What Is The Ethical Response To The Racially Unbalanced Admissions To New York City’s Elite High Schools?

The question has been giving me a headache since I first read about the stunning results of the process that gives New York City students access to its elite public schools.  Of the nearly 4,800 students admitted into the specialized schools for 2019, 190 are black, down from  207 black students admitted last year out of just over 5,000 offers. Stuyvesant high school, which is representative, gave 7 offers to black students (out of 895 slots),   33 offers to Hispanic students, 194 offers to white students, and Asian-American students received a whopping  587 offers. Overall, Asian-American students constitute 60% of the student bodies of the eight elite schools.

Students take  a single exam that tests their mastery of math and English in order to gains entrance to the academically challenging school. Stuyvesant, which has the highest cutoff score for admission and is thus the most selective of the schools, now has the lowest percentage of black and Hispanic students of any of New York City’s roughly 600 public high schools.

What should the city do about this? Should it do anything?  Continue reading

This Is How Officials Like Mayor De Blasio Think: Unethically, But They Mean Well

Never mind that the always dubious logic behind educational quotas and affirmative action is finally being exposed and discredited: New York’s socialist-in-all-but-name Mayor de Blasio is determined to have the city’s elite public schools “look like New York City,” which is code for “quotas.”

“The status quo is broken. We have to make a major change. We have to make sure that the very best high schools are open to every New Yorker, every kind of New Yorker. They need to look like New York City,” he has said. So he has announced a proposal that would change how students are admitted to eight of the city’s specialized high schools, the crown jewels of NYC’s school system, the equivalents of private schools in quality of teachers and challenging curriculum where students gain entry based on their performance on a single test, taken by all applicants. That seems fair…but since it doesn’t yield a perfect demographic match to the city as a whole, de Blasio’s social justice sensibilities are offended.

Black and Hispanic students make up 67 % of the public school population, but the specialized high schools, which include Stuyvesant High School and the Bronx High School of Science, have just 10 % of students from these groups occupying the 500  available slots, with no improvement in that percentage for years.

Ah! The test must be the problem! This has been the accepted, conventional wisdom and cant that has been repeated by Democrats and affirmative action activists for decades, despite little but blind faith to bolster it. The Mayor, of course, is a believer. Continue reading

“Racial Wealth Gap Persists Despite Degree, Study Says”…Now What?

The story ran as the front page lead in the New York Times more than a week ago, and was promptly ignored as the more pressing matter of criticism Donald Trump’s erudition in condemning the violence in Charlottesville obsessed the media:

“The long-term trend is shockingly clear,” said William R. Emmons, an economist at the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis and one of the authors of the report. “White and Asian college grads do much better than their counterparts without college, while college-grad Hispanics and blacks do much worse proportionately.”

A college degree has long been recognized as a great equalizer, a path for minorities to help bridge the economic chasm that separates them from whites. But the report, scheduled to be released on Monday, raises troubling questions about the ability of a college education to narrow the racial and ethnic wealth gap.

“Higher education alone cannot level the playing field,” the report concludes.

Great. What will level the playing field, and if the only solutions are ethically flawed, can the nation ethically accept that the playing field cannot be leveled? Is it necessary that all races achieve identical levels of success? Does the fact that a race, or an ethnic group, either exceeds or falls short of statistical parity signal that draconian measures must be undertaken by the government? Are we really committed to results based policies, or opportunity-based policies?

In the Times print version, there was a chart that labelled, among other things, Asian families as “over-represented” among wealthyl households headed by a college grad. “Over-represented” is a provocative word, suggesting that something is wrong with Asian American achieving beyond what pure statistical analysis would predict. Is it so unimaginable that the group itself may have something to do with its success—that its culture and values may allow it to be “over-represented”?

No, it isn’t unimaginable, but it is inconvenient and politically explosive. If culture and values can explain over-achievement, it will be difficult to avoid the conclusion that culture and values also play a part in under-achievement as well. The Times report (I haven’t read the whole study)  doesn’t hint at such a conclusion, while citing many other potential causes:

Researchers have repeatedly found discrimination in the job market. When two nearly identical résumés are sent out, for example, it has been documented that the candidate with a white-sounding name receives more callbacks than the applicant with a black-sounding name.

