335. Imposing Limits on the Woke? | Christopher Rufo - Transcripts
Hello, everyone. I have the opportunity today to speak with one of Florida's leading troublemakers, you might say, Christopher Rufo, and he's been working on the education front in Florida. And I want to play the role of friendly enemy today, because I'm very interested in what's happening in Florida, concerned as I am about the state of education in general in the West, North America, Canada, the US, and also more specifically with regard to higher education. And so I've been watching the goings on in Florida with a great amount of interest, and I have a lot of questions. And I'm going to try to push Mr. Rufo, Chris, as hard as I can today in a friendly manner, because I want to get to the bottom of all of this to the degree that that's possible. And I'm certainly seeing excesses on the leftist radical side with regards to the reformulation of the education system and as far as I'm concerned, something needs to be done about that. But that's complicated, and it's hard to do something about it without falling prey to potential excesses on the more conservative and traditionalist sides. We're going to hash that out today. At least that's my plan. So welcome Chris, it's good of you to agree to talk to me today.
And I'm really looking forward to this. Yeah, likewise.
It's a, it's a pleasure and an honor to be with you and look forward to the conversation. So let's start out by giving some people information about your background. You kind of sprang onto the scene, at least insofar as I was concerned, just a couple of years ago when you started really, what would you say, pushing back against the DEI activists on the education front. Now you seem to be pretty integrally involved in Governor DeSantis of Florida's, what would you say, strategic moves forward on the education reform front. And so let's start with a bit of description about your background and how you came about doing what you are doing and what you're doing as well.
Yeah. Well, you know, I think my background is pretty different than a lot of the folks in the conservative world or the conservative movement. You know, I grew up as a kind of a young man of the left. That was my politics, kind of hard left politics as a teenager. My family members were kind of in a long tradition of kind of left wing and even kind of Marxist and communist activism. But then over the course of my adulthood, in college and then after college, I spent about 10 years directing documentaries all over the world for PBS, sold a film to Netflix and other international TV stations. And that left wing worldview totally fell apart. I started working in the conservative world, started doing journalism, and then of course sprung onto the scene, as you said, with my work exposing critical race theory, first in government, then in K through 12 schools. And I think part of my background that is maybe even helped make me successful in this is that I know how the left thinks intimately. And I don't think that's true for my opponents. I don't think that they know how the right thinks. I don't think they know how conservatives think.
They don't think the right does think. That's right, yeah. I get there was that great line, I think, from that conservatism is a series of irritable gestures. Right, right. It's so condescending. And I think that while you could let that bother you or you could let that annoy you, it actually presents a strategic advantage for conservatives because we know how our opponents think. I think, in many ways, I can make the arguments on my opponent's behalf better than they can. And then they look at us just like we're barbarians at the gate. And so it's fun. And even playing that role a little bit, kind of leaning into it with a wink, playing the barbarian, for me,
has been quite entertaining and quite amusing. They don't think the right does think. So let's go back to the first part of the biographical discussion there. You said that you were hard left as a teenager and came from a pretty hard left family. And it's definitely the case. There's a famous line, I don't remember who said it, is that if you're a teenager with a heart, you're left-leaning, you're a liberal or a socialist. If you're an adult with a brain, you're a traditionalist or conservative leading. And I think there's some real truth in that. Also partly, and this has to do with your characterization of conservatism as a series of irritable gestures, one of the things that young people are looking for to orient themselves in the world is a cause that's noble that they can identify with. And it's really up to the community to provide that vision, which is part of their enculturation. And conservatives have done a dreadful job of that, I would say, and liberals as well, like the true liberals, not the leftist type. So when you were a kid, teenager, what do you think was specifically attractive to you, both personally and philosophically,
about what was being offered to you on the left? Yeah, I mean, I think a lot of it is just a sense of heroism, a sense of drama, a sense of the romantic. You get all of the mythology of the left, an aunt of mine gifted me a Che Guevara flag that I hung in my bedroom. And you have this kind of heroic image of the swashbuckling reformer pursuing social justice, holding the rich accountable, providing for the poor. And it is a very attractive narrative. I mean, there's no getting around that. It's a magnetic narrative. And the conservative narrative is really one of restraint, duty, obligation. And when you're 13, that's not exactly something that is gonna inspire you. And at the same time, I think that I grew up in California, in Sacramento, and the kind of mythology around the University of Berkeley, the free speech movement, some of those great student moments at the time was also something that I gravitated towards. I remember as a teenager, my friends and I would go out and visit the campus at Berkeley and kind of be really kind of wide-eyed and amazed at the university culture. And so those were some of the things.
And then of course, my family members in Italy were kind of old school European working class Marxists. And so they would provide kind of long lectures when we would go back and visit the thought of Lenin, the thought of Marx, the thought of Gramsci. They approached it from a theoretical basis that was, to me at the time, very attractive because it was putting an intellectual frame to politics. And so it engaged me mentally as well.
And so it's an attractive package. It's an attractive package. So it was your first introduction to political theory, really. Well, so the other thing we could point out too is that there is a very real issue at stake here, a couple of very real issues. We're gonna give the left, it's due. So the first issue is the pervasive reality of the unequal distribution of both talent and wealth. And so Marx famously noted that capital tended to accumulate in the hands of fewer and fewer people as time went on. Now, the cataclysmic mistake that Marx made, one of many, was to assume that there was something unique about capitalism in the production of inequality. And there's much more thorough work done now on all sorts of theoretical fronts, ranging from physics to economics, demonstrating that that proclivity of resource, let's say, or even substance for that matter to be unequally distributed is extremely pervasive. And so, for example, it is the case that most of the world's capital is in the hands of a relatively few people, but it's also the case that most of the world's water flows through a very small number of rivers and that most of the world's population lives in a very small number of cities and that most very few planets have almost all the planetary mass. That also applies to stars. It applies to your blood vessel vessels as well.
A very small proportion of your blood vessels have the largest volume of flow. That's called a Pareto distribution and Pareto distributions tend to characterize a certain proportion of natural systems. And so this proclivity for inequality to emerge is real. And the danger that capital will accumulate in the hands of very small number of people is also real. But number one, it can't be attributed to capitalism because every economic system that humans have ever employed produces a Pareto distribution. Now, but the problem there is that if you're a young person and maybe you're looking for a romantic adventure and you see inequality, it's gonna grate on you emotionally because who the hell is happy about the fact that there are disenfranchised street people? And then also people who are even perhaps with a street person, you might say, well, you've made some bad life choices, but what do you say about poverty-stricken children, especially when they're poverty-stricken in the face of wealth? And so the idea that you're fighting on behalf of the oppressed is a pretty attractive proposition for a young person, even if they're not ideologically adult, right? And it's also a reality that makes conservatives guilty when they're faced with the moral onslaught of leftist activists because, well, inequality is a painful reality. And the truth of the matter is we don't know, we really don't know what to do about it. It's very difficult problem to solve. And it's a complex, the solutions are complex.
But then you can be Che Guevara and you can have a nice flag in your bedroom and your relatives can tell you that you are a young hero in training. And that is a lot more attractive emotionally than, as you pointed out, the message of restraint, duty, and obligation, which is kind of the last thing a 13-year-old wants to hear when he's trying to make his adventurous way out in the world.
This is a very big problem. Yeah, and I'll tell you kind of how my views changed. And really my views changed significantly when I spent five years actually working on a documentary for PBS, looking at three forgotten American cities, Youngstown, Ohio, Memphis, Tennessee, and Stockton, California. I followed these families in some of the poorest zip codes in the country, a white neighborhood, a predominantly black neighborhood, and a predominantly Latino and mixed race neighborhood over the course of a few years. And really trying to understand this question, what is driving inequality? What does inequality look like? What does the phenomenon reveal about itself? And the answer was actually really my political turning point, the completion of my political education. And it's looking at it and saying, hey, wait a minute. It's not just a simple economic story. It's not a story of elites kind of greed. It's not a story of that kind of left-wing ideology.
And in fact, the fundamental human experience of inequality in America in a kind of advanced industrial country is one that actually is a complex social story. You have broken families. In one of the neighborhoods, for example, 92% of the families were single-parent homes. So there were no fathers in the home almost anywhere in the whole zip code. You look at the social pathologies, from depression, anxiety, to drug addiction, alcoholism. And then you look at the collapse of community and institutions. So those mediating social institutions that once provided a structure, a sense of meaning, a sense of restraint, a sense of direction, they've all been evaporated. And all you get is the individual and the state. And the ultimate irony that I discovered was that in a place like Memphis, they're spending, I believe, something like $3 billion a year on means-tested anti-poverty programs for a small population, something around $30,000 per family per year. So enough to have a median standard of living. And yet you have a complete social disaster through and through. And so what that taught me was, you have to look at the society, you have to look at cultural factors, and kind of economic redistribution, which we already have in this country.
