They are Newton’s Laws of Motion

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Vikram Bath

Vikram Bath is the pseudonym of a former business school professor living in the United States with his wife, daughter, and dog. (Dog pictured.) His current interests include amateur philosophy of science, business, and economics. Tweet at him at @vikrambath1.

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122 Responses

  1. Avatar Oscar Gordon
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    says:

    I suppose we could call them the Classical Mechanics Laws of Motion of 1687, but that is a mouthful.

    I think it is always smarter to leave the name alone and spend some time talking about how screwed up the late 1600’s were when it came to the advance of science.Report

  2. Avatar Damon
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    says:

    I’ll not argue with the qualifications of female engineers or in tech, but there seems to be a lot of women who don’t choose to do that type of work.. Some is associated with sexism, racism, etc., but I think a lot of women don’t want to do that type of work.Report

    • Avatar Doctor Jay in reply to Damon
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      They don’t want to do that kind of work, I observe, because it doesn’t seem to fit with their notion of a “female identity” or “female role”. Which is a fairly fluid thing, as opposed to whether or not you identify female.

      This is a big deal, but only one of a whole host of problems facing women in STEM. This one, unlike many of the others, is probably better addressed by women than by men. Men don’t have a lot of influence on the identity formation of 12-year-old girls. Which is when the first decisions about these things get made.

      Now, men can have an enormous influence later on. They can be welcoming or hostile, or indifferent in a way that seems hostile. There’s lots that can be done. I’m not shoving this responsibility off. However, at the first stages, I’ve never had much influence with girls that age, and I don’t think I ever will.Report

  3. Avatar greginak
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    says:

    I’m glad you could derive something good out of this silly BW column. Why do we care if an expensive private school calls something by a different name. The kid clearly knows the laws were found by Newton. Just utter silliness. Not even suess or potato head level silliness. But you final conclusion is correct. In 20 years kids will still be learning them as newtons laws.Report

    • Avatar Michael Cain in reply to greginak
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      Technically, Newton’s first law was originally stated by Galileo and generalized to the form Newton used by Descartes. That we know of; it is almost impossible to understate the importance of the printing press to European scientific development.Report

    • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to greginak
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      says:

      I can’t believe this essay takes the claim as true at face value. I got a real Stephen Glass vibe from the essay and think City Journal was taken for a ride. Maybe Bari Weiss was trolled too. She would obviously want this to be true.Report

  4. Avatar Jaybird
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    says:

    One of the things that bugs me the most about this inelegant solution is that it feels like casting a spell.

    “We shall change the name of the thing and by changing the name, we shall thus improve the world.”

    You know what’d be nice? Some new laws. Maybe some new papers in the absence of that. Maybe some experiments that can be replicated.

    Without actual advancement, this feels like rearranging furniture.Report

    • Avatar Marchmaine in reply to Jaybird
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      says:

      It’s easy to reform the past; it costs us nothing. Better, it provokes people we want to provoke so it looks like we’re fighting the good fight. Like most of what I’ve come to realize of ‘the discourse’ these are performances designed to salve the consciences of the status quo.Report

  5. Avatar Saul Degraw
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    says:

    The entire Bari Weiss essay had a real Stephen Glass feel about it. Meaning, I think she made it all up and/or at least made large segments up from it out of whole cloth. City Journal is a highly partisan rag that publishes the noxious Heather Mac Donald but I assume some journalistic standards over substack. Still The New Republic feel for a lot of Stephen Glasses story because fiction is often more exciting than boring reality.

    The whole essay fails the laugh test and smell test. Has Bari Weiss ever met the kind of parents that send their kids to Harvard-Westlake? They are not going to have secret zoom meetings to quake in fear over the woke admins. The parents who send their kids to Harvard-Westlake are among the wealthiest, most powerful, and most connected in Los Angeles, if not the nation. They see the staff and admin of the school as their peons, not their superiors.

    When I was in college back in the dark ages of the late 1990s and early 2000s, parents would call up the drama department and higher up in admin and complain to high haven that their kids did not get cast in choice roles in productions. My friends who have experience as TAs and academics at elite undergrad institutions all have tons of stories about students acting more like equals or superiors rather than students especially when it came to grades.

    Here is a twitter thread from a Harvard-Westlake alum that calls bullshit on the whole Weiss essay: https://twitter.com/k_trendacosta/status/1369455581895876608?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw

    This is a huge troll and a huge grift. I get that there is an audience for this stuff but I think we are at the deep con level here.Report

    • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Saul Degraw
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      says:

      “This thing you’re saying didn’t happen because I went there years ago and different things happened to me from 2003-2006.”

      While I appreciate the argument, I’m willing to believe that things have changed between 2006 and 2021.

      For example, the “why do you care? this is only happening on tumblr” arguments didn’t start until at least 2007 when tumblr was invented.

      Now, of course, the fact that Bari Weiss said something happened is not proof that something happened… but “it wasn’t like that when I was in school” at least invites the question “so when were you in school?”

      “15 years ago” appears to be the answer.Report

      • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to Jaybird
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        says:

        There is a reason the expression “if something is too good to be true exists….” The editors and the audience of the New Republic wanted all of the stories about Young Republicans behaving badly filed by Stephen Glass to be true but they were not.

        Substack and confirmation bias will keep Bari Weiss from suffering any consequences though. She has a history of being called out and corrected for distorting and exaggerating conflicts between “woke” v. “non-woke” at the New York Times. Weiss and the Quillette folks have found their meal ticket and will exploit until it no longer works.Report

        • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Saul Degraw
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          Has the waveform collapsed yet? I thought we were still in a state of superposition where we didn’t know whether or not this actually happened…

          We’re just saying that it must not have because the people who go there are really, really rich and you know what *THOSE* people are like.

