Why Discriminate?

Have you ever played the game Taboo? The goal is to get your teammate to guess a hidden word by giving them clues, but there are certain words you mustn’t use in guiding them. So, if the mystery word is “lemon,” the words “tea” and “car” might be taboo – if you say either of those your turn ends.

Our society has started resembling a game of Taboo. I thought of this when I read about the recently reported scandal at  Japan’s Tokyo Medical University. Entrance scores were rigged to penalize women so that they had to score much higher than men in order to get into the medical school. I’m not a fan of cheating, but I admit to feeling sympathy for those who are trying to run schools, businesses or organizations in the real world while hampered by high-sounding, unrealistic pronouncements unrelated to actual life and which are intended to signal virtue.

While we lived in Los Angeles, there was a period when newspapers were banned from stating that an apartment had a scenic view. The elite powers-that-be decided that this was a hidden form of discrimination against the handicapped, discouraging those who were blind from renting. Foolish as that sounds, the absurdities of anti-discrimination laws has only abounded.

The outcry at Tokyo Medical University’s manipulation of applicants’ data seems to be less at the dishonesty than at reviling the premise that led to the action. In apologizing for what the school did, managing director Tetsuo Yukioka, said,  “I suspect that there was a lack of sensitivity to the rules of modern society, in which women should not be treated differently because of their gender.”

Similarly, we are constantly being told that government-mandated parental leave and day-care is needed so that women can pursue careers without being penalized for having children. Diversity is flung about as a conversation-ender. Once that word has been uttered words such a freedom, experience, competence or profit are taboo.

Discrimination is real. It is not automatically without basis. When we were emptying out our flooded storage room last week we discriminated against one of our granddaughters who wanted to help. This was both on account of her age and gender. We favored her older brothers because we thought they could do the work better and more quickly. Fortunately, she did not complain to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. 

There is a very real fact that, on average, female doctors work fewer hours than male doctors. This is one of the reasons the Japanese medical school preferred the latter. Providing more maternity leave, legally mandating that jobs must be held for mothers when they want to return to work, raising taxes so that elderly parents have non-family care, instituting split shifts and other proposals aimed at making life easier for female physicians don’t change that original fact.

We accept that experience and time on the job make a difference for virtuoso violinists. If equal talent is a given, the musician who practices more is going to excel. If one violinist has a second passion for scuba diving and spends two months a year doing that, we do not insist that Carnegie Hall not be allowed to discriminate against his less developed violin skills. Why then is it wrong to ask if society is served more by a doctor who has seen 5,000 patients than 2,000?

In many fields, including medicine, more hours generally equate with greater competency and expertise. Author Malcolm Gladwell famously described how once a professional has reached 10,000 hours of experience, they become qualitatively more competent. Female doctors, as an aggregate, work fewer hours over the course of a lifetime. Changing that will mean forcing women to work even when they don’t choose to. Indeed, in some European countries with maternity policies that make American women drool, staying home with children beyond the mandated leave time is discouraged and made terribly difficult. Women are forced to go back to work against their will by the taxation that pays for these leaves and other policies.

We don’t want to move to a dystopian society that makes childbirth a restricted occupation. Nor do we want to prohibit people from choosing to spend time with family. Only draconian laws will force men and women to choose to allot equal time to those endeavors. Not allowing this to be discussed doesn’t change the facts.

Experience is not the only factor in choosing doctors, of course. Many patients, especially women, choose female doctors (discriminating against male doctors in the process) because they are more comfortable with a female or they equate women with more compassion. Individual doctors develop reputations which make patients want to see them. There are women doctors who excel at what they do and on a level playing field shine far above almost all their male counterparts.

However, it valid to ask what the goal of a medical school is. Is it to make money by providing a service for which tuition is paid? Is it to equip people to provide a service to their community and country? Is it to allow intelligent people with an interest in medicine to pursue that interest regardless of whether they will then use those skills? Is it to enable diversity even if the end result is less qualified or fewer available doctors? All I know is that those questions are taboo.

25 thoughts on “Why Discriminate?”

  1. I think the troubling problem with the Tokyo situation is their failure to throw off PC-ness and be direct and say what they actually want and or mean. They want more male doctors and have good reasons for wanting it that way, but they take a different approach. A hidden approach. They don’t want to offend anyone. They wanna be PC. It backfires of course. We do the same things in relationships both personal and professional. We don’t say what we want or really need. We give some excuse that we believe will be more acceptable than the truth. Like Tokyo medical school, we cheat and lie because I guess we are too cowardly to speak the truth.

    1. Kevin, I have no inside info on why the medical school did what it did; I just used it as a springboard. But, I think it is more than cowardice, at least in the U.S. There can be terrible legal ramifications for speaking openly if you are interviewing or hiring. There are so many things one isn’t allowed to ask. Sadly, this often leads to hiring only people you know or think you can make assumptions about because you aren’t allowed to have a real conversation.

