Phi Beta Cons

The Right take on higher education.

Role Model Nonsense


One of the reasons given for racial and gender preferences in faculty hiring is the need to provide “role models” for students.  The idea is that an African American is more likely to be inspired by an African American teacher, a female student by a female teacher, and so on.  Trouble is, in the context of racial preferences, the Supreme Court rejected the role model theory in Wygant v. Jackson Board of Education (1986), with Justice Lewis Powell pointing out, reasonably enough, that “Carried to its logical extreme, the idea that black students are better off with black teachers could lead to the very system the Court rejected in Brown v. Board of Education.” (I wrote about the shaky legal ground of the role model justification here). Now comes a study, reported today in InsiderHigherEd that, as an empirical matter, “a student’s performance and interest in a given subject are not affected much by the professor’s gender.”  So let’s not hear any more about this role model nonsense, okay?


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