Identity Politics Race Reading and Thinking

“Britain’s strictest headmistress’ demonstrates power of traditional principles and high expectations in one state school


1) Daniel Hannan, “Britain’s strictest headmistress’ is transforming lives by defying the educational blob; With her traditional principles and high expectations, Katharine Birbalsingh is helping to lift kids out of poverty, The Telegraph, May 21, 2022 (5:00pm);

2) Sally Weale, “UK’s ‘strictest headmistress’ fears schools will stop teaching Shakespeare; Katharine Birbalsingh says move to decolonise English curriculum could mean Shakespeare replaced with black and female authors,” The Telegraph, May 22, 2022 (19.24 BST).

Hannan calls attention to a documentary on ITV on Sunday night (May 22), “Britain’s Strictest Headmistress”, which tells the story of Katharine Birbalsingh.

Birbalsingh did not start out as a traditionalist. At Oxford, she joined the Socialist Workers Party.

When she began her teaching career, she went in with all the usual assumptions: schools were underfunded, the biggest obstacle facing non-white kids was structural racism. But she found that her classroom experiences could not sustain those pre-conceptions. The real problem, she came to realise, lay in the attitude of the people who oversaw our schools.

Instead of imparting knowledge, teachers were overseeing child-led discussions. Instead of promoting confidence, they were encouraging victimhood. Instead of upholding the canon, they were seeking out obscure texts on grounds of identity politics. Instead of expecting high standards, they were indulging pupils from under-privileged backgrounds, and thus unintentionally condemning them.

Birbalsingh dreamed of a different kind of school, which she founded in 2014. In 2019, the school’s students had some of the highest scores in the country on national tests.

What is Michaela’s secret? A set of principles that could be made to work in any school: gratitude must be taught; phones banned; competition encouraged; learning teacher-led; national cohesion promoted; high standards expected; adult authority upheld.

The students are from ethnic and national minorities. But they are given the benefits of discipline, high expectations, and exposure to the classics. The results impressed Daniel Hannan, who cites a few examples:

As they walk into lunch, the kids belt out verses that they have memorised – Kipling’s If, Henley’s Invictus, passages from Shakespeare. This is the only time they make a noise inside; there is usually no talking in the corridors – which means no misbehaviour and no bullying.

Over lunch, they are given a topic to talk about. Afterwards, they express their appreciation for someone – a teacher for helping them, another student for making them feel welcome, their mother for always having their uniform ready.

Gratitude is a happier emotion than grievance, and perhaps the most striking feature of Michaela is how cheerful its children are….

Hannan and the documentary make a strong case for using Birbalsingh’s and Michaela’s approach to educating students, in any school.

This may be one way to form and preserve eighteenth century minds.

The Spirit of Voltaire

China Data collection and surveillance companies Privacy Propaganda Social media Surveillance state

The dangers of Chinese-owned TikTok, whose algorithms favor Chinese propaganda views on Russian war against Ukraine; Many if not most users get their news from the Tik-Tok feed


Ezra Klein, “TikTok May Be More Dangerous Than It Looks,” New York Times, May 8, 2022.

Ezra Kein, in an opinion piece in the New York Times, observes that social media platforms largely control what we collectively pay attention to.

He draws attention to the dangers posed by TikTok, a Chinese owned company subject to the dictates of the Chinese Communist Party, and the ways its algorithms may be manipulated to further Chinese propanda goals or to sow division among American users.

Significantly, China does allow its citizens to access the Western version of TikTok.

Klein notes that currently Tik-Tok algorithms strongly favor Chinese propaganda views on the Russian invasion of the Ukraine.

The Chinese have been working on mind-control techniques for many decades, as exemplified in the classic 1951 movie The Manchurian Candidate.

Klein urges the Obama administration to finish the job the Trump administration began, forcing a planned sale of the company in the U.S. That sale was canceled after Joe Buden won the 2020 election.

Klein’s column points out just one more way the consciousness of the Eighteenth Century mind is under attack.

Spirit of Voltaire

Identity Politics Race racial equality of opportunity racial equity of results Reading and Thinking Religion

Has “diversity” become the new religion?

Douglas Murray has written an interesting column arguing that in the U.K., at least, “diversity” has become the new religion, replacing the older one, Christianity, which he prefers.


Douglas Murray,”Diversity is the new national religion. Woe betide any agnostics; The unnatural hush around Sir David Amess’s murder proves that there are some issues we can simply no longer discuss,” The Telegraph, April 16, 2022 (5:32pm).

Murray, the author of a forthcoming book entitled The War on the West (to be released April 28), writes,

All ages and cultures have their religions. Today Christians around the world celebrate the story of the risen Christ. But whether you are a believing Christian, a cultural Christian or a believer in something or nothing else entirely, one thing should be obvious by now: the Christian tradition no longer dominates British public life. You may celebrate that fact or deplore it, but as all the census and church attendance data shows, it is the case.

