I have criticized Princeton on a number of occasions, but it deserves credit for hosting this statement on free speech and engaging contrary opinion from Cornel West and Robert George (who used to teach a class together at Princeton).
Archive for the ‘Education’ Category.
All these observations are good, but I will give you the first three:
1. The U.S. leads the world in health care spending per person, but not in health care outcomes. Many people look at that and say that health care costs too much in the U.S., and we should be able to get the same our better outcomes by sending less. Maybe that is correct, maybe not. That is not the point here. But–
2. the U.S. leads the world in K-12 education spending per student, but not in student outcomes. Yet nobody, says that education costs too much and that we should spend less. Except–
3. me. I believe that we spend way too much on K-12 educatio
In 1973, when Ford was rolling out such losers as the Pinto and the Mustang II, would the cars have been any better if the Ford designers had, say, a budget twice as large? Or would the same people have continued to roll out the same bad cars, just more expensively, until competition from Japan and Europe forced American car makers to get their act together?
If you have not been to a Sears store lately, and you have lots of company. If you do not shop at Sears, think about why. Now, imagine that Sears were to double the number of employees in their local store. Would that change your mind and suddenly send you into the store to shop? No?
There are times when everything about an organization is broken -- its management, its culture, its strategy. These organizations may have perfectly good people in them -- I have no doubt that the folks at Ford in the 1970's were capable people, as are the employees at my local Sears store. I call all these factors "organizational DNA". This is from years ago about a corporate example, but the same is true of any organization:
All these management factors, from the managers themselves to process to history to culture could better be called the corporate DNA. And DNA is very hard to change. Walmart may be freaking brilliant at what they do, but demand that they change tomorrow to an upscale retailer marketing fashion products to teenage girls, and I don't think they would ever get there. ...
Corporate DNA acts as a value multiplier. The best corporate DNA has a multiplier greater than one, meaning that it increases the value of the people and physical assets in the corporation. When I was at a company called Emerson Electric (an industrial conglomerate, not the consumer electronics guys) they were famous in the business world for having a corporate DNA that added value to certain types of industrial companies through cost reduction and intelligent investment. Emerson's management, though, was always aware of the limits of their DNA, and paid careful attention to where their DNA would have a multiplier effect and where it would not. Every company that has ever grown rapidly has had a DNA that provided a multiplier greater than one... for a while.
But things change. Sometimes that change is slow, like a creeping climate change, or sometimes it is rapid, like the dinosaur-killing comet. DNA that was robust no longer matches what the market needs, or some other entity with better DNA comes along and out-competes you. When this happens, when a corporation becomes senescent, when its DNA is out of date, then its multiplier slips below one. The corporation is killing the value of its assets. Smart people are made stupid by a bad organization and systems and culture. In the case of GM, hordes of brilliant engineers teamed with highly-skilled production workers and modern robotic manufacturing plants are turning out cars no one wants, at prices no one wants to pay.
I would argue that public schools in many parts of the country are in this situation. Any organization can become senescent with value-killing DNA, but this process happens much more rapidly when there is no competition, as has been the case for public schools which have enjoyed a virtual monopoly enforced by the government (you can go to a competing school but you still have to pay for the government school you are not using).
If I am right, then the last thing you would expect to help is simply pouring more money into the same management, the same culture, the same organizational DNA. But that is exactly what we have done. That has been our lead strategy for 35 years, and still remains the preferred strategy of the Left. Via Mark Perry:
Despite this history, President Obama's strategy was to throw even more money at the schools, and again it did not work:
One of the Obama administration’s signature efforts in education, which pumped billions of federal dollars into overhauling the nation’s worst schools, failed to produce meaningful results, according to a federal analysis.
Test scores, graduation rates and college enrollment were no different in schools that received money through the School Improvement Grants program — the largest federal investment ever targeted to failing schools — than in schools that did not.
The Education Department published the findings on the website of its research division on Wednesday, hours before President Obama’s political appointees walked out the door.
“We’re talking about millions of kids who are assigned to these failing schools, and we just spent several billion dollars promising them things were going to get better,” said Andy Smarick, a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute who has long been skeptical that the Obama administration’s strategy would work. “Think of what all that money could have been spent on instead.”
One will hear that criticism of public schools in unfair because they have all these great teachers in them. Examples will be cited. I say: "Exactly!" That is why change is needed. Public schools are hiring good people and putting them in an organization and system where they deliver poor results. Let's liberate this talent.
