I am a node on the network of the Dark Enlightenment.
I myself refer to the subject as the Voldemort View, the View that Must Not Be Named. But everyone else is naming it, and the damn names keep changing. I had just gotten used to HBD. Now, just as I’m becoming to accustomed to Dark Enlightenment, the new buzz word seems to be neoreactionary.
Steve Sailer discusses my essays, on occasion. The notorious Derb has me in his reader, a great honor even though I would take none of his infamous advice. Charles Effin’ Murray said nice things about me on Twitter. Don’t think I don’t brag about these achievements to my few friends, even fewer of whom even know this blog exists, much less read it.
So my appearance as a node shouldn’t come as much of a shock. And yet it does, a bit. I’m not ashamed or worried, nor am I rushing to disavow the association. Let’s be clear that, should my real name ever be linked to this blog, that placement on the node would be a career ender even if my individual essays didn’t do the trick. I could be logically worried, even if I’m at the third level of commitment, beyond just pointing out facts and well into theories and proposals. I could be concerned on practical grounds even while acknowledging that I meet some of the criteria: rejecting the Cathedral, beyond skeptical and flatly opposed to increased immigration at this point, worried that democracy leads to mediocrity, convinced that political labels are obsolete. (And lordy, the whole typology obsession reminds me of libertarian buddies I had in the 80s and 90s. I myself used to love typing and am depressed to discover I’m less interested as I age—just one more sign of encroaching decrepitude.)
But I’m surprised because I didn’t realize the Network had noticed me, much less adopted me, to some extent. I am not a big part of their conversations. I participate in Steve Sailer’s blog quite a bit, Razib Khan and West Hunter a little (the science is too hard), and occasionally comment on the others. In contrast, I have regular email and twitter discussions with reporters and education policy folk, both of which comprise a flattering percentage of my tiny twitter following. In the online world, I see myself as a teacher who knows a lot about education policy (as opposed to most education policy folk who barely dabbled, if at all, in teaching), rather than a member of the Network.
The newcomer will see much that shocks in the Dark Enlightenment body of work. The elites fuss over Sailer and Derbyshire, but both men are writing for general public consumption—a brave public, a curious public, but public that includes the uninitiated. The folks writing for the converted are a different story. I get a lot of traffic from Chateau Heartiste, so clicked on the site once to see what it was about, and holy crap. It’s not fun to read but what makes it tough—for me, anyway—isn’t that he’s wrong. He isn’t. He’s taking the basic economic fundamentals of mating, removing all the sentiment, tenderness, and fun from them and laying the stripped version out cold. What makes it tough is that his brutal accuracy is offset by a huge lack, and a lack that characterizes Dark Enlightenment discourse in general. Empathy, maybe? I offer this as observation, not criticism. And it’s a good thing my few friends don’t read this blog, because they’d all be commenting that “lacks empathy” is high on my checklist of personal shortcomings. But I shall push on with an example.
One of my ed school instructors became a friend, and in an early conversation, he asked me why I was so cynical about education. I told him I wasn’t cynical about education, but rather the people who wanted to “fix” it, since all sides of the education policy debate were ignoring cognitive ability. He asked about poverty, I told him about poor whites outscoring high income blacks, he asked for cites. Over a period of a year or so, he read the info I gave him and sent me interesting articles he’d come acrosss. He thought The Role of Intelligence in Modern Society was extremely compelling and, like me, became fascinated by the possible differences in crystallized vs. fluid intelligence. A Hispanic, he asked me what I would say to those who point to our troubled past, in which whites denied blacks and Hispanics a chance at advanced education by tracking them out of these options.
I responded in two parts. First, I said, I would like to see hard data on the “troubled past”. Everyone repeats the truism, but I’ve never seen data. Were schools of the 60s and 70s putting high-scoring black and Hispanic kids into middle or low-tracks? Do we have proof that it happened? Because most folks have absolutely no idea how huge the gaps are, and it’s just possible that the schools weren’t actively discriminating. Second, assume that the data shows that schools were actively discriminating back then. I find it impossible to believe that today’s schools, bastions of “tolerance” lectures and multi-culti support, would suddenly initiate rampant discrimination against low income kids. But I agree that we should be extremely cautious. We should, for example, allow anyone to take advanced courses, regardless of test scores, and then carefully monitor results. We should give all sorts of support to black and Hispanic children who feel isolated in advanced courses, because like it or not, culture and group identity matters. And, as I’ve written before (and first conceived of in these conversations), we must continue to research the best ways to educate students with below average cognitive ability, rather than pretend such problems don’t exist.
About six months ago, this friend told me that I had completely transformed his thinking, so much so that he now grew impatient when he heard the usual platitudes trotted out—and since he is a researcher at an elite education school, he hears the platitudes all the time. He sees now that he teaches a doctrine, not a method (not that there is a method). He can’t understand why everyone else is in denial—that is, of course he understands, but he can’t believe the nonsense he hears spouted by people whose expertise he used to accept without question.
I convinced a full-blown liberal progressive, a guy steeped in elite ed school tradition, to consider and then largely accept cognitive ability as the root cause of the achievement gap. Bow to my greatness.
