Campus Free Speech

Even Amy Wax is Protected by Academic Freedom

Academic freedom for me but not for thee is no way to run a university

|The Volokh Conspiracy |

Over at the American Association of University Professors' Academe Blog, I have a post on the latest brouhaha over Penn law professor Amy Wax and her views on immigration and the relative virtues of "First World" culture. There are those who say she should be fired or stripped of her teaching duties. There are those who say that she does not deserve the usual protections of academic freedom and that her speech rights should be curtailed. As usual, protections for free speech do not matter much when people are saying things that are pleasant and agreeable. Our tolerance is tested only when someone says something unpleasant and controversial. Read the whole thing here.  A taste below:

The Wax case is not a hard case. She should be fully protected from employer sanction based on the content of the views that she has expressed in her public writings and speeches. This principle is foundational to the modern protection of academic freedom, and there is no exception for faculty speech that makes students uncomfortable or contradicts a dean's opinion about the values of the institution. Wax is being criticized not merely for how she says things, but for the very substance of her ideas, ideas that are close to her scholarly endeavors. If her speech is not well inside the protected sphere of academic freedom, then academic freedom has little to offer those who might hold controversial views.

Of course, my views on the Wax case reflect the principles I elaborate and defend in my recent book, Speak Freely: Why Universities Must Defend Free Speech, which oddly enough is available for purchase here.

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  1. I agree that she shouldn’t suffer ill consequences, but I wouldn’t describe this as “academic freedom”. I’d reserve that label for things academics say or write pursuant to their research and/or teaching duties. To my mind, things academics say outside of their research/teaching area shouldn’t have the same level of protection.

    1. Talk us through the boundaries here.

      I can understand that an astrophysict expressing views on the pros and cons of abortion is speaking outside his research / teaching area. But you could make a connection between pretty much anything artsy or humanitiesy and anything political / moral. Sure some connections are going to be rather flimsy, but who’s to say what’s too flimsy ? And more to the point, how’s the Professor to know where the official too flimsy line is ? Besides which, the Prof may think the connection is not at all flimsy, even if you do.

      And even in the most super nerdy and STEMy zones, is a Professor who reports his view that based on his own experience there is (or isn’t) a vast sex difference in competence in his field inside the permitted zone or outside it ?

      Don’t see how your distinction could be policed.

      A simpler line to police is – unless you actually order a hit, say what you like.

      1. If you value the ability to speak publicly on controversial matters, citing your affiliation with your employer, negotiate with your employer in your employment contract to allow you to do so without reprisal. If you don’t speak out on controversial topics or do so anonymously without risk of attribution to your employer, leave that out of your employment contract.

        Then, if and when your employer seeks to terminate your contract for generating negative association for the employer, either bring out your contract that protects your ability to do that, or go pack up your things.

  2. Prof. Wax is entitled to speak her mind. Penn should not censor her. Conservative bigots have rights, too (and perhaps good prospects for a spot at a prominent right-wing blog?).

    The proper course with respect to her ugly, stale, Republican-conservative assertions would be to await her replacement by a better person in the natural course.

    1. You liberals are the biggest bigots of all.

      1. This line of argument is virtually never persuasive, whatever the source and target, but the chutzpah required for you to make it is simply breathtaking.

    2. Aww, Rev, you have values. +1.

    3. Prof. Wax is entitled to speak her mind. Penn should not censor her. Conservative bigots have rights, too (and perhaps good prospects for a spot at a prominent right-wing blog?).

      Yes.

  3. Correct, she should not be censored for her speech.

    The university can and should review her work to ensure her teaching methods are not biased, (e.g. do black students receive lower grades for generally equal work, etc.).

    1. If anything, black students receive higher grades for worse work.

      1. Troll: someone who deliberately pisses people off online to get a reaction

    2. At Penn Law School where Amy Wax teaches they have a blind grading system, under which the professor doesn’t find out until after grades have been submitted what grades individual students earned.

      1. That is a leaky system, in several ways.

        1. In what ways?

          1. There is typically a small class participation component to law school grades, though you are correct that the bulk of the grade is a blind-graded exam.

            Also, in smaller upper-level courses, especially ones in which grades are based on papers rather than exams, blind grading may not really be a thing.

            1. There is typically a small class participation component to law school grades, though you are correct that the bulk of the grade is a blind-graded exam.

              Having a class participation component along with a blind grading system would be utterly contradictory. I can’t fathom what justification there could be for it.

              The course in question in her case was a mandatory first year civil procedure course with 80 students in which she gave an objective exam. She was removed from teaching this course after she said on The Glenn Show that rarely do African-Americans score in the top of the class. (She finds this out after submitting the grades, to enable her to write recommendations for individual students.) Saying such a thing was no doubt impolitic. But let’s assume that what she said is in accord with the facts and that her reason for saying so has to do with the mismatch hypothesis, which is that students can be harmed if they are made to compete with other students who are at a significantly higher academic level. Are holders of this viewpoint automatically racist? Wouldn’t it be her purpose to benefit students, not to harm them?

              1. Amy Wax’s purpose is not, as you put it, “to benefit students.” She does not think black students belong at Penn to begin with. That’s her point.

                The school dean refuted her numbers, and she declined to engage the subject, which is not surprising. because much of what Wax says, if you haven’t noticed, is anecdotal, not evidentiary. E.g., immigrants litter, immigrants are noisy.

                Even if what she said was true, which it is not, consider that 3/4 of all Penn law students are not in the top 1/4, so why pick on one ethnic group. Why not get rid of the entire 3/4?

                1. Amy Wax’s purpose is not, as you put it, “to benefit students.” She does not think black students belong at Penn to begin with. That’s her point.

                  The most you can say without providing additional evidence is that she believes that students, black or otherwise, who are at a significantly lower academic level than the rest of the students, do not belong at Penn. Do you have any evidence that she believes that black students who are at the same level as the other students do not belong at Penn?

                  The school dean refuted her numbers, and she declined to engage the subject, which is not surprising.

                  Can you give me a link or a reference to this refutation or to Wax’s being unwilling to engage the subject? Here’s what Wax said: “Here’s a very inconvenient fact, Glenn: I don’t think I’ve ever seen a black student graduate in the top quarter of the class, and rarely, rarely, in the top half.” Are you counting a mere general denial by the dean as a refutation?

                  When Wax was asked if the University of Pennsylvania Law Review had a “racial diversity mandate,” she answered “yes.” In his memo to the school, the dean denied this point: “the Law Review does not have a diversity mandate,” he wrote. “Rather, its editors are selected based on a competitive process.” However, see this Chronicle of Higher Education article http://www.californialawreview.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/In-Serch-of-Diversity-on-Law-Reviews.pdf which says:

                  Some law reviews allow students to write a personal statement as part of their application that, without identifying them, gives the journal staff an idea of how the applicant might bring a different perspective to the publication.

                  “We value any diversity they bring to the table, whether it’s work experience, upbringing, race, whatever,” says Jenny Tran, managing editor of the University of Pennsylvania Law Review, which adopted a new policy aimed at increasing diversity that was applied to the students selected this summer. Applicants are required to submit personal statements of up to two pages.

                  Although the selection criteria vary from year to year, generally about 40 percent of the new editors at Penn are chosen based primarily on their grades, another 40 percent based primarily on their writing, and the remaining 20 percent based on a composite score that includes their personal statement.

                  because much of what Wax says, if you haven’t noticed, is anecdotal, not evidentiary. E.g., immigrants litter, immigrants are noisy.

                  There is plenty of documentation concerning the failure of some immigrant groups to assimilate in Europe, the resulting culture clashes, and the resentment of both the natives and the immigrants.

