David Thompson


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January 14, 2014



“Their gesture [of criticism] is itself a triumphant co-opting of the very manufactured, hyperbolic narratives of oppression they oppose.”

I think Ms Schuman blew it with the self-refuting sentence.


Incidentally, for a flavour of the standards and concerns of the Modern Language Association to which Ms Schuman refers, this may be of interest. Because if there’s one thing students of the humanities need, and will count on to get a job, it’s a round-table discussion of “anti-capitalist activism,” followed by a discussion of “(Post) Racial Vulnerability and Feelings of Blackness in Grey’s Anatomy.”

In a previous Slate article, Ms Schuman described the MLA conferences as “a big, expensive celebration of the academic status quo.” A status quo that just happens to share precisely the preoccupations Heather Mac Donald describes and Ms Schuman denies - and which attracts, in Ms Schuman’s words, lots of “self-professed Marxists in $1,200 suits.”

[ Edited. ]


“...literate poors who dare question the politics of privilege.”

Poors? And this woman is an adjunct literature instructor?


Anna, according to Ms Schuman Frankenstein is a verb.

R. Sherman

The MLA's "roundtable discussion of 'anti-capitalist acitivism'" is indeed rich, given that the MLA consists of nothing more than those fortunate enough to have obtained lifetime sinecures as tenured faculty whose sole purpose is to have roundtable discussions, while the dirty work of teaching is foisted upon ill-paid indentured "adjunct faculty." In fact, they perpetuate this system of modern academic slavery by continuing to lure gullible young people into graduate humanities programs with the false promise of stable careers in the Academy.

Steve 2 - The Stevening

"It’s the [conservative] Manhattan Institute against a rising tide of literate poors"

Hmmm. So the nasty old white conservatives are against rising literacy standards among the vibrant young black poor, or something.

I'm not well acquainted enough with the US educational system to say with any certainty, but they seem from afar to have many of the same problems we do.

I've met many recent UK university graduates (and not just ones from former polytechnics) whose weak grasp of literacy and numeracy wouldn't have been tolerated when I was in high school in the 80's, never mind doing an bachelor's degree.

It seems like conservatives (small c) are the only ones pointing out this is a bad thing. Look at how Michael Gove is vilified for his efforts to raise standards.

Increasingly our educational system resembles a cargo cult. We spend more, in real terms, on schools and universities than ever before. They've got gadgets and gizmos a-plenty, they've got shiny new buildings galore. But there's little actual teaching and learning of any value going on compared with previous generations. The end products speak for themselves, often in mangled syntax and with a propensity for grammatical howlers such as confusing "their", "there", and "they're".

It's almost as if the Left wants us to be a nation of illiterates with Mickey Mouse degrees.

Karen M

Love the Maya Angelou quote in the podcast.


Love the Maya Angelou quote in the podcast.

I wonder what the Columbia student – the one who doesn’t want to experience any music by “this Mozart” because he wasn’t sufficiently black – would make of those sentiments. But this is the heart of Mac Donald’s position – the idea that great works, even those by Dead White Men, can combine a “radical difference of the past” with a recognition of shared humanity.

Furor Teutonicus

XX Ms Mac Donald,XX


Nun ja, what do you expect from a dyke.


Nun ja, what do you expect from a dyke.

Um, what?


Assuming teutonicus is speaking German, "nun ja ..." is "Well, yes, what do you expect from a dyke." I don't get it either.

Steve 2 - The Stevening

Nobody who speaks German could be an evil man.

The original Mr. X

"In such an evolutionarily-unprecedented, artificial ‘hothouse’ environment, it is plausible that any IQ-related behaviours are amplified: partly because there is little counter-pressure from the less intelligent people with less neophiliac personalities, and perhaps mainly because there is a great deal of IQ-advertisement. Indeed, it looks very much as if the elites of modern societies are characterized by considerable IQ-signalling [19]. Sometimes this is direct advertisement (e.g. when boasting about intellectual attainments or attendance at highly-selective colleges) and more often the signalling is subtly-indirect when people display the attitudes, beliefs, fashions, manners and hobbies associated with high intelligence. This advertising is probably based on sexual selection [30], if IQ has been a measure of general fitness during human evolutionary history, and was associated with a wide range of adaptive traits [31].

My hunch is that it is this kind of IQ-advertisement which has led to the most intelligent people in modern societies having ideas about social phenomena that are not just randomly incorrect (due to inappropriately misapplying abstract analysis) but are systematically wrong. I am talking of the phenomenon known as political correctness (PC) in which foolish and false ideas have become moralistically-enforced among the ruling intellectual elite. And these ideas have invaded academic, political and social discourse. Because while the stereotypical nutty professor in the hard sciences is a brilliant scientist but silly about everything else; the stereotypical nutty professor social scientist or humanities professor is not just silly about ‘everything else’, but also silly in their professional work.

