Problematic Competence

In Space No-One Can Hear You Scream

“Decolonizing” the search for extra-terrestrial intelligence (SETI) could boost its chances of success, says science historian Rebecca Charbonneau.

From Scientific American, obviously.

You see,

Increasingly, SETI scientists are grappling with the disquieting notion that, much like their intellectual forebears, their search may somehow be undermined by biases they only dimly perceive—biases that could, for instance, be related to the misunderstanding and mistreatment of Indigenous peoples and other marginalised groups…

But of course. Some editorial trajectories are, I guess, inevitable. As one might imagine, the author of the article, Camilo Garzón, is keen to signal his own modish sensitivities, and so the interview with Ms Charbonneau begins as it means to go on: 

“Decolonisation” seems to be a problematic term,

This prompts much rhetorical nodding, along with the news that space exploration is “a stand-in for encounters with Indigenous peoples.” Sadly, before this claim can be explored or tested in any way, we shift sideways in search of a point. Says Ms Charbonneau:

Continue reading "In Space No-One Can Hear You Scream" »

When Having Standards Is The Problem

Speaking, as we were, of woke educators and the wreckage left in their wake, I have more:

Oak Park and River Forest High School administrators will require teachers next school year to adjust their classroom grading scales to account for the skin colour or ethnicity of its students… In an effort to equalise test scores among racial groups, OPRF will order its teachers to exclude from their grading assessments variables it says disproportionally hurt the grades of black students. They can no longer be docked for missing class, misbehaving in school, or failing to turn in their assignments, according to the plan. “Teachers and administrators… will continue the process necessary to make grading improvements that reflect our core beliefs,” the plan states.  

Teachers who question the wisdom of disregarding missed deadlines, general tardiness, and work not done – to say nothing of classroom disruption and repeated failures to show up at all - are, inevitably, accused of harbouring “unconscious biases,” which is tantamount to “racism.” You see, our fearless, forward-looking educators are “supporting the learning of all students” by reducing even further the amount of learning actually taking place.

The school’s “strategic plan,” in which we learn that 90 minutes is thirty minutes plus another thirty, can be found here.

Update, via the comments, where svh adds,

So black kids shouldn’t learn the importance of behaving, doing homework or turning up on time?

Expecting such things would apparently be unfair, an affront to “equity,” and damning evidence of “unconscious bias.” Instead, pupils should be spared the outrage of deadlines and time-keeping in general, and be given repeated opportunities to retake a test, and be given a license to misbehave with impunity, unlike their peers, depending on how brown they happen to be.

Needless to say,  during all of this, the word justice is deployed, unironically.

Feeding On Failure

Dr Erec Smith, an Associate Professor of Rhetoric at York College of Pennsylvania, on educators who would prefer minority students not to be understood, or indeed successful

[W]hat is perhaps most troublesome about [“anti-racist” educator, Asao] Inoue’s statement is that he is projecting negative emotionality onto students because of something—their desire to learn standard English—that would otherwise suggest a positive and confident self-image. By framing this desire to succeed as hopeless, he is encouraging healthy young people to adopt attitudes that will hinder their development.

Possibly because expectations of failure, and cultivated resentment, are more exploitable by race-hustling educators. People whose paycheque depends on propagating misery.

Implicit in Inoue’s statement is the notion that the only way “students of colour”—particularly black and Latino students—can successfully navigate American society is to be phony and put on an act for white people’s approval. The thought of a black person seeing the pragmatic benefit of standardised English, or of a black person coming to college already proficient in it, are by this standard of black or Latino authenticity either impossible or reprehensible.

Authenticity being defined, it seems, as inarticulate ghetto knucklehead.

For Dr Inoue, a minority student wishing to be articulate, precise, and understood by a wider audience, by being fluent in the language of his academic peers and potential employers, is “selfish” and “immature.” Opting for comprehensibility and success is, we’re told, to surrender to “white supremacy” and “capitalist-inflicted bullshit.” “You can… mouth the words that are white, but… they’re coming from a [black] body,” says Dr Inoue, as if expecting applause.

Continue reading "Feeding On Failure" »

Elsewhere (311)

Dan Springer on Seattle’s woke, broke public transport:  

At a recent Sound Transit Board meeting, the outgoing CEO summed up the situation. “Our fare collection system relies overwhelmingly on an honour system,” Peter Rogoff said, “and our increasingly acute problem is that our riders aren’t honouring the system.” By one measurement, as many as a staggering 70% of all passengers are free riders. But even that is only an estimate as there is almost no fare enforcement. Sound Transit did away with fare enforcement officers after a study revealed people of colour were disproportionately getting fined.

