Education bubble XII: Hiring policy, nothing to do with your merit

I was once interviewed for a job in Georgia.  It was a no brainer.  A small pentecostal college that had a academic dean with a master’s degree–paid probably 30k, and so the money wasn’t anything special.  I waited weeks afterward and only to find out that they gave the job to a guy studying at an American seminary who ABD–nobody bothered to inform me.  The academic game had surprised me.  In today’s analogy, I was Lebron–I studied at prestigious university, my PhD was all but in hand, and to top it off, I could speak three modern languages, and had proficiency in Greek, Hebrew and Coptic.  It was a no brainer.  But in the end, the other guy received the call, and I was still out of job.  How could this happen?  I did everything right and I was ready to step into a job, and they give the job to some guy still working on his PhD!  Well, in the end, I determined that merit often has little to do with who gets a job in academics.  Here are the real criteria:

(1) Ethos:  Who fits into the reigning ethos of the school?  A recent graduate from an expensive school is not likely to fit in well at a small school in Georgia that puts no priority on research or writing.  Such a person has to be used to deprivation and self-sacrifice and must be satisfied with the small wage the school has to offer.

(2) Politics:  a recent informal survey of social psychologists at an academic conference showed that their profession is dominated by those on the Left side of the political spectrum. Only an extremely minute number were self-identified conservatives.  This sort of difference can only happen when the admission policies to graduate programs and the hiring policies intentionally weed out those of conservative persuasion, since the conservatives in the American general population greatly out number liberals.

(3) Diversity (=Affirmative Action):  Michael, who reneged on his obligation to return to Africa, was one of 160 candidates for a job at a Christian University.  When I pointed out that the reason he received the job offer was that the school was implementing a policy of diversity, he was offended, but I was able to point out the page on their website that showed that they were trying very hard and had even offered a job to Botswanan the year before.  Adjuncts who had been working their butts off at one seminary I taught at were passed over as white males to hire full-time females; the next three biblical studies appointments were women.  This wasn’t about their relative merit as professors but about increasing the number of women in the faculty.

(4) Old boys’ school:  J. F. K.’s essay explaining why he wanted to go to Harvard was lamentably lame, but he happened to mention that his father was a Harvard man, and he would like very much to study there too. [BTW, old boys could now be a bunch of liberal woman for all I know--I don't belong to the club--in fact, I've never seen the inside of the club either].

Ok.  So lets consider this question from the standpoint of how good the education is, given that merit is not usually the reason why people get hired.  The Chronicle of Higher Education reviews a recent book by researchers of the products of university education in America:

Growing numbers of students are sent to college at increasingly higher costs, but for a large proportion of them the gains in critical thinking, complex reasoning, and written communication are either exceedingly small or empirically nonexistent. At least 45 percent of students in our sample did not demonstrate any statistically significant improvement in Collegiate Learning Assessment [CLA] performance during the first two years of college. [Further study has indicated that 36 percent of students did not show any significant improvement over four years.] While these students may have developed subject-specific skills that were not tested for by the CLA, in terms of general analytical competencies assessed, large numbers of U.S. college students can be accurately described as academically adrift. They might graduate, but they are failing to develop the higher-order cognitive skills that it is widely assumed college students should master. These findings are sobering and should be a cause for concern.

A cause for concern indeed!  You mean you can send  18-22 year-olds to school and they aren’t one wit smarter after four years of partying and learning about diversity and multiculturalism?  Wow! Who woodda thunk?

I have heard the dogma that if schools become indoctrinators instead of educators, strongholds of political correctness and diversity, that that makes them better places, richer and superior to the monolithic schools (read: professors are all white males) that prioritize academic achievement.  Yet after 30 or so years of this crap, we now have schools where large swaths of kids come out no smarter than they were before they entered.  So what does a BA mean today?  It means a huge debt without necessarily any usable or productive skills.  It means that a university education for something like a third of graduates is a waste of time and money.

Obama Narcissus

In an article at the Weekly Standard, “American Narcissus“, Jonathan V. Last has compiled a very comprehensive list of anecdotal evidence of Obama’s narcissism.  He even mentions the story of a beloved classmate of Obama at Harvard Law school that they had a Obamameter:

“One of our classmates once famously noted that you could judge just how pretentious someone’s remarks in class were by how high they ranked on the ‘Obamanometer,’ a term that lasted far longer than our time at law school. Obama didn’t just share in class—he pontificated. He knew better than everyone else in the room, including the teachers. ”

Obama’s career before becoming a senator suggests that affirmative action played a large role.  Last outlines how the University of Chicago wanted him as a faculty member because he was the editor of the Harvard Law Review and an African American.  With the effects of affirmative action policy in full bloom, Obama is the first affirmative action president, and has become an utter failure of incompetence.  This demonstrates why we must fully reject affirmative action and diversity hiring.

