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October 2010

Friday Ephemera

If I buy one and you buy one, we could race them all day. (h/t, Peter Horne) // Sadly, I don’t yet have my own wine tasting cave. // A beginner’s guide to warp drive. // The three pound gummy worm. // Heart jellies. // Tentacle pie. // Transplanted hands. // Time travel, obviously. (h/t, TDK) // Extremity. // Staircases of note. // Female character flowchart. (h/t, Mr Eugenides) // Jimmy Olsen in a jam. // Irregular gears. // Tubeless toilet paper. // Swooning kittens. (h/t, Adam) // Hazardous but fun. // “He wanted a yin and yang symbol with some dragons, but was instead shocked to discover the 16-inch tattoo was of a penis.”

An Instrument of Choice

Dicentra steers us to the musings of Melanie McDonagh and a feminist rationale for fraud, dishonesty and extortion.

It begins thus,

It’s a wise child, they say, that knows its own father.

The subject being pondered is DNA paternity testing and its consequences. Given what follows, you may want to bear that opening sentence in mind.

For the entire course of human history, men have nursed profound, troubling doubts about the fundamental question of whether or not they were fathers to their own children; women, by contrast, usually enjoyed a reasonable level of certainty about the matter. Now, a cotton-wool swab with a bit of saliva, plus a small fee, less than £200, can settle the matter. At a stroke, the one thing that women had going for them has been taken away,

The one thing?

the one respect in which they had the last laugh over their husbands and lovers.

I hadn’t realised parenthood was about having the last laugh. Clearly, I need to brush up on the etiquette of modern mating. But surely paternity tests merely level the playing field in a matter of some gravity? What mama knows (and doesn’t say), papa can now find out. In terms of paternity, is that really such a crushing injustice?

DNA tests are an anti-feminist appliance of science, a change in the balance of power between the sexes that we’ve hardly come to terms with. And that holds true even though many women have the economic potential to provide for their children themselves… In making paternity conditional on a test rather than the say-so of the mother, it has removed from women a powerful instrument of choice.

Choice that may include deception and extortion.

Uncertainty allows mothers to select for their children the father who would be best for them.

Suckering former lovers? Not a problem. Mama wants a selection box. Depriving a child and its actual father of a chance to know each other is also apparently fine. Because uncertainty allows it. Feminism, so conceived, seems to entail the right to a little moral sleight of hand. But hey, choice!

The old situation, in which women presented men with a child, and the man either did the decent thing and offered support, or made a run for it, allowed women a certain leeway… Paternity was ambiguous and it was effectively up to the mother to name her child’s father, or not… Many men have, of course, ended up raising children who were not genetically their own, but really, does it matter?

Answers on a postcard please.

Reheated (14)

For newcomers, some short films from the archives.

Temptation. Small children, marshmallows and delayed gratification.

Misremembered. Just whose memory is it?

Tempted by Sunlight. Two words. Goth Cruise.

500 Flavours of Soda. Carbonated pleasures.

The Whale That Exploded. It can happen, people.

Photograph of Jesus. Strange goings-on at the Hulton Photo Archive.

And by all means mosey through the greatest hits.

Quote of the Day (5)

Thinking, it will be recalled, is the activity one performs before one has arrived at the answer.

Fabian Tassano ponders dangerous thought. And how to prevent it:

A mediocracy encourages people to react personally. Instead of considering whether something is true, people ask themselves, “how does this affect me? Should I have an emotional reaction to this?” An example. When I once suggested to my younger brother - who, like me, spent part of his education in the state sector - that state schools seem to be bad for many people, and to damage them psychologically, his response was “Thanks a lot, that makes me feel really great.” The only way my brother could apparently regard the hypothesis that state schools are awful was in terms of a possible insult to himself. I understand my brother’s reaction, and I suspect many alumni of state schools have a similar attitude. The trouble is, if no one who attended a state school is able to have an impersonal/objective approach, and be willing to admit it was damaging, those responsible for perpetuating the state school system can go on doing so unchecked, while claiming the moral high ground.

Regarding the opening quote, this, also spotted by Fabian, seems relevant. 

