Category Archives: Education

The Timothy Hunt Witch Hunt

I don’t think I’ve ever commented on this, but almost three months later, it’s pretty clear now what happened, and there’s a good description over at Commentary. His treatment was shameful:

Like most of the science journalists who covered Hunt’s solecism, Zadrozny and Ferguson were content to rely on a handful of tweets as the only evidence in an obviously controversial story. Sadly, the Hunt affair provides ample ammunition for those who believe Internet reporters are a tribe of third-raters with little or no ethical standards or training in Journalism 101.

But there’s another explanation for the fact that reporters such as Zadrozny and Ferguson felt no obligation to verify the facts of the case or do any old-fashioned reporting. In their cases, the temptation to cut journalistic corners may have been overwhelming. That’s because for anyone with an ax to grind about gender equality or sexism in science, this was one of those stories that the tabloids used to label (jestingly for the most part) “too good to check.”

Kudos to Louise Mensch on exposing this initially. I’d also note that my respect for Deborah Blum has plummeted.

[Update a few minutes later]

And then there’s this burn:

The most generous interpretation of Connie St. Louis’s bizarre behavior is that she was too intellectually limited to recognize irony that was somehow obvious to an audience composed mostly of people who spoke English as a second language. A leak of the unedited version of her “Stop Defending Tim Hunt” piece for the Guardian is so garbled and incoherent that this actually seems plausible, though it also makes you wonder how and why she came to be teaching journalism even at a third-rate institution like London’s City University.

The science journalism community has not covered themselves in glory here.

[Update a few minutes later]

Then there’s this:

One of the more depressing aspects of the affair has been the number of clever and influential people, not all of them women, who have stated that even if Hunt was joking, he still deserved to be punished. These people genuinely believe that jokes about alleged differences between the sexes are beyond the pale—the cause of anti-sexism, like that of anti-racism, being simply too important or too fragile to tolerate subversive humor.

This “even if they’re innocent they deserve to be punished attitude” is not a new one. Christina Hoff Sommers documented it in her book in the nineties, in which in 1991, Catherine Comins at Vassar (who, sadly, may be a childhood friend of mine, though I’ve never seen a bio) said: “Men who are unjustly accused of rape can sometimes gain from the experience.”

Punching Back Twice As Hard On Campus

Instapundit has some good advice for a fraternity under siege:

(1) Immediately complain to the Department of Education and the Department of Justice that you’re being targeted because of your race and sex, and denied your First Amendment rights. No, nothing will come of this, but that’s not the point. The process is the punishment. (2) Sue on the same grounds. (3) The real killer: Go to the Virginia Legislature and tell them they should cut Old Dominion’s budget. Come prepared with figures on the number of administrators on campus now, versus 10 and 20 years ago. File freedom of information requests and get the travel expense figures for the folks in the administration. Look over them for suspicious and large expenditures. (You’ll find them!) Make a big stink about those.

Administrative bloat leads to large numbers of “student life” educrats without enough to do, so they’ve created a quasi-police-state to fill the time. State legislators are looking for things to cut anyway, and higher ed doesn’t have the clout it used to have. This will hurt them more than anything else you can do.

I would love to see that happen.

Campus Sexual Assault

The policy continues its descent into madness in California:

A student found responsible for campus sexual assault is often branded a rapist in local (and often national) media, his transcript is forever marked and his reputation is forever tarnished. And let’s not forget that a finding of responsibility can be achieved on nothing more than an accusation, with exculpatory evidence and witnesses ignored and a complete lack of due process.

An expulsion with a mark on the transcript could keep him from continuing his education. When accused students have been suspended and allowed to return to campus, outrage has sometimes ensued. Colleges are now being pressured simply to expel. Expelled students — again, expelled based on nothing more than an accusation — find it nearly impossible to transfer to another school. Their education is halted, and if they can’t afford an attorney to sue the university for wrongful expulsion, their lives are put on hold.

As one male student told Buzzfeed: “At first I thought they didn’t want me to participate in campus activities. Then I thought they didn’t want me to graduate. Now they don’t want me to have a job or be part of society. Do they want me to commit suicide? Is that what they want me to do? What is the endgame?”

We need some lawsuits over this. If I had a son, I wouldn’t let him attend school in the state.

The State Of Higher Education

It’s awful. Who is to blame?

