Vanderbilt University is one of a number of academic institutions that are making a special effort to attract Jewish students. The idea is that these students tend to have higher test scores, which will raise the average test scores of these institutions -- which in turn will cause them to rise in academic rankings.
Whatever one thinks of this goal, or about academic rankings themselves, reaching out to Jewish students seems fairly innocuous, especially after colleges and universities have made special efforts to attract foreign students and students from various domestic minorities. Nevertheless, there have been hostile responses from a number of individuals and organizations, including some who are Jewish.
Officials of some predominantly Jewish high schools have called it "reprehensible" to single out Jews, even for special recruitment. A spokesman for a high school in suburban New York said, "a positive stereotype is just as pernicious as a negative one."
But is it just a stereotype that some groups do better at some things than other groups do? Do blacks not really play basketball any better than whites? Do our eyes deceive us when we notice the racial make-up of the NBA?
Is it just a coincidence that people of German ancestry produce the leading brands of beer in the United States -- and the leading brand of beer in China, not to mention Germany's position as the leading beer producer in Europe? Can anyone deny that people of Italian ancestry have long been over-represented among the world's leading figures in music -- classical and popular, vocal and instrumental?
It is one thing to say that everyone should be equal before the law or is entitled to equal opportunity. It is something else to deny the most blatant facts before our eyes, and insist on a dogma of equality of performance, when virtually every individual or group is better at some things than at others.
More is involved than incidental pious nonsense. Such ideological make-believe has come to dominate public policy and even judicial decisions in the highest courts in the land. Statistical disparities among groups are routinely equated with discrimination, as if there could not possibly be any differences in behavior or performance among the groups themselves.