Wednesday, August 3, 2022

CENSORSHIP

Recall that in Soviet Russia entire scientific disciplines were forbidden for ideological reasons.

Academic Freedom Alliance

July 9, 2022

…..But even though chemistry research is not ideologically controlled, I see censorship and other forms of suppression creeping into our institutions, professional societies, and even publishing. For instance, attempts to censor language, in a truly Orwellian fashion, are rather common. There are calls to stop referring to certain physical laws and equations by the names of the people who discovered them because of the real or made-up flaws in their characters. Some even want to replace certain technical terms. For example, the central concept in the field of quantum computing is “quantum supremacy.” This technical term simply means that the technology, once it is fully developed, will be superior to the existing computing technology. But some people dislike the English word “supremacy,” because the same word is used in the expression “white supremacy.” They argue that the term should be changed to “quantum advantage” or something equally silly. Professional societies and universities are issuing language guides with long lists of forbidden words. So there are a lot of small instances of censorship that you can laugh at since at the first glance they don’t seem to seriously affect science. But the danger is, once you start introducing this ideological censorship into your profession, it spreads. Today, they rewrite our technical language, tomorrow they remove the names from equations, and the day after that they will stop teaching the actual physics contained in these equations. If you think this is unlikely, recall that in Soviet Russia entire scientific disciplines were forbidden for ideological reasons. So I think it’s a very dangerous trend, and we need to resist it.


What is the purpose of a university education? 

I’m a quantum chemist, and a big fan of Niels Bohr, a founder of my field, a Nobel Prize winner, and a brilliant thinker. Once, in an argument with a colleague, Bohr exclaimed, “No, no, you’re not thinking; you’re just being logical.” It sounds funny, but this is really a profound statement. It articulates the difference between mechanical reasoning or just enumerating the facts—and an insight revealing the big picture behind them. 

The important part of a college education is learning how to think. This of course requires domain knowledge as a prerequisite, which college also provides. But domain knowledge—such as laws and facts of chemistry—is just one ingredient. What you cannot learn by just memorizing facts is how to connect the dots and to assess information critically—that’s what you acquire through a college education when it’s done properly—when students are encouraged to think and the instruction goes beyond mechanical digestion of facts. 

To give an example of why this is important, let me tell you a simple story—the story of DHMO. Imagine yourself walking down the street and seeing a group of activists with flyers and signs. They explain that they are collecting signatures to ban a certain substance called DHMO. You say, “Okay, so what is so dangerous about DHMO? Why do we need to ban it?” 

They reply, “This substance can cause suffocation if inhaled. It can cause severe burns. It contributes to the erosion of natural landscapes. It contributes to the greenhouse effect and is a major component of acid rain. It is found in tumors of terminal cancer patients. It causes accelerated corrosion and may cause electrical failures and decrease the effectiveness of automobile brakes.” 

You agree that DHMO sounds terrible. “So where is it used?”

They say, “It’s everywhere. It’s used in industries as a solvent and coolant, in nuclear power plants, in the production of styrofoam, as a fire retardant, in many forms of cruel animal research, in abortion clinics, in junk foods, as a performance-enhancing substance by elite athletes…” and so on. 

Finally, they ask, “Do you support the ban? Will you sign our petition?” 

It turns out that close to 100% of people who are approached with this question say “yes.” And every few years we hear of a politician who is championing an anti-DHMO bill in some legislature. 

What is this DHMO? DHMO stands for dihydrogen monoxide, H2O, water. 

What is the moral of the story? Every fact I stated about DHMO is 100% true. So where was the critical flaw in the decision-making? We failed to connect the dots, to critically assess causes and effects. The facts are correct, but we interpreted them wrongly. A good college education is supposed to teach you how to connect the dots and not fall victim to this sort of thing.

Thursday, July 21, 2022

ANDREW MAGLIO

April 2022

Dear Mr. Fitzhugh,

I hope you are doing well. My name is Andrew Maglio, and I am a senior at Conard High School in West Hartford, Connecticut. Over the years, I’ve emailed you intermittently with questions about my submission to the Review.

Two years ago, when the pandemic began, I took the opportunity afforded by the lack of time engaged in formal classroom learning to start a paper for submission to The Concord Review. I spent the next several months totally engrossed in this endeavor. At the end of it, I had a nearly 60-page research paper analyzing the publication and public debate around Rachel Carson’s seminal book Silent Spring.

