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Wed10222014

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The Dis-Invited

In this excellent letter to the trustees of Scripps College, National Association of Scholars president Peter Wood explains why the school was wrong to disinvite columnist George Will as the commencement speaker for its most recent graduation ceremony.  Antics like this college’s are, alas, more and more common — making Wood’s letter all the more welcome.

And speaking of Peter Wood and NAS:  I’ve written frequently in the past about their efforts to expose and critique the noxious political correctness at, especially, Bowdoin College.  In this work, they have a valuable ally in Center for Equal Opportunity board member Tom Klingenstein. 

For example, when Bowdoin College president Barry Mills announced his resignation recently, I speculated that NAS’s scathing report on the school might have played a role. The archly-worded first sentence in this statement by Bowdoin’s board of trustees later suggested that, indeed, Mills’s resignation was not entirely voluntary, since it applauds Mills for “his willingness to do what he thinks best for our College, even if it means stepping down from a job that he does so well and truly loves.”  Center for Equal Opportunity chairman Linda Chavez had a related column at about the time that Mills stepped down; you might also enjoy an earlier column she wrote about Bowdoin College.  You can also read in Wood’s essay here about how independent thinking is now discouraged in this grove of academe. (Of course, Bowdoin is not alone in its p.c. affliction:  You can read about how Western Washington University, to give just one recent example, suffers from it, too, here.) 

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“So you want to be a diversity officer”:  That’s the topic of this recent Inside Higher Ed article, and my posted suggestion is that, if we’re going to have these offices at all, the officer should have some knowledge of the civil-rights laws.  That’s precisely because so much of the diversity agenda (that is, the parts that involve treating student and faculty applicants differently on the basis of race, ethnicity, and sex) is inconsistent with the text of those laws.  I cite the ongoing Fisher v. University of Texas litigation and an earlier discussion I wrote about the problems with faculty discrimination in the name of diversity. 

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Is there sex discrimination in every single Ph.D. field? 

From last month’s Chronicle of Higher Education article headlined, “Report Examines Fields With Highest Gender Imbalances Among Ph.D.’s”:  “Among the 55 STEM-related fields, men were overrepresented in 74.5 percent and women were overrepresented in 25.5 percent. Among the other 80 fields, men were overrepresented in 77.5 percent and women were overrepresented in 22.5 percent.”  You do the math:  Every field is “over-“ or “under-represented.”

Why can’t academics get their “representation” just right, not over or under?  Of course, the real solution is to stop using the misleading terms “overrepresentation” and “underrepresentation” — as I argued some years ago here

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Turning from academia to the Obama administration:  Regarding employers’ use of, horrors, criminal background checks for prospective employees, “Do as we say and not as we do,” says the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission here. “In fact, don’t even ask what we do.” 

But you can’t really blame the EEOC for being a little sensitive these days.  It has suffered a series of embarrassing setbacks in court, the most recent example being in EEOC v. Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, where a federal court of appeals panel unanimously upheld the trial court’s dismissal of the commission’s Equal Pay Act lawsuit.  A few excerpts:

The district court concluded that the EEOC failed to allege sufficient facts to state a plausible claim that female and male attorneys at the Port Authority performed “equal work” despite receiving unequal pay. Because the EEOC did not allege any facts supporting a comparison between the attorneys’ actual job duties, thereby precluding a reasonable inference that the attorneys performed “equal work,” we AFFIRM. . . . [D]espite a threeyear investigation conducted with the Port Authority’s cooperation, the EEOC’s complaint and incorporated interrogatory responses rely almost entirely on broad generalizations drawn from job titles and divisions, and supplemented only by the unsupported assertion that all Port Authority nonsupervisory attorneys had the same job, to support its “substantially equal” work claim. As such, the EEOC’s complaint was rightly dismissed. … Simply put, the EEOC has not alleged a single nonconclusory fact supporting its assertion that the claimants’ and comparators’ jobs required “substantially equal” skill and effort. That the EEOC’s failure to include such factual allegations followed a threeyear investigation into the Port Authority’s pay practices – an investigation conducted with the Port Authority’s cooperation – is of some note. … Here, the EEOC had ready access to Port Authority documents and employees, including to the claimants asserting EPA violations, yet the EEOC failed – in fact, repeatedly rejected the need – to allege any factual basis for inferring that the attorneys at issue performed “substantially equal” work.

You get the idea. 

