Thoughts on Education, Diversity and Democracy

My notes, and comments in blue below:

Presentation Title:
Education, Diversity and Democracy:
How can we fulfill higher education's promise to prepare citizens for an increasingly diverse democracy?
By Jeffrey Milem, Dean and Professor at UCSB


Intro, his personal background
  • His mom did social justice work before he knew what that meant. She was a nurse. Worked by day, and studied by night. Because she was born into poverty.
  • She wanted him to either be a preacher or a doctor. Joke: he split the difference: he's a doctor, but not the medical kind, and he gets kind of preachy from time to time.
  • His Dad was a Navy vet. He was born while his dad was in college.
  • He lived in married student housing, with other families who were veterans, and it was a racially diverse environment.
  • His grandparents were illiterate.
  • The first several years of his life he went back and forth between these two environments. And that experience left an imprint on him.
  • He really had no choice but to be who he is. - His stated opinion
  • I can relate to that! I don't feel like I had much in the way of choices either after being skipped two grades in elementary school. On top of being an only child, on top of being a 1st gen US citizen (Hispanic background sub-classification irrelevant IMO, but apparently it matters to the current political climate, cultural difference way more significant IMO), on top of not having extended family support, on top losing my father to cancer as a young teen... the crime and suicide rates for my demographics are so high, I can't even... there are days I'm impressed I'm still alive, and that all I've got on my rap sheet is a few traffic violations! ;-P

