Author: Daniel Friedman

How Free Speech Dies Online

Last year, I explained why it is wrong to consider weakening speech protections to allow bans on speech by the alt-right, neo-Nazis, or other far-Right groups: it is safer to let Nazis speak in a society that places high value on individual rights and has strong legal protections for those rights than it is to risk letting Nazis take control of institutional power in a society where protections on individual rights have been eroded. I explained, with specific examples, how easy it would be for a far-Right regime to turn restrictions on violent or hateful speech against its enemies. However, since then, while free speech has remained a controversial topic, the focus of the debate has moved away from restrictions on speech by state actors, and toward the question of how corporate entities that privately control the platforms which host a great deal of our speech and debate should regulate and moderate their users. These platforms are not bound by the US Constitution or by other legal regimes that protect private speech from state coercion, …

What New York’s Public Schools Could Learn From Stuyvesant

The class of students who will enter Stuyvesant High School in 2019 include only seven black students. This isn’t particularly unusual; Stuy, which is the most academically selective public school in New York City, typically admits only a handful of black students each year, and every year there are a few op-eds and some social media outrage about the school’s demographics. This year, however, criticism of the school seems especially intense following a call by New York Mayor Bill de Blasio to dismantle the city’s elite specialized high schools and during a period of renewed focus on admissions policies in the wake of the Varsity Blues college corruption scandal. Echoing de Blasio’s 2018 condemnation of the specialized schools, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez declared Stuyvesant a “system failure” and an “injustice” in a tweet that received over 50,000 likes. New York Times education reporter Eliza Shapiro tweeted that these “grim statistics” would force officials to confront “segregation” in the elite schools, and Atlantic writer Vann Newkirk tweeted that Stuy’s demographics discredit the idea of an American meritocracy. …

Why Elites Dislike Standardized Testing

On Tuesday, March 12 2019, federal prosecutors exposed a crooked college admissions consulting operation that bribed SAT administrators and college athletic coaches in order to get wealthy, underqualified applicants into elite universities. Also charged were 33 wealthy parents who had paid for admissions bribes, including actors Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin, Gordon Caplan, a co-chair of the international law firm Willkie Farr & Gallagher, and Douglas Hodge, the former chief executive of Pimco. As this story unfolds, there will be numerous takes and analyses about what the exposure of such widespread corruption in college admissions could mean. People are going to say that this scandal is proof that the meritocracy is broken and corrupt. And it’s likely that many commentators will use this event as an opportunity to attack the SAT and the ACT. Progressives view test-based admissions as inequitable because some marginalized groups are significantly underrepresented among the pool of top-scoring college applicants. But millionaires and elites also hate standardized admissions tests, because their children’s admission to top colleges is contingent upon test scores. …

The High Cost of Free College for All

During the 2016 Democratic primaries, Bernie Sanders advocated a new federal entitlement making U.S. public colleges and universities tuition free. Since then, Democratic Socialists and some mainstream Democrats have begun supporting such a proposal. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a Bronx, NY candidate running on a socialist platform who became a media star after unseating a senior House Democrat in a primary upset, has made it one of her central campaign issues.   Sanders argues that countries like Germany, Finland, Norway and Sweden have successfully made college free, but there are some major differences between the education systems of continental Europe and those of the United States that make Sanders’s proposal impractical. Everyone has access to higher education in the United States According to data collected by the U.S. Census, 90 percent of adults between ages 25 and 34 have a high school degree or its equivalent, and after high school about two-thirds of adults went on to one of America’s more than 4,500 institutions of higher education.  While many people’s archetypal idea of “college” is a selective private …

Nobody Should Listen to Twitter Mobs

Last fortnight, the New York Times stood behind its new editorial board hire Sarah Jeong, after critics on the right dug up Jeong’s offensive tweets sarcastically mocking white people, saying things like “oh man it’s kind of sick how much joy I get out of being cruel to old white men,” and using a #CancelWhitePeople hashtag. The Times argued that Jeong’s tweets were a sort of counter-trolling response to sustained harassment she endured as a young Asian-American female technology reporter.  Jeong’s critics noted that her offensive tweets weren’t in direct response to any harassment, and that they displayed a degree of hostility to white people that would be considered racist and out of bounds if directed toward any other group.  Nonetheless, the Times did not fire her. This was the right decision.  People shouldn’t lose jobs and opportunities over old tweets.  But if the New York Times did the right thing here, then, by the same standard, several prominent media companies, including the Times, have made wrong decisions in the recent past. Nobody should be …