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President Obama’s recent speech at a Congressional Black Caucus gala is about what you would expect, victim-pander-wise. Here’s the worst paragraph:

Too many young men of color feel targeted by law enforcement, guilty of walking while black, or driving while black, judged by stereotypes that fuel fear and resentment and hopelessness. We know that, statistically, in everything from enforcing drug policy to applying the death penalty to pulling people over, there are significant racial disparities. That’s just the statistics.  One recent poll showed that the majority of Americans think the criminal justice system doesn’t treat people of all races equally. Think about that. That’s not just blacks, not just Latinos or Asians or Native Americans saying things may not be unfair. That’s most Americans.

Given the context and the audience, I don’t think the president meant to leave any doubt that these “feelings” are well-founded, those “statistics” are problematic only in that the truth is even worse, and that the poll likewise reflects reality. Yes, the ranks of the police and prosecutors and judges are just filled with racists, no doubt about it.

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Speaking of pandering:  In this speech to a forum for Minority- and Women-Owned Businesses (MWBEs) in Albany, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced this month that New York State would set a new goal of awarding 30 percent of state contracts to MWBEs – the “highest such goal in the nation.” 

As described, the program is almost certainly illegal: There is no effort whatsoever to tie these race- and sex-based goals to remedying contract discrimination — which is what the Constitution requires if you are going to have a program like this at all — let alone any justification for the 30 percent figure. None, that is, except for the fact that Governor Cuomo wanted to brag about how much money he will throw around, and wanted to announce a higher goal, and indeed wanted to declare a goal higher than that of any other state. And then he urged other states to follow New York, which of course would also be illegal. 

Here’s hoping someone sues.

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Finally, last week I participated in a Federalist Society teleforum that discussed racial preferences in government contracting, along the lines of the Andrew Cuomo matter discussed above.  You can listen to the teleforum here.

Ebola Fear Factor

It's time to take a deep breath. Ebola is an awful disease that has tragically infected a handful of Americans. Though it deserves the full attention of our medical community -- most importantly, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention -- it should not be dominating our news, preoccupying our president and other political leaders, and frightening Americans into believing an epidemic on U.S. soil is just around the corner.

A Washington Post poll this week showed that two-thirds of Americans fear an epidemic in the U.S., and 4 in 10 said they are somewhat or very worried that a family member may contract the disease. This is simply not going to happen.

The disease can only spread through direct contact with the bodily fluids of an infected person. The Dallas hospital that treated Thomas Duncan botched procedures in dealing with the disease from day one -- but as terrible as those mistakes were, they do not portend disaster for the country.

At times like these, it is usually helpful for our leaders to try to calm the fear. But unfortunately, President Barack Obama has so squandered the trust of the American people over the past six years that the more he talks the less people seem to believe him. Nonetheless, he was right when he said, "The dangers of your contracting Ebola, the dangers of a serious outbreak, are extraordinarily low."

Our fears are irrational. Statistically, most of us have a far greater likelihood of dying of influenza this winter than Ebola. Last year, about 30,000 people died of the flu in the U.S., yet less than half of Americans get flu shots, which can prevent the disease. Getting struck by lightning is likelier than catching Ebola. So far this year, 24 people have died from lightning strikes in the U.S.; one has died from Ebola.

So why are we so afraid? Ironically, the very measures necessary to protect those in actual danger of contracting the disease frighten the rest of us. Photos of men and women covered in hazmat suits dominate the airwaves and front pages of newspapers.

The streets of Dallas outside the patients' apartments and the tarmac at the airport where patients are being transported look like scenes from a science fiction movie. Creatures in bright yellow scuttle about squirting disinfectant on sidewalks, their faces obscured by masks. A new patient hobbles from an ambulance to a medical transport plane looking as if she's just landed after a dangerous journey to outer space. And these images play in a constant loop on our living room TVs.

At one level, this phenomenon is nothing new. We saw it in the early days of the AIDS epidemic. We've seen it every time a new threat emerges -- swine flu, bird flu, SARS, MRSA, even mad cow disease. People fear what they cannot see and do not understand. But worse, the media's intense preoccupation with Ebola in the U.S. fuels fear. The attention focused on this story is simply disproportionate to its importance.

