November 26, 2015

Inflation hits high school football, where there are now more than 400 “state champions”

Filed under: Football, USA — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

In this week’s football wrap-up, Gregg Easterbrook looks at the most tangible evidence of the popularity of football in America: that there are more than eight times as many high school state championships as there are states in the union:

High school football playoff season has begun across the country, and continues nearly till Christmas. The result will be not 50 titlists but at least 425 state high school football champions. In the N.F.L., every team save one is ground into dust. In high school football, it’s trophies galore!

Expanding postseason brackets at the high school level are another indicator of the runaway rise of football popularity.

Back in the day, there weren’t hundreds of high school state champions; many states had no postseason. I graduated from Kenmore West High School near Buffalo; in 1969 the football team finished ranked first in New York state. That storied squad appeared in eight games, then put away its gear because there were no playoffs to attend. This year’s Kenmore West team suited up for 10 regular-season dates followed by two postseason contests. The Blue Devils’ 10-2 finish got them only to the subregionals of a now-sprawling postseason tournament producing 16 New York state football champions.

New York state pales before Texas and California. In the crazed Texas system, 704 public high schools playing 11-man football made this year’s postseason; plus playoffs for private institutions and schools in the six-man rural version of the sport. Texas offers 10 brackets of 64 schools, each football bracket about the size of the March Madness basketball tourney. Hundreds of Texas playoff games build up to the Lone Star State naming 26 state high school football champions. The last trophy will not be determined till the double-whistle of a night game Dec. 19 at the stadium where the Houston Texans perform. To win a Texas state title, a high school needs to appear in 16 games — exactly the same wear-and-tear on the body as in an N.F.L. regular season.

All this expansion of the high school football year is great … for the fans and the coaches. It’s definitely not so beneficial to the players on the field: not only significant increases in the chance for injury, but also increased distraction from actual school work. Too many football players are hoping to get into college on a football scholarship (and many of them also nurture unrealistic dreams of a professional career in the NFL after college). Perhaps it’s because high schools don’t cover the statistics on that:

The old shorter seasons allowed high school football team members to participate in the extracurricular activities that are essential for college acceptance. Admissions officers know that teenagers with weak grades and only “football team” on their application are not prepared for college.

But won’t the guys get recruited? This is the Grand Illusion of contemporary high school football — devote your high school days to playing in a huge number of games, as well as to year-round conditioning, film study and 7-on-7, because recruiters will come calling. Hundreds of thousands of tween and teen males happily dwell in this Grand Illusion. Then recruiters don’t call.

Each spring, roughly one high school senior football player in 60 is offered an N.C.A.A. scholarship. Roughly one in 125 receives an “ath admit,” acceptance to a college he would not otherwise have qualified for. Athletic admits to the Ivy League or the New England Small College Athletic Conference are solid gold, better in many ways than N.C.A.A. offers. Rolled together, about one high school letterman in 40 gets a college boost from football. While one in 40 gets great news, many more on the football team end up with reduced chances of regular college admission plus regular financial aid.

Expansion of high school football seasons and playoffs has not happened to serve students. More high school games serve the interests of coaching-staff adults who want to pretend to be Don Shula, of state sports organizations that want to be more important, of hustlers who run the growing universe of “showcases” and “combines” that bilk parents of fees in return for the false promise of a recruiting edge for their children.

It’s been nearly a generation since most companies stopped accepting job applications for “entry level jobs” on a career path without at least a university degree. Encouraging teenage boys to ignore academic work through high school to get a microscopic shot at getting into college through football is a form of fraud. Worse, the way high school football players are treated (both in the form of adulation from fellow students and pampering by staff) further encourages them to keep dreaming rather than to keep football in its proper place and getting an education. At least to the extent that high schools are still equipped to teach, anyway.

November 25, 2015

QotD: The microaggression industry

Filed under: Liberty, Media, Politics, Quotations — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

The bitterness, anger, and even hate that radiates from them is shocking to me. “This conversation doesn’t make me feel safe” is genuine, actual college speak, in the “microaggressions” school of thought. The purpose is to silence speech that the listener does not care for or that threatens their worldview.

They care nothing for liberty, or truth, or honesty, they do not want a world where people interact and learn from each other, they want nothing save a continual, comforting womb of support and confirmation of their worldview. And they’re more than willing to crush anyone or anything that threatens this.