                  Even if what she said was true, which it is not, consider that 3/4 of all Penn law students are not in the top 1/4, so why pick on one ethnic group. Why not get rid of the entire 3/4?

                  There can be many reasons why law students do not reach the top of their class. Some are legacy admissions and are less prepared academically. Some had promising grades and scores but didn’t work as hard as they might. It is reasonable to look at all identifiable factors that appear to be correlated with a reduced success in law school and ask what effect that factor should have on admission. You can only exclude “the entire 3/4” to the extent you can identify factors before they are accepted.

                  If one ethnic group receives an admission preference that puts members of that group at a significant academic disadvantage, why is it picking on the ethnic group to disclose that fact? Look, there are arguments for and against affirmative action. Why shouldn’t all the facts be on the table in this discussion? Wax’s arguments against include (a) that racial preferences hinder the ability of their alleged beneficiaries to succeed academically, by catapulting them into schools for which they are significantly less prepared than their peers, and (b) that affirmative action devalues credentials that minorities could otherwise use to distinguish themselves; under a system of racial preferences it is not merely understandable but rational to suspect that minority applicants are less qualified than their paper credentials imply.

                  As Thomas Sowell put it in A Personal Odyssey: “One of the ironies that I experienced in my own career was that I received more automatic respect when I first began teaching in 1962, as an inexperienced young man with no Ph.D. and few publications, than later on in the 1970s, after accumulating a more substantial record. What happened in between was “affirmative action” hiring of minority faculty. … I happened to come along right after the worst of the old discrimination was no longer there to impede me and just before racial quotas made the achievements of blacks looks suspect. That kind of luck cannot be planned.”

              2. Having a class participation component along with a blind grading system would be utterly contradictory. I can’t fathom what justification there could be for it.

                Law school employs what it calls the Socratic method. That requires class participation. If students are unprepared, then the process breaks down. And if there are no potential consequences for being unprepared, then students will be unprepared. Therefore, professors need to be able to adjust grades to account for that.

                1. And if there are no potential consequences for being unprepared, then students will be unprepared.

                  That can be handled by forcing a student to drop a class in which he has been unprepared too many times.

    3. apedad wrote: “The university can and should review her work to ensure her teaching methods are not biased, (e.g. do black students receive lower grades for generally equal work, etc.).”

      Do you have /any/ reason to suppose that her grading would be biased, particularly in comparison with that of a liberal professor? If you have any /relevant/ information on this, please share it.

      Your prescription is one that would certainly chill the speech of anyone with non-preferred views.

  4. More than 1000 student groups, and individuals affiliated with the University of Pennsylvania, are demanding that Penn law professor Amy Wax be fired for a claim she allegedly made which they have labeled “racist,” harmful to minority students, and antagonistic.

    But it appears that neither the protestors at Penn nor Penn itself – which likewise condemned Wax’s remarks without even trying to refute them – have come forward with any evidence even suggesting that her argument is incorrect, much less any proof that it is so clearly false that it cannot even be discussed or debated.

    The students say that suggesting, as alleged, “that our country will be better off with more whites and fewer nonwhites” is “racist,” and “attacks” and “antagonizes” minority students.

    For this they argue she should relieved of all teaching duties (the virtual academic equivalent of firing).

    But this claim is one which should be subject to objective discussion and refutation in the spirit of academic freedom and open debate, not simply using labeling as a basis for punishment.

    In other words, labeling something as “racist,” even if it is in fact racist according to most commenters, doesn’t necessarily mean that it is incorrect.

    Indeed, as Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis famously wrote, in his Whitney v. California opinion, “If there be time to expose through discussion the falsehood and fallacies, to avert the evil by the processes of education, the remedy to be applied is more speech, not enforced silence.”

    Thus, before seeking to punish her, those seeking this drastic remedy should have to show not only that many or even most scholars disagree with the alleged conclusion, but that it is so far from the truth that it can and must be rejected out of hand with no debate or examination of any proof, and subject her to severe academic discipline based solely upon labeling it “racist.”

    Labeling is not a valid or meaningful argument.

    PUBLIC INTEREST LAW PROFESSOR JOHN BANZHAF

    1. Just to be clear, Amy Wax’s comments are not racist, in that we as a society that doesn’t want to import 3rd World dysfunction is forced to deal with the reality that the 3rd world is mostly non-white. Here are here comments that you’re taking way out of context:

      “Let us be candid: Europe and the First Word, to which the U.S. belongs, remains mostly white for now/ And the 3rd Word, although mixed, contains a lot of non-white people. Embracing cultural distance, cultural distance nationalism, means in effect, taking the position that our country will be better off with more whites and fewer non-whites. Well, that is the result anyway. So even if our immigration policy is grounded firmly in cultural concerns – doesn’t rely on race at all – and now matter how many times we repeat the mantra that “correlation is not causation” – these racial dimensions are enough to spook conservatives. As a result, today we have an immigration policy driven by fear.”

      1. Embracing cultural distance, cultural distance nationalism, means in effect, taking the position that our country will be better off with more whites and fewer non-whites. Well, that is the result anyway. So even if our immigration policy is grounded firmly in cultural concerns – doesn’t rely on race at all – and now matter how many times we repeat the mantra that “correlation is not causation” – these racial dimensions are enough to spook conservatives.

        So she is conceding that race “spooks conservatives.”

        As for “cultural distance,” I’m wondering what her yardstick is, and why that matters.

        Frankly, this paragraph sounds like someone trying to put an intellectual gloss on racism, not an uncommon practice on the right.

        we as a society that doesn’t want to import 3rd World dysfunction

        The immigrants we are discussing are trying to escape “third world dysfunction.” They probably know a lot more about it than you do, from personal experience.

        People are not defined by the political and economic structure of their country of origin.

        1. So she is conceding that race “spooks conservatives.”

          No, she’s conceding that conservatives (or at least conservative pols) have a hair trigger terror of being accused of racism, however dishonestly. Hence they will run screaming from a completely non-racial policy, which happens to have an incidental, unintentional disparate impact.

          As for “cultural distance,” I’m wondering what her yardstick is,

          American culture. Really – is this hard ?

          and why that matters.

          To assist assimilation. Again – is this hard ?

          Frankly, this paragraph sounds like someone trying to put an intellectual gloss on racism, not an uncommon practice on the right.

          Frankly this sounds like a sentence written by a man so obsessed by imaginary racism that he could find it in Newton’s Laws of Motion.

          1. Lee,

            It’s not imaginary. It’s blatant.

            The recent conference at which Wax spoke – one which welcomed Tucker Carlson as a “conservative intellectual” – was about building communities by excluding members of the community.

            Wax herself complained that immigrants were often “loud.” She forgot to mention “pushy.”

            1. If anything, benard, you’ve confirmed Professor Wax’s assertions! I hope she reads this, though I doubt she’d waste her time.

              I’m curious about he source of your quotes on Tucker Carlson. So what if they billed him as an intellectual (source pls). Anyway, are you aware that one can be an intellectual without an advanced degree? I’ve known a plumber that was more educated than virtually all my college professors.

              I’m also curious about the phrase you say, “building communities by excluding members of the community.” What do you think it means? People can indeed build a community by excluding members of the (wider) community. Pagans aren’t welcomed in a Catholic Church to sing praises to the goddess nature, nor would a MAGA hat wearing white male frat bro be welcome to give his opinions at a feminist poetry slam.

            2. Wax herself complained that immigrants were often “loud.” She forgot to mention “pushy.”

              Given a choice, I would prefer not to have neighbors who are too loud. I would also prefer not to have neighbors who think that trash strewn across the property is normal and acceptable. If given a choice, I would opt not to have such people as neighbors. You?

              1. I agree. I’ve had them. They were white.

                1. I agree. I’ve had them. They were white.

                  Showing that such characteristics are cultural, not racial. However this would not have prevented you from being charged with racism if they had not been white, especially in today’s climate, as Amy Wax has been.

