The Myth of a Majority-Minority America

Three academics publish in The Atlantic June 16, 2021:

The narrative that nonwhite people will soon outnumber white people is not only divisive, but also false.

In recent years, demographers and pundits have latched on to the idea that, within a generation, the United States will inevitably become a majority-minority nation, with nonwhite people outnumbering white people. In the minds of many Americans, this ethno-racial transition betokens political, cultural, and social upheaval, because a white majority has dominated the nation since its founding. But our research on immigration, public opinion, and racial demography reveals something quite different: By softening and blurring racial and ethnic lines, diversity is bringing Americans together more than it is tearing the country apart.

The majority-minority narrative contributes to our national polarization. Its depiction of a society fractured in two, with one side rising while the other subsides, is inherently divisive because it implies winners and losers. It has bolstered white anxiety and resentment of supposedly ascendant minority groups, and has turned people against democratic institutions that many conservative white Americans and politicians consider complicit in illegitimate minority empowerment. At the extreme, it nurtures conspiratorial beliefs in a racist “replacement” theory, which holds that elites are working to replace white people with minority immigrants in a “stolen America.”

The narrative is also false. By rigidly splitting Americans into two groups, white versus nonwhite, it reinvents the discredited 19th-century “one-drop rule” and applies it to a 21st-century society in which the color line is more fluid than it has ever been.

In reality, racial diversity is increasing not only at a nationwide level but also within American families—indeed within individual Americans. Nearly three in 10 Asian, one in four Latino, and one in five Black newlyweds are married to a member of a different ethnic or racial group. More than three-quarters of these unions are with a white partner. For more and more Americans, racial integration is embedded in their closest relationships.

Multiracial identities are gaining public recognition and approval. Numerous young Americans consider themselves both white and members of a minority racial or ethnic group. One in every nine babies born in the U.S. today will be raised in a mixed minority-and-white family, and this group is steadily growing. These children have kin networks—including grandparents, aunts and uncles, and cousins—that include both white people and minorities. Among Latinos, identifying as white or as simply “American” is common, and belies the notion that Latinos should be classified monolithically as nonwhite.

Furthermore, most Americans of both white and minority descent are not positioned as minorities in American society. For example, people who identify as Hispanic and white, or Asian and white, tend to start life in more economically favorable situations than most minority groups, are typically raised in largely white communities, have above-average educational outcomes and adulthood incomes, and frequently marry white people. They have fluid identities that are influenced by both minority and white ancestries.

I’ve rarely encountered any anti-white hatred (on the rare times I did, it was only from blacks).

A friend says:

Los Angeles was a county with a large white population, a significant but still small Latino population composed mostly of persons with deep roots in the community and not recent migrants, a significant African American population larger in proportion than it is today, and a small Asian population. All you have to do is look at the ethnic and racial origins of the students in the Los Angeles Unified School District every five years or so from 1950. If you want to increase the white population, you can add in the private and parochial schools but that still doesn’t shift the demographics much. Black and white kids have been pushed out and been supplanted by Latinos. Whites have been pushed out of many of the independent school districts in the San Gabriel Valley by Asians (primarily Chinese).

The city council which doesn’t reflect the population of the city has four Latinos (perhaps five if Buscaino is Latino) and three blacks among its fifteen members, one of East Asian descent and one of subcontinental descent. It has two traditional whites, plus two Jews and an Armenian.

The five member board of supervisors has one black and one Latino, and three whites. All five are women and one of them is a well known Lesbian elected official (although she is also probably the smartest and most respected). But you can see how much they pander since four of them voted to put on the ballot that a percentage of expenditures would be locked in to BLM type expenditures. The initiative passed although the tentative court ruling is to enjoin it since you can’t take away budgetary discretion from the duly elected officials. But what does it say that 80% wanted this on the ballot when the population of Blacks in L.A. County hovers around 10%?

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The Business Of Church

A friend responds to this post: One of the great things about many 18th century novelists (Balzac, Dickens, Trollope) is how much you learn about the societies and businesses in which the novels are set. I hadn’t realized until I read Trollope how the Church of England was in one sense just another one of the businesses and being a minister was just another profession in England at the time. There is scarcely any difference in Trollope’s The Warden about how the church operates and how local politics operate and how law operates and how journalism operates. The church doesn’t much discuss religion or God but rather focuses on the internal politics and the competition for advancement within the church.

What is more interesting is how that has fallen out of favor and how quickly.

