All posts filed under: Education

For Students Who Grew Up Poor, An Elite Campus Can Seem Like a Sea of Wealth and Snobbery

“Where are the other poor black kids?” This is the first question I remember asking myself, a chubby freshman with my hair in cornrows, while walking across the Amherst College campus. I was in the center of the main quad, standing outside Johnson Chapel. The lawn was freshly mowed. It looked pristine, a shimmering deep green. The Massachusetts evening, slightly chilly for a Miami transplant such as myself, was filled with excitement as the incoming freshmen meandered around, nervously greeting one another. Conversations bubbled all around me. Wasting little time, my new peers enlisted me in a rite of passage that, fifteen years later, I now call “convocation conversations”—those quick, casual introductory chats that happen en route to meals and classes, where students conveniently work in verbal versions of their resumes and narrate their summer itineraries for any and all to hear. These strangers—my new classmates—swapped stories of summer fun. Multiweek trips abroad. Fancy parties at summer homes. Courtside seats at professional basketball games. Invitations to private premieres of movies that, as far as I knew, …

The Knowledge Gap—A Review

Let me lead you through a portal created in the basement of some secretive and sinister government laboratory and into the Educational Upside Down. The Educational Upside Down is a parallel dimension where elementary school children are captivated by street signs and bored rigid by myths and tales of heroes. It is a dimension where early readers work out the relationships between the sounds of English and the letters that represent these sounds largely by being immersed in anodyne, specially written story books. Yet, weirdly, it is also a dimension where children have to be explicitly taught ‘comprehension strategies’ to understand what they read, such as activating their prior knowledge or deciding which sentence is the most important, and then must practice these strategies for the greater part of the school day. This is a dimension where knowledge of the world—that same prior knowledge that needs activating—is the last thing that it would occur to anyone to actually teach children in schools. The Educational Upside Down is frightening and surreal, not merely because it denies …

PODCAST 48: Professor Bruce Gilley on Anti-Conservative Bias on Campus

Toby Young talks to Bruce Gilley, professor of political science at Portland State, about not being able to get his course on conservative political thought approved by his faculty, and his efforts to fight back against progressive authoritarianism on campus. He recently published a piece in Quillette about why he set up the Oregon chapter of the National Association of Scholars.

The Other Crisis in Psychology

In July 2019, Christopher Ferguson published an article in Quillette on the replication crisis in psychology. As an academic psychologist, I appreciated his clear and concise discussion of some of the difficult issues facing psychology’s growth as a science, including publication bias and the sensationalizing of weak effects. I believe a related, but perhaps less-recognized, illness plagues psychology and related disciplines (including the health sciences, family studies, sociology, and education). That illness is the conflation of correlation with causation, and the latest research suggests that scientists, and not lay people and the media, are the underlying culprits. Correlation and Causation We have probably all heard the cliché “Correlation is not causation.” Of the criteria for documenting that one variable causes a change in another variable, correlation is just the first of three. That is, the first criterion for documenting that one variable causes a change in another variable is evidence that the two variables covary together: as one goes up, the other tends to, too (a positive correlation; for example, students who score high on …

When ‘Ethics Review’ Becomes Ideological Review: The Case of Peter Boghossian

On Tuesday, Peter Boghossian, an assistant professor of philosophy at Portland State University (PSU) in Oregon, publicly shared a letter he’d received from his employer, outlining the results of an academic misconduct investigation into his now-famous 2018 “grievance-studies” investigation. As was widely reported in the Wall Street Journal, Quillette and elsewhere, Boghossian, researcher James Lindsay and Areo editor Helen Pluckrose submitted nonsensical faux-academic papers to journals in fields such as gender, race, queer and fat studies, some of which passed peer review—and were even published—despite their ludicrous premises. The project was defended by 1990s-era academic hoaxer Alan Sokal, who famously performed a somewhat similar send-up of fashionable academic culture two decades ago. While many cheered Boghossian’s exposé, some scholars within these fields were horrified, and it has long been known that Boghossian, by virtue of his PSU affiliation, would be vulnerable to blowback. PSU’s Institutional Review Board decided that Boghossian has committed “violations of human subjects’ rights and protection”—the idea here being that the editors who operate academic journals, and their peer reviewers, are, in …