        2. The immigrants we are discussing are trying to escape “third world dysfunction.” They probably know a lot more about it than you do, from personal experience.

          One part of the issue is what duty of rescue, if any, we owe to those inhabiting a third world dysfunctional system. We could assume that they would tend to bring with them dysfunctional and undesirable folkways and mores. Some people expect that through assimilation such dysfunction would be attenuated. Others, especially recently, reject the goal of assimilation as racist. It has been observed in Europe that a very large number of immigrants brought into a local area will not assimilate but will rather bring the old culture with them, which may conflict with and even dominate the native culture of that region. If the old culture has dysfunctional characteristics then it’s not difficult to understand the objections of those who have been living in that area.

    2. As far as I’m concerned, the only “conversation” we need to have about race is to discuss the stark IQ deficit among Africans and Amerindians. Anything else is a waste of time.

      1. Don’t you get it? You can’t have explicit conversations like that without turning off a whole boatload of people. That’s what Amy Wax is saying. It’s like talking about hot girl privilege or fat guy shaming. It exists below the surface but there are to many people, even conservative nationalists.

        The best you can do is say that you don’t want people with 3rd world values coming into America, and if there is overlap between non-whites and 3rd World status, you just have to acknowledge it and move on if you’re ever going to get anywhere in the policy space. There are to many successful black people in America (often beloved by millions of fans), citizens by birth and not immigrants, to discriminate explicitly by race on anything.

        1. I don’t really care, as I don’t expect anything to get better until we hit rock bottom. As long as differences in group outcomes are going to be used as evidence of “discrimination,” it’s important to point out the IQ deficit. The average black is only slightly above retarded. That explains their overrepresentation in all of the social ills.

          1. Yea yea, but you’re working against yourself, like sitting on the branch that you’re trimming off a tree, so you should care.

            1. Trolls don’t care about anything in the real world.

            2. People eventually come around to the truth.

              1. That would explain why America is becoming less bigoted, less rural, less religious, and less backward.

                1. What’s backward is the orifice that homosexual men choose to have sex in.

        2. Do you guys understand that The Bell Curve is bullshit?

          1. No, it’s alleged to be bullshit by folk who would desperately like it to be bullshit. Many of whom have never read a word of it.

            In fact, before it became fully Dutschked, the APA did a special report on Human Intelligence in response to the furore that the Bell Curve generated (having “concluded that much of the public debate was ill-informed, overly political, and not constructive”) – which did criticised neither The Bell Curve’s statistics nor its conclusions.

            No doubt we would know more now if other researchers had continued to plough this same furrow with vigor, in the 25 years since The Bell Curve was published, but strangely enough, it has become an unpopular field in which to do research.

            1. Lee,

              The Bell Curve is based entirely on secondary sources of dubious merit, some of them outright racist, others merely error-laden.

              1. It’s certainly based on secondary sources – it’s a book setting out and discussing the implications of pre-existing studies.

                However “dubious” the sources, the APA found nothing in it outside the acknowledged state of the art in psychometrics or the psychology of intelligence.

                As for “racism” – you do know that only one chapter of, IIRC, nineteen has any mention of race ? They deliberately relied on whites only statistics for the main body of the book, precisely so that they could review the evidence of the connection between IQ and life success without having to worry about race, or the possibility that readers would call into question the connection, by imagining that it was in some way associated with race.

              2. bernard11 wrote: “The Bell Curve is based entirely on secondary sources of dubious merit, some of them outright racist, others merely error-laden.”

                That is simply false. The Bell Curve has 109(!) pages of notes and 58 (!) pages of bibliography. Some sources you (or even I) might not approve of, but most were articles in eminent journals and books published by reputable presses.

                It /isn’t/ all secondary sources — though that would not be a problem in a grand review of the literature. Frankly I find it hard to believe you could actually have read the book and yet carry around such an awful misconception about it. TBC relies /heavily/ on statistical analysis the authors performed using data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth.

                This is what happens when a work is controversial and becomes demonized. People begin to believe all sorts of false things about it. Your partisanship keeps you from reading it and assessing it rationally.

            2. Nonetheless, Lee, there has been research, and no finding that there is a racial component, which is the clear implication of claims by RWH and others.

              1. there has been research, and no finding that there is a racial component

                Don’t know what you mean. The finding that there are differences in average IQ between different “racial” groups is not challenged by any serious scientist. The size of the gap between American blacks and whites has reduced a bit over the past thirty years – which is what you would expect if there is an environmental element to the cause (which precisely no one in the world doubts.) But a substantial difference persists and it is robust – ie there aren’t 14 studies going one way and 74 going the other. They all go the same way.

                The question is – as well as the universally acknowledged (but not clearly identified) environmental element in the cause for this difference, is there also a genetic element, and if so what is it ?

                It is true that there is no finding of a genetic element, in the sense of convincing proof, still less a traced path to specific genes or combinations. But equally there is no finding of an absence of a genetic element.

                I put “racial” in quotes, because I am aware of the notion that “race” is a social construct. Which it is, both in the semantic sense that the meaning of any word is a socal construct, and also in the sense that traditional “racial” appelations, derived from centuries old presumptions based on visual inspecton, map inaccurately to the underlying bioligical reality – ancient human population groups formed in circumstances of significant barriers to interbreeding (which barriers are now much less.)

                Modern DNA techniques reliably identify a human’s lineage, and make up from a mixture of these population groups, and if you do not appreciate that you are in for a horrible shock.

                This guy :

                https://www.nytimes.com/2018/03/23/opinion/sunday/genetics-race.html

                asks the sensible question :

                how should we prepare for the likelihood that in the coming years, genetic studies will show that many traits are influenced by genetic variations, and that these traits will differ on average across human populations? It will be impossible — indeed, anti-scientific, foolish and absurd — to deny those differences.

                I don’t know the answer to that. But I’m pretty confident that sticking your fingers in your ears and chanting “Nya Nya” is not going to cut it.

                1. I’m curious about he source of your quotes on Tucker Carlson. So what if they billed him as an intellectual (source pls).

                  Here.

                  We see this public conference as the kick off for a protracted effort to recover and reconsolidate the rich tradition of national conservative thought as an intellectually serious alternative to the excesses of purist libertarianism, and in stark opposition to political theories grounded in race.

                  Big thinker. Tucker Carlson.

                  I’m not going to list quotes from Carlson. They’re around. He mostly rants nonsense. Ilhan Omar is “probably the worst person to ever serve in the Congress.” That comes from ordinary news. Really?Worse than the slaveholders and southern segregationists?

                  Anyway, are you aware that one can be an intellectual without an advanced degree? I’ve known a plumber that was more educated than virtually all my college professors.

                  I am fully aware of that. But that doesn’t mean anyone without an advanced degree is an intellectual. Not even if they have a TV show.

          2. Do you guys understand that The Bell Curve is bullshit?

            To the extent that you are responding to trolls, please stop feeding them. Amy Wax’s argument does not involve The Bell Curve. She lists certain cultural characteristics and claims that a culture that values them is superior to another that doesn’t.

            “Get married before you have children and strive to stay married for their sake. Get the education you need for gainful employment, work hard, and avoid idleness. Go the extra mile for your employer or client. Be a patriot, ready to serve the country. Be neighborly, civic-minded, and charitable. Avoid coarse language in public. Be respectful of authority. Eschew substance abuse and crime.”

            But general intelligence of members of a culture is not one of the qualities listed. The Bell Curve would be relevant only if Amy Wax were asserting, as that book does, that if one group has a lower IQ than another the explanation is more likely biological than cultural.