By the way, one of the misconceptions about school choice is that it necessarily means the end of public schools. I find this an unlikely outcome, at least in most areas. Competition from Japan meant that Ford lost some of its customers to Toyota, but it also meant that Ford became a lot better.
left-leaning kids ... today can sail through 16 years of education without ever encountering a contrary point of view. Ironically, it is kids on the Left who are being let down the most, raised intellectually as the equivalent of gazelles in a petting zoo rather than wild on the Serengeti.
In the morning, I woke up to a New York Times news alert and social media feeds filled with disappointment. The United States had democratically elected a man who, among so many other despicable qualities and policies, is accused of and boasts about committing sexual assault. As a woman passionate about gender equality, women’s leadership, and ending sexual violence; as someone dedicated to the Clinton campaign and ready to make history; and, quite frankly, as a human being, I didn’t know how to process this. I still don’t. I felt for my friends and anyone who feels that this result puts their safety and their loved ones’ safety at risk, acknowledging that I am not the person this outcome will affect the most.
I didn’t leave my room Wednesday morning. I sat and sobbed and I still have the tissues all over my floor to prove it. When I absolutely had to get up for class, I put on my “Dare to say the F-word: Feminism” t-shirt and my “A woman belongs in the House and the Senate” sweatshirt to make myself feel stronger. Still crying, I left my room.
After hearing the election results, I had expected that the vandal would have torn down my angry note or left some snide comment. To my surprise, it was still there, and people had left supportive notes beside it. I have no idea whether the vandal is a Trump supporter or a misguided prankster unable to fathom the negative impact that a Trump presidency will have on so many people. But I know that the love and kindness others anonymously left gave me the support I needed Wednesday morning.
In every election since I was about 18 years old, I woke up on the day after the election to a President-elect I did not support, one who championed policies I thought to be misguided or even dangerous. But I had the mental health to go on with my life; and I had the knowledge, from a quality western history education (which no longer seems to be taught in high school or at Princeton), that our government was set up to be relatively robust to bad presidents; and I had the understanding, because I ate and drank and went to class and lived with many other students with whom I disagreed (rather than hiding in rubber room safe spaces created by my tribe), that supporters of other political parties were not demons, but were good and well-intentioned people with whom I disagreed.
I have written before that many universities have focused on creating true diversity of skin pigments and reproductive plumbing among their students but in their primary world of ideas, have created an intellectual monoculture. If you don't believe it, check out this quote from a Yale dean in the Yale Daily News.
Despite ongoing campus discussions about free speech, Yale remains deeply unwelcoming to students with conservative political beliefs, according to a News survey distributed earlier this month.
Nearly 75 percent of 2,054 respondents who completed the survey — representing views across the political spectrum — said they believe Yale does not provide a welcoming environment for conservative students to share their opinions on political issues. Among the 11.86 percent of respondents who described themselves as either “conservative” or “very conservative,” the numbers are even starker: Nearly 95 percent said the Yale community does not welcome their opinions. About two-thirds of respondents who described themselves as “liberal” or “very liberal” said Yale is not welcoming to conservative students.
By contrast, more than 98 percent of respondents said Yale is welcoming to students with liberal beliefs. And among students who described themselves as “liberal” or “very liberal,” 85 percent said they are “comfortable” or “very comfortable” sharing their political views in campus discussions.
In an interview with the News, Yale College Dean Jonathan Holloway said the results of the survey were lamentable but unsurprising. Holloway attributed conservative students’ discomfort at sharing their views partly to the pervasiveness of social media.
“So much of your generation’s world is managed through smart phones. There’s no margin anymore for saying something stupid,” Holloway said. “People have been saying dumb things forever, but when I was your age word of mouth would take a while. Now it’s instantaneous, now context is stripped away.”
So the reason Conservatives have a problem at Yale, according to the Yale administration, is that Yale people don't tolerate folks who are stupid. LOL. The Dean later tried to back away from this statement, arguing that he did not mean Conservatives said stupid things, but his comments don't make any sense in any other context.
The institution is certainly hurt by this sort of narrow-mindedness. It is more of a mixed bag for students. While Conservatives are certainly frustrated they are frequently not allowed to bring speakers from their side of political issues to campus, there is potentially a silver lining. As I wrote previously in my letter to Princeton:
I suppose I should confess that this has one silver lining for my family. My son just graduated Amherst College, and as a libertarian he never had a professor who held similar views. This means that he was constantly challenged to defend his positions with faculty and students who at a minimum disagreed, and in certain cases considered him to be a pariah. In my mind, he likely got a better education than left-leaning kids who today can sail through 16 years of education without ever encountering a contrary point of view. Ironically, it is kids on the Left who are being let down the most, raised intellectually as the equivalent of gazelles in a petting zoo rather than wild on the Serengeti,.