          While it’s true that I have a lot of prejudices about people who are that rich, I’m still uncertain as to whether or not the things she’s describing happened and, worse than that, don’t know where to look to confirm.

          Your suggestion is that it’s too good to be true, therefore it’s not happening?Report

        • Avatar Pinky in reply to Saul Degraw
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          says:

          I don’t know about the quotes, but the links to schools’ DEI plans seem real.Report

    • Avatar CJColucci in reply to Saul Degraw
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      says:

      Just to be picky, the Newton story is supposed to come from Fieldston, an expensive private school in the part of the Bronx that doesn’t call itself the Bronx. But the Fieldston parents are no more likely than the Harvard-Westlake parents to be afraid of PC teachers and school administrators, and for the same reasons. And that’s how it is now, not just how it used to be.Report

      • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to CJColucci
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        says:

        I know plenty of people who went to Fieldston and I know what Riverdale is. I am from Long Island and went to an SLAC and then grad school in NYC after all. Basically, I know private school kids. I know the schools they went to, and I know their parents. They were never afraid. If anything admin was afraid when one of the kids only went to Connecticut College or Skidmore or something or god forbid, Michigan or UC-Davis.Report

  6. Avatar Saul Degraw
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    says:

    Comment in mod.Report

  7. Avatar Kolohe
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    says:

    There is also the fact that this ‘fact’ of un-Newtoning to decenter whiteness is the characterization of “an upperclassman” (note that it is not stated that they took the class) as transcribed by Bari Weiss. (And they relayed by a conservative on Twitter)

    So there’s a filter here. I don’t think Weiss has quite the same reputation as ‘just so’ quotes as say, Salena Zito, but also a look a Weiss’s biography shows she’s been a lot more in the editor and commentary role than an actual beat reporter.Report

  8. Avatar veronica d
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    Bari Weiss is a hack and you shouldn’t take her word on anything. Thus you shouldn’t really judge this situation based only on her complaints.

    It’s possible that this school is doing a “fake wokeness” thing and bungling it. On the other hand, maybe it’s not so bad. I certainly hope the kids come out knowing what the phrase “Newton’s Laws” denotes, but there is no reason to suspect they will not. If they have any issues, thirty seconds on Wikipedia will solve the problem.

    “Oh, that’s what my school called the ‘fundamental laws’.”

    And the world continues to turn.

    My one question: why criticize a super elite private school for “fake wokeness,” but then never criticize them for any of their other bullshit? Myself, I suspect this isn’t really about the school or the curriculum, but about something else.

    You reveal yourself by your preoccupations.Report

    • Avatar Jaybird in reply to veronica d
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      says:

      My one question: why criticize a super elite private school for “fake wokeness,” but then never criticize them for any of their other bullshit?

      Remember: Question their Motives. It’s a great way to change the subject and get people to defend their motives instead of what they wrote about.

      You don’t even have to resort to one-upping! “Why are you writing about this instead of writing about…” and then having to actually google something. Just say “why are you talking about this instead of other bullshit?”

      And the coup de grace?

      “You reveal yourself by your preoccupations.”

      We’re not even talking about Newton or “fake wokeness” or Bari Weiss anymore! We’re now psychoanalyzing Vikram!

      This is a *MASTERCLASS* in how to do it, kids. Hats off.Report

      • Avatar CJColucci in reply to Jaybird
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        says:

        That’s a reasonably accurate statement of the technique, but you’re missing a step. Why, exactly, is it wrong? It may not be the response that the author — though in this case the “author” being psychoanalyzed seems to be Barrie Weiss rather than Vikram — has hoped for, but who says the author sets the rules? Or any other busybody who aspires to be the Hall Monitor of public discourse?
        Besides, changing the subject is a big part of your own game.Report

        • Avatar DensityDuck in reply to CJColucci
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          says:

          broke: “racists use whataboutism as a distraction from the real problems…”
          woke: “I really think it matters that you want to talk about this thing instead of this other thing that is much more important…”Report

        • Avatar Jaybird in reply to CJColucci
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          says:

          Right? Wrong?

          There is no right or wrong, CJ. We float, adrift, in a meaningless universe.

          As for *MY* comment, I am merely trying to Raise Awareness of the whole “questioning the motives” technique so that when it gets used, people say “huh… that person isn’t talking about the topic… they’re questioning the motives instead.”

          who says the author sets the rules?

          The author does not!

          Or any other busybody who aspires to be the Hall Monitor of public discourse?

          This is another thing that I hope people can add to their mental vocabulary. “That person is just a Hall Monitor Aspirant.”

          Besides, changing the subject is a big part of your own game.

          In my defense, I like to think that I’m changing the subject to something that will help illuminate what I think the real issues are rather than pivot away from them.

          For example, here? I think that the topic of the school’s curriculum is a hell of a lot more interesting than what Vikram is communicating to all of us with his, let me copy and paste this, “preoccupations”.

          For example, I think the conversation that Kazzy and I are having about the topic is a hell of a lot more interesting than Vikram’s “preoccupations”.

          Indeed, I think it’s more interesting than this one.

          But I hope I answered your questions.Report

          • Avatar CJColucci in reply to Jaybird
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            says:

            Well, other than matters of taste, as to which there is no disputing, whether it is Weiss’s or Vikram’s “preoccupations” that are at issue, and whether people need to have their Awareness Raised over the obvious, it doesn’t seem that there is anything to disagree about.Report

            • Avatar Jaybird in reply to CJColucci
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              says:

              Absolutely not!

              I just hope that, in the future, when people see a pivot from the essay written by the author to a comment questioning the motives of the author, that people say “huh, they’re questioning the motives”.

