Saturday, March 27, 2021

"I don’t like struggle sessions; I think critical race theory as it developed in the academy is intellectually rich, but some of the ways it’s been adapted by workplace diversity trainers..."

"... and education consultants seem risible.... The right-wing caricature of progressive public schools as pampered re-education camps is extremely far from my own family’s experience, but if any kids are being bullied and shamed for refusing to espouse social justice principles, even principles I agree with, that’s wrong. However, the claim that the right’s war on critical race theory doesn’t threaten academic freedom is also wrong. Consider what just happened in Idaho, where last week Boise State University suspended dozens of classes, online and in person, dealing with different aspects of diversity. This week, they were reinstated, but online only and 'asynchronously,' without any live discussions.... Some of the facts behind the class suspensions are unclear. In an email to the campus, university leaders described 'a series of concerns, culminating in allegations that a student or students have been humiliated and degraded in class on our campus for their beliefs and values.' An English professor at the university tweeted that the allegation concerned a taped Zoom discussion of white privilege that had been handed over to the Legislature, but so far it hasn’t emerged publicly. (The tweets have since been deleted.) It’s obviously impossible to evaluate the allegations without knowing what they are. If a student was humiliated, that’s serious and should be addressed. But it’s hard to see how whatever happened implicated 52 different classes, and the political pressure the university is under is undeniable."

Michelle Goldberg writes carefully in a column with the inflammatory headline "The Social Justice Purge at Idaho Colleges/Republican lawmakers try to cancel diversity programs" (NYT).

We can't "Consider what just happened in Idaho" unless we know just what happened, and Goldberg acknowledges that. She's also right that CRT has some intellectual value and that it shouldn't be foisted on people. 

Those who want to teach and learn about it should be free to pursue their intellectual interests, but even if they decide — in their freedom — that they believe it's something that they must compel others to believe, they don't have the right to act on that belief and apply coercion within a government institution. 

I don't know what, exactly, happened in Idaho, but seems as though the CRT believers adopted oppressive educational techniques, the legislature responded in an effort to protect students from coercion, the colleges took steps to follow the legislation, and the CRT believers now feel intimidated about pursuing their intellectual interests. Part of the problem, it seems to me, is that this is an intellectual field that entails deep beliefs about how other people think, critiques the freedom of others, and demands action to restructure their minds.

From the comments at the NYT: "The best proof that CRT is legitimate is the enraged reaction it engenders among white people." 

But here's the highest-rated comment (by a lot):

"The right likes to pretend that social justice-inflected academic disciplines are full of ideological commissars browbeating conservative students." 
Oh come on. I'm a center-left academic and it's as obvious as dirt that academic environments, including my RI university, are tilted against conservative perspectives, especially for students in the classroom, and that the problem has gotten intensely worse in the last few years. Surely MG must know this is not something "the right likes to pretend." It's a fact that is helping to drive social and political polarization, and that needs to be honestly reckoned with by people on the center/left, not pooh-poohed and dismissed.

And I like this comment, which is very straightforward:

The backlash was/is inevitable. Proponents of CRT and social justice inquisitors have overplayed their hand. I for one am happy to see the push back.

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