Discrimination like this and other factors contribute to the persistent and substantial pay gap between whites and minorities. Blacks, for instance, hold a disproportionate share of government jobs — a sector that has shrunk in recent years and provides fewer opportunities for big wage gains. Blacks have fewer advanced degrees, and the ones who do are more often in lower-paying fields or graduates of colleges with lesser reputations.

“Blacks and Latinos at all education levels, including college and advanced degrees, earn less than their white counterparts, which means lower lifetime earnings” and less ability to save, said John Schmitt, research director at the Washington Center for Equitable Growth, who reviewed an advance copy of the report.

Blacks and Hispanics are also less likely than whites to inherit money or receive help from their parents to cover a tuition bill or a down payment on a house.

William A. Darity Jr., a professor of public policy at the Samuel DuBois Cook Center on Social Equity at Duke University, points out that a family headed by a black college graduate has less wealth on average than a family headed by a white high school dropout.

That last fact is especially discouraging.

The relative disinterest of the news media in the implications of the report is troubling, or perhaps I should say its disinterest in pursuing an open and honest discussion of what the implications are, and what new policies should be considered. The status quo, with historically oppressed and disadvantaged groups perpetually lagging behind and perpetually blaming white society for their persistent plight, is a recipe for chaos, generating shrill and divisive prescriptions like this one, from Chanelle Helm,  a Black Lives Matters leader in Louisville:

Some things I’m thinking about that should change (in that Southern, black grandmama voice):

1. White people, if you don’t have any descendants, will your property to a black or brown family. Preferably one that lives in generational poverty.

2. White people, if you’re inheriting property you intend to sell upon acceptance, give it to a black or brown family. You’re bound to make that money in some other white privileged way.

3. If you are a developer or realty owner of multi-family housing, build a sustainable complex in a black or brown blighted neighborhood and let black and brown people live in it for free.

4. White people, if you can afford to downsize, give up the home you own to a black or brown family. Preferably a family from generational poverty.

5. White people, if any of the people you intend to leave your property to are racists assholes, change the will, and will your property to a black or brown family. Preferably a family from generational poverty.

6. White people, re-budget your monthly so you can donate to black funds for land purchasing.

7. White people, especially white women (because this is yaw specialty — Nosey Jenny and Meddling Kathy), get a racist fired. Yaw know what the fuck they be saying. You are complicit when you ignore them. Get your boss fired cause they racist too.

8. Backing up No. 7, this should be easy but all those sheetless Klan, Nazi’s and Other lil’ dick-white men will all be returning to work. Get they ass fired. Call the police even: they look suspicious.

9. OK, backing up No. 8, if any white person at your work, or as you enter in spaces and you overhear a white person praising the actions from yesterday, first, get a pic. Get their name and more info. Hell, find out where they work — Get Them Fired. But certainly address them, and, if you need to, you got hands: use them.

10. Commit to two things: Fighting white supremacy where and how you can (this doesn’t mean taking up knitting, unless you’re making scarves for black and brown kids in need), and funding black and brown people and their work.

I read this, and find myself wondering if one of the reasons for that discouraging study’s results is the increasing influence of voices like Chanelle Helm’s.

Morning Ethics Warm-Up: 8/24/17 [UPDATED]

GOOD MORNING!

1. I’m moving this to the top from its original placement at the end. I warned that the mania for retroactive statue-toppling and historical air-brushing was a deadly slippery slope to cultural chaos from the moment Dylan Roof’s rampage primed the Confederate flag banning push. I said that there was no clear stop on that slope, and that this was a massive ethical error that would quickly spin out of control.

I am accepting apologies and “You were right, I was wrong” messages at jamproethics@verizon.net. I will reply gracefully.

