Voices from the Middle:Intelligence is Not an Affirmative Action Program

By: Barry Loberfeld

Earlier this year when Long Island’s Newsday printed on its cover the names and headshots of the 59 of the national Intel science contest’s 300 semifinalists who come from the region, it put journalism before politics by not concealing what would be a major problem for certain elements of the Left and Right: The contingent didn’t “look like” America — at least as some conceive it.

Feminists, for example, will be hard pressed to explain how 25 of the 59 could be young women. After all, isn’t there hindering discrimination against females everywhere in our society — especially in the science classroom? How was the number of 25 achieved with only student achievement and no affirmative action? What can feminists denounce — that a full one-half of those featured, 29½ people, weren’t female?

Worse, how will the whites-control-everything crowd explain the most glaring feature of the cover: The majority of the students are not European Christians. On the contrary, Jews, Orientals (“Asians”), and people from the Indian subcontinent (“South Asians”) form the greater part of the group. We find in one row: Feinberg, Fichtelberg, Gittin, Goldaper, and Gurevich. So, where is the “domination” by America’s dominant demographic?

Of course, nativists also can’t be too happy about the line-up. They won’t find a Smith or a Jones or a Johnson, to say nothing of an Alden or a Bradford or a Standish. Indeed, two young men who look as if they actually could have a Pilgrim forebear also have the names “Aleksandr Sinelnikov” and “Yevgeniy Yesilevskiy.” And Buchananite conservatives, for whom “America” is its true-blue-collar Catholics, would no doubt be calling for more than just immigration quotas if they were to learn that there was only one unequivocally Irish name (with one or two possibly Irish ones), as well as only one Italian name. Forget America — this group doesn’t even “look like” Long Island. Alas, young Miss Scavelli is not the only lone member of an “underrepresented” segment of our society: There is only one black student. And while the term “Hispanic” is fairly encompassing, it doesn’t encompass any of the semifinalists (as far as I can tell).

Finally, there is the matter of the number 59 itself, out of 300. Does Long Island have 19.6 percent of the population? As the article observes, that number is “more than double that produced by New York City’s high schools, and also more than double that for the entire state of California.” (In 2002, the number was 88.)

Well, what are we to make of it all? That the “women’s movement” was largely successful — for certain minority groups? Or that gender is irrelevant compared to ethnicity/race? That the judging panel, sponsor Intel Corp., and even the science itself are all biased against Hibernians and Sicilians but in favor of Ashkenazim and Chinese? Can there be “institutional discrimination” against minority and majority groups? If so, who’s instituting that discrimination — a privileged minority group? And why would Santa Clara-based Intel be disproportionately generous to Long Islanders? Taken all together, what we must have here are some very discriminating bigots, indeed.

Clearly, there’s only one real question: What would the contemporary promoters of “equality” consider a just and “natural” outcome, evincive of a total absence of any form of bias?

For that to be true, the 59 must reflect perfectly the ethnic breakdown of the United States — or at least Long Island — or better yet, for the full 300 to be a microcosm of the country. How would that be possible? What are they insisting upon — that the random differences from one individual to the next in ability, ambition, and values all add up to the same proportion of low/medium/high achievers for each demographic group…and that this in turn somehow translate into a “representation” of all groups relative to each one’s percentage of the population? One word: astronomical.

… Hear the words of one of the foremost exponents of faux egalitarianism:

[T]he shell in which the cultural construction and self-education of Communist man will be enclosed, will develop all the vital elements of contemporary art to the highest point. Man will become immeasurably stronger, wiser and subtler; his body will become more harmonized, his movements more rhythmic, his voice more musical. The forms of life will become dynamically dramatic. The average human type will rise to the heights of an Aristotle, a Goethe, or a Marx. And above this ridge new peaks will rise.

Leon Trotsky wrote this in his book Literature and Revolution.

Are today’s socialists any less absurd? Only slightly so. Barbara Ehrenreich, a socialist feminist considered by some to be reasonable, was called upon to explain why “fewer men are going to college,” despite the alleged persistence of male privilege. She insisted, “they suspect that they can make a living just as well without a college education; in other words they still have such an advantage over women in the non-professional workforce that they don’t require an education.” Would she assert that “fewer blacks are going to college” because “they suspect that they can make a living just as well without a college education; in other words they still have such an advantage over whites in the non-professional workforce that they don’t require an education”? When fewer women were going to college, was it because “they still had such an advantage over men in the non-professional workforce that they didn’t require an education”? Why would the Learned Elders of Patriarchy maintain male privilege in the non-professional workforce? Except for sports prodigies, who does better — or even “just as well” — without a college degree?

More and more, “discrimination” explains less and less. And yet the “progressive” disintelligentsia demands it be enshrined as the only explanation for any demographic “discrepancy” between any groups — i.e., as America’s defining reality. Hence Ehrenreich: Unable to find men’s “advantage over women” in the world of higher education, the author of Nickel and Dimed projects it onto the world of burger-flipping. Accordingly, the Left has convinced itself that those who contest this diagnosis — and its concomitant cures — do so only because they want to propagate the disease of “inequality.” Dissent from this Ivory Tower dogmatism is maligned as gutter bigotry.

One of the most stark examples — a rebuke to those who pronounce “political correctness” dead or mythological — is the recent blitzkrieg of slander waged against economist Walter Block. The particulars are simple: After giving a speech at Loyola College of Maryland, Block was vilified as a racist and sexist by sundry university and outside entities (call them the “Affirmative Action Diversity Task Force”) for not explaining the white-black and male-female wage gaps solely in terms of the mandatory societal-bias model. A solid scholar, he beat back these ad hominem attacks. But it is a telling indictment of that model that it can be sustained only with the imposition of an ideological litmus test — and in opposition to any intellectual standards.

It is not merely a dogmatic model, but one applied incoherently, i.e., hypocritically. Ehrenreich’s unwillingness to hypothesize women’s advantage over men in academia is one example. Another: If blacks are disproportionately “represented” in the penal system, that in itself “demonstrates” that there must be bias against them and in favor of whites. But if males are disproportionately incarcerated, no one — least of all feminists — argues for the culpability of a systemic bias against men and in favor of women. What kind of egalitarianism can’t maintain “equality” even in its own postulates and yet presumes to do so for the entirety of society?

How long will leftists insist that there must be something wrong if every field of endeavor doesn’t mirror America’s ethnic composition? How long will feminists insist upon their “minority” status even when women outnumber men in positive, successful areas?

And the “cultural conservatives,” who seem concerned less for Western civilization than for Country-and-Western civilization? By every indication they would delightedly set sail a ship of multiracial scientists in exchange for a dinghy of Scots-Irish creationists. What would America be without any non-Christians and non-whites? Evidently a whole lot dumber. And if Mr. Buchanan’s own children are not among any contest winners, he has no one to blame but himself.

In all areas, achievement is an individual responsibility.

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