This year, throughout the college application process and more generally as I have reflected on my life thus far as I prepare to begin a new chapter, I have considered the things that have defined my life. The Concord Review is one of the first things to come to mind. Even though my paper was not published, it is certainly the single-most transformative academic experience I have ever had. Through it, I solidified my interest in studying history and perhaps working professionally in the field. Moreover, it is the first time I conducted this type of rigorous and (equally) rewarding scholarship. Because my paper focused on the history of science, I realized that this was the specific niche I wanted to study in college (at the colleges that I applied to that offer it, of course).

While my paper’s greatest impact was on me personally, I also know it was an integral part of my applications to colleges as a prospective history major. I listed it as one of my top activities, spent considerable essays discussing it or related ideas, and the teacher who advised me in this project wrote one of my recommendations. I believe colleges recognize the immense benefit of writing a paper (published or not) for your publication: I was accepted to Harvard, Princeton, and Yale (among a few other schools) to study history next year. The paper your publication inspired certainly helped me to convey my interest in history and fascination with research to these universities.

I owe you a great debt for the opportunity you have afforded to me and so many other students. Truly The Review is such a wonderful gift to students like me. When I filled out Yale’s short essay on what inspires me, I discussed the work of Albrecht Dürer, a subtle homage to your journal, with his illustrations. Your journal continues to inspire me.

Thank you again for all that you do.

Best,
Andrew
[Andrew Maglio
Conard High School Class of 2022; Yale Class of 2026]

Friday, July 15, 2022

RONG GUAN, MD

 13 July 2022

Dear Mr. Fitzhugh,
 
I came across The Concord Review when BB&N’s history department recommended that my son, Timothy Guan, submit his research paper to TCR. After reading some of the student works published in TCR, I must say that I am impressed with the high quality of the research papers. As a physician and a physician scientist, I couldn’t agree more with your call for a requirement that no high school student be permitted to graduate without having produced at least one serious research paper in history. Critical thinking and writing are essential in academia and industry, as well as in our daily life. TCR simply provides the best possible forum for high school students to demonstrate their talent.
 
I applaud your tireless effort over the last 35 years to inspire our younger generations to seek academic excellence, and would like to make a donation of $5,000 to TCR. As Chief Medical Officer of South Cove Community Health Center and a former President of The Chinese American Medical Society in Boston, I will encourage my colleagues to support the mission of TCR as well.
 
Best,
 
 Rong J. Guan, MD
 
Assistant Professor in Medicine, Harvard Medical School
Chief Medical Office
South Cove Community Health Center
885 Washington Street, Boston 02111

Tuesday, July 12, 2022

BERLIN WALL

Tyranny set in stone
Roger Kimball


The New Criterion
November 2009


...In 1948, The Soviets blockaded Berlin, a preliminary, they hoped, to annexing it entirely. The Berlin airlift, orchestrated by the American army general, Lucius Clay, provisioned the city with some 4,500 tons of food, fuel, and other necessities every day for nearly a year—at its peak, 1,500 flights a day were crowding in and out of Tempelhof airport. Finally, in May 1949, the Soviets gave up and lifted the blockade.

    The airlift was an extraordinary act of political defiance as well as an unprecedented logistical feat. But it did not overcome the contradiction that was Berlin. Increasingly, East Germans voted with their feet. By 1960, a thousand people a day were fleeing East Germany via Berlin. Walter Ulbricht, the GDR’s Communist dictator, pleaded with Nikita Kruschev to do something to staunch the flow of human capital. The following summer, Kruschev, having taken the measure of JFK and his lieutenants, decided to close the border. At a dinner on August 12, he gleefully announced to his companions: “We’re going to close Berlin. We’ll just put up serpentine barbed wire and the West will stand there, like dumb sheep.”

    Work began at midnight. The Russian soldiers had been told to withdraw if challenged. But no challenge came from JFK’s ovine entourage. In the succeeding months, the barbed wire was replaced by masonry and metal. The wall gradually encircled the whole of West Berlin. Some three-hundred guard towers punctuated the wall. A second, inner wall sprang up. The “death strip” between was mined and booby-trapped. Guard dogs accompanied the soldiers on their rounds. Erich Honecker, who replaced Ulbricht in 1971, issued a shoot-on-sight order. Somewhere between a hundred and two hundred people were killed trying to scale, or tunnel under, the wall, another 1,000 trying to flee elsewhere from East Germany. For Honecker, it was  a small price to pay. Between 1949 and 1962, some two and a half million people had fled East Germany to the West. From 1962 to 1989, his draconian measures reduced the flood to a trickle of 5,000.


