Quotulatiousness

July 20, 2017

QotD: Who was Epicurus?

Filed under: Education, History, Liberty, Quotations — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

Epicurus (341-270 B.C.) was a Greek philosopher who claimed the cosmos was eternal and merely material, made up of atoms and void. Yet, breaking with his predecessor Democritus, he considered the universe indeterminate. In the realm of ethics, Epicurus taught that the purpose of human life was the pursuit of happiness, which could be achieved by the measured study of the natural world and adherence to a prudent and temperate hedonism.

He counseled men not to fear their own death, saying,

    Foolish, therefore, is the man who says that he fears death, not because it will pain when it comes, but because it pains in the prospect. Whatever causes no annoyance when it is present, causes only a groundless pain in the expectation. Death, therefore, the most awful of evils, is nothing to us, seeing that, when we are, death is not come, and, when death is come, we are not.

He considered friendship as the utmost means of securing wisdom, saying,

    Friendship dances around the world, bidding us all to awaken to the recognition of happiness…The same conviction which inspires confidence that nothing we have to fear is eternal or even of long duration, also enables us to see that in the limited evils of this life nothing enhances our security so much as friendship.”

He advised men to avoid vain ambitions such as the pursuit of fame, exorbitant wealth, and political power for their own sake. Rather, he thought wise men would be “strong and self-sufficient” and “take pride in their own personal qualities not in those that depend on external circumstances.”

To Epicurus, pain is a natural evil, pleasure a natural good, with the ultimate pleasure being the absence of bodily pain and tranquility of the mind. From his Letter to Menoeceus:

    When we say, then, that pleasure is the end and aim, we do not mean the pleasures of the prodigal or the pleasures of sensuality, as we are understood to do by some through ignorance, prejudice, or willful misrepresentation. By pleasure we mean the absence of pain in the body and of trouble in the soul. It is not an unbroken succession of drinking-bouts and of revelry, not sexual lust, not the enjoyment of the fish and other delicacies of a luxurious table, which produce a pleasant life; it is sober reasoning, searching out the grounds of every choice and avoidance, and banishing those beliefs through which the greatest tumults take possession of the soul.

Nevertheless, because Epicurus claimed the ultimate aim of happiness is to find pleasure – and not virtue or knowledge unto themselves – many of his contemporaries and later critics would uncharitably accuse him of advocating debauchery, one even saying he “vomited twice a day from over-indulgence,” and that his understanding of philosophy and life in general was wanting.

One might hear the very same smear today from mainstream American partisans in regard to libertarians, i.e. that liberty lovers are simply “pot-smoking republicans” or libertines who barely understand life and are too drunk on utopian dreams to see clearly. In this same vein, many reproached Epicurus (as they do of libertarians today) for his aloof stance on politics as apathetic and his notion of justice as too transactional.

“Natural justice is a pledge of reciprocal benefit,” writes Epicurus in his Principal Doctrines, “to prevent one man from harming or being harmed by another.” Elsewhere he writes, “We must free ourselves from the prison of public education and politics.”

Accordingly, Epicurus set up his own school, “The Garden,” where he offered philosophy to anyone, even women and slaves – an unheard of practice at the time, which many contemporary critics saw as proof of his penchant for depraved behavior. Why else would one invite women and slaves into one’s abode other than revelry? Was he actually going to talk to them about ideas?

Thankfully, we have Diogenes Laërtius to defend Epicurus from his detractors:

    But these people are stark mad. For our philosopher has numerous witnesses to attest his unsurpassed goodwill to all men – his native land, which honored him with statues in bronze; his friends, so many in number that they could hardly be counted by whole cities, and indeed all who knew him, held fast as they were by the siren-charms of his doctrine…the Garden itself which, while nearly all the others have died out, continues for ever without interruption through numberless successions of one director after another; his gratitude to his parents, his generosity to his brothers, his gentleness to his servants, as evidenced by the terms of his will and by the fact that they were members of the Garden…and in general, his benevolence to all mankind. His piety towards the gods and his affection for his country no words can describe. He carried his modesty to such an excess that he did not even enter public life.

Joey Clark, “What Epicurus Can Teach Us about Freedom and Happiness”, Foundation for Economic Education, 2016-10-18.

