Tag Archives: Tolerance

Walter Williams evaluates American academic performance

The article is here in Townhall.com. The left is always complaining that they need more money to raise test scores, and that schools are underfunded. But is more money the answer?


The teaching establishment and politicians have hoodwinked taxpayers into believing that more money is needed to improve education. The Washington, D.C., school budget is about the nation’s costliest, spending about $15,000 per pupil. Its student/teacher ratio, at 15.2 to 1, is lower than the nation’s average. Yet student achievement is just about the lowest in the nation. What’s so callous about the Washington situation is about 1,700 children in kindergarten through 12th grade receive the $7,500 annual scholarships in order to escape rotten D.C. public schools, and four times as many apply for the scholarships, yet Congress, beholden to the education establishment, will end funding the school voucher program.

Teacher’s unions are not interested in being paid to perform, they want to be paid regardless of whether they perform. That is why they oppose voucher programs, which give parents a choice. If parents can choose, then schools that insist on retaining teachers who can’t teach will finally come under pressure to fire those teachers and find some better ones. More money thrown into the fire is not the answer.

Williams continues:

Any long-term solution to our education problems requires the decentralization that can come from competition. Centralization has been massive. In 1930, there were 119,000 school districts across the U.S; today, there are less than 15,000. Control has moved from local communities to the school district, to the state, and to the federal government. Public education has become a highly centralized government-backed monopoly and we shouldn’t be surprised by the results. It’s a no-brainer that the areas of our lives with the greatest innovation, tailoring of services to individual wants and falling prices are the areas where there is ruthless competition such as computers, food, telephone and clothing industries, and delivery companies such as UPS, Federal Express and electronic bill payments that have begun to undermine the postal monopoly in first-class mail.

Here is an article from the extremely left-wing Los Angeles Times that explains what it takes for a school to succeed. A school needs stay away from unions and educational bureaucrats, and stick with the basics: math, reading, writing and discipline. Let’s take a look at an Oakland school that serves the poorest, underprivileged minorities, but still manages to deliver the goods.

What kind of teachers teach in the American Indian Public Charter schools?

We are looking for hard working people who believe in free market capitalism. . . . Multicultural specialists, ultra liberal zealots and college-tainted oppression liberators need not apply.”

Good start. But are they “progressive”?

That, it turns out, is just the beginning of the ways in which American Indian Public Charter and its two sibling schools spit in the eye of mainstream education. These small, no-frills, independent public schools in the hardscrabble flats of Oakland sometimes seem like creations of television’s “Colbert Report.” They mock liberal orthodoxy with such zeal that it can seem like a parody.

Well, surely they must embrace teacher’s unions?

School administrators take pride in their record of frequently firing teachers they consider to be underperforming. Unions are embraced with the same warmth accorded “self-esteem experts, panhandlers, drug dealers and those snapping turtles who refuse to put forth their best effort,” to quote the school’s website.

But what about the need for compassion, tolerance and empathy?

Conservatives, including columnist George Will, adore the American Indian schools, which they see as models of a “new paternalism” that could close the gap between the haves and have-nots in American education. Not surprisingly, many Bay Area liberals have a hard time embracing an educational philosophy that proudly proclaims that it “does not preach or subscribe to the demagoguery of tolerance.”

The LA Times article shows that conservative, anti-union schools work for the poorest children. But there are challenges that are blocking the expansion of charter schools, such as “hostile state legislatures and arbitrary caps”, according to the Heritage Foundation.

Their article cites Rep. Buck McKeon (R-CA) as follows:

These caps are often the consequence of legislative trade-off – representing political deal-making designed to appease special interests who prefer the status quo rather than reasoned education policy. As a result of the caps, children across the country now languish on daunting wait lists, just waiting to enroll in the public school of their choice, simply because it happens to operate as a charter. An estimated 365,000 students are on charter school wait lists today. That’s enough students to fully enroll 1,100 new averaged-size charter schools.

As I discussed before, there are almost no males involved in education in the classroom, which means that the classrooms will emphasize compassion, tolerance, equal outcomes, non-judgmentalism and self-esteem. Competition and excellence are definitely out. In order for Americans to continue to have the same level of prosperity, we need to focus on academic excellence, not secular-leftist indoctrination.

Has the university become intolerant and close-minded?

This article by prestigious McGill University ethicist Margaret Somerville is worth reading. (H/T Commenter ECM) She is one of the leading defenders of traditional marriage in Canada. She is a moderate social conservative. Here is a brief summary of her case against same-sex marriage. Her short article in the journal Academic Matters is about the intolerance of the leftist university elites against their opponents.

Here is the abstract:

In this edited excerpt from her Research and Society Lecture to the 2008 Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences, ethicist Margaret Somerville argues that universities are becoming forums of intolerance. Keeping the university as an intellectually open and respectful place is critical, she says, to finding the “shared ethics” essential to maintaining healthy, pluralistic democracies.

And here is an excerpt in which she discusses the impact of moral relativism on moral disagreements:

That is where political correctness enters the picture. It excludes politically incorrect values from the “all values are equal” stable. The intense moral relativists will tolerate all values except those they deem to be politically incorrect—which just happen to be the ones that conflict with their values.

Political correctness operates by shutting down non-politically correct people’s freedom of speech. Anyone who challenges the politically correct stance is, thereby, automatically labeled as intolerant, a bigot, or hatemonger. The substance of their arguments against a politically correct stance is not addressed; rather people labeled as politically incorrect are, themselves, attacked as being intolerant and hateful simply for making those arguments. This derogatorily -label-the-person-and-dismiss-them-on-the-basis-of-that-label approach is intentionally used as a strategy to suppress strong arguments against any politically correct stance and, also, to avoid dealing with the substance of these arguments.