The United States spends more than a trillion dollars a year on its welfare programs. It cannot solve problems that are human, cultural, spiritual, and nature. And so at that point, the left-wing narrative on inequality, those simple story, I mean, just could not meet the standard of reality that I saw and lived with for three, four years.
Well, you know, one of the things, one of the things that's perverse about the leftist philosophy, and I would say this particularly about Marx, is that all those socialists, even the labor union socialist types who are much more forgivable, one of the things they presume is that, well, capitalism is bad, and there's an implicit presumption there that there's actually something wrong with the entire monetary exchange system, and perhaps something wrong with the idea of money per se. But all you have to do to address social problems is redistribute money. And that isn't absolutely, it's such a primordial, it's such a primitive and unsophisticated theory, because as you pointed out, if you do delve into these situations in depth, one of the things you find is that things are so broken and damaged at the bottom end of the socioeconomic pyramid, let's say, that the provision of money is not going to help in the least. Like I had clients, for example, who were part of the excluded class, let's say, and they actually didn't do too badly when they didn't have much money. But as soon as their unemployment or disability checks showed up, their narcissistic and psychopathic friends would descend like a plague of vultures, and they'd be off to the bar for like a three-day cocaine and alcohol party to the point of unconsciousness. And I'd have clients that would find themselves facedown in a ditch the next Tuesday morning. And the idea that you can just dump excess resources into a structure that has no structure is the sort of thing that a deluded Che Guevara worshiping 13-year-old could assume, but that bears absolutely no relationship whatsoever to how much trouble, real trouble is, and how little mere money can do about it. Yeah, that's right.
And I think that they also make the fundamental mistake that they look at redistribution as the miracle, right? The miracle solution. But in fact, production is the miracle. For almost all of human history, we produced very little per capita. And so with capitalist production, which is presupposed in the Marxist economic analysis, I mean, this is a miracle. The fact that we have the standard of living that we have, the fact that we've been able to reduce extreme poverty globally by such a large extent in the last 30, 40, 50 years as India and China moved away from a more socialist and centrally planned system. I mean, that is a miracle. I mean, it's a miracle of human invention. And so, and I think that at the same time, you feel a sense of guilt almost naturally because you see this great abundance and then you see its distribution. But the question of how to solve that is very complex. It's very difficult. And to dovetail on what you were saying, it's like, I've spent times in these poor neighborhoods.
And then I found like, you know, you'd see people at like 1 a.m., just like huge groups of people partying, fighting. You'd see spikes in violence on a monthly cadence. And I remember talking to someone say, hey, why is everyone out today? It's like, well, the EBT money hit. And so when you have an infusion of cash into these communities, for example, you can even just see the social patterns, you know, arrests, violence, et cetera. And then you kind of start to understand, okay, money alone is not the solution. It has to be obviously resources, money that is, I think, earned. And then also that is in the context of a culture that has a set of values that can hold it together. And look all over, and I think especially in the United States, that cultural net has really been shredded and it cannot be solved like the way we've been doing it since 1964, 65, really the late 1960s by the time it got off the ground. You know, the war on poverty, spending trillions of dollars now has not solved it. I think if anything, what I've observed in studying the historical record and then studying it kind of empirically, looking at it face-to-face, poverty is much worse now, even though you have a higher median income. And so we have this paradox where we have actual, material wealth, poor people in the United States are richer than almost every other group globally, and yet the experience is much worse.
And I think that in my travels abroad, it's like almost if you have to choose from a cultural standpoint, would you rather be poor in maybe a developing country, buffeted from some of these things or poor in the United States? Which in many cases, it's like a hellscape, violence, addiction, mental illness, kind of shredded social net. And these aren't easy questions,
and they certainly don't have easy answers. Well, you know, part of the appalling hypersimplicity of the woke moralist claim is that poverty is reducible to lack of money. And in fact, true poverty is a multidimensional problem. And the multidimensional problem is essentially something like lack of proper placement within a functioning social hierarchy and lack of forward vision. And then what happens, if people don't have anything they regard as useful, productive, and generous to do, that they're committed to, then what happens is because they can't find meaning or surcease from anxiety in the pursuit of a well-constituted life, they default to impulsive pleasure-seeking. And then if you add money into that situation, it makes it worse because there's nothing that facilitates impulsive pleasure-seeking than money, like money, right? And so it's definitely the case that, well, it's a hell of a good time for four or five days in the bar. And I'm not saying that poor people drink more, although I am saying that people who drink more and act in that impulsive manner are far more likely to be poor. And so there's also causal, bidirectional causality constantly at work in a manner that, this is also what makes me, a manner that belies the leftist claims. This is also one of the things that makes me very sceptical about the moral certainty that the leftists who are hypothetically on the side of the poor bring to the table with regard to arguments all the time. It's like, well, this unidimensional sympathy you have and this insistence that all of this complex problem can be reduced to, let's say, the greed of the capitalist overlords might do wonders for you in your ego, allowing you to parade as, you know, this year's incarnation of the spirit of Che Guevara, who is a murderous punk, by the way, but it does nothing for the people who you are attempting to hypothetically help, except make their lives a hell of a lot more miserable. But, you know, you get to feel good about it, so that's a small price to pay, all things considered.
All right, so that all broke for you when you were working for NPR. Yeah, yeah. You started to see, so now, did you actually start moving in more, say, classic liberals, liberal or conservative circles at that point? It was nice to kind of been at a loss for a while, given that your worldview had come under assault
under the brutal lessons of reality. Yeah, yeah, exactly, and, you know, these are documentaries for PBS, and I was kind of moving to the center, moving to the right, I went through kind of a libertarian phase, even, to my own embarrassment now, and my politics shifted, and I could just feel it, that my relationships with colleagues were starting to fray, people were whispering, you know, I think Rufo's maybe a conservative now, you know, very concerned about me, and then there was a kind of moment where I had to make a decision. Am I gonna engage in politics? Am I gonna say what I think is true? Am I gonna face the consequences? And, you know, ultimately, I said, look, I was kind of turning 30, and I said, it's either now or never. I'm gonna kind of come out, I'm gonna stake my claim. I burned all of my relationships in the documentary world, I lost funders, I had people who had worked for me as contractors for years tell me that they couldn't work with me anymore, and so the documentary world was just a total dead end.
I mean, it's like-
That was when, what year was that? Oh, this was probably like 2015, 2016, when it started to change, so right at the, as the kind of the Trump years.
Yeah, well, nobody can shun like, what would you call it, a burned leftist. I mean, look, I've tried to maintain a relatively balanced view of the excesses on both sides of the political spectrum, but one thing I have clearly experienced repeatedly is that the left will shun and exclude to a degree that's almost unknown on the right. I've never had anyone on the right that I've talked to refuse to talk to a hypothetical guest, for example, and I've had people on the left, they just do that all the time, and I don't get that exactly. I think maybe it's, maybe it has to do with the association and personality between agreeableness and leftist proclivity. So the socialist types, the lefties, are technically more agreeable, and I think maybe among agreeable people, if you don't go along with the agreeable game, you're much more likely to be categorized as a predator.
And I think it's also partly an institutional question. So something like PBS, something like the art world, something like the cultural world, certainly also the academic world, these are artificial economies, right? They're propped up by the state. They're propped up by philanthropic funding. There are a limited number of spots. It's highly competitive. It's a lot of people that are very credentialed, very intelligent, and they have to find strategies to fight it out for these limited resources. They see them as zero sum games, whereas in corporations or entrepreneurship, which are traditionally more conservative or free market, the idea is, well, we can create a company with two people and grow to 100,000 people. There's a sense of expansion. There's a sense of possibility.
Okay, well, that's a good theory. So you think if you view what you're doing
as a zero sum game, there's always a rationale for exclusion. Of course, yeah. And you're trying to move up a hierarchy, and it's not competence that's rewarded. It's not economic productivity that's rewarded. In all of these places, it's not even really an economic question anymore. And so you can critique Marx. I think that's good and fine and true. But the real change on the left, and I think this plays into both what we were talking about previously and this question, is that they've moved from a unit of analysis or a basis of analysis of economics, a material basis, to a metaphysical basis on identity. And that's very unstable. I mean, it's so unstable. And then you have games that are not played on, hey, let's kind of advocate for wages or working conditions or cash redistribution. You're actually then jockeying on the position of identity.
And so you have an economically artificial institution, limited positions, highly ambitious people, that are then jockeying for position based on identity.
