September 21, 2020

Systemic Racism is Antihuman Bullshit

The assertion of “systemic racism”* is nihilist. It denies both past and future progress.

It is also absurd. Systemic, or institutional, racism is in fact illegal. When institutions are in violation, there are systems in place to address it.

Prejudice (not just racial), of course, remains an inherent aspect of the human psyche — and therefore most people know to suppress it (along with many other things in one’s psyche) or otherwise keep it to themselves when it might adversely affect their interactions with others. This is as true for members of historically subordinate groups as it is for those of historically dominant groups. It is how free people engage with each other to keep society working: treating each other as equals with mutual respect, including in debate and criticism. Above all, we cannot fear each other.

The assertion of systemic racism is a con. Rather than combat prejudice, it exploits it. It follows the model of what it condemns: Instead of racially tarring the victims of economic and social disparities as responsible or deserving of their lot, it tars the entire race to which the historically dominant have generally belonged — all of it, even those who cannot be said to be economically or socially dominant in any way. To those now to blame, it tells them to hate and fear themselves. They are blamed for a past they had no part of, by people who are also long out of that past. It warns them that even their children must have the sin purged from them — before it can manifest itself! And the gullible agree.

And like the most cynical of cults — or totalitarian reeducation — after breaking the spirit of its recruits, and its captive audiences in companies and government offices, utterly infantilizing them, denying them their faculties of doubt and reason, it provides an illusion of meaning by urging them to recruit others (Take a knee! Raise your fist! Say their names!), forcing more institutions — that have, along with the society they reflect, for decades striven against racism and other prejudice — to deny their own experience, to deny reality, and declare, against all evidence, that they are racist. There is no longer any life to be lived except through “The Movement”.

Thus an industry that depends on racism perpetuates itself, by perpetuating — even reviving — racism. By making idiots of everyone it takes control of and those who seek to appease its black-and-white absolutes in any way.†

Asserting that racism is unavoidable is nihilist. It denies individual agency. It makes resolution impossible. There is instead an industry of academics and consultants bent on keeping it that way, on making civil society impossible. In thus reviving racism, it remains “the white man’s burden” to validate “people of color” by means of this industry’s sadomasochistic rites of self-abasement, and of course generous fees and pay-offs like a latter-day indulgence scheme.

This is no way to live. There is no way forward in it, no redemption possible. It not only denies historical progress, it also — by asserting that racism is unavoidably “systemic” even to being “unconscious” — makes future progress impossible.

It necessarily ends in coercion and destruction.

*Also “critical race theory” and “unconscious bias”.

No debate allowed: “An admin turned off commenting for this post.

Dear Putney community,
As a current resident of Westminster and a part of the Putney community for 30 years, I want to thank community members and the Putney Selectboard for the decision to paint a Black Lives Matter sign on the road in front of Putney Central School [and someone’s house — did anyone ask?].
The “BLM is racist” painted on Route 5 in Putney in July was a gut punch. Black Lives Matter was created by three Black women following the murder of an innocent black teenager whose white killer walks free. BLM arose out of the desperation, anguish, and anger of Black Americans, who repeatedly and disproportionately experience death and brutality at the hands of police, who are stopped, arrested, and sentenced at much higher rates than white people [
in roughly the same proportion as Their commission of violent crimes], whose health outcomes and life expectancy severely lag those of whites. It’s a call to all of us to face the racism embedded in our society and ourselves and to work to change it.
I do not want to stand by at this critical time in our town and nation. Please, let’s honestly [
sic] confront our nation’s racist history and present and take concrete steps to show that all Black lives matter. Painting this affirming mural is a first step. Seeing it every day will give me and others the inspiration and strength to advocate for a more just nation. I need that reminder every day to keep up the work of outing the racism that’s inherent in me, as a white person in a system that purports to uphold justice for all but fails to deliver it.
Thank you,
Evie Lovett

“Olaf Errwigge” commented elsewhere on Facebook:

That essay makes a lot of good points, but I just realized another aspect: the rhetorical dodge of the "loaded question", ie, one that has an assumption built into it so that it can't be answered without appearing guilty. "What are you doing to combat racism?" First, it reduces all of life and society's issues to one (and because of countervailing evidence, insisting that it's "hidden, unconscious, historical, systemic, etc"), and second, it implies that you need to do something about racism ("Silence is Violence!"). It is impossible to answer without completely accepting all the premises built into it.

September 14, 2020

Education is to expand experience

Education’s dumbing down frays the bonds of citizenship and is hardest on the poor, says E.D. Hirsch, the man who wrote the book on cultural literacy.

