URLs du Jour

2021-09-09

[Amazon Link, See Disclaimer]

  • And I will let the door hit me on the way out. At her substack, Bari Weiss hosts Peter Boghossian, making his resignation from Portland State public: My University Sacrificed Ideas for Ideology. So Today I Quit.

    I never once believed  nor do I now  that the purpose of instruction was to lead my students to a particular conclusion. Rather, I sought to create the conditions for rigorous thought; to help them gain the tools to hunt and furrow for their own conclusions. This is why I became a teacher and why I love teaching.

    But brick by brick, the university has made this kind of intellectual exploration impossible. It has transformed a bastion of free inquiry into a Social Justice factory whose only inputs were race, gender, and victimhood and whose only outputs were grievance and division.

    Students at Portland State are not being taught to think. Rather, they are being trained to mimic the moral certainty of ideologues. Faculty and administrators have abdicated the university’s truth-seeking mission and instead drive intolerance of divergent beliefs and opinions. This has created a culture of offense where students are now afraid to speak openly and honestly.

    I applaud Boghossian's straight talk, and wish him well.


  • [Amazon Link, See Disclaimer] Still in Academia for now, however is Joshua M. Dunn Sr. (University of Colorado, Colorado Springs) And he asks (in a review of Jonathan Rauch's The Constitution of Knowledge, Amazon link at your right): Who Can We Trust Today?

    In The Constitution of Knowledge: A Defense of Truth, Jonathan Rauch contends that we are facing an epistemic crisis. We no longer, as a society, seem to be able to distinguish truth from lies. And who can doubt him? To make his case he points to how preeminent gatekeepers of truth such as leading journalists like Dan Rather (“fake but accurate”) and Brian Williams (my helicopter “was forced down by an RPG”), the entire journalistic establishment that relentlessly peddled lies about Stacey Abrams having the Georgia gubernatorial election stolen from her, raised Michael Avenatti to a plausible presidential contender, and, of course, the biggest of them all, pushed the Russia collusion hoax. Wait! He doesn’t mention those at all. One can search high and low in his book for some discussion of the countless New York Times articles about the collusion hoax that was discredited by the Mueller Report and never find it.  Instead, this is how he describes the problem:

    The crisis had many elements, but two seemed central to its character. One was the deployment of disinformation on an unprecedented scale by Trump, his troll armies, foreign governments, conspiracy mongers, and a conservative media ecosystem which was increasingly detached from reality-based norms. That attack came predominantly though not exclusively from the right. Peculiarly, it received an assist from the left, in the form of an attack on epistemic liberalism which came to be known as cancel culture.

    You don’t have to have a MAGA hat in your closet, or to believe that there was massive electoral fraud depriving Trump of reelection, or to think that QAnon is sending you prophecies on 4chan, or to watch OANN to think that this might be, well, slightly one-sided. Strangely, it also means that our predicament, which Rauch overall excellently diagnoses, is even worse than he describes. If one of the central institutions of what he calls the “reality-based community” is thoroughly compromised (later in the book he does discuss the broader problems confronting mainstream journalism) then perhaps we should have even less hope than he allows.

    Sigh. Rauch's book was on my "maybe buy" list; I've moved it to my "maybe get at library" list.


  • Remember when people used to say "The Moral Majority is neither"? Well, Matt Taibbi remembers Moral Majority Media Strikes Again.

    The problem lay in the reason the error spread, which happens to be the same reason underlying innumerable other media shipwrecks in the last five years. These include everything from wrong reports of Russians hacking a Vermont energy grid, to tales of Michael Cohen in Prague, to the pee tape, to Julie Swetnick’s rape accusation, to the Covington high school fiasco, to Russian oligarchs co-signing a Deutsche Bank loan application for Donald Trump, to Bountygate, to the “mass hysterectomies” story, and dozens beyond: the media business has become a machine for generating error-ridden moral panics.

    News has become a corporatized version of the “Two Minutes Hate,” in which the goal of every broadcast is an anxiety-ridden audience provoked to the point of fury by the un-policed infamy of whatever wreckers are said to be threatening civilization this week: the unvaccinated, insurrectionists, Assadists, Greens, Bernie Bros, Jill Stein, Russians, the promoters of “white supremacy culture,” etc. Mistakes are inevitable because this brand of media business isn’t about accuracy, but rallying audiences to addictive disgust. As a result, most press people now shrug off the odd error or six — look at Maddow leaving her tweet up — so long as they feel stories are directionally right, i.e. aimed at deserving targets.

    (For those who don't remember the reference in the headline: see here and here and here. Hatred thinly diguised as smug superiority is nothing new.)


  • "No choice for you," say the schoolmarms. Dee Juria (her real name, not a legal pun) outlines an actual pro-choice position: Capping Education Freedom Accounts would cap opportunities for students.

    More than 1,000 New Hampshire families have applied for one of the state’s new Education Freedom Accounts (EFAs), showing strong demand for a program that offers many lower-income families their first real alternative to their assigned public school. Sadly, opponents of the program have cited this strong interest as a reason to prevent the program from growing.

    Opponents claim the program will cost taxpayers too much money, so it should be capped. In fact, the program will save taxpayers millions. And the more public school students who take an EFA, the more taxpayers will save.

    Dee does the math, showing her work. (Maybe she's old enough to have learned that in a government school.) In fact, she does such a good job, I wondered about the other side.

    Ah, I bet I can get the other side from New Hampshire Commie Public Radio… and I am not disappointed: With Interest In N.H.'s ‘Education Freedom Accounts’ High, Voucher Critics Point To The Cost.

    Note the sneer quotes around "Education Freedom Accounts". Yes, we've come to the right, by which I mean left, place. Who are the critics? Well the teacher union head, of course:

    “No public school district would be able to come in this much over budget, and (Gov. Chris) Sununu and Edelblut should hold school privatization programs to the same standard,” said Megan Tuttle, the president of the National Education Association in New Hampshire.

    And Democrats generally:

    “Sununu’s school voucher scheme takes money from our public schools and sends it to private, religious, and home schools,” Luneau said in a statement. “Now we are being told that millions more than expected in taxpayer dollars will be siphoned off for these vouchers. We need to put a cap on program costs based on what was presented to the Legislature by the commissioner, so that New Hampshire can plan appropriately.”

    Sigh. Fine. God forbid that New Hampshire should make it easy on the families who want to escape government schools. Obviously that can't be permitted.

    (By the way, I'm being very unfair to the article at NHPR. It's pretty even-handed.)


  • Ah. the famous "Turtle Theory". Steven Hayward comments on the WSJ article I commented upon the day before yesterday: College Men and the Turtle Theory.

    But the really interesting detail is conveyed in this bit:

    Enrollment rates for poor and working-class white men are lower than those of young Black, Latino and Asian men from the same economic backgrounds. . .

    So it is not just men, but specifically white men, who are bailing out of college most. But the Journal is too terrified to look deeper into what this fact might mean. The best they can do is:

    No college wants to tackle the issue under the glare of gender politics, said Ms. Delahunty, the enrollment consultant. The conventional view on campuses, she said, is that “men make more money, men hold higher positions, why should we give them a little shove from high school to college?”

    Yes, I can imagine no one is willing to risk their position on a college campus asking, “I’m wondering if it might be something we said?” I’m sitting here scratching my head, wondering if there could be any reason why young white men might find today’s college experience unappealing?

    You'll have to click through to get the Turtle Theory. Trust me, you'll like it.