We are developing the social individualist meta-context for the future. From the very serious to the extremely frivolous... lets see what is on the mind of the Samizdata people.

Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

The dog park paper

Some epic, god-level trolling has occurred. A group of left-wing academics (about whom Jonathan wrote below, as did Libertarian Home) became concerned that *extreme* left wing politics was getting in the way of certain kinds of sociology research. They submitted ridiculous papers to test the level of critical thinking of the editors and reviewers of certain kinds of journals.

The dog park paper is very entertaining. It was published in a journal called Gender, Place and Culture.

The data suggest that the deciding variable for whether or not a human would interfere in a dog’s rape/humping incident was the dog’s gender. When a male dog was raping/humping another male dog, humans attempted to intervene 97% of the time. When a male dog was raping/humping a female dog, humans only attempted to intervene 32% of the time.

The Twitter account Real Peer Review called out the article when it was published, before they knew it was a spoof. They are now posting commentary on the peer review of the paper.

It is all highly amusing. It is also useful, both to reveal the silliness of the silly ideas, and to understand the evil of them. In the video, James A. Lindsay explains:

There’s this kind of religious architecture in their mind where privilege is sin. Privilege is evil. And then they’ve identified education as the place where it has to be fixed. So you can come up with these really nasty arguments, like ‘let’s put white kids in chains on the floor at school as an educational opportunity’. And if you frame it in terms of overcoming privilege, and you frame their resistance — that they won’t want this to happen to them, that they would complain about this — in terms of ‘oh they only complain about that because they’re privileged and they can’t handle it because their privilege made them weak.’: then it’s right in.

Incidentally, this author is not surprised that “women’s and gender studies, feminist studies, race studies, sexuality studies, fat studies, queer studies, cultural studies, and sociology” are prone to politicisation. It is much harder to politicise bridge building and electronic circuit design.

Addendum: From the NYT article about this:

“What strikes me about stunts like this is their fundamental meanness,” Sean Carroll, a physicist at the California Institute of Technology, wrote on Twitter. “No attempt to intellectually engage with ideas you disagree with; just trolling for lulz.”

Jacob T. Levy, a political theorist at McGill University in Montreal, said in an interview that even some colleagues who are not fans of identity-oriented scholarship are looking at the hoax and saying “this is potentially unethical and doesn’t show what they think it is showing.”

Besides, he added, “We all recognize that this kind of thing could also be done in our disciplines if people were willing to dedicate a year to it.”

No. You can’t troll a physics journal for lulz. I propose that the usefulness of your school of thought is in inverse proportion to its susceptibility to being trolled for lulz. Attempting the latter is a way to measure the former.

The sleep of reason brings forth monsters

Any scholarship that proceeds from radically skeptical assumptions about objective truth by definition does not and cannot find objective truth. Instead it promotes prejudices and opinions and calls them “truths.” For radical constructivists, these opinions are specifically rooted a political agenda of “Social Justice” (which we have intentionally made into a proper noun to distinguish it from the type of real social progress falling under the same name). Because of critical constructivism, which sees knowledge as a product of unjust power balances, and because of this brand of radical skepticism, which rejects objective truth, these scholars are like snake-oil salespeople who diagnose our society as being riddled with a disease only they can cure. That disease, as they see it, is endemic to any society that forwards the agency of the individual and the existence of objective (or scientifically knowable) truths.

Having spent a year doing this work ourselves, we understand why this fatally flawed research is attractive, how it is factually wrong in its foundations, and how it is conducive to being used for ethically dubious overreach. We’ve seen, studied, and participated in its culture through which it “proves” certain problems exist and then advocates often divisive, demeaning, and hurtful treatments we’d all do better without.

From the publication Aero. The authors deserve praise for exposing the intellectual disaster zone that so much “grievance studies”, and their denial of the existence of objective truth, amount to. The authors are left-liberals who use the word “social justice” without, I wonder, being aware of FA Hayek’s demolition job on the use of the word “social”. Even so, bravo to them: they obviously have stirred up a hornet’s nest. Further, they highlight how peer review in some higher ed. fields is a shambles.

