Reason interviews John McWhorter

November 26, 2021 • 12:15 pm

I usually get bored listening to one person talk for an hour on video, but I found this interview of John McWhorter by Reason (a libertarian site) absorbing and thought-provoking.  If you listen to the whole 65-minute interview, you’ll hear pretty much the entire panoply of McWhorter’s views on race, which are also in his new book, Woke Racism: How a New Religion Has Betrayed Black America.  I’ve listened to the whole video, but haven’t yet read McWhorter’s book (much of its draft, however, used to be on his Substack site).

I’m heartened that McWhorter describes himseslf as a “Sixties-style liberal”, which is how I see myself, too. He’s certainly not an “alt-righter” or conservative, but he’s often characterized that way as he doesn’t buy into the standard “progressive” Left views on racism.

Part of the YouTube notes:

That’s New York Times columnist and Columbia University linguist John McWhorter talking about his best-selling new book Woke Racism: How a New Religion Has Betrayed Black America. He argues that the ideas of Robin DiAngelo, Ibram X. Kendi, and The 1619 Project undermine the success of black people by sharpening racial divides and distracting from actual obstacles to real progress.

His shortlist for what would most help black America? “There should be no war on drugs; society should get behind teaching everybody to read the right way; and we should make solid vocational training as easy to obtain as a college education.”

Reason’s Nick Gillespie spoke with the 56-year-old McWhorter about what white people get out of cooperating with an ideological agenda that casts them as devils, what black people gain by “performing” victimhood, and what needs to change so that all Americans can get on with creating a more perfect union.

10 thoughts on “Reason interviews John McWhorter

  1. “… society should get behind teaching everybody to read the right way; … ”

    The right way is:
    – oral-aural literacy in the home;
    – reading to small children in the home, valorization of books;
    – acknowledgement of primacy in practice of the language/syntax/pronunciation in which books and journals are written;
    – systematic phonics instruction (decoding) delivered at the sweet spot of a child’s sensitivity to it (2.5 to 4.5 years old for most)
    – continued exposure to rich environment of the spoken and written word — a reader for life;
    – a mentor or mentors who stir curiosity and excitement for knowledge and language.

    Not only is the skill of decoding required, but a surrounding environment of rich oral-aural engagement and respect for literature.

    “Reading unfits a person for slavery.” ~ Frederick Douglass

      1. I wish I could think of some witty response but I can’t. “Sub” is merely a placeholder that allows one to click the “Notify me of new comments via email” checkbox without having to add anything of substance.

  2. Sorry, but I don’t know what point you’re trying to make. The questions are reasonable, and above all they just give McWhorter a chance to expound his views. When you tell me how his views have been warped by being interviewed by a person on behalf of Reason, then I’ll pay attention.

    Who really cares what libertarians believe if McWhorter is not one of them?

  3. Double sub to comment #1, with one codicil. The only population that can count on “systematic phonics instruction (decoding)” is certain developmentally disabled children. Some normal children may enjoy the advantage of learning to read in this way, but many will be subjected to faddish alternatives
    still popular with the educracy. And very few normal USian children will receive any reading instruction at the early ages the comment correctly recommends. Many children in South Korea and Finland, on the other hand, apparently do enjoy this advantage. [See: .] Perhaps, in the medium future, printed text matter will appear predominantly in Korean or Finnish rather than English.

    1. All children in true Montessori schools, worldwide, receive this sequence. Some gov education systems have “Public School Montessori” programs, but intense vigilance must be paid to assure these are ‘sincere.’

      The other avenue: “I learned to read from my grandmother*. She talked about books all the time, and read to me. Then she made me aware of the syllables, matched sounds to the alphabet, and helped me with the few words that are not normal! One weekend, and I exploded into reading.”

      *kindly neighbor lady, father; uncle, babysitter, et al

    2. Add…

      Clicking into the link you provided …

      “Government programs in early childhood education” are not necessarily good. More likely: a disaster, if the system focuses on CSJ praxis, namely destabilization of innocence and imprinting into the CSJ worldview.

      Those of us fighting to strip this project from education are highly opposed to taxpayer-financed preschool, either elective or coerced, at least until the Woke influence is obliterated.

      Even then, what is the likelihood a non-Woke pedagogy for this age group would include systematic phonics-first? Very low, since it is denounced by current philosophy of education for K-12.

  4. I hadn’t realised until I listened to the interview that John McWhorter’s position at Columbia is untenured. As he says, he’s working like crazy to insulate himself against any future cancellation from one of his jobs. I found Woke Racism excellent in parts, but less so in others although the latter might just be because a lot of the material was familiar to me from his other writing and interviews etc.

  5. There is also a really great interview by Reason Mag with McWorter about his book. I watched it and did appreciate it. I think there are quite a few of these old school liberals (classical liberals) who have been coerced into silence maybe over fear of losing their jobs or just enduring attacks. Great interview

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