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Afrolantica, Part 13: The Roots of the War on Meritocracy

"... these pen and paper tests actually measure past opportunity better than future potential."

by
Dave Swindle

Bio

March 30, 2012 - 6:00 am
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Part 1: A Guided Tour Through Derrick Bell’s Afrolantica Legacies

Part 2: A ‘Euphoria of Freedom’

Part 3: What Could it Mean to Be White?

Part 4: The Wages of Antisemitism

Part 5: Thomas Jefferson, A Symbol of American Racism

Part 6: Why Meritocracy Must Die

Part 7: Unemployment Creates Crack Dealers

Part 8: We Have a Right to Your Property

Part 9: The Birth of ‘Blackness’

Part 10: Apocalyptic Prophet of Racial War?

Part 11: The Brown-Skinned Joan of Arc

Part 12: Critical Race Theory’s Distortion of Trayvon Martin 

From Page 50 of Afrolantica Legacies, an alien prophetess confirms Derrick Bell’s belief that tests scores also play their part in the white supremacist conspiracy:

The source Bell cites to support Chiara’s claim that “these pen and paper tests actually measure past opportunity better than future potential”: Susan Strum and Lani Guinier, “The Future of Affirmative Action: Reclaiming the Innovative Ideal,” 84 California Law Review 953 (1996).

For a summary of Strum and Guinier’s views, consider a different article with a similar title published in 2000 in the Boston Review. The subtitle summarizes their objective:

Promoting diversity in education and employment requires us to rethink testing and “meritocracy.”

Related: See part 6 of the Afrolantica series for analysis of Bell’s attacks on meritocracy.

Here’s Srum and Guinier’s argument:

We think it is time to shift the terrain of debate. We need to situate the conversation about race, gender, and affirmative action in a wider account of democratic opportunity by refocusing attention from the contested periphery of the system of selection to its settled core. The present system measures merit through scores on paper-and-pencil tests. But this measure is fundamentally unfair. In the educational setting, it restricts opportunities for many poor and working-class Americans of all colors and genders who could otherwise obtain a better education. In the employment setting, it restricts access based on inadequate predictors of job performance. In short, it is neither fair nor functional in its distribution of opportunities for admission to higher education, entry-level hiring, and job promotion.

Question: if you need a high-risk, life-or-death operation would you choose the surgeon with the highest GPA or the one who made it in via affirmative action and just barely managed to graduate?

Here are some of the books on my to-read list in the coming months that relate to this subject:

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