FAIR Weekly Roundup
Does postmodernism impede learning?
For our Substack, Jesse Hartman writes about the ways in which the influence of postmodernism—which he describes as “aim[ing] to discover multiple truths (what ‘can be’) based on lived experience and subjectivity”—has affected his students’ ability and willingness to learn.
I began to notice a form of this extreme subjectivity in my Gen Z students, who were misinterpreting feelings of momentary helplessness as permanent conditions. Unless they felt a sense of mastery—completely and immediately—all was lost. It seemed they would give up at the first sensation of confusion (a sensation which is part of any learning process), because if something didn’t feel easy then it was deemed impossible. “I’m struggling with writing,” an observation on a temporary state, had become, “I am bad at writing,” almost as if it were a part of their identity. My students were viewing any fleeting feeling as their truth—fact and opinion had apparently become one singular entity. And the inevitable conclusion for many students was, “why bother trying?”
We're looking for happiness in all the wrong places
Also on our Substack, Rienard Knight-Laurie writes about our mistaken perceptions regarding what constitutes “happiness,” and how “happiness is only in part pursuit; the remainder comes down to mentality.”
The more propitious path to Nirvana is through the achievement of mental equanimity. This begins by recognizing that we have more control over our perceptions than we do our circumstances. For every aspect of your life, there is at least one justifiable way to feel about it. If you really want to influence your circumstances, the only way to do so reliably is by forming a realistic image of your situation—one that is untainted by denial or hyperbole. Only then is it possible to plot a path from where we are to where we want to be.
Living the humanity of life and choice
For Braver Angels’ blog, FAIR Advisor John Wood, Jr. details the ways his “experience with abortion has not led to the moral certainty others possess on this issue,” and that this has made it impossible to hate his “fellow Americans who have dedicated their lives to either side.” More than that, he is “asking [us] not to as well.”
We can reach beyond our divisions to create a society in which children brought into the world by parents who are not ready will nevertheless be cared for. We can grow into a nation where we love with compassion those among us who make choices that we disagree with, but who may still bear wounds from which they must heal.
The New Founders America Needs
For her Substack, Common Sense, FAIR Advisor Bari Weiss shares the speech she recently gave at the inaugural summer school at the University of Austin, where she describes the current zeitgeist and the fact that we are currently in the midst of “a revolution of culture. A revolution of ideas.”
I want to offer you the briefest overview of the core beliefs of the un-American revolution we are currently living through, which are abundantly clear to anyone willing to look past the hashtags and the jargon. Then I want to tell you what I think we—liberals, conservatives, independents, trads, whigs, normies, the coalition of the sane—can do to stop it in order to preserve the precious virtues that have made this country the last, best hope on Earth and that have made every single one of our lives possible.
What is a Woman, Anyway?
For his Substack, Skeptic, FAIR Advisor Michael Shermer delves into the question “What is a woman,” and Matt Walsh’s recent documentary of the same name. Shermer examines what he calls the “language games” surrounding the topic, and the potential consequences of them—scientifically, linguistically, and socially.
However the language games play out with this issue in the coming years, and whatever the science provisionally concludes about the actual rate of trans sans the social contagion element, it is good to remember that trans rights are human rights and that discrimination based on sexual or gender identity, along with sexual orientation and other protected classes, is both illegal and immoral. No one should be fired for being trans, much less treated as less than human. The fuzzy set of Homo sapiens includes all of us, regardless of how we subdivide the species.
‘Cancelled’ dancer Rosie Kay puts free speech centre stage
For The Times, Sian Griffiths profiles FAIR in the Arts Fellow Rosie Kay’s journey from being “forced to step down from her own dance company after being accused of transphobia” to launching “a new troupe in which all performers will be asked to sign a ‘freedom of expression’ pledge.” Kay’s new troupe, K2CO, launched in July of 2022 and hopes to “be the foremost female-led dance company in the UK, making work that is important, meaningful and highly engaging.”
Implications and Dangers of False Accusations of Racism
For Free Black Thought, Ada Akpala discusses the “numerous unsubstantiated and even patently false claims of racism,” which “have deepened divisions in societies that cannot agree on how to come to terms with a past influenced by racial inequality.” Akpala also delves into “lesser-known instances in which false allegations of racism have been leveled against others, with the accusers facing minimal or no consequences for their conduct,” and the consequences of these accusations.
There is no doubt that racism is a multifaceted phenomenon that encompasses numerous barriers that prevent people from experiencing dignity and equality because of their race or origin, and that it extends beyond thoughts, words, attitudes, and behaviours. It is extremely important to emphasize that racism should not be taken lightly, but it also shouldn’t be used as a weapon to manipulate individuals, groups, or situations.
Is Democracy in Peril? Where the Left and Right Disagree
For All Sides, Clare Ashcraft writes about the fact that “political polarization is at record highs, and some have speculated we are headed toward civil war.” She notes that “both sides of the spectrum are concerned about democracy being under threat—but for very different reasons” and outlines what those reasons are, divided by political leaning.
Across the political spectrum, Americans are worried that our democracy is in danger, and understandably so. But the specific concerns and perceived threats differ greatly from left to right. Liberals and conservatives are both concerned about democracy’s decline, but point to very different issues and hold vastly different perspectives about why that is.
Who Really Benefits From the First Amendment?
For Tablet, former ACLU president Nadine Strossen discusses the power and value of free expression in both the political and social arenas—and the fact that “the purpose of free speech is to give the marginalized an escape hatch from the status quo, not to entrench political power.” Strossen also discusses how tensions between political extremes regarding free speech are not a new phenomenon, but remain consequential for us all.
To this day, advocates for equal rights and social justice are subject to censorial measures that seek to stifle their free expression. Government officials in the United States and other Western democracies have been enforcing many measures to curb the free association rights of peaceful protesters, and police have deployed speech-suppressive tactics, including unjustified force and arrests. Multiple U.S. states have imposed restrictions on K-12 and campus curricula concerning race and gender, and public schools and libraries have been subject to record levels of book bans—in many cases targeting books by and about Black and LGBTQ+ Americans. Fortunately, free speech advocates have been mounting strong legal challenges to these repressive measures, but this is only thanks to the same robust free speech principles that also protect the expressive rights of people with opposing views.