Hath not a half Korean eyes? Part V: Principled meritocracy (updated)

Prof. John Stackhouse sitting atop his endowed perch as Regent College’s Sangwoo Youtong Chee Professor of Theology, wrote:

You certainly make it clear when dialogue is a waste of time. Your rage and bitterness simply render conversation impossible. I’m frankly glad you’re not in the academy where you can influence people. I hope you’re good at making people money as the “righteous investor” you advertise yourself to be, but I think we’re done listening to you on this subject.

Well, now that I know that I am not welcome in North America to teach, once again, I asked Dr. Daniel Kambou if he would have me at the francophone graduate school that he is planning to found in Burkina Faso.  He accepted my services without first asking me to get professional counseling for my rage and bitterness.  Since Kambou lives next door, I think he knows me better than Stackhouse.

In any case, Stackhouse’s pronouncement will not result in a global ban of my teaching services.  I often think about how academics and economics can be harmed by reverting to rewards systems other than meritocracy.  I’ve expounded seriously upon the failure of affirmative action but here are some other reward systems that are available both here and in other countries:

(1) Nepotism:  Students told me in Africa that they could take an aptitude test for a foreign scholarship and do well, but the president will send his nephew in the place of the high performing student.  It should be noted that nepotism in a privately held business is usually not unethical–but it can still frustrate other employees.  But in public companies, churches, universities, and public service, nepotism is extremely dubious and usually unethical.

(2) Sleeping one’s way to the top:  When, e.g., a woman sleeps her way to better grades.  One manifestation of this is the exploitation by male professors of women, but it can sometimes be ruthless women who use their sexuality for advancement.

(3) Old boys’ club:  To get into Harvard, e.g., it is helpful to be a child of a graduate of Harvard university.  Or in business, if you have the right connections, you can get the jobs.

(4) Affirmative action: This seeks to redress perceived historical injustices by preferring certain aggrieved groups in the decision making.  The problem is that it most often leads to a quota system and to a watering down of quality.

(5) Tribalism:  All the best jobs go to a single tribe or coalition of tribes; this usually leads to jealousy and resentment and sometimes to war and genocide.

(6) Plagiarism:  If not punished when caught, plagiarism allows unqualified students and professionals (e.g., journalists) to move up the ranks.

(7) Quotas:  This leads to the limiting of the number of qualified people of an identifiable group from attaining admission in schools or from being hired for jobs.  It was widely used in the 20th century to limit the number of Jewish people accepted into certain universities and is likely being used today to limit the enrollment of Asians.  The idea is that if a group is only 5% or so of the population, it is necessary to limit their numbers to something proportionate to their percentage in the general population.   Affirmative action often becomes a quota system in practice.

(8) Blacklists:  An individual may be temporarily or permanently banned because of bad behavior, but not always:  it could be because of a personal vendetta or an attempt at censorship.  Blacklisting may be accomplished by attacking the character of the person, such as by saying without justification that they are angry and therefore not suitable for a job.  Blacklists are usually not published, and the blacklisting of a person could in some circumstances be illegal in Canada under the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA).  The fear of being blacklisted discourages whistle-blowers.

(9) Corruption and bribery:  The wealthy and powerful have the means of buying themselves and their friends jobs and offices and this will not depend on their actual ability to perform the function.  This may take the form of a quid pro quo.  For example, if you help the Chinese government by divulging state secrets while you are president, they will pay you a million dollars to give a speech or two once you are out of office.

All such systems clash with a principled meritocracy that rewards talent, ability, hard work and results.

To ameliorate past injustices, such as apartheid or segregation, or a lack of qualified leaders in a diverse group, it may be necessary to promote education among certain groups more than others.  So, for example, we started a scholarship program for evangelical francophone Africans to help promote theological seminaries in that region.   But then this isn’t necessarily inconsistent with meritocracy.  I have no problem saying that Dr Daniel Kambou is more qualified to teach in Burkina Faso than say, Prof. John Stackhouse–he was actually more qualified from day one with only a Master’s degree–this is by virtue of his ability in French and his intimate knowledge of African culture, he is much more qualified to teach in that region than the most prestigious of North American born and trained scholars.

But one of the major failures of affirmative action is that it has largely passed privilege from white men to white women.  That does very little to correct past injustices.  So imagine that you decided that you would correct the injustice of apartheid.  You would just simply give white women the jobs that are held by white men?  How does that help?  Didn’t the white women also benefit from apartheid, or was it only white men?  As an Asian man, I am unimpressed with affirmative action’s correction of past wrongs because it is still mostly white folks that have jobs, it’s just that more of them are women today.  And this gets to the heart of the unfairness.  If you are going to try to correct past wrongs using the above systems, you will likely create new wrongs.  Meritocracy is therefore superior to all the other reward systems listed above.

