Dissident Write II: Dissident Boogaloo

Yesterday I looked back at an old post, “Dissident Write.”  That piece detailed five of my favorite political writers.  Their work is engaging, insightful (occasionally inciteful), and memorable.

Staying power is difficult to achieve in the written word—think of all the famous authors’ books you’ve never heard of—especially when writing about the inherently transient and shifting topic of politics; it’s a testament to those writers’ skill that they achieve it.

With Memorial Day coming up—and summer break hot on its heels—it seemed like a good time to get around—finally!—to another list of excellent writers.  These scribes of Western Civilization’s twilight years possess the intellectual chops and mirthful fun that draw me to them.

Of course, if you like my writing, you can support it over at SubscribeStar.

All shameless plugs aside, here are five more must-read writers (with the usual disclaimer—I do not endorse or believe in everything these or any other writers believe, including other sources to which I link; I’m just intellectually curious and read expansively):

  • Conrad Black – As I was writing today’s post (on Wednesday) night, I searched for Lord Conrad Black and discovered President Trump issued him a full pardon for his egregious 2011 conviction on wire fraud and obstruction of justice charges.  Sheer serendipity.  Lord Black’s writing is robust and sophisticated, like an Arby’s Beefwich with class (a metaphor he would never stoop to employ).  Read his essay on his conviction and pardon—his barely-concealed rage at the rank injustice he suffered at the hands of grandstanding prosecutors and judges never breaks the surface of his polished, exact prose.
    Lord Black remains one of the few National Review contributors I will read.  I’m a conservative firebrand, but I appreciate that Lord Black is conservative in an older, loftier, more sanguine sense, a la William F. Buckley, Jr.  He’s a fan of FDR and Nixon (I am of the latter, but not the former), and has written books about both of them, as well as one about President Trump.  He’s an historian in the mold of the British nobility—a skilled researcher with the funds and time to dig deeply into the archives.  I highly recommend any of his articles, and I hope to read his massive books soon.
  • Dalrock – Dalrock is the pseudonym of an anonymous Texan, a father of two children and devoted husband.  Dalrock is also a traditional Christian, which makes him somewhat unusual as a fixture of the “manosphere,” the universe of writers and modern-day Sophists dedicated to promoting neo-masculinity and Western civilization.

    Dalrock is a bit out of place here because many of those writers—like the recently deplatformed Roissy of Chateau Heartiste—are pick-up artists (PUAs).  One day I’ll have to write an intellectual history of that movement, as it’s a fascinating, often disturbing glimpse into a world that went from giving nervous soyboys tips on how to pick up chicks into a movement that came to reject the sexual nihilism of our age.

    But I digress.  Dalrock is a true traditionalist in the biblical sense:  he actually believes and applies the Word of God.  He also goes hard after other Christians who try to smooth over the very clear teachings of the Bible on issues like homosexuality, marriage, and feminism.  He particularly harps on the heresy of chivalry, a gynocentric cult that wormed its way into Christianity, distorting our faith in inexorable ways (Dalrock rests this argument on no less a scholar than C.S. Lewis).

    Dalrock is probably the best writer to synthesize the social scientific works influential to the red-pilled mansophere with traditional Christian doctrine, and probably presaged the so-called “God Pill” awakening of key figures in that movement.

  • John Derbyshire – John Derbyshire now writes for immigration patriot website VDare.com, and releases a great podcast every Friday night/Saturday morning.  Derb immigrated to the United States from Great Britain in the 1970s; he married one of his Chinese students while teaching there; and he writes about math.  He’s also a cancer survivor.  Clearly, this guy has some interesting stuff to say.
    National Review
     fired a cancerous Derb because of a piece he wrote for Taki’s Magazine back in 2012 entitled “The Talk: Nonblack Version.”  You’ll recall that during that unhappy period there constantly seemed to be incidences of police officers killing young black men.  Most of those incidents were justified—as would always come out after weeks of rioting and white progressive virtue-signalling—but some weren’t.  The mainstream media began featuring stories about black parents giving their kids “The Talk”—how to behave around the police so, presumably, they wouldn’t get shot simply for being black.

    Derb’s controversial piece—still listed first under “Greatest Hits” on Taki’s Magazine—included advice to his half-Asian, half-Caucasian children on how to deal with black Americans they encounter in their lives (treat everyone with respect and as individuals, but keep your head on a swivel, essentially).

    Personally, I don’t think it’s Derb’s best work, but it didn’t warrant his firing.  NR grew excessively cautious and squeamish, so they let Derb go.  He beat his cancer, and continues to write at VDare.com.  His writing is also collected at his personal website, and he meticulously releases transcripts of his podcasts and a monthly diary of miscellany.  Derb’s mind is fecund and curious, so his writing is always lively and far-ranging.

  • Steve Sailer – Regular readers know that I often reference Steve Sailer’s work, especially his book reviews.  From border walls to education to surfing, Sailer writes and thinks creatively across a broad range of topics.  I’m a sucker for the polymathic Renaissance Man, a mold that Sailer shares with Lord Black and John Derbyshire.

    Sailer is a demographer and statistician, and his work on human biodiversity asks tough questions about life in a multiracial, multicultural society.  Sailer and Derb are a bit heavy on the race realism stuff, but Sailer’s deep statistical analyses of biology’s impact on human social development are fascinating (consider:  he has an entire essay on evolution and golf courses).

    Whether you agree with Sailer’s conclusions, he’s an erudite, far-ranging writer.  I always learn something new and intriguing when reading Sailer’s pieces.

  • Taki Theodoracopulos – The “Taki” of Taki’s Magazine, Taki (I’ll refrain from calling him “Theodoracopulos,” because it’s a pain to type, and because no one who works for him calls him that) is, from what I can tell, a super-wealthy journalist who spends his free time attending parties with the Royal Family and skiing in Gstaad, as well as mastering judo.  He also really, really hates Arabs.

    Taki’s writing is sometimes a bit self-indulgent, even for me.  But when you’ve got millions in the bank, you can afford to write free-flowing, semi-autobiographical essays about your karate lessons and attempted womanizing.

    Taki hearkens back to a vanishing breed of unapologetic nobility.  He wistfully yearns for the old New York, for when men wore suits on planes and women were feminine and winsome.  His writing his mirthful and wry, but also contains a hint of melancholic nostalgia for a better, vanished time.

So, there you have it.  Some more of my favorite writers on the Dissident Right (some, naturally, are more dissident than others).  As I wrote immediately before the list, I don’t necessarily agree with any or all of these authors’ conclusions, but I do appreciate their erudition, their style, and their commitment to the pursuit of Truth, wherever the facts take them.

Careful readers will note that many of these writers, as well as those from the first “Dissident Write” listicle, are contributors at Taki’s Magazine (and this list includes the owner!).  That’s no coincidence.  I stumbled upon TM a few years ago after reading about a campus protest against John Derbyshire in National Review (when I still subscribed to and read the print edition cover-to-cover every two weeks).  It’s really brought to my attention some excellent, relatively unknown writers, so I’m thrilled to share them with you.

Check out these writers’ work, and draw your own conclusions.  Have any recommendations?  I’m always looking for new, interesting perspectives.  Share your favorites in the comments.

Happy Reading!

–TPP

Sailer and Spotted Toad on Education

Demographer Steve Sailer has a review on Taki’s Magazine of a new book from blogger Spotted Toad.  The book, 13 Ways of Going on a Field Trip: Stories about Teaching and Learning, is a narrative memoir detailing Toad’s decade teaching in public schools in the Bronx.

Sailer, a dedicated statistician in his own right, lauds Spotted Toad’s statistics-laden blog, but points out that his memoir eschews statistics in favor of narrative.  This focus on narrative, as Sailer points out, does not detract from the book’s insights about education, but makes them more viscerally real for the lay reader.

Based on Sailer’s summary of the book (which I plan to purchase and read soon), Spotted Toad’s teaching experience led him to insights similar to my own; that is, that administrators and school boards spend too much time chasing education fads and pushing a romantic narrative about teaching, rather than just getting out of the way and letting teachers… well, teach.

Toad was hired as part of the once-fashionable Teach for America program, which placed young, enthusiastic idealists into poor school districts, usually in tough inner city schools.  The theory was that bad or lazy teachers weren’t engaged enough, so schools needed an injection of Dead Poets’ Society-inspired young’uns who would bend heaven-and-earth to reach urban youths.

Sailer speculates about why Teach for America was so popular in the latter part of the last decade, and suggests that it’s because upper-middle class New York Times readers forwarded glowing articles about TFA to their out-of-work, overly-educated kids.

That somewhat comports with my own experience, as I briefly considered joining TFA upon finishing graduate school at the height of the Great Recession.  I think it’s even more accurate to say it was popular because it promised work during a time when few people could find it, and didn’t require lengthy additional years of education and training.

Sailer pooh-poohs the idea that TFA could create qualified teachers, and he’s not entirely wrong—the program was certainly overly optimistic about its own efficacy—but I think the apprenticeship model of “learning on the job” is one of the better ways to learn the craft.  Most education classes are a joke, and other than a few useful pedagogical insights, my impression is that many of them are indoctrination camps for the latest progressive educational fads.  I’d much rather have a “pure” young teacher learning the ropes with the assistance of battle-hardened veterans in the trenches than to have that teacher languish away in a series of Two-Minute Hates for another couple of years.

