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The Federalist has the worst take yet on the Google Manifesto and James Damore. It involves NWA

N.W.A. is not impressed with your argument, The Federalist. Or wouldn’t be, probably, if the group still existed.

By David Futrelle

The good folks at The Federalist — the clickbaity tradcon site known for its nuclear-level hot takes — have done it again: They have managed to come up with what may be the dumbest possible take on the Google Manifesto and its author, James Damore.

And somehow, it involves N.W.A.

Yes, N.W.A., the rap group that broke up more than a quarter century ago, but which is apparently the only rap group or rap artist that anyone at The Federalist can name off the top of their head.

In a post titled “What James Damore, Formerly Of Google, Can Learn From N.W.A,” the Federalist’s Rich Cromwell notes that the aforementioned rap group managed to survive criticism over the misogyny in the lyrics of its 1988 debut album “Straight Outta Compton.” Even though N.W.A. used words like “bitch.”

And if N.W.A., nearly 30 years ago, got away with calling women “bitches,” Cromwell suggests, then surely Damore should be able to get away with suggesting that women are biologically less suited for tech than men.

At least I think that’s what he’s arguing. Cromwell’s article is so clotted with inexpertly wielded sarcasm it’s sort of hard to tell exactly what he’s arguing.

Here’s what seems to be Cromwell’s thesis:

Damore, in the spirit of N.W.A., had the temerity to suggest, in the most foul-mouthed way possible, that there’s an inclusion problem at Google. Except actually he was very measured in the infamous memo that 99 percent of people upset about it didn’t read. …

Whereas N.W.A. created a whole lot of outrage with “Straight Outta Compton,” some of it was warranted. They were not nuanced in how they discussed the differences between men and women, but brutal and ruthless. But it was harder to take them down in August 1988 because people had to actually type letters and make phone calls and that’s a whole lot more work than a status update. People did the work, though, and N.W.A. persevered.

Damore should do the same, particularly as he wasn’t calling women b-tches or proclaiming their only use is as sex objects. He may be facing the Internet lynch mob, but he doesn’t have to do it sitting down. …

Stand up, Damore, and don’t let this … take you down and bite your tongue, but rather let it serve as a launch-pad, much as it did for N.W.A.

That is some Scott-Adams-level “persuasion” right there. My head hurts.

Oh, and did I mention that the picture of N.W.A. that The Federalist uses to illustrate the article is not actually a picture of N.W.A at all? Nope! It’s a picture of the actors who portrayed N.W.A. in the 2015 movie “Straight Outta Compton.”

But I guess all rappers and people portraying rappers look the same, huh?

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JS
JS
4 years ago

I’ve always been impressed by the level of knowledge London taxicab drivers are required to prove. I don’t think there’s any equivalent test for taxi drivers elsewhere, certainly not in the US, where the requirement is apparently, “Can you drive a car without crashing too often?”

I was quite happy to find out that it’s possible for a deaf person to drive for “Uber”, since he’d already know where you wanted to go, because of GPS and the app. I disagree with a lot of what Uber did to the taxi industry, especially trying to force cities to pass Uber and Lyft’s ordinances, but enabling disabled to work for them was nice.

Scildfreja Unnyðnes
Scildfreja Unnyðnes
4 years ago

I’ll just repeat my point that the only thing they’re testing is whether you’re the sort of person who enjoys those puzzle books you buy on holiday.

If they’re doing their puzzles on a timer, in a quiet grey room with someone tapping a pencil against a desktop obnoxiously. IQ tests measure how good you are at solving particular classes of problems within the particular context of taking a stressful exam. Performance outside of that context varies wildly.

I think of’em almost as wealth/status symbols more than anything. Someone with the luxury of being able to focus entirely on studies, with other people to take care of their daily needs, can do well on IQ tests. Someone else, just as capable but with real-life distractions, can do horribly on those same questions within the test context.

