Fed. Govt.: Possible Senate Support to Confirm Julie Myers

According to the Government Executive, Julie Myers appears to be gaining Senate support for her confirmation to head the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency within the Department of Homeland Security.

After conducting a review of the incident, Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Chairman Joe Lieberman, I-Conn., and ranking member Susan Collins, R-Maine, say they will vote to confirm Myers.

“Sen. Lieberman regrets her lapse in judgment regarding the Halloween incident,” a Lieberman spokeswoman said. “He is inclined to support her nomination, given the committee’s review of her entire record, the fact that the union representing 7,000 ICE employees supports her and her year’s experience in office.”

Senator Claire McCaskill has a hold against Myers’s confirmation, but it is not indefinite.

Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., is “adamantly against” the nomination, her spokeswoman said. […] McCaskill has filed paperwork to place a hold on the confirmation and is trying to persuade other senators to vote against her.

“Ultimately, Sen. McCaskill has no intention of putting an indefinite hold on Julie Myers,” the spokeswoman said. “She believes that if and when the nomination comes to the floor, she deserves an up or down vote.”

The ultimate decision for a confirmation vote rests with Senator Harry Reid (D-NV), the Government Executive reports.

ACRI Ballot initiative (Oklahoma): Allegations of Deception in Petition Signature Gathering Arise

According to the Tulsa World, a Oklahoma state legislator stated that deception is being used to obtain signatures for the American Civil Rights Institute’s (ACRI) ballot initiative to ban affirmative action.

“What this is about is fear and hate and misleading information,” Rep. Jabar Shumate said Monday morning at a news conference at the Church of the Living God, 1559 E. Reading St.

Shumate said a petition drive worker approached him and “asked if I wanted to end discrimination in government employment,” and then offered him a signature sheet.

“When I asked to see more information, she hurried off,” he said.

His constituents have told him similar stories, Shumate said, leading him to believe that the campaign’s workers are trying to get black people to sign the petition by misrepresenting its intent.

In a related development, there is a ten minute video on YouTube showing a discussion between a petition signature collector and a citizen. In summary, the discussion was about the signature collector’s description of the petition to ban discrimination rather than to ban affirmative action.

ACRI Ballot Initiative: Daily Nebraskan Editorial Opposes ACRI’s Ballot Campaign

In an editorial, the Daily Nebraskan, a student newspaper for the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, voiced opposition to the American Civil Rights Institute’s (ACRI) ballot initiative to ban affirmative action in Nebraska.

The Daily Nebraksan editorial is correct. ACRI’s ballot initiative is not needed in Nebraska because there are few non White persons in the state.

Here is the student population of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

University of Nebraska-Lincoln (student population: 17,301 (source: www.princetonreview.com))

Race Percentage of population Number
White 85% 14,706
Black 2.0 346
Native American 1.0 519
Asian 3.0 173

Below are the results of the 2000 Census for Nebraska (also covered in a previous post.)

Race Percentage of population Number
White 89.6% 1,533,261
African-American/Black 4.0 68,541
Asian 0.9 14,896
Native American 1.3 21,931

The Hoya: The Persistent Saga of College Newspapers and Race

The Editor-in-Chief of The Hoya, a Georgetown University student newspaper, wrote a column assessing the racial aftermath of a Hoya editorial decision giving minimal coverage for a on-campus student event protesting the Jena 6 issue (placing it in a News in Brief on 9/21/07), while prominently covering a protest against rules restricting alcohol consumption on campus. [Note: See Hoya articles related to this point here, here, here, and here. A student columnist wrote a column explaining that he did not want to write about the issue out of fear of being considered a racist (see my posts under The Hoya category in the right column for my previous post related to this column).]

The assignment of writers and placement of the two stories were not accidental, Hoya editors decided how to cover the two stories. It just so happened that some of The Hoya’s readership disagreed with The Hoya’s editorial judgment.

The Hoya’s Editor-in-Chief does acknowledge that his staff’s social connections largely determine staffing and coverage.

The fact is, THE HOYA is an unfortunate reflection of the divides that pervade this campus. If you were to put every member of our staff and each of their closest friends in a large room, some minority groups wouldn’t be represented too well.

And for an under-resourced student newspaper where social connections play a large part in determining both our recruitment and our coverage, it’s a problem. Especially since we’re the organization with the best opportunity to promote racial dialogue on campus.

This problem is a direct reflection of the fact that it’s often difficult to find a lot of meaningful interaction between those of different ethnic and social groups on campus.