I mean, it's like that is a recipe for a toxic environment. So it's a real derivative game in some sense, right? So it's already a derivative of reality when you're talking about money. But when you're talking about identity, you've moved one step further up the abstraction hierarchy, like a financial derivative. And so things get very unstable and vacillate a tremendous amount. I mean, because the Marxist game, as you pointed out for the longest time, and then even the valid socialist game was essentially economic. Like the fundamental playing, the fundamental battlefield was, you know, what slice of the pie does the working class get? And certainly labor leaders and people like that who were genuine socialists in the English tradition rather than the Marxist tradition were doing what they could to be, some of them at least, to be an honest voice for the oppressed working class. And also I think as some intelligent leftists still continue to do, and I'm thinking about people like Russell Brand, we're also pretty good voices to fight against the dangers of corporate gigantism and regulatory capture, which is something that, well, clearly needs to be addressed probably more now than it has been necessary in the last 70 years, because that's a real threat. And so, all right, so now we've got some reasons for exclusion laid down. So now, okay, so you announce yourself, you come out of the closet, so to speak, as a more conservative thinker, 2016 and 2017, that pretty much devastates your social community. And I presume your livelihood, at least as an NPR documentarist, that's for sure.
And so then what happens? Well, you know, then I kind of had to scramble, right? And, you know, is it difficult? You know, I have a family, I'm starting to have kids and I'm kind of at this career crossroads where I've kind of burned all of the bridges, you know, kind of, of the past. And then I said, all right, well, what can I do? What am I good at? What would actually excite me? What would be kind of something that I would want to pursue? And I fell into more conservative circles, I started reaching out to folks. And then, they were really welcoming me with open arms. I said, oh, you're kind of a defector from the other side. And in the conservative world, this is a long tradition.
and one of my own intellectual heroes, James Burnham, was a national review writer, professor of philosophy, kind of Cold War. One of the Cold War's most trenchant conservative critics worked with Richard Nixon, worked with McCarthy and he was formerly Trotsky's personal secretary in the United States. And so we have this long tradition of defectors from the left moving rightward. And so I was welcomed with open arms and I was provided some really great opportunities. He said, hey, you know how to do reporting? You know how to get on the ground? Why don't you do some research into the homelessness crisis in West Coast cities? I got connected with some of the magazines and publications. And then just my whole world opened up. I felt like I had the freedom to think for the first time as an adult. I felt like I didn't have to watch what I was saying.
Isn't it so, well, I've experienced the same thing, man, because I spend a lot of time working with Democrat backroom personnel over the last six or seven years and hoping to entice, persuade the reasonable Democrats to draw a line between them and the radicals, especially on the DEI front. And also to, well, mostly that, to draw a line, you know? And with very little success. But one of the things that constantly bothered me, because I was also talking to classic liberals and people more on the right at that time, was that whenever I was talking to even relatively moderate people on the left, I had to watch what I was saying all the time. And like, look, it's good to pay attention to what you say and to be careful, but I get damn sick, damn quick of walking on eggshells when I've got something to say, especially among hypothetical peers that are hypothetically working to solve a problem. It's like, I just want to say what I think. And if you find that, if that's gonna disrupt our personal relationship, it's like, maybe I don't want to be around you because it's just too damn annoying. And one of the things I have found, it's been a very big surprise to me that I've ended up as a conservative spokesperson. I am not a conservative person. Like I'm very high in trade openness. Although I've learned to be a traditionalist. That was hard-won knowledge.
I partly learned that because I learned that most social science interventions go dreadfully wrong. I really learned about the iron law of unintended consequences. But one of the things that has happened is that I found it way easier to talk to even fundamentalist conservative Christian traditionalists than radicals on the left. There's no comparison. And that's a very strange thing. It's not what I expected at all.
And I think that that- Although I've got- Yes, and I think that that is really where we've seen the flip. I mean, for all of the excesses and problems, I'm a critic of kind of 1960s, but they were authentic, they were committed, they had open expression, they were trying to push boundaries. And you kind of flip this on of its head once the left took institutional control. I mean, it is the most restrictive, the most limited, the most restrained, the most punishing orthodoxy. And then you get this point, to the point where you have now hundreds of thousands of kind of DEI agents, left-wing bureaucrats, enforcers of the orthodoxy. And they just repeat the same 10 points. I've done reporting for now a few years on critical race theory, gender ideology. They inherit kind of 10 ideas. They dumb them down. They pass them through a bureaucratic euphemistic filter. And I mean, they're like decentralized propaganda agents from Soviet times. I mean, it's like, this is the party line.
We must say this. You know, you cannot say anything that would contradict the great party line. And it's like, once I ejected from that world, once I opened up this new terrain, and actually, frankly, once I moved out of a big urban center in Seattle and moved out to a smaller town, it's like, this is where a kind of actual free thinking, actual, the feeling of freedom, the feeling of intellectual possibility. And I think one of the reasons that my work has been successful is because I've been kind of liberated from that stifling orthodoxy, that cultural milieu, that institutional pattern. And then, you know, I see all of these folks attacking me. You know, you can't say this, you can't do this. You know, you have to observe this. The Atlantic wrote a piece recently that said, a qualified endorsement of Christopher Rufo, but it was 90% qualifications and 10% endorsement because these folks on the center left, they know they agree with me, but they can't behave as I behave. And really, that's because I'm much more free than they are. And I love that feeling. I love that spirit. I love fighting these fights with a sense of doing things that others cannot even contemplate doing because they risk their academic cynicures or whatever.
Yeah, well, that's the joy of having a free tongue, man. Well, you know, it's also very perverse temperamentally, because I looked a lot at what predicted political viewpoints from the temperamental and cognitive front, because if you're looking at individual differences in people's behavior at the psychological level, you look at general cognitive ability and you look at personality. Those are very good, powerful, reliable, valid predictors of individual difference in such things as opinion. And the biggest predictor of liberal left belief is trait openness, which is the creativity dimension. And what you would, which is why, for example, leftist ideas are rife in places like Hollywood, but what's so bloody perverse about this is that people who are high in openness, first of all, all they really have to offer is the fact that they can think 10 different things at the same time. That freedom of movement, that's especially true with regards to artists. That's all they have. And then what you see on the left is this stifling orthodoxy that makes art dull and predictable. It reduces everything to these 10 axioms. And it seems to fly completely in the face of what open people, creative people, would truly want. And so I'm still puzzling through that. I can't understand yet.
See, it's partly that the open people don't want barriers to information flow. And so when they see conservatives putting up barriers of any type, even barriers of category, that destabilizes them because the open types capitalize on free information flow. But perversely, that rejection of the boundaries that conservatives put up has led to a situation where, well, you didn't want any boundaries, and now all you've got are boundaries around what you can say and think and do. And I can't see how that can sustain itself for any length of time on the artistic front because, well, it'll do the whole enterprise in, but it's gotta just stifle
the hell out of creative producers. Yeah, and I felt that in my time working in the documentary film world. I would attend the conferences. I would go to the festivals. I would participate in the industry. And looking around, and it's like these people, no one says anything new. The festival programmers are pure ideology. You look at the catalog of films for any kind of A-list film festival in the last 10 years. And it looks like a social justice syllabus. It's the kind of transgender basket weavers of Madagascar. I mean, it's like these things that are so niche, so absurd, and then they're only propped up because, again, these are artificial economies. You look at these Sundance award-winning films.
They have all the prestige. They win the institutional game. But then you put them on the marketplace. You look at like an Amazon film rentals. They have like three reviews at two stars. Nobody's watching this stuff. Nobody cares. It has no actual organic audience. And then one of the big distinctions that I see is it's just kind of artificial culture versus a true organic culture. And we've created an artificial culture that is high in openness maybe, but really high in intellectualism and verbal ability. And Machiavelli had the distinction. He had two archetypes.
There's the lion and the fox. The fox is highly intelligent, adaptable, open, verbally very proficient. The lion is strong, tough, setting standards, kind of the strong quiet type. And I think that it's kind of a proxy maybe for left and right. But the conservative movement needs people that have the more kind of fox attributes as well. Because look, we're in a postmodern world. We're in an information economy. You have to be able to do the ideological fights with a sense of skill, with a sense of sophistication, with a sense of narrative. And so that's what I think we need. We need folks like that that also recognize the value of the kind of the lion mindset, which is saying, we wanna have standards. We wanna have institutions. We wanna transmit values from one generation to the next.
We want to appeal to human universals. We want to respect our past and our culture. But we also have to kind of do battle in the world as it exists today. And conservatives have been really frankly awful at that. They thought for many years, oh, well, we're just gonna wave the flag and say America is great. That's not enough. We actually have to engage.