Friday, July 8, 2022

ALEXANDER POPE

Of a youth so successfully employed, and so conspicuously improved, a minute account must be naturally desired; but curiosity must be contented with confused, imperfect, and sometimes improbable intelligence.  Pope, finding little advantage from external help, resolved thenceforward to direct himself, and at twelve formed a plan of study, which he completed with little other incitement than the desire of excellence.  His primary and principal purpose was to be a poet, with which his father accidentally concurred by proposing subjects and obliging him to correct his performances by many revisals, after which the old gentleman, when he was satisfied, would say, “These are good rhymes.”  In his perusal of the English poets he soon distinguished the versification of Dryden, which he considered as the model to be studied, and was impressed with such veneration for his instructor, that he persuaded some friends to take him to the coffee-house which Dryden frequented, and pleased himself with having seen him.

Dryden died May 1, 1701, some days before Pope was twelve; so early must he therefore have felt the power of harmony, and the zeal of genius.  Who does not wish that Dryden could have known the value of the homage that was paid him, and foreseen the greatness of his young admirer?

The earliest of Pope’s productions is his “Ode on Solitude,” written before he was twelve, in which there is nothing more than other forward boys have attained, and which is not equal to Cowley’s performance at the same age.  His time was now wholly spent in reading and writing.  As he read the classics he amused himself with translating them, and at fourteen made a version of the first book of the “Thebais,” which, with some revision, he afterwards published.  He must have been at this time, if he had no help, a considerable proficient in the Latin tongue.


Excerpt From: Samuel Johnson. Lives of the English Poets: Prior, Congreve, Blackmore, Pope. [1779] Apple Books.

Friday, July 1, 2022

NAPOLEON A READER

 More books have been written with Napoleon in the title than there have been days since his death in 1821….


…Given the paucity of trustworthy sources, much of Napoleon’s early childhood must remain conjectural, but there is little doubt that he was a precocious and prodigious reader, drawn at an early age to history and biography. Letizia told a government minister that her son ‘had never partaken of the amusements of children his own age, that he carefully avoided them, that he found himself a little room on the third floor of the house in which he stayed by himself and didn’t come down very often, even to eat with his family. Up there, he read constantly, especially history books.’ Napoleon claimed that he first read Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s La Nouvelle Héloïse, an 800-page novel of love and redemption, at the age of nine, and said ‘It turned my head.’ ‘I do not doubt the very powerful action of his early readings on the inclination and character of his youth,’ his brother Joseph later recalled. He described how, at their primary school, when the students were instructed to sit under either the Roman or the Carthaginian flag, Napoleon insisted that they swap places and utterly refused to join the losing Carthaginians.


 (Though he was eighteen months younger than Joseph, Napoleon was always stronger-willed.) Later in life, Napoleon urged his junior officers ‘to read and re-read the campaigns of Alexander the Great, Hannibal, Julius Caesar, Gustavus Adolfus, Prince Eugene and Frederick the Great. This is the only way to become a great captain.’


 Ancient history provided him with an encyclopaedia of military and political tactics and quotations that he would draw on throughout his life. This inspiration was so profound that when posing for paintings he would sometimes put his hand into his waistcoat in imitation of the toga-wearing Romans. Napoleon’s native language was Corsican, an idiomatic dialect not unlike Genoese. He was taught to read and write in Italian at school and was nearly ten before he learned French, which he always spoke with a heavy Corsican accent, with ‘ou’ for ‘eu’ or ‘u’, inviting all manner of teasing at school and in the army. The architect Pierre Fontaine, who decorated and refurbished many of the Napoleonic palaces, thought it ‘incredible in a man of his position’ that he should speak with such a thick accent. Napoleon was not very proficient in French grammar or spelling, though in the era before standardized spelling this mattered little and he never had any difficulty making himself understood. Throughout his life his handwriting, though strong and decisive, was pretty much a scrawl.


Andrew Roberts, Napoleon: A Life. [2014] Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

Thursday, June 23, 2022

HIGH STANDARDS ARE THE CURE

There is nothing more antithetical to achieving equality between individuals of different races than defining standards, merit, and hard work as “racist.”

City Journal

Truth is What Our Schools Need

Seeking "equity," too many schools are simply giving up on learning standardsa and an aspiration for excellence.

 Betsy deVos, June 21, 2022

Excerpt from Hostages No More: The Fight for Education Freedom and the Future of the American Child, published by Center Street.

The killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis in May 2020 set off a racial reckoning in the United States. The issue of race and how it is perceived and experienced in the United States was suddenly everywhere. Much of this national soul-searching has been a long-needed corrective. It has opened many Americans’ eyes to the experiences of their fellow Americans. It has shown us that life for some of our countrymen and women is marked by injustice and inequality. It has taken us back to the dream of Martin Luther King Jr., who called for the promise of the American founding—of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness—to be guaranteed to all Americans.

But this reckoning has also called forth a poisonous ideology that rejects the belief in the fundamental goodness of America held by Dr. King. It is an ideology that writes off America as irredeemably racist—founded on the exploitation of minorities, especially African-Americans, and dedicated to their continued exploitation. This America is divided into oppressors and the oppressed. White people are racist simply because they’re white. Other groups are automatically victims by virtue of the color of their skin, their sexual orientation, or their perceived gender. Far from being rooted in judging people by the “content of their character,” the America portrayed by this ideology is divided and at odds. And it can’t be healed. It can only be torn down and remade.

Critical race theory (CRT) became the catch-all phrase for all the racialized, divisive ideas about race being taught. Parents of all political persuasions and races were alarmed by what they saw. Their children, they believed, were being taught to hate their country and themselves. The education establishment responded to parents’ growing concern with condescension, denial, and technicalities. Defenders of the new teaching, from President Biden to school union bosses to members of the Loudoun County school board, told parents they were seeing things. What they claimed was on their children’s computer screens wasn’t there because, they said, CRT is not being taught in elementary or high schools. It was a “decades old” theory taught only in colleges and law schools.

That was and is a complete evasion. It may be true that CRT is taught in colleges and law schools, but that doesn’t mean the racism that animates it hasn’t found its way into elementary and high school classrooms. It has.

In 2019, an audit of Loudoun County schools by a consulting firm called Equity Collaborative concluded that the district’s public schools were a “hostile learning environment” for minority students and teachers. The county then paid the same firm almost $400,000 to create and implement a “Comprehensive Equity Plan.” Loudoun County High School changed its mascot from the “Raiders”—which was linked to Confederates in the Civil War—to the “Captains.” They produced a video apologizing for segregation. Teachers were required to undergo training for “cultural sensitivity.”

One of the training programs the Equity Collaborative offers teachers is called “Introduction to Critical Race Theory.” It defines CRT as centered on “the permanence of racism” in America. It is embedded in our system and even in the beliefs we hold. To overcome this internalized racism, teachers and students must reject tenets of liberal democracy such as “color-blindness, the neutrality of the law, incremental change, and equal opportunity for all.” These ideas function, the program continues, not to protect the inalienable rights of all, but to “allow whites to feel consciously irresponsible for the hardships people of color face and encounter daily and also maintain whites’ power and strongholds within society.”

In other words, the foundations of liberal democracy only perpetuate racism and injustice. But what were teachers supposed to do with this information? Keep it to themselves? Teach it in a law school class? No. The prompt for the final breakout session of “Introduction to Critical Race Theory” asked teachers to contemplate “How might you use CRT to identify and address systemic oppression in your school, district, or organization?”

Some Loudoun County teachers complained about a chart used in the training sessions that broke down Americans into two groups—one that “experiences privilege” and the other that “experiences oppression.” Christians were listed among the privileged, while non-Christians were deemed oppressed.

None of this stopped Terry McAuliffe, the Democratic candidate for Virginia governor in 2021, from claiming that it was I who had “made up” CRT.

The outrage expressed by parents wasn’t confined to Northern Virginia. School boards across the country were inundated by parents of students in schools infected with the racism of the new education ideology.

In Cupertino, California, third-graders at one school were asked to create an “identity map” describing themselves. They were told to list their race, class, gender, religion, and other traits. Then the teacher told the students they live in a country with a “dominant culture” of “white, middle class, cisgender, educated, able-bodied, Christian, English speaker[s],” which uses its dominance to oppress other people.

In 2019, as part of its effort to promote “equity, inclusion, and diversity,” Seattle Public Schools developed a “Math Ethnic Studies Framework.” The method purports to teach math by introducing divisive and unrelated concepts. For instance, the framework asked students to “explain how math dictates economic oppression” and to “explain how math has been used to exploit natural resources.” Students could also find math useful in “identify[ing] the inherent inequities of the standardized testing system used to oppress and marginalize people and communities of color.”

