All posts filed under: Education

Progressivism at the University of Melbourne: No Cause for Alarm

It’s tough being a conservative at university nowadays, or so the story goes. I found nothing surprising about Zachary Snowdon Smith’s tale of extreme and bizarre opinions expressed by teachers and students at the University of Melbourne, but I also don’t think campus conservatives are victims of an ideological indoctrination program. Like Smith, I am a University of Melbourne alumnus, but I studied both the humanities and the sciences. My time in student politics and as Secretary of the Student Union in 2009 made me well acquainted with the progressive tendencies at the university. However, I emerged from this supposedly dangerous indoctrination machine with no intention of becoming an evangelist for a “resentment-ridden ideology.” Australian universities like Melbourne are much too big and too diverse to ever run an effective indoctrination program. Conservatives may, for or better or worse, find themselves a minority on campus. The University of Melbourne is situated in the country’s most progressive major city, as evidenced by their unique propensity to elect the Greens to the lower house in federal politics. …

When Protected Characteristics Collide

This weekend, the city of Birmingham hosted a dazzling array of colourful floats, sparkling costumes, and groups bearing a message of love and equality as part of its annual celebration of Gay Pride. However, in an unprecedented move, this particular march was led by LGBT Muslims. Often subjected to discrimination and ostracisation by their own religious communities, and shunned by certain sections of wider LGBT communities for adhering to any form of religion, LGBT Muslims are in a bind. Some people even maintain that the term is an oxymoron. Yet it is precisely young Muslims—who might be experiencing profound questions about their sexuality or identity, and torn between two different sets of expectations—who have the most to lose as a result of the LGBT schools row engulfing the city. It was therefore encouraging to see them front Gay Pride this year, alongside someone who has done more for equality and diversity than 99 percent of the UK population: Andrew Moffat, Assistant Headteacher of Parkfield Community School. In 2017, Moffatt was awarded an MBE, and subsequently …

Noah Carl: An Update on the Young Scholar Fired by a Cambridge College for Thoughtcrime

Quillette has been unwavering in its support of Noah Carl, a young conservative scholar who was targeted by an outrage mob after getting a research fellowship at St. Edmund’s College, Cambridge. After an “open letter” was circulated by a group of activist academics last December describing Noah’s work as “racist pseudoscience” and calling for an “investigation” into his appointment, we ran an editorial denouncing this witch-hunt. We published supportive comments by Jonathan Haidt, Jeffrey Flier, Cass Sunstein, Tyler Cowan, Jeff McMahan and Peter Singer, and asked people to sign a counter-petition which attracted over 1,400 signatories. Unfortunately, St. Edmund’s College did the bidding of the protestors, launched two separate investigations and last month terminated Noah Carl’s employment. We ran a follow-up piece, this time criticizing St. Edmund’s cowardly decision, and invited professors and lecturers to put their names to a letter of condemnation. That got over 600 signatures, more than the number of academics who signed the original “open letter.” Since then, Noah has received widespread support from a variety of sources. The Spectator has …

What Does Teaching ‘White Privilege’ Actually Accomplish? Not What You Might Think (Or Hope)

I recently attended a Washington-D.C. event focused on community-building hosted by The Aspen Institute’s Weave project, which works to reduce social isolation and build bonds between Americans. During one portion of the event, various activists described how racism had impacted their lives and their communities. Following a number of such testimonials, a white woman from southeast Ohio named Sarah Adkins spoke about her own community work, which involves raising money to provide post-trauma support to individuals affected by tragedies. Perhaps because several speakers had discussed racism and issues related to white privilege, Adkins spoke about her own self-perceived racial privilege. “I followed the perfect mold…I did all the things, I went to college, and I keep thinking of white privilege in my head so forgive me, that’s what’s in my head right now, very much white privilege,” she said, while reflecting on her middle class life in an affluent neighborhood. But Adkins also went on to describe the reason she originally had become involved in community work—which is that her then-husband had killed both of …

Free University Tuition: A Cautionary Note from Germany

Some American presidential candidates have endorsed free tuition for American public universities. It’s an understandable demand. I attended private and public American universities and had the eye-watering student loans to prove it. However, my experience teaching at German universities for over a decade introduced me to some of the tuition-free model’s drawbacks, many of which may not be obvious to outsiders. Drastically simplified, the German model is as follows: in their early teen years, the brightest German students are sent to the most prestigious form of German high school, the Gymnasium. Currently, over 50 percent of German students earn this privilege (this number has jumped in the last 30 years, prompting charges of grade inflation). Gymnasium graduates with reasonable grades are guaranteed a place in a German university; there is no entrance exam. 95 percent of German students attend public universities, where they are charged fees, but not formal tuition. All professors at public universities are civil servants. Needy students can apply for a modest stipend. After graduation, students must pay back one-half of the …