We have to be out playing these folks. The conservatives could leave it implicit. But a lot of what conservatism is about is what's implicit, right? And because the conservative mantra in some sense is rely on what's implicit, rely on what everyone already accepts as self-evident and of value. The problem now is that all of that is up for question, including, for example, things as fundamental as what constitutes a woman and a man. And so that means the conservatives have to make their ethos explicit and they have to start putting it forward as a vision. And that's very hard for conservatives because by and large, they're not visionary because the visionary types are the open types. Now you've seen this weird transgressive reversal on that front. Like one of the first things that really struck me as indicative of how upside down everything was was, well, first of all, Rush Limbaugh. When I first encountered him like 25 years ago, I thought, this guy is a comedian. And he was a comedian. And people took him dead seriously, but he was a comedian.
He was a satirist. And I thought, how the hell did the conservatives get the satirist? That's a very strange thing. And he was unbelievably influential. And then in more recent years, you have these unbelievably strange occurrences like the Babylon B. It's like, okay, let me get this right. You're a conservative, traditionalist, evangelical, Christian, and you're doing satire. It's like, where the hell are we? Because we're not in any world I understand. But I think it is an indication of the need. Well, and you see the Daily Wire Plus doing something like this too, right? They're starting to get interested in the cultural milieu, which is not the normal place that conservatives play because that's where the artists are and they tend to be on the left.
And so this is calling for a real radical reshaping even of how we conceptualize the political landscape
at its level as fundamental as that of temperament itself. It's true, but at the same time, I think that Aristophanes, the Greek satirist, Greek humorist was a conservative, right? He was making fun of the kind of very abstract folks. He was making fun of the philosophers of the time, kind of lampooning them. So there is a tradition, but I think since the 1960s, we've become so used to this idea that art can only be left wing. Free speech can only be left wing. Freedom can only be left wing value. But it's really not the case historically, and I think it's certainly not the case now actually. They've taken all of those values and they've folded them in on themselves. And so we have this euphemistic culture. Whether it's kind of left wing conception of freedom or left wing conception of diversity and inclusion. You can go on down the line and you say, Hey, wait a minute.
You're not actually meaning what you say you mean. All of these things have to be lampooned, they have to be exposed, they have to be ridiculed. And that's why I think something like the Babylon B is successful. I think you have more comedians, actually the kind of most exciting and dynamic comedians of our time may not be conservatives, but they're certainly lampooning that kind of left-wing orthodoxy. And so we're seeing the shift now and it's because the left has institutional control. Look, you know, government agencies, universities, K through 12 schools, prestige media organizations. If you understand the culture, and I think I've documented this in my reporting over the last few years, you know, this is pure left-wing ideology. It's the kind of identity politics, it's the Angela Davis style of activism, it's kind of the critical theory style of assessing society from Marcuse and others. This is the establishment. And so as the anti-establishment became the establishment, really with the baby boomer generation, we live in a new world and conservatives unfortunately still act like, you know, the world is run by, you know, the guys sitting around the country club table. That's not true at all. The world is run by, you know, the PBS employees, the NPR employees, the New York Times employees.
Berkeley graduates. Berkeley grads. And look, I know these folks. I have a good relationship with a lot of people in left-wing media, which is surprising to folks, but I've worked with them, you know, they've come to visit me at my home, they've done profiles, et cetera. I've talked to them on the phone for stories. A lot of these folks actually agree with us. They probably don't agree with my style, they don't agree with my approach, they probably think it's a little bit barbarian, my level of aggression and assertiveness. And they'll tell me, you know, behind the scenes, behind closed doors, you know, say, you know, I think you're right, I think this stuff is crazy, it's gone too far, I certainly want my kids to be indoctrinated in this. But I can't say anything because I have, you know, my position at the newspaper. I have my position in academia.
Coward is really the fundamental issue there. I think that's right. I say that with all due respect. Look, I had a lot of clients who had to reorganize their lives because they were being tyrannized and they had to strategize about how to regain control of their tongue in their life. But the idea that I agree with you, but I just can't say anything, it's like, what do you mean just can't? It's like you're sacrificing your soul on a day-to-day basis. And the fact that 5% of the population who's like truly radically activist can control the whole damn show on the left because the 90% of people who have some sense won't say anything is not an excuse by any stretch of the imagination for their behavior. And I know you're not making that excuse. Let's segue a bit here, shall we, perhaps, and start talking about- I think that's right. You're foray into the domain of critical race theory. The first thing we might wanna do is, let's play around with some definitions. What do you think?
And this'll get us more into the political discussion I wanna have with you too. Critical race theory is a very difficult, what would you say, set of concepts to nail down. And I've kind of characterized that whole general domain, me and others, obviously, as a pastiche of postmodernism and Marxism. And out of that comes an identity politics, which is, what do you think? The Marxist experiment failed on the economic front and all the Marxists did was, they performed a sleight of hand and transformed economic inequality and oppression into identity inequality and oppression, and just went on with the same damn game. And as far as I can tell, CRT is just an offshoot of that, just, but you've delved into it with a fair bit of effort, let's say, and over a fairly long period of time. So let's start by just talking about what constitutes critical race theory
as far as you're concerned. Sure, I think it's actually pretty easy to define. I think there are three main concepts. You have the social analysis, it's that the United States is a white supremacist country that promotes the concepts of freedom and equality, but this is merely a smokescreen for naked racial domination. Second, the doctrine of intersectionality says that the world can be divided between oppressor and oppressed, but innovating from the Marxist economic axis, they say, no, no, no, it's actually an axis of identity, predominantly race, but also including gender and sexuality. And then the third key component or idea is, well, what do you do to fix it? They argue that the constitutional protections of the First Amendment, the 14th Amendment, private property should be overridden, should be suspended, and then society should engage in large-scale wealth, seizure, and redistribution along the axis of race until you have equal outcomes. And so that's it, it's really not that complicated. Sure, they have citations.
It's basically Marxism repackaged using ethnic, racial, and sexual identity, especially with regards to the notion that the entire capitalist infrastructure should be demolished and wealth redistributed. It's like, well, it's not the bourgeoisie and the proletariat, it's whatever racial group or sexual group or ethnic group that you happen to place in the ascendancy. That's right. And I think this is mostly due to French intellectual theorists in the 1970s who had to abandon their appalling allegiance to Marxism under the unbearable pressure of the evidence that all that ever produced was murderous outcomes. And instead of learning their lesson deeply, which they could have, all they did was, they did a slight sidestep, shuffle, and produced all these appalling theories that the Americans, mostly through Yale University and the English department there, by the way, gravitated to like mad. UCLA law schools had been at the forefront of this too, and that damn intersectional theory, to me as someone who's somewhat versed in statistics, that's just a miracle of ignorant stupidity because all it is is the rediscovery of the interaction term. So if you're trying to model a phenomenon, you can use a linear combination of variables, which just means you add them together and maybe weight them slightly differently, but then you can also multiply them together. Now and then, that's an interaction term. And so the idea would be, well, if you're tall and big boned, you're likely to be heavy and possibly tall times big boned equals even heavier. You can add an additional term. And the idea, this is the radical idea of the intersectionalists that, well, there's more than one form of oppression operating simultaneously, and the effect might be multiplicative. It's like, well, Jesus, could you come up with something more obvious than that?
And the answer is no. And it's like, why do you get tenure at UCLA in the law, in the faculty of law, for developing a theory of intersectionality when it's so bloody obvious from the basic perspective of primordial statistics that it goes without saying. Like that's supposed to be the intellectual contribution. Well, you know, if you're black, you're oppressed or Hispanic or whatever the hell it is. Irish, but man, if you're a woman, you're also oppressed. And then, well, if you're an Irish woman, I mean, look at how oppressed you are multiplied by endless demented categories of identity. It's such an intellectual, it's so shallow intellectually. It's such an appalling Marxist sleight of hand that it's crookedness and malevolence
can hardly be overstated. That's right. But I think it's important that maybe I'll disagree slightly. I think that is right. I think it was, you know, they based their legitimacy, not on the objective value of their ideas, which they reject, but on their positionality. So intersectionality, for example, is promoted by Kimberly Crenshaw, a black woman. And so she has authority, not based on the idea, but based on her positionality. And then she gives it a complex Latinate term, intersectionality, which makes it seem maybe more sophisticated than it is. But I think it's important, the question of roots, and I'd like to maybe push back. As much as I would like to blame the French, critical race theory is not based in any meaningful sense on the ideas of Foucault, the ideas of the French deconstructionists. I think if you look at queer theory, that's 100% true. The queer theorists themselves, the founding generation in the 80s and 90s said explicitly, Foucault is our lodestar.
