American Elephants


There Are Some Conversations That Shake Up Your Ideas. This Is One of Them. by The Elephant's Child

You probably remember Charles Murray’s speech at Middlebury College back in March last year, that essentially turned into a riot. This video was made about a week after the embarrassing incident. I had never seen it before, and found it to be not only fascinating but a little frightening.

We had lots of similar embarrassing occasions on college campuses across the country since, but the events all have a similarity. Students have no understanding of the meaning of the free speech clause in the Constitution,  and are unprepared to hear speech with which they do not agree, Dr. Murray, a noted political scientist, was invited to speak at the campus by Middlebury Professor and Political Scientist Allison Stanger.

One of the first sources to report on the melee was The American Interest should you need a reminder of what transpired. The involved students should have been disciplined, suspended, or just sent home, because there was no excuse for such behavior. Of course, that didn’t happen, with the confused situation on campus discourse today.As the National Interest story says: “If students (and especially professors…) want to criticize an author, they should read what he has written first.” Clearly, academic rigor has deteriorated, along with majors in things like English and History.

This video was made about a week after the events at Middlebury, but I had not seen it before. The comments by Jonathan Haidt, a Professor at NYU’s Stern School of Business, and Frank Bruni, an op-ed columnist at the New York Times, are a fascinating discussion about the Middlebury Melee and the problems of higher education that brought it about, and the implications of the event. It’s the implications that are important.

Clearly, students had no idea what a political scientist does, nor what Dr. Murray had written about, nor why his writings should be read, nor why his studies are important. How many (mostly conservative) speakers can you think of who have been similarly badly treated on today’s college campuses or banned from speaking in the time since that event?

A college campus is not a “community” it is a campus. The reigning meme seems to be “diversity” but diversity of thought and ideas just doesn’t enter into it at all. The acceptable ideas are that diversity is about race, sex, ethnicity, and representation of groups deemed marginalized, but there are “norms” that exclude all sorts of people. Elite businesses and universities assume that diversity and inclusion (D&I) is not only a means to excellence, but an end in itself. No one should be allowed to question that  evident truth. Community should not be disturbed by disagreement. Richard Epstein remarks:

Having chosen its members, D&I champions next embrace a message of “fairness and protection to all regardless of gender, race, religion, ethnicity or sexual orientation.” But rarely do they face up to the conceptual ambiguities and practical tradeoffs that this grandiose statement conceals.

And here is Thomas Sowell:

Nothing so epitomizes the politically correct gullibility of our times as the magic word “diversity.” The wonders of diversity are proclaimed from the media, extolled in the academy and confirmed in the august chambers of the Supreme Court of the United States. But have you ever seen one speck of hard evidence to support the lofty claims?

Although diversity has become one of the leading buzzwords of our time, it has a history that goes back several generations. In the early twentieth century, the principle of geographic diversity was used to conceal bias against Jews in the admission of students to Harvard and other leading academic institutions.

“Diversity” oddly, does not include diversity of thought or belief. Since there is little diversity among the administration and faculty of most universities, it should not be surprising that both campus and workplace are now considered “communities”, and since communities are supposed to be peaceful places where everyone is truly communal, the observation that they are becoming communes is obviously true, but unacceptable as a comment.

The tech industry, in particular, seems to be a source for much of the groupthink. Businesses seem to believe that they can become advocates for correct political thought, since as Hillary says so often, the places that did not vote for her were clearly ignorant deplorables who did not recognize correct enlightened ideas. Is this all a result of the idea that everyone should get a medal or a gold star and no one should be excluded? Of supervised play, and computers and social media where those who have improper thoughts or words can be blocked or unfriended? If you think about that process, it bears a striking similarity to what is happening on college campuses and in the workplace.

Our public schools are anxious to get all the kids computerized, as that seems to be the necessary element in education for the future. But maybe it isn’t. Maybe that’s why thoughtful people tell college students to avoid any class that has “studies” after its name. Maybe the idea of reducing or eliminating competition is faulty. Maybe everyone shouldn’t get a gold star. Maybe Nancy Pelosi’s call for open borders as opposed to any ideal of  “merit” in admission of immigrants is totally haywire. Canada and Australia admit immigrants by considering what skills or benefits they bring to their new country, much like the most selective schools do, or used to do. The video isn’t very long, but there’s a lot of food for thought there.

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Diversity and Inclusion. Meaningful Goals or Pure Bunk? by The Elephant's Child

Diversity and Inclusion are the primary buzzwords today, a catchphrase, and a required means to achieve some kind of excellence that is an end in itself. Perfected, you come closer to mirroring humanity at its best, or something like that. Human resources departments, university admission committees, organizations and clubs, schools and executive rosters, and if you finally achieve perfect diversity, what have you got? Nothing, nothing at all.

Approval, perhaps, but whose approval? If your organization or piece of an organization achieves the exact diversity of greater society will it be enough? Of course not. Diversity and inclusion are meant as guidelines for promoting victimhood. And it is entirely political.

An organization or executive roster that is all white will be criticized for prejudice, white supremacy, bias, and so on. An organization whose people are all black or all brown will not be criticized, because they are already  unfairly under-represented. Being under-represented is only a big deal if you believe yourself to be excluded from something to which you are entitled or something you want. We all get excluded at one time or another. Try sitting down at a table occupied by a group of high schoolers.

Human beings are tribal. The left has tried to make that one a dirty word, but it is only an observation of human nature. We like to associate with those who share our interests, our history, or our aspirations. It, of course goes back to our earliest history when we all belonged to real tribes.

