FAIR Weekly Roundup
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For the FAIR Substack, FAIR journalist Grayson Slover reported on an eSeminar titled “Race Talk is Dividing Us! And Other Myths About Race and Racial Literacy Curriculum in K-12 Schools” held by The New York Association of Independent Schools (NYAIS).
The seminar was led by Jason Craige Harris, a consultant with the NYC-based Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion organization Pollyanna. Harris describes himself as a “longtime social justice educator…and spiritual guide” and “a leading voice for organizational healing and societal transformation.” He insisted that, in addition to schools teaching the core skills of reading, writing, and arithmetic, they must also teach students to be “racially literate.” According to Slover:
Pollyanna’s calling card is its K-12 “Racial Literacy” curriculum, which aims to give children the “knowledge, tools, and skills” they need to “shape a more racially just and equitable world.” Lessons in the curriculum include having kindergarten students mix paint palettes to match their skin color and teaching eighth graders that racism is a “primary institution” in the United States.
Last week journalist Sophie Lee wrote about FAIR Advisor Kenny Xu for our “Advisor Spotlight” series. Xu is an Asian-American journalist and author of An Inconvenient Minority who has attempted to address the issue of racial privilege—and the relationship between Asian-Americans and affirmative action policies in particular—from the perspective of an Asian-American, a group often referred to as America’s preeminent “model minority.”
Xu believes that many people tend to view race as the primary influence on an individual’s life, and that racism is the root cause of all societal disparities between people with different skin colors. But Xu rejects this idea, and argues that culture is likely the most important variable for many individual and group outcomes. Lee writes:
Asian Americans, he points out, don’t often come to America with the help of generational wealth or social standing. Yet, they have still been remarkably successful compared to other racial groups, achieving the highest incomes and college graduation rates. Xu credits this success to Asian cultures that emphasize virtues like hard work and discipline.
On her Substack Common Sense, FAIR Advisor Bari Weiss asks “Do apologies mean anything anymore?” when consider the case of Ilya Shapiro, a professor at Georgetown University who has come under fire recently for a tweet about President Biden’s decision to only consider black women as candidates to fill the current Supreme Court vacancy.
Shapiro’s (now deleted) tweet disapproved of Biden’s decision to use race and gender as a first-filter for potential candidates. Shapiro, meaning to imply that a selection policy not based on merit would result in choosing a “lesser” candidate overall in terms of qualifications, worded his tweet sloppily so that it could be interpreted as suggesting that any black candidate would be “lesser” by definition.
Despite issuing an immediate apology for the poorly worded tweet, his job is now under threat.
But apologies and contrition are no longer enough, it seems. On Friday, the Black Law Students Association, speaking on behalf of a dozen student groups, wrote to insist that the school rescind Shapiro’s job offer among many other demands. That’s because these days, sincere apologies do not function as expressions of regret but as confessions of guilt.
On his Substack Skeptic, FAIR Advisor Michael Shermer wrote about the controversy surrounding podcast giant Joe Rogan for platforming people who purportedly spread “misinformation” about the efficacy of COVID vaccines. Demands for Spotify, the music streaming company that hosts Rogan’s podcast, to remove his show from their platform have grown as popular artists such as Neil Young and Joni Mitchell launched a boycott.
Shermer acknowledges that Spotify is a private company, and can therefore decide to do whatever it wants with Rogan’s podcast in response to public demands. However, he believes that “we should be extremely cautious in censoring people for their alleged heretical views,” and that “censorious protesting” isn’t productive. One of many reasons Shermer gives in his article is:
Who decides which speech and thought is acceptable and which is unacceptable? You? Me? The majority? A thought committee? The language police? The control of speech is how dictatorships and autocracies rule. We must resist the urge to control what other people say and think.
Last week the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) released results from a survey of 2,500 American adults about their “attitudes toward various issues related to free expression, including cancel culture, self-censorship, and the constitutional limits to speech.”
One concerning result, among many, was that “Nearly 6 in 10 Americans feel that our nation’s democracy is threatened because people are afraid to voice their opinions.” Of the 73 percent of respondents who were familiar with the term “cancel culture,” almost 60 percent of them believed that it was “a threat to our freedom.”
Additionally, almost one-quarter of those surveyed reported that they are “afraid to state certain opinions for fear of losing their jobs or their standings in school” either “fairly often” or “very often.”
For The Wall Street Journal, evolutionary biologist and Quillette managing editor Colin Wright wrote an opinion piece about why he thinks people should refrain from participating in exchanging gender pronouns, a practice becoming increasingly common especially in schools and on university campuses.
According to Wright, “gender ideology” is a radical belief system that has “completely decoupled the terms ‘man,’ ‘woman,’ ‘boy’ and ‘girl’ from biological sex.” He contends that gender ideology is defining “man” and “woman” according to “stereotypes of masculinity or femininity, respectively, or the different social roles and expectations society imposes on people because of their sex.”
Wright believes that “coercive” requests to state one’s pronouns “is the thin end of the gender activists’ wedge designed to normalize their worldview,” and that succumbing to these requests “makes you complicit in gender ideology’s regressive belief system, thereby legitimizing it.”
Last week the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) posted their rankings for the “10 Worst Colleges for Free Speech” in 2022. The colleges listed “have been steadfast in their refusal to grant students and faculty even the most basic guarantees of freedom or fairness,” FIRE says.
Of particular note are FIRE’s comments about Yale University, who they have bestowed with a “special distinction” this year for “trampling the rights of students and scholars” despite having famously recommitted to the principles of free speech and free inquiry in 1974. For this, “Yale earned FIRE’s 2022 Lifetime Censorship Award, joining DePaul University, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, and Syracuse University as a recipient of this shameful ‘honor.’”
For the New Statesman, author Kat Rosenfield wrote about the ongoing controversy involving Joe Rogan and the demands for music streaming giant Spotify to drop him from their platform for purportedly spreading “misinformation” about COVID and vaccines.
Rosenfield believes that this entire dust-up, despite outcries over “misinformation,” is not and was never “a debate about what is or isn’t true.” Rather, she says it’s a result of political polarization and “the terrifying power of normal people to like the things they like.”
Rogan also serves as a threat to mainstream media outlets who may be more concerned about pushing certain political narratives than hosting honest debate.
The open-endedness of these conversations is striking at a moment when many mainstream outlets are driven less by journalistic curiosity and more by a quest to promote moral correctness, and where much of the writing evinces a belief that its reader must be guided if not shoved in the direction of the proper conclusion.
According to Rosenfield, “What people really want is the symbolic satisfaction of kicking him out of the clubhouse.”