            1. only if Amy Wax were asserting, as that book does, that if one group has a lower IQ than another the explanation is more likely biological than cultural.

              Except that it doesn’t assert that.

              1. Except that it doesn’t assert that.

                Herrnstein and Murray conclude that IQ is 60% heritable within whites, making it probable that the IQ difference between the races is partly genetic in origin. They argue that “it is beyond significant technical dispute that cognitive ability is substantially heritable.” They show a concern that the higher fertility of low-IQ groups implies a declining national IQ level, and maintain that “Different ethnic groups have substantially different distributions of cognitive ability that are not explainable by cultural bias and not easily altered by remedial steps,” both of which are logically consistent with the assumption that genetics is a major factor in interracial differences in IQ scores.

                I agree that the book does not state these things unequivocally as some suggest, and Herrnstein and Murray do say that they are “resolutely agnostic” about whether bad environment or genetic endowment is more responsible for the lower IQs of Blacks. However, this latter statement seems not entirely consonant with statements made elsewhere in the book and has the appearance of an inconsistent statement added to provide a shield.

                1. Herrnstein and Murray conclude that IQ is 60% heritable within whites, making it probable that the IQ difference between the races is partly genetic in origin.

                  I don’t think this follows.

            2. swood1000 wrote: “…as that book does, that if one group has a lower IQ than another the explanation is more likely biological than cultural.”

              Murray and Herrnstein take an agnostic stance on that question — the same stance as the 1996 American Psychological Association report on human intelligence, i.e., “At present, no one knows what causes this differential.”

    3. “In other words, labeling something as “racist,” even if it is in fact racist according to most commenters, doesn’t necessarily mean that it is incorrect.”

      Facts and data are not racist.

      People can be racist.

      You can’t take socio-economic data (e.g. comparitive GDP), and then make a decision about race – that’s racism.

      And if it’s found the teacher is making decisions/grading on students’ race (as I suggested above), then that is racist and actionable.

      1. Apedad said: “Facts and data are not racist.”
        “You can’t take socio-economic data (e.g. comparitive GDP), and then make a decision about race – that’s racism.”

        So, data is not racist, but the conclusions you make after looking at it, can be. Are you aware that you’re explicitly advocating, like the character O’Brian, a level of doublethink.

        1. “So, data is not racist, but the conclusions you make after looking at it, can be.”

          These are accurate, factual statements.

          1. You’ll note that I didn’t disagree with either assertion, just said that it requires double-think.

          2. All well and good. But the root of the problem is that Penn is making decisions based on race as to who gets into their law school. Wax is argument comes down to making decisions based on race leads to suboptimal results. Her critics are at least racist as she is, because they think race trumps individual merit regardless of the results.

      2. Facts and data are not racist

        Perhaps not, but facts and data are an infinite set. The facts and data you get round to mentioning are a choice. Which might be a racist choice.

    4. “In other words, labeling something as “racist,” even if it is in fact racist according to most commenters, doesn’t necessarily mean that it is incorrect.”

      Being correct doesn’t mean there’s no reason to discipline you.

      Maybe you work in a small shop. You (correctly) identify a shoplifter. But (egads) the shoplifter has lots of friends, and they choose to support the shoplifter, and stop patronizing the store, causing a drop in sales, and a resultant drop in revenue. When the owner decides to match the drop in revenue with a drop in cost by cutting staff, are they precluded from firing you because you were correct in identifying the shoplifter?

      Note that the same is true where “honestly mistaken” replaces “correct”.

      1. are they precluded from firing you because you were correct in identifying the shoplifter?

        No, but they should probably sue Oberlin for tens of millions of dollars instead.

        Whether they’re precluded from firing you depends on the details of your employment arrangement; if it’s an employment at will situation like most Americans are subject to, then they’re not. If you are protected by union membership or an employment contract — as Wax likely is — then they may be. I would certainly argue that it would be indecent to fire someone in that context.

        (Of course, your scenario doesn’t exactly match your question; laying someone off because of a drop in business would not normally be described as “disciplining” the person.)

  5. The concept of academic freedom as articulated by Sweeney v New Hampshire is the right of a university to determine who may teach and what may be taught, not a right of individual teachers.

    One of my difficulties with some Volokh Conspiracy posts is that they sometimes articulate theories with posts that flatly ignore caselaw that points in the opposite direction of what they are saying. The Conspiracy’s general favor of a concept of academic freedom that applies to teachers vis-a-vis their employers is an example. The post should at least mention Sweeney, acknowledge that it says the opposite of what is being argued, and explain why it is either superceded by existing caselaw, or why the applicable law is simply wrong and should be changed.

    1. Whittington in a Political Scientist and not a law professor. That he is aware of case law, in this instance, is to avoid in order to make a normative claim that “even” Amy Wax (as if she was a leper) deserves academic freedom.

    2. When people talk about academic freedom they are typically talking about the contractual rights a faculty member acquires upon being granted tenure (which are individual rights of teachers), along with what those rights should be, not basic first amendment rights applicable to untenured faculty and everybody else that were the subject of Sweezey v. New Hampshire. In fact, Sweezey (not Sweeney) dealt with an investigation conducted under the aegis of the state legislature at the University of New Hampshire whereas here there is no state action and we are dealing with a private university, so why would such caselaw be cited here?

      The rights under academic freedom are typically more extensive than those protected by the constitution. Amy Wax says that she is protected by her agreement with Penn, not that she is protected by the constitution, and that is why untenured faculty at Penn are not able to speak out on such subjects without putting their positions at risk.

      1. Given how few college instructors have tenure, or even the prospect of tenure, your argument seems hopelessly outdated.
        No, the argument is about what the mission, vision, and values of the university are.

        1. Given how few college instructors have tenure, or even the prospect of tenure, your argument seems hopelessly outdated.
          No, the argument is about what the mission, vision, and values of the university are.

          Not sure what your point is, or what you think my argument is. My reply to ReaderY was simply that the question of academic freedom is not controlled by Sweezey since (a) there is often no state action and (b) the rights protected under academic freedom typically go beyond those that would be protected by the constitution.

          This discussion has two parts: (a) the limits of academic freedom and (b) the mechanism of enforcement. What point are you making with respect to tenure? If all faculty are to be given academic freedom by contract with the university, that’s just tenure by a different name. Otherwise such protection can only be provided by statute or by constitution.

    3. Sweeney is irrelevant to the Wax-Penn controversy because the terms Wax was hired under allow her to say just about anything she wants under her terms of employment. Also note that Penn is not trying to fire her, university officials have condemned her speech while at the same time saying they have no grounds to discipline her.

      You should work on your reading comprehension before criticizing someone for saying something they didn’t say. Whittington is making a policy argument about academic freedom, not a legal argument about what discipline could possibly be permitted if Penn was not constrained by the terms of her employment contract.

  6. People have “called for” Amy Wax to be fired. BFD. People “called for” the firing of Ward Churchill and Leonard Jeffries and Betrand Russell, with differing results. (One was fired and stayed fired when an unrelated and previously unknown legitimate reason to fire him turned up in the course of his lawsuit; one stayed on; one was fired.) People will “call for” the firing of academics with unpopular views, of various sorts, again. The very existence of the idea of academic freedom assumes, rightly, that people will “call for” the axing of unpopular professors. When something actually happens, wake me up.

    1. I am a fire watcher in a national forest. I see sparks. Wake me up when there is an actual fire.

      1. You probably see campfires, too. Or you might be an economist who has called 12 of the last four recessions. We have a pretty good system for putting out actual fires. No need to get worked up yet.

  7. Academic freedom is a matter of contract. Some people have contracted for it, and some have chosen to forego including any academic freedom provisions in their contracts.

    1. Perhaps because it’s a pretty easy issue, but the main comments here are not just defending her right to speech, but are specifically in favor of her racial inferences.