              See it as a “changing the subject” variant.

              If you think that people should recognize when a subject has been changed, know that I agree with you. “Huh. That person just changed the subject.”Report

    • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to veronica d
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      says:

      American Jewry will never live Bari Weiss or Steven Miller down.Report

  9. Avatar InMD
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    says:

    This is a weird essay. So we’re supposed to mourn the fact that there was not another Isaac Newton in some other unnamed time and place? And just hand wave ‘white supremacy’ as the explanation for that?

    People act as though there are a dearth of books on the subject. Maybe that’s the real trick I’ve been missing all along with this critical theory stuff. It’s the greatest excuse not to study ever invented. No wonder it’s so popular in schools.Report

  10. Avatar Mike Schilling
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    says:

    Do we have to start calling them “Fig Sandwich Cookies”?Report

  11. Avatar j r
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    says:

    One day we are going to stop arguing about what to call things. And when that day comes, we may look around, see the state of the material things around us, and wonder what the eff we we were doing for so long. I hope that day comes sooner rather than later.Report

    • Avatar Oscar Gordon in reply to Saul Degraw
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      says:

      Says the guy who went to Vassar…Report

      • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Oscar Gordon
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        says:

        That’s different! He doesn’t use his degree at all!Report

      • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to Oscar Gordon
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        The focus of the essay was on K-12 and the author herself taught at private school (Harvard-Westlake) and sent her sons to private school.Report

        • Avatar Oscar Gordon in reply to Saul Degraw
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          says:

          So. You can make very similar, if not exactly the same, arguments regarding the perpetuation of privilege through private colleges and universities. If private primary schools are bad, then private secondary schools are bad.Report

          • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to Oscar Gordon
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            says:

            I think there are a few issues here. From a practical legal standpoint, I concede that it is impossible to abolish private education. The Supreme Court ruled against such attempts in the 1920s (which were mainly done to attack Catholic and German-language schools).

            However from a policy and democratic standpoint, I think it is important discussion as to what it means that you have these private schools that dominate and have all the resources in the world when many public schools and universities are in constant crisis mode for budget and cutting.

            I grew up in an upper-middle class school district where the majority of the students were children of lawyers, doctors, and other professionals. The school district punched above weight in terms of admittance to elite universities. Yet many of my classmates still felt underprepared for college work compared to their private-school peers and were shocked that what got them As in a highly-competitive public high school (often ranked among the best in the nation) received so-so grades in college.Report

            • Avatar Oscar Gordon in reply to Saul Degraw
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              says:

              There will always be these divisions. I live in a state where school funding is pooled at the state level and evenly distributed, but affluent districts still excel because affluent parents are more involved and can fund the PTA or extra-curricular’s in a way poorer districts just can’t.

              Even if you could do away with private schools, those with the means and time would simply find other ways to make sure their kids excel.

              You can’t simply attack the means by which privilege perpetuates. It’s a losing battle.Report

              • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Oscar Gordon
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                Don’t quote me on this because it is possible that what I was told in grad school was a lie or has since changed, but here goes…

                In NYC, certain public schools were benefitting from having very active and well-resourced parents who would donate large sums to improve their child’s school and its programming. The DOE attempted to put the kibosh on this by saying these donations had to go into the “general fund” and be distributed accordingly, which meant very little if any went to their child’s already-high performing school. As a result, donations dried up.Report

              • Avatar Oscar Gordon in reply to Kazzy
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                What would those donations fund? Arts programs? Sports programs? How quickly would those parents move to fund external Arts and Sports programs?Report

              • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Oscar Gordon
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                I don’t know the details as this was a story relayed to us by a college professor about a particular NYC public school.

                But it probably could have funded any number of things, from what you describe to a 3D Printer or IPads or a new coffee maker in the teacher’s lounge.

                And, yes, the odds are that those kids still benefited from their parents resources as it just went elsewhere.

                It is a scenario wherein every one’s individual decision mostly makes sense and yet the end result seems worse off.
                Of course parents want to donate to their kids school.
                And the district is right to be concerned about increasing already existing disparities WITHIN the district through parents’ funding support.
                And the parents’ are reasonable to withdraw that funding when they see it doesn’t benefit their own kids anymore.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Kazzy
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                says:

                As a result, donations dried up.

                Was this the goal?Report

            • Avatar Brandon Berg in reply to Saul Degraw
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              says:

              Why were students from private schools better prepared for college? You’re implying that it was money, but money can’t magically install knowledge in students’ heads. It seems more plausible that it was that private schools were able to set and enforce higher standards for their students.Report

              • Avatar Chip Daniels in reply to Brandon Berg
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                Money doesn’t need to instill knowledge, so long as it can provide endless second chances and passes.

                George W. Bush, Ted Kennedy, Donald Trump, and William Randolph Hearst are the most famous examples, but others abound, of mediocre students who would have washed out of the elite institutions had their family money not intervened.

                Which should be surprising at all. One of the primary benefits of wealth is to purchase insulation from consequences.Report

              • Avatar Brandon Berg in reply to Chip Daniels
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                says:

                I get that you really wanted to use that talking point, but it doesn’t really apply here. Saul’s claim was that the private-school students were performing at a higher level when they got to college due to better preparation. This is not consistent with the private schools having held those students to lower standards. Besides, endless second chances and lax standards for passing are the norm at public schools. A common explanation for the higher test scores at private schools is that they can kick out the underperformers and troublemakers, while public schools have to take them.Report

              • Avatar Chip Daniels in reply to Brandon Berg
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                says:

                Or, they can remediate the troublemakers rather than kick them out.

                I mean literally those people i namechecked had that exact experience, that they were troublemakers and unworthy of being retained, but were given both second chances and intensive coaching which allowed them to stay in the elite bubble.

