Saturday, April 30, 2022

Dumbing Down the Schools

Thomas Jefferson High School in Alexandria, Virginia has long counted as one of the nation’s best public high schools. It offered admissions based on a standardized test and challenged children with a seriously rigorous course of study.

But then, a new principal took over a couple of years ago, and she made it her mission to introduce more diversity, inclusion and equity. That meant, more admissions for underqualified students. 

 Now, certain New York City high schools are about to try to do the same thing, by replacing  standardized tests with a lottery. The results will doubtless be the same as are seen in TJ.

And we note, again, that when MIT opened up its admissions process to students who were chosen for their diversity, teachers quickly discovered that these students were incapable of doing the math necessary to pass Freshman courses and to engage in the normal course of study. So, MIT reinstated the standardized test requirements.

Now, Asra Nomani explains in The Federalist, when a pathetic fool named Ann Bonitatibus took over as principal of TJ a couple of years ago, she began a program designed to dumb down the student body. 

The first consequence was that more students dropped out of school. 

Nomani explains:

According to the school district’s website, only 541 students of the 550 students admitted in the Class of 2025 even started in September 2021. Several left throughout the school year, in March bringing the Class of 2025 to 529 students from 541.

That’s 12 students, or a record 2.2 percent of the freshman class, who dropped out of the school. The number may seem small, but consider that only one student dropped out the entire year before from the Class of 2024.

But then the problem of learning gaps arose. In part, this was caused by the pandemic, but still, an alarming number of students were incapable of doing the work:

In February, blaming “pandemic learning gaps,” Bonitatibus had staff announce new after-school “Algebra Review Sessions” because so many Class of 2025 students were ill-prepared in math.

The dumbed down student body was less competent. 

Furthermore, a new study by the Fairfax County Association for the Gifted, which advocates for advanced academic students, confirms the new admissions process admitted students in the Class of 2025 with less advanced math than the year before. Compared to the TJ Class of 2024, the proportion of students admitted in the Class of 2025 with Algebra 2 or higher completed in 8th grade decreased from 35 to 18 percent. Advanced math, like multivariable calculus, lays the foundation for advanced sciences, from artificial intelligence and machine learning, that matter to TJ students (and the school’s mission).

So, children who cannot master multivariable calculus are shut out of many advanced subjects. But then, a quarter of the new freshman class had not yet learned geometry:

The study also found 38 percent of Fairfax County Public Schools students admitted to the TJ Class of 2025 “were not participating in the most rigorous coursework available in 8th grade.”

Indeed, in response to a FOIA request by a TJ mother, Fairfax County officials revealed that the number of TJ students who had to take geometry—a course that most ninth graders completed before arriving at TJ under merit admissions—skyrocketed to 136 students in the 2021-2022 school year from 11 in 2020-2021 and 15 in 2019-2020.

The program is such an obvious failure, that you can assure yourself that it will be continued. And you can equally be assured that grade inflation and curriculum revision is about to become the order of the day at TJ.

Does Hate Speech Lead to Hateful Action?

Now that the Biden administration has bestowed upon us a Ministry of Truth, we ought again to return to the basic, unexamined premise behind this despotic action.

The argument against misinformation suggests that if only people had only good information to assess, they would naturally make the right decision, that being the decision dictated by their overlords.

And yet, we know, from behavioral economists, that anyone who feels that he is being forced to do something or to believe something will naturally recoil. 

And we also know that scientific fact always comes with a side order of skepticism. Any decent scientist will tell you that there is no such thing as settled science. And that means, differences of scientific opinion must be allowed, lest science stagnate. One would do well to read Thomas Kuhn’s important work, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, the better to assess the extent to which accepted scientific theories are subject to revision and expansion and refutation. 

Those who want to control your mind, who insist that they and only they know what is true and what you should be allowed to think, have been warring against hate speech. Now they have glommed on to the notion of disinformation. They insist that if they do not have complete control of what you can read and think, that people will die… or some such.

