All posts filed under: Spotlight

From To Kill A Mockingbird to Ballet Shoes: A Plea to Save Children’s Literature

The Peel District School Board straddles the outskirts of the Greater Toronto Area, with more than 150,000 students enrolled in its elementary and secondary schools. Visible minorities make up more than half of this culturally and linguistically rich catchment area. And occasionally, local controversy erupts when the progressive mandate of the provincially-run education system accelerates headlong into the more conservative attitudes of local parents, especially when it comes to sex education. Indeed, Ontario Premier Doug Ford campaigned successfully on a promise to roll back the most progressive elements of the curriculum put in place by the previous (Liberal) government. But the problem runs deeper than discussions of birth control and safe sex: A recent Peel District controversy over Harper Lee’s classic 1960 novel To Kill a Mockingbird shows how wide this gulf has grown between ordinary parents and the professional class that presumes to oversee the educational system. “To Kill a Mockingbird may only be taught in Peel secondary schools, beginning this school year, if instruction occurs through a critical, anti-oppression lens,” declared the School …

Germaine Greer’s ‘On Rape’—A Review

A review of On Rape by Germaine Greer. Bloomsbury Publishing (September 2018) 92 pages. Germaine Greer’s On Rape is roughly the size and thickness of a Beatrix Potter story. And why not? As it happens, The Tale of Jemima Puddleduck also says a great deal of what young people need to know about the topic: beware of polite, well-dressed gentlemen (especially if they have foxy whiskers and black prick ears); don’t go uncritically into dismal summerhouses in the woods; and accepting a dinner invitation does not imply consent to everything the polite gentlemen is looking for. Greer’s book is not as incisive as Potter’s and it is considerably more expensive. But that is not to say it is a complete waste of money. In some ways it fizzes along with ideas and raises lots of questions that others are frightened to ask. Why are we so afraid of the penis when a fist and a thumb can do more physical damage? Why do some women fantasise about being raped? Are sentences for rapists too long? Should rapists be compulsorily castrated? …

If You Want to Save the Planet, Drop the Campaign Against Capitalism

But if you go carrying pictures of chairman Mao, You ain’t going to make it with anyone anyhow —The Beatles, 1968 This month, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) issued a report concluding that it is all but inevitable that overall global warming will exceed the 1.5 degree Celsius limit dictated in the 2015 Paris Agreement. The report also discusses the potentially catastrophic consequences of this warming, which include extreme weather events, an accelerated rise in sea levels, and shrinking Arctic sea ice. In keeping with the well-established trend, political conservatives generally have exhibited skepticism of these newly published IPCC conclusions. That includes U.S. President Donald Trump, who told 60 Minutes, “We have scientists that disagree with [anthropogenic global warming]. You’d have to show me the [mainstream] scientists because they have a very big political agenda.” On Fox News, a commentator argued that “the planet has largely stopped warming over the past 15 years, data shows—and [the IPCC report] could not explain why the Mercury had stopped rising.” Conservative YouTuber Ian Miles Cheong declared …

The Hysterical Campus

Editor’s note: The following text is excerpted with permission from The Diversity Delusion: How Race and Gender Pandering Corrupt the University and Undermine Our Culture, by Heather Mac Donald, published by St. Martin’s Press. © 2018 Heather Mac Donald. Where are the faculty? American college students are increasingly resorting to brute force, and sometimes criminal violence, to shut down ideas that they don’t like. Yet when such travesties occur, the faculty are, with few exceptions, missing in action, though they have themselves been given the extraordinary privilege of tenure to protect their own liberties of thought and speech. It is time for them to take their heads out of the sand. I was the target of such silencing tactics two days in a row in 2017, the more serious incident at Claremont McKenna College in Claremont, California, and a less virulent one at UCLA. The Rose Institute for State and Local Government at Claremont McKenna had invited me to meet with students and to give a talk in April about my book The War on …

Automation and the Death Knell of the American Workforce

Throughout this Summer, I worked for Amazon as an ‘associate.’ I worked shifts of four to five hours a day, six days a week, during which I performed various manual labor tasks. So I am familiar with the kind of people who work at Amazon fulfilment centers, and how the company treats its workers. Recently, Amazon has been the subject of a public campaign led by Senator Bernie Sanders for higher wages and better working conditions. Having listened to the Senator’s rhetoric, I have concluded that Amazon risks significant damage to its reputation if the company mishandles this situation. I have identified three likely outcomes: wages and conditions could increase, nothing could be accomplished at all, or the workers could be replaced by automation. Careful consideration makes it clear that only feasible outcome is automation, for several reasons. Consider the predicament of the Amazon warehouse worker. The Amazon worker commutes to a warehouse where he will stand for many hours, performing the same task over and over again, day after day, month after month. Filling …

Progress and Polytheism: Could an Ethical West Exist Without Christianity?

