Culture & Family RSS feed for this section
Progressive Summer Reading List contains a book detailing pedophiliac relationship

Suicide and the Modern World

A brief WBUR segment includes a critically important insight about increases in youth suicide.  Speaking about factors contributing to the problem:

[Emory University psychologist Nadine] KASLOW: When there’s abuse in the home, that can be a factor that really impacts children.

[Interviewer Rhitu] CHATTERJEE: As is substance abuse, she says, and the fact that most kids nowadays are growing up in communities that are not tightknit. Strong community ties provide a source of social support, a key protective factor against suicide.

KASLOW: Even if you feel down or badly about yourself or hopeless and helpless, that you feel loved and cared for and protected.

Note that this isn’t just love and care from a family, but from a community.  This is where social media may plug in.  Any meanness in the community is always there.  Every time the phone pings or shows that some app or other has unread messages, it could be another sneer, and anxiety goes up.  Kids can’t get away from it because they bring it with them all the time, on the phone.  At the same time, not having a phone is a path to exclusion, while knowing that the aggression is still out there, unseen.

The inability to escape manifests in another way, too.  Even a relatively small community will have sub-communities into which one can escape.  Once upon a time, the kids in math class might not have known what the bullies on the sports team were saying, and neighborhood kids who went to different schools would have no connection to any of it.  The families at the church gathering would have been another group, and coworkers at the part-time job came from yet another alcove.

Now social media finds those connections, and it isn’t implausible that everybody in a kid’s life has heard some whisper of a rumor.

A couple of weeks ago, I was helping out at a bingo event in North Dartmouth, Massachusetts, and somebody mentioned having seen me in the newspaper in connection with the recall in Tiverton.  By the time an adult gets to the point of being read about across the region in newspapers, he or she should (one hopes) have a pretty thick skin and a support system.

But just as blogging and social media have flattened and spread out access to audiences, they have also flattened and spread out the reach of whispers, and that’s a lot for kids to handle.

ineverylifethelightlookslongingasitleaves-featured

The Foundation of Human Rights

A British court ruling made international headlines last week when it decided that the Bible is incompatible with human dignity. The case involved a Christian doctor who, out of the conviction of his beliefs, refused to refer to a transgender patient by their desired pronouns. As a result, the doctor was fired.

Should, God forbid, these same sentiments become commonplace in the United States, we should fear that it would mark the beginning of the end of not just religious liberty, but the acknowledgement of universal human rights in general. The most important piece of the philosophy upon which America was founded is the idea that we are endowed by our Creator the inalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. This statement recognizes that human dignity is absolute, not because of the decisions made by judges, rulers, and governors, but because of the dictates of a God that is infinitely more powerful and authoritative.

If the United States, like this British court, at some point decides to throw God out of the picture, we would be forced to come to terms with the fact that government, being the most authoritative force over our lives, is the entity that has the final say over the definition of our rights and dignity. As it currently stands under the precepts of the Declaration, government does not grant us our rights, it dutifully acknowledges them as absolute, universal, and eternal, and protects them accordingly. A society that rejects God’s say in this matter grants this authority to its government, and had better hope and pray it doesn’t change its mind on what human rights should be.

For more thoughts on the issue of human dignity, I have written a more extensive piece on my personal site.

paintedcolumbus-featured

Making a Tinderbox Out of a City

In response to an ideologically driven attack on a statue of Christopher Columbus in Providence on Columbus Day, this is a terrible idea, as reported by the Associated Press:

Democratic Mayor Jorge Elorza told WPRO he’d entertain the idea of moving the statue from the city’s Elmwood neighborhood to the Federal Hill neighborhood, which is known for its Italian American community and Italian restaurants. His spokeswoman later said that any move would require input from the community.

If it isn’t immediately clear why moving the statue to an ethnic enclave would be the wrong response, consider this commentary from Italo-American Club of Rhode Island President Anthony Napolitano, appearing in a WPRI article by Nancy Krause:

While moving the statue may not guarantee it won’t be vandalized, Napolitano said the plan would include putting security cameras in place.

“We’ll watch the statue,” he said.

Because the city apparently can’t, the Italians will defend their statue from the assault of others.

