Seattle is in a freefall. Drug overdose deaths have reached insane levels. Violent crime is exploding so fast that the US Postal System temporarily halted mail delivery to about 900 addresses. Efforts to reduce homelessness have been a disaster, resulting in a major influx of new homeless people.
It has been discovered that the Seattle fire department promotes people based on their political ideology. Applicants for promotions must read far-left books and answer essay questions about social justice.
The exam is part of a much larger effort to diversify a department that, as Seattle fire chief Harold Scoggins lamented last year, is “overwhelmingly” white men. Those efforts, critics say, have made the promotion process more about ideology and less about merit, politicizing a public service where competence can mean the difference between life and death.
In fact, in 2021, local officials including Scoggins commissioned a report on diversity in the fire service. One of its recommendations: avoid tests that “rely heavily on knowledge of firefighting.”
“[T]ests that focus on how well applicants know the system and the job tend to favor those who make up the overwhelming majority of the fire service workforce, white men,” the report says. “Questions that ask more about the candidate’s character and values, rather than knowing the ins and outs of the job, can be beneficial in advancing more women and people of color.”
Seattle appears to have taken that advice.
An upcoming test for fireboat engineers, who operate the pumps and nozzles used to douse coastal fires, will quiz candidates on Robin DiAngelo’s Is Everyone Really Equal?: An Introduction to Key Concepts in Social Justice Education, according to the exam bibliography. The fire captains exam likewise assigns DiAngelo’s book—along with handouts on the “structural interplay between all oppressions”—while the exam for battalion chiefs assigns the 2021 report on fire service diversity.
Scoggins did not respond to a request for comment.
Seattle’s tests are an outlier. In most cities, even Democratic strongholds like Boston and New Haven, written fire exams test only tactical knowledge. But in Seattle, where Scoggins himself helped protesters seal off the Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone in the wake of George Floyd’s death, promotions hinge on mastering these ideological tomes.