When I was attended some twelve step meetings in the churches on Wilshire Boulevard in Hancock Park, I thought those imposing structures churches must have been built in the 10’s and 20’a of the 20th century, but I think construction, and expansion of the congregations reached their zenith in the immediate post war years when America was relatively prosperous, unscathed by the war and the old racial and religious proportions still remained with L.A. being overwhelmingly white and to a large extent Protestant. The deterioration and collapse in most of the country (it still exists in parts of the South) of the interrelation between organized religion and society as a whole is shocking.

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The Changing Temptations Of Science

Stephen Turner published in 2020:

The idea of science as a spontaneous order produced by autonomous individuals following their best hunches, the core of the liberal theory of science, became less an accurate description than an expression of nostalgic regret. Research was supposed to be a free market that encouraged risk-taking and innovation. The grant and funding market encouraged competition, but the competition was increasingly for survival in a world where the big grants, which produced the most output, won. Science came to be seen as a system in which inputs needed to be matched by measurable outputs. An op-ed piece in the Washington Post, based on the 1991 Office of Technology Assessment report Federally Funded Research: Decisions for a Decade, asked “How Much is Enough?”
Science had evolved a new ethic: an ethic of productivity.

Productivity now meant something different than it did under the ethic of discovery, where what mattered was knowledge and ideas. It meant producing measurable outputs: patents were counted along with citations, and grant numbers were counted as well. And in the face of competition, military and industrial funding became a way to keep university labs going, and a necessity. The change was underscored in 1984, when President Reagan selected Erich Bloch—an engineer, from the private sector, without a PhD—to be director of NSF. Bloch proceeded to create programs that encouraged multidisciplinary team science. The old model of a few “first
class” people was a fading memory: the new model moved closer to corporate science. Bloch oversaw the funding of major engineering and science-and-technology research centers at universities, as well as a national supercomputer network. “Economic competitiveness” became the primary public justification for government funding of science.

By the late 1990s, science had become STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics), and had an additional economic justification—as a preferred kind of job training. The promise that STEM education would lead to high-paying (high tech) jobs began to drive national education policies worldwide. Science became central to what was taken to be the technological future—and research training of a more ethnic- and gender-diverse student population was an investment in this future. But this politically powerful promise tied science to immediate considerations of impact and relevance. Congress (and presumably the public) wanted new jobs and economic growth, now.

* Temptations arise from the organizational realities of modern science, particularly the need to fund a lab. This need requires a relation with funders, involving some sort of alignment between the aims of the researcher and those of the funder. In the face of intense competition, the work of alignment falls on the recipient to a greater extent than it does the funder. And this means that autonomy is limited to what can be achieved within these relations.

Many temptations arise within these relations, or in connection with them: the temptation to claim impact, to overpromise, to overstate the policy relevance of findings, to sacrifice the pursuit of intellectually promising lines of work to those that can be funded, to produce work that is marketable to funders but scientifically trivial, to leave the tasks of voicing and substantiating skepticism to others, to neglect the tasks of intellectual integration and reflection that don’t have “impact,” and to do just enough to meet the demands and not dig deeper or in directions other than what the funding regime requires.

The upshot is this: the norms relevant to these temptations have not developed sufficiently for scientists to be able to
insist that they are effectively governing themselves. In the new system, bias became rewarded. Findings that confirm what a sponsor wants confirmed lead to more funding. And if many people are trying to confirm a result, and the research is statistical, they are highly likely to find what they are looking for…

* Contemporary science is plagued with crowd-following, where researchers jump onto an approach or topic because that is a good strategy for getting funded. University research offices facilitate this, and metrics encourage it.

* Modesty about limits is difficult to accept when the fate of the biosphere, or breast cancer sufferers, or America’s economic supremacy, is said to be at stake. But the complexity of the relation between science and the public, as well as the funding system, presents a number of conflicting imperatives and interests. For example, in relation to politics, or the promise of profit, such claims as “the science is settled” and “there is a consensus” carry special importance. Yet the idea of consensus is not a traditional notion in science, and there is no long history to learn from. On one hand, such claims are a source
of power—science speaking with one voice rather than many. Yet the pressure to maintain consensus may make scientists in the current peer-review regime reluctant to criticize other scientists or make controversies public, or to air the uncertainties that they privately acknowledge. Dissenters may be penalized by rejection of their grants and papers, and blocked promotions.

* If the structures of support for science—in the private sector, in public private university partnerships, and in the regulatory science realm—provide incentives that overwhelm the traditional social controls of science, the only backstop is the system of social controls beyond science, through the marketplace, investigative journalism, the canon of legal and patent law, or the regulatory apparatus pertaining to securities law and fraud.