This attitude might be a byproduct of the bubble wrap children, who were raised so carefully, protected, and supported that they never encountered anything that challenged or made them question themselves. It might be a subversive method of silencing speech and dissent from a political agenda that cannot survive rational discussion. It might be the result of a psychosis that cannot abide being questioned. It might be a combination of some or all of those things.


What’s most troubling to me is that the loudest, most insistent, and most publicly conspicuous of this group are those who at the same time insist that they are lovers of liberty and will not tolerate intolerance.

And yet here we are, in the 21st century, where academics have churned out an entire system designed to do exactly the opposite of what academia is meant to be: silence any debate, questioning, or interaction that in any way threatens one specific certain viewpoint. And its done with passive-aggressive behavior taken to an astounding depth of creativity and precision.

Christopher Taylor, “SOCIAL JUSTICE KITTENS”, Word Around the Net, 2014-10-22.

November 21, 2015

QotD: Investigating the reactionary view of racism

Filed under: Media, Quotations, Science — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

Almost all of our hard data on race comes from sociology programs in universities – ie the most liberal departments in the most liberal institutions in the country. Most of these sociology departments have an explicit mission statement of existing to fight racism. Many sociologists studying race will tell you quite openly that they went into the field – which is not especially high-paying or prestigious – in order to help crusade against the evil of racism.

Imagine a Pfizer laboratory whose mission statement was to prove Pfizer drugs had no side effects, and whose staff all went into pharmacology specifically to help crusade against the evil of believing Pfizer’s drugs have side effects. Imagine that this laboratory hands you their study showing that the latest Pfizer drug has zero side effects, c’mon, trust us! Is there any way you’re taking that drug?

We know that a lot of medical research, especially medical research by drug companies, turns up the wrong answer simply through the file-drawer effect. That is, studies that turn up an exciting result everyone wants to hear get published, and studies that turn up a disappointing result don’t – either because the scientist never submits it to the journals, or because the journal doesn’t want to publish it. If this happens all the time in medical research despite growing safeguards to prevent it, how often do you think it happens in sociological research?

Do you think the average sociologist selects the study design most likely to turn up evidence of racist beliefs being correct, or the study design most likely to turn up the opposite? If despite her best efforts a study does turn up evidence of racist beliefs being correct, do you think she’s going to submit it to a major journal with her name on it for everyone to see? And if by some bizarre chance she does submit it, do you think the International Journal Of We Hate Racism So We Publish Studies Proving How Dumb Racists Are is going to cheerfully include it in their next edition?

And so when people triumphantly say “Modern science has completely disproven racism, there’s not a shred of evidence in support of it”, we should consider that exactly the same level of proof as the guy from 1900 who said “Modern science has completely proven racism, there’s not a shred of evidence against it”. The field is still just made of people pushing their own dogmatic opinions and calling them science; only the dogma has changed.

And although Reactionaries love to talk about race, in the end race is nothing more than a particularly strong and obvious taboo. There are taboos in history, too, and in economics, and in political science, and although they’re less obvious and interesting they still mean you need this same skepticism when parsing results from these fields. “But every legitimate scientist disagrees with this particular Reactionary belief!” should be said with the same intonation as “But every legitimate archbishop disagrees with this particular heresy.”

This is not intended as a proof that racism is correct, or even as the slightest shred of evidence for that hypothesis (although a lot of Reactionaries are, in fact, racist as heck). No doubt the Spanish Inquisition found a couple of real Satanists, and probably some genuine murderers and rapists got sent to Siberia. Sometimes, once in a blue moon, a government will even censor an idea that happens to be false. But it’s still useful to know when something is being censored, so you don’t actually think the absence of evidence for one side of the story is evidence of anything other than people on that side being smart enough to keep their mouths shut.

Scott Alexander, “Reactionary Philosophy In An Enormous, Planet-Sized Nutshell”, Slate Star Codex, 2013-03-03.