His history of sexuality, his idea of sexual transgression is our founding principle. But the critical race theory scholars are homegrown in the United States phenomenon. And they say it very clearly, they actually lay out their intellectual lineage. They take it from Gramsci, the kind of marks on the axis of culture, but really what it is, it's repackaging the ideas of Angela Davis, repackaging the ideas of the Black Panther Party, black nationalist ideology, and then repackaging identity politics based on the Kumbahi River statement, and other kind of black feminist literature. And so it's coming from Marxism, Marxist-Leninism, black nationalism. And so this is the ideology that then they made a decision in the late 1980s, as the Soviet Union was kind of just poised to collapse, then it collapsed in the early 90s. The critical race theory said, hey, we can't be putting bandoliers across our shoulders and wearing the cool hats and promoting the Black Panther Party. We have to take those ideas and then package them in euphemisms, package them in intellectual jargon, create the idea of intersectionality, which is just a rehash of Angela Davis's women race in class from the previous generation. And then we have to seek legitimacy through the academy. They did this very deliberately. They said, we need to get CRT scholars to start taking over institutions, using the politics of identity to start vanquishing our opponents within the academy and asserting dominance for political activism. They're very explicit about it.
They say, we don't do scholarship, we don't do objective research. That is the kind of the white male toolkit. We do left-wing activism and we're going to legitimize our ideas through elite institutions, use the kind of manipulative strategies within the institution pioneered by Derrick Bell. And that's how we're gonna gain power. And that's how we can then filter our ideas from those elite institutions down to K through 12 schools to the point where you have first graders in Cupertino, California, for example, getting the teachers, third graders rather, dividing the class on the basis of intersectionality into oppressor and oppressed. I mean, they did it. And that's how the kind of power maneuvering worked.
And so I would say in relationship to your intellectual history. So we could put marks at the bottom in some ways, although not only marks, and we could have the French deconstructionists emerge out of that and then the Gramsci tradition emerge out of that too as somewhat separate streams. And the case you're making is that the CRT stream is more properly identified with the Gramsci sort of theorists. And that's perfectly reasonable. I still think that what we're facing on the culture war front is a pastiche of post-modernism and Marxism. Yes, but there's certainly no reason for us to either further that conversation or to disagree. Yes, yes. So let's talk about Derrick Bell for a minute. Now, do you want to point out
some of his signal contributions to this entire mess? Yeah, Derrick Bell is a fascinating guy. I did an entire section and a book that I'm writing that's gonna come out this summer with Harper Collins on Derrick Bell. And he's actually a pretty compelling biographical figure. He was the first in his family to go to college. He got a law degree. He worked with the NAACP Legal Defense Fund. He ran, I think something like 300 anti-segregation cases in the Deep South. And I mean, really compelling guy who I think fought the good fight at that time. He went down into Mississippi, organized black families, got their kids across the color barrier, really shut down the segregation policies of the time in the Deep South and really courageous person. But then something in his psychology shifted and the great black economist Thomas Sowell describes it as he really abandoned those principles and then fought not for an equal society, but for a revenge society. That was Thomas Sowell's words.
And then he became famous by promoting not a vision of racial progress, racial integration, kind of moving past the racism of the past. But he came up with this theory of racial pessimism saying that racism was the permanent and indestructible feature of American life. He spread these kind of conspiracy theories that the United States might be on the verge of what he called black genocide in the 1990s. And then he became famous from this. And so the incentive structure that fed Derrick Bell's academic career, really from the 90s to his death around 2010, 2012, was that he was the kind of doomsayer. He said there could be no progress. It was all an illusion, the 14th Amendment, the Constitution, the Civil Rights Act, the Emancipation Proclamation. All of that talks a good game, but it's really a myth to uphold white supremacy. And even the election of Barack Obama, he was an elderly man. He said, Barack Obama is the president of a white supremacist country, nothing more. And so you see this really tragic- So a degeneration into kind of a unidimensional paranoia. Yeah, and he had a verbal tick towards the end of his life where he would say on interviews, I might be racially paranoid, but, and then finish his sentence.
And so you see this kind of really heroic figure just descend into this pessimism, cynicism, fatalism, and then he's rewarded by society and really predominantly white liberal society. And so he's this tragic figure in my book, not an evil man, not even a bad man, but I think a man who succumbed to kind of, to succumb to this temptation of fatalism that I think then characterizes the second generation of scholars that came beneath him. They play cynical political games, they're cynical about the United States, and they cynically use their own identity as a substitute for their,
for kind of creative and confident intellectual output. Right, which they also then decry as like the markers for that creative competent output just as part of the white patriarchal power game. Like I've seen these charts recently laying out the attributes of a white supremacist society more or less on the temperamental front, like punctuality, for example. And I read through those traits and I think, this is so interesting, because I know that low conscientiousness predicts leftist liberal view. So it's high openness, low conscientiousness. And all the traits that are attributed to white patriarchy are the traits of conscientiousness. It's so amusing and that conscientiousness by the way is the best temperamental predictor of life success. It's second only to general cognitive ability. And so, but what's also interesting is there are absolutely no racial differences in the distribution of trait conscientiousness. And so the claim that conscientious temperamental virtues are somehow white or supremacist or patriarchal is only the claim that conscientious temperamental traits are characteristic of success. It's so interesting to see.
And it's deeply condescending to people who are racial... I mean, it's insane. And I think what the actual, the essence of this point and the essence of that chart is that these people who are kind of left liberal elites, let's say, they imagine themselves as the great kind of cosmopolitan figures who have a wide understanding that surpasses the backwards, traditional American way of life. These people are deeply parochial. These people have never seen and traveled around the world. It's like, if I took that chart and went to Asia, went to Latin America, went to, you know, Lagos, Nigeria, where I've spent a significant amount of time and say, hey, look, you know, these are really white traits of showing up on time, doing hard work, self-efficacy. I mean, I would get slapped and rightfully so, because, you know, this is actually racist. It's kind of inadvertently racist. And it takes traits that are, virtues, these are virtues that everyone can participate in and reduces them to a kind of race essentialism that I think betrays a total lack of curiosity
and a lack of experience with the real world. Look, I think if you're constantly harping about how anti-racist you are, there's gonna be a vicious internal reaction formation. And it isn't, which is the, you know, the development of an opposing viewpoint. It isn't obvious to me at all that the racism in those charts is inadvertent. It might not be conscious, but it's definitely compensatory. It's like, well, I'm so anti-racist. Well, God, I might as well be Mother Teresa. It's like, well, yeah, you're probably not. And so that all that unacknowledged pathology that's still part and parcel of your worldview is gonna make itself manifest somewhere. And how about in your accidental supposition that all traits of conscientiousness don't characterize black people? How about that, you dimwits? So let's talk about Kimberly Crenshaw.
I read about the third of her, I don't remember which book it was now. And she had a very interesting discussion in there about the fact that there is evidence, for example, that black teenage girls get disciplined more harshly than white teenage girls. And, you know, as far as I'm concerned, that could easily be the case. But I read this as an epidemiologist, let's say, I'm a psychologist, I'm very interested in the multiplicity of causal pathways leading towards a given outcome, whatever it might be. And it might be a differential school failure, let's say among adolescents, we could say adolescent girls, say one subset of that is more stringently disciplined black girls. Now, she puts her finger on a real problem, but then she does what all these bloody radicals do, is she attributes it to the same single cause. She says, well, it's all systemic racism. And I think, well, wait a second here. First of all, it's probably not all anything. It's probably quite a few different, complicated things. Here's one, for example. So black girls tend to hit puberty earlier than white girls.
It's a reliable finding. And then fatherless girls tend to hit puberty earlier than girls with fathers. And the difference there is about a year. And no one knows why. It's a very complicated problem. And what that means is, so imagine that you're black girl without a father. Now you're gonna hit puberty, say around the age of nine or 10, something like that. And that might mean that by the time you're 11, you look 17. Now, there's two consequences of that. One is you're a lot more physically intimidating if you get upset. And number two, you're a lot more likely to be held to a high standard of behavior. Like, imagine an 11-year-old who looks nine compared to an 11-year-old who looks 17.
Like, at first glance, who are you going to demand more of? And also be more intimidated by the way. And so, but Crenshaw, she has no interest in that at all. She does a perfectly good job of pointing out the problem. And there's all sorts of problems in racial disparity with regards to outcome that permeate, like, every culture. That's a real problem. But then to reduce that to the same old trite formula, to me indicates, well, the absolute shallowness of her scholarship, which is really quite appalling, all things considered. But also this insistence on the radical side that you only need five explanatory principles to account for everything that's gone wrong with the entire world.
