The War on Merit

America was a society dedicated, among other things, to the idea that merit should win out. In America, the old idea of status based on who your parents were gave way to progress based on quality and effort. Now, that’s changing. Equality of opportunity (all men are created equal) is giving way to equality of results (all men are equal).

Basing teacher pay on performance? Teachers unions want higher salaries across the board, rather than performance-based (merit) incentives.
Selective admission to gifted programs? Critics say this is racist. Proposals surfaced recently in both San Francisco and New York to give up merit-based admission criteria like grades and test scores, in favor of a lottery.

Universities, broadly across the US, rather than base hiring and promotions on teaching quality and published research, now impose a political loyalty oath. “Only those candidates with a strong and compelling Statement of Contributions to Diversity, Equity and Inclusion will move forward in the evaluation process.”
Universities now seek to deprecate grades as a factor in the admissions process. Both Harvard and Yale were recently involved in lawsuits alleging that Asian-Americans are systematically discriminated against because of their high grades: “[the suit] says Asian American applicants have the best academic records but the lowest admission rate among any race.”
Universities, in the belief that standardized tests like the SAT are racist, are choosing to end the use of testing in the admissions process.
Remember grades? Now we have grade inflation. I’m a former adjunct instructor at multiple local colleges, and I can tell you it’s hard to hold the line on grades. There is little interest in the integrity of grades. Students are customers and a revenue source, faculty are just employees. The terms “corruption” and “professional malfeasance” apply.

An article published by PBS summarized:

“A recent study revealed that 42 percent of four-year college grades are A’s, and 77 percent are either A’s or B’s. According to Inside Higher Ed, “At four-year schools, awarding of A’s has been going up five to six percentage points per decade and A’s are now three times more common than they were in 1960.” At Yale, 62 percent of grades were in the A range in the spring of 2012. That figure was only 10 percent in 1963.”

Universities are broadly opposed to basing admissions on standardized tests and grades, they select and promote faculty who agree to a political loyalty oath, and they fail to use rigorous grading standards.

In the US, pro sports led the way in integrating African Americans. Team owners saw that hiring black athletes was a way to win more games. Today the NFL is under constant pressure to hire more black coaches. First there was the Rooney Rule. That wasn’t enough, so in November 2020 the owners passed a new rule that gives extra draft picks to teams when their minority assistant coaches are hired away as head coaches or GMs.

Is there a business more ruthlessly Darwinian than professional sports? The metric is brutal and simple: wins and losses. Black athletes are successful, so why don’t NFL owners not hire more black coaches?

Over the years there have been enough black head coaches to provide a good base of performance data. Here’s the relevant number: 43%. That’s the average win/loss percentage for minority head coaches. Feel free to check my math, I averaged the win-loss records provided in this article. For a 16-game season 43% is a record of seven wins and nine losses. Typically you need a 10-6 record to make the playoffs. Should the NFL owners up the ante, and offer three extra wins when teams hire a minority coach?

Corporate Boards
California recently enacted legislation requiring corporations to make board membership racially and sexually diverse: “to have a minimum of one director from an underrepresented community … a corporation with more than 4 but fewer than 9 directors to have a minimum of 2 directors from underrepresented communities, and such a corporation with 9 or more directors to have a minimum of 3 directors from underrepresented communities.”.
The result? Rather than select directors based solely on their industry background and performance, California corporations now also need to evaluate candidates by gender and race.

The Goal
Progressives’ goal is not equal opportunity – it’s equal results, regardless of fairness and efficiency.
We’ve discovered that improving opportunity doesn’t provide equity. Why? Because equality is not a natural condition. Some of us are smarter, some are better athletes, some are more physically attractive or socially adept.

Why now? In her opinion on the key affirmative action case Grutter v Bollinger, Justice Sandra Day O’Connor wrote “We expect that 25 years from now, the use of racial preferences will no longer be necessary”. That was only seventeen years ago, but the left now realizes that all the preferences enacted in the civil rights era are insufficient if EQUITY is the goal. Fairness doesn’t cut it. Establishing preferences is also inadequate. The only solution is, wherever differences exist they must be erased through government power.

So, why not pursue equity as a goal? Because equity is unfair. It means distributing benefits based on a person’s birth (race and gender) rather than based on skills and hard work. Remember the old saying: “don’t judge a book by it’s cover”? Indeed.
Equity is counter to the 14th Amendment: “equal protection under the law “.
Equity is counter to long-held American values – we’re a society based on merit and hard work, rather than birth. We left that behind in Europe.
Achieving equity requires massive state intervention.
Pursuing equity casts doubt on the achievements of every minority person in the work force. “Is this person really competent, or are they a token hire?”
When we fly in an airplane, go into surgery, or take a college class, we have the right to expect that the person doing the work was chosen because of the quality of their work, rather than their gender, ethnicity, or political beliefs.

The Bottom Line
Today is Wednesday of the week following the Super Bowl. A letter to the editor in this morning’s newspaper ended with this sentence: “As we enjoyed the Super Bowl, we realized it was only enjoyable because the goal posts didn’t move, the refs called a fair game and the result was ‘unequal’.”
If you’re free, you’re not equal. If you’re equal, you’re not free.