The Role of Politics in Academic Philosophy

Recently Quillette published an exchange about the low proportion of conservatives in academic philosophy departments, consisting of an article by Tristan Rogers and a response by Shelby Hanna. This interesting exchange largely concerns the status of conservative political philosophy within the discipline and the interpretation of the PhilPapers survey results regarding philosophers’ stances on political philosophy. But this is a very limited way to understand the role of politics in academic philosophy. In fact, political philosophy is perhaps one of the least political places in philosophy at the moment, precisely because it is in political philosophy that conservative ideas must be, as a matter of intellectual integrity, taken seriously. Activist philosophers, and philosophical activists, increasingly find themselves publishing work on topics in metaphysics, epistemology, philosophy of language, philosophy of science, and so on. The problem here is precisely the opposite of what Hanna seems to be thinking about: It’s not that there is little conservatism within political philosophy but that there is little political philosophy within the politicized work of philosophers in other subfields. Activist …

Age of Amnesia

We live, as the Indian essayist Saeed Akhter Mirza has put it, in “an age of amnesia.” Across the world, most notably in the West, we are discarding the knowledge and insights passed down over millennia and replacing it with politically correct bromides cooked up in the media and the academy. In some ways, this process recalls, albeit in digital form, the Middle Ages. Conscious shaping of thought—and the manipulation of the past to serve political purposes—is becoming commonplace and pervasive. Google’s manipulation of algorithms, recently discussed in American Affairs, favors both their commercial interests and also their ideological predilections. Similarly, we see the systematic “de-platforming” of conservative and other groups who offend the mores of tech oligarchs and their media fellow travellers. Major companies are now distancing themselves from “offensive” reminders of American history, such as the Nike’s recent decision to withdraw a sneaker line featuring the Betsy Ross flag. In authoritarian societies, the situation is already far worse. State efforts to control the past in China are enhanced by America’s tech firms, who are …

From Academia to Hollywood: An Interview with Tony Tost

Tony Tost is a television writer and producer. He was the creator of Damnation, which Tost describes as a “Clint Eastwood western set in the world of John Steinbeck.” The show (streaming on Netflix) fictionalizes the labor wars of rural America in the 1930s. Before creating Damnation, Tost spent five seasons writing for Longmire (also on Netflix). He just wrapped working as a writer and producer for The Terror: Infamy, which will air August 12 on AMC. Before breaking into screenwriting, Tost was a poet and academic. Below is an interview I recently conducted with Tony about his personal background and his experience in both Hollywood and academia. *     *     * Quillette Magazine: You are now a successful Hollywood screenwriter but that is not the world you come from. In fact, as you know, we grew up not far from each other in Southwest Missouri. Would you discuss your background a bit and how it has influenced your work? Tony Tost: I prefer “working” to “successful” as a screenwriter modifier, but sure: I started …

Conservatives in Philosophy: A Brief Rejoinder to Tristan Rogers

In April, Tristan Rogers wrote an article for Quillette about “The Dearth of Conservatives in Academic Philosophy,” presenting data exploring the titular phenomenon and arguing that philosophers should seek out conservatives. I do not doubt that the proportion of politically conservative academic philosophers is lower than the proportion of the general population, but we should not therefore conclude that the situation is as dire as Rogers presents. The Ideological Landscape of Philosophy There is not much data concerning the state of conservatism in philosophy. The evidence Rogers does have paints a bleak picture for conservatives in the field at first glance. However, it deserves closer scrutiny. A PhilPapers survey from 2009 asked one question about politics: “Politics: communitarianism, egalitarianism, or libertarianism?” Rogers finds it notable that “conservatism” is not listed as an option, but this is not actually noteworthy. The three options pick out approaches to political philosophy and motivating values, not political ideology. Egalitarians are concerned with equality. Libertarians are concerned with liberty. Communitarians stress the value of the community to human flourishing. There …