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E-Pluribus | June 29, 2022
Freedom of (educational) choice, wokeness claims another victim, and a flashback on the dangers of demonizing voters.
A round-up of the latest and best writing and musings on the rise of illiberalism in the public discourse:
Robert Tracinski: The Only Liberal Answer on Schools Is Choice
The concept of “choice” has deeply divided the nation for decades in regard to abortion, but, generally speaking, liberals and conservatives part ways on choice in education as well, albeit in the opposite direction. Writing for Discourse Magazine, Robert Tracinski writes that if liberals wish to truly be liberal, school choice is really the only way to go.
School choice is not just about choosing the ideological content of your kids’ education, but perhaps more importantly, it’s about the teaching methods and standards. Most of us, I would guess, care less about the exact ideological flavor of our kids’ school than about whether they’re actually learning the three R’s. I’ve sent both of my kids to a Montessori school where most of the faculty and most of the other parents are well to my left politically—but, particularly at the younger ages, that matters a whole lot less than the advantages of the Montessori method.
Instead, over the past century and a half, we have conducted a great national experiment in total uniformity, where every big fad—“progressive” education, the rejection of phonics, bogus self-esteem boosting, the current obsession with standardized testing—gets propagated either statewide or nationally until it fails. Then after it fails, it remains for decades thanks to bureaucratic inertia.
[ . . . ]
School choice would allow more diversity and experimentation with educational methods and goals. Its opponents claim to be concerned that some people might choose inadequate schools. But all too often, inadequate schools are what we’ve already got—but usually with no way for students to escape them, particularly in big cities with poorly run school systems.
Read it all here.
Jay Nordlinger: The Nightmare of Wokeness
Last Friday’s Around Twitter noted David Mastio’s experience with Gannett and USA Today. This week, Jay Nordlinger talked to Mastio on his National Review podcast and further explored how Mastio was treated and what it bodes for the future of journalism.
Sometime last year, a group of activists at USA Today decided that “pregnant women” would no longer do — it had to be “pregnant people.” (I am giving Dave’s account.) This struck Dave as absurd. And he is an opinion writer, so he opined. He tweeted something like, “The people who are pregnant are also called ‘women.’” Hell broke loose among the activists — on the diversity committee, specifically. The activists demanded that Dave be fired.
What is this “diversity committee”? It’s a bunch of recent college graduates, says Dave, who decide what may and may not be said. I myself think of a word from the past (Cold War relic that I am): commissariat.
Dave was not fired, as the activists demanded. He was demoted. Also, the paper wanted to cut his pay by $30,000. But the prospect of a lawsuit stayed their hand. Dave bided his time at the paper for as long as he had to — he has a family to support. Then he landed at Straight Arrow News.
In our podcast, I ask him whether he had any support at the paper — including “private support.” This is a term favored by Thomas Sowell. Private support is when people scurry up to you and whisper that they support you. But they will not make this support public. Sowell put it to me in a memorable way. “People will say, ‘I’m right behind you, Tom. Way behind you.’” Anyway, Dave Mastio did not really enjoy any support at the paper, private or public. There used to be centrists and conservatives at USA Today, he says. But they have taken buyouts over the years.
Another question for him: Are there liberals at the paper who are scared of, or opposed to, the wokies, or lefties, or militants? There used to be, says Dave. But no more.
Read it all.
ICYMI: Frank Bruni: The Democrats Screwed Up
In the wake of Donald Trump’s election, many post mortems were written on what went wrong. New York Times columnist Frank Bruni (who in 2015 wrote a piece entitled “Anyone But Ted Cruz”) admitted that Democrats and liberals had made a huge error by being “illiberal" in the way they approached the 2016 election and Donald Trump. Six years later, the political atmosphere has become more tribal and polarized, and everyone would do well to consider the potential impact of writing off large segments of the population.
Despite all the discussion of demographic forces that doomed the G.O.P., it will soon control the presidency as well as both chambers of Congress and two of every three governor’s offices. And that’s not just a function of James Comey, Julian Assange and misogyny. Democrats who believe so are dangerously mistaken.
Other factors conspired in the party’s debacle. One in particular haunts me. From the presidential race on down, Democrats adopted a strategy of inclusiveness that excluded a hefty share of Americans and consigned many to a “basket of deplorables” who aren’t all deplorable. Some are hurt. Some are confused.
Liberals miss this by being illiberal. They shame not just the racists and sexists who deserve it but all who disagree. A 64-year-old Southern woman not onboard with marriage equality finds herself characterized as a hateful boob. Never mind that Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton weren’t themselves onboard just five short years ago.
Political correctness has morphed into a moral purity that may feel exhilarating but isn’t remotely tactical. It’s a handmaiden to smugness and sanctimony, undermining its own goals.
I worry about my and my colleagues’ culpability along these lines. I plan to use greater care in how I talk to and about Americans more culturally conservative than I am. That’s not a surrender of principle or passion. It’s a grown-up acknowledgment that we’re a messy, imperfect species.
Donald Trump’s victory and some of the, yes, deplorable chants that accompanied it do not mean that a majority of Americans are irredeemable bigots (though too many indeed are). Plenty of Trump voters chose him, reluctantly, to be an agent of disruption, which they craved keenly enough to overlook the rest of him.
Read the whole thing.
Via the Foundation for Individual Rights & Expression, a new law in Louisiana to protect free speech rights of public college students (excerpts from the thread below):
After a series of concerning actions, George Washington University makes the right call:
And finally, Thomas Chatterton Williams promotes the concept of being “anti-race”: