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Demoted and Placed on Probation (quillette.com)
149 points by mancerayder 8 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 214 comments





When I write code at work, I write so according to guidelines that my employer and my teammates have produced, not all of which I agree with. We mostly write in Java, which I don't really like as a language (I'm lucky enough to be on a team that writes Python, but if I need to work with another team's code or a common library, I need to write Java). We run Python tests with unittest instead of pytest. We format our code with the `black` autoformatter, even though I disagree with several of its approaches. And so forth. I still follow the recommendations, because I'm working as part of a team, and none of the recommendations are egregiously unreasonable - they're just not what I would have preferred.

The recommendations of the university working group seem similar. Well-intentioned people can reach different conclusions on these things, but none of them are egregiously unreasonable. You don't have to use the BMI exercise; there are enough other exercises that solve the goal of inputting some numbers and calculating a simple formula based on them. None of them are even at the level of saying, you must teach a thing you don't believe. (He's not even, say, a biology professor asked to teach/not teach evolution. He's a computer science lecturer, and none of these recommendations are about the facts of computer science itself.)

As a professional software engineer, if I picked a fight about the coding guidelines, I would in fact be spending a significant amount of my political capital. If I find something very important, it's possible I can slowly try to convince people of one thing, and have it reflect positively on me. But if I picked a pointless fight - like saying that we should standardize on double quotes in Python instead of single quotes - my management would be right to question whether I was more interested in doing my job or in getting my way.

And if I were to say that I wanted to work on "heterodox engineering," I would be surprised if my management did not question whether I was in the right role. By his own admission, this man's "best teaching" is in areas entirely unrelated to computer science - why is he confused about having trouble getting tenure in a school of computer science?

For all that Quillette seems to dislike professional victims, they appear to have published one.


> When I write code at work, I write so according to guidelines that my employer and my teammates have produced, not all of which I agree with.

This is the core of the opposition between being an employee and being a professional, such as a professor, a priest, a judge, or a doctor. The professions answer to a higher authority than those who pay them, and this is essential to their role. In the case of professors, part of this is codified in the norm of “freedom of inquiry”, which has been central to the modern conception of the University for centuries.

It is unsurprising that the dominant paradigm of wage labor attempt to erase and co-opt the pre-capitalist institution of the professions, obliterating it as an outdated or worthless obstacle and even attempting to appropriate its terminology. But I think the existence of professional institutions like the academy and the judiciary has done a fair bit of good, and replacing them with wage labor is a perilous enterprise.

To be clear, you are not a professional software engineer. You are an employee, directed by management. That is the opposite. That is why you do not enjoy the autonomy that professors are struggling to retain. Your plight is regrettable, and condemning others to it would be not only regrettable but potentially catastrophic.


He's not a professor in the classical definition, he's a lecturer. (Both from his title on paper - Principal Lecturer - and from his actual work - teaching intro CS classes for the purpose of training students to work in wage labor, not guiding researchers.) He's an employee just as much as I am. It's true that professors should have independence from those who oversee them, and there's a mechanism for that: it's called tenure, and he doesn't have it.

It's certainly reasonable for him to want to be a "professional," and from his teaching statement and his desire to teach honors classes about Haidt instead of intro classes about programming, that seems like exactly what he wants. I, too, would like to be a "professional." But he doesn't get to just be one merely because he wants to be one, any more than I can.


I understand that you are not aware of this, but freedom of inquiry protects non-tenured lecturers and even, thanks to Humboldt, students. I suggest that you read at least the introductory section of https://www.britannica.com/topic/academic-freedom so that your opinions are no longer based on complete ignorance of the issues at hand.

It is true that tenure is a much more effective protection, and this is perhaps a major reason that managerialists have shifted more and more of the teaching load to adjunct faculty over the last four decades. Unquestionably someone designing a new introductory course, as the author claims to have done, would have been tenured or tenure-track faculty at any US University in the 1950s, 60s, or 70s. That is, as defined by his teaching responsibilities, he is very much a professor or assistant professor according to the traditional definition.

It does seem to be correct that he is in fact vulnerable to political interference with his freedom to teach. But what we are debating is whether it would be better if he were more vulnerable to it or less so. Your position seems to be that it would be better if he were more vulnerable to it because that would make him more like you. My position is that it would be better if he were less vulnerable to it because historically that kind of thing has led to disasters like Lysenkoism and the failure of the Nazi atomic bomb program.


And someone who was teaching at any US university in those eras would have been generally preparing people for what you call a "professional" role, not to become an ignorant peon like me working a wage labor job. Teaching people how to program (honestly, even calling it introductory "computer science" is a polite fiction) does not require inquiry at all, freedom or otherwise. It's a well-established course, much like high school algebra is well-established, and the concept of "freedom of inquiry" for the high school algebra teacher doesn't make much sense. If a university wishes to have senior faculty design such a class, that's certainly reasonable, but it doesn't fundamentally require innovation.

Which gets to the heart of the problem: there isn't a meaningful sense in which any of the decisions he objected to were related to a "freedom of inquiry" about computer science or even about programming. It would be one thing if he said, I don't think we should be teaching students this programming language or this material or this approach to concepts, I think we should be teaching another way. (For instance, he could have written something like https://www.joelonsoftware.com/2005/12/29/the-perils-of-java... .) I would agree with you that such decisions should be the purview of a tenure-track professor and not school administrators, and I would even agree with you that the growth of adjunct roles is an attempt to take such decisions out of the hands of professors. His objections were of a different category entirely. He objected to how he perceived universities to be coddling students, to how he doesn't recognize certain words as part of the English language, etc. It's a pretty motte-and-bailey argument to say that academic freedom also protects a professor's right to ignore any direction about teaching from university administration.

Suppose a tenured professor says, I don't think students learn well in the mornings in a classroom setting, I wish to teach at 10 PM at the pub, and I don't care what time and room these managerialists have assigned me to. Students will meet me where I say they'll meet me, or they'll fail the class. Would you say that the professor (who may genuinely believe this is a better teaching environment) is protected in this decision by "freedom of inquiry"?


I think this is missing the forest for the trees. The specific recommendations to his course is only one section in the broader theme of intolerance for different viewpoints on the demographics of computer science. In particular Reges seems to be getting pushed out over his belief that in a society without discrimination, women still won't be 50% of computer scientists. This does set a worrying precedence, and events like these are party of why I've long stopped sharing my honest opinion about discriminatory initiatives in diversity hiring and advancement. It's far too dangerous to be perceived as against diversity.

> For all that Quillette seems to dislike professional victims, they appear to have published one.

That's basically all Quillete is. It's "contrarian" by definition, which leads to a lot of similar complaints by authors across the site.


> A relaxation of grading on coding style.

> Allowing students to work together in a group for part of their grade instead of requiring them to complete all graded work individually.

> A reduction in the amount of effort expended pursuing cheating cases by 50 percent even though there has been no reduction in cheating cases.

Can somebody explain to me how these recommendations will make the course more inclusive/diverse, I fail to see the connection?


It’s more inclusive towards the stupid.

It’s only natural for various minority groups to ultimately attack what they perceive to be the primary instrument of discrimination against them: judging them on their ability.


Rather than "stupid", I'd say individuals that aren't cut out to be programmers. But yes, I've known people who have sort of bumped along the bottom through a CS program and even sometimes gotten their degrees.

However well-intentioned this might seem, the results can be pretty awful. In some cases, the person was hired for their first job, flamed out completely, and had to find a job in an unrelated industry. It's a terrible thing to go through.

I tried several majors in college and had the good luck to wash out almost immediately in the early coursework. If I hadn't, I might have ended up in a career I hated, dragging down those around me. It's hard to love your work if you don't have the skills for it.


They probably had data showing that black students are caught cheating and fail tests more often. One interpretation of this is that black students are unfairly targeted by such practices and therefore the practices should be eliminated or reduced. You see similar sentiments when discussing policing crime.

Going against the zeitgeist, whether you like it or not, is rarely going to win you favours in any social circles.

George Bernard Shaw put it aptly: "the reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable man adapts the world to himself. All progress, therefore, depends on the unreasonable man."

In other words, if the zeitgeist is ever to change, someone has to go against it, often at personal cost. We should be grateful some people have a compulsion to speak up even when it costs them personally.


>The university agreed to several of their demands, including that, “A group of (mostly senior) faculty will review the introductory programming courses to ensure that they are inclusive of students from all backgrounds.” A working group was formed and it produced a set of recommendations. These included: [...] A reduction in the amount of effort expended pursuing cheating cases by 50 percent

That's a huge insult directed at exactly the student they claim to be supporting.


Worse yet, it devalues the degree they're working so hard for (and paying so much for).

As many here can attest, we already have a significant problem with people passing through CS/etc programs and coming out the other end without being able to write a fizz-buzz off the top of their heads. Looking at current curricula, it strikes me as noticeably dumbed down, compared to the no-name program I went through several decades ago.


Whatever your beliefs, it's very stupid to try to have a debate in public on a politcally heated topic with someone you don't know, without some sort of moderator or an agreed-upon set of rules.

This restricts politics to those that can afford it with those resources, so I disagree. Though it is better when these can be found in a shared friendly setting of course.

But if you don’t have those resources, you also probably don’t have much to lose by having that debate in public.

Except, clearly, a job

Aren't you sort of victim blaming here?

This guy is saying "I believe X" and is fighting really hard for his beliefs. Instead of addressing whether it's valid/worthy, you're insulting his intellect for standing up for what he believes in a way you consider not-savvy.


You can "fight hard for your beliefs" and still shoot yourself in the foot. It’s hard to argue with the idea that there would have been better ways for this guy to get his point across.

Someone should have told Socrates :-)

And the idiot got himself killed for it :-)


You also earn extra-stupid points when your employers and peers across decades gently tell you to knock it off and you refuse.

> "You also earn extra-stupid points when your employers and peers across decades gently tell you to knock it off and you refuse."

One wonders how history would've turned out if Galileo had followed your advice? https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Galileo_affair


Are you calling him stupid for openly writing about gayness in the 70's when he was told not to? How else could social change happen without such "stupid" people?

As part of an industry that was started by Ada Lovelace, I don't think I could write an article entitled "Why Women Don't Code."