2. It’s a good thing, in some ways, that President Trump has no ethics alarms, or has them but doesn’t understand what all the ringing means, because if he did, he might realize that he has put himself in ethics zugswang in the matter of former sheriff Joe Arpaio, the anti-illegal immigration zealot who is facing up to six months in jail for defying a federal judge’s order to stop targeting Latinos based solely on the suspicion of their legal status. Trump has been urged to pardon Arpaio. Let’s see:

  • Arpaio did defy a judicial order. Should a law enforcement official be treated especially harshly when he does this?

Yes.

  • The judicial order related to Arpaio’s practice of assuming that individuals of Hispanic descent were more likely to be violating the immigration laws in his jurisdiction than other citizens. Since his jurisdiction was rife with Hispanic illegals, was this an unreasonable assumption on his part? No. Was it still discriminatory? Sure. Is the balance between profiling, which in such situations is a valuable law-enforcement tool, and the importance of equal treatment under the law a difficult one legally and ethically? Yes. Does a sheriff have the right and authority to ignore the way this balance is decided one legal authorities define it?

No.

  • Is the determination of this balance often polluted by ideological biases, in this case, against enforcement of immigration laws?

Yes.

  • Do Donald Trump, and his supporters, and those Americans who may not be his supporters but who agree that allowing foreign citizens to breach our borders at will without legal penalties is certifiably insane, believe that Arpaio’s position on illegal immigration is essentially correct and just?

Yes.

  • Nonetheless, did his ham-handed methods give ammunition to open-borders, pro-illegal immigration, race-baiting activists like the one who told the New York Times,

“Trump is delivering a slap in the face to dignified, hard-working people whose lives were ripped apart by Arpaio. Arpaio belongs in jail, getting a taste of his own medicine. Trump wants to put Arpaio above the law, showing they are both about white supremacy.”

  • Is sending Arpaio to jail a political imprisonment?

Yes, although he made it easy to justify on non-political grounds.

  • Are political prisoners the ideal objects of Presidential pardons?

Yes.

  • Would pardoning him send dangerous messages (it’s OK to violate judicial orders you think are wrong; the ends justifies the means; Presidents should meddle in local law enforcement, “extremism in defense of liberty is no vice”) as well as defensible ones ( judges and elected official enabling illegal immigration are a threat to the rule of law; Joe is an old man with a long record of public service who deserves mercy even though he was wrong…)

Yes.

  • Will such a pardon, especially as the news media is again spinning to make the case that Trump is sympathetic with xenophobes and white nationalists, further inflame an overly emotional debate that needs to be calmed, not exacerbated?

God, yes.

  • Is the most responsible course for Trump to stay out of this mess?

YES!

  • Will he?

Of course not. Continue reading

UPDATE: So THAT’S What Really Is Going On. Boy, Wouldn’t It Be Great If There Was Some Trustworthy Professional Source That Would Report Events Without Spin And Intentional Distortions?

 

Somehow, I expect the New York Times to be better than this.

Today’s Morning Warm-Up included this item as its final note:

Ethics Alarms will certainly feature more on this development, but for now I’ll just welcome the decision, sure to be attacked as “white supremacy,”  by the Justice Department’s civil rights division to begin  investigating and suing universities over affirmative action admissions policies deemed to discriminate against white applicants. Affirmative action has always been a euphemism for “race-based discrimination in favor of the right race,” and while it can be argued that it was a necessary evil in the wake of Jim Crow, it is still a hypocritical and unconstitutional policy.  I hope the Justice Department includes discrimination against Asian-American students in its crackdown as well.

Well what do you know?

DOJ spokeswoman Sarah Isgur Flores  put out a statement today clarifying what the New York Times went out of its way to distort, saying,

“Press reports regarding the personnel posting in the Civil Rights Division have been inaccurate. The posting sought volunteers to investigate one administrative complaint filed by a coalition of 64 Asian-American associations in May 2015 that the prior Administration left unresolved. The complaint alleges racial discrimination against Asian Americans in a university’s admissions policy and practices.”

