I naively believed that STEM would be spared from the ideological takeover. I was wrong, says Princeton professor Sergiu Klainerman.
I am not at all qualified to introduce today’s guest writer, Sergiu Klainerman.
I barely eked out a C+ in high school calculus, while Sergiu is a professor of mathematics at Princeton who specializes in the mathematical theory of black holes. He’s been a MacArthur fellow, a Guggenheim fellow and is a member of the National Academy of Sciences
Mathematics allowed a young Sergiu, who came of age in Ceausescu’s Romania, to escape to a world where right and wrong couldn’t be fudged, and, ultimately, to a life of freedom in the United States. Without math, his life quite literally would not have been possible.
In the piece below he explains how activists are destroying his discipline in the name of progress. Worse, they are robbing poor children of the opportunity to raise themselves up by mastering it — with untold effects on all of us.
Math, with its seemingly unbiased tools — 2 + 2 always equals 4 — has presented a problem for an ideological movement that sees any inequality of outcome as evidence of systemic bias. The problem cannot be that some kids are better at math, or that some teachers are better at teaching it. Like so much else, the basic woke argument against math is that it is inherently racist and needs to be made antiracist. That is accomplished by undermining the notion of right and wrong answers, by getting rid of the expectation that students show their work, by referring to mathematical testing tools as racist, and by doing away with accelerated math classes.
Unlike the US, Sweden still appears to take academic freedom seriously. From Jonathan Turley at jonathanturley.org:
We have been discussing erosion of free speech and academic freedom protections at colleges and universities around the United States. Most faculty have been conspicuously silent as their colleagues are attacked, suspended, or even fired for taking opposing views on systemic racism, police brutality, or movements like Black Lives Matter. In Sweden, the response has been quite different after Professor Jonas Ludvigsson, announced that he would stop all further research on Covid-19 after a campaign of abuse and harassment following his study on the low threat that the virus poses to children and teachers. The country is ramping up protections for academics to combat such cancelling campaigns.
Ludvigsson researches and teaches clinical epidemiology at Sweden’s Karolinska Institute. His research is consistent with studies that have long found a low risk to students and teachers. This research was highlighted during the Trump Administration in a call for the resumption of classes but largely ignored by the media. The argument for reopening schools, particularly for young children, was portrayed as political and “not following the science.” Commercial rans that calls to returning to the classroom was tantamount to “murder.” However, the science has been overwhelmingly supportive of such reopening. Indeed, Catholic and other private schools in many states never closed without surges in the virus.
Ludvigsson looked at children from age 1 to 16 during the first wave of COVID-19 and found that only 15 children went to the ICU, for a rate of 0.77 per 100,000. Moreover, in the 1-16 age group, there was only a slight increase from the four-month period before the pandemic to the four-month period following the period.
Such studies contradict the media narrative and the position of teacher unions, including many which continue to oppose a return to the classroom despite the science. Accordingly, Ludvigsson was attacked and hounded out of further research.
The alternative media is one of the few remaining barriers to total totalitarianism in this country. From Matt Taibbi at taibbi.substack.com:
UCLA professor Sarah T. Roberts mourns the good old days of gatekeeping and credential-worship
UCLA professor Sarah Roberts, co-leader of something called the UCLA Center for Critical Internet Inquiry — media critics whose stated goal is “strengthening democracy through culture-making” — went on a lengthy Twitter tirade against Substack last night, one that gained a lot of attention. I should probably respond since, as one prominent reporter put it to Glenn Greenwald and me this morning, “Shit, it’s like she wrote this for the two of you.”
A few thoughts in response to what one Tweeter humorously described as “the Tipper Gore of 2021,” who incidentally went on to make sure everyone understood she wasn’t talking “about Substack for basket weaving or 30 Rock fandom or whatever.” No, Dr. Roberts was “talking about stuff purporting to be serious. Opinion can be serious but I believe lines are being intentionally blurred BY SUBSTACK.”
An uppity white woman didn’t like disparaging her own race and confessing to sins she never committed. That’s simply unacceptable. From James Howard Kunstler at kunstler.com:
You’d think that a wobbling civilization, plagued by failures of economy and politics, would have better things to do than submit to the crypto-religious ghost-dance of racial hysteria called “being Woke” that preoccupies its thinking class. Case in point: the vocational martyrdom at Smith College of a lowly staffer named Jodi Shaw, who objected publicly to the ritual indignities heaped on her by colleagues and students in the name of “social justice” — that is, the holy war against “whiteness.”
