The End of Meritocracy


Identity politics has engulfed the humanities and social sciences on American campuses; now it is taking over the hard sciences. The STEM fields—science, technology, engineering, and math—are under attack for being insufficiently “diverse.” The pressure to increase the representation of females, blacks, and Hispanics comes from the federal government, university administrators, and scientific societies themselves. That pressure is now changing how science is taught and how scientific qualifications are evaluated. The results will be disastrous for scientific innovation and for American competitiveness.

A UCLA scientist reports: “All across the country the big question now in STEM is how can we promote more women and minorities by ‘changing (i.e., lowering) the requirements we had previously set for graduate level study?” Mathematical problem-solving is being deemphasized in favor of more qualitative group projects; the pace of undergraduate physics education is being slowed downs so that no one gets left behind. The National Science Foundation (NSF), a federal agency that funds university research, is consumed by diversity ideology. Progress in science, it argues, requires a “diverse STEM workforce.” Programs to boost diversity in STEM pour forth from its coffers in wild abundance.

[. . .]

Somehow, NSF-backed scientists managed to rack up more than two hundred Nobel Prizes before the agency realized that scientific progress depends on “diversity.” Those “un-diverse” scientists discovered the fundamental particles of matter and unlocked the genetics of viruses. Now that academic victimology has established a beachhead at the agency, however, it remains to be seen whether the pace of such breakthroughs will continue. The NSF is conducting a half-million-dollar study of “intersectionality” in the STEM fields. . . . One of the study’s directors is a university of Michigan sociologist specializing in gender and sexuality. Erin Cech has received multiple NSF grants; her latest publication is “Rugged Meritocrats: The Role of Overt Bias and the Meritocratic Ideology in Trump Supporters’ Opposition to Social Justice.”

In this excerpt from The Diversity Delusion, Heather Mac Donald describes the takeover of science, technology, engineering and math fields by social justice advocates and identity politics. The insanity is most notable in hiring; universities and foundations demand that STEM departments hire the appropriate number of “underrepresented minorities” or URMs.

More often than not, these benchmarks are set as the percentage of URMs of a population within a certain geographic area—the entire U.S. or just Southern California. Rarely do they take into account the number of URMs acquiring PhDs in STEM or another field within the underrepresented population. This leads to increased costs in hiring, oversight, new policies, and lots of hair-pulling, not to mention lower academic standards.

Heather Mac Donald has written much on “diversity mania” over the last decade, covering editorial pages from the Wall Street Journal to the Los Angeles Time. Now, she’ll be discussing “The End of Meritocracy” at the National Association of Scholars' upcoming event, “Leveling America: Social Justice and Identity in American Higher Education.”

Learn more and get tickets to “Leveling America” here.

Image: Manhattan Institute

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