Thursday, September 11, 2014

Replying to Sonja

Sonja recently commented:
I can tell you exactly why teachers need tenure. Without this protection, they will fear honestly and accurately evaluating their students. If teachers have no tenure, students and their parents can pressure schools to fire "underperforming" teachers -- defined as those who give Cs and Ds. 
Parents want false, flattering grades on their children's report cards--goes the meme--and are capable of placing enormous pressure upon educators to get such grades.  The only means of responding to this challenge is to grant tenure to teachers.
Next to go is the academic curriculum, in favor of flavor-of-the-month job training and test prep, for the vast majority. Only a small elite will be offered a real education.
I don't see any evidence to suggest that consumers demand an end to real education.
No teacher who can be fired for supporting unpopular views or taking unpopular positions will bother to do so -- and these include the view that you need pure algebra, foreign language study, and great novels, as well as the view that you should work hard for an A. In the end, teachers will become cynics, making whatever noises they need to make to stay on their bosses' good side.
I also wonder why you believe that those who want to preserve tenure should have the burden of proof. Anyone can ridicule the reasons that are offered and imagine they have made their argument. It seems to me that if you desire to do away with tenure, you need to make an affirmative showing that it should be ended. How do you imagine that ending it would be beneficial? There is some reason that highly competent people with a gift for teaching are reluctant to enter the profession, and many wonder whether teaching is still a profession at all. Aren't you concerned about why that has been happening, for decades now? Aren't you concerned that you are proposing to make teaching even less attractive to the best candidates?
Applying similar logic to my own current job:  Mail handlers will forever be tempted to provide faster delivery to packages mailed by their friends.  Postal carriers will be tempted to drive circuitously, tempted by bribes offered by petrol sellers; the only solution to such endemic problems is to grant postal workers tenure, making it very difficult to fire them.

Are you finding Sonja's logic persuasive, gentle reader?

Policies that cost money should have the burden of proof, Sonja.  When an employer removes 'firing' from her motivational quiver--in exchange for nothing--that costs money.  You have been asked to provide some good reason in defense of this costly, incompetence-protecting policy and you have failed.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014


Hats off to PrayTell--they published my recent comment.  A previous post commended praying for James Foley's beheader; I pushed back.  Beseeching God on behalf of Saddam Hussein is indeed praiseworthy in the eyes of progressive Twin Cities Catholics--and so I'm proud I've been able to vocally reject the unjustifiable demands of the One True Church.  Would the right-thinking go so far as to request God smile upon their own child's torturer?  Should it be possible to dedicate a Mass to Hitler?  I'm not getting any response.  A life without any exercise of moral passion is not desirable--I wish I could get the faux masochists to accept.  Whenever a 'morally serious' Catholic intellectual praises the judgment-free life, call bullshit.

Something weird I learned today:

Manitoulin Island--in Lake Huron--is the largest freshwater lake island in the world.  It is so big it has several large lakes within it, some of which themselves contain islands--the largest of which is 82 acres.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Judgment and Justice

Dr. Shawn Carruth, OSB published Judgment and Justice in Give Us This Day--crossposted onto PrayTell, which comes out of the College of St. Benedict and St. John's University.  Responding to Sr. Carruth, I submitted:
The God of the Bible is by no means uniformly forgiving and merciful:  At times His judgment is indeed brutal and he commands his followers to be similarly severe.  (Citations available if needed.)  Separately, the aspiration that all judging and condemning should stop is a call for the abolition of adulthood.  The upright moralist is one who does not set unattainable and/or dubious goals; the upright Christian moralist does not get to rewrite the Good Book any way she pleases, in the interest of jettisoning her God's many repulsive qualities.
PrayTell doesn't seem to allow comments from skeptics:  I submitted a separate comment a week ago and was rejected.  So, here.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Jenifer Loon Does Not Deserve Your Vote

Most of Eden Prairie is represented by Jenifer Loon in the state house.  Loon is a conservative anti-abortion Republican with stellar ratings from the right wing.  She is a presentable if boring presence on the local public stage in 55347, where I used to live.

Loon was heavily lobbied by the families of prominent gay constituents and after what she describes as lengthy wrenching personal agony came to the conclusion that--while she herself may continue to view true marriage as solely between one man and one woman--she ever-so-slightly feels that perhaps homosexuals should also be afforded admittance, possibly.

Loon is being challenged in the Republican primary by the viper-tongued rightist Sheila Kihne [ˈkēn:ē].

Michael Brodkorb and TwoPutt ascribe ill will to Kihne's candidacy.

Some Eden Prairie liberals think sensible people should vote in the Republican primary, supporting Loon over the still-further-reactionary Kihne.

TwoPutt correctly exposes the weirdness of Kihne's refusal to call for a repeal of Minnesota's new marriage equality law.  Kihne and Loon both pretend that the Issue isn't gay marriage.

Long ago, Kihne and I were sparring partners among Eden Prairie bloggers.  Her blog was horrible and reflected her semi-literate McCarthyism--she voiced contempt for liberals and banished lefties from her site's comments section.  While severely limiting critics' ability to put questions to her, she openly attacked others for behaving as she herself does.

