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Turning the Corner on Sexism in STEM

You know those table-top games for which you tilt a board in order to get a ball to roll through a maze or obstacle course of some kind?  They’re an excellent metaphor for the problem with using government to tilt society to achieve socially engineered outcomes.  The ball rolls, picking up momentum, and the means of controlling the board can be awkward.

To improve upon the metaphor imagine that the obstacles sometimes move around in unpredictable ways… and you’re trying to turn the knobs while wearing slippery mittens.

A century and more ago, maybe it was possible to believe in the totalitarian, yet beneficent, governance by experts, but in the intervening years, the experts should have concluded that it can’t be done.  The solution is to use cultural means to change things in the culture and structure the laws to provide a neutral playing field.

Instead, progressives have turned both knobs, as if they can get the ball to hop over all the walls.  So, we get a social standard that promotes girls and women while demeaning boys and men and a legal regime in which it is permissible to discriminate only against the latter.  The obvious question that some of us were asking decades ago was:  Even if we grant that male chauvinism is too powerful of a force, how will we know when to stop correcting for it?

That is arguably the implied question of Toni Airaksinen’s PJMedia article on some new research from the American Enterprise Institute (AEI):

Mark Perry, a University of Michigan-Flint professor, appears to be the first to discover that the “STEM gender gap” doesn’t exactly exist after all. According to his recent AEI report, women now earn 50.6 percent of all STEM bachelor’s degrees, and are also overrepresented in graduate school.

While 50.6 percent is only a slight majority, this translates into 8,500 more female STEM graduates per year and about 33,000 more women in STEM grad school. And because college is now a woman’s domain, it’s likely these small disparities will expand over time. …

“The 60/40 gender disparity in college degrees favoring women that the Department of Education forecasts within the next decade should be of much greater concern to society than failing to achieve 50/50 gender parity in a few STEM fields, in terms of the future implications for the labor market, for family formation and other concerns.”

Returning to the metaphor above, anybody who has played those games knows that the trick is to start changing the tilt of the board before the ball has reached a turn.  Otherwise, momentum will carry it along in a direction you don’t want to go.  Well, we’ve arguably just missed the turn, and with no signs that adjustments are coming.

Instead, we can expect activists to highlight such findings as the fact that, with more choices available to women, fewer of them have gone into computer science.  This evidence of people acting according to their interests will no doubt inspire our cultural engineers to keep on pushing, even as imbalances and injustices open up and cause untold damage to our society.

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Old-Time Racism in Judicial Selection

Congratulations to those nominated for judgeships in Rhode Island.  It’s unfortunate that they have to be endorsed in such a reductive way

Emphasizing the importance of having judges who look like the people who appear before them, Gov. Gina Raimondo on Monday announced nominations to six judgeships across the state judiciary in what is likely the most diverse pool of nominees ever in Rhode Island.

Maybe I’m old fashioned, but it feels kind of like our culture spent centuries moving away from the superficial ideas that we should judge people by how they look and that looking alike has some sort of legal relevance, yet here we are.

President Donald Trump rightfully came under fire when he stated that a judge with Mexican heritage would be biased against him while hearing a case, with Republican Speaker of the House Paul Ryan saying, “Claiming a person can’t do the job because of their race is sort of like the textbook definition of a racist comment.”

This is exactly what Raimondo is doing, with her rhetoric about these prospective judges.

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The Racist, Destructive Insinuations of Banning Impressionism

This sort of thing makes me embarrassed for the era in which we’re living:

The Gamm Theatre has canceled a Monday performance by the Edwards Twins, apparently over concerns that the Las Vegas-based impersonation act uses white performers to portray black celebrities.

Anthony Edwards, who with brother Eddie makes up the act, said that, while they have impersonated Lionel Richie and Stevie Wonder in the past, their Christmas show this year does not include any black celebrities. Edwards said he even went so far as to sign a contract with The Gamm stipulating that the duo would not use any skin-darkening makeup.

