Harvard’s Cherokee professor

George Will sums up how Elizabeth Warren and her Ivy League universities played the diversity game:

Blond, blue-eyed Elizabeth Warren, the Senate candidate in Massachusetts and Harvard professor who cites “family lore” that she is 1/32nd Cherokee, was inducted into Oklahoma’s Hall of Fame last year. Her biography on OklahomaHeritage.com says that she “can track both sides of her family in Oklahoma long before statehood” (1907) and “she proudly tells everyone she encounters that she is ‘an Okie to my toes.’ ” It does not mention any Cherokee great-great-great-grandmother. A DVD of the induction ceremony shows that neither Warren nor anyone else mentioned this.

The kerfuffle that has earned Warren such sobriquets as “Spouting Bull” and “Fauxcahontas” began with reports that Harvard Law School, in routine academic preening about diversity (in everything but thought), listed her as a minority faculty member, as did the University of Pennsylvania when she taught there. She said that some in her family had “high cheekbones like all of the Indians do.” The New England Historic Genealogical Society said that a document confirmed the family lore of Warren’s Cherokee ancestry, but it later backtracked. She has said that she did not know Harvard was listing her as a minority in the 1990s, but Harvard was echoing her: From 1986 through 1995, starting before she came to Harvard, a directory published by the Association of American Law Schools listed her as a minority and says its listings are based on professors claiming minority status.

So, although no evidence has been found that Warren is part Indian, for years two universities listed her as such. She has identified herself as a minority, as when, signing her name “Elizabeth Warren — Cherokee,” she submitted a crab recipe (Oklahoma crabs?) to a supposedly Indian cookbook. This is a political problem.

A poll taken before this controversy found her Republican opponent Scott Brown trouncing her on “likability,” 57 percent to 23 percent. Even Democrats broke for Brown 40 to 38. Now she is a comic figure associated with laughable racial preferences. She who wants Wall Street “held accountable” is accountable for two elite law schools advertising her minority status. She who accuses Wall Street of gaming the financial system at least collaborated with, and perhaps benefited from, the often absurd obsession with “diversity.”

How absurd? Warren says that for almost a decade she listed herself in the AALS directory as a Native American because she hoped to “meet others like me.” This well-educated, highly paid, much-honored (she was a consumer protection adviser to President Obama) member of America’s upper 1 percent went looking for people “who are like I am” among Native Americans?

This makes perfect sense to a liberal subscriber to the central superstition of the diversity industry, which is the premise of identity politics: Personhood is distilled not to the content of character but only to race, ethnicity, gender or sexual preference.

This controversy has discombobulated liberalism’s crusade to restore Democratic possession of the Senate seat the party won in 1952 with John Kennedy and held until 2010, when Brown captured it after Ted Kennedy’s death. Lofty thinkers and exasperated liberals consider the focus on Warren’s fanciful ancestry a distraction from serious stuff. (Such as The Post’s nearly 5,500-word wallow in teenage Mitt Romney’s prep school comportment?) But Warren’s adult dabbling in identity politics is pertinent because it is, in all its silliness, applied liberalism.

via Elizabeth Warren’s identity politics – The Washington Post.

As an Oklahoman and an academic, I have something to say on the matter.  First, in Oklahoma, home of the Five “civilized”–that is, fully assimilated to white culture–there are lots of blonde blue-eyed “Indians.”  When white people moved into Indian Territory, they could marry into the tribes.  After the civil war, the freed slaves of the tribes from the South were also entered into tribal rolls, so there are also lots of black Indians.  It only takes 1/32 Indian heritage to get listed.

It’s also true that quite a few Oklahomans have gamed the system designed for unassimilated tribes on reservations.  I once taught at a school in Oklahoma that took a survey of racial identity to qualify for federal benefits to institutions that served minority populations.  Our school cashed in because of all of the red-haired Cherokees, even though we had few black people or other minorities.  Then there are the things you can do on “Indian lands,” such as running casinos, selling tax-free cigarettes, getting free health care, and other benefits.  (I hasten to say that there are also “real Indians” in Oklahoma with various levels of poverty and other problems.  I’m just saying that some who don’t need these programs have taken advantage of them at the expense of those who do.)

