Tag Archives: equality

Teaching Millennials How Not to Think Stupid

I teach in a law school. For several years my students have been mostly Millennials. Contrary to stereotype, I have found that the vast majority of them want to learn. But true to stereotype, I increasingly find that most of them cannot think, don’t know very much, and are enslaved to their appetites and feelings. Their minds are held hostage in a prison fashioned by elite culture and their undergraduate professors.

Everything Is Classist or Racist

They cannot learn until their minds are freed from that prison. This year in my Foundations of Law course for first-year law students, I found my students especially impervious to the ancient wisdom of foundational texts, such as Plato’s Crito and the Code of Hammurabi. Many of them were quick to dismiss unfamiliar ideas as “classist” and “racist,” and thus unable to engage with those ideas on the merits. So, a couple of weeks into the semester, I decided to lay down some ground rules. I gave them these rules just before beginning our annual unit on legal reasoning.

Here is the speech I gave them.

Before I can teach you how to reason, I must first teach you how to rid yourself of unreason. For many of you have not yet been educated. You have been dis-educated. To put it bluntly, you have been indoctrinated. Before you learn how to think you must first learn how to stop unthinking.

Reasoning requires you to understand truth claims, even truth claims that you think are false or bad or just icky. Most of you have been taught to label things with various “isms” which prevent you from understanding claims you find uncomfortable or difficult.

Skip All Terms Ending in ’ism’

Reasoning requires correct judgment. Judgment involves making distinctions, discriminating. Most of you have been taught how to avoid critical, evaluative judgments by appealing to simplistic terms such as “diversity” and “equality.”

Reasoning requires you to understand the difference between true and false. And reasoning requires coherence and logic. Most of you have been taught to embrace incoherence and illogic. You have learned to associate truth with your subjective feelings, which are neither true nor false but only yours, and which are constantly changeful.

We will have to pull out all of the weeds in your mind as we come across them. Unfortunately, your mind is full of weeds, and this will be a very painful experience. But it is strictly necessary if anything useful, good, and fruitful is to be planted in your head.

There is no formula for this. Each of you has different weeds, and so we will need to take this on the case-by-case basis. But there are a few weeds that infect nearly all of your brains. So I am going to pull them out now.

First, except when describing an ideology, you are not to use a word that ends in “ism.” Communism, socialism, Nazism, and capitalism are established concepts in history and the social sciences, and those terms can often be used fruitfully to gain knowledge and promote understanding. “Classism,” “sexism,” “materialism,” “cisgenderism,” and (yes) even racism are generally not used as meaningful or productive terms, at least as you have been taught to use them. Most of the time, they do not promote understanding.

Don’t Tell Us What You Feel

In fact, “isms” prevent you from learning. You have been taught to slap an “ism” on things that you do not understand, or that make you feel uncomfortable, or that make you uncomfortable because you do not understand them. But slapping a label on the box without first opening the box and examining its contents is a form of cheating. Worse, it prevents you from discovering the treasures hidden inside the box. For example, when we discussed the Code of Hammurabi, some of you wanted to slap labels on what you read which enabled you to convince yourself that you had nothing to learn from ancient Babylonians. But when we peeled off the labels and looked carefully inside the box, we discovered several surprising truths. In fact, we discovered that Hammurabi still has a lot to teach us today.

One of the falsehoods that has been stuffed into your brain and pounded into place is that moral knowledge progresses inevitably, such that later generations are morally and intellectually superior to earlier generations and that the older the source, the more morally suspect that source is. There is a term for that. It is called chronological snobbery. Or, to use a term that you might understand more easily, “ageism.”

Second, you have been taught to resort to two moral values above all others, diversity and equality. These are important values if properly understood. But the way most of you have been taught to understand them makes you irrational, unreasoning. For you have been taught that we must have as much diversity as possible and that equality means that everyone must be made equal. But equal simply means the same. To say that 2+2 equals 4 is to say that 2+2 is numerically the same as four. And diversity simply means difference. So when you say that we should have diversity and equality you are saying we should have difference and sameness. That is incoherent, by itself. Two things cannot be different and the same at the same time in the same way.