As for the argument against hate, our enlightened overlords insist that if we can shut down hate speech, and especially all bigoted expressions, we will be striking a blow for democracy and will be saving the world from Nazis. You would think that their schtick about Nazis would have gotten tired by this time, but alas, such is not the case.

The argument goes something like this. If only Weimar Germany had had the proper hate suppressing laws, Nazism would never have taken root in that country. If only Weimar Germany had suppressed hate speech and jailed those who trafficked in bigotry, things would have been ever so much better.

Now two authors, from the left and the right, refute that argument, yet again. Greg Lukianoff and Nadine Strossen point out that, effectively, Weimar Germany had very strict laws against hate speech, and that it had prosecuted leading Nazis for their language.

Lukianoff explains:

Weimar Germany had laws banning hateful speech (particularly hateful speech directed at Jews), and top Nazis including Joseph Goebbels, Theodor Fritsch and Julius Streicher actually were sentenced to prison time for violating them. The efforts of the Weimar Republic to suppress the speech of the Nazis are so well known in academic circles that one professor has described the idea that speech restrictions would have stopped the Nazis as "the Weimar Fallacy."

A 1922 law passed in response to violent political agitators such as the Nazis permitted Weimar authorities to censor press criticism of the government and advocacy of violence. This was followed by a number of emergency decrees expanding the power to censor newspapers. The Weimar Republic not only shut down hundreds of Nazi newspapers — in a two-year period, they shut down 99 in Prussia alone — but they accelerated that crackdown on speech as the Nazis ascended to power. Hitler himself was banned from speaking in several German states from 1925 until 1927.

Of course, this has been known for some time. People who care to conduct a smidgeon of research before shooting their mouths off know the truth. And yet, being ignorant buffoons, they continue to call for the repression of hate speech on the grounds that if only Weimar Germany had done the same, it would have shut down Nazism.

What else happened? It turned out that Nazis used the repression as an argument in favor of their movement:

Far from being an impediment to the spread of National Socialist ideology, Hitler and the Nazis used the attempts to suppress their speech as public relations coups. The party waved the ban like a bloody shirt to claim they were being targeted for exposing the international conspiracy to suppress "true" Germans. 

And then, once the Nazis took power, they used the same laws to suppress the speech of anyone who opposed their rule:

Indeed, censorship that was employed ineffectively to stop the rise of the Nazis was a boon to the Nazis when it came to consolidating their power. The laws mentioned earlier that allowed Weimar authorities to shut down newspapers, and additional laws intended to limit the spread of Nazi ideology via the radio, had their reins turned over to the Nazi party when Hitler became chancellor. Predictably, the Nazis used these preexisting means of censorship to crush any political speech opposing them, allowing for an absolute grip on the country that would have been much more difficult or impossible with strong legal protections for press and speech….

Dare we say, this is not news. It did not just happen. The fact that no one considers it seriously shows the ugly and stupid side of American public debate.

Friday, April 29, 2022

Climate Change Hysteria Meets Reality

The surprising part is reading this interview in The New York Times. Rarely have the adolescent fantasies about renewable energy been so thoroughly refuted. If you weren’t paying attention, you would think that you were reading the Manhattan Contrarian blog.

The author, Vaclav Smil, has written a book entitled,  “How the World Really Works: The Science Behind How We Got Here and Where We’re Going.” 

Smil argues, cogently and effectively, that despite what the United Nations bureaucrats think, and despite the whinings of climate activists, and regardless of what the Biden administration is saying, we are not going to decarbonize electricity generation by 2035.

One understands that Smil is exasperated by the stupidity of those who are throwing out these unrealistic goals:

Now, according to COP26, we should reduce our carbon dioxide emissions by 45 percent by 2030 as compared with 2010 levels. This is undoable because there’s just eight years left, and emissions are still rising. People don’t appreciate the magnitude of the task and are setting up artificial deadlines which are unrealistic.


The official goal in the U.S. is complete decarbonization of electricity generation by 2035. That’s Biden’s program: zero-carbon electricity in 2035. The country doesn’t have a national grid! How will you decarbonize and run the country by wind and solar without a national grid? And what will it take to build a national grid in a NIMBY society like the U.S.?