      I’d like to say it’s the move to Reason, but many of the usual suspects from the Post and before have begun to espouse the same stuff. The Trumping of the GOP sure seems to made their rank and file more racially…adventurous.

      To get things back on track, is there speech that would be off limits in academia? Advocating violence? Advocating a coup? Denying the Holocaust?
      Because while I think the line should be drawn way out there, and that this speech is nowhere near it, I think it’s naive to say that there need be no line in our land of discourse.

      1. Do you seriously deny that the average black has an IQ 15 points below the average white? Denying that is akin to denying the Holocaust, or denying that the Earth is round.

        1. Do you seriously deny that the specific you has an IQ 15 points below the average box of hammers?

        2. The issue is the causes of the gap.

          The claim that it is somehow genetic, or otherwise unalterable, is nonsense.

          1. The claim that it is somehow genetic, or otherwise unalterable, is nonsense.

            What about the claim that “some of it may be genetic or otherwise unalterable ?”

            Or the claim that “it is not genetic or otherwise unalterable ?”

          2. bernard11 wrote: “The claim that it is somehow genetic, or otherwise unalterable, is nonsense”

            No. It is unproven. And as Lee Moore is hinting, genetic doesn’t mean unalterable, else everyone with phenylketonuria (PKU) is doomed to suffer severe mental deficits (they aren’t).

            1. Well I was going more on the unproven thing (which obviously incorporates “possibly incorrect”.)

              My reading of bernard’s remark was that he understood that “genetic” and “unalterable” are not coextensive. As you say there are genetic thigs that are alterable. There are also non genetic things that are unalterable.

        3. Um, Asians score higher than whites. Where would you like to go with that fact? Send whites back to Europe? Deny them a college education? Prohibit them from entering the work force at jobs that require thinking?

          As well, on IQ tests men score higher than women (though I’ve never quite understood why, because men are demonstrably more thick-headed), but we need women, so we’re not sending them anywhere. 🙂

      2. “To get things back on track, is there speech that would be off limits in academia?”

        Sure. Harming the interests of the employer is the sort of thing the employer wants to prohibit in the contractual terms. So, for example, Adrian Peterson in his prime was arguably the best professional running back playing football. But having child abuse charges pending was bad for the NFL, so they had grounds to suspend and then terminate his contract, even though his ability to do his job was undisputed and substantially unaffected.

        Then, staying with football, there’s the question of whether paying a person to play football has any bearing on what posture they must adopt for the playing of the national anthem. At first, the NFL had no opinion. But when enough of their customers developed an opinion to affect gate revenue, the NFL suddenly found that they had an opinion on the matter, after all. So they negotiated with the players’ union to put in new rules.

        1. Public universities fall under the First Amendment; it’s not some business judgment rule.

          1. The First Amendment turns out to have little application when you’re talking about faculty rather than students. The faculty have contracts, and you can waive rights by contract, and government-as-employer has different restrictions from the 1A than government-as-government.

            So… yeah, it’s some business judgment rule.

            And, you didn’t ask about “public universities”. You asked about “academia”, and I answered as such.

            1. Most private universities parallel public universities, but I take your point; I was being imprecise.

              You also raise a point I was not viewing, which is that while students get full speech rights (as do their invited speakers), faculty may not, depending on their contract. Tenure contracts are still pretty broad.

              But allow me to rephrase my question: not based on legal limits, but on the notion of academic freedom. Is there a line beyond which academic speech should be off limits? If so, what is that line?

              1. Just academic speech and discussion?

                There should be no line, so long as such speech isn’t illegal. Academic freedom is a cornerstone of our society. Classroom cirriculums may be subject to University oversight however.

      3. The problem is for the most part her facts are unassailable, but having said that I think a colorblind society where people are judged and advanced based on their individual merit is fairer and conforms to my individual values better than making decisions based on broad statistical categories.

        The problem though is many people on the left think racial identity should be an important part of how benefits are conferred in our society. Wax is pointing out, correctly, that that approach has drawbacks, and you would be lying if you said you didn’t agree with her, because the facts are clear, even if you think it’s the correct policy for other reasons like fairness, reparations, etc. The main criticism of Wax is that she is arguing against a race based benefits policy by making arguments about the imperfect results that follow, her critics are frustrated because she is right, and the think that policy should be beyond any debate, even if as the research shows minorities are harmed because rigging the competition to be admitted to a competitive institution, and an even more competitive economy doesn’t help people compete.

        I say get rid of race based benefits schemes and most of the debate and the divisive facts become irrelevant and nobody will care, and everyone will be happier.

        1. I don’t know her from Adam, but anyone who thinks first world success metrics are causally related to national origin is 1) making a utilitarian argument in a moral area, and 2) missing a LOT of confounding factors.

          The arguments that we should have race-based policies are not generally utilitarian. Or, if they are, do so on timescales quite a bit longer than you are talking about.

          In other words, if she’s using her metrics to argue that first world means better, she is abusing statistics towards a conclusion that is indeed racist.

          1. I believe that what Wax is saying is this: suppose you have two people applying for immigration and there is only one slot. The applicants seem to be very similar except that they come from two different cultures. One applicant comes from culture (a), which holds in high esteem these precepts:

            “Get married before you have children and strive to stay married for their sake. Get the education you need for gainful employment, work hard, and avoid idleness. Go the extra mile for your employer or client. Be a patriot, ready to serve the country. Be neighborly, civic-minded, and charitable. Avoid coarse language in public. Be respectful of authority. Eschew substance abuse and crime.”

            The other applicant comes from culture (b) in which the foregoing precepts are not held in high esteem – a culture characterized by kleptocracy, corruption, lawlessness and weak institutions. Wax is saying that other things being equal, applicants from culture (a) should be preferred, even if applicants from culture (a) are more likely to be white and those from culture (b) more likely to be non-white. The reason is that those from culture (a) are more likely to bring with them beliefs and practices that are consonant with those that our culture considers valuable and productive.

            Certainly the preference for those from culture (a) could in reality be driven by a racial preference but is it reasonable to conclude that this is undoubtedly the case? That appears to be the position of Wax’s critics. I don’t see any other evidence for such a charge. One could argue that those from culture (b) should be preferred on the ground that diversity of culture should be given greater weight, but I don’t see why a preference for one culture over another must automatically be equated with a preference for one race over the other.

            1. So you come back with a utilitarian argument based on a short timescale. Did you bother to read my comment, or were you just too eager to get out your race realism?

              The marriage thing is a well known example of the causality potentially being backwards.

              1. Did you bother to read my comment, or were you just too eager to get out your race realism?

                You said:

                if she’s using her metrics to argue that first world means better, she is abusing statistics towards a conclusion that is indeed racist.

                She isn’t saying that first world means better. She is saying that those cultures that embrace certain virtues are better.

                The marriage thing is a well known example of the causality potentially being backwards.

                Not sure I understand your example, but I’m sure that Wax would agree that many individual immigrants from culture (b) would be preferred over those from culture (b). In fact, her entire theory could be wrong. Maybe she is not crediting factors that would show those from culture (b) to be more desirable. If so, this would make her mistaken, but not racist.

                Do you think that a default preference for those from culture (a) is racist (as opposed to mistaken or erroneous) if those from culture (a) are more often white and those from culture (b) more often non-white?

          2. Sarcastro : anyone who thinks first world success metrics are causally related to national origin is 1) making a utilitarian argument in a moral area

            Er, no. Not even slightly.

            Obviously selecting a “success” metric involves a selection from the world of “ought” – becoming a drug addict might be a success or a failure depending on your stance in oughtworld. But once a success metric has been selected, the business of establishing a causal or merely correational relation with a real world category, such as national origin is a matter for the world of “is” – ought has nothing to do with it.

