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Closing minds

The quality of reading out there on the web today is very high indeed. Take a look at Jonathan Haidt's post about his experiences when he spoke at a high school in the the Pacific North West.

But then the discussion began, and it was the most unremittingly hostile questioning I’ve ever had. I don’t mind when people ask hard or critical questions, but I was surprised that I had misread the audience so thoroughly. My talk had little to do with gender, but the second question was “So you think rape is OK?” Like most of the questions, it was backed up by a sea of finger snaps — the sort you can hear in the infamous Yale video, where a student screams at Prof. Christakis to “be quiet” and tells him that he is “disgusting.”

You can't help but think that children would be better off outside the American education system. I'd be interested to know how far down this rather scary path we in the UK are.

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Reader Comments (35)

Even Germaine Greer gets quarantined from the fragile minds of UK students. It was at the request of a Women's Officer according to the Guardian.

This brings to mind a curious incident from my University days, way back in the early '90s.
In those days women had just become the majority of students at the University of Sheffield. And we already had a Sabbatical Officer for Women from the Student Union. In fact the only Sabbatical Officer who wasn't a woman represented the International Students (but that's another story).

So a referendum was raised to also have a Men's Officer in order to represent their special interests (beer, football, suicide - that sort of thing). This was all in accordance with the Student Union constitution.

The referendum passed with a large majority. Clearly many of the female voting students agreed with this idea.
And yet the University of Sheffield didn't get a Men's Officer. Because the outcome of the referendum was vetoed.
By the Women's Officer.

Nov 24, 2015 at 4:10 PM | Registered CommenterM Courtney

I'd like to comment but fear it may cause offence.

Nov 24, 2015 at 4:22 PM | Unregistered CommenterCheshireRed


Nov 24, 2015 at 4:39 PM | Unregistered Commenternot banned yet

Any comment I might make on this subject would probably cause offence.

M Courtney
I have passed your comment on to my daughter who was at Sheffield shortly before you were. I await her reply with interest but I doubt that it will be printable!

Nov 24, 2015 at 4:49 PM | Registered CommenterMike Jackson

"Paging Dr. Lewandowsky, paging Dr. Lewandowsky...Code Green! CODE Green!

"When most of the evolved psychological mechanisms of social perception and understanding are unavailable... one is left with virtually no logical alternative but to conclude that people who think differently must be, can only be, socially, psychologically, or cognitively dysfunctional. And when one knows that people who think differently are sick in this way it’s only natural for one to feel not merely rationally justified but also morally obligated to prevent them and their ideas from participating in social discourse."

The Independent Whig comment @

Nov 24, 2015 at 4:54 PM | Unregistered Commenterbetapug

CheshireRed: offence cannot be given, it can only be taken; it is a very selfish concept.

Nov 24, 2015 at 5:04 PM | Registered CommenterRadical Rodent

Two things. In my experience talking to high school pupils in 1990s Italy, the vocal angry minority only seems to be holding the reins of all discourse. The others go along because they don't want trouble.

And therefore this victimhood thing can only be contrasted by people who don't mind being shouted at. The "student [who] clarified that everyone gets mad at him when he speaks up, but he does it anyway".

Rather than complain about the darkness we need nurture the lights Simple.

Nov 24, 2015 at 5:11 PM | Registered Commenteromnologos

Young Canadian university minds are so fragile even the slightest flexing may cause them to break. Perhaps it's the cold.

Apologists for the "cultural appropriation" of yoga could not purge themselves of guilt by renaming it "mindful stretching" as an obligatory translation into Canada's other Official Language could not be found.

Nov 24, 2015 at 5:11 PM | Unregistered Commenterbetapug

I am sure the teachers were very proud of their Progressive teaching methods, to the exclusion of any alternative view.

Is their something that may have been told to the young ladies about their guest speaker?

Nov 24, 2015 at 5:37 PM | Unregistered Commentergolf charlie

It was the concerted finger-snapping that made my blood run cold. A roomful of young ladies setting out to be sort of lefty Stepford wives.

Nov 24, 2015 at 6:01 PM | Registered CommenterMike Jackson

The establishment has declared war on its greatest enemy. Male aggression.

