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 Little Octobrists prepare for their future role

“Schools are accused of ‘brainwashing’ students as children as young as 12 take part in mock trial of Tory MP Richard Drax for ‘benefitting from slavery’ because of his ancestors.”

Widening college enrollment gap between men and women

From the Wall Street Journal:

At the close of the 2020-21 academic year, women made up 59.5% of college students, an all-time high, and men 40.5 per cent, according to enrollment data from the National Student Clearinghouse, a nonprofit research group. U.S. colleges and universities had 1.5 million fewer students compared with five years ago, and men accounted for 71 per cent of the decline. This education gap, which holds at both two- and four-year colleges, has been slowly widening for 40 years. The divergence increases at graduation: After six years of college, 65 per cent of women in the U.S. who started a four-year university in 2012 received diplomas by 2018 compared with 59 per cent of men during the same period, according to the U.S. Department of Education.

Assuming that there is some connection between having a higher education qualification and pay (that connection is not by any means set in stone) then if this trend continues, not only will it eliminate any alleged “pay gap” to the detriment of women, but push it another way. Of course, it might be that some US men have worked out that college in many ways is a waste of their time, a cesspit of wokery and pointless diversions, and they’d be better off learning code, or industrial welding, or something that doesn’t saddle them with big debts.

Even so, the male/female college attendance gap in the US, and quite possibly in a few other nations, appears to be one of those stories that very clearly pushes against a standard narrative of how the cards are stacked in favour of we toxic males and that therefore this needs to be fixed in some way. In my day job, I routinely get lots of emails from banks, wealth managers and other firms going on about the wonders of diversity, etc, and rarely, if ever, is this college attendance point brought up. I have raised it once or twice with people, and it gets a sort of muffled response, if at all.

A few more paragraphs from the WSJ article, which is behind a paywall:

Over the course of their working lives, American college graduates earn more than a million dollars beyond those with only a high-school diploma, and a university diploma is required for many jobs as well as most professions, technical work and positions of influence.

Yet skyrocketing education costs have made college more risky today than for past generations, potentially saddling graduates in lower-paying careers—as well as those who drop out—with student loans they can’t repay.

Social science researchers cite distractions and obstacles to education that weigh more on boys and young men, including videogames, pornography, increased fatherlessness and cases of overdiagnosis of boyhood restlessness and related medications.

Men in interviews around the U.S. said they quit school or didn’t enroll because they didn’t see enough value in a college degree for all the effort and expense required to earn one. Many said they wanted to make money after high school.

This woman makes me sympathise with Governor Gavin Newsom

Not, obviously, to the extent of wanting him to escape being thrown out on his ear in the coming California gubernatorial recall election, but reading about Newsom’s “epic battle” with Cecily Myart Cruz, President of United Teachers Los Angeles, the major LA teachers’ union, gave me a soupçon of sympathy with the man.

This is how Ms Myart Cruz responded to a question from Jason McGahan of Los Angeles Magazine about children falling behind in their education while Los Angeles schools were closed during the pandemic:

“There is no such thing as learning loss. Our kids didn’t lose anything. It’s OK that our babies may not have learned all their times tables. They learned resilience. They learned survival. They learned critical-thinking skills. They know the difference between a riot and a protest. They know the words insurrection and coup.”

From Cecily Myart-Cruz’s Hostile Takeover of L.A.’s Public Schools by Jason McGahan.

Via Ed Driscoll at Instapundit and Mike Antonucci of the Education Intelligence Agency, which I shall look at again.

China’s crackdown on profit-making education

China appears to be doing its level best to harm itself in the long term. This story hasn’t so far stirred a lot of international commentary, but it matters, I think. It shows that the rising nationalism (and arguably, a degree of paranoia) in China is reaching the point where it is damaging the domestic economy.

According to one report in Forbes:

Chinese authorities have ramped up their crackdown on after-school tutoring companies by unveiling a new set of sweeping regulations that bans the firms from making profits and raising capital from overseas markets.

Tutoring companies that teach school subjects are now required to register as non-profits. They are also banned from raising capital from overseas investors or through public listings.

What’s more, authorities will stop approving new tutoring companies seeking to teach China’s school syllabus, and require existing ones to undergo regulatory reviews and apply for licenses. The companies found to be in violation will be rectified or eradicated, according to the rules, without further elaboration.

