Quotulatiousness

February 19, 2017

Media mis-characterizations of FIRE

Filed under: Liberty, Media, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 04:00

The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education has been getting a lot of media attention for their efforts to ensure due process rights are observed for students at US universities. In the process, some distortions have been included in that media coverage:

In recent weeks, news outlets across the country have written about Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos and her family foundation’s donations to FIRE. In doing so, many outlets have mischaracterized FIRE’s work defending students’ due process rights — particularly in the realm of campus sexual assault, where the federal government has taken several significant steps to impede the ability of institutions to provide fair hearings and freedom of expression.

We have written on this topic before, but it is worth reiterating a few points.

Perhaps most importantly, our defense of accused students’ rights is not an attack on complainants’ rights, as some writers have suggested. To the contrary, we aim to ensure all students’ rights are protected. The procedural safeguards for which FIRE advocates — such as the right to cross-examine witnesses, active assistance of an attorney, and impartial fact-finders — help ensure that campus adjudicators reach accurate and reliable findings of fact. This goal serves the entire campus community and is appropriate in all cases, but it is especially paramount where the ramifications of either an erroneous guilty finding or an erroneous not guilty finding are particularly significant, such as with accusations of sexual assault or other violent offenses.

Accordingly, FIRE has opposed legislation that attempts to address the issue of campus sexual assault simply by making it easier to find accused students guilty, rather than by helping fact-finders reach accurate results. We have not opposed provisions that could “prevent campus sexual assault,” as some writers have claimed. FIRE’s concern is focused on how the parties are treated and campus justice is served after an assault is alleged to have occurred.

Because only the criminal justice system can remove perpetrators from the streets and not just from campuses, and because the court system has procedural safeguards in place to help fact-finders reach reliable findings, FIRE supports legislation that would strengthen law enforcement’s role in addressing campus sexual assault. Campus criminals are not immune from the criminal law. Even in advocating for greater involvement by law enforcement, however, we have emphasized that colleges and universities have an important role to play in responding to alleged sexual misconduct.

February 15, 2017

Yale’s name change doesn’t go far enough

Filed under: History, Liberty, Politics, USA — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 09:05

Names matter, as the recent decision to rename Calhoun College at Yale clearly indicates. As a distinguished alumni of Yale, Calhoun rated having a college named after him, until modern awareness of his involvement in the slavery issue demanded that his name be expunged immediately. Case closed, right?

Well, not so fast. As it turns out that there are much worse examples of things named after slave owners and slave trade supporters at Yale:

Calhoun owned slaves. But so did Timothy Dwight, Calhoun’s mentor at Yale, who has a college named in his honor. So did Benjamin Silliman, who also gives his name to a residential college, and whose mother was the largest slave owner in Fairfield County, Conn. So did Ezra Stiles, John Davenport and even Jonathan Edwards, all of whom have colleges named in their honor at Yale.

Writing in these pages last summer, I suggested that Yale table the question of John Calhoun and tackle some figures even more obnoxious to contemporary sensitivities. One example was Elihu Yale, the American-born British merchant who, as an administrator in India, was an active participant in the slave trade.

President Salovey’s letter announcing that Calhoun College would be renamed argues that “unlike … Elihu Yale, who made a gift that supported the founding of our university … Calhoun has no similarly strong association with our campus.” What can that mean? Calhoun graduated valedictorian from Yale College in 1804. Is that not a “strong association”? (Grace Hopper held two advanced degrees from the university but had no association with the undergraduate Yale College.)

As far as I have been able to determine, Elihu Yale never set foot in New Haven. His benefaction of some books and goods worth £800 helped found Yale College, not Yale University. And whereas the 11th edition of the Encyclopaedia Britannica praises Calhoun for his “just and kind” treatment of slaves and the “stainless integrity” of his character, Elihu Yale had slaves flogged, hanged a stable boy for stealing a horse, and was eventually removed from his post in India for corruption. Is all that not “fundamentally at odds” with the mission of Peter Salovey’s Yale?

I anticipate a quicker response to these revelations than the administrators managed in the Calhoun College case…

H/T to Amy Alkon for the link.

January 16, 2017

Why do millennials earn some 20% less than boomers did at the same stage of life?