Dividing the city into fortified neighborhoods based on demographic identity would be a disaster waiting to happen.  It would declare a retrogression of our community toward a less-enlightened time.  It would be an acknowledgement that, as a society, we are incapable of the maturity necessary to take a balanced view of history and handle each other as individuals and as peers in the modern world.

We face a lot of work undoing the deterioration of our shared culture, but the easy accommodation of moving statues would be a marker of a step too far.

mike-stenhouse-avatar

Is Government Over-Reacting With Vape Bans?

Are the decisions by the governors of Rhode Island and Massachusetts to halt the sale of vaping products (which will destroy jobs and small businesses) fueled by solid research or inspired by politically-correct activism?

While we recognize that this may be a sensitive topic to some people, there are many pro-liberty arguments that can be made on why these vape bans are wrong. It is deeply concerning that Governor Raimondo used her office to unilaterally ban a class of products.

mike-stenhouse-avatar

Ocean State Exodus: We Are Losing Productive People

No single indicator should be of more importance to lawmakers and civic leaders than whether or not our state is retaining and attracting talented and productive people.

The opportunity for prosperity is a primary factor in the migration of families from state to state. In this regard, our Ocean State is more than just losing the race. Far too many Rhode Islanders are fleeing our state, leaving a swath of empty chairs at our family dinner tables.

ineverylifethecentrallightreflectsnearandfar-featured

Where Might an Objective Morality Come From?

The essay to which Isaac Whitney linked this morning comes right up to a question that is almost so obviously right at the center of questions about morality that nobody ever asks it:  If people are coming to their own conclusions about morality, where are they coming from?

Writes Isaac:

In one of my favorite quotes, Thomas Sowell says, “…each new generation born is in effect an invasion of civilization by little barbarians, who must be civilized before it is too late” (162). If, God forbid, the death of freedom should arrive, its death will be a result of our refusal to civilize these little barbarians. Our downfall will begin with our fear of infringing upon their personal autonomy, and our playing into the individualistic American gospel that says we must be free to choose our own path, find our own morality, and speak our own truth.

If everyone were rational, you’d expect this notion of radical autonomy to overlap with small-government and religious perspectives.  One oddity is that those who most vociferously proclaim that society has no right to impose a moral code also tend to emphasize the use of our most compulsory institution — government — to solve problems and disputes.  Another oddity is that you would expect people who trust in our ability to discern morality would also believe that there must be some form of deity dispensing it.  The opposite seems to be the case.

Of course, people don’t tend to be rational, especially in these areas of thought.  We tend to come to the conclusions that we want to be correct and then fit arguments to that image.

Consequently, as Isaac suggests, we risk coming un-moored.  Whereas conservatives would suggest that God defines an objective morality toward which we should guide each other by the least coercive means feasible, radicals object to any coercion at all (except where they want it to be total) on the grounds that there is no objective standard (except the one they trust us all to follow).

ineverylifesomeducksresistgettinginarow-featured

The Autonomous Individual Versus Institutions

Looking for ways to create the new and improved you? This mindset can be harmful to society.

Freedom, liberty, and individuality are great things, but a society that considers them to be the ultimate things is bound to lose them. The art of subjectively finding one’s own truth without outside influence may sound attractive on the surface but will ultimately lead to destructive ends.

I explore this theme and ways to combat it in a blog post titled “The Surprising Roots of Liberty.”

mike-stenhouse-avatar

Societal-Corruption Of “Political-Correctness” Reaches into Providence School Reading List

Right from the start, the Rhode Island media got it wrong when they criticized interim-superintendent, Fran Gallo, for making a ‘costly’ mistake in ordering motivational books for dispirited students in the beleaguered Providence school system. How dare she corrupt the minds of city youth with an otherwise uplifting book that happened to include passive “religious overtones?

The media was all over the story. But, the issue should not have been that Gallo wasted almost two-hundred thousand dollars in inappropriate books that she was forced to recall, but, rather, the critical moral question should have been ‘why’ were the books deemed unacceptable in the first place? What could possibly be so offensive about famous athletes providing motivational messages to youth about overcoming adversity, even if some of them cited their wholesome faith in God as a major factor?