Friday Ephemera

Saturn’s rings. // Pearl necklace. Fits gentlemen too. // The phantom penis. // Frames of Reference, 1960. // In need of a good merkin. (h/t, Mr Eugenides) // Make your own sundial. // Marshmallows, microwaves and the speed of light. // Banana slip-ons. // The bionic handling assistant. Supervillains take note. // Shoal. // Collapsible capsule speakers. // A museum of reel-to-reel recording. (h/t, Coudal) // 74,000 seven inch singles. (h/t, Things) // Whisky barrel flooring. // Enhance your snowball flinging. // Fitness equipment of yore. // Praying mantis hygiene. // The world of marijuana. // “We’re going to have to live with less.”

Elsewhere (25)

Charlotte Gore on the taboo of public spending cuts.

See, whilst many… are psychologically able to ignore, or excuse, or basically discount altogether the taking money from people bit of public spending, there are some of us that just can’t. One day it occurs to ask the question, “What exactly gives them the right to help themselves to whatever they want?” and the answer turns out to be because they can. Then you get a bit angry and frustrated, feel almost entirely helpless, then, just to make things that little bit worse, everyone else in the world comes and slaps you in the face for even daring to consider such heretical notions. The taking from me bit doesn’t count. I don’t matter. It’s the no longer giving bit that counts. Think about how people feel! Think about all the things they could do with that money, or that job, or learn from those people or achieve with the support of those others! Don’t you understand? Have you no feelings? Apparently not. I just keep thinking, “But it’s not your money. How can you live with yourselves taking it?”

Shannon Love on the 1970 Kent State shooting and pathological vanity:

In the end, the idea that the Guard opened fire out of ideological hatred of all that is good and pure is really just a manifestation of the left’s own narcissism and megalomania. They are so convinced not only of their rectitude but of their critical importance to the world that they convince themselves that they are actually important enough for non-leftists to want to kill them. The thought that the Guard saw them not as world changing revolutionaries but just as spoiled, violent children just doesn’t play into the self-hagiography of the individual leftists.

Mick Hartley visits the Tate and ponders a room full of porcelain seeds.

Ah. A powerful commentary on the human condition. I should have known.

Feel free to add your own.

Dissident Academic Feels the Warmth of “Social Justice”

Longtime readers of this blog will be familiar with KC Johnson, a Brooklyn College history professor who’s written at length about leftist groupthink in academia, its various pathologies and its imperviousness to correction. Johnson is the co-author of Until Proven Innocent, which documents the infamous Duke “rape” case and its participants’ extraordinary improprieties and political prejudice.

In May 2005, writing for Inside Higher Ed, Johnson drew attention to the emergence of “dispositions theory” and attempts to impose overt political filtering in dozens of teacher-training programmes:

The faculty’s ideological imbalance has allowed three factors - a new accreditation policy, changes in how students are evaluated and curricular orientation around a theme of “social justice” - to impose a de facto political litmus test on the next cohort of public school teachers.

Looking through various teacher-training outlines, the familiar leftist buzzwords appear repeatedly. “Diversity” and identity politics feature prominently and teachers-to-be are referred to as “critical thinking change agents.” These “agents” will use the classroom “to transcend the negative effects of the dominant culture” and will “speak on behalf of identified constituent groups,” becoming “advocates for those on the margins of society.” (Evidently, “critical thinking” should be taken to mean leftist thinking – critical of capitalism, individualism and bourgeois values - not thinking that might also be critical of the left, its methods and its assorted conceits. And one wonders how many liberties will be taken while speaking on behalf of “groups” deemed marginal and oppressed.)

Some programmes encourage teachers to regard themselves as “enlightened leaders” who “must understand the political nature of education,” that “education is a political act,” and thereby “act as change agents,” while “developing emerging theories to support change agentry principles and processes.” The prospective teacher is expected to “serve as an advocate for groups that have been traditionally discriminated against” and to “provide evidence” of their own “commitment to social justice.” This commitment may be fostered by “fully developing candidates, not only academically but also in moral and political senses.”

All of which prompted Johnson to ask the obvious question: Who gets to define this mysterious “social justice”? Who gets to say what a “more just society” might entail and how one might achieve it?

