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The Evolutionary Perspective
Category Archives: Political Correctness
Posted: July 21, 2020 at 11:43 am
The moral panic is a reaction by cultural gatekeepers to the democratising nature of online platforms, who otherwise cannot fathom being held accountable for their speech.
It was just five years ago that New York Magazine writer Jonathan Chaitdeclared journalism to be besieged by a system of left-wing ideological repression. Political correctness, in Chaits parlance, was a style of politics in which the more radical members of the left attempt to regulate political discourse by defining opposing views as bigoted and illegitimate.
Previously confined to academia, according to Chait, political correctness had gradually made inroads on social media and subsequently attained an influence over mainstream journalism and commentary beyond that of the old.
The main complaint of the now infamousopen letter published by Harpers Magazine does not vary from Chaits denunciation of political correctness five years ago.
Much as Chait had bemoaned that debate had become irrelevant and frequently impossible due to political correctness, the letter decries that the very norms of open debate and toleration of differences are now threatened in favor of ideological conformity.
Nor are the stakes any different this time around.
Just as Chait warned that the growth of political correctness threatened democracy itself, the letter suggests that the new set of moral attitudes and political commitments make everyone less capable of democratic participation. Chait considered political correctness to be antithetical to liberalism and the letter maintains that the lifeblood of a liberal society is at risk.
It has now become common practice for prominent writers with access to platforms which reach millions to raise overwrought concerns that the very foundation of liberalism is crumbling.
What Chait called political correctness has increasingly come to be known as cancel culture: a supposedly censorious tendency which entails an intolerance of opposing views, a vogue for public shaming and ostracism, and the tendency to dissolve complex policy issues in a blinding moral certainty.
Ironically, what these writers and intellectuals consider to be a threat to free speech are in fact themselves acts of free speech.
Cancel culture, if one is to call it that, is merely an indication that free speech is alive and well. There is an audience which engages with the work of others and feels free to criticise what it does not like.
The responses can take many forms: criticism and shaming on social media, letters to the editor, or boycotts of publications, TV shows, and streaming platforms. These are all responses that an audience is entitled to and they are all well within the scope of free speech.
In their erstwhile desire to denounce the encroachment of the public on their turf, the guardians of our culture complain that they no longer feel as comfortable to share their opinions as before, due to how others may feel and react.
This is what the hand-wringing over and condemnations of cancel culture actually indicate. The immunity from criticism our cultural and political establishment enjoyed for so long has now been lost.
Access to liberal values has always been shaped by political contexts, material conditions, market incentives, cultural forces, and so on. This still remains true. What has changed is the growth of the internet as an open-forum.
The audience has access to tools which allow it to direct its ire at those who previously enjoyed unfettered access to traditional media and remained blissfully oblivious to the opinions of their readership.
Blogs in the early 2000s and social media, especially Twitter, since then have allowed and even amplified the voices of marginalised groups. It is these previously unheard voices which seem to be causing so much consternation to the cultural and political establishment.
The moral panic, thus, is merely an elite reaction to the democratising nature of engagement with traditional media which social media enables.
The gatekeepers can no longer control the terms of their engagement with their audience and are now treated to an unrelenting stream of criticism. They take this not just to be a personal affront but rather a significant cultural shift.
Free speech, and liberalism generally, face no threat from a sheltered cultural and political establishment finally being challenged or exposed to contrary views. In its classical liberal formulation, free speech guarantees protection from government persecution but not necessarily a platform to broadcast your views.
No one is entitled to a Netflix special or access to the opinion pages of the New York Times and no ones freedom of speech is challenged when that access is cancelled. Never mind that many of those who are ostensibly cancelled actually go on to enjoy their lives and careers in much the same way as before.
As US House Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortezpointed out, no one has the right to a large, captive audience and does not become a victim if people choose to tune them out. The odds are, she continued, youre not actually cancelled, youre just being challenged, held accountable, or unliked.
It is telling that the Harpers Magazine letter contains no concrete examples of how free speech is being threatened. The consequences for dissenting and marginalised voices have always been far more severe than disagreements and social media shaming.
Advocates of Palestinian self-determination arefired from their jobs and have their lives destroyed, Muslims are thrown in prison fortranslation work, Black Lives Matter (BLM) activists arethreatened by intelligence agencies, and so on.
The cancellation of unnamed individuals from marginalised groups looks very different from the cancellation of a famous writer who may have to think twice before firing off another anti-trans tweet.
What the Harpers letter, and denunciations of cancel culture generally, represent is an attempt to weaponise free speech to further constrict free speech: a list ditch effort by the self-appointed guardians of culture to ensure access remains limited to the select few.
Disclaimer: The viewpoints expressed by the authors do not necessarily reflect the opinions, viewpoints and editorial policies of TRT World.
