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]

Jesus College, Cambridge, pays reparations for abolishing slavery

the college staged a fulsome ceremony, in which the statuette was handed to a descendent of the Obas of Benin, the slavers from whom it was confiscated. The British who freed the Oba’s slaves were described by the Master as having committed “a wrong that is so egregious”

The article I’m quoting from also notes Jesus College’s

embarrassing record of lucrative sycophancy towards the Chinese regime

in which

discussion of human rights has been regarded as “unhelpful”

All this “comes from the University and College administrations”, who clearly grasp that the British Empire’s duty to pay reparations for abolishing slavery follows inevitably – unavoidably – from the entire woke project, which cannot make sense without it.

However it seems Cambridge administrators are not yet finding this logic quite as easy as they expected to communicate to their own students. On 11 November (Armistice Day), at the Cambridge Union, the debate motion “This House is ashamed to be British” lost

“by a considerable majority, in a packed chamber.”

You might almost suspect an element of astroturfed collusion in the narrative of woke students forcing university administrators to do these things.

The Islamic Republic of Iran leads the way in getting more women into STEM

Campus magazine, a Singaporean publication aimed at students, published this article on 15th December 2021: The Paradox of Gender Inequality in STEM Education. It was one of many pieces that pointed out the odd fact that

In a nutshell, multiple studies have found that the lower the gender-equality in a given country, the higher the percentage of women studying STEM.

Simply put in numbers, before the pandemic, women made up 70% of engineering students in Iran, 42% in Morocco, 41% in Algeria, and 40% in Jordan, but only 29% in Norway, 19% in the U.S., and just 18% in Australia. Those are just some countries, but the pattern repeats itself almost everywhere.

The Global Gender Gap Report (GGGR) by the World Economic Forum (WEF) calculates global gender inequality based on a matrix, including health and survival, educational attainment, labour force participation, percentage of seats in parliament, and more. According to the 2021 GGGR, Norway was third globally. Iran was 150th. Yet Iran has double the percentage of women studying STEM.

Like almost every other article on the subject I have seen, the one in Campus spends several paragraphs explaining – and lamenting – how cultural factors push female eighteen year-olds away from science subjects. Note the scare quotes around “choosing”.

The unconscious bias may have different sources. For instance, it’s often cultural – the idea that “girls should play with dolls, while boys should build things” is still inherent in many households today. It may be observational – since women in STEM are already underrepresented, we assume that STEM is more a “guy thing.”

Sometimes, it can even be well-intentioned. For instance, parents may assume that STEM is difficult and they fear their daughters won’t be as successful being in a male-dominated course – especially compared to sons who they ascribe different characteristics, like being more competitive.

Facing this litany of discouraging cultural and social messaging, it’s no surprise that young girls in more developed countries – where there are viable, non-STEM study options – are often pushed away from STEM. This is then wrongly interpreted as them actively “choosing” non-STEM subjects.

…but devotes far less attention to the reasons behind superior academic performance of younger girls compared to boys in STEM subjects. There is half a line of acknowledgement that, hey, eggheads argue about why girls do better, but not a word of what those arguments are. Female superiority at thirteen is not seen as a thing needing to be changed or explained:

Multiple studies in dozens of countries show that pre-teen girls outperform their male peers in standardised math and science tests. Psychologists and neuro-scientists may argue the specific reasons, but the result is undisputable. Preteen girls and boys also enjoy/prefer STEM subjects at roughly the same ratio.

If we want Iranian levels of female STEM university students, perhaps we should do what Iran does and embed the superior level of responsibility shown by females into law?

According to Iran’s Islamic law, in cases of murder and certain other capital crimes boys over 15 and girls over nine may be held as culpable as adults and, therefore, punished with the death penalty.

– from “Iran executes 100 young people a year, human rights group says”, the Times, 26th Dec 2021.

An academic hoax at Cornell University

On December 17th the Times reported,

Hoaxes sometimes have their uses in reducing certain states of mind to an absurdity. By playing on some common credulity they show how blind it is. One has just happened in America.

The report goes on to say that “the audience were not aware that the lecture was a parody. Indeed, it was such a success that the hoaxers were frightened and would have kept the joke to themselves, if it had not been revealed” and that now “[the hoaxers] are not popular in Ithaca, especially as a large part of the faculty and undergraduates of Cornell University were hoaxed.”

