Friday, November 10, 2017

The role of specialization in progressivism

The following article is about the "progressive" era, before and after WWI. It makes a case that the specialization that is the mark of modern life turns people into serfs of a kind.  So to avoid that entrapment, there needs to be in people's lives some source of general cultural and historical knowledge.  The only likely source of that knowledge is the educational system, particularly the High School years. 

Leftist educators have over the years ripped historical and cultural knowledge out of education.  All tests of the matter  show a profound ignorance of history among students.  We are lucky if they can name America's three branches of government -- let alone know anything of the teachings of the founders.  So it has become quite urgent to restore a general cultural and historical education to the schools. At the moment, only home schoolers are in a position to do that.  But it will be a very powerful education for their children if they do.

This article is to my mind the best case for a general education that I have so far seen. I myself had a very general education in a long-gone era when Eton was the model for government schools.  So I am constantly surprised at how little people know these days. To take just a tiny example of that, I just last night found out that a generally aware person I know had no idea of what the word "chagrin" meant.  And I will never forget finding out to my utter astonishment that my son had got to the final year of High School without even having heard the names of Wordsworth, Coleridge and Tennyson. He had however heard of Kath Walker, an angry black poetess of no distinction

The cultural role of specialization in progressive ideology has become more apparent to me over the years, especially as I learn more about them at the same time I am learning about the Founders. It shouldn't be overlooked any longer.

The progressives, they really enjoy specialization. Man #1, he is a professional organizer. Always has been, always will be. Man #2 is a professional Human Resources coordinator. Man 3# is a professional journalist. Man #4 is a professional teacher. Man #5 is a CEO. Man #6, he is a professional politician.

Wait a second. Professional politician? Go with me here for a second. What were the Founders?

Many of them were lawyers. But actually, they were historians. But actually, they were philosophers. But actually, they were politicians.

Some weren't lawyers, instead they were farmers. But actually, they were authors. But actually, they were theologians. But actually, they were politicians.

You see that? They weren't specialists. They were generalists. They did many things throughout their lives, and did not look at politics as a life-long career and certainly did not go off to college to achieve that one single goal.

This is actually a part of the problem - the old adage "those who don't know their history are doomed to repeat it" - well, what does a specialist know BUT his specialization?(and let's not forget the role of university indoctrination)

How can a specialist in, say, fixing some sort of complex machine possibly know about Article 3, section 2? That's not his specialization, that's for the Constitutional experts to handle.

How can a specialist in, say, nuclear physics, possibly know about the constitutional debates between August 6th to August 18th, 1787? That's for the history experts to handle.

How can a specialist in, say, medicine, possibly know the meaning of God's Law/Natural Law and the Enlightenment? That's for religious experts to handle. Add into the fact that the doctor who works 18 hours a day isn't then going to go home and read the Constitution before bed. Sure, there may be a small handful who will, but not nearly enough to make up the difference.

You see how the weakness is necessarily bred into the mix? I'm referring in all cases to super smart people here. This isn't an issue of lack of intellect. It's a lack of exposure.

Hyper specialists are natural suckers for tyranny. Serfs in the waiting. "Eh, politics? Bah, that's for the politicians to handle. Fake news? Bah, that's not for me. That's for the journalists to handle. History? No, I will leave that to the historians. Economics? I'm not touching that one. Go ask an expert." Specialization breeds large amounts of weakness.

Listen to the wording of this small preface:

In an age of specialization, one's activities are necessarily delimited by the professional interest. However, the great war has affected more than the vocational superstructure of our lives. It has rocked the foundations of civilization, and compelled the revaluation of many standards far more vital and more basic than the vocational. This fact may explain, if it does not justify, this excursion afield of a student of economics.

The war has changed many of the conditions of living which demand analyis. Unlike the chemist or physicist, the student of the social sciences cannot vary the conditions of his experiments, but must wait until the processes of history afford him an opportunity to observe variations In phenomena, and to study their causes.