We welcome all pitches and submissions to TRT World Opinion please send them via email, to email@example.com
Source: TRT World
Former head of Navy says military should focus on winning wars rather than ‘political correctness’ – Telegraph.co.uk
Posted: at 11:43 am
The former head of the Royal Navy has said the military should focus on winning wars rather than "political correctness" after a ban on words like manpower.
Admiral Lord Alan West, former First Sea Lord, made his comments after it was reported that the First Sea Lord Tony Radakin had ordered sailors to stop using terms such as unmanned" and "manpower" so as female recruits do not feel excluded.
Lord West, 72,said that whilepeople have to be "very careful with words"because "in this very politically correct world it has a relevance", he hoped that most of their (the Navys) attention is being paid at the moment to ensuring we have sufficient ships, weapons and men to prevent war and if there is a war, to be able to fight and win.
"Those things seem to me merit a huge amount of attention and it seems that quite often we're focusing more and more on things like the RAF changing its uniform and all those soft things, which are lovely, but they don't actually help you when a war comes along."
It comes after the Chief of the Defence Staff warned that the Armed Forces must stamp out its "laddish" nature, as he warned he found the militarys culture really worrying.
General Sir Nick Carter also wrote a letter to all personnel where he said that while we talk a genuinely good game, more needed to be done to deal with racism in Britain's Armed Forces.
It follows on from a review last year which concluded that the forces were led by a "pack of middle-aged white men" resulting in unacceptable levels of bullying, sexism and racist behaviour.
The report, by Air Marshal Michael Wigston, was commissioned after a 17-year-old female soldier was allegedly sexually assaulted by six male personnel.
Posted: at 11:43 am
Many thanks to Jeff Rayburn for his concise and timely letter (Without free speech, fascism; July 8, 2020). I, too, am genuinely concerned about the many, divisive issues facing our country today.
The COVID-19 pandemic, racial diversity, political ideology, cancel-culture including speech suppression, statue removal, history revision and a small, but loud, number of activists of all kinds have caused terrible divisions in our national fabric. Far-left Trump haters have taken over the media and social platforms; far-right fanatics have turned into survivalists recognizing no authority but their own. No longer can we have reasoned, thoughtful discussions.
The tenor in our society is now so infected with political correctness and wokeness that I fear for the survival of our nation as we have known it. Can we not say, enough is enough, start respecting differences of opinion and quit demonizing someone just because they do not agree with us?
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Posted: at 11:43 am
Officers and squaddies march to a different tune
Jul 18th 2020
I ALWAYS GET asked to be a suicide bomber in training exercises, reveals a British soldier of North African descent. The role has its perks: spending an afternoon far away from barked orders, waiting to ambush a passing patrol. But with his fellow troops eagerly wrapping a rag around his head, he found it hard to ignore the profiling. I wouldnt term it abuse, I would term it racial ignorance on a staggering scale. Its a group of people who are naturally attracted to a particular political ideology, and dont want to engage with political correctness.
The armys job is to fight the queens enemies, and the fact that they have often been of a different colour to her is embedded in its culture. A non-white reservist says friends ask him why he wants to fight a white mans war. Once a year his regiment sits down to watch Zulu, a film about a bloody battle between British soldiers and African tribesmen. He says that the atmosphere isnt racist, but you can see how there might be some negative connotations amongst the junior ranks.
Nicola Williams, the Service Complaints Ombudsman, said in December 2019 that incidents of racism are occurring with increasing and depressing frequency. The army is trying to change this, and says of instances of racism The Economist put to it, such as the one above, There is no place for racism in the military and anyone behaving in this way can expect to be disciplined or dismissed. Last month, General Sir Nick Carter, the head of the armed forces, wrote to every soldier to say that the army supports Black Lives Matter (BLM). A few weeks later, central command waived the usual rule that politics is off-limits by letting troops attend BLM protests.
Senior staff hope that supporting BLM will send a positive signal. The young cohort from which the army recruits is more ethnically diverse than the population as a whole. Black and minority ethnic (BME) troops make up 8.8% of the 145,000-strong armed forces, which is in line with the population, but that includes 3,760 Gurkhas, around 1,300 Fijians and other non-white troops recruited from Britains former colonies. So it needs to improve its image among BME people to keep its numbers up.
This new approach also reflects the increasingly liberal views of senior staff in the armed forces. A growing professionalism has raised entry and training standards while making promotion more meritocratic. Once a cadet at Sandhurst, Britains officer-training academy, was a bit like Prince Harry: an Old Etonian, with deep family ties to the army, who was rather dim and prone to using racial slurs (as the young prince did as a Sandhurst cadet in 2009). Nowadays cadets are more likely to share the princes current views on race. The public-school contingent has been reduced to under half of Sandhursts intake. Socially mobile graduates now dominate.