What if you discovered the reason? Wouldn't you want to share it?

> Most of these suggestions seem to rely on the notion that undergraduates are delicate. While I agree that we must be careful to ensure that all students feel welcome and respected, we should be helping our students to become antifragile. So I will continue to use the BMI example, I will maintain high standards for grading, and I will continue to pursue cheating cases vigorously. I will continue to say “you guys” and to make occasional cultural references. In the case of pronouns, I have always made an effort to accommodate requests from transgender students, but I refuse to use words that are not part of the English language.

What really stands out to me is how he addressed the honestly pretty tame feedback he got on his class. A whole committee was put together and came back with recommendations on some pretty minor things he could do to better foster a sense of inclusivity and his response was nah I'd rather not. I'm not at all surprised at the result. Regardless of what his article said, the reaction to it, or his actual credentials as an instructor he showed the administration very clearly with his actions that he has literally no interest in trying to make the department an inclusive environment. And that's ultimately the entire point. They are trying to make CS as accessible as possible and this guy is fighting them tooth and nail at every step because what...?

I mean the last sentence is just a ridiculous take as a teacher. A) Yeet is now a word in the english dictionary. New words are created all the time and the definitions of existing ones change to match the context in which they are used in modern times. B) Making the pretty minimal effort, of referring to someone in the way in which they'd like to be addressed is literally such a low bar, that refusing to do so quite frankly makes you an asshole. C) He uses the word antifragile, which is not a universally recognized english word. It's a term coined by a professor in a book in 2012.


I think he had the wrong reaction, I think he could have implemented some of the more reasonable suggestions easily, but some of that stuff is really nuts. "The addition of an indigenous land acknowledgement to the syllabus." I would have wtf'ed at too -- it's a CS class. If you mix in that stuff with reasonable suggestions like avoiding references that require cultural knowledge or just using different names in examples I can see how someone would just throw the whole thing out after getting exasperated with the whole process and some of the "best practices".

The suggestions included some that just seemed like "make your class easier", I can see how a diversity panel telling him how to grade his class would be annoying.

> A relaxation of grading on coding style.

> Allowing students to work together in a group for part of their grade instead of requiring them to complete all graded work individually.

> A reduction in the amount of effort expended pursuing cheating cases by 50 percent even though there has been no reduction in cheating cases.

There were some that he easily could have done, like just buying some seminar for his TAs and using a different problem:

> Training for TAs in inclusion and implicit bias.

> Review of all course materials for inclusiveness. For instance, of a lecture that involves calculating body mass index (BMI) using guidelines from the National Institutes of Health, the report noted that it “seems insensitive to present students with a program that would print out that some of them are ‘obese’ while others are ‘normal.’”

There's no reason not to make an effort to use more names in examples and even just a quick "I've always said you guys, I'm making an effort to say folks but old habits die hard" probably would have at least shown he cared enough to make people happy.


> "The addition of an indigenous land acknowledgement to the syllabus."

That's one nutty request amid a bunch of more-or-less-reasonable ones. (The requested reduction in pursuing cheating cases was just as nutty, TBH.) It tells you a lot about how politicized this whole thing is, but it's not like we didn't know that already. Overall, the article author seems a bit too emotionally involved himself, in a way that's pretty hard to make sense of as just caring about good CS 101 teaching.


I do think he's being stubborn and some of the stuff (like keeping the BMI problem when there's so many problems that are exactly the same) I think he was doing just as a middle finger.

I was an RA years ago when this stuff was being incubated by residence life. A lot of it is really reasonable but I just remember everything being punctuated with insanity and it being so difficult to even get through to people pushing it.

We had to do one on one's with our residents, in our rooms (I forget the phrasing but it was "safe-space"esque) and some of the questions we had to ask were about sexuality. These were due within the first month, so imagine being a freshman, and your RA pulls you into your room for a scheduled meeting and then starts asking you questions about your sexuality. I was just like, maybe as an optional meeting after we actually know these people but this is so unprofessional and uncomfortable. I ended up just reading the questions I wasn't explicitly going to ask at an all hands meeting and saying "I'd love to discuss these things with you one on one but I am not going to force you to talk to me about them" and even that when I turned in my one on one reports with those questions blank for basically everyone was a huge issue (I can't remember what happened to me but I remember meeting with some director, my manager and the person above my manager).

So yeah, he explicitly said "I'm not even trying to compromise" - so we already know his mind space. Can't really defend that. But I at least know why he's so angry about the whole process because I know how those discussions go.


At my university, the cheating thing was introduced as an ethnic justice issue. Iirc, the claim was that some groups of people had to collaborate on things like exams (aka cheat) so that they could overcome of cultural inertia of whatever things they were worried about.

It came to a head in a 400-level class, and the professor handled it by making the midterm and final extra credit, and giving everyone an A who showed up to every class, deducting a letter grade per absence, unless the student demonstrated that they were observing some religious or cultural observance in the university’s list of approved things. (Which included everything from major holidays to observances of Norse religious events)

That professor was able to get away with that because she had tenure and followed the letter of the law with respect to grading. Whatever the content of the argument, lecturers are serfs in the academic hierarchy and have agency or freedom. They get abused and fired every few years anyway, so if you’re in that position STFU or get drummed out.


> ethnic justice issue. Iirc, the claim was that some groups of people had to collaborate on things like exams (aka cheat) so that they could overcome of cultural inertia of whatever things they were worried about

Why would I hire a group who only got through their qualifications by cheating? Sounds like it may lead to more discrimination than it solves...


The cheating one is actually not as unreasonable as you might think. I would love to see more context around that specific request. Is this a case where people of being accused of cheating because they did well when the professor didn't expect it (due to being from a specific background)? Are people of specific demographics being singled out for increased scrutiny.

Additionally, combined with the request for more group work it may be a case where people are working in groups on individual work which isn't in and of itself cheating, but may have been treated as such. At my university it was encouraged for people to work in groups on those type of assignments so that people could help each other and remove some of the burden from professors and ta's


In Australia, indigenous land acknowledgements are commonplace, and I cannot think of a single instance where they have caused any inconvenience.

I see absolutely no reason why the addition of a sentence to the header of the syllabus would be onerous.


It's not about having them on the header of a syllabus, it's why have them on a CS 101 syllabus, of all things - and just about every other syllabus in the curriculum, apparently. Do people care that much about reading: "This course is taking place on traditional X!tribe land." or whatever? How does this make any sense?

> Do people care that much about reading: "This course is taking place on traditional X!tribe land." or whatever?

Demonstrably: Yes, or they wouldn't be asking for it.

> How does this make any sense?

It costs you nothing, or so close to nothing that there's no effective difference, and a whole heap of people appreciate it. And, in this instance, it also allows you to keep your job. It's a net positive for all involved.

Do you have a particularly good argument for anyone not doing it? (Slippery slopes need not apply.)


> Demonstrably: Yes, or they wouldn't be asking for it.

Obviously, people never ask for things they don't actually care about.

IMO this is intended as something that is both unreasonable to include AND hard to object to on any grounds but reasonableness and practicality. "Don't you care about indigenous peoples, or are you some kind of racist?" And so it provides the ability to continue objecting to someone's behavior even if they make all the other requested changes.


The best response to that is malicious compliance: make the changes, but in a way that's as reasonable as possible, and as obnoxious as possible to the people who have actually requested the change. Like, have the acknowledgment line on the syllabus be: "ᴅɪsᴄʟᴀɪᴍᴇʀ: ᴛʜɪs ᴄᴏᴜʀsᴇ ɪs ᴛᴀᴋɪɴɢ ᴘʟᴀᴄᴇ ᴏɴ ᴛʀᴀᴅɪᴛɪᴏɴᴀʟ x-ᴛʀɪʙᴇ ʟᴀɴᴅ." or something like that. If the other side objects, you can stand your ground and point out that they are being unreasonable.

Nah, you need to add some attribution there - "DISCLAIMER: THIS COURSE IS TAKING PLACE ON TRADITIONAL X-TRIBE LAND. THIS DISCLAIMER BROUGHT TO YOU BY YOUR STUDENT UNION FEES"

That's the worst possible response! The way you want think this man should cleverly manoeuvre out of people thinking he's behaving badly is by being deliberately malicious?

You think the solution is being obnoxious and doing that in such a way that is literally exact same amount of effort as just being nice?

Then, your imaginative response when someone points out that everything you are suggesting is shitty behaviour, the answer is to point back at them and say "no you"?!


> The way you want think this man should cleverly manoeuvre out of people thinking he's behaving badly is by being deliberately malicious?

Sure. When people are trying to sabotage his courses by continuously injecting their political, highly leftist and non-CS-related agenda into it, his response should be as malicious as humanly possible.

What's next? Should we let flat-earthers dictate how we teach science?


> ...being deliberately malicious?

Of course. After all, 'malicious compliance' is a relative term; the alternative is to ignore the request altogether and do nothing at all!


You could just comply with the request in good faith, of course, which you still have yet to come up with any argument against.

I'm feeling a little sensitive right now about your use of "you". It feels very direct, hostile and threatening to me.

I would appreciate it if you could rewrite all your HN posts to exclude the use of "you" and rather use alternate grammatical forms.

It's not a big job really, so you shouldn't have any possible reason not to comply.


While it's evident that some people are spiteful and ask for things they don't actually want just to be an inconvenience, I find it hard to believe that you actually think this is why every single indigenous person is asking for the acknowledgement. If you do believe that's the case, the only response I can make is that your belief runs counter to everything I've heard from indigenous people myself.

If we operate under the assumption that not every single person asking for a statement of acknowledgement is acting under bad faith, it's important to note that you haven't actually presented any reason about why it would be unreasonable to include.

Without a cogent argument against the inclusion of the statement, it's very sensible to point to the refusal to include the acknowledgement, and say "this person is refusing to do this simple kindness we have asked for, which makes him a bit of a jerk".


> I find it hard to believe that you actually think this is why every single indigenous person is asking for the acknowledgement.