Why I Don't Donate To My University Anymore -- A Recent Letter to Princeton President Christopher L. Eisgruber
Christopher L. Eisgruber
1 Nassau Hall
Princeton, NJ 08544
The other day I received a call from a Princeton student calling to encourage me to participate in annual giving this year. I was in a hurry, and I feel bad that I gave the student a rushed answer, but I told him that I thought universities were lost and that I no longer had any desire to donate money to any of them. The word “lost” is admittedly imprecise, but it was the best I could to summarize my concerns in a brief call.
When I was at Princeton, we used to laugh at those crotchety alumni who wrote angry letters about Princeton letting in women, or integrating the all-male eating clubs, or whatever else. I never imagined that someday I would find myself writing one of those “I can't donate to Princeton any more” letters, yet here I am doing just that.
- There is absolutely no guarantee that spending more money increases service quality, especially when (as is the case with public schools) there is no competition to discipline spending and ensure that it is funneled to those aspects of the service that are actually important to customers
- Over the last 20-30 years, administrative staffing in public schools has grown from a small percentage of the total to about half the headcount in many public school districts, and thus likely more than half the salary budget (since administrators frequently make more than teachers)
- Much of the increased funding is going to retired teachers who aren't actually teaching anyone
Per-student spending on K-12 education has risen steadily over the last two decades, but student test scores, and teacher salaries, are stagnant. Why hasn’t this massive increase in investment produced better teachers and better opportunity for students? The short-answer, according to a new Manhattan Institute report by Josh McGee: State and local governments have catastrophically mismanaged their teacher pension systems. The cash infusion to K-12 has been used largely to pay for irresponsible pension promises politicians made to teachers’ unions and justified to the public with shoddy accounting. . . .
In other words, to cover benefits for retirees, states need to dig into education funds that might otherwise be used to attract and retain good teachers or buy better textbooks and build new facilities. So long as state governments are unwilling to reform the blue model pension-for-life civil service system, and so long as teachers unions continue to wield outsized influence in so many state legislatures, this pattern seems likely to continue indefinitely.
Campaigns to increase spending on schools are always popular, and understandably so: Education ought to be a great equalizing force in our society and, in theory, an efficient way to invest in the future. The problem is that in many states, new “K-12 spending” isn’t really an investment so much as a transfer payment to retired employees of the public schools who have been promised untenable lifetime pension benefits.
Being A Victim Apparently Has More Status Now Than Being A Gold Medal Winner -- Ryan Lochte Channels "Jackie"
There appears to be no rational way to explain Ryan Lochte's bizarre need to make up a story about being the victim of an armed robbery. The media seems to be pushing the notion that he made up the story to cover up his own vandalism at a gas station, but that makes zero sense. He had already defused the vandalism incident with a payment of cash to the station owner. The rational response would be to just shut up about the whole thing and let it be forgotten.
But instead, he purposely made a big deal about the incident, switching around the facts until he was a victim of an armed assault by men posing as police officers, up to and including harrowing details of a cocked gun being jammed into his forehead. The incident, likely ignored otherwise, suddenly became a BIG DEAL and subsequent investigation (including multiple video sources) showed Lochte to be a bald-faced liar.
The only way I can explain Lochte's motivation is to equate it with the lies by "Jackie" at the University of Virginia, whose claims of being gang-raped as published in the Rolling Stone turned out to be total fabrications. Like Lochte, she dressed up the story with horrifying details, such as being thrown down and raped on a floor covered in broken glass. The only real difference I can see, in fact, between Lochte and Jackie is that the media still protects Jackie (via anonymity) from well-deserved humiliation for her lies while it is piling on Lochte.
I can sort of understand Jackie's motivation -- she was by all accounts a frustrated, perhaps disturbed, certainly lonely young woman who was likely looking for some way to dramatically change her life. But Lochte? Ryan Lochte has won multiple Olympic medals, historically in the sports world a marker of the highest possible status. But in today's world, Lochte viewed victimhood as even higher status.
There is one thing that activists can never, ever do: declare victory and go out of business. For activists, their chosen problem is always worse than ever and continuing to go downhill.