Private soldiers still tend to come from low-income families in white working-class towns where social attitudes are more conservative. A BME soldier describes fellow squaddies as having a hillbillies in the Deep South who voted for Donald Trump mentality. A lance corporal was jailed in 2018 for joining National Action, a fascist group. Later that year a group of soldiers caused outrage after posing for photographs with Tommy Robinson, a far-right activist. Some of the counter-protests to BLM were organised by veterans who claimed to be guarding war memorials from potential vandalism. A black reservist says, Ive been surprised with the amount of people who have come out with the All Lives Matter mantra, and then actually having to sit down with NCOs [non-commissioned officers] and explain the whole situation to them.
The shared conservatism which once helped officers and troops to overcome class distinctions has now gone. There is a growing division in attitudes between commissioned officers, who see liberal reforms as necessary, and squaddies, who think political correctness is destroying the armys esprit de corps and undermining its professionalism. Ive had officers try and tell me about white privilege, sighs one soldier. That doesnt go down well with a bunch of blokes from the north.
Not all officers have moved in line with senior staff. Some allowed troops to attend counter-protests. But under new regulations officers who arent seen to encourage diversity will not be promoted. Anthony King, chair of war studies at Warwick university, thinks that in their drive to support diversity officers might sometimes be seen to promote women and ethnic minorities who had failed to meet the armys own rigorous standards. Independently of any committed racism or sexism on the part of the soldiers, this is bound to generate a reaction, he cautions. A former squaddie says he left the army last year when a female officer was promoted despite failing fitness tests. According to a spokesman, All fitness courses require the same challenges for both men and womenall staff being promoted are expected to pass the relevant tests. The squaddie is unimpressed. The army is just for shit cunts and liberals now, he says.
This article appeared in the Britain section of the print edition under the headline "Culture war"
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Posted: at 11:43 am
The following interview was conducted by Alexander Wendt on July 5, 2020, and originally appeared in German on Tichys Einblick on July 13, 2020. Translated by Russell A. Berman.
Alexander Wendt: Professor Bolz, the costs of the coronavirus pandemic are still unknown, but they will surely leave deep scars for years to come. Will our society return from post-materialism to a society with hard materialist concerns with numbers and balance sheets?
Norbert Bolz: Even before the coronavirus crisis, I had doubts as to whether the notion of a post-material society made much sense. To my mind, the post-material term only makes real sense as a description of digitalization and the rise of information technology. But the superstructure that is usually meant by post-material seems to me to be mainly a substitute for religion, and it never had the real significance for society that many ascribe to it.
Q: So the crisis wont change much?
Bolz: It will have a salutary impact to the extent that it will lead many people to focus on fundamental concerns: health, safety, and the basic functions of the state that guarantees these matters. We are returning to a Hobbesian understanding of the state. During the recent wonderful decades, we did not have to worry much about the need to protect our security. That has changed.
Q: What does it mean for public communication if we start talking more about Gross Domestic Product and less about gender identities?
Bolz: We may soon be facing materialist distribution struggles, with open conflict between utopianists and realists, as has been the case in the United States for several years. Up to now, public discourse in Germany has been dominated nearly exclusively by a milieu distorted by affluence. In the post-coronavirus era, we may find that that rhetoric will be ratcheted down. There are two different cultures in Germany: idealists from the ivory tower and others who have to earn money. Up to now, the idealists have been in charge of the public debate. A paradigmatic example of this kind of windbag is the acting chair of the Social Democrats, Kevin Khnert. He studied nothing, completed nothing, and has no real knowledge of anythingbut he speaks well and knows how to present himself. On the other side, there are engineers, natural scientists, and entrepreneurs who do not speak in public because they never learned how, and public speaking is not part of their self-understanding. Until now they have more or less accepted the fact that they barely play a role in the public debate. But I think it is quite likely that they will develop a greater interest, now that it has become a matter of the real economic consequences of the crisis, at least to participate in the social debate and not to leave the field to the big talkers.
Q: What do you see happening in the United States?
Bolz: It is remarkable that in the United States, political correctness is even crazier than here, but there is also a free opposition camp. Talk radio reaches a large public there and gives many a chance to participate in public discussion. Twitter plays a larger role as well.
Q: Canadian author Jordan B. Peterson has evoked the so-called intellectual dark web. That is his ironic designation for a platform where he can talk with the neurologist Sam Harris and entrepreneurs like Eric Weinstein without the limitations of political correctness. Is something like that possible in Germany too?
Bolz: A while ago I made reference in a tweet to the intellectual dark web, where interesting discussions really do take place. In Germany, too, there are plenty of interesting, nonconformist minds. So far what is missing is money, the economic support that is needed to establish a sustainable public platform.
Q: Actually the classical media ought to provide a platform like that for open debates, if only out of self-interest. Why doesnt that happen?
Bolz: This ought to be their job. I can only explain the extreme conformism in the editorial offices of most media through the very similar socialization of all journalists. There is no longer much difference between the private and the state-financed media in the discussion of most political topics. This sort of conformism is fatal, especially in this period in which all the political parties pretty much say the same thing, with the exception of the AfD [Alternative for Germany].