But, it gets even better.

Progressive Summer Reading List contains a book detailing pedophiliac relationship

A Progressive Summer (Reading List)

An uproar of progressive complaints led to book mentioning God to be removed from lesson plans, while the official Providence school’s summer reading list contains sexually explicit and politically charged novels including one that details a pedophiliac relationship.

basketball-halo-featured

An Unaskable What If in Providence Education

The story of Providence schools’ purchase of an inspirational book took an interesting turn as a second act.  Act 1 was, “We Can’t Teach Anything That Sounds Religious”; Act 2 brings, “What Are We Not Being Told About How the City Spent $187,000 on this Book?”  Naturally, the reporting (and Rhode Islanders’ long, painful experience with their government) lends itself to suspicion, but an innocent explanation is still possible for details like this:

[Vernon Brundage, Jr.] published “Shoot Your Shot” last year, but it’s unclear how many copies were sold before Gallo ordered 16,510 books. Maryland business filings show Brundage didn’t establish “Shoot Your Shot Globe Enterprises,” the company Providence paid for the books, until Aug. 15.

It could be that, in the way of modern life, somebody in Providence came across this book and proposed it for distribution.  The proposal might have gone around the bureaucracy a bit, gathering approvals, and then inquiry made to the self-publishing author.  Upon the order of 16,510, perhaps he realized the need (or opportunity) to set up a company to handle the transaction.

This kind of serendipity happens in the entrepreneurial universe.  The catch in this instance, however, is that the district’s purchasing process should at least have produced some negotiation for a better price.  And (of course) there’s the reflexive anti-religious sentiment in the district (from the first link above):

Gallo said she read “Shoot Your Shot,” authored by Vernon Brundage Jr., prior to purchasing it, and the religious references didn’t alarm her. The breezy read uses stories from professional basketball stars to inspire readers to accomplish their goals.

She said the book is meant to teach “grit and perseverance,” but she now sees why some teachers were uncomfortable using it.

Despite all of the claims that we have to put the students first, here’s a question that I haven’t seen anybody even hint at asking:  What if a touch of religious faith is what Providence students really need?  The district would implicitly be making a religious statement if it were to declare that this could not be the case.

To be sure, a political philosophy could simultaneously hold that students need religion and that government schools cannot provide or even encourage it.  If that is our stance, however, then we have to question whether we should be expending so many resources on a system that can’t provide what is needed.

mike-stenhouse-avatar

Education Freedom: Our Children Need Opportunity Today

Everybody agrees that educating our youth is a moral obligation, and a vital basis for renewed economic growth.

Yet, very few in our political class have the courage to stand up to the special interests who want to maintain a government-run school monopoly. Look at the broken Providence School system. Parents need answers for their children today, not reforms that may help students five or even ten years down the road. Educational freedom is the answer.

msmonopoly-featured

Identity Politics Summed Up in a Game

Understanding that Hasbro has been trying to find the profit in contemporary politics by targeting markets with specialty versions of Monopoly, I still am a little surprised that this game made it through to production:

One of America’s most recognizable board games is getting an upgrade. Pawtucket, Rhode Island-based Hasbro is debuting a new game celebrating women’s empowerment — Ms. Monopoly, marking the first time in Monopoly history when a new mascot will be featured on the cover of the game.

The twist? In Ms. Monopoly, female players will get more money.

Switching the “mascot” and the iconography of the game is fine, but creating sex-specific rules for players seems destined to ensure that playing it always has a hostile tinge.

The most likely scenario is that all of the players will be women, in which case their advantage is illusory.  In those cases in which men are at the board, the rules seem designed to emphasize anything unhealthy in the relationship.  Perhaps the man is obsequious.  Or maybe he’s playing the male feminist as a predatory strategy.  Or maybe he’ll approach the game in good fun, but his loss will have the taint of unfairness and his victory will come with a feeling of “Ha! The man won anyway!”