How unrealistic is it?

What’s the point of setting goals which cannot be achieved? People call it aspirational. I call it delusional. We are forging ahead with more S.U.V.s, we are building bigger houses, we want to invent new techniques to make more steel. But do we need all that more and bigger? I’m not against setting a goal. I’m all for realistic goals. I will not yield on this point. It’s misleading and doesn’t serve any use because we will not achieve it, and then people say, What’s the point? I’m all for goals but for strict realism in setting them.

And, he continues, even if America weans itself from carbon, the rest of the world will be forging ahead. They seem not to be tempted by the notion of blackouts accompanied by skyrocketing electricity prices:

Check the China statistics. The country is adding, every year, gigawatts of new coal-fired power. Have you noticed that the whole world is now trying to get hands on as much natural gas as possible? This world is not yet done with fossil fuels. 

And what is happening in Germany, the world’s role model for greenification:

Germany, after nearly half a trillion dollars, in 20 years they went from getting 84 percent of their primary energy from fossil fuels to 76 percent. Can you tell me how you’d go from 76 percent fossil to zero by 2030, 2035? I’m sorry, the reality is what it is.

As for the hysteria surrounding the issue, we have been hearing the same prophecies of doom for decades now:

What is “imminent”? In science you have to be careful with your words. We’ve had these problems ever since we started to burn fossil fuels on a large scale. We haven’t bothered to do anything about it. There is no excuse for that. We could have chosen a different path. But this is not our only imminent and global problem. About one billion people are either undernourished or malnourished. The fact of possible nuclear war these days. Remember what they used to say about Gerald Ford? He can’t walk and chew gum at the same time. This is the problem of society today. We cannot do three things at the same time. So who decides what is imminent?

As for the climate accords and the prospect of a uniting the world in favor of a return to the stone age, Smil has this to say:

No. I’m just telling you that this is a totally unprecedented problem, and people don’t realize how difficult it will be to deal with. You don’t have to have 200 countries to sign on the dotted line to reduce emissions. But you have to have at least all the big emitters: China, the United States, India, Russia. What are the chances today of Russia, China and the U.S. signing on the dotted line as to the actual reduction of emissions by 2030? Also please notice that the Paris agreement has no legally binding language. In an ideal world, we could cut our emissions if we put our minds into it. But the point is it has to be done by all these actors in concert. Are we going to come together and make that global compact to make it work? That’s the question.

One begins suspecting that our leaders are ginning up this crisis talk in order to manipulate the minds of voters. It is pure disinformation, the kind that will happily be purveyed to everyone as scientific truth.

Smil offers some sense of the difficulty we face:

Suppose we start investing like crazy and start bringing down the carbon as rapidly as possible. The first beneficiaries will be people living in the 2070s because of what’s already in the system. The temperature will keep rising even as we are reducing these emissions. So you are asking people now to make quote-unquote sacrifices while the first benefits will accrue to their children and the real benefits will accrue to their grandchildren. You have to redo the basic human wiring in the brain to change this risk analysis and say, I value 2055 or 2060 as much as I value tomorrow. None of us is wired to think that way.

The other side, one that Smil, a former inhabitant of the Soviet Union, knows only too well, is that this general hysteria tends to politicize everyday life, to turn everything into politics, to make us believe that politics can solve all of our problems. The following paragraph is well worth underscoring:

No. I used to live in the westernmost part of the evil empire, what’s now the Czech Republic. They forever turned me off any stupid politics because they politicized everything. So it is now, unfortunately, in the West. Everything’s politics. No it is not! You can be on this side or that side, but the real world works on the basis of natural law and thermodynamics and energy conversions, and the fact is if I want to smelt my steel, I need a certain amount of carbon or hydrogen to do it. The Red Book of Mao or Putin’s speeches or Donald Trump is no help in that. We need less politics to solve our problems. We need to look at the realities of life and to see how we can practically affect them.