July 9, 2017

Historical ignorance

Filed under: Education, History, Media, Politics, USA — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

Jonah Goldberg laments the constant displays of historical ignorance in the media and on social media:

Ideological and political polarization is a big concern these days, and commentators on the right and left have chewed the topic to masticated pulp. But it occurs to me that one unappreciated factor is widespread historical ignorance, and the arrogant impatience of reaching conclusions before thinking. The instantaneity of TV and Twitter only amplifies the problem.

For instance, on the Fourth of July, NPR’s Morning Edition tweeted out the text of the Declaration of Independence, 140 characters at a time. The angry responses, from left and right, were a thing to behold. “Are you drunk?” “So, NPR is calling for revolution,” “Glad you’re being defunded, your show was never balanced,” and so on.

World War II and the Cold War, particularly Vietnam, used to define the intellectual framework for how we understood many events. For people in their 30s, that framework changed to the Iraq War and the War on Terror. In my more curmudgeonly moments, it seems like the new paradigm for millennials (and the journalists and politicians who pander to them) isn’t some major geopolitical test or moment but the adventures of Harry Potter. Having never read the series, I also don’t read the countless articles using the books to explain the political climate, but I do marvel at their ubiquity.

It should go without saying that a children’s book about a magical boarding school for wizards is of limited utility in understanding, well, just about anything in a world without wizards.

I once heard a story second-hand of a general who was talking to an audience full of 20-somethings. He was explaining how the War on Terror challenged his generation’s mindset. “I spent most of my career worrying about the Fulda Gap,” he said. To which one “educated” fellow reportedly replied, “I know that Gap! It’s in a mall near my house.”

The Fulda Gap is the location in the German lowlands where the Soviets were most likely to launch an invasion of Europe.

Today, we face a multitude of challenges, at home and abroad, that can only be met by people with a modicum of historical literacy. If only Harry Potter could cast a spell to give it to us.

July 8, 2017

Renaming Ryerson

Filed under: Cancon, Education, History, Politics, Religion — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 06:00

There’s apparently a demand from the usual suspects to change the name of Ryerson University in Toronto, because the man the university is named after was a key figure in the establishment of the hated aboriginal residential school system. Colby Cosh discusses the man, his history, and the issue:

The name of “Ryerson University” self-evidently exists to honour Egerton Ryerson, rather than merely to perpetuate the words or the sound of his name as a semantic object. Ontario, as a society, is free to reconsider this decision and, in a sense, put Ryerson on trial.

Which he might, after all, win. Egerton Ryerson was alive from 1803 to 1882; his place in the history of residential schools is based on activity he engaged in between 1837, when he was involved with Indian education as a member of the missionary Aborigines Protection Society, and 1847, when he wrote a report outlining future principles for aboriginal “industrial education.” For most of his life these ideas were never implemented. In the 1880s, by which time Ryerson was recognized as a Canadian founder, he had become more influential — and so the younger Ryerson was a central posthumous author of a system he never lived to see.

As an influence, nearly anyone would now judge him very harmful. He thought it was important that education should be provided to Indian children through boarding schools, and by the churches, with a strong religious element. Like many theorists of the 19th century, he believed in frogmarching aboriginal peoples through an accelerated agricultural-pastoral phase of cultural evolution, as part of their progress toward equality and their emergence from state “tutelage.”

The effects of these principles, once applied, were beyond disastrous. But Ryerson’s advice was not predicated on harming or punishing First Nations. He was opposed in his own time by malign quietists who preferred to plan for Canadian Indians to literally die off in out-of-sight places. He worked with aboriginal colleagues in developing his ideas, spoke Ojibwe, and modelled his vision of Indian education on outstanding European schools for the (European) poor.

This would be a strange approach if his goal had been genocide. Which is not to say that he or anyone else ought to be judged mostly on his intentions.

The Canadian state lies under remarkably heavy obligations to Egerton Ryerson for both its development and its current form. He is an important reason that religious tests for political participation never gained a foothold in our country. He is the father of secular public schooling here, though he would hate to hear that. As a bureaucrat, he stood for a non-partisan public service when that was a weird new idea, and did as much as anybody to show it could work.

