Monday, January 16, 2017

Social Science and “Microaggressions”

High on the list of concepts used to censor speech is the “microaggression.” As is the case of so many other politically correct initiatives on college campuses, the jihad against this supposed plague is based on weak (and sometimes nonexistent) empirical evidence.

Now, a scholarly article reviews the evidence and takes on the concept. The conclusions:
The microaggression concept has recently galvanized public discussion and spread to numerous college campuses and businesses. I argue that the microaggression research program (MRP) rests on five core premises, namely, that microaggressions (1) are operationalized with sufficient clarity and consensus to afford rigorous scientific investigation; (2) are interpreted negatively by most or all minority group members; (3) reflect implicitly prejudicial and implicitly aggressive motives; (4) can be validly assessed using only respondents’ subjective reports; and (5) exert an adverse impact on recipients’ mental health. A review of the literature reveals negligible support for all five suppositions. More broadly, the MRP has been marked by an absence of connectivity to key domains of psychological science, including psychometrics, social cognition, cognitive-behavioral therapy, behavior genetics, and personality, health, and industrial-organizational psychology. Although the MRP has been fruitful in drawing the field’s attention to subtle forms of prejudice, it is far too underdeveloped on the conceptual and methodological fronts to warrant real-world application. I conclude with 18 suggestions for advancing the scientific status of the MRP, recommend abandonment of the term “microaggression,” and call for a moratorium on microaggression training programs and publicly distributed microaggression lists pending research to address the MRP’s scientific limitations.
Of course, it is possible to say dumb and thoughtless things that demean (say) blacks or women or gays. But it’s also possible to do the same for Christians, or men, or whites, or Trump voters. The politically correct crowd that wants to protect politically correct groups are usually the same people who demean (macro aggress) against those latter groups.

Further, the concept is used to silence perfectly legitimate statements that people have a right to make which some politically correct victim group is assumed to resent. At the University of California, an official list of microaggressions outlaws saying “There is only one race, the human race.” A sappy statement (although the sort one would expect from an old-fashioned liberal), but aggressive?

Likewise “America is a melting pot,” and “America is the land of opportunity.”

Aggrieved minorities, if they object to these statements, are free to argue with them. But if they demand they should be punished, they should be told to pound sand.

But on a university campus, with a swarm of bureaucrats committed to petting and pandering to the most aggrieved of politically favored groups, that’s not going to happen.

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Blogger CS said...

But on a university campus, with a swarm of bureaucrats committed to petting and pandering to the most aggrieved of politically favored groups ...

Such a campus has abandoned the mission of a university, which is to be a place of higher learning, having become merely a ridiculously expensive center for the corruption of youth.

Any professor not suspended by the administration for opposing such a scam is clearly unworthy of the title of professor.

When I was an undergraduate in the early 60's, a radical student group at the English university I attended decided pursue some political objective by holding a sit-in at the university library. They were prevented from accomplishing their objective by the professor of Ancient Greek Philosophy, who stood at the library entrance and announced: "there are books in this library more valuable than you know and you will enter for the purpose of political protest over my dead body."

It's good to know that that tradition of scholarship lives on at Marquette, despite the pathetic subservience to political correctness of many faculty members.

2:39 PM  
Blogger BuckeyeCat said...

"There is one race, the human race," has certainly been used as a sappy platitude. However, the patent truth behind it is one Aristotle and Aquinas recognized. Each was inconsistent de facto with the truth about common human nature. This has no bearing on the fact that human persons all share the same objective, common human nature. Only this fact, which is the province of the philosophy of nature-human nature, is able to ground universal human rights and responsibilities. The notion that accidental features like race or ethnicity, and not our common human nature, matter most is a road to moral distaster. It's too easy to dehumanize those who fall outside one's own racial-ethnic-gender advocacy group. One need not belong to a particular race-class-gender in order to be human. One is first a human person, and only secondarily an advocacy group member. It's possible to be a human being and not belong to any particular race-class-gender category. But it is not possible to belong to any of the latter without already being one of the former. So, yes, human nature precedes and has priority over the secondary notions of victim group identification. And no, human nature is not a social construct. The notion of the social construction of reality is a construct, one that has beguiled people who should know better.

1:04 PM  

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