Here is an example, the book "Failing at Fairness," written in 1994 to make the case that education was failing girls. Here is one summary of the book:
Drawing on findings from 20 years of research on sexism in American classrooms, this book examines the history of women's education and its shortcomings. The hidden curriculum, the effect of gender bias on self-esteem, test results, and professional orientation of girls from primary education through college were examined through naturalistic observation. The results suggest that girls are systematically denied opportunities in areas where boys are encouraged to excel, often by well-meaning teachers who are unaware that they are transmitting sexist values. Girls are taught to speak quietly, to defer to boys, to avoid math and science, and to value neatness over innovation, appearance over intelligence. In the early grades, girls, brimming with intelligence and potential, routinely outperform boys on achievement tests, but by the time they graduate from high school they lag far behind boys--a process of degeneration that continues into adulthood.
All of this will seem familiar, as women's groups typically claim that things have gotten worse on all of these fronts since 1994. I have no doubt that these flaws exist, along with many others, in the government education system. You certainly won't get me defending the public schools. But I thought of this book today when I saw the chart below from Mark Perry, which I annotated with the publication date for Failing at Fairness:
It takes some work to look at this situation and decide that the main issue you want to highlight is how girls are getting hosed. But trust an activist to be up to the task.
Postscript: This seems relevant (it has been around the net for a while, so I don't know what source to link, sorry)
Sorry, I am a bit late on this but it came out while I was out of the country. While the New York AG is going after ExxonMobil and a number of think tanks to try to prosecute them, or at least intimidate them, for their past speech on climate issues, apparently the state of New York is also going after college students who want to boycott Israel.
I have never thought much of the BDS movement -- while like most western governments Israel certainly has its flaws, I find it bizarre that the BDS movement treats Israel like it's the worst government on Earth. In particular, I am amazed that BDS folks frequently, while they condemn Israel, act as apologists for neighboring Arab nations whose human rights records are objectively far worse.
All that being said, if they don't want to have anything to do with Israel and want to advocate for others to take the same approach, they are welcome to do so in a free country. But now there is this:
Continuing Gov. Andrew Cuomo's crusade against New Yorkers who don't support Israel, state Sen. Jack Martins (R-Nassau County) wants to ban public colleges and universities from funding pro-Palestinian student groups. A new bill sponsored by Martins would require state and city schools to defund any campus organization that supports efforts to "boycott, divest from, and sanction" (BDS) Israel over its treatment of Palestinians. The BDS movement has become popular on U.S. and U.K. campuses.
Martins' bill would also prohibit the funding of campus groups that support economic boycotts of any American-allied nation, although this bit seems designed to distract from his true goal: preventing anti-Israel sentiment on campus. In an interview with the New York Daily News, Martins referred to calls to boycott Israel as "hate speech" and "anti-Semitism" and said the state legislature has "no choice but to step in and prevent taxpayer dollars being used to promote" such sentiment.
If a state institution is going to fund student groups, then it needs to do so in a viewpoint neutral manner.
The only teeny tiny good part of this story is that perhaps a few campus Leftists who want to ban everything that they consider hate speech might have an epiphany that giving the government this sort of power is a bad idea, since one can never guarantee that one's own fellow travelers are going to be writing the hate speech definitions.
FIRE is looking for a client (University or aggrieved student) whom it can help sue the Department of Education over their sexual misconduct guidance
Five years ago today, the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) announced sweeping new requirements for colleges and universities adjudicating allegations of sexual misconduct. By unilaterally issuing these binding mandates via a controversial “Dear Colleague” letter (DCL), OCR ignored its obligation under federal law to notify the public of the proposed changes and solicit feedback.
To correct this error, and to begin to fix a broken system of campus sexual assault adjudication that regularly fails all involved, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) seeks a student or institution to challenge OCR’s abuse of power. FIRE has made arrangements to secure legal counsel for a student or institution harmed by OCR’s mandates and in a position to challenge the agency’s violation of the Administrative Procedure Act(APA). In keeping with FIRE’s charitable mission to advance the public interest, representation will be provided at no cost to the harmed party.
“In the five years since its issuance, OCR has acted as though the 2011 Dear Colleague letter is binding law—but it isn’t,” said FIRE Executive Director Robert Shibley. “By circumventing federal law, OCR ignored all stakeholders: victims, the accused, civil liberties advocates, administrators, colleges, law enforcement, and the general public. Real people’s lives are being irreparably harmed as a result. It’s time that OCR be held accountable.”