Q: What do you read?
Bolz: I used to appreciate Die Welt a lot. It bothers me that there too one now finds the hymns of praise for Angela Merkels great political leadership. If I want to read about German domestic politics, then I feel best turning to the Neuen Zrcher Zeitung. It offers a perspective that is distinctly different.
Q: The private media are calling for state subventionsabove and beyond the sixty million euros already committed to support newspapers. Are we facing a statist structural transformation of the public sphere?
Bolz: I cant say much to that. I can only pray that it doesnt happen. When it is a matter of the existence of ones own place of work, some media companies are evidently willing to sell their souls. I can even understand that. But the results would be terrible.
Q: In the context of the pandemic, scientists have had a clearly stronger influence in politics and media. Some virologists suddenly appear to be more important than members of the cabinet or leading editors. What does this mean for public debate?
Bolz: I am not able to judge the competency of the virologists who now appear widely in the media. During the pandemic, in general I appreciate the scientists and politicians who honestly concede that they still do not know enough. But as for wide swaths of the humanities: many are sinning against Max Webers exhortation against using the lecture as an opportunity to sermonize.
Q: Who is doing that?
Bolz: For example, Ottmar Edenhofer from the Potsdam Institute for Research on Climate Change. He is very proud to be the actual author of the papal encyclical Laudato si on climate questions as well as the key advisor for the climate policies of the German government. There are plenty of representatives of sociology, political science, psychology, as well as law who would love to appear in media debates as leading advisors. A real casting takes place: your chances to appear are best if you provide exactly what the editorial boards want on a specific topic. The fact that these academic opportunists appear more and more has become a big problem for academia.
Q: Do you see a chance that a new generation of scholars might break through this conformism?
Bolz: I am not particularly optimistic that a future generation of humanists and social scientists can break through the strictures of paternalism and conformism. People worry about their careers, and state control is becoming ever stricter. The result is opportunism scholarship. Thats why I place my bet more on thinking outside of the institutions.
Q: You recently left this academic world through retirement. Was that a painful departure?
Bolz: I am enjoying my freedom, which includes, among other things, the fact that no one can threaten me with disciplinary action. I can send out my missives on Twitter and place them in other select media channels. Otherwise I am experiencing what Goethe once described as the privilege of age: the gradual withdrawal from public visibility.
George Boardman: What’s in a nickname? Plenty in these times of hyper sensitivity – The Union of Grass Valley
Posted: at 11:43 am
The Washington Redskins football team has decided to scrap its offensive nickname, another victory for the interests of inclusion and social justice currently sweeping the country.
The teams owner, Dan Snyder, has steadfastly resisted the change over the years, and he received recent support from President Donald Trump, who is four-square against political correctness.
But the teams fate was sealed when its biggest corporate sponsor, FedEx, signaled it was ready for a change, and Amazon quit selling Redskins apparel. Nothing talks louder than money in the National Football League.
The Redskins saga had a sketchy history. The nickname was created in 1933 by owner George Preston Marshall, a segregationist who was the last holdout in the NFL when it came to integrating players. He capitulated in 1962 when he was threatened with loss of his stadium.
Washingtons decision continues a new woke trend on the part of the NFL. Commissioner Roger Goodell said the league has been slow to acknowledge the social justice concerns of players, has decided its OK for players to kneel on the sidelines, and has even suggested that outcast quarterback Colin Kaepernick is employable.
Im OK with making the change if it makes Native Americans feel better. Theyve taken enough grief over the centuries from their European interlopers, even when you account for the fact they introduced tobacco and syphilis to their European tormentors.
But Washington will have to tread carefully on naming a new nickname (still under consideration as I write this) given our increased sensitivity to every real or imagined slight. Other mascots have not kept pace with the times, and you have to wonder how much pressure will be applied to college and professional teams with insensitive nicknames now that the Redskins have capitulated.
Stanford University started the trend in 1972 when it dropped the Indians nickname and eventually settled on Cardinal the color, not the bird. Out went Prince Lightfoot, to be replaced by the tree presumably a reference to El Palo Alto, the towering coastal redwood that looms over downtown Palo Alto and inspired the citys name.
University officials foolishly let the students decide on a new mascot, and they overwhelmingly chose Robber Barons, in honor of the universitys founder, Leland Stanford. (The school is actually named for his son, Leland Stanford Jr. University.) School officials were not amused.
But other schools and professional organizations chose not to follow the lead of Stanford in removing objectionable nicknames, somewhat surprising given the trend toward protecting people from hostile ideas, hurtful thoughts, and other things they dont like. Thus we find the Central Michigan Chippewas, Florida State Seminoles, Louisiana Lafayette Ragin Cajuns and San Diego State Aztecs still playing football at the Football Bowl Subdivision level.
There are several other teams with problematic nicknames among the 130 schools at the highest levels of the sport. Environmental warriors cant be happy with polluters like the Alabama Crimson Tide or the Tulane Green Wave, not to mention pests like the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets.
