Fighting the Entropy of Status

Education Week: Educational Assessments are Valid, Reliable, and Remarkably Predictive

To put it simply: liberal skepticism towards educational assessment is totally unjustifiable through reference to the evidence. Liberals speak with utter confidence about the supposed lack of predictive validity of these instruments but present no evidence whatsoever to back up these claims. They constantly repeat canards like “these tests only measure how well you take the tests,” which mostly have no content and to the degree that they do are demonstrably untrue. They attack the tests for revealing racial stratification without acknowledging that literally all educational data (grades, SAT/ACTs, state standardized tests, NAEP, graduation rates, disciplinary rates, and a vast number of ancillary indicators) show racial stratification, which suggests that the tests are more valid rather than less. They pretend to have methodological critiques without being minimally informed about the actual methodologies through which these tests are constructed and validated. And they do all of this in service to a vague and unhelpful egalitarianism and under dubious anti-racist pretenses, when neither broader social equality nor racial justice will actually be served by their efforts.

Yes, the SATs may to some extent discriminate based on income (even though the effect is pretty small, as Freddie himself notes), but does the left not believe that a more ‘holistic’ admissions system will be gamed by rich parents, and thus be even more influenced by socioeconomic status? I think many on the left never wanted a meritocracy. They just want institutions that will give them and their children status that does not have to be earned, much like how the Soviet bureaucracy elevated otherwise mediocre functionaries who were loyal to the party cause.

Status, like any other resource is finite, but also derives value from both absolute scarcity and relative scarcity, similar to luxury goods (or technically called ‘veblen goods’ or ‘positional goods’). A steadily growing US population , combined with the trend towards the decentralization of content–thanks in part to the internet, and an increasingly competitive economy that rewards a handful of highly-productive individuals–either means that the distribution of status is increasingly lopsided (such as such as Jeff Bezos or Elon Musk [1]) or disseminated. Noam Chomsky and Cornel West were major pillars of left-wing intellectual thought in the 90s, and although still influential, they have been crowded out and have seen their influence diminish, thanks to a more decentralized, bottom-up form of discourse such as twitter, podcasts, and online publications. Malcolm Gladwell books generate less media attention and fanfare than they did 10+ years ago, when he released Outliers, Tipping Point, and Blink. Race Matters was a big deal when Dr. West published it in 1993, generating national debate about race relations in America, in an era when a single intellectual could act as spokesperson for an entire movement, but now many intellectuals and un-credentialed writers and social media activists can serve that role equally well.

Left-wing institutions are not really about propaganda (although they serve that role well), but rather about acting as gatekeepers to status, so as to not dilute its value. If propaganda were the main goal, if anything, they would be less selective and more inclusive. Humanities departments are not trying to disseminate a message that is palatable to the general public–the unnecessary verbosity, jargon, and circuitous language of the typical peer-reviewed humanities paper demonstrates otherwise. This is where the role of the media comes , in distilling the former to the masses, but the problem the left faces is, a decentralized media, entropically, therefore must dilute and diffuse status. This means that legacy media must also erect gates and barriers to concentrate and confine such status. Aspiring writers, such as for the NYTs, must have graduate degrees from top schools even if such writing does not necessitate it, or otherwise be stuck writing for low-tiered publications that pay little and bestow little status.

[1] The status of billionaires such as Gates and Musk are much more immune to such entropy because the barriers of entry to becoming among the wealthiest people by founding arguably two of most influential and powerful companies in the world, are considerably higher than being a journalist, a professor, or a writer, but also, such billionaires, unlike athletes, also have intellectual influence too. Tom Brady may be the best in the world at football and is wealthy, but no one cares about his opinions outside of football. The professional-left knows that credentials, particularly from elite schools, are the only way of distinguishing oneself from the mediocre masses, even the masses of Biden voters or unpaid contributors to the Huffington Post.

2 comments

  1. Most modernists I know remind me of the medieval children’s crusade. Supposedly thousands marched off to reclaim the holy land and most either died on the way or turned back. Except modernists generally live very protected lives. Their posturing is as you say for status. They haven’t the slightest inclination to actually live in a real diversitopia. In fact, most have zero interest or curiosity concerning non-whites or non-Christians. Their fanaticism is directed towards other whites. I still wonder though how far they will go hiring incompetent CEOs and other senior corporate officers. They are apparently gung ho about destroying the military and police. Chaos is baked into the cake.

  2. For Pinker, the second law of thermodynamics doesn’t simply identify a universal regularity in the natural world, “it defines the fate of the universe and the ultimate purpose of life, mind, and human striving: to deploy energy and knowledge to fight back the tide of entropy and carve out refuges of beneficial order”. There is nothing novel in scientism. The Victorian prophet of social evolution, Herbert Spencer, believed that the universe, life and society were moving from undifferentiated simplicity to a higher state of complex order. In politics, this meant a movement towards laissez-faire capitalism. In social contexts, “survival of the fittest” – an expression Spencer invented after reading Darwin’s

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.