Her story: Ms. Shaw, a divorced mother with two children (and Smith alum, 1993) worked as a Student Support Coordinator in the Department of Residence Life (that is, a dorm counselor). She was asked to denounce herself in staff meetings about “systemic racism,” and complained about it through the proper channels, which only invited more hectoring abuse. In frustration, she finally posted a video on the web to expose the Stalinist bullying that was allowed to infect every corner of campus life at Smith. The admin offered her a cash settlement to shut up and get lost. Ms. Shaw turned it down but resigned anyway in a long letter to Smith President Kathleen McCartney that she made public about the college’s hostile workplace.
Just because someone is smart, or has impressive credentials, doesn’t mean he or she is always right. People should be far more skeptical of expert proclamations. From Lipton Matthews at mises.org:
It has now become commonplace to accuse anyone who opposes covid lockdowns of being “antiscience.” This sort of treatment persists even when published scientific studies suggest the usual prolockdown narrative is wrong. support the antilockdown position.
There are sociological, economic, and cultural reasons why experts will take the politically popular position, even when the actual scientific evidence is weak or nonexistent.
Experts Are Biased and Are Self-Interested like Everyone Else
Though we are often encouraged to listen to experts because of their intelligence and expertise, there is a strong case for us to be skeptical of their pronouncements.
Beliefs serve a social function by indicating one’s position in society. Hence to preserve their status in elite circles, highly educated experts may subscribe to incorrect positions, since doing do so can confer benefits. Refusing to hold a politically popular viewpoint could damage one’s career. And since upper-class professionals are more invested in acquiring status than working people, we should not expect them to jettison incorrect beliefs in the name of pursuing truth. Cancel culture has taught us that promoting the world view of the elite is more important than truth to decision makers.
So why should we listen to experts when they give greater primacy to appeasing elites than solving national problems? In contrast to what some would want you to believe—revolting against experts is not an attack on science, considering that little evidence suggests that they care about scientific truth. Let us not fool ourselves. People occupying powerful offices are uninterested in being toppled from positions of influence, and as such, they will seek to minimize views that threaten their professional or intellectual authority. As a result, expecting influential bureaucrats to value truth is unwise. Truth to a bureaucrat is merely the consensus of the intelligentsia at any given time.
You may find yourself howling with laughter at some sections of this article. It’s probably your only defense against throwing up. From Simon Black at sovereignman.com:
In honor of Black History Month, schools across the Land of the Free are adopting a curriculum that’s being pushed from the organization Black Lives Matter.
Curiously, the “Black Lives Matter at School” curriculum has absolutely nothing to do with history, let alone black history.
Instead, the organization presents an entirely Marxist, ultra-woke agenda.
The first clue is that the website literally states “we engage comrades” through the curriculum’s 13 guiding principles.
One of these guiding principles is “disrupting the Western-prescribed nuclear family structure” to replace it with “villages that collectively care for one another, and especially our children.”
Wait, what? OUR children? Now we’re supposed to award untold influence over our kids to self-described “trained Marxists” ?
But this only scratches the surface of the curriculum.
Under the organization’s “Universal Declaration of Human Rights,” there are lesson plans which endeavor to teach young students about why they should join trade unions when they become an adult.
And they go on to teach that everyone is “entitled to economic, social and cultural help from your government.”
One resource in the curriculum advocates printing money to implement a “systemwide social justice shock,” including “free universal health care… and direct subsidies [i.e. universal basic income].”
Another teaches “that white supremacy is a fundamental component of our founding documents. The Constitution was not a document to promote democracy, but to prevent it… my students engage in an activity where they see this unfold in the classroom.”
One lesson plan instructs teachers to have their students “Write your own hex poem, cursing… specific people who have been agents of police terror or global brutality” including “small micro aggressions… i.e., people who say ‘all lives matter’. . .”
And they do this with incredibly young, impressionable children who absorb everything like a sponge.
Ellsworth Toohey would be proud. (If you don’t know who Ellsworth Toohey is, reading The Fountainhead isn’t a bad way to spend your reading time for a week or two. From Andy Kessler at theburningplatform.com:
Has an era of American mediocrity begun? In January the College Board announced it would eliminate the essay portion of the SAT, as well as all of the separate SAT subject tests. Their stated purpose was “reducing and simplifying demands on students.” Such a burden.