The DCL requires that schools use the low “preponderance of the evidence” standard of proof (i.e., that they find an accused student guilty with just 50.01 percent certainty) when adjudicating claims of sexual assault and sexual harassment. The DCL’s requirement that colleges use this standard—found nowhere in Title IX or its implementing regulations, and specified before 2011 only in letters between OCR and individual schools—effectively creates a new substantive rule for institutions to follow.
Here is what is amazing to me: Not a single university has challenged this rule, even though trashes the due process rights of is male students. These same universities had no problem defying the law on things like ROTC and army recruiting (which represent mostly voluntary enticements of their students) but have rolled over and played dead over this much more direct threat to their students' well-being.
Universities are, at their core, institutions based on knowledge and ideas. So of course, when they define diversity, they make no mention of knowledge or ideas but instead focus on skin pigmentation, reproductive plumbing, and preference in sexual partners. All the while, actual diversity of ideas, at least as measured by political affiliation, has gone down. For libertarians and conservatives, most would argue this understates the decline and would argue actual tolerance for non-left-of-center ideas has declined even faster than this chart would indicate. (via Kevin Drum)
Glenn Reynolds points to this story about Senator James Lankford challenging the Department of Education's "Dear Colleague" letters under the Administrative Procedures Act. Lankford argues that the letters, which essentially end due process on campus for men accused of any sort of sexual misconduct from telling dirty jokes to rape in the name of Title IX enforcement, represent a new regulation that should have been subject to official publication and public comment.
Instapundit says that Marco Rubio should have done this, rather than taking the DEA's side. Fair enough, but I have what I think is a better question -- why has not one single major university President brought a legal challenge against these letters? Many of them complain, at least in private, and the letters certainly appear to me to be an illegal overreach. But they all just rolled over and accepted it -- college Presidents all have become total lapdogs of the state. They tend to preen that they and their universities are "leaders", but I would argue that they are leaders only in the sense that a random guy standing on a boxcar of a moving train and pointing forward is the leader of the train.
You want leadership? Show me the first college President that formally rewrites their admission process to say "a minimum entry requirement will be the ability to maturely listen and respond to differing opinions without needing to crawl into and hide in a room full of stuffed animals and coloring books."
Postscript: From Lois McMaster Bujold's Komarr
"People have some very odd illusions about power. Mostly it consists of finding a parade and nipping over to place yourself at the head of the band. Just as eloquence consists of persuading people of things they desperately want to believe. Demagoguery, I suppose, is eloquence sliding to some least-moral energy point.... Pushing people uphill is one hell of a lot harder. You can break your heart, trying that."
It is weird to say that Bujold gets underrated, given all her awards, but I think she does -- in large part because her books are fun and enjoyable to read rather than gravid and soul-sucking, as seems to be the current SF fashion.
It is a tradition of Frank Lloyd Wright's Taliesin West architecture school (in Scottsdale, AZ) that students build their own small shelter in the desert. I am a fan of Dan Simmons' Hyperion series. If any of you read it, perhaps you remember the section where Aenea is at some strange out-of-time version of this school. Following the real-world tradition, she builds her own dwelling in the desert.
These are not necessarily cardboard box and plywood forts -- many are real engineered structures whose materials can be expensive (the students do most of the building with their own hands). I wish more architecture schools emphasized their students actually constructing some of their own work.
The students are looking for your help to support their projects, and have a Kickstarter campaign in progress.
The video below shows what they are doing:
As an aside, if you are in Phoenix, I would put Taliesin West as one of the top 2 places to tour in town, along with the Musical Instrument Museum. Phoenix of course is much more of an outdoor town. The very top thing to do in town, not just to tour, is probably to climb Camelback Mountain or Piestawa peak. Both are mountains dead in the middle of the city, something that is relatively unusual (in Denver, Portland, Seattle, etc the mountains are off to one side). The views are spectacular, and there is no funicular or cable car. The view only rewards effort.
A group of Harvard Law professors wrote an editorial a while back criticizing parts of the movie "A Hunting Ground" -- a movie that from every thing I have seen offers a pretty fertile ground for criticism. Now, it appears that makers of the movie are considering using Title IX to suppress this criticism they don't like, arguing that since they are (to them) obviously the defenders of women, anyone who criticizes them must be attacking women. Suffice it to say that this is pretty far afield from what Title IX was meant to accomplish.
