reminded of one twenty springs later in May, 1989, when 60 Stanford students took over the university president’s building and were arrested. Because 1989 was such a different America racially from that of 1969, such that Stanford had a healthy body of black students of middle-class provenance and above, what went down in the annals as “Takeover 89” was fundamentally a happy event. It was symbolic of a general detour in race ideology in America, and the memory has never left me.
The idea was that in not acceding to certain demands regarding minority issues, the administration had revealed itself to be racist. Interesting, though, what the “demands” were. This time there was already a Black Studies program, plus a student association, and a theme house. So instead, the main demands were four: a Native American Studies department, an Asian-American Studies department (despite there being an Asian-themed dormitory and university-funded Asian students’ association), an assistant dean for Chicano affairs (despite a Chicano student center), and a vague demand for “more” black professors. After all, if black professors are not 13% of the faculty when black people are 13% of the American population, then you know what that’s all about.
Continue reading Stanford ’89, A Happier Takeover
The Kellogg Foundation is funding a survey of four college campuses by Harvard’s W.E.B. Du Bois Institute and the Educational Testing Service to examine how students of color’s experiences on college campuses impact the notorious black-white achievement gap.
Namely, it will examine how the students feel “welcome and unwelcome, respected and disrespected, supported and unsupported, and encouraged and discouraged.”
However, will the researchers be interested in evidence that the black-white achievement gap is connected to aspects of parenting and peer identification that begin long before college? That is, will there be room in their assessment for, as it is put these days, culture over structure?
In his detailed survey of Shaker Heights, Ohio, Black Students in an Affluent Suburb, the late Berkeley Anthropology Professor John Ogbu found that black parents often aren’t aware of how closely they need to attend to their children’s homework and are less likely to confer with their children’s teachers, and that black teens have a tendency to disidentify from school as “white.” Subsequent studies have shown that black students are likely to spend less time on homework than white or Asian students and are less likely to be popular if they achieve in school.
Continue reading Probing The Black-White Achievement Gap
Confirming what college administrators have known for years, Education Sector has released a report based on U.S. Department of Education figures detailing huge gaps between the college graduation rates of white students and those of blacks. The gap (measured by failure to graduate within six years from a four-year institution) averages about 20 percent, although it can soar in excess of 40 percent in a few cases.
These are dispiriting figures, but they need to be approached in context. First of all, as the report notes, only slightly over half – 57 percent – of students of any race who enroll in four-year colleges manage to make it to graduation within six years. This figure suggest that a traditional-style uninterrupted college education isn’t for everyone – and in fact many dropouts (although their numbers aren’t tracked in the Education Sector report) finish their degrees part-time or after several years in the work-force, as the burgeoning number of institutions devoted to part-time education indicates). White students do fare better in traditional education, according to a study published last year in the journal Blacks in Higher Education: 63 percent of whites graduate in six years, compared to only 43 percent of blacks (although the percentage of graduating black students has been ticking upwards over the past few years, the study noted).
Blacks who attend elite private universities – Harvard et al., – have extremely high graduation rates that approach those of whites, but that is probably to be expected, because those schools have highly selective admissions standards for all their students and typically graduate more than 90 percent of them. And it is safe to say that the blacks at the top private schools are strongly motivated academically and have few distracting financial worries thanks to scholarships or their upper-middle-class families.
Continue reading Black Success, Black Failure
Color and Money: How Rich White Kids are Winning the War Over College Affirmative Action by Peter Schmidt
Reviewed by George C. Leef
Exactly how important is a college degree from a prestige school? Many believe that having such a degree is extremely important – a virtual guarantee of success in life. The higher education establishment works hard at propounding the idea that without a college degree, a young person’s life will be one of almost Hobbesian misery and the elite institutions go a step further and portray themselves as the essential training grounds for the nation’s leaders. If you accept those views, the destiny of the nation is largely shaped by who goes to college and where.
Peter Schmidt has swallowed them hook, line, and sinker, which isn’t surprising for a reporter who has been immersed in higher education for many years. In his new book Color and Money he writes, “In modern American society, many of us assume – or at least desperately hope – that the people in leading positions in government, business, and the professions are our best and brightest… How do we decide who deserves such status? Generally, we rely on academic credentials. We entrust the task of identifying and training our best and brightest to our elite higher education institutions…”
Continue reading Do Rich White Kids Win With Affirmative Action?
In anticipation of a new U.S. Commission on Civil Rights report on historically black colleges and universities, Gail Heriot at The Right Coast has been doing some reading.
These institutions, which produce only 20% of African-American students, launch a striking 40% of all African-American science and engineering graduates. Heriot wonders as to this:
Why might this be? In 1996, Rogers Elliott, A. Christopher Strenta, et al. took a look at the why African-American and Hispanic students are less likely to follow careers in science than white or Asian-American students in “The Role of Ethnicity in Choosing and Leaving Science in Highly Selective Institutions.” They found that African-American and Hispanic students at elite colleges and universities are about as likely as white or Asian-American students to start off intending to major in science. But they abandon those intentions in larger numbers. The authors concluded that mismatch probably played a major role.
Heriot cites segments from the report:
Why are so many talented minority students, especially blacks, abandoning their initial interests and dropping from science when they attend highly selective schools? The question has many possible answers, but we will begin with the factor we think most important, the relatively low preparation of black aspirants to science in these schools, hence their poor competitive position in what is a highly competitive course of study. As in most predominantly white institutions, and especially the more selective of them, whites and Asians were at a large comparative advantage by every science-relevant measure …
It’d be interesting to see the hypothesis tested against African-American students’ performance at non-elite, non-historically black colleges. The study’s attention to a common level of academic preparation (without the lags that dog black performance at elite colleges) seems the most convincing factor. Perhaps they’re additionally better at providing encouragement to minority science careers than institutions of comparable quality? Hopefully the Commission’s report will shed additional light on this.