Sound Transit Board member Claudia Balducci appears untroubled by this trajectory, insisting that “People are feeling more welcome on our system and less afraid to use it because there’s less of a fear of fare enforcement.” Apparently, this is a good thing. The views of local, law-abiding taxpayers, who are subsidising this experiment in social progress, are left to the imagination.

Ben Sixsmith on the steep decline of Swedish education:

Many of the problems [Magnus] Henrekson and [Johan] Wennström diagnose will be familiar to anyone acquainted with the British education system. Grade inflation has masked declining standards, which, in Sweden, manifested themselves with a Wile E Coyote-esque fall down the PISA rankings. […] Sweden has, in recent decades, undergone an extraordinary demographic transformation. As of 2020, a quarter of Swedish residents had a foreign background. In 2015, research by Dr Gabriel Heller-Sahlgren suggested that “the change in pupil demographics due to immigration explains almost a third of the average decline between 2000 and 2012: 19 per cent in mathematical literacy, 28 per cent in reading literacy, and 41 per cent in scientific literacy.” 

And Emil Kirkegaard on super-progressive Ontario, where “diversity” trumps standards: 

It is now illegal to use a math test to make sure that math teachers know the material they would be teaching.

The motives for removing tests of educator competence soon become apparent. The likely effect on students - including minority students, in whose name competence is being sidelined - is a topic on which readers may care to speculate.

Feel free to share your own links and snippets, on any subject, in the comments.

Elsewhere (309)

Christopher Rufo on Victoria’s Secret and social-justice lingerie

The company presented the new spokeswomen not only as representatives of their intersectional identities — the original line-up included an African refugee, a pink-haired lesbian, an obese biracial woman, and a male-to-female transsexual — but as social-justice activists committed to “systemic change.” […] It would be a ghastly faux pas to point out that some of the women… are, to put it delicately, not as beautiful as their predecessors. To the contrary, the public must affirm [“LGBTQIA+ activist” Megan] Rapinoe and [overweight “body advocate” Paloma] Elsesser as at least equally beautiful as the outdated and oppressive standards embodied by Heidi Klum and Tyra Banks. One cannot point out, either, that the Collective’s social-justice activism is mostly a self-serving scam.

Needless to say, the results of this woke rebranding have not been entirely positive.

And Mr Rufo again, on woke Disney

The core of Disney’s racial program is a series of training modules on “antiracism.” In one, called “Allyship for Race Consciousness,” the company tells employees that they must “take ownership of educating [themselves] about structural anti-Black racism” and that they should “not rely on [their] Black colleagues to educate [them],” because it is “emotionally taxing.” […] White employees, in particular, must “work through feelings of guilt, shame, and defensiveness to understand what is beneath them and what needs to be healed.” Disney recommends that employees atone by “challeng[ing] colourblind ideologies and rhetoric” such as “All Lives Matter” and “I don’t see colour”; they must “listen with empathy [to] Black colleagues” and must “not question or debate Black colleagues’ lived experience.”

Or put more simply, “You are guilty by default, so just stand there while we scold you.” With seemingly unintended irony, employees are also informed that thoroughness and punctuality are “white-dominant” values and products of “white supremacy culture,” and therefore, presumably, bad. As a measure of woke perversity – one might say, unhingement – a pretty good indicator.

Continue reading "Elsewhere (309)" »

Clowns Ousted, Conspiracies Invoked

The progressive San Francisco school-board president recalled by voters earlier this week claimed her ousting was a “consequence” of fighting for racial justice, and represents a victory for “white supremacists.”

Yes, those “white supremacists” for which San Francisco is famed - i.e., local parents, including hundreds of “non-citizen immigrants,” who happen to have skin of many different colours.

More than 70 percent of voters elected to recall [board president, Gabriela] López and two other progressive board members, Alison Collins and Faauuga Moliga. 

The trio’s history of mismanagement and self-indulgence is pretty much what you’d expect of leftist monomaniacs given power and a seemingly endless supply of other people’s money, with a budget deficit of $125 million, and two hours spent debating whether a gay white dad was sufficiently “diverse” to join a volunteer parent committee.