A large part of it is that in the US (which is where this professor is located), the preferred nomenclature is "American Indian" or "Native American". (According to CGP Grey [0], the closer you get to a reservation, the more likely it is that "American Indian" or just "Indian" is the preferred term) Either way, "Indigenous Peoples" seems to be more of a Canadian or Australian thing, and I've never seen it used to refer to people in the states. This would imply that the request isn't actually coming from the tribes in question.

And IMO it would be unreasonable to include for the same reason that a discussion of set theory would be inappropriate in a history course covering the "New World" in the 1400s, even ignoring the fact that the term is wrong.

0: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kh88fVP2FWQ


"Indigenous people" is the superset of earliest known inhabitants. "American Indians" or "Native Americans" are the indigenous people the United States. My area of Australia, we'd be as specific as saying "Wurundjeri People". There is a matching level of specificity for the United States. Indigenous people is still the catch-all term.

> And IMO it would be unreasonable to include for the same reason that a discussion of set theory would be inappropriate in a history course covering the "New World" in the 1400s, even ignoring the fact that the term is wrong.

"Set Theory" has no overlap with "New World history", I agree. The Paul G. Allen Center for Computer Science & Engineering has a very real-world overlap with the land on which it is built.


> "Indigenous people" is the superset of earliest known inhabitants. "American Indians" or "Native Americans" are the indigenous people the United States. My area of Australia, we'd be as specific as saying "Wurundjeri People". There is a matching level of specificity for the United States. Indigenous people is still the catch-all term.

It might be the catch-all term! But you generally don't use catch-all terms when talking about specifics - it'd be like asking for a memorial for the Europeans who landed at Plymouth Rock. Yes, they were Europeans! But saying that, instead of 'British' or 'Pilgrims' or whatever, would be weird. I stand by my thought that if this was being pushed by the tribe in question, it would either mention the tribe by name or use American Indian.

Also, "Native Americans" refers to all the native peoples of the new world, while "American Indian" is restricted to those located within the US.

> "Set Theory" has no overlap with "New World history", I agree. The Paul G. Allen Center for Computer Science & Engineering has a very real-world overlap with the land on which it is built.

New World history has plenty of overlap with many things that could be called "western civilization", though. Perhaps a better comparison would have been to teaching the US constitution, since that's what enabled the society that they're learning New World history within. Or how electrical power generation works, since presumably all the study materials required electricity in distribution/production. IMO those are both at least as significant an overlap as the fact that they happen to occupy the same land.


I suspect the person writing out the bullet points of the requests themselves is just a university administrator, but that the origin of the request is someone else. Unfortunately, both your and my side of this specific point is unknowable: I'd personally proceed with it as being a request made in good faith.

As for the second point you're making. I'm sorry, and I may be being obtuse right now, but I am struggling to parse how this is an argument against including an acknowledgement statement (in CS specifically or anywhere else).


> Indigenous people is still the catch-all term.

Perhaps that's the case in Australia, but that term is very rarely used in the US. As the parent states, it's "Native American" or "American Indian" when reaching for a catch-all, followed by a tribe name when specifics are required. "Indigenous people" just isn't used really at all here.


I guarantee far more people care about not wasting time with such trivial matters. Nothing is ever 0 cost. These demands are already causing chaos and decreasing the time spent on actual learning by paying students. Where's the accounting for that?

To waste time on objecting to something that is trivial to do and then complaining about all the time that has been wasted by your own complaining is the height of cognitive dissonance.

It's already wasting time, as I stated, for something that has absolutely nothing to do with the class. If it's so trivial then it's just as trivial to ignore it. What difference does it make to your education to have this?

If an indigenous land acknowledgement is so commonplace, then the institution should simply make the decision for its teachers and require its inclusion in their documents.

Being compelled to include something you may not actually agree with is onerous.

And it opens the door for other things to included as well. What if two different groups of student activists demand that you include contradictory statements?

I can understand why an instructor would opt to not include ANY political statements.


> There's no reason not to make an effort to use more names in examples and even just a quick "I've always said you guys, I'm making an effort to say folks but old habits die hard" probably would have at least shown he cared enough to make people happy.

Do you really believe the student group and union would have been happy with this? I find that unbelievable. They would have decried the attempt to feed them some "easy" things and not follow through on the real issues.

Basically, as soon as they sent the letter with all those over-the-top descriptions of the prof's behaviour, they were in a corner and couldn't have accepted anything less than a dismissal.


I agree tat he’s fighting them on some things that would cost him next to nothing. But people shut down when they get called out and this feels like some situations I’ve been in. You just pile on more stupid instead of saying maybe I fucked up.

I’d really like to see some more info from the Allen group about how study groups improve inclusivity rather than reducing it. That wasn’t my experience in school at all, and I feel like I’ve always been waiting for someone to call them out as favoring a certain type of student.

I don’t know that I trust the author to relate that info if it was in fact already provided. We have an unreliable narrator. It makes him look more sympathetic to summarize them in this terse form, and we don’t have the source material.


I'd say that the "Alice and Bob" thing isn't as trivial as it seems. There is a long culture, especially in computer security, of using these example names. There's a connotation and context that's immediately available to those who know them. It's not unlike "foo" and "bar" in AI.

It might not be a huge effect, but not exposing students to this puts them at a subtle disadvantage to those who were. And the idea that these decisions should be dictated by some committee from elsewhere in the university is absurd.

hinkley 8 days ago [flagged]

Working in groups and reduced emphasis on anti cheating seem ripe for entitled white boys to leverage more than everyone else. Am I missing something, or are those at odds with the rest of the suggestions?

I suppose working while attending classes might make office hours difficult but study groups easier. What we can’t know is if he was summarizing for effect and he left out their rationale, or if these suggestions came to him this arbitrarily.

Mostly I get a vibe that he’s decided to die on this hill and he’s being stubborn and on some level enjoying the “persecution”. We all do things that feed our own narrative and don’t really provide any other payoff. My self sabotage has never been this public.


Please keep flamebait and name-calling like "entitled white boys" off HN. Tossing Molotov cocktails into already-inflammatory discussion is not ok.

https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html


Not sure why an entitled white boy calling out his peers is flamebait, but ok.

By the standards of this site and (I'm pretty sure) the vast majority of its readers, dropping a phrase like that is obviously flamebait. If you want evidence for that, you needn't look further than the first reply to your post.

We've already had to ask you this, coincidentally even using a similar analogy: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=20580702. No more firebombs, please.

Since you bring it up, I'm guessing you felt that the "calling out your peers" aspect was a mitigating factor. The thing is, your comment didn't say anything about that, and readers have no way of knowing. Intent doesn't communicate itself, so the burden is on the commenter to disambiguate.

https://hn.algolia.com/?dateRange=all&page=0&prefix=true&que....


Yeah, I’m not defending that other thread. You made the correct call.

I can appreciate the irony of discussing a guy who is being recalcitrant on the subject of how words or examples make others feel and then doing the same thing. Have a good Sunday.


> "entitled white boys"

Wow, racist much?


Please don't respond to bad comment with an even worse one. That only damages the commons even further.

https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html


The feedback might have been tame, but was not at all reasonable.

Relaxing efforts to pursue cheating? Lowering grading standards? It is very clear that the committee looked at which demographics were not doing as well in his classes as they would like, and came up with some recommendations to change that.

We are seeing a trend in academia, where your class/race/ethnicity/social group membership should mean more in terms of what is owed to you, than your academic merit. Women being given bonus points to enter STEM degrees at University of Sydney is one such insane example.

I find it very disingenuous when people look at an article like this, think the points raised by the college/university aren't that bad, and then refuse to consider the underlying motives for the college to make these recommendations.


I agree that many of them are very reasonable and he is just being stubborn. For example, switching the BMI example to another example to avoid public shaming, using a variety of names and references so that everyone feels represented, and using provided pronouns costs him nothing and makes other people feel included. That being said, some of the others are less...value adding?

* A relaxation of grading on coding style - In the real world you will be expected to adhere to a prescribed coding style. Getting students used to this is not a bad thing. This is equivalent to docking points from students who refuse to learn how to use git.

* Allowing students to work together in a group for part of their grade instead of requiring them to complete all graded work individually. - This is a request to make the curriculum easier and does not appear to be related to inclusion.

* A reduction in the amount of effort expended pursuing cheating cases by 50 percent even though there has been no reduction in cheating cases. - This is a request to make the curriculum easier and does not appear to be related to inclusion.

* The addition of an indigenous land acknowledgement to the syllabus. - This is far outside the scope of a CS course.

* The use of gender-neutral names like Alex and Jun instead of Alice and Bob. - As long as you are using a variety of names, this seems redundant.

* An avoidance of references that depend on cultural knowledge of sports, pop culture, theater, literature, or games. - Using these is meant to be engaging and many students like it. As long as you don't need prior knowledge of history or knowledge of the reference to solve the problem then I don't see what the issue is.

* The replacement of phrases like “you guys” with “folks” or “y’all.” - "You guys" is universally understood to be gender neutral. Taking issue with this seems pedantic.

* A declaration of instructors’ pronouns and a request for students’ pronoun preferences. - Asking for students' pronouns is good practice and the professor should use them if provided. It is unreasonable to demand that professors provide theirs. It should be understood that if pronouns are not explicitly stated then individuals wish to go by their biological pronouns.


> * The use of gender-neutral names like Alex and Jun instead of Alice and Bob. - As long as you are using a variety of names, this seems redundant.

Alice and Bob are actually standard names for cryptography, though. They weren't names that this professor plucked out of thin air. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alice_and_Bob


Was anyone arguing that the professor made them up?

They seem to be arguing that the names can be trivially changed without impacting further education or careers, and the names being used across classes and universities would say that that isn't (trivially) the case.

If he had pulled the names from a hat, it would be trivially the case.


> * A declaration of instructors’ pronouns and a request for students’ pronoun preferences. - Asking for students' pronouns is good practice and the professor should use them if provided. It is unreasonable to demand that professors provide theirs. It should be understood that if pronouns are not explicitly stated then individuals wish to go by their biological pronouns.

I must be misunderstanding this. If I were teaching a class, am I really expected to solicit every single student for what their preferred pronouns are?

I'm fine with people's pronouns, but it is so rare, how does it make sense to ask everyone?

I actually know a trans person, and she told me that she hates how some people are constantly drawing attention to trans people.


