Hildegarde

Jane Haddam’s WordPress weblog

Archive for March, 2014

Strangulation

with 9 comments

I am sitting here having a rather interesting morning, if interesting is what you call a situation like this.

Late yesterday afternoon, I went to a place–which shall remain nameless, for reasons that should become obvious–I went to one of my usual places, and there in the office where I work was a big plate of frosted cookies made by one of the secretaries.

There is nothing in the least bit odd about this.  The secretaries in that place often bring in stuff they’ve baked or stuff they’ve bought.  Sometimes somebody is having a birthday.  Sometimes it’s a holiday, like Valentine’s Day or Halloween.

So as I was passing through the office, I took a couple of these cookies and went to the back to get some work done. 

I was very tired, because it had been an unusually early morning, but otherwise I was feeling all right–until about half an hour later, when I suddenly began to feel not very well at all.

This was not the usual kind of thing you get with food poisoning, but it was very bad, and when I finally got home I did something I almost never do–I went to lie down in the middle of the day.

Greg made dinner.  He even tried very hard not to fry everything, which is his usual approach to cooking.  If it was possible to fry air, Greg would fry it.

But he did all right, and I was still feeling awful, and all I wanted was–tea.

With lots and lots of sugar in it.

Enough sugar to drown myself in.

I don’t usuall put sugar in tea, although I do sometimes when I’m sick, so that in itself wasn’t so odd.

What was was that the tea I was drinking was definitely the kind with lots and lots of caffeine. 

And that wouldn’t be odd either, except that usually, when I drink tea with lots and lots of caffeine in it within, say, five hours of having to go to sleep–I can’t sleep.

Last night, I managed to go to sleep without a problem, and I even went early.

This morning I’m a little better, but not much.  The symptoms are less like food poisoning than like the reaction I get to certain milk products.

No, I’m not lactose intolerant, but I do have an allergy to milk in some forms.  I’m fine with milk that’s been made into something, like cheese and most yogurts, and I’m fine with heavy cream.  But the lower the fat content of the milk, the more likely I’m going to end up with the kind of cramping I’d imagine you get when you swallow glass.

Anyway, I woke up this morning with some of that going on, but also ENORMOUSLY hungry, and I’m sitting here before eight in the morning craving crazy things like pizza with sausage and fried eggplant, which I couldn’t indulge in if I wanted to. 

I’ve got to correct papers today, and I think it’s going to be interesting.

Written by janeh

March 27th, 2014 at 7:42 am

Posted in Uncategorized

Show and Tell

with 3 comments

It’s that time of the term–midterm grades are due in tomorrow morning no later than 9, and students who have been told that late papers cannot be graded before midterm grades unless they’re in to me by midnight last night…well, they’re nowhere to be found.

This is not as knock down, drag out as it might be, because midterm grades are not permanent.  If you get an F at midterm but your final grade is an A, the midterm grade will just disappear and nobody will ever know about it.

Unless.

And this is where things get a little sticky.

Unless you want to transfer to a four-year starting in summer term.

In the old days, the four years went by the grades you had in previous semesters, and only checked your present semester grades at the last minute, after they’d already admitted you, in case they might think they should change their minds.

In practice, they almost never reversed an admission decision, and kids in their last term before moving cheerfully let their grades go to hell and had a good time for a few months before the transfer.

Some of you have probably noticed kids doing the same thing when they’re in the spring of their senior years in high school.  The acceptance letters come out, everybody goes “wheeeeeee!” and it’s impossible to get anybody to settle down until graduation.

Lately, the transfer schools have not been amenable to this kind of thing.  If you are applying to enter for a term where admissions decisions must go out before the final grades of the term you’re in will be available, you must submit your midterm transcript.  The transfer schools then treat those grades as “real,” even though they are not.

It is possible that some courses have midterm grades that are “realer” than English composition midterm grades, but the problem with English composition midterm grades is that they are INHERENTLY unreliable.

They are inherently unreliable because we teach writing as a process, and that means that the first time you hand a paper in isn’t going to be anywhere near the last.