In Lexington, Massachusetts, fourth-graders were taught to “articulate what gender identity is and why it’s important to use nonbinary language in describing people we don’t know yet.” They learned about “gender identity,” “gender expression,” “sexual orientation,” and “sex assigned at birth” by applying sticky notes to a “Gender Snowperson” drawn in Magic Marker.

These may not technically be examples of “critical race theory.” But in the minds of increasing numbers of parents in the summer of 2021, CRT was just a shorthand for the racism and inappropriate sexual material being taught in their schools without their knowledge or consent. And it wasn’t just happening in public schools.

The Grace Church School in New York is an elite private school that adopted the practice of routinely separating its students into groups based on race, gender, and ethnicity. One day a math teacher at the school was with a “white identifying” group of students when a diversity consultant hired by the school proclaimed that objectivity and individualism were “white supremacy” concepts. The teacher, Paul Rossi, confronted the consultant.

“Human attributes are being reduced to racial traits,” he said. The consultant responded by asking Rossi if he was having “white feelings.”

Some of Rossi’s students shared his condemnation of the racism of the exercise with their peers. When word of it got back to the school administration, Rossi was publicly shamed for his questioning. He was offered to stay at the school only if he agreed to “restorative practices” for the minority students he supposedly harmed. He resigned from the school instead.

Another parent of a child in an expensive New York City private school, the Brearley School, wrote a scathing letter to fellow parents as he withdrew his daughter from the school in disgust. Andrew Gutmann’s open letter to the Brearley community is worth quoting at length because it captures the dismissal of and disregard for the opinions of parents regarding the new educational ideology—even at a $54,000-a-year New York private school.

I object, with as strong a sentiment as possible, that Brearley has begun to teach what to think, instead of how to think. I object that the school is now fostering an environment where our daughters, and our daughters’ teachers, are afraid to speak their minds in class for fear of “consequences.” I object that Brearley is trying to usurp the role of parents in teaching morality, and bullying parents to adopt that false morality at home. I object that Brearley is fostering a divisive community where families of different races, which until recently were part of the same community, are now segregated into two. These are the reasons why we can no longer send our daughter to Brearley.

Defenders of the politicization of curricula claim that these are “cherry-picked” stories that paint a false picture of schools. But these are just a few of literally hundreds of examples that have come to light as parents and teachers feel more comfortable exposing the truth about what’s happening in schools.

And truth is what is desperately needed in our schools today. America’s past is stained by slavery and Jim Crow. Racism lingers in their wake. Any and all American history curricula should deal honestly and forthrightly with these facts. Certainly, Loudoun County, Virginia, has its own troubled racial past.

But the “woke,” CRT-infused ideology in our schools goes far beyond teaching the facts of our history or even acknowledging the ongoing challenges of our present. In the name of “antiracism,” racism is being taught to American children. Fundamental facts of our country and its founding principles are at best being overlooked and at worst being distorted and denied.

Perhaps most damaging to the education of children is the fact that the solution often advocated for achieving “equity”—reducing the gap in academic performance between races—is to lower expectations and standards for everyone, not to raise the achievement of lower performers. Even though schools are awash in new funding thanks to the Covid-19 relief bills, many are simply giving up on learning standards and an aspiration for excellence. Instead they rationalize their surrender with the twisted logic of critical race theory.

Last summer, Kate Brown, the Democratic governor of Oregon, quietly signed a law doing away with a requirement that high schoolers in Oregon demonstrate that they can read, write, and do math before they can graduate. The problem was that the graduation rate of African-American students lagged that of white students in Oregon schools. So the solution, according to Governor Brown, was to make everyone “equal” by eliminating standards. Without any apparent understanding that he was demeaning the groups the governor purported to want to help, the governor’s spokesman said that the elimination of the test will benefit “Oregon’s Black, Latino, Latina, Latinx [sic], Indigenous, Asian, Pacific Islander, Tribal, and students of color.”

There is nothing more antithetical to achieving equality between individuals of different races than defining standards, merit, and hard work as “racist.” Lamentably, this toxic message isn’t just being spread in public schools. In 2020, the Knowledge is Power Program (KIPP) charter school chain announced that it was abolishing its traditional slogan, “Work Hard, Be Nice,” in an effort to tackle systemic racism. Apparently, the phrases “work hard” and “be nice,” in the KIPP leadership’s eyes, “supports the illusion of meritocracy.” By exposing that “illusion,” the once-great KIPP schools signaled to parents of all races that they no longer cared about the achievement and success of their students. But what parents want to send their children to a school that believes rewarding accomplishment is an “illusion?”