Presentation
  • There's been 3 major court cases related to Universities' ability to create diversity.
  • Hate crimes reported by all colleges increased by 25 percent in 2016
    • 40% related to race , rest: religion, sexual orientation, gender
    • Pretty sure this uptick was all a failed attempt to manipulate the election for MSM starlet Clinton, including both false reports and paid for tampering with the election. Lots of examples of media-whoring, and organized subversion.
  • Shows pics of "Racial Intolerance" on Campus (undergrads posing: e.g. undergrad girls in mudmasks/blackface with the caption BLM, a guy in a noose with cowboys, a bunch of undergrads in fake mustaches and sombreros, etc.)
    • Emphatically states that these are inappropriate
    • These pics are all obvious poses, and seem like they're pulled from FB/IG as comical/mocking/satire. As a former troubled youth who used to participate in similar types of behavior in undergrad, I find the lack of compassion for the young people's misbehaving pleas for attention concerning (Also, ref: Chapelle Show, Carlos Mencia Show, The Aristocrats Joke, CollegeHumor.com, and Jim Rohn "mysteries of the mind" with "the mockers and laugh-ers" (it's what they do, they mock and laugh).
  • Define what we mean by the term of diversity
    • Compositional diversity - The numerical and proportional representation of students from different racial/ethnic groups in the student body (most common)
    • Diversity of Interactions - interactions with diverse information and ideas and interactions with diverse people
    • Institutional Diversity-Related initiatives - i.e.e More diversity requirements, ethnic studies courses programs, women's studies, courses/programs, structured dialogue programs, LGBT studies courses/programs, social awareness workshops, etc. that occur on college and university campuses.
  • Campuses that are more racially diverse tend to create more rich experiences.
  • If the benefits of diversity are to be achieved, the context is important. It's not enough to just put the people in the room. Yes, very good point!
  • Theories linking diversity and learning
    • Encountering the new and unfamiliar causes us to abandon routines and actively think
    • Disequilibrium occurs when one encounters perspectives that depart from one's own embedded worldview and past experiences
    • Learning and social development occur when interacting with others who hold different perspectives
    • Copious diversity creates conditions--unfamiliarity disequilibrium, differing perspectives, and contradictory expectations--that promote learning and deeper complex thinking
    • Speaker highlights contradictions in the quotes on his own slides, and makes joke that teachers will know not all are true. Students may not be engaged. I'd add that these are not necessary either, as in, one can read a book, watch a video, or imagine (if the person has imagination.) I recall being in 7th grade PI (project ideal) reading class and having a class discussion with students go down hill as we had just read yet another dystopian future story, and I brought up the point that money doesn't matter in an apocalyptic situation. Both me and the teacher got frustrated that none of the other students in the class could seem to wrap their heads around the idea that if you're going to literally die of thirst or starvation in the week, then a bottle of water and a sandwich are more valuable than a bar of gold.
  • Conditions that make diversity work
    • Presence of diverse peers
    • "There can be no community without conflict" but for some reason we seem to try to avoid it rather than embrace it. This is deeply profound.
  • Types of Benefits
    • Individual - learning, democracy, citizen engagement, racial/cultural engagement, compatibility of differences, material -- jobs/finance/etc)
    • institutional - discourse of preservation (admissions, status quo, diversity as an add-on), or alternatively, discourse of transformation (institutional change, privilege, disrupt the usual). Actualizing the value-added educational benefits associated with diversity requires active engagement in institutional transformation and raises critically important questions that must be answered. Who deserves an opportunity to learn? How is the potential for learning evaluated? (speaker pokes fun at standardized tests and lumps them all together as the same, the goal being to predict first year's grades, and studies find only a 0.4 correlation.) No, they are not all the same. See my previous comments in other threads. They are specialized IQ tests. The GMAT/LSAT/MCAT have almost perfect bell curves with lots of "strata", and those schools are generally for the upper-class. Good luck seeing a first-gen USA citizen make it into one of those professions unless their parents were upper-class migrants who already had that level of success in their native country. Btw, IQ is another very important scientific metric that has been buried. It's an inconvenient truth to certain politics, which is exacerbated by people's poor understanding of statistics (e.g. correlation between skin pigmentation and cognitive function), poor understanding of what we can and can't do to raise or lower our IQs, poor understand of what good that even is for completing tasks or being effective in life or more importantly being happy. I'm not looking up links for this now, maybe I'll blog about it later. What is learned? Who oversees learning? What conditions advance learning for all students? Who decides what is important to learn? According to Marcus Auraleus, over 2,000 years ago, it's the legislators and the business interests they represent. And today it seems to be about the same. Bigger and more complex, but yeah… same shit different day…
    • economic & private sector
    • societal -
  • The campus racial climate
    • Government/political forces, sociohistorical forces
    • Organizational/structural dimension: definitions of merit, admissions practices, hiring practices, tenure policies, content of the curriculum, budget allocations, institutional policies and procedures
  • Annecdote: 13% of the student body at Maryland belonged to frats/sororities
    • 1.5 FTEs dedicated to students of color, but 1/3 of the undergrad body was colored
    • 13.5 FTE for rest… Q: were they to not help students of color? are you suggesting that university staff should be assigned to students based on skin color?
  • Keys to successfully engaging diversity on campus
    • Think multi-dimensionally
    • Students of color, Blacks and Latinos, benefit from same-race education that whites don’t
    • Okay, first, not all Latinos/Hispanics are brown (including yours truly), so, *aghem* check yourself.
    • I asked him a Q in the Q&A afterwards:
    • <credentials, pleasantries, and sensitive prefacing for a provocative question> 
    • (Hi, my name's Daniel Burillo, I'm a PhD Candidate in Engineering studying climate change and power grid reliability, I was the President of the graduate student government two years ago, and I'm a first generation US citizen of Hispanic origin, so, forgive me if the question comes across a bit provocative, but you mentioned in one of your previous slides that students of color, Blacks and Latinos, benefit from same-race education that white's don't...
    • Q: Are you suggesting that blacks and Hispanics should be segregated for their own good?
    • He responded, yes, in some ways. And -- I'm paraphrasing -- explained that there's a miss-perception about colored minorities self-segregating which is actually just an artifact of their being a minority in the sample group. The symmetric argument from the minority perspective is that the majority is self segregating. This is an oversimplification, and a better explanation is that they just already have cliques. Without proactive greeters in the population its easy for people to be "left out." I agree. This is one of the things I thought GPSA did very well, and why I was happy to contribute as much to the organization as I did. 
    • I followed up with another Q:
    • Do you have any data from studies in other countries/cultures or where groups are reversed? i.e. Europe? Blacks in schools in Mexico? Whites in school in Africa? What about Asia?
    • He briefly responded that he does not.
    • Wow. And you've been doing this for how many years? and read how many studies? And SUPERVISED how many studies? You're the dean!
    • This is actually a very common American thing in my observation, to act like the rest of the world doesn't exist or to be oblivious to other countries. I've written about this before, particularly in the context of race/gender-divisive political rhetoric.  THESE are the moments that I am not proud to be an American. =(
  • Speaker's Q: What makes students think they can be in blackface etc in impunity?
    • Well that's a harsh language choice. 
    • First, is the first set of liberties guaranteed in the bill of rights to the USA constitution. So, my gut wants to say take your pick of the sentiments of Patrick Henry, or Darrell Hammond's SNL impersonation of Sean Connery, but keep reading and I think there's a sincere issue here. (Thanks Ramadan for helping me develop better self-control.)
    • Second, context: the pics showed these undergrads in their own homes/dorms or on vacation at a beach -- in Mexico? -- or at what appeared to be a Halloween party in his pics
    • I asked the speaker about this after the Q&A, starting with are you familiar with standup comedy? A little he said. (yeah... I'm not so sure about that... when I was in undergrad I'd watch Chapelle Show and Mind of Mencia all the time with a diverse group and we all just laughed our asses off). 
    • Then I brought up pleas for attention. He almost seemed to have an aha moment that the misbehaving people are knowingly being offensive for humor and to get attention, but then, no, his sentiments were that they shouldn't be able to do that because he lived through eras where lynchings were a real thing. Okay, that's tragic, but, that's not what's happening here. I don't know what it's like to be black, but I'm Hispanic and I can grow a better mustache than the fake ones in the pic in about a month, and sombreros are nice hats at the beach. This is not news, this is not oppression. This is childish mockery behavior. And restricting people's freedom of speech to tell jokes (in however poor taste) is oppressive and unconstitutional.
    • Here, I've got a perfect example for you. When I was in undergrad, I roomed with a bunch of other troubled redneck geniuses at one point. They were from Bullhead city Arizona, and we would tell morbid jokes all the time to entertain ourselves because we hated our lives so much and had such deformed self-images. Their town was so small, it was a big deal when they got a Wall-Mart.  One young man's last name was "Lynch". I only write that because it's relevant to the story, and the following is a real true story. He was 6'3", ~300 lbs, could kick up to his head, would literally hit himself in the head with a hammer for fun (jackass ruined all our pans by headbutting them, not like we knew how to cook anyway >.>), had a national Merritt scholarship in high school but screwed it up somehow, was secretly depressed about his weight (he finally lost 100lbs after undergrad), had a younger brother who was always trying to compete with him, blamed himself for his parents' divorce when he was a teenager, described his cognitive process as like having 12 tv channels running at the same time (~180 IQ, and proved it several times), and liked to play basketball and would provoke black men into fighting by dropping 3's on them and then would get in their face and say they just got Lynched! Then he would brag about talking his way out fights by explaining that actually his last name was Lynch. One time he he claimed he had to show the other person his drivers license -- to probably not wind up in the hospital. >.> He was one of the nicest guys in the world who would help anyone, and went out of his way to make friends with the kid in the wheelchair etc. But he had this crazy internal conflict going on, we all did in our own way, that resulted in doing the most absurd things for laughs -- especially things that other's would find terribly offensive and get all worked up about -- because it was funny... And what a coincidence, his last name was Lynch!

