All posts filed under: Education

Should Critical Race Theory Be Banned in Public Schools?—a Conversation with Christopher F. Rufo

The creators and defenders of Critical Race Theory, or CRT is it’s often known, describe it as a legal and academic movement aimed at critically examining the many ways in which racism manifests, with a view toward pushing beyond traditionally liberal color-blind laws and solutions. It has been around since the 1970s, but in the wake of Black Lives Matter, CRT has suddenly become a lot more prominent in progressive activism and academia. And while many conservatives have pushed back on CRT throughout the years, basically accusing its champions of using postmodern language to justify reverse racism, no one has pushed back quite as hard as Christopher Rufo. As a speaker, media personality, web pundit, and now filmmaker, he has railed hard against CRT and called for efforts to ban its inclusion in public school curricula. Last year, when then President Donald Trump took action to block CRT-based training materials from being used in federal government agencies, it was because he’d seen Rufo appear on Fox News. Rufo has been so successful in getting his …

Almost Four Decades After Its Birth, The Diversity Industry Thrives on Its Own Failures

Campus diversity advocates have pulled off their greatest coup to date: They have declared “diversity” to be a freestanding academic discipline, thus injecting their bureaucracy-heavy apparatus into the very heart of the academic enterprise. As of this month, Bentley University, a business-oriented liberal arts school in Waltham, Mass., will offer a Bachelor of Arts and a Bachelor of Sciences degree in diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI). By all accounts, this is the first undergraduate major dedicated to churning out more diversity bureaucrats and consultants. It will not be the last. The BA track in DEI studies will prepare students for non-profit and community-based work by focusing on “theoretical approaches to social justice,” according to Bentley. The “sciences” track emphasizes the “importance of DEI in organizational strategy,” for students heading into the private sector. Designing the new major was relatively easy, and would be easily replicable at other schools, its architects said. Bentley created just one new “foundational” course, while repackaging Bentley’s existing social justice-themed offerings under the DEI banner. “You may be surprised to find …

As a Gay Child in a Christian Cult, I Was Taught to Hate Myself. Then I Joined the Church of Social Justice—and Nothing Changed

I grew up in the suburbs of Baltimore, Maryland, in a fundamentalist Christian community called The Lamb of God. What began in the mid-1970s as a small group of born-again hippies who played music, prayed together, and proselytized to whoever would listen about Jesus’s unconditional love and mercy, descended into authoritarianism in the 1980s after its founder linked up with the broader charismatic renewal movement that had been sweeping the nation. The Lamb of God’s doctrine became explicit—Christianity good; Islam, feminism, secular humanism, and Marxism bad; and the rules strict—complete submission of all members to the leadership, and of all wives to their husbands. My father was one of the five male leaders, or “coordinators.” My mother, though she had at one time been considered for the corresponding female role of “handmaid,” was never officially appointed to the position. This meant that she was excluded from the leadership’s official meetings, segregated by sex, in which coordinators and handmaids would discuss the goings-on of their underlings—who was having marital problems, who was doubting the faith, who …

How All My Politically Correct Bones Were Broken

In my first 10 years of college teaching, from the mid-60s to mid-70s, I modeled myself on my best teachers—men and women who questioned my ideas vigorously. They let me know that I mattered to them, they praised when praise was due, and they pushed me hard. Often I balked, and they continued to push. Indeed, the teachers who sternly, even at times angrily, called me out on my intellectual arrogance and sloppiness became mentors and, in several cases, lifelong friends. I think of one in particular, an English teacher to whom I’d brought a piece of freshman writing I’d ginned up only minutes before a mandatory conference. I knew it was junk when I carried it to his desk. He stunned me, growling, “You get the hell out of this office. And don’t come back until you respect yourself and me enough to do serious work.” The upshot—I admired his refusal of my bullshit. I went on to take all his classes. Today, such a teacher would be subject, at least, to sensitivity training …

Confusing Cure and Disease

In 2005, I published a book attacking the dogma then bleeding over from pop psychology into American society-at-large. My primary target was the self-esteem movement, which had been entrenched in schools since the late ’70s. By the time of my book’s publication, it was receiving ambient reinforcement everywhere else—notably from “helicopter parents” determined to shield their kids from every ignominy while micromanaging their every success. I have been reminded of these themes amid the cultural colloquy over tennis star Naomi Osaka. Her abrupt withdrawal from the French Open has prompted calls for yet another of our periodic national dialogues, this time on our failures in the area of mental health. Two main points have emerged. The first is that America faces an unprecedented mental health crisis. The second is that we need to work on creating an emotionally responsive world in which we are attuned to early signs of struggle so we can minister to children and young adults whenever they feel at risk. Point one is uncontroversial. America’s mental health does indeed appear to …