This was the 2015 complaint by Asian-Americans claiming they were victimized by quotas at Ivy League schools that was discussed in the Ethics Alarms post I linked to this morning. Continue reading

Curse You, Political Correctness Bullies! Now You’re Forcing Me To Defend Lena Dunham!

Dunham2

A downside of running an ethics blog is that you have to defend really disgusting people from time to time: Harry Reid, Bill Clinton, Donald Trump…and now Lena Dunham. In fact, this story rescued the “Girls” creator from a different post here, as she recently had to apologize for an online newsletter rant that attacked the character of NFL star Odell Beckham Jr. and attributed various sexist attitudes to him based purely on the fact that he showed no interest in her when they were seated together at a recent function. ( Legitimate reasons why he may have ignored her: he had other things on his mind, she’s not his type, she’s a professional jerk, she’s Lena Dunham).

Before I have to defend Dunham, who is an awful person based on available evidence, let me make a few observations. One is that fame in the 21st Century can expose the unsavory and unethical nature of the famous far more than it did in pre-social media days. This is part of Donald Trump’s plight. Another is that Twitter and social media are literally traps for jerks, and it is amazing that so many of them keep getting caught, even with the bodies of previous trap-ees littering the immediate landscape. Finally, I wonder if there are still publicists around in the tradition of my late friend, Bob McElwaine. and if there are, why doesn’t Lena hire one to save her from herself? Bob was a Hollywood Golden Age publicist who saw his job as keeping the fact that his clients were jerks secret. He was great at it: his major client was Danny Kaye, a truly vile, troubled and nasty individual whose public persona was exactly the opposite.

All right, enough stalling.

For some reason, this Dunham tweet from five years ago surfaced, and has led a social media lynch mob to attack Dunham as being a racist…

Dunham tweet

Pop quiz: What exactly is it about the tweet that makes it racist?

The answer is “Nothing.” Racism requires attributing negative features or conduct to an individual or group based solely on racial bias and prejudice. It is not racism to base conclusions on statistical reality. Interestingly, most of the attacks on the tweet claim that the tweet is anti-Asian. It is racist to attribute virtuous qualities, like a reluctance to rape, to a race? Wow! Apparently the tweet is being condemned as a slur on Asian manhood. Since when is it manly to rape someone? Silly me: I assumed that Dunham was referring to well-documented  cultural support of respect for women, law-abiding conduct and other ethical virtues in Asian-American families.

Or is the complaint that by assuming an Asian-American is less of a threat than a male of another race, Dunham was by extension saying that other races were more of a threat? This would most fairly interpreted as an anti-white slur, however, since whites make up almost 75% of the population of convicted rapists. I thought anti-white bigotry was OK in political correctness circles! Continue reading

Pre-Election Ethics Quiz: The Campaign Fortune Cookie

I have not authored the usual number of unethical campaign tactics indictments this time around. One reason is that their desperation while facing an almost certain GOP wipe-out has led Democratic Party candidates into far more questionable devices than the confident Republicans as the Blues have increasingly defaulted to race-baiting, Koch brothers attacks, scare-mongering on everything from guns to contraception, and the “war on women” chorus. Combine that with the popular integrity breach of  Democratic incumbants virtually pretending that they never heard of the Democratic President in the White House, and I was faced with giving more ammunition to those who accuse me of partisan bias. Looking at the poll projections, it appears that the worst offenders—Wendy Davis, Allison Grimes, Mark Udall, and Mary Landrieu among them—will get their just desserts from voters without additional alarms from me.

Speaking of desserts: this campaign tactic is worthy of note. A loyal Rhode Island reader inquires if I have any ethical problems with the campaign of Allen Fung, the Chinese-American GOP candidate in the closely contested Rhode Island governor’s race, delivering thousands of fortune cookies to Rhode Island Chinese restaurants that look like this when you open them

fortune-cookie-fung

So your Ethics Alarms Pre-Election Ethics Quiz is the question asked of me:

Is there anything unethical about this?

Continue reading