The moves by Chinese authorities have hammered shares of firms operating in the space.

One story I read in the Wall Street Journal said that China, while hitting private sector education, is at the same time trying to make it easier for young couples to have more kids, reversing decades of its odious “one child” policy.

Why does this matter? Because the ever-shifting moves of Chinese authorities on certain sectors must make it hard for entrepreneurs in that country to plan ahead. One moment a chap like Alibaba’s Jack Ma is a sort of business “rock star”, and the next, he’s “disappeared”. In my job in the financial services industry, I have heard a lot of comments over the years on how vibrant, dynamic and coherent Chinese policymaking is, so much better than all that messy Western “neoliberalism”.

Well, it turns out that things in China aren’t quite what they are cracked up to be.

What is the payoff for producing such obviously counter-productive propaganda?

One of these links will take you to an article in today’s Times by David Charter:

“Texas stops teaching that Ku Klux Klan was morally wrong”

“Texas stops teaching that Ku Klux Klan was morally wrong”

“Texas stops teaching that Ku Klux Klan was morally wrong”

“Texas stops teaching that Ku Klux Klan was morally wrong”

Which link is it? It doesn’t matter*. You all guessed right. You had no need to actually read the article to predict with a high degree of accuracy what it would say. You had no need of a Times subscription to know that whatever Texas was doing would turn out to be something far less dramatic than the headline suggests.

I am not going to quote the article even now. Do not feel deprived. As I find increasingly often these days, the readers’ comments are better than the stuff above the line.

A commenter called Dick Marlow says,

I think that this headline is misleading.

As I understand it the State of Texas has decided that it should not enumerate in law incidents and beliefs that 99.9% of Texans accept were both wrong and repugnant. This is not the same as “stops teaching that the KKK was morally wrong” which can be interpreted as meaning the state permits teaching that the KKK was morally acceptable.

This is not what they are attempting to do. They are shifting the responsibility of identifying which unacceptable events need to be taught from the state legislature and shifting it downstream, nearer both the ISDs, parents and teachers.

But you already knew it would turn out be something like that.

Why do they do this? I cannot even say that a clickbait headline lets down a respectable article, since the unknown subeditor has merely re-phrased Mr Charter’s very first line. The Times used to be better than this. David Charter has been known to be better than this. It’s not like they’re fooling anyone: there is a veritable flood of comments saying, no, the Texas Department of Education has not decided to take a neutral position on whether the Klan was a Bad Thing.

What is the payoff for producing such obviously counter-productive propaganda?

*The important question, and the one to which you will not find the answer by hovering your mouse over the link, is which of them takes you to the cute video of a sloth in a boat.

Samizdata quote of the day

“Today’s targeting of successful Asian-American kids lacks the crudity of a Jim Crow lunch counter or a whites-only drinking fountain. But it is no less ugly—and no less racially discriminatory—for being more genteel.”

William McGurn, Wall Street Journal ($).

Here is a non-paywalled story at USA Today outlining the issue, and highlighting what a steaming pile Critical Race Theory is. And its doubly outrageous given the demoralising impact it has on children who study and work hard and on the families who encourage this effort. Given how these things work, this story is worth reading outside the US as well.

Samizdata quote of the day

As a teenager, I saw old-stone American university buildings on TV, and was enthralled by their dignified appearance. Later, I came across a book in my hometown that explained that the American university was a special place, unlike its Chinese counterpart, as devoted to the cultivation of the enduring longings of the human soul. To assist in man’s hunger to know, to understand, and to seek truth, is its highest mission.

The longing for a spot in one of those buildings tormented me for decades. I longed to meet great minds and curious souls and explore the essential ideas with them. How could one not yearn for a place where students were challenged to think the unthinkable, to question convention, and to debate each other on ideas, when she had been imprisoned for years in the Chinese classroom where all subjects were stripped of all elements of beauty and imagination and left with only naked utility?

Two decades later, I sit in one of those buildings, having claimed my spot only to find that thinking is discouraged, dissent suppressed, and ideological loyalty is the prerequisite for flourishing in the institution of higher learning.

