This is the best picture illustrating the point, from our friend Stephen Miller. It looks like something out of a new dystopian show on Hulu:
What a pic. pic.twitter.com/yaMSIciQaR
— Stephen L. Miller (@redsteeze) September 14, 2021
A great many terrible ideas for K-12 education have originated in our colleges and universities. That is where the “research” and “deep thinking” into how best to teach young students is done. To paraphrase a bumper sticker, “If Kids Can’t Read, Thank a Professor.”
In today’s Martin Center article, Duke University professor John Staddon looks at the way one of the supposed experts on the teaching of math turns it into an exercise in racial politics. Specifically, Staddon analyzes a presentation by Professor Deborah Lowenberg Ball of the University of Michigan School of Education. He writes, “Ball sets the scene with a slide that reads: ‘But our efforts to make change are still high-risk for reproducing patterns of racism and marginalization. Let’s look.’ Apparently we are to see in the children’s answers and teachers’ responses to questions about fractions, ‘patterns of racism and marginalization.’ Racism, omnipresent, like a virus, infects us all.”
Rather than explaining how best to teach fractions to students, the focus becomes a host of lefty cliches about racial groups and oppression. How does any of that help? It just makes Ball look virtuous to her audience.
The radical presumptions of education research leader Deborah Ball are amply documented and probably widely accepted in the field. They seem to be as follows.
Math education is not about math, but about “racial justice”. Any disparity disfavoring blacks or women is unjust.
The most important thing about both students and teachers is their race.
Students are all equally able, indeed “black girls are brilliant.” Tests that seem to reveal differences reflect the “scientific racism of measurement.”
The teacher’s primary role, even in math, is to discern each student’s “contribution”, so as not to “position” the student as failing—only positive reinforcement is allowed.
The teacher and the student are collaborators in the “collective work” of the class. Evidently math competence is a group skill, like marching in a band, not an individual competence.
It is wrong for a teacher to correct a student if her behavior does not bother other students: the students set the rules, not the teacher.
With educational friends like Ball, minority students don’t need any enemies.
When white-male progressive journalists denounce white males as a class, I usually roll my eyes and don’t bother to dissect what they’re saying, but writer Freddie deBoer has done a superb job of breaking down what white-male writers are really saying when they bemoan white males.
Citing, for instance, the tweets of David Roberts, a former writer for the lefty young-adult site Vox.com, deBoer notes that Roberts obviously does not mean what he says when he categorically states that “white dudes came to their theories & worldviews not solely through the vigorous application of Reason, but because of where & when they are embedded through history, shaped by forces they do not control or fully understand.” Roberts adds that the notion, which he supports, that “You just think what you think & say what you say because you’re a white guy in the 21st century” is “absolutely maddening to white guys” because it represents “a violation of their deepest self-definition.” (To any white guys out there who may be reading this: Are you “maddened” by what Roberts is saying, or do you merely snort in derision? I wonder if Roberts can tell the difference between rage and dismissal.)
If Roberts believed these statements to be categorically true, it would undermine his value as a thinker as well. If he is a mere feather on the winds of white-male history, tossed this way and that by forces he does not control nor understand, his writing is not terribly useful, is it?
So Roberts is implicitly asking his readers to believe that he is an exception to the rule of the intellectual deficiencies of white guys. But if there are exceptions to the rule, why bother making such a sweeping statement? DeBoer:
Once you admit exceptions to the “white man” designator, you’re really just saying “conservative white men” or “unenlightened white men” or “white men who don’t think exactly like I do.” If you’ve done that, why bother with the categorical at all? Why not just restrict your critiques of believing stupid s**t to people who believe stupid s**t, which yes includes many white men but also includes Candace Owens and Dinesh D’Souza and those two Black Trumper ladies with the WWF tag team names I can never remember? I don’t understand why people make a big show of condemning entire classes of people while also making it very plain that they believe there are exceptions, most importantly themselves.
Since Roberts, and presumably most of his white-male pals and coworkers at young-adult policy websites, and in activist circles, and in entire neighborhoods of Brooklyn are notable exceptions to the rule, he’s really just telling us he disagrees with people who think in a way he ascribes to certain white males. Which is just another way of saying he disagrees with those with whom he disagrees, regardless of their whiteness or maleness. He makes such claims to curry favor with the identity-politics-obsessed progressive Left, to announce to these people that he is one of the good white men. Don’t hate me; I hate the right people too, even though that means hating myself!
Roberts is trying to build his brand in a dying media industry, and no matter how many hundreds of white dudes desperately jockey to be the good white dudes of media there still seems to be some residual value in showily renouncing white maleness as a white male. People tend to get all weepy about this, but I don’t know how any honest observer could deny it. In the contemporary progressive marketplace for personal brands, there is still some value in being the kind of white man who gets it, despite the crowded field of guys trying to earn that designation and “getting it” often includes engaging in very showy criticism of the categories you yourself reside in. (It’s essential that this criticism somehow does not implicate you personally at all. Tricky!) If you think it’s untoward to ascribe ugly motives to people based on their group associations while ignoring their professed motives, then you should take it up with Dave Roberts.
DeBoer calls himself a Marxist, yet he fails to adhere to a notable rule that applies to nearly all Marxists these days: He isn’t boring. His Substack is amusingly contrarian and highly engaging. I recommend it.