One way to handle this is to put no grade at all on a paper until you have the absolutely last, final draft–but that presents two problems.

The first is that many students take nothing seriously EXCEPT the grade, so a paper that comes back with no grade on it to be revised gets revised only very little. 

Then you find yourself in a marathon tug of war trying to get the kid to DO something to the piece, over and over again, until you don’t have a grade for anything until the last week before the break.

To a kid who cares only about the grade, a paper returned with no grade on it is, by definition, not a big problem, no matter how many red marks there are all over it. 

The other problem is that grades are like voodoo–a fair number of my students are convinced that grades come from the ether with no connection at all to anything they’ve ever done, or that grades are about “effort.”   If you try really hard, it doesn’t matter what the quality of your work is.

There is actually a trope in Ayn Rand novels about this–people who whine that they “did their best” when what you need them to do is their jobs. 

I have no idea how people like this manage to survive in a real world where nobody is going to hire them for effort unconnected to performance standards, but there we are.

There are other people who obsess about grades, however, and with this group, I have more sympathy.

These people are looking to enter programs where the standards for entry are both very high and (almost) completely unforgiving.

The most popular of these are the nursing programs, where the four years won’t accept anybody with any grade below a B.

ANY grade below a B.

If you’ve got a grade below a B, rejection is automatic.

They then fill two thirds of their slots with the best credentials submitted to them.

They then fill the last third with students chosen at random. 

But before you can get picked at random, you still have to have that transcript with no grade below a B.

My nursing students are almost bat crazy about grades.  The advising system in the nursing program seems to be pretty good.  Most of these kids come in having had the selectiveness of the four year nursing programs pounded into their heads in a manner we used to call having the fear of God knocked into them.

What’s more, a lot of them come in from high school programs where math was low-level to nearly nonexistant, and the nursing programs want a lot more than that.

They camp out for days before math and biology tests, quizzing each other and making a mess of the common cafeteria.

I have never quite understood why the program requires them to take a literature course, even an elementary one.  I understand the composition course–it’s a good idea if nurses can write notes and other material clearly and unambiguously–but I’m not sure why a grade in a literature course should be a requirement for entry into a nursing program.

God only knows I think it is important to learn about literature, and to understand it, and to understand how it fits in with history and philosophy and all the rest of it.

But one semester of “Lit and Comp” won’t get them anywhere near that, and in the meantime they’re stressing out over arguable theses in papers about the similarities and differences between Shakespeare’s Lear and Sophocles’ Oedipus Tyrannus. 

I think I’d be less perturbed by this kind of thing if we were actually making a good effort to get them to get it. 

Instead, I’m not too sure what we’re doing.  For the benefit of the state legislature (DON’T get me started) and the cooperative agreements with four years (so that they give credit for our courses for the transferees), we label English 102 a “writing course.” 

And it is that, sort of.  But if what we’re really doing here is trying to pound more basic writing into them, we should make 101 a two semester course and have done with it.

In the meantime, I try to get students to talk to me, so that I know who is in need of what, and I don’t accidentally blow up their entire lives with a midterm grade that bears no relationship to the final grade they’ll get in the spring.

And by the time I’ve got my midterm grading done, I’ve got a headache.

 

Written by janeh

March 23rd, 2014 at 9:59 am

Posted in Uncategorized

Morons, Marching or Otherwise

with one comment

Sometime last week, in response to my post about Fallen Angels, a friend suggested to me that I would like, or get a kick out of or something–I can’t remember how he put it–a short story called “The Marching Morons” by C. M. Kornbluth.

So I sat down and read it, and I have been circling around and around the approach to writing about it on this blog ever since.

I’ve decided that all I can do is say what I think the way I thought it, and let whatever happens, happen.

This was not a “b ad” short story.  On the technical level that really matters to me, it’s a very good one.

It’s good fairly good music of the prose going on, and it’s well constructed (except for one quibble–the change in pt of view after the initial scenes, which IS sort of awkward).