As the hotly contested campaigns of 2000 and 2004 amply demonstrated, people of good faith disagree on the components of a “just society,” or what constitutes the “negative effects of the dominant culture”…An intellectually diverse academic culture would ensure that these vague sentiments did not yield one-sided policy prescriptions for students. But the professoriate cannot dismiss its ideological and political imbalance as meaningless while simultaneously implementing initiatives based on a fundamentally partisan agenda. […]

Traditionally, prospective teachers needed to demonstrate knowledge of their subject field and mastery of essential educational skills. In recent years, however, an amorphous third criterion called “dispositions” has emerged. As one conference devoted to the concept explained, using this standard would produce “teachers who possess knowledge and discernment of what is good or virtuous.” Advocates leave ideologically one-sided education departments to determine “what is good or virtuous” in the world.

Johnson provided an illustration of “critical thinking” and “enlightened leadership” in action at his own institution, Brooklyn College:

At the undergraduate level, these high-sounding principles have been translated into practice through a required class called “Language and Literacy Development in Secondary Education.” According to numerous students, the course’s instructor demanded that they recognise “white English” as the “oppressors’ language.” Without explanation, the class spent its session before Election Day screening Michael Moore’s Fahrenheit 9/11. When several students complained to the professor about the course’s politicised content, they were informed that their previous education had left them “brainwashed” on matters relating to race and social justice.

A number of students filed written complaints about their crassly politicised “training.” No formal replies were forthcoming, but the consequences of their heresy soon became apparent:

Continue reading "Dissident Academic Feels the Warmth of “Social Justice” " »

Friday Ephemera

eLEGS unveiled by Berkeley Bionics. // Chocolate covered bacon and bacon pancakes too. // A visual timeline of the boombox. // The Pope-Waverley electric runabout, circa 1905. // The panhandlers of San Francisco: “The defining characteristic of all these ‘travelers’ seems to be an acute sense of entitlement.” // Printing with foam. // Florida from above. // Lego aircraft carrier. // The inconstant Batman logo. // Waiting for Superman. (h/t, TDK) // Mexico City’s public library. // Million-dollar London properties that may leave you disappointed. // How to degauss a cat. // The grass roofs of Norway. // Underwater scooters.

One to Watch, Methinks

Over at Samizdata, Natalie Solent provides a brief overview of the Katharine Birbalsingh saga, which may be of interest. Ms Birbalsingh is a deputy head teacher and former blogger whose first-hand account of state schooling and its dysfunction roused the Conservative conference and upset her employer, resulting in a brief suspension.

At a time when school discipline can be subject to racial quotas, Ms Birbalsingh is inclined to note, and say, things like this:

If you keep telling teachers that they’re racist for trying to discipline black boys and if you keep telling heads that they’re racist for trying to exclude black boys, in the end, the schools stop reprimanding these children. When the lawyers argue against a school and readmit a black boy, who do we think suffers the most? It’s all the other black boys who now look to this invincible child and copy his bad example. Black children underachieve because of what the well-meaning liberal does to him.

Here’s a taste of Ms Birbalsingh in action:

Readers may not be surprised to learn that Ms Birbalsingh’s disgruntled employer, Dr Irene Bishop, has political leanings more common to the teaching profession and has been more than willing to indulge them.

As Ross notes at Unenlightened Commentary,

So speaking at a party conference is too political but inviting one party to actually use school premises is perfectly fine.

Laban Tall has more.

On Ms Birbalsingh’s hasty suspension, Cranmer adds the following,

One can scarcely think of little else that the school could have done to establish the truth of every word Ms Birbalsingh spoke… And so Ms Birbalsingh sits ‘working from home’, while her governing body considers whether or not her Toryism is as perverse as theft, cheating in exams or allegations of paedophilia. Certainly, by sending her home, they equate speaking at a Conservative Party conference with gross professional misconduct.

Then asks,

How does a deputy head teacher who has blown the whistle on a sclerotic culture of excuses, criticised low standards, derided arbitrary targets and league tables, disparaged political correctness and poured scorn over the pervasive ‘leftist ideology’ in state education ever again command the respect of a staffroom populated with pathological Socialists?

It will, I think, be interesting to find out.


Ah. Ms Birbalsingh’s fellow educators really don’t want realism heresy in their midst. How righteous they must be.

Tom Paine asks,

Are teachers free to have and to express non-left political views or not?

Seems not.