Gerry Bowler discusses similar cases down to Hector-Louis Langevin:

If you go to the Doge’s Palace in Venice and consider the portraits of the city’s rulers, you will find them all in chronological order until you come to the place where you would expect to see that of Marino Faliero, elected in 1354. Instead of his likeness, you will behold only a black pall and the words “Hic est locus Marini Falethri decapitati pro criminibus” (This is the spot for Marino Faliero, beheaded for his crimes).

In the 20th century, Kremlinologists had a hard time keeping up with the Soviet personalities who achieved high office but somehow earned the wrath of Josef Stalin. One day, they’re a member of the Politburo, a famous poet or a marshal of the Red Army; the next day, they’re given a bullet in the back of the head and their names are erased from Communist Party publications, with photographs altered to show that they had never – despite what witnesses might remember – reviewed the troops in Red Square, been acclaimed a Hero of Socialist Labour or stood beside Vladimir Lenin during the revolution.

Unfortunately, Canadians are not above this sort of thing. Now is the turn for Hector-Louis Langevin. For the crime of being associated with the Indian residential school system, his name is to be stripped from one of the buildings on Parliament Hill. Although he was a Father of Confederation, an architect of a nation spanning half a continent, the political class of today deems him unworthy of being remembered. Never mind that his ideas were utterly respectable in his day and shared by those who are, for the moment at least, still allowed to be memorialized – Sir John A. Macdonald, Archbishop Alexandre-Antonin Taché or Sara Riel, for example – they are now considered shameful.

The irony is that this brouhaha will not obliterate Langevin from public memory; thousands now know more about his life and works than they did a month ago.

But oblivion is not enough for today’s signallers of their virtue. They want to go beyond Orwell’s novel 1984, past amnesia into disgrace. They want to dishonour Langevin and those who were of his opinion – and by extension, anyone today who opposes current aboriginal policies.

As Orwell told us: “You will be annihilated in the past as well as in the future. You will never have existed.”

So long, Langevin!

June 29, 2017

Homeschooling is looking like a better option all the time

Filed under: Bureaucracy, Education, Health, USA — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

Susan Goldberg explains what some states are now asking primary school teachers to do in the way of monthly mental health evaluations of the kids they teach:

On paper it reads like a not-so-vague attempt to socially engineer your child’s behavior. In reality, teacher-led mental health assessments coming to a growing number of public schools are a bureaucratic nightmare. One that will no doubt further clog our nation’s public education system with increased paperwork and administrative costs while putting your child’s future at serious risk.

Thanks to Dr. Aida Cerundolo’s piece in The Wall Street Journal, we are beginning to understand the real-life ramifications of these dangerous educational ideas. Want the Cliffs Notes version? Head over to the excellent summation by Emmett McGroarty and Jane Robbins, detailing the ramifications of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), a federal bill focused on the buzz-phrase “Social Emotional Learning” (SEL), the latest craze in public education. Schools in states that have ESSA legislation on the books can use the Devereux Student Strengths Assessment (DESSA) to fulfill ESSA paperwork requirements.

    …every month the teacher must answer 72 questions about each of the perhaps dozens of students in her class. She must assess whether the student “carr[ies] himself with confidence,” whatever that means for a 5-year-old, and whether he can “cope well with insults and mean comments.”

    … Dr. Cerundolo’s alarm at the imposition of DESSA is shared by at least some New Hampshire teachers. One of them contacted Ann Marie Banfield, Education Liaison for Cornerstone Action in New Hampshire, to express her objections to completing the DESSA forms on her students. The teacher was especially troubled that the school neither sought parental consent nor even notified parents that their children were being screened by amateurs for mental-health issues. As the mother of public-school students, she worried that other teachers were completing this assessment on her children.

You read that right: if you live in an ESSA state, your child’s mental health will be assessed by a non-medical professional in a non-medical context. The paperwork will not be protected by HIPAA laws, which means that the school district can share a teacher’s assessment of your child’s mental health with literally anyone. Parents are not asked for permission before the DESSA is administered, nor do they have any say over where the records go once they are obtained.

I imagine that primary school teachers will be just overjoyed to take on yet another task for which they may have no formal training or aptitude, in addition to the piddling little details of actually teaching. Were you ever warned about youthful misbehaviour going on to your “permanent record”? Now, it’s not just the big ticket items that will follow your kids from now on in their school careers.

