Part 1—The latest cut-and-paste: Consider it the latest chance to learn more about Nicholas Kristof—possibly to broaden our sense of who Nicholas Kristof is.
In yesterday’s New York Times, the former Rhodes scholar was reciting some of the liberal world’s most familiar scripts.
We assume his basic claims are basically valid. That said, people like Kristof remind us of the need to demand evidence and proof, even for claims which may seem tribally obvious.
As often seems to be the case, Kristof’s column took maybe ten minutes to write. As usual, it sat beneath a headline which, through its exquisite condescension, was guaranteed to drive tribal wedges across the land.
Increasingly, Kristof is Our Own Mr. Collins. Midway through yesterday’s exercise in condescension, he offered this passage to show the way unconscious bias works against female professors:
KRISTOF (2/22/15): White men sometimes feel besieged and baffled by these suggestions of systematic advantage. When I wrote a series last year, “When Whites Just Don’t Get It,” the reaction from white men was often indignant: It’s an equal playing field now! Get off our case!Gack! When college students rate their professors, are female professors “disproportionately described” as “nasty,” as “ugly,” as “bossy?”
Yet the evidence is overwhelming that unconscious bias remains widespread in ways that systematically benefit both whites and men. So white men get a double dividend, a payoff from both racial and gender biases.
Consider a huge interactive exploration of 14 million reviews on RateMyProfessors.com that recently suggested that male professors are disproportionately likely to be described as a “star” or “genius.” Female professors are disproportionately described as “nasty,” “ugly,” “bossy” or “disorganized.”
It seems that this may be the case. We’d exercise some caution, though, in part because of the limits of the investigative tool to which Kristof links in his column.
The interactive site to which Kristof links is able to tell us what words students used in their reviews of their professors. It isn’t able to provide or evaluate the context in which those words were used, a point which should be kept in mind when using the site.
Still and all, Kristof was telling us pseudo-liberals one of our favorite stories. Female professors are disproportionately described as “bossy?” Within our pseudo-liberal tents, we love it when that happens!
Here are a couple of things Kristof didn’t tell you:
First, the term “bossy” is almost never used in these student reviews. As you can see for yourself at the interactive site in question, the term was used in the student reviews of female professors about two times per million words of text!
We liberals are thrilled to hear that students are calling their female professors “bossy.” In fact, that very rarely happened in these student reviews.
(As best one can tell from the site, the term “bossy” was used in reviews of male professors about one time per million words of text. In fact, neither male nor female professors are being wisely denounced as “bossy.” The term is almost never used in the student reviews.)
Why would Kristof cite a term which was so rarely used? We’ll answer that question before we’re done. For now, let’s consider other unflattering terms which students used much more often.
Let’s consider these unflattering terms: Arrogant, pompous, conceited.
Good grief! According to the interactive tool, students used the term “arrogant” about one hundred times more often than Kristof’s featured term, “bossy.” And uh-oh! This unflattering term was disproportionately used in their reviews of their male professors.
“Arrogant” was used in reviews of male professors about two hundred times per million words of text. It was used in reviews of female professors about one-fourth as often.
“Pompous” and “conceited” seem to have been disproportionately applied to male professors too. “Pompous” was used in reviews of male professors about fifty times per million words. The term was used in reviews of female professors about one-fifth as often.
The students’ use of “arrogant” and “pompous” dwarfs their use of “bossy.” Why did Kristof speak about the one term but not about the others?
Presumably, the answer is clear to anyone breathing air. But in closing for today, let’s add a note about the way our lazier “journalists” copy off each other’s papers.
This new interactive tool hit the scene a few weeks ago. On February 6, Claire Cain Miller of the New York Times offered a ham-handed, sometimes mistaken summary under this headline:
Miller was showcasing her own “unconscious biases” as much as those of the students in question. But she seemed to set the framework for subsequent, copycat pseudo-liberal discussion of this useful new site.
On February 9, ThinkProgress offered a copycat post under this headline while linking to Miller:
If you want to know what you’re talking about, that new interactive tool must be used with great caution. If you want to write a quickie column, you’ll use it as Kristof did.
Tomorrow, we’ll resume at this point. We’ll look at other parts of Kristof’s new column, whose basic premises may well be perfectly right.
But all this week, we will suggest that you might want to apply certain terms to this vaunted New York Times columnist. “Lazy” would be one such term. “Possibly a tad dishonest” would perhaps be another.
Who is Nicholas Kristof? Increasingly, we think he’s a bit of “a creep.” We're more than eager to explain our reasons.
But if Nicholas Kristof is a creep, he increasingly seems to be a creep of the One Percent. That's a point we’ll discuss all week.
Who the heck is Nicholas Kristof? If we want to understand our world, the time has come to ask.
Tomorrow: Back to “ugly,” looking ahead to “uncaring” and “cruel”