            So if the real world demonstrates a connection between being from Guatemala and liking mushroom soup, there is such a connection, whether you think mushroom soup is a good thing or not, (Not, not and thrice not.)

            And while I’m passing :

            making a utilitarian argument in a moral area

            read that over to yourself, one more time, and then slap yourself around the face. It would be an insult to your intelligence to insist that I do it for you.

      4. “To get things back on track, is there speech that would be off limits in academia?”

        “Advocating violence?”

        Too broad. By whom? When?

        Certainly advocating immediate lawless violence by the audience could be prohibited.

        On the other hand, advocating for war (could be seen as advocating violence) by the US against nation X should be protected.

        “Advocating a coup?”

        Against the US government? I would imagine that the US government could prohibit this given the current state of 1A law, but I would say this is not something for a university to prohibit as a matter of university policy.

        “Denying the Holocaust?”

        As much as I think that would be stupid nonsense, it should be protected.

        1. What’s your test, then? Is it ad-hoc ‘know it when you see it?’

          Certainly I think a professor teaching that the Holocaust never happened is unprotected from at least some internal policy issues that might arise.

          1. “Teaching the Holocaust…” The University has a role to play in the curriculum of a course, and can decide what’s appropriate in the course, and what isn’t. If they decide that teaching the Holocaust didn’t happen is inappropriate, they can make that judgement and bar the professor from teachingso.

            However, the Professor having the private view, however he espouses it, outside of the classroom, then that’s protected.

      5. “Is there speech that would be off limits in academia?”
        Short answer. No.

        Long answer. Academic freedom (and the associated tenure that allows academic freedom) is critical to a robust and independent state. Once you decide “certain topics” aren’t subject to academic freedom anymore…well, it’s just up to the people in charge what those topics are, and what they aren’t. At the worst end of the spectrum are things like Lysenkoism, where basic biological science was outlawed in the Soviet Union for decades, and thousands of geneticists were shot, for advocating the “wrong” discipline. And before you say “we wouldn’t be like that”, well… the people in charge always think that.

        Sometimes robust freedom of discourse allows for cranks. You get people like Arthur Butz at Northwestern who denies the Holocaust. I may not like his views, but I’ll defend his right to have them.

        However, there’s a difference between “advocating” and just “speech”, and it’s important to keep this in context. The University has a role to play. If the university asks that a professor keep his or her reprehensible views out of the classroom, and not represent them as the University’s, that’s the university’s right and responsibility.

  8. Stupid, racist, moronic, get-offa-my-lawn speech, even if outside of a tenured professor’s teaching area and done on the professor’s own time is probably protected, especially at a state university. Doesn’t mean others cannot exercise their protected speech and decry her as a racist, a moron, or even call for her job. Wax is a career provocateur who revels in inciting people. That’s her late-night gig. In fact, it’s strange for her or her supporters to complain about the attacks because she provokes them. Her extra-curricular speaking is more analogous to a tenured physicist who moonlights in a punk rock band, make that a bad punk rock band.

    There is no evidence, by the way, that immigrants today are any different than immigrants 50, 100, or 200 years ago. Nor has anti-immigrant rhetoric changed much. The targets change, but the rhetoric is the same. In the mid-1700s, Benjamin Franklin warned about an invasion of Germans. The Chinese were targeted mid-19th century. In the early 1900s the abuse was directed at Catholics and Jews from southern and eastern Europe, which resulted in the 1924 Immigration Act.

    Excellent book: Daniel Orkent’s The Guarded Gate: Bigotry, Eugenics, and the Law That Kept Two Generations of Jews, Italians, and Other European Immigrants out of America (Scribner, 2019), which tells the story of the early 1900s scientific racism and eugenics movement, led by professors from some of our country’s leading universities (e,g, Stanford and Princeton), and supported by several presidents (eg, Woodrow Wilson and Warren Harding), a majority in Congress, leading newspapers, and the KKK. The target then was Catholics (my tribe) and Jews (Wax’s tribe, though I doubt she gets the irony) from southern and eastern Europe, for all the ignorant, bigoted reasons Wax espouses today.

    1. There is no evidence, by the way, that immigrants today are any different than immigrants 50, 100, or 200 years ago.

      Except that there used to be much more work available for unskilled and uneducated people. Why shouldn’t we prefer immigrants who are educated or skilled and who appear to be hard-working, law-abiding and civic-minded, to the extent we can discern that?

      1. There is work for less skilled people. Agriculture, meat & chicken processing, landscaping, construction, etc., work that Americans tend not to want to do. The crime rate, by the way, among immigrants is lower than the rate among native-born Americans. As for civic mindedness, a majority of native-born Americans cannot pass the citizenship test; 40% of eligible voters do not vote in presidential elections, and an appaling 60% don’t vote in congressional elections. Any other questions?

        1. >There is work for less skilled people.

          Not for a living wage. See the law of supply and demand.

          >Agriculture, meat & chicken processing, landscaping, construction, etc., work that Americans tend not to want to do.

          Not so much. Stereotyping of American citizens is as wrong of doing it about immigrants. Ever watch Dirty Jobs?

          >The crime rate, by the way, among immigrants is lower than the rate among native-born Americans.

          Not true. Based on a flawed study that looked at county level data, moreover, illegal immigrant crime often goes unreported lest they be deported.

          >a majority of native-born Americans cannot pass the citizenship test;

          They have not incentive to study for it.

          >40% of eligible voters do not vote in presidential elections, and an appaling 60% don’t vote in congressional elections.

          Choosing not to vote is a valid decision, and a protest that is American as apple pie.

          So, any other nonsense?

        2. Any other questions?

          First answer my original question: Why shouldn’t we prefer immigrants who are educated or skilled and who appear to be hard-working, law-abiding and civic-minded, to the extent we can discern that? Are you arguing that since there are many native-born Americans who do not possess these characteristics it follows that immigrants with these characteristics should not be preferred?

          1. As for you original question, immigrants have a higher employment rate and and a lower crime rate than native Americans. So I guess the system works.

            1. So I guess the system works.

              Regardless of how the immigration system is working now, do you think it would be for the good of the system to prefer immigrants who are educated or skilled and who appear to be hard-working, law-abiding and civic-minded, to the extent we can discern that?

              1. The present system accommodates all of those preferences, along with less educated, less skilled immigrants who are also needed by the US economy. Not enough native-born Americans seem are interested in working in slaughterhouses, landscaping, restaurants, agriculture, or construction. It’s an imperfect system for our imperfect world.

      2. Except that there used to be much more work available for unskilled and uneducated people. Why shouldn’t we prefer immigrants who are educated or skilled and who appear to be hard-working, law-abiding and civic-minded, to the extent we can discern that?

        Well, I don’t know your background, but my culture teaches that the government is not competent to centrally plan the economy. Politicians and bureaucrats in Washington do not have the expertise to know what skills, in what number, are needed in each industry in each local market in the country. Not in the short term and certainly not in the long term.

        1. Well, I don’t know your background, but my culture teaches that the government is not competent to centrally plan the economy.

          Are you saying that a preference for immigrants who are educated or skilled and who appear to be hard-working, law-abiding and civic-minded constitutes central planning by the government? Currently we exclude immigrants who have committed serious crimes. Do you argue that this restriction also amounts to central planning and should be dropped?

          1. Swood, that is a logical fallacy you’re setting up, a false dichotomy.

            1. Swood, that is a logical fallacy you’re setting up, a false dichotomy.

              David Nieporent appeared to be saying that a preference for immigrants who are educated or skilled amounts to central planning by the government. Where is the false dichotomy in asking him if that is actually his position, and if this also applies to the current preference for non-criminals?

