Saturday, 12/19/15

  1. Today’s strongest prejudice
  2. Shkreli perp walk
  3. Vested in Amnesia
  4. Bruce Jenner commits a truth
  5. Narratives of Christian Oppression
  6. Welcoming totalitarianism

1

A new study tests the strength of political bias compared to racial bias and grade-point average in a setting where only the GPA should matter:

When the résumé included a political identity cue, about 80 percent of Democrats and Republicans awarded the scholarship to their co-partisan. This held true whether or not the co-partisan had the highest GPA — when the Republican student was more qualified, Democrats only chose him 30 percent of the time, and when the Democrat was more qualified, Republicans only chose him 15 percent of the time.

Think about that for a moment: When awarding a college scholarship— a task that should be completely nonpolitical — Republicans and Democrats cared more about the political party of the student than the student’s GPA. As Iyengar and Westwood wrote, “Partisanship simply trumped academic excellence.”

It also trumped race. When the candidates were equally qualified, about 78 percent of African Americans chose the candidate of the same race, and 42 percent of European Americans did the same. When the candidate of the other race had a higher GPA, 45 percent of African Americans chose him, and 71 percent of European Americans chose him.

Note that, at least during the study period, Republicans appear to be more bitterly partisan than Democrats — only half as likely to select a better-qualified Democrat as Democrats are to select a better-qualified Republican.

Having disgorged much of my partisan political bile around ten years ago, and purged more year-by-year thereafter, but still watching the passing scene, this doesn’t entirely surprise me. Our political partisanship has reached insane levels. I see this as a sign of impending national doom, with the country falling into chaos and probably violence, but then I tend to see everything that way these days. (I also remember Phoenix rising from ashes.)

Jonathan Adler sees it as a marker of how the diversity that really matters in education — ideological diversity, for which race and class are crude proxies — is exactly the kind of diversity that isn’t likely to happen when admission decisions are made by politically homogenous (read liberal Democrat) Ivy Tower deciders.

2

I cannot do anything about the excellent drug-price-gouging adventures of Martin Shkreli (heck, I can’t even pronounce his last name), so I haven’t paid much attention to him and them. As I recall, he’s got, or controls, a company with a drug that cures Hepatitis C, for which drug he wants a great deal of money per dose.

But I do hate it when our police and prosecutors pull crap like pre-dawn arrests (of someone who presumably would have turned himself in for the non-violent securities fraud and wire fraud charges) with the press conveniently summoned for a perp walk photo-op. That’s infotainment, not justice (apart from the possibility, which I know too little to assess, that the charges are just a manifestation of the general multiplication of laws beyond all hope of strict compliance).

On the brighter side, this was a nice set-up for Andy Borowitz.

UPDATE: I caught a “backgrounder” type story Saturday that make the securities fraud sound like a Ponzi scheme. I don’t consider that some trifling technical slip-up, nor laws against it undue.

3

George Santayana famously remarked that “those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” What he didn’t point out was that some people want to repeat the past — and that such people have an interest in making sure that we don’t remember what happened, or that we remember it wrong.

I quote Paul Krugman even more rarely than I quote Ayn Rand, but that’s only because Ayn Rand’s one-and-only quotable dark surmise is so widely serviceable.

But Krugman has a good point. Unfortunately, he applies the observation only to efforts to send “Wall Street skulduggery” down the memory hole, flatly denying the role of government in inflating the housing bubble that Wall Street then exploited (as did the guys who shorted Wall Street).

In fairness, government doesn’t want to repeat this past. But it’s politically untenable to admit that our economy is unsustainable, so bubble-inflating is how government creates the illusion of hopeful economic dynamism.

4

Bruce Jenner, who is pleased in his delusion to call himself “Catitlyn” these days, is in deep, deep, existential trouble with the arbiters of trans for slipping up and telling a forbidden truth:“If you’re out there and, to be honest with you, if you look like a man in a dress, it makes people uncomfortable.” (H/T Rod Dreher)

Never trust a movement that depends on suppression of any truth.

5

Rod Dreher has been writing almost faster than I can keep up. Sometimes that produces some pretty mediocre (for him) stuff. But even then, if he’s passing on anonymized versions of communications from academics who can’t risk being “outed,” there can be some thought-provoking stuff.

From an anonymized grad student in literature, who is watching his hopes of an academic career evaporate from the strengthening of his soul:

I duly prepared my applications to five of the best schools. However, when I asked for a recommendation from one of my favorite [conservative, Christian] professors, he told me, “Look, I’ll do this for you, but you really should find something else to do. Go to law school. Get an MBA. Just don’t go to graduate school. It will be bad for your soul.” Bull-headed undergraduate that I was, I thought he was overplaying his hand a bit. Bad for my soul? Really? Worse than business school?!

So, somehow I was admitted to [his/her current university]. Looking back at the utterly naïve application I submitted (I dared submit a writing sample that actually analyzed literature!), I’m surprised I was admitted anywhere …

[Note from Rod: I’m not going to publish the detailed story here, out of an abundance of caution in protecting this grad student’s identity. It is enough, I think, to say that the class in this anecdote was a large literature survey course. The lecture for this class was on the work of a particular Christian poet, and one of his best-known poems. The professor allegedly spent nearly the entire class talking about how the Annunciation, which formed the background to the poem in question, was really a narrative about God raping Mary.]

So a few of the TAs are trying to figure out what exactly to do with a lecture on [the Christian poet] that had very little to do with [the poet] and a great deal to do with the prof’s misbegotten hang-ups over Christian theology. They decide that they’ll just pull the Annunciation narratives from St. Matthew and even the Qu’ran, place them alongside St. Luke, and let the students determine for themselves what they think (a novel idea, admittedly). Word gets back to the prof …, and he’s outraged that some of his TAs dared to undermine his lecture. He ends up engaging in an email exchange with one of his female TAs who also happens to be a Roman Catholic, and he expresses his displeasure at her choosing to, you know, teach rather than indoctrinate. After some back-and-forth between the two, this ends up with the prof telling his TA that she had better just “shut the f— up and do what I say” (a more or less verbatim quotation; it included the STFU).

After this email circulates among the other TAs, this all ends up with the teaching staff for the survey section meeting with the prof and the department chair for an airing of grievances. The incriminating email exchange is read, which ought by right to have caused immediate punitive action taken against this professor. Instead, as it turns out, a majority of the TAs in the room supported the professor’s actions. The essential sense of these TAs was that “we should just trust the prof.” So, of course, no action was taken against the professor. None.

Here you have a group of people, most of whom would identify themselves as ardent feminists (including the prof), most of whom have no trouble prating on for hours about the unjust dynamics of power structures, the reification of the patriarchy, the hegemonic leveraging of social forces against the marginalized. Yet a majority of them have no problem with a male professor in a position of real power telling his female TA that she just needs to shut up and sit down. Now, was this silence partly because she was a Christian student? No doubt. But it’s even more a function of the essential cowardice of most academics. Most academics long to be academics so much that they are willing to go along with basically whatever they need to in order to ensure that they get to remain within those ivy-covered precincts. Sure, talk all you want about structures of power outside those walls, but keep your damn mouth shut about what happens inside.

Look, even if you have the most traditional, solid little liberal arts college in the world, your instructors still have to receive their PhDs from somewhere. And the problem is that every reputable PhD program is so infected with this sort of rot that the people who get hired to teach undergraduates are people who have mostly learned that they’re better off just keeping their heads down and regurgitating the garbage that their grad school program is feeding them. They won the crap shoot of academic hiring because they were very successful at the academic game. There’s no incentive to disagree; in fact, there’s a very real disincentive to thinking in a way contrary to prevailing norms. If this mentality can afflict my [relatively traditional PhD program at a major university more conservative than many others] it can happen (and has happened) literally anywhere else. And these people are the ones who are reshaping those bastions of sound thinking into outposts of trendy academic folderol. You either get a good education and are unemployable, or you get a good job but are incapable of thinking straight. I’ve yet to see evidence that there is a third option.

… After this semester concluded, I’ve decided to give up on being an adjunct, and I’m interviewing for a position with the Boy Scouts. As an Eagle Scout, I know that the organization still has tremendous formative value for the lives of young men, and I’m hoping if we can reach a few of them before they get to college, perhaps they’ll be formed well enough to resist some of the nonsense.

Dreher’s post currently has two updates, including one urging no surrender and invoking Daniel in Babylon as the patron of Christian grad students in the humanities. And the general topic has extended to:

  1. Dreher’s appreciative reproduction of a dissenting academic voice, strained to the breaking point by Rod’s very frequent Narrative of Christian Oppression as he channels anonymous professors. (Note that the professor who had enough was herself anonymous.)
  2. Alan Jacobs’ response to that dissenting academic voice.

6

Think of it this way. It’s not hard for Christians to imagine George Orwell’s vision of totalitarianism coming to bear on their communities from a hostile state. It is much harder for Christians to recognize the threat posed by the Aldous Huxley view of dystopia — that is, a totalitarianism that is welcomed by those enslaved to it because it makes them comfortable, and because they don’t recognize it for what it is.

(Rod Dreher, Christianity in the Brave New World, excerpting or summarizing Micael Hanby’s recent speech to the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. I’m looking forward to the Hanby speech being published.)

* * * * *

“In learning as in traveling and, of course, in lovemaking, all the charm lies in not coming too quickly to the point, but in meandering around for a while.” (Eva Brann)

Some succinct standing advice on recurring themes.