Are we all children?  These are impersonators. They perform as a broad array of stars, and for each one, they try to look as much like the performer as possible, whether it’s Cher or Elton John or Lionel Richie.  Cher has longer hair and breasts.  Elton John dresses flamboyantly.  Lionel Richie has darker skin.

The claimed matter of concern is the history of black face, but as one of the performers explains, this is not that.  Black face was not simply imitation, but a specific, demeaning style of performance.  To equate impressionism with that is not only historically ignorant but also implicitly racist because it requires that any imitation of a black person must be mockery, as if there is no positive reason to take on the persona of a black person..

Making matters worse, agreeing to remove these supposedly offensive vignettes from their act for this performance — ironically, creating a segregated performance, as if no black singers are worthy of inclusion — was apparently not enough.  The fact that they have performed them in the past taints all of their shows.

James Vincent of the Providence NAACP and The Gamm theater should be ashamed.  They are contributing to the deterioration of our society and the destruction of our ability to see ourselves as one people.

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The Ambiguous Middle in the General Assembly

I’m not sure if the Providence Journal’s Political Scene crew is right to summarize the General Assembly’s left-right divide based solely on abortion and gun rights, but the reported numbers do raise an interesting question: Are the relatively conservative legislative leaders on the edge of a progressive precipice, or are the legislators whose views aren’t explicitly known more conservative than they want to show in floor votes, thereby exposing themselves to progressive attack?

Cranston Republican Steven Frias seems to think the former:

Frias said his own analysis of the ratings suggests that “Mattiello is in the minority among House Democrats on abortion and guns, which helps explain why [he] has dropped the ‘firewall’ rhetoric.”

“Mattiello’s dilemma is whether to allow a floor vote where representatives will be allowed to vote their conscience on legislation related to abortion and guns. Regardless of what he decides, someone will feel duped,″ either the “House liberals … [or] the cultural conservatives who backed [him] for reelection thinking he would be the ‘firewall’ on abortion and guns.”

Frias’ argument: “If Mattiello betrays his culturally conservative constituents it would be a signal to cultural conservatives that they cannot rely on the Democratic House leadership and they should vote Republican in General Assembly races.”

A corresponding dilemma faces quiet conservatives. As long as legislators are allowed to remain fuzzy on these issues, relatively conservative constituents will continue to rely on the good graces of “firewalls” like Mattiello. An unambiguous understanding of the danger would be clarifying as people make their decisions as voters, volunteers, and donors.

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Center Recommends Constitutional Amendment to Codify Legislative Process Reforms

The legislative sausage-making process in Rhode Island is in dire need of reform. Those reforms that should be codified through a constitutional amendment, so that Senators and Representatives will have greater capacity and freedom to represent their individual districts, rather than being compelled to back the personal agendas of Senate and House leadership. Now is the time to demand better government.

Our state needs less control by leadership over what legislation will advance, with more power provided to legislative committees.

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A Post-Racial Society Would Be More Conservative

So here’s something for a bit of Friday fun:

A new study suggests that the words you use may depend on whether the club secretary’s name is Emily (“a stereotypically White name,” as the study says) or Lakisha (“a stereotypically Black name”). If you’re a white liberal writing to Emily, you might use words like “melancholy” or “euphoric” to describe the mood of the book, whereas you might trade these terms out for the simpler “sad” or “happy” if you’re corresponding with Lakisha.

But if you’re a white conservative, your diction won’t depend on the presumed race of your interlocutor.

Interestingly, the article appears to suggest that the conservative approach is ultimately what minorities want: “research shows that racial minorities are more concerned about being respected than about being liked.” One might speculate that, if minorities believe conservatives don’t respect them, it’s not because of the way in which conservatives behave, but because the liberals who control most of our news and information media expend so much energy painting conservatives as racists.

The article and the study on which it’s based provide a small example of how that works:

What she found, by performing online text analysis of 74 campaign speeches over the last 25 years, was that white candidates who were Democrats used significantly fewer words about “agency or power,” and more about “affiliation and communality” when addressing minority voters. There was no significant difference exhibited by Republican candidates.