              1. I get what you’re doing, but your setting it up so that if he supports some some of government planning, that it somehow invalidates his position that the government is not competent to centrally plan the economy. No government is history has been competent enough to centrally plan the economy, but that doesn’t preclude any and all government planning.

              2. David Nieporent appeared to be saying that a preference for immigrants who are educated or skilled amounts to central planning by the government.

                Yes, indeed. I am glad that I accurately conveyed my view. The government deciding what inputs the labor market needs is central planning just as much as the government deciding what inputs the microchip market or the steel market or the widgets market need.

                and if this also applies to the current preference for non-criminals?

                Restrictions on criminals are not economically based; they’re public safety based.

                1. The government deciding what inputs the labor market needs is central planning just as much as the government deciding what inputs the microchip market or the steel market or the widgets market need.

                  So if a certain area of the country had a shortage of physicians and a physician were applying to immigrate and settle in that region, you believe that person should not be preferred over another person with no skills and no education who intends to locate in the same area, since consciously influencing the labor market is an inappropriate task for government? Or a person who wants to relocate his existing business to this country, which would provide work for hundreds of people in this country, should not be preferred over someone with no skills and no education, who therefore will necessarily have to compete for a job with the most disadvantaged of current U.S. residents, on the grounds that we have no legitimate way of concluding which immigrant is more likely to enhance U.S. prosperity?

                  1. Correct. Again, what makes you think that a politician or bureaucrat in Washington can predict a year in advance (immigration quotas are set annually, not on an ad hoc basis) how many people are going to be needed in all different fields in different areas of the country? (You seem to keep implicitly treating the concept of “unskilled” as if it means unemployable, but of course unskilled people pick crops, mow lawns, clean homes, wash dishes, and build buildings, among many other jobs.)

                    How does the bureaucrat know whether this “existing business” you hypothesize that someone wants to bring to the U.S. is going to create jobs or displace existing businesses and their existing jobs?

                    1. I also oppose governmental attempts at central planning, but we are not discussing central planning here. If a preference for immigrants who are skilled or educated constitutes central planning then would you also say that governmental activities or expenditures that encourage the education of children should be discontinued? Why isn’t that also “economically based” as you put it? Why would it be legitimate for the government to value and prefer the education of children but not the education of immigrants? Can the government legitimately assert that an educated population provides a net benefit to society or not?

                      Are you OK with a preference for immigrants who appear to be hard-working, law-abiding and civic-minded, to the extent that can be discerned?

        2. my culture teaches that the government is not competent to centrally plan the economy

          My culture too.

          However my culture also teaches that it is not the case that there will always be sufficient demand for all economic inputs to keep each as fully employed as it is now. Once there was huge demand for carthorses, now, not so much.

          The solution for carthorses, of course, is to chop em up for pigfood, and then melt the odd bits down for glue; and not to breed anymore of them. And should they wander off and breed of their own accord, they can just be left to starve. Nature has a simple solution for creatures which need to consume more than they produce.

          However my culture also teaches that it is not right to apply the carthorse solution to unskilled human labor. My culture is – and I approve – unwilling to allow the free market in labor to work itself out all the way to the carthorse solution. Hence the problem.

    2. Actually, there is. The immigrants of the past had average IQs similar to those of the then native population. Latin American mestizos have an average IQ about 10-15 points below.

      1. Oh please. IQ tests among 19th century Chinese and Irish immigrants were higher? There were no IQ tests.

        Anyway, IQ tests themselves are, how shall I put it, fraught — with a modern history tied in with the eugenicist movement. Read on,
        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Intelligence_quotient#Precursors_to_IQ_testing

        1. Present IQ tests by nationality or demographic are a fairly good indicator of past generations’ IQ scores. If anything, they tend to go up by 3 or so points a generation, until recently. See the Flynn Effect.

          However, there are ways to estimate past population IQ scores, based on metrics related to writing, however, it has a problem with survivor-ship bias in the data. The literate folks writing survived, and they could have a higher IQ than the masses.

          1. “The literate folks writing survived, and they could have a higher IQ than the masses.” Ya think?

            You do realize that the illiterate masses can’t even take an IQ test.

            1. Well, if you had thought about it for about 5 minutes, you’d know that is not such a witty answer.

              IQ is only partially based on education. Yes, someone has to teach formal logic, but for the most part how much horsepower your brain has is genetic. I presume, for example, that there were lots of high IQ Mongols who conquered Asia that were illiterate, and illiterate French peasants that built Notre Dame, led by the occasional literate person. Therefore, if you can measure the IQ of the literate, you get a sense of the illiterate as well.

              1. I did not say that illiterate people do not have high IQs — they do — I simply pointed out it’s more difficult to test.

                Those difficulties did not stop early 1900s academics from using IQ tests to bolster scientific racism and eugenics, and to label people from entire countries, ethnic groups, and religions as mentally deficient.

                Daniel Okrent, The Guarded Gate: Bigotry, Eugenics, and the Law that Kept Two Generations of Jews, Italians, and Other European Immigrants Out of America (Scribner, 2019), has much on the subject.

                1. You’re conflating two things with your pithy snark. By saying that the illiterate can’t take an IQ test, you implied that there is no way to measure IQ of a populace. That is wrong, because you can get a decent measure of an entire populace my measuring those who are literate, if they are all drawn from the same genetic stock as the illiterate. Maybe the literate nobles of say, Anglo-Saxon England, have a slightly higher IQ due to better nutrition then the serfs, but they can expected to be close to the populace overall due to the law of averages.

                  Yea, many people are well aware of the Progressive eugenics movement and IQ tests. There is a
                  great Econtalk episode I listened to years ago. That is a red herring to the point about the scientific validity of IQ tests overall. Are they perfect, no, but like the GRE or the SAT or ACT (IQ tests with other names) they are generally valid.

                  1. That is wrong, because you can get a decent measure of an entire populace my measuring those who are literate, if they are all drawn from the same genetic stock as the illiterate.

                    Here, since you say that it is only necessary to control for genetic stock, you assume that differences in IQ are genetically determined. See the article Ethnicity and IQ by Thomas Sowell here: http://www.unz.com/print/AmSpectator-1995feb-00030/ in which he describes the history of the Irish and Jews in this country. These groups both scored well below normal in intelligence tests in this country when they first immigrated. The Irish in particular also showed profound social pathology making them very poor employees. But both groups made tremendous gains, including scoring much higher on intelligence tests than before, under circumstances that can’t be accounted for genetically. For example, during the period of this change the Jews had very little intermarriage outside the faith.

                    1. But IQ is *mostly* genetic, even if we don’t understand the mechanisms.

                      And one person, or group for that matter, can be anti-social as well as intelligent. The issue with the Scots-Irish, is that they were likely both, which is why when they found religion and stopped dueling and drinking to excess, etc. etc. they were able to rapidly assimilate and make the gains Sowell writes about.

                      Sowell continually makes this point as if to say that if only blacks adopted the right values, and liberals stopped treating them like children, they would make the same gains, which he notes they kinda did before the welfare state infantalized them and broke apart families. He’s only half right, though, because those same forces were there for other groups as well, and they didn’t get infantalized and have their families destroyed, until recently when the same problems with black America post 1965 are now affecting the white lower class.

                  2. Pithy snark? That’s the nicest thing said about me all morning.

                    So we’ve moved from IQ tests to the “law of averages”? Science works in strange and mysterious ways. The law of averages will certainly cut costs. No need for testing at all, just run people through Ancestry. com. Failing that, if you are wearing lime green pants, button-down Oxford shirt, bow tie, and Madras blazer, and holding a gin and tonic, the law of averages will deem you considered if not near the top of the bell curve, at least worthy of employment.