Furthermore, diversity and equality are not the most important values. In fact, neither diversity nor equality is valuable at all in its own right. Some diversity is bad. For example, if slavery is inherently wrong, as I suspect we all think it is, then a diversity of views about the morality of slavery is worse than complete agreement that slavery is wrong.

Similarly, equality is not to be desired for its own sake. Nobody is equal in all respects. We are all different, which is to say that we are all not the same, which is to say that we are unequal in many ways. And that is generally a good thing. But it is not always a good thing (see the previous remarks about diversity).

Related to this:  You do you not know what the word “fair” means. It does not just mean equality. Nor does it mean something you do not like. For now, you will have to take my word for this. But we will examine fairness from time to time throughout this semester.

Watch the Words ‘Fair’ and Diversity’

Third, you should not bother to tell us how you feel about a topic. Tell us what you think about it. If you can’t think yet, that’s O.K.. Tell us what Aristotle thinks, or Hammurabi thinks, or H.L.A. Hart thinks. Borrow opinions from those whose opinions are worth considering. As Aristotle teaches us in the reading for today, men and women who are enslaved to the passions, who never rise above their animal natures by practicing the virtues, do not have worthwhile opinions. Only the person who exercises practical reason and attains practical wisdom knows how first to live his life, then to order his household, and finally, when he is sufficiently wise and mature, to venture opinions on how to bring order to the political community.

One of my goals for you this semester is that each of you will encounter at least one idea that you find disagreeable and that you will achieve genuine disagreement with that idea. I need to explain what I mean by that because many of you have never been taught how to disagree.

Disagreement is not expressing one’s disapproval of something or expressing that something makes you feel bad or icky. To really disagree with someone’s idea or opinion, you must first understand that idea or opinion. When Socrates tells you that a good life is better than a life in exile you can neither agree nor disagree with that claim without first understanding what he means by “good life” and why he thinks running away from Athens would be unjust. Similarly, if someone expresses a view about abortion, and you do not first take the time to understand what the view is and why the person thinks the view is true, then you cannot disagree with the view, much less reason with that person. You might take offense. You might feel bad that someone holds that view. But you are not reasoning unless you are engaging the merits of the argument, just as Socrates engaged with Crito’s argument that he should flee from Athens.

So, here are three ground rules for the rest of the semester.

  1.  The only “ism” I ever want to come out your mouth is a syllogism. If I catch you using an “ism” or its analogous “ist” — racist, classist, etc. — then you will not be permitted to continue speaking until you have first identified which “ism” you are guilty of at that very moment. You are not allowed to fault others for being biased or privileged until you have first identified and examined your own biases and privileges.
  2.  If I catch you this semester using the words “fair,” “diversity,” or “equality,” or a variation on those terms, and you do not stop immediately to explain what you mean, you will lose your privilege to express any further opinions in class until you first demonstrate that you understand three things about the view that you are criticizing.
  3.  If you ever begin a statement with the words “I feel,” before continuing you must cluck like a chicken or make some other suitable animal sound.

To their credit, the students received the speech well. And so far this semester, only two students have been required to cluck like chickens.

Reprinted with permission from The New Boston Post 

Investing in Higher Education Will Not Bring Democratic Equality

old-fashioned-school-room.jpgBy Robert Weissberg


America’s
huge investment in higher education has always had a democratic justification: everyone
should be able to attend college because this opportunity would flatten the
social pyramid. Yes, a North Dakota State and Harvard degree differ in
prestige, but at least the North Dakota State graduate can join the game. Put
ideologically, investing in higher education–more schools for more kids–is
egalitarian.

Reality,
it seems, has refused to cooperate. The billions poured into higher education
have not flattened the social pyramid. If
anything, income gaps have widened as graduates from the top schools often earn
“obscene” salaries while those from lesser schools struggle to find decent jobs
to pay down student loan debt. Charles Murray’s Coming Apart depicts an America where the rich and poor increasingly live in diverging worlds. Clearly,
something is wrong with the traditional narrative that insists that a well-
funded, open access higher education for all can ameliorate the evils of
hierarchy.    