One of the ousted ladies, Ms Alison Collins, has of course been mentioned here before, when disdaining pupils of Chinese or Korean ancestry as “white” or white-adjacent, and therefore suspect, and when insisting that a parental preference for academic rigour is “racist,” and that the way to fight for “high-quality schools” is to abandon expectations of competence.

An educator, you see.

Your Manners And Competence Are Deeply Problematic

Kenin M Spivak on the urge to level down:

During the last 18 months, supercharged by events after George Floyd’s death, the radical Left has… shifted its focus to the abolition of testing and standards, the evisceration of math curricula, and indoctrination in our K-12 schools. The following is a necessarily abridged summary of recent developments…

Under pressure from progressive assertions of test bias, over the last few years, many colleges decided that SAT and ACT testing would be optional. Then, to settle a lawsuit alleging racist disparities, in May 2021, the UC system announced it is ceasing the use of ACT and SAT scores. Other colleges promptly followed the UC’s lead. Without scores, there can be no disparities.

In April 2020, citing “equity” and its goal to restructure and dismantle “systems and institutions that create the dichotomy of beneficiaries and the oppressed and marginalised,” the Oregon Department of Education eliminated grades and proficiency in reading, writing, and math as requirements for graduation…

On September 9, 2020, Education Trust-West, an “advocate for educational justice,” announced its study and toolkit for K-12 math, A Pathway to Equitable Math Instruction, funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. In Pathway, Trust-West characterised expecting the right answer, independent practice, teaching in a linear fashion, requiring procedural fluency, and requesting that students show their work, as “white supremacy.” Instead of offering a path for minority students to learn how to do math and come to the correct answer, Pathway instead advocates that schools use numbers to motivate anti-racist discussions of social justice.

On July 14, 2021, the California Department of Education issued a Mathematics Framework based on True-West’s Pathway. Chapter 1 of Framework rejects “natural gifts and talents” and calls for de-emphasising calculus and eliminating classes for gifted children in grades 6-12 to eliminate “inequity.” Chapter 1 specifies that “equity influences all aspects of this document.” The draft Framework directs teachers to use math for political discussions about “marginalised communities” and to move away from focusing on correct methods or answers.

At a time when, despite increases in school funding, almost 80% of black and Hispanic eighth graders have been deemed “not proficient” in maths or reading, it’s unclear how improvements might be made while simultaneously graduating high-school pupils regardless of their performance, or even their attendance, and while shying from the existence of such terribly oppressive things as correct answers.

Continue reading "Your Manners And Competence Are Deeply Problematic" »

Activism Farms

We seem to be living in an age of extinction-level stupidity: 

There is no such thing as learning loss. Our kids didn’t lose anything [during the pandemic]. It’s okay that our babies may not have learned all their times tables. They learned resilience. They learned survival. They learned critical-thinking skills. They know the difference between a riot and a protest. They know the words insurrection and coup.

So says Cecily Myart-Cruz, president of the United Teachers Los Angeles union. A union representing 33,000 teachers and associated educational staff.

“Education is political,” says Ms Myart-Cruz, who boasts of her ability to act with near-impunity, and whose list of Intolerable Things includes cognitive testing, “structural racism,” border controls, policing, and the supposed “privilege” of parents who would like their children to actually learn things, including times tables. Our Mistress Of Higher Purpose struggles to comprehend why parents might object to their children’s education, even in basic skills, being supplanted by the nakedly self-serving and increasingly weird activism of the people paid to teach them those basic skills. Instead, she endorses claims that such objections must be driven by “white-supremacist thinking.”

Needless to say, the UTLA is vehemently opposed to voucher systems that would allow parents to spare their children a stay in what are not so much schools as activism farms. Where Ms Myart-Cruz and her “babies” can prioritise “fighting for… social justice.”

“We’re re-envisioning what the future of public schools will look like,” says she. 

Via Darleen

We’re Here To Help

By “suspending proficiency requirements” in the name of “equity”:  

An Oregon high school diploma does not guarantee that students who earned it can read, write, or do math at a high school level. Governor Kate Brown dropped the requirement that students demonstrate they have achieved those essential skills by signing Senate Bill 744 into law. She declined again Friday to comment on why she supported suspending the proficiency requirements… Charles Boyle, the governor’s deputy communications director… said in an emailed statement that suspending the reading, writing and math proficiency requirements will benefit “Oregon’s Black, Latino, Latina, Latinx, Indigenous, Asian, Pacific Islander, Tribal, and students of colour.”