                That’s the open and proud claim by tutoring companies and coaches, is that they offer opportunities to the children of elites that regular children aren’t given.

                This isn’t some theory, its the explicit promise that the ecosystem surrounding the elites gives- “We can blunt or eliminate the consequences for you”.

                This is the “better preparation” Saul was referring to, and yes its entirely consistent with being held to lower standards.Report

            • Avatar j r in reply to Saul Degraw
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              The title of that Atlantic piece is great, because you can substitute just about any noun and the resulting #content would be equally inane. “Cardigans are indefensible.” “The Oxford Comma is indefensible.” “String cheese is indefensible.”

              Also, it is interesting that the political and democratic failure is that the merely rich children who reside in exclusive school districts might be losing out to the children of those with possibly greater wealth who attend private schools.

              Again, we see a debate being waged about the institutions where the aspirational 15% of the population dwell and one almost completely divorced from the places in which most Americans spend their lives.Report

    • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Saul Degraw
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      says:

      Sigh.

      If this article was, “There are negatives associated with independent schools,” I’d cosign it heartedly. These are waters I swim in… they can be nasty!

      Instead the article is, “There are negatives associated with independent schools and therefore they are abject evil and should be abolished.”

      Why?

      When/how/why did we reach a point where it is totally acceptable to publicly say, “Anything that isn’t exactly how I want it to be is awful?”

      We used to call people who acted that way spoiled brats.

      Do you think the writer recognizes the irony of accusing others of such? Assuredly not.Report

      • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to Kazzy
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        The good or bad news is that we can’t get rid of private schools in this country because of the First Amendment.

        I think the growing issue is that a lot of people seem to think we are recreating the Oxbridge-Public School system that dominated the United Kingdom during the 19th and early 20th century and seems to be coming back with a vengeance now. The difference is that we have four elite universities for non-STEM stuff, HYPS, and two for STEM stuff, MIT and CalTech, and Johns Hopkins for medicine. The elite private schools like Dalton or Harvard-Westlake are the American equivalents of Eton or Rugby. This is at very least non-democratic even if the ruling class might be more diverse than it was in the past. Humans seem to love recreating aristocracy.Report

        • Avatar Kazzy in reply to LeeEsq
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          Perhaps the problem is seeing only 7 universities in our country as “elite”.Report

          • Avatar Oscar Gordon in reply to Kazzy
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            Of course they are the only 7 elite institutions, everyone who went there and works there says so.

            So much of privilege is a direct result of marketing by the privileged.Report

          • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to Kazzy
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            It doesn’t matter if you can get a perfectly good education elsewhere, what makes them elite is that they are the ones that lead to most of the opportunities through networking, etc.Report

            • Avatar Jaybird in reply to LeeEsq
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              We need to redistribute networking opportunities.Report

            • Avatar Kazzy in reply to LeeEsq
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              says:

              “…most of the opportunities…”

              What opportunities?

              Harvard gave out 6665 degrees in 2019*.
              Yale gave out 4026.
              CalTech gave out 586.
              This includes degrees at all levels.
              I couldn’t easily find numbers for Princeton, MIT, or Stanford (The S is for Stanford, right??? Or am I showing my lack of eliteness?)

              Let’s be overly generous and say that every school graduated 6000 folks, similar to Harvard. That’s (quickly uses my non-elite math education) 42000 folks who graduated from an elite institution in 2019.

              I found a jobs report from January 2019 that showed 225K folks were hired. Let’s be conservative and say that 150K folks were hired each month for a total of (public school math, don’t fail me now!) 1.8M folks hired.

              HOW DID 1.75M PEOPLE GET JOBS IF ALL THE CONNECTIONS WENT TO THE ELITES?!?!?!

              * I chose 2019 to avoid any pandemic impact on the numbers.Report

          • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to Kazzy
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            I am a little more broad-minded than Lee here and agree with your view but during the early Obama years, there was an essay in the Chronicle of Higher Education that stated “even Brown and Cornell are second tier.”

            https://www.chronicle.com/blogs/percolator/brown-and-cornell-are-second-tier

            If anything, I think this view point has accelerated at the brass ring firms and jobs. People who graduate from Brown and Cornell usually end up doing fine to excellent in terms of socio-economics. So do plenty of non-HYPS grads but there are some slights of hands. Many liberals arts colleges boast about how many of their students go on to get advanced or professional degrees but I think if you did some digging, you would find that even the harder to get into SLACs are looked down upon by many employers and the students feel like they did not JD or MBA or MPA up first to be competitive or desirable.Report

            • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Saul Degraw
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              Is “second-tier” a bad thing? If you think the answer is yes, that seems worth reflecting upon.

              Are there many employers who would “look down” on these “non-elite” institutions? Sure. But are there many, many more that would GLADLY hire their graduates? YUP!Report

        • Avatar Michael Cain in reply to LeeEsq
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          You need to subdivide STEM stuff. I wouldn’t disagree with MIT and Caltech as the premier engineering schools. But over the last 20 years, Berkeley has more Nobel winners than Caltech, and Harvard more than MIT. Fields Medals, the premier math prize, over the last few decades are all over the place but several have more winners than either Caltech or MIT.Report

          • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to Michael Cain
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            I’ve said this before but I think when most parents and politicians talk about STEM, you can probably take off the S and the M unless it is something like being a biochemist for Genentech or something similar. What politicians are interested in is engineers who can work on apps which can get public offerings and make megabucks. I do not think they care about Fields Medals that much.Report

            • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Saul Degraw
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              Why are you letting politicians influence what you consider to be a good education?