June 21, 2017

College Students ‘Think Freedom is Not a Big Deal’

Published on 20 Jun 2017

Sociologist Frank Fruedi and Reason’s Nick Gillespie discuss the decline of free speech on campus and his new book, What Happened to the University: a Sociological Exploration of its Infantilisation.
———-
“For the first time, a growing number of young people actually think freedom isn’t a big deal,” says sociologist Frank Furedi, who’s an emeritus professor at the University of Kent and author of the new book, What Happened to the University: a sociological exploration of its infantilisation.

The university was once a place where students valued free speech and risk taking, but today “a very illiberal ethos has become institutionalized,” says Furedi. “In many respects, it’s easier to speak about controversial subjects outside the university…It’s a historic role reversal.”

Furedi sat down with Reason‘s Nick Gillespie to talk about the roots of this intellectual shift on campus — and how to fix it.

Edited by Mark McDaniel. Cameras by Jim Epstein and Kevin Alexander. Music by Bensound.

June 16, 2017

QotD: Cultural decline markers

Filed under: Education, History, Quotations, USA — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

In response to my previous post noting that the Flynn effect turns out to be a mirage, at least two respondents have suggested that average IQ has actually been falling, and have pointed to the alleged dumbing-down of politics and popular culture in the last fifty years.

I think both those respondents and the psychometricians are correct. That is, it seems to me that during my lifetime I’ve seen evidence that average IQ has risen a little, but that other traits involved in the “smart or stupid” judgment have eroded.

On the one hand, I’ve previously described the emergence of geek culture, which I take among other things as evidence that there are more bright and imaginative individuals around than there were when I was a kid. Enough of us, now, to claim a substantial slice of turf in the cultural marketplace. This good news is reinforced for me be the explosive growth of the hacker community, which today is easily a hundred times the size it was in, say, 1975 — and far larger than I ever dreamed it would be then.

On the other hand, when I compare Americans today to the country of my childhood there are ways the present comes off rather badly. We are more obese, we have shorter attention spans, our divorce rate has skyrocketed. All these and other indicators tell me that we have (on average) lost a significant part of our capacity to exert self-discipline, defer gratification, and honor contracts when the going gets tough.

To sum up, we’re brighter than we used to be, but lazier. We have more capacity, but we use less of it. Physically and mentally we are self-indulgent, flabby, unwilling to wake up from the consumer-culture dream of entitlement. We pursue happiness by means ever more elaborate and frenetic, diminishing returns long since having set in. When reality hands us a wake-up call like 9/11, too many of us react with denial and fantasy.

This is, of course, not a new complaint. Juvenal, Horace, and Petronius Arbiter wrote much the same indictment of their popular culture at the height of the Roman Empire. They were smart enough to understand, nigh on two millennia ago, that this is what happens to elites who have it easy, who aren’t tested and winnowed by war and famine and plague and poverty.

But there are important differences. One is that while decadence used to be an exclusive problem of the upper crust, we are all aristocrats now. More importantly, where the Romans believed that decadence in individuals and societies was inevitable, we know (because we’ve kept records) that as individuals we are taller, stronger, healthier, longer-lived and more intelligent than our ancestors — that, in fact, we have reaped large gains merely within the last century.

We have more capacity, but we use less of it. And, really, is it any surprise? Our schools are abandoning truth for left-wing bullshit about multiculturalism and right-wing bullshit about “intelligent design”. Our politics has become a wasteland of rhetorical assassinations in which nobody but the fringe crazies believe even their own slogans any more. Our cultural environment has become inward-turned, obsessed with petty intramural squabbles, clogged with cant. Juvenal would find it all quite familiar.

Eric S. Raymond, “People Getting Brighter, Culture Getting Dimmer”, Armed and Dangerous, 2005-08-28.

June 2, 2017

Ethiopia goes offline

Filed under: Africa, Education, Government, Technology — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

Cory Doctorow on Ethiopia’s decision to shut down access to the internet “to prevent exam cheating”:

The entire nation of Ethiopia — a corrupt, oligarchic state with the distinction of being “the world’s first turnkey surveillance state” where spy technology from the “free world” is used to spy on the whole country — just dropped off the internet.

The ruling clique says it turned off the country’s internet to prevent Ethiopian students from accessing final exam questions via Facebook groups run by the global Ethiopian diaspora, and indeed, last year’s exams were spoiled by early-circulated exam questions.