And if this were another kind of post, I might quibble–two people told me how surprised I’d be by the ending, just as two people told me how surprised I’d be by the ending in Fallen Angels. I was surprised by neither, and had anticipated where the story was going by no more than a third to halfway through each one.

But here’s the thing.

I don’t care if I’m surprised by the ending or not.  I read through other people’s posts with lots of spoilers of stuff I haven’t read yet, and I don’t care. 

“Surprised by the ending” is not on the list of requirements for me to think that a work of fiction is good. 

And in this case, it’s so beside the point I wouldn’t know where to go with it if I wanted to.

Because what matters here (for me) is this:  this story is very good, but it is also something that I have found in only one other piece of fictional work.

It’s repellant.

It reminds me, in fact, of the only other story that ever made me feel like this.

That one is “The Kreutzer Sonato,” by Tolstoy.

So don’t you dare start telling me I only feel this way because the Kornbluth story is science fiction. 

I was repulsed by the Tolstoy story long before I knew what science fiction was.

But let me get to the particulars, and the warning–from here on out, spoilers are going to rage across the landscape, and I don’t care. 

There’s no way to explain this without giving away the plot.

The plot, in a nutshell is this:  in a future earth, the smart people have become the slaves of the stupid people, because the stupid people had more children, LOTS more children, and that means they could vote themselves into power.

The smart people are thoroughly and terminally sick of this situation, which they call The Problem, and are desperate to find some means of fixing it.

One day, a man working in an isolated area finds the body of another man sort of flash-preserved.  The flash preserved man is from out time, and in the years since he was accidentally petrified, we have learned ways to fix the condition he’s in and bring him back to life.

The smart people–who do all the work–do indeed bring him back to life, and after they do they explain The Problem to him and ask if he has any ideas about what they could do about it.

Resurrected Man then demands that he be made absolute dictator of all the earth, with statues erected to him everywhere, and if he gets that, he’ll tell them how to fix The Problem.

FWIW, this was when I knew how this story was going to end.  But, like I said, that’s hardly the point.

Resurrected Man gets–or thinks he gets–everything he wants, after which he puts in place a plan to convince the stupid people that theyw ant to relocate on Venus.  This is very successful, and the stupid people rush to sign up for relocation, whereupon they’re delivered into the jaws of death with their disappearances being masked by fake letters and postcards sent to their families talking about how wonderful Venus is.

When enough of the stupid people are dead to make The Problem no long a problem, the smart people push Resurrected Man into a space ship and send him to Venus, too.

Or, you know, fake Venus.

What’s more, they’re delighted with Resurrected Man, because Resurrected Man being a high end stupid person, has just enough cunning to think of things the smart people are not able to think of themselves–like checking with Hitler and the policies of Nazi Germany to figure what to do about the surplus population.

And no, the Tolstoy isn’t about surplus populations.  It’s about a man who has just been let out of prison after a long sentence for killing his wife, who explains why women are so foul and wretched they all ought to be killed.

But my point about “The Marching Morons” is this:  there isn’t a single decent person in the entire thing. 

Not a single one.

There isn’t a single decent suggested point of view on the state of the world or the country. 

The smart people may not have been able to think of Hitler and Company on their own, but they knew who they were, and they had NO compunction about using Nazi tactics to kill off all the stupid people.

The stupid people are the kind of stupid that makes you wonder how they manage to chew gum and walk forward at the same time, and their basic attitude to life is that intelligence and science are dirty conspiracies against them and out to be beaten up if not wiped out.

If the only two choices we have are between these two groups, I’d say nuke the planet and get it over with.

I have read nothing else by this writer.

With Tolstoy, I’d read quite a lot, and Tolstoy’s view of women were spot on with the murderer’s in “The Kreutzer Sonata,” so I knew what I was looking at.

With Kornbluth, there might be something out there somewhere that would mitigate what seems to be the message here–if I could decide on a message, and I can’t quite.

In the meantime….

Bleh.