The war has upset some accepted articles of faith, but it has confirmed many others, which not only stood the test of war, but determined the victory. Many new needs have arisen and some old tendencies have become clearer.

We are entering a new era. We may do so blindly, or we may attempt to crystallize our ideas on the issues arising out of the war for the purpose of intelligently controlling social forces.

The problems of social and of political adjustment, and of the conservation of human resources, are neither less pressing nor less significant to the country than are the economic and financial questions, which have riveted the attention of statesmen and publicists during the past year. The little attention which the social problems have received is not a criterion of their relative importance in the life of the American people. It is characteristic of human nature to neglect those problems which, though they deal with the most fundamental aspects of the national life, lack the driving force of the economic motive.

This volume is a sequel to "American Problems of Reconstruction, a Symposium on the Economic and Financial Aspects." In the treatment of their subjects the contributors were requested to discuss:

1 . What have been the effects of the war?
a. What pre-war conditions have become more clearly defined?
b. What new conditions has the war brought to life?

2. What should be our policy during the reconstruction period?

Thanks for suggestions are due to Drs. Dickinson, Rogers and Wolman, and others of the group of men who gathered at the Cosmos Club during the war. The volume has benefited as a result of the advice of Dean William H. Welch, of the School of Public Health of the Johns Hopkins University, and of my brother, David, particularly in the section dealing with the social aspects of medicine. Grateful acknowledgment is also made to President Frank J. Goodnow, Professors Charles H. Cooley, Franklin H. Giddings, M. M. Kaplan, T. I. Parkinson, Roscoe Pound, E. A. Ross, and Arthur J. Todd, and Mr. Abraham Flexner, for helpful suggestions.

That's from "America and the new era, a symposium on Social Reconstruction" It's a book written by progressives, for progressives. Social reconstruction? Who but progressives look at the progressive era through the era after World War 1 as an era of social reconstruction. Progressives are very intense when it comes to their "fundamental transformation" of America, and they have been since day one.

Notice how the theme of the preface is entirely geared toward social control, with a sprinkle of economic talk. That's the job of the new specialist in the progressive era, social control. Control over you, over your life. In part, this is also why progressives worship the false god of "the economy" so intently. They can use it for control purposes. Sure, it can be said that in the short term, an economy comprised entirely of specialists will be more productive and prosperous with fatter bank accounts than the corresponding generalists. However, at what price?

Here we are, one century past the progressive era. Tyranny is knocking at our door, demanding payment. You ready to pay the price for abandoning generalization? The generalists then had more freedom than the specialists do now. Choose wisely.


Teach First has turned me into a free speech martyr

Toby Young
I had the unusual experience last Sunday of appearing on a panel to defend free speech having been the victim of censorship 24 hours earlier. As Claire Fox, the chair of the event, said: ‘We are lucky enough to have our very own free speech martyr on the panel.’

Martyr is putting it a bit strongly, but I was ‘no platformed’ as a result of expressing a verboten point of view. What made it quite upsetting is that the organisation responsible was Teach First, an education charity that aims to recruit top university graduates into teaching and which I have always supported. Indeed, it is because I am sympathetic to Teach First’s aims — it wants to make the school system of England and Wales fairer by deploying excellent teachers to deprived areas — that I agreed to speak at its annual conference and write a blog post for its website.

Now, it is fair to say that my blog, which was published on October 26, will not have made for comfortable reading for those who believe that schools can redress all the inequalities that are outside their control. I pointed out that the strongest single predictor of how well children do in their GCSEs is IQ, with differences in children’s general cognitive ability accounting for more than half of the variance in exam results. That’s a finding that has been replicated numerous times. I also pointed out that schools have enjoyed little success when it comes to raising the IQs of individual students, but I allowed that they may discover how to do so, particularly with the aid of new technologies.