Indeed, that’s been my big complaint with the State of South Carolina’s alternative certification program.  We have a teacher shortage, but you want me to shell out cash and three years of my time to teach in a crummy public school?  No thanks.  How about adopt my proposal to grant automatic certification to any private school teacher with three years of teaching experience and a Master’s degree in a relevant field, or with five years and a Bachelor’s?  That would solve the problem more quickly, and would bring a number of qualified teachers into public schools quickly.

My premise is that credentials don’t make a good teacher; classroom experience does.  I’m generally anti-guildist, as I fancy myself a bit of a Renaissance Man.  Of course, that comes from my personal experiences professionally:  out of necessity, I’ve taught a slew of social studies courses, as well as music at different levels, for nearly a decade.  I would have benefited from some education classes to learn solid pedagogical methods in some areas (particularly music education), but I’ve picked up many of these methods through trial-and-error, and sheer force of will.  When you have to get twenty inexperienced middle school musicians to play a Christmas concert, you figure out how to make it work (and sound good).

Regardless, Spotted Toad’s experiences hit upon some common problems in education, particularly education policy.  Toad writes of the coming-and-going educational fads and programs, some supported by big-wigs like Bill Gates, that are championed, implemented hastily (and at great profit to the companies that market and develop these programs), and then abandoned in five years when some new, shiny trend emerges.

Take a moment to read Sailer’s review this morning, as it offers some interesting insights into the push-and-pull of education policy, and an interesting, if sad, retrospective on the bungled federal efforts in the Bush and Obama Administrations to address education in the United States.

That said, for all the doom-and-gloom surrounding discussion of education in America, Sailer ends on a positive note:

For example, as I’ve pointed out over the years, on the international PISA school tests, Asian-Americans do almost as well as Northeast Asian countries, white Americans outscore most white countries other than Finland and few other northern realms, Latino-Americans outperform all Latin American countries, and African-Americans beat the handful of black Caribbean countries that even try the test.

We Americans do spend a lot to achieve these educational results, but our outcomes by global standards are much less terrible than most Americans assume. (In particular, Indian states that have tried the PISA bomb it, scoring at sub-Saharan levels.)

At least we’re beating our peers in other countries—usually.

Surf’s Up

Demographer and statistician Steve Sailer has a book review (“Surfer Privilege” at Taki’s Magazine) of war correspondent William Finnegan’s Barbarian Days: A Surfing Life.  It’s about Finnegan’s idyllic youth in Southern California and Hawaii at a time when a working-class Irish family could afford real estate in some of the United States’ most desirable zip codes, while also supporting four children (Finnegan’s father worked in television, but was a pump jockey at a gas station upon first moving to Los Angeles; he could purchase a house and support his wife and child on that salary).

I recommend reading the book review linked above, as it contains classic Sailerean demographic analysis.  The real estate opportunities accessible to working- and middle-class Americans in the 1950s and 1960s are truly astonishing, and Sailer argues that, if you were born in 1946, the world was your oyster (Sailer was born in 1952, which he argues was also a pretty good year to enter into this world).

The real estate analysis rings true.  I’m 33 and earn a modest income as a history and music teacher at a small private school in rural South Carolina, which I supplement with adjunct teaching at a local technical college and with private music lessons (as well as the occasional music gig).  I’m also an extreme budgeter and put a significant chunk of my earnings into retirement accounts (IRAs and a 403(b) through my employer), and I drive a twelve-year old Dodge minivan.  While I live like a king compared to most people in human history, I still rent a little cottage and don’t support any dependents, much less a wife.  I’ll probably work hard for most of my life (though my long-term retirement planning should pay off over the course of decades; I’m definitely “getting rich slowly”), and I’m not counting on Social Security being around when I hit 70.

Had I been born when my parents were, I’d probably have a house, a wife, four kids, a pension, and a convertible, earning six figures in “consulting.”

I’m not complaining.  I highly value hard work, and I don’t think demography is always destiny (just look at all the miserable, divorced Boomers who are trying to figure out what went wrong).  I believe God has a purpose for us, and we live in our respective time for a reason (not that I haven’t, at times, experienced a sense of dislocation from our current era).

But Sailer’s demographic analysis of the period under consideration—a time that was so safe and prosperous, a kid could spend thousands of hours surfing and his parents didn’t much worry about him—is compelling, and points to long-term problems endemic in our culture today, such as mass immigration, an overly-rosy view of diversity, and idealistic subjectivism.

The Boomer generation was blessed to ride a long wave of economic prosperity and expansion.  As a product of the Great Recession, I’m growing more optimistic that future generations will enjoy similar gains.  I’m also cautiously hopeful that economic growth can prevent the unfortunate Millennial tendency toward idealizing socialism.

Hopefully, we’ll all be able to say “surf’s up!” again soon.