A lecture given to “a packed and brilliant audience” at an elite American educational institution turned out to be a fake? Surely you jest?

Well, I do, but not in the sense that this hoax lecture did not happen, but in the sense that the December 17th of the report was December 17th 1921. The lecture was on the topic of dreams in Freudian psychology and was given by a person who claimed to be a friend and pupil of of Freud. One can see why lines such as “A dreamer does know what he dreams, but he does not know what he knows and therefore believes what he does not know” went down well with the audience.

Alan Sokal and the trio of Peter Boghossian, James A. Lindsay, and Helen Pluckrose are heirs of a well established tradition, but it is a sad sign of the times that the absurd statements they produced to mimic the prevalent academic style of their time were merely ugly, whereas the equivalent in 1921 had something of the beauty of the later paintings of Claude Monet.

Never apologise. Explain without apology.

“In politics apologies just make things worse”, writes Daniel Finkelstein in the Times. The subtitle to his piece is “Boris Johnson should be sorry about the Owen Paterson affair but actually saying so would do him more harm than good”, and that sums up the article: the rather bleak observation that in politics apologies do not pay. Finkelstein stresses that he is not saying they shouldn’t work, just that they usually don’t. To illustrate this he cites an experiment carried out by Cass Sunstein:

In Cass Sunstein’s recent book This Is Not Normal he describes two pieces of work that seek to measure the impact an apology has on people’s opinion of the person doing the apologising.

The first uses two real events. In a survey respondents were told about an occasion when the senator Rand Paul seemed to suggest that the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was wrong to forbid private discrimination on the basis of race. They were also told of the difficulty Lawrence Summers got himself into as president of Harvard University. Summers had talked about genetic differences between men and women that might influence their scientific interest and ability.

Different versions of each of these stories were tested. Some respondents were told that Paul or Summers had apologised and tried to make amends; some were told they had toughed it out. Would you vote for senator Paul? Should Summers face negative consequences?

For Paul, an apology made no difference. For Summers the apology produced a serious negative reaction. And indeed in real life Paul avoided an explicit apology and remained a senator while Summers repeatedly apologised yet had to resign.

That was Finkelstein quoting Sunstein. This is me: neither Rand Paul nor Larry Summers should have apologised. The inefficacy of apology as a tactic had very little to do with it. They should not have cringed, they should have roared.

Senator Paul was right to say what he did. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 was wrong to forbid private discrimination on the basis of race. The various US Civil Rights Acts were utterly right to sweep away the state-mandated apartheid of the Old South, and to dismantle the system of legal dirty tricks designed to make it almost impossible for black Americans to actually exercise their theoretical right to vote. But they should have left individuals alone. There would now be less racism, not more, if the US government had stuck to its job of enforcing the equal application of the laws and had kept out of men’s souls. Instead for my entire lifetime it has been trying to help the poor, poor blacks and reform the wicked, wicked whites. The keenest supporters of that policy proclaim its utter failure: they tell us that fifty-seven years after the Act white supremacy is embedded in every American institution. So let’s take them at their word, cease pursuing this obviously futile strategy, and try something else.

Lawrence Summers was also right to say what he did, which was that people should be unafraid to honestly consider all hypotheses as to why there are fewer women in science and engineering, including the one that men just tend to be better at science and engineering. He was right to say that no hypothesis should be off the table, and even if he had been wrong about that particular hypothesis (speaking as a woman who was once in that world, I don’t think he was wrong), he was right to raise the question. Harvard’s decline from a place of free scientific enquiry to a training ground for little Lysenkos became almost inevitable from the moment it forced out its last independent president. Not that the other American universities or the British ones are much better. They are all full of people each competing to apologise the most fervently for their own institution’s sinful existence. I begin to think that, here, too, the best thing might be to take them at their word.

Spartacus writes to the Times

Sir,

The historian Andrew Graham-Dixon has just been blacklisted by Keir Bradwell, president of the Cambridge Union, for doing a Hitler impression, which is something that almost all of us have done occasionally over the past 80 years. I have written to Mr Bradwell to ask him to put me on his blacklist, and I wish to use the letters page of The Times to urge all historians, writers, artists, scientists and public intellectuals to write to any student union, academic or public institution that practises cancel culture, demanding to be put on their blacklist. I also call on them to boycott these institutions absolutely.