Yet he wouldn’t have listened to word one had he not known me as a prospective teacher, one who had to fight like hell to make it through the program, who cared passionately about teaching kids, helping them succeed. I am well aware that, while my opinions on cognitive ability and the social policies that ignore it haven’t changed in a decade or so, my new career as a teacher has deepened my understanding of the issues involved. I have more street cred, if you will, but I am also even more aware of the human cost of the policies I oppose—as well as the impact that my desired policies would have on many of my students. My opinions require bifocals; one lens for broader policy, one lens for the individuals I work with every day. I might oppose immigration, particularly illegal immigration, and affirmative action, but I will advise my students of every possible option they have under existing law. I have taught and coached illegal immigrants to higher SAT/ACT scores, advised African American students with solid but not awesome test scores to apply to top 30 schools, even though I knew white and Asian kids wouldn’t have a chance with those scores, even though I want a world in which African Americans wouldn’t be accepted with lower scores. Until that day, my students are my students and I’ll work to give them every advantage I can.
When people read my blog, I hope they see that part of me. Yes, I scathe and mock, yes, I despise the denial that wastes time, money, and lives, yes, I’m angry that opportunists throughout the political landscape go further than simply deny cognitive realities and blame the wrong people (teachers usually, parents sometimes) for the failure of their wholly unrealistic expectations. But I never mock the underlying conditions that everyone’s denying. I’m totally comfortable with the word “smart”, but believe the word “stupid” should be reserved for an otherwise “smart” person who just isn’t using the brains god (or genes) gave him. Feel free to mock my cognitive dissonance.
I don’t see low cognitive ability as a flaw to be fixed. I am well aware that people deny the import of cognitive ability because they see it as an insurmountable disability, one that just doesn’t fit their vision for future. What the hell are we supposed to do, in this modern society, with those who don’t have the mental abilities to master the abstract world we live in? Well, that’s the real challenge, isn’t it? Let’s set some goals, rather than deny the problem.
In other words, odd as it may sound coming from a ruthless sarcastic cynic, I see my Voldemortean views as, er, kinder and gentler than those seen from full-fledged members of the Network. I grew up overseas—-way, WAY overseas—and I’ve lived in one of the most diverse areas in the country the rest of the time. It’s easy to mock “diversity” and “multi-culturalism”, now that their sell-date seems way overdue, but here’s a story that happened last Friday:
During lunch, I’d decided to jet on over to Starbucks, something I rarely do, when I ran into one of my intermediate algebra students who had stopped by to ask me if I’d be interested in reading his science fiction screenplay. He then proceeded to tell me the story outline, about a man who woke up with temporary amnesia, struggling to make sense of the society around him. I was anxious to get my iced latte, but drawn in despite myself, as the student related the details of that society and the conflicts driving the plot. As we reached my car, he said, “…and what I really need now is someone to read it and spot all the story development gaps I missed. I know they’re there, but I need outside eyes to find them.” Tell me that’s not a writer.
We chatted for a bit, coffee be damned, and I gave him some advice and told him I’d love to read his story (Why he’s asking me, a math teacher, I dunno).
This kid is black. He’s a Nigerian immigrant. His story had nothing to do with Africans, blacks, white oppression, or anything even remotely involving civil rights. He’s a geek who wants to write a kick ass science fiction screenplay, and is spending hours of his free time crafting his vision.
When I finally left for Starbucks, I found myself trying to bring down my great mood by imagining all the ways in which he probably hadn’t acculturated. Like, his dad probably has 8 circumcised wives, all of them living off food stamps and welfare, that the kid probably wants to be rich and famous so he can recreate his father’s harem. It was all nonsense, but I was determined to crush the delirious joy I found in that little exchange, the feeling of oh my god, here’s the vision in action, here’s what everyone has in mind when they talk about giving blacks, immigrants, “people of color” equal opportunities to live the American dream. Not a kid who wants to major in African American studies, work for “social justice” or beat Lebron at his own game, but a creative artist who’s getting good grades in school yet isn’t sure if he wants to go to college, not because he doesn’t like school but because he thinks his time would be better spent writing. How frigging cool is that? And I wanted to temper any celebration of that young man because I know that as awesome as he is, likely with no circumcised harem in the background, he’s just the fringe of a much bigger, messy group that won’t assimilate as well, a group that would, on average, simply add to the problems we already have educating our own population with its racially imbalanced mix of low ability people who are going to struggle in this modern world.
But that conversation reminded me, again, of the awesome achievements our society has made because of this commitment to a diverse population with equal opportunity, achievements that I think might possibly be exclusive to…whites? England and its offspring? You don’t see a whole lot of concern for diversity or equal opportunity in Africa, Asia or South America, and it’s not all that strong in Europe, save England. And we’ve been tremendously successful over the centuries in expanding opportunity, expanding rights, and assuming that equal outcomes would follow. Who can blame people for seeing the most recent stall as a temporary setback rather than an outright limit?
It’s easy to forget that part. I often do, because lord knows the elites, in their eagerness to ignore reality in favor of an all-too-attractive delusion, are out to discredit people like me, to at best point and sputter, at worst destroy our careers.
Anyway. I confess I’m secretly proud of my little node on the network, even if nonplused by some of the company. But I will continue to identify myself primarily not as an HBDer or a member of the Dark Enlightenment, but as a teacher who has a clear sense of the problems in our current educational policy.
I think, somewhere in this typically longwinded screed, is some advice for the brethren in the neoreactionary cause (not the top dogs, but those, like me, on the lower tiers). But it would be far too condescending to spell out, and they’re a smart bunch.