Not surprisingly, then, social controls from outside science are beginning to kick in. The Theranos scandal, involving a start-up company pitching a supposedly revolutionary blood-testing technology, was uncovered not by the scientific community, or even the Food and Drug Administration, but by the investment community and a crusading business journalist. The relationships between a leading Harvard chemist and Chinese research institutions was not uncovered by Harvard but by the FBI. The poor quality of preclinical cancer science was not exposed through peer review but by testing done in pharmaceutical corporations. “Compliance” with institutions outside science begins to replace internal constraint.

* The new regime of quantitative accountability invites cheating, crowd-following, conformity, lapses in quality, and subservience to sponsors whose funds make it possible to compete.

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Leaving Academia: Loss Grief and Healing

Lisa Munro writes in 2017:

I’ve been out of academia for two years, having finished my PhD in 2015. I think I’m finally on the road to healing.
I often joke that leaving academia feels like the worst break up ever.*
HAHAHAHAHA. That’s a good one!
Except that I’m not joking. Giving up on something that you thought was your life’s calling hurts like hell. When you experience rejection from the entire institution of academia after devoting years of your life and thousands of dollars to become an academic, betrayal and rage sometimes become your only emotions for a good long while.
For me, the grief of leaving academia feels about the same as the loss and grief of the end of relationship. Even when you know that the relationship wasn’t right for you (”It’s not you, it’s me. Well, okay, it’s you.”), loss is loss. The loss of my academic dreams also triggered a whole avalanche of of old, deep losses that I’m never going to really get over.
We’ve all got dreams that don’t work out, even when we really really really want them to, but academic grief hit me so much harder than the novels I want to write that won’t get written or the places I want to travel that I know I’ll never visit. In academia, your work becomes a part of you; you become your work. Losing the academic part of us feels like losing a limb, complete with phantom pain when it’s gone. Loss often involves a lot of self-blame, shame, second-guessing and endless asking why and what’s wrong with us and why the fuck are we never good enough anyways.
Academia requires a life commitment. I devoted a total of seven years of my life to trying to understand a single thing. I was committed to my research in ways that were sometimes deeper than commitments I’ve had to people. I was fully prepared to spend the rest of my life focused on this one particular thing. Some days I didn’t like my research very much and found it hard and difficult and frustrating. Nevertheless, I never for an instant wavered in my devotion to it. Like in any relationship, academia and I went over rough patches. I thought about calling it quits several times, but didn’t want to throw away something to which I’d devoted so much time. I was not a quitter.
I’m now working in victim advocacy and now talk to people about grief, trauma, and loss every day. I wish I’d had someone like me to talk to about grief and loss after my PhD. I wish someone had told me that they were sorry that I didn’t get a job. That it wasn’t fair. That it wasn’t my fault that the market had collapsed and hadn’t recovered. That sometimes stuff just happens to people for no reason. Sometimes the story doesn’t end the way that we want it to or expect it to.
The grief I felt when I conceded defeat on the job market was the real deal. I cycled through every one of the Kubler Ross model’s stages of grief several times. And as anyone who has been through the five stages of grief knows, they are not really stages at all, but rather suggestions. Grief is a full body contact sport that involves cycling and recycling through the stages of grief, moving forward and backwards and sideways at the most inopportune moments until the heart and soul decide there’s nothing more to be done and they’ve let go. There’s nothing rational about grief and no time table to “get over it.” It’s insanely confusing and consumes massive amounts of emotional resources. Grief is involuntary and wild and frightening.
If you’re coming to the realization that you’re going to have to walk away from academia, let me hasten to tell you that your feelings are real and valid, whatever they may be. I believe you. (Maybe your feelings aren’t grief. Maybe they’re relief? That’s valid and legit too.) Nonetheless, you’re going to have to do some stuff to get through the emotional crap swamp. Here are some suggestions. (Keep in mind that I’m not a counselor. I’m a victim advocate and post-ac historian. If you’re struggling with mental health, please please please connect with mental health resources in your community.)
You’ve lost a big chunk of your identity, both personal and professional. Grief is a normal reaction. You ain’t crazy.
Self care is key. Emotional eating is okay for a little bit, but you’re eventually going to have to make real food. I know it’s hard.
Let yourself be very not okay for a while. It’s okay to be sad. It’s okay to be really really sad.
Healing isn’t a matter of “getting over it.” It’s a matter of incorporating loss into your story and telling it in a new way.
There’s no timetable. Anyone who thinks that you should be ready to move on according to any kind of timetable can shove it.
Take life one day at a time.
Know that healing isn’t a destination; it’s a journey and a process.
You might think about investing in a good therapist.
Leaving academia isn’t just a “career change.” It’s the worst breakup of your life and you might not even be able to see into next week, let alone imagine possibly being happy and okay again someday. Be in grief for as long as you need to.
You’ll heal. Eventually. You’ll have the scars to prove it. Healing will happen so slowly that you might not even notice it. In one of the biggest cliches ever, I’ve learned (and now teach people) that healing is a PROCESS.
You’re going to get through this. One day you realize that you haven’t cried in a few days. Then maybe you notice that you’re daydreaming about something you’ve always wanted to do. Some idea for interesting and engaging work crosses your mind. And then you might find yourself wondering if you could actually do that. And then maybe you start thinking of how you might do that. And then you start talking to other people about how you might do that. And then you’re off and running again.
You’re healing.
*This may not be your experience at all. A lot of PhDs these days are actively planning NOT to become academics, so I suspect their sense of academic loss may be less. I don’t know. Those of the tenure track or bust generation, from my conversations with other people about their experiences, seem to have taken academic loss pretty hard. We didn’t have backup parachutes ready; we made up the post-ac life as we went. We’re still figuring it out. As always, YMMV.