November 17, 2015

Jonah Goldberg – “You Stupid Schmucks, Look at You Now”

Filed under: Politics, USA — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 05:00

Jonah Goldberg’s weekly “news”letter last week covered the entertaining spectacle of legions of progressive thinkers turning on their own allies:

… this “crisis” is 100 percent liberalism’s fault. Sure, sure, you can divvy up the slices of blame in different ways, but those guys tailgating in the parking lot drinking beers and eating bratwurst? Those are the conservatives and libertarians enjoying a day off, because they don’t have to wait in line for even a morsel of blame.

I almost feel sorry for those decent, sincere career liberals standing there in the quad as the little Maoists scream in their faces and strip off the suede elbow patches on their tweedy jackets like a lieutenant being busted down to a private. As the kids fit lifelong members of the ACLU with their duncecaps, the poor souls can hear the conservatives hooting and laughing off beyond the fence, throwing nerf footballs and telling jokes at the liberals’ expense.


Outside of the actual headquarters of the Democratic party itself, no major institution in America today is more thoroughly run and controlled by the Left than academia.

For several years now, whenever I’ve visited a college campus, I’ve tried to make the following point. It basically goes like this:

    You kids think it is somehow rebellious to be liberal. So let me see if I get this right. The administrators at this school are liberal. The professors are liberal. Your high-school teachers were probably liberal. Your textbooks are, for the most part, liberal. Hollywood is liberal. The music industry is liberal. The fashion industry is liberal. Publishing is liberal. The mainstream media are liberal. Silicon Valley is liberal. Believe it or not, most corporations and the overwhelming majority of charitable foundations are liberal.

    And yet, you think you’re sticking it to the man by agreeing with them?

Moreover, it’s been like this for generations. It was true when most of these administrators and faculty were born — they have grown up inside a universe where this fact was simply taken for granted. With the Left given total control of these oases of tolerance and citadels of progressivism, what do we get?

We get pampered and coddled students screaming that these institutions are hotbeds of racism, homophobia, sexism, and the rest of the 31 Flavors of Oppression.

I’m sorry, but over here by the hibachi in the parking lot, that’s just frick’n hilarious.

And it is fitting. It is just. It’s almost frick’n Biblical in its justness. You see, there is precious little bigotry and prejudice on college campuses. But the bulk of what does exist is aimed almost entirely at the guys and gals chilling at the tailgate party. Pro-life Christians, Israel-supporting Jews, libertarian professors, conservative scholars, climate-change skeptics, traditionalists of every stripe including classical liberals, and, of course, people who can take a joke: These make up the bulk of the victims of campus bigotry and prejudice. I can’t tell you how many professors I’ve met who have to keep their conservatism secret, at least until tenure, if not forever. I’ve never met or heard of a faculty member who had to keep her Marxism on the down-low.

November 14, 2015

Trigger warnings and Yale

Filed under: Politics, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

Jonathan Rauch discusses the now famous Yale courtyard temper tantrum:

During protests that followed, undergraduates confronted Nicholas Christakis, the master of Silliman, in a courtyard. When he told a student he disagreed with her claim that his job is “to create a place of comfort and home for the students that live in Silliman,” she began screaming at him: “Then why the f–k did you accept the position! Who the f–k hired you? You should step down! If that is what you think about being a master, you should step down. It is not about creating an intellectual space! It is not! Do you understand that? You are disgusting!”

The self-infantilization on display in this tirade lacked even the dignity of a sinister ideology. Its point was more like: “I want my mommy.”

But if students feel the modern university’s job is to create a “place of comfort” rather than an “intellectual space,” that is hardly all their fault. Many parents of my generation make it their business to spare their children any exposure to upset and risk. Then kids and parents alike are wooed by colleges that promise idyllic experiences at very steep prices.

Yale, for example, markets its residential colleges as “little paradises.” No wonder if some students expect college to provide shelter from intellectual and interpersonal storms.

And no wonder the movement for trigger warnings and safe spaces is gaining traction at colleges around the country. Trigger warnings supposedly help students cope with (or avoid) exposure to upsetting ideas and images; their other purpose, I and many other free-speech advocates believe, is to chill the presentation of controversial material. Either way, they seek to make higher education emotionally safer by making it less intellectually dangerous.

He also suggests the most appropriate kind of trigger warning to provide:

So it is only fair to warn students and their parents that higher education is not a Disney cruise. Tell them in advance so they can prepare. Not, however, with multiple trigger warnings festooning syllabi. One will suffice:

“Warning: Although this university values and encourages civil expression and respectful personal behavior, you may at any moment, and without further notice, encounter ideas, expressions and images that are mistaken, upsetting, dangerous, prejudiced, insulting or deeply offensive. We call this education.”