Five, they only need one. Five, they only need one.
I mean, they found their magic wand and that's it. Yeah, yeah, yeah. It's basically the assumption that power governs every human relationship.
And the question is not, you know, even the language overrepresented and underrepresented is so misleading because it assumes that every distribution is going to be proportionate to the percentage in the population. But the question is not, you know, okay, we have a statistical reality that black students have more disciplinary proceedings against them in K through 12. Great. But the real question is not, is it proportionate to the number of the population? Their question is, well, is it proportionate to the behavior? And then once you start asking those questions, you may get a different set of equations, a different set of assumptions. And then you can say, hey, is there discrimination? That's certainly a question worth asking. You can control for other statistical variables and try to figure out what percentage of, or what proportion that has to do with it. But it's like a kind of statistical blindness, an unwillingness to say is there, does behavior and consequences line up? Which is really the number one thing and also the thing that you can control. Because you can actually say, you know, if I believe that my behavior will be met with consequences, and I also believe that I have agency over my own behavior, not perfect agency, not 100%, but at least some control, you're giving people a sense of what they can do.
But if you're outsourcing it to say, whatever happens that is bad in your life, it's the problem of the oppressor, it's the problem of the white male superstructure, you're creating also a sense of fatalism for people. And I saw that so much in my reporting. It's like, you're not doing anyone any favors by saying, you know, whatever you do, Derek Bell says this, whatever you do, you're always gonna be, you know, you're always gonna be disadvantaged, you're always gonna be punished, you can never make it. You can never be treated fairly.
Yeah, tell that to the Nigerians. Yeah. It doesn't seem to work very well on them. They do perfectly well in the United States.
That's right, yeah, that's right, yeah. A whole host of racial... All of the top performing ethnic groups in the United States are racial minorities. And I think the question is, is, well, you know, let's see what they're doing. Let's figure out what cultural traits, what behavior, what patterns, what values that they promote. And let's copy them, you know? I see that all the time. I always try to look at different people and say, hmm, this person seems to be doing better than I am in this pursuit. Why? You know, and how can I emulate that? How can I copy that? How can I learn from this?
But we have a kind of culture that says, no, no, we don't wanna learn at all. We just wanna offload. We wanna scapegoat. We wanna create theories to excuse any kind of sense of possibility for people. And to promote that to kids is really what pisses me off. And look, you're promoting kids into a worldview that hates the United States, that says you're gonna be either an oppressor who should feel guilt and shame or a victim who should feel a sense of hopelessness and fatalism. And then you're giving kids no pathway to achieve their potential. And it's like, this is left wing. This is progressive. No, no, no. This is not anything of the sort. And I think that's why we have to push back to the maximum extent possible
to say, get this out of the classroom. A whole host of racial groups. Okay, now there. Now we can move into the more political realm. Now you've been working with the Florida government fairly closely with DeSantis, as I understand. And you guys have started to legislate moves against, well, let's say critical race theory. Do you want to walk us through that first? Tell me exactly what's going on. I'd like to know what exactly is being done on the legislative and practical front in Florida. And we've already outlined some of the thinking behind that.
And then let's delve into that a little bit. Yeah, it's Florida, but it's also actually now 22 states who've adopted policies to restrict, not critical race theory. Almost all the legislation doesn't mention critical race theory by name, but it's restricting racial scapegoating, race essentialism, and race-based harassment. So it's protecting students from really a violation of their civil rights. And the legislation in Florida and in many other states says, look, you can't promote the idea that one race is inherently superior to another. You can't promote the idea that a student should feel a sense of historical blood guilt because of his or her ancestry. You can't say that one racial group is essentially oppressive in nature. And so in essence, it is recapitulating or really making more concrete and more specific prohibitions that are already in civil rights law from the Civil Rights Act of 1964. And it's responding to this specific problem because we have, it's rather, it's offering this specific solution in response to a specific problem. You have schools that are promoting a racial scapegoating to kids. And look, these are public schools. These are kids that are in many cases compelled to be there by the law.
And then they're teaching other people's children without their consent, without the consent of the governed, that they are somehow evil or oppressive because of their skin color, because of their ancestors. And so I've worked hard to just say, you know what? The first step in this reform initiative is just to say, no, you can't do that. The people have an absolute right.
People have an absolute right. What does that legislation look like? And is it aimed specifically at the K to 12 system or does it also include higher end and other institutions?
It depends on the state, but you know, my point of view and what I've worked on at Manhattan Institute with my colleagues on model policies is to say that in the K through 12 environment, the state, the government, the people have an absolute right to create the curriculum, to create prohibitions, to create a core of ideas and values that are transmitted through the state from one generation to the next, right? From voters to children. And so I think that there is really, and the Supreme Court has agreed, you know, public school teachers are state employees and they do not have First Amendment rights in the classroom. That's established Supreme Court precedent. And the state already in every state sets the curriculum. They say, these are the values of the state. These are the specific pedagogies that we're gonna use. These are the actual lessons and materials that we'll be promoting. And so we know that we have a really absolute authority to design a curriculum that reflects the sentiments and reflects the will of the voters through their elected representatives in the legislature. In higher ed, it's a different story. There's a bit more autonomy. There's a bit more freedom in the classroom.
The jurisprudence, the Supreme Court precedent, precedence is a little bit more complicated. So my view is saying, hey, we have an absolute right because these are kids. These are not adults to kind of shape what is transmitted in the classroom with very clear principles. I think it's less so in the higher education space. My own preference is to say autonomy in the classroom, but we have a absolute right to reshape the bureaucracy. So those academic departments, the DEI departments, the diversity statements, the kind of left-wing loyalty oaths and what have you. And so it's different in my view, K through 12 and the university. But the fundamental bottom line is this. The education system in the United States is not a free market. The state controls 90% of K through 12 and approximately 75% of the higher education market. It is a oligopoly, it is a kind of quasi-monopoly. And the public which pays for it, which charters it, has an absolute right to regulate, restrain and limit their government.
And so I think we're on strong philosophical grounds. We're on strong practical grounds and pragmatic grounds. And we're on strong on the grounds of public opinion. And I think that the question is, you have left-wing ideological hegemony in our public institutions. Even in conservative states, what can we do about it? How can we actually push back? How can we get some of these pseudoscientific and really divisive ideologies out of our institutions before they really harm or really do a kind
of educational damage to our kids? Okay, so let me ask you a couple of questions on that front. So the first is, here's a mystery. So people on the centrist liberal front and on the classic conservative front, the traditionalist conservative front, are concerned about institutional capture. So I've thought this through, where's the fulcrum point for institutional capture? And as far as I can tell, given that 50% of the typical state's budget is spent on education, the leverage point is capture of the education system. Then you might ask, well, because that's 50% of all the money that's spent at the state level. Then you might ask, well, who's captured the education spending? And the answer is, well, teachers and administrators that are associated with the public education system. Then you might ask, well, who's captured them? And the answer to that is well, the faculties of education, how? Well, they have a monopolistic hammer lock on teacher certification.
And then the question is, well, why? Like the faculties of education, They produce, the research literature produced by the faculties of education in the last 50 years has had a devastating negative effect on public education in the US. Time and time again, whole word reading, learning styles, the self-esteem movement, multiple intelligences, like you name it. If the faculties of education put it forward, it was wrong scientifically and disastrous socially. They attract terrible students, unconscious students, most particularly, who are attracted by the what would, the blandishments of being able to get a sinecure position with plenty of vacation and a well-established pension without any academic excellence whatsoever. And they're woke to the hilt. So why the hell have conservatives gone along with the game of allowing the faculties of education to maintain a monopolistic hammerlock on teacher certification? I don't understand it.
Well, I mean, they had for a long time, but that's changed in Arizona and Florida and many other states. They're revamping the certification. I've worked with folks and I've always advocated to actually just get rid of that certification cartel altogether and saying, hey, look, if you have a bachelor's degree in physics, you're qualified to teach physics at a high school level, for example. And conservatives are doing that but the problem is that while that was the initial entry point and we know that from the literature of the critical pedagogists. That was literally their plan. They laid it out in the eighties and nineties, they implemented it. They have the kind of dominance over that. But while that was the genesis or the origin, it's almost, and we should fix it, yes, but it's now a small part of the problem because you have the teaching core. You have the teacher's unions. You have the administration. You have the DEI bureaucrats. You have the actual pedagogical material that is created.