The more I read, the more urgent it is for parents to really consider whether sending their offspring to these places is a form of harm.

Samizdata quote of the day

To take an example, many students in universities and employees at Google take bias training courses that tell them “white privilege” and “systemic racism” explain disparities in outcomes between groups, despite the fact that—to take one example—Asian Americans from China and India (‘people of color’) make more money and are incarcerated at lower rates than whites. According to the conspiratorial worldview of many faculty in grievance studies departments, citing statistics and making arguments that go against the privilege narrative proves that you have an unconscious bias against minorities, and that you’re probably a white supremacist.

Jonathan Anomaly, who is not only a smart chap but has quite possibly the greatest name ever.

“A student at the preschool I work at is only being taught a fictional language”

That was the title of a request for legal advice submitted to Reddit by someone with the user name “HelpfulButterscotch2”. Here is the whole post:

[CA] A student at the preschool I work at is only being taught a fictional language

I’m twenty, and I work part-time as an assistant at a small daycare in California.

There is a four year old who speaks very very little and poor English. Knows the most basic of words but is at the level of maybe a two year old English-wise compared to the other kids, including several who are both native Spanish/English speakers. Basically knows “yes”, “no”, “juice”, etc.

He’s only been here for less than a month and I’ve seen his incredibly limited vocab double in that time. I’m embarrassed to say it but I’m very uneducated about this type of thing and I thought he was speaking Portuguese or something similar up until last week. The kids are split into small groups by age and I’m usually not in charge of his group unless it’s at the end of the day, in my defense.

The hosts of the daycare are very into nerd culture and some of the daycare is very decorated with (child friendly) sci-fi and fantasy stuff. I’m not too into it myself but I like listening to them and I (usually) like their passion.

One day I was curious what language the child was speaking so I looked up what Portuguese actually sounded like and realized it wasn’t that. Looked up a lot of languages and for the life of me could not identify it. The single dad who picked him up looked like a nice dude and one day he was one of the last people to pick up that day so I asked him what language his kid spoke.

The bosses of the daycare were there too when I asked and they all suddenly got big smiles on their faces and explained to me in depth that the guy was a linguistics hobbyist who was trying to recreate an experiment where he raises his kid to speak a language from the tv show Star Trek (klingon.)

He explained how at home he only has spoken Klingon (which is apparently a real full language) to the kid and that’s all he knows. My bosses LOVE that he is doing this and he does too, he told me to look up the experiment and read about it. My bosses even learned a small bit of the language themselves so that when they talk to the kid they don’t say it.

It sounded kinda cool at the time but I didn’t really think about it too much. When I looked it up I found out that the guy who did it taught his kid Klingon AND English at the same time. I assumed that this guy was doing the same and I just misunderstood but when I clarified next time he confirmed that the kid was ONLY being taught Klingon on purpose and he was going to try and continue the “experiment” for as long as possible.

He also told me about his blog and I checked it out where he describes this all and he basically states in it that he is fully aware that this will make it “slightly” hard for the kid to speak english later but that the experience is worth it. He even has limited the kids intake of media very severely so far to avoid shows with a lot of speaking/words.

The kid is fairly isolated and generally acts a bit socially “off”, if I can say that without being mean. Not like misbehaving but he clearly has small issues interacting with kids his age who all talk a lot already.

I’ve brought it up casually with my bosses but they basically love this dude and what he is doing and don’t see a problem with it. I feel terrible but I feel like I should report this? Is this child abuse? This guy basically is mispurposely not teaching his kid to how to interact with other people for the level of “it’s just a social experiment bro”, it’s nuts to me.

If I’m wrong and this isn’t dangerous I apologize. It feels awful to me though. I like my job otherwise but if I had to lose it for this i could find another one, have some savings, i feel too bad for this kid.