But Ethiopia routinely disappears from the world’s internet in response to dissent and protest, and these are never far from the surface in Ethiopia, so the exams might just be a convenient excuse.

It’s an interesting counter to the idea that even authoritarian regimes struggle to turn off their national internet systems, because these are vital to maintaining the elites’ business interests, as well as extractive industries like oil, or other industries like tourism. In Burma and Egypt, totalitarian regimes have wrestled with the question of when and whether to shut down the internet, often pulling the switch after it was too late (for them).

June 1, 2017

Words & Numbers: Is Your College Degree Worthless?

Filed under: Economics, Education — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 04:00

Published on 31 May 2017

A lot of people assume that any degree increases your income over the course of your life, but it actually seriously depends on what major you choose and what career you go into. This week on Words & Numbers, Antony Davies​ and James R. Harrigan​ breakdown the numbers on what your college degree is actually worth.

QotD: Economics

Filed under: Economics, Education, Quotations — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 01:00

Science may be the noblest endeavor of the human mind, but I believe (though I cannot prove) that the most crippling and dangerous kind of ignorance in the modern West is ignorance of economics, the way markets work, and the ways non-market allocation mechanisms are doomed to fail. Such economic ignorance is toxic, because it leads to insane politics and the empowerment of those whose rhetoric is altruist but whose true agenda is coercive control.

Eric S. Raymond, “What Do You Believe That You Cannot Prove?”, Armed and Dangerous, 2005-01-06.

May 29, 2017

QotD: Western intellectuals’ anti-Western bias

Filed under: Education, Politics, Quotations, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

Much of the West’s intelligentsia is persistently in love with anything anti-Western (and especially anti-American), an infatuation that has given a great deal of aid and comfort to tyrants and terrorists in the post-9/11 world. Besides these obvious political consequences, the phenomenon Julian Benda famously called le trahison des clercs has laid waste to large swathes of the soft sciences through ideologies like deconstructionism, cultural relativism, and postmodernism.

I believe, but cannot prove, that le trahison des clercs is not a natural development of Western thought but a creation of deliberate propaganda, directly traceable to the successes of Nazi and Stalinist attempts to manipulate the climate of opinion in the early and mid-20th century. Consequently I believe that one of the most difficult and necessary tasks before us in the next half century will be to banish the influence of totalitarian nihilism from science in particular and our culture in general.

Eric S. Raymond, “What Do You Believe That You Cannot Prove?”, Armed and Dangerous, 2005-01-06.

May 24, 2017

“I don’t know if Lou would be cracking up about this or crying because it’s just too stupid”

Filed under: Cancon, Education, Media — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

Reactions to the University of Guelph student association’s characterizing Lou Reed’s “Walk on the Wild Side” as transphobic:

Friends of the late Lou Reed responded on Saturday with disbelief to a claim by a Canadian student body that the singer’s 1972 hit Walk on the Wild Side contains transphobic lyrics.

“I don’t know if Lou would be cracking up about this or crying because it’s just too stupid,” the singer’s longtime producer, Hal Willner, told the Guardian. “The song was a love song to all the people he knew and to New York City by a man who supported the community and the city his whole life.”

The Guelph Central Student Association, a group at the University of Guelph in Ontario, apologised for including the song on a playlist at a campus event.

In an apology published to Facebook and subsequently removed, the group said: “We now know the lyrics to this song are hurtful to our friends in the trans community and we’d like to unreservedly apologize for this error in judgement.”

The lyrics in question focus on Reed’s friends from Andy Warhol’s Factory, among them transgender “superstars” Holly Woodlawn and Candy Darling.

“Holly came from Miami, FLA,” Reed sings. “Hitchhiked her way across the USA/ Plucked her eyebrows on the way/ Shaved her legs and then he was a she/ She says, ‘Hey, babe, take a walk on the wild side.’”

