It’s Empire-building justified by an imaginary problem, and it is disastrously fueling tuition bloat and creates powerful local constituencies committed to opposition to free speech and the suppression of adversarial ideas.
Noah Karl contends that the Woke cultural shift that has swept through the Community of Fashion in recent years can be traced to the Civil Rights Movement and to the massive leftward shift of Academia.
The Professoriate used to be conventionally Liberal. Today it is conventionally Radical. One key reason for that shift is the dramatic increase of female academics.
I suspect that most of academia’s leftward shift was due to self-reinforcing processes: social homophily (conservatives not wanting to enter a profession where there aren’t many conservatives); political typing (conservatives feeling that an academic career “isn’t for them” in the same way that some women feel that a construction career “isn’t for them”); and discrimination (conservatives being discriminated against in hiring, research and funding).
However, one other possible cause of academia’s leftward shift, and of the rise of woke activism in particular, is the influx of women into that institution. …
[W]hy would the influx of women into academia have contributed to its leftward shift, and to the rise of woke activism in particular? As the psychologist Cory Clark notes, women are consistently less supportive of free speech than men, and consistently more supportive of censorship. Compared to men, they’re more likely to say: that hate speech is violence; that it’s acceptable to shout down a speaker; that controversial scientific findings should be censored; that people need to be more careful about the language they use; and that it should be illegal to say offensive things about minorities.
Clark argues, convincingly in my view, that this stems from women’s greater aversion to harm and conflict. They interpret various forms of speech as harmful to vulnerable groups, and wish to censor them for that reason. Whether these gender differences are cross-cultural universals remains a matter of debate. Women being more averse to harm and conflict would certainly make sense from an evolutionary point of view, but that doesn’t necessarily mean the differences are hard-wired. As with most traits that vary, I suspect there’s both a genetic and an environmental component. Whatever the precise mix, women’s greater aversion to harm and conflict does show up in many WEIRD countries, not least the United States.
Clark isn’t the only scholar to have noticed that women’s aversion to harm and conflict has profound implications for academia. Drawing on the work of psychologist Joyce Benenson, Arnold Kling notes: “Women have a social strategy that works well for protecting their individual health and the health of their children: emphasize safety, covertly undermine the status of unrelated females, and exclude rivals rather than reconcile with them.” This leads him to speculate that adding a lot of women to formerly male domains has made the culture of those domains more consistent with female tendencies. “The older culture valued open debate,” Kling notes. “The newer culture seeks to curtail speech it regards as dangerous.”
We know that, on average, women are less favourable to free speech and more favourable to censorship.
“Pendennis, sir,” he said, “your idleness is incorrigible and your stupidity beyond example. You are a disgrace to your school, and to your family, and I have no doubt will prove so in after-life to your country. If that vice, sir, which is described to us as the root of all evil, be really what moralists have represented (and I have no doubt of the correctness of their opinion), for what a prodigious quantity of future crime and wickedness are you, unhappy boy, laying the seed! Miserable trifler! A boy who construes δε and, instead of δε but, at sixteen years of age is guilty not merely of folly, and ignorance, and dullness inconceivable, but of crime, of deadly crime, of filial ingratitude, which I tremble to contemplate. A boy, sir, who does not learn his Greek play cheats the parent who spends money for his education. A boy who cheats his parent is not very far from robbing or forging upon his neighbour. A man who forges on his neighbour pays the penalty of his crime at the gallows. And it is not such a one that I pity (for he will be deservedly cut off), but his maddened and heart-broken parents, who are driven to a premature grave by his crimes, or, if they live, drag on a wretched and dishonoured old age.
–William Makepeace Thackeray, The History of Pendennis, 1848-1850.
Schools Chancellor Richard A. Carranza and Mayor Bill de Blasio announce the abolition of the NYC elite high school entrance exam.
George Packer (Y ’82)‘s poignant essay, in the Atlantic, on haute bourgeois parenting Manhattan-style is simply chock-full of information on the parental aspirations, obsessions, and the heads full of liberal nonsense of the new Upper Class.
The oblivious Packer delivers an appalling look at the world the douchebag elite left of my own generation has made. The characteristic combination of status-hunger, sanctimony, and stupidity of the new Woke Elite leads directly to the totalitarian egalitarian denouement that leaves Packer depressed, conflicted, and confused. What is a pious bourgeois bohemian to do when his children’s future status and the fanatical egalitarianism of the radical left come into conflict?
They lead lives of constant struggle and desperation, but they think there could be nothing worse than not being members in good standing of their own type and class.