So, in a world where we are told that we must follow the science, the people who are promoting this notion have no real idea of what the science is. And they have no real sense of how to deal with the problem, even assuming that there is a problem.

Thursday, April 28, 2022

The Current Clash of Civilizations

From time to time I assess the state of play in the current civilizational clash between the West and the rest-- or should that be, the West and the East. Or else, in most minds, it’s America versus China for world hegemony.

And I have been known to suggest that we are not exactly doing a bang up job in this competition. After all, would you wager your life savings on a country that is being led by a demented fool, a man who remains in power because the nomenklatura understands that his vice president is a complete idiot. 

Whenever I do so, commenters on this blog-- bless them for taking the time and effort to contribute-- suggest that I have it all wrong. Or better than my sources have it wrong. In truth, they explain, America is ruling the world and it will continue to rule the world. We are still the biggest and baddest bloke on the field and no one will overtake us.

In part, this debate involves the status of the dollar, but it goes well beyond. But, if you are taking the long view, how well do you think that American schoolchildren will be able to compete in the world market if they are filled full of nonsense about race theory and do not know how to do algebra, to say nothing of multivariable calculus.

Anyway, my personal feeling is that our cheerleading squad, considerable as it is, is falling into the complacency trap. They have mistaken patriotism for complacency and imagine that every time someone suggests that we might be falling behind the Middle Kingdom, to say nothing of Asian democracies, it represents an insufficient love of country.

Of course, one can certainly love one’s country and despair at the fact that political power and influence is being wielded by a sanctimonious twit named Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

Anyway, on the anti-complacency front, we have recently read a bracing analysis by two foreign policy mavens, Fredrik Erixon and Dalibor Rohac. The first is the director of European Centre for International Political Economy in Brussels. The second is a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington DC. Their essay appeared in Quillette.

Some contrary souls will naturally take issue with their analysis, but that is not a reason not to share it.

The authors begin by explaining that our great Western world is suffering from anemic economic growth, and that, eventually, this is going to catch up with us:

Our ability to succeed, by projecting hard and soft power and by improving our resilience against autocratic aggression, requires economic resources. Yet, America is a low-growth region, and Europe even more so. Between 2000 and 2019, annual economic growth in the European Union averaged a miserable 1.4 percent. In Italy, real per capita incomes are lower today than they were in the mid-2000s. Public debt has soared, hovering at just below 100 percent of GDP in both Europe and the United States compared to 45 percent in China and less than 20 percent in Russia.

The great European Union, now leading the fight against Russia in Ukraine, has not been an economic powerhouse. How could it be, burdened as it is by bureaucratic red tape and environmentalist yearnings:

Despite its successive enlargements, the relative weight of the European Union in the global economy has fallen from a peak of around 25 percent of the world’s real economic output in the early 1990s to less than 15 percent at the present time. The US share of the global real output has followed a downward path from a peak in the late 1990s. By 2050, some forecasts suggest, China will command roughly the same share of the world output as the EU and the US combined.

But, you will retort, Europe has just decided to increase defense spending. The authors respond-- not so fast. Since the increase involves a percentage of economic output, if that output declines, then the spending will necessarily decrease:

 The vows of European leaders to increase defense spending above a fixed fraction of GDP—say two percent—are less meaningful if Europe’s real economic output continues to be stagnant or shrinks. The Biden administration’s proposed Pentagon budget—set at $773 billion, or just below four percent of US GDP—seems enormous but may still be inadequate relative to the security challenges America is likely to face in the coming years.

As it happens, the advent of socialistic policies has crushed economic growth throughout the West:

Since at least the 1970s, however, the same economies have experienced a slowdown in productivity rates, translated into lower income growth. At least some of the reasons for this sclerosis have to do with the growth of regulatory burden across Western economies, entrenchment of interest groups preventing entry into certain industries, and the proliferation of new barriers to economic mobility.

The Europeans have recognized this and declared their intention to remedy it in something called the Lisbon Strategy in the year 2000. It has not been a success. As they say in Texas, all hat and no cattle, or some such.

