Suppose you had been in the pest control business for several decades and in that time had performed thousands of pest control jobs, both large and small. Who do you think would be better qualified to say exactly what skills the people you consider hiring should possess: you or someone who has never performed your job?
That question ought to answer itself.
But Cook's Pest Control, apparently weary of a legal battle that has dragged on since 2005, has settled a class-action lawsuit which alleged that a math test Cook's gave to job applicants "disproportionately excludes African-Americans as candidates for jobs, and ... is not a valid predictor of success" on the job.
The terms of the settlement were not disclosed.
What's truly "not valid" is the notion that someone outside the pest control business is somehow competent to determine whether a math test is relevant to a pest control job. It's not just that math skills would enable an employee to make accurate calculations as needed, but that the ability to perform some basic calculations reflects disciplined, orderly, precise thinking and, more generally, an ability to reason.
Those skills come in handy in any workplace and certainly are not confined to any single race. So if some members of any racial group are not performing as well in mathematics as we might hope, the solution is to improve the educational system and to expect more of all students, not to punish companies that seek such skills.
The very idea that expecting workers to have mathematical ability could be biased against black Americans is deeply patronizing and absurd on its face.
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