Display that trigger warning prominently on the college website. Put it in the course catalog and in the marketing brochures. Then ask students and their parents to grow up and deal with it. And watch as they rise to the challenge.

The scandal of NCAA “graduation” rates

Filed under: Football, Sports — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

Gregg Easterbrook on the statistical sleight-of-hand that allows US universities to claim unrealistic graduation rates for their student athletes:

N.C.A.A. Graduation Rate Hocus-Pocus. [Hawaii coach Norm] Chow and [Maryland coach Randy] Edsall both made bona fide improvements to the educational quality of their college football programs, and both were fired as thanks. Edsall raised Maryland’s football graduation rate from 56 percent five years ago to 70 percent. Chow raised Hawaii’s football graduation rate from 29 percent five years ago to 50 percent.

At least that’s what the Department of Education says. According to the N.C.A.A., Hawaii graduates not 50 percent of its players but 70 percent, while Maryland graduates not 70 percent but 75 percent.

At work is the distinction between the Federal Graduation Rate, calculated by the Department of Education, and the Graduation Success Rate, calculated by the N.C.A.A. No other aspect of higher education has a graduation “success rate” — just a graduation rate. The N.C.A.A. cooks up this number to make the situation seem better than it is.

The world of the Graduation Success Rate is wine and roses: According to figures the N.C.A.A. released last week, 86 percent of N.C.A.A. athletes achieved “graduation success” in the 2014-2015 academic year. But “graduation success” is different from graduating; the Department of Education finds that 67 percent of scholarship athletes graduated in 2014-2015. (These dueling figures are for all scholarship athletes: Football and men’s basketball players generally are below the average, those in other sports generally above.)

Both the federal and N.C.A.A. calculations have defects. The federal figure scores only those who graduate from the college of their initial enrollment. The athlete who transfers and graduates elsewhere does not count in the federal metric.

The G.S.R., by contrast, scores as a “graduate” anyone who leaves a college in good standing, via transfer or simply giving up on school: There’s no attempt to follow-up to determine whether athletes who leave graduate somewhere else. Not only is the N.C.A.A.’s graduation metric anchored in the absurd assumption that leaving a college is the same as graduating, but it can also reflect a double-counting fallacy. Suppose a football player starts at College A, transfers to College B and earns his diploma there. Both schools count him as a graduate under the G.S.R.


Football players ought to graduate at a higher rate than students as a whole. Football scholarships generally pay for five years on campus plus summer school, and football scholarship holders never run out of tuition money, which is the most common reason students fail to complete college. Instead at Ohio State and other money-focused collegiate programs, players graduate at a lower rate than students as a whole. To divert attention from this, the N.C.A.A. publishes its annual hocus-pocus numbers.

November 10, 2015

The “culture of ‘You can’t say that!’ in all its swirling, borderline violent ugliness”

Filed under: Politics, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

Brendan O’Neill in sp!ked on the Halloween derangement syndrome at Yale:

Video footage of Yale students losing the plot over a faculty head who said everyone should calm down about Halloween has caused much head-shaking in liberal circles. And it isn’t hard to see why. The head’s crime was that his wife sent an email suggesting academics and students should chill out about ‘culturally insensitive’ Halloween costumes. It’s okay, he said, to be a ‘little bit inappropriate or provocative or, yes, offensive’ on this one day. For his wife issuing this mildest of rebukes to over-sensitive over-18s, he was accosted by a mob of students insisting the email made them feel unsafe. When he told the crowd that he thinks university is about providing education, not a ‘safe home’, they screamed at him to ‘step down!’. ‘Who the fuck hired you?!’, the most unhinged of the students cries.

It’s unnerving, odd, a terrifying snapshot of the new intolerance. We could see the culture of ‘You can’t say that!’ in all its swirling, borderline violent ugliness. It wasn’t a whispered or implied ‘You can’t say that!’, of the kind we see all the time in 21st-century public life, in response to people who criticise gay marriage, say, or doubt climate change. No, this was an explicitly stated ‘You can’t fucking say that, and if you do we’ll demand that you be sacked!’ That it was stated at Yale, and in response to a bloody email about Halloween, has added to the hand-wringing among liberals, who want to know what’s gone wrong with the new generation.