              It’s good enough for a Fields Medal but not good enough for you and these politicians? Yowzas…Report

              • Avatar Michael Cain in reply to Kazzy
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                says:

                Saul has a point, of sorts. Politicians are much more interested in the “applied” end of STEM. Create a million jobs. A firm with a billion-dollar capitalization. There’s usually a ton of stuff that doesn’t look applied that has to come first.Report

        • Avatar Ozzzy! in reply to LeeEsq
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          Lee, The good or bad news in your term here is not based on the first amendement, it is based on hundreds of thousands of people choosing to pay for something.

          At least start with a basis we can all agree on, like public schools are a good thing!Report

        • Avatar Chip Daniels in reply to LeeEsq
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          I would reframe Lee’s argument about a neo-aristocracy a little differently, by adding Piketty’s observation of the advantage of capital over labor.

          In that, the rewards of our society are favoring the financial sector, not the STEM holders.
          As much as we love the fable of a Steve Jobs tinkering in his garage and getting rich, most wealth accumulates to those who have capital.
          Knowledge workers are doing ok, but for the most part they aren’t reaping the bonanzas like the financial markets are.

          And in a world that prizes capital over labor, social status and connections become increasingly power determinants.
          So the fight for a slot at an elite school isn’t about acquiring the knowledge which everyone accepts can be found elsewhere- its to gain entrance to an excusive social club.Report

  12. Avatar Kazzy
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    Does she have a source beyond the single student…?Report

    • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Kazzy
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      If you’re asking about her article, she quotes a lot of unnamed people. I don’t know how much people not wanting to be named should count.

      If you’re asking “is there evidence that is *NOT* from this article”, there is an instagram account, I guess, that purports to take pictures of the stuff the school is doing.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Jaybird
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        I was just looking at the quote offered here which mentioned a single student. I’m not really interested in picking through a Bari Weiss piece but if there are other sources, I’m content to say most of the allegations have some basis in reality.

        That said… there is something bigger going on here…

        My girlfriend teaches at an elite NY private school. It was recently the subject of a WSJ op-ed by a parent who basically decried the “wokeness” as racism. It was basically the whole “LIBERALS ARE THE REAL RACISTS!” thing. We read it. It had many factual inaccuracies but more generally and charitably be seen as, “I have many philosophical and political disagreements with my kids’ school.”

        But then we got to the bottom and saw the author of the piece and it noted he was a co-founder of something called FAIR: Foundation Against Intolerance and Anti-Racism. Bari Weiss is on the board of directors. FAIR was created earlier this year. Now all these articles and op-eds are popping up. So… SOMETHING is going on here. Make of that what you will.Report

        • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Kazzy
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          Meh. I figure there are a million ways to spin anything.

          “I just want the best education for my kids!”

          Is this a perfectly reasonable thing to say to the point where a parent that does not agree is negligent?

          Is it coded racism?Report

    • Avatar DensityDuck in reply to Kazzy
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      says:

      “Does she have a source beyond the single student…?”

      Christine Ford didn’t have a source beyond herself.Report

  13. Avatar Pinky
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    says:

    There’s an element of hype in Vikram’s article. Weiss’s piece isn’t about Newton. It’s a catchy anecdote that may or may not be true, but isn’t the hinge of Weiss’s article.

    It seems that diversity training is happening, and it’s affecting curricula. That leads to three questions: do the good aspects outweigh the bad in science coursework, do the good aspects outweigh the bad in non-science coursework, and are the teachers, students, and parents under pressure to comply with the changes? I don’t know Weiss or if she tends to harp on any of those questions or even writes distorted pieces on those issues. But the issues are worth exploring. I think it’s convenient to refer to Newton’s laws in the same way as other budding scientists, but that’s not in the top ten concerns I have about these issues. I’m not even that worried about the parents being made to make judgment calls about what’s best for their kids’ education. The impact on non-scientific education is what concerns me the most, because it’s likely to be the largest.Report

    • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Pinky
      Ignored
      says:

      I’ve worked in independent schools my whole career (15+ years). I was directly involved with our DEI efforts for a good portion of that. My honest perspective is that most often, these efforts don’t accomplish their goal.
      The vast majority of the time, they accomplish basically nothing. They’re effectively neutral.
      A small minority of the time they are so poorly designed or executed that they are harmful. They have a negative effect.
      Sometimes, they accomplish something real. They have a positive effect.

      I can’t give you the exact ratios and it likely varies from school to school and changes over time.

      Now, not included in this mini-faux-analysis here is the opportunity cost of this work, which similarly can vary to basically negligible to “HOLY CRAP THIS IS THE FOURTH PD DAY WE’VE GIVEN TO THIS AND WE HAVEN’T EVEN TALKED ABOUT THE NEW MATH CURRICULUM YET!!!”

      So, by and large, most of this amounts to some time spent spinning wheels with most kids having the needle moved a bit one way or another while hovering around zero.

      As I mention above, most of these “complaints” seem rooted in a broader political/culture war battle. And one of the major front lines is now “woke school curriculums.”