Free Speech Doesn’t Protect Nazis. It Protects Us From Nazis

Free speech has recently become a cause célèbre of the nationalist and racist right-wing in the United States, as provocateurs like Milo Yiannopoulos bring their roadshows to college campuses, flout the values of progressive students, and then publicize and ridicule those students’ emotional or sometimes violent responses. As a result, some on the Left have become skeptical of the benefits of the First Amendment. Prior to last year’s violent confrontation in Charlottesville, VA, during which an alt-right protester rammed his car into a crowd of counter-protesters, killing a woman and injuring others, the ACLU defended the right of neo-Nazis and white nationalists to demonstrate in support of Confederate monuments. For this, the ACLU was widely criticized by progressives, and since then, some progressives have begun to argue that a society with unfettered free speech is one that fails to protect marginalized communities. Former ACLU legal director and Berkeley law professor john a. powell recently told a reporter from the New Yorker that absolutist free speech rules in the United States fail to weigh the value …

Bill de Blasio’s Plan to Displace Asians In New York’s Top Schools

New York City has eight elite specialized public high schools, which admit students entirely on the basis of their scores on a standardized test called the Specialized High School Aptitude Test (SHSAT).  Only the top 5% of New York students qualify for admission to the specialized high schools, and admissions are very competitive, particularly for Stuyvesant High School, Brooklyn Technical High School, and Bronx High School for Science. These schools have also become predominantly Asian over the course of the last several decades.  Today, Stuyvesant’s student body is 72 percent Asian, about 22 percent white, two percent Latino only about one percent black, even though black and Latino students together comprise about 70 percent of public school students in New York City. In an editorial on the education news site Chalkbeat, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio blasted the racial composition of the specialized high schools as a “monumental injustice,” and proposed eliminating the SHSAT and replacing it with a plan he believes is more fair. De Blasio’s plan to purge Asians The mayor’s …

Harvard Thinks Rich People Are Better Than You

In an expert analysis commissioned to defend Harvard’s admissions practices against a lawsuit, claiming the elite university discriminates against Asian-American applicants, economist David Card explains that the school uses a complicated multivariate analysis that balances applicants’ academic records with a host of other factors. Asian Americans are significantly overrepresented among the highest-scoring college applicants in the United States. And an internal Harvard study from 2013 determined that, if admissions committees only considered academic qualifications, the proportion of Asians among Harvard students would rise from about 19 percent to about 43 percent. However, Harvard admissions officials contend that Asians have lower scores on measures of personality, including items for courage, likability, kindness and being “widely respected.” Card’s analysis shows that while Asians are disproportionately represented among the highest academic achievers, white applicants are more likely to score higher on the personality factors, and more likely to be considered multifaceted applicants. But is Harvard really choosing multifaceted white people with sparkling personalities over one-dimensional Asian academic grinds? Or are scores for “likability” and “kindness” really proxies for …

Silence Around Test Scores Serves the Privileged

Right-wing podcaster Stefan Molyneux recently advised his teenage fans that they should append their IQ scores to job applications. This idea was widely and deservedly ridiculed on Twitter. It’s a serious faux pas to include test scores of any kind — IQ especially, but also SAT or graduate admissions tests like LSAT, MCAT or GMAT — on a resume.  Including test scores will cause many employers to draw negative assumptions about an applicant, and thus reduce the applicant’s chances of being hired, regardless of how good the scores are. But why is there such a taboo against sharing scores, that including them on a resume would cause an employer to draw negative inferences about an applicant’s character? Why is it considered extreme and risible to suggest that a job candidate with a high IQ or a high SAT score should treat that as a qualification? And who benefits from this norm of keeping this data secret? Proxies for aptitude While it is bad advice for a job applicant to share test scores with an employer, nearly every …