It’s also true that academics got on the diversity bandwagon, especially a few years ago, and that the claim to be a “minority” was a priceless commodity.  This encouraged bogus claims.

Prof. Warren might have qualified to get into a tribe, if she could prove even that small amount of Indian blood she is claiming, but she never shows up on the Cherokee tribal rolls, so her claim is bogus by any standards.  And it’s just embarrassing to see how the Ivy League institutions, supposedly so enlightened, were hyping Prof. Warren as a demonstration of their diversity, as if she were a member of an oppressed people-group.

Unless Okies are members of an oppressed people group.  One could make that case.  If so, I claim my identity and demand justice!

New online classical Lutheran school

One of the promising developments in homeschooling is the advent of on-line courses.  Parents can now enroll their children in an entire on-line school or in individual hard-to-teach-on-your-own classes.  A promising venture that many Lutheran homeschoolers are excited about is  Wittenberg Academy, an online classical Lutheran school, featuring strong confessional theology and an academically-rich curriculum for high-schoolers.  After long preparation, Wittenberg Academy is now taking registrations for the Fall.  (Sorry, for the “Michaelmas Term.”  Isn’t that cool, having a “Michaelmas Term”?)  Here is the notice I received:

Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia! It is with exceeding joy that I share with you the news that registration for the 2012-13 academic year is live!

After much ado about much, we decided to go the simple route for the time being and explore better options in the future for accepting online payments, etc. For now, you can go to http://www.wittenbergacademy.org/registration.html and fill out the online form. Once we receive your registration, we will email you with payment options and a summary of your registration.

As the form is very simple, be sure to check out http://www.wittenbergacademy.org/2012-13course_descriptions.html for any prerequisites and in which term a class is being offered.

At each step of this journey of bringing you the best in online Classical Lutheran education, we trust God for his timing and provision. While our timing would have included live registration several months ago, we trust that this is God’s best for Wittenberg Academy and thank you for your patience.

Here are a few items for your consideration: Michaelmas Term runs September 4, 2012- November 21, 2012 Christmas Term runs November 26, 2012- March 1, 2013 with Christmas break from December 22, 2012- January 6, 2013 Easter Term runs March 11, 2013- May 31, 2013 with Easter break from March 28- April 1 and no class on Memorial Day (May 27)

Each class is one credit with the exception of the Paideia courses, which are three credits. Each credit (class) is $400. Thus, all classes, with the exception of the Paideia courses, are $400.

The Paideia courses are $1200. If you have any questions about registration, be sure to contact me! Again, we thank you for your patience and look forward to partnering with you during the 2012-13 academic year!


Mrs. Jocelyn Benson, Head Teacher Wittenberg Academy

mrsbenson@wittenbergacademy.org www.wittenbergacademy.org

Courses offered this term include Math (Algebra I, pre-Calculus, & Calculus I&II), Languages (Latin, Greek, & German), Science (biology & chemistry), Liberal Arts (beginning and intermediate courses in grammar, logic, & rhetoric; also several music courses), Theology (“Liturgical Theology & Sacramental Piety”), four levels of “Paideia” (an integrated humanities curriculum, studying history, literature, philosophy, etc.), and electives (Physical Education, Psychology, & Personal Finance).

Another option is for parochial schools to supplement their offerings with some of these online courses.


The liberties of groups

We have blogged about universities banning Christian groups unless they are willing to accept non-Christian members and leaders.  The Supreme Court has just refused to hear a case questioning this practice.  See Supreme Court declines religious liberty case.

Meanwhile, Michael Stokes Paulsen, while blasting Vanderbilt University for doing this, goes on to argue that Vanderbilt has the right to do so, the same right that protects Christian colleges:

Groups, as well as individuals, possess the “freedom of speech.” Just as individuals get to control the content of their own expression, groups of individuals, joining their voices together in some common association, have the right to control their collective message. Thus, a vital principle of the First Amendment as it applies to private groups, associations, and institutions—including private universities—is that such groups have nearly absolute freedom to create and maintain their own distinctive group expressive identities: to decide what they stand for and what views they will express.

This is the freedom that supports the right of private religious colleges to maintain their distinctive religious identities. And the same freedom equally supports the right of Vanderbilt University to maintain a distinctive anti-religious identity. In each case, the institution may embrace the principles that define it as a group and exclude or suppress messages at odds with the values for which the institution wishes to stand. . . .