It does not follow, however, that ours is an irreligious age. On the contrary our society is deeply religious. It is simply religious about concepts that are different – though often descended from – our earlier belief system. For instance the modern British state’s prioritisation of “tolerance” and “difference” is an inheritance from a Christian ideal. Not least the ideal of equality in the eyes of God.

(O)ur society is forced by diktat at every level of public service to bow to the gods of diversity, inclusion and equity. Apply for any public appointment in this country and you will have to demonstrate a commitment to these principles. You will have to explain what you have done to further these religious precepts.

Deviations from the new religious precepts, Murray argues, are harshly punished, in a manner reminiscent of the treatment of earlier blasphemies:

Say anything that appears to go against these precepts of the new faith and you know what will happen. Idiotic obsessions over the rights of small minorities are now fought over as our forebears fought over interpretations of the Eucharist. To watch Labour MPs contorting themselves as they are asked to answer questions like “What is a woman” is to get a glimpse of what it must have been like in previous eras when people were burned at the stake, or avoided being burnt, depending on whether they could use the precise, correct formulation expected of them that year regarding the status of the communion wafer. It is painful to see them struggle. Even more painful that our society seems to demand it. But that is the way with religions. They have their dogmas, and to speak against them is to suffer potentially serious punishment.

The article provides stimulating food for thought and free discussion.

Any difficulty we may have in talking about these issues would seem to support Murray’s argument.

The Spirit of Voltaire

Epistemology of truth Sea of Irrationality SEA OF REASON SEA OF UNREASON UNREASON

Free speech: Yale law students are lost. They are the new Stalinists.And if they are lost, we may all be lost.


Aaron Sibarium, “Hundreds of Yale Law Students Disrupt Bipartisan Free Speech Event; Nearly two-thirds of student body sign letter in support of rowdy protest, ” Washington Free Beacon, March 16, 2022(2022 2:50 pm).

Sirharium, himself a Yale graduate, reported,

More than 100 students at Yale Law School attempted to shout down a bipartisan panel on civil liberties, intimidating attendees and causing so much chaos that police were eventually called to escort panelists out of the building.

The March 10 panel, which was hosted by the Yale Federalist Society, featured Monica Miller of the progressive American Humanist Association and Kristen Waggoner of the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), a conservative nonprofit that promotes religious liberty. Both groups had taken the same side in a 2021 Supreme Court case involving legal remedies for First Amendment violations. The purpose of the panel, a member of the Federalist Society said, was to illustrate that a liberal atheist and a conservative Christian could find common ground on free speech issues.

It was pretty much the most innocuous thing you could talk about,” he added.

If this report is accurate, Yale law students are lost, and have become the new Stalinists.If they are lost, an entire generation may be lost.

As Ukrainians fight courageously for freedom, including freedom of speech, it is utterly tragic to see how American education has failed to inculcate the deepest democratic values in the new generation.

Tom Paine and Benjamin Franklin would be tempted to despair.

But they would not despair. Neither should we.

Paine and Franklin would rededicate themselves to the battle for freedom. So should we.

Data collection and surveillance companies Privacy Reading and Thinking Surveillance state

Anti-trog TLS book review of “The Every” by Dave Eggers shockingly misses the point


Beejay Silcox, “Book of numbers; Dave Eggers’s satire: a data dystopia, TLS, Novemer 19, 2021.

The one thing you can say with high assurance about Beejay Silcox, after reading his review of The Every by Dave Eggrs, is that he is not a “trog”.

Eggers explains (at p. 25):

Trog was a term with subjective connotations.Originally considered a slur against tech skeptics, those same skeptics reclaimed the word and wore it proudly, and soon it was applied by all sides to anything resistant to tech takeover.

The etymology of the term is not explained, but it dies not take a giant leap of genius to see that it is derived from “troglodyte”–which is defined as:

WordReference Random House Learner’s Dictionary of American English © 2022
trog•lo•dyte /ˈtrɑgləˌdaɪt/
1. (Anthropology) person of prehistoric times who lived in a cave.
2. a person of primitive or brutal character.
3, an extremely old-fashioned or conservative person.

Silcox is clearly an anti-trog. It is rather shameful that the renowned Times Literary Supplement would assign an anti-trog to review Eggers’ book. Yet it is absolutely shocking that the editors at TLS allowed a review to be published that completely missed the main point of the book being reviewed, and in fact got it completely backwards.

Silcox in his review wrote the following:

Eggers seems to think algorithms are a way to keep people’s personalities consistent – like a coded electric fence rather than a radicalizing rabbit-hole – and that to vanquish anonymity is somehow to vanquish online cruelty.

On the other hand, Silcox’s review does a magnificent job of driving home how people are skimming on their electronic devices without understanding what they read, how impervious anti-trogs are to criticisms that pierce their paradigm, and how many are utterly incapable of appreciating parody and satire.

TLS owes its readers an apology, and it owes Eggers a serious book review by someone with no obvious bias.