Here is a post on “Cafe Hayek” today:
Here’s a letter to a high-school senior in Virginia:
Thanks for your e-mail, and for reading Cafe Hayek.
As you predict, I join you in rejecting your economics teacher’s belief that “Milton Friedman’s teachings privileged the powerful … and oppressed workers and the disenfranchised.” But it’s not my place to instruct you on how to respond.
You are, you say, familiar with some of Friedman’s writings. Re-read these writings, as well as others by Friedman – many of which are available free-of-charge here. As you do so, ask yourself which groups are identified by Friedman as suffering the most from government interventions and, hence, which groups are believed by Friedman to gain the most from a reduction in government intervention into the economy. Importantly, challenge yourself to read Friedman as your teacher and other of his critics read him. Try – really try – to understand just why these critics reach the conclusion they do.
If you take my advice, it’s possible that you’ll come to share your teacher’s critical view of Friedman. Leave yourself open to that possibility, for even if in the end you aren’t persuaded to that critical view, you’ll come to have a deeper understanding both of Friedman and of his critics.
I close with one substantive point: Your teacher is mistaken to describe Friedman as having been “a paid apologist for the privileged.” Even if you and I are incorrect, and your teacher is correct, about the consequences of Friedman’s policies, your teacher has no evidence that Friedman’s public-policy advocacy was fueled by any motive other than a sincere belief that those policies are the most humane and likely to improve the lives of ordinary people.
One of the substantive economic principles taught not only by Friedman, but also by Adam Smith and countless other economists, famous and obscure, is that (in the phrasing of David Henderson) “intentions are not results.” It follows that results do not necessarily reflect intentions. The very least your teacher should do with respect to Friedman is what I sincerely advise you to do with respect to your teacher: Take his arguments seriously and do not assume that disagreement with the conclusions implies he had evil motives.
Donald J. Boudreaux
Professor of Economics
Martha and Nelson Getchell Chair for the Study of Free Market Capitalism at the Mercatus Center
George Mason University
Fairfax, VA 22030
Here we have a blitheringly ignorant high-school teacher offering his ill-informed views to students as though he were instructing them on the quadratic formula. No wonder our colleges are swarming with “social-justice warrior” types.
The CDC is the supposed gold standard when it comes to science and public health. But what are we to make of the agency’s going all in on woke terminology in the name of promoting “health equity”? From its newly issued, “Health Equity Guiding Principles for Inclusive Communication”:
To build a healthier America for all, we must confront the systems and policies that have resulted in the generational injustice that has given rise to health inequities. We at CDC want to lead in this effort—both in the work we do on behalf of the nation’s health and the work we do internally as an organization.
Achieving health equity requires focused and ongoing societal efforts to address historical and contemporary injustices; overcome economic, social, and other obstacles to health and healthcare; and eliminate preventable health disparities.
CDC’s Health Equity Guiding Principles for Inclusive Communication emphasize the importance of addressing all people inclusively and respectfully. These principles are intended to help public health professionals, particularly health communicators, within and outside of CDC ensure their communication products and strategies adapt to the specific cultural, linguistic, environmental, and historical situation of each population or audience of focus.
The idea is to prevent stigma:
Language in communication products should reflect and speak to the needs of people in the audience of focus. The following provides some preferred terms for select population groups; the terms to try to use represent an ongoing shift toward non-stigmatizing language.
I’m all for respectful communication, but come on! The worry about stigma can actually keep people from self-destructive actions. But never mind. People must be made to feel comfortable even in their most dysfunctional (can I say that?) circumstances. Thus, when it comes to abusing drugs:
Instead of this . . .
- Drug-users/addicts/drug abusers
- Persons taking/prescribed medication assisted treatment (MAT)
- Persons who relapsed
Try this . . .
- Persons who use drugs/people who inject drugs
- Persons with substance use disorder
- Persons with alcohol use disorder
- Persons in recovery from substance use/alcohol disorder
- Persons taking/prescribed medications for opioid use disorder (MOUD)
- Persons who returned to use
- People who smoke
“People who smoke”?
Instead of the word, “homeless,” the CDC wants us to use the term, “Persons experiencing unstable housing/housing insecurity/persons who are not securely housed.” Instead of “poor,” say, “People with self-reported income in the lowest income bracket (if income brackets are defined).” Instead of “illegal immigrants,” instead use the term, “People with undocumented status.” What word salads!
And then there are the LGBTQ etc. issues. Instead of “gay” or “biologically male or female,” say:
LGBTQ (or LGBTQIA or LGBTQ+ or LGBTQIA2) . . .
Using MSM (men who have sex with men) to mean people who report being male at birth and having had sex with a person who was male at birth, regardless of self-identified sexual orientation
Assigned male/female at birth
Designated male/female at birth
People/person with intersex traits
Pronouns: Singular they or their, He/she/they
I can’t keep up. Read the whole thing. It is a wonder to behold.
This exercise in verbal correctness will do more harm than good. Rather than improve communication with most Americans, the CDC will instead undermine its remaining credibility with the half of the country that is not on the port side of politics, and indeed, could well turn off many of the very people the agency claims to be trying to reach — for example, those whom they are trying to vaccinate.
And the CDC wonders why so many Americans have turned their backs on “the experts.”