This is how the lack of coverage of the on-campus Jena Six student event occurred. Sadly, if the coverage of campus news depends on knowledge of a person on the Hoya staff, what happened with the Jena 6 story will happen again.

In addition, The Hoya’s Editor-in-Chief noted that the lack of coverage partly is a result of The Hoya’s organizational dependence on Georgetown University.

If we were a non-profit corporation independent from Georgetown University, we would eventually be in a better position to attract a more representative staff, since our current relationship with the university does not permit us to adequately compensate staff members.

I do not know anything about The Hoya’s financial affairs, but I do not believe that independence from Georgetown University will be the miracle cure. The Cavalier Daily, an independent newspaper of the students of the University of Virginia (UVa), also has had a racial controversy (in 2002) involving a disagreement of the interpretation of a off-campus party between the mostly White student staff and Black UVa students.

[…] A black student, who happens to be the new student member of the Board of Visitors, wrote about what he viewed as a racist party, and what does he get for his effort? A white Cavalier Daily columnist attacking his view.

One reader complained about the turn of events but did not focus on the racial aspect. He pointed out that the tone of the response column sent the message of “Sure, we take guest columns, but then our columnists can humiliate you in print.” Given the subject matter and the respective races of the two authors, The Cavalier Daily came out looking bad.

I have emphasized before that columns represent the opinions of their authors, not the opinion of The Cavalier Daily. But when a black student opens the opinion section and consistently sees a lot of non-black faces spouting off about racial matters, I start to understand why black students feel frustrated with The Cavalier Daily as an organization. […]

The Cavalier Daily’s Ombudsman for 2001-2002, Matthew Branson, wrote about the problem The Cavalier Daily had in attracting Black staffers.

In my 1993-94 Cavalier Daily staff photo, there are about 70 people. One is black. Today’s staff also has a very low number of blacks. Why is this the case, year after year? […]

[…]

The vicious cycle has proved hard to break. The Cavalier Daily does not have many black staffers. Therefore, black viewpoints are not regularly represented in the newspaper. Therefore, blacks do not join because they feel The Cavalier Daily is not a “black-friendly” organization. Result: The Cavalier Daily does not have many black staffers. Repeat.

The Hoya is not alone in facing this issue. The racial issue facing The Hoya is systemic. Hopefully, the Editor-in-Chief’s ideas (not including independence) will help The Hoya to begin to address the situation.

Post Script:

The Hoya’s Editor-in-Chief stated in his column that his publication and staff is not racist because they do not favor one race over another. This is a rather limited definition of racism as one does not have to hate Black people overtly to discriminate (see the ABC’s Primetime Live 1992 story, “True Colors” (Author’s Note: I cited this program in a previous post), for an example). The overwhelming White majority in the United States also guarantees that the races can never be truly equal.

College Board: The SAT–A Square Peg Being Forced into a Round Hole?

The SAT, a test from the Educational Testing Service, measures a person’s ability to solve multiple choice puzzle-type questions (click here for an example) within a fixed time period. The problem is that this skill is not used in the bulk of college work.

The SAT has been found to correlate with first-year college grades. But psychologist Claude Steele pointed out that the test has been found to measure only about 18 percent of the things that it takes to do well in school, and thus is not a very good predictor of how a student will do in college. “The SAT is not going to get you very far with predicting who’s going to do well in college,” he told FRONTLINE.

This skill at solving puzzles within a timed context is not a focus in daily schooling or closely related to college study. The academic tasks of college are (in general):

  • to be attentive to schedules to arrive at the proper class at the right time as well as ensure that long-term projects are completed by the deadline date,
  • to coordinate the activities of non-academic student life with academic responsibilities,
  • to possess the academic background to understand the coursework (for example, knowledge of pre-calculus to progress to college calculus),
  • to behave appropriately in the class: listen to a lecture, ask questions of the instructor, write notes,
  • to be able to study without prompting from others,
  • to write term papers, in grammatically correct English, on an assigned topic,
  • to complete a end of course examination-more likely in essay format.

None of these tasks are related to the SAT’s puzzle-type questions. Also, according to The National Center for Fair & Open Testing (fairtest.org), the test is designed to be separate from high school curricula, the foundation for college study.

A direct descendant of the racist anti-immigrant Army Mental Tests of the 1920s, the SAT was first administered in 1926 but did not become a largely multiple-choice exam until after World War II. The test is designed to be independent of high school curricula (unlike the SAT’s main competitor, the ACT). It includes questions attempting to measure reading comprehension, vocabulary, basic writing techniques, algebra, geometry, statistics and probability. The SAT does not include advanced mathematics topics nor does it attempt to assess higher-order thinking or reasoning skills.

