Friday, February 19, 2016

STEM And Competence Vs. Credentialism

Scott Alexander wrote and then disappeared a great, long, rambling rant about various matters, in part related to credentials vs. competence. This sparked a spirited conversation in the comments, which is all we have of it now. (I suspect he plans eventually on trimming it down to fighting weight, and republishing it then.) I wanted to focus here on this snippet (quoted parts are from Alexander's original):
The Blue Tribe protects its own and wants to impoverish anyone who doesn’t kowtow to their institutions. For the same reason, we get bizarre occupational licensing restrictions like needing two years of training to braid people’s hair, which have been proven time and time again not to work or improve quality.
The opposite of credentialism is meritocracy—the belief that the best person should get the job whether or not they’ve given $200,000 to Yale. In my crazy conspiracy theory, social justice is the attack arm of the educated/urban/sophisticated/academic Blue Tribe, which works by constantly insisting all competing tribes are racist and sexist and therefore need to be dismantled/taken over/put under Blue Tribe supervision for their own good. So we get told that meritocracy is racist and sexist. Colleges have pronounced talking about meritocracy to be a microaggression, and the media has declared that supporting meritocracy is inherently racist. Likewise, we are all told that standardized tests and especially IQ are racist and hurt minorities, even though in reality this testing helps advance minorities better than the current system.
As we saw when Asians rose up to block Democratic efforts to reinstate affirmative action at the University of California,  the winners and losers in such efforts are not always readily discernible. But when that same UC pronounces meritocracy as microaggression, you know which direction the system's overlords intend to take the discussion: toward more credentials, and less actual aptitude. Popehat collective blogger @ClarkHat* suggested why progressives have a love/hate relationship with STEM disciplines:
I seem to recall Alexander mentioning a "Silicon Valley 2.0" as a place taken over by credentialists, which would be a field day for people like the censorious Anita Sarkeesian (who lately seems to have snuck into Twitter's censorship board) and naked lunatics like Shanley Kane, whose editorial stance is that competence is the new sexism. I would hope it goes without saying that these people must be resisted with every tool at our disposal.

* I've since been informed that ClarkHat no longer writes for Popehat.

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