And so you can't simply say that was the genesis of the problem. We can go back and solve the genesis and everything else will evaporate. You now have a multiplicity of kind of, the locus is not singular anymore of the problem. And so we actually have to do a lot more. And the biggest problem though, even worse than the capture of the ed schools, is that these are centralized bureaucracies that are in theory accountable to the democratic votes of the people, legislatures actually have oversight. The big problem is that legislators have really done nothing. And they've let these bureaucracies move anti-democratically to install this ideology. Look, none of the legislators in red states said, we wanna have mandatory DEI departments at all of our K through 12 schools. None of them voted for critical race theory in the curriculum. None of them voted for radical gender theory in Florida, in Tennessee, in Texas. But the activists within the state sector moved against the democratic will of the people without the consent of the governed and installed them through a bureaucratic infiltration, let's say. And so if that is the status quo, and I think it's undoubtedly it is, I've done the reporting, it's been documented over and over, that's the actual question.
Well, what do you do about that? You have a bureaucracy that has now gone totally rogue. It has overstepped its autonomy. It has totally transgressed the values of the public. It has acted without the consent of the legislature. This is a political question. And our friends in the center left, really what their aversion is to conflict. They maintain this position as the enlightened centrist. They feel like if they explain it well enough, they feel like if they go on a podcast, they feel like if they can write a jazzy paper, that the world will conform to their good thinking. That's never how it works. You have people that their livelihoods now, hundreds of thousands of people depends on pushing this ideology within the public institutions. And so the question is, what do you do in that case?
And the kind of classical liberal solution is a dodge, because what it does is it avoids the political nature of the question. These are government institutions. These are institutions that are created and funded by taxpayers and that are under the regulatory power of the legislature. And so the legislature that has abdicated is now starting to move in, I think, you know, through my work, through Governor DeSantis, through other state legislators, they're now moving in to say, hey, wait a minute, we've let this go rogue for too long. We need to actually say, these are political questions and they, by nature, by their very nature, by their essential nature, will require political solutions. Not merely the kind of light touch, you know, approach of people who think that, you know,
signing a letter, an open letter is gonna get the job done. None of them voted for. Okay, so let me push back as hard as I can against that. Please. I do wanna get to the bottom of this as much as possible. So, okay, it seems to me that the reason that the public education system worked as well as it did, for as long as it did, which wasn't that well, but wasn't disastrous, let's say, was that you could make the assumption that the bulk of teachers and administrators, first of all, that the administrator to teacher ratio wasn't observed the way it is now, but also that the bulk of administrators and teachers broadly shared the same set of values as the public that they were, whose children they were educating. And so the reason the system worked is because that shared value system actually was in place, not because legislatures had insisted that the teachers teach something that was in keeping with the standards that obtained in the general public. And now like your claim, and I'm not disputing the claim at all, is that the system has tilted insanely far to the left and that it's no longer in sync with general public sentiment and that the solution to that is intervention at the legislative level. Now, I don't think it was legislative intervention that established the effective axioms of the education system to begin with.
No, I just, I totally dispute that. Of course it was. Okay. I mean, look, the state government controls the curriculum. The state government creates the institutions of public schools. I mean, it's like the actual curricular materials. Yes, it was consonant with the cultural values of the majority at the time. Yes, it was perpetuated not through the letter of the law only, but through the kind of invisible processes and agreements and implicit cultural assumptions. But look, they also said, these are our schools. We have a pledge of allegiance. We do X, Y, and Z. These are the subject matters.
These are the textbooks that we choose. And so at all, we had a kind of agreement with the legislative and then the implicit cultural. Yeah, but you cannot deny that these were all initially legislative creations. I mean, legislators spent a lot of their time, school boards. Again, these are elected kind of many legislatures for school districts. They choose the textbook. They choose the lesson plan. They choose the start time. Every decision that they make politically, which is, again, the ultimate authority over the public schools since they were created,
is a political decision. Right, but it does rest on that concordance. And look, again, I take very little issue with anything that you just claimed. I think the central concern that has been bothering me is this, is the concordance issue. Like, it isn't obvious, and this is also why I was concerned more about eradicating the teacher certification hammerlock by the faculties of education, is that unless, like, it's very hard to legislate morality, even within a system. So for example, and maybe we can walk through exactly how you're doing that. Like, if there are legislative means, for example, to reduce the DEI bureaucracy, how exactly is that gonna play out? Like, how do you identify the DEI proponents? I mean, some of them are gonna have it in their name, but lots of them aren't. I don't understand how this is gonna be implemented at the level of detail. And how do you know that the players here aren't just gonna shift the terminology on you?
Sure, I can get into that, but I think that the presupposition there is that you're saying that it's hard to legislate morality. But that's absurd. It has always been in the Western tradition, the law sets the moral rules. I mean, that's going from a kind of biblical basis to the founding fathers of the United States. They said that the function of law is to establish, of course, limited government, but also to establish a moral framework in which citizens can then live out their lives. And the founding fathers were clear. They said that the purpose of government, the purpose of law is to allow people to pursue happiness, not meaning a Libertarian vision of happiness, not licensed to do whatever they want. But as George Washington said, happiness and virtue, they go together. The Aristotelian idea of virtue and happiness in the American founding was deeply united. And so the purpose of law is to say, don't kill, don't steal, don't do this. Those interdictions are essentially moral prohibitions to establish a moral framework. But to the specific question, it's really a technical question.
How do you define DEI departments? You know, look, with Manhattan Institute, I worked with a team of very smart lawyers from Harvard and Yale and other places. We put together a model policy that does exactly that. Part of it is actually delineating what it is, but really what it is is saying these are the behaviors that we do not permit. The government can no longer spend money on diversity statements, which function of left-wing loyalty oaths. The government can no longer spend money on mandatory diversity training, which functions as ideological indoctrination. The government can no longer tip the scales on the basis of identity. So it can't discriminate for or against individuals on the basis of their group identity. And then the government can no longer spend money on these specific principles, behaviors, and actions that constitute diversity, equity, and inclusion. And so the lawyers spent a lot of time figuring out specifically what the transgression is. All right, well, what do we not want? What actions are we seeing?
And yeah, they can relabel, they can move, but ultimately, we get past that linguistic shell game. The left loves to change the terminology at a quick rate because their ideas underneath them are unpopular. Their actions are unpopular. Their policies are unpopular. So we actually don't operate at the level of just the linguistic shell. We say, what are the specific violations? And so this is civil rights law. So the civil rights law kind of codifies, prohibitions on racial discrimination. Well, what's racial discrimination? Well, I mean, we're still working on it. I don't think we defined it adequately, but we're still working to figure out these ongoing questions. But that is a kind of a cause.
And I take your concern seriously, but it really just means let's be very careful. Let's be very deliberate. Let's make sure that we're doing in a technical manner the right things. But it doesn't undermine the actual fundamental principle at all. It doesn't even touch it. It's that these DEI programs were not created democratically. They violate the consent of the governed and the legislature, the people through their elected representatives have an absolute right to restrain, limit and regulate their government. And so sure, we can debate the details. We can get the lawyers in on it. You've answered one of my concerns.
The lawyers in on it. You've answered one of my concerns, quite effectively, I would say, because what I was concerned about, I think primarily was, well, the potential misuse of government intervention in systems that should be granted a certain amount of autonomy. Cause you can see how that would go wrong, But more particularly, I was concerned that the definitional framework used to address concerns with DEI and CRT would remain at the level of abstraction and therefore become too amorphous and loose. Like if you've actually nailed it down to much more specific exemplars of behavior in action, then you've actually differentiated the problem down to the appropriate micro level of analysis. Do you have any evidence that what you've been putting forward, how are you gonna measure the success or failure of your legislative venture?
Yes, well, I think that we'll ultimately measure the success or failure on, can we get these things through the legislature? Can the bill that emerges and gets signed by governors around the country, is it kind of, is it faithful to the vision that we've put out in our policy papers? And then you can actually just see the cultural change that cascades down from the change in law. You're gonna see the bureaucratic departments get shut down. I think that you're gonna be able to measure the kind of jobs and initiatives that get closed and get removed from the university. And then you're gonna see, very simple, if you say no diversity statements, are the universities doing diversity statements or not? If you say no mandatory kind of race reeducation training, are they doing it or not? If you say no racial discrimination against individuals based on their identity categories, you can then see is the university complying. And so the compliance question is really, if we design a law that is successful, if we restrict not just language, but actual behavior, I think it'll be fairly easy to measure on the backend, not without problems, not without adjustments, not without going back and amending it.