But last week the filmmakers did more than understandably disagree with criticism of the film, which has been short-listed for the Academy Award for best documentary. They wrote, in a statement to the Harvard Crimson, that “the very public bias these professors have shown in favor of an assailant contributes to a hostile climate at Harvard Law.” The words “hostile climate” contain a serious claim. At Harvard, sexual harassment is “unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature,” including verbal conduct that is “sufficiently persistent, pervasive, or severe” so as to create a “hostile environment.” If, as the filmmakers suggest, the professors’ statement about the film has created a hostile environment at the school, then, under Title IX, the professors should be investigated and potentially disciplined.
To my knowledge, no complaint of sexual harassment has been filed with Harvard’s Title IX office—though I’ve been told by a high-level administrator that several people have inquired about the possibility—and I don’t know if the school would proceed with an investigation. Precedent for such an investigation exists in the case of Laura Kipnis, a feminist film-studies professor at Northwestern University, who earlier this year wrote an article criticizing aspects of Title IX policies and culture and was accused of creating a hostile environment on campus; Northwestern conducted an investigation and ultimately cleared Kipnis of sexual-harassment charges. A handful of students have said that they feel unsafe at Harvard because of the professors’ statement about the film. If a Title IX complaint were filed and an investigation launched, the professors wouldn’t be permitted to speak about it, as that could be considered “retaliation” against those who filed the complaint, which would violate the campus sexual-harassment policy.
It's Stalinists all the way down.
Campus Progressives are becoming increasingly open about their opposition to unfettered free speech. As a minimum, they seem to want restrictions on (and thus punishments for) speech they feel disparages ethnic minorities, homosexuals, various flavors of trans-gendered people, etc. If pressed, many might extend these restrictions to other speech they don't like, e.g. climate skepticism or advocating for the Second Amendment.
What often confuses outsiders about these calls for speech restrictions is that they are generally asymmetrical -- eg it is OK to criticize Christians but not to criticize Muslims. You can impugn the motives of rich white males but not of blacks or Hispanics. Critics of these limitations will say, "aha, you are a hypocrite" but in fact Progressives are quite open about this asymmetry. They argue from a framework where everything comes back to the powerful vs. the powerless. In this framework, it is OK for the powerless to criticize the powerful, but the reverse is not allowed -- they call it "punching down". Thus the need for asymmetric speech limitations to protect the powerless from the powerful.
But this is where we get to a massive contradiction. Because whoever is in a position to enforce speech limitations is always going to be the person with power. By definition. The powerless don't write and succesfully enforce speech codes, or else if they do, we now have to call them powerful. And historically, people in power always use speech limitations to protect their own power. That is why the First Amendment exists, to protect minorities of any sort from the power of the majority. If historically disenfranchised people suddenly start making speech codes stick that protect them from criticism, it only means that the in-group and out-group tags have been shifted and the new in-group is acting just like all the other in-groups have in the past. That is why we don't rely on assurances of good behavior by people in power, we try to circumscribe them with Constitutional limitations.
With news that even yoga classes are being cancelled due to fears of Westerners appropriating from other cultures, I am led to wonder -- why don't these prohibitions go both ways? If as a white western male, I can't do yoga or host a Cinco de Mayo party or play the blues on the guitar, why does everyone else get to feed greedily from the trough of western culture? If I can't wear a sombrero, why do other cultures get to wear Lakers jerseys, use calculus, or even have polio vaccines? Heck, all this angst tends to occur at Universities, which are a quintessentially western cultural invention. Isn't the very act of attending Harvard a cultural appropriation for non-Westerners?
I say this all tongue in cheek just to demonstrate how stupid this whole thing is. Some of the greatest advances, both of science and culture, have occurred when cultures cross-pollinate. I have read several auto-biographies of musicians and artists and they all boil down to "I was exposed to this art/music from a different culture and it sent me off in a new direction." The British rock and roll invasion resulted from American black blues music being dropped into England, mutating for a few years, and coming back as the Beatles and the Rolling Stones.
Or here is an even better example: the movie"A fistful of Dollars". That was an American western with what has become a quintessentially American actor, Clint Eastwood. However, it was originally an Italian movie by Italian director Sergio Leone (it was not released in the US until 3 years after its Italian release). But Sergio Leone borrowed wholesale for this movie from famed Japanese director Akiro Kurosawa's Yojimbo. But Kurosawa himself often borrowed from American sources, fusing it with Japanese culture and history to produce many of his famous movies. While there is some debate on this, Yojimbo appears to be based on Dashiell Hammett's Red Harvest, a classic of American noir fiction.
