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robertogreco : leftism   2

Admit Everybody | Current Affairs
"There are two conclusions here, one of which I agree with and one of which I find objectionable. The conclusion I agree with is that the SAT may be the “least bad” of three options for competitive admissions, when compared with using grades or Mushy Holistic Factors, and that therefore eliminating the SAT alone won’t in and of itself produce greater equality and could backfire. (I even have a certain soft spot for the SAT because it enabled me, a person who didn’t know any of the weird upper-class “holistic” signals that impress colleges, to go to a good college.) But the conclusion I disagree with is that this somehow makes a “progressive case for the SAT,” or that we should “defend the SAT.” This is the same logic that causes people like Nicholas Kristof to argue that because sweatshops are supposedly better than farm labor, there is a progressive case for sweatshops and we should defend them. This is one of the differences between liberalism and leftism: liberalism argues for the least bad of several bad options, while leftism insists on having a better set of options.

It’s the talk about “powerful ways” to “distinguish themselves from the rest of the pack” that troubles me. My concern is about what happens to the rest of the pack! As my acquaintance Patrick Conner put it, the difference between meritocracy and socialism is “I don’t want everyone to have a fair shot at the 15% of non-shitty lives, I want everyone to have a decent life.” Instead of arguing for the least-unfair version of the brutally competitive war of all-against-all that is the contemporary college admissions system, the progressive case should be that we ought to have an actual fair admissions system.

In other words: just admit everybody. The whole “competitive” nature of undergraduate admissions is absurd to begin with, and the very fact that students are sorted according to “merit” is socially corrosive. Let’s face it: college isn’t like brain surgery or social work. People’s lives aren’t in your hands. Instead of finding the “top ten best people” we should be selecting “anyone who has proved they are capable of doing the expected work.” Competitive admissions are as irrational as grading curves. With a grading curve, only X percent of the class will get As on their papers, even if every single person in the class wrote an excellent paper, which forces you to start making silly and arbitrary distinctions in a contrived effort to pit the students against each other. The better way to grade is by developing a standard independently and giving students a qualification if they meet the standard. Here’s the admissions parallel: everyone who shows themselves capable of doing the work required of a Harvard undergrad is marked “qualified” for Harvard and allowed to apply. There are a limited number of places, of course, but those places will be filled by selecting a random group of students from among all of those marked “qualified.” You might still get a very low percentage of applicants admitted because space is limited, but it won’t be because those applicants have been deemed worthier, it will be because the lottery happened to favor them.

My vision of universities is as a place where anybody can come and learn, so long as they can do the work. Now, you could argue that at elite schools, the work is so hard that only a few people would be qualified to do it. That’s false, though. I have been a TF at Harvard, so I am acquainted with the level of rigor in the undergraduate curriculum, and it’s obvious that vastly more students than the 4.8% they actually admit are capable of passing the courses. In fact, possibly the majority of the applicants could do fine. We know that college admissions are a crapshoot. But let’s just make them an actual crapshoot, so that nobody would be deluded into thinking that merit was involved, beyond the merit of basic literacy and numeracy.

We might have a different system at the graduate level, where higher levels of specialized skill are required. But I think the same principle should be followed: set a clear standard for the minimum a student needs to be able to do. Make that standard public, so that everybody knows that if they can do X they will have the same shot at being admitted to a program as anybody else. Then choose at random from among those who have met the basic standard.

Alright, so you can probably come up with half a dozen criticisms of this system, the way you can criticize the idea of a randomly-selected congress or a jury trial. Colleges will raise the “basic standard” to unrealistic levels and thus recreate a highly-competitive admissions system, and Harvard will start pretending that you need to be able to do calculus in order to muddle your way to a Bachelor of Arts there. (You don’t.) As long as you still have underlying social and economic inequalities, you can’t actually have an equal system, because everything will reflect those inequalities until we get rid of them. Rich parents will always find ways to make sure their children get more than other children. This is part of Freddie’s point, and he is right: instead of fixing the admissions system you have to fix the economic system, because you can’t isolate the one from the other. It’s an important point, but it doesn’t amount to a defense of the “meritocracy” illusion or the concept of “distinguishing from the rest of the pack.” And the left’s education experts should be devising practical alternatives to meritocracy rather than slightly-less-awful versions of it.