Interviewed by Naomi Schaefer Riley, Wall Street Journal, Sept. 11, 2020

If you have school-age children, the pandemic-induced move to online classes may give you an unusual window into their education. E.D. Hirsch expects you’ll be surprised by “how little whole-class instruction is going on,” how little knowledge is communicated, and how there is “no coherence” from day to day, let alone from year to year.

The current fashion is for teachers to be a “guide on the side, instead of a sage on the stage,” he says, quoting the latest pedagogical slogan, which means that teachers aren’t supposed to lecture students but to “facilitate” learning by nudging students to follow their own curiosity. Everything Mr. Hirsch knows about how children learn tells him that’s the wrong approach. “If you want equity in education, as well as excellence, you have to have whole-class instruction,” in which a teacher directly communicates information using a prescribed sequential curriculum.

Mr. Hirsch, 92, is best known for his 1987 book, “Cultural Literacy: What Every American Needs to Know.” It is an argument for teaching “specifics,” followed by a lengthy list of them – thousands of historical figures, events, concepts and literary works with which, in Mr. Hirsch’s view, educated Americans should be familiar. Heavily weighted toward Western history and civilization, the list provoked charges of elitism. Yet Mr. Hirsch is singularly focused on helping disadvantaged kids. They “are not exposed to this information at home,” he says, so they’ll starve intellectually unless the schools provide it.

He continues the argument in his new book, “How to Educate a Citizen,” in which he describes himself as a heretofore “rather polite scholar” who has become more “forthright and impatient because things are getting worse. Intellectual error has become a threat to the well-being of the nation. A truly massive tragedy is building.” Schools “are diminishing our national unity and our basic competence.”

Mr. Hirsch is nonetheless cheerful in a Zoom interview from a vacation home in Maine, his armchair perched next to a window with a water view. An emeritus professor at the University of Virginia, he normally resides in Charlottesville, where he continues his research and acts as the chairman of the Core Knowledge Foundation.

He cites both history and neuroscience in explaining how education went wrong. It began in the 1940s, when “schools unbolted the desks and kids were no longer facing the teacher.” Instead children were divided into small groups and instructed to complete worksheets independently with occasional input from teachers. “That was also when our verbal test scores went down and the relative ranking of our elementary schools declined on a national level.” On the International Adult Literacy Survey, Americans went from being No. 1 for children who were educated in the 1950s to fifth for those in the ’70s and 14th in the ’90s. And things have only gotten worse. Between 2002 and 2015, American schoolchildren went from a ranking of 15th to 24th in reading on the Program for International Student Assessment.

The problem runs deeper than the style of instruction, Mr. Hirsch says. It’s the concept at its root – “child-centered classrooms,” the notion that “education is partly a matter of drawing out a child’s inborn nature.” Mr. Hirsch says emphatically that a child’s mind is “a blank slate.” On this point he agrees with John Locke and disagrees with Jean-Jacques Rousseau, who thought children need to develop according to their nature. Both philosophers make the “Cultural Literacy” list, but “Locke has to make a comeback” among educators, Mr. Hirsch says. “The culture is up for grabs, and elementary schools are the culture makers.”

Mr. Hirsch is a man of the left – he has said he is “practically a socialist.” But he bristles at the idea that kids should read only books by people who look like them or live like them. He recalls how reading outside his own experience enabled him “to gain perspective.” Growing up in Memphis, Tenn., in the 1930s, he says, “there was no one I knew who wasn’t a racist.” In his teens, he picked up Gunnar Myrdal’s “An American Dilemma: The Negro Problem and Modern Democracy” (1944), which “allowed me to escape.” The Swedish sociologist’s survey of American race relations “made a huge impact” on Mr. Hirsch. “I take it as an illustration of how important knowledge is and how important it is to not necessarily become a member of your culture.”

That’s no less true in 21st-century America. “The idea that identity and ethnicity are inborn and indelible from birth is a false view that leads to group hostility,” Mr. Hirsch says. “The idea that there can be an American culture that everyone joins seems to be anathema to some academic thinkers,” Mr. Hirsch says. “But I can’t believe it’s anathema to any normal person in the country who isn’t some social theorist.” It’s fine for children to embrace their particular heritage, he says, but also vital to create an “American ethnicity.” The purpose of elementary schools “is to make children into good citizens.”

That requires knowledge that is “shared nationally, if you’re going to read and write and communicate with one another.” He’s dismayed that people keep getting hung up on the particulars. “I’m fine with arguing about whether it shall be Toni Morrison or Herman Melville. Who cares?” He calls elementary school “a nonpartisan institution,” a view that may seem quaint in an era when schools are adopting ideological curricula like the “1619 Project” and teachers are displaying “Black Lives Matter” banners as their Zoom backgrounds.