The irony, as the paper notes, is that “Whites who may be more affiliative toward Blacks alter their verbal responses toward them in a way that matches negative stereotypes. Despite the patronizing behavior that they enact, these liberal candidates may hold more goodwill toward minorities.”

The bias comes with the imperative that liberals must be right and must be the good guys. Looked at objectively, no irony need be involved. Conservatives are less condescending in their language, and they are less interested in addressing minority groups as minority groups. The latter doesn’t explain the former so much as they are the same thing.

We conservatives take people as they come and present ourselves as we are — as individuals, not as identity groups. We don’t hold less “goodwill toward minorities” as people, but we don’t put much stock in treating them as a group of minorities, as opposed to treating them as a group of our fellow human beings.

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A Great Year for Worker Freedom – Help Spread the Word

This year was a GREAT year for worker freedom across the country, and here in the Ocean State. Early in the summer, the SCOTUS decision in the historic Janus case determined that state and local governments are forbidden from forcing their employees to join unions as a condition of employment. The ruling means union leaders can no longer automatically plunder the pocketbooks of public employees to fund the unions’ political agendas.

In August, we launched our MyPayMySayRI.com campaign to educate public servants about their restored First Amendment rights.

But the insiders want to keep workers in the dark, and in the unions… at any cost.

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Food Stamp Arrests Before the Holidays

Somehow the weekend of Thanksgiving and Black Friday seems an appropriate time to turn our attention to Jessica Botelho’s Turn to 10 report on arrests for food-stamp fraud:

Twenty-four people have been accused of fraudulently obtaining a combined total of nearly $50,000 in public assistance and food stamps, Rhode Island State Police announced Tuesday.

… anyone convicted of fraudulently obtaining public assistance may be sentenced to up to five years behind bars and/or fined $1,000 if the value of public assistance was more than $500.

Anyone convicted of fraudulent use of food stamps, will be ineligible to participate in the food stamp program for no less than six months and no more than 24 months.

In the scheme of things, this is pretty small-scale stuff, with an average theft of $2,040, and looking at the mug shots doesn’t give the impression of a well-off crime ring.  Probably, these folks saw an opportunity for some extra money and acted on the not-uncommon principle that a little bit of “I got mine” wouldn’t actually harm anybody.

This holiday weekend, we express our gratitude for the good things in our lives and (some of us) take part in ritualistic exercises in excess, whether at the Thanksgiving Day table or in an effort to give our children (or ourselves) a materially exciting Christmas at a discounted price.  These holidays are supposed to direct our attention to those whom we love and those whom we should help, but they often highlight our weaknesses and tendency to measure well-being by things.

These contrasting aspects of the holidays apply to those of us who need help, too.  There is no shame in doing what one can to help one’s family, and food stamp fraud might be easily forgiven for that purpose, but is that really what’s going on?  Stealing in order to fund some habit, like smoking, or to keep up on the season’s materialism carries a bit more culpability, and a drive toward taking control of one’s financial well-being should always be central.

We do our disadvantaged neighbors no favors by instilling an opportunity for fraud or temptation toward dependence, so our welfare programs should be modest and well controlled.  At the same time, we lose perspective if we blow their infractions out of proportion.

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No Place for Young Men

The nature of my employment provides about as much insulation from this as possible, but Rod Dreher has been posting a series of reader letters about life in the woke corporate world.  One anecdote describes the apparent need to voice the politically correct definition of “diversity” in an environment that breaks everybody up into their respective identity groups, with no place for straight white men.  Their only option is to join the LGBT group as “marginal allies.”

The writer concludes:

Fortunately, I’ve matriculated up the corporate ladder by delivering on revenue and KPIs for the company. But there is a ceiling. All of the leadership speaks the language of the “woke” SJW. Soon, I will have a choice. Either I will have to pretend to be “woke,” which I believe some of my company’s leadership already does, or I’ll have to effectively “hide” my disagreements and stay put in my current role. The third option is resignation. Unfortunately, most of corporate America has embraced all of this chicanery. I’m only 30. I can’t imagine what it will be like for my future children.