Okay, fine. It is indeed interesting, and worrying, that students are so sensitive and censorious today. But I have a question for the hand-wringers, the media people, academics and liberal thinkers who are so disturbed by what they’re calling the ‘Yale snowflakes’: what did you think would happen? When you watched, or even presided over, the creation over the past 40 years of a vast system of laws and speech codes to punish insulting or damaging words, and the construction of a vast machine of therapeutic intervention into everyday life, what did you think the end result would be? A generation that was liberal and tough? Come off it. It’s those trends, those longstanding trends of censorship and therapy, that created today’s creepy campus intolerance; it’s you who made these monsters.

November 9, 2015

QotD: Suppressing dissent

Filed under: Politics, Quotations, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

These are the chocolate sipping onesie boys of the world, who emote without thought and cringe at perceived aggressions by people who challenge their certainties. Brutality, bullying, rape, they cry. And in a polite society, their approach tends to shut down any talk.

Its the flip side of the Online Forum Effect where there is a tourettes-like tendency of some to bring up in any conversation and any occasion their pet political viewpoints. They do it loudly and angrily, and become so unpleasant that everyone around them learns to just shut up about some topics in the hopes that they won’t provoke another episode that ruins everything for everyone. And in the process, they win by silencing any dissent or alternate viewpoint. By not allowing anyone to gainsay or question their absolute certainty on a topic, all that everyone is left with is their regular outbursts on every subject.

And in time, that wears down all but the most strong of wills by the Big Lie. After all, I don’t hear anyone disagreeing with them or showing how they are wrong, and they wouldn’t be so very strong and insistent about this if it wasn’t at least somewhat true. They aren’t crazy or lying all the time, nobody would do that…

And until this changes, until this atmosphere at institutions of higher learning changes, until this approach toward academia and culture is different, then the entire exercise of education is pointless. How can you expect anyone to get an honest, valuable education in this kind of atmosphere? What kind of worldview and what sort of behavior is being inculcated by this kind of attitude? Nothing healthy.

Christopher Taylor, “SOCIAL JUSTICE KITTENS”, Word Around the Net, 2014-10-22.

November 7, 2015

The demand for trigger warnings may make teaching “difficult” subjects practically impossible

Filed under: Politics, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 04:00

In Salon, Rani Neutill explains what happened in the class she taught where she provided exactly the sort of trigger warnings in advance of all potentially disturbing material:

About a year ago I was asked to teach a class about the evolution of the representation of sex throughout American Cinema. I started with the silent film (The Cheat) and ended with Spike Jonze’s disembodied sex in Her. Along the way, I showed a number of sexually graphic films that caused a great deal of controversy.

At the time I was teaching the course, I was also figuring out a life outside of academia. I had been a wandering postdoc for a long time and was tired. A friend of mine had recently been violently sexually assaulted. I was a witness. The trauma she suffered, from the assault and the long, drawn-out trial of her assailants, led me to volunteer at my local rape crisis center. Working directly with folks who have experienced trauma, I entered the course believing in trigger warnings and gave them throughout the class, even though it seemed as though the title of the course was a trigger warning in and of itself. Regardless, I gave them for almost every film I showed. I even gave them for films that really shouldn’t have needed them (i.e., Psycho).

Midway through the semester, because of my work in sexual assault prevention, I was asked to fill in for the Director of the Office of Sexual Assault Prevention Services at the university. The Director had to take a short leave so I was there to fill in temporarily. In accepting the position, I took on a dual role. First, I was an activist against sexual violence, supporting survivors on campus, but I was also an educator who believed that learning is about shaking up one’s world and worldview. I didn’t realize that occupying both roles at once would be impossible; failure was inevitable.


I began class by talking briefly about learning through discomfort. The students were silent. I turned to them for questions about moments of feeling uncomfortable and how we could read these as productive. The student who came to my office raised her hand and asked, “Are we gonna talk about SSBAS.”

“Yes,” I said, “but I want us to talk about any of the films that made people uncomfortable. Let’s discuss the discomfort.” Her face fell. She started crying and ran out of the room. Her friend followed her. Right after she left I showed the scene with Omar. Later that day, she came to my office again, sobbing.