That is eerily similar to the scenario I imagined a couple of years ago in a post called “The morality of not teaching your child English”. I started by asking whether it would be wrong to raise your child to speak only Welsh. No, I answered. “Welsh has over half a million speakers and a magnificent corpus of poetry, literature and song. Speaking Welsh alone does not remotely count as linguistic imprisonment”. Then I asked the question again for languages with smaller and smaller numbers of speakers. 50,000? 5,000? 500? That last figure is about the number of Cornish speakers. I wrote:

Very recently the Cornish language has been revived. 557 speakers claim it as their main language, 20 young children are native speakers. Let me stress that in real life all of these children are being brought up to be bilingual in Cornish and English. But when you get down to a group of that size and imagine its children being brought up monolingually, the mental walls do begin to close in.

How small would the village be before it became a prison?

The specific example of Klingon was brought up in comments by William H Stoddard. He cited the fairly well-known case (also mentioned by “HelpfulButterscotch2”) of another child who was taught Klingon from babyhood by his father back in the 1990s, but – and this is a crucial distinction – that child’s mother spoke to him in English. As I said,

…when the child began to notice that the people he met outside didn’t speak this language he began to stop talking in it (a common way for attempts to raise bilingual children to break down, as I’m sure you know), and the father did not persist and risk damaging his relationship with the child. It was getting to be a pain for the father too, as Klingon doesn’t have equivalents for a lot of the everyday English words that the boy was meeting as his world expanded. Given that the child also learned English, the only ethical issue, and a much smaller one, was whether one should make one’s child mildly famous as an experiment.

At the time I had reservations about naming the child, but without need. The story of how d’Armond Speers tried to raise his son to be bilingual in Klingon and English is all over the internet. Stephen Fry interviewed him. The son is grown up now, speaks English normally, and has forgotten his Klingon.

But the child described by “HelpfulButterscotch2” has not been raised to speak a conlang alongside English. He has only been exposed to the artificial language and, if the post is to be believed, has been prevented from learning English. Though to be fair that isolation from English has now ceased, given that he now goes to a normal US preschool.

In principle it should make no difference whether the language the child is being raised in is a conlang or a natural language. Esperanto is a constructed language, but it has had quite a few native speakers, usually the children of parents from different countries who met at Esperanto conferences. Apparently Esperanto was the mother tongue of the financier George Soros. It does not seem to have held him back. However one problem with Klingon that d’Armond Speers mentioned in his interview with Stephen Fry is that, compared to Esperanto which has been going for well over a century and has several million speakers, Klingon is the work of one man and has a limited vocabulary. That point was made even by the conlanging enthusiasts who discussed this story when it was cross-posted to the subreddit dealing with constructed languages, /r/conlangs. The general reaction there was disquiet. The top comment is by “chrevs” and reads,

It’d be different if he was being raised as bilingual, but he’s stunting the kid’s ability to to get on where he lives. Not to mention that if things were to be going horribly wrong at home, like his father decides he also needs to be practicing the kind of ritual combat the Klingon do, the kid can’t express that he’s in danger to teachers or other trusted adults. It’s not okay

Another commenter called “Esosorum” says,

I worry that, from a biological perspective, this child’s brain isn’t experiencing language-acquisition the way it was meant to. I just don’t think conlangs have as much to offer as natural languages. I don’t disagree that conlangs can be wonderfully expressive and complex, but natural language is rooted in culture in a way that a conlang can’t be.

It could be that the post by HelpfulButterscotch2 is not to be believed. It was submitted under a pseudonym and the author joined Reddit one day before submitting it. That means that we are not in a position to get a feel for their sincerity (and sanity) by looking at their comment history. I find it curious that there is no link provided to the blog where the father of the boy is claimed to describe what he is doing. Some people do take an odd pleasure in passing off bizarre fictions as truth just for the buzz. On the other hand having joined Reddit one day ago is not inconsistent with a person not knowing who else to turn to for advice about a situation that worries them deeply. Equally, HelpfulButterscotch2 may be sincere but have misunderstood the situation. I hope so.

But assuming that this is really happening as described, it does raise some sharp questions for Libertarians. When do we get on the phone and send the state sweeping in to “save” a child from their parents?

The Shadow Education Secretary wants to make teachers more vulnerable

The Shadow Education Secretary, Angela Rayner MP (Lab), has called for a ban on anonymous online accounts.