  2. Dear Susan,

    I really admire both your and your husband’s writings, but I have to say, I can’t feel any sympathy for this Japanese institution. Regardless of whether or not female doctors work less than male doctors overall, that does not justify the school manipulating the scores of its applicants. For one thing, I believe it’s important to make a clear distinction that this isn’t a case of women scoring lower and being let in out of PC favoritism – it’s a case of women scoring the same as men and *not* being let in. Secondly, not only are they are infringing upon the right of the individual to obtain an education, but they are doing so prematurely – based on information that may not apply to each person. How would things be if, to give Ann Coulter’s example, we took the right to vote away from women on the basis that they are more likely to vote Democrat? We would be selling the individual women who vote Republican short. Similarly, it is unjust to deny an education to women who do work as hard as men based on a numerical average that doesn’t apply to them.

    Best wishes,

    1. Hi Clare, I agree with you that nothing justifies manipulating data. And I can’t speak about Japanese medical schools. However, I do know that American medical schools are supported by tax dollars and that there has been a huge effort to admit women into some of the most competitive specialties. Meanwhile, there is a public interest in having medical care available. So, I think it does matter if for every 100 hours a male doctor can be expected to work, a female doctor can be expected to work 100-X.
      This obviously doesn’t correlate with each and every individual, but neither do many areas where we rely on statistics and actuarial info. I don’t have an answer in terms of what to do, but I think that the question is valid.
      Thanks for joining in the conversation.

  3. I have read through the comments above, they are good and insightful. I appreciate the truths of ancient Jewish wisdom from the Bible, still relevant today, and the skill, logic, and clarity with which you and Rabbi Daniel present the information, as well as how you wrestle with all that the modern secularistic ‘cult’ espouses.

    I hate it when people or your job talk about “diversity” and “inclusion” – like that is more important than having competent, skilled, quality people. Just having certain numbers of different looking people does nothing to make your company better.

    Deep down, the people I meet that look different from me seem very similar in their day-to-day lives, it is the ones who don’t think for themselves and get ‘irrationally offended’ by words (or imagined words or intentions, even supposed intent simply because of different skin color) that are the problem. No amount of truth or facts seem to change their mind, they like to blame everyone else for what’s wrong.

    Discrimination solely because a person looks different than you, and only because of that, where you believe you are superior, of course would seem unbiblical / improper. However, as Rabbi Daniel has said, often the issue is the morals/behavior/actions. Someone does a wrong, commits a crime, and when that is brought up, the perpetrator cries “racism” even though the skin color is irrelevant, only the ACTIONS done.

    PC / politically correct speech is actually hate speech, intended to shame, attack, embarrass, belittle, etc. those with morals and Godly values (even foundational American values). It seems driven by emotions, not logic, and not truth much of the time. The media systems seem to thrive on it and get people all whipped up into a frenzy with little to no facts (or misrepresented facts).

    Keep praying for us and our country, for good people to do the right thing and speak truth, and for God to heal our land. (2 Chron. 7:14). We enjoy your ministry, the podcast, musings, teachings, and CD programs as well, thank you.

    1. Thank you, Matthew, for adding your comments. I particularly appreciated your point that the media thrives on dissension and whipping up controversy and hatred – or as you say frenzy.

    2. Agreed – and I would add that if we ensure everyone who is competent, skilled and qualified has the equal opportunity to go to a particular school or apply for a particular job, the “diversity” and “inclusion” that is being insisted on will emerge naturally.

      1. Clare, economist Thomas Sowell is wonderful on this topic. He discusses how different cultures value and emphasize different things, so that we should not expect an equal distribution of cultures in areas.

        1. Susan, thank you for the recommendation – ironically, I recently discovered Thomas Sowell within the last few months and have just started his book “Wealth, Poverty and Politics.”

  4. Strange isn’t it, that freedom becomes, “lawlessness” , that inflicts penalty for non-compliance to a non-standard?
    Then, those appetites common for eons forge anger in those who want strife really.
    Too, the Hippocratic oath is not meant to be alliance to the Cow of Cash either.

  5. I believe ‘discrimination’ has a bad rap. It can be a bad thing when applied in some ways (racial discrimination for example). But generally it is a good thing. We should discriminate on the basis of quality, skill, value, etc. Every time we chose an item on a restaurant menu we discriminate on the basis of healthfulness, taste, value, etc., rejecting many items that do not meet our preferences or standards. Any choice, be it a restaurant, a store, a food item, a service provider, or a school, when done properly involves discriminating and all of these are proper. Discrimination is not bad per se, it is only bad when applied in inappropriate ways.

    1. Absolutely, Norman. Every intelligent person discriminates. Anyone who reads discriminates between the shape of different letters. By reducing the phrase you used, “discrimination applied in inappropriate ways,” to one word, we turn it into nonsense.