Filed under: Economics — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

Tim Worstall explains why we shouldn’t be up in arms about the reported shortfall in millennial earnings compared to their parents’ generation at the same stage:

Part of the explanation here is that the millennials are better educated. We could take that to be some dig at what the snowflakes are learning in college these days but that’s not quite what I mean. Rather, they’re measuring the incomes of millennials in their late 20s. The four year college completion or graduation rate has gone up by some 50% since the boomers were similarly measured. Thus, among the boomers at that age there would be more people with a decade of work experience under their belt and fewer people in just the first few years of a professional career.

And here’s one of the things we know about blue collar and professional wages. Yes, the lifetime income as a professional is likely higher (that college wage premium and all that) but blue collar wages actually start out better and then don’t rise so much. Thus if we measure a society at the late 20s age and a society which has moved to a more professional wage structure we might well find just this result. The professionals making less at that age, but not over lifetimes, than the blue collar ones.

[…]

We’ve also got a wealth effect being demonstrated here. The millennials have lower net wealth than the boomers. Part of that is just happenstance of course. We’ve just had the mother of all recessions and housing wealth was the hardest hit part of it. And thus, given that housing equity is the major component of household wealth until the pension is fully topped up late in life, that wealth is obviously going to take a hit in the aftermath. There is another effect too, student debt. This is net wealth we’re talking about so if more of the generation is going to college more of the generation will have that negative wealth in the form of student debt. And don’t forget, it’s entirely possible to have negative net wealth here. For we don’t count the degree as having a wealth value but we do count the loans to pay for it as negative wealth.

January 14, 2017

QotD: The intellectual monoculture of universities

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

Among the great ironies surrounding the state of academia is the continued insistence on hearing more and more “marginalized voices” and increasing “diversity” on campus, as if there is some kind of archaic conservative establishment making that difficult to do.

One would likely be hard-pressed to find a more left-leaning group than college professors and admissions officers, who prioritize pulling marginalized groups out of their marginalization and adding people of diverse cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds to campus conversations.

Yet in their efforts to achieve a more egalitarian conversation, left-wing academics and their students completely ignore (at best) and marginalize (at worst) students and the rare colleague who disagree with them politically.

And therein lies the ultimate irony: The very voices that decry inequality in all its manifestations either accept or turn a blind eye to the stunning dearth of conservative academics and the de facto censorship of right-wing students on overwhelmingly left-wing campuses.

Were it some other group suffering such a marginalization, there is no doubt that the left would be up in arms, crying discrimination and demanding rectification.

Some might even call such a monopoly on prevailing campus orthodoxy a type of “privilege,” defined as an asset “of value that is denied to others simply because of the groups they belong to,” to quote Peggy McIntosh, the matriarch of privilege’s modern construction.

While the marginalization of right-wing thinkers on campus in no way compares to the experience of black Americans throughout history, it might behoove left-wingers on college campuses to think about the various privileges from which they benefit simply by being members of the overwhelmingly dominant group in their academic communities.

Tal Fortgang, “38 ways college students enjoy ‘Left-wing Privilege’ on campus”, The College Fix, 2015-06-24.

January 13, 2017

Jonathan Haidt on the rise of the “microaggression” concept

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

He is commenting on an article in Perspectives on Psychological Science (PDF):

The microaggression program teaches students the exact opposite of ancient wisdom. Microaggression training is — by definition — instruction in how to detect ever-smaller specks in your neighbor’s eye. Microaggression training tells students that “life itself is exactly what you think it is — you have a direct pipeline to reality, and the person who offended you does not, so go with your feelings.” Of course, the ancients could be wrong on these points, but the empirical evidence for the importance of appraisal and the ubiquity of bias and hypocrisy is overwhelming (I review it in chapters 2 and 4 of The Happiness Hypothesis). As Lilienfeld shows, the empirical evidence supporting the utility and validity of the microaggression concept is minimal at best.

I think the section of Lilienfeld’s article that should most make us recoil from the microaggression program is the section on personality traits, particularly negative emotionality and the tendency to perceive oneself as a victim. These are traits — correlated with depression and anxiety disorders — that some students bring with them from high school to college. Students who score high on these traits perceive more microaggressions in ambiguous circumstances. These traits therefore bring misery and anger to the students themselves, and these negative emotions and the conflicts they engender are likely to radiate outward through the students’ social networks (Christakis & Fowler, 2009). How should colleges (and other institutions) respond to the presence of high scorers in their midst? Should they offer them cognitive behavioral therapy or moral validation? Should they hand them a copy of The Dhammapada or a microaggression training manual?