Of course, choosing to pretend means a life of never expressing one’s opinion — indeed, of actively hiding it — which is a trap from which there is no escape.  The progressive culture will find ever more stringent, subtle, and unpredictable statements and codewords that one must voice in order to pass as PC, to the point that the Left’s worldview must be internalized if one is to hope to discern and predict the shifts.

This social disease is progressive in terms of its development, too.  It hadn’t hit the corporate world so much when I was in my twenties, but the feeling was already permeating campuses.  Back then, it wasn’t that there was no place for straight white males, but cracks were opening up into which we could easily fall.  The assumption then, as perhaps still now, was that our privilege would protect us, so we didn’t need help… and after all, what fun is it to mentor and guide some normal guy when focusing one’s attention on somebody from an identity group has the added bonus of social justice altruism?

Naturally, this most affects the people in the disfavored group who most need help and guidance.  One needn’t assume too much to speculate that this provides a partial explanation of the high drug use and suicide rates among men.

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A Pro-Family Attitude Can’t Put Comfort Above Life

About a month ago, Gerry, a reader of Rod Dreher’s blog, sent him a 2,600-word complaint against professedly pro-family conservatives who promote economic policies that create disincentive to have children.  His points are too densely packed to pick a representative section, but in summary, he sees everything from our health care system to our immigration system to housing costs as of conservative origin and as creating too much risk to allow his wife and him to have children.

Of course, he’s mistaken about much of it.  The idea that conservatives support our current health care system or that it has a free market design is absurd.  But also of course, he has a fair point when he complains that people in his conservative community didn’t help a family member who had fallen on hard times.  They should have, which is what conservatives would encourage.

More interesting, though, is the underlying assumption of Gerry’s rant: He feels that he shouldn’t have children in the face of risk and that it is the government’s job to smooth those risks.  In that respect, I can’t help but see a connection to the contraceptive mentality.  At core, in my view, the problem with contraception is that it moves the responsibility and fault for unwanted pregnancy onto an object or chemical, rather than on the parents. Gerry just abstracts that principle further, such that the responsibility for children rests not with the parents, but the government, and the fault for (potentially) not being able to remain comfortable while having children rests on the government’s shoulders, rather than on the parents’ personal ambitions.

Having children is always a risk.  Life is always a risk.  Gerry, as a Christian, should appreciate the point that if life was supposed to be otherwise, then God would have made it so.

Instead, he seems to elevate comfort — his comfort — above life.  That may or may not be rational, but it certainly isn’t pro-family.

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Increased Wealth and Equality Lead to Gender Differences

So here’s a global research outcome, published in Sciencethat is different from what we’re supposed to believe:

We contrasted and tested two hypotheses that make opposite predictions concerning the cross-country association of gender differences in preferences with economic development and gender equality. On one hand, the attenuation of gender-specific social roles that arises in more developed and gender-egalitarian countries may alleviate differences in preferences between women and men. As a consequence, one would expect gender differences in preferences to be negatively associated with higher levels of economic development and gender equality (social role hypothesis). On the other hand, greater availability of material and social resources removes the gender-neutral goal of subsistence, which creates the scope for gender-specific ambitions and desires. In addition, more gender-equal access to those resources may allow women and men to express preferences independently from each other. …

Gender differences were found to be strongly positively associated with economic development as well as gender equality.

When men and women can afford to choose their occupations, they tend to choose differently.

Of course, this doesn’t tell us whether a particular woman is better for some job than a particular man or how much different jobs are worth in the marketplace.  It should, however, lead us to pause before declaring that any occupation that isn’t distributed 50:50 across the sexes is evidence of sexism. It should also lead us to ponder whether forcing parity would require forcing a reduction in wealth, freedom, and equality.

