What's the matter with New Haven? | Arkansas Blog

Saturday, July 11, 2009

What's the matter with New Haven?

Posted By on Sat, Jul 11, 2009 at 10:54 AM

Remember Lani Guinier? Read her op-ed in the NY Times this morning and, if you have an open mind, prepare yourself to maybe take a new look at the infamous New Haven firefighters case that, to conservatives, was a matter of racial politics run amok.

It's more a matter of poor management run amok. Hardly any fire department decides promotions any longer with criteria weighted heavily to a standardized test drawn from texts that pose questions that might not even apply to the city in question. Do memorization skills test leadership capacity? Of course not. But the New Haven testing regimen is a product of a system that favors relatives -- white relatives -- of the white guys who have long dominated the department. There's a ray of hope, the piece concludes.

Fortunately the court left room for municipalities to develop alternative assessments to promote people with the skills needed to advance public safety in a diverse citizenry. Indeed, most American fire departments have already rejected written tests in favor of “assessment centers” that simulate on-the-job challenges and focus on problem-solving in the relevant context. In so doing, city officials demonstrate that their decisions are wiser than the Supreme Court’s.

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