The Right Coast

May 22, 2005
ETS President Hurls Ill-Considered Insults
By Gail Heriot

American corporate leaders have never been known for their political courage. They generally try to keep their heads down when any sort of threat is in the air. Way down if possible. Unfortunately for conservatives, the result is usually corporate statements and activities with a distinctly politically correct flavor. Corporate leaders correctly recognize that it is far easier to get hurt by angering those on the left side of the political spectrum than it is by angering those on the right. Consequently, they make very sure that they give no cause for offense in the leftward direction even if it means occasionally rubbing everyone else the wrong way.

But the Educational Testing Service goes too far. Sure, ETS considers itself vulnerable to left-leaning political attacks on account of its products--the SAT, the LSAT, the MCAT, etc. On average (subject, of course, to significant individual variation), Blacks and Hispanics don't do as well on these tests as Asians and Whites. Here are the SAT I group averages from 1999 (the year for which I happen to have the statistics handy):

Asians: 499 Verbal/565 Math
African Americans: 431 Verbal/425 Math
Mexican Americans: 453 Verbal/460 Math
Whites: 528 Verbal/530 Math

These figures are disappointing to almost evryone. As a result, ETS has had to defend itself from attacks from the left. For example, the Clinton Administration's Secretary of Education for the Office of Civil Rights Norma Cantu went so far as to issue guidelines for the use of standardized tests, which, if implemented, would have wiped ETS off the face of the Earth--thus shooting the messenge rather than solving the problem.

But none of that excuses the full-page advertisement that ETS has taken out in the Weekly Standard (and I assume elsewhere)entitled "Making Diversity a Reality." Of course, it's a paean to diversity. But that doesn't bother me in the slightest. Every corporation in America sings that tune. What bothers me is Landgraf's reckless accusation concerning the motives of employers who find work place diversity difficult to achieve. In the ad, he states:

"[T]he response that 'We want to have a more diverse workforce, but we just can't find enough qualified candidates' doesn't cut it. Worse than an excuse, it's frequently code for something else entirely."

Say what? Landgraf doesn't specify what the "something else" is, but it's obvious from the context that he's talking about racism. It is evidently Mr. Landgraf's opinion that American employers are "frequently" covering over sinister racist motives when they complain of their difficulties.

Such an accusation trivializes the the genuine problems faced by employers seeking to hire qualified minority (or non-minority)employees. ETS, perhaps more than any corporation in America, is aware of those difficulties. Talented employees are hard enough to find when race and ethnicity don't matter. Finding them in just the right skin color is very difficult indeed.

Was this ridiculous statement written by Landgraf himself? Or one of the many diversity "experts" that ETS has hired in recent years in a mostly unsuccessful effort to appease ETS' critics. Either way Landgraf is way off base and should apologize.