Men are also a lot less compliant and collective , women more likely to identify with their organisation (more likely to say 'we').

Nov 24, 2015 at 6:08 PM | Unregistered Commenteresmiff

Thanks for the post, Your Grace - very interesting.

This fits into a bigger picture. Climate-related blogs are often populated by two extremes. One side will be happy to state their own views and make their own deductions. The other will rely on a consensus position. One has a tendency to be logic-based while the other prefers to be knowledge-based. One side will rail against Big Oil but will accept no responsibility for buying any oil themselves. It is always "someone else" who needs to "do something".

Some people are happy to act alone and take responsibility for any problems they cause, others need to be a part of something bigger so that the committee can arrive at a solution and responsibility for any problems can be shared.

You can see how people persons would be happier in the committee scenario and from the linked article we can see how such groups can exclude opposing views.

Then you can join this to feelings about people like the Koch brothers or Republicans and Democrats or the people who need an adult (or government) to adjudicate etc etc.

The Lewandowskys of this world could be having a field day with this if only they could be objective.

Nov 24, 2015 at 6:36 PM | Unregistered Commentergraphicconception

Was the finger snapping choreographed in advance? All teachers must love teaching students who do what they are instructed, on command.

Reminds me of the von Trapp children at the beginning of The Sound of Music, before they learn how to enjoy life.

Nov 24, 2015 at 6:47 PM | Unregistered Commentergolf charlie

not banned yet, Jess Phillips should not to be criticised for her feminist views. There is injustice in the treatment of women.
But she is to be criticised for treating justice as a zero-sum game. It's the same mistake that Malthusians make. That there is only so much stuff so if women are to get treated better men must be treated worse.

It's ridiculous, of course. People need to respect each other for who they are.

Emma Watson, alumnus of Brown University and an exclusive Scottish school I hear, has the right idea with her UN speech and He For She campaign. That tries to raise up instead of kick out.

That's the future. Let's not be too pessimistic.

Nov 24, 2015 at 7:56 PM | Registered CommenterM Courtney

M Courtney
And when do we get to the point where I am "allowed" to treat a woman as my equal? The injustice I perceive in the treatment of women is that they demand, and get, preferential treatment.
I am not talking about cultures where women are treated as inferiors; that is a different matter entirely and none of my business provided it doesn't impinge on my culture (and with respect, no-one on the left in the UK has any right to complain about cultures where women are treated as inferiors given who it is that kept telling us for years how wonderful multi-culturalism is!)
Your example from as long ago as 20 years where one woman can override the majority opinion of a referendum speaks volumes. If I attempt to speak to a woman on an equal basis I am likely to be accused of not treating her as different from me with special needs unique to her as a woman. If I make an attempt to consider her as a woman and therefore someone who may think and feel differently from me I am likely to be accused of patronising her.
Either way women are encouraged to see themselves as victims. And those that refuse to conform to the mould are vilified, Germaine Greer being only the most recent high-profile example.
Fortunately real women refuse to conform. Unfortunately as the behaviour of staff and student activists at universities across the UK and the US (though not so far outside the Anglosphere as far as I can tell) all too amply demonstrates it is going to take exceptionally strong-willed real women to break that conformity with the result that over the next 20 years, if I read the runes correctly, what used to be know as the 'war of the sexes' is likely to heat up to no-one's benefit.

Nov 24, 2015 at 8:28 PM | Registered CommenterMike Jackson

His Grace, Bishop Hill, said I'd be interested to know how far down this rather scary path we in the UK are.

The answer is quite far down if the experience of George Lawler is anything to go by. He is a student at Warwick University who has been victimised by feminists and PC male eunuchs since saying that an invitation to attend a workshop on sexual consent was insulting since it implied that all men were potential rapists.

'This is not what a rapist looks like': Student causes outrage on Twitter after arguing sex consent workshops don't apply to him

The problem of the threat to free speech from self-styled "liberals" is widespread in the western world. Mark Steyn, the Canadian commentator, had an excellent article on the subject with numerous examples in the Spectator last year.

The slow death of free speech
"How the Left, here and abroad, is trying to shut down debate — from Islam and Israel to global warming and gay marriage."