The Gathering Resistance to the Stigmatisation of Masculinity

On the face of it, Brilliant Bob is an unremarkable character for a children’s book—a playful boy who loves football and embarks upon fun adventures with his friends Dazzling Dave, Genuine George, and Superboy Sam. But Bob and his three friends were created with the clear purpose of celebrating masculinity. They are brave, competitive, curious, persistent, risk-ready, strong, and stoical—traits that enlightened sections of society now frown upon and which educators tend to present to children as negative. The perceived need for stories and role models that reaffirm traits and values like these is suggestive of how widespread and pernicious the attack on masculinity has become. A section of the books’ website entitled “Morals Conveyed” elaborates: The Brilliant Bob books will teach young boys to appreciate positive morals and traits that will add greatly to their life journeys. Male role models—such as fathers and grandfathers, older brothers, or teachers—are encouraged to read these books to the young boys in their lives, reinforcing the positive impact these traits have had on their masculinity. “I wrote the …

Education and Masculinity—An Interview with Will Knowland

“What’s the one thing we’re not talking about but we really should be?” Triggernometry’s Francis Foster asked now-sacked Eton teacher Will Knowland. “I think the crisis of masculinity, especially in all boys’ schools, needs to be addressed urgently,” he replied. “These institutions, many of them are embarrassed to exist and they need to think hard about why that is.” Masculinity is at the heart of the dispute that led to the English teacher’s dismissal from Eton. When a female colleague complained about Knowland’s Patriarchy Paradox video, the school demanded he remove it from his personal YouTube channel. Knowland’s refusal to do so without being given a reason, eventually resulted in the father of five being removed from his post. Extensively covered by mainstream press, the dispute has brought to light the extent to which Eton has been invaded by ideology, and raised questions about masculinity’s place in society as a whole. In the following interview, Knowland reflects on education, free speech, male teachers, and the need for society and educators to accept that “stoicism, competitiveness, …

What’s Wrong With the New Australian Curriculum?

In education, we have lots of wars. There are the math wars, the reading wars, and the ongoing culture wars. What is less common is for all of these wars to ignite at once along with the declaration of a new war or two, just for the heck of it. That happened in Australia last week when the Australian Curriculum Assessment and Reporting Authority released its draft version of a new Australian Curriculum. The Australian Curriculum is a strange beast. Australia is a federation of states and territories. Responsibility for education largely lies with these states and territories and so some choose to issue their own curriculum documents that are supposed to align with the national version, whereas others adopt the Australian Curriculum straight. It’s one of those messy compromises that is a feature of evolved systems of government but that you would never design if you had a blank sheet of paper. Let’s be clear—curriculums should be contentious. The US does not have a national curriculum and it is easy to imagine the scale …

The Journal of Controversial Ideas Is Here

The long-awaited first issue of Journal of Controversial Ideas (JCI), which allows academics of all disciplines to publish peer-reviewed research anonymously, has just been released. In an editorial leading the online issue, the co-editors, philosophers Peter Singer, Francesca Minerva, and Jeff McMahan, write: “By permitting publication under a pseudonym, we hope to enable authors to fulfil their duty to pursue the truth without putting their careers or physical or mental security at risk. Intellectual and moral progress should not require heroes or martyrs.” All three co-editors have courted controversy, especially Singer and Minerva. Singer has for decades been subject to denunciation for his views on abortion, animal rights, and disability. In 2012, Minerva was inundated with hate mail for an article she coauthored defending “post-birth abortion.” Both have received death threats. In Singer’s and Minerva’s cases, though, the heat came mainly from outraged non-academics. More recently, threats to free speech at universities have come from within. In their editorial, Singer, Minerva, and McMahan draw attention to: …a surge in open letters and petitions denouncing researchers …

Grade Inflation Is Ruining Education

“When people lose the connection between their actions and their consequences, they lose their hold on reality and the further this goes the more it looks like madness.” ~ Robert Greene A recent study conducted at the Naval Academy showed that students learn less from easy teachers. As the researchers state, “Instructors who tend to give out easier subjective grades… dramatically hurt subsequent student performance.” While a generalization, these claims support the intuitions of anyone who has ever been to school or met a human. When students can give less effort, they do. So, why have schools been moving toward easier grading? In a decade working in high schools, I’ve seen a consistent push to reduce writing, reading, and note-taking, expand late work windows, lighten workloads, dilute the weight of assessments, and, most fundamentally, to eliminate failures. The same can be seen at the university level. The amount of time college students have spent on academic work has gone from 40 hours per week in 1961, to 27 in 2003, to less than 12 hours in …