It’s bad enough to make the most fragile and anxious students quicker to take offense and more self-certain and self-righteous. But what would happen if you took a whole campus of diverse students, who arrive from all over the world with very different values and habits, and you train all of them to react with pain and anger to ever-smaller specks that they learn to see in each other’s eyes?

And what would happen if the rise of the microaggression concept coincided with the rise of social media, so that students can file charges against each other — and against their professors — within minutes of any perceived offense? The predictable result of welcoming the microaggression program to campus is turmoil, distrust, and anger. It is the end of the open environment we prize in the academy, where students feel free to speak up and challenge each other, their professors, and orthodox ideas. On a campus that polices microaggressions, everyone walks on eggshells.

H/T to David Thompson for the link.

January 7, 2017

QotD: LSD and the Baby Boomers

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

My classmates [destroyed themselves on drugs]. The authentic imaginations, the really innovative people of my generation, the most daring of my generation took the drug. Now I, for some reason, felt that the LSD was untested, and I did not want to experiment with it. But I was very interested in it. I was interested in all types of vision quests at the time. I went up with fellow students [from SUNY-Binghamton] to see Timothy Leary speak at Cornell. I saw him, and it made me uneasy that here was the guru with such a crowd around him, but his face was already twitching. I could see that this was not going to end well, and it did not.

So when I got to graduate school in 1968, I can attest to the fact that no authentically radical student of the 1960s ever went to graduate school. So all that were left were the time-servers, who parasitically [lived] on the achievements of the 1960s, for heaven’s sake. Any authentic leftist who had a job at a university in the 1970s or ’80s or ’90s should have been opposing the entire evolution of the university — that is, toward this administrative bureaucracy that has totally robbed power from the faculty. The total speciousness and fraud of academic leftism is proven by the passivity of these people in every department of the university to that power play that happened.

Camille Paglia, “Everything’s Awesome and Camille Paglia Is Unhappy!”, Reason, 2015-05-30.

December 31, 2016

Signaling

Filed under: Economics — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 04:00

Published on 23 Sep 2015

A signal is an action that reveals information. Let’s look at higher education, for example. A large fraction of the value you receive from your degree comes on the day you earn your diploma. Your expected wages don’t increase with each class you complete along the way; instead, they spike sharply at the end when you receive your diploma. This is often referred to as the “Sheepskin Effect” because diplomas used to be printed on sheepskin.

Nobel Prize winner Michael Spence did research on this subject and found that education is valuable not necessarily because it creates valuable skills, but rather that it signals valuable skills. So how does the signal, represented by a degree, alleviate asymmetric information?

Employers don’t necessarily know how smart or skilled you are. Your degree, however, provides a credible signal of these traits and gives them more information they can use in the hiring process.

What other signals exist? We discuss examples like diamond engagement rings, why criminals tattoo their face, and why a peacock has a colorful tail. Let us know what examples you come up with in the comments.

December 30, 2016

University – now “a regular source for ‘What wacky stuff are they up to on campus?’ articles”

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

Will universities continue their decades-long flight from relevance to become the next decade’s equivalent of “Florida Man”?

My academic field, American Studies, is the interdisciplinary study of American cultures, past and present. Once it was a vibrant and useful discipline. Today, I’m sad to report, it is a regular source for “What wacky stuff are they up to on campus?” articles and blogs.

These days, when American Studies captures any attention, it’s usually for unfortunate reasons.

Sometimes, a jargon-y article wins an ironic bad writing award. Consider, for example this excerpt from a paper in the Australasian Journal of American Studies:

    Natural history museums, like the American Museum, constitute one decisive means for power to de-privatize and re-publicize, if only ever so slightly, the realms of death by putting dead remains into public service as social tokens of collective life, rereading dead fossils as chronicles of life’s everlasting quest for survival, and canonizing now dead individuals as nomological emblems of still living collectives in Nature and History. An anatomo-politics of human and non-human bodies is sustained by accumulating and classifying such necroliths in the museum’s observational/expositional performances.