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Flipping the Emphasis on the Experience of Parenting

Way back in 2004, when same-sex marriage was still mostly on the periphery of public debate, I argued that the logic of contraception would eventually lead to a right for same-sex couples to create their own biological children with some sort of cloning.  This story seems like a partway step between the final two steps in the progression that I described:

“Obviously, us being two women, we were like, ‘How can we make this happen?'” Ashleigh said. “We felt like there has to be a way.”

It turned out there was a way for both women to carry their child.

Fertility specialists Dr. Kathy Doody and her husband, Dr. Kevin Doody, of the CARE Fertility in Bedford, Texas, were the first to try reciprocal effortless in vitro fertilization using radical technology, which gave the Coulters a shot at motherhood.

“We were just talking one night at home and I said, ‘You know, I think we could use this for a same-sex couple,'” Dr. Kathy recalled. “And Kevin said: ‘I think you’re right. I think we could.'”

Using phrases like “passing the baton,” the article explains how both women carry a fertilized embryo.  The egg comes from one, who carries the in vitro-fertilized embryo for a while.  Then she hands it off to the other woman to carry to term.

Even if this weren’t an experimental procedure, one imagines there must be some risk associated with each step.  As a parent, something about the whole thing seems cavalier to me.

Obviously, the experience of parenting is part of why men and women plan to have children in the modern world, but experimenting and taking risk with those children’s lives in order to enhance the experience for the parents suggests there’s a more fundamental change in social perspective going on here, and we ought to be aware of it.

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About That Narrative About Dating Violence

A number of articles conveying contrarian statements of fact have accumulated in my files.  Inarguably, they point to the degree to which we’re living in different realities.  More arguably (although I think it’s still the case), they show how incorrect the mainstream narrative is.

Here’s one, from Toni Airaksinen on PJMedia:

A recent study has found that Canadian teen boys are more likely [than teen girls] to be victims of physical dating violence, a disparity that has been documented — but rarely reported on — by researchers in other English-speaking countries. …

Boys are “50 percent more likely to report physical dating violence” said [lead researcher Elizabeth] Saewyc, and that’s “a gap that has been more or less consistent for the last two decades.” While it’s a counterintuitive finding, Saewyc urged readers to put themselves in the place of teens.

“Think about how generally unacceptable for boys and young men to actually haul off and slap a girl. But for girls, there isn’t the same social sanction for hitting a guy, whether they’re dating or not,” said Saewyc.

Saewic’s explanation is basically that girls are allowed to hit boys, while boys’ hitting girls is treated as one of the worst things they could possibly do.  Thus, girls are a little more willing to act out with physical violence.  Of course, the fact that the numbers are even closely balanced suggests that talk about men’s inherently beastliness and “toxic masculinity” is simply left-wing propaganda.

Perhaps I’m old fashioned, but having different standards for one sex than the other doesn’t strike me as a terrible imbalance.  However, as Instapundit Glenn Reynolds periodically states, chivalry was a system that imposed rules for both sides.  The problem isn’t necessarily that we have a double standard for any particular behavior, but that we’re only permitting double standards to disadvantage one side of the gender divide.

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Schools Rewrite Humanity Quietly and Children Face the Consequences

Have you seen this story, out of Georgia (via Rod Dreher)?

City Schools of Decatur parent Pascha Thomas claims her daughter, known by the initials N.T. in public documents, was sexually assaulted last year by a male classmate in an Oakhurst Elementary School girls’ restroom. Thomas said her 5-year-old daughter complained of vaginal pain the evening of Nov. 16, 2017. When Thomas asked more, the girl said she was leaving a restroom stall when a little boy in her class came in, pinned her against the stall, and groped her genitals with his hands. She said she tried to get away and called for help, but no one came.

When Thomas reported the assault to school officials the next morning, they responded with “deliberate indifference” toward the assault and the victim, according to the complaint. Despite Thomas’ efforts to ensure justice for her daughter over the following weeks, she said, the school failed to conduct a meaningful investigation, discipline the alleged assailant, remove the child from N.T.’s class or ensure he would not use the girl’s restroom again, or offer any assurance of protection or psychological counseling for N.T.

