All posts filed under: Diversity Debate

Discovering the Link Between Gender Identity and Peer Contagion

The following is excerpted, with permission, from Abigail Shrier’s newly published book, Irreversible Damage: The Transgender Craze Seducing Our Daughters, Regnery Publishing (June 30, 2020) 276 pages. In 2016, Lisa Littman, ob-gyn turned public health researcher, and mother of two, was scrolling through social media when she noticed a statistical peculiarity: Several adolescents, most of them girls, from her small town in Rhode Island had come out as transgender—all from within the same friend group. “With the first two announcements, I thought, ‘Wow, that’s great,’” Dr. Littman said, a light New Jersey accent tweaking her vowels. Then came announcements three, four, five, and six. Dr. Littman knew almost nothing about gender dysphoria—her research interests had been confined to reproductive health: abortion stigma and contraception. But she knew enough to recognize that the numbers were much higher than prevalence data would have predicted. “I studied epidemiology… and when you see numbers that greatly exceed your expectations, it’s worth it to look at what might be causing it. Maybe it’s a difference of how you’re counting. It could …

Racism Is Real. But Science Isn’t the Problem

In his June 9th eulogy for George Floyd, Reverend Al Sharpton said, “What happened to Floyd happens every day in this country, in education, in health services, and in every area of American life.” The metaphor goes to the suffocation of hopes, dreams, and basic rights among many black Americans, in part because of inequities in American society, and in part because of direct experiences with racism. Several days later, the American Physical Society (APS), which claims to represent 55,000 physicists working in the United States and abroad, quoted Sharpton’s statement in announcing its solidarity with the “#strike4blacklives” campaign. The group declared that “physics is not an exception” to the suffocating climate of racism that Sharpton described; and that the APS would be closed for regularly scheduled business on June 10th, so as “to stand in support and solidarity with the Black community and to commit to eradicating systemic racism and discrimination, especially in academia, and science.” And the APS wasn’t alone. The strike was embraced by many scientific groups, national laboratories and universities. Throughout …

Meet Critical Theorists’ Latest Target: Critical Theorists

Ole Wæver, a professor of International Relations at the University of Copenhagen, would seem like an unlikely subject of academic controversy. He’s written extensively on Conflict Studies, and served as a member of the Danish Government’s Commission on Security and Disarmament Affairs, as well as the Danish Institute of International Affairs. He also is widely recognized as the co-founder of a discipline known as Securitization Theory, along with British international-relations professor Barry Buzan. “Securitisation theory shows us that national security policy is not a natural given, but carefully designated by politicians and decision-makers,” reads one introductory online text. “According to securitisation theory, political issues are constituted as extreme security issues to be dealt with urgently when they have been labelled as ‘dangerous,’ ‘menacing,’ ‘threatening,’ ‘alarming’, and so on by a ‘securitising actor’ who has the social and institutional power to move the issue ‘beyond politics.’ So, security issues are not simply ‘out there,’ but rather must be articulated as problems by securitising actors. Calling immigration a ‘threat to national security,’ for instance, shifts immigration from …

Diversity and Discrimination in Open Source

Back in May, I decided to leave the LLVM project, to which I was a contributor. I announced this decision in an open letter to my colleagues, which received some coverage in the technical press at the time, and a number of requests for further comment, which I declined. In what follows, I want to elaborate upon my reasons for leaving and explain what I think is going wrong in open source generally, and at LLVM in particular. First, for those unfamiliar with the tech world, a little background. Software is commonly developed and made available to the public in one of two ways: either proprietary software is developed privately inside a company and sold for a fee, or open source software, as the name implies, is developed in the open for anyone to use and improve. Microsoft’s Office is an example of the former, and the Linux operating system is an example of the latter. Among programmers, there are ongoing discussions about the advantages and disadvantages of both models. I have been attracted to the open …

Diversity and the Concert Hall

Orchestras have had a rough time lately. Rising deficits, inadequate facilities, internal financial squabbles, and an overall lack of interest from the general public have provided more than their share of hurdles for these venerable institutions. Now, in addition to these looming obstacles, orchestras are being faced with a whole new challenge: the call to diversify their programs with more music written by women and minority composers. To get ahead of this cultural trend, several institutions have started initiatives to synthetically bolster the number of performed works by composers in these aforementioned groups. In February, the BBC Proms announced plans for fully half of all new commissions to be granted to women composers by 2022. Earlier in March, the website ICareIfYouListen responded to a tweet accusing them of unconscious bias by reaffirming their commitment to “equitable programming” with a primary interest in “promoting the work of historically underrepresented and marginalized artists.” The website also detailed its apparently already existing policy of “turning down 100% of concert reviews and album reviews that feature works by all white men, with the only exceptions being portrait …