Written by janeh

March 22nd, 2014 at 5:12 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Shiny Science Fiction

with 2 comments

I have been trying to get around to this post for a couple of days now, but Life has been intervening–and not, as is usually the case, with downers and trouble and general cussedness.

I’ve just had actual work to do, and Spring Break arrived and I shut the alarm off on the clock, and then one day I slept in until past eight.

And I didn’t care.  That was the serious revelation here.

At any rate, I’ve been pattering around not doing much of anything organized, and in the middle of all that, I read a book–Larry Niven, Jerry Pournelle, and Michael Flynn’s Fallen Angels.

Now, for those of you who are science fiction fans, I want to make one point perfectly clear.

The following are notes about WHAT I HAVE READ AND SEEN in science fiction movies, books and short stories.

There may very well be all sorts of other things in science fiction movies, books and short stories, but if they are not WHAT I HAVE READ AND SEEN, then they are completely irrelevant to anything I will say here.

Having gotten that out of the way, and knowing full well that the comments will be full of passionate declarations about how I said x and y about “science fiction” even though I ONLY said x and y about science fiction I HAVE READ AND SEEN–

Let’s start here.

Fallen Angels is a novel about a time in the near future when the United States has been taken over by anti-science Greens and Feminists.  Most technology has been banned, and the changes have caused the start of a new ice age.

And the first thing it made me think of was this:  the only reason Apollo 13 isn’t science fiction is because it’s science fact.

Apollo 13 is my favorite movie of all time.  I’ve probably watched the thing over a hundred times.  I own it, but in spite of the fact that I own it, if I come across it on television while flipping channels, I’ll stop and watch it through to the end.

There is never a time when this movie fails to make me happy.

And yet, if the Apollo 13 incident had never happened, somebody could have made that exact same movie as science fiction, and it would be good science fiction, and I would still love it.

Granted, it makes me happier because it really happened, because that tells me that we were once these people, and that therefore we could be again, for real–

But that’s a kicker.  It’s a really, really, really good extra-added, but it’s not at the core of what I love about things like that.

And Fallen Angels is a thing like that–it gets the villains right, and it gets the heroes right. 

That’s part of it.

Thinking about it, I realized that an awful lot of the science fiction I have watched as movies has consisted of Faust narratives of one kind or the other–stories about how Humans and especially Scientists have screwed up the world in one way or the other and doomed us all.

This is especially true of the old black and white American International movies, where you can’t be in the same room with a microscope without causing worldwide ecological disaster of one kind or another.

And the kind is always whatever the fashionable we’re-all-going-to-die scenario is this week.  The Atomic Bomb (pick any of several), the hole in the ozone layer (Arctic Blast), climate change (The Day After Tomorrow).

It doesn’t matter what we’re doing, it doesn’t matter that the last twenty things we’ve thought were going to doom us all haven’t–if we’re doing ANYTHING, it’s a bad idea.

In an odd way, Fallen Angel sort of has this kind of plot, because things we are doing–ill-considered environmental regulation, a fear and terror of “technology”–have indeed caused the mess the earth is in.

But in Fallen Angels, the problems are not caused by science but by the rejection of science, which is the first good news.  Our Heroes do not exist to beat back the human ability to change the world through scientific and technological experiment and innovation, but to bring it all back.

 So that’s the first thing.  I’m not a big fan of the kind of science fiction where science is the enemy, and the ability to do science is a Bad Thing. 

What’s more, as far as I’m concerned, Fallen Angels gets the villains exactly right:  the crystal-gazing morons trying to bring back magic, the people-are-the-worst-thing-that’s-ever-happened-to-the-earth people, the precautionary principle people, the kind of “feminist” who runs around trying to constrict and inhibit everybody’s behavior in pursuit of making everything “safe”–I could go on, but the writers do that themselves.

But Fallen Angels also gets the heroes right.  They’re the people who will not be “appropriate,” who insist on living a politically incorrect life at nearly every level, who like risk and who like challenge.

And that brings me to the kind of science fiction I actively like, although I’ve only seen it in movies and not read anything like it in books or short stories.

