All posts filed under: Features

‘Post-Truth’ and the Decline of Swedish Education

In the last 15–20 years, Sweden has suffered a downturn in several important aspects of the elementary and secondary education system. To begin to illustrate the state of Sweden’s schools, we can make a comparison with the heavily criticized American education system. It is a common and understandable belief, in the U.S. and elsewhere, that Swedish schools compare favorably with American schools in terms of educational outcomes. But the weakest American students in 8th grade performed significantly better than the weakest Swedish 8th graders in the TIMSS Mathematics assessment in 2011, one of the international comparative tests that have existed since the 1990s. In the latest cycle of the TIMSS Mathematics assessment, conducted in 2015, the weakest U.S. and Swedish students performed identically, but American students outperformed Swedish students in all other percentiles. In contrast, Swedish students outperformed their U.S. peers across the entire distribution in 1995. A similar negative development can be observed in Swedish students’ performance in the PISA. Swedish 9th graders performed above the international average in the first cycle of PISA in 2000, but …

Breaking the Norm

Norm Macdonald became famous as a comic who said offensive things. From blatantly calling O.J. Simpson a murderer on Saturday Night Live, to a Conan appearance where he talked about oral sex with his wife who was in a coma. We loved it. He was one of the most beloved comedians of all time and a comic’s comic. I even went back to watch that Conan clip taped in “liberal Hollywood” after a girlfriend sent it to me and noticed that the crowd went nuts. Coma sex and all. Norm Macdonald was also just booted from The Tonight Show for… saying offensive things. Here’s what happened. While promoting his new, not-canceled-yet Netflix show – Norm Macdonald Has a Show – he gave an interview to the Hollywood Reporter where he said he felt sorry for Louis C.K. and Roseanne and he is happy the #metoo movement has slowed down. You can watch the whole interview here, and it’s worth pointing out that he wasn’t defending Louis C.K.’s and Roseanne’s behavior, merely asking whether it merited …

Against Thank You Cards

I think it is appropriate, at this late hour in human civilization, to make the case for abolishing the cult of thank you cards. I have not yet heard a good and convincing defense of thank you cards that does not rely on cheap sentimentalism and hidebound traditionalism, two virtues poorly suited to defending anything. Thank you cards are a mainstay in our culture. After every special event and occasion, after every instance in which a gift is exchanged under some celebratory circumstances, the recipient is expected to handwrite thank you notes within a year, sometimes hundreds of them, each one of those notes generally following an absolutely banal and tedious formula: “Dear [gift giver], thank you so much for [gift]. We’re really looking forward to [using gift in the way it’s supposed to be used]. Thank you so much for coming to [event]. See you soon! Love, [gift recipient].” Lick, stamp, post, repeat for every last platter and wok. The straightforward truth is that nobody likes writing thank you cards. In fact, I suspect …

Headline Rhymes

Climate deniers once topped the charts with all their sneering at science But biology balkers have a hit on their hands with their gender blender defiance Views on the news, delivered in twos. This week’s inspired by: Misunderstanding a New Kind of Gender Dysphoria Interview with Debra W. Soh, Sex Neuroscientist Click for last week’s edition. Do you have a Headline Rhyme? Take a stab in the Comments Section below. Please try for PG 13.  Sentiments are not necessarily shared by everyone at Quillette.

The Counterproductive Suppression of Heterodox Views on Race

Between 2000 and 2014, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) documented 257 incidents of left-wing ‘no platforming’ activism on campuses, 111 of which succeeded in preventing the invited speakers from delivering their remarks. The chilling effect this practice has had on free and open discussion has been much discussed. Less discussed, but perhaps even more damaging, has been the more stealthy suppression of heterodox views through hiring policies and the censoring of faculty, and the deleterious effect this can have on the very causes progressive like to stress are of most pressing importance. In a long essay for the Atlantic last year, the liberal journalist Peter Beinart described how this process has succeeded in stifling the free expression of anti-immigration positions on both the Left and the Right. A decade ago, Beinart reminded his readers, liberals “routinely asserted that low-skilled immigrants depressed the wages of low-skilled American workers and strained America’s welfare state.” But attitudes have shifted dramatically in the intervening years. Beinart noted that Jason Furman, a former chairman of President Obama’s Council …