No reason that should lead to doom and gloom for educationalists. While it is true that children’s genes account for between 60 and 70 per cent of the variance in GCSE results, with IQ responsible for about half that genetic influence, that still leaves the environment accounting for 30 to 40 per cent. A consistent finding in the literature is that the differences between schools, such as the amount of resources a school receives, the number of children in a class, the quality of the teachers etc, accounts for around 10 per cent or less of the variance in exam results. Admittedly, 10 per cent is not huge, but it is not nothing, either. Schools can still make a difference — and that 10 per cent is an aggregate figure, with some schools having more impact. These claims may sound controversial, but they are based on mainstream science. Before composing the blog, I discussed it with two leading experts in the field and I sent the first draft to two more so they could check I hadn’t made any howlers.

Unfortunately, Teach First decided my blog was unacceptable. In spite of the fact that it was billed as part of a ‘debate’, and appeared alongside another piece expressing an alternative point of view, the organisation decided to remove it from its website and issue an apology. That’s right, it apologised for publishing my piece. ‘It was against what we believe is true and against our values and vision,’ Teach First explained.

I was surprised by this decision, not least because the first I heard about it was on Twitter. Surely, the fact that Teach First disagreed with my post was not a reason to delete it, particularly as it appeared in the context of a debate? If Teach First disapproved of my views so strongly, why publish the piece in the first place? They could have turned it down and I would have given it to someone else. But to publish it and then unpublish it smacks of censorship.

The most disappointing thing about the whole affair is that I share Teach First’s values and vision. In my blog I was attempting to show how teachers could remain evangelical about raising standards without denying the mainstream scientific understanding about the heritability of IQ and the impact of IQ on educational outcomes. Teach First’s reaction and its description of my piece as ‘against what we believe is true’ suggests it doesn’t share my view that its values are compatible with mainstream science. Denying that science is an unwise position for any educational organisation to take, particularly one that prides itself on being guided by evidence.

Russell Hobby, the CEO of Teach First, has apologised and I’m happy to accept it and move on. But I hope his organisation takes a more open-minded attitude to debate in future, particularly when it’s informed by the latest scientific research.


I published Toby's essay here on October 31.  Toby has other interesting essays  here and here

Sydney University charging students a security fee for conservative events

A blatant attack on free speech

UNIVERSITY students are being told they will have to pay to hire security guards if they want to run events spruiking conservative ideals — including pro-coal ideas.

Student organiser Renee Simone Gorman said the Conservative Club was told by Sydney University it had to agree to pay “unlimited security fees” if it wanted to host an event called The Case for Coal.

The club was also hit with a $760 fee to pay for up to 10 security guards for an earlier talk on the “Dangers of Socialism” in August.

This was despite no protesters actually turning up.

“Students who don’t follow the left wing line of thought are paying for the left to throw tantrums,” she said.

A university spokesman rejected the fees were one-sided, but would not explain how the university decided who was charged.

“The University of Sydney makes its facilities available to staff, students and the community but all applicants are required to pay for the costs incurred for events,” he said.

“Students are charged whenever security assesses there is a need and all kinds of events are charged.

“We are not able to comment on methods used by Campus Security for operational reasons.”

Dr Peter Phelps, who is attending the forum on coal and energy said it was a clear attempt to curtail free speech. “It is disgraceful,” he said.

The Institute of Public Affairs research fellow Matthew Lesh slammed the fees as a “heckler’s veto”.

“It creates a strong incentive for students to disrupt events and make certain ideas unspeakable on campus,” he said. “Students should not have to pay for bad behaviour.”

Kelton Muir — from the university’s socialist Solidarity Student Club — said his group had not been charged for security guards for their events, including talks by left-wing activists as well as other campus events on the “madness of capitalism”. “We have not been asked to pay for security,” he said.

A spokeswoman for the Young Socialist Alliance Club said they were only charged if their events were held on weekends or out of hours.


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