And here we arrive at a way to thread this needle of collective criticism. The one thing that Deresiewicz, Lukianoff, Haidt and McArdle all agree on, surprisingly enough, is that higher education should be a non-market institution. The point of college is not merely to cater to consumer demands, whether one defines the consumers as “college students” or “the firms that will eventually hire those college students.” A vital function of universities is to convert young people into thinkers who can critically analyze the very society that they are about to join. But when people are ponying up vast sums of money to attend these places, it becomes more difficult for college administrations to ignore the whims of their students.

Cut off the spigot. If people were really spending their own money, and couldn’t borrow it foolishly at below-market rates, much of this problem would go away. Of course, so would many universities and university departments. But it’s not clear that would be a bad thing.

A Perfect Feminist Storm

I’ve joked for years that I’m a lesbian trapped in a man’s body, but someone should seriously do this to make their heads explode:

In the Perfect Storm scenario, the ex-boyfriend, when called before the tribunal, refuses to bow down. He does not beg for a lawyer. He does not offer pathetic, chauvinistic attacks against his victimized accuser. He does not beg for mercy.

Instead, the accused ex-boyfriend claims that the charge against him cannot possibly be true. The reality, he says, is that during the time he was dating his accuser, his gender identity was feminine. Not only was his gender identity feminine, it was also lesbian — and to the extent his appearance on campus was externally masculine, he behaved that way because he had discovered that he had much greater sexual success as a lesbian (with sexual success defined as encounters with other women) when those same women believed he was a man. He knew, however, at all relevant times, that he was a lesbian having sex with the woman now hiding behind a screen and accusing him of the heteronormative crime of rape.

Not only does the accused ex-lesbian boyfriend deny the charges against him, he counterattacks.

It would deliciously highlight the contradictions of the fascist SJWs.

Sheltered Students

…go to college to avoid education:

Why is this happening now? How did colleges manage to guide generations of students through offense and outrage, only to founder at the dawn of the 21st century? Haidt and Lukianoff offer some plausible candidates: the increasingly sheltered lives that middle-class children now live, and expect colleges to sustain.”In a variety of ways,” they write, “children born after 1980—the Millennials—got a consistent message from adults: life is dangerous, but adults will do everything in their power to protect you from harm, not just from strangers but from one another as well.” Too, partisanship is higher, and angrier, than it was when I was in college. And today’s students, who live in a world where social media make it easy to launch crusades, may have stronger tendencies in this direction than my generation. (Once upon a time, an offense had to be outrageous enough for people to go to the trouble of exchanging phone numbers, attending meetings and printing fliers.)

There’s also a regulatory component: Under Obama, the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights has broadened the definition for what constitutes offensive speech. Colleges tremble in fear of lawsuits or visits from regulators, and they send legions of administrators forth to head off any threat by appeasing angry students and making new rules.

But here’s a candidate Haidt and Lukianoff don’t mention: the steady shift toward viewing college as a consumer experience, rather than an institution that is there to shape you toward its own ideal. I don’t want to claim that colleges used to be idylls in which the deans never worried about collecting tuition checks; colleges have always worried about attracting enough students. But cultural and economic shifts have pushed students toward behaving more like consumers in a straight commercial transaction, and less like people who were being inducted into a non-market institution.

Yes. The student-loan program has become a huge disaster.

The Lukianoff-Haidt piece she refers to is here:

There’s a saying common in education circles: Don’t teach students what to think; teach them how to think. The idea goes back at least as far as Socrates. Today, what we call the Socratic method is a way of teaching that fosters critical thinking, in part by encouraging students to question their own unexamined beliefs, as well as the received wisdom of those around them. Such questioning sometimes leads to discomfort, and even to anger, on the way to understanding.

But vindictive protectiveness teaches students to think in a very different way. It prepares them poorly for professional life, which often demands intellectual engagement with people and ideas one might find uncongenial or wrong. The harm may be more immediate, too. A campus culture devoted to policing speech and punishing speakers is likely to engender patterns of thought that are surprisingly similar to those long identified by cognitive behavioral therapists as causes of depression and anxiety. The new protectiveness may be teaching students to think pathologically.

I think we’re seeing a lot of that.

Political Correctness And SJWs

A long but useful essay:

Academic freedom is viscerally important: it guarantees the individual liberty to say what you want; and assumes your agency to hear what you don’t, or, choose to ignore. Censorship and self-censorship only disempower. In universities, it disempowers an individual from saying what they want in a place that should be a crucible for experimentation and discovery. More critically, it disempowers the people it wants to empower; assuming minorities can’t manage the condition that accompanies a free and open society – being offended by something. Political correctness is anathema to the values that constitute a free society. What’s more, it visibly undermines these values in places that should cherish them most – universities and academia.