For the rest of the semester, I gave trigger warnings before every scene I screened. Every. Single. One. This wasn’t enough. A student came to me and asked that I start sending emails before class outlining exactly which disturbing scenes I would be showing so that I wouldn’t “out” survivors if they had to walk out of class when hearing what I was about to show. This took all the free form and off the cuff ability to teach. It stifled the teaching process. There would never be a moment for me to educate them by confronting them with the unknown, by helping them become aware of their own biases by making them feel uncomfortable.

November 5, 2015

Do you have a sufficient supply of pronouns yet?

Filed under: Politics, USA — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

Another link I saved a while back and then didn’t get around to using until now:

A private Southern California women’s college now offers students eight different gender pronoun options from which to select, expecting professors and others on campus to use the choices.

The Claremont-based Scripps College, nicknamed “The Women’s College,” offers the gender pronoun options to students through its online student portal accounts. Students use a drop-down menu to select their preference from ten choices – eight of which are various gender pronoun sets such as “Hu, Hum, Hus,” “Per, Pers, Perself” and “Ze, Zir, Zir.” The other two are “none” and “just my name.”

Once students select their preference, a note of it appears on class rosters and other documents informing professors and others.

Though an all-female institution, the drop-down list does not default to the “She, Her, Hers, Herself” option, but instead, “Select Pronoun.” In fact, the choices are listed in alphabetical order, which places the traditional “she/hers” choice as the seventh possibility.

The list of options, along with phonetic pronunciations for the less frequently used choices, was provided to The College Fix by a campus official:

    1. E/Ey, Em, Eir/Eirs, Eirself/Emself (A, M, ear, ears, earself)
    2. He, Him, His, Himself
    3. Hu, Hum, Hus, Humself (hue like HUman,/hue-m like HUMan, hue-s, hue-mself)
    4. Just My Name Please
    5. None
    6. Per, Per, Per/Pers, Perself (per/purr, pers, perself)
    7. She, Her, hers, Herself
    8. They, Them, Their/Theirs, Themse
    9. Ze, Hir, Hir/Hirs, Hirself (zee, hear, hears, hearself)
    10. Ze, Zir, Zir/Zirs, Zirself (zee, zeer, zeers, zeerself)

November 3, 2015

QotD: Liberal arts programs

Filed under: Books, Media, Quotations — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

… liberal-arts programs have been ailing for decades. The humane thing would be to let them die with whatever modicum of dignity they have left.

My purpose in this essay is not to defend (or attack) “the arts” (the aaaaahts, in my plummiest fake English accent). The arts don’t need defending (or attacking), and even if they did, there are lots of thick books written by people who are far smarter than me making the case. This essay is, instead, a broadside against university humanities departments, which are mostly terrible and not really worth rescuing.

We don’t need university liberal arts programs to expose us to culture. Want some culture in your life? Hit YouTube and you can get all the culture you can choke down, for free. Art, music, dance, guided tours of great museums. Literature? The local library might still have a few books lying around if it hasn’t given itself over completely to being a day-care facility for the homeless. Amazon will sell you any book you want, from The Pilgrim’s Progress to The Brothers Karamazov to The Vagina Monologues and deliver it to your portable reading device in a matter of seconds. Amazon will also sell you a Blu-Ray of any opera or great film you want, and have it delivered right to your door by the next day. (Or stream it right to your TV, iPad, or smartphone.) Embarrassed for funds? You can download tens of thousands of public-domain books, films, and pieces of music for free from a variety of sources. In short, art has been transformed from a luxury good to a commodity good.

“But wait!” the academics cry. “Who’s going to teach you how to understand all this stuff? How to interpret it? How to uncover all the subtleties and meanings in it?”

In this response you get two fallacies for the price of one: that the average citizen requires someone to perform this task, and that universities are capable of performing it even if it were necessary.

Monty, “DOOM (culturally speaking)”, Ace of Spades H.Q., 2014-10-28.

October 29, 2015

QotD: Culture, the arts, and elitism

Filed under: Media, Quotations — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

Of course not all liberal-arts professors think this way, and not all universities have become cultural wastelands. There are yet islands of excellence in the dead sea of mediocrity, meretriciousness and cultural Marxist rot.