Some are temporary, as a quilting circle, or a dog-training class, some are long term like the people you grew up with, or your high school class. I came up with 8 tribes to which I belong. In most cases the members of each tribe know each other well, but do not know any of my other tribes. None of my high school friends know my college friends, those who went on to college went to different schools. There are lots that were temporary, as neighborhoods, and as a subset of that we had a baby-sitting group in which we traded hours and our kids knew the moms who were keeping an eye on them.

Count up some of your own tribes. You will see that the instinct is quite normal, and has nothing whatsoever to do with diversity and inclusion.

Democrats. thoroughly defeated in the last election, were unprepared for that. They were quite certain that the “working class” was theirs, and astonished at being rejected. They have turned their attention to Blacks, and to immigrants and are encouraging them to think of themselves as victims of racist, sexist, homophobes, Islamophobes, nationalists, and anti-immigrationists. William Voegeli described the Democrat coalition in the pages of the Claremont Review:

Democrats were confident that immigration was a political issue that worked in their candidates’ favor. The multicultural “coalition of the ascendant” would embrace, even demand immigration policies that were welcoming rather than restrictive. The GOP’s pale, male, aging, raging coalition of the descendant would fulminate in front of its Fox News programs, lose election after election, and eventually die off, leaving behind a “majority-minority” America governed by a hegemonic Democratic Party.

The Obama administration was careful to place their refugees in districts where the additional numbers would affect the next census and thus the numbers of  electoral college votes. And Democrats have come to embrace the idea of egalitarianism — not just for people born in the U.S. but for everyone.

The egalitarianism that has come to insist on transgender rights, single-payer health insurance, and ending mass incarceration also requires “treating people born outside the U.s. as equals,” which necessitates  a strong presumption in favor of open immigration. Honoring this basic obligation of justice means that immigrants from such countries as Cambodia, India, Mexico, and Nigeria often earn several times as much as they would have in their native countries. …And if it turns out that the open immigration inherent in international egalitarianism does adversely affect some native-born American workers, international egalitarianism will solve the problem through more domestic redistribution to address poverty and hardship.

Richard Epstein reached much the same conclusions in a piece in Defining Ideas at the Hoover Institution titled “The Diversity Fundamentalists” in July.

Having chosen its members, D&I champions next embrace a message of “fairness and protection to all regardless of gender, race, religion, ethnicity or sexual orientation.” But rarely do they face up to the conceptual ambiguities and practical tradeoffs that this grandiose statement conceals. Does any organization welcome the individual who is bold enough to reject D&I? More concretely, does D&I make accommodations for employees or students who on bona fide religious grounds are opposed to same-sex marriage? More generally, does D&I embrace, or even tolerate, true intellectual and political diversity? If so, why are there, from top to bottom, so few Republicans or libertarians within their diverse and inclusive ranks?

You will notice that all  that diversity and inclusion quite specifically does not include Republicans or Conservatives or Libertarians. So much for inclusion.



Is Google Being Run by Human Resources? by The Elephant's Child

We seem to have a society being run by the Human Resources Department. At least that’s what the flap at Google appears to be about. Diversity and inclusion. But just what is diversity, and why is it important? It clearly is the correct mix of skin color and ethnic origins, and gender too, of course. More complicated now as we seem to have increasing numbers of possible genders, since gender is no longer attached to your natal distinction, but rather to what you feel like today.

Does the number of skin colors have to match the skin colors of the world, or only the country or the city in which you operate? And, for example, if you have Asians represented, is that enough or do you need each Asian country represented? There aren’t all that many Mongolians in our country. But what does any of this have to do with skills, and abilities, information, education, personality, politics, temperament and the ability to do the job required? When you start actually having to explain the meaning of diversity, it all begins to fall apart.

Victor Davis Hanson’s column “The Problem of Competitive Victimhood” gets right to the heart of the matter.

Many working-class voters left the Democratic Party and voted for a billionaire reality-TV star in 2016 because he promised jobs and economic growth first, a new sense of united Americanism second, and an end to politically correct ethnic tribalism third. …

Recent scholarly studies, here and abroad, have found that the aggressive effort to win government preferences for particular ethnic and religious minorities descends into “competitive victimhood.” In other words, such groups battle each other even more than they battle the majority.

After all, who can calibrate necessary government set-asides and reparations for a century and a half of slavery, for ill-treatment of Native Americans, and for descendants of victims of the Asian immigration exclusionary laws, of segregation, of the unconstitutional repression of German citizens during World War I and of Japanese-American internment during World War II?

In another paradox, immigrants came to and stayed in America because they saw it as preferable to their abandoned homelands. Romanticizing a forsaken culture that one has already decided offered far less opportunity and security than America is incoherent.

Democrats have largely pinned their hopes on competitive victimhood. Nancy Pelosi is fundraising on “Trump’s Immoral Border Wall.” It seems that protecting our border is immoral. Sanctuary City Portland was attempting to prevent ICE from deporting the illegal immigrant accused of raping a 65 year old woman after being previously deported something like 20 times. He stole her car as well. Others attack little kids of 10 or 12. Sanctuary Cities attract illegals. Leftists want the extra population when it’s time for the census, which will get them another representative in Congress. Concern for the victims doesn’t measure up to political needs.

So diversity seems to be one of those noble goals — stamping out prejudice, and all that — that doesn’t hold up to closer inspection. It’s just another round of politically correct nonsense.  Sounds good on a list of goals for Human Resources though.

 




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