At a meeting in December, the school informed Thomas the boy identified as “gender fluid” and was allowed to use the girls’ restroom per a districtwide policy opening restrooms and locker rooms to students based on their gender identity.

As the corresponding video notes, Thomas says the school district didn’t stop at “deliberate indifference,” but actually called the state agency charged with investigating child abuse.  That agency paid the family a visit as and investigated the Thomas, herself.

Another point of emphasis is how little involvement parents had it the development and implementation of this policy.  How many Rhode Island parents, do you think, know that our state’s approach to the transgender issue is to assume that government employees are on (at least) an equal footing with parents when raising children and, by the high school level, should be tasked with identifying transgender feelings and helping students hide them from their parents?

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“Publick Occurrences” – The Fundamentals: Patriotism & Faith

As part of the recent Providence Journal sponsored “Publick Occurrences” panel discussion at RI College, I’d like to share some thoughts I prepared, but did not have the chance to put forth. The event’s premise – “Why Can’t We All Just Get Along?” and the polarization of public discourse – leaves us two factors to consider:

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An Improved Divorce Rate with a Smaller Denominator

On the surface, this looks like a great thing:

New data show younger couples are approaching relationships very differently from baby boomers, who married young, divorced, remarried and so on. Generation X and especially millennials are being pickier about who they marry, tying the knot at older ages when education, careers and finances are on track. The result is a U.S. divorce rate that dropped 18 percent from 2008 to 2016, according to an analysis by University of Maryland sociology professor Philip Cohen.

The problem is that the improving divorce rate results from a shrinking denominator:

Many poorer and less educated Americans are opting not to marry at all. They’re living together, and often raising kids together, without tying the knot. And studies have shown these cohabiting relationships are less stable than they used to be.

The article leaves no way to know the ultimate result, but it could be that more couples in a marriage-like situation, including with children, are separating.  They just aren’t filling out all the paperwork their elders did, and children are the ones who’ll suffer.

As I’ve been arguing for years, marriage was an institution in which responsible couples invested their expectations for the benefit of less-responsible couples.  Our society brushed that responsibility aside, and we’re seeing the results all around us (public turmoil, suicides, opioid overdoses, inequality, and so on).  What the lower divorce rate indicates, therefore, may be that those “poorer and less educated Americans” have learned an unfortunate lesson from those who have more resources.

Unfortunately, having fewer resources makes it more difficult to deal with the consequences.

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Not Choosing Life in Fall River

Think about this controversy out of Fall River:

A banner recently erected on Plymouth Avenue containing a possible pro-life connotation caught the attention of some residents and was taken down shortly after the company in charge of the program and the administration began receiving protests.

The banners which started popping up around the city a few weeks ago are part of the city’s new initiative to promote the logo “Make It Here,” its designation as an All American City and local businesses.

Then one appeared on the light pole near the Flat Iron Building with the dark, bold lettering “Choose Life” under the “Make It Here” logo and “Welcome to Fall River.”

A list of the 118 organizations that have signed up for banners shows no other slogans, so this one appears to have been an exception to the general rule.  Still, the idea that this slogan does create controversy indicates something unhealthy in our society.  Yes, yes, “choose life” can be taken as a slogan supporting one side, politically, which government rightly strives to avoid for unifying projects like these banners, but that only amplifies questions about whether this matter should actually have sides.  Are we to “choose death,” or be ambivalent about the choice between life and death?  Would a “Be Happy” or “Help Others” banner have been removed because of controversy?

Some might rebut that “choose life” can be painful to women who feel that keeping a child alive really wasn’t a choice for them, but that applies to other hypothetical slogans, as well.  People are out there right now feeling guilty that they weren’t able to help somebody else in some circumstance.  And we know the admonition to “be happy” can grind salt in the wounds of somebody who just is not able to comply.

If our society is too on edge to accept a banner promoting life, we’re clearly overdue for an examination of our collective conscience.

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