Continue reading Investing in Higher Education Will Not Bring Democratic Equality

R.I.P. John Payton–But He Was Part of the Problem

“Top civil rights lawyer John Payton dies at 65; Obama calls him ‘champion of equality,'” the Washington Post reported a few days ago.

Although Payton, 65, had been a prominent Washington lawyer and, after 2008, director-counsel and president of the NAACP Legal Defense & Education Fund, he is probably best known for arguing a case he lost, Gratz v. Bollinger, where he unsuccessfully defended the University of Michigan’s rigid use of race in its point-system of deciding undergraduate admissions. (The University, as the Chief Justice wrote, “automatically distributes 20 points, or one-fifth of the points needed to guarantee admission, to every single ‘underrepresented minority’ applicant solely because of race” but only “up to 5 points for … extraordinary talent.”) That ruling, however, was overshadowed by the contradictory simultaneous holding in Grutter v. Bollinger, which allowed the law school (and hence every other institution in the country) to do by stealth and dissembling what the University’s undergraduate admissions officers had been prohibited from doing openly and honestly.

Continue reading R.I.P. John Payton–But He Was Part of the Problem

Four College Buzzwords and a Shameless Plug

These days, the agenda of the academic elite can be boiled down to a few liberal buzzwords. The most important buzzword is “diversity,” which is usually nothing more than a code word for reverse discrimination and skin-deep identity politics. Recently, at Northwestern, they held a “race caucus” where 150 people gathered to discuss their experiences with discrimination on campus. Students then gathered at the school’s House of African-American Affairs to form a new group called “The Collective.” It was an ironic venue for the first meeting since the purpose of the group is to encourage “desegregation” on campus. In keeping with this ironic approach to fighting racial injustice, Columbia University president Lee Bollinger recently celebrated Martin Luther King’s dream of racial equality by promoting institutionalized racism in the form of racial preferences in college admissions.

The second item on the left’s checklist is “activism,” by which they mean recruiting your kids for various left-wing political causes. For example, professor Joel Rogers at the University of Wisconsin sent an email asking his students to work on his private political project called ALICE, where volunteers could aid him in “identifying, supporting and assisting 10,000 progressive local elected officials.” Over at Penn, they are hosting an anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment, and Sanction conference this month with an address by Noura Erakat–a woman who refers to suicide bombers as those “fighting for their freedom and liberation.”

A third buzzword on the left’s checklist is “tolerance,” a value paradoxically enforced by silencing those who disagree with the prevailing liberal orthodoxy. Robert Klein Engler–a conservative professor at Roosevelt University–was fired after telling a politically incorrect joke that offended someone in his class. The university called him to appear before an investigatory committee, but refused to even inform him what the charges against him were. Meanwhile the University of Michigan was busy planning an alumni field trip to the communist dictatorship of Cuba, where, presumably, sophisticated alumni, who swear by the principle of academic freedom, could gain appreciation for authentic Cuban culture by interacting with locals pre-screened by the Cuban government. They could then move on to relax on sunny beaches pre-selected for American visitors by Fidel and Co. Nothing signals a support for tolerance like vacationing in a land where even leaving the country is a privilege forbidden to everyday citizens.

A fourth buzzword on the list is “open-mindedness,” which means embracing moral relativism and occasionally submitting to weird sexual agendas in the classroom. At Western Nevada College, students were instructed to masturbate twice as often as normal, and to report detailed accounts of their sexual lives. Female students were told, write down “your views of your breasts and vulva,” and were given the instruction: “Your orgasms. Draw them!” At the University of Winchester in England, professor Eric Anderson claims that it is natural for men to cheat on their partners. Those who practice monogamy, he says, are subjecting themselves to “socially-compelled sexual incarceration.” After studying these stimulating topics, and learning to embrace the total liberation of the libido, students may find it informative to contemplate social factors behind a recent study by Dr. Maura L. Gillison of Ohio State University, in which she reports that 7% of U.S. teens and adults now carry the sexually-transmitted, cancer-causing HPV virus in their mouths.