Is there an assessment and measurement strategy in place? Because one of the things I see constantly on the political front is that people put into place policies that are designed to produce a particular end. In your case, for example, let's say reduction in number of bureaucrats who are employed by the DEI or DIE bureaucracy, but that there's never any real attempt to measure that to see if the implemented policies produce their intended action
and very little else, let's say. Yeah, yes, I mean, for sure. And what I proposed at New College of Florida where I'm now a trustee on the board of trustees is that I'm moving to abolish the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Office to kind of just phase that out entirely to adopt these principles against diversity statements, coercive training programs, racial discrimination. And then I'm also moving to create a very small office, doesn't need to be huge, but a department or an office of equality, merit and colorblindness that says these are our positive principles. We're gonna actually have embedded in the law of the institution and the regulatory code of the institution. We have to promote equality, so equal treatment as individuals. We have to promote merit, judging people not on the basis of identity, but on their rigor of scholarship or effectiveness or competence. And we have to have colorblindness throughout the university and all of our processes. And so by creating this small office, I think at New College as a small it could be just one person, maybe two people tops. We can then have reports to the board of trustees on a regular basis. We can have investigations as necessary. We can have compliance and regulatory rules to say, hey, look, are we living up to our values, not just of abolishing DEI, that's the first step, but actually presenting a framework of equality, merit and colorblindness, consonant with civil rights law, consonant with the 14th amendment, consonant with the spirit of the Declaration of Independence.
And that's gonna be the values by which we govern this institution. And we're gonna have, of course, because it's a bureaucracy, some level of compliance so that I get a report at the end of every quarter, every year as a trustee. Hey, this is where we're doing a good job. This is where we might be falling short. This is an update on how we're complying
with these principles. So there are guidelines set forward by the American Psychological Association with regard to the assessment of merit. So people who are hiring are compelled by law, particularly in the US, to hire using measurement techniques that are demonstrably related to the job outcome desired. And so there's actually technical ways of going about that. And so, and I know this literature quite well. So you have to do a job analysis, which is, well, exactly what are the functions that are required for someone in this position. So for example, for a researcher, it might be papers published per year in journals above a certain threshold of quality, combined with number of courses taught, combined with ratings by students and peers of the quality of those courses. Then you can establish a set of predictors that predict that outcome. So for example, for researchers, it would be, well, if you want good scientific researchers, one of the best things to analyze in a potential candidate for employment is number of publications co-authored or authored as a graduate student during PhD training. That would be research dossier. Then there'd be a statistical relationship between the number of papers published in graduate school and the eventual number of papers published as a full-fledged researcher. And that's actually a technical definition of merit.
And so then merit-based hiring would use processes, would use measures of behavioral and perhaps temperamental factors that were tightly tied statistically to the desired outcome. That's a technical definition of merit. Do you think that you have people in place who know the measurement literature well enough to actually come up with a definition of what constitutes merit that isn't merely, that doesn't merely fall prey, let's say to the same semantic ambiguity that you might fall prey to if you were trying to abolish CRT rather than these behavioral measures,
behavioral indicators that we talked about? Yeah, of course, I'm very confident because look, academics are very smart, academics are intelligent people. If you set the standard, hey, we need to actually work on the objective categories of merit, this is the rubric, this is how we judge candidates, this is the process. You know, it's certainly within realm of possibility. And we know that because that's how it used to be. But how it is now, and I just finished, I'm just finishing up doing a series of reports on these programs in Florida's public universities. I analyzed a document from the University of Central Florida. It's called equity-based hiring or inclusive-based hiring. And they say, specifically, merit is a quote myth. They say it's a harmful heuristic. They say you can't be measuring people on merit. It's actually an oppressive structure.
And then in their documentation officially, they say you have to measure people, you have to recruit people on the basis of identity. You have to filter people on the basis of diversity statements. So loyalty oath to left-wing ideology. You have to pepper the job descriptions with social justice buzzwords, like race, equity, social justice, et cetera. And then at the end of the process, you have to have a quota of at least one woman and one minority on the final selection for the job. And if you can't get that race and sex quota, you have to scrap the hiring process and start at the beginning. And they have then guidance on the metrics that they want to hit. And so we have to choose as the public, as the, as the ultimate authority over public institutions, we have to choose. Do you want a hiring system based on identity quotas and political litmus tests? Or do you wanna have a hiring system based on excellence of scholarship and demonstrable merit? And look, people are smart, they're adaptable. If you set the standard, they'll figure out ways to meet it.
But right now, we have the worst of both worlds. We have officially in our law, anti-discrimination, but unofficially, the de facto law of our institutions is explicit and purposeful race and sex discrimination in service of left-wing ideology. And so we have a very clear problem. We actually have what is really at heart, a violation of the very basic social compact that defines our democratic institutions. I mean, John Locke, his head would explode if he saw what's happening. You say, this is a violation of our basic constitutional structure. And the centrist position, which is, well, we can't do anything, don't get the legislature involved. The government should not interfere with the government is such an abdication that it actually enables tyranny. Because if the government is acting against the people without the consent of the people through their legislators to pursue its own ideological ends, that is the definition of tyranny. And yeah, it's a kind of soft equity-based tyranny, but it's tyranny nonetheless, and it undermines the basic structure of our democracy. And I think Governor DeSantis, what he's doing ultimately, is he's restoring public authority over public institutions. All of the B.S.
about that this is a government overeat, that's ridiculous. The government determines the government. It's like saying the people have no authority to regulate the government. I mean, it's so tyrannical, it's so totalitarian. It's like the DeSantis move at heart, the actual substantive core of it is reinvigorating the democratic structures, reinvigorating legislative oversight over public institutions, and giving the people a voice in the constitution of the institutions that teach their children. If we cannot have that, I mean, we should give up. Democracy has lost any kind of substantive meeting. It's procedural and intellectual
and kind of phantom democracy only. Well, Christopher, I'm gonna leave you with that last word. That's pretty damn good closing statement. It was a-
Did I persuade you though? I mean, that's the key question for me is, are you with us, do you support the legislation to abolish DEI, abolish diversity statements, abolish mandatory ideological training, abolish racial discrimination in public universities?
Do I have your support? Well, look, what I would say about our conversation today is that you addressed all the concerns that I had. I wasn't doubtful about the necessity for what you were doing to begin with. I was concerned about the level of analysis that was being utilized. I was concerned that it might be too vague and that it could devolve into something like, you know, a conservative witch hunt on the right, because it isn't necessarily the case that it's gonna be you pursuing this in 10 years. It could easily be someone who doesn't have anywhere near your intellectual capacity. And so that bothered me. It's not easy to put constraints around a set of ideas. And I tried to torture you today as best I could on that front. And I think you responded, you know, with exceptional detail and clarity. And so I'm feeling a hell of a lot better about the situation. I don't have any questions left that I haven't asked you and that you didn't answer sufficiently.
So, and I didn't start this conversation as an opponent to what's been happening in Florida. I started this conversation as a concerned person who has seen the cataclysmic effects of this radical leftist ideology, especially in higher education, but now increasingly in K through 12. And is hoping on all fronts that something can be done about it. And so I'm much more, what would you say, convinced, much more reassured that you and the people who are doing this have thought this through to the proper level of detail. So, and if I have other questions that pop up and no doubt there will be some, then I'll be more than happy to, you know, let those be known. I'd like to think about what I'm doing in this conversation as a benevolent critic, you know, because this is so important to get this right that I don't wanna see anybody slip up and you guys are taking very forthright action. And hopefully there aren't any snakes lurking under the carpet, right? Cause I'm always looking for snakes lurking under the carpet. And so far in this conversation today, you haven't revealed any new snakes. So that's pretty much how I look at that situation. So look, we should wrap this up. We've gone for a requisite 90 minutes.
And like I said, you made a pretty damn compelling closing statement there. I appreciate very much you taking the time to walk through this with me today. And for you to share what you've been doing, you know, so forthrightly with everybody who's listening and watching, I'm sure there'll be plenty of people paying careful attention, especially parents who should particularly pay attention to this conversation who are, you know, interested in what's happening in Florida and elsewhere, but also leery about it. And so my suspicions are they're going to feel a lot more confident about this attempt to restructure than they might've before the conversation. So that's probably a success on your front. I guess we'll see what the public commentary is like. So I'd like to thank you very much for agreeing to talk to me today. To everybody who's watching and listening on the YouTube and its associated platforms. Thanks for your time and attention to the Daily Wire Plus. People for facilitating this conversation. That's much appreciated. Film crew here in Tulsa, because that's where I am today, who made this possible without any technical flaw or screw up.
That's always much appreciated. And Chris, we're going to move over to the Daily Wire Plus platform now, and I'm going to spend half an hour with you talking more autobiographically. I'm interested in getting into a little bit more detail about how your intellectual interests developed across time. And thanks again for agreeing to talk to me. It was a pleasure getting to know you a bit more. Hello, everyone. I would encourage you to continue listening to my conversation with my guest on dailywireplus.com.