From Real Engineering to Social Justice Engineering

From Real Engineering to Social Justice Engineering, by Robert Weissberg.

American higher education evolves slowly but, every so often it becomes convulsed, enters the crisis mode and hundreds of millions are spent on newly created projects. Since WW II at least two such crises some six decades apart have occurred, and it is hard to imagine two more unlike events.

The first was America’s response to the “backward” Soviet Union unexpectedly launching the world’s first orbiting satellite, Sputnik I on October 4th, 1957. …

The second upheaval is more recent, namely countless colleges and universities, including the most prestigious, spending tens of millions to promote diversity and inclusion which, in practice means recruiting and graduating more academically marginal minority

The sputnik crisis:

Panicky newspapers and magazines condemned America’s inability to match Russians brainpower. According to a Gallup Poll, 70 percent of Americans thought that American high-schoolers should work harder. Polls also reported a new-found infatuation with tough standards while the news media also relentlessly condemned the push for equality and making learning fun. …

Congress quickly overcame historic resistance to meddling in education and in 1958 enacted the National Defense Education Act (NDEA) that allocated money to states to identify the intellectually gifted and counsel them to study science and mathematics. …

The centerpiece of this reaction was a heightened focus on brainpower as a national resource, not the pastime of a few oddball geeks. Absolutely nobody worried that super-charged science programs would “not look like America” or ignored the talents hidden in America’s under-privileged. …

Nobody worried too much about Wernher von Braun’ s tainted Nazi past. A candidate who campaigned on the platform of saving America from the Commies by “investing” millions in students who could barely read would have been judged a dangerous pinko. Public discussions spoke of enlisting the “best minds,” “eminent men” or “best people” so as to restore the glories of American science. …

The “diversity crisis”:

The diversity mania is spreading faster than head lice at a daycare center. … Even the smallest financially troubled schools, including those with a sectarian mission, now find the money to fund a diversity bureaucracy. …

If diversification is the cure, what is the disease? No doubt, every single American, regardless of ideology at the end of the 1950s understood what atomic bombs did and how they could be delivered by an unstoppable ICBM. Now imagine a 2017 poll asking respondents to complete the following sentence: “We need diversity in education because….”

Past failures are indisputable and surely known to every campus apparatchik over the age of forty. Since the late 1960s universities have struggled and failed to hire academically qualified minority professors and there is no reason to suppose that spending a few million more to the budget will, at long last, hit pay dirt. …

Particularly bizarre is the pedagogical “philosophy” that assumes that the academic performance of struggling minority students can be boosted by focusing on the allegedly toxic traits of whites and the university’s traditional “too white” curriculum. Is there any scientific evidence that minority students with dismal SAT scores will master Organic Chemistry if white freshman are detoxified of racist stereotypes, trained to spot hostile microaggressions while their white or Asian instructors learn to suppress unconscious biases? …

I predict that diversity will arrive entirely in the form of Potemkin academic departments whose sole function is to provide ersatz diplomas and academic sinecures to those who cannot master the real thing. Ironically, a policy not all that different from long-standing programs targeting academically marginal athletes and the not too smart children of major donors. These diversity homelands will be administratively top-heavy departments where the giveaway is the designation “Studies.” Current examples include Black Studies, Political Studies, Women’s Studies, Disability Studies, Postcolonial Studies, Queer Studies and on and on.

When NASA was white guys because it was selected on merit, man got to the moon in 1969 using slide rule technology. NASA mandated diversity from about 1970, and nowadays doesn’t even have a rocket — it has to use Russian ones to get to the International Space Station. I can’t help feeling the parasites triumphed.