I interpreted the request broadly as "there should be some opportunity for an individual to indicate atypical pronoun use", not that professors need to stand up and formally question poll the class on which pronouns they use.

> Allowing students to work together in a group for part of their grade instead of requiring them to complete all graded work individually. This is a request to make the curriculum easier and does not appear to be related to inclusion.

Out of all the suggestions that were made, this is the one that's perhaps most relevant to inclusion and getting more women to code, actually. It's well-known that women are on average more social than men, more open to working with people than things, and less approving of solitary activities like being a traditional lone "rockstar coder".


>> It's well-known that women are on average more social than men, more open to working with people than things, and less approving of solitary activities like being a traditional lone "rockstar coder".

And yet if this professor used a statement like that as an explanation for why fewer women code than men, he would suffer the consequences, name calling, and firing.


Furthermore, the lone "rockstar coder" is an antipattern. Very little development is done in a vacuum, and the best developers I know -- male or female -- are the ones who can bring other people along with them in technical discussions.

It isn’t exactly an anti pattern, just rare; eg with Notch and Minecraft. Lone coders can create great masterpieces, but it is a very different kind of artifact than what a group could produce. Don’t count loners out from being productive members of society in any field.

Of course, most work requires a lot more collaboration, and CS departments could do more to help train up those skills.


To be fair, pronouns in English are considered a "closed class", while adjectives (like "antifragile") are considered an "open class". This has been true for centuries.

That's all totally reasonable. However independent of that-

One thing he said that sounded completely outrageous though was that the inclusivity committee asked "A reduction in the amount of effort expended pursuing cheating cases by 50 percent even though there has been no reduction in cheating cases."

That's crossing a huge line in my opinion.


It's about demographics. Whatever demographic is being caught cheating is probably also a "minority" demographic not exceeding in academia, making the school "look bad" for "not being inclusive enough".

So for the school to be "more inclusive", more of that demographic needs to pass. And then we just have to stop catching them while cheating.

This is typically the error where people force-optimize for the numbers asked alone, instead of thinking about what they can do to make those metrics appear naturally.

And as usual the results are just bonkers.


I lost any and all sympathy I had when I got to the quoted section.. he seems very fragile himself, and not very good at handling some pretty reasonable criticism.. antifragile indeed.

In my experience, people complaining about fragility are usually projecting.

It’s not inclusive to force people to stop saying “you guys”, which is a midwestern thing. Different areas have a different words for the plural you, such as “you all” or “y’all” or “all y’all”. I grew up in Chicago and everyone said “you guys”, regardless of the group’s genders. I think it’s absurd the school would go after him for that.

Also, for English, new verbs and nouns are constantly made. Not pronouns. [0]

Also, the cheating thing is ridiculous, full stop. I’d have a hard time dealing with folks like that as well.

[0]: https://www.thoughtco.com/what-is-closed-class-words-1689856


> A relaxation of grading on coding style

I don't understand how this relates to inclusivity.


I've worked with developers that get angry at a single trailing space on a line, and developers who seemingly can't comprehend the concept of indentation, and definitely can't spot code formatting problems.

With the help of a code formatting tool both are perfectly capable of working in industry and I haven't seen any particular correlation with actual ability to write software, but one of them is going to get much better grades than the other in a class that grades on code style.


Still not sure how that is related to inclusivity. Who is getting discriminated?

Has there ever been a useful thread from a quillette submission?

It is downweighted on HN like most ideologically driven publications, but we've found there's occasionally a worthwhile article for discussion, as with other such publications. One test is whether there's enough new information in a piece to provide support for conversation, as opposed to angry opposing recitals. Since this is a well-known case with new developments, it seems to qualify. Also, first-person accounts tend to allow for additional aspects because human lives are complicated. His story about being gay seems to me an example of that.

Whatever point one occupies in these spaces, in whatever region sectioned off by the major divides, it's uncomfortable to have an article in one's face that comes from an opposing sector. Every one of us has this experience. Even users who identify with occupying no such region have this experience—maybe most of all, since they don't want to see any of these, whereas most of us quite like the ones from the spaces we identify with. I don't think there's any way out of this conundrum. We all have to tolerate that discomfort if we're to survive as a whole community. Indeed it seems to me that tolerating such discomfort is the essence of tolerance. Fortunately it's a skill that can slowly be learned, so the hopeful view is that we're slowly learning it together.


It is unfair to good-faith commenters who care about HN and its community to allow the site to play host to articles that will generate outrageous horrible threads, so that people like 'geofft feel obligated to write 1,000 words in response to this stupid article, or 'evgen 300 to respond to a comment about male IQ. You know that's essentially what Quillette does to this site, and you could trivially stop it from happening, and you can see clearly from Quillette's history on HN that it would be no loss to block it entirely.

Whatever the opposite of Quillette is, it doesn't belong here either. The problem isn't about discomfort with exposure to the opposing sector. It's about bad-faith content generating bad-faith threads that make demands on good commenters who could make better contributions elsewhere on HN.

Please reconsider.


This thread has been bad enough that I will.

That’s unfortunate, because you’re caving to people who oppose it on ideological grounds as well. I don’t see how it’s off topic, given that one of pg’s most viewed essays is What You Can’t Say.

Most perplexing is that someone cited users writing long comments as some sort of problem. So, it turns out that complex subjects generate more discussion?

I’m not even sure what comments people are finding so offensive in this thread that you feel the need to blacklist the source. tptacek has trashed Quillete as a whole many times in the past, so I think it’s safe to say that his opposition extends much further than “makes for bad comment threads”, and is a little closer to your initial assessment of being uncomfortable with ideas from an opposing sector, which is pretty much nailed it.


'tptacek cited users writing extensive comments in good faith against comments that are in bad faith as a problem. Which it is! If you're familiar with Paul Graham's work, he goes into this quite extensively:

http://www.paulgraham.com/trolls.html

There are two senses of the word "troll." In the original sense it meant someone, usually an outsider, who deliberately stirred up fights in a forum by saying controversial things. [1] For example, someone who didn't use a certain programming language might go to a forum for users of that language and make disparaging remarks about it, then sit back and watch as people rose to the bait. This sort of trolling was in the nature of a practical joke, like letting a bat loose in a room full of people.

The definition then spread to people who behaved like assholes in forums, whether intentionally or not. Now when people talk about trolls they usually mean this broader sense of the word. Though in a sense this is historically inaccurate, it is in other ways more accurate, because when someone is being an asshole it's usually uncertain even in their own mind how much is deliberate. That is arguably one of the defining qualities of an asshole.

Given that the people on news.YC have historically/are generally acting in good faith, it only takes a handful of people acting in bad faith to generate large amounts of comments from users who aren't, and that takes effort from them that would likely be better served elsewhere, just to maintain the quality of discussion on the site. Refuting people acting in bad faith isn't enjoyable, and likely hurts the reticence rate of the site in the long term for users acting in good faith, who are exactly who you want to keep.

After all, Graham himself notes that DH6. refutations are the most desirable, and a person can only reasonably write so many of those a day. Wasting multiple ones on those acting in bad faith hurts the quality of the site for everyone, including the people acting in bad faith.

http://www.paulgraham.com/disagree.html

This article was, taken most generously, DH4, with a strong case for being DH3. Frequently, Quillette articles are nothing past DH2.[1] Refuting it and some of the bad faith comments in this thread, we see multiple DH5s and DH6s (of course, there are also some DH3s and DH4s and what looks to be a couple of DH1s). Noticeably, there are few comments on the side of the author that are multiple lines long, including in response to multiple DH6s. 'kragen's comments are the only DH5s and DH6s I see on the author's side in this thread, and they're hardly on topic.

Even users like 'sneak, who aren't particularly left or liberal, chimed in to note how unreasonable the author seemed to be, not on the ground of morality or "ideological grounds," as you put it, but practicality: it's not a matter of what you can't say, it's a matter of the quality of disagreement it's at, and the quality of disagreement it generates. Even if the point is entirely valid, if it's presented with a sufficient agitation-to-substance ratio, it's probably not right for news.YC.

To quote our venerable moderator, "Not only were many high-quality stories being overlooked, probably most of the finest submissions—the out-of-the-way, intellectually interesting, totally unexpected submissions that make for the best of HN—were getting ignored." Given that there's so much high-quality, intellectually-stimulating information on the WWW, and that there are hundreds of high-quality submissions to news.YC a day that are buried, it barely makes sense to keep as light a touch on downweighting that news.YC does, and it doesn't make sense at all when an article won't make for good discussion.

In fact, Paul Graham also notes that this exact type of thread is cancerous to the quality of discussion, and should only really be left alone when of particular value to hackers. Notice, here, that 'tptacek is consistent with his position in this thread, and once more, it's absolutely about how much it lowers the quality of discussion and brings undesirable users:

https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=6157895

Quillette is arguably at the zenith of producing this type of article: the marketing technique is masterful and impressive, but it's not fit for HN, and doesn't generate good discussion.

He went on about this often before he left the site almost entirely, so you don't have to take that as a one-off admission, either:

https://hn.algolia.com/?dateRange=all&page=0&prefix=true&que...

The correct place for Quillette articles is probably twitter, which is where Paul Graham shares them now in lieu of here:

https://duckduckgo.com/site:twitter.com/paulg%20quillette


Commenters with a different ideology than you are not trolls. I don’t see good faith comments replying to bad faith comments or trolls.

A well-known user asked a question along the lines of "Is the reason Quillette hasn't been nuked from HN because Paul Graham likes it? I hope not." I had a response typed up for him, but he deleted his question. Here's my response, because I feel like distrust of moderation by prominent members is something that should be prevented if at all possible:

I don't believe so: the current moderation of news.YC make their own decisions (not just saying 'dang solely because I'm not sure if 'sctb is actively partaking in moderation, just doing technical work now for the site, or none of the above), and 'pg (as far as I'm aware) doesn't really interact with the site in any capacity at this point.

No need to accuse the site's moderation of doing something bad for Graham's sake: he's a/they're very sensible and nice person/people, and very good at his/their jobs, at that.