      I can only imagine how horrible this must have been from the perspective of any black students, that this random 6'3" 300lb guy is getting in their face and saying such awful things --
      even if some macho competitive mental stuff is part of the game. Or how emotionally exhausting it must have been for the young men who did not loose their composure. Wow, discipline, props. I'd bet over the years a lot of people never found out his last name was Lynch, that he was just making a terrible pun for attention, and just, i don't even know...

      So, given what we know, what do you think is the appropriate way to respond to that young man if you caught him doing this? Punish him? Is that what he needs? More pain? You don't think he's not already hurting enough? And that's not the reason for his misbehavior?

      Idk, any professional coaching/therapy folks, please correct me in the comments if I'm wrong, but I think (metaphorically) beating him with a stick to make him feel worse about himself is not going to help correct his behavior. I think coaching him to have higher self-respect -- than to go around knowingly triggering peoples' negative emotions for his own amusement -- is more appropriate. And yes, that will mean taking some extra time with him to assess and resolve whatever his self-respect issues are at the time. But here's the thing, you do not do it in a demonizing way. You do not respond by passive-aggressively excluding him from your group. You do not start the conversation by name-calling him some kind of deplorable. You confront the issue as soon as possible. You start the conversation preferably with a complement (everybody's got something), or just explain that you've had some complaints, and ask him to explain himself, in a non-threatening manner, about what/why he's doing what he's doing. And you are sincere when you do it. Because you genuinely believe that you are dealing with a good person, who for whatever reason that you're going to get to the bottom of, has some warped sense of reality when it comes to their interactions with others.

      What ever happened to him you ask? Well, last I heard he was peddling illegal drugs. What a waste.
  • Closing remarks, goals are to achieve educational equity
I don't get it. idk about the UC-system, but I think ASU at least is one of the best at providing equal opportunities. Apparently we let in 'the B-students,' and are unfairly penalized in 'the rankings' for it because we don't pre-screen for students who are already higher performing / have higher GPAs. Instead we allow people the opportunity to elevate themselves through study and hard work if they so choose, and actually deliver of course. There's a big difference between equal opportunity and equal outcome. I can try out for the swim team, and I won't make it, and that's fine. Don't tie Michael Phelps's arms together so he has to swim as slow as me. And don't go allocating important life and death jobs in critical infrastructure systems to unqualified people just to meet some unethical inconsistent opinion-based diversity requirements.