Europeans already recognized the problem in 2000, when the Lisbon Strategy sought to turn the European Union by 2010 into “the most competitive and dynamic knowledge-based economy in the world, capable of sustainable economic growth with more and better jobs and greater social cohesion.” Alas, by 2010, per capita incomes in the EU, expressed in purchasing power parity terms, lagged a good third behind those in the United States.

And, let us not ignore the fact that Western education is falling apart. Some good schools still exist, especially when it comes to STEM subjects, even though nearly all of the students in these programs are of Asian origin. As for the EU, it has lost ground academically. This has been made more dire by Brexit-- since the best European universities are in Great Britain:

Higher education is a mess, too. Since the UK left the EU, there is no university from the EU in rankings of the top-25 universities in the world. Among the top 50 universities in the world, there are seven times as many universities in Asia than in the EU. Big economies like Germany are struggling to attract computer and AI engineers. In the early 1990s, the European Commission successfully wrestled member states—including large ones such as Italy or France—into an economic opening up, privatization, and end to wasteful forms of state aid to domestic companies. Since then, progress has stalled and to this day the EU lacks a functioning internal market in services.

In the meantime, the Lisbon Strategy failed and Europe offered up another agenda, Europe 2020. This does not involve competing in the world markets. It involves fighting the good fight against the weather, replacing fossil fuels and becoming more dependent on Russia.

Memory-holed by European institutions, the Lisbon Strategy itself was superseded in the 2010s by a less ambitious competitiveness agenda: Europe 2020. Today, the bloc finds itself without any explicit pro-growth agenda at all, having subsumed all questions of economic dynamism to its decarbonization and greening agenda. Although tackling climate change is a worthy goal, simply wishing that a reducing fossil fuel consumption will automatically create new economic opportunities and additional employment and raise productivity rates does not make it so.

The same problems bedevil the United States, though when Tom Friedman pointed it out, the long knives came out. As it happens the Biden administration is hellbent on making American less competitive, because it wants to save the planet:

In the United States, as the Biden administration is learning the hard way, it is extremely costly to build (or repair) American infrastructure. In per mile terms, it is five times as expensive to extend an existing subway line in New York City than it is in Paris. The reasons are manifold, but they include the National Environmental Protection Act, which has dramatically increased the number of veto points in a position to stop new infrastructure projects, with few gains in environmental quality.

And Europe, being awash in regulations, to the point that it is incapable of technological innovation, is decoupling from the world economy. It’s what happens when lawyers and bureaucrats are given more power:

Under the banners of “technological sovereignty” and “economic autonomy,” the EU is pursuing policies to decouple itself from the world economy—including from friendly allied economies. The EU’s new digital regulations damage the continent’s economic relation to America. The bloc’s carbon border adjustment mechanism (CBAM) will hurt trade with allies such as Turkey, Ukraine, and the United States. New trade agreements, such as the completed deal with Mercosur—an important partner region in the new geopolitics of trade—have been kicked into the long grass because of opposition from Paris and Vienna.

It is not good news:

The neglect of economic partnerships that could deepen and widen the West undercuts the rising imperative of “decoupling”—be it to address our dependence on Russian energy or from technological and other vulnerabilities related to our reliance on Chinese manufacturing. Decoupling does carry economic costs. If Western economic nationalism becomes the relevant alternative to the status quo, our incomes, economic power, and eventually our technological and military edge are bound to suffer.

Wednesday, April 27, 2022

Women Living a Therapeutic Life

Somehow or other I missed this piece by Heather Mac Donald. It appeared in City Journal two years ago. It was entitled: “The Therapeutic Campus.” (via Maggie’s Farm)

So, on the grounds of, better late than never, I review the startling and shocking conclusions that Mac Donald drew from an excursion into pre-pandemic life on American college campuses.

It was not just that Mac Donald discovered that universities across the country had abandoned their mission of educating students, replacing it with the mission of providing therapy for their tender and fragile souls. She also discovered that this transformation, for the worst, had been facilitated, if not activated, by the presence of human beings of the female persuasion.