I do think there was a valid case for not punishing the site too hard at first: seeing what kind of discussion it generates over a statistically-relevant amount of articles is useful for figuring out how to handle these cases going into the future, and of course on the principle that blacklisting domains should be a last-resort option. I think 'dang has elaborated a bit on his reasoning already, and there's no reason to take him at anything but face value.

However, I think that time has passed somewhat, and as you can see later, 'dang is re-evaluating it now, so there's no need to worry. The site's in good hands.


As I hope you already know, I deeply appreciate it; if you didn't do such a careful job managing this place, it would be easier to care less about stuff like this.

This is greatly appreciated, thank you!

Most sites will block articles like this because they're so much effort to moderate as they're an opening for the trolls to shout down dissent.

> His story about being gay seems to me an example of that.

In my experience as a queer woman, there are a lot of extremely misogynistic gay men, so I'm not sure that excuses anything.


It's not possible to block all such articles on HN, for a bunch of reasons; nor would that be desirable. We try to manage it by favoring the articles that have enough substance to burn more slowly.

Re the author's story, it's not that it excuses anything; it's just that it's an additional aspect. When articles like this are also about personal experience, they hold more information, and posts with more information seem to support better discussion.


No. Tolerating intolerance isn’t the same as tolerance.

This is an interesting, if contradictory stance to take. I should probably downvote it, but I see an opportunity for a philosophical discussion, so here we go anyway.

I am a gay man. I grew up Christian, but ended up rejecting the Christian faith initially due to incompatibilities with my church and my sexuality. Over time it became more ideological (I dislike binary moral systems) but that's irrelevant.

In my experience, my original church (certainly not all of Christianity) chose to reject people of my orientation. They express intolerance to the highest degree. So, as a gay man, should I respond in turn and completely cut all Christians out of my life, declaring them all intolerant?

Of course not.

You see, Christianity actually preaches tolerance. Not all Christians follow this to the same degree, but Christians are taught to love their neighbors, even the gentiles, and especially the tax collectors, prostitutes, and folks that the rest of society would choose to reject on principal. Even if I disagree with the teaching as a whole, there's a ton of good moral lessons to be had within that book. It is generally useful as a means of teaching a system of right and wrong, through parables and stories, even if some of its teachings disagree with my personal world view.

I think it's dangerous to reject other people entirely just because you choose to reject one of their beliefs. We may find it easy to label people and sort them into boxes, but it's easy to lose track of the humanity underneath those labels. So, yes, I will choose to tolerate people whose beliefs I strongly disagree with, because that one belief does not solely define them as a person. Even if we fundamentally disagree on something as core to my being as who I choose to love, we can still have an interesting discussion and gain perspective through that discourse. I value that discourse far too much to reject any person on the misguided notion that they are somehow "wrong" or "flawed." They are simply different. And if I want them to tolerate me, the very least I can do is agree to tolerate them in return, whether we like each other or not.


> hould I respond in turn and completely cut all Christians out of my life, declaring them all intolerant?

You've set up a straw man. Identifying as Christian does not make someone intolerant. Many people who identify as Christian are intolerant of people who identify as gay.

Discrimination against the first group due to the actions of the second is unfair. But refusing to engage with the second group is completely reasonable.

Otherwise you allow intolerance toward gay people to be legitimized. That can lead to an erosion of rights. It's literally dangerous in the long term.


> You've set up a straw man.

Hrm... I suppose I have. The parent appears to be using a quote (from Karl Popper) that I've not heard before, so clearly I misread the intended nuance. Now that I'm reading through the philosophical context of that quote, I can see that I overreacted.

Thanks for the clarification; I now have much food for thought to chew on.


The attitude you espouse here, and which I encountered from several gay men while growing up in a pretty anti-gay area, is one of the main reasons I've been an advocate for gay marriage from a time before most here were born.

Being intolerant might feel good, but it will never win the day.


It's easy to label any idea you disagree with as "intolerant" then use that Popper quote as an excuse to be intolerant of it and the people who hold it.

If "downweighted on HN" means that prior to user voting, HN starts articles from Quillette with a lower score, this really disappoints me. It's a professionally curated and edited journalistic publication, and the pieces I read are generally calm, nuanced, and make some effort not to be mere outrage-bait. (more than I can say for our papers of record these days)

The idea that one of the country's best CS programs is (or is considering) lowering its degree standards matters for us here on HN. This article is worthy and worth our consideration.


it's acutely uncomfortable to have an article in one's face that comes from an opposing sector

There are plenty of respected neo/conservative outlets (or as Quillette calls itself, "centrist"); I don't think this framing is right.

The Economist gets onto the front page of HN frequently, and they're the first to admit they're in the center of the spectrum.

https://www.economist.com/the-economist-explains/2013/09/02/...

The Wall Street Journal does as well, and they not only are openly conservative, but also controlled by the same man who runs FOX News.

Quillette, however, seems to be based on airing rage-bait. If you look at the front page of it, there are two types of article: first-person storytelling using deliberately inflammatory and confrontational wording and structure, and articles on trends that use the same, covered elsewhere less-controversially.

There are thousands of outlets covering the beats that Quillette does, including many outlets on the same side as Quillette, and most of those outlets don't get the same outrage that Quillette does, because Quillette's concern seems to lie with working social media outrage into mass viewership.

When headlines are filled with phrases like "Brave New World" and "the Decline of Excellence" and article previews stuffed with things like "manufactured rape crisis," it's apparent that they're aiming for outrage marketing rather than articles that can stand on their own merits.

While I'm not sure what the solution is, I think editorializing the titles of certain Quillette articles might help.


The "hey guys" issue bothers me. "Guys" is gender inclusive already. Defined as "people of either sex." [1]

I don't mind saying "ya'll", but policing the vernacular of an individual based on their sexual organs is fairly concerning.

[1] https://www.lexico.com/en/definition/guy


We detached this subthread from https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=22028883.

“Guys” is gender neutral in most of the English speaking world except for some parts of the USA, where it is considered exclusively masculine. Edit: here is a photo that describes where it is used or not: https://cdn.mapmania.org/original/how_americans_address_a_gr...

What region are you referring to? I’ve lived in the US my whole life and have never encountered an area where “you guys” could not be used in a gender neutral manner.

FWIW, I'm an American woman who thinks "guys" is masculine.

I don't generally hassle people about such things, but I'm pretty darn sure there are people who are not me who think it is masculine and would hassle people about it.


“You guys”, not “guys”. If you still think that can only refer to men, that’s certainly the first time I’ve heard an American say that. Indeed, I hear this phrase from women as much as I do from men, to address audiences of any gender makeup. And I’m in the southern US.

Where I come from, the correct term would be "y'all" or "all y'all" which I have also seen arguments online about the correct usage and meaning.

I used to routinely use y'all online in a forum where I was intentionally emphasizing my Southern identity to more clearly distinguish between singular "you" and plural "you."

I've had a class in linguistics. I grew up in a bilingual home. I'm not uninformed about the fact that local colloquialisms exist, language is alive and evolving.

I think of "guys" and "you guys" as both masculine. I don't generally hassle people about such things.

Evidence that I don't generally hassle people about such things:

https://witnesstodestruction.blogspot.com/p/it-seems-my-sile...


I’m not making any claims about whether you generally hassle anyone so I don’t need any evidence about that in either direction. Either way, you are the first person I’ve talked to who doesn’t think “you guys” can refer to an audience of multiple genders. That certainly contradicts the overwhelming majority of usages of the phrase I’ve seen in my life.

I'm aware there are people that use it that way. I've seen this discussion on the internet before.

I am unlikely to do so, in part because of negative experiences from a very toxic forum where I was treated like absolute shit.

Please note that I'm backing up someone else's claim about this being a phenomenon. I'm telling you they aren't making that up. There are Americans who view that as a masculine term. I'm actual living proof this is not a bullshit claim.

Sorry you are having such a big problem accepting that.


It’s not that there are some people who use it “that way.” It’s the standard usage: https://en.m.wiktionary.org/wiki/you_guys

No need to make this personal with your last sentence.


I don't think that's "making this personal." It's not intended as some kind of personal attack.

Someone other than me noted that this is a phenomenon in some parts of the US. I posted to support that assertion. You have made multiple comments telling me I'm wrong about this when my claim is "I, personally, fit the profile" and you keep citing general usage.

I may be "wrong" by some metric or other to see it as masculine, but I'm living proof some Americans do, in fact, view it that way. You do appear to be having some trouble accepting that assertion, given that you basically are trying to tell me I'm wrong about my testimony about my opinion about the phrase, which really is quite baffling to me that anyone would try to tell me that.


I don’t believe I ever used the term “wrong.” I said you’re the only American I’ve encountered, offline or online, to maintain that “you guys” can only refer to groups of men. That’s all I’ve said, and that’s probably the end of this conversation.

The women I work with use this phrase probably more than anyone else I work with, so there’s not much practical for me to take away from this exchange.


None of this was intended to be "practical" in your life out in meat space.

I only mentioned my gender due to the larger context of the discussion. The implication is there are women who, like me, view "guys/you guys" as masculine and (unlike me) would make a big deal out of it. This seems pertinent to the piece being discussed and wasn't intended to suggest anything about women generally, much less women you personally know in meat space.


For what it’s worth, the topic has never been whether “you guys” is “masculine” but whether it can refer to groups of mixed or not-all-male gender. I do find it odd you have consistently avoided ever making a statement about the gender makeup of groups to which the phrase can refer. I believe it is possible for the phrase to be masculine in a sense and for it to still refer to mixed- or arbitrary-gender groups.

Can you confirm without ambiguity whether you are indeed talking about the same topic as me?


The Deep South? They use gals as a replacement. It is gender neutral in much of the west where I live now, though a few will still take offense.

“You guys” can certainly be used in a gender-neutral way in the southern US. That’s where I live and I hear that all the time.

Do you mean the mid south, west south or Deep South? There could be a huge difference between Texas, Atlanta, and Mississippi. The caps on Deep South isn’t an iOS auto correct error.

I lived in Mississippi for four years and they definitely took offense in the small town I was living in. The size of the community might also be relevant. I’m not an ethnolinguist, so can’t really comment on why it is or isn’t.


I have personal experience with Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas, and Florida.

https://cdn.mapmania.org/original/how_americans_address_a_gr...