I could write a book on Progressive reform efforts which begin as sensible liberalization efforts and then overshoot into authoritarianism. Gay marriage is a great example. Liberalizing stage 1: Let's give gay folks equal access to the benefits of protections of legal marriage. Authoritarian state 2: Let's punish any small business who refuses to serve a gay wedding.
I ran into another example the other day. Hillary tweeted out, "Every survivor of sexual assault deserves to be heard, believed, and supported" which is a common refrain among women's groups (we will leave aside the irony of Hillary making this statement after she has crushed a number of women who have made sexual assault claims against her husband).
In what I believe to be the initial meaning of this phrase, it was quite reasonable. In the past (and presumably on occasion today) women have gone to police or some other authority and claimed to have been raped or assaulted, and have been essentially ignored. A pat on the head and the little lady is sent home. Women, reasonably, wanted their charges to be taken seriously and investigated seriously. This is my memory of where this phrase, then, originally came from. It meant that when women claim to have been assaulted, authorities need to take these charges seriously and investigate them seriously.
But, as with most other things, Progressive reform which began as liberalizing and empowering has transitioned to being Stalinist. The meaning today of this phrase when used by most women's groups is that any such claims by women should not immediately trigger an investigation but should trigger an immediate conviction. The accused male should be immediately treated as guilty and punished, and any exercise of due process represents an assault on women -- never mind that the same SJW's taking this stance would take exactly the opposite stance on due process if the accused were, say, a black male in Ferguson accused of theft.
Arnold Kling has a good question in this post on secular stagnation. For most questions of the sort "would you rather the 1985 version of X for the 1985 (nominal) price or the 2015 version at the 2015 price, I would choose the latter. TV's? Cars? Phones? Computers? All way better for the price today. This of course implies that for many of these items, the inflation rate is really negative if we could adequately take into account quality and technology changes. Services are a different story. For health care, I would take the 2015 version and price. I would have to think about my answer for a while in air travel (I think folks overly romanticize their memory of air travel -- I was travelling PeopleExpress to Newark in the early 80's and that really, really sucked. My seat and meal are worse nowadays but I am more likely to be on time).
So Kling then asks about college education. These are convenient dates for me since I graduated in 1984. So would I rather Princeton in 1984 at about $10,000 or Princeton today at $60,000. I guess education-wise, the liberal arts course catalog at Princeton in 1984 was more closely matched to my interests, and I don't get any sense the faculty today is better or worse in either period but it likely was more politically diverse in 1984. So academically, I would easily give the nod to 1984. For the ancillary stuff, though, the change in quality has been substantial. The dorms, the dining options, the residential college system, the student center -- all the non-academic stuff is way better today. However, all that stuff is a lot of what is driving up the nominal price -- is it worth it? Yes, I suppose so if someone else is paying, lol. Probably not if I am paying my own way through.
A smart reader of mine pointed to this post and observed that given recent college events, we will likely see some changes. In that post I had pointed to something written by Peter Thiel:
Peter Thiel describes higher education as a "giant selection mechanism" and estimates that only 10% of the value of a college degree comes from actual learning, and 50% of the value comes from selection (getting into a selective university) and 40% comes from signalling (graduating from a selective college becomes known to employers). If employers could use intelligence tests instead of college degrees as measures of aptitude, it might be a lot more efficient and more cost-effective than the current practice of using very expensive four-year college degrees that add very little in terms of educational value (at least according to Thiel).
What does being a Yale grad signal after the last few weeks? What does Yale appear to be selecting for?
I further observed:
There is some rationality in this approach [to hiring mainly from the Ivies] – it is not all mindless snobbism. Take Princeton. It screens something like 25,000 already exceptional applicants down to just 1500, and then further carefully monitors their performance through intensive contact over a four year period. This is WAY more work and resources than a private firm could ever apply to the hiring process. In effect, by limiting their hiring to just a few top schools, they are outsourcing a lot of their performance evaluation work to those schools.
All this pre-supposed that colleges were looking for the same things that corporations were looking for -- bright, hard-working, clear-thinking, rational, easily educable people. But what if that is not what the Ivy League is selecting for any more? Do I really want to hire thin-skinned authoritarians who are unable to reasonably handle disagreement and will shut down the work of their peers over the smallest grievance? I had already quit the Princeton high school interviewing team because I no longer wanted to be part of a process that I thought was hosing hard-working Asian students. Now that I see who is being admitted in their stead, I am even more reluctant to be part of the admissions process.