Democrats should not vote in the Republican primary--as Loon simply hasn't fulfilled her part of the bargain--by intelligently explaining her change of heart concerning gay marriage and by unapologetically defending her new position.

A person who opposes gay rights is being challenged by a cowardly incumbent who is ashamed to publicly admit she changed her mind and now supports gay rights.  That simply does not constitute a morally important distinction.

Monday, July 28, 2014

I Don't Admire Greta Cristina

A prominent representative of Atheism+, Greta Cristina is--as most are--horrible.  And I could be wrong.  To assess my thesis, I would like to consider several of her writings:

Cristina often admits to having severe depression, the inability to experience joy, to having kinky sexual tastes and more.  Cristina requests we embrace her as an anti-McCarthyite hero, but I don't think this is a worthwhile bargain.  Cristina certainly owes no one any apology for having depression, gourmet sexual tastes, et al.  The implicit bargain, unattractively, demands we suspend critical commentary due to the blogger's ostensibly blinding moral courage.  I don't quite see it.

To take Cristina's writing seriously is to straightforwardly ask whether her claimed exemplary moral purity deserves the accolades she requests.  Is it in fact beneficial for mentally ill individuals 'to come clean' with their ailments, within public fora?  I am skeptical as to the value of such publication (I don't at all find it overflowing with truthfulness)--and communicate studious neutrality to Cristina on the topic.  I emphatically refrain from congratulating her on her statements pertaining to her own mental illness:  I don't think they do her much credit; I acknowledge the failed effort.

Today I cringe noting Richard Dawkins has been browbeaten into issuing a PRC-style Joint statement by Ophelia Benson and Richard Dawkins on threats, bullying, bigotry, and harassment.  How silly; how sad.

To Richard Dawkins:  Maria Callas never performed at Howard Johnson's (a phrase I believe we owe to Camille Paglia)--and you have no business issuing any joint public statement with Ophelia Benson.  I am embarrassed to have to chide you so.

Completely unsurprisingly, the Dawkins grovelling in no way satisfies the Atheism+ expert:  '...And I hope this will get Dawkins himself to speak more carefully about these issues, and to be more careful about whose work he praises and promotes.'  She interprets Dawkins' apology as her own enthronement, as Just Judge.  To the dustbin!

Ultimately Cristina asks that we assess the legitimacy of her exalted social stature as public intellectual.  I flinch not:  She is mostly wrong and merits quite minimal exaltation.  I am interested in considering any contrary viewpoint.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

The Worst Atheist

Taking Greta Christina forward from the 11:00 mark:

She has a habit of piling on:  Christina is 'enraged by Catholic priests who rape children and then tell them that it's God's will.'   Had the priests merely kept their mouths shut after raping the children at least they wouldn't compound the crime with hypocrisy. 

Christina is angry that after 911 people of Middle Eastern descent were attacked and their businesses were vandalized.  A reasonable concern, I accept--though its relation to religious belief is at considerable remove.

Christina is of course a key champion of Atheism+--a non-dead tendency which dissidents correctly view as morally imperialistic and naive.

Christina is angry about female genital mutilation, though in her political correctness she misleadingly asserts that it is not exclusively a Muslim problem.  FGM today is in fact overwhelmingly associated with Muslim communities.  Wikipedia:
Outside Islam, FGM has been practised by the Christian Copts in Egypt and Sudan, and by the Beta Israel of Ethiopia, the only Jewish group known to have practised it. Judaism requires male circumcision, but does not allow FGM.
A bit of frankness on Islam would be pleasant, Greta Christina:  Why not simply say the obvious--that Islam in its present manifestation is more menacing than the average religion, even as anti-Muslim prejudice is a serious problem?

Photo: Marlo Gayle

Christina is angry that 'when a 9 year old girl in Brazil was raped, the doctors who performed an abortion on her--and the family who approved the abortion were excommunicated by the Catholic Church.  And I'm angry there was no excommunication for the man who raped her.'  [Check quote--sounds clunky /Ed]

I am essentially indifferent on the question of excommunication.  (An open atheist and an enrolled, listed member at my local Catholic church, I have informed my priest that I won't grumble if I'm excommunicated though I insist the decree arrive on letterhead suitable for framing.)
The chortling, upward-directed Christina visage [18:45], open-mouthed...absorbs the mob's adulation. 
Christina criticizes right-wing anti-atheist religious leaders for neglecting study of the object of their disdain.  To learn more about the splendors of atheism, Christina wishes they'd read major atheist bloggers such as herself.  If there is an atheist capable of engaging good-willed believers in meaningful dialog, it cannot be she can it, can it? 

At 23:00 Christina descends to her cheapest riff, reading out her worst anonymous-troll comments.  It is sad atheist feminists appear immune to disregarding troll comments; I don't think they get nearly the mileage out of them that they so clearly believe they do.