People who get nervous around bad weather have a hard time warming up to the Iowa State Cyclones, Miami Hurricanes, Carolina Hurricanes, Tampa Bay Lightning, and the Tulsa Golden Hurricanes. Then there are the mellow folks who can do without the Illinois Fighting Illini and the Notre Dame Fighting Irish.
Speaking of religion, people who regularly ponder good and evil could find themselves wresting with the New Jersey Devils, Arizona State Sun Devils, Duke Blue Devils, and the Wake Forest Demon Deacons, not to mention truly bad people like the East Carolina Pirates, Texas Tech Red Raiders, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and (yes) Pittsburgh Steelers. (The Tampa Bay Rays used to be known as the Devil Rays until public opposition forced a name change. The team actually got better.)
Some people might object to the monopoly my fellow Catholics have on naming saints, which would make the New Orleans Saints, Los Angeles Angels, and San Diego Padres problematical.
Nicknames can bring up subjects that make people uncomfortable. I suspect the name of the Colorado Avalanche makes some operators of posh ski resorts in the Centennial State squirm when the touchy subject is raised. The Milwaukee Brewers are clearly sending the wrong message to the youth of America. Then theres the San Francisco 49ers, an era that still congers up bad memories for many of Californias Native Americans. The New York Giants and the San Francisco Giants are problematical in a time when were fighting obesity.
Some nicknames can just add more fuel to our politically-charged times. We have the New York Yankees and the Washington Capitals, as opposed to the Old Miss Rebels. For people who prefer to find common ground, theres the New England Patriots.
Then there are nicknames that make absolutely no sense. The Los Angeles Lakers? Theyre originally from Minnesota, the Land of 10,000 Lakes. The Utah Jazz? New Orleans. The Memphis Grizzlies? Vancouver, B.C.
If they are going to change the name of the Washington Redskins, what about the Cleveland Indians, Atlanta Braves, Kansas City Chiefs, Chicago Blackhawks and the Golden State Warriors?
I think professional and college teams should take a page from the recent trend of minor league baseball teams and just lighten up. I get a smile whenever I think about the Lansing Lugnuts, Savannah Sand Gnats, Montgomery Biscuits, Richmond Flying Squirrels, or Albuquerque Isotopes. My favorite college nickname is the UC-Santa Cruz Banana Slugs (Once a Slug, always a Slug.)
As Washington considers its new nickname, it might want to reflect on the teams poor performance during Snyders reign while at the same time honoring black pioneers in the days of segregated sports. To me, the Washington Generals is a natural.
George Boardman lives at Lake of the Pines. His column is published Tuesdays by The Union. Write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Posted: at 11:43 am
I'd like to add a few additions to your article on the John Mason statue "In Windsor, a former Mystic fixture could be removed from pedestal again," July 11 which is accurate on the whole.
In 1992, Columbus was celebrated for his voyage in 1492. Our local peace group, the Southeastern Connecticut Coalition for Peace and Justice, viewed his voyage as an invasion, not discovery which view has been finally recognized nationally with the removal in New London and around the United States of Columbus statues.
When we learned through meeting with "Wolf" Jackson and other local Pequots about the 1637 massacre, and the statue of John Mason standing on the site of that massacre, our focus changed to the removal of that statue, and in the process educating the local community about the Pequot War. Almost two years of hard work culminated when the Groton Town Council voted to remove the statue.
As you mentioned in the article, people living in that neighborhood now have little knowledge about the horrible massacre which took place in their neighborhood. The "peace tree" and plaque which replaced the statue have not been well-maintained. However, the Pequot tribal members are aware of the apology implicit in the removal of the statue, and are, I believe, relieved that it is not on the site.
Edith Fairgrieve, Dave Silk, Melinda Cole-Plurde, Cal Robertson and I, Rick Gaumer, were the activists involved with Wolf and various Pequots in the struggle to recognize the wrong our ancestors committed in Mystic. We appreciated the willingness of the Groton Town Council to learn from history. Once removed, our group did not express an opinion on the disposition of the statue.
In some ways, the move to a small green inWindsor, surrounded by Colonial-era buildings, corrects the image of the colonists given by various museums Old Sturbridge Village, Old Deerfield, Plimoth Plantation with an obviously war-like violent statue. We all need to know this aspect of our history in this land.
By the way, the day after the Groton Town Council voted to remove the statue, I found out that an ancestor of mine, Nicolas Olmsted, a son of a founder of Hartford, took part in the massacre. In fact, Mason, in his account of the battle, when the battle was in doubt, ordered Nicolas to run through the village with a torch, setting fire to the homes. Many died in the fire or were killed fleeing the flames.
I had never seen the statue until the day before its removal. The horror I felt on that site continues to haunt me to this day.
