Wednesday, May 14, 2003

Starting from the top 

Following up from the post last night, RightWingNews has a post in which I found a link to a longer interview John Hawkins has with Dr. Walter Williams, an economics professor at George Mason University.
Look at the University of California, Berkeley back in the seventies and eighties. Close to seventy percent of black students who were admitted there did not graduate. The SAT scores of these black students who were admitted there were slightly higher than the national average. But the problem was, the rest of the students at Berkeley were getting twelve and thirteen hundreds on the SAT. So, the black students there were in over their heads and just could not make it in that high powered academic setting.

On the other hand, at Cal State-San Jose, which is not that far from Berkeley, roughly seventy percent of the black students there didn't graduate either. Here's what the problem was. The problem was that the black students who would have graduated from Cal State-San Jose were recruited to Berkeley to become failures. There was an academic mismatch.

Williams compares this to deciding to send a fledgling boxer into the ring for the first time ... against Lennox Lewis. Now a serious question arises from this: Does the logic that applies to a place like Berkeley extend to SCSU (which we'll have to admit doesn't have quite the same pool of excellent students)? Well yes, as Williams points out from extending his analysis to San Jose State. It's like -- seems to be my day for sports metaphors -- the effect of expansion in sports leagues on the distribution and dilution of talent. Adding teams not only means these teams have worse players, but as the new teams bid for player talent the existing teams also have to use less talent. Ask anyone who's watched baseball before and after 1990: Pitching in general ain't what it used to be, even though some of the best individual performances in pitching are happening right now. It may be why the Morehouses (as mentioned in the post immediately below) do well -- they aren't competing in the same league, and have attuned their schools to the needs of their particular market.