None of this is to suggest that the federal government's response has been exemplary. It hasn't. The CDC has sent inconsistent messages to health care workers and to the public. Its latest failure -- telling a nurse who had treated Duncan that she could travel aboard a commercial airline despite having a fever -- not only was wrong but also undermined the credibility of the agency. But it is highly unlikely that anyone on the plane is in real danger, even though the nurse has tested positive for Ebola. Unless there was contact with the woman's bodily fluids, transmission was highly improbable, if not impossible.

If we really want to protect ourselves from Ebola, our concentration should be focused on Africa. It is the geometric expansion of the disease in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea that poses a real threat. We must stop the spread of the disease there. And that will require a greater effort on the part of the United States and other countries, including well-enforced quarantines and travel limits.

Regardless of what we do, it is likely we will see more cases of Ebola in American hospitals. The goal must be to provide the best treatment possible, to protect health workers who will come in contact with patients and to concentrate treatment in as few medical centers as possible.

The one thing the media could do to help is to quit treating Ebola as if it is the most important story of the day.

World Domination

What a difference a year makes. In September 2013, President Barack Obama bragged to the United Nations General Assembly in New York, "The world is more stable than it was five years ago." This week, the president again addressed the U.N. delegates, but claims that the world is somehow more stable thanks to his leadership were, understandably, missing.

It is difficult to know whether President Obama has finally learned his lesson or not. The man's hubris knows no bounds. Perhaps now he thinks he can vanquish Islamic extremism on his terms -- a few bombs here, a cruise missile there, a shipment of small arms to pro-Western fighters on the ground elsewhere.

But the battle to defeat the Islamic State will not be so easily won. Nor does eliminating one group ensure that others, even more dangerous, do not emerge. Indeed, the short, terrible history of the Islamic State (or ISIL or ISIS, as it is variously known) demonstrates exactly how these groups metastasize, with each mutation more deadly than the previous.

The U.S. may have killed Osama bin Laden, but the next generation of al-Qaida, the Khorasan Group, is busy plotting more attacks from bases in Syria. It is one thing for a great power to eliminate the leadership and annihilate the soldiers of an enemy army and quite another to defeat the ideology that inspires others to take their place.

And that is the problem the West faces. The struggles of the 20th century to defeat first Nazism and then communism in some respects pale in comparison with the challenge of the 21st century to defeat Islamist totalitarianism. As an ideology, communism ultimately collapsed of its own weight. Its utopian premise could not meet the test of reality. Communism promised heaven on earth but delivered scarcity and deprivation. Nonetheless, communist ideology advanced for seven decades, spreading suffering to many parts of Europe and Asia and, with more limited success, to Africa and Latin America before collapsing.

But radical Islamism faces no such earthly reality check. Radical religious ideologies are always more difficult than political or economic ideologies to prove false. Islamism promises not heaven on earth but a reward that will only be received after death. And who returns to report that there are no virgins awaiting the suicide bomber or beheader?

Fanatical religious sects are not restricted to Islam, of course. There are putatively Christian sects that preach violence and exert totalitarian control over their members -- Jim Jones' Peoples Temple and David Koresh's Branch Davidians, to name two of the most famous American examples.

But radical Islamism is no mere cult restricted in its scope and threat. Its aim is world domination -- much as communism's aspiration was. And opposing the threat of radical Islamism will require the same determination and proportionate commitment of resources as defeating communism did.

President Obama focused in his latest U.N. speech on the threats Islamism poses in Iraq and Syria, but these are just the tip of the spear. What about Yemen -- once the president's favorite success story in the fight against al-Qaida -- whose government has now been deposed by Iranian-backed rebel Houthis? Or Libya, where Majlis al-Shura and Ansar al-Sharia have crushed any hopes that the deposing of Moammar Gadhafi would bring freedom to the people? Or the myriad other places where security is threatened by such groups, from Algeria to Nigeria to Uganda to the Asian subcontinent? Even the country with the world's largest Muslim population, Indonesia, must now contend with the Islamic State. Can Saudi Arabia and other nations on the Arabian Peninsula be far behind?

And even these threats are not the Islamists' most dangerous. Iran, which the Obama administration shows no serious willingness to confront regarding its march toward building atomic weapons, looms larger than all the others combined.
President Obama's call to "dismantle the network of death" established by the Islamic State is not enough. Terrorism and death are simply the tools radical Islamism employs in its struggle for world domination. To misjudge its aims would cost us dearly.

