Wednesday, July 12, 2023

Mark Graber 

Harvard tried to keep out Jews and other unsuitable children of immigrants from Eastern and southern Europe by using intelligence tests. The persons who devised those tests assured the American elite that standardized examinations distinguished the natural intelligence of sturdy Anglo-Saxons from Jews and others whose inflated grades reflected obsessive studying. Alas, Jews and other immigrants figured out how to game the test. An admissions system based entirely on text scores and school grades would increase further the percentage of Jews and immigrant children at Harvard.

Diversity was the better solution to Harvard’s Jewish problem. Maybe Jews and other immigrant children were smart (“cunning“ and "shrewd” were other words found apt by many), but all they did was work and grade-grub. Protestant men were well-rounded leaders. You could go hiking in the woods or party with Protestants on weekends. Universities that were finishing schools for the elite wanted students who could appreciate the full richness of American society. The Protestant elite was convinced that all Jews did was study. How some managed to have children was a mystery to them. Evaluating the full person guaranteed classes made up predominantly of Protestants who would be political, economic, and social leaders and minimized the number of Jews who would do little more than become doctors, lawyers, engineers, and teachers....

When the Supreme Court of the United States first ruled on the constitutionality of race-conscious university admissions policies, four justices took the historical disadvantage route rather than Harvard’s road to diversity. The issue in Regents of the University of California v. Bakke (1978) was whether the medical school at the University of California, Davis could set aside sixteen seats for students of color. Justices William Brennan, Byron White, Thurgood Marshall, and Harry Blackmun found this policy constitutionally unproblematic. Brennan’s opinion observed that “whites as a class” were “not saddled with such disabilities or subjected to such a history of purposeful unequal treatment or relegated to such a position of political powerlessness as to command extraordinary protection from the majoritarian political process.” Relying on what in the United States is called “intermediate scrutiny,” a form of judicial review that resembles what the rest of the world describes as “proportionality,” Brennan asserted that the medical school “could conclude that the serious and persistent underrepresentation of minorities in medicine . . . is the result of handicaps under which minority applicants labor as a consequence of a background of deliberate, purposeful discrimination against minorities in education and in society generally, as well as in the medical profession.” White, Marshall, and Blackmun played variations on these themes in their opinions. None cared much for diversity.

Justice Lewis Powell, who provided the crucial fifth vote on a court of nine justices, proved a better Harvard man. His opinion rejected both of Brennan’s central arguments. Powell insisted that the Court apply the highest level of scrutiny, strict scrutiny, to all race classifications. In his view, because “the white majority is composed of various minority groups most of which can lay claim to a history of prior discrimination, . . . no principled basis” existed “for deciding which groups would merit heightened judicial scrutiny.” 

Diversity came to the rescue. Powell concluded that “a diverse student body” was a compelling interest given that “the nation’s future depends upon leaders trained through wide exposure to the ideas and mores of students as diverse as this Nation of many peoples.”

Good one

Justice Clarence Thomas noted that the University of Michigan Law School would enroll more students of color by being less selective and that the institution’s interest in being ranked in the top ten could not possibly be a compelling interest.

Every administrator dreams of working at a top tier school, for the same reason professors lord it over secondary school teachers, and the highest ranking are happy when they don't have to teach at all.

Leiter's arguments against "diversity blather" are founded in vulgar positivism: there's no reason for women to have a role in writing abortion policy.

repeat: There's no epistemological need to have blacks, or women, or homosexuals, or Palestinians, tell their own stories, or judge others' stories.

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