Saturday, November 5, 2011

If you're cynical about education and government...

If you're cynical about education and government, then Arnold Kling's latest blog post over at Econlog may be of interest to you. Reading the first part of it, I consider myself fortunate that I concentrated in Economics and Mathematics at Georgetown. Quite frankly, the world does not need to hire someone whose academic work consisted mainly of essays on Beowolf and other English literature.

However, the part where I have to wonder how idiotic our discrimination laws are came at the end:

The NCRC (National Career Readiness Certificate) may face an even more serious threat than employer indifference: on September 1 the Obama administration filed a racial-discrimination complaint against Leprino Foods Co., which makes mozzarella cheese, over its use of WorkKeys assessments to screen job applicants at its plant near Fresno, Calif. According to the complaint, only 49 percent of black, Hispanic, and  Asian applicants passed the tests, in contrast to 72 percent of white applicants (a Leprino spokesman declined to comment on the allegations). The federal action was perhaps inevitable. Decades ago many employers routinely tested applicants in basic math and English—but the tests began to disappear during the 1970s when courts made it clear that if the scores showed a "disparate impact" on blacks, Hispanics, and members of other minority groups, employers could be liable.

Think about it for a moment. An employer, seeking to hire the best employees, uses a test that is agnostic about race, but tests people on math and science skills. This is a merit based test, in other words. If a person does not pass, that person does not merit the job. That should be the end of the story.

Why should an employer dumb down a test and potentially get less qualified employees just to show that the test rejects an equal number of minorities and majorities? Considering how dismal state education is, these tests are a proof that the government is a terrible educator. And so, the government has to argue that racial discrimination is occurring, rather than look at the root cause, itself.

Thus, we come to a rather ordinary psychological bias at the end of the day, the ability to find blame in everyone else but yourself. Is it surprising that the government has this same bias? Or rather, faced with the evidence that various state and federal education initiatives are not truly working, in addition to the possibility that governments can not change cultural mores of certain groups that may de-emphasize the value of education, that the government can not acknowledge its fault and chooses to succumb to a rather ordinary bias while accusing an employer of racial bias?

I would say it is ironic, but if there is one rule about government and bureaucrats besides the notion that "power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely," it is that you can count on them doing the wrong, idiotic thing rather than understanding a common sense notion that an employer may just want to hire the most qualified individuals as part of maximizing his profits for his owners, which is what he is supposed to do.

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