One high school near me just dropped freshman advanced-standing (honors) English “to combat the effects of academic ‘tracking” because it “ultimately separates students of different socioeconomic and racial backgrounds.” It turns out that middle schools from lower-income areas aren’t adequately preparing their students for high school. So rather than fix that problem, they dumbed down high school.
Then again, when the University of California system did away with racial preferences in 1996, it moved to holistic admissions. What does holistic mean? Anything you want. The Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities defines it as “assessing an applicant’s unique experiences alongside traditional measures of academic readiness.” Grades are only a suggestion—and SAT scores are biased, supposedly. And here you thought smart students got into good colleges. Yes, mediocrity has crept into our self-proclaimed elite colleges. Job recruiters understand this.
The entire video record of the conference — estimated at around 24 hours of material — was mysteriously disappeared from YouTube say conference organizers.
an cademic critical media literacy conference warning of the dangers of media censorship has, ironically, been censored by YouTube. The Critical Media Literacy Conference of the Americas 2020 took place without incident online over two days in October and featured a number of esteemed speakers and panels discussing issues concerning modern media studies.
Weeks later, however, the entire video record of the conference — estimated at around 24 hours of material — disappeared from YouTube. Organizer Nolan Higdon of California State University East Bay, began receiving worried messages from other academics, some of which were shared with MintPress, who had been using the material in their classrooms, noting that it had all mysteriously disappeared.
“At first I thought it was a joke,” said Mickey Huff of Diablo Valley College, California. “My initial reaction was ‘that’s absurd;’ there must have been a mistake or an accident or it must have got swept under somehow. There is no violation, there was no reasoning, there was no warning, there was not an explanation, there was no nothing. The entire channel was just gone,” he told MintPress. Huff is also the director of Project Censored, an organization that sponsored the event.
Higdon suspected that it was the content critical of big tech monopolies like Google, YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter that was the reason why the channel was deleted. “Each video was a different panel and every panel had different people from the other ones, so it is not like there was one theme or person or copyrighted content in all of our videos; this seems to be an attack on the conference, not on a singular video,” he said.
Academia loves a lot of minority ethnic, religious, racial, and sexual preference groups, but not Jews. From Richard Kemp at gatestoneinstitute.org:
“Jewish people today on campus can be tolerated, protected or abused. At no point are they treated as equals.” — David Collier, Academia, January 18, 2021.
This Jew-hate is cloaked in anti-Zionism, a doctrine that claims the Jewish state, alone among the nations, has no right to exist. It seeks to whip up anti-Israel hatred by focusing on three core lies: accusations of apartheid, ethnic cleansing and settler-colonialism.
The government has been working to persuade universities to adopt the IHRA definition, including the threat of removal of funding streams. Often bitterly contested by academic staff desperate to remain unchallenged in their bully pulpits, as of last autumn only 29 of 133 higher education institutions had complied….
“The goal is achieved! No more Jews at German universities,” the leading Nazi student newspaper, Die Bewegung, triumphantly proclaimed in 1938.
Of course, nothing like it could ever happen again. Except something like it is happening again — now, and in Britain. According to a report published this week by David Collier, a British researcher, some UK universities are now virtually Judenfrei: free of Jews.
Give a single inch to the politically correct, cancel culture crowd and they’ll take a mile and never give it back. From Jeff Thomas at internationalman.com:
During the Obama administration, comedian Bill Maher attempted to take advantage of the ever-expanding trend of political correctness by referring derisively to the possibility of taking the view of “some white guy.”
Of course, as a proclaimed liberal, his aim was to say to other liberals, “Liberals are slamming those who are Caucasian, and I want you to know that I’m a good liberal, and I’m on your side.”
In the years following the event, he continued in this fashion, but as political correctness caught fire, he found that, far from helping his career, his attempt to placate the PC audience resulted in them turning on him.
He is a comedian, after all, and comedians deal in abstraction in order to tickle the funnybone. Those who are politically correct found him an easy target to pick apart, describing some of his jokes as racist and demanding that he confess to racism and submit to public shaming.
The more he tried to avoid an apology, the more he was castigated. To his credit, he eventually retaliated, calling political correctness a “cancer on progressivism.”
However, when we attempt to pander to groups of people whose raison d’être is to fanatically promote irrational standards, we step onto a slippery slope.
Today nowhere is this truer than in the education system. Educational institutions tend to be havens for adult instructors who do not deal well with the dollars and cents world. Academics have the freedom to imagine utopian concepts without ever having to implement them and thereby determine whether they can actually work. More to the point, they’re in the position to then teach those concepts to youthful minds, which are open to “new” ideas.
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