Mr. Hirsch wants to correct some of these excesses. He dedicates “How to Educate a Citizen” to the late political scientist Richard Rorty, who died in 2007. Rorty “made a distinction between the political left and the cultural left,” says Mr. Hirsch, who considers himself a man of the former but not the latter. He commends to me a 1994 New York Times article, “The Unpatriotic Academy,” in which Rorty wrote: “In the name of ‘the politics of difference,’ [the left] refuses to rejoice in the country it inhabits. It repudiates the idea of a national identity, and the emotion of national pride.” Mr. Hirsch agrees and longs for the “willingness to sacrifice for the good of society that was very strong” during his early years. “Patriotism is important because we want to make our society work.”

Mr. Hirsch also takes issue with grade schools’ focus on “skills.” Whether it is imparting “critical thinking skills,” “communication skills” or “problem-solving skills,” he says such instruction is a waste of time in the absence of specific knowledge. He describes the findings of the National Academy of Sciences on the subject of the “domain specificity of human skills.” What this means, he explains in the new book, “is that being good at tennis does not make you good at golf or soccer. You may be a talented person with great hand-eye coordination – and indeed there are native general abilities that can be nurtured in different ways – but being a first-class swimmer will not make a person good at hockey.”

He cites the “baseball study,” conducted by researchers at Marquette University in the 1980s, which found that kids who knew more about how baseball was played performed better when answering questions about a text on baseball than those who didn’t understand the game – regardless of their reading level. The conventional response in education circles is that standardized tests are unfair because some kids are exposed to more specific knowledge than others. In Mr. Hirsch’s view that’s precisely why children should be exposed to more content: Educators “simply haven’t faced up to their duty to provide a coherent sequence of knowledge to children.”

There are now about 5,000 schools in the U.S. that use some form of the Core Knowledge curriculum, developed by Mr. Hirsch’s foundation. And research suggests Mr. Hirsch is right. A recent large-scale randomized study of public-school pupils in kindergarten through second grade found that use of the Core Knowledge Language Arts curriculum had statistically significant benefits for vocabulary, science knowledge, and social-studies knowledge.

Even in poor neighborhoods, kids at Core Knowledge schools perform well and are admitted to competitive high schools. From the South Bronx Classical Charter School to the public schools in Sullivan County, Tenn., Mr. Hirsch is clearly proud that his ideas have helped the least privileged kids in America.

He questions the idea that children who are exposed to more “experiences” are at an automatic advantage. “That’s what fiction is for,” he quips. And not only fiction. “The residue of experience is knowledge,” he says. “If you get your knowledge from the classroom, it’s just as good as if you got it from going to the opera. Poor kids can catch up.” ...

Asked about the effect of the pandemic and lockdown on children’s emotional well-being, Mr. Hirsch shrugs, then offers an anecdote from a principal at a Core Knowledge school. Before classes began one morning, a second-grade girl approached him and said, “I’m so excited for [sic] today.” When the principal asked why, she said, “Because today we are going to learn about the War of 1812.”

“Gee, I wonder what that’s about,” the principal said.

“I don’t know,” the girl replied. “But today I’m going to find out!”

For Mr. Hirsch, the lesson is clear. No matter the circumstances, “kids delight in learning things.”

Ms. Riley is a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and a senior fellow at the Independent Women’s Forum.

September 12, 2020

The arrogance of intellectual idiotism

A recent addition to the “liberal” genre of “why don’t people think as correctly as I do and how can we help them see the light” is by one Rebecca Coffey: “Why people believe in genuinely fake news”. She argues with a sense of superior logic and respect for “truth” and science, but her two main examples are one a lie and the other a falsehood.

She begins with the example of Trump claiming to have signed “veterans choice”, except that she takes that as referring to the “Veterans Choice Act” (i.e., the Veterans Access, Choice, and Accountability Act of 2014), which was generally regarded to have been a failure. It was remedied by the “VA MISSION Act of 2018”, which created the permanent as well as more comprehensive Veterans Community Care program. Crucially, it’s apparently been successful. Trump signed it, and gave veterans choice.

So why does she believe otherwise?

Later she cites a Slovakian study showing that logic is not persuasive regarding abortion. The researchers established basic logical syllogism with the participants: if a = b and b = c, then a = c. The establishing example Coffey provides is, “All dogs are mammals. Some carnivores are dogs. Some carnivores are mammals.” (That’s actually a = b, c = a, c = b, but it still works, if a little messy, with a as the connector between b and c. In standard form: Some mammals are dogs, Dogs are carnivores, Some mammals are carnivores. It’s easy to overlook the sloppiness because each statement stands alone as an incontestable fact; none of them actually depends on the others for proof.)

