Phi Beta Cons

Silliness at the White House Science Fair

The White House had its annual science fair this week, but every week is political correctness week at the White House, so the president warned that we must

work through some of the structural biases that exist in science.  Some of them — a lot of them are unconscious.  But the fact is, is that we’ve got to get more of our young women and minorities into science and technology, engineering and math, and computer science.  I’ve been really pleased to see the number of young women who have gotten more and more involved in our science fairs over the course of these last several years.

And as I said to a group that I had a chance to meet with outside, we’re not going to succeed if we got half the team on the bench, especially when it’s the smarter half of the team.  (Laughter.)  Our diversity is a strength.  And we’ve got to leverage all of our talent in order to make ourselves as creative and solve as many problems as we can be.

Now, as I discussed in these pages years ago, it’s fine to make sure that no one discounts a STEM career because of his or her race, ethnicity, or sex, and maybe it’s even okay for the president to encourage more students to think about STEM careers if we think that for some reason our country needs that. But all the currently fashionable talk about “structural” and “unconscious” bias is just that — fashionable talk — and what’s more, I conclude, “whether we want to save someone from a missed opportunity for the student’s sake or the country’s or both, the relevance of race, ethnicity, and sex is limited at best. A missed career opportunity is a shame for anyone, and if the country faces a shortfall in profession X, then we shouldn’t care about the color or plumbing of those filling the breach.”

As for the president’s joke about girls being smarter than boys, can you just imagine what would happen if he or anyone else made such a joke at the expense of women?  Why, he’d be pilloried before you could say, “Larry Summers.” 

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