      Of course, the deep irony is that folks waging this battle — speaking of the immense harm done to their children because they didn’t sing the Pledge of Allegiance this year (though, actually, they stopped singing the Pledge of Allegiance years ago) — are the same people who dismiss any notion of microaggressions or respond to any claim of racism, sexism, etc. as the hysterical whining of a snowflake.Report

      • Avatar InMD in reply to Kazzy
        Ignored
        says:

        This makes me wonder how much of this isn’t a food fight among the elite of the elite in NY and SoCal. I make no bones about my distaste for this stuff but my main concern is having it fall down to public and parochial schools for normal people. Maybe it’s callous of me but if the top 2% of New Yorkers are bent on making their children dumber and more insufferable than they already are with a bunch of racialist gobbledygook, well that’s sad but I guess it’s the privilege money buys. Just keep it away from the people still trying for that little slice.Report

        • Avatar Kazzy in reply to InMD
          Ignored
          says:

          I think the more likely scenario is that most schools doing this stuff are just exchanging one kinda ineffective part of their curriculum for another kinda ineffective part of their curriculum.Report

        • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to InMD
          Ignored
          says:

          There is still very little evidence on how much truth is in Bari Weiss’ story for City Journal except that it acts like catnip for people who getting their underwear in a twist about woke this and woke that. There might be some germs of truth here and there but it reads like a lot of cherry picking and extrapolation via wish-thinking. The whole thing feels like a culture war equivalent of a letter to Penthouse.

          Caitlin Flanagan’s article reflects the reality and that parents at these elite private schools tend to treat the students and administrators are junior employees, very junior employees.Report

          • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Saul Degraw
            Ignored
            says:

            There’s the instagram account.Report

          • Avatar InMD in reply to Saul Degraw
            Ignored
            says:

            I struggle to know how much to believe about these things I read. What’s apparent to me is that about 90% of it seems to disappear when I step away from the internet. But there’s just enough still slithering around that I feel it’s reasonable to keep my guard up, at least for my son.

            I’ll never have the ability to treat anyone at an elite private school as a junior employee I don’t think, so that’s really up to them to work out.Report

            • Avatar Kazzy in reply to InMD
              Ignored
              says:

              I think what you’re seeing kind of gets at my point above.

              Is this stuff happening? Yea. It is. Much of it, at least.

              Is it doing anything? Meh.

              “Woke Baby” is a real book.
              “Anti-Racist Baby” is a real book.
              These books are on the shelves of classrooms in my school.
              And yet not a single kid has gone home and lectured their parents about the patriarchy. Why? Because no single book, no single scientific term, no single phrase is going to completely change the course of ANY individual’s life. And BOTH SIDES need to stop pretending that it will.

              It’s dumb to think, “Well, we put ‘Woke Baby’ on the PreK bookshelf. GOODBYE RACISM!”
              And it’s dumb to think, “THEY PUT ‘WOKE BABY’ ON THE PREK BOOKSHELF! THEY WANT MY KID TO HATE WHITES!”

              So if you tend to avoid the dumbest of the dumb people in real life, you probably won’t see much of this. Which doesn’t mean those people don’t have kids in classrooms with “Woke Baby” on the shelf.Report

              • Avatar InMD in reply to Kazzy
                Ignored
                says:

                The existence of a book in a library doesn’t bother me. Not at all in fact. What does bother me is the tales of authority figures telling children they need to think a particular way about race and more specifically that they need to think about themselves in a particular way due to race.

                The first part makes me really queasy, and the second part strikes me as morally wrong, to the point that I question whether a person willing to teach that to a child is fit for the profession.

                But, again, you get into this question of how pervasive it is. There have always been odd people out there and you don’t want to overreact based on outliers. Now, if I go log on to Facebook (which having given it up for lent I will not) I find it frightening how many people I know seem, based on their posting habits, to subscribe to the wokism-run-amok philosophy. And yea Uncle So and So is there too posting the reactionary things he’s been saying at family gatherings at least since 1992 but I am well versed in how to deal with that.

                When I go offline I still get whiffs of these things but the volume drops from an 11 to more like a 3, maybe a 4. I don’t love 3 or 4, but it can be contextualized for my son as a learning experience. My thing is I really don’t want it to get above a 3 or a 4.Report

              • Avatar Kazzy in reply to InMD
                Ignored
                says:

                I can say it most places, you can rest assured it is a 3 or a 4.

                However… schools have ALWAYS taught kids messages about race.

                This is sort of the “indoctrination” argument all over again.

                I mean, if your kid came home and said, “Today we learned it’s wrong to treat people better or worse just because of their race,” you’d probably think that was a generally good thing and at most wonder how the message was delivered. It’s not “Schools teaching kids how to think about race,” that is the big problem. It’s schools going too far — schools being at 11 (in either direction*) — that is the problem.

                * It’s not just woke-ism, lest we forget the state curriculum reform (I believe it was Texas?) that changed their books to describe slaves as “immigrants”.Report

              • Avatar InMD in reply to Kazzy
                Ignored
                says:

                I get what you’re saying but there’s a distinction in my mind about your standard MLK content of character ‘message about race’ and ‘you must think this particular way about race.’ To your point, I have no problem with the former being taught everywhere, always. The message there is closer to ‘race should not factor into how you think about others’ or what is now regularly derided as race-blindness. The latter is ‘you must think about race all the time and evaluate every interaction you have and your thoughts about yourself through a very particular lens of race and politics in the United States.’

                One of these things is race negative (and I mean that in a good way) and one is race positive (in the worst way). I would have a problem with these kinds of highly essentialist racial and ethnic instructions to children even if they weren’t of a such a hostile, abusive, and judgmental nature. The entire approach is bad for kids and terrible for society.