We should always be clear on what the goal is: a world in which we don’t all have to fight each other all the time, where we can work together in solidarity rather than having to wage war against our friends for the privilege of having a good job. There is no reason why everyone shouldn’t have equal access to the highest-quality education, and in a properly organized society it would be perfectly simple to provide it. We don’t need “best” and “worst” universities, ranked from top to bottom, we just need “universities,” places where people go to explore human knowledge and acquire the skills that enable them to do things that need doing. Progressive education means an end to the illusion of meritocratic competition, an end to the SAT, and the realization of a vision of equal education for all."
sat  standardizedtesting  testing  nathanrobinson  2018  freddiedeboer  bias  elitism  inequality  meritocracy  liberalism  leftism  progressive  patrickconner  socialism  competition  selectivity  colleges  universities  highered  highereducation  admissions  education  ranking  society  merit  fairness  egalitarianism 
april 2018 by robertogreco
Verso: Dehumanization by Deification: On Kamala Harris and "Black Women Will Save Us"
"My introduction to the politics of Kamala Harris came from the Sex Workers Outreach Project (SWOP) and other sex worker organizations and activists in the wake of the federal shutdown of Backpage’s adult section in January. Backpage was a website that a number of sex workers used to advertise and screen potential clients. The closure and federal persecution of Backpage, Rentboy.com, and other similar online spaces meant that escorts and other sex workers were denied the ability to conduct their work with the degree of safety that comes with the virtual separation of workers and their would-be clients. As a newly elected California senator, Harris praised the shutdown of the adult section; previously, as California Attorney General, Harris repeatedly sued Backpage alleging that the website was profiting in the sex trafficking (and slapping its CEO, Carl Ferrer, with a pimping charge).

Despite arguments by sex workers that the closure of online work spaces would be harmful to them, Harris, like many others, claimed to support sex workers while actively making their lives more difficult: her prosecutorial logic deliberately conflated voluntary sex work and sex trafficking in a way that was indistinguishable from the rhetorics of sex work abolitionists and sex work exclusionary feminists (SWERFs). Her carceral justifications for these criminalizations were complementary to the outright anti-poor, anti-Black, anti-queer and trans attacks from the present administration and their material implications for sex workers. Yet Harris has swiftly been elevated as a kind of progressive feminist hero injecting new life into the party purporting to stand in stark ideological opposition to the one currently dominating most of the American government.

Harris has also been heavily criticized for her support for civil asset forfeiture (via her 2015 sponsorship of legislation seeking to battle transnational organized crime and meth trafficking) and her office’s refusal to expand early parole programs because the state would lose part of its heavily subsidized inmate labor force (she later claimed to be “shocked” that her department’s lawyers made this argument). She also contested the appeal for gender reconstructive surgery made by an incarcerated trans woman, Michelle-Lael Norsworthy, as well as similar requests from other incarcerated trans people. Despite her bipartisan effort with Republican Senator Rand Paul to eliminate pre-trial bail, people familiar with her pre-Senate record on criminal justice are reasonably skeptical of her — particularly given her refusal to proactively investigate police shooting in San Francisco during her tenure as state attorney general — and the buzz from establishment Democrats and “progressives” that has made her a new party darling and a soft potential 2020 presidential candidate.

“Black women will save us!” has been a kind of refrain both following the presidential election (where 94% of Black women voters supported Clinton) and the emergence of Maxine Waters and Harris as congressional gadflies outspokenly challenging the Republican Party in various hearings on Capitol Hill. As with Hillary Clinton, a gendered liberal rhetoric has emerged to defend Harris, claiming that she is being criticized because “leftist bros” are resentful of and threatened by female political leadership. Liberal commentators continue to conflate the most vocal and visible contingent of Bernie Sanders supporters — “Bernie Bros” — with the entirety of the left, and use this conflation to insist on dismissing “the left” on the grounds of racism. There is no denying that whiteness is reproduced (and the labor behind that reproduction invisibilized) throughout much of the left, but even if these critiques were made in good faith, it does not make sense to erase of leftists of color if one intends to further progressive discourses.