In order to train the skill of solving the SAT’s puzzles, there are SAT preparation courses. These preparation courses provide the training for students to learn how to answer SAT questions. Students who are not able to afford preparation courses will be at a distinct disadvantage to those who are thoroughly trained for the SAT’s method of asking questions.

Overall, the SAT’s testing methodology is being forced into the college admissions process where it does not belong. [Note: Fairtest.org addresses this issue in its SAT Factsheet.]

Because of my concerns about the SAT, I have a link to the excellent work of The National Center for Fair & Open Testing (fairtest.org) in the blogroll.

Post Script:

There has been discussion on whether preparation courses are necessary to help a student increase the student’s score on the SAT.

A Cornell Daily Sun editorial supported the deemphasis of the SAT I in Cornell’s admissions because of the advantage available to those who can afford the SAT preparation courses .

We support Cornell’s decision to de-emphasize the importance of the SAT I, particularly because it innately favors candidates from higher incomes who can afford tutoring, and is not a good indicator of one’s academic achievement.

A College Board executive, Laurence Bunin, senior vice president for operations, disagreed with the editorial’s assertion in a letter to the editor, stating that students do not need the preparation courses to prepare for the SAT.

Your editorial states that the SAT “favors candidates from higher incomes who can afford tutoring.” That statement is both wrong and misleading. The SAT cannot be “cracked” or “gamed” with expensive, short-term test prep courses. Research proves that these courses do not improve scores more than the free and low-cost practice tests available online or in bookstores. Expensive test prep courses only serve to give affluent parents and students the illusion of [control] over a scary process. In fact, the best preparation for the SATs is developing good study habits, taking rigorous high school courses and becoming familiar with the SAT by taking sample practice tests.

The editorial also incorrectly states that the SAT is “… not a good indicator of one’s academic achievement.” In fact, dozens of independent research studies prove that the SAT, along with high school grades, is the best single predictor of success in college.

However, Glenn Elert, author of The SAT: Aptitude or Demographics, states that a Federal Trade Commission study demonstrated that scores can be increased through coaching.

In 1976, the Federal Trade Commission responded to ETS’ long standing wish for a government investigation of the coaching schools. Their claim was that the aptitude the SAT measured was acquired over years — promises of significant results (over 100 points) in six weeks were false advertising. In Effects of Coaching on Scholastic Aptitude Test Scores the College Board reported that:

Despite variable factors from one study to another, the net result across all studies is that score gains directly attributable to coaching amount, on the average, to fewer than 10 points — a difference of such small magnitude… that it is unreasonable to expect it to affect college admissions decisions. The magnitude of the gains resulting from coaching vary slightly, but they are always small regardless of the coaching method used or the differences in the students coached.

Unfortunately for ETS, the plan backfired. The test preparation schools were not cited with fraudulent advertising — ETS was. The initial FTC report found that coaching courses, on the average, raised scores more than 100 points on both the verbal and math sections. “Contrary to [the] explicit claims of ETS/CEEB,” said Albert Kramer Director of the Bureau of Consumer Protection, “coaching can be effective…”

I disagree with Mr. Bunin because of the SAT’s reliance on puzzle-type questions. Mere preparation with a few old SAT tests will not do unless one is also trained in how to recognize what the test-maker is looking for in a particular test question.

For example, I do not believe that merely studying hard in school or taking practice SAT exams by oneself, as Mr. Bunin suggests, would necessarily allow a student to solve a question like this.

For more information:

PBS.org-Frontline’s “Secrets of the SAT” program

The National Center for Fair & Open Testing

ACRI Ballot Initiative (Arizona): Columnist Argues That Initiative’s Success Is Not Assured

Doug MacEachern, a columnist for The Arizona Republic, argues that the success of the ACRI ballot initiative is not altogether certain in Arizona.

Arizona is never a sure bet for sweeping national issues that make state ballots. Just ask the people who sponsored Arizona’s same-sex marriage ban in 2006, the only marriage-defining ballot measure ever to fall in a statewide vote.

Might the same hold true for a ballot measure banning racial preferences? In the idiosyncratic land of Goldwater, pretty much any political result is possible.

MacEachern explains that Arizona’s institutions of higher learning, while good, are not rejecting many qualified students as in California or Michigan.

But Arizona is different from those states in one key respect. And it’s not something that necessarily reflects well on this state: College admissions programs are the primary battleground of the racial-preference wars, and the fact is Arizona colleges are not terribly selective about who gets to attend.

At least not compared to the public universities that have been the focal points of the debate thus far.