Colleges and universities are becoming more feminized, and somehow or other a feminized campus is less interested in learning and more interested in therapy. 

The irony is crashing all around us. In a world where we are assured, on an hourly basis, that today’s liberated women are strong and empowered-- repeat after me, strong and empowered women-- the picture we see on campus is women who wallow in their vulnerability, their sensitivity and their general all-around weakness.

You would imagine that women who are preparing to join the workforce would want to learn how best to exercise their rational faculties. You would also imagine that such women would want to prepare themselves for distinguished careers in male-dominant professions. Obviously, nothing about this journey into therapy culture enhances a woman's ability to compete.

Today’s college women are retreating to safe spaces, to rub on some healing unguents, to snuggle up with therapy cats and to suck their thumbs. If you should ever dare to say that this is too much feminization, they will will turn on you like a pack of angry jackals, and will rip your lungs out-- you sexist reprobate.

One understands, from reading Mac Donald, that young males, especially those who are neither gay nor bi nor trans, are avoiding this brave new feminized world. They are hunched over their laptops, fighting virtual wars against virtual dragons and monsters. We may conclude that the division of the sexes is alive and well, only not in the way you might imagine.

Mac Donald begins by taking us to the once venerable Yale University. Now, this declining university offers safe spaces, and something called the Good Life Center:

Last year, Yale University created a safe space that will set the industry standard for years to come. Call it the college woke spa, though its official title is the Good Life Center. Featuring a sandbox, essential oils, massage, and mental-health workshops, the center unites the most powerful forces in higher education today: the feminization of the university, therapeutic culture, identity politics, and the vast student-services bureaucracy. 

Obviously, none of those who make use of the Good Life Center care about learning anything. But they are all-in for therapy. In fact, as religion has disappeared from the American Mind, therapy has taken its place:

“I don’t know anyone [at Yale] who hasn’t had therapy. It’s a big culture on campus,” says a rosy-cheeked undergraduate in a pink sweatshirt. She is nestled in a couch in the subsidized coffee shop adjacent to Yale’s Good Life Center, where students can sip sustainably sourced espresso and $3 tea lattes. “Ninety percent of the people I know have at least tried.” For every 20 of her friends, this sophomore estimates, four have bipolar disorder—as does she, she says.

As the old saying goes, cosi fan tutte, everyone’s doing therapy. For your edification, the Italian expression, which means, roughly, everyone is doing it, is gendered. The word tutte is in the feminine. So, it refers to women, and only to women:

More than one in three students report having a mental-health disorder. Student use of therapy nationally rose almost 40 percent from 2009 to 2015, while enrollment increased by only 5 percent, according to the Center for Collegiate Mental Health at Pennsylvania State University. At smaller colleges, 40 percent or more of the student body has gone for treatment; at Yale, over 50 percent of undergraduates seek therapy.

What counts as therapeutic in Yale’s Good Life Center. Why, slips of paper, on which various people have written inspiring pieces of advice, all of which are sitting in a Mason jar, waiting for distressed undergraduates to open one up and discover a larger truth.

As Mac Donald rightly points out, it’s pathetic:

One can only conclude that Yale students are so desperate for affirmation that they are willing to believe that a message written by an unknown sender to no one in particular applies to them. 

It is all New Age, all the time. It feels like Goop, or better like the strange pagan rites that Tara Isabella Burton described so well in her book, Strange Rites:

Yale’s woke spa also offers programmed activities to relieve student anxiety. Students can attend a four-week Koru Mindfulness course that helps participants be “kinder” to themselves, a Mental Health Empowerment Series to “get in touch with” their values, a “combined vinyasa/restorative yoga flow,” massage Mondays, and a puppy study break with Kiwi the Wellness Pup. Students can make their “very own meditation bracelet with a variety of beautiful beads.”