Getting answers to problems relating to hard science is extremely intellectually-difficult and (because the subject is an evolutionary novelty) necessarily requires abstract reasoning [12] and [26]. Therefore the hard scientist is invariably vastly more competent at their science than the average member of the public, and he has no need to be novelty-seeking in order to advertise his intelligence.

But getting answers to problems in science involving human social behaviour is something which is already done very well by evolved human psychological mechanisms [13], [14], [15] and [16]. In this situation it is difficult to improve on common sense, and – even without being taught – normal people already have a pretty good understanding of human motivations, incentives and deterrents, and the basic cause and effect processes of society. Because psychological and social intelligence expertise is so widespread and adaptive; in order to advertise his intelligence the social scientist must produce something systematically-different from common sense, something novel and (necessarily) counter-intuitive. And because it goes against evolved psychology, in this instance something different is likely to be something wrong. So, the social scientist professional deploying abstract reasoning on social problems is often less likely to generate a correct answer than the average member of the public who is using the common sense of evolved, spontaneous social intelligence.

In the human and social sciences there is therefore a professional incentive to be perversely wrong – to be silly, in other words. And this is indeed what we see. The more that the subject matter of an academic field requires, or depends on, common sense; the sillier it will be."



Mr X,

in order to advertise his intelligence the social scientist must produce something systematically-different from common sense, something novel and (necessarily) counter-intuitive.

A point illustrated, among other places, here.


"Um, what?"

Buggrit! Millennium hand and shrimp!


"Whiteness studies, black studies, feminist studies, and queer studies are not a fever dream of the “neocons.”"

Indeed not. They are being credited with the success of '12 Years A Slave', after all:


"Henry Louis Gates, who was the historical consultant for 12 Years a Slave, believes it is as a result of black studies finally being on the agenda in traditionally white academic institutions."


Buggrit! Millennium hand and shrimp!

Shark! Random underpants. Towel rack.

I think I’m getting the hang of it.


I think Ms Schuman blew it with the self-refuting sentence.

Don't be daft: "self-refutation" is what every text does, because Derridà.

Your argument is invalid.


I don’t want to hear my own “voice” in what I read; it bores me.

Students who don't know how to be challenged by an author's world-view (which will always be different from one's own, regardless of tribe) naturally lapse into the carefully crafted solipsism that academia currently offers.

I decided against majoring in English precisely because it was my own cultural heritage: I wanted to study something exotic and alien, like Nepalese. (Little did I know that English has a far larger collection of literary works than Nepalese [which I never learned].)

These people are turning campuses into xenophobic little North Koreas, shooting erratic nuclear missiles into the air (God help us when they get a hit), and feeding their rivals to the dogs.


You may want to skip the first four minutes of gushing introduction.

Good GRIEF that was tedious. If they want to spread it on that thick, they can do it on their own time. I'm OK with a "Hey Heather! Love your stuff!" and get on with it.

It also drives me crazy when callers to a radio station spend the first portion gushing over the host, who is clearly uncomfortable with the praise, and who knows that the rest of his audience isn't interested in it at all.

What motivates that? Do you become BFFs with the celebrated interlocutor if your praise exceeds a particular threshhold?


If they want to spread it on that thick, they can do it on their own time.

Yep, the fawning introduction almost put me off hearing the rest, which would have been a pity.

herbert deutsch

I am of the considered view that most, if not all of the women at the MLA, would make a greater contribution to society if they focused on the merits of various vibrators


THROW OUTCHA SCORECARD! The players have changed again.

Radical feminists who wish to exclude trannies from their events are accused of “transphobia”
RadFem 2013 was a conference in London, which resulted in a gigantic controversy because radical feminists insisted on excluding the “transgendered” from their female-only event, and one of the featured speakers, Australian lesbian feminist Professor Sheila Jeffreys, was about to publish a new book, Gender Hurts: A Feminist Analysis of the Politics of Transgenderism, that was deeply offensive to the “T” people represented in the LGBT acronym.
How crazy did that conflict become? At one point in April, the venue tried to cancel the event after discovering that “certain language was used and some statements were made about transgender people that would go against our equalities and diversity policy.” Another RadFem conference organizer, Cathy Brennan of Baltimore, was meanwhile all over Twitter announcing “transwomen are men” and comparing them to MRAs (men’s rights advocates).
The new scorecard will be available on the CuidadoDeSalud.gov web site.


"A gigantic controversy"? Really? You'd have thought it would have made the news. Most actual gigantic controversies do, you know.

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