E-Pluribus | February 9, 2024
Meritocracy under a microscope; men attend college on Mars, women attend college on Venus; the Pentagon sends DEI underground at its schools.
A round-up of the latest and best musings on the rise of illiberalism in the public discourse:
Editor’s Note: Pluribus will be taking a short break Monday and Tuesday but will be back Wednesday, February 14.
J. Michael Yarros: Meritocracy and Its Discontents
At Quillette, J. Michael Yarros reviews two recent books on the concept of meritocracy. Yarros finds both wanting in some respects. After discussing some of the specifics of each author’s ideas, Yarros explores the interaction of merit and equality, something he feels received too little attention from both authors.
There is one key problem with meritocracy that neither Wooldridge nor Sandel adequately discuss: it is in tension with equality. As Wooldridge’s history demonstrates, meritocratic reformers proclaimed that they wanted equality, but they did not simply level the playing field. Instead, they sought to replace the aristocracy of birth with a natural aristocracy of ability. They did so partly because of the demands created by the Industrial Revolution: modern states needed a useful elite that could do more than just fight in battles and manage landholdings. Hence there is a conflict between the Enlightenment’s commitment to equality and its commitment to utility, efficiency, and freedom.
The issue is complicated by the fact that the term “equality” has many possible meanings. The two most popular competing visions of equality are equality before the law and equality of outcome. Article 1 of the 1789 French Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen states that “Men are born and remain free and equal in rights. Social distinctions may be founded only upon the general good.”
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That second way to think about equality, rooted in British and American thought and tradition, is as equal treatment before the law within a specific polity. The latter part of that definition is important. Liberal theorists have argued that rights can be deduced through the exercise of pure reason. But this tradition holds that rights are inherited, practiced, and passed to future generations by political bodies hewing to particular traditions.
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The Anglo-American tradition also prioritizes freedom from governmental interference in the exercise of certain clearly defined individual rights. In a meritocracy, this means that individuals have the liberty to pursue success without encountering arbitrary barriers. Since individual interests, characters, and abilities differ, such a system recognizes many social outcomes as potentially legitimate.
This implies a belief that people have equal moral worth, but they don’t have equal abilities. When individuals are treated fairly, their differences will result in different outcomes. Hierarchy, in this view, is a natural and healthy aspect of human societies, not just because it produces order but also because the world works better for everyone when the contributions of the skilled are recognized, rewarded, and used to benefit others. Individuals who hold these beliefs are likely to be comfortable with a meritocratic society.
From the inception of the American republic, there has been a tension between these two interpretations of equality. Was the guarantee of equality to be universal (i.e., would Americans try to expand the empire of liberty abroad) and to imply equal outcomes? Or was it just a guarantee of equality before the law, and only for Americans? The French revolutionaries proclaimed that the French Revolution had discovered universal political principles. In the US, each international conflict ignites a debate between those who believe that America’s political principles should apply globally, and those who simply want them to apply at home.
Read it all here.
Samuel J. Abrams: The Dangerous Gender Gap on Collegiate Campuses Today
The fact that men and women are different doesn’t mean they must disagree. But Samuel Abrams, writing for Real Clear Education, says that is too often the case when it comes to beliefs about free expressions on college campuses. Abrams suggests the gains made by women over the years will be tainted if colleges do not encourage all students to embrace the free exchange of ideas that higher education should be known for.
Politically, men and women are growing farther apart and data is regularly confirming this story. Gen Z men have become more conservative over time, while Gen Z women have become more liberal. Young women are now more likely to vote, care about political issues, and participate in social movements and protests compared to young men.
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The Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression’s (FIRE) 2024 free expression data which captures over fifty-five thousand voices from 254 colleges and universities powerfully illustrates these critically important gender-based differences that are now pronounced on our campuses today. Ideological differences, for instance, are noteworthy. Almost 55 percent of female students identify as liberal, while only 13 percent identify as moderate and 15 percent identify as conservative. Almost 40 percent of men, however, identify as liberal, 16 percent identify as moderate, and 25 percent identify as conservative.
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Throughout colleges and universities, male and female students were asked which speakers should be allowed to speak on campus. About 43 percent of male students and 67 percent of female students say that a speaker claiming that “abortion should be completely illegal” should not be allowed to speak on campus. When asked if a speaker who claims that “Black Lives Matter is a hate group” should speak on campus, 57 percent of male students and 81 percent of female students say that speaker should not be allowed to speak on campus.
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The sheer number of students open to silencing others is far too high across American institutions of higher education. And we now see a clear gender gap in speech which is particularly pronounced at elite schools. Women continue to thrive on campus, and that must be celebrated. However, women are also more likely to engage in toxic cancel culture and to support the silencing of others’ speech. Professors and administrators must confront this illiberalism. Allowing students, and women in particular, to limit civil dialogue on campus poses a real danger to society. We owe our students and society so much more.
Read the whole thing.
Adam Andrzejewski: Pentagon Secretly Institutionalized DEI In Its K-12 Public Schools
The Defense Department made a commitment to reform its diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) efforts at schools for children of military members. Adam Andrzejewski of Open The Books reports that the opposite appears to be happening. By stonewalling Freedom of Information requests and employing other delay tactics, Andrzejewski says the Pentagon is trying to advance earlier DEI goals away from the eyes of Congress and watchdog groups.
In a Congressional hearing last spring, Gil Cisneros, then-Under Secretary for Military Readiness, announced that the Pentagon was closing its newly formed Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion within its K-12 school system and reassigning its controversial DEI chief after a ten-month internal investigation.
The Pentagon’s climb-down was a big win for OpenTheBooks.com. We had worked alongside whistleblowers, journalists, other investigative non-profits, and ranking members of Congress to expose alleged conflicts of interest, violations of military ethics policies, and radical ideologies being forced on the kids of servicemen and servicewomen.
Today, we are announcing Cisneros was actually faking. The radical curriculum was not dismantled. Instead, it was stealthily embedded into the lesson plans and classrooms throughout the entire school system.
The Pentagon, under Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, is preventing details of their DEI policies from coming to light by abusing the Freedom of Information Act. They bamboozled the public with window dressing in Congressional hearings while forcing woke extremism on the roughly 70,000 children of our military service members.
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The Pentagon is assiduously attempting to hide its biased left-wing extremist curriculum from public view. It is deleting public access to links, driving DEI infrastructure underground, and liberally redacting the most basic Freedom of Information Act requests.
For example, OpenTheBooks.com filed a FOIA request for the agency payroll just as we have at nearly 13,000 public schools across America. Stunningly, the DoDEA refused to disclose the individual salaries of its staff, unlike public schools nationwide and almost every other federal agency. No names, job titles, or compensation details on the $1.4 billion payroll.
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DoDEA made headlines in recent years for practices like hiding “gender transitions” from parents, forcing children into “difficult conversations” about race, class, gender, and sexuality, and the antics of a self-described “woke” Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion chief who allegedly hawked her own books to her colleagues.
DoDEA’s focus on DEI, Thomas Brady said, is compelled by President Biden’s 2021 Executive Order 14035, which among other items charges all agencies with “assessing the current state of diversity, equity, inclusion and accessibility within their workforces.”
But even before EO 14035, Brady strived to inculcate DEI ideology at the agency, announcing on Juneteenth 2020 that DEI must be “embedded in everything we do.”
Read it all.
Around Twitter (X)
The Foundation Against Intolerance & Racism (FAIR) has an alternate outlook on Black Lives Matter at School Action Week (click for video)":
And finally, some breaking news out of Tucker Carlson’s interview with Vladimir Putin: Hitler had no choice.