I’ve developed a few metrics for measuring learning capacity and the like that don’t rely on IQ, but they aren’t simple – the simplest one is a weighted 4-graph. Great for squeezing out all sorts of interesting information, but for some reason people want to boil everything down to a single number. Kinda like school grades. Parents don’t want to have a graph of fifty things their kids are bad or good at generally – they want it boiled down to a single point. Turns out that when you do that there’s no way for the answer to mean much of anything.

Croosters
Croosters
4 years ago

@Scildfreya

IQ was systematically used to disenfranchise people of color and demonize women in intellectually taxing pursuits. It’s still used to do that. I don’t know why its this popular even now.

History Nerd
History Nerd
4 years ago

@Scildfreja

I’m fine with the policy on giving you a higher grade based on your AP exam score, because the teachers gave us an enormous amount of busy work in the AP classes. Both busy work and exams are notoriously bad ways to assess someone’s knowledge of a subject. It’s better if people can do some open-ended projects and your performance on those projects gets evaluated. Competency evaluation and instructor references are better than giving letter grades or 0-100 course scores.

If you like working on puzzle books by yourself, then your “project” can be to work on a bunch of really challenging problems, for example. Exams tend to be a good assessment of your skill at taking exams, and that’s correlated with knowledge of the subject (and obviously people who care a lot about a subject will want to ace their exams if possible). A number of professions, especially medicine and law, adopted high-stakes testing to try to exclude women, minorities, and people with certain disabilities. It’s true there was a big problem with the quality of medical colleges, but a bunch of able-bodied cishet white guys were in charge of fixing it.

History Nerd
History Nerd
4 years ago

Behavioral genetics is where the money is nowadays, so researchers can grossly overstate the degree to which intelligence is innate rather than environmental.

Scildfreja Unnyðnes
Scildfreja Unnyðnes
4 years ago

@Croosters,

IQ was systematically used to disenfranchise people of color and demonize women in intellectually taxing pursuits. It’s still used to do that. I don’t know why its this popular even now.

Educational institutions are really hard to change, for a few good reasons and a whole lot of bad ones. The best good reason for them being stubborn is because we need to be careful with the education system. That’s our kids in there, we shouldn’t be experimenting on them. Don’t change things unless we’re sure the change is good. That’s not unreasonable (with a whole lot of caveats).

Then jerks with personal agendas take hold of that system and use it to keep any positive change out for that reason, and the mushy “moderate middle” go along with it. That’s why it’s still popular, especially amongst STEM people and conservatives. It’s a very useful tool for keeping minorities, women and the poor down.

IQ’s terrible, has been since it was made. It’s tradition now. Very deeply entrenched in how we think about intelligence, and it’s wrong. I’d go so far as to say that it’s a deeply Patriarchal artifact.

@History Nerd, you’ve about got it, yeah. We were talking about Active Learning in another thread as in opposition to traditional pedagogical systems, and how much better active learning can be. Assisted self-direction with growth as a goal, instead of achieving some sort of artificial threshold of performed recall and skill.

The drive to ensure that everyone reaches a certain standard of competence (fear that word, competence) is very much to blame for the current state of education and the endurance of metrics like IQ, grading to the curve, regular standardized examination, etc. Assigning numbers makes standardization easy, so school systems like doing it. It’s very much the cart pushing the horse.

GrumpyOld SocialJusticeMangina
GrumpyOld SocialJusticeMangina
4 years ago

IQ is popular for the same reason that it’s useless: it results in a simple three digit integer value to supposedly measure the very complex phenomenon that is intelligence. To create an objectively gradable test, you have to have questions for which the answer is already known, but in fact the most valuable skill is the capability of solving previously unsolved problems. (IQ, you might say, rewards people who are good at thinking inside the box. See Kekule’s Dream for an example of how real intelligence sometimes works.) I had a psychologist-administered (and therefore somewhat subjective) test when I was young and scored very high, so I feel like I can criticize the concept of IQ without being accused of sour grapes.
I took a General Education course in Psychology as a freshman at Harvard. The lead professor, George Miller (“an American psychologist who was one of the founders of the cognitive psychology field. He also contributed to the birth of psycholinguistics and cognitive science in general.”) defined IQ as “that which is measured by IQ tests.” In other words, the results seem to have some relationship to intelligence but exactly what, nobody can say.

Ever since I read Simone de Beauvoir’s The Second Sex — the book that has had the greatest influence on my thinking — I have taken the position that, in view of the constant and oppressive work of society in imposing traditional gender roles, anyone claiming that there are innate differences between male and female brains has a very heavy burden of proof, and I have seen no evidence that such burden has been satisfied. Now, obviously the sex hormones have a significant influence on the function of the brain in a number of ways, but I have yet to see any reliable evidence that, for example, men are innately better at STEM. If you tell me that boys are better at spatial skills and girls better at verbal skills, I will point out that boys have traditionally been encouraged to play outdoor ball games (etc.) that would tend to develop spatial skills, whereas girls have been encouraged to play cooperative social games that would develop verbal skills. You would thus see differences in brain function that result from socialization at even fairly young ages.
I have an interesting anecdote about one of my college classmates, who was the older sister of another slightly younger woman student that I was friends with. She got her doctorate in physics, taught it for a while, but after she proved that she could do it she decided to go back and get a doctorate in medicine and go into medical research, because she wanted to work in something that would have a more immediate effect on people’s lives. And I think that this is what you are seeing a lot of the time in women’s choices of careers: women are socialized to be more interested in fields that produce more practical results rather than simply abstract thought. It’s not that they can’t do abstract; it’s that they tend to be more aware of practical issues and immediate needs.

Scildfreja Unnyðnes
Scildfreja Unnyðnes
4 years ago

Thank you for saying what I hadn’t the words for, @Grumpy! I apparently need to get off the keyboard and stop drinking coffee for awhile over here, I’m in a bit of a spin.

GrumpyOld SocialJusticeMangina
GrumpyOld SocialJusticeMangina
4 years ago

@Scildfreja: The real question is why should anyone give two farts in a hurricane about whether men are better than women at something or vice versa, when the question should be, what is this particular person good at. Society is just so much too heavily invested in gender roles. My wife is much better at earning a living that I was, but I was better at child care. If we’d had to follow the traditional roles, we would have been very poor and she would have gone out of her mind with boredom and frustration (as Betty Friedan documented in The Feminine Mystique way back in the early 60s).

Croosters
Croosters
4 years ago

@Scildfreya

I once saw a Prager U video about a black conservative woman talking about how the Republican party is the party that views her as an individual. My head exploded right then and there.

Republicans are absolute masters of gaslighting and manipulation. Explains why Christina Hoff Sommers still has a steady income.

GrumpyOld SocialJusticeMangina
GrumpyOld SocialJusticeMangina
4 years ago

My younger daughter has a degree in Environmental Science but is not ambitious, so she’s been working at a Target store for quite a while. She tells me that when they decided to stop identifying toys as Girls’ Toys or Boys’ Toys, many customers were quite upset — apparently afraid that they would accidentally buy a gender inappropriate toy.

I have read that in certain organizations that treat trans children, once children have been identified as trans, it is a firing offense for any employee to give them a toy that is appropriate to their cis gender — for example, to give a trans boy a doll or a trans girl a truck. That sounds to me very much like the worst standard gender stereotyping, except in a mirror image.

Ray of Rays
Ray of Rays
4 years ago

@ Grumpy

I can kinda see a potential humanitarian impulse behind that. Sure, it’s a tragic enforcement of stereotype (one with a greater risk of lasting in a child’s mind), but giving a trans child a toy that’s societally-encoded to their gender can be a token of acceptance, where one corresponding to their birth sex could be easily interpreted as a rejection of their assumed gender. Not an exact mirror image, since one way is an individual-be-damned enforcement of the status quo, the other is a response to a potential social and mental health challenge.