Did you get that: Kiwi the Wellness Pup. You think that we are making this stuff up. We could never make this stuff up. It’s far too pathetic. Sadly, it's full frontal girltalk. It’s almost as though these young women are refusing to take their place in the marketplace or the arena. They are getting lost in their souls, learning how to whine and complain:

Here, in a nutshell, is the essence of the college woke spa: an aesthetic and worldview built predominantly around what have been largely female interests, concerns, and fears. The GLC’s self-esteem bromides, the self-compassion ethic, the yoga and mindfulness sessions—all would be at home in a Beverly Hills “healing space,” where trophy wives can “center themselves in an atmosphere of calm.” A visitor keeps expecting to encounter crystals and star charts.

Apparently, these young women, strong and empowered as they are, having reached majority status in great universities, consider themselves supremely vulnerable, subjected to constant threats:

 The assumption that emotional threat and danger lie just beyond the spa is the product of an increasingly female-dominated student body, faculty, and administration. That assumption is undermining traditional academic values of rational discourse, argumentation, and free speech.

Of course, this is not new. It is merely the latest manifestation of the ongoing feminization of the faculties, process that began some four decades ago. Somehow or other, the supremely qualified female faculty members cannot teach the canon or the classics. They can only drool on about how they feel, and of course about how women are an oppressed minority:

Colleges began a “desperate” search for women faculty in the 1970s that eroded the “intellectual rigor of elite higher education in the U.S.,” says Camille Paglia, the feminist professor and author. “Due to that sudden influx, academe’s entire internal culture changed,” she says. As the female presence has grown, so have claims of a crisis of collegiate mental health.

The result is, the schools, to say nothing of the worlds that formed them before they arrived at school, have turned young women, especially, into chronic therapy patients. The therapy world has become a pink ghetto. Men are not welcomed. They do not belong. They avoid it all, like the proverbial plague:

Nationally, about two-thirds of the students who sought treatment for mental-health disorders in the 2018–19 academic year were female, according to the Center for Collegiate Mental Health. At Yale, therapy use is heavily female and LGBTQ, according to students. “There are few straight men using therapy,” one self-identified “queer” girl in the GLC said. “It’s stigmatized for straight CIS men. Almost all my friends who go to therapy identify as gay or trans.”

Mac Donald points out that the therapy world, like the Humanities faculty, is all girls all the time:

The counselors and therapists from whom these anxious students seek treatment are themselves overwhelmingly female. 

Harvard’s Counseling and Mental Health Services department is nearly three-to-one female to male in its staffing. Fifteen percent of the 33 members of Williams College’s Student Health and Wellness are male. The psychology profession is dominated by females. In the 2016–17 academic year, females received 78 percent of all bachelor’s degrees in psychology; Ph.D.s were similarly lopsided. At Yale, psychology does not even show up among the top-ten most popular majors for male undergraduates; for females, it is the fourth most popular degree.

Somehow or other, for reasons that are hard to discern, the feminized universities are profoundly allergic to free speech and reason. MacDonald would not be surprised to see in this morning news that the chief censoring officer of Twitter, a female named Vijaya Gadde, started crying when she heard that Elon Musk was going to introduce free speech into the platform.

It might be that female executives, female faculty and even female students are not very capable of engaging in reasoning or debate, but, let’s see what Mac Donald has to say about it all:

The feminization of the university and the prominence of therapeutic culture have created a perfect storm directed at free speech and reason. In a recent survey of college students, females were twice as likely as males to say that a controversial speaker should be canceled if the majority of students “feel emotionally unsafe or uncomfortable with the speaker’s content.” Males, by contrast, were more likely to support a controversial invitation in the name of academic freedom and the advancement of knowledge. The enormous shift in basic values on college campuses over the last 50 years cannot be understood without taking gender into account, concluded psychology researcher Zachary Rausch on the Psychology Today website.

Uh, oh. Is this blatant and flagrant sexism, or does it expose a hidden truth?

Tuesday, April 26, 2022

The College Kids Are Not Alright

You probably believed, as I did, that the people who were suffering the most from the school shutdowns, mask mandates and social distancing were young minority children. After all, they had less access to remote learning opportunities, and ergo, they were the first victims of the mad school shutdown policies.