Take the map for what its worth, I guess. It doesn’t comment on what people think about the word itself, just how they don’t use it very much.


I'd absolutely buy that there are regional variations in how common those phrases are. The map appears to be spot on in that sense based on my own experience.

I'm just wondering if there are areas where "you guys" can't be used to refer to arbitrary-gender-makeup groups (as opposed to areas where it's just less common than other phrases accomplishing the same purpose). I haven't personally encountered such an area, but I accept and acknowledge that you have.

I do think this topic is complicated by the ease of conflating current usage (how is "you guys" used today?) with ideal usage (is this really a phrase whose usage we want to promote and accept in the future?). I personally have no problem making an effort to phase out "you guys." It's not something I feel attached to, and I can see that it carries unnecessary baggage.


The problem is cultural portability. When we have English speakers coming in from all over the USA to work, do they have to retrain themselves to stop using "hey you guys"? I can get why "fag" is disallowed because it is offensive in America, but banishing "guys" goes a bit too far in my opinion.

I agree, and don't necessarily see anything wrong with the use of 'hey guys', but at the end of the day it's a pretty mild request to take a stand on. I can't imagine being that married to a greeting that I'd refuse to consider trying to use other phrases.

Also just because it's generally been a non-gendered term doesn't mean prevailing opinion hasn't changed. There is a lot of talk around changing the norms in which masculine terms are considered the default. Both in english speaking languages and others (e.g. See LatinX)


The euphemism treadmill moves quickly. Just get with the times, folks.

Just go up to a married heterosexual man and ask,

"So tell me about the guy you married?"

And see how much sense that makes. "Guy" and "guys" as a catch-all is outmoded. As someone said, the plural reinforces the male-as-default.


"Guy" and "guys" are not the same, at all. The s appended to the end, along with the context, drastically changes the semantic meaning of the word. This is how language works. Even an unchanged word can have totally different meanings depending on the context. You argument here is a strawman that ignores context to the point of pedantic absurdity.

> The s appended to the end, along with the context, drastically changes the semantic meaning of the word.

Yes, words have meaning that change depending on context. That's how English works. It's a bit like how "man" can be used to mean the entirety of the human race, but "man" is in no way a gender neutral term.

To the same end, "guy" is considered by some to be quite gendered, and "guys" is often not, but even with the plural, asking a heterosexual man "how many guys have you slept with?", is often perceived very differently to asking "when did you guys get married?"

The problem here is that the first question, sans context, is going to be interpreted by a number of people to be exclusively male, and essentially never interpreted as exclusively female.

This isn't pedantry, it's just the way the word is perceived.


Except "guys" and "you guys" is not the same. The latter is neutral, the former isn't.

It’s not neutral, it’s gendered and used as a neutral.

You admitted, yourself, that the word itself it gendered.

The fact that it is default-male and used as neutral is the entire argument.


You seem to have ignored the comment.

"you guys" is two words, and when used together is entirely different than the single word "guys". Otherwise people would just use "guys".


If it appears that I ignored your comment, it's because I was assuming you weren't making the mistake you now appear to be.

Your argument seems to be that the inclusion of the 2nd-party plural "you" somehow removes the gendered nature of the word, which is not the case for this word or for any other.

I assume you believe that "boys" is gendered, and I assume you will admit that "you boys" is still gendered.

You admit that "guys" is gendered, but you will not admit that "you guys" is still gendered, without being able to provide any sort of evidence as to why.

The second case is identical to the first, the only difference being your specific idiolectical definition, which unfortunately is not generalisable to the English language as a whole.


Please don't make wild assumptions. This isn't a trial. There's no evidence or admittance of anything needed.

These are accepted grammar rules. "you guys" as a second-person plural term is accepted as gender-neutral. "guys" in the third-person is not.

Arguing that the 2nd-person usage is not neutral is the new challenger position and you would need to provide the argument for why the accepted usage should change for the rest of us.


But "When did you guys get married?" is fine (to my ear).

Thought experiment:

A survey of straight men. They're asked two questions in a randomized order.

A. "Is 'guys' gender neutral?"

and

B. "How many guys have you slept with?"

Care to make a wager on how often the (B,A) group will agree with you?


On the one hand, I don't think that people should be punished solely for their political beliefs. On the other hand, a person's beliefs inform their biases and their actions.

A person who believes that the gender gap in computer science is solely because Men and Women are different is not the sort of person I want teaching introductory computer science classes. It excuses the status quo, and does not demand that the people making the claim try to improve one iota.

---

I went back and read the "Why Women Don't Code" article by the same author. It is not about why women don't code; it is a piece about the 'culture wars.' There are some charts, but then they're 'backed up' with unsubstantiated claims like,

>"Men disproportionately respond to economic incentives, so they are more likely to respond favorably to reports of high salaries for tech workers. Women tend, on average, to be more risk averse, and are more likely to respond strongly to negative stories about dwindling job prospects in tech."

These sort of UNSUBSTANTIATED sexist generalisations are exactly why he needs a different job.


I realize it's a minor point, but it's in the site guidelines for a reason: please don't use uppercase for emphasis on HN. It's basically yelling, and if you start yelling, other people start yelling back, as exemplified below. Ironically, that makes everyone harder to hear.

https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html


Instead of raising your pitch fork, prove him wrong. I would say the same thing and I would very much like the success of women.

As the research suggests, this starts in kindergarten and is driven by women since they are most likely over represented in the work force. Nobody chose to do it, habits die hard though.

But to call for someone to get fired for just saying that seems like quite the reach.


> A person who believes that the gender gap in computer science is solely because Men and Women are different is not the sort of person I want teaching introductory computer science classes.

What if it's true?


If it's true then we will end up establishing discriminatory policies to try and achieve parity when the pool of people interested in computer science are not close to parity. I've witnessed this at several companies who set diversity OKRs at 30-35%.

What if he's just mediocre in all aspects of his life and the reason he doesn't have tenure is because he's easily replaceable?

It's absolutely not; women get fed up from hearing this crap all the time and just go do something else where people don't insult them all the time.

That's not a very powerful argument. In fact it's not an argument at all. And it doesn't even answer the question: WHAT IF it's true?

Not is it true, not how morally bad is this, not how do you or "women" feel about it (using quotes because implying women as a group share such a feeling and that you know what it is sounds just bizarre on the face of it.)


> UNSUBSTANTIATED sexist generalisations

The field of gender studies is chock full of "men this, women that" generalisations. Where do you think terms like "mansplaining" come from? Yet gender studies professors keep their jobs.


The word "mansplaining" was coined by the writer Rebecca Solnit, who is not a professor and is not particularly involved in the field of gender studies.

But if you search "mansplaining" on Google scholar now, you'll find plenty of gender studies propagating its use.

> A person who believes that the gender gap in computer science is solely because Men and Women are different is not the sort of person I want teaching

So you don't want people who deal with facts and science to do teaching. Gotcha.


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Personal attacks will get you banned here. Also, you've been posting ideological flamewar comments in several different threads today. That's not cool—it's destructive of the whole point of this site. If you value HN as an interesting place, please don't contribute to burning it down. If you don't value it as an interesting place, please find some other place that does interest you.

https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html


Is it unsubstantiated because he doesn't link to a study right there that he is referencing? Or is it unsubstantiated because you've read every paper ever written on the topic, and you know those sexist generalisations could not possibly be true?

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6417700/

> We find strong evidence that incentives have differential effects on the effort allocation decisions of men and women


Please don't snark or argue in the flamewar style on HN. It just provokes others and discredits whatever good point you have to make. The idea here is to treat other people, even those you disagree with, thoughtfully. Especially those you disagree with.

https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html


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How exactly does one define "words that are not part of the English language"? We don't have an Académie française. Does he also avoid jargon and technical terms?

> Does he also avoid jargon and technical terms?

That's not really an appropriate comparison.

Jargon and technical terms are defined for specific topics. Within those topic they actually have distinct meanings and using them concisely conveys ideas that would be difficult or time consuming to convey otherwise.

That doesn't seem to be the case for alternative gender neutral pronouns. "Per", "ve", "xe", "yo", "ze", "zhe", etc. all as far as I can tell mean the same as gender neutral "they".


> as far as I can tell mean the same as gender neutral "they".

Sometimes I forget that in English we don't allow multiple. words with the same meaning. /s

If someone asks you to use a nickname, you use it (despite it meaning the same thing as their legal name). A pronoun is no different and no more complex.


Why? I disagree that refusing a request is "ridicule", but even if it was, wouldn't the reason for it be that xe made a ridiculous demand to use a custom dictionary when referring to zer?

just call people what they want to be called. everything in language is a made-up thing. as long as we understand one another who cares what the words or gestures or whatever actually are? refusing in this case is the author exercising their power to remind someone else that they get no respect, Rodney Dangerfield-style. this is a waste of time and the lecturer is not de-escalating.

I already call people what they want to be called: their names. Or, if they want to be called Snake, like a kid in my old neighborhood, that's fine too.

Language is an agreed-upon made-up thing. I'm willing to learn and use a new set of largely agreed-upon pronouns. From among these, I'll call people whatever they want. I'm also willing to use gender neutral pronouns and if he/him/his isn't good enough, I'm willing to use whatever becomes standard.

I'm not willing to learn, remember, and use uniquely-identifying pronouns. Such a request is unreasonable (and rare in my personal experience). Instead, I'll just forgo pronouns entirely: "Snake's book is on Snake's desk" is fine by me.

Which of these Stuart Reges is talking about, I don't know, so I'm willing to reserve judgment. I don't agree with calling him a bully because to me, 'bully' is a pattern of behavior, but the only evidence offered is this single statement and Reges doesn't really give us the context; and also because 'bully' is a label that's often used to discount the opinions of those with whom we disagree and doesn't really open the floor up for much discussion on the topic.


> I'll just forgo pronouns entirely: "Snake's book is on Snake's desk" is fine by me.

This actually illustrates quite well why the whole pronoun fluff is terminally broken.

We call people 'he or she' in many, many cases in which we don't know their names, so obviously we wouldn't know a pronoun either.

You don't have to _remember_ whether someone is male or female because you look at them and it's obvious in 99% of cases. If a pronoun has to be _remembered_ then it becomes something else entirely and you may as well just use the full name as you state.