This is only a gimmicky game, of course, but culture is important.  Why not just stick with equality?  Even Jimmy Kimmel gets it.

mike-stenhouse-avatar

Collective Bargaining Taxpayer Ripoff #2 : Providence Teacher Leaves of Absence

It is not difficult to understand that if our front-line public servants have incentive to not actually be on the front lines, then the overall quality of those public services will suffer.

A new report from our Center, released this week – Paid for Not Working, Collective Bargaining Taxpayer Ripoff #2 : Providence Teacher Leaves of Absence – highlights the many forms of collectively-bargained “leave time” allowed for teachers.

SHACHIHATA-gropestamp-featured

In Advance of the Salem Grope Trials

For a little more than a year in 1692 and 1693, a small area in Massachusetts around the town of Salem provided the world with a classic example of mass hysteria, moral panic, or witch hunting… literally.  Two preteen girls in the family of the local minister began having fits, as if they were being assaulted via voodoo dolls, and the search for the perpetrators began.

Once that ball gets rolling, an accusation is a powerful weapon in an environment of unease and division.  Fingers are easy to point, and doing so comes with no consequence.  People with scores to settle have an opportunity, and even people who would never consciously set the mob upon somebody they don’t like may find themselves convinced that they’re doing it for the right reasons.

With our historical experience in this area, it’s shocking that this BBC article doesn’t even mention the possibility of abuse with a new device:

An anti-groping device aimed at tackling sexual harassment on public transport has been launched in Japan.

It allows victims to mark their assailants with an invisible ink stamp in the shape of a hand.

People can then use the device’s black light to identify those who have been marked.

Apparently, groping is a real problem along Japanese rail lines.  Still, the only concern expressed in the article is by Katie Russell, a spokeswoman for Rape Crisis England and Wales, who is concerned that the device unfairly puts the responsibility on victims to take action against their assailants.

Put aside the silly, childish notion that people should not take responsibility for their own self protection and that it is somehow wrong to provide them with tools for that purpose.  What’s striking is that it doesn’t seem to have occurred to anybody involved with the article that the practice of marking other people as perps could be abused.

It would be one thing for a man on the station platform to deny a false accusation.  It would be another for him to insist that somebody had unjustly pegged him with the groper stamp.

This may or may not be a sufficient problem to justify resistance to this new device, but the fact that it isn’t front and center in consideration of the thing indicates that abuse is likely.

1869-schoolboyssmoking-featured

Fundamental Questions Vaped

Joanne Giannini’s essay in this space yesterday points in the direction of fundamental questions our society doesn’t seem interested in asking these days — much less answering.

A former state representative, Joanne was in office during a time when state government was cracking down on smoking.  She sees the rise of vaping as an as-bad-or-worse substitute cropping up and (one infers) probably deserving of the same response.

The first question is whether the rash of illnesses is actually an indication that vaping is truly dangerous.  Robert Verbruggen writes for NRO that reports of “the mystery vaping disease” merit investigation and concern, but indications are that they may be highlighting a tangential, not endemic, problem:

… while a lot remains to be learned about the illness, there are strong suggestions it’s caused by bad or counterfeit products, not by normal vaping. The cases cluster geographically, and in some states they have been found exclusively among those who vape cannabis products, not nicotine. Scott Gottlieb, the former FDA director who launched a crackdown on vaping when studies showed teen use on the uptick, told KHN he suspects the problem is counterfeit pods, both because of the clustering and because the FDA inspects the facilities of legitimate manufacturers to ensure the products aren’t contaminated.

This, in other words, may be less like cigarettes, which cause disease by their nature, than like food poisoning.  If that’s the case, then regulation should be less about limiting access as a way of discouraging use than about helping consumers differentiate between safer and riskier products.

Either way, the question remains what our society ought to do when the short- and long-term effects of a consumable are unknown or are known to be bad.  Limiting their use by minors, who are presumed to be unprepared to make informed decisions, is an obvious possibility.  But shouldn’t adults be permitted to balance the risks and rewards of these things for themselves?

Center Adofo

School Choice = Expanding Educational Freedom

Educational Freedom changes lives. How many Rhode Island families have been forced to move away? How many other American families have chosen not to make our state their home? Rhode Island students and families suffer, because of a lack educational opportunity and economic prosperity. The die has now been cast: School choice is all about expanding educational freedom for families.

notasunkenship-featured

A Disabled Society in an Abled Social Body

The headline of Ashley Taylor’s JSTOR Daily essay doesn’t so much articulate the problem as illustrate it: “The Complicated Issue of Transableism.”

