Friday, 4 December 2015

Jeff Seiler: Dave Sim & Me

Eleven years ago, when Cerebus ended, Dave Sim decided to answer all of his back mail. A month or so later, he had his "Jeff Seiler Day" in which he answered multiple letters I had written over the previous year. After I received that letter, I decided to keep writing, and he kept his promise to answer every letter he received. And now, I have a foot-high stack of letters written and received over 10 years or so. I'll be running interesting excerpts from those letters every Saturday.

This week, we're returning to Dave's interesting (to say the least) correspondence with Mr. Douglas A. Jeffery, of Hillsdale College, in Hillsdale, MI, here is Mr. Jeffery's response to Dave's original letter, dated September 21, 2004:
Dear Mr. Sim,
I am responding belatedly to yours of July 19.  What I mean by saying that there is no affirmative action involved in our admissions process -- despite my ignorance about facts such as the percentage of males and females in our applicant pool -- is this: We accept students based on merit and character.  We do not have different standards based on race or gender.

Thank you again for writing, and I hope you continue to enjoy Imprimis.

Best regards,
Douglas A. Jeffery
Vice President for External Affairs
...and Dave Sim's reply to Mr. Jeffery, dated 2 October, 2004:
Dear Mr. Jeffery:

Thank you for your response of September 21.  I'm sure that for a busy man in your situation "belatedly" is a relative term.  Having completed my 27-year Cerebus project late last year, I'm in the fortunate situation of answering my mail as the primary core of my livelihood and am pleased to get a response of any kind from "high places".

Permit me to approach our subject from another direction:  if you were to examine the ratio of male-to-female enrolments from 1970 and chart that ratio, year-over-year, from then until the most recent calendar year, presumably the female enrolments would rise from whatever they were in 1970 to their present level of 49% of the student body and male enrolments [Canadian spelling, folks--Ed.] would decline from whatever they were in 1970 to their present level of 51% of the student body.  Are you maintaining that that rise and decline were naturally-occurring and based solely on merit and character?  Put another way, do you really believe that female merit and character has risen that dramatically and regularly, year-over-year, and that male merit and character has declined that dramatically and regularly, year-over-year since 1970?

I have, indeed, continued to enjoy Imprimis, particularly George Gilder's remarks in your August number and the November, 1977, Ludwig von Mises Lecture Series speech by Ronald Reagan (may God rest his soul) at your college.  Remarkable clarity of thought.

Dave Sim


Anonymous said...

If the facts don't agree with Dave's prejudices, then there must be something wrong with the facts.

-- Damian

Michael said...

From - Why Do Women Outnumber Men in College?
"...that by 1980 the gender balance in college had returned to its pre-1930 level in the United States, although the levels of college attendance were almost six times higher in 1980 than in the 1920s for both men and women. The number of male-to-female undergraduates was about at parity from 1900 to 1930. Many females were attending teacher-training colleges in those days. The highpoint of gender imbalance in college attendance was reached in 1947, after the return of men from World War II then eligible for educational subsidies through the GI bills, when undergraduate men outnumbered women 2.3 to 1. Women's relative numbers in college have increased ever since the 1950s, with a pause when many men went to college to avoid serving in the Vietnam War. The decline in the male-to-female ratios of undergraduates in the past 35 years is real, and not primarily due to changes in the ethnic mix of the college-aged population or to the types of post-secondary institutions they attend, the authors assert. The female share of college students has expanded in all 17 member-nations of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development in recent decades, so much so that women now outnumber men in college in almost all rich nations."

Steve said...


...not this again...


Anonymous said...


An interesting article. I had never heard that women in the US attended colleges in equal ratios to men in the early part of the 20th century. Although, as the article notes, rates of college attendance were about six times lower in the 1920s, which I think must mean that colleges were accessible mostly or entirely to the well-off and wealthy. That would mean that the inequality at play was economic status and not gender.

Very interesting.

As for Dave's view, it obviously lacks critical rigour. Dave's view as to women's role in society is shaped by his cultural attitude: women must stay at home to raise children because it is better for the demographic sustainability of society. And hey, by lucky coincidence, in Dave's view, women also generally lack the capacity to achieve as men do in education and the workforce. So, Dave's own view of women's role, which was once the dominant view, is NOT social engineering, but when society's attitude shifted to accept greater participation for women, suddenly that is definitely social engineering. Dave is simply not aware of how his biases shape his views.

I think what we can see from the article that Michael helpfully linked to, is that cultural factors overwhelmingly determine societal participation. I would suggest that concepts like "aptitudes" and "merit" are themselves heavily influenced by cultural attitudes and are often used to rationalize what are in fact political beliefs.

One more thing, Dave assumes, without evidence, that College admissions were, prior to the rise of feminism, accurately representative of merit. I think he would have to prove that. I think he would have to show that the admissions were not driven, as argued in Michael's link, by women's greater preference to seriously pursue their studies, which I would expect was influenced by feminism and a changing culture.

- Reginald P.

Travis Pelkie said...

Also, without knowing how many applicants of either gender there are, how many available spots there are, etc. (these numbers for 1970 vs 2004), you can't really definitively point to one particular thing swaying admissions and acceptance.

If there were 100 spots available in 1970, say, and 30 women and 70 got them, but now there are 1000 spots available with 490 women and 510 men, men's enrollment increased as well (and to my knowledge, pretty much every public or private college has increased enrollment in the last 50 years).

Likewise, if only 30 women applied in 1970, and all got in, but 1000 applied now and only 490 get in, well, women's admission standards would have actually gotten more rigorous.

Without those numbers, you can't really point to one thing or another.

But I'm now really interested in seeing how Mr Jeffery replied!