Watching Harvard, My Alma Mater, Surrender to the Mob  

On Saturday, Harvard University announced that it would not be permitting law professor Ronald S. Sullivan Jr. to stay on as faculty dean of Winthrop House, an undergraduate residence where he has served in that position since 2009 (along with his wife Stephanie R. Robinson, who also teaches at Harvard Law School). When I heard news of this, my mind rushed back to a guided tour I’d once taken of Boston’s Freedom Trail, a two-and-a-half mile path that features numerous historical landmarks, including the site of the 1770 Boston Massacre, Paul Revere’s home and Bunker Hill Monument. At the time, I’d just arrived from Canada as a student at Harvard Law School. And I was eager to bring myself up to speed on America’s revolutionary history. The most memorable story I heard during that tour was of a young John Adams, a future U.S. president, successfully defending Thomas Preston, a Captain of a redcoat British regiment who’d been accused of ordering the aforementioned massacre after British soldiers were hit with rocks and snowballs. When the …

After Academia

I keep being invited to talk about free speech on college campuses and every time I’m invited I make the same point: that this isn’t about free speech and this is only tangentially about college campuses. This is about a breakdown in the basic logic of civilisation, and it’s spreading. College campuses may be the first dramatic battle but of course this is going to find its way into the courts; it’s already found its way into the tech sector. It’s going to find its way to the highest level of governance if we aren’t careful, and it actually does jeopardise the ability of civilisation to continue to function. ~Bret Weinstein Mike Nayna’s documentary on the Evergreen State College Affair, from which I transcribed the above quote from Bret Weinstein, is a riveting watch. No matter how closely you followed the debacle at the time, there is really no substitute for this fascinating glimpse behind the scenes. Evergreen academics can be seen meekly and repeatedly submitting to ideological manipulation, and on a number of occasions …

Cambridge Capitulates to the Mob and Fires a Young Scholar

We live at a time where academic freedom is under threat from ideologues and activists of all persuasions. The latest threat comes from St Edmund’s College, Cambridge, where administrators appear to have capitulated to a mob of activists (students and academics) who mounted a campaign to have a young scholar fired for “problematic” research. The back-story was covered by Quillette last December. The norms of academia—which have been built up and preserved by institutions such as Cambridge for centuries—demand that academics engage with each other in a scholarly manner. That is, if one academic has a problem with the methods or conclusions of another’s research, he or she should address those concerns within journals, according to established procedures, which other scholars can then read and respond to, including the academic whose research is being challenged. Today, due to the hyper-specialisation of academic fields, most academics will not be able to judge the quality of scholarship that is published in journals outside their field. That’s why when research is peer-reviewed it is done by experts in the …

Like the Campus Thought Police

Smith College police chief Daniel Hect was put on administrative leave after becoming an object of campus hate. Chief Hect’s crime was ‘liking’ (not writing) tweets that fall outside of academia’s ever shrinking zone of toleration. Behold the offending tweets: “Stay the course Pres. Trump” “BUILD THAT WALL!!” “The National Rifle Association wishes you and your family a very Merry Christmas!” The tweets express opinions that most Trump voters would likely support. And the chief stands accused not of originating these tweets, but of merely liking them on his own personal Twitter account. If you are not familiar with Twitter, know that liking doesn’t always imply support. The official reason given for Chief Hect’s suspension was, as Smith’s President wrote, because “members of our campus community have voiced a lack of trust” in him. Given the protests, “lack of trust” is quite the understatement. Interpreted in the most favorable light, the students might be worried about the chief’s views on immigration. Smith College is devoted to the spirit of the sanctuary campus movement within “the …

Sexualization in Gaming: Advocacy and Over-Correction

Even before its April 2019 release, the eleventh installment of the popular fighting game Mortal Kombat was generating waves for its presentation of female characters. But the grumblings are not what one might expect. After years of being criticized for sexualizing female characters, Mortal Kombat is now under fire from fans—including women—for not allowing the female characters to be sexy enough. Did Mortal Kombat’s developer overshoot the mark? Or are we beginning to see a reassessment of concerns that sexualized games are responsible for sexist attitudes toward women—an argument that increasingly became a mantra of progressive games criticism? Historically, games have catered to male audiences, even as increasing numbers of women and girls have joined the ranks of gamers. Given the rapidly changing gamer demographic, it was perhaps inevitable that games would eventually come in for criticism for under-representing playable female characters, and for presenting them as hyper-sexualized images when they were available. Much of this criticism was deserved, particularly the lack of alternative options featuring strong, less-sexualized playable characters. Indeed, I am on record …