Sometimes a pop culture class becomes an extramural joke, such as the “Zombie Studies” courses that were all the rage a few years ago. And sometimes an American Studies professor decides to use the classroom for “social activism” where the idea is to substitute studying with protesting.

I might chuckle if I weren’t employed and mentally invested in the field, and if I did not have residual respect for the open-minded, pragmatic approaches which marked American Studies for the first decades of its existence. But sadly, for the last generation, American Studies — beset by a nagging awareness that making interdisciplinarity the norm when studying culture became mission accomplished at least 20 years ago — has scooted pell-mell towards politicization in a misbegotten effort to remain relevant.

The result today is an academic sub-specialty wedded to a tightly-corseted belief that the United States represents the locus of sin (racism, sexism, colonialism, and the like) in the modern world, and that any study of America should restrict itself to call-outs and condemnations. American Studies now serves chiefly as validation system for academicians who know their findings in advance: racism, sexism, and imperialism.

Increasingly, the field is hostile to scholars who don’t want to use it just to berate American traditions and signal their imagined virtue.

December 21, 2016

Mapping the new western caste system

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

An interesting re-map of India’s caste system to modern day western society:

I move professionally in circles where lib-left “virtue signaling” is taken for granted, especially inside the US. (Academia outside the US, while no less in the grip of a collective moral superiority complex, at least tolerates dissenters to some degree.)

As I was perusing Trump’s cabinet list in the Times of London the other day, I was struck not so much by the names — some ‘feck yeah!’, some ‘well, OK’, some ‘meh’ — as by what wasn’t there. The ‘Brahmandarins™’ had been left behind, as it were. Allow me to expand.

Traditional society in India has myriad little jatis (“births”, freely: castes), but they ultimately derive from four (plus one) major varnas (“colors”, freely: classes). While caste membership and profession are more fluid than generally assumed by Westerners, these five major groupings do exist to the present day, and are mostly endogamous. From top to bottom, the varnas are:

  1. Brahmins (scholars)
  2. Kshatryas (warriors, rulers, administrators)
  3. Vaishyas (merchants, artisans, and farmers)
  4. Shudras (laborers)
  5. Finally, the Dalit (downtrodden, outcasts — the term “pariah” is considered so offensive it has become “the p-word”) are traditionally considered beneath the varna system altogether, as are other “Scheduled Castes” (a legal term in present-day India, referring to eligibility for affirmative action).

The upper three varnas bear some resemblance to the three Estates of the French ancien régime: clergy, nobility, and the bourgeoisie (le tiers état, the Third Estate). American society used to be a byword for social mobility (“the American dream”) — but a stratification has set in, and it takes little imagination to identify strata of Dalit, Shudras, and Vaishyas in modern American society. The numerically small subculture of military families could be identified as America’s Kshatryas. So where are the Brahmins? (No, I’m not referring to the old money Boston elite.) And why am I using the portmanteau “Brahmandarins” for our New Class?

In India one was, of course, born into the Brahmin varna, and they actually delegated the messy business of governance to the varna below them. In China’s Middle Kingdom, on the other hand, not only was the scholarly Mandarin caste actually the backbone of governance, but in principle anyone who passed the civil service exams could become a Mandarin.

Originally, these exams were meant to foster a meritocracy. Predictably, over time, they evolved to select for conformity over ability, being more concerned with literary style and knowledge of the classics than with any relevant technical expertise.

Hmm, sounds familiar? Consider America’s “New Class”: academia, journalism, “helping” professions, nonprofits, community organizers, trustafarian artists,… Talent for something immediately verifiable (be it playing the piano, designing an airplane, or buying-and-selling,… ) or a track record of tangible achievements are much less important than credentials — degrees from the right places, praise from the right press organs,…

December 16, 2016

QotD: Pre-Traumatic Stress Disorder

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

… it might have been worth mentioning that, whatever the validity of PTSD as a diagnosis, most people who experience a traumatic event in life do not suffer from it. As is to be expected of a creature as protean as Man, people respond differently to their experiences. They do not forget the trauma, but its memory does not affect their subsequent lives in any pathological way. I once met an American psychiatrist, John E. Nardini, who had been a prisoner of the Japanese for more than three years, who had seen half his fellow prisoners die of hunger and disease, and who had himself suffered from beriberi, but who felt that the appalling experience, which of course he would have wished on no one, had actually strengthened him. The development of PTSD does not follow from trauma as the night does the day, but depends on many things — no doubt the culture of the traumatized among them.