Habi Zhang

“Classics Won’t Be the Same Without Latin or Greek”

The classics department at Princeton University recently decided that the idea that classics majors ought to know Latin or Greek has been a mistake. Old-fashioned, perhaps. Until now, undergrads who wanted to major in the study of classical texts needed to come into the concentration with at least an intermediate level of Latin or Greek. But those students will no longer even have to learn either language to receive a degree in classics. This is a typical example of a university rushing to make policy changes under the guise of promoting racial equity that are as likely to promote racism as to uproot it.

“Classics Won’t Be the Same Without Latin or Greek”, Professor John McWhorter writes in the Atlantic. He goes on to argue that

Crucially, you often must go through a phase of drudgery—learning the rules, memorizing vocabulary—before you pass into a phase of mastery and comprehension, like dealing with scales on the piano before playing sonatas. The Princeton decision is discouraging students from even beginning this process. Professors may think of the change as a response to racism, but the implicit intention — sparing Black students the effort of learning Latin or Greek — can be interpreted as racist itself.

Being interested in languages, I bought Professor McWhorter’s The Language Hoax a few years back. I recommend it. It is something of a riposte to Professor Guy Deutscher’s Through the Language Glass and I love a joust between academics. In the course of reading The Language Hoax I found out that Professor McWhorter is black. In a sane world I would have been only mildly interested in this fact, in the way that one is mildly interested to see an author’s photo on the dust jacket and to learn that he or she has two cats with amusing names. Or in the way that I was mildly interested but not at all surprised to learn that Professor Deutscher is an Israeli. We do not live in a sane world. Black American academics in fields that do not have “Black” in the title are rare. There are many reasons for this, including racism of the old and the new kinds.

If Princeton has its way they will soon be rarer still.

The Princeton classics department’s new position is tantamount to saying that Latin and Greek are too hard to require Black students to learn. But W. E. B. Du Bois, who taught both Latin and Greek for a spell, would have been shocked to discover that a more enlightened America should have excused him from learning the classical languages because his Blackness made him “vibrant” enough without going to the trouble of mastering something new.

When students get a degree in classics, they should know Latin or Greek. Even if they are Black. Note how offensive that even is. But the Princeton classics department’s decision forces me to phrase it that way. How is it anti-racist to exempt Black students from challenges?

Related: “Heresies of our time: that children should be taught to read music” – a post from 2020 in which I mentioned the proposal from the Oxford Classics faculty to reduce the “attainment gaps” between male and female students and between those educated at state schools and private schools by dropping Homer and Virgil from the first part of an Oxford Classics degree. So far as I can tell this proposal has not been implemented yet, so maybe the petition worked. But the engineers of the human soul are nothing if not patient.

A Cambridge education

“Cambridge professors fight plan to let students file secret racism denunciations”, reports the Times.

For David Abulafia, a distinguished professor of Mediterranean history at Cambridge, the launch of a university “reporting tool” encouraging students to denounce people for “micro-aggressions” was particularly sinister.

An ancestor, Samuel Abulafia, was arrested in the 15th century during the Spanish Inquisition for maintaining Jewish practices after Jews had been expelled from the country. The man eventually changed his name to Lopez so that no one would recognise his origins. Another Abulafia was one of the first to be burnt by the Inquisition for the same crime.

Today Abulafia, a bestselling author and historian, believes that the new tool allowing students anonymously to accuse members of faculty of “racism, discrimination and micro-aggressions” draws from the same well that gave birth to the barbaric Inquisition.

The list provided by the university of transgressions includes “raising eyebrows when a black member of staff or student is speaking” and making “backhanded compliments”

Professor Abulafia also makes the following point:

“As for reporting someone if you feel they have committed a micro-aggression against you, this may actually hinder minorities as lecturers could be apprehensive about providing them with one-to-one tuition in case they make a perceived transgression.

For the Woke, that is not a bug but a feature. The last thing they want is for minority students to flourish at Cambridge or any other British university. Where would the cadre come from then? The plan is for minority students to emerge angry and embittered at the way their tutors and lecturers never seemed to quite trust them.

We need to listen to Black Lives Matter

We need to listen to BLM so we know what sort of people they are.