Here Comes the Plug

The above stories might seem alarming, but as editor of The College Fix (you are now passing the shameless plug)–a campus news site that features original, student-reported news from around the nation–these are the kinds of stories I encounter every day. In fact, all of these stories were culled from just the last few weeks’ worth of articles on our site. It’s no secret that the left dominates academia. But it’s only by reading the details that one realizes how bad things really are.

Students come to us to share their stories. They tell us about the latest wacky diversity agenda on campus, or the latest scheme to demonize capitalism. They report when college administrators try to suppress free speech or undermine student groups whose beliefs don’t mesh with the prevailing liberal groupthink. Their stories confirm that those entrusted with training up the leaders of tomorrow are, oftentimes, doing a lousy job.

When we debate the value of a college education, we often speak in terms of high tuition costs, escalating levels of college debt, and uncertain unemployment prospects. But no debate about the value of college is complete without a discussion of values. What colleges are teaching is at least as important is how much we are paying them to teach.

The political indoctrination and moral assault that students are subjected to at most schools–that’s the real rip-off. It’s bad enough that you may have to pay a small fortune to send your kids to college. Worse yet when you consider that the ideology pounded into their brains for four years may well contradict all the principles you hold most dear.

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Update: This article originally attributed a quote to Penn BDS speaker Ali Abunimah, which should have been attributed to another scheduled speaker at the Penn conference, Noura Erakat. We regret the mistake.

An Outbreak of Equality in Wisconsin

When last we heard from Wisconsin, Roger Clegg, the mild-mannered, scholarly president and general counsel of the Center for Equal Opportunity, had provoked a riot of pro-racial preference liberals there by visiting the state to discuss CEO’s studies demonstrating massive racial discrimination by the University of Wisconsin. He must have put something in the water (or beer) while there, since now even a  Democrat there has surprised, shocked, and angered her party colleagues by introducing a measure in the legislature to eliminate race or ethnicity as factors in awarding state education grants.

Continue reading An Outbreak of Equality in Wisconsin

There They Go Again: Women Against Equal Treatment

The Arizona Civil Rights Amendment, also known as Proposition 107 or HCR 2019, will be on the November, 2, 2010, ballot. Virtually identical to similar measures launched by Ward Connerly and passed by substantial margins in California, Washington, Michigan, and Nebraska, Prop. 107 would amend the Arizona constitution to prohibit the state from “discriminat[ing] against or grant[ing] preferential treatment to any individual or group on the basis of race, sex, color, ethnicity or national origin in the operation of public employment, public education or public contracting.”
All these prohibitions against preferential or discriminatory treatment based on race, sex, or ethnicity are based on and embody the non-discrimination principle that inspired the civil rights movement and is at the core of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, but nevertheless they have actually all been opposed by those who fancy themselves civil rights activists today. Although it is old hat by now, I remain shocked every time I see additional evidence that “civil rights” are now widely understood — at least by liberals, Democrats, academics, mainstream journalists, etc. (but I repeat myself) — to require racial preferences, that those of us who continue to believe that treating individuals without regard to race, creed, or color are seen to be closet, or out of the closet, racists.
One of the most common, discordant notes in the by now well-rehearsed chorus of opposition to non-discriminatory equal treatment comes from feminists. Early on defenders of preferential treatment realized that there are more women than blacks or Hispanics, and in each campaign they have devoted great wealth and effort into the effort to persuade women that they would become the main victims of non-discriminatory equality. Very early in the debate in Michigan, for example, the leaders of eleven women’s organizations issued a statement opposing the requirement of equal treatment … and supporting preferences for themselves. “Oftentimes,” it stated,

affirmative action is viewed as a tool that solely benefits people of color. However, it is important to remember that affirmative action benefits women as well — regardless of race or color,” concluded Anita Bowden of the Michigan Council of the YWCA. “In fact, women are the most frequent beneficiaries of and will lose most if affirmative action is lost.”
“We stand in opposition to Ward Connerly’s deceptively titled “Michigan Civil Rights Initiative,” said Diane Neth Covel, Director of Public Policy, Michigan AAUW.

