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Opening Arguments

The weakest link

If you have certain requirements for a job, and those requirements keep a very high percentage of one group or another out of that job, do members of those groups need to try harder, or should the standards be changed? That's a debate that's held all the time in this country, and various jurisdications have come up with various answers, Sometimes, there is a little more urgency in coming up with the right answer:

Rebecca Wax, 33, is set to graduate Tuesday from the Fire Academy without passing the Functional Skills Training test, a grueling obstacle course of job-related tasks performed in full gear with a limited air supply, an insider has revealed.

“They’re going to allow the first person to graduate without passing because this administration has lowered the standard,” said the insider, who is familiar with the training.

Upon graduation, Wax would be assigned to a firehouse and tasked with the full duties of a firefighter. Some FDNY members are angry.

“We’re being asked to go into a fire with someone who isn’t 100 percent qualified,” the source said. “Our job is a team effort. If there’s a weak link in the chain, either civilians or our members can die.”

I don't think that's the right answer, although it has been noted that firefighter training is hard, maybe not on the level of Army Ranger training, but so gruelling that you have to be in top-notch shape just to get through it. Am I selfish to want the person who might have to carry me out of a burning building to be in top-notch shape? The fire departmnet already has a few women who did pass the training? Wouldn't they be better off working harder to attract more qualified women instead of lowering (or ignoring) the standards?

Back to that Army Ranger training, unlike some on the right, I have no problem with women in combat, as a matter of philosophy. We're all responsible adults with an equal right to volunteer to serve in whatever capacity we choose and are able to handle.  But what happens if (on more pessimistic days "when") they lower the standards to the point where men and women in the armed forces are both at risk and, as a result, we are, too? They absolutely swear they won't do that, and I absolutely do not believe them for a second.