Uploaded on 19 Nov 2009

***Rest in Peace to Holly [Woodlawn] who came from Miami, F-L-A, and who Lou first mentions in the opening lines of the song***

**Congratulations (a long overdue one at that) to the Newest Member of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame: Lou Reed!**

*So sad to hear about Lou’s passing today at the age of 71. There will never be another one like you Lou. A true original and pioneer. Like The Who said in their Facebook status: “Walk On the Peaceful Side”*

“Walk On The Wild Side” from Lou Reed’s 1972 second solo album, Transformer, (after leaving the Velvet Underground) did not chart in the top 10 on Billboard. Some of the songs that year that did chart in the top 10 were: Gilbert O’Sullivan’s “Alone Again (Naturally),” Mac Davis “Don’t Get Hooked On Me,” and Wayne Newton “Daddy Don’t You Walk So Fast.” I’d say “Walk On The Wild Side” is just as memorable, if not more so than those ones. My favorite part of the song is probably the saxophone solo at the end 3:44.

To say the least, this song was highly controversial when it came out considering it is about transvestites who come to NYC for prostitution. They would say to their potential customers, “Take a walk on the wild side!” Lou Reed once said about the song: “I always thought it would be fun to introduce people to characters they maybe hadn’t met before, or hadn’t wanted to meet.” What an amazing storyteller and lyrical genius Lou Reed was.

Try to find another song from this time period where the artist talks so openly about subjects such as oral sex, transvestites, and drug use, there weren’t very many others. He was writing about things in a style that, frankly, almost no other artist at that time would even consider writing or singing about. Lou was well before his time, and has inspired countless artists from all genres. What a classic, classic song! Still no song like it to this day. What artist other than Lou could get away with lyrics like: “And the colored girls go doo do doo, doo do doo, doo do doo”?! The lyrics are way too clever and fun not to post in the description so here they are:

Lyrics:

Holly came from Miami, F.L.A.
Hitch-hiked her way across the U.S.A.
Plucked her eyebrows on the way
Shaved her legs and then he was a she
She says, ‘Hey babe, take a walk on the wild side’
He said, ‘Hey honey, take a walk on the wild side’

Candy came from out on the island
In the backroom she was everybody’s darlin’
But she never lost her head
Even when she was giving head
She says, ‘Hey babe, take a walk on the wild side’
He said, ‘Hey babe, take a walk on the wild side’

And the colored girls go
Doo do doo, doo do doo, doo do doo

Little Joe never once gave it away
Everybody had to pay and pay
A hustle here and a hustle there
New York City’s the place where they said
‘Hey babe, take a walk on the wild side’
I said, ‘Hey Joe, take a walk on the wild side’

Sugar plum fairy came and hit the streets
Lookin’ for soul food and a place to eat
Went to the Apollo, you should’ve seen ’em go go go
They said, ‘Hey sugar, take a walk on the wild side’
I said, ‘Hey babe, take a walk on the wild side’
Alright, huh

Jackie is just speeding away
Thought she was James Dean for a day
Then I guess she had to crash
Valium would have helped that bash
She said, ‘Hey babe, take a walk on the wild side’
I said, ‘Hey honey, take a walk on the wild side’

And the colored girls say
Doo do doo, doo do doo, doo do doo

May 21, 2017

“The conceptual penis as a social construct”

Filed under: Education, Media, USA — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

Getting a paper published is one of the regular measurements of academic life — usually expressed as “publish or perish” — so getting your latest work into print is a high priority for almost all academics. Some fields have rather … lower … standards for publishing than others. Peter Boghossian, Ed.D. (aka Peter Boyle, ED.D.) and James Lindsay, Ph.D. (aka Jamie Lindsay, Ph.D.) submitted a paper written in imitation of post-structuralist discursive gender theory and got it published in a peer-reviewed journal:

    The androcentric scientific and meta-scientific evidence that the penis is the male reproductive organ is considered overwhelming and largely uncontroversial.

That’s how we began. We used this preposterous sentence to open a “paper” consisting of 3,000 words of utter nonsense posing as academic scholarship. Then a peer-reviewed academic journal in the social sciences accepted and published it.

This paper should never have been published. Titled, “The Conceptual Penis as a Social Construct,” our paper “argues” that “The penis vis-à-vis maleness is an incoherent construct. We argue that the conceptual penis is better understood not as an anatomical organ but as a gender-performative, highly fluid social construct.” As if to prove philosopher David Hume’s claim that there is a deep gap between what is and what ought to be, our should-never-have-been-published paper was published in the open-access (meaning that articles are freely accessible and not behind a paywall), peer-reviewed journal Cogent Social Sciences. (In case the PDF is removed, we’ve archived it.)

