FAIR Weekly Roundup

November 7th, 2021


Around the Web


For Newsweek, three professors—Dorian Abbot at the University of Chicago, Sergiu Klainerman at Princeton, and Ivan Marinovicis at Stanford—collaborated on an article addressing what they describe as “the political problem on campus.” The trio describe how a toxic combination of emboldened cancel culture mobs and weak administrators has led to a campus environment that threatens academic freedom. 

The authors explain how each of their universities have moved away from their original mission of creating knowledge in exchange for the pursuit of a highly rigid and ideological form of “social justice” that hinders research and is at odds with the scientific method.

They further point out that if university students and faculty were forced to pledge fealty to any other specific philosophy or religion, the problem would appear rather obvious. They ask:

Imagine that your university promoted as its official position the philosophy of Ayn Rand or the catechism of the Catholic Church, and instructed you to parrot it. Wouldn't the threat to the unfettered pursuit of truth be self-evident?

Read the full article here.


For Heterodox, social psychologist and NYU Professor Jonathan Haidt wrote a piece titled “Jewish Wisdom about Viewpoint Diversity.” In the article, Haidt describes the pro-human values he discovered within Judaism, as well as their secular parallel in the philosophy of John Stuart Mill described in his book On Liberty.

Talmud scholars and John Stuart Mill had all encountered the problems that led to the creation of [the Heterodox Academy]. They all offered advice, and it was largely the same advice: Be humble, recognize your limits, and seek out those who differ from you because they are best placed to help you become smarter.

Haidt explains the jewish tradition of “hevruta”—the practice of studying the Talmud with a partner. This is done based on the belief that “we need a partner to question us, criticize us, and help us overcome our own confirmation bias.” 

Haidt concludes, “Iron sharpens iron, and one person sharpens the wits of another. It is a Great Truth, and it is what makes universities great.”

Read the full article here.


For Counterweight, Chuck Almdale lays out “ten signs” you should be on the lookout for to determine whether the diversity training at your school or workplace is actually a form of indoctrination into “Critical Social Justice” ideology.

One such sign is when “voluntary” training feels mandatory

When you begin in fear of job or education loss, of shaming or ostracism, their battle for your mind is half over. It might even be the case that voluntary training sessions seem suspiciously mandatory. Is “voluntary” attendance really voluntary? Is your presence, or lack thereof, noted?

Another is when you are asked how you identify, as this often comes with the expectation that you answer by listing your immutable characteristics such as skin color, sex, and sexual orientation. And, depending on your answer, you may be asked to “check your privilege.” Almdale explains that this exercise is less about encouraging you to reflect upon your standing in the world, and more about engaging in a ritual of self-flagellation.

For the full list of warning signs, read the article here.


For UnHerd, Eric Kaufmann, a Professor of Politics at Birkbeck, University of London, wrote about the recent decision of philosophy professor Kathleen Stock to leave the University of Sussex following a campaign of harassment and intimidation for her scholarly criticisms of the concept of gender identity.

Kaufmann believes that Stock “won’t be the last” professor to resign in similar fashion, and warns that our current understanding of censorship as being a form of top-down enforcement needs updating.

In reality, the most concerning threat to liberty does not take the form of draconian legislation introduced by our political institutions; it is more insidious than that. Censorship in the West now stems from the kind of bottom-up forces that keep birds from straying from a flock, or fish from their school.

While coverage of these attempts to muzzle free speech are gaining more mainstream appeal, Kaufmann believes that this is “more a palliative than a cure” and that “things will get worse before they get better.” And, for things to get better, Kaufmann believes that will require a combination of government intervention and a recalibration of our cultural taboos around race, sexuality, and gender.

Read the full article here.


For The Washington Post, associate professor of history Natalia Mehlman Petrzela wrote about how Glenn Youngkin’s focus on parental rights to have a say in their children’s education propelled him to victory in the Virginia governor’s race.

Petrzela explains how the focus on school and family is nothing new, and reflects “a political strategy almost as old as the modern school system.” Citing several examples throughout the last century, she highlights how “seismic events such as the Great Depression, a world war and the civil rights struggle—or, today, a pandemic and a major reckoning around structural inequality—do change the experience of education.” She writes:

The resulting unease primes people, especially parents, to believe outlandish theories about the nature of these changes and what they represent, and to seize upon curricular issues as a concrete way to exert control over larger, inchoate and often unsettling social and political shifts.

Petrzela believes that classrooms moving into people’s homes for parents to observe via Zoom during the pandemic has accelerated the pushback to new equity-based school curricula, and that it is important to not ignore parents’ “concerns about a changed educational environment.”


Read the full article here.


For RealClear Education, Andrew Hartz and Samantha Hedges wrote about our need for a “nuanced method to discuss race.” 

The authors take issue with current educational programs teaching students that society is divided between oppressors and the oppressed, and that placement into these categories depend on one’s immutable characteristics such as skin color or gender. They believe such methods “foster all-or-nothing thinking by placing individuals and groups into binary categories and ignoring nuance.” Hartz and Hedges write:

Not long ago, discussing entire races as all-good or all-bad would have been seen as the very definition of racism. Now, the anti-racism movement has claimed precisely this thinking for its own. How could so many people seemingly embrace this distorted and simplistic ideology?

One explanation, according to the authors, may relate to a psychological phenomenon called “splitting,” which is “a defense mechanism in which people frame ideas, individuals, or groups in all-or-nothing terms.” This allows people to ignore real-world complexity and moral ambiguity by viewing their enemies as purely evil and themselves as purely good.

“Ideally,” say the authors, “education on race and gender would emphasize dialectical thinking and avoid simplistically boxing students into all-good or all-bad categories based on their physical characteristics.”

Read the full article here.


FAIR Board of Advisors

This week, for his regular column at The New York Times, FAIR Advisor John McWhorter wrote a piece titled “I’m With Condoleezza Rice About White Guilt.”  

McWhorter wrote this piece in response to a viral clip of former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on The View last week. In the clip, Rice is asked to weigh in on the debate surrounding so-called “critical race theory.” She explained that one of her concerns is that it uses the language of “inclusion” and “diversity,” but often has the effect of emphasizing and reinforcing racial differences, which are then used to categorize children as either “oppressor” or “oppressed” and make “white kids feel bad for being white.”

McWhorter agrees with Rice that people with lighter skin being made to feel bad about their skin tone will not help to solve racism. If anything, he believes it will only foster more “white guilt”—the notion that “white” people should feel guilty as white people for the historical injustices perpetrated by people sharing nothing but their skin tone. 

McWhorter believes that such “soul-focused endeavors” are not productive, and that “people can actively foster change without harboring...a sense of personal guilt for America’s history.” 


Read the full article here.


For her podcast, Honestly, FAIR Advisor Bari Wiess interviewed Rob Henderson, a Yale graduate and PhD student at Cambridge, about his upbringing, research, and a concept he calls “luxury beliefs.”

Henderson discussed how his harsh upbringing in the California foster care system, followed by joining the military at 17, has given him a different perspective than many of his Yale and Cambridge classmates. 

Henderson coined the term “luxury beliefs” to describe some of the views espoused by many of his well-to-do classmates. Luxury beliefs, according to Henderson, are “thoughts that can only be afforded by people whose wealth shields them from the very harm those beliefs can cause to the rest of us.” 

One example of a luxury belief is reflected in the slogan “defund the police” which, while popular among many college-educated upper-class progressives, receives little support by lower-class people who rely more on the police to protect their neighborhoods from violent crime.

Listen to the full episode here.


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