In the late 1990s, the Scottish surgeon Robert Smith performed elective, above-the-knee amputations on two people. (The hospital he was affiliated with eventually compelled him to stop.) Smith’s patients are just two examples of people who have body integrity identity dysphoria, also known as being transabled: They feel they are disabled people trapped in abled bodies. Some people feel that they are meant to be amputees and will even injure themselves in order to create the desired amputation or make it medically necessary for a surgeon to perform it. Other people feel that they were meant to be blind or deaf.

A healthy society would not find “transableism” complicated at all.  It is an indication of deep mental illness, and it should be treated, not indulged.  To the extent our society cannot articulate this unambiguously, we are clearly falling into social illness.

At the very core of this question is a denial of our right as a community to hold Platonic ideals — not to mention the necessity and even inevitability of doing so.  Being able-bodied is the objective norm, the ideal.  When people are disabled, we make allowances and provisions for them in order to close the gap to that ideal.  It is therefore objectively wrong to expect society to offer those accommodations to somebody who deliberately moves away from the ideal.

Somebody of an opposing view might turn this argument around and suggest that all they’re doing is accommodating the person’s psychological distance from the ideal of feeling like an able-bodied person.  But making permanent physical changes compounds the distance rather than relieving it: the person is now disabled and still averse to being able-bodied.

The best one could say is that the person is closer to the ideal of being comfortable, but that is potentially fleeting.  After all, it is always possible to be more disabled.

Elevating the ideal of individual comfort is also destructive of the possibility of objective norms.  On the social scale, such principles have to be taken as simply true, else the utility of culture evaporates and society simply falls apart.

mike-stenhouse-avatar

Bright Today Educational Freedom Scholarships To Counter Collective Bargaining Inequities

At a cost of approximately $888 per year for each of Rhode Island’s one-million or so residents, a typical family of four is paying over $3500 annually to support the extravagant compensation programs for government workers, while the basic needs of their own families are being ignored by politicians.

Beyond these extreme financial costs, there may be an even more corrosive impact from this kind of political cronyism.

whenallelsefailswelookwherethereslight-cropped-featured

The Best Way to Ensure a Long-Term Morality

My post this morning, about the incentive for those who rely on Minnesota trees to ensure the long-term health of Minnesota forests, came right up to the edge of a much bigger topic.  The most-important factor guarding humanity against the tragedy of the commons — wherein individuals use up natural resources because the incentive to preserve never outweighs the incentive to profit for any one person — is that the human beings involved think forward to the future beyond their own personal needs and desires.

As I wrote earlier, we can expect people not to poison their own well, so to speak, by destroying the resources on which they rely, but only within a certain range.  If the activity (like cutting down trees) is relatively difficult and the people able or willing to do it are relatively few, it is more likely they’ll collectively recognize their long-term incentives.  If something is easy to do and many people are doing it, then it is less likely that they’ll delay immediate profit for longer-term stability, because somebody else can come along and edge in.

Obviously, it also matters how far into the future the players are looking.  If people are desperate to have a meal today, they’ll be more careless about the resources.  The selfish, childless businessman of progressive fantasy need only preserve the resource to the extent that he can capitalize on it.

This is where the topic expands.  A business owner who sees him or her self as building a multi-generational source of income will worry about critical resources indefinitely into the future.

That principle extrapolates beyond businesses, too.  People who are thinking about their own children and their children’s children have a living, breathing reason to figure the future into everything they do.  That is, making families and children central to personal and cultural meaning has philosophical benefits for the entire society.

This realization points an interesting light at secular progressivism, which is fundamentally anti-family in its philosophy.  When progressives find it necessary to appeal to a long-term perspective for their political advocacy, as with the environment, they have to resort either to abstractions (the good of humankind) or to a religious elevation of something else (like the planet) as an object of concern in its own right.

Neither alternative can compete with the incentives that come from love of one’s children.

Quantcast