A few weeks ago, a controversy erupted in my hometown. A local high school that has one of those international baccaluerate programs, also known as HISP, held a science fair. One of the students in the HISP program submitted a project titled “Race and IQ’ for the science fair.
Ever since then the local media has reported breathlessly about how offensive this project was. Students have protested. Parents have piled on. And everybody has an opinion. If they all get an opinion, so do I.
First, it’s impossible to know what the student’s objectives or intent were. None of the stories I have read include any information or quotes from him since the controversy began. The student and his parents appear to have gone completely quiet. On some level, good for them. Instead, there’s all sorts of … rumor and innuendo. He is known to have made racist comments in the past. (Examples please?)
Ultimately, though, none of that matters. The question of whether minorities are disproportionately underrepresented in elite programs like HISP are valid. While the student appears to have sought to suggest that race is a factor in intelligence, the question remains valid. Why are minorities underrepresented in these programs.
The student apparently conducted a survey that was pretty limited and not “scientifically sound.” Good, grade him accordingly for failing to demonstrate the right kind of academic rigor expected of a high school student in an advanced program like HISP.
But, where I have a problem is with the idea that the questions should have never been asked. That the topic is somehow inappropriate for discussion among educated individuals. Why are minorities underrepresented in McClatchy’s HISP program? Is it lack of opportunity? Lack of confidence and support? Differences in the socio-economic status of different races in America? Is it something else? Why wouldn’t we want to know this.
Yes, the student may have done a lousy job with his project. But grade him accordingly. Don’t shut him down. Don’t stop the inquiry. Ask the questions and answer them instead of insisting that it is better to ignore the issue.
If we cannot discuss the hard questions, if we cannot accept challenges to our convictions, what the hell are we doing?
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In other news of political correctness, a fellow blogger/author read Deviation and expressed some discomfort at the objectification of women in the story. I share her discomfort. Absolutely, 100% get it.
Her concern is one of the reasons why it took me a couple of years to get around to pushing the publish button on the story. The characters talk a lot of crap, much of it disrespectful of women.
But one of the fundamental reasons I decided to push the publish button was because of exactly that. It is crass and crude and politically incorrect. And I wanted to make a statement by publishing this long short story. Fiction and art are meant to be challenging and to push the boundaries and unsettle people.
We seem to have lost that in a lot of what is produced these days, and I’m tired of the politically correct wars that rage. Just absolutely tired of it.