Of course, I see more science fiction than I read.

The best example of it would be the two movies of the Star Trek reboot, the ones in which Kirk is–well, maybe you have to see it. 

There’s a sequence in the first of the two where Spock shoots Kirk–not yet captain of everything–off the Enterprise and onto a Godforsaken frozen planet.

It’s the kind of thing that would normally make me at least somewhat uncomfortable, but in this case Kirk isn’t scared,  he’s just royally pissed off and roaring about it, and the entire thing ends up being fun.

But that’s what I want.  And not just in science fiction.  I was the risk takers and the intellectual outliers.  I want a good clear statement against the sort of people who are so afraid of everything that their entire lives become a frantic and unrelenting attempt to regulate everybody else’s behavior.

And those people exist at least as much on the left–if not more–than on the right.

Of course, it helps that Fallen Angels is a book about actions on the level of plausibility by people who are plausible enough as actual people who would live now.

The action is improbable but not impossible, and does not require me to leave the realm of plausibility for…whatever.

(FWIW–I find space travel to other galaxies perfectly plausible; I find intergalactic war less so.)

On the downside, I have the same problem with Fallen Angels as I do with a lot of Niven and Pournelle–there’s not a lot of character development, and the action tends to take place on the surface.

But I had a very good time.

Written by janeh

March 16th, 2014 at 10:38 am

Posted in Uncategorized

Sigh

without comments

Written by janeh

March 12th, 2014 at 12:49 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Sigh

without comments

Written by janeh

March 12th, 2014 at 12:47 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Sigh.

with 10 comments

Written by janeh

March 12th, 2014 at 12:46 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Doing the Privileges Rag

with 6 comments

Part of me wants to start this blog by saying–what Cheryl said!  And then letting it go at that.

But let me try to piece out Mike F’s objections one by one.

First, he said

>>>“Privilege” is an UNUSUAL and UNEARNED advantage.
No.  “Unusual” is no part of any definition of the word in any available source.
It is NOT the way the word is used, so any attempt to add “unusual” to it is
incorrect.>>>

Sorry, but no.

Call it unusual, call it “special,” call it anything you want, the simple fact is that if something is the default mode, it is NOT a privilege.

And by default mode I mean what is assumed to be standard–therefore, having the police read your Miranda rights is standard procedure, NOT a “privilege,” not even if they don’t read some other person HIS Miranda rights. 

In the case where somebody does not have his Miranda rights right to him, he has been done an injustice, but that does NOT make every instance where someone IS read his Miranda rights an example of “privilege.”

The definintions quoted do nothing to make the point Mike wants to make.  In fact, they go to make mine.  It’s a “special” thing granted only to a particular group.  But most of the examples of “privilege” provided are not of special things granted only to a specific group, but standard things granted to ALL groups, actually all persons as individuals.  The fact that those things are sometimes violoated does not–see above

So I’ll go to

<<<<—That’s THE POINT.
THAT &gt;IS&lt;  an example of white privilege. A distinct benefit of being born
to a middle class family, or above, in a good school district,  with two intact
parents, one of whom is available for ferrying children to extra curricular
activities, making sure they have a good breakfast and lunch or lunch money 
etc., etc, in action. Not to mention family or school trips to museums,
exhibits, performances, vacations (for some) to Europe or other world
destinations.
>>>>

No, really, that’s not an example of any kind of privilege.  It’s an example of luck. 

Luck is endemic to the human condition.  Some people are born better looking, more musical, more academically or athletically talented, and such people will achieve much more much faster than those of their peers who work just as hard.

Unlike the luck of the genetic draw, however, THIS kind of luck can be replicated by any parent willing to put in the time and effort.

And yes, I mean ANY parent.  I give you the thousands of Asian families, newly immigrated, living in dire poverty and working like beasts of burden who do it every year. 

That’s not “privilege,” white or otherwise.  It’s achievement.

Which explains what’s wrong with this:

>>>>The child did nothing to earn that situation – but that is the situation that
allows them the opportunity to earn an “An “A” in senior year English from a
school that requires a 20-page research paper and the reading of four books and
3 Shakespeare plays.”

