All posts filed under: Education

Evergreen State and the Battle for Modernity Part 2: True Believers, Fence Sitters, and Group Conformity

Over a month has passed since the Evergreen State fiasco drew national attention, and since then it appears that the college has only chosen to double down on the insanity. According to one report, in the wake of Professor Bret Weinstein’s appearance on Tucker Carlson’s show on Fox, many of his colleagues demanded his resignation for putting their community “at risk.” I will spare all the details, as they can be found all over the internet, but for a quick overview, feel free to go ahead and go over to part 1 for a recap. Instead, this essay attempts to answer one of the biggest questions that emerged from the previous article—namely how could it be possible that so many people, large cohorts of students, and indeed entire academic disciplines be so bamboozled into believing much of postmodernist rhetoric, including that science is a symbol of the patriarchy (you’ve got to click on the link, the title is “Science: A masculine disorder?”) and the concept of health is merely another tool of Western colonial oppression? …

The Neurodiversity Case for Free Speech

Editor’s note: this article was updated on August 6th 2017, to better reflect current terminology relating to neurodiversity. Imagine a young Isaac Newton time-travelling from 1670s England to teach Harvard undergrads in 2017. After the time-jump, Newton still has an obsessive, paranoid personality, with Asperger’s syndrome, a bad stutter, unstable moods, and episodes of psychotic mania and depression. But now he’s subject to Harvard’s speech codes that prohibit any “disrespect for the dignity of others”; any violations will get him in trouble with Harvard’s Inquisition (the ‘Office for Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion’). Newton also wants to publish Philosophiæ Naturalis Principia Mathematica, to explain the laws of motion governing the universe. But his literary agent explains that he can’t get a decent book deal until Newton builds his ‘author platform’ to include at least 20k Twitter followers – without provoking any backlash for airing his eccentric views on ancient Greek alchemy, Biblical cryptography, fiat currency, Jewish mysticism, or how to predict the exact date of the Apocalypse. Newton wouldn’t last long as a ‘public intellectual’ in modern American culture. Sooner or later, …

Are the Social Sciences Undergoing a Purity Spiral?

A couple of years ago, six social scientists published a paper describing a disquieting occurrence in academic psychology: the loss of almost all its political diversity. As Jonathan Haidt, one of the authors of the paper, wrote in a commentary: Before the 1990s, academic psychology only LEANED left. Liberals and Democrats outnumbered Conservatives and Republican by 4 to 1 or less. But as the “greatest generation” retired in the 1990s and was replaced by baby boomers, the ratio skyrocketed to something more like 12 to 1. In just 20 years. Few psychologists realize just how quickly or completely the field has become a political monoculture. While the paper focuses on psychology, it briefly mentions that the rest of the social sciences are not far behind: [R]ecent surveys find that 58–66 per cent of social science professors in the United States identify as liberals, while only 5–8 per cent identify as conservatives, and that self-identified Democrats outnumber Republicans by ratios of at least 8 to 1 (Gross & Simmons 2007; Klein & Stern 2009; Rothman & …

Study Philosophy to Improve Thinking—A Case of False Advertising?

A company advertises product X by claiming that it substantially improves memory and staves off dementia. The company provides no convincing evidence for these claims, and scientific studies fail to confirm the existence of the stipulated effects. Would you buy X? Probably not. Would the government and consumer protection agencies allow X to be freely marketed without at least a warning to potential gullible customers? Hardly, it seems. Yet there is a similar product X, which has been sold to tens of thousands of people for decades without a murmur. I am talking here about studying philosophy at a university as a way of improving one’s thinking skills. Obviously there are different reasons why students choose to study philosophy: they may find it intrinsically interesting or want to become professional philosophers or hope to discover the meaning of life or… But presumably an important reason for investing in studying philosophy—for the majority of students who do not plan to become philosophy professors—is the belief that this will make them better thinkers and perhaps also increase …

Evergreen State and the Battle for Modernity

Last week, tiny public liberal arts college Evergreen State in Olympia, Washington became the focus of national attention when progressive biology professor Bret Weinstein attracted the ire of a student lynch mob for refusing to leave campus due to being white. I won’t delve into the full timeline, which can be readily found elsewhere, but basically the university has celebrated a long standing tradition starting in the 70s, called Day of Absence, in which black students consensually left campus in order to leave “those left to reflect on the meaning of their community without these essential members.” On this particular occasion, they requested that whites leave instead, and when Weinstein wrote an email protesting, describing the event as “a show of force, and an act of oppression in and of itself,” chaos shortly ensued. Online videos surfaced displaying student activists menacing, cursing, and chanting at white professors, even demanding that president George Bridges keep his hands to his side. Currently, news reports indicate that vigilante groups are roaming the campus with bats, seeking out Weinstein …

Bald Men Fighting Over a Comb: Arguments About the Classical Tradition

Part II: A review of The Lesbian Lyre: Reclaiming Sappho for the 21st Century by Jeffrey Duban. Clairview Books (30th June 2016). The classical tradition in literature is essentially dead. The English poet Alice Oswald may be the only prominent contemporary writer who has read deeply in Latin and Greek poetry. A few other poets (Ruth Padel, Anne Carson, Alice Stallings) have made names for themselves as classicist-poets; though their contributions to literature and scholarship have been uninspiring; their work is more often praised than read. Most of the praise comes only from Classics teachers, or others easily impressed by a thin veneer of learning. It is impossible to name a novelist, short-story writer or playwright active today who engages seriously with classical history, myth or literary form. Jeffrey Duban tries valiantly to revive the tradition in his ambitious, pugnacious, eccentric, sprawling new book The Lesbian Lyre: Reclaiming Sappho for the Twenty-First Century. This is not all Duban tries to do: he also provides a learned introduction to ancient Greek lyric poetry, offers translations of …

Bald Men Fighting Over a Comb: Arguments About the Classical Tradition

Part I: A review of Classics, The Culture Wars and Beyond by Eric Adler. University of Michigan Press (1st November 2016). Classics, the study of Greek and Latin literature, involves philosophical and historical texts as well as literary works. Classicists may also be interested in the systematic study of language and expression, and (to a lesser extent) art history and archaeology. In fact, Classics encompasses virtually every aspect of ancient Greek and Roman culture between the first Olympic Games in 776 BC and the fall of the Roman Empire in AD 476. Still, classicists have traditionally focussed their attention on Athens between 508 and 323 BC, and Rome between the mid-first century BC and the late second century AD: most of the important classical texts, monuments and works of art were created in those places during those periods. Classics requires a long training: there are two ancient languages which take years to master, and a large body of impressive but often difficult literature in Greek and Latin that cannot be avoided. If you have not …