Let us stipulate that there are excellent liberal-arts programs and professors out there. What value do they bring to students?

The usual answer is that a committed teacher can inculcate in a student a lifelong love of the subject matter, whether it be ancient Greek sculpture or medieval French poetry or American jazz music. However, this happens seldom enough to bring the whole axiom into question. It’s the whole “you can bring a horse to water but you can’t make him drink it” problem. You can make a class full of bored young people listen to Mahler and explain to them why you think it’s wonderful, but the point is to convince them that it’s wonderful (or at least worth “appreciating”). This is a much harder task, and one that not many college professors are particularly good at.

This is called the “arts appreciation racket”, and it goes back to the Romantic belief that exposing the hoi polloi to high art would make them more well-rounded people. Somehow. The belief has persisted in spite of mounds of evidence to the contrary. Forcing people to imbibe high art is like forcing a kid to eat broccoli — not only will the kid probably spit it out, he will probably develop a lasting dislike for it. Without context and some motivating purpose, high art simply doesn’t have much relevance for most people.

This is not an inherently bad thing. “High art” has never really been aimed at or intended for a mass audience. The whole notion of “high art” implies a kind of elitism, as a calculus equation is elitist (if you don’t know calculus, the equation will not yield its meaning). The creation and consumption of high art requires a level of literacy, wealth, and leisure that until recently not many people had. But now we live in an age when the jewels of world culture can be had for almost nothing, immediately, anywhere. The limiting factor is no longer literacy, or wealth, or leisure time, but rather motivation. All prerequisites have been removed except the “Why?”. Why spend time listening to a Mozart concerto? Why attend a Wagner opera or study a Turner painting or look up at the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel? The problem with University liberal-arts programs is that they can only give you their “Why?”, not your own “Why?”.

Monty, “DOOM (culturally speaking)”, Ace of Spades H.Q., 2014-10-28.

October 23, 2015

The Orangutan Theory of Division 1 football

Filed under: Football, USA — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

Gregg Easterbrook points out the weirdness that is big-time college football in the United States:

These three coaching changes share in common what T.M.Q. calls the Orangutan Theory of Division 1: that football-factory programs have such incredible built-in advantages in recruiting power and gimmick schedules that an orangutan should be able to lead one to bowl eligibility.

Not only do the top recruits flock to prestige programs like South Carolina and U.S.C., but they also play under gimmick conditions. This year the Gamecocks have seven home games and five road dates; one of South Carolina’s opponents is lower-division Citadel. (Initially South Carolina scheduled eight home games and four road dates; a home game was moved because of Hurricane Joaquin.) U.S.C. enjoys seven home games versus five away; one of the Trojans’ opponents was Arkansas State, which plays in a lesser conference. Such schedules are as if the Denver Broncos played twice as many games at home as away, and one of the home games was against an Arena League team.

In the wake of the Spurrier and Sarkisian departures, the sports world — SportsCenter, Sports Illustrated, ESPN’s College GameDay — wondered when glory would return to these programs. Unless I missed it, not a word was said about the educational goals that are the ostensible purpose of the universities in question.

Spurrier’s team had a 51 percent graduation rate, including a 46 percent rate for African-Americans. He should have been given the boot for exploiting players without ensuring their educations: Instead all the boosters and the networks seemed to care about was his won-loss ratio. South Carolina is an SEC school. CBS has the contract for that conference, and benefits when the Gamecocks win. Where is the 60 Minutes segment on SEC football graduation rates?

Sarkisian’s team was graduating 47 percent of players, including 38 percent of African-Americans; Kiffin’s team had a 48 percent graduation rate, including 39 percent for African-American players. ESPN and Fox, which broadcast Pac-12 football, devoted lots of air time to the recruiting and ranking ramifications of the Kiffin and Sarkisian dismissals. Did either so much as mention graduation rates?

Even from programs like U.S.C. and South Carolina that produce many N.F.L. draftees, more than 90 percent never receive a professional paycheck. Because of the risk of injury and brain trauma and because of the effort and time that goes into the sport, colleges should make extra efforts to ensure football players receive educations. And yet many big football programs exploit African-American football players for profit without giving them the level of support to get the bachelor’s degree that is most people’s ticket into the middle class, or even distract them from education by demanding all their time and effort go into football. In many cases the boosters and boards of trustees don’t care, and the sports broadcasting world, which takes a cut of the exploitation, stays silent.