Continue reading There They Go Again: Women Against Equal Treatment

Does ”Equity” Require Preferential Treatment for Men?

The Chronicle of Higher Education has been running a series of short articles on “What’s The Big Idea?” in which various scholars respond to the question, “What will be the defining idea of the coming decade, and why?” A couple of days ago Linda Kerber, an old friend of mine (at least she was before my participation in EEOC v. Sears, Roebuck and Co., discussed at length here) who is a distinguished historian at the University of Iowa, wrote that the defining idea will be “Equality for Women — Still.”
The recent talk about postfeminism, she writes, “is simultaneously silly and dangerous.”

The half-century struggle to establish equality between men and women remains unresolved. To be sure, much progress has been made when it comes to equal access to education and training, equal pay for equal work (and for work of comparable worth), and equal promotion to leadership positions in all fields. These accomplishments are real, but they are incomplete. Moreover, those accomplishments rely on a definition of equality that is rooted in sameness — same access to opportunities and the same rewards — but it is the less-understood idea of equity that will be most bedeviling and vital during the next decade.
The idea of equity — outcomes that justly and fairly accommodate different situations — for all citizens, men and women, goes to the heart of democratic practice. Equity recognizes, as Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg phrased it, “a woman’s autonomy to determine her life’s course.” Achieving that goal will require us to adjust, disrupt, and reimagine how men, as well as women, live their lives.

Continue reading Does ”Equity” Require Preferential Treatment for Men?

Big Gaps In Two Big Gap Studies

Last week both the Chronicle of Higher Education (“Reports Highlight Disparities in Graduation Rates Among White and Minority Students”) and Inside Higher Ed (“‘Gaps Are Not Inevitable'”) reported on two large studies by The Education Trust of the graduation rate gap between white and African-American students and betweenwhites and Hispanics. Even aside from the fact that the Asian gap was apparently not studied, there is a Big Gap in both gap studies.
Noting in its press release that “60 percent of whites but only 49 percent of Latinos and 40 percent of African Americans who start college hold bachelor’s degrees six years later,” The Education Trust said their studies “dig beneath national college-graduation averages and examine disaggregated six-year graduation rates at hundreds of the nation’s public and private institutions.” That deep digging produced evidence — hold your hat!—that minorities do better at some institutions than others.

We identify public and private four-year institutions that appear to serve their black and white students equally well—that is, where both groups graduate at similar rates. We also identify public and private institutions that have a lot of work to do to catch up: Their graduation rate gaps are among the largest in the country.

Continue reading Big Gaps In Two Big Gap Studies

The Ongoing Folly of Title IX

Connecticut’s Quinnipiac College, best known for its political polling, is now at the center of the newest round in the controversy over Title IX and women’s sports. In a trial that opened last week, a federal judge must decide whether competitive cheerleading should count as a sport for gender equity purposes. The case illustrates the complexities — and some would say, the inanities — of the debate over gender and college athletics.
In March 2009, Quinnipiac announced that it was eliminating several athletic programs, including women’s volleyball, due to recession-related budget cuts. On the other hand, the school added a new team to its women’s sports roster: a competitive cheerleading squad. Women’s volleyball coach Robin Sparks and four team members sued claiming a violation of Title IX of the 1972 Education Amendments, which prohibits sex discrimination at educational institutions receiving any federal funds. The team got a temporary lease on life pending the outcome of the lawsuit. Meanwhile, Judge Stefan Underhill has granted the suit class action status, so that, if violations are found, remedies could be ordered for all current and future female athletes at Quinnipiac.
Last year’s budget cuts did not spare the male athletic teams at Quinnipiac. Men’s golf and outdoor track were dropped along with women’s volleyball, with no reprieve or reversal. (As for men’s volleyball, the college never had it in the first place.) Other men’s teams were forced to downside their rosters — in the case of soccer, from 29 to 23 players, much to the coach’s disgust. Some would say that, when two men’s teams are cut while women lose 11 slots on the volleyball team and gain 30 on the cheer squad, it is not the women who should be complaining.
Of course, the question is whether competitive cheering is a “real sport” or not. The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) still does not recognize it as a varsity sport, though there is a push to change that next year. Still, college cheerleading in the 21st Century has come a long way from the stereotype of sexy girls shaking their booty and boosting the boys: it requires high levels of athleticism and technical skill and features national competitions. Most of the young women on Quinnipiac’s cheer squad are top-grade gymnasts.

