A webinar:
I recently attended a conference via internet.  One of the people involved called it a “webonair;” I am willing to grant poetic license.

I was prepared, if occasion arose, to offer a question to the college president being featured.  Here’s what I had ready:

About a million women in the US will cry themselves to sleep tonight because they can’t have a baby.  Most of that is because you can’t have more than a tiny amount of diversity for more than a very few generations before killing fertility.  Evidence at nobabies.net.  Other hazards of diversity – Al Qaeda, Boko Haram, Isis and so forth – pale by comparison, but are real enough.  Of course Wesleyan promotes diversity; it is a great driver of social change.  But when building a nuclear reactor, safety is a legitimate concern.  What is you university doing to help us understand the up side and down side of diversity? 

I was neither surprised nor upset when I did not get a chance to submit it.  The college in question prides itself on “diversity.”  Indeed the executive was quite pleased with the progress being made to continue to diversfy the student body and faculty in terms of “race” and “ethnicity.” 

His strategy was find ‘em where you can, so far as possible keep the students from going excessively into debt and provide the best education possible.

His rationale was that diversity inherently leads to more questioning, less “group think” and thus a more supple education.  Also, since historically what he is doing has not been done all that much, it’s only fair.  In fact he pointed out the tests such as the SAT, a scholastic aptitude test that has been used for college entrance for many years, and other such tests would no longer be part of the admission requirement of this particular university; that it had only been introduced in order to level the playing field so that the less advantaged would have a chance, but recent experience had showed that the rich children were coached to take such tests and predictably did well on them.  If he had any thought that rich children are good at having competent and energetic parents he did not mention it.

Yet the numbers suggest that this might be so.  This year (I had learned previously) only sixteen applicants had been children or grandchildren of graduates of the university.  Every single one of them was admitted without any consideration of the family connection.  That contrasts with a less then 10% admission rate for all applicants.  Yes, the graduates have sharp children, but obviously not many of them. 

Diversity strikes.

The issue did come up that the Supreme Court appears to have ruled that “race” cannot be used as a criterion for admission to a school.  The executive was optimistic that this could be circumvented; there are other ways to select for “race” than actually saying it.

I wondered whether he remembered “de facto segregation.”  Back in those days the courts were not content to say, “You can’t segregate your school.”  That they did say, but it didn’t have much effect; schools had catchment areas that were not random cross sections of the population.  So then the word was freedom of choice by all.  That didn’t work either.  People in fact seem to have liked their own sort in defiance of efforts of the government to achieve a national society.  So they invented “bussing.”  Children would be forced to go by bus to schools in a way that would achieve “balance.”  You can imagine how that worked. 

I digress:  I have a good friend who was in the military.  The sergeants wanted to punish the men, but regulations were that they could no longer simply beat them.  So they arbitrarily split the men into two groups and told them to start picking up cigarette butts (ubiquitous in those wicked days) working from opposite sides of the fields.  As the two halves of the group approached each other they began to exchange taunts.  It became obvious that there was going to be a serious punch up when they met.  My friend busied himself passing the word, “Don’t do it.  This is how they want to punish us.  They want us to beat each other up.”  So you can imagine the inherent hostility that forced busing engendered.  Pretty much it trashed the best public education system the world had ever seen. 

So far as I know, forced busing is in decline and things are more amicable.  There is nothing forced about what the executive wants to do, but if the courts don’t like it, it’s hard to see how he can get away with it.

It’s quite touching, really.  One small university trying to reverse the social privilege of people who started out … I don’t know … correct me if I’m wrong.  I am told it started out as the three corner trade: rum to Africa, slaves to the West Indies, cane sugar to New England to be turned into rum.  The Boston Brahmins pretty much go back to maritime origins.  They used the money to build up industry, used the industry to defeat the South when they wanted independence and then built lots of railroads.  Henry David Thoreau makes it quite clear in Walden; when the train rolls, there are more people under it than on it.  America’s roadbeds are long narrow mass graves.

That’s why we don’t have high speed rail from, say, Los Angeles to Seattle.  Digging up the roadbeds to put in high speed rail would produce lots of skeletons and embarrass powerful people.   On the other hand China is going to build a line from something like Shanghai to Los Angeles.  It’s a great circle route that will link the two biggest economies the world has ever seen and open up Siberia, as global warming makes it more inviting, to become what may be the breadbasket of the world. 

What I mean to say is that the really powerful vested interests have a long track record, can be ruthless if it serves their turn, have proved competence at what they do and have enormous resources.  Against this the executive is going to unleash a couple hundred graduates a year with high ideals, a good education and essentially zilch resources.

As fate had it, that night I watched “South Park: Bigger, Longer, Uncut.”  It’s a vintage work that still pushes the envelope on noir humor.  At one point there is a war between the US and Canada.  The Black soldiers are told their part of the campaign is going to be called Operation Human Shield.  You can guess what that means.

Sometimes I start to get confused about which is real: the movie or my life.

There have been 66 visitors over the past month.

Home page