Assuming the pen names “Jamie Lindsay” and “Peter Boyle,” and writing for the fictitious “Southeast Independent Social Research Group,” we wrote an absurd paper loosely composed in the style of post-structuralist discursive gender theory. The paper was ridiculous by intention, essentially arguing that penises shouldn’t be thought of as male genital organs but as damaging social constructions. We made no attempt to find out what “post-structuralist discursive gender theory” actually means. We assumed that if we were merely clear in our moral implications that maleness is intrinsically bad and that the penis is somehow at the root of it, we could get the paper published in a respectable journal.

This already damning characterization of our hoax understates our paper’s lack of fitness for academic publication by orders of magnitude. We didn’t try to make the paper coherent; instead, we stuffed it full of jargon (like “discursive” and “isomorphism”), nonsense (like arguing that hypermasculine men are both inside and outside of certain discourses at the same time), red-flag phrases (like “pre-post-patriarchal society”), lewd references to slang terms for the penis, insulting phrasing regarding men (including referring to some men who choose not to have children as being “unable to coerce a mate”), and allusions to rape (we stated that “manspreading,” a complaint levied against men for sitting with their legs spread wide, is “akin to raping the empty space around him”). After completing the paper, we read it carefully to ensure it didn’t say anything meaningful, and as neither one of us could determine what it is actually about, we deemed it a success.

H/T to Amy Alkon for the link.

May 13, 2017

University life – it’s even worse than you think it is

Filed under: Education, USA — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

As we have learned over the last few years, university campuses are worse than active war zones for women at risk of sexual assault with one in five four three suffering an assault during their time there every year. However, it now appears that American campuses are also dystopian hotbeds of hunger:

Over the last generation or so, major progress has been made in reducing hunger and malnourishment worldwide. Working together, governments, NGOs, and the private sector have almost halved the proportion of hungry people around the world—from 23 percent in 1990 to under 13 percent in 2014. And yet, if some recent studies are to be believed, one group appears to be suffering disproportionately: American college students. According to an October 2016 survey, “Hunger on Campus,” 48 percent of respondents “reported food insecurity in the previous 30 days,” which means that college students suffer this way in the same proportion as the population of countries like Ethiopia, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, and Congo. “There’s a Hunger Problem on America’s College Campuses,” CNN’s website reported late last year. Who knew that American universities were famine zones?

Well, not so fast. One problem with this discussion is the fuzzy definition of “food insecurity,” which many general readers might confuse with the more empirically rigorous, medically defined category of malnutrition. By contrast, food insecurity is a self-reported, broadly defined indicator, heavily influenced by how questions are asked in surveys (and how different cultures and populations respond to those inquiries). The USDA estimates that 12.7 percent of Americans are food-insecure, or what it defines as lacking “ready availability of nutritionally adequate and safe foods“ acquired in “socially acceptable ways (that is, without resorting to emergency food supplies, scavenging, stealing or other coping strategies).”

Of course, 12.7 percent is a far cry from 48 percent. The disconnect between the on- and off-campus numbers grows partially out of the fact that almost all the research behind the high collegiate numbers has been collected by partisan advocacy groups with a vested interest in portraying a campus hunger crisis. “Hunger on Campus,” for example, was put together by the College and University Food Bank Alliance, the National Student Campaign Against Hunger and Homelessness, the Student Government Resource Center, and the Student Public Interest Research Groups. These groups use much vaguer measures of food insecurity than the USDA does. “Hunger on Campus,” for instance, is based on self-reported responses to prompts such as “I worried whether my food would run out before I got money to buy more”; “The food that I bought just didn’t last, and I didn’t have money to get more”; and “I couldn’t afford to eat balanced meals.” Respondents were asked to indicate whether these statements were “sometimes true” or “often true” over the previous 30 days.

The imprecision of the questions is compounded by problems with statistical methodology. An appendix [PDF] to “Hunger on Campus” explains that the findings are based on convenience surveys, “collected through face-to-face outreach by staff and volunteers affiliated with the organizations that coordinated the research,” and that, as a result, the findings were “not directly generalizable to the U.S. student population at large” (emphasis mine). In social science, convenience sampling — sometimes known as “grab sampling” or “opportunity sampling” — is at best considered a preliminary, rough-cut approach, generally plagued by sampling bias and always lacking in statistical rigor. If careful probability sampling is the gold standard, convenience sampling is its distant, poorer cousin.