Finally, concerning the recent commentary by Marcus Mason Maronn,his characterization of Uncas and Sassacus as genocidal butchers, equal to Mason, is wrong. It was Mason who led the killing of up to 700 men, women, children and elders. Both the Narragansetts and the Mohegans, allies of the colonists, were appalled by the slaughter of innocents. The historical record is clear.
Maronn repeatedly refers to the controversy about the statue as pushing some form of political correctness.No, the controversy is a response by those who came to understand Mason's and the colonists' actions, which amounted to attempted genocide.
Rick Gaumer lives in Norwich.
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Posted: at 11:42 am
Galloways business-school colleague Hans Taparia, an expert on the food industry, opines that online classes will soon replace campus learning now that we have had the pandemic experience of taking courses while confined to quarters. When the worry about the virus disappears, he assures us, the benefits of asynchronous learning will remain.
Maybe soand its likely the pandemic really will shake something up about our higher-education establishment. There will be changes. There will be schools that go bankrupt. And the pandemic has unquestionably revealed some deep inequity issues with higher education, which the crisis gives us the opportunity and the incentive to get right.
When it comes to the end of college as we know it, however, weve seen this movie beforeand college has survived it. The last time America was swept by this particular combination of economic collapse and technophilia was in the wake of the financial crisis of 2008, and that too brought predictions of massive change to higher education. The book titles reflected the mood of the moment: Academically Adrift, College Unbound, The End of College, Higher Education in Crisis?
Following the model of disruptive innovation laid out by Clayton Christensen in the late 1990s, authors were confident that economic, social and technological factors would disintermediate traditional campuses. Christensen himself made this case in a 2011 book, The Innovative University. Technology was creating the future of learning, and one either got on board or went extinct. Education writers often made the pilgrimage to Silicon Valley, where all that money, all those gizmos and all that talk of the future made the inefficiencies of campus life seem at best quaint, and at worst pernicious. The mania of the moment was MOOCs, or massive online open courses, which looked set to displace college itself.
Theres a critique of college underlying all these promises, and the critics have a point. Theres no question colleges and universities in the United States are unusual institutions; their business models evolved in economies very different from our own. No other country has anything quite like Americas higher-education system. Elite schools are superexpensive (for those able to pay full fare); the great public institutions continue to serve hundreds of thousands of students from all walks of life while also sponsoring the most advanced research on the planet. In a culture and economy increasingly customizable so as to facilitate the most efficient transactions, universities bundle many different functions together, with high overhead, high personnel costs and long-standing rules and traditions. When colleges add technology to their operations, they dont reduce costs; they just increase expectations. And so, we are told, these are enterprises ripe for disruption.
But one persons inefficiencies are another persons opportunities. Colleges and universities dont just bundle different functions; they bundle different kinds of people together, too. On a university campus, classics majors sit next to economics majors in a neuroscience class or at a basketball game. This lived experience of diversity is unlike the rest of our very segregated society. And it offers the kind of serendipitous encounters that lead to transformative learning. Campuses arent just a collection of climbing walls and parties; theyre a rare venue for bringing together people open to discoveries about themselves and the world. Despite the warnings from Silicon Valley, students and their families want that campus experience, and see it as a critical part of ones life. Theres a reason why the best residential college campuses havent just survived over the past several decades, but have grown. Theres a reason why families today talk about the trauma of being sent home from school without finishing the semester.
Many colleges and universities have long been managing disruption, and even growing from it, rather than being victimized by it. This is especially true in regard to higher educations relationship to technology. Large tech companies have been heavily involved with higher education for years. Apple developed iTunes University in 2007, and many schools shared their content on its platform; the schools are still there, though iTunes U is being discontinued. Harvard-MITs EdX has been producing classes seen by millions of learners without putting any notable dents in Harvard or MIT. Stanford professors started Udacity and Coursera, and both companies have found a spot, if not quite sustainability, in the higher ed marketplace. Georgia Tech, Southern New Hampshire University, Berklee College of Music and Arizona State, to name just a sampling of schools, have developed powerful platforms for remote learning, often in some combination with in-person classes. Ive been teaching humanities classes on Coursera for several years, and have had more than 100,000 students in my classes. During the pandemic, more than a thousand people have joined the courses each week. But there is no sign that this appetite for online learning diminishes the interest in studying on campus. Universities learned this when they made classes available for free on the internet and applications still kept pouring in.
Right now, students who have been sheltering at home these past few months are clamoring to get back to campus. Many have reported that if their schools are fully online in the fall, they will take a break from education and find something else to do. The pandemic has demonstrated that faculty can deliver their courses online and students can grasp the materialbut its also abundantly clear that critical parts of the experience are lost when the learning community is dispersed.
The fact that tech wont be the disruptor doesnt mean that no disruption is needed right now. And the pandemic is helping clarify just how colleges should change. A popular phrase in this pandemic period is were all in this together, but its increasingly clear that the disease is having a disproportionate impact on poor and marginalized populations. Inequality, whether in terms of disparities in health care, underlying conditions or job security, is everywhere evident. And in America, equality is profoundly racialized, as Black Lives Matter activists and their allies have highlighted this summer, and will likely press as an issue as the semester gets underway.