But that is nevertheless “white privilege”
<<<

Nope.

Children don’t earn anything–they have, BY RIGHT, what their parents have earned for them and choose to give them.

Part of the motivation for delaying gratification and all that sort of thing is exactly that you can make your children’s lives better and easier than your own was, or than other people’s are.

>>>>The barriers to success are simply immeasurably lower for those white kids in
the middle class and above suburbs than they are for anyone else. THAT is white
privilege.
>>>

No.  All of that is the reward for parental ACHIEVEMENT.  And it has nothing to do with “white.” 

The “white” thing is an attempt to foreclose discussion.  Liberals think conservatives and liberatarians and just plain not politicals will be intimidated by the fear of being called “racist” if they protest this kind of thing. 

They’re not.

The REAL strong man argument is this one:

>>>It has to be carefully and completely explained to them, and still it seems most
never actually understand, that there achievements are NOT wholly of their own
effort.
>>>>

Why is that a straw man?  Because nobody has ever claimed that ANYONE has ever achieved “entirely on their own.”  The idea is absurd. 

But it still remains a fact that no matter what advantages your parents do or do not give you, YOU must go out and achieve for yourself, and your achievements are rightfully yours–because lots of people with the same backgrounds DON’T. 

MOST of the kids that go to those high-end prep schools DON’T end up in the Ivy League.  MOST of the kids in those well-heeled suburbs DON’T end up Supreme Court Justices or even doctors or lawyers.

What such people DO achieve, however, is theirs by right of having earned it.  It is not a “privilege,” and that is especially true when the parents were dirt-poor Vietnamese refuges who lived in two rooms without hot runnign water for 30 years so they could make sure the kids got to college.

As for this:

>>>Well, that’s the problem. Very, very few seem to give the matter even a moments
thought. Failure to achieve is described in terms making it a moral lapse,
rather than an almost certain outcome of starting from an extremely (relatively)
disadvantaged position.

No, failure to achieve is NOT “an almost certain outcome” of anything except perhaps of a congenital handicap. 

And I don’t really know what Republicans are saying about this, but my end position is:  inequality is  the GOOD news.  People SHOULD be rewarded differently based on their contributions to their fellow citizens–and yes, IF  their fellow citizens prefer to reward hip hop singers than medical researches, that is what SHOULD happen.

But I’ll admit.

I’d have a lot more patience about this kind of thing if anybody who came waving “white privilege” in my face was in the least bit interested in solving it.

You could, for instance, set up and fully fund inner city schools where the standards are just the same as the ones in Wilton or Scarsdale–and hold to them.

Make the standards at PS 265 just what they are at Andover.  Insist on four years of lab science, four years of foreign language, four years of history and English, four years of math through first year calc.  Then do whatever you have to do to bring people up to speed, INCLUDING insisting on standards of dress and behavior on school grounds and in class.

And provide all the extra help you want, as much as we can pay for.

BUT.

Also accept the fact that the first generation to take part in this experiment will almost certainly see high school graduation rates even lower than the ones we’ve got now.

Unfair as it is, one generation is never enough to bring an entire group up to speed.

But we’ve stopped trying to bring groups up to speed.  Instead, we yell “white privilege” to let them know they don’t even have to try.

I’ve always thought that the basic impetus behind things like “white privilege”–the charges, I mean–was a deep and underlying racism that thinks (but would never say) that “people of color” really aren’t very bright or talented or virtuous, and we shouldn’t make them feel bad by making them try what we think they can’t do anyway.

 

 

 

 

Written by janeh

March 9th, 2014 at 3:50 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Back To It, Almost

with 10 comments

Okay.

When I put up that link in the last post, my intention was to come back the following day and outline what I felt was so very wrong with it.

And there is a lot that is very wrong with it.

But it’s February, and cold, and I have one of those non-sickness sicknesses that makes me fuzzed out and then feel fine an hour later and then…yeah, yeah, yeah.  I know.  Excuses are us.

