The Harvard establishment has finally roused itself to respond to Harvey C. Mansfield’s assertion that grade inflation is an evil and took off in the late 1960s partly because of affirmative action. The dean of the college, one Harry R. Lewis, penned an op-ed in the Harvard Crimson yesterday making the case that grade inflation has been going on for decades and that there’s no correlation between its take-off in the late 1960s and affirmative action. Since Lewis has all the data, and there’s no way to break it down racially, he doesn’t exactly clinch the argument. There’s also a pesky change in the way Harvard grades were computed and averaged in 1967. Nevertheless, the graph Lewis presents does indeed show a general rise from 1920 to 2000, but it is punctuated by what comes close to a vertical line upward in exactly the time period Mansfield suggested: 1966 – 1974. Lewis responds to the racial point by saying that “black students did not appear in significant numbers on the Harvard campus until 1970, and the period from 1970 through 1985 was the only 15-year period in the past 80 years in which there was no increase in grades at Harvard (his emphasis).” Hmmm. I’d like to see the actual numbers of black students at Harvard at that time, and I’d like to see when affirmative action was actually instituted. As to the fact that grades do indeed seem to stabilize after the mid 1970s, it would be hard for them to continue what looks like hyperinflation during the period from 1967 – 1973 (where the average grade increased by some 40 percent). Anyway, check it out for yourself. My view: if this is the best Harvard can do to rebut Mansfield’s charge, they get a B-, which these days is tantamount to an F.
PINK PISTOLS: A few years ago, Jonathan Rauch and I talked about writing a piece arguing that gays should eschew hate crime laws in favor of self-defense. It was almost a jeu d’esprit, but Jonathan took the ball and ran with it. Presto, just a few months later, and there are several “Pink Pistol” groups around the country, training homosexuals and lesbians (and all sorts of others) how to defend themselves with legal handguns. Of course, the gay left establishment is mortified – but finally a real story has been written in, of all places, the Washington Blade, the usually p.c. crib-sheet for leftist activists. It’s a fascinating and uplifting story of people finding a niche for themselves and fighting back victimology with imagination and flair. It’s also an insight into the surprising open-mindedness of some gun-toting rednecks. Check it out.
BIGOTS, ETC: I may have been premature to accept Ian Buruma’s assertion in the New Yorker that David Irving, the Holocaust “minimizer,” referred to the judge in his libel trial as “mein Fuhrer.” A reader sent me the transcript. Here’s the relevant part of Irving’s testimony: “When the off-screen chanting of slogans begins at 18:18:59 I am clearly seen to interrupt my speech, shake my head at them and gesticulate with my left hand to them to stop, and I am clearly heard to say, “You must not”, because they are shouting the “Siegheil” slogans, Mein Fuhrer, and things like, “you must not always be thinking of the past”. I am heard clearly to say: “You must always be thinking of the past. You must not keep coming out with the slogans of the past. We are thinking of the future [voice emphasized] of Germany. We are thinking of the future of the German people. As an Englishman I have to say …”, and so on. So I am quite clearly expressing extreme anger at these people who have come along with their Nazi slogans.” Although the transcript keeps “Mein Fuhrer” out of quotation marks, it seems to me more plausible that Irving was describing the shouts of the crowd, rather than actually addressing the judge. Not as funny – but more accurate. This is not to exculpate Irving’s work or views, but it is to be as scrupulous when discussing him as he is sometimes unscrupulous when addressing others.
BIGOTS, ETC II: For those of you still holding out hope that John Derbyshire is just a nice old English gent with some unpopular but important views, check out his link to a website known as vdare.com. Vdare is an anti-immigration group founded by Peter Brimelow and dedicated to keeping America as white and anglo as possible. It’s named after Virginia Dare, the first white English child born in America. Derbyshire’s main contributions appear to be dark warnings about “Sino-Fascism,” Chinese-American Gore voters, and other versions of the Yellow Peril in our midst. All this is made even weirder by the fact that Derbyshire himself says he has a Chinese wife and two half-Chinese children. I’m beginning to think he’s just plain kooky.