Another distinctive feature of political correctness is the hodgepodge of critical race theory and identity politics. Discrimination is excused under the banner of liberation. Discrimination is not only being excused, but also conferred an attractive righteousness. Thus, individuals can say “kill all white men”, or declare white people are trash, or argue white people should be banned from events, without anything resembling compunction. Their justification is simple: their prejudice against whites isn’t racist, and doesn’t carry the peculiar stigma of racism, because racism is prejudice married with power. With an ugly sleight of hand, they pollute the conventional meaning of a term to absolve themselves from the scrutiny this term rightly merits. It doesn’t actually redress power balance, but reverses it. By suggesting power is an inherent feature of whiteness, where it ultimately resides, political correctness removes the possibility of non-white people exercising power and being fully responsible for their own actions: the concept of moral autonomy is undermined. This means that the non-white advocates of political correctness are free to act however they please without the moral scrutiny that attends white people – and should, in fact, attend every human.

The power-powerless concept is toxic because power is more fluid than assuming to be brown is too be powerless; a brown Islamist may be more powerless than a Jew because his skin is visibly darker, but when he murderously re-enacts the oldest hatred of our civilisation on the streets of Europe, who dares dilute the significance of his racism?

This power-powerless concept is faulty because it enables someone like Bahar Mustafa to assert she can’t be racist, after saying and endorsing perfectly racist things. It enables articles after articles after articles to be written that invert reality and reproduce something that should be consigned to history: one set of standards for one group of people, another set for another. The way to challenge inequality is not by reproducing the conditions of inequality – but, rather, by proceeding from an egalitarian basis: viewing each individual as deserving of equal dignity. The identity politics of Bahar Mustafa are a consequential challenge to this premise because they separate rather than stress our common humanity. Political correctness is a fundamentally anti-egalitarian movement.

The term ‘wolf in sheep’s clothing’ captures an important truth: an effective way to leverage power is by assuming the status of a victim. A culture of victimhood is inherent to political correctness. It is through this victimhood, ultimately, that the tribal hatred of its advocates are nourished, and the dignity of its opponents are undermined.

Yep. Don’t let them get away with it. As someone once said, punch back twice as hard.

“Useless” Liberal Arts Degrees

Aren’t necessarily useless in tech:

“Studying philosophy taught me two things,” says Butterfield, sitting in his office in San Francisco’s South of Market district, a neighborhood almost entirely dedicated to the cult of coding. “I learned how to write really clearly. I learned how to follow an argument all the way down, which is invaluable in running meetings. And when I studied the history of science, I learned about the ways that everyone believes something is true–like the old notion of some kind of ether in the air propagating gravitational forces–until they realized that it wasn’t true.”

I’ve never opposed liberal arts per se. As Glenn says, it can be a very valuable education if taught with rigor (but that also traditionally included math, and logic). But it’s mostly not, these days. And certainly not at all in the “studies” departments.

Live In NH, NV, NY Or MO?

Give your senators hell:

The first panel features four senators — Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y.; Claire McCaskill, D-Mo.; Dean Heller, R-Nev.; and Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H. All four were original sponsors of the Campus Accountability and Safety Act introduced in 2014, and all four are sponsors on the updated version introduced earlier this year.

CASA will surely be the focus of their panel, which is a shame because the bill is devoid of due process protections for accused students. When the bill was first introduced in 2014, I sent six questions to each of the original sponsors. Of the four sitting on the panel this Wednesday, only Ayotte’s office responded — and the response ignored a question about due process. A series of follow-up questions were never answered.

Neither Heller nor McCaskill’s office ever responded to the original questions. A staffer from Gillibrand’s office called me back but was uninterested in answering questions; instead, the staffer merely gave me an overview of the bill. . . .

Those are the eight people who will be addressing campus sexual assault on Wednesday. It is highly unlikely that even one of them will suggest that the draconian measures being thrust upon universities are fundamentally unfair and biased. Not one person is there to suggest that maybe colleges shouldn’t be adjudicating felonies. Not one person is there to suggest that if colleges do continue to adjudicate felonies, then they need to provide students the same protections an actual court of law would provide.

If you wanted to destroy academia, you couldn’t do a better job of what these people are doing. I expect this kind of thing from the Democrats, but it’s sad to see that, apparently, neither party gives a damn about actual justice or due process.