Social justice's return on investment is fast disappearing | My Turn

Greg Allmain - File photo
Greg Allmain
— image credit: File photo

Social justice is one of those catchphrases that we’re all familiar with these days. What it means, no one really seems to know, but it sure does sound nice and makes whoever is saying it seem sophisticated and compassionate.

Based on the also never-quite-defined ideas of equality and diversity, social justice has been a driving force in academia and society for at least the last 30 years or so.

But, it appears as though social justice seems to be having some serious problems these days. Two recent stories, one here in Federal Way, and another a little further south in the Puget Sound, seem to be pointing to the fact that the “return on investment” in social justice is fast disappearing, and may, in fact, have reached a point where it’s a negative return.

Locally, the Mirror’s Mr. Federal Way recently spent some time trying to figure out why junior varsity and/or C-squad soccer isn’t offered for boys in Federal Way Public Schools (FWPS). As the hotbed of soccer talent that Federal Way seems to be, it was certainly an interesting question and one that I hadn’t even contemplated needed to be asked.

As Mr. Federal Way discovered, the reason there is no lower-level soccer teams for boys is because of Title IX, the federal law that mandates equal opportunity for boys and girls in athletics. As the Director of Secondary Schools for FWPS, Vince Blauser, informed Mr. Federal Way in an email:

“We have worked diligently to provide a more balanced opportunity for girls to participate in sports, adding girls wrestling and girls bowling to our sports selections over the past two years,” Blauser wrote. “This has helped close the gap. But we continue to see a decline in girls’ participation in the sports already provided district-wide. By solely providing a JV boys soccer program, we would drop further out of compliance. In doing so, we risk losing federal support dollars.”

So, a social justice construct if there ever was one, Title IX is creating an imbalance here in Federal Way that one could certainly argue is a negative return on investment.

As Mr. Federal Way correctly pointed out, and Blauser alluded to, the situation is even more frustrating because district data shows that girls’ participation in sports has been lower in recent years, with 40.6 percent girls participating in school athletics at the four Federal Way high schools, and 59.4 percent boys participating in athletics in the 2010-11 school year.

More amusingly, to me at least, and also indicative of the negative return on investment that social justice generates these days, came from South Puget Sound Community College (SPSCC) recently.

According to various reports from the Seattle broadcast media, a staff group at SPSCC sent out an email for a “Diversity Happy Hour,” inviting staff members of color to get together and “’build support and community’ for people of color.” The only problem?

White staff members weren’t invited, and were actually told in that same email that they were more than welcome to “create space for white folks to meet and work on racism, white supremacy, and white privilege to better our campus community and yourselves.”

One of the great social justice buzzwords of our time, diversity, and its implied foundation of inclusiveness, has reached such a point to actually become exclusionary, i.e. less diverse.

To use the kids’ shorthand language of today: LOL.

While this idea of a diminishing return of investment is usually only for economics and finance, I do believe we are seeing this process play out today with various groups mandated adherence to, or voluntary and distorted interpretations of, social justice constructs.

Both our story here in Federal Way, and the story at SPSCC, seem to imply a system out of whack, at best, and, at worst, a system that is fast approaching a terminal limit.

Ain’t this modern world of ours grand?

Greg Allmain is a staff writer for the Mirror. Contact him at gallmain@fedwaymirror.com


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