No One Trusts Us

It should come as no surprise that Turkey so far refuses to put boots on the ground to fight the ISIS takeover of Kobane, a beseiged Kurdish town across Turkey's border with Syria. While there is much to criticize about our erstwhile NATO ally's government, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has clearly made a calculation that he can't trust the United States -- or more accurately, that he can't trust this administration. And why should he?

The level of confusion, incompetence and lack of will President Obama has demonstrated in dealing with the multiple crises that face us in the Middle East is mind numbing. He has ordered airstrikes against ISIS, too late and too few, but he has refused to allow the military to do its job well. Without Special Forces spotters on the ground, an air campaign cannot be entirely effective.

In a remarkable breach of protocol, Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, made it clear in congressional testimony in mid-September that we should not rule out the use of U.S. ground troops, despite the president's multiple declarations that no Americans would fight this war except from the air.

The administration is asking Turkish troops to fight ISIS alongside Kurds, their traditional foes, but is unwilling to commit our troops to stand with them? We have the best-trained, most experienced fighters in the world, but we won't allow them to battle a brutal army that not only is capturing wide swaths of territory in Iraq and Syria, but also has announced its aims to bring jihad to American soil?

What Obama has shown is a willingness to draw red lines and then allow them to be crossed, as he did in Syria. He's shown himself quite adept at squandering the blood and treasure spent in Iraq by withdrawing American troops precipitously, which virtually guaranteed the collapse of the country we are now witnessing.

The president's fecklessness on this has come under increased scrutiny in recent days with the publication of a memoir by former Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, who lays bare Obama's false claim that he withdrew troops because Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki wouldn't agree to let them stay. The president chose to pull out all of our troops at once rather than personally pushing for a status of forces agreement that would have kept Iraq from coming apart at the seams.

Obama has put together a shaky coalition to fight ISIS, but without American leadership -- which means our willingness to use all of the resources at our disposal -- how can we possibly hope that others will do the job we are unwilling to do?

No one, at this point, is suggesting that the United States send in battalions of fighters, but it makes no sense that we tie the military's hands behind their backs by limiting ourselves to airstrikes without the proper U.S. intelligence on the ground to make them effective. Of course, there is always the danger that once we put Special Forces and military advisers on the ground, we'll end up needing to deploy more troops. But wars cannot be won by announcing to our enemies what we cannot or will not do -- or the day on which we will withdraw, regardless of the conditions on the ground, which is what Obama has done in Afghanistan.

When asked by Bill O'Reilly this week in his much discussed interview whether our enemies fear us, Panetta said, "I think they're getting a mixed message as to whether the United States will stand by its word."

It is not only our enemies who are getting mixed messages -- which is dangerous enough. It is also our allies. Under this president, America's word is becoming worth less and less. It is easy enough to point fingers at those who should take up the fight against Islamist extremism, not least those countries and governments that have helped foster it. But when the United States cannot be counted on to fully engage the struggle, no one else will fill the vacuum.

English for the Children, Again

In 1998, Californians passed by a 61-to-39 percent margin Proposition 227, Ron Unz’s “English for the Children” ballot initiative. This effectively replaced “bilingual education” with structured English-immersion programs, since the former — while popular with the multicultural Left — does not succeed nearly as well as the latter in accomplishing the single most important job of public schools in immigrant-rich schools, namely teaching non-English-speakers how to speak English.

Unfortunately, and despite the great success of Proposition 227 in California, Governor Jerry Brown now has before him a bill that would put a repeal measure back on the ballot. In this op-ed last week in the San Francisco Chronicle, education expert — and Center for Equal Opportunity board member — Rosalie P. Porter explains why the governor should veto it.

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Read carefully the two sentences below from this news story:

A survey conducted by MTV asked 3,000 Millennials ages 14 to 24 their thoughts on race-related issues, including affirmative action for college acceptance, in May. And what it found was seemingly paradoxical: 90 percent of Millennials surveyed “believe that everyone should be treated the same regardless of race,” yet 88 percent opposed affirmative action.

Uh, what’s “paradoxical” about the overwhelming majority of people being opposed to affirmative action and also believing that everyone should be treated the same regardless of race?

The article is otherwise pretty good.