In any case, PTSD is largely irrelevant to what Heer is writing about. He isn’t writing about post-traumatic stress disorder at all, but rather, a new diagnosis of pre-traumatic stress disorder. I can’t help but recall the case of Mr. Podsnap, in Charles Dickens’s Our Mutual Friend:

    A certain institution in Mr. Podsnap’s mind which he called “the young person” may be considered to have been embodied in Miss Podsnap, his daughter. It was an inconvenient and exacting institution, as requiring everything in the universe to be filed down and fitted to it. The question about everything was, would it bring a blush into the cheek of the young person? And the inconvenience of the young person was, that, according to Mr. Podsnap, she seemed always liable to burst into blushes when there was no need at all. There appeared to be no line of demarcation between the young person’s excessive innocence, and another person’s guiltiest knowledge.

What is most interesting from the cultural point of view about the preposterous nonsense of trigger warnings for Victorian books is the obvious thirst or desire for victimization that they express. Victims are the heroes of the politically correct; their victimhood confers unique moral authority upon them ex officio. And since many would like to be a unique moral authority, it follows that they would like to be a victim. The fact soon follows the wish, at least in their own estimation; and this, of course, provides much work and justifies much power for the self-proclaimed protectors of victims. University teachers become the curators of figurines of the finest porcelain, which only they are allowed to touch.

This is a case in which caricature is the best way of capturing truth.

Theodore Dalrymple, “Pre-Traumatic Stress Disorder: On the phenomenon of campus ‘trigger” warnings’, City Journal, 2015-05-27.

December 9, 2016

Global anti-libertarianism

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

Tom G. Palmer on the rising tide of anti-libertarian parties, organizations, and groups around the world:

A spectre is haunting the world: the spectre of radical anti-libertarian movements, each grappling with the others like scorpions in a bottle and all competing to see which can dismantle the institutions of liberty the fastest. Some are ensconced in the universities and other elite centers, and some draw their strength from populist anger. The leftist and the rightist versions of the common anti-libertarian cause are, moreover, interconnected, with each fueling the other. All explicitly reject individual liberty, the rule of law, limited government, and freedom of exchange, and they promote instead radical, albeit aggressively opposed, forms of identity politics and authoritarianism. They are dangerous and should not be underestimated.

In various guises, such movements are challenging libertarian values and principles across the globe, especially in Europe, in America, and in parts of Asia, but their influence is felt everywhere. They share a radical rejection of the ideas of reason, liberty, and the rule of law that animated the American Founding and are, indeed, the foundations of modernity. Those who prefer constitutionalism to dictatorship, free markets to cronyist or socialist statism, free trade to autarchy, toleration to oppression, and social harmony to irreconcilable antagonism need to wake up, because our cause and the prosperity and peace it engenders are in grave danger.

THREE THREATS

At least three symbiotic threats to liberty can be seen on the horizon: a) identity politics and the zero-sum political economy of conflict and aggression they engender; b) populism and the yearning for strongman rule that invariably accompanies it; and c) radical political Islamism. They share certain common intellectual fountainheads and form an interlocking network, energizing each other at the expense of the classical liberal consensus.

Although all those movements are shot through with fallacies, especially economic fallacies, they are not driven merely by lack of understanding of economic principles, as so many statist interventions are. While most support for the minimum wage, trade restrictions, or prohibition of narcotics rests on factual misapprehensions of their consequences, the intellectual leaders of these illiberal movements are generally not thoughtless people. They often understand libertarian ideas fairly well, and they reject them root and branch. They believe that the ideas of equality before the law, of rule-based legal and political systems, of toleration and freedom of thought and speech, of voluntary trade — especially among strangers — for mutual benefit, and of imprescriptible and equal individual rights are phony, self-interested camouflage for exploitation promoted by evil elites, and that those who uphold them are either evil themselves or hopelessly naïve.

H/T to Johnathan Pearce for the link.

