FAIR Weekly Roundup
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On our Substack, George Mason University professor Sita Nataraj Slavov wrote a powerful piece about immigrating to America as a young girl and growing up with the belief that she “had the freedom and opportunity to achieve anything [she] wanted.” Her status as a so-called “woman of color” felt irrelevant to her, and rejecting these imposed labels gave her the courage to follow her ambitions “without a second thought as to whether [her] race or gender would get in the way.”
Slavov worries that current ascendant ideologies focused on viewing individuals through a racial lens and our interactions in terms of “racial privilege and oppression” in the name of combating racism is “a step in the wrong direction.”
Emphasizing racial identity—even in the name of fighting racism—clashes with the Classical Liberal ideal of equal and inalienable rights for all upon which this country was founded. I’m not naïve enough to claim that we’ve yet fully lived up to that ideal, but over the years we’ve made progress thanks to the efforts of people like Martin Luther King Jr., who demanded payment on the “promissory note”… That promissory note sets a high standard: only a colorblind society was consistent with the notion that “all men are created equal” and that people should “not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”
This week we are spotlighting FAIR Advisor Ian Rowe on our Substack. Rowe believes we need to teach students four cardinal virtues: courage, justice, wisdom, and temperance. Putting his ideas into action, these qualities make up the core curriculum at his forthcoming International Baccalaureate public charter high schools in the Bronx, set to open in 2022.
“The schools will be grounded in the ideas of equality of opportunity, individual dignity and our common humanity,” says Rowe. “They're schools that will be dedicated to this idea of democratic discourse, our ability to debate across differences, where we won't reduce kids to individual, immutable characteristics. We won't reduce kids to just characteristics like race or gender, but instead treat each student as individual human beings with great capacities to achieve.”
For Commentary, FAIR Advisor Robert Pondiscio wrote about the changed “mental landscape of American childhood.” He points out that the portrayals of real-world dangers we tell our children appears to increase as actual threats to their safety decrease. It is also fashionable among many elites to portray past and current adults as incompetent, and our country as “The Bad Guys.”
Pondiscio worries that our children’s mental health is being negatively impacted by these narratives, pointing to the measurable national rise in anxiety, depression, mental illness, and suicide among teenagers and young adults outlined in Lukianoff and Haidt’s 2018 book The Coddling of the American Mind.
Ultimately, Pondiscio believes that political activism disguised as education deserves considerable blame:
When education becomes activism, it dwells exclusively in the bad and the broken; at least tacitly it encourages children to see their community and country as nothing more than a collection of problems to be solved, with none of the virtues and blessings of citizenship. Fair-minded people can see that gratitude for what works and outrage at what’s not working are equally important in a well-functioning civil society.
For Spiked, FAIR Advisor Wilfred Reilly wrote about the controversy surrounding Black Lives Matter’s financial records, missing funds, failure to support their chapter network, and the conspicuous disinterest that many media outlets seem to have in unearthing any hard facts about these issues. According to Reilly:
This seems to me to be a product of the ‘soft bigotry of low expectations’ that is becoming increasingly prevalent on the woke left. For me, this is why asking questions about the missing money is so important. It’s not because, as some would have it, I ‘hate black people’ or ‘want to make women of colour look bad’. The left’s bigotry of low expectations is just as racist as anything you can find on the hard fringes of the right, and it must be opposed.
Reilly calls on everyone interested in actually helping underserved communities to take this story very seriously, because sending your hard-earned money to organizations who reliably mishandle it “does no good for communities of colour.”
On his Substack The Weekly Dish, FAIR Advisor Andrew Sullivan wrote about the increasingly inappropriate nature of pre-K and K-12 education surrounding the topics of sex, sexuality, and gender identity. Furthermore, the issue isn’t simply that certain inappropriate topics are being taught, but how they’re being taught.
It is perfectly possible for teachers to teach about sex and be attuned to gender-nonconforming kids, who may be gay or trans or straight — without transforming all of sex ed to comport with critical queer and gender theory, designed to dismantle the concepts of binary sex and biology altogether, and to begin this indoctrination in pre-K. But this is what the educational elite now believes in.
Sullivan is particularly concerned with education that appears intent on “blurring sex differences” and defines whether a child is a boy or a girl according to sex-related stereotypical preferences and behaviors. He points out that these ideas are hugely controversial among adults, and so it’s no wonder that basing our children’s education on them has become an area of hot debate.
On Free Black Thought, FAIR Advisor Sheena Mason, along with Jacoby Adeshei Carter, wrote about why they believe that in order to dismantle racism we must first dismantle the concept of race itself. This idea forms the foundation of Mason’s Theory of Racelessness educational philosophy.
Many people say that race is real and matters. But what those same people often mean to say is that racism is real and matters. In the United States, we often conflate race, ethnicity, and culture. When we have an opportunity to help people disentangle the three phenomena, it’s like smoke clearing from before their eyes, the fog lifting from their minds.
According to Carter and Mason, treating race as an entity, property, or “feature of persons or groups” and subsequently arguing that these “supposedly racial differences are the reasons individuals or groups are victims or perpetrators of racism” is done at our own peril and will never win us freedom from racism.
For Quillette, social psychologist Joseph Paul Forgas wrote about the “tribal threat to liberal democracy” that are currently taking the form of both Left- and Right-wing populist movements in the developed world and in countries “with fragile democratic traditions.”
Although pundits and political scientists continue to debate the precise definition of “populism,” it is accepted that the term can be broadly applied to any movement that pits “the people” against “the elites.” In dividing society up into groups, and in dismissing the sovereignty of the individual, populism is an atavistic re-emergence of the age-old psychology of tribalism. As such, it presents just one of the many historical challenges to the values of the Enlightenment.
As a social psychologist, Forgas is interested in the how people can so easily persuade themselves into a tribalistic mindset and pursue “close-minded and authoritarian political movements.” In the the article, Forgas explores the various psychological mechanisms governing the way “people mentally represent their political realities.”
For Areo, author and lecturer at the University of Calgary, Matt McManus, compared and contrasted the ways that various political movements view and accommodate human differences. The three views contrasted in his piece are the Liberal View, the Leftist View, and the Right-Wing View.
According to McManus, the Liberal View strongly emphasizes the promotion of mutual toleration and respect of religious and other human differences, and that governments doing so is actually “a requisite of justice.” The Leftist View tends to categorize human differences as identities, and uses these labels as an organizing principle to combat oppression. And lastly, the Right-Wing views emphasizes human differences as the basis for hierarchies that serve society as a whole.