Diversity and Inclusion vs Free Speech on Campus

There will always exist a tension between the freedom of the individual to say and do as they please and the freedom of the individual to be protected from harm. Over the past few years, colleges campuses around the world, but particularly in the United States, have struggled to reconcile these two protections, particularly in light of diversity and inclusion agendas. Finding the line between freedom of speech (or freedom of expression, which may be used interchangeably in this piece) and freedom from harm relies heavily on how we understand and define the two concepts. While the First Amendment to the US Constitution applies to citizens’ rights in relation to their government, it serves as a good starting point for a working definition of free speech. The First Amendment as we know it today is a concise revision of an original draft by James Madison. The part of the original draft that refers to free speech (including assembly and press), reads: The people shall not be deprived or abridged of their right to speak, to …

Silicon Valley and the ABCs of Diversity

When discussing diversity, the loudest voices are the ones which treat diversity as intrinsically valuable. Diversity is viewed as something of which more is always better, an idea flying in the face of our intuitions and best practice. And when it comes to diversity among people, diversity of skills and knowledge is often conflated with demographic diversity. We can watch these debates unfold live at Alphabet Inc. subsidiaries like Google and YouTube, as Google faces a lawsuit and YouTube stands accused of severe discrimination against White and Asian males. First, let’s run through a thought experiment just to get the principles down: You’re in an alien museum, on an alien world. You can only save 100 items. You do not know anything about the items, or the world, except what you might be able to infer by looking at them. How do you determine what to take? You’re in a museum on Earth, in a country that’s very foreign to you. You can only save 100 items. You do not know anything about the items, …

Diversity: A Managerial Ideology

Diversity is the reigning social and political ideal of our age. It is the public ideology of the country’s most powerful state and business institutions. To many it is the essence of American national identity and, in one of the favorite phrases of President Barack Obama, ‘who we are’ as a country. Rather than simply a recognition of difference, diversity is a cultural, economic, and political project to both generate difference and to manage it. This project traces its ancestry back to the black civil rights and women’s movements of the 1950s-70s. First blacks and then women organized and pressured state and society with demands for equality. Struggles took place in nearly every social arena, from housing to public accommodations to religion to sport. Conflict was especially pointed in employment and education, the country’s key channels for upward social mobility. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 stands as the signature legal culmination of those demands, and its Titles IV and VII set forth society’s new norms on ‘equal opportunity’ in both arenas. By ensuring equal …

Sex and STEM: Stubborn Facts and Stubborn Ideologies

Many academics in the modern world seem obsessed with the sex difference in engagement with science, technology, mathematics, and engineering (STEM) fields. Or rather they are obsessed with the fact that there are more men than women in some of these fields. There is particular concern about the lack of women in prestigious STEM fields, such as Ph.D.-level faculty positions, but surprisingly there is no concern about the under-representation of women in lower-level technical jobs, such as car mechanics or plumbing. The concerned academics have been especially effective in convincing others, or at least intimidating them, into accepting their preferred interpretations regarding the source of these sex differences (as illustrated in the Google memo debate). These interpretations are not surprising and they include sexism, stereotype threat, and more recently implicit bias and microaggression. Each of these ideas has gained traction in the mainstream media and in many academic circles but their scientific foundations are shaky. In this essay, we’ll provide some background on the STEM controversy and consider multiple factors that might contribute to these …

Don’t Abandon the King Standard

Over the past few years, but especially since Donald Trump’s election, we have witnessed a vanishing common ground on issues of race between Left and Right. Presently, the race debate in America is not over marginal issues or their nuances but over first principles; apart from a general (and correct) belief that racism is bad, few shared values bind people together. Instead, we have what Thomas Sowell once called, in a slightly different context, “a conflict of visions.” What is racism, and how should it be defined? How prevalent is it in our society, and what are its effects? How should our institutions attempt to dismantle it? On these and many other questions disagreement is fierce. The media reaction to the recent episode, during which Trump was reported to have referred to Haiti and other African countries as “shitholes,” is indicative of widening disagreements about how we talk about race. Even in such an apparently straightforward case as this, a furious debate erupted over the proper way to interpret Trump’s remarks. On the Left, writers …