Vanderbilt has a history of excluding groups that express messages antithetical to the one it wants to convey. Well into the 1960s it was a racially segregated institution that excluded blacks from its undergraduate and most graduate programs. In 1960, the university expelled a black Divinity School student, James Lawson, for his participation in peaceful sit-in protests of lunch-counter segregation in the Nashville community. It is perhaps in (unthinking) hypersensitivity to its racist past that Vanderbilt has adopted a policy of forbidding campus religious groups to exclude members on the basis of religious belief. Ironically, in so doing Vanderbilt has done just what it did in an earlier era: expel the expression of views of which it disapproves.

One may disagree with Vanderbilt’s principles of exclusion, now as then. I certainly do: the idea that Christian groups should be excluded for being Christian is downright ludicrous—an Orwellian perversion of Vanderbilt’s stated commitment to diversity. In its own way, it is as unbelievable as excluding James Lawson for his commitment to racial justice.

Freedom sometimes protects one’s ability to do wrong. It is Vanderbilt’s First Amendment right to exclude the groups and messages it wants excluded from its campus and its community. . . .

There is a further, bitter irony in all this. The reason why Vanderbilt may discriminate against religion is precisely the same principle of freedom that Vanderbilt denies to religious groups on its campus—the freedom to form its own expressive identity. Vanderbilt purports to be liberal and tolerant of different views. But its university officials do not appear to understand what this means. They think the university is being open-minded by requiring student groups, including religious groups, to conform to university officials’ view of orthodoxy. This is not so much hypocritical or cynical (though it may be that as well) as simply embarrassingly ignorant. Vanderbilt does not appear even to recognize that its actions are intolerant. It thinks it is protecting its community from improper influences, just as it once thought that segregation protected its community.

HT:  Matthew Schmitz

There’s always room at the Hilbert Hotel

I stumbled upon this series on mind-blowing math facts from a couple of years ago.  It’s by Cornell mathematician Steven Strogatz and treats things like the weirdness of pi, the quirks of probability, Zeno’s paradox, and some of the fun things you can do with calculus.

(Homeschoolers and other educators, take note:  Recovering mathematics and its different applications is urgently needed today and is the missing piece of a truly classical education.  We are doing things with the language part, the trivium, but we now must bring back the mathematics part, the quadrivium, which is far more than just Saxon math.  What Strogatz does here is show that math is far more than memorizing tables and working out problems, showing that it is wonderful, mysterious, philosophical, and imaginative, something that students need to realize.)

Anyway, here he treats the mathematics of infinity, along with the paradox that some sets are more infinite than others:

Some of its [infinity’s] strangest aspects first came to light in the late 1800s, with Georg Cantor’s groundbreaking work on “set theory.” Cantor was particularly interested in infinite sets of numbers and points, like the set {1, 2, 3, 4,…} of “natural numbers” and the set of points on a line. He defined a rigorous way to compare different infinite sets and discovered, shockingly, that some infinities are bigger than others.

At the time, Cantor’s theory provoked not just resistance, but outrage. Henri Poincaré, one of the leading mathematicians of the day, called it a “disease.” But another giant of the era, David Hilbert, saw it as a lasting contribution and later proclaimed, “No one shall expel us from the Paradise that Cantor has created.”

My goal here is to give you a glimpse of this paradise. But rather than working directly with sets of numbers or points, let me follow an approach introduced by Hilbert himself. He vividly conveyed the strangeness and wonder of Cantor’s theory by telling a parable about a grand hotel, now known as the Hilbert Hotel.

It’s always booked solid, yet there’s always a vacancy.

For the Hilbert Hotel doesn’t merely have hundreds of rooms — it has an infinite number of them. Whenever a new guest arrives, the manager shifts the occupant of room 1 to room 2, room 2 to room 3, and so on. That frees up room 1 for the newcomer, and accommodates everyone else as well (though inconveniencing them by the move).

Now suppose infinitely many new guests arrive, sweaty and short-tempered. No problem. The unflappable manager moves the occupant of room 1 to room 2, room 2 to room 4, room 3 to room 6, and so on. This doubling trick opens up all the odd-numbered rooms — infinitely many of them — for the new guests.