A Maid to Order Bible, by S. M. Hutchens

I found the following interesting review of Stackhouse’s book Finally Feminist:

Finally Feminist: A Pragmatic
Christian Understanding of Gender
by John G. Stackhouse, Jr.
Baker Academic, 2005
(138 pages, $14.99, paperback)

reviewed by S. M. Hutchens

To remain “biblical,” the Evangelical progressive, these days infallibly marked by his profession of being both orthodox and egalitarian, has never been able to deny outright the parts of the Bible he finds damning to his cause. In the early days of Evangelical feminism, attempts at persuasion tended to concentrate on reinterpretation of the patriarchalist seats of doctrine, especially in the writings of the unfortunate St. Paul, who was viewed as having a particularly difficult time saying what he meant.

With time and critical scrutiny, however, it appeared this project would collapse of its own weight for several reasons, first because the scholarly reinterpretations of sub-egalitarian passages, once the shell shuffling in the journals was done and the pea finally reappeared, still looked strained and unnatural, not to mention at odds with the way these passages had been understood from the Church’s beginnings.

Read the rest

Me again (PWD):

I want to call attention to one of Hutchen’s points that I find revealing.  He says that Stackhouse believes that Paul is right when he is right, and well, wrong when he is wrong.  That is an interesting stance for an evangelical to take.  How does that differ from a liberal view of Scripture?

Might one cautiously suggest that no one who treats St. Paul in this way can consider himself “orthodox” in any historically meaningful sense of the term, or that Paul’s authority is such that if someone cannot submit to sharing his “lenses,” he is not a Christian teacher? Obviously, however, it is not required of the incumbent of J. I. Packer’s old chair, or for the asseveration that one is an orthodox Evangelical.

The history of the Church as an institution of divine authority is of no real concern to scholars like Stackhouse, at least where gender matters are concerned—except as something to be brushed aside. The apparent insouciance with which the confessedly “orthodox” egalitarians cut themselves off at the theological root of church practice, confession, and authority—even that of the Reformation—is nothing short of breathtaking, the admonition here that we not succumb to the temptation of private interpretation of Scripture, surreal.

Does anyone want to lend me this book?  Professor Stackhouse, if you are reading this, do you want to send me a copy?  In light of your attack on me, I’d like to review it.  Perhaps it would explain your malicious reaction towards my views on affirmative action.

Hath not a half Korean eyes? Part IV: Conservatism is a mental illness

Prof. John Stackhouse sitting atop his endowed perch as Regent College’s Sangwoo Youtong Chee Professor of Theology, wrote:

You certainly make it clear when dialogue is a waste of time. Your rage and bitterness simply render conversation impossible. I’m frankly glad you’re not in the academy where you can influence people. I hope you’re good at making people money as the “righteous investor” you advertise yourself to be, but I think we’re done listening to you on this subject.

I have been reflecting on why Prof. Stackhouse became so defensive and irate with me for having spoken “blunt” opinions on his blog about affirmative action.  I said that affirmative action waters down the academy by giving less qualified candidates jobs, discriminates against white men and Asians, and shifts jobs from white males to white females.  When I mentioned my own experience of seeing myself and other adjuncts passed systematically in favor of female candidates, he said that in order to create social change some people have to suffer and even he himself has suffered.  Then I became cheeky and said, oh do tell about your suffering–it must be really hard for a full-time professor with a real job with benefits–that really sounds like suffering compared to Adjunct Hell.  That’s when he said that I was full of bitterness and rage.  But why would he do this, I ask myself, to a minority half Asian that I am.  Is it because he is a racist?

I found this blog post by church planter and pastor Wayne Park in which he reviews Soong-Chan Rah’s recent book The Next Evangelicalism.  According to Park, Rah’s book says that by numbers, brown Evangelicals are starting to dominate the scene:  Evangelical Asians, Hispanic and blacks, such as Haitians, are beginning to out number whites, while the whites continue to dominate the structures.  There Park refers to Rah’s contention that bi-cultural Christians are key to multi-ethinic ministry, citing Rah:

The cautious, sensitive biculturalism… is the perfect postmodern prescription for the heroic triumphalism of modernity. Furthermore the call to listen and to gauge others before speaking and acting provides a model for multiethnic ministry… cannot occur without the unique skills offered by bicultural Americans.