The education spokesperson also called for social media companies to ban anonymous accounts, complaining at a fringe event organised by the Guardian in Liverpool that most of the people that abused her online did so without using their real names.

Rayner said that social media firms should take greater responsibility for their users and complained in particular that Facebook seemed to have indicated that politicians should accept a higher level of abuse.

When asked what she thought about social media, Rayner said: “One of the first things they should do is stop anonymous accounts. Most people who send me abuse me do so from anonymous accounts and wouldn’t dream of doing it in their own name.”

Rayner conceded that using real names would not stop abuse but “it would certainly help a little bit. I think they should do more, they do have a responsibility for online”.

As I mentioned earlier, Angela Rayner is the Shadow Education Secretary. That ought to mean that she is aware that teachers, like MPs, are often subject to harassment. The Times Educational Supplement had an article on that very subject just a few days ago: “Why your social account is not as private as you think”. It began:

The teacher’s Facebook account was set to private. She was certain of that. Yet, in the past week, she had received four friend requests from former pupils. She could not work out how they had found her.

So, as I am a researcher at the Greater Manchester Police – and her friend – she asked me to take a look. Within 10 minutes, I had not just found her, but I also had her full name, her partner’s name, the school she worked at, the name of one of her children and multiple images of the street she lives on.

The writer, Chris Glover, proceeded to give ten tips that teachers should employ to protect themselves: 1. Keep accounts separate. 2. Vary usernames. 3. Check posts about you. 4. Beware of public posts. 5. Review privacy settings. 6. Don’t follow your school account. 7. Avoid using your real name. 8. Change the friends-list setting. 9. Switch off location. 10. Delete dormant accounts.

Following the above advice should help ensure that teachers can enjoy participating in life online while minimising the very real risk of being tracked down by former or current pupils bearing a grudge, or simply by people whom it is best to keep at arms length for professional or safeguarding reasons.

Until a Labour government gets in and makes Nos. (2) and (7) illegal outright, and demands that all of your personal details are held in one place by a social media company so as to be conveniently available for hackers and identity thieves.

Samizdata quote of the day

Which is to say that I understand the importance of the causes that equal opportunity activists and progressive academics are ostensibly championing. But pursuit of greater fairness and equality cannot be allowed to interfere with dispassionate academic study. No matter how unwelcome the implications of a logical argument may be, it must be allowed to stand or fall on its merits not its desirability or political utility.

Ted Hill

Boys lead the way

“Boys lead slump in university applicants”, says the Times, like it’s a bad thing.

The first sign that young people are turning their backs on university educa­tion is expected next week when more than a quarter of a million A-level pupils get their results. The exodus is being led by young men, whose applications to university are at their lowest for three years.

The head of Ucas, the universities admissions service, said the number of young people winning degree course places on August 16 is expected to be “in the order of 2.5% lower” than last year.

Some of that is due to a demographic dip in the number of 18-year-olds — but universities are also being hit by a slump in older and part-time students. The total number of UK applications is down by 3.4% on last year.

Experts said Tony Blair’s vision of ever greater numbers of teen­agers going to university looks outdated, with more questioning the value of £9,250-a-year degrees.

Clare Marchant, head of Ucas, said a degree was “usually worthwhile” but added that “university is not for everybody”. She said rates of 60%-70% of people going to university “would be the entirely wrong thing to do”.

The real Clare Marchant was stolen away by the elves and replaced by a changeling. There is no other explanation for the head of UCAS being so sensible. Blair’s great push to get half our young people to go to university has turned out as badly as state-mandated changes in society usually do. Practically everyone is worse off.

Those who would not have gone to university under a saner system, but do go under our system, find that when almost half of all young people have a degree they are nothing special. More than a third of recent UK graduates regret going to university. Regret it or not, if they ever earn over the threshold they will still have to pay for it. While it is true that the terms of repayment of student loans are generous and many will never have to pay them back, the mental burden of debt is still present. No wonder so many partly-educated but, er, not outstandingly bright young people support Jeremy Corbyn: they fell for his ambiguously phrased line that he would “deal with” their debt.