Imagine a Europe that resembles India. In Germany, France and England, in place of Romanesque or Gothic cathedrals stand temples devoted to a kaleidoscopic pantheon of local and state-sanctioned gods. In Italy, in place of the Renaissance duomo in the town piazza, one finds something resembling a still-complete temple to the Capitoline Triad that tourists might today visit in the ruins of Pompeii. Imagine Rome’s Pantheon devoted not to Christ, but, as the name implies, to all the gods. Imagine, in short, a Europe without Christianity. India is a provocative analogue for this alternate history because its temples remain open and enthusiastically attended; its ancient religions, though much evolved, are still practiced; there is a continuity, however vivisected, between the present and the deep past. By comparison, Europe’s Christian character represents a historical schism, between new and old, of unfathomable proportion: The ancient pre-Christian world of the west, though spectacular in its achievements, is a cultural enigma to us. In our collective understanding of western history, Christianity stands out as a kind of sui generis …

My Dissertation Disaster

“This is your chance to write in depth about what interests you,” said my lecturers as I prepared to embark upon my History dissertation. I had just finished studying the Russian intelligentsia’s epistolary networks of the nineteenth century, and had enjoyed it so much that I had often found myself deep-diving into the Soviet literature of the twentieth century, too. In my thesis I wanted to marry this newfound twentieth century interest to my longstanding fascination with totalitarianism. Whenever the concept of totalitarianism had come up in classes, it had intrigued me, but during my three years at university I hadn’t had an opportunity to study it in any depth. I was enthralled by what the philosopher Isaiah Berlin called “the long blank page of Russian history” during the 1930s and 1940s, and I wanted to find out more about the institutionalization of literature in the USSR. My dissertation provided me with the chance to do so. But a little over a year later, I found myself turning in a paper entitled: “What Can the Relationship Between Soviet …

A Liberal’s Case for Conservatives in History Departments

I am a liberal historian, and in my four years as a Ph.D student in history, I have found that my conversations with conservative peers have often been most productive in challenging my biases. This benefit may be rare within the discipline. According to research cited in Jon Shields and Joshua Dunn’s book Passing on the Right, only around 4-8 percent of professional historians are registered Republicans.1 This experience suggests that the liberal-to-leftist makeup of the discipline significantly influences the questions historians ask, the answers that we privilege, and the ways we teach and engage with the public. We devote our lives to certain subjects largely because we believe they have great moral weight and relevance, but we often overlook how our political tilt shapes what we see as important. We also possess the human tendency to gravitate toward answers that fit our preconceptions. These observations raise an important question: What does the discipline of history miss by not having conservative historians in the room? To explore this question, I conducted interviews with eight conservative …

Growing Up in a Progressive Utopia

I grew up in one of the most progressive societies in the history of humanity. The gap between the rich and poor was tiny compared to the current gulf between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have-nots’ we find across much of the West. Access to education was universal and students were paid to study and offered free accommodation. Healthcare was available to all and free at the point of use. Racial tensions were non-existent, with hundreds of different ethnic groups living side by side in harmony under the mantra of ‘Friendship of the Peoples.’ Women’s equality was at the very heart of Government policy. According to the prevailing ideology “all forms of inequality were to be erased through the abolition of class structures and the shaping of an egalitarian society based on the fair distribution of resources among the people.” You are probably wondering whether the idyllic nation from which I hail is Sweden or Iceland. It was the Soviet Union. In modern Britain the top 10 percent earn 24 times as much as the bottom 10 …

The Elites and Inequality: The Rise and Fall of the Managerial Class

In analysing the political upheavals across Europe and America in the past several years, it has become customary to talk about ‘the elites’ and about ‘inequality’. This article will explore both concepts in political and socio-economic analysis, and posits that certain elites in the West need narratives of inequality to maintain their stranglehold on power. It concludes by suggesting that we are witnessing the passing of an old and increasingly irrelevant class of elites, whose wild attempts to cling onto the old order will see them lash out in unpredictable directions. When the political left talk about elites, they typically refer to ‘the haves’ (as opposed to the ‘have nots’), that is the top 1% of income earners, a concern which has a legacy in outmoded and demonstrably incorrect Marxist analysis. Thus, here in the UK, Jeremy Corbyn’s far left Labour party routinely trot out the old line that ‘the rich keep getting richer while the poor are getting poorer’. However, even The Guardian – albeit through gritted teeth – pointed out in 2017 that …