Reflections on the Revolution at Yale

Three years ago this Fall, Yale University descended into what can only be described as a fit of mass psychosis. On November 9, 2015, over 1,000 people—about one fifth of the undergraduate student body—walked out of classrooms and into the quad to participate in a ‘March of Resilience.’ An a cappella group led the crowd in a medley of “We Shall Overcome.” Native Indian performers formed a drum circle. “We are not victims,” a student organizer affiliated with the school’s Latino cultural center declared. “Today, we are on our way to being victors.” Against what sinister forces did Yale’s students feel compelled to summon up their stocks of ‘resilience’ in righteous battle? The first grievance cited by the student protestors was an alleged ‘white girls only’ party thrown by one of the university’s fraternities. Word of this event had gone from a Facebook post to international headlines, tarnishing Yale’s good name in the process. Had such a party actually taken place, it indeed would have been cause for protest. But it’s hard not to be …

Headline Rhymes

Once, the butler did it under the parlour chandelier Now it’s murder by bad-wording inside the Twittersphere  Views on the news, delivered in twos. This week’s inspired by: I Sold My Soul to Twitter. Now I’m Trying to Buy It Back I Was the Mob Until the Mob Came for Me Do you have a Headline Rhyme? Take a stab in the Comments. Please try for PG 13.  Sentiments are not necessarily shared by everyone at Quillette.  

Understanding Postmodern Conservatism: A Reply To Aaron Hanlon

“Truth is Not Truth” ~Rudy Giuliani, Meet the Press, August 20, 2018 On August 31, the Washington Post published an interesting opinion piece entitled “Postmodernism Didn’t Cause Trump. It Explains Him” by Professor Aaron Hanlon, an Assistant Professor of English at Colby College. In his article, Professor Hanlon referred to my May 17 article for Quillette, “The Rise and Emergence of Postmodern Conservatism” as an example of a prominent tendency on to “blame” postmodernism for the rise of Trumpism. Hanlon describes this tendency at length midway through the article. I will quote him in full to avoid misrepresenting his position: Today, critics on both Left and Right are happy to wave their fingers at postmodern theory, so long as they can blame it for the Trump electorate’s unprecedented disregard for the truth. In Quillette—an online magazine obsessed with the evils of ‘critical theory’ and postmodernism—Matt McManus reflects on “The Emergence and Rise of Postmodern Conservatism.” From the Right, David Ernst contends that “Trump Is The First President To Turn Postmodernism Against Itself .” And from the Left, Kakutani recently wrote in the Guardian: “Relativism has …

What Is the Law?

Recent debates about the looming appointment of Brett Kavanaugh to the US Supreme Court have once again indicated the depth of disagreement amongst American jurists and politicians about what legal officials should do and which legal interpretations are valid. Should a state have an interventionist Court or a restrained one? Is an interventionist Court one that takes a pragmatic approach to the law, or one that stresses paying attention to the so called ‘original meaning’ of legal texts? The intensity of these debates reflects the power granted to many legal officials in the American constitutional order. At different times, judges have handed down enormously consequential decisions that impact the way civil rights are understood, determine whether or not abortion will be legal and accessible, help us to understand the structure of American democracy, and so on. Americans are not alone in deliberating on these hot button issues—criticism of the power of legal officials, and discussion about what constitutes legitimate legal interpretation, also rage in Canada and on the European continent. These debates belie deeper and more complex questions …

Banning Bitcoin to Complete Big Tech Censorship

Bitcoin’s survival might prove intolerable to our Internet gatekeepers. To rid the web of troublesome opinion makers you ban them from online platforms while terminating their ability to raise funds from supporters.  Corporate giants can use their control over Internet and financial chokepoints to almost accomplish this, but Bitcoin’s decentralized network means that regardless of how much corporate America hates some commentator, it can’t stop you from sending her cryptocurrency.  If a Democrat wins the Presidency in 2020, I predict a serious attempt to close this loophole by criminalizing Bitcoins. Big tech has awoken to its power and started suppressing views it deems hateful.  The Nazi website Stormfront was kicked off the Internet.  Facebook, Apple, YouTube, and Spotify all decided, on the same day, to deplatform Alex Jones.  Islam critic Lauren Southern has been kicked off Pateron, a service many use to raise funds from supporters.  YouTube has demonitized and restricted videos from Jordan Peterson, Dave Rubin, and Gad Saad.  President Trump has accused social media of “totally discriminating against Republican/Conservative voices.” Big tech wants …