The young people who genuinely are academically inclined find the value of their degrees* goes down because they are now lumped in with those who spent three years studying Clownology or Gender Studies.

Worst of all, those who never did and never will go to university have to pay to benefit a group who on average are richer than they are. The non-graduates suffer other harms as well: many jobs that once would have been open to anyone with two A-Levels are now reserved for those with degrees. When I was a young teacher many of my working-class colleagues had come into the profession in just this way. It seemed to me that they were some of the most effective teachers, often more grounded than their graduate equivalents. Careers such as journalism and nursing that could be learned on the job were an avenue for social mobility that has now been blocked.

One last thing, which I think matters more than we (by which I mean the generally highly educated readers of this blog) realise, is that having each cohort of youth split down the middle into a top half and a bottom half is painful for those who don’t make the grade. When under fifteen percent of young people went to university, as was the case until around 1990, not going to university was the norm. No one thought anything of it. It still surprises me that the political grouping who once filled the Third Programme with their complaints about how cruel and divisive the Eleven-plus was felt no qualms about putting half the nation into the slow stream.

The boys have evidently cottoned on earlier than their sisters. It could be that they are smarter, or it could be that British universities show signs of following the US example and becoming places where males are scorned and treated unfairly.

*Oxford Bloody University and I still cannot decide whether it should be “degree” or “degrees”. At least if I manage to reduce everyone else in the country to the status of illiterate serfs, as is my true aim with this post, the wretches will be in no position to correct my grammar.

Samizdata quote of the day

What is more, if I want to hold lectures or seminars on the topic of empire, I will do so privately, since I cannot be sure that my critics will behave civilly. On one occasion recently, I held a day-conference to discuss Bruce Gilley’s controversial article, “The Case for Colonialism,” and found myself having to use pseudonyms to hide the identities of some participants. One young scholar only attended on condition that his name nowhere appear on print, nor his face on any photograph, lest his senior colleagues find out and kill his career. What this shows is that the legal right to freedom of speech is not enough. What’s also needed are colleagues who are willing to conduct themselves according to informal norms of civility and responsible, rational exchange. Clearly some colleagues are not so willing. So the question is, will middle-managers in universities—faculty and college heads—do anything to uphold norms of civility against colleagues who trample over them, or will they abrogate their civic responsibility and off-load it onto the courts?

Nigel Biggar

Samizdata quote of the day

In fact, Oxford has a disproportionately high number of black students, although you wouldn’t know this from the comments made by Lammy and others last week. He quoted the seemingly shocking statistic that, between 2015 and 2017, several Oxford colleges had failed to admit more than one or two black British students. This set the tone of the news agenda, prompting Oxford graduates to tweet their scorn at their old university. But, as ever, statistics are the last refuge of the scoundrel.

Jon Holbrook

A post that would have been a million times as funny

…if I could find the right bloody sketch on YouTube. First I thought it was “Negotiations” from Not The Nine O’Clock News, but it wasn’t. My goodness, they wouldn’t allow the line at 1:30 nowadays, would they? Sticking with Mel and Griff, I then tried “The Union Man” with no better success. The sketch about Gerald the Gorilla was always a long shot.

Nope. Just couldn’t find it. It’s the one where there’s this meeting between the leaders of the different unions, the TUC or whatever they called it, and they are having a break and someone says, “tea or coffee?” and one of the blokes says, “let’s vote on it” and so they vote and tea gets more support, only the bloke who wants coffee has a block vote of three million when the all the ones who wanted tea together only added up to two million or something like that or vice versa. That one.

Look, back in nineteen whaty-whatever it was quite surprising to see anyone on TV mocking the trade unions. All the luvvies were lefties even then.

Anyway, I thought of that sketch when I saw this story pop up in the Guardian:

One million students join calls for vote on Brexit deal

Student organisations representing almost a million young people studying at UK universities and colleges are today joining forces to demand a referendum on any final Brexit deal, amid growing fears that leaving the EU will have a disastrous effect on their future prospects.