You see, having one’s academic capabilities and fitness for employment thrown into serious doubt is now a benefit.

Meanwhile, in the public schools of Baltimore.  

And somewhat related, this

Our Standards Were Holding Us Back

Meanwhile, at Princeton, more “equity” in action

The Ivy League institution announced in April that it admitted 1,498 students for the class of 2025. A full 22 percent of admitted students are first-generation college students and 68 percent self-identify as “people of colour.” The record number of racial minority admittees comes after the school removed its standardised testing requirement.

Thereby giving the best possible impression.

The university now boasts that there are no longer “minimum test scores for admission,” as “the entirety of a student’s background” will be “considered in context.” Though based on efforts elsewhere, it seems reasonable to suppose that one particular - and academically irrelevant - aspect may weigh more heavily than most.

Having signalled a retreat from conventional metrics and expectations of ability, more ground may soon be ceded. Minority faculty are also demanding the removal of questions, for student applicants and potential employees, regarding “felony convictions,” as this is somehow unfair and an affront to “racial justice.” Other demands include an “additional semester of sabbatical” exclusively for “faculty of colour,” to ease the burden of their “invisible labour” and for being “emblems and spokespersons of diversity at Princeton.” In other words, a brown-person-only holiday to compensate for all of the work time they spend invoking “white supremacy,” claiming to be oppressed, and demanding special favours in enormous lists.

Update, via [+] in the comments:

Pitzer College in California has adopted a “test-blind” admission policy, meaning that standardised tests including the SAT and ACT “will be eliminated from the admission review process entirely.” [...] Yvonne Berumen, the vice president for admission and financial aid at Pitzer College, said in the press release that “The elimination of standardised test scores from our review process entirely has the potential to send a strong message about equity, access, inclusivity, and excellence.” 

Message received.

Not That Kind Of Diversity

Robby Soave on achieving “equity”: 

The Vancouver School Board in British Columbia, Canada, is eliminating honours courses as part of a push to foster inclusivity and equity in the classroom. The board had previously eliminated the high school honours English programme, and maths and science will now get the axe as well. “By phasing out these courses, all students will have access to an inclusive model of education, and all students will be able to participate in the curriculum fulsomely,” said the school board in a statement.

By denying access, they are granting access, obviously. How terribly inclusive.

This is a spectacularly frank declaration: Education officials don’t like that some higher-achieving students are sorted into environments where they are more likely to succeed than their less-gifted peers, and would prefer to keep everyone officially at the same level to the greatest extent possible. The plan closely mirrors California’s recent efforts to discourage students who are proficient at math from taking calculus any earlier than their classmates; Canadian educators seem no less excited than their U.S. counterparts about naively pursuing equality of outcome at all costs.

Inevitably, the objections of students and parents were dismissed by educators, including Jennifer Katz, a professor of education at the University of British Columbia, as “nonsense” and perpetuating “systemic racism.” And so, the needs and prospects of gifted children will be sacrificed in the name of progressive piety. A piety that just happens to look like something else.

The Thrill Of Euphemism

Erika Sanzi reports on an educational breakthrough

Richard Carranza, Chancellor of schools in New York City, has done it again… There will be no numeric grades allowed for high schoolers, and no teachers, in any grades, are allowed to give a failing grade. The lowest “grade” allowed for elementary schoolers will be “needs improvement.” For middle schoolers, failing grades will be designated as “course in progress.” And for high schoolers, an F will become an “Incomplete,” whether the student plans on turning in any work or can show that any learning of the subject has actually occurred.

While grades and attendance are to be deemed bothersome details unworthy of attention, “factors such as equity” will, we’re assured, be given more prominence. Readers will note that the retreat from clear metrics into euphemism and pernicious fuzzwords – chief among which, “equity” - not only makes it difficult to determine pupils’ academic progress and actual competence, but also has a secondary effect of making it more difficult to identify the shortcomings of left-leaning educators and administrators. A coincidence, I’m sure.

Via here, via here

Previously in the world of “equity” – in San Diego, in San Francisco, and in Ohio.  

And somewhat related, this

And then there’s “equity” - another word favoured by both educators and campus activists – and which is defined, if at all, only in the woolliest and most evasive of terms. And which, when used by those same educators and activists, seems to mean something like “equality of outcome regardless of inputs.” Inputs including diligence and punctuality.

If that sounds a tad perverse and an unlikely path to human flourishing, our betters are only too happy to correct your unsophisticated notions.