November 7, 2016

Rolling Stone and the Nicole Eramo lawsuit

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

The jury decided that Rolling Stone magazine and the writer Sabrina Rubin Erdely did defame University of Virginia associate dean Nicole Eramo. Tim Newman comments on the (to him, satisfying) outcome of the case:

As soon as that story was published it got torn apart on the internet. Crucially, those tearing it apart were not just the red pill/manosphere/PUA sites either. Plenty of moderate, mainstream sites cast serious doubts on the story and I read a few of them.

Common sense would have told you there was something seriously amiss. From memory, “Jackie” recounts being thrown onto a glass-topped coffee table so hard that it shattered beneath her and then raped where she lay. You don’t need to be a practicing rapist to know that any guy who did that would be risking serious injury to himself: there are arguments over the involuntary circumcision of males, but I don’t think they cover rapists going about their business in lakes of shattered glass. She would also have sustained major damage had she been subject to those levels of violence: lacerations, fractures, bruising which she could have shown to the police and would have needed hospital treatment.

It was bullshit, but that wasn’t what made people angry. Lots of stories in the media are bullshit and nobody cares. So what made this one different? It was because those who supposedly supported “Jackie’s” version of events and abused those who questioned it wanted it to be true. For them, it was a better outcome that she had really been raped than for the story to have been fabricated.

[…]

So have they learned their lesson? It would appear not:

    In a statement, the magazine added: “It is our deep hope that our failings do not deflect from the pervasive issues discussed in the piece, and that reporting on sexual assault cases ultimately results in campus policies that better protect our students.”

Those “pervasive issues” being complete fabrications which exist only in the minds of a handful of mentally disturbed students who were cynically exploited by some of the worst people ever to infest academia and journalism anywhere.

I hope the lawsuits keep coming and they are sued out of existence.

H/T to Jeff Scarbrough for the link.

November 3, 2016

QotD: How culture is spread in theory and in practice

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

If mediation is necessary for the average person to understand art (and sometimes it is), then this mediation is available in profusion via the same channels as the arts themselves. The local library, your parents, friends, the internet, book clubs, private teachers, interested amateurs … the list goes on and on. These are the vectors by which “culture” is injected into society. We learn culture from the artists and from our fellow men, not from learned dons who sit around stroking their beards and fretting about the malign influence of the hegemonic white-male patriarchy.

“But the internet is full of lies, mistakes, craziness, and utter junk!” the humanities profs might reply.

This is true. But this is also true of university humanities departments. At least YouTube won’t charge you thirty grand a year to teach you nonsense.

Most university liberal arts programs are not really about the arts; they are about politics as expressed through art. These politics are nearly unanimously leftist, and even worse disdain the very social and cultural constructs that gave birth to the “liberal arts” in the first place: literacy, religious belief, cultural confidence, and the notion of excellence in artistic execution as well as artistic intent. The purpose of instruction in many cases is not to teach why this or that work of art is great; the intent is to instead subvert the work and show why it is not great (because the artist is too white, too male, too European, too far outside the Progressive political frame to be acceptable to correctly-thinking people).

These are the wages of relativism and deconstructionism and “critical theory”: there is no magnetic north the artistic compass can point to. There is no way to navigate this ocean. All the humanities professor can say is that since one point is as good as any other, maybe it’s better to just stay where you are. If you must move, any random direction is pretty much the same — there’s no real destination, so you can never be lost. This theory of the arts asks little and returns little; it nourishes neither life nor spirit. Perhaps this is why the humanities courses in universities are dying out.

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

October 30, 2016

Victorian-style feminism today

Filed under: Media, Politics, USA — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

A recent interview with Camille Paglia in the Spectator included a blast at the direction modern feminism has taken:

Paglia’s feminism has always been concerned with issues far beyond her own navel and the Hillary verdict is typical of her attitude — which is more in touch with women in the real world than most feminists’ (a majority of Americans, for example, have an ‘unfavourable view of Hillary Clinton’ according to recent polling).

‘My philosophy of feminism,’ the New York-born 69-year-old explains, ‘I call street-smart Amazon feminism. I’m from an immigrant family. The way I was brought up was: the world is a dangerous place; you must learn to defend yourself. You can’t be a fool. You have to stay alert.’ Today, she suggests, middle-class girls are being reared in a precisely contrary fashion: cosseted, indulged and protected from every evil, they become helpless victims when confronted by adversity. ‘We are rocketing backwards here to the Victorian period with this belief that women are not capable of making decisions on their own. This is not feminism — which is to achieve independent thought and action. There will never be equality of the sexes if we think that women are so handicapped they can’t look after themselves.’