But today is different.  Partially that’s because it’s a bit warmer–something that ALWAYS happens before the last major nor’easter of the season, which is ALWAYS in the first week of March, and which is now predicted to arrive here Monday.

Partially, it’s because this keeps bugging me.  So let me get on with it as far as possible.

First, there’s the title:  This Comic Perfectly Explains What White Privilege is.

If that’s the case–if this comic is the most perfect explanation possible of the whole idea of “white privilege”–then the concept is even more ridiculous and incoherent than I thought it was.

And a lot of people who claim to be rational actors making decisions only on science and evidence are…well, just say cheating that principle a whole lot.

Her first point is that “I’m 78% more likely to be admitted to a university because of my race.”

The italics are mine, because they matter.  And if anybody could prove this, it would be spectacular evidence of “white privilege,” or something “privilege.”

“Privilege” is an UNUSUAL and UNEARNED advantage.  If Yale and Vassar are going around saying “we’ll only take 3% of the class in African Americans because we don’t want black people here and we’d rather have white ones,” then that would be “privilege.”

And we’ll avoid, for the moment, commenting on the fact that that is exactly what they do to Asian applicants.

I’m hoping to get back to the complete absence of Asians in this “explanation” at a later point in the post.

Unfortunately for our cartonist, her only “prove” that a higher percentage of whites than “poc” are admitted to universities consists of the statement: “A poc with my exact same grades has only about a 22% chance.”

Now, statistics are often misleading until put into context, but this one is worse than that.  It’s entirely meaningless.

“Grades” don’t even begin to tell the story of adequate preparation for college work.  Academic standards vary widely across the country, and even across states.

An “A” in senior year English from a school that requires a 20-page research paper and the reading of four books and 3 Shakespeare plays to get there is not the same thing as an “A” from a school that never requires more than a page-long book report and restricts its reading list to short pieces and excerpts of Shakespeare “translated” into modern English.  An “A” in senior year math from a school where it consists of introduction to Calculus is not the same as an “A” from a school where it consists of pre-Algebra.

That’s what the SATs are for–to let colleges look past the grades and see what they mean.

What’s more, a “poc”–as long as the color isn’t yell0w–isn’t less likely to be offered admission (and lots of money) from an elite university than a white person, but many times MORE likely. 

That’s what affirmative action is for.  In fact, a “poc” (not yellow) can expect to be given a 100-300 pt advantage on the SATs from any of the top 20 schools in the country, and on every level from undergraduate to medical school. 

Elite universities are flat out desperate to admit “poc” any way they can get them, and they’ll fudge benchline standards, throw fists full of financial aid dollars, and do anything else they can (for instance, shoring up sports teams with extra players and awarding admission for athletic ability) to get within screaming space of their “diversity” goals.

White applicants with the exact same boad scores will not be offered admission, and Asians with the exact same board scores will be laughed out of the room.

And that doesn’t begin to go into other issues, like home and ethnic cultures.

The reason these things never say anything about Asian students is that Asian students defy all the “explanations” of “privilege.”  They’re often immigrants or the children of immigrants who came here poor and often live in poverty throughout their childhood, but they still outperform everybody else.

If you’re going to talk about college admissions rates and “privilege,” then  you’re going to have to deal with the achievement gap and the culture gap. 

And that means two things, neither of which people like this cartoonist want to touch with a ten foot pole.

1) You’re going to have to bring standards in inner city schools up to the standards at places like Andover and Wilton, IN WHICH CASE you’re going to have to accept that, for a generation or two, high school graduation rates are going to be much lower among “poc” than they are even now.  (Because it takes a while for culture to catch up and it never does in the first generation.)

2) You’re going to have to give up the idea that all cultures are equally worthwhile for all purposes and accept that getting “poc” into elite universities at the same rates as everybody else will require deliberately eradicating the culture many of them live in now and replacing it with one that valorizes achievement, intellectuality, and education. 

Note something about number 2 above, though.

