Posts Tagged ‘Reverse Discrimination’

A recent double post by Nathan Palmer at Scatterplot and The Sociology Source (which shows up in my RSS reader as “Blog”) tackles the issue of making social facts understandable for students.  As Palmer states:

I tell my class to imagine that I have just handed back their graded tests for them to review. I tell them that the class average was a 72%. This, I tell them, is an empirical social fact. The trend or in this case the average for the entire class was 72%.

Then I ask them, “would it make sense if one of you told me ‘the average can’t be a 72% because I got a 96% on my test’?” They laugh at the ridiculousness of this question. “Well when I present to you empirical social facts and you say to me ‘well I know this one guy who doesn’t do what your research says’ or ‘well that’s not true in my experience, so your social fact must be wrong’ you are basically arguing that because you got a 96% the class average can’t be a 72%” Many heads nodding in unison. They get it.

This seems like an excellent way to make this point, given the number of students who have told me that research findings aren’t “true” because they had different experiences.  It reminded me, however, of something else I encountered recently – former sociology students who have forgotten what they learned about social life as a result of the dreaded “real world.”

It seems that the social facts we teach students can be overcome by a few years of job experience.  Former sociology students who gained an in-depth understanding of the long-standing discrimination against blacks, for example, may claim that they are the victims of “reverse discrimination” when they can’t find a job in a recession.  Similarly, knowledge of the burden of the second shift may be overcome by a man who finds that his wife will do the laundry herself if he waits long enough.

While students in our classrooms seem to grasp the concepts we teach, these concepts are often counter to the stereotypical norms of our society.  Once they get it, the larger question becomes how we can get them to keep it.

Read Full Post »

There are lots of people in the US who are happy to point to efforts to increase diversity and claim that they are “reverse discrimination.” In academia, this has ramifications for a number of areas, including admissions and hiring. Maybe because the job market sucks, we try to find justifications for our success (or lack thereof). Those who fail sometimes turn to scapegoats such as reverse discrimination. As the process wore on, these scapegoats popped up on the Sociology Job Market Rumor Mill, as evident in posts like this:

The bottom line is that we were lied to and sold a bill of goods about the viability of an academic job in sociology. Clearly, many of us come from top departments, have numerous solo authored publications in good journals, teaching experience, etc., yet nothing. I don’t think it’s just a bad job market this year — the funding for this year’s jobs was largely in place before the economic crisis. Next year, we’ll really see the effect. So, we were lied to. I seriously and honestly wish I had gone to law school or B-school — where being a white male might actually do me some good instead of ruin any chance I have at getting a job. So much for fighting the good fight. Fuck ’em all — time to use my gender and race for my benefit for once, time to get paid.  December 3, 2008 6:36 PM

My favorite part is the statement that it is “time to use my gender and race for my benefit for once,” as if being a white male has been resting below the surface of his life for years with no effect on his experiences, and only now rears its head to crush his opportunities on the academic market.

Strangely, I was able to find a job as a white male. Maybe this is because the institution that hired me is private and thus less affected by the rash of reverse discrimination that has affected public institutions like the University of Michigan Law School, but I doubt it. Maybe my superior c.v., personality, interviewing skills, and intellect overpowered the fact that I am a white male, but I doubt that, too. In fact, looking back at my life I cannot identify any situation in which my background as a white, middle-class male hindered my ability to progress through life in terms of education or employment.  It may be surprising, but I think that the fact that I shared the same cultural references and experiences as my teachers, professors, and employers helped me in ways that I will never fully know. Maybe I’m the exception, but thanks to my sociological training, I doubt it.

*Bonus: this post has a soundtrack.

Read Full Post »