Continue reading The Ongoing Folly of Title IX

Why U.S. Men’s Soccer Will Now Decline

The U.S. soccer team surprised most viewers by tying its first-round World Cup game with soccer-powerhouse England 1-1—and then tied Slovenia 2-2 in a match that many said the Americans should have won except for a bad referee call. Furthermore, the US.-U.K game, televised on ABC, drew 14.5 million viewers, a record for a first-round World Cup contest (the U.S.-Slovenia game, at 10 a.m. EDT on ESPN, attracted 3.9 million). Yet at the very same time that both the quality of and interest in U.S. men’s soccer is surging, U.S. colleges’ support for the men’s soccer teams and their players—the next generation of World Cup contenders—is in seemingly inexorable decline, thanks to the Education Department’s draconian rules for enforcing Title IX, the federal law that prohibits sex discrimination in higher education..
On the eve of the U.S.-U.K match the College Sports Council (CSC) released an analysis of what it called a “tremendous disparity of opportunity between male and female soccer players” in NCAA Divison I schools, the schools that invest the most in student athletics and thus usually attract the best student athletes. The analysis of the NCAA’s own published data for the 2008-09 academic year revealed that a combination of gender quotas imposed by the Education Department and NCAA rules favoring women over men in awarding college athletic scholarships have resulted in drastically reduced opportunities for college men to play on soccer teams and even fewer opportunities for them to receive scholarships for doing so.
In 1996 the Education Department issued a set of safe-harbor standards that colleges could follow in order to be deemed in compliance with Title IX and thus avoid expensive lawsuits over disparities in athletic spending. The easiest standard, chosen by the overwhelming majority of institutions, was “proportionality”: spending on athletics proportional to the ratio of males to females attending the college in question. Proportionality might have seemed fair in 1996—even though women tend to be less interested in the costly team sports that attract men—because only 52 percent of college students were female back then. Now the female-favoring gender disparity is much bigger: 57 percent to 43 percent.

Continue reading Why U.S. Men’s Soccer Will Now Decline

The Death of a Radical

Daly_Mary.jpg

The death of feminist philosopher, theologian and former Boston College professor Mary Daly earlier this month at the age of 81 received fairly little notice in the media. What attention Daly did receive, however, was almost entirely of the positive kind. Time magazine ran a short obituary by fellow radical feminist Robin Morgan, who eulogized Daly as “a fierce intellectual, an intrepid scholar, a wicked wit and an uncompromising radical” as well as “a central figure in contemporary feminist thought.” A Boston Globe editorial called Daly “a fighter” as well as “a vital figure in feminism and in the recent history of Catholicism in America,” while acknowledging that her radicalism was at times excessive.

Trained as a Roman Catholic theologian, Daly eventually became a self-proclaimed ‘post-Christian’ whose vitriolic anti-Catholicism went far beyond liberal demands for reform. She wrote, notably, that ‘a woman’s asking for equality in the church would be comparable to a black person’s demanding equality in the Ku Klux Klan.’ She continued, nonetheless, to teach at Catholic Boston College for more than 30 years, despite openly deriding that school as ‘a laboratory for patriarchal tricks.’

Daly’s most notorious moment came in 1999, when she became embroiled in a controversy about her policy of barring men from her “Introduction to Feminist Ethics” course. A Boston College senior, Duane Naquin, complained. Since Daly’s practices were a clear violation of one of the feminists’ favorite laws, Title IX of the 1972 Education Amendments – which forbids educational institutions that benefit from any federal funds to discriminate on the basis of gender, except for single-sex schools – the college ordered her to admit Naquin into the class. Daly discontinued the class instead. After a prolonged squabble, she either she either resigned (according to the college) or was kicked out (according to her).

Continue reading The Death of a Radical