It is important to understand the strategy employed: speaking against same-sex marriage, for example, is not characterized as speech; rather, it is characterized as a discriminatory act against homosexuals and, therefore, a breach of human rights or even a hate crime. Consequently, it is argued that protections of freedom of speech do not apply.

She illustrates with some examples:

We need to look at what “pure” moral relativism and intense tolerance, as modified by political correctness, mean in practice. So let ‘s look at the suppression of pro-life groups and pro-life speech on Canadian university campuses. Whatever one’s views on abortion, we should all be worried about such developments. Pro-choice students are trying to stop pro-life students from participating in the collective conversation on abortion that should take place. In fact, they don’t want any conversation, alleging that to question whether we should have any law on abortion is, in itself, unacceptable.

In some instances some people are going even further: they want to force physicians to act against their conscience under threat of being in breach of human rights or subject to professional disciplinary procedures for refusing to do so. The Ontario Human Rights Commission recently advised the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario to this effect.

Political correctness is being used to try to impose certain views and even actions that breach rights to freedom of conscience; to shut down free speech; and to contravene academic freedom. I do not need to emphasize the dangers of this in universities. The most fundamental precept on which a university is founded is openness to ideas and knowledge from all sources.

She spends the rest of the paper arguing for a system of “shared ethics” that grounds open, respectful debate between disagreeing parties. I hope this catches on before secular-left moves from censorship to outright violence, against those who would dare to disagree with them.

A short bio of Margaret Somerville

Margaret Somerville is Samuel Gale Professor in the Faculty of Law and a professor in the Faculty of Medicine at McGill University and is the founding director of the McGill Centre for Medicine, Ethics and Law. In 2004, she received the UNESCO Avicenna Prize for Ethics in Science and in 2006 delivered the prestigious Massey Lectures.

Is one true religion even possible?

Dr. Walter L. Bradley
Dr. Walter L. Bradley

This is a follow-up to my previous post on Walter Bradley’s lecture about the scientific evidence for an Creator and Designer of the universe. Dr. Walter L. Bradley (C.V. here) is the Distinguished Professor of Engineering at Baylor, and a great example of the integration of Christian faith and a stellar academic career.

Is there truth in religion?

Another one of Bradley’s lectures is on the question “Is There Objective Truth in Religion?“. In the lecture, he describes a book by Mortimer Adler, called “Truth in Religion”. In the book, Adler makes a distinction between two kinds of “truth”.

  1. Trans-cultural truth – also known as objective truth. This is Adler’s term for the correspondence theory of truth. A claim is true if and only if it is made true by corresponding to the state of affairs in the mind-independent external world. It is irrelevant who makes the claim. The claim is either true or false for everyone, e.g. – “the ice cream is on the table”. Either it is, or it isn’t, for everyone.
  2. Cultural truth – also known as subjective truth. This is Adler’s term for claims that are arbitrarily true for individual and groups of subjects. For example, your personal preference for a certain flavor of ice cream, or the cultural preference for a certain style of dress or cooking. The claim is true for the person or group, e.g. – “I/we prefer chocolate ice cream and wearing tuxedos”.

The question that Bradley addresses in the lecture is: are religious claims trans-cultural truth or cultural truth?

Why do people want to believe that religious truth claims are subjective?

People want to believe that religious truth claims are subjective because religious claims differ, and people lack the courage to tell some group of people that their beliefs about the world are wrong. By reducing religion to personal preference, no one is wrong, because everyone who believes in any religion, or no religion, is just expressing their own personal preferences.

But, if religious truth claims are trans-cultural claims, e.g. – the universe began to exist, then some religions are going to be wrong, because religions disagree about reality. It’s possible that no religion is right, or that one religion is right, but it is not possible that they are all right because there is only one reality shared by all people. Religions make contradictory claims about reality – so they can’t all be true.

Suppose religious claims are trans-cultural? How would you test those claims?

I credit E.J. Carnell with a test for truth that I still use today. It is the same test used by Adler and Bradley.

  1. Logical consistency (the claim cannot violate the law of non-contradiction)
  2. Empirical verification (the claim is verified against the external world)

Adler says that other trans-cultural truth claims, such as those from math and science, must all pass the test for logical consistency, as a minimum. And so with religion, if it is like math and science. Once a proposition passed the test of the law of non-contradiction, then you can proceed to step 2 and see if it is empirically verified.

Adler surveys all the major religions in his book, and concludes that only 3 of them – Judaism, Islam and Christianity – pass the test of the law of non-contradiction. He ends the book by recommending to seekers that they proceed to evaluate the historical claims of these 3 religions, in order to see which if any passes the empirical tests.


Bradley concludes with the claim of the resurrection of Jesus could be investigated using historical methods, in order to decide which of these 3 religions might be true, if any. He also mentions the stories of a few people who performed the investigation and changed their initial opinion of the resurrection in the face of the historical evidence.

Related posts

I blogged previously about whether the Bible teaches that faith is opposed to reason and evidence and William Lance Craig’s refutation of postmodern sketicism of religion. I also blogged about scientific and historical evidence that could also be used to test religious claims. My post on N.T. Wright’s view of the resurrection may also prove useful.

Also, a good debate between a Christian and a postmodern relativist on truth in religion is here.