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Here’s an interesting panel discussion on “What’s Next for Affirmative Action?” put on by the New York Times and moderated by its Supreme Court correspondent, Adam Liptak. The panelists are Columbia University president Lee Bollinger, Georgetown University law school professor Sheryll Cashin, and Richard Kahlenberg of the Century Foundation. Cashin and Kahlenberg want to end racial preferences in university admissions; Bollinger, a longtime advocate of them, of course does not.
What’s most interesting is that Bollinger makes it quite clear that the principal reason he favors racial preferences is because of America’s history of racial discrimination — notwithstanding the fact that this justification has been rejected by the Supreme Court and has not been available as a legal matter for decades. (See, for example, what he says at around 13:30–15:30, 23:30, and 32:00.)

Interesting that he admits it, though not surprising that he thinks it: For a long time, it has been clear that this — and not the phony-baloney “diversity” rationale — is what really motivates schools. And how “compelling” can the diversity rationale be to the courts if it’s not the real reason for these policies?

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Peter Thiel’s new book is getting some buzz, so I thought I’d post a link to an excellent earlier piece he co-wrote, calling for an end to racial preferences in admission to Stanford.

And speaking of new books, here’s a link to the teleforum/podcast I moderated last week that discusses Professor Sheryll Cashin’s now book Place Not Race.  Professor Cashin is very much a woman of the Left, but she has concluded that the time has come to get rid of racial preferences in university admissions.

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Here are two other items of interest to Center for Equal Opportunity supporters. 

First, I was quoted last week in this article about the proposed End Racial Profiling Act.  As I explained at greater length in my testimony before the Senate against this bill a couple of years ago, I’m opposed to (true) racial profiling in the traditional law-enforcement context (I explain why I might make an exception for terrorism), but this bill is a bad way to approach the issue.

Second, last week CEO sent out several emails to various “minority job fairs,” pointing out the legal and policy problems with such racially exclusive events.  For example, we flagged for them “Appendix D” of this testimony I delivered a few years ago to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.  Similar efforts by CEO in the past have resulted in opportunities being opened up so that they are available to all without regard to race or ethnicity.

A Hidden Threat

It's easy to ignore, rarely making headlines or causing the average American lost sleep, but North Korea deserves our attention. This week, the U.S.-Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins University released a report showing satellite images of construction of what appears to be an intercontinental ballistic missile launch site. The facility was previously used to launch an orbiting space satellite, but images now show heavy construction at the site, which analysts believe are consistent with plans to launch an ICBM now in development.

The progress on North Korea's nuclear program is remarkable given the general state of deprivation in the nation. A famine devastated the country in the mid-1990s, and it never fully recovered. North Korea's 25 million people must still rely heavily on foreign assistance for basic food staples, mostly from China. One 2011 study of North Korea's energy consumption shows that the entire country consumes less energy than Washington, D.C., a point made famous by nighttime satellite photos that depict a black hole on the northern end of the Korean peninsula, while the prosperous south shines brightly.

Nonetheless, the government has marshaled the resources to build bombs. North Korea tested its first nuclear weapon in 2006, with subsequent tests in 2009 and 2013. And it has been hard at work developing delivery systems for its nuclear weapons. The same study that reveals work on a fixed launch site also describes continued work to enhance North Korea's mobile launching system, the KN-08, which operates from trucks. Although the study acknowledges that no one knows how successful North Korea will be in developing its systems, we shouldn't be complacent. North Korea is a threat to South Korea -- and to the nearly 30,000 American troops still stationed there -- but it is also a threat to the region and well beyond.

Last year, North Korea signed a cooperation pact with Iran, which Iran's Supreme Ayatollah Khamenei described as necessary because the "Islamic Republic of Iran and North Korea have common enemies since the arrogant powers can't bear independent governments." If launching nuclear-armed ICBMs at the United States may not yet be feasible, imagine a nuclear-armed Iran and North Korea challenging those "common enemies" by putting nuclear materials in the hands of terrorists. North Korea signed a similar pact with Syria in 2002, and the Assad regime developed a reactor that was nearly operational before the Israelis bombed it in 2007. And North Korea is currently the major supplier of missile components to Iran, whose own nuclear program proceeds apace while the Obama administration foolishly pursues an agreement with Tehran that is unlikely to stop it.

So what can the United States do about North Korea? It's a tough one. We have no direct influence, and the country's dynastic communist rulers have shown themselves remarkably good at keeping the nation the most isolated in the world. But while we don't have influence, China certainly does, as does Russia to a more limited extent.