                And I hear you on the right wing version of this. I always figured when I had kids it would involve keeping an eye out for the group of evangelical Christians who got onto the school board in an election no one was paying attention to, who then start poisoning the well with their own version. Now however I find myself drawn to Catholic schools, not only because of problems with illegal immigration in my zip code, but because I think there’s a real chance they’ll be better at separating the theology from the academics. At the very least I can rely on them to be honest with me about where they’re drawing the lines.Report

      • Avatar Pinky in reply to Kazzy
        Ignored
        says:

        This’d be reassuring if you and I had the same vision of what things should look like, and if society’s norm were stable. Maybe we’re close enough in our thinking that the former isn’t a factor, but it’s hard to argue the latter. Just considering the change in our national conversation and my own personal experience, I’d have to assume that most institutions are feeling the pressure to move toward programmatic diversity. Further, it’s safe to assume that high-prestige schools would want to be on the cutting edge of any movement.Report

      • Avatar j r in reply to Kazzy
        Ignored
        says:

        Kazzy’s comment is excellent and an excellent place to follow up on my glib comment from above. Ostensibly this is a debate about diversity, but really this is a conversation about the importance of diversity. That is, to be woke is to believe that diversity is a topic of paramount importance that ought to be elevated. And to be anti-woke is to see diversity as a smokescreen being used to smuggle in a whole raft of radical, left-wing changes.

        This is a nonsense debate. Neither side is really in opposition to each other in regards to the underlying issue, because neither side is all that interested in the underlying issue: the efficacy of diversity initiatives and the general question of how to make society more fair. Further, much of this is completely detached from the material needs of minorities, the working class, or otherwise marginalized people.

        The anti-wokes fear that the wokes are using the language of social justice to help dismantle the old hierarchy and install themselves as the new elites. And the wokes fear that the anti-wokes are using the threat of “PC gone wild” as a means of resisting positive change and clinging to their inherited privileges. Guess what? They’re both right. Now what?Report

  14. Avatar Kazzy
    Ignored
    says:

    That’s… not my point.

    Is Bari Weiss writing this because she is genuinely concerned about the state of education?

    Or is Bari Weiss writing this because she wants to promote FAIR?
    (This is at the bottom of the article: Bari Weiss writes at bariweiss.substack.com. She is also on the board of advisors of the Foundation Against Intolerance and Racism.)

    If it is the latter, is that necessarily bad? No. But it matters.

    Then we need to look at FAIR. What is their actual agenda?

    Is it a coincidence that multiple articles/op-eds have emerged in the past week, all with the same theme and tone, all authored by folks associated with FAIR, all touting FAIR in their bio? Probably not.Report

    • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Kazzy
      Ignored
      says:

      Blargh… mis threaded… JAYBIRD! DOWN HERE!Report

    • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Kazzy
      Ignored
      says:

      If there is, in fact, a “there there” with the curriculum, then something like this was pretty inevitable.

      There will be people idly thinking “something should be done!” and there’s going to be someone who will make a buck off of them.

      If everybody involved is lucky, the person making a buck will actually push back on the issue. (If they’re unlucky, they’ll get a Trump.)Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Jaybird
        Ignored
        says:

        Well, it depends on how we define a “there”.

        Are some parents unhappy with the political lean of the independent school they chose? Yes. And there are various ways to address that.

        Are all independent schools united in an evil liberal plot to enforce an orthodoxy that instills self-hatred among white kids? No. Just… no.

        The author of the WSJ article I mentioned opted not to mention that he is currently living in Florida and sending his children to school there while also accessing the NY school’s remote options when it is convenient. And yet he talks about his children as victims.Report

        • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Kazzy
          Ignored
          says:

          Great example of something that I was complaining about the other day.

          “Are all independent schools united in an evil liberal plot to enforce an orthodoxy that instills self-hatred among white kids?”

          If the stuff in the Instagram is accurate and if even half of the quotes in the Bari Weiss story are true, it’s possible to be opposed as hell to what’s going on there without believe in an united evil conspiracy to enforce a new orthodoxy.

          People are allowed to be opposed to emergent trends! Hell, they’re allowed to be opposed to *GOOD* emergent trends. Painting the opposition as being conspiracy theorists is a trick that works well, I guess, to shame people wandering off the reservation but there is a lot of middle excluded.Report

          • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Jaybird
            Ignored
            says:

            My issue isn’t the parents who are unhappy. I want to talk with those parents about why they’re unhappy!

            My issue is the charlatans who are exploiting those parents’ real concerns for some other purpose.

            My concern isn’t the folks quoted in Weiss’s column. My concern is Weiss herself.

            Ask yourself this: Does a column like the one Weiss writes help improve the situation? Will it make the schools change their ways? Will it improve the level of discourse in an arena she claims leaves very little room for honest discourse?Report

            • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Kazzy
              Ignored
              says:

              Does a column like the one Weiss writes help improve the situation?

              I don’t know. It’s too early to tell.
              Might it result in a change? I think it might.
              Will the change be good? I don’t know.
              Will the change be bad? I don’t know.
              If the change happens tomorrow, will you know? I think it’ll be too early to tell.

              Will it improve the level of discourse in an arena she claims leaves very little room for honest discourse?

              One of my issues with some of the stuff that falls under “woke culture” is that discourse-at-all gets pushback. People wanting to talk about this get mocked for “Just Asking Questions” like they’re questioning the Holocaust or something.

              So if we move from “shutting down discourse” to “actively having discourse”, I think that that would be movement in a good direction.

              At the very least, when the discourse gets shut down, it results in stuff like Bari Weiss is writing about.

              (Assuming, of course, that she isn’t lying.)Report

              • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Jaybird
                Ignored
                says:

                “(Assuming, of course, that she isn’t lying.)”

                I can’t speak to Weiss but I can speak to her FAIR colleague and he was lying. Or, at the very least, factually wrong on many of his points. I know this but basically none of his readers do.

                Now, on the flip side, I will say that I disagree with the school’s response (at least its immediate response) to the piece because I think it DID shut down discourse, which is inherently problematic AND plays right into the writer’s hands. I’d call that a big L.

                But because Weiss is such a disingenuous and self-serving clown, we can’t really dig in to what is happening at these schools because first we have to wonder, “Is Bari Weiss lying?”Report

              • Avatar Chip Daniels in reply to Jaybird
                Ignored
                says:

                Weiss is doing a motte and bailey here.