Overall thoughts:
Overall, I thank the speaker for discussing this very important topic, which is both emotionally/politically challenging, and doing so in a civil manner. Grateful to have learned a few things and had the opportunity to ask questions and discuss with other audience members.

That being said, I found the speaker's overarching narrative unclear, and the concluding remarks to be (1) biased and lacking scientific understating of research methods, (2) lacking in understanding of the supreme law of the land of the USA, and (3) lacking in compassion for students with different experiences.

1) The use of examples of students posing for obviously provocatively mocking/satirical pictures did not support the argument of any form of inequity in education that would necessitate continued diversity requirements as a policy mandate. The sample of survey data presented about differences in educational experiences for white and non-white students was (a) biased, in that it was limited to the USA and did not include other countries where whites are minorities, and (b) not clearly defined as (i) Latinos/Hispanics can be both white and non-white, (ii) did not attempt to account for variation within people with white-skin such as hair or eye color which have been significant factors for discrimination in the past (e.g. blond hair, blue eyes, red hair, freckles), (iii) did not attempt to account for non-white skinned peoples of other ethnic origin (e.g. Asian and south Asian). Therefore, the conclusions of the different educational benefits of segregating students based on race or skin color as a function of solely race or skin color using only 3 predictor variables (Blacks and Hispanic/Latino ?Brown? and white) are poorly correlated at best and not scientifically apt for making policy. 

Significant further work is necessary before any such claims can be made scientifically, including: clarification of definitions of predictor variables, controlling for multicolinear variables, including (religious) culture, nationality, income/educational (again cultural) bias, amount of MSM television/content consumed during youth (as MSM is well known for dishonesty and manipulative brainwashing of youth, especially regarding divisiveness for such simple-minded concepts as skin color and gender), and controlling for bias as to which population is the majority in the sample.

2) The rhetorical question, "what makes students think they can be in blackface [etc] in impunity?" is unbecoming of an administrator in a leadership position in an institution of higher education in the USA in two ways, first demonstrates ignorance of the first set of liberties guaranteed in the USA  Bill of Rights, and

3) lacks empathy for the students behaving in a questionably disrespectful (but perfectly legal) manner and whatever troubled emotional state they are in that has compelled them to behave in such a manner. While I appreciate the speaker's expressed concern for the sensibilities of peoples who are broadly the subject of such mocking behavior, as one of those peoples (Hispanic), I am not offended. Even if I was offended, I would defend their right to offend me -- my sentiments are still with Patrick Henry, "give me liberty or give me death." Let them have their liberty too. And please do not segregate me from my peers. I want to study and work with the best that I can keep up with, period, no other factors. According to Harvard business research presented by one of my former professors Mark Kryder, professionals in R&D at least could generally care less about racial/ethnic diversity, and simply care whether or not colleagues do their jobs. Anecdotally this has also been my personal experience -- at least working with people who generally do their math/stats correctly -- as opposed to the 'scientists' who behave more interested in getting ratings than discovering truth.

I appreciate the detailed education on the initial affirmative action rulings, and can appreciate why they were implemented in the first place. We're past that now as a society, and to continue to make institutional policies based on race/ethnicity/skin color/gender/etc does more to divide people than bring them together. Google a list of top 100, Black, Hispanic, Female, etc. etc. people in business and STEM and you'll be flooded with results. Affirmative action has served its temporary purpose, and it is time to retire it and put it to rest. Thank you for your service in healing these United States of America, with all our troubled past. 

We Americans are not perfect, but we are good people, we are compassionate and generous people, and we have urgent/important global life-threatening existential problems to focus on now, including: climate change and modernizing our various infrastructure systems to support the earth's ecology, artificial intelligence and transitioning our soon-to-be massively displaced workforce, and making sure we keep our humanity as we inevitably integrate with machines (implants are coming). We need good diverse teams working on solving these problems, trusting that we're all on this spaceship earth together without being suspicious of others' intentions simply because we may look different, go to a different church, or (parents) were born in a different country. We need to be able to bring the best minds together and accept that sometimes that will mean teams will have different skin color, and sometimes they wont, because diversity goes more than skin deep. And we need to do it here, in America, where we have more diversity than any other country on earth. Because we are the most capable of accomplishing anything we put our minds to -- if we can all just work together. God bless America.

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