Later that night, an endless convoy of buses rumbles up to reception. There are infinitely many buses, and worse still, each one is loaded with an infinity of crabby people demanding that the hotel live up to its motto, “There’s always room at the Hilbert Hotel.”

The manager has faced this challenge before and takes it in stride.

First he does the doubling trick. That reassigns the current guests to the even-numbered rooms and clears out all the odd-numbered ones — a good start, because he now has an infinite number of rooms available.

But is that enough? Are there really enough odd-numbered rooms to accommodate the teeming horde of new guests? It seems unlikely, since there are something like “infinity squared” people clamoring for these rooms. (Why infinity squared? Because there were an infinite number of people on each of an infinite number of buses, and that amounts to infinity times infinity, whatever that means.)

This is where the logic of infinity gets very weird.

via The Hilbert Hotel – NYTimes.com.

Does it ever.   Including a set of guests that there is no room for after all.  Read the whole post and the whole series (which is reportedly coming out as a book).

Banning Dante

One of the greatest works of literature ever written, Dante’s Divine Comedy, is attracting the attention of censors:

The classic work should be removed from school curricula, according to Gherush 92, a human rights organisation which acts as a consultant to UN bodies on racism and discrimination.

Dante’s epic is “offensive and discriminatory” and has no place in a modern classroom, said Valentina Sereni, the group’s president. . . .

It represents Islam as a heresy and Mohammed as a schismatic and refers to Jews as greedy, scheming moneylenders and traitors, Miss Sereni told the Adnkronos news agency.

“The Prophet Mohammed was subjected to a horrific punishment – his body was split from end to end so that his entrails dangled out, an image that offends Islamic culture,” she said.

Homosexuals are damned by the work as being “against nature” and condemned to an eternal rain of fire in Hell.

“We do not advocate censorship or the burning of books, but we would like it acknowledged, clearly and unambiguously, that in the Divine Comedy there is racist, Islamophobic and anti-Semitic content. Art cannot be above criticism,” Miss Sereni said.

Schoolchildren and university students who studied the work lacked “the filters” to appreciate its historical context and were being fed a poisonous diet of anti-Semitism and racism, the group said.

It called for the Divine Comedy to be removed from schools and universities or at least have its more offensive sections fully explained.

via Dante’s Divine Comedy ‘offensive and should be banned’ – Telegraph.

Dante has already disappeared from a number of college courses for these very reasons.  It’s odd that conservatives are often accused of censorship–for objecting to pornography and the like–but the ones who want to censor actual ideas and great works of literature are more often from the Left.  (See Gherush 92’s website.)  And, as Milton pointed out, the book that is most censored of them all–even today–is the Bible.

HT:  Shane Ayer

College does not cause students to lose their faith

Presidential candidate Rick Santorum has been saying that 62% of college students lose their faith by the time they graduate.  Calvin College sociologist Jonathan P. Hill takes a look at the dubious source of that statistic and cites better studies that point to a different conclusion:

We know that some measures of religious belief, and quite a few measures of religious practice, decline as young people move from adolescence to emerging adulthood. In order to decide if blame should be laid at the feet of higher education, we need representative data that follow the religious trajectories of young people as some head off to college and others do not.

And this is precisely what we have. Studies using comparable data from recent cohorts of young people (for example, the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1997, the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health, and the National Study of Youth and Religion) have found virtually no overall differences on most measures of identity, practice, and belief between those who head off to college and those who do not. The one exception to this is the consistent finding that college graduates attend religious services more frequently than those who do not graduate from college.

This doesn’t settle the matter, though. As is often the case with social-science findings, there are many exceptions and caveats. And there are some differences in student religious trajectories that appear to depend on the religious affiliation of colleges attended. For example, both evangelical colleges and public institutions tend to curb the decline in church attendance while Roman Catholic and mainline Protestant institutions are more likely to exacerbate it.

Over all, though, this is good news for the faithful. College is clearly not the enemy of religion. Students are not abandoning their faith commitments because of their godless college professors.

via Parsing Santorum’s Statistic on God and College: Looks as if It’s Wrong – Commentary – The Chronicle of Higher Education.

In fact, there is evidence that college graduates actually go to church at a higher rate than those who did not go to college.

HT:  Jackie