When parents on the fortunate ledge of this chasm gaze down, vertigo stuns them. Far below they see a dim world of processed food, obesity, divorce, addiction, online-education scams, stagnant wages, outsourcing, rising morbidity ratesâ€”and they pledge to do whatever they can to keep their children from falling. Theyâ€™ll stay married, cook organic family meals, read aloud at bedtime every night, take out a crushing mortgage on a house in a highly rated school district, pay for music teachers and test-prep tutors, and donate repeatedly to overendowed alumni funds. The battle to get their children a place near the front of the line begins before conception and continues well into their kidsâ€™ adult lives. At the root of all this is inequalityâ€”and inequality produces a host of morbid symptoms, including a frantic scramble for status among members of a professional class whose most prized acquisition is not a Mercedes plug-in hybrid SUV or a family safari to Maasai Mara but an acceptance letter from a university with a topâ€‘10 U.S. News & World Report ranking. …
â€œIf you fail a math test you fail seventh grade,â€ our daughter said one night at dinner, looking years ahead. â€œIf you fail seventh grade you fail middle school, if you fail middle school you fail high school, if you fail high school you fail college, if you fail college you fail life.â€
Personally, I’d rather be a free American living in the worst shit-hole in Appalachia with normal ordinary American Trump-voters for neighbors than be a brainwashed zombie living among the kind of nincompoops that would elect Bill de Blasio.
Lady Butler, Floreat Etona!, 1882, private collection. The work depicts Lieutenant Robert Elwes of the Grenadier Guards, who was killed at the Battle of Laing’s Nek on 28 January 1881, during the First Boer War.
In the Spectator, James Delingpole complains that Oxbridge Colleges are these days making a point of discriminating against graduates of famous Public Schools, and that the rot has so far set in that Bolshie dons are giving Eton boys “gratitude lessons” and lectures about Sexism (!).
Across the country, private school parents who have scrimped and saved about Â£40,000 a year for fees are increasingly finding that their sacrifice is being rewarded by near-automatic Oxbridge rejection for their blameless offspring.
And who is speaking out against this class war-driven injustice? Almost no one. Which is why Anthony Wallersteiner, headmaster of Stowe, took so much flak for telling it like it is. â€˜The rise of populists and polemicists has created a micro-industry in bashing private schools,â€™ he told the Times. â€˜Thereâ€™s a much more concerted effort by [Oxbridge] admissions tutors to drive down the number of places given to independent schools,â€™ he went on â€” to a deafening chorus of near silence from his fellow public school heads.
Wallersteiner is dead right but the reason he wonâ€™t get much support from his peers is because most of them, deep down, agree on private education: that itâ€™s a bastion of unearned privilege, that it needs shaking up in order to accommodate itself to the modern world and that one really mustnâ€™t grumble if its boys and girls are penalised by the system because, hey, maybe thatâ€™s only fair.
How do I know this? Because Iâ€™m just coming to the end of more than a decade of putting my kids through private school and what Iâ€™ve witnessed is a creeping malaise not dissimilar to the one afflicting the Conservative party: institutions that no longer believe in their own brand, that are desperate to pretend they are something they are not (and never should be) in order to impress the kind of people who are always going to hate them anyway.
Take those â€˜gratitudeâ€™ lessons at Eton. These have been launched, apparently, â€˜after a review of teachers and staff found that they felt gratitude was an important trait which was not promoted by the schoolâ€™. Classes may teach things like how to â€˜write thank-you cards for everyday acts of kindness: â€œThank you for taking time to talk to me today.â€â€™ Can the school really not see what a massive own goal this is?
First, it plays into the hands of all those who think that Eton boys are a bunch of pampered, arrogant, entitled, snooty toffs. But the vast majority in my experience are supremely well-mannered, considerate and modest. And also fully conscious of their duty to give something back.
When Boy was there, for example, he gave up an afternoon every week to visit a local comprehensive school to help mentor a boy and a girl through their English Literature GCSEs. It wasnâ€™t compulsory â€” simply a reflection of the Eton public service ethos that is instilled in the boys from the moment they arrive. Often the formative work is done by their house â€˜dameâ€™ â€” the mother substitute who teaches them everything from how to dress properly to the importance of thank-you letters. These â€˜gratitudeâ€™ classes are fixing a problem that never existed.
Second, it is deeply off-putting to the kind of parents who should be sending their children to Eton: not ones who want it to be like every other touchy-feely progressive institution but ones who appreciate that its idiosyncrasies and traditions and archaisms are what make it so great. There was terrifying talk at the beginning of the new Head Manâ€™s tenure that the schoolâ€™s penguin uniform might be abolished. Happily, this got a lot of resistance, not least from the boys. But itâ€™s a measure of just how much madness there is abroad in the private education sector right now that serious consideration was given to destroying, on some trendy whim, arguably Etonâ€™s most distinctive selling point.
Boy had a fantastic education at Eton. But almost everything that was good about it, from the arcane terminology to the kit to the remarkable independence the boys enjoy, was the result of the accumulated values of its first 550 years of existence. It was not the result of any measures that modernisers have introduced in the past decade or so.
Here are a couple of things that particularly irked me: one or two bolshie beaks palpably not giving a toss about the massive increase in Oxbridge rejections because, hey, this actually gelled quite nicely with their own lefty prejudices; and the lecture â€” which an entire year group was forced to attend â€” by Laura Bates, founder of the Everyday Sexism Project.