QotD: Sneering at the “farmers” in fly-over country

Filed under: Education, Media, Politics, Quotations, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

If Star Wars was written by today’s establishment, Luke would have to be a girl who suffered oppression by the bigoted farm boys, then escaped to the Empire (which was, of course, politically correct and ruled by wise, learned Socialist oligarchs) to wield its military might against the hicks and unlearned morons of Planet Redneck.

Such disdain is everywhere, now. It’s not hard to find in the media, in entertainment, or social media. Some time ago, I remember watching a Youtube video where a man with a strong Southern accent went to great lengths to demonstrate his education and intelligence, discussing complex matters of science, history, and philosophy in an effort to disprove the notion that a Southern accent somehow implies stupidity. I remember wondering why this was even necessary. I’ve met many intelligent, educated individuals in the South, and I’ve encountered no more idiots here than in the other places I’ve been to. Why would this even have to be disproved?

Then it hit me. The new American myth, carefully constructed by the SJWs and their ilk, is that farmers are stupid. Mechanics are dumb. Plumbers only ply their trade because they are too stupid to take gender studies courses. And since they are all idiots, of course their children must be idiots too. Indeed, they are all far too stupid to be permitted a say in how their own lives are run. As Tom Nichols once explained to me: Americans are too stupid to read maps, so why bother informing them about terrorist incidents? Being something of a Centrist, Tom is more charitable than most of the Leftists, whose disdain is much more direct. To those folks, America (and by extension, Americans themselves) is nothing more than a backward nation full of bigots, greedy thieves, murderers, and utter morons in desperate need of extinction.

[…]

But now, a two and a half centuries later, we’re back to where we started. The anointed, ivory tower aristocrats telling us what’s good for us — when we all know it’s a steaming pile of horse manure constructed solely to fool enough good people to keep the nobles planted atop their wobbly thrones. Their underestimation of the regular folks in the world, the farm boys and plumbers, may be what saves us, in the end. After all, it’s worked for America before, time and time again. It’s why, despite all the agitprop to the contrary, today America still remains the most powerful nation on Earth.

Dystopic, “From Farm to Space: A Lost Cultural Myth”, The Declination, 2017-05-01.

May 8, 2017

“… it’s inconceivable that a book called Fascism for Kids would ever be printed by a reputable publisher”

Filed under: Books, Education, History, Politics — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

Jarrett Stepman reviews a new MIT translation of Communism for Kids:

In order to make the deadliest ideology of the 20th century palatable to young Americans, Communism for Kids is coming to a bookstore near you.

This newly released book from MIT Press “proposes a different kind of communism, one that is true to its ideals and free from authoritarianism.”

The death toll from communist regimes in the 20th century is well-documented. One study found that more people were killed under communism than homicide and genocide combined, and only 9 million more people were killed in World War I and World War II combined than under governments of this ideology.

Another study showed how the mass killings of civilians by their own governments took an immediate nosedive after the collapse of the Soviet Union and international communism.

According to the Amazon synopsis, the book weaves a fairy tale of “jealous princesses, fancy swords, displaced peasants, mean bosses, and tired workers.”

It is bewildering why MIT Press would publish a book that cutesies up the political creed that gave the world Joseph Stalin, Mao Zedong, Fidel Castro, and many more of the world’s most prolific mass murderers. None of these brutal dictators are mentioned in the book, according to The Washington Free Beacon.

Communism seemingly gets a pass to be reimagined as a sweet fable while it’s inconceivable that a book called Fascism for Kids would ever be printed by a reputable publisher.

[…]

This odd attempt to get kids into communism is unlikely to spawn a new generation of true believers on its own, but it does highlight the growing problem for younger Americans who are generally clueless about even recent history.

As The Daily Signal previously reported, a study from the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation found that millennials in particular are stunningly ignorant about what occurred under the Soviet Union and other communist regimes just a generation ago.

One-third of millennials surveyed actually believe that more people were killed under former President George W. Bush than under Soviet dictator Stalin.

As suggested, a copy of George Orwell’s Animal Farm would be a far more accurate and informative gift than this piece of whitewash.

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