The author Rah himself visited the Park’s blog and mentions that when he has broken out of that quiet mold, he is interpreted as angry:

I do think our bi-cultural identity, our willingness to more reflective and to be third culture (as Dave Gibbons puts it) is a definitive plus. I think it will serve us well to accept the ways we live out our identity. What’s interesting to me, however, is that when Asian-Americans break out of that mode/mold, we are labeled as angry and confrontational. As one of my Korean-American colleagues put it, my passion is often mistaken for anger by the majority culture.

Because Park had participated in the dialogue with Stackhouse that led to my banishment, I commented on Park’s blog, hoping that Rah was still tuning in:

Wayne Park, Soong-Chan Rah:
I wonder how you interpret Prof. Stackhouse’s reaction to my admittedly cheeky comments on his blog, saying that it was a clear sign of my rage and bitterness? But you know I gave up being involved in theological education in North America 12 years ago, and am now a DIY investor. If there is no place for me in the evangelical theological education today except in Africa, where I have multiple contacts and many invitations that I could take up, it is because I am perceived as uppity and angry, because I am not willing to keep my mouth shut about the injustices that I see.

Isn’t this what you both are talking about: “What’s interesting to me, however, is that when Asian-Americans break out of that mode/mold, we are labeled as angry and confrontational.” When I complained against affirmative action that it has merely passed privilege in the academy from white males to white females (and I referred to ATS statistics to back up what I was saying) and that Asians have become the new Jews–i.e., subject to quotas, Stackhouse freaked out and blocked me from his blog, telling me in an e-mail that I needed counseling. Thanks for this post, Wayne. Because I’m only half Korean, I’ve always lived and worked among the dominant White culture (BTW, I’m 47, my grandparents came to Hawaii as children among the emigration of Koreans from 1902-1905). I am NEVER aware when I am being treated as just a normal everyday guy or when I am being perceived and treated as an Asian. I’ve always assumed that I’m just like everyone else; so when I’m mistreated (as Stackhouse clearly became ad hominem instead of sticking with the issues), I should just see myself as part of the mistreated white guy category. But maybe my perspective is completely wrong. Of course, I’m also conservative, so it could just be the liberal hegemony in education reacting to my conservatism: my conservatism leads me to promote meritocracy as opposed to affirmative action–as the best way to assure fairness. Asians are harmed by affirmative action and would be greatly benefited by a system of meritocracy, especially in admissions to universities.

I haven’t heard back from Park or Rah.  But I think that Stackhouse’s reaction to me is not racism but my final suggestion.  He saw me espousing pretty solid, mainline conservative views about affirmative action.  So he reacted as any good liberal and concluded that I was a lunatic.  He wrote to me in an e-mail:  “Honestly, I believe you need to get professional counseling to deal with this rage.”  Liberals in academia consider conservatism to be a mental illness.  So for example after googling “Conservatism is a mental illness” I found some surreal articles in which apparently serious academics had done studies which determined that conservatives are deranged.  In one such article, the writer concludes:

Whether it be an unfortunate evolutionary holdover or a mental disease transmitted by our parents—the science is apparently still up in the air—academic researchers have surely amassed enough evidence of psychopathology that conservatism can listed in the next edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. Reasonable people, such as the distinguished academic researchers cited here, will no doubt agree that until effective treatments can be developed, we should reconsider whether sufferers of conservatism, like other mental defectives, should be allowed freely to exercise the franchise.

Ok.  So I think that article was satirical but it actually cites a number of academic studies which conclude that conservatism is a pathology.  I don’t think these two articles are satire:

Conservatism As A Mental Disorder – And A Threat, by WaltKelly

Is Conservatism a Mental Illness? states:

Resentment has always appeared to be at the core of modern conservatism. Now it has grown into a visceral aggressive motivation. Greed and [sic] has always been a part of it too, but the current conservatism is rife with selfishness and total disregard for others.

That pretty much describes to a tee Prof. Stackhouse’s view me.  Thus, his insular, provincial world view will not allow him to see me as anything more than a resentful, angry, greedy conservative bent on destroying everything wonderful that he has ever devoted his life to, the liberal diversity project in a Christian setting.  It is sad really.  Because of it, he is blinded to being able to see that the issues that I raise are serious: (1) dropping academic standards; (2) the exploitation of white adjuncts in higher education; (3) discrimination of overachieving minorities (viz. Asians and Jews) and the favoring of targeted minorities and women; (4) young men and boys dropping out, resulting from the favoring of girls and women and feminized schools; (5) The quest for diversity in the West is leading to a robbery of resources from the global church (reproduce below)[update: I see that Prof. Stackhouse has now graciously acknowledge this point].  He’s sees me as motivated by rage, while I am merely holding to the principled and mainstream conservative values of meritocracy and free market.

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