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Sunday, January 25, 2004

Haverford: Blind Lesbians et al.

This past weekend was the Haverford tournament, where James and I (for the third straight time) took second place. We went 5-0, losing a rank only once (to Lindsay of GW). In rounds, we seem to be okay. Outrounds, we seem to be okay. But we seem terminally unable to actually win final rounds... even though for once we were opposing (which, I suppose to our own fault, was also for once an interesting round). The case was one which I guess has been run before in a different form, and largely ridiculed - namely, there are these two deaf lesbians who go to have a child. They find a sperm donor who, when combined with one of their eggs, will result in a deaf child. The question is whether this is morally good or bad. I talked to my partner for a second, but basically wanted to defend the side I actually believe. Namely, that it is not immoral to have a child who is deaf.

One argument we got to make, which I can't really think of a refutation for, is that the action in creating the child defective is an act prior to the existance of said child. Insofar as it seems impossible to construct a moral argument for an individual acting upon a nonexistant thing, even if the action may bring in to being something which could be brought into being in a state which would make its life easier, I just felt as if the whole round was somehow not about what it should have been. All of the examples cited by the other side were manifestly about actions exacted upon individuals who already exist. It bothered me a lot that people bought most of these arguments since they were explicitly disanalogous. I didn't really blow this up enough, I think, since nobody appeared to have understood it except one judge.

But more importantly, I just found it extremely odd that people automatically assumed that being deaf was inherantly something bad. The automatic value judgement seems to be something detestable, since the impetus for the belief is that a person who is deaf (or blind, or black, or female, or any other biological difference which makes their integration into our society more difficult) has a less fulfilling life. This, to me, is a horrific condemnation of any counter- or sub- cultures people might actually be a part of. The underlying assumption is that the dominant culture is automatically morally superior to any other possible worldview people could hold. This, likewise, assumes that not bringing a child into the world (an amoral act) is morally superior to anyone who is not a genetic paragon for a given locale and place and time procreating. I'm not sure how I feel about that. A little sick, maybe.

As noted below, I've finally started to come around to thinking that maybe standardized tests and the like are just generally bad as a measure for advancement and collegiate placement, unless they're coupled with affirmative action to renormalize. Many people I know believe this may be a result of drinking a lot. In a way, they're sort of correct. I got in an argument during my time in NYC over whether or not these tests were inherantly biased (ie: whether or not the use of illustritive examples in math problems and the like were behind the gap, or whether it was an income thing, or whether race actually had, all else equal, an effect on the scores.) The person I was arguing with told me they had done studies which were normalized for income across racial boundaries, which show that, despite this, black children still did worse on them. I, like any good debater, pointedly ignored this ugly little "study" and dismissed it as biased (despite not knowing who had done it, and so on) and probably flawed. I then proceeded to fall asleep under a coffee table.

When I woke up in the morning, admittedly a little hung over and unable to think, that little thought in the back of my mind wouldn't go away. Namely: if this is the case, and there's actually a general trend in a race's culture away from a focus on education at home, and the aquisition of the skills that help people on these tests, can you really justify using them without some sort of racial equalizer? Unless you assume that certain races are, as biological fact, less intelligent than others (something I just fail to believe), is there any reason whatsoever not to weight race as a factor in things like college admissions?

Essentially, the question is this: if you're a coach recruiting for a track team, and have two runners, one who is faster and has good form, and one who is a little bit slower and has poor form, which do you take? The latter, obviously, since you can turn him into a faster runner if you can get rid of the poor form. Clearly the same sort of thinking applies. If, as a college, you want to graduate the best students you can (as opposed, say, to admitting the best students you can) then these scores should be used only as a general guideline and race-blind admission is idiotic.

On top of this, there's the fact that, if the trend is a result of culture and not biology or economic status, the only way to actually fix the problem is going to be to continue educating certain segments of society at a higher rate than they otherwise would be if left to "meritocratic" means. If you start focusing, as many people would like, on socioeconomics as the standard for affirmative action, one of the key differences is, of course, that you never actually solve anything. A natural consequence of distribution of wealth in a capitalist society is that there will be poor people. You cannot help this fact. What you can help is the racial makeup of each of the classes - something which is incredibly beneficial to the social makeup.

cranked out at 1:19 PM | |

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