At 29:30 Christina refers to 'the horrors committed in the last Bush administration' in its promotion of democracy and freedom.  The great bulk of the suffering incurred by our Iraq fiasco had less to do with Bush administration errors of commission than with Iraqi fanaticism and despotism.  90% of the actual post-2003 suffering experienced by the Iraqi public is at the hands of Iraqi lunatics.

At 30:00 Christina asserts that politics and religion are different in an important respect:  Claims put forward by politicians get put to the test by experience, but religious leaders are not similarly tested.  Christina is incorrect on this point:  The ability of the general public to rationally assess political leaders' economic policies is not very good.  Politicians routinely propose economic policies which the economics profession overwhelmingly views as sub-optimal or even destructive, at no apparent political cost. 

At 36:00 Christina enters an ideological claim praised by Fr. Tarte:  Anger has benefitted previous social-change movements and thus merits our admiration and embrace.  Anger has benefited gays so we should adopt their strategy and get angry, goes the meme.  Not at all persuasive to me, though I require a pretty strong argument before I'll wear my strategic grimace.

By this point I think I'm done, though I promise I'll finish watching the vid, to give Christina her due.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Considering Greta Christina

Let me whisper in your ear, gentle reader:  I don't like Greta Christina.  Maybe I should, but I don't.  Today let us examine some recent evidence--and explore whether my misgivings have rational basis.

Yesterday on social media an ex-priest 'friend' had posted congratulating GC on congratulating herself on this video's 200,000th view.  Viewing just its first 11 minutes, I can conclude my distaste for Christina merits no apology:

To the extent that 'the atheist movement has moved into overdrive,' I am ambivalent.  Atheists should emit wide-ranging skepticism--and nowhere more than upon our own chest-thumping impulse.

The atheist movement does not merit uncritical embrace.  Recent discord within the grouping reveals considerable disunity, we ought to frankly admit.  Smart people seem to disagree on very central aspects of what our objectives ought to be.  Adopting the voice of ambassador to the poorly informed promises to be non-controversial, she unconvincingly demands.

A non-triumphalist approach to being a decent atheist involves acknowledging that there are good and bad aspects to living at the present moment.  A grave problem persists if we think our group--both metaphorically and in the specific instance mentioned--ought reasonably seek to police beverage offers among adults in elevators.  The fact that the preponderance of vocal atheist opinion exalts the accuser in the Hibernian lift demonstrates how non-triumphalist we non-fanatics ought to now feel.
When people approach insisting you ought to feel overjoyed about this or that, can one help but perceive a certain aggression in the professed good will?
Next the arm-waving Christina says that peaceful coexistence between atheism and religion is unlikely and we-the-hip are actively trying to urge people out of it.

Makes no sense, does it?  I often try to persuade people of the benefits of non-superstitious thinking, though to do so is not to suggest that peaceful coexistence cannot continue indefinitely. 

By 3:56 we note Christina--for the second time thus far--describes a binary and then flappingly points to herself as an example from the second category.  'Some atheists are angry about religion,' she flaps to the cognoscenti.  Weird.

"A lot of people are asking today, 'Why are you atheists so angry?!?'" she orates.  Untrue:  Almost no one approaches me asking that question.  Occasionally I encounter believing co-workers open to exchanging reasons for and against religion, but that 'Why are you atheists so angry' thing is media-specific and does not illustrate actual popular communication, I assert.  We're now at 5:40.

Christina claims she's not trying to speak for the entire atheist community, her opinions are hers alone.  Certainly the most self-deluded claim I have yet heard her utter.

Now she's going through the list of outrages justifying atheists' anger.  In Fr. T's comments section, I noted Christina's second item--she's angry it wasn't until 1961 that open atheists were allowed to serve on juries--is dumb.  I've been aware for a long time that atheists have long been mistreated in society:  I've known it so long I simply accept such prejudice was quite recently part of the fabric of American life.

When instances of prejudice occur today, I can sometimes perceive a mild jolt of anger; atheists' exclusion from jury duty 53 years ago does not similarly exercise me--call me hard hearted.
...Christina's faux-hectoring tone of pretend complaint...she is absolutely correct when she insincerely claims not to speak for atheists generally.
Judges deny custody of kids to atheists--today in America--explicitly because they are atheists, Christina broils.  Can someone provide an example of such?  Certainly not in Minnesota.  My own ex complained to a judge some years back of my 'aggressive atheism' and he told her in court his jurisdiction did not extend to theological positions--and that was the end of the issue.  If any judge in America is denying custody to anyone based solely on their atheism, that is wrong, though I doubt it happens much.

The exaggerated wide eye-opening, as Christina condemns Catholicism's objection to birth control, seems a bit much; the audience laps it up.

The trip around the world next moves to Mormonism, where--within some dissenting minuscule sub-sect--child marriage persists.  (In Nigeria--a country of 174 million--'20 percent of girls were married by age 15, and 40 percent were married by age 18.')  If you're concerned about the problem of child brides, schismatic-Mormon America constitutes a minute portion of the problem indeed.  Christina's gesture to internationalist neutrality doesn't remotely work.

That gets us to the 11:00 mark.