Fat Steve's Blatherings

Thursday, March 24, 2005

Another Question and Answer

      Betsy Newmark is one of my favorite bloggers (note to self: get a blogroll made, lazybones!).  She's usually sharp and insightful.  But her question here shows a surprising lack of understanding.

Fresh from having caused the muck up of the SATs, California is now getting fixed to mess up the National Merit program.
A University of California faculty committee is challenging the National Merit Scholarship Program, saying the way it uses the PSAT to determine eligibility is unfair. . . .

Michael T. Brown, committee chairman, said faculty object to the program's reliance on the PSAT, a practice test for the SAT. They're also not happy with the system of using a simple cutoff score to determine eligibility and are concerned the process is unfair to some minority and low-income students.

You know, there is actually lots of money out there for minority and low-income students. Money based strictly on merit is not as easy to come by. Can't they leave this one program alone?

      There's a position out there, which can be summed up as 'In the absence of racial/sexual/whatever discrimination, all identifiable subgroups will display equal patterns of accomplishment and equal interest in various fields.'  I don't know of any evidence for this idea.  In fact, as far as I know, there is no identifiable accomplishment or interest that is identical among all groups.  But the belief is widespread, passionately held and apparently immune to evidence.

      Since the National Merit Scholarships don't show "minority and low-income students" scoring the same as majority and high-income students, it MUST be unfair, biased, predjudiced.  And the people who believe in equal distribution of ability and interest will never rest until the program is fixed to come out right.

      So the answer to Betsy's question is no, they can't leave this one program alone.  If they sincerely believe what they claim to believe, they'd be hypocrites to ignore this situation.  And if they aren't sincere, why should they make an exception here?



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