Bench Memos

Return of the Quota Queen

In a New York Times op-ed today, Profs. Lani Guinier and Susan Sturm discuss why they dislike standardized tests. They have no empathy, as it were, for Frank Ricci in the New Haven firefighters case, who earned his promotion by doing well on one. But the issue in that case was not whether this or that test was perfect; the issue was whether, having administered a particular test, it was illegal racial discrimination for the city to throw out the results because it didn’t like the skin color of the people who did well in it. And it’s hard to imagine that Guinier and Sturm would have written this op-ed if Frank Ricci and the other successful firefighters had been the right color or, more broadly, that they would work so hard to find objections to standardized tests if such tests didn’t so often have a politically incorrect disparate impact. Myself, I’m perfectly happy for cities to adopt whatever selection device they think is best, so long as they ignore race in making that decision.

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