Apparently, such is not the case. We are not going to go into the business of tallying up the damage produced by these policies, but we must notice that college students have also suffered from them. In part, we measure the damage in terms of visits to the student health services, or the number of suicide attempts and nervous breakdowns. But we must also consider that, as James Piereson and Naomi Schaefer Riley point out, students who lost the habit of functioning on campus did not instantly revert to pre-pandemic form. (via Maggie's Farm)

The result of all the shutdowns-- students desocialized and disconnected from each other and from their duty to attend classes and to do homework. As the authors point out, and as the survey they cite shows, “remote learning has been a disaster.”

In a recent Chronicle of Higher Education survey, college faculty reported “a disconcerting level of disconnection among students, using words like ‘defeated,’ ‘exhausted’ and ‘overwhelmed.’” One professor said she “knew the pandemic was wreaking havoc on people’s lives. But she didn’t expect that its impact on learning would be so profound, even when students returned, with excitement, to campus.” Some professors attribute these difficulties to deaths in students’ families or to financial insecurity, but the truth is that colleges themselves are partly responsible for the students’ malaise. Remote learning has been a disaster. Many students, even when finally allowed to return to campus, were kept isolated in their dorms for weeks. 

Maintaining mask mandates and cancelling social events have also played a role.

Importantly, the authors emphasize that attending classes and functioning as a student on a college campus constitutes a habit-- or even a series of habits. Once you break down those habits or render them toxic, students need time and effort to relearn the habits:

The more likely explanation for students’ struggles is that they have gotten out of the habit of being students—attending class, studying, turning in papers, and the like. It won’t be easy to restore the old discipline. Just as today’s second-graders are now having to learn the basic norms of classroom behavior that they missed during their remote classes in kindergarten and first grade, college freshmen must learn or relearn the habits that will enable them to do challenging academic work.

What does it look like on the ground? The authors describe it:

As Chronicle respondents reported, since the return to in-person instruction, “Far fewer students show up to class. Those who do avoid speaking when possible. Many skip the readings or the homework. They have trouble remembering what they learned and struggle on tests.” Ashley Shannon, English department chair at Grand Valley State University in Michigan, told the Chronicle that students are “by and large tragically underprepared to meet the challenges of university life—both academically and in terms of ‘adulting.’”

If remote learning was bad for college students, imagine how bad it was for younger children:

It should come as no surprise that the decline in standards in colleges and high schools associated with remote schooling has had such consequences. Remote learning failed to engage students. Many colleges didn’t even require students to turn on their computer cameras, reasoning that lower-income students might be embarrassed by their surroundings at home. High schools that conducted tests over Zoom found that cheating was rampant. Even conscientious parents didn’t realize until it was too late how little students were learning and how far they were falling behind.

So, the lockdown and shutdown policies, combined with the mask mandates, damaged students. And you were wondering how these students were going to grow up to compete in the world markets.

Colleges will of course adapt, by inflating grades and downgrading assignments. Obviously, when these students apply for jobs, the problems will reveal themselves:

If the past is any guide, colleges will try to accommodate struggling students by requiring less work from them. They will lower expectations in the name of saving students from the stress and anxiety of failing. They will offer higher grades in the name of equity. Some of the professors interviewed for the Chronicle story said that they would do more “hands on” or experiential learning because those kinds of classes get students more “engaged.” But these approaches merely pass students along, without addressing the underlying problem.

What can professors do? The authors correctly point out that professors should be more paternalistic. They should be more strict and require greater discipline. They should be more like Tiger Moms and less like coddling American parents:

If college professors want students to act like adults again, they must teach them how. This will mean acting more paternalistically, with clear consequences when students miss classes or fail to hand in assignments. Faculty will need to reassess students’ abilities, enroll them in remedial classes if necessary, and slowly bring them back to the level that they should have reached when they were admitted.

None of it will be easy. Reinstituting real standards will require more work on the part of faculty and administrators. It will disappoint some students and anger some short-sighted parents. 

But after two years of drop-off in enrollment and a tight labor market that is making students question the value of higher education, colleges owe it to students to get them back on track.

Q. E. D.