Janet Powe of BLM UK writes:

SEWELL COMMISSION WAS WRITTEN BY HOUSE SLAVES

Note for readers from outside the UK: a report recently issued by the government Commission for Race and Ethnic Disparities said that, although racism still remains in the United Kingdom, the UK’s relative success in removing race-based disparity in education and the economy “should be regarded as a model for other white-majority countries”. The black man being called a “house slave” by Janet Powe is the Chair of the Commission, Dr Tony Sewell, an educational consultant and author.

A Cambridge professor of postcolonial studies, Dr Priyamvada Gopal, was also displeased by the report. Dr Gopal first questioned whether Dr Sewell really had a doctorate, and, when informed that he did, set a new standard for gracious acknowledgement of error by saying that “Even Dr Goebbels had a research PhD.”

Safely under supervision every minute of the day

“School almost ‘eliminates bullying’ with break-time ban on games”, the BBC reports.

A school claims to have almost eliminated bullying by banning games like football at break times.

Instead, students at Hackney New School participate in supervised quizzes, poetry recitals and other activities, including chess and choir clubs.

The school says there have been only five reports of bullying, including cyber bullying, in the last year.

Head teacher Charlotte Whelan said: “A school without bullying sounds like a utopia but it is achievable.”

I do not doubt that it is achievable. Greater safety from ever having a bad experience is always achievable – at the cost of being cut off from experiencing anything much at all.

The students, aged 11 to 16, are still taking exercise during breaks and PE lessons, but sports are “more structured” and supervised.

“The school has been completely transformed and the students are really thriving,” Ms Whelan said.

Rather than kicking a football around or jumping skipping ropes in the playground unsupervised, students practise sonnets by classic poets like Shelley and Tennyson or quiz each other on capital cities, reports the Local Democracy Reporting Service.

At certain times when I was a schoolgirl I would have been glad to escape the cruelty and cold of the playground. It was nice when I got to the Lower Sixth and we were allowed to spend the lunch hour in a common room. Unprompted, we literally did have a phase when our favourite activity was to quiz each other on capital cities (Mongolia – Ulaan Bator, Botswana – Gaborone), and I would have welcomed a little more Shelley and Tennyson and a little less depressing modern poetry in my English lessons.

To give children the choice to engage in indoor and/or structured activities in their free time, whether because such activities are a safe harbour from bullies or just because these are the things they enjoy, is good. To deny them the chance to ever kick a ball and skip and play tag and scream and quarrel and make up without being under the eye of authority is inhuman.

It is not just unplanned social activities between groups of children that Ms Whelan wants to put a stop to; she also says she wants to be “doing more for pupils” in terms of preventing them from “aimlessly wandering the playground”. Heaven forbid that they have time to walk and think.

Edit: Several commenters have rightly said that to suffer bullying in childhood is a terrible thing that can have lifelong effects on the victims. But surely that is best answered by giving children as far as possible the chance to follow their own judgement as to where they are safest and happiest. The lunchtime club ceases to be a haven from bullies if the bullies are forced to be there too.

Back in 2003 Brian Micklethwait wrote about how well the children behaved in a voluntary karate class he observed.

What struck me, so to speak, about these “martial arts” classes was that although the children present may have supposed that all there were learning was how to be more violent, what they were really learning was no less than civilisation itself.

The children were all told to get changed into their Karate kit in an orderly fashion, and to put their regular clothes in sensible little heaps. They all lined up the way he said. They all turned up on time. They left the place impeccably clean when they’d finished, all helping to make sure that all was ship-shape and properly closed-up when they left.

Were these children being “coerced”? Certainly not. They didn’t have to be there, any more than The Man had to teach them Karate if he didn’t want to. If they wanted out, then out they could go, with no blots on their copybooks or markings-down on their CVs.

Portugal has a socialist education policy

“Portugal blocks remote lessons at private schools to help state pupils”, the Times reports.

Portugal has blocked private schools from offering remote learning for at least a fortnight amid fears that more privileged children will gain an unfair advantage over their poorer counterparts after the closure of state schools.

The minority Socialist-led government of António Costa, the prime minister, had said this month that schools would remain open. However, political pressure over soaring Covid-19 infections forced it to announce last Thursday that schools would be closed from the next day.

A decree forced all schools to take a two week holiday, with the government saying that allowing private institutions to teach remotely would put state-school pupils at an unfair disadvantage.

As a commenter, “Mr N D” says, “The headline is misleading. This isn’t helping anyone at all, it’s making sure that everyone is held back.”