Economic sanctions have had little impact on North Korea because China continues to come to the rescue. Prior to the collapse of the Soviet Union, the USSR propped up its communist ally by supplying most of the country's energy needs, but now China plays the major role, providing up to 90 percent of the country's energy imports. China also gives enormous food aid, though much of the food is funneled to the military. Food scarcity continues to be a major problem in North Korea. Malnutrition haunts the nation outside Pyongyang, a closed area where only members of the country's elite are allowed to live or even visit. Children are smaller than those throughout the rest of Asia, with the military having to lower its height requirements because North Koreans' growth has been stunted since the 1990s.

Meanwhile, North Korea's current leader, Kim Jong-un, continues the totalitarian path led by his grandfather, Kim Il-sung, and father, Kim Jong-il. Kim has recently disappeared from public sight -- a sometimes-ominous sign. His short tenure has been marked by internal power struggles and outward bombast. Kim ordered the execution of his chief rival, his uncle Jang Song-thaek, along with all of his uncle's family, according to some reports. But whoever heads the government, North Korea should remain on our radar as an imminent threat to peace and security.

Quit Defending Abuse

Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson's arrest on child abuse charges has sparked a huge debate about corporal punishment, one that exposes deep cultural rifts. I have to admit I've been surprised -- no, shocked -- at those who've jumped to the 217-pound football player's defense.

Fox News Channel host Sean Hannity said on his show this week, "I don't want to see this guy get a felony. I don't want to see this guy lose his job. ... He deserves parenting classes." Hannity followed up his defense by taking off his belt and slapping the desk to show how he was beaten as a child, and also described being punched in the face by his dad. "I deserved it," he said.

CNN's Don Lemon weighed in, as well. While not condoning what Peterson did, Lemon said, "I have to say that when I was a kid, I would have to go and get the switch off the tree. And if I brought back a switch that wasn't big enough, then my grandmother or my dad or my mom would go get a bigger one."

The pictures of Peterson's 4-year-old son, taken several days after the incident and available online, show blood-encrusted whipping marks on his thighs, both outer and inner. The indictment also describes similar marks on the boy's back, buttocks, ankles and scrotum, and Peterson admits stuffing leaves into the boy's mouth to stifle his screams.

This wasn't discipline. It was a beating by an angry thug who felt entitled to engage in it because the child is his biological offspring. (The man has multiple children -- he won't say how many -- by multiple women, one of whom was beaten to death at age 2 by another man.) One of Peterson's other children, also 4 at the time, bears a visible scar on his forehead from a "whooping" Peterson administered while the child was confined in a car seat. In that case, officials declined to prosecute the player.

Hannity's and Lemon's stories apparently resonate with large numbers of people. Whole swaths of Americans believe it is perfectly permissible to hit a child -- even to use an instrument like a belt, stick, paddle or anything else handy -- if the child misbehaves. According to the University of Chicago's General Social Survey (GSS), the overwhelming majority of Americans (about 70 percent in the last survey) believe that "it is sometimes necessary to discipline a child with a good, hard spanking."

But when does a spanking become a beating? Both Hannity and Lemon described beatings, not spankings. And while both men claim that the punishment did them "good," the empirical research on corporal punishment is clear and virtually unanimous: It isn't effective in discouraging future bad behavior, is likely to increase the child's own aggressiveness, and produces children who grow into adults with increased violent tendencies and other mental health problems.

Many born-again Christians, who are more likely to defend corporal punishment according to the GSS, point to the Biblical injunctions to justify physical punishment of children found almost exclusively in the Old Testament, especially Proverbs. The New Testament, however, is mostly silent on the issue. In place of admonishment to use the "rod of correction," there are stories of forgiveness, as in the parable of the prodigal son.

According to the GSS, blacks are more likely than whites, Hispanics or Asians to favor corporal punishment. Southerners are more likely than those from the Midwest, West or Northeast to think it's OK to spank, and Republicans are more likely than Democrats to agree.

I'm not going to say it's never permissible to spank a child (though I never received a spanking or spanked my children) -- but the rules should be clear. Disciplining a child should never include hitting bare flesh. Nor should it ever involve using anything other than an open hand -- certainly no fists, belts, cords, switches, paddles, wood spoons or any other instruments. And there should be some reasonable limits on the number of swats a parent can administer and to how young a child.

Children are vulnerable and need protection -- and, unfortunately, that sometimes includes protection from their own parents. Too bad those who have been abused now see the need to defend the abusers.

Nonexistent “Resegregation,” Phony Polls, and More

This month the Congressional Quarterly Researcher published this short piece I wrote for them on the (purported) “resegregation” of public schools in the United States:

No child today attends a segregated public school.  Not one.  “Segregation” means telling children they cannot attend the same school as children of a different color.  It does not mean a failure to have socially engineered racial balance.

It is true that there are educational disparities across racial lines, but racial imbalances in classrooms have little if anything to do with this.   Black children do not need a certain number of white children in a classroom in order to learn.

The real reasons that racial disparities exist are ignored by those who complain about “resegregation.”

When you think about it, a child’s environment has three major components — parents, schools, and peers — and in all three respects African American children face more hurdles.  They are more likely to grow up in single-parent homes, go to substandard schools, and have peers who are, to put it mildly, unsupportive of academic achievement.

But the Left is slow to acknowledge that out-of-wedlock births are a bad thing or that anti-“acting white” peer pressure exists.  They will admit that substandard schools are a problem, but resist (partly because of recalcitrant teacher unions) the most promising reforms:  competition among schools, merit pay for teachers, and more choice for parents and children.

The only way to bring schools into the politically correct racial-balance that the Left wants is not by ignoring students' skin color, but by using it to sort, assign, and bus them.  This is flatly inconsistent with Brown v. Board of Education, which prohibited race-based student assignments.

In addition, there is no increase in racial imbalance in schools.  In No Excuses: Closing the Racial Gap in Learning, Stephan and Abigail Thernstrom [she’s on the Center for Equal Opportunity’s board of directors, by the way] conclude that "minority students are not becoming more racially isolated; white students typically attend schools that are much more racially and ethnically diverse than 30 years ago, and the modest decline in the exposure of black and Hispanic children to whites is solely due to the declining share of white children in the school age population.”  And race is no proxy for disadvantage.

Nor is there any validity in the Left’s premise that more racial-balance means better education.  To quote the Thernstroms again: “The most sophisticated research on the subject does not find that having white classmates notably improves the academic achievement of blacks and Hispanics.”

So forget racial bean-counting and focus on improving our schools.

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For the first time in its history, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission today has filed lawsuits that claim discrimination on the basis of transgender status violates Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which prohibits employment discrimination on the basis of “sex,” among other things. The press releases are here and here.

I don’t think that this is sex discrimination within the meaning of Title VII; certainly the folks who passed Title VII in 1964 would have been surprised at this interpretation. ”Sex,” they would have said, means being male or female; it doesn’t mean changing from one to the other. But it will be interesting to see how the courts handle this issue.

And, in another report from our brave new world of progressive sex, the German Ethics Council has recommended abolishing laws against incest. 

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“An agenda-driven poll on affirmative action?”  That’s the headline the Los Angeles Times gave  my response to a recent op-ed it had published:

The premise of Karthick Ramakrishnan's Op-Ed article hinges on the positive response he received to one survey question: "Do you favor or oppose affirmative action programs designed to help blacks, women and other minorities get better jobs and education?" ("California needs to look again at Asian stance on affirmative action," Op-Ed, Sept. 25)

Now, was this objective or simply an attempt to get the result the professor wanted? A more objective question would be: "Do you believe there should be discrimination or preference on the basis of race, ethnicity or sex in deciding who is admitted to public universities, awarded public contracts and hired for state and local employment?"

That question would more fairly mirror the language in Proposition 209 that was at issue here. And, based on many other surveys, it would not have been likely to lead to the positive response that Ramakrishnan wanted.

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But let’s end on a somewhat lighter note.  By way of background, the Washington Post’s weekly “Style Invitational” is a contest in which readers compete to submit the funniest entry.  This week the winners were announced for the funniest (made up) course description from a college catalogue.  First-place was awarded to:  “PSYC 207: Welcome to Your College Nightmare. Participants will not be notified of their enrollment in this class until the morning of the final exam. Note: Class location is subject to weekly change without notice; each student will attend at least one class session in the nude.”

Very good, but what I wanted to note is the entry that won second place:  “SOC 101: Overcoming Prejudice. In this course, you will learn to identify and overcome the various prejudices — racism, sexism, classism, etc. — that all people like you have.”

Of course, the really funny (and sad) thing is that, while it might be described slightly (but only slightly) differently, my sense is that this is not at all an uncommon, let alone a fictional, offering.

Kudos to the Post, by the way, for its willingness to make a politically incorrect award, even if it was rather clueless in its apparent failure to see that too many academics and students won’t get the joke.