                    The most hilarious thing I’ve read recently about IQ tests is that some police departments use them to weed out the brighter recruits, on the supposed idea that intelligent people find police work boring. There is something about IQ tests that cause otherwise normal people to embrace weird ideas.

                    1. I am glad you appreciate the compliment, such as it was. However, pithy snark may feel good to the communicator, but it’s not effective communication overall.

                      You’re totally mischaracterizing the law of averages, btw, and the science itself, which is nothing more than a process. I think you mean to say nature works in strange ways, which it indeed can, when we don’t understand it.

                      As for that IQ test and police work stuff, that is an old urban legend I first heard in the 90s. I would love to see an actual example where it has been documented to be true. I worked in law enforcement for years, and work closely with them now, and trust me, in my experience, we want smart people, but those who follow the rules. I think you can understand why in law enforcement, we want people who follow the rules. Genius IQ folks sometimes think that the rules don’t apply to them.

                    2. mad_kalak wrote: “As for that IQ test and police work stuff, that is an old urban legend I first heard in the 90s. I would love to see an actual example where it has been documented to be true”

                      Check out this article where the second circuit court of appeals OK’d barring a high-IQ person from being a cop. Took me about 10 seconds to find, but then I remembered the original from when I was younger.

                      The appeals court upheld the circuit court decision against the too-smart guy

                      The relevant summary is this: “The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New York upheld a lower court’s decision that the city did not discriminate against Robert Jordan because the same standards were applied to everyone who took the test.”

          2. Anyone who wants to get a sense of the complexity of IQ tests & the Flynn Effect can start here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flynn_effect (Warning: the discussion is complicated, contradictory, and migraine inducing.)

            Nonetheless, since serious IQ testing — whether the tests are really valid or not — has only been going on for a few decades, one can hardy say it’s a “fairly accurate indicator of past generations’ IQ scores” — unless IQ scores have some paranormal powers, able to see into the past.

            Illiteracy among 19th century immigrants to the US was common, but their kids went to school, and their grandkids or great grandkids to college, and everything worked out.

            Why IQ scores have gone up, down, or stayed the same is a matter of some discussion. Education, nutrition, and pollution have all been posited as positive or negative influences. Flynn himself suggested that more video games and less reading among today’s youth as a reason for recent IQ score declines. What does any of this actually mean, who knows, but certainly not the decline of Western civilization as we know it. From personal experience, I can tell you that when I need someone to help me with cell phone or computer issues I call on a video-game addicted youngster, not a Great Books addicted codger. Out there in the actual world, come to think of it, when you need a nanny, lawyer, plumber, or surgeon, you normally do not solicit IQ scores, you ask friends for recommendations.

            1. since serious IQ testing — whether the tests are really valid or not — has only been going on for a few decades

              well it’s been going on for about a dozen decades now, which is stretching the boundaries of “a few”

              No doubt IQ testers have got a bit better over the last 100 years, but that certainly doesn’t mean that even quite early versions of IQ tests were unreliable.

  9. “Even”?

  10. The worst thing that can legitimately be said about Amy Wax is that she does not even try to couch her statements in a politically correct form. She says that all cultures are not equal, and this is deemed racist. She lists traditional virtues: “Get married before you have children and strive to stay married for their sake. Get the education you need for gainful employment, work hard, and avoid idleness. Go the extra mile for your employer or client. Be a patriot, ready to serve the country. Be neighborly, civic-minded, and charitable. Avoid coarse language in public. Be respectful of authority. Eschew substance abuse and crime.” She says that cultures that hold these virtues in high esteem are better than those that do not, and that immigrants from such cultures are to be preferred, and this is said to be a vile form of racism.

    Now we are having a debate as to whether those who make such statements have gone beyond the protection of legitimate academic freedom. One is reminded of the three slogans of the Party in 1984: “War is peace. Freedom is slavery. Ignorance is strength.”

    1. No, swood.

      The worst thing is that she is making claims without providing anything resembling solid empirical support. She’s a law professor and an M.D., so no doubt very bright, but her arguments are basically about social science, and I see nothing that suggests she knows much about that, or its methods.

      1. That is the nut of it, a presumably intelligent professor in one field with crackpot ideas in another. Happens more than one would think. If she were Amy Wax, neighborhood crank, hoarder, keeper of 32 cats, no one would pay much attention to her.

        Here is the tenured University of Pennsylvania law professor holding forth on why the United States is sliding into Venezuela, litter. Yes, litter, but not just any litter, like the British Petroleum oil spill or the Elk River chemical disaster, but napkins dropped by immigrants. Evidence? Her observational study, apparently accomplished without the benefit of National Science Foundation funding, that Yankee places like Stockbridge, MA, have less litter than “other places that are ‘more diverse’.” Yikes.

        Diversity brings not just more litter, but more noise (even than a Fourth of July parade), more heckling (than her favorite president’s 40,000 tweets), more sexual harassment (than Charlie Rose on an average afternoon), and less respect for privacy (than Facebook).

        Am I making this up? Read tenured University of Pennsylvania law professor for yourself:

        “Amy Wax: I think we are going to sink back significantly into Third Worldism. We are going to go Venezuela, and you can just see it happening. I mean one of my pet peeves, one of my obsessions, is litter, and I… If you go up to Stockbridge, Massachusetts, or Yankee territory, right? Or versus other places that are “more diverse,” you are going to see an enormous difference. I’m sorry to report. You know, generalizations are not very pleasant, but little things like that, which aren’t little, they really affect our environment, attitudes towards public space.

        “I think Adam Garfinkle did a piece in The American Interest, where he talks about this—about noise levels, about the public space, about people’s deportment in public spaces, about respect for other people’s privacy, about things like heckling and, you know, sexual harassment. I mean all of this stuff sounds really silly, but when you add it up, these cultural habits, you know, make a difference to our environment.”

      2. The worst thing is that she is making claims without providing anything resembling solid empirical support. She’s a law professor and an M.D., so no doubt very bright, but her arguments are basically about social science, and I see nothing that suggests she knows much about that, or its methods.

        The reason Amy Wax has aroused such a furor of opposition is not because she makes proposals asserted to be lacking in solid empirical support. It is because her proposals are asserted to be grounded in racism. She says that a culture that does not place a high value on the traditional virtues she listed is inferior to one that does and this is deemed to be racist. Do you think that it is?

        1. If I could intervene here, it’s both. Wax’s assertions are not based on empirical evidence (none that she’s cited) and they are racist. Preferring white to non-white immigrants is racist by most definitions. Although it leaves open the question of who is white, most people in or outside the Aryan Nation get the general idea. Doesn’t mean, by the way, that Wax is a racist; I cannot look into her soul, at least not with the tools presently available to me. I do think she’s a moron, for what it’s worth.

          Wax is pretty much a garden variety provocateur who gets a attention from her remarks, often inane (immigrants litter! immigrants are noisy!) usually given to friendly audiences, and then when criticized retreats into the usual just sayin’, hate to be politically incorrect but, playbook. She’s also quite reticent about engaging the press, that is, in responding to reporters’ queries.

          Having the courage of one’s convictions includes responding to criticisms.

          1. Preferring white to non-white immigrants is racist by most definitions.

            Yes if the preference is based on race. No if the preference is based on other factors.

            1. That reasoning is giving Jesuitical a bad name. Not to be too reductionist, but Wax says white is better because white is better. Actually it’s more like an information loop. Whatever.

              1. Not to be too reductionist, but Wax says white is better because white is better.

                Please provide a reference to her saying this.

  11. Haven’t seen you around in a while Swood.
    Welcome back.

    1. Thanks.

  12. Jesus, what percentage of the commenters here are into this some races and national origins are inherently better than others, and lets make policies based on that collective truth?

  13. Well, for one, not me Sarcastr0.

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