    2. I don’t think that’s called discrimination when you pick a restaurant over the other, etc.
      Regarding the hospital in Tokyo that is discrimination even though I understand Susan’s point, but I’m being in Japan and the society see women in different ways comparing with Westerners. It’s not related to women as mothers as they should stay at home taking care of their babies because Japanese don’t have many children, the most, two. Also Japan is a country of more than one hundred thousand millions in an Island. The way they see women is just culture different. That women potentially work less hours don’t make women bad doctors, and I know women doctors that work more than their male counterparts. There are women who don’t have children of husband and will never have because it’s hard to have it all without help, others prefers to work part time, these creates more jobs opportunities, they may work on the weekends only, here and in Europe hospitals have a way around that. Make an examination test harder for women is just plain wrong. If we aren’t talking about jobs but entry in Medical school I would ask who is paying for the school, if the female students are paying there shouldn’t be a problem, if the State is paying, they should decide if to invest in a female doctor or not, that would be another discussion.
      But the women are better for stay at home and raise kids mentality doesn’t apply for the Japanese culture, the most of Japanese women work outside,the cost of living is very high over there.

      1. Thank you for your insights, Adriana. I don’t know about Japan, but in the States there is a vicious cycle. The more families that rely on two incomes, the higher the cost of living goes so more families need to rely on two incomes and then the cost of living goes higher…

  6. Preferences and tastes are subject to those who use them.
    Forcefeeding will not make an appetite for food , nor friendship.
    What did he know? (sarcasm)

    1. Al, PC has definitely been force-feeding for years. I do believe that is one of the reasons President Trump was elected. He refused to accept the new rules that keep people from saying what they believe. Even many who didn’t agree with him and winced at his manner of speaking (like me) appreciated his refusal to kowtow and bow to PC.

  7. Discrimination is illegal on paper, but you bet it goes on just the same. And some varieties of discrimination are rampant. To interface with your current Musing but also with the last ‘Ask the Rabbi’ question, I submit a perilous scenario in which I was an unwilling participant. Due to a behavioral quirk of management, in my department folks of ‘color’ were equally represented. Equally, that is, until one of their number was groomed for an advance into management. Having attained a coveted slot above a ‘glass ceiling,’ this woman proved to be a genuine obstacle. Avoiding ‘psychobabble’ and leaving exact diagnosis to current professionals, I can merely say that she exhibited many of the characteristics of narcissism: e.g., grandiose self-glorification and determined attacks on any she perceived or mis-perceived as opponents. She was careful to sweep my accomplishments under the rug (at least). Thankfully I was not alone, for over time almost nobody company-wide could deal with this woman on a rational basis. Her self-serving coup forced out one of her peers, a very competent female line manager, who threw in the towel. She migrated back toward where she came from, but not before lecturing me on discrimination: ‘What are YOUR plans? You realize, don’t you, that as a white male, you are at the bottom of the barrel?’

    Bitterly I recognized the truth in these words. Yet I resolved to stick it out and eventually my specialized job performance plus demonstrated integrity enabled me to survive what was likely malicious sabotage to my career. In the end I wound up more than doubling my salary and making a genuine contribution. The ‘narcissist’ woman in question was betrayed in the end by her indiscriminate games of dominance and submission and by her own lack of integrity. She did not survive. I think the moral of my story is evident.

  8. Preaching to the Choir and I see and hear it ALL the time…..
    Great POST, Just grateful I am not the only one seeing this…..
    Tell my Rabbi Thanks

  9. I think the word “taboo” perfectly describes the current politically correct situation, consciousness, and unwritten rules about all conversations now. When people question what happened to free speech now this is a very real question and it concerns me that when they do ask this core and indisputable question it very often gets no response at all as if no one is thinking about it anymore. The scariest things for a democracy and a country that does NOT think of itself as totalitarian are when people lose consciousness about the value of free speech and the ominous unsettling atmosphere when more and more words become taboo. One thing I HAVE noticed too is that there are certain words that don’t allow for even the topic of conversation to be changed. Its as though the only correct thing to say is a sentence that contains pc values. All other conversations get shut down. Its like kudzu taking over not only the whole garden but the entire landscape. Nothing else finally gets to breathe or be there. PC and the land of the taboo trumps everything else. Thank you for your clear and distinctive writing on so many things, Susan Lapin. I would read ANYTHING you write. No taboos for ME there. You always have a real point to make and such an elegant and forceful way of making it. I love all your musings. They are worthy.

    1. Thank you for your kind words, Mary Angela. I’m not sure if not getting a response is better or worse than getting attacked.

      1. I really agree with “You always have a real point to make and such an elegant and forceful way of making it. I love all your musings. They are worthy.”
        Also, usage of the word “Musings” is a great title.

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