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Beyond The Academic Ethic

Philosopher Stephen Turner published this essay in 2019:

* the German academic system of the late nineteenth century, which became the model for the modern research university…

* Harvard University, for the first three centuries of its existence, was essentially a training school for congregational ministers, a task it still performs. The ministry was a paradigmatic profession: a calling but also a source of income and a status in an established institution, in this case the church. The same could be said for Cambridge and Oxford, which not only produced for the religious market but had religious tests for entry late in the nineteenth century, and whose presses still rely on revenue from the Bible market. One could multiply examples indefinitely. On the continent, the market relation was to the state – which needed educated administrators. The value of the university was not for its pursuit of truth, but for its ability to provide some sort of educational experience and some sort of certification which the market, in the Harvard case the congregations hiring the minster, valued. To be sure, there was a small minority of students who valued knowledge for its own sake and were able and willing to pay for instruction. But this small minority would never be large or rich enough to support a university, and there were never enough academic jobs for them to constitute an academic class of the scale of present academia.

The relationship with the professions produced a particular kind of university which persisted and grew over a millennia, with typical groupings of ‘faculties’ associated with the professions, and some sort of core liberal arts faculty which provided instruction that was considered to be more elementary and general. Until the nineteenth century these faculties were more concerned with the transmission of dogma than ‘discovery’ and were often strikingly retrograde in relation to the knowledge available outside the university. The logic of exclusion was central to the traditional university: it was a means of certifying that those trained within it conformed to the accepted truths. This fits with the demands of certification, and exclusion helped make the certification valuable.

It is important to understand how the university and academia related to intellectual life at large. Universities were places where people were learned, and went through various tests to show they were learned. A dissertation in the sixteenth century was a recapitulation of the professor’s notes – the real test was the viva, in which the candidate demonstrated an ability to defend these views on his feet. In Britain, college fellowships were awarded based on exams, not production – and production was largely optional and in many cases non-existent, well into the postwar era. At the same time, there was a lively non-academic world of learning, and also of production – indeed, this is where the ideas normally emerged. This dual world was somewhat permeable until what William James called ‘the Ph.D octopus’ (1903) strangled the university – as evidenced by the career of James himself. But until the academic revolution, which occurred over a long period, led by the ‘research universities’, the qualifications of a professor were learning, not production. And one can see this even in the institutions of the German university, where the Habilitationsschrift must be in a different specialty than the PhD dissertation, and where there was originally no expectation that professors produce beyond this demonstration of learning.

* The point of professions is to exclude and gain benefits from excluding. And the transition to professionalisation was marked by a kind of punitiveness towards not only amateurs but also deviants, people who failed to get with the new programme and so forth.

* In the older system, it was taken for granted that appointments were culturally coded, and that merit was secondary.

* For the first time academics who were considered disciplinary leaders or celebrities received enormous salaries: one chair of political science was rumoured to be making $100,000, in the mid-1970s, a salary equivalent to more than $600,000 today. The era of celebrity academics had arrived, though now they needed only to be disciplinary celebrities, who were only read by other academics. The political scientist who cashed in on this status at the University of Chicago, David Easton, was not at all a public intellectual, nor did he even write about politics in a way that was remotely relevant to actual politics, despite working in the heart of the south side of Chicago, home of one of the most corrupt and powerful political systems in the country.