                The motte is “Some parents don’t like the anti-racist messages being taught”.

                The bailey is “There is a stifling climate of fear that prevents us from speaking.”

                It’s Weiss who is trying to shut down dialogue by painting anyone who sides with the school as akin to Stalin.

                What would be wrong with her just writing honestly “I disagree with the school’s message and here’s why”
                Why does she have to drape herself in the robes of a martyr?Report

              • Avatar Oscar Gordon in reply to Chip Daniels
                Ignored
                says:

                Martyr Robes are Haute Couture!Report

              • Avatar Chip Daniels in reply to Oscar Gordon
                Ignored
                says:

                Judges would also accept “Joan of Arc is hot this year!”Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Chip Daniels
                Ignored
                says:

                Well, I’m sure that some parents don’t like the anti-racist messages being taught.

                At that point we get to ask “what are the anti-racist messages?”

                Maybe the messages are good or maybe they’re really dumb.

                So let’s look at them.

                Whoops? Better not do that. What else did the parents say?

                Oooh, there’s a stifling climate of fear that prevents them from speaking? Why don’t they come out and explain that instead of hiding behind anonymity?

                “Painting anyone who sides with the school as akin to Stalin”… well, let’s see what the school is doing, right?

                Can we do that? Or are we stuck saying “the school is a business and businesses can do whatever they want and, in this case, it’s saying… wait. Let’s not look at what they’re saying. Let’s just say that they can say whatever they want.”

                Why does she have to drape herself in the robes of a martyr?

                Probably because she got hounded out of the NYT newsroom by wokanistas and adopted their speech habits as a weapon.Report

              • Avatar CJColucci in reply to Jaybird
                Ignored
                says:

                That’s her story and she’s sticking to it.Report

              • Avatar Chip Daniels in reply to Jaybird
                Ignored
                says:

                Yes.
                They are victims, terrified of the knock at the door and gulag.

                And by “knock at the door” I mean angry tweets and by “gulag” I mean “not being invited to the right parties.”Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Chip Daniels
                Ignored
                says:

                You wouldn’t believe the distinctions that Journalists make between “calling out” and “harassment”.

                Well, it’s “who/whom”.

                So you might.Report

              • Avatar Pinky in reply to Chip Daniels
                Ignored
                says:

                Most people don’t want to lose their job, home, reputation, and children’s futures over an avoidable fight. And if you’re a NY or LA upper-upper-cruster who works in government, entertainment, or anywhere that relies on connections, yeah, $4000 per month rent can suddenly seem steep when you lose your job.Report

              • Avatar Chip Daniels in reply to Pinky
                Ignored
                says:

                That would be a good point. Even better, if it actually happened.Report

              • Avatar Pinky in reply to Chip Daniels
                Ignored
                says:

                You don’t think it does? It’s the point of “cancelling”, isn’t it?Report

    • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to Kazzy
      Ignored
      says:

      The right-wing is good at Orwellian acronyms, I will give them that.Report

  15. Avatar JoeSal
    Ignored
    says:

    “Almost everyone will agree that we live in a deeply troubled society. One of the most widespread manifestations of the craziness of our world is leftism, so a discussion of the psychology of leftism can serve as an introduction to the discussion of the problems of modern society in general.”Report

  16. Avatar Jaybird
    Ignored
    says:

    Freddie has an essay that touches on some of the themes here. While he’s talking about Hate Speech and the responses to it, his thoughts on the responses to it are relevant to the general topic.Report

    • Avatar InMD in reply to Jaybird
      Ignored
      says:

      We used to have the giant exploded fetus pictures every couple months at my undergrad. If they’re the same as the one Freddie is describing he’s kind of understating how huge they are. Think large billboards standing in the middle of a quad.

      As best as I could tell most people ignored them but you could tell they were the source of much curiosity from the east Asian students there on visas.Report

    • Avatar Swami in reply to Jaybird
      Ignored
      says:

      Wow, after more than a decade, this is probably the best piece by Freddy that I have read.Report

    • Avatar North in reply to Jaybird
      Ignored
      says:

      Freddie’s been doing an amazing job so far on his substack. The challenge, of course, will be in a few months when the obvious topics have been touched on.Report

      • Avatar InMD in reply to North
        Ignored
        says:

        He should wonk out on education. Seemed like his book got a positive reception, including in some unlikely corners.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird in reply to North
        Ignored
        says:

        He’s got an absolute corker today:

        In my post on canceling this week I said “you wanted reparations, you got Dr. Seuss.” People didn’t like that, but you could pick many similar comparisons. We wanted an end to the Drug War, we got a new voice for Dr Hibbert. We wanted to close the Black-white wealth gap, we got diversity statements from Goldman Sachs. We wanted to feed Black children, we got Aunt Jemima and Uncle Ben taken off the shelves. We wanted clean water in Black communities, we got white college students at $78,000/year colleges weeping on the quad in shame for their whiteness before leaving for Pilates. The thing is that we can do this forever; we can have white writers waxing poetic about the incredible inherent nobility of the Black race in the New Yorker while the architecture of material racism remains utterly unchanged, for the rest of our lives. And if you’re more optimistic about this than me then I think you have to provide a logical rationale for why. Why would things change?

        Report

  17. Avatar Swami
    Ignored
    says:

    Something I have not seen yet in the comments is that the scientific method depends greatly upon the concepts of discovery, priority and eponymy. In other words, there is a race to discover and publish facts and laws with the reward being credit given for the discovery. That is why particular names are often attached to them. These norms emerged in the 16th and 17th century in natural philosophy (now called science) and were almost certainly stimulated by the geographic discoveries of that era.Report

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