Roqayah Chamseddine wrote incisively on this dynamic where slightly left of center [white] pundits deliberately elide non-white contributions to left movements and discourses in the name of a left-baiting centered around specific politicians (namely, Bernie Sanders). She responds to Jill Filipovic’s revisionist erasure of Black and Brown contributions to 20th century left organizing, writing that leftists of color are not acknowledged for anything outside of "the illustrations of us they use to peddle neoliberal policies, and centrist organizing tactics that are about as spineless and cartoonish as their very ideology.” These savioristic declarations that the left is exclusionary demonstrate that leftists of color are "only good enough to exist as garments — worn on occasion when they want to make it known that they are here to save us from this so-called white ideology.”

There are critiques of Kamala Harris and Hillary Clinton that simply reflect a contempt for women [of color], and those misogynies are of course unacceptable. But there is a duly irresponsible and unacceptable idea that an individual’s politics are beyond reproach because they possess a marginalized identity (or multiple ones). Just as it was warranted to criticize President Barack Obama’s defense of empire as president or LGBQT people’s homonationalist and pinkwashed participation in the police state or some white women’s embrace of white supremacy, it is both politically necessary and politically correct to make pointed critiques of a woman of color’s track record of advocating for and even embodying the carceral state. Ironically, many of these same white people — particularly liberal white women — pay lip service to “amplifying the voices of women of color," yet they, once again, erase our voices as soon as they realize that our opinions are not monolithic and we cannot be so easily objectified and dehumanized as the saviors of liberalism through empty rhetorics of representation and inclusion.

The refusal to acknowledge the violent politics of a woman of color because of her raced-gendered identity is comparably racist to a critique of woman of color that revolves solely around those identities: white supremacy, remember, knows no sectarian or ideological bounds. Dehumanization, whether through degradation or deification, reflects of bigoted regard for minoritized individuals or groups; it objectifies of the identities of women of color to suit one’s politics. It is both infantilizing and condescending to avoid holding women of color’s politics to the same standard of rigor as the white men we easily (and necessarily) critique. and rests on no meaningful understanding of hegemonic social structures. This superficial politics of representation (i.e. the idea that elevating minorities to positions of power is an unquestioned social good regardless of their politics) and a weird fetishization, rather than actual respect, for non-white womanhood.

There seems to be an irreconcilable dissonance in this white liberal logic: how can "Black women save ‘us’” if the complexity and heterogeneity of our discourses, identities, needs, and humanity are ignored to make room for our superficial insertion into and tokenization within anti-left “progressive” arguments and shallow pandering by the Democratic Party during election cycles? Beyond, once again, demonstrating the limitations of politician-centered politics, these identity-based politics of infallibility also softly seem to insinuate that women of color (and politicians of color in general) are impossibly fragile or less capable (or worthy) of receiving much-needed critique without being altogether abandoned or seen as disposable.

If we can criticize the ineffectuality of the Democratic Party, can we not also criticize the non-white figures they tap to push those same dissatisfying politics on the party’s behalf?

The role of a state attorney general is to act as the state’s premiere law enforcement officer, and in occupying this position, Harris was essentially enforcing the will of a racist and anti-poor state “justice” system (the most populous state and one of the most expansive carceral states, at that). To pretend that only white men could possibly articulate a radical critique of this political track record and trajectory is wildly disingenuous. We will surely see Kamala Harris’ name all over the news in the coming years, but more important than the political advancement of the new progressive superstar is the revelation of white liberalism’s complete inability to engage non-white women both within the public political arena and outside of it."
zoésamudzi  2017  politics  left  leftism  race  erasure  racism  kamalaharris  liberalism  policy  democrats  hillaryclinton  roqayahchamseddine  jillfilipovic  poc  progressives  progressivism 
august 2017 by robertogreco

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