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Monday, May 31, 2010

Meritocracy?


In yesterday's New York Times Book section, Jacob Heilbrunn reviewed Jonathan Alter's hagiography of Barack Obama, The Promise: President Obama, Year One.

Heilbrunn writes:

"Obama himself had two sides -- Chicago community organizer and Ivy League meritocrat. The meritocrat won out. According to Alter, 'Obama's faith lay in cream rising to the top. Because he himself was a product of the great American postwar meritocracy, he could never fully escape seeing the world from the status ladder he had ascended'."

Heilbrunn and Alter are glossing over one inconvenient fact: Obama has employed an army of lawyers and has spent over $950,000 making sure that his academic records remain sealed. If his SATs or LSATs or his transcript were anything to boast about, why would he spend this much effort keeping those scores a secret? And if they were mediocre -- as his actions suggest -- would he have gotten into Columbia and Harvard Law School without affirmative action?

Of course not.

What Obama is a product of is the great American post-Viet Nam War affirmative action-ocracy.

But the very concept of affirmative action is antithetical to merit. If you believe in a meritocracy, then, ipso facto, you should believe in judging people on their merits, not by the color of their skin. You should also believe in the value of SAT scores (whose correlation with IQ is .9). Or better yet, you believe in the concept of IQ itself.

But IQ differentials are the type of thing that liberals prefer to sweep under the rug, unless it suits their purposes. They're willing to say that cream rises to the top, as long as Obama is the cream you're talking about. When it comes to Obama's success, his sheer native brilliance -- IQ, if you will -- explains all. But if you want to look closely at any objective measures of his intelligence -- say, his SAT or LSAT scores, or his excessive reliance on the Teleprompter, forget it. And if you use IQ differentials to explain or analyze anything else, well, then you're a bad person.

The other misleading implication here is that Obama himself has faith in "cream rising to the top." Obama's entire career -- from community organizer to Illinois state Senate member to US Senator to President -- has been all about supporting racial set-asides, which, again, have nothing to do with merit and everything to do with skin color.

If Barnes and Noble and Borders have any sense, they'll place Alter's book in the fiction section.

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

I wonder - under what circumstances was this photo taken? Did Obama find it flattering at the time?

If Obama was not joking around when posing for this photo, and I suspect he wasn't, what sort of character is he conveying? Cool, tough, sly and street hustler occur to me.

- Ed

John Craig said...

Ed --
My guess is that Obama was semi-joking at the time, I'd give him a pass on this because he was so young.

And yes, he was obviously trying to look cool, tough, and streetwise, but when you think about it, that was purely a pose: his own background was basically only to have been exposed to the white side of his family, and he grew up in Hawaii, Indonesia, and briefly, in Kansas. He basically had very little contact with blacks until he went to college, and his desire to look like a hep black dude is certainly understandable under those circumstances. In fact you can read much of his college career and on as a desire to prove his blackness. Again, understandable, but it's just unfortunate for the rest of this that this psychological dynamic still drives him in the White House.

John Craig said...

PS -- I used that picture because I wanted one which would show him around the time he was taking his SATs or LSATs.

Anonymous said...

In one sense the photo could be taken as an early, accurate indication of Obama's character. The man in that photo looks fully capable of pulling off a con. There is a tremendous disparity between the President Obama promised to be during his campaign and the President he actually is now that he's in the White House - the greatest disparity of any president during my lifetime. Obama pulled off one of the greatest cons in political history, duping the US voters with the assistance of the mainstream media.

- Ed

John Craig said...

I agree that Obama is basically a con man. He campaigned as a mainstream, post-racial candidate, then turned out to be far more leftist than advertised, and his self-identification and loyalties are obviously not "post-racial."

I wouldn't have taken that early photo as evidence of him being a con man, however, because he was TRYING to look slick and cool, whereas a real con man tries to look the opposite. I'd say his real con man outfit, if you will, was the suit and tie and short haircut he wore while campaigning.