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Truths We Dare Not Speak

3) Affirmative Action

The concept was noble, but now antiquated and mostly absurd. It requires the logic of the Old Confederacy to determine racial purity among the intermarried citizenry. Jet-black Punjabis get no preferences. Light-skinned Mexican-Americans of the fourth-generation claim privilege. Poor whites from Tulare don’t rank. The children of black dentists do. I see very little logic here.

Asians? We both claim them as minorities, and yet we discriminate against them at the University of California admissions process on the basis of their own superior achievement. (Apparently, the deplorable record of discrimination against Asians is now deemed irrelevant due to the community’s own success. Ponder the ramifications of that for a bit: should Asians have been struggling at UC, they would be considered suffering from the legacy of oppression; since they are excelling, they need to be quietly discriminated against).

As far as I can tell, here is the logic of this Byzantine system: Affirmative action in the 21st century has no logical basis in skin color, actual discrimination, poverty, class, or need. It is predicated on two archaic thoughts: previously discriminated against American minorities shall be defined as only Hispanic, Blacks, and Asians, and thus their children shall receive privilege for decades. BUT that new discrimination will not apply if such minorities on their own have prospered and are successful. (Why that would be so in some cases is again a taboo question.)

So, Japanese-Americans, whose parents were put in camps, don’t quite qualify any more for compensation seemingly because they are successful and are thus "over-represented" in the racial spoils system. But Chilean immigrants do—if they can fraudulently piggy-back upon the Mexican-American experience by virtue of a shared language and last names.

If one is of mixed race, nomenclature trumps all. Bob Wilson, the son of a Mexican-American mother, is liable to get nothing, Roberto Martinez will get quite a lot, if the son of a Mexican-American (or any Spanish-speaking) father. A Barry Soetoro is of mere pedestrian mixed ancestry; Barack Obama is not merely black, but exotically so.

In short, the system is corrupt. In our society of intermarriage, immigration and mixed ancestry, we cannot any longer determine who is and who is not a certified “minority” (cf. the con of mostly white candidates claiming some sort of Native American ancestry).

Class and need are no longer connected with race. Hyphenation only creates cynicism and enhances a professional class of grievance mongers in journalism, politics, academia, and the arts (yet somehow we quietly and unofficially drop affirmative action dictates when it comes to 747 pilots, brain surgeons, or nuclear power plant engineers, but no one sues to disregard competency exams for air-traffic-controllers solely on the basis of undesirable racial results).

So what is left of affirmative action? Cynicism. Mostly it is an easy way for elite whites and Asians to feel good about themselves by helping the “other”—usually at someone else’s expense (cf. the lower-class white applicant from Tulare who is rejected with equal or superior qualifications, without the resources and preparations of the wealthy and connected.) It provides psychological alleviation of guilt, without the  need to be tutoring in the ghetto, sending your kids to a mostly Hispanic school, or living among the lower classes. In that sense, the construction of Barack Obama, the former Barry Soetoro, and his apotheosis by elite whites, is again an unintended paradigm of the times.

For those who find the above illiberal, I’m sorry, but after twenty-one years as a professor I have never quite seen any American institution so corrupt, unfair, and cynical as the practice of affirmative action.

4) The Ivy League is a Naked Emperor

By Ivy League I do not mean just Harvard, Princeton, and Yale, but the entire concept of high-priced elite schools like a Stanford, Duke, or Columbia as well. We know a BA from such institutions does not ipso facto any longer, as it once may well have, guarantee knowledge or competence. We know the race/class/gender craze has watered down the curriculum, and ensured therapy and empathy trump recall of facts and adherence to the inductive method. And we know that one’s first two years will  probably mean instruction largely by graduate students and lecturers.

Had we national exit requirements, I am convinced those leaving a Hillsdale College or St. Thomas Aquinas or St. John’s would do better than the average Yale BA.

A motivated undergraduate student, who picks the right professors and classes, can get as good an undergraduate education at San Jose State as at Stanford. Certainly, the four years are not worth $200,000 in room, board, and tuition— if education is the goal.

But wait! If, in contrast, networks, influence-accumulation, and contacts are the objectives to ensure a child remains, or enters into, the elite class, then the investment in such undergraduate schools is very much worth it—but should be considered analogous to a debutante ball, the social register, or the Grand Tour.

Does anyone believe that the present professional classes of Ivy-League certified technocrats in the administration understand the law, the economy, or the government any better, by virtue of their university educations, than a does a country trial lawyer, a military officer, a CEO, or any of the others who were educated elsewhere, or received training in the rather rougher arena of the real world?

I am fortunate for a wonderful graduate education in the PhD program at Stanford, but I learned more about the way the world works in two months of farming (which saved a wretch like me) than in four years of concentrated study.

In short, the world does not work on a nine-month schedule. It does not recognize concepts like tenure. It does not care for words without action. And brilliance is not measure by vocabulary or SAT scores. Wowing a dean, or repartee into a seminar, or clever put-downs of rivals in the faculty lounge don’t translate into running a railroad—or running the country. One Harry Truman, or Dwight Eisenhower is worth three Bill Clintons or Barack Obamas. If that sounds reductionist, simplistic, or anti-intellectual, it is not meant to—but so be it nonetheless.

5) The “Middle East” is a Fraud

Why do we beat ourselves up over Israel and the Palestinians? Why not occupied Cyprus? Or the Kuriles? Or South Ossetia? Or the divided city of Nicosia?  Is there a “Falklands Question”?

Why are not Germans blowing themselves up in Gdansk, the former East Prussia, the Alsace, or old Silesia to recover “lost” land?

Were there no Israeli-Arab wars before the “occupation” of 1967? Does anyone think that, should the West Bank simply take a 30-year break from the violence, emulate Western business and government, draw in Gulf capital, a few thousands acres here or there would then be still be relevant?

Are the far poorer people of Chad blowing themselves up? Is the world crying for those in the slums of Lima? Does want and famine drive those in rural China to capture the world’s attention by virtue of their terrorist acts? Do we send special envoys to occupied Tibet? Is there a Green Line there?

Sorry—take away three things, and the Mideast “crisis” is relegated to Cypriote status. If there were no oil in the Arab Middle East; if there were no Islamic terrorists; and if there was no endemic global anti-Semitism, we would be as likely to have a “Mideast czar” as we would an “Ossetian Czar.”