You want to discuss inequality? There are many thousands of NCAA football players, many of whom could not possibly attend university without athletic scholarships. They are subject to arbitrary rules that threaten to yank their funding at the slightest violation, constantly required to put aside any actual education-related activities to concentrate on training for games and in many cases, they are “studying” for degrees that don’t have much post-academic future. Most of them won’t ever be considered for the NFL, so getting that degree is the most important thing about attending university, but coaches and administrators collude to deprive them of that possibility in order to win football games, which attracts donations from alumni and TV coverage.

October 19, 2015

Dildos versus guns – Sarah Hoyt on a modern version of magical thinking

Filed under: Politics, Randomness, USA — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

In case the title isn’t clear enough, there’s a protest started recently at the University of Texas in Austin where students upset at a recent court ruling allowing concealed weapons to be carried on campus came up with what they thought was a perfect counterpoint: they’d open carry dildos instead. Sarah Hoyt comments:

… I have no idea what Ms. Jin majored in, but I can sort of follow the tracks of her thought. Logically, carrying sex toys to campus to protest guns makes absolutely NO sense. I could see carrying signs, or … I don’t know, police whistles, if you’re convinced you’re completely safe if you can just call the police. I can even see, in a more sane way, wearing a protective vest and claiming this is better than guns for defense. I mean, at least they are in the same general kind of thing and sort of kind of address the problem in different ways.

BUT no. Because this is not reasoning. This is magical thinking. WORSE. This is magical thinking based on a world that doesn’t exist, a world that was sold to Ms. Jin (literally. College is expensive) by academics so divorced from reality that they can’t find it with two hands, a cane and a seeing eye dog.

In this world, you see, conservatives love guns and hate sex. This is all “explained” with pseudo Freudian patter about how guns are a substitute for the penis. This is total nonsense and old nonsense at that, stuff we LAUGHED at for being pseudo profound way back in the seventies.

But they absolutely believe that we defend the second amendment not because we want to be responsible for our own self-defense, not because we believe power derives from the individual and that therefore an individual must be capable of reining in the government when it gets out of control. No. They think we want guns because that’s the way we express our sexual repression. (Actually now I think about it, my gun obsessed friends are also the most sex-positive, so their idea not only is wrong, it’s bizarrely wrong.)

Since Ms. Jin has never considered that these stories she was sold are in fact stories with no relation to reality, her reasoning went something like “They’re carrying guns and that upsets me. I must carry something that upsets them. Ahah! Dildos.”

In an even mildly sane world, the press would have made her a laughing stock, because that reasoning makes no sense whatsoever.

But the press buys into the same imaginary world in which somehow the belief in guns for defense is a Freudian thing and so the “gun” value can be countered with the “dildo” value.

This is not grown up thinking. It’s magical thinking, in which complex issues get reduced to amulets and symbols, countered by other amulets and symbols.

Again, this is sort of the human default. And believing absurd things about those you believe to be the enemy is also completely normal. The left calls it “othering” and is completely oblivious to the fact that they do it. A lot.

But it’s still human-normal.

October 12, 2015

The rise of the censors on campus

Filed under: Law, Liberty, Religion — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

Ginni Thomas discusses free speech under attack with FIRE’s Greg Lukianoff.

“The battle over free speech is not partisan,” says a proud liberal whose organization helps a wide variety of clients facing free speech threats. He has spent fifteen years in the field as a fearless advocate who worked at the ACLU before coming to the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE).

Greg Lukianoff, the President and CEO of FIRE, starts this 20 minute video interview for The Daily Caller by assessing global issues. “The international situation for freedom of speech is dire,” says Lukianoff, focusing on the emergence of blasphemy laws to not offend Islam.

This harks back to a previous Daily Caller interview with Steve Coughlin, author of “Catastrophic Failure,” who discussed the Organization of Islamic Cooperation’s Ten Year Program of Action to make Islamic speech codes the global speech standard. In America, this would entail making free speech conditional on not defaming Islam, a religion of less than 1 percent of the US population.

H/T to David Thompson for the link.

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