Naturally, I have no idea if that’s actually the train of thought (and even if it is, it’s in the “no easy answers” category), so, grains of salt.

weirwoodtreehugger: chief manatee
weirwoodtreehugger: chief manatee
4 years ago

My psych professors were critical of IQ tests too. It’s funny that so many people who are the types that view themselves as uber rational and intelligent use IQ as an excuse to treat certain demographics as inferior when the people who are the actual experts on the brain and on psychological tests do not believe that IQ says too much about a person.

History Nerd
History Nerd
4 years ago

@Scildfreja

Competence-based grading means, usually, the course is self-directed (lectures are optional) and the grading is pass/fail and competence is the minimum you need to get a “pass.” Then the instructor writes you a narrative describing your performance. I think something similar to that could be better than lectures with traditional A-F grading.

The problem is that there have been a lot of cases in which the narrative system produced systematically worse outcomes for ethnic minority students in particular (but not necessarily women or people with disabilities compared to A-F). Professors might show much more subjective bias in deciding how strong a minority student’s work is, while in an A-F system the student would get an “A” grade. Professors can also decide that a “Pass” = a “B” grade, and that can magnify the effect of grade disparities on outcomes. Some schools using that system (like WGU) will kick you out if you don’t pass two thirds of the units you sign up in your first term.

You need to be very watchful of how new systems are implemented, and ask the right questions about the data.

History Nerd
History Nerd
4 years ago

@Grumpy

That’s ironic. Politically conservative people tend to favor practical over abstract. Tons of conservatives go into medicine or law, while fewer go into math or physics.

GrumpyOld SocialJusticeMangina
GrumpyOld SocialJusticeMangina
4 years ago

@Nerd: follow the money.

Elisabeth
Elisabeth
4 years ago

My final paper in high school was about the history of eugenics and how eugenics eventually led to the Nazis’ “Lebensunwertes Leben” (life unworthy of life, ie. that people who are determined to be “inferior” should be killed because they “pollute” the purity of German heritage) and the Holocaust. One of my backing points was how early IQ tests were rigged with highly culturally specific questions (ex. questions about tennis) to paint certain groups of people – Jews, immigrants, people of color, and/or the poor – as intellectually inferior. I did a lot of research that never made it into my final version (due to restrictions on length), but I delved into the topic deeply because I found it fascinating. The whole project was was eye-opening for me.

Personally, I fit the stereotypes about gender differences in intelligence; I’m a woman, I find reading easy and I struggle with numbers and especially with spatial reasoning. Same goes for my mom, and my dad fits all the stereotypes about intelligence in men. But I believe that people should be judged as INDIVIDUALS instead of being judged because of the gender. I’ve struggled with spatial reasoning my whole life, but I didn’t struggle with arithmetic before I had a bullying math teacher in 9th grade.

Dalillama: Irate Social Engineer

@History Nerd

That’s ironic. Politically conservative people tend to favor practicalconcrete over abstract.

FTFY. Actual practicality is a whole other thing, and usually does require some degree of abstraction.

Tons of conservatives go into medicine or law, while fewer go into math or physics.

Lots of them in the FIRE sector too.

Danger Noodlet
Danger Noodlet
4 years ago

“I’ll just repeat my point that the only thing they’re testing is whether you’re the sort of person who enjoys those puzzle books you buy on holiday.”

If they’re doing their puzzles on a timer, in a quiet grey room with someone tapping a pencil against a desktop obnoxiously. IQ tests measure how good you are at solving particular classes of problems within the particular context of taking a stressful exam. Performance outside of that context varies wildly.

True dat. Finding puzzles awesome ≠ finding tests awesome. Since life’s stressful, maybe it makes sense for the most general approximation of intelligence to be the one measuring puzzle-solving under stress. On the other hand, it’s also common for tests in advanced mathematics to be take-home, in part to allow for more difficult questions, in part because the profs really are more interested in measuring puzzling success than they are in measuring confidence under the clock.

