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Friday, September 16, 2011

Kindergarteners, Names, and Resume's

So, at the office, we’re reviewing resumes for an engineer position.   We’ll select a limited number, from a pretty limited number of qualified applicants for an interview.  I read the other day how a study suggested a first name associated with minorities can lead to a reduced chance for an interview.  That would be subtle racism, right? 


Sarah

Back on the home front, as it happens, Our daughter Sarah is starting kindergarten.  My third kid to go to this school, and the experiences have been generally positive.  The school has some kids bused in from the city – about 25% of kids receiving free or reduced lunches.  This is how parents can judge how racially mixed a school is without having to admit that they might not be completely colorblind.  Shhh – these are sensitive code words and that’s a secret.

I was a little surprised that my daughter couldn’t name any new classmates the first couple times I asked her.  It made more sense after I saw the class birthday list with the student’s names.  Well I use the term ‘names’ loosely because the class list read more like the contents of a medicine cabinet that should be kept locked.  How could one not raise a few eyebrows when Sarah’s name was buried among some real jewels like Jaquellen, Neosporin, CinSere, and my personal favorite – Tampaxia.   Now Sarah’s mom flung some highly disappointed looks in my direction at my allegedly racially tinged reaction, but come on, is that fair?   

It’s not that such names are racially identifying; it’s that these are idiotic non-names and the parents who give their kids idiotic non-names like this are – well, at the least ‘flighty’  and genetically speaking, are statistically likely to produce offspring that will find a home left of center on the class bell curve of performance.  So  my reaction is not in fact related to racism but is merely educated insight unmasked by secret politically acceptable code words.  My attitude is no different than the parents who seek homes in certain school districts with low free lunch percentages, just a little less palatable apparently.    

Now kindergarten is about making friends which is pretty easy at that age so who cares – it’s not time to worry about the academic pace of the class.  But, if I get a resume from an applicant with a name like Tampaxia, it’s going to be pretty hard not to associate it with a higher probability of underperformance, statistically speaking.    

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