Exactly. This political correctness has gotten to the point of ridiculousness. Just drop it altogether if it is that much of an issue. It looks like this lecturer was unwilling to realize that and as white male was targeted.

My pronoun is "His Majesty ;)" https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/education/wp/2016/10/07/...


The problem is not that you should do it, but that changing social and legal rules say that you must do it or else.

Compelling speech is a very dangerous road, no matter how harmless it starts or how good the intentions.


I agree that using particular pronouns is low cost, but let's not pretend it's free. Language is a made-up protocol. A protocol is useful only to the degree that others use the same protocol. The topic is political precisely because it affects others.

> as long as we understand one another who cares what the words or gestures or whatever actually are?

This is actually an argument that people shouldn't be requesting custom, non-standard pronouns.


Yes indeed. And the lecturer should ask those with special pronoun preferences to address him as the Bible addresses the Lord - deferential and in plural. Because everything in language is made up

I think that writing in public about what has likely happened an insignificant amount of times is what amounts to the ridicule.

Declining a request for non-dictionary pronouns is neither here nor there. Calling someone out on the web for making such a request is another matter.

It seems a very silly hill to die on. I personally save my “look at these fools” blogging for people who make their own novel cryptosystems.


> my exchange with the young woman, during which we debated whether group identity is more important than judging people as individuals

And I'm sure that in that debate, the author of an article titled "Why Women Don't Code" was outspoken in his defense of judging people as individuals rather than by some group identity…


Saying "women code less than men" does not have an implied "therefore you can just ignore any individual woman that codes" after it.

Do you think it would be impossible for the perfect uber-individualist to ever make the statement "men play more basketball than women"?


> Saying "women code less than men" does not have an implied "therefore you can just ignore any individual woman that codes" after it.

When uttered by a teacher, it can easily be taken to have an implied "therefore I'll make less of an effort teaching them, or to encourage their career".

If somebody had said 40 years ago that "men play more soccer than women", this would have been correct as an empirical statement. However, it was also invariably taken as a normative statement, and subsequently less resources and encouragement were expended on women. And when the genders were later put on more equitable footing, the empirical fact turned out to be quite malleable.

> Do you think it would be impossible for the perfect uber-individualist to ever make the statement "men play more basketball than women"?

As an individualist, one should always examine whether one extends the benefits of individualism to everyone, or whether one sees just one's own peers as individuals, while judging others as groups.


> When uttered by a teacher, it can easily be taken to have an implied "therefore I'll make less of an effort teaching them, or to encourage their career".

> If somebody had said 40 years ago that "men play more soccer than women", this would have been correct as an empirical statement. However, it was also invariably taken as a normative statement, and subsequently less resources and encouragement were expended on women. And when the genders were later put on more equitable footing, the empirical fact turned out to be quite malleable.

It is not "invariably taken" as a normative statement, especially not when its normative interpretation is literally and explicitly disclaimed by the author.


> When uttered by a teacher, it can easily be taken to have an implied "therefore I'll make less of an effort teaching them, or to encourage their career".

What part of Reges' writing left you with this impression? He wrote the exact opposite:

> As a result, I am absolutely convinced that for many years there have been—and even today still are—many women who have not yet discovered the bright future they can have in the field of computer science. Half of the women in our undergraduate major are ‘interest changers,’ which means they weren’t intending to apply to the major when they started our first course. For men the figure is closer to 20 percent, so there is a big gender gap. In short, I have always been and continue to be a strong advocate of many aspects of the diversity agenda.


This doesn't really follow. The original post seems to be about how the author is a hypocrite - now it is simply about him not having the right sensitivity levels for his statements.

I was not so much trying to point out hypocrisy, as an apparent lack of self awareness. The author does not realize that he resorts to "group identities" as well, nor does he consider what kind of effect his statements as a teacher can have on his students.

As another example of doubtful self awareness, the author mentions the enthusiastic reception of his "heterodox thinking" seminar — has he considered that receiving a perfect evaluation score (5 of 5) is NOT exactly evidence that the seminar has succeeded in instilling heterodox thinking in his students?

And, given said lack of self awareness, I would not surprised if the author's attitudes about gender had more of an influence on his treatment of students than he realizes.


Yeah, this is just one example of the kind of violence and intimidation women face when entering male-dominated fields. Which is exactly why many women choose other fields.

Let's calm with the use of the word 'violence' here. Violence has an actual meaning, and it is not this, whether you agree with this guy or not.

>Do you think it would be impossible for the perfect uber-individualist to ever make the statement "men play more basketball than women"?

no but there's a really big difference between the trivial observation that more men play basketball or code and the conjecture about why that is the case, in particular when it comes to intellectual pursuits.

Discussions about the 'why' very quickly venture into personal beliefs as it's a hugely complex topic with lots of open questions, and in my opinion teachers who hold a lot of authority and can leave a lasting impression on students should probably avoid dabbling in conjecture when entire groups are involved.

There have been some studies done on testing the math performance of female students when they were told that girls score worse, and that fact alone had a measurable impact on the test performance. The same has been done with low-income groups and so on.

So even speculating from a position of authority can have a tremendous impact, I'm not sure it's the job of a CS teacher to publicly speculate about the motivation of entire groups of students.


There's a difference in observing (your quote) and claiming to explain (and in the critic's eye: excuse) such data.


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Could you give quotes to support the claim that he "justifies examples of violence and intimidation against women in the industry"? I read the article - did I miss that part?

> Could you give quotes to support the claim that he "justifies examples of violence and intimidation against women in the industry"? I read the article - did I miss that part?

It's a cultural thing. Some people (particularly among the younger generation or in the trans-community) seems to equate having their opinions challenged count as some form of "violence" and intimidation. These people don't want a discussion, unless everyone up front agrees to only agree to their point of view.

And somehow they are gaining ground, killing rational debate and freedom of speech, one tiny little step at a time, all in the name of tolerance and freedom.


By ignoring the numerous examples of violence (usually sexual) and intimidation that dissuade women from participating in the field. He confuses cause for effect in his quest to justify his pre-existing beliefs.

Sounds like you're doing a bit of the same, and assuming that without discrimination outcomes would be different while ignoring any examples of cross-culture gender differences.

Can't trust anyone who cites JBP

Would you please stop posting flamebait to HN? We've asked you before, and you've done a lot of it. Eventually that gets you banned here, regardless of which ideology you favor or disfavor. The idea here is: if you have a substantive point to make, make it thoughtfully; if you don't, please don't comment until you do.

https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html


I don't think I've posted a lot of flamebait. Maybe a couple of times when the topic drifts close to something regarding women or minority rights. I agree that my comment was not substantive and I'm sorry

Reges said "I think my job is safe", Peterson said "no it isn't", and was right. What exactly is your problem with that quote?

I am always a little frustrated by people who make arguments like "Women just prefer to do other things besides code"; there is always an implicit assumption that preferences are completely genetic and not affected by the same culture that shapes all the other reasons why women might not be as represented in tech.

Preferences are strongly influenced by our culture. Just think about other areas; kids in Brazil are WAY more likely to be into soccer than a kid in the United States. Do people think this is because Brazilians have a genetic disposal to liking soccer? Of course not, if a kid born to American parents grew up in Brazil, he or she would be just as likely to 'prefer' soccer over other sports as any other kid in Brazil.

Preferences are shaped by our culture (and of course there is a genetic component), and there is no easy way to tease out what factors go into setting our preferences.

The only clear answer is that preferences are not set in stone at birth, and we shouldn't assume that differences in preferences between men and women will always remain static and shouldn't be talked about as being influenced by culture.

tl;dr you can't end the conversation by appealing to preference.


If different preferences are related to culture, why are they seen most strongly in the societies that try hardest to eliminate differences between the sexes?

> They observed that the more that women have equal opportunities, the more they differ from men in their preferences.

https://science.sciencemag.org/content/362/6412/eaas9899


I am not sure how that is related... how culture affects preferences is not just about how much a society pushes for equality. Culture is complicated, and isn't as simple as a culture supporting women or not.

I am not even arguing that sexes having different preferences is necessarily bad... I am simply arguing that preferences are heavily influenced by culture.


It's related because Western cultures have made a conscious effort to eliminate such influences, and yet those preferences stubbornly remain, or even grow stronger.

And psychologists have reported these preferences across very different cultures throughout the world.

It seems like you are stating what you'd like to think is true rather than drawing conclusions from the available evidence.


I think you underestimate how much of our culture still perpetuates gender stereotypes.

No, I really don't. But there's a biological reason for that: women have a choice that men do not. Many women who want to become stay-at-home (and, increasingly, single) mothers choose careers that prepare them for that (which do not include software development).

Men don't really have that choice, so naturally men are overrepresented in other life choices.

How many men do you know who planned to have a child and raise it on their own, without a mother, and therefore studied education and medicine to prepare to be a better primary caregiver? How could that even be made a viable option for men without forcing women to have children against their will?


I know zero men who have done that... I also know zero women who have done that

You can't end the conversation by appealing to prevalence, either. Unequal representation does not imply discrimination.

I did not say it did.

I think people who are sensitive are basically human censorship. Freedom of speech does not truly exist when people are sensitive.

To achieve true freedom of speech, we must be empathetic to those who are angry and listen to their stories and help wherever we can so they can accept their situation.

Which is something the professor didn’t do. Why did he post that article? He grouped a together people who may be marginalized by society and gave them a label. That’s not how you help people.

I hope the professor learns to be truly empathetic and people takes away the right lesson from this so that one day we may have true freedom of speech.


Whereas here at Indiana Univerity Bloomington , we had Prof Rasmussen say a whole bunch of terrible things.

Quote: “The whole idea of affirmative action is that too few black students wouldn [sic] get in without racial preferences, so we need to lower the standard for them and accept that they will do worse academically,”

Quote: “geniuses are overwhelmingly male because they combine outlier high IQ with moderately low Agreeableness and moderately low Conscientiousness.”

Quote: “Are Women Destroying Academia? Probably,”

And since this teacher is tenured, he pretty much has to kill someone to get him out of that job. But keeping people like this one out of classrooms where they have dictatorial powers over grades is essential for all students to function. After all, he has said distinctly disparaging remarks against women, gays, and black people. Has he discriminated in his classrooms against them?

