February 09, 2006
But criminals can add and subtract!
Should cops be able to understand simple math? Apparently, the Justice Department doesn't think so.
VIRGINIA BEACH - The U.S. Justice Department has found that the math portion of the Virginia Beach Police Department's entrance exam discriminates against black and Hispanic applicants.A math test? How can testing simple math -- the ability to add, subtract, multiply and divide -- discriminate on the basis of race?
Actually no. The contention isn't even made that math is racially biased; only that there's a disparate impact:
The city requires all recruits to score at least 70 percent on all parts of the written exam the National Police Officer Selection Test.I'm sorry, but if an applicant can't figure out answers to problems like the example above, I don't think he should be working as a police officer, because the criminals will bamboozle him! This is crazy. Officers should be physically fit too, and I'm all for tests that have a "disparate impact" on blind or paraplegic applicants.
Furthermore, the test -- known as the National Police Officer Selection Test -- is not unique to Virginia Beach. It's used in a lot of cities including Washington DC, Boulder, CO, and Providence, RI, and it is designed to be fair and non-discriminatory.
If for whatever reason someone is unable to perform simple math, it's either because he is stupid or else he's had a very poor education. In either case, why should everyone else be made to suffer?
Years ago, I ate lunch with a couple of law professors who got into a ferocious argument over how to grade essays written by law students who were "unable to write an English sentence." One professor thought it was unfair to penalize a conscientious law student for what he should have learned in the seventh grade, but the other thought it was equally unfair to inflict an illiterate attorney on his clients, and on society.
Cops should know math. I think it's a public safety issue having nothing to do with fairness. Frankly, if that question about the overtime is any example, I don't think the test is hard enough.
If they keep this nonsense up, the only "disparate impact" will be on public safety.
MORE: j.d. at evolution (commenting below) highlights what may be part of the problem -- a growing "educational" trend to declare math a form of oppression:
....traditional mathematics the mathematics taught in universities around the world is the property of Western Civilization and is inexorably linked with the values of the oppressors and conquerors.I suspect that the people who can afford to experiment with these theories make damned sure their own kids master traditional math!
posted by Eric on 02.09.06 at 07:53 PM
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