* science professionalised successfully, though not without its own issues of overproduction and waste. But the standards of science and the standards and reality of non-science fields differ dramatically. The use of science standards for non-science fields is an inevitable consequence of the need to balance the claims of each. But because science is the tail that wags the dog of the university, and also the source of its main claims to public utility, science .sets the standards for everyone. These standards are, however, impossible for the humanities and social sciences to meet. The money is not there for large grants, there are no patents or marketable technologies, or very few. And we come to a basic fact. The project of professionalisation in the humanities and social sciences failed, and the analogous project in the sciences succeeded. In both cases the effects on traditional academic values were devastating.

* the basic fact of intellectual life is that it does not pay for itself. All knowledge regimes, of which professionalism is only one, need for there to be a source of income and support that derives from something other than the intellectual work itself. The academic regime in science derives this support from grants and teaching. In the humanities and social sciences it derives from teaching, and for a few highly exceptional people – public celebrities – from lecture fees and writing for the public, or writing widely used textbooks. Professionalisation was a way of marketing teaching in which the students did not become merely learned, but mini-professionals in their field.

* Adjunct teachers and lecturers: “Having no status and nothing to lose, they can choose to live the life of the mind as they please, to be learned without producing, and pursue projects if they wish, or decline to do so. They are also free in their intellectual life from the limits of disciplines and can read what they want. People without families to support can even enjoy this freedom, despite the lack of status and the poverty, if they can survive. All that is needed for a certain kind of happiness is to give up the hope of a tenured academic position.”

The situation in science is only slightly better since a PhD scientist normally has skills that can be put to use elsewhere. The normal career in academic science is, however, just as marginal: if a person is lucky enough to get into the academic system at all, it will be in the form of a succession of poorly paid post-docs in which one performs routine laboratory tasks as part of someone else’s research. The opportunities for tenure-track jobs are scarce, the competition is highly internationalised and fierce, and the level of desperation is high.

* Academic life is selective, and the grounds for advancement at each stage are not clear, except for degree requirements, and depending on the system and the point in history, many are called who are not chosen. So the question of what sort of calling academic life has become is also a question about the calling of those who fall by the wayside. This has recently become a hot topic as a result of an op-ed by an historian who was giving up on academia, after having failed, despite some short term contracts, to gain a tenure-track job. She writes that “Giving up on something that you thought was your life’s calling hurts like hell. When you experience rejection from the entire institution of academia after devoting years of your life and thousands of dollars to become an academic, betrayal and rage sometimes become your only emotions for a good long while.” (Munro, 2017, May 14, n.p.r.)

This comment has gone viral, and there are dozens of sites devoted to ‘leaving academia’. They tell a bitter story about the myth of academic life and its seductions. One website describes its orientation as reflecting ‘a belief that the current system is flawed, cruel, unsustainable and therefore impossible to directly engage with’. As a commentator explains, ‘In this view, Ph.D. programs, with their false promises, lure students to serve as cheap labour, first as teaching assistants, then as poorly paid adjuncts when tenure-track jobs elude them’ (Tuhus-Dubrow, 2013, November 1, p. 32). Many of the comments and contributions reflect the fact that the education that the injured academics have received is highly specialised – to leave academia is to face the impossible task of repackaging their achievements as marketable skills…

* The market rewarded a certain kind of cleverness and the peer-review system rewarded conformity. The winners were, accordingly, clever and conformist, though they would deny this, and point to their minor technical achievements as evidence of their innovative thinking. Nor could they be challenged within the system, which was increasingly unequal. The system of disciplinary enforcement that had been imposed as a personal mission by the generation of the mid-twentieth century now was a machine that simply perpetuated itself – an enforcement mechanism that did its enforcing impersonally and therefore apparently objectively and without authoritarianism.

* Education became, tacitly, education to succeed in the system. Peer-review became predictable as an affirmation of the hierarchy. Merit was no longer a matter of debate, but a matter of counting. What counted varied, but the importance of the top journals remained and was confirmed by such things as impact factors.

* The institutional order has also changed, to one driven almost entirely by metricised standards of quality, together with calculated administrative responses to public issues.

Posted in Academia, College, Germany, Stephen Turner | Comments Off on Beyond The Academic Ethic