According to my son, who is a senior at Amherst (one of the recent sites where the SJW Olympics have been held), more and more firms are doing different sorts of testing. Consultants all do case interviews now, which is a form of testing, and at least once he has been in investment banking interviews where he had to sit down and take an Excel skills test.
Update: Just saw this from Stephen Moore
Can you imagine the tyranny you would bring upon yourself by actually hiring one of these self-righteous complainers. Within a month they’d be slapping you with a lawsuit for not having a transgender bathroom. And you’ll be thinking: Right, but did you actually finish that assignment I gave you? Employers tell me despondently that the millennials are by far the highest maintenance generation they’ve ever seen. One recruiter recently told me: “They need their hands held, they demand affirmation, they are forever whining about their feelings. We really don’t have time to deal with their petty grievances.”
Which gives me the idea that every portrait in a public space of FDR needs to begin by talking about the unconscionable internship of Japanese and every portrait of Wilson needs to start with what an awful racist he was. Time to rename the Wilson school at Princeton!
On November 18, a group of Princeton students occupied the President's office (wow, everything old is new again) and, among their demands was the insistence that the Woodrow Wilson school be renamed because Wilson was a racist.
I have no quibble about calling Wilson a racist. However, I suggested removing his name mainly because I thought it was one racist the protesters would not challenge. Wilson was one of the fathers of the Constitutional reinterpretation in the 20th century that allowed the Progressive agenda to go forward at the Federal level, when so much of it wouldn't (and didn't) seem allowable by a straight-forward reading of the Constitution. Wilson is thus a sort of Godfather to the New Deal and the Great Society and even to Obama's end-runs around the legislature through executive action.
Of all the stupidities coming out of modern college Progressivism, perhaps one of the dumbest is the opposition to cultural appropriation. Progress comes from cultural mixing -- a good way to think of this is to imagine the opposite of "cultural appropriation" which would likely be something like "cultural apartheid". That doesn't sound good.
Take just one example -- popular music over the last century. For a variety of reasons (including their outsider status for much of American history), African Americans have been a font of musical innovation unmatched in the entire world. Jazz, blues, rock, Motown-style pop, funk, disco, and hip hop all owe much or all of their origins and power to American black music. Go ask even famous white groups like the Beatles and the Rolling Stones and Eric Clapton and Led Zeppelin who their inspirations were, and they will rattle off mostly black names from Howlin Wolf to Chuck Berry to George Clinton. Seriously, what Renaissance Italians were to painting, American blacks have been to music.
Being of German decent, I am not going to spend my life listening to just Wagner and polka music. Which reminds me of a story -- not to go all Godwin on you, but the Nazis were a great example of that "cultural apartheid" term I made up earlier. They didn't want pure Germanic culture to be tainted by other (they felt inferior) cultural influences. I have seen the Germans interviewed after the war joking that they were sick of "der fledermaus" because it seemed to be the only opera that could get past the Nazi cultural appropriation police and get played in the years just before the war.
I refuse to inflict this on myself. I am going to appropriate music from African Americans and anywhere else I feel like.
Postscript: By the way, Black music in America is in some sense a story of the improvement of the fortunes of African Americans. In the 1950's and 60's, Black blues musicians couldn't reach white audiences, and bands like the Rolling Stones made a fortune because they played blues music but with safely (for the time) white faces. White performers ended up with most of the financial rewards from black music. In the 70's-80's, black musicians started to reach white audiences directly, and enjoy some of the financial rewards, but still were mainly controlled by white producers and record labels. Today, innovative black musicians (often from the rap / hi hop world) are not just performers but have staked out powerful positions in the industry itself.
So if Yale and Amherst are institutionally racist despite giving African-Americans (on average) a 100+ point break on SAT requirements for entry, why aren't Asian Americans exploding given they start in a 100+ point hole? And can anyone imagine a college president turning around from her trip to London (as did Biddy Martin of Amherst) to talk to a group of aggrieved Asian students? I would contend that Asian Americans get stereotyped and discriminated against in far more meaningful ways on major college campuses than do Blacks and Hispanics.
Bonus: watch Asian student get crushed by "tolerant" and "diversity-minded" protesters at Claremont McKenna.
Using "diversity" to justify totalitarianism, and "tolerance" to justify speech restrictions.
First they came for the college presidents, and I did not speak out— Because I was not a college president
I have seen Conservatives arguing that we should just sit back and laugh at what is going on at college campuses, as Progressive college faculty reap what they have sown. I disagree.