That only holds IF what you want more than anything else is to increase the numbers of “poc” in colleges and universities.

Cultures have different strengths and weaknesses, and the consequences of some will be different than others, but not necessarily without value. 

Her second pt is that “The likelihood that I will go to prison in my lifetime is about 4-11%.  A poc’s chances run to about 44-50%”

My big problem here is that this isn’t “privilege” of any kind–it’s the default setting. 

It is not the case that most of us go to prison and only a privileged few get not to.  In a free society, most people–the vast majority of people–don’t go to prison, and shouldn’t. 

This statistic would only be evidence of racism–either individual or “institutional”–IF it was the case that “poc” committed no more crimes than white people AND that the circumstances of thse crimes were comparable.

But this is not the case.  Not only do “poc” actually commit larger numbers of crimes per capital than whites (never mind, again, Asians, where the crime commission rate is in single digits), but the circumstances are almost never the same.  And disparate circumstances bring disparate sentences.  Getting caught with an ounce of marijuana gets you one sentence if that’s all you’ve got on you, and another if you’re carrying a gun or a knife.

People like this cartoonist tend to try to get around problems like this by leaving out the details in cases they then proclaim to be “just the same.”

The most egregious example of this kind of deliberate obfuscation concerned the fate of an African American woman in Florida named Marissa Alexander, who was said to have “fired a warning shot” at her abusive partner and been convicted, instead of let off on a stand your ground defense, which we were told she would have been “if she were white.”

Of course, George Zimmerman wasn’t white, either, but that’s another mare’s nest.

The problem with the Marissa Alexander case is that it was not in any way comparable to the Trayvon Martin one. 

Not only did Alexander leave the scene once to get a gun from her car and then come back to use it, she stopped again at a neighbor’s house to make phone calls, she told three or more stories to the police on the night of the incident.  It went on and on and on.

What’s  more, the actual issue was whether the trial court should have allowed her to stage a self defense (of any kind) defense, and the appeals court voided the verdict and set Alexander out on bail because the trial court didn’t.

The Stand Your Ground law is very bad law indeed, but it’s bad law not because it’s “institutionalized racism” but because it’s subjective law.  It depends on the subjective feelings of the shooter, and subjective feelings are, by definition, not objectively verifiable.

Of course, if we reject subjective law, we’ll have to reject a lot of what now calls itself sexual harassment law, and sexual harrassment regulation.  Which may be why people like this want to scream “white privilege!” instead of dealing with the problem.

Her next point is that “a white male with a criminal record, is 5% more likely to get a job over a man of color with a clean record.”

I’d look into this if I could, but I can’t, because the only reference she gives for it is “jamietheignorantamerican.tumblr.com”

Let’s just say I’m skeptical.  Were there comparable levels of education and training?  Were the crimes similar, did they all contain similar elements (like drug use, sexual assault or violence)?

I don’t know, and I can’t find out, so we’ll just leave it there.

As to her last point–that media outlets report more on black-on-white crime than on black-on-black, white-on-white, or white-on-black crime…eh.  Media outlets provide what sells, so maybe they do.

On the other hand, white-on-black crime is in the single digits, Asian-on-anybody crime is even lower, and it’s entirely possible that they’re just reflecting both the actual statistical rate and the particular circumstances of the crimes in involved.

On the other hand, having  had some experience with media, they could just be making it all up.

As for that last bit–“white privilege is the privilege to be ignorant of the world around us”–it’s not only nonsense, it’s profoundly morally evil.

Guilt is individual and intentional.  If either of those two are not in play–“institutional” this and “not meaning to” that–then what the purveyors of “white privilege” tropes are peddling is UNEARNED guilt.

Not only do I not think you should “educate yourself” based on such charges, I think that anybody who accepts unearned guilt perpetrates great harm against all the rest of us.

People like this artist should learn to be profoundly ashamed of themselves, and NOT for having “white privilege.”

Written by janeh

March 2nd, 2014 at 11:48 am

Posted in Uncategorized

Bad Behavior has blocked 1119 access attempts in the last 7 days.