Predicting a young people’s revolt over the coming months, student unions – representing 980,000 students at 60 of the country’s leading universities and colleges – are writing to MPs in their areas this weekend, calling on them to back a “people’s vote” before a final Brexit deal can be implemented.

Student leaders said last night that they were planning action that would dwarf protests held in 2010 against the coalition government’s plans for student fees, and that they would not rest until they had been granted a say on their futures.

That’ll be one million for coffee then.

*

Breaking news: I am adding this clip of a random guy supporter of Zheremy Corbyn interrupting the current UK entry to the Eurovision Song Contest to shout, “Nazis of the UK media, we demand freedom!” because it is very important.

*

Edit: Hat tip to Patrick Crozier who found the relevant Not the Nine O’Clock News episode here. The block vote sketch in question starts at 8:00. The actual result of the vote was five hands raised giving one and a half million votes for tea, outvoted by Mel Smith’s five million votes for coffee.

Samizdata quote of the day

From this laborious work, and from all my other efforts in this field, I have drawn the conclusion that the evidence for social constructionism is a mirage in the desert. It does not exist. Most people in the humanities – including those who are able to express their opinions freely without fear of being fired – presuppose that gender roles are social constructs, and that the results obtained by natural scientists are determined by their social and political environment. Thousands of pages of academic ‘research’ express such notions, and thousands of university students are taught that this is how things are. But it is all hot air. The whole scenario is reminiscent of The Emperor’s New Clothes – nobody listens to the little boy who alone has the courage to point out that the Emperor is naked.

Much of this material – and Judith Butler’s obscurantism, in particular – functions like a Latin liturgy. It is not meant to be understood. About 600 years ago, the clergy in England supposedly existed to combat evil and make the world a better place. The sermons were in Latin, and the Bible was only available in Latin, so laypeople had no means of verifying what the clergy told them about religious doctrine. When a number of idealists translated the Bible into English so that common people could read and understand it, the idea – in principle, anyway – was that this would give more people direct access to God’s word. But instead of embracing this opportunity, the clergy fought all attempts at translation. And when the Bible became available in a language that people understood, the clergy burned the English translations, and those who distributed them were caught and executed. Given the choice of either supporting the wider dissemination of God’s word or preserving their own power and authority, they chose the latter.

A similar pattern of motivated self-interest is in evidence today (although opponents are no longer executed). Social constructionism has transformed the humanities departments of many universities into a kind of postmodern clerisy. In its own understanding, this clerical class strives to improve the world by insisting that all differences between groups of people are social constructs that testify to the unfairness of society. Society, therefore, can and must be reconstructed to dismantle these iniquities. But if wide-ranging social change is being demanded, then the basis for those demands needs to be firmly established first. Scholars ought to be labouring to prove the extent to which such differences are indeed social constructs and the extent to which disparities can be mitigated or dispelled by the radical reorganisation of social policy and even society itself. But this step in the process is simply absent. Instead, theorists make claims without bothering to substantiate them. Confronted with a choice between the disinterested pursuit of truth and understanding, or preserving their ideologies and positions of influence, they consistently opt for the latter.

And so, large swathes of the humanities and social sciences have been corrupted by ideology. Pockets of integrity remain but they are the minority, and they are only tolerated so long as they do not contradict the central planks of the accepted narrative. The unhappy result is that our universities are corroding, and our students will graduate with nothing more than the ability to further corrode the rest of society.

– The concluding paragraphs of Kåre Fog’s essay for Quillette, entitled Lost Down Social Constructionism’s Epistemic Rabbit-Hole

Samizdata quote of the day

“Versed in issues of social justice”? Oh? What if students protested against abortion? What if they protested in favor of gun rights? Or what if their social activism included mission trips with their church? Would these things hurt their Yale applications? I am certain that any student who wanted to get into Yale, and thereby join the American elite, would do well not to mention any non-progressive activism. The gatekeepers know the kind of people they want, and do not want. The message they are sending is coming through loud and clear.

Just two glimpses into how the culture and institutions of the elite Left make Trump voters…

Rod Dreher