(0) https://www.idsnews.com/article/2019/11/professor-criticizes... (1) https://www.indystar.com/story/news/education/2019/11/24/eri... (2) https://www.chicagotribune.com/midwest/ct-iu-professor-eric-...


[flagged]


> Actually, those statements appear to be largely true and should be studied more to learn why.

Actually, those statements are each demonstrably false, but it is interesting to see those to whom the statements seem to appeal.

The first is not even close to the definition of affirmative action, but it is the sort of cleverly defined rhetorical definition that some people like to trot out to try to attack affirmative action. You can tell the difference from an actual goal of such policies by the introduction of terms like ‘lowering standards’.

For the second you are actually going to try to use the number of Nobel laureates to define the rate of ‘genius’ across a population? Seriously? If you are wondering why most Nobel laureates are men, maybe check out the research (1) and examine whether such a selection criteria actually even measures what you think it does.

The claim that the introduction of women to higher education was the source of the rise of administrative overhead at colleges is simply too ridiculous to even bother refuting. To be honest, it is so silly that I went hunting on the spurious correlation site to see if they happened to have put that chart together.

The problem with people who use terms like SJW is that they have very little support from data and reality, so they tend to aim for cheap rhetoric to compensate for weak arguments.

(1) [https://www.nature.com/articles/s41599-019-0256-3] Surprise! It’s due to bias.


The first quote is absolutely not the definition of affirmative action. It's the definition of a lie told about affirmative actions by opponents thereof.

Affirmative action was (and largely is) defined as: given multiple candidates for a position who are equal when considered in aggregate of all matters that exclude race, and therefore an arbitrary choice is required in order to select one of them, choose one whose presence in the relevant population will bring it closer to broader demographics.

It means that when you have a black male and a white woman who are equally qualified for the job, you will inevitably have to use some criteria other than their qualifications in order to pick one of them. AA implies considering the impact on racial demographics as one of the criteria to use given that qualifications cannot be used (because they are equivalent).


Harvard which has access to a very large pool of candidates so would be in a good position to take the best candidates in each racial pool has admitted in court to having different SAT cutoffs for different races.

https://nypost.com/2018/10/17/harvards-gatekeeper-reveals-sa...

Let's say we lived in a world where racial spoils were being used as a way to distribute contested goods and services. How could I differentiate between this world and the world of affirmative action? In both places the defenders claim to me all the candidates were otherwise identical in aggregate and race was only used as a tie breaker in order to better represent demographics. I put forward some objective measures that show candidates did not appear to be equal in aggregate and they claim these are not a complete measure and once you include a more holistic evaluation then the non-AA candidates were either equal or less good.


It's entirely possible, given the fallibility of both huamsn and human systems, that the claim "all the final candidates were equally well qualified" is not true.

That doesn't change the original definition of AA. Neither does a demonstration that any specific institution does things differently.

If you want to change your claim to "the first sentence precisely matches what Harvard does for undergrad admissions", I'm not going to disagree with you. But that's a very different claim than the one you made.


From my perspective I feel proponents of AA are doing the bait and switch.

I think a lot of 'AA' in practice is similar to what is done with Harvard admissions either by deliberate design or poor incentives. For example say a business notices an incorrect distribution of employees and then decides to introduce the steelman AA policy in order to try and fix this disparity. Businesses prefer to measure outcomes over process so you end up having either implicit or explicit racial proportions as goals instead of having the 'steelman AA' process being the goal. This ends up leading to explicit racial preferences and the strawman AA as the implementation.


> SAT cutoffs for different races.

Correct, and this might be meaningful if there wasn't racial bias encoded in the SAT.

Just as a guidinf question here, what does the SAT measure?


What is the racial bias encoded in the SAT? Is it possible for a world to exist where an objective test showed different performance for different racial subgroups? I'm not saying we are in this world. But it looks to me that if we were in this world people would just complain that all tests were biased.

> Is it possible for a world to exist where an objective test showed different performance for different racial subgroups?

Maybe. But I think that world would be very different than ours today.

> What is the racial bias encoded in the SAT?

I can't find a source for this now, but I recall reading that if you give versions of reading tests to black students that use AAVE instead of common English, the racial gap in reading performance mostly disappears.

In other words, something like the SAT measures, at best a sort of confirmative intelligence and not an objective one (if that's even a thing. I'd suggest that intelligence is always relative to society). So institutions looking to influence society can't simply use a test that measures in part how well one conforms.


How does that get reconciled with the consistently reproduced [0] ~15 point racial IQ gap in the US, since I was under the impression that the SAT was mostly a shitty IQ test only valid for HS graduates? I find it hard to believe that a test like Raven's Progressive Matrices [1] would discriminate against people more familiar with AAVE, even if the others would.

0: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Race_and_intelligence#United_S...

1: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Raven%27s_Progressive_Matrices


Indeed, AAVE is just sort of an egregious example, for the pattern matching tests, men score better than women. Is this because men are smarter than women? Or is it because performance on Raven's progressive matrix tests are essentially spacial reasoning tests[1], and thus.

Similarly, western women have better reasoning about color than western men (I can't remember exactly where I found this, but it was probably an article about the World Color Survey controversy), and western cultured-people score better in pattern recognition tests compared to people from cultures that have fewer color words.

Such motifs are similar: people from cultures whose languages don't express numbers (1, 2, many) or express time[2] differently have more or less trouble reasoning in those contexts. Even formal logic can be culturally tied[3] (and that article also mentions certain forms of spacial reasoning being culturally tied too), which is weird (you can think of this as an extension to the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis[4]: language and culture influence how we think, and thus trying to judge intelligence across-culture will run into...issues).

tl;dr: Fairly judging "general intelligence" in any way is difficult. We continually find that we're really bad at it. Something like IQ is useful in certain contexts: an individual with a much higher IQ is probably going to perform better in US life than someone with a comparatively lower IQ, but when you try to make strong conclusions about intelligence, especially about group-levels of intelligence, from something like IQ scores, you're veering off into pseudoscience.

[1]: (pdf) https://s3.amazonaws.com/academia.edu.documents/45855297/Sex...

[2]: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21564254

[3]: https://www.nytimes.com/2000/08/08/science/how-culture-molds...

[4]: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u6eXw0AAKZ8


If I'm understanding your objection correctly, it'd be summarized as "objective cross-cultural tests are impossible", right?

And at least to me... Spatial reasoning, color comparison and differentiation, and formal logic would all be parts of general intelligence. Penalizing someone for being innumerate might not capture a person's theoretical intelligence if raised in a different culture, but that doesn't make it inaccurate as a test of how they are now.


I'm not sure I'd go as far as saying impossible (perhaps for true objectivity, yes?) but certainly really, really, really difficult. And as a corollary, for things that aren't designed explicitly as fair-ish cross cultural tests, we really shouldn't go about trying to draw cross-cultural conclusions.

I'll be fully transparent, this does make the question of "well how can we judge people without insisting on equality of outcome" rather tricky. I resolve this personally by just concluding that the precise judgement of people such that we'd need a good test like that is rarely actually important in day to day life. In other words, I'm okay with wider error bars for the reduction of implicit bias.


> I'll be fully transparent, this does make the question of "well how can we judge people without insisting on equality of outcome" rather tricky. I resolve this personally by just concluding that the precise judgement of people such that we'd need a good test like that is rarely actually important in day to day life. In other words, I'm okay with wider error bars for the reduction of implicit bias.

Isn't this just "I'm OK with error bars in the direction I favor", which happens to be equity? Unless you're saying you're OK with accepting the tests we have, with error bars that might err too far on the side of "other racial/cultural groups are less intelligent".


> Isn't this just "I'm OK with error bars in the direction I favor", which happens to be equity? Unless you're saying you're OK with accepting the tests we have, with error bars that might err too far on the side of "other racial/cultural groups are less intelligent".

Not exactly: Precisely, I'd prefer error bars that are equally sized for everyone, instead of error bars that differ based on cultural factors, especially if we aren't capable of acknowledging the cultural disparity in distribution of those error bars (and IME, people generally aren't).

In other words, if you have a test that has an error of X when comparing 2 white kids, and an error of X when comparing two black kids, but an error of 3X when comparing a white kid to a black kid, you don't have a test with a precision of X, you have a test with an error of 3X (or worse: you have a test with a precision of X, but that consistently biases in favor of one group).

If on the other hand we have a test that has errors of 2X, but has that across cultural boundaries, that's a better test and we should use it instead. This is because the errors are randomly distributed across the population (so anyone has the same chance of being positively or negatively impacted by the test's imprecision) instead of culturally tied.

If we're willing to acknowledge the different distributions of error, then maybe we can make do, but consistent problems with things like affirmative action suggest that, at a macro level, we aren't.


Just to be clear, do you believe that affirmative action is only or mostly used in situations where a hiring/admissions committee has determined that a set of candidates are equal? Applicants having varying backgrounds, experiences, skills, academic records are applying to a competitive position, and in the end the committee agrees that "yes, this set of candidates is truly most equal so now we will do the tie-breaker based on race"?

That was the original goal/definition of AA. It was (and is) clear that fully (or even over) qualified candidates with different racial (or gender) backgrounds were being ignored during hiring decisions. The AA proposition was to deliberately "force" the process to work in roughly the way I described. It was not intended to create quotas or to force institutions/organizations to hire under-qualified but demographically balancing candidates.

Of course, as with many things human, this original goal/definition isn't always the one that plays out in practice (somewhat like a number of articles of the US constitution, or adherence to the moral screed of certain theistic religions).


> By the time I got to Stanford as a graduate student in 1979, I was openly gay. Not many people were at the time. When I started teaching at the university, I found that many gay people wanted to talk to me but almost always in private. They would tell me that they couldn’t afford to be as open as I was.

> I’m once again having private conversations behind closed doors in my office with closeted individuals […] They are deeply concerned about the university’s direction, but they are also afraid of jeopardizing their current or future job prospects. They also worry about losing friendships and professional relationships.

It's not enough to successfully design and run a CS curriculum. You also have to be a card carrying member of the pitchfork club.




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