Eton attracts some incredibly highâ€“powered speakers from all manner of fields: world leaders, explorers, entrepreneurs, you name it. But all these talks are voluntary, because thatâ€™s how Eton rolls: right from the start you are expected to forge your own intellectual destiny.
Apparently, though, it was deemed so important the boys should be lectured by a third-wave feminist on entrenched male privilege, gender injustice, and the inner rapist just waiting to burst out of every young man given half the chance, that this particular lecture was made compulsory. Apart from bespeaking a terrible lack of faith in the boysâ€™ manners and sense of sexual propriety, it represented a de facto endorsement of the kind of culturally divisive, hard-left identity politics which schools like Eton ought to be resisting at all costs, not glibly endorsing.
Why do the people in charge of all our elite institutions constantly surrender to the demoniacs of the radical left? Why do people at the top believe in nothing but success?
Brett Stevens argues that we have an educational system that selects for precisely those characteristics.
In democracies… we tell [the people] that they are equal and then set up a meritocracy which by narrowing the task at hand from success in reality (build a fire, run a farm, write a novel, raise a child) to what… selects for the obedient.
Responsive to the fear and ambition on which a democracy runs, the obedient are determined to do whatever is necessary to accomplish a task. They will ablate and erase their own personal opinions, needs, and morals in order to achieve what is assigned to them.
Your successful democratic citizen uses themselves as a means to this success. They use their time, their personal appeal, and even their bodies in order to become chosen by the system. This makes them both obedient and amoral.
Such a person will memorize reams of useless data, repeat it on command, and pretend it is real in order to get ahead; they will shame others who do not bleat the same things. They will attend jobs and school for however long is required to get that gold ring.
Even more, such a person learns to scorn their task. They are taught in school that nothing really matters in reality, since all that matters is having the right answer according to the system.
To such a person, that Communism fails â€” for example â€” has no importance. If preaching Communism is what the system rewards, this person will do it, just as they will endorse consumerism, diversity, atheism, or any other dogma.
They do not care if it is accurate or not. In their minds, it is simply what you do to be successful, and that is more important than it being true, because all they care about is being in the upper quarter of the people in the system.
For those who have spent time in American prisons, this order will seem familiar. Whoever does what makes him powerful has a good life, and it does not matter what it is, only that it is the right thing at the right moment.
These types of people comprise our current elites. They are experts in nothing but getting good grades, saying the right thing in public, and making money by telling people that what they want to hear is true (and supported by the product).
Students enter past metal detectors at Washington Irving High, where Mary Hudson taught 2001-2004.
At Quillette, Mary Hudson, an experienced high school French teacher, describes how well-meaning liberal ideology makes teaching efforts in ordinary New York public schools completely ineffective and education a joke. Amazingly, I found myself rooting for the Teachers Union, and read about Union reps operating as the good guys.
As the weeks dragged painfully into months, it became apparent that the students wouldnâ€™t learn anything. It was dumbfounding. It was all I could do to keep them quiet; that is, seated and talking among themselves. Sometimes I had to stop girls from grooming themselves or each other. A few brave souls tried to keep up with instruction. A particularly good history teacher once told me that she interrupted a conversation between two girls, asking them to pay attention to the lesson. One of them looked up at her scornfully and sneered, â€œI donâ€™t talk to teachers,â€ turning her back to resume their chat. She told me that the best school she ever worked at was in Texas, where her principal managed not only to suspend the most disruptive students for long periods, he also made sure they were not admitted during that time to any other school in the district. It worked; they got good results.
This was unthinkable in New York, where â€œin-house suspensionâ€ was the only punitive measure. It would be â€œdiscriminatoryâ€ to keep the students at home. The appropriate paperwork being filed, the most outrageously disruptive students went for a day or two to a room with other serious offenders. The anti-discrimination laws under which we worked took all power away from the teachers and put it in the hands of the students.
Throughout Washington Irving there was an ethos of hostile resistance. Those who wanted to learn were prevented from doing so. Anyone who â€œcooperated with the systemâ€ was bullied. No homework was done. Students said they couldnâ€™t do it because if textbooks were found in their backpacks, the offending students would be beaten up. This did not appear to be an idle threat. Too many students told their teachers the same thing. There were certainly precious few books being brought home.
I tried everything imaginable to overcome student resistance. Nothing worked. At one point I rearranged the seating to enable the students who wanted to engage to come to the front of the classroom. The principal was informed and I was reprimanded. This was â€œdiscriminatory.â€ The students went back to their chosen seats near their friends. Aside from imposing order, the only thing I succeeded at was getting the students to stand silently during the Pledge of Allegiance and mumble a few songs in French. But it was a constant struggle as I tried to balance going through the motions of teaching with keeping them quiet.
The abuse from students never let up. We were trained to absorb it. By the time I left, however, I had a large folder full of the complaint forms Iâ€™d filled out documenting the most egregious insults and harassment. There was a long process to go through each time. The student had a parent or other representative to state their case at the eventual hearing and I had my union rep. I lost every case.