Inequality remains the great problem facing higher education in the United States, and it is suddenly very visible on our screens for those who normally teach on campus. Displaced onto Zoom, teachers long accustomed to the equalizing environment of the classroom have been disconcerted by the disparities they see among homebound students. Their better-off students check in with new laptops, great Wi-Fi, and seem to study in posh surroundings; the less well-off struggle for access and privacyand any time to read while juggling the responsibilities they carry in their families.
Higher education can reinforce privilege and divisions, or it can be a vehicle for social mobility and cohesion. As we think about the return to campus, we can learn some lessons from the past few months. Colleges large and small have decided not to require standardized tests for admissions this year because of the challenges of testing during a pandemic. But some students, especially those from low income families, have long known that SATs and ACTs favor those with money for tutors and time for organized test prep. Nobody should go back to requiring these pseudo-objective exams.
As was the case in the summer of 2016, likewise in this election year, well hear again and again that progressive puritans (or illiberal liberals) are destroying free speech. Cancel culture has replaced political correctness as a label to affix to those one finds too radical, too weird or just too rude. Of course, there are examples of people unjustly fired or attacked for a perceived departure from campus orthodoxy, and university leaders must resist calls to punish divergent points of view. But underneath the argumentboth the callouts from the left, and the anxiety from conservatives and traditional liberalsis a real reminder that maintaining civil intellectual diversity takes work, and that a campus is exactly where we can build the habit of listening to those with views different from ones own.
Higher education should also have learned from this pandemic that the bubble of campus life is an illusion. Rather than seeing eight semesters away from home as a break from real life, colleges and universities should find more ways to connect their students to the towns they live in and to a country that needs their participation in public life. If students are attending their college from their hometown, they have even more opportunities to knit education and citizenship together. This can take the form of encouraging political participation at the local or national level as a part of a students education. During the pandemic, more than 300 schools have joined Wesleyan in E2020, a program to develop civic preparedness among our students so that they can participate more thoughtfully in the nations political institutions. This will be good for the students, their schools and the country.
Today, more academics can see the promise of hybrid or low-residency models that combine technology and in-person educational experiences; programs that reduce the time to degree can make good use of online classes to help students and their families save money. There should be nothing sacred about the academic calendar. When universities reopen their gates, they can complement the amplification of learning that campus provides with remote educational offerings and work experiences. Programs through which students work in business, the professions and not-for-profits can help ensure that ones education better prepares one for life beyond the university.
Such paths have already been charted by organizations like AmeriCorps, which has integrated national service with education. President Donald Trumps proposals to cut the Corporation for National and Community Service are exactly the wrong way to go. Instead, we need the federal government to incentivize more states to create their own programs to integrate education, job training and public service. Colleges and universities can support their states efforts to develop programs that incentivize teamwork, innovation, and civic preparedness beyond borders of campus. This isnt unbundling; its the construction of more paths for people eager to learn.
The closure of campuses over the past few months has forced us to confront what is most valuable about a college experience, and it would be a missed opportunity if the greatest thing we learned in this pandemic is how to better wash our hands. To the extent we can profit from this dismal experience, we should use it to build greater access to a broad, pragmatic education in which students learn deeply not only from the delivery of course material but from one another as well.
Weve had enough attempts at smug disruption, whether by anti-intellectual populists or technophilic prognosticators. No, the pandemic does not have to lead to an impoverished educational experience in the name of efficiency. If anything, the lived experience of social isolation is reinforcing the importance of interacting with others in physical proximityeven if you have to wear a mask.
Opinion: If Democrats take control, ‘the mob’ will have your future in their hands – Courier Journal
Posted: July 9, 2020 at 3:45 pm
Scott Jennings, Opinion contributor Published 10:26 a.m. ET July 8, 2020
Protesters tore down a statue of Christopher Columbus Wednesday outside the State Capitol in St. Paul, Minnesota. (June 10) AP Domestic
Two forces are colliding in 2020. One has no idea what it wants. The other is crystal clear.
Lets start with Donald Trump, running for reelection as president of the United States. His answer on why he wants a second term has been, charitably, non-existent.
Here was Trumps first swing at it, with Fox News host Sean Hannity:
Well one of the things that will be really great: You know, the word experience is still good. I always say talent is more important than experience, Ive always said that. But the word experience is a very important word. Its a very important meaning. I never did this before, I never slept over in Washington. I was in Washington, I think, 17 times, all of a sudden Im president of the United States, you know the story. Im riding down Pennsylvania Avenue with our first lady and I say, This is great. But I didnt know very many people in Washington, it wasnt my thing. I was from Manhattan, from New York. Now I know everybody.