Reading and Thinking

How JK Rowling got “canceled”


Mick Brown, “JK Rowling should be a national treasure – so why have so many spent a year destroying her? Twenty years after the first Harry Potter film, the most successful author of her generation has been ‘cancelled’ – how did it come to this,” The Telegraph, December 31, 2021 (7:00p).

Identity Politics Race racial equality of opportunity Reading and Thinking

The dead end of “white guilt”


John McWhorter, “I’m With Condoleezza Rice About White Guilt,” New York Times, October 29, 2021.

As someone who was a strong supporter of Martin Luther King, Jr. and racial equality when that was not a popular position to take, and as an educated person who knows something about other countries and about history, I believe that the whole “white guilt” trap is a false path for African Americans, Native Americans, Latinos, or anyone else to pursue.

The “white guilt” trap places the emphasis on victimhood, not the triumph of individual self-achievement. It tries to make white people feel personally guilty for the “sins” of their ancestors, who may have been people who in many ways were good people but who lived in an age in which  social injustices-and not only those related to race–were commonplace, a part of the social structure of the times.

The Greeks and the Romans lived in ages in which slavery was common. The inhabitants of other states which had been defeated on the battlefield, even Greek city-states, were enslaved by others of the same ethnicity in Athens, Rome, and many other places. By current standards, great injustices were committed. Yet should current-day Greeks and Romans feel guilt over the crimes of their ancestors?

More recently, the Germans who lived during the Third Reich under Hitler (1933-1945) committed abominable crimes, including the extermination of the Jews. Are Germans who were children or not yet born during those years guilty of the sins of their fathers and mothers, or ancestors?

The Question of German Guilt* throws a bright light on the Question of White Guilt in America. Should a child or a descendent of a war criminal or someone guilty of crimes against humanity ever be considered to be guilty of the crimes of their parents or ancestors?  Or to bear guilt for those crimes?

Is a German today to be viewed as guilty, as responsible, for the sins of Germans who are dead, when they themselves did not take part in the commission of any crimes?

Do we believe in ethnic guilt? That one may be guilty because of the genes one bears?  Of genetic guilt?

Any arguments in favor of such propositions would be preposterous, and also lay the basis for endless ethnic conflict and war.

Those who seek to make whites in America feel guilty for the actions of their forebears, in which they themselves took no part, are prophets of a false path. Following that path, while it may benefit some in the short run (e.g., academic proponents of such theories), will in the end only foster ethnic conflict, and persuade individuals they are victims, instead of focusing on their enormous potential for self-achievement.

Institutions and practices that express current racism should be opposed, and reformed. Programs aimed at helping those particularly disadvantaged by past racism, including racism against Native Indian peoples, should be supported.

But this should be done within a broader framework which does not rely on white guilt for its motivational force.

Social programs to help disadvantaged members of society, including white individuals, should be based on empathy and our shared sense of humanity. In a democracy, they should also be based on the ultimate power of individuals to vote.

Spirit of Voltaire

*See Karl Jaspers, The Question if German Guilt (1947), a translation ofDie Schuldfrage, originally published in German in 1946.

Data collection and surveillance companies Privacy Surveillance companies Surveillance state

The dystopian future is arriving, in little waves

Singapore is now using robots to monitor social behavior.

The dystopian surveillance state has arrived. Or, more accurately, it is arriving, in little waves. Just because the waves have not hit our shores does not mean that a tsunami is not coming our way which could sweep away the blessings of democracy and freedom in its swirling waters.

Do we have the power to avert it, or to extend the metaphor to give warning and to seek higher ground?

Advances in unregulated technology are sweeping us away. With weak and dysfunctional political systems, can we find a way to regulate the most pernicious developments in and uses of technology?

The jury is not yet in. But it is currently deliberating.


Agence France-Presse,”Singapore–‘Dystopian world’: Singapore patrol robots stoke fears of surveillance state; Trial of robots to police ‘undesirable’ behaviour such as smoking or breaching social-distancing rules,” The Guardian, October 6, 2021 (06.05 BST).

The Spirit of Voltaire

Reading and Thinking Social media

Average intelligence decreasing; screen use likely culprit

According to a recent article in VEJA, which gathers together the latest studies, the average intelligence of humans is declining. The time wasted on social media and political polarization are among the principle causes of this regression in human intelligence.

In a word, social media and political polarization are making us stupider.

What is to be done?


Ernesto Neves and Caio Saad, “Pesquisas mostram que a inteligência do ser humano está regredindo; O tempo desperdiçado nas redes sociais e a polarização política são alguns dos principais responsáveis pelo recuo, depois de décadas de evolução,” VEJA, o 1, de outubro 2021 (06h00, atualizado às 18h44).

Reading and Thinking

Cancel Culture and “The New Puritans”


Anne Applebaum, “The New Puritans; Social codes are changing, in many ways for the better. But for those whose behavior doesn’t adapt fast enough to the new norms, judgment can be swift—and merciless,” The Atlantic, August 31, 2021.