Nov 24, 2015 at 8:49 PM | Unregistered CommenterRoy

M Courtney - FWIW my view of Jess Phillips is based on her behaviour and comments as evidenced in this clip from around 1m30s to its close:

Nov 24, 2015 at 9:13 PM | Unregistered Commenternot banned yet

Quite a long way judging my the snottogram my son received from his children's school when the eldest (9) was overheard repeating an offcolour remark he'd made about 'women' with willies during the recent 'transgender week.
I say it's time for us all to start being offensive, not in a crude or crass way and not by making personal attacks on people, but to asset our freedom of thought against this fascism. Whether it is same sex marriage, the desirability of mass immigration or climate change, we all have a right to express our thoughts

Nov 24, 2015 at 9:22 PM | Unregistered CommenterArthur Foxake

Mike Jackson, "Fortunately real women refuse to conform."
Yes. As I say, let's not be too pessimistic.
The people who take offence at not being given special privileges would always adopt that attitude over something. If gender is not available then they would find something else.

There is a real problem in Universities. I suspect it's due to the decline in value of Academia caused by the internet revolution. It means that a bunker mentality forms - defending the mindset of the establishment. The opposite of what a University should be. And that creates a vicious circle.

It's easy to blame feminism or liberalism for narrow-mindedness. Especially if you're not a feminist or a liberal. But the causes are deeper, in my opinion. (OK, I am not impartial either).

not banned yet, yes I've seen that video. It shows her in a poor light. But in her interviews it's clear that she doesn't hate men or think that their suffering is irrelevant. She just assumes that women's issues cannot be remediated if we also care about something else (men).
It's the zero-sum game again.

Nov 24, 2015 at 9:35 PM | Registered CommenterM Courtney

Nobody does this better than Australia. Here's its answer to higher education:

Nov 24, 2015 at 10:21 PM | Unregistered CommenterCat

M Courtney - I think the video shows her as she is - set piece interviews with friendly journalists (actually more of a monologue in that example) only present what is "on message". That was the reason I compared the two items.

Have you read the article? IMO she explicitly refutes your claim that she "assumes a zero sum game".

Nov 24, 2015 at 10:34 PM | Unregistered Commenternot banned yet


"Ederer reports not long ago retired geologist and data computation expert Professor Dr. Friedrich Karl Ewert began looking at the data behind the global warming claims, and especially the datasets of NASA’s Goddard Institute of Space Studies (GISS).

Ewert painstakingly examined and tabulated the reams of archived data from 1153 stations that go back to 1881 – which NASA has publicly available – data that the UN IPCC uses to base its conclusion that man is heating the Earth’s atmosphere through the burning of fossil fuels. According to Ederer, what Professor Ewert found is “unbelievable”:

From the publicly available data, Ewert made an unbelievable discovery: Between the years 2010 and 2012 the data measured since 1881 were altered so that they showed a significant warming, especially after 1950. […] A comparison of the data from 2010 with the data of 2012 shows that NASA-GISS had altered its own datasets so that especially after WWII a clear warming appears – although it never existed.”

Ederer writes that Ewert particularly found alterations at stations in the Arctic. Professor Ewert randomly selected 120 stations from all over the world and compared the 2010 archived data to the 2012 data and found that they had been tampered to produce warming.

The old data showed regular cycles of warming and cooling over the period, even as atmospheric CO2 concentration rose from 0.03% to 0.04%. According to the original NASA datasets, Ederer writes, the mean global temperature cooled from 13.8°C in 1881 to 12.9°C in 1895. Then it rose to 14.3°C by 1905 and fell back under 12.9°C by 1920, rose to 13.9°C by 1930, fell to 13° by 1975 before rising to 14°C by 2000. By 2010 the temperature fell back to 13.2°C.

But then came the “massive” altering of data, which also altered the entire overall trend for the period. According to journalist Ederer, Ewert uncovered 10 different methods NASA used to alter the data. The 6 most often used methods were:

• Reducing the annual mean in the early phase.
• Reducing the high values in the first warming phase.
• Increasing individual values during the second warming phase.
• Suppression of the second cooling phase starting in 1995.
• Shortening the early decades of the datasets.
• With the long-term datasets, even the first century was shortened.

The methods were employed for stations such as Darwin, Australia and Palma de Mallorca, for example, where cooling trends were suddenly transformed into warming.