Given a mulligan by Sinclair TV host Eric Bolling a few days later, Trump whiffed again in a rambling response that lacked a cogent argument like I fixed the economy once, and Ill save it again.
Trump ran on real things in 2016, namely how the political elite had left American workers behind on immigration and trade. He promised lower taxes, conservative judgesand pro-life policies. He railed against political correctness run amuck, appealing to Republicans and blue-collar Democrats alike.
Unfortunately, the president has yet to formulate a similarly insightful argument for a second term as he struggles to manage the twin crises of coronavirus and social unrest. His speech at Mt. Rushmore hammering the leftists attempting to erase Americas history (and its future) before our very eyes was an improvement, despite what you heard from the homogeneous national political press that is dedicated to Trumps destruction.
More from Scott Jennings: Riots give Trump a chance to rally his supporters and go after racism
But Trump behind in his reelection and threatening to take the Republican Senate down with him must now carry his argument forward by characterizing todays rope-pullers as tomorrows policymakers in a Joe Biden administration. If you are worried about economic upheaval today, wait until the mob oversees Bidens policy shop.
Vandalism at the statue of Christopher Columbus in Garfield(Photo: Courtesy of the city of Garfield)
Anarchists, radical leftists, Democratic Party leaders, and their cheerleaders and apologists in the press cannot control or hide what is happening.Its just the Confederate statues, they tell us, as Christopher Columbus sinks in a Baltimore harbor. It isnt about disrespecting America, just ending police brutality, they claim.
Except that the spiritual leader of the other colliding force Colin Kaepernick released a video over the weekend calling the Fourth of July a celebration of white supremacy. Theres no other way to interpret his argument the American experiment is built on an evil foundation and must be erased.
Apparently, top Democrats were listening. Illinois Sen.Tammy Duckworth a leading contender to become Bidens running mate said on Sunday we ought to consider removing statues of George Washington and raised the specter of doing away with Mt. Rushmore altogether. She said Trump spent all his time talking about dead traitors this weekend, despite the fact that his speech was entirely about the Founding Fathers and other American heroes.
The guru says jump! and his followers shout how high!
Prominent Democratic operatives started this nonsense last summer by pushing to label all Trump voters as racist. Now, they bless an all-out assault on a core tenet of American political discourse that we are all in this together by arguing that not only are Trump and his supporters racist but that celebrating Americas founding means you endorse white supremacy.
Kaepernicks cult knows exactly what it wants: to cancel its political opposition and then delegitimize the American story as we have always known it. They seek radical policy changes that can only be accomplished by removing the democratic guardrails of separation of powers and the protection of minority party rights in the legislative branch.
Read: 100+ youth march 'for freedom' in downtown Louisville on Independence Day
Senate Democrats are signaling they will end the legislative filibuster if they gain control, effectively surrendering to the most extreme elements of the American left (they already run the House under Nancy Pelosi). Combine this change with a newfound taste for emergency powers exercised in the name of the coronavirus, and you can see how the lefts wildest and most radical dreams could come true in short order.
What does America look like when Republicans no longer have the procedural tools to save the country from extremism? Turn on your television. The people destroying American cities and public property and the petrified, enabling Democrats too weak to stop them will have your future in their hands.
Scott Jennings is a Republican adviser, CNN political contributor, and partner at RunSwitch Public Relations. He can be reached atScott@RunSwitchPR.comor on Twitter@ScottJenningsKY.
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Posted: at 3:45 pm
We endorse the sentiment articulated recently in a joint statement by 150 authors, academics and journalists that restriction of free speech, whether by a repressive government or by a counterculture demanding uncompromising fealty and conformity, erodes democracy and harms the subaltern. Thesignatories include author Salman Rushdie, linguist Noam Chomsky and Harry Potter creator J K Rowling.
In the era of social media, where arguments are short and emphatic, nuance is displaced by arbitrary certainty and intolerance of dissent. The result is to coarsen the public discourse and polarise, rather than inform, opinion. The way to defeat bad ideas is by exposure, argument, and persuasion, not by trying to silence or wish them away. We refuse any false choice between justice and freedom, which cannot exist without each other, says the statement. Political correctness is not merely a cringeworthy fashion but also an instrument of censorship. To attribute to some value or sentiment a quality of unquestioning inviolability and then to damn anyone who dares to disagree even tangentially is an attack on the freedom of expression. Whether the tactic is deployed by those on the political right or those on the left, the result is to curtail reasoned debate and shrink the realm of public clarity. Womens rights, race and skin colour, nationalism, religion, leader worship the number of subjects, differences on which at the level of ideas can swiftly transform into violent confrontation, keeps growing.
A statement issued by some individuals, however accomplished and however respected, will not, by itself, bring about a diametrical shift in the temper of the public discourse. But the discourse is richer for incorporating this caution and appeal to reason. May reason prevail.
This piece appeared as an editorial opinion in the print edition of The Economic Times.
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