Saturday, March 24, 2018

Second Amendment For All, Shot And Chaser Edition


Martin Luther King Jr. carried guns for self-protection, applied for a conceal-carry permit (denied by racist white authorities), and once declared, "the principle of self-defense, even involving weapons and bloodshed, has never been condemned, even by Gandhi."

The War On Objective Competence

Campus Reform brings to us a masterpiece of feminist criticism of engineering and the hard sciences. And by "masterpiece", I mean a perfect example:
The professors are especially concerned with how engineering courses tend to be “depoliticized” compared to classes in other fields, which they contend is due in part to engineering culture’s emphasis on meritocracy and individualism.

“Socialization into the ideologies of meritocracy and individualism, coupled with a valorization of ‘technical’ prowess at the expense of ‘socially focused’ work processes, depoliticizes the gendered structure of the profession,” they write.

The professors add that this can be problematic because “students learn that raising concerns about marginalization—of themselves or others—is tangential or even distracting to what counts as the ‘real’ practical and objective work of engineering.”
The authors' credentials are all impeccable: none of them teach engineering classes, and only one drifted away from that discipline:
  • Carroll Seron has a post at the Criminology, Law and Society department of UC Irvine's School of Social Ecology.
  • Susan S. Silbey works at MIT's Sloan School of Management as a Professor of Behavioral and Policy Sciences.
  • Erin A. Cech is an assistant professor in the sociology department at U. Michigan after obtaining an engineering degree at Montana State.
  • Brian Rubineau teaches at McGill University as an Associate Professor of Organizational Behaviour.
As usual, none of these people have anything directly to do with their institutions' engineering or science schools. But it does qualify as yet another salvo in the ongoing war by idiot mandarins who do nothing upon objective measures of competence in fields where its exercise is of obvious import to society.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Matt Yglesias, Picker Of Free Speech Cherries

Time was, Vox published some decent defenses of free speech, even vile speech, and particularly, its constraint on campus in recent years. Matt Yglesias' recent effort, "Everything We Think About The Political Correctness Debate Is Wrong", is not one of them. He makes a number of claims regarding free speech, young people, and colleges, which rest on cherry-picked data, a stubborn refusal to engage with the more serious arguments of his adversaries, and studied ignorance of current events. He starts by tut-tutting David Brooks' review of events at Lewis & Clark Law School in Portland, Oregon, caricaturing his argument as
... broad generalizations about ... “basic understanding of how citizenship is supposed to work” versus “today’s students” for whom “reason, apparently, ceased to matter” and instead “see public life as an inevitable war of tribe versus tribe.”
He smirks at Reason's Eric Boehm's survey article and its characterization of "authoritarian political correctness" as so much bombast. He flippantly dismisses Bari Weiss' essay in the New York Times about Christina Hoff Sommers' premature ejection from a lectern at Lewis & Clark Law School by its dean of diversity and inclusion by noting Weiss got taken in by one — one! — tweet from a fake Twitter account that she subsequently removed from the piece. Ah, well, no need to deal with the rest of it, then!

Yglesias starts his counterattack with a disingenuous tweetstorm by Jeffrey Sachs, who cites a 2016 Gallup/Knight poll (PDF) as proof that students really do support free speech, despite all the anecdotal deplatforming. While they answer the question, "Should universities be open environments that permit offensive speech, or safe ones that forbid it?" in the affirmative, he conveniently ignores all the other polling data that shows how thin this commitment really is. As FIRE observes with a more recent (and more expansive) version of the same Gallup/Knight poll (emboldening mine):
  • In the new survey, conducted in November and December of 2017, students said they preferred an “open learning environment” that allows offensive speech (70 percent) to a “positive environment” that prohibits certain speech (29 percent). However, students’ attitudes have become more speech restrictive since 2016, when the percentage point difference was 78 percent to 22 percent.
  • More students today than in 2016 believe campuses should restrict slurs or “language that is intentionally offensive to certain groups” (73 versus 69 percent) and “political viewpoints that are upsetting or offensive to certain groups” (30 versus 27 percent). ....
  • More students today than in 2016 think their campus “prevents some people from saying things they believe because others might find them offensive” (61 versus 54 percent).
  • Students also think that First Amendment rights are less secure today than they were in 2016: freedom of speech (64 versus 73 percent), freedom of religion (64 versus 68 percent), freedom of press (60 versus 81 percent), freedom of assembly (57 versus 66 percent), the right to petition the government (67 versus 76 percent).
In other words, students
  • are getting more, not less, censorious (with a significant minority advocating censorship)
  • like censorship when it serves a politically useful purpose
  • unsurprisingly believe that colleges are stifling offensive speech
  • also believe that First Amendment rights (consequently?) are under attack.
Among the newer survey's findings:
  • ... Forty-nine percent of students favor “instituting speech codes, or codes of conduct that restrict offensive or biased speech on campus that would be permitted in society more generally.” However, 83 percent of students favor “establishing a free speech zone, a designated area of campus in which protesting or distributing literature is permitted, usually with pre-approval.” It’s possible most students don’t know that inaptly named “free speech zones” are a type of restriction on speech – or speech code – which might explain the disparity with students’ mixed support for speech codes.
  • Students narrowly prefer “diversity and inclusion” as a more important value when pitted against free speech (53 versus 46 percent).
  • Students perceive that political conservatives are the least free to express their views on campus by a pretty wide margin, though most students (69 percent) believe political conservatives are free to express their views. Ninety-two percent of college students think that political liberals are free to express their views on campus.
  • A majority of students (69 percent) are in favor of canceling planned speeches because of concerns about the possibility of violence. Most students, however, (72 percent) oppose disinviting a speaker because some students are opposed to the invitation. That said, FIRE’s “Speaking Freely” survey found that when students are presented with the actual names of speakers or ideologies represented by those speakers, most students (56 percent) support disinviting some guest speakers.
  • [A] minority of students — 10 percent —  report that it is sometimes acceptable to use violence to silence a speaker. The survey also found that 37 percent of students think it is sometimes acceptable to shout down speakers.
Given prior fatuous conflations of disagreeable speech and violence, let alone spurious historical claims of "racist" speech or "sexist" speech (ahem, Laura Kipnis), one can't condemn this sort of censorship advocacy by other means too strongly. Yet Yglesias ignores it all, just as he doesn't mention the FIRE disinvitation database, cataloguing hundreds of such events — and most of them at the hands of supposed liberals. If he thinks this is even remotely convincing outside the universe of pro-censorship-under-another-name types in colleges, he is deeply mistaken.