Ewert (pictured) then discovered that NASA having altered the datasets once in March 2012 was not enough. EWERT Alterations were made again in August 2012, and yet again in December 2012. For Palma de Majorca: “Now because of the new datasets it has gotten even warmer. Now they show a warming of +0.01202°C per year.”

Using earlier NASA data, globe is in fact cooling"

Nov 24, 2015 at 10:56 PM | Unregistered CommenterLukesAreWrongToo

M courtney:

So a referendum was raised to also have a Men's Officer in order to represent their special interests (beer, football, suicide - that sort of thing). This was all in accordance with the Student Union constitution.

Men's Officer in order to represent their special interests (beer, football, suicide - that sort of thing).

"suicide" - oh dear me, that was rather crass - even for one such as yourself - Mademoiselle.


On other matters.

We need to get back to a little reality, er yep like trying to teach kids to be er yer know, just a tad more like human beings.

Schools, need to teach collective moral values, integrity and about personal ACCOUNTABILITY and individual responsibility. These days, most kids entering the campuses are wound up space cadets, taught only about how to do narcissism and that the evil nasty capitalist world owes them to what they are entitled too - ie an easy living [public sector job], paid by the peasants and to telling everyone else: what to do.

Universities are full of children, acting out some fantasy '#who can be top Saint....... to by martyred' where everybody wants to be the dying swan but to win you have to prove to your fellows that you are the biggest victim and then proceed to kill 'em all.

Whatever happened to listening, what is the point of a university?

But also - that, taking the piss and being on either end of it - was a right of passage.

Finally what happens when the rock meets a very hard place?

It is a source of endless amusement when, edicts set in stone have to hastily 're codified'....... Example, the feminazis campuses women's officers office has to defend the mad mullahs students soc' insisting that, "of course it's OK" - with their latest invited guest is a nut job Wahhabist misogynist and gay hating, Jew baiting didact and will only be talking to men with women upstairs behind a screen.
Heart of stone and heads somewhere else, because they [University womens officers] cannot see the paradox of screwing the rules to allowing the above, while banning the likes of Greer, Bindel and................... Farage for that matter.

Universities, who needs them?

Nov 25, 2015 at 1:43 AM | Unregistered CommenterAthelstan.

Oh for the good old days when women were women and men were funny:
Ronnie Corbett is still going at 84 God bless him.

Nov 25, 2015 at 3:46 AM | Unregistered CommenterChris Hanley

@Roy mentioned George Lawlor : Last time the BBC reported him they said "But now he's decided to go on the course anyway"..There is a new follow up article in Femail

I believe the fault lies with our education system.
School has become a replacement parent, yet in this most precious task it has completely failed.
It hasn’t properly taught children the respect needed for a healthy society and that exactly is the problem.
We need a long-term, consistent and fundamental theme throughout education that reinforces decency and empathy for other people
..Though there were a few very admirable teachers and pupils, the atmosphere was generally unpleasant and thuggish...

Nov 25, 2015 at 8:42 AM | Registered Commenterstewgreen

"You can't help but think that children would be better off outside the American education system"


A well-known American thinker once said "If a foreign power had imposed this education system on America, we would regard it as an act of war".

But that was a while ago, it seems very much as if things have got much worse since then.

Nov 25, 2015 at 9:22 AM | Unregistered CommenterAndrew Duffin

There are some actual student views in the comments
One sided with him but said Haigh seemd to be saying some sexist stuff* in his talk, and therefore got on the wrong side, with many in the audience who then over-reacted, hence aggressive questioning, further undermined by his answering style of ignoring long questions.
*Haidt saying he was annoyed at people pushing for more women in Sci-Tech jobs.."his insensitivity "

Another agreed students questions "were malicious"

Ah the critical thing in this post is that " that not a single questioner was male. I began to search the sea of hands asking to be called on and I did find one boy, who asked a question that indicated that he too was critical of my talk."

"I got a half-standing ovation: almost all of the boys.... Not a single girl came up to me afterward."

next talk he asked " do you feel that you are walking on eggshells and you must heavily censor yourself? " 80% boys said yes
Kids "they go off to college and learn new ways to gain status by expressing collective anger at those who disagree." they bully others, but.."Their high schools have thoroughly socialized them into what sociologists call victimhood culture,"

Background: Haidt is writing on a blog called Heterodox Academy, which came out in September featuring Judith Curry, Duarte and other familiar names setting out to remedy that the left totally dominates education.
\\ Hetrodox Academy, a web site dedicated to giving the whiners a voice in social psychology// Yes, Rabett really said that

BTW : The BBC were wrong to say Lawlor changed his mind..he didn't go on the course

Nov 25, 2015 at 9:56 AM | Registered Commenterstewgreen

The patriarchal family, rape culture, multiculturalism. , political correctness, speech codes, diversity, anti-capitalism; all are the outworkings of Critical Theory of the Frankfurt School. They took their brand of Cultural Marxism to America in the 1930's and have stealthily spread these pernicious ideas through the academic world and influence most of society today.

Environmentalism fits perfectly with Critical Theory /Cultural Marxism.

Nov 25, 2015 at 10:17 AM | Unregistered CommenterNick

M Courtney
I try to avoid pessimism wherever possible but the modern world is not conducive. To give three examples currently on the kitchen table in front of me!
This morning's post brought a letter explaining in great detail why Gaz de France (GDF Suez) is changing its name to 'Engie'. It is wall-to-wall management/PR drivel about getting closer to the customer, etc. etc.
In the same post was a letter from RBS explaining making excuses as to why it is hiking its interest rate on unpaid credit card balances by 33% from an already usurious 13.12% to 17.43%.
In the first case I would love to write and say that I have no intention of paying my share of the extortionate amount they no doubt paid somebody to come up with their stupid new name and I intend to get my gas and electricity from EDF in future — but what's the point? And in the second case there is the temptation to tell RBS where to insert their credit card except that they probably wouldn't notice.
Correction: in the latter case there would probably be a European Arrest Warrant out for me for upsetting one of their shrinking violet worker bees.
To complete the Daily Rant:
We are ruled by the unelected small-minded, agenda-driven obsessives* and we don't even know what the rules are.
Except that they are loaded against the little people. In her article about the Frances Barber affair in the DT Allison Pearson makes the point that if a white taxi driver had made a similar remark to a Muslim woman it would have been a hate crime. But apparently if a Muslim taxi driver says it to a white woman then it is not a hate crime.

* For further evidence see the Breitbart article reproduced above or Donna's article here.

I'm off to take my meds. I'll be all right in a minute. ☺

Nov 25, 2015 at 10:34 AM | Registered CommenterMike Jackson

My views are clearly more positive than many here. I see that women’s rights empower many intelligent people to be politically engaged and active. And don’t necessarily constrain men.
There are many things in society that are unbalanced due to the need not to cause offence – the taxi driver who insulted a woman clearly needs to learn that the rules apply to him too. And the rules should do.

But I want to keep focus on education. There is a problem there and I think I know why. Ponder this…

A) Most University Arts Courses were created or re-created in the 1950s to 1960s.
B) These courses taught how to handle complex concepts systematically and with a broad depth of supporting knowledge on their subject matter (and dialectical materialism).
C) The method used to teach was the essay which required wide reading, refinement of ideas and repeated re-writes (at least two) to hone the understanding.
D) In the 1990s word processors made re-writes easier. Instead of re-evaluating concepts and arguments on a re-write the ideas could be ‘cut and pasted’. Concepts and arguments became one-time Lego bricks. Thus handling complex information was taught less effectively.
E) In the 2000s the need for reading widely was reduced by Googling the subject and following the links form the Wikipedia page. The broad depth of knowledge was lost to the courses.
F) In the 2010s eBooks meant that keyword searches could automate finding the relevant passages and so a balanced reading was avoided.
G) The essays are pertinent and well-presented. They are better than the essays of 50 years ago. But the learning that created them is far worse. And nobody ever reads the; the essays exist for the writing only.
H) Thus Arts Courses now teach nothing of value. And employers know that their outside activities are the skills the students are selling. Leaving University Arts tutors as redundant. But required to provide funding for the expensive courses. Arts Professors are like the Corinthian Columns on the University Library – pretty but purely ornamental.
I) With no intellectual heirs or wider influence outside their institution, the Arts establishments within Universities need to be defensive. They only have their own fields in which to excel and in which to gain status and funding.
J) That means closing down debate and holding the barbarians out.

Remember the current Arts establishment graduated 25 years ago using Word processors.

Nov 25, 2015 at 11:09 AM | Registered CommenterM Courtney


Thanks for the Frances Barber link. Allison Pearson writes well, and her Yeats quotation, “The best lack all conviction, while the worst / Are full of passionate intensity” was very apposite - it could have been written for CAGW, too!

Still wondering what 'Sharia Fashion Week' looks like, though...

To return to the OP, perhaps we should introduce Dr Haidt to Sir Tim Hunt - I'm sure they'd have plenty to talk about!

Nov 25, 2015 at 5:04 PM | Registered Commenterjamesp

It's interesting - and worrying - that the only people who are concerned about this kind of thing seem to be right-wing in their views. It's as if we can no longer see things in any but tribal terms.

On the other hand... What evidence do we have that university students represent an intellectual elite these days? In order to afford to go there in the first place, one must conform to a fairly rigid sort of profile. Middle-class, career-oriented, safety-first social chameleons only need apply!

Nov 25, 2015 at 7:55 PM | Unregistered CommenterUncle Gus

Uncle Gus

Roughly 50% of people go to university these days. That wouldn't be the brightest 50% by any means.

"2011- University entry levels reach 49%

A record high level of 49% of young people in England are likely to enter higher education, according to the latest official estimates.

Nov 25, 2015 at 8:02 PM | Unregistered Commenteresmiff

@M Courtney, Nov 25, 2015 at 11:09 AM

But I want to keep focus on education. There is a problem there and I think I know why. Ponder this…

Good post and I agree with your theory. In the mid '80s on a BSc and again in 91/92 on an MBA to write an essay and pass, gathering knowledge, citations etc was a hugely time consuming task which involved reading books, journals and papers, reading mico-fiche/film of archived newspapers and more. The research was not limited to the campus library, we were expected to use libraries on other campuses; join and use the (UK Nation) National [deposit] Library and the city's central reference library.

Doing this resulted in a much wider perspective of subjects and often exposure to relaled and un-related subjects that further increased one's depth and breadth of knowledge.

Sadly these days (since Major/Blair) it knowledge has been decreasingly valued replaced by sound-bites, impenetrable "buzz word" and "use long words" language, entertainment and a me-me-me culture. From politics through the MSM media to marketing and PR the same dumbed down culture has prevailed.

Regarding women: any job/skill/profession where there are more men employed than women is seen as a problem that must be fixed - except for nasty jobs like binmen, sewage workers, abattoirs... However, female dominated jobs such as teaching - especially nursery and primary - is not a problem. The sheer hypocrisy is staggering.

@LukesAreWrongToo, Nov 24, 2015 at 10:56 PM
Thanks for posting the link to Professor Dr. Friedrich Karl Ewert's research. I had already seen it and expected a thread here for comments/analysis of his paper.

Nov 25, 2015 at 8:14 PM | Unregistered CommenterPcar

Katie Hopkins was the victim of a stunt by students on the very same date this article was posted, where they all stood up and turned their backs for more than 1 minute, as soon as she stood up to speak. The moderator then asked them to leave and they left en-masse.
Yes they knew she was on the panel, so they all went along and before she spoke they staged their stunt.

- She descibes their attitude In her article about it

A terrifying number conform to one way of thinking. Not only do they demand that you comply with their view, but seek to deride and delegitimise anyone with an alternative opinion

(they) Don't debate the issue - label it and shut it down. Those preaching tolerance suddenly became the most intolerant of them all.

Sadly I fear our young society is a lot less free than we might hope.

In a tweet she sent beforehand she asked that students "Don't Label - Debate!"
Some of the comments
Everybody claims to be pro-free speech, right up until they hear something they don't like.
This one got 1,200 dislikes but actually 5316 likes.
The young today are indoctrinated with PC and left wing ideology, and if you say something that doesn't fall in line with their sheep like mentality, they spit their dummies out. Sad but true!

Dec 6, 2015 at 4:43 AM | Registered Commenterstewgreen

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