Disparate Impact, Affirmative Action, and Other Nonsense

Last Tuesday, September 9, at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington, D.C., there was a multipanel event on “Civil Rights in the United States” sponsored jointly by the Federalist Society, the Heritage Foundation, and the Cato Institute.  Needless to say, these issues are always of interest and have particular salience these days in light of the ongoing drama in Ferguson. 

I was the opening speaker on the opening panel, which discussed “Disparate Impact and the Rule of Law: Does Disparate Impact Liability Make Everything Illegal?”  You can listen to the panel discussion here (my opening remarks start at the 5:30 mark and last until 22:00, but you might want to listen a bit longer to hear the very nice compliment I received from the next panelist, Peter Kirsanow, at about 22:25; there’s also a lively question-and-answer period that starts at the 55:50, the most lively part beginning around 1:03:50).

I explained what the “disparate impact” approach to civil-rights enforcement was and why it makes no sense.  To quote from a Wall Street Journal op-ed I wrote:

Landlords, businesses, local governments and others can be held liable for policies that have disproportionate racial effects — even if those policies make no racial distinctions, are adopted with no discriminatory intent, and are applied in nondiscriminatory ways.

Yet if the numbers come out wrong, then none of the rest matters, unless a defendant can prove to the satisfaction of a judge or jury that there is some high degree of "necessity" for the policy or practice in question. Even then, defendants can lose if a judge or jury is persuaded that some other procedure would have been as good and wouldn't have resulted in those numbers.

The disparate-impact standard for antidiscrimination law pushes people to do one or both of two things: Get rid of legitimate selection criteria, or use a racial double standard to ensure that the numbers come out right.

Unfortunately, as I also discussed, the approach is being used aggressively today by the Obama administration in a wide range of contexts — to challenge, for example, employers’ use of criminal-background checks, school discipline policies, and voter ID requirements among other things.

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Speaking of voter ID:  Last week I read this news account, suggesting that the challenge to invalidate Wisconsin’s voter-ID law prior to the upcoming election appeared to have gotten a cold reception before a federal courts of appeals panel hearing the case.  I immediately noted on National Review Online this promising development, and that the proper framework for determining whether such laws violate Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act is the subject of this paper that I had coauthored.  Later in the day, the court indeed ruled that the election could go forward.

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In that Wall Street Journal op-ed mentioned above, I also noted:

If a business, agency or school has standards for hiring, promoting, admissions or offering a mortgage that aren't being met by individuals in some racial and ethnic groups, there are three things that can be done. First, the standards can be relaxed for those groups. That is what racial preferences do. Second, the government can attack the standards themselves. That is what the disparate-impact approach to enforcement does. Third, one can examine why a disproportionate number of individuals in some groups aren't meeting the standards — such as failing public schools or being born out of wedlock — and do something about it. This option holds little interest on the political left.

And that mention of racial preferences is a good lead-in to this last item, involving a news story in the Washington Times about a speech given by Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor.  The story was headlined “Sotomayor voices support for affirmative action,” and read in part:

She said [different opportunities] may start with many people of color being born in economically challenged circumstances, going to school in districts that lag behind, or even where people go to camp.

"So many of my lawyer friends, the people that they have as clients are people they met at summer camps. Many minorities never have the opportunity for that experience," said Sotomayor, the first Hispanic on the Supreme Court.

The justice — only the third woman on the nation's highest court — wrote the dissent in April in a 6-2 decision that upheld a state's right to outlaw the use of race in determining college admissions. She told the audience that when she was a senior in high school, a friend who went to Princeton University called her and urged her to come to the school.

"'You have to go to an Ivy League school,'" Sotomayor recounted him telling her. "And what I said to him was, ‘What's an Ivy League school?'"

She did apply, got in and was a good student, the justice said, "but I wouldn't even have known to apply because I came from a world where that wasn't the expectation."

"And that's true of a lot of kids in a lot of communities," the justice said. "I certainly wouldn't be where I am today."

Here’s my question for Justice Sotomayor:  Does she think that there are no white or Asian students who were “born in economically challenged circumstances” or never went to “summer camps” or whatever?  And does she think that there are no African American or Latino students who were not born in economically challenged circumstances and who did go to summer camps?

The point is that there is no reason — none — to use skin color and national origin as a proxy for disadvantage in America in 2014.  University admissions decisions should be made without regard to race or ethnicity.