Posts tagged ‘Roland Fryer’

Followup on Income Inequality

Several people say that I have missed the point in my post here - that the issue is
with mobility, particularly in multiple generations.   They argue that
the rich of the next generation are likely to be the kids of the rich
of this generation, that success now depends on education and
connections that only the wealthiest can buy for their kids.   

A couple of thoughts on this.  First, the Times's own data (plus
many other studies) doesn't bear this out, particularly with new
immigrants.  Thomas Sowell addresses this in more depth here and here,
and suggests that the explanation may lie more in values and
aspirations than in purchased stuff.  Marginal Revolution, for example,
had this thoroughly depressing story featuring a study by Harvard economist Roland Fryer on the social pressures in many African-American and Hispanic neighborhoods to under-perform in school.

My other thought on this is that to the extent social mobility is
slowing in this country, our public education system is a major
culprit.  Forget for a moment about quality issues.  Schools have
increasingly emphasized self-esteem over achievement and competition.
Standards are lowered, and the value of exceeding standards or
improving performance is downplayed.  Without other influences,
students will walk out of public schools with a value system vis a vis
achievement and competition and performance that leaves them totally
unprepared for the real world.  I am reminded of one of Bill Gates' pieces of advice to graduates

Rule 8: Your school may have done away with winners and losers, but life HAS
NOT. In some schools they have abolished failing grades and they'll give you as
MANY TIMES as you want to get the right answer. This doesn't bear the slightest
resemblance to ANYTHING in real life.

Kids with parents who have achieved in some way in the world are likely
to overcome this by the example and exhortations of their parents.  But
what happens to kids without this example?  Or kids (lacking voucher
programs) who can't afford to escape the public school system cult of
mediocrity for high-achievement private schools or home schooling?

Ironically, the very people who bemoan income inequality and lack of
mobility are the very same people who have gutted the public education
system.  These are the people who deal with inequality by flattening
down the peaks, which is exactly what they have done in schools,
eliminating valedictorians and substituting social promotions.

Harvard Economist Roland Fryer

Many universities over the last several decades have created race and gender studies programs.  One of the problems with many of these programs has been the appalling quality of scholarship.  The recent broohaha around Ward Churchill at Colorado is but one example -- there are many others.  For example, look how Cal-State Long Beach chose the head of their Black Studies Department:

On September 17, 1971, Karenga was sentenced to one to ten years in prison on counts of felonious assault and false imprisonment. The charges stemmed from a May 9, 1970 incident in which Karenga and two others tortured two women who Karenga believed had tried to kill him by placing "crystals" in his food and water.

A year later the Los Angeles Times described the events: "Deborah Jones, who once was given the title of an African queen, said she and Gail Davis were whipped with an electrical cord and beaten with a karate baton after being ordered to remove their clothes. She testified that a hot soldering iron was placed in Miss Davis' mouth and placed against Miss Davis' face and that one of her own big toes was tightened in a vice. Karenga, head of US, also put detergent and running hoses in their mouths, she said."       

The shooting at UCLA caused Karenga to become deeply paranoid and spurred his bizarre behavior. At his trial, the question of Karenga's sanity arose. The psychiatrist's report stated, "This man now represents a picture which can be considered both paranoid and schizophrenic with hallucinations and elusions, inappropriate affect, disorganization, and impaired contact with the environment." The psychiatrist observed that Karenga talked to his blanket and imaginary persons and believed that he had been attacked by dive-bombers.

Eight years later California State University at Long Beach made Karenga the head of its Black Studies Department.

Or, check out the scholarly discussions around choosing the head of Black Studies at UCLA:

In 1965 Karenga founded the United Slaves Organization (US), a group that would rival the Black Panthers on the UCLA campus. The US was more radical than the Panthers, setting off quarrels between the two.

The biggest dispute between the US and the Panthers centered around the leadership of the new Afro-American Studies department at UCLA; both groups backed a different candidate. On January 17, 1969, 150 students gathered to discuss the situation. Panthers John Jerome Huggins and Alprentice Carter used the meeting to verbally attack Karenga, much to the dismay of his followers. Two US members, George and Larry Stiner, confronted Huggins and Carter in a hallway after the meeting and shot and killed them.

Universities all raced to create new race and gender-based studies departments, and tenured many  based on their strong opinions and the positive response they would get out of the relevant community, rather than normal academic guidelines.

Anyway, I have, as often happens, gotten away from the point of my post.   The NY Times has a good article on Roland Fryer, who appears to be the leading edge of a new generation set on bringing real scholarship and fact-based analysis to these programs.  (hat tip:  marginal revolution)  I don't necessarily agree with him, for example on paying cash for good grades in school, but I am happy to see his dedication to real analysis and challenging conventional wisdom.