Zachary Wood ’18, co-President of Uncomfortable Learning and an EphBlog favorite, wrote an article in The Nation titled “You Shouldn’t Have to Take an African-American Studies Course to Read African-American Authors.” Let’s discuss if for a few days. Today is Day 1.

Justice Antonin Scalia’s already infamous suggestion that blacks need “special schools” in reference to comments about Fisher v. University of Texas, is not only reminiscent of the pseudoscientific racism posited in Charles Murray’s The Bell Curve but also indicative of a dire lack of intellectual diversity in higher education.

1) The reason that EphBlog (and the ghost of Robert Gaudino) love Zach Wood is because he both practices and preaches “uncomfortable learning.” Even though he thinks that Murray’s research is “pseudoscientific,” he has arranged for Murray to come speak at Williams in March. Kudos! Murray may be right and he may be wrong but there is no doubt he is one of the most important social scientists of the last 50 years. I am proud of Zach and of Uncomfortable Learning and of Williams for bringing him to campus.

2) The critics of Zach/UL (especially Professor Sam Crane) should be asked to answer the question: Is Williams a better college for hosting speakers like Murray? Note that he (like the other UL speakers) are “free.” The College did not have to move money devoted to liberal/leftist/Democratic speakers in order to bring Murray. Additional funds were raised.

3) Is Wood providing a fair description of Scalia’s comment. I don’t think so. Consider:

Scalia’s comment stemmed not from random intuition but from research showing that a substantial number of black students would do better — and be happier — at schools less selective than the ones they are often admitted to via racial preferences.

The reading public’s response to Scalia’s point shows that few have any idea of this research or assume it was done by partisan zealots. An intelligent discussion of the Fisher v. University of Texas case now before the Supreme Court requires a quick tour of the facts.

Read the whole thing, written by the (African-American) intellectual John McWhorter.

UCLA law professor Richard Sander conclusively showed in 2004 that “mismatched” law students are much more likely to cluster in the bottom of their classes and, especially, to fail the bar exam. Meanwhile, Sander and Stuart Taylor’s book argues that the mismatch problem damages the performance of black and brown students in general.

Sander spoke at Williams in the fall of 2014, under the auspices of Uncomfortable Learning. If Wood would grant that Sander might have a point, then what is his objection to Scalia?

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