Louis de Bernières
Denton, Norfolk

Mr de Bernières is the author of the historical novel Captain Corelli’s Mandolin.

I am not sure if this is in response to the call from Mr de Bernières or not, but John Cleese, having done a famous Hitler impression himself in a 1975 episode of Fawlty Towers, has blacklisted himself from the Cambridge Union “before someone else does”.

Because they will take them

Not long ago, a committee for determining who receives a prestigious annual American Geophysical Union award was reconstructed to be more diverse (especially, more representative of those who who had “been very vocal” about the need for such diversity).

To the new committee’s dismay, however, the membership had apparently not been reconstructed enough in all fields. As per the usual process, peer-submitted candidates were whittled down to a shortlist of the five best in each field and submitted to the committee, but in one field:

Every nominee on the list was a white man. “That was kind of a bit of a showstopper for me,” said Helen Fricker, a glaciologist at Scripps Institution of Oceanography and one of the five committee members. (quoted from a Scientific American article)

The same statistical techniques that the field’s researchers use in their work could have been used to show this was not so very surprising, but the reconstructed committee members did not see it that way. They refused to choose any of the five.

The resolution of this is ongoing but I think we know something about the person (I use this word advisedly) who will (probably) ultimately ‘win’. My post is to say we know something else about them as well – something that an (in)famous man explained about how his yet more (in)famous boss chose people.

“The wicked, who have something on their conscience, are obliging, quick to hear threats, because they know how it’s done, and for booty. You can offer them things, because they will take them.” (Hermann Goering to his lawyer at Nuremberg)

Who will consent to receive an award that is ostensibly for skill in science, knowing that their peers in the field (peers who have, incidentally, chosen a woman for the award in the past) think them less worthy of it than five or more candidates passed over for being the wrong race and sex? Answer: someone woke enough to take it on those terms. So, while the proportion of women and men of colour in the field of ice science is relatively low, I offer the speculation – or rather, the moral hope – that it prove neither so low nor so corrupt that the one who agrees to take the award will necessarily be the one judged worthiest within that subgroup by their peers.

In other words, I hope the one who takes it will indeed belong to a minority – the minority of those who can be offered such things because they will take them.

There was a time when Scottish universities were havens of free thought

Then:

After the Uniformity Act 1662, for about two centuries, it was difficult for any but practising members of the Church of England to gain degrees from the old English universities, at Cambridge and Oxford. The University of Oxford, in particular, required – until the Oxford University Act 1854 – a religious test on admission that was comparable to that for joining the Church. The situation at the University of Cambridge was that a statutory test was required to take a bachelor’s degree.

English Dissenters in this context were Nonconformist Protestants who could not in good conscience subscribe (i.e. conform) to the beliefs of the Church of England. As they were debarred from taking degrees in the only two English universities, many of them attended the dissenting academies. If they could afford it, they completed their education at the universities of Leyden, Utrecht, Glasgow or Edinburgh, the last, particularly, those who were studying medicine or law.

Now:

After making their grades and unpacking their bags, new students may be forgiven for thinking they are ready to launch themselves into university life.

But at one of Britain’s leading institutions, they must now clear one more hurdle before beginning their studies: they must accept “personal guilt”.

St Andrews has introduced compulsory modules on sustainability, diversity, consent and good academic practice and will not allow students to matriculate if they do not “pass” by agreeing with certain statements. The university is one of a growing number insisting that students undertake training on subjects including anti-bullying and climate change.

[…]

At St Andrews, the induction asks students to agree with statements including: “Acknowledging your personal guilt is a useful start point in overcoming unconscious bias.” Those who tick “disagree” are marked incorrect and too many wrong answers mean they have failed the module and must retake it.

Another question from the course asks: “Does equality mean treating everyone the same?” Those who respond yes are told: “That’s not right, in fact equality may mean treating people differently and in a way that is appropriate to their needs so that they have fair outcomes and equal opportunity.”

Students are also asked to agree with the statement: “It is important to think about and understand our own prejudices and stereotypes so we don’t treat someone else unfairly or inappropriately.”

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.