Confession: Someone working at the Federalist invited me to write a piece or two there, so I did. I doubt it would surprise anyone here if I observed the Fed can be a frustrating outfit to write for. No small number of “flyover country” conservatives find themselves cringing at the bizarre views on gender and reproduction so often promoted there.

Thanks for this blog, @David. I know some very dear guys who found “game” helpful in overcoming shyness, but they were too decent to take it very seriously. It’s sad to know there are guys out there who do take it so seriously, but at least you’re documenting the absurdity of this sadness. Reading through old posts here, I couldn’t count the number of much-needed laughs!

History Nerd
History Nerd
4 years ago

The self-directed “competency” system works like this: you work with a mentor in your field of interest who assesses you and decides which study plan is appropriate for you. You sign up for a number of “modules” each term (usually 12-24 weeks) and have options for learning that material, like live or recorded lectures, books, or ungraded assignment challenges. Then you need to pass assessments, which ideally would be open-ended projects focused on something connected with the material that you’re interested in. If you finish your “modules” early, you can sign up for more.

The problem is that many schools offering this model can be extremely strict if you don’t complete the agreed-upon project in time, and many require standardized testing for part of the assessment (though you can usually re-take exams until you pass, but that’s extremely stressful if you already didn’t pass multiple times). You get a “not passed” rather than a lower grade or partial units if you run out of time. I’d assume there are multiple ways in which your mentor can screw you over.

Croosters
Croosters
4 years ago

@Elisabeth

I’m a two-spirit and I’m a hyperlexic former mathlete. Where does that put me? Oh wait, most of these people are transphobic shitgibbons.

Aulma Frendzar Dèdd
Aulma Frendzar Dèdd
4 years ago

@Viscaria

I wish that someone who considers himself a skeptic could think more critically about these things. I also wish he would think about how sending that email would make me feel as his daughter and how it reflects on his feelings about his wife.

CVs are not necessarily an indication of quality work or good skills. They are supposed to showcase your education and past work experiences but nowadays they’re not focused on that. Why do you think there are so many articles online (I’ve seen dozens on Forbes alone, probably even more) that explain how to make your CV more interesting, appealing etc., sometimes even suggesting bluffing??
If employers cared about skills more than anything else they’d hire people based on tests/demonstrations rather than a piece of paper.
The link that @epronovost provided you with is good at explaining this.
And sorry for saying this but I don’t like your Dad’s behaviour. What he did kind of gives me passive-agressive vibes. What’s the point of sending an e-mail like that? Especially to people that might not care about that issue? It’s not exactly like sending a cute puppy video to cheer up your relatives. What is he trying to prove? It seems to me like he expects some sort of reaction from you.

Jenora Feuer
Jenora Feuer
4 years ago

@WWTH:

Considering that people treat boy and girl babies differently immediately upon birth, it’s so difficult to make any kind of claim that a behavior is inherently gendered.

I’ve had this song going through my head a lot lately:

When I was born, they looked at me and said:
‘What a good boy, what a smart boy, what a strong boy.’
And when you were born, they looked at you and said:
‘What a good girl, what a smart girl, what a pretty girl.’
We’ve got these chains hanging ’round our necks;
People want to strangle us with them before we take our first breath…
— Barenaked Ladies, ‘What a Good Boy’, 1992

With respect to educational institutions, I think I’ve mentioned here before the story I heard about back in University, where somebody was trying to set up a computer expert system to do initial CV parsing to get away from a long history of racist and sexist screening by the staff. So they trained the expert system with all the CVs they had received, along with who was accepted and who was passed up. The problem was, they included the names of the people involved, so the system started learning that when deciding between two otherwise identical CVs, the ‘foreign-ness’ or ‘female-ness’ of the name could make for an valid decision factor.

After someone proved this by submitting identical CVs from different names and getting different responses, and triggered exactly the PR disaster that this whole setup was meant to avoid, the expert system was retrained with the names removed.

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