Paglia traces the roots of this belief system to American campus culture and the cult of women’s studies. This ‘poison’ — as she calls it — has spread worldwide. ‘In London, you now have this plague of female journalists… who don’t seem to have made a deep study of anything…’

Paglia does not sleep with men — but she is, very refreshingly, in favour of them. She never moans about ‘the patriarchy’ but freely asserts that manmade capitalism has enabled her to write her books.

As for male/female relations, she says that they are far more complex than most feminists insist. ‘I wrote a date-rape essay in 1991 in which I called for women to stand up for themselves and learn how to handle men. But now you have this shibboleth, “No means no.” Well, no. Sometimes “No” means “Not yet”. Sometimes “No” means “Too soon”. Sometimes “No” means “Keep trying and maybe yes”. You can see it with the pigeons on the grass. The male pursues the female and she turns away, and turns away, and he looks a fool but he keeps on pursuing her. And maybe she’s testing his persistence; the strength of his genes… It’s a pattern in the animal kingdom — a courtship pattern…’ But for pointing such things out, Paglia adds, she has been ‘defamed, attacked and viciously maligned’ — so, no, she is not in the least surprised that wolf-whistling has now been designated a hate crime in Birmingham.

Girls would be far better advised to revert to the brave feminist approach of her generation — when women were encouraged to fight all their battles by themselves, and win. ‘Germaine Greer was once in this famous debate with Norman Mailer at Town Hall. Mailer was formidable, enormously famous — powerful. And she just laid into him: “I was expecting a hard, nuggety sort of man and he was positively blousy…” Now that shows a power of speech that cuts men up. And this is the way women should be dealing with men — finding their weaknesses and susceptibilities… not bringing in an army of pseudo, proxy parents to put them down for you so you can preserve your perfect girliness.’

October 23, 2016

Engaging with “challenging subjects”

Filed under: Health, History — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

In the Guardian, Frank Furedi talks about the challenges faced by university instructors when they need to expose their students to “challenging materials”:

Students studying the archaeology of modern conflict at University College, London, have been told they are permitted to leave class if they find the discussion of historical events “disturbing” or traumatising. This does not surprise me. Shielding students from topics deemed sensitive is fast gaining influence in academic life.

My colleague at another university showed a picture of an emaciated Hungarian Jewish woman liberated from a death camp. A student, yelled out, “stop showing this, I did not come here to be traumatised”, disrupting his lecture on the Hungarian Holocaust. After the student complained of distress, caused by the disturbing image, my colleague was told by an administrator to be more careful when discussing such a sensitive subject. “How can I teach the Holocaust without unsettling my students?” asked my friend. Academics who now feel they have to mind their words are increasingly posing such questions.

Throughout the Anglo-American world universities have drawn up protocols warning of exposing students to “sensitive subjects”. Astonishingly, the university is now subject to practices that demand levels of conformism historically associated with narrow-minded, illiberal institutions. The terms “sensitive subject” or “challenging subject” are used by administrators to designate a class of topics portrayed as a risk to students’ wellbeing.

[…]

It is difficult to think of any powerful literary text that does not disturb a reader’s sensibility. Consequently virtually any classic text could incite a demand for a trigger warning. A Durham University student complained that his class was “expected to sit through lectures and tutorials discussing Lavinia’s rape in Titus Andronicus”, though he was delighted that “we did get a trigger warning about bestiality with regard to part of the lecture on A Midsummer Night’s Dream”.

It is difficult to avoid the conclusion that, once sensitivity becomes a commanding value in academic teaching, the range of topics deemed sensitive will expand. This has far-reaching implications for academic teaching. Once the teaching of an academic topic becomes subordinated to a criterion that is external to it – such as the value of sensitivity – it risks losing touch with the integrity of its subject matter. At the very least, academics have to become wary of teaching topics in accordance with their own inclination as to what is the right way of communicating their subject.

Sadly, far too many academics have responded to the pressure to protect students from disturbing ideas by censoring themselves.

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