The abortion example, however, utterly fails logically: “All human beings should be protected. Some foetuses should be protected. Some foetuses are human beings.” That’s a = b, c = b, c = a. The conclusion is presented as one of the premises! An elementary logical fallacy. As it is, “should be protected” (b) is a red herring. This syllogism is like, “Dogs are mammals, Bats are mammals, Bats are dogs.” And that makes it clear that the crux of the corrected syllogism – moving c = a back to the middle – depends on proving it as a second premise, which no effort is actually made to do. What is presented as the “logical” conclusion remains both untested and unproven: Bats are dogs.

Yet Coffey writes, “That logical conclusion is not, strictly speaking, an argument for or against abortion. Even so, the researchers ... couldn’t get a statistically significant number of [the participants] to acknowledge the neutral logic that the foetus sequence builds.”

Again, why does Coffey willfully ignore the obvious fallacy?

Old-Time Religious Fanaticism

Penelope Dreadful comments at Clusterfuck:

Many Democrats and Leftists have gone off the deep end on the Democratic Party Narrative, the same way some people go off the deep end over Christianity. I think this is the result of a certain mindset, or maybe Jungian archetype that manifests itself in different ways over different time periods. Move these people back in time a hundred years and they would be busting up saloons and trying to save fallen women from alcohol. Move them to 1930-1940s Germany, and they would be just peachy with rounding up the Jews. Move them back several hundred years and they would be burning heretics at the stake. Or prosecuting witches, as in Europe, and then Salem.

The root of the current manifestation is the whole “we are on the side of the angels” belief among Democrats – that they are good and moral and smart and anybody who isn’t one of them is on the side of the devils. Just like the Spanish Inquisitors thought they were on the side of God, It explains the violent SJWs who are literally trying to burn people (heretics) alive with Molotov cocktails. It explains the Original Sin–like attributes of White Privilege, and the hysterical over-reaction to people who simply say All Lives Matter. And the burning need (literally sometimes) to rewrite history and dwell on 1492 and 1619. It explains the hyperbole about Global Warming and its apocalyptic effect on Earth.

There is even a parallel between “safe spaces” and the “sanctuary” aspect of churches. It explains the hysteria over various symbols like the Confederate flag, or statues of Columbus. It is simply religious fervor and fanaticism unmoored from a physical church building or any actual belief in a god. In fact, the current religious fanatics of the woke Democratic Left are anti-religion and anti-Christianity most of the time. But I surmise that it is more of a Catholic vs. Protestant schism or interdenominational squabble. This is why you see the tremendous pressure on Free Speech, and the attempt to shut down any dissenting view – because those views are not just arguably “wrong”, but are blasphemy and heresy. You even have a tie-in to “transubstantiation” where instead of the bread becoming the actual body of Christ, a man can become a woman, and vice versa, just because they have that Democratic Party faith. They have even brought back the old practice of “shunning”, where the members of the church would “dis-infellowship” the excommunicated, or others who broke certain religious taboos. Now, it is called “cancel culture”.

Outside of the cynical power mad maniacs like Pelosi, the Democrat Party is simply being led by religious fanatics. The Democrats had to go to a faith-based belief system because their main theories about life have turned out to be crap. ...

Democrats are starting to be confronted with the fact that cities and states they have run for decades are not the paradises that were promised. No, by and large they suck. Chicago, Baltimore, Detroit, Philadelphia, etc. And it is becoming more obvious to sensible people. Electing Democrats did not make things all better. So that is why they need to double down on that Old Time Religion, so to speak, and wasn’t that FDR a pip way back when!

And it is not going to get any better. As they are constantly barraged by real, actual facts as opposed to politically correct facts, they are going to become more mentally unraveled. They are already clamoring to defund the police, which pits them against the cynical wing of the party who knows that is nonsense. They are clamoring to secede, and just like the Old Time Puritans, they are trying to set up their own autonomous zones for “religious freedom” purposes, where they can worship at the altar of Social Justice. Delusional people do not go down easily. They go out kicking and screaming.

Civilization and Discontent

Civilization is a very fragile thing. Every one of its myriad members has to suppress themselves to a certain degree to keep it going, to tolerate things they don’t like, to be tolerated themselves. Some things need to be swept under the rug. People have to behave and respect each other. It’s not actually a natural instinct beyond the family or small tribal group. And it’s a very easy thing to destroy. And then things are much much worse for everyone except the very worst.