Yesterday, City Journal published a piece by Heather Mac Donald about the push for diversity among the sciences. Mac Donald offers a lot of evidence that much effort is being expended to alter the representation of women and underrepresented minorities (URMs) in the sciences. This is being treated as a societal good, but in order to achieve that end, standards are being lowered.

Identity politics has engulfed the humanities and social sciences on American campuses; now it is taking over the hard sciences. The STEM fields—science, technology, engineering, and math—are under attack for being insufficiently “diverse.” The pressure to increase the representation of females, blacks, and Hispanics comes from the federal government, university administrators, and scientific societies themselves…

“Diversity” is now an explicit job qualification in the STEM fields. A current job listing for a lecturer in biology at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst announces that because diversity is “critical to the university’s goals of achieving excellence in all areas,” the biology department “holistically” assesses applicants and “favorably considers experiences overcoming barriers”—experiences assumed to be universal among URMs. The University of California at San Diego physics department advertised an assistant-professor position several years ago with a “specific emphasis on contributions to diversity,” such as a candidate’s “awareness of inequities faced by underrepresented groups.” Social-justice concerns apparently trump the quest to solve the mystery of dark energy. All five candidates on UC San Diego’s short list were females, leading one male candidate with a specialty in extragalactic physics to wonder why the school had even solicited applications from Asian and white men.

Entry requirements for graduate education are being revised. The American Astronomical Society has recommended that Ph.D. programs in astronomy eliminate the requirement that applicants take the Graduate Record Exam (GRE) in physics, since it has a disparate impact on females and URMs and allegedly does not predict future research output…

An introductory chemistry course at UC Berkeley exemplifies “culturally sensitive pedagogy.” Its creators described the course in a January 2018 webinar for STEM teachers, sponsored by the University of California’s STEM Faculty Learning Community. A primary goal of the course, according to teachers Erin Palmer and Sabriya Rosemund, is to disrupt the “racialized and gendered construct of scientific brilliance,” which defines “good science” as getting all the right answers. The course maintains instead that “all students are scientifically brilliant.”

All of the effort being expended is based on a presupposition that classrooms in STEM fields ought to show parity on gender and racial lines. But as Mac Donald points out, that’s a position which has a lot of evidence arguing against it in the form of math test scores:

When it comes to URMs, math deficits show up at the earliest ages. It is only there where the achievement gap can be overcome, through more rigorous, structured classrooms and through a change in family culture to put a high premium on academic achievement. The institutional response to the achievement gap, however, is racial preferences…

Males outperform females at the highest reaches of mathematical reasoning (and are overrepresented at the lowest level of mathematical incompetence). Differences in math precocity between boys and girls show up as early as kindergarten. For decades, males in every ethnic group have scored higher than females in their same ethnic group on the math SAT. In 2016, the percentage of males scoring above 700 (on an 800-point scale) was nearly twice as large as the percentage of females in that range.

It’s a given that Asians are outperforming all other groups on standardized tests like the SAT. That’s especially true with regard to math scores. So this is not an argument on behalf of white males. On the contrary, it’s an argument for ignoring race and gender and allowing slots at graduate schools and actual jobs to be taken by students who have worked hardest and shown the most aptitude. Encouraging schools to disregard or stop testing for these qualifications discounts the considerable individual (and familial) effort it takes to achieve those high scores in the first place. That doesn’t seem fair to the people doing the hard work.