National Review: “When Abortion Suddenly Stopped Making Sense”

lifeI know we’ve had a lot of pro-life pieces here recently, I guess the March for Life that coincides with the anniversary of Roe v. Wade brings it out in us.  The National Review has a great piece from an early 70s “anti-war, mother-earth, feminist, hippie college student” who once believed the pro-choice message.  The piece explores how she was eventually persuaded otherwise (hint: science, the absence of rarity, and pro-womanhood.)  It includes great quotables like

Abortion can’t push the rewind button on life and make it so she was never pregnant. It can make it easy for everyone around the woman to forget the pregnancy, but the woman herself may struggle.


Abortion gets presented to us as if it’s something women want; both pro-choice and pro-life rhetoric can reinforce that idea. But women do this only if all their other options look worse. It’s supposed to be “her choice,” yet so many women say, “I really didn’t have a choice.”


We had somehow bought the idea that abortion was necessary if women were going to rise in their professions and compete in the marketplace with men. But how had we come to agree that we will sacrifice our children, as the price of getting ahead? When does a man ever have to choose between his career and the life of his child?

Bam. Bam. Bam.  It’s great, check it out.

The Fourth Trimester

postpartumA mom’s photo of her post birth body has gone viral thanks to the raw understanding among women that (most) women still look pregnant weeks and months after giving birth.  It reminds me of Kate Middleton’s post birth photos that showed she, too, had a bump.  One week after having my first child, I was at Target, alone (my daughter was still in the hospital) and I got the inevitable “When are you due?” question.  I looked the same as I did 6 months pregnant.  When I told the lady I was postpartum she looked at me horrified and sprinted away, not allowing me the chance to say “I know I still look pregnant, and it’s OK.”  Truth is, most people don’t look like movie stars postpartum, or any other time.

Atheist + Pro-Life

embryology_stickerKelsey Hazzard, president of Secular Pro-Life, an organization that promotes a pro-life stance based on science, has a excellent piece at Opposing Views about the religious tone of many abortion advocates.  Hazzard discusses how this “magical thinking” was the basis of the Roe v. Wade decision and is a current pro-choicers are happy to ride, even if they are stereotypically the kind of people who would promote science first, as long as the result is more pro-choicers and more abortions.

Indeed, magical thinking is embedded in Roe v. Wade itself. The majority opinion discusses a variety of views concerning when human life begins… The notion that science is just one possible approach among many is a hallmark of magical thinking. The consensus of modern embryologists, and the beliefs of a civilization that thrived a millennium before the invention of the sonogram, are not equally valid. That the Supreme Court of the United States pretended that they were, and that such a farce remains good law more than forty years later, is an embarrassment to our legal system.

Check out the full piece here.

Donald Trump: Plant for the Dems

donald-trumpWell someone with more legitimacy (at least in the political world) has picked up my theory that DT is a plant for the Democrats.  I believe this theory because he has actually made me consider voting for Hillary, and that is a turn of events I find hard to believe.

Carlos Curbelo, a Republican congressman from Florida, has stated,

“Mr. Trump has a close friendship with Bill and Hillary Clinton. They were at his last wedding, he has contributed to the Clintons’ foundation, (and) he has contributed to Mrs. Clinton’s Senate campaigns. All of this is very suspicious.”

Along with the fact that Trump has said he will run as an independent if he doesn’t get the nomination, everything points to: plant.  Even his hair.  Or especially.

Please, spread this theory.  Make all your friends suspicious of DT, not just the sane ones.

Play, Parenting, and the Fragility of Young Adults — The “Helicopter Society”

college-stressAn article  in Psychology Today by Peter Gray, a leading researcher in educational psychology, spends a lot of time lamenting the fragile state of college kids, which I am happy to say does not seem to be happening among my students (crosses fingers that this is not as much of a problem in the sciences, sorry humanities). But I believe it may be a general trend, and I think anyone concerned about the amount of play kids get and the policing of American parents will be interested in the final takeaways:

In previous posts … I have described the dramatic decline, over the past few decades, in children’s opportunities to play, explore, and pursue their own interests away from adults. Among the consequences, I have argued, are well-documented increases in anxiety and depression, and decreases in the sense of control of their own lives. We have raised a generation of young people who have not been given the opportunity to learn how to solve their own problems. They have not been given the opportunity to get into trouble and find their own way out, to experience failure and realize they can survive it, to be called bad names by others and learn how to respond without adult intervention. So now, here’s what we have: Young people,18 years and older, going to college still unable or unwilling to take responsibility for themselves, still feeling that if a problem arises they need an adult to solve it…

In my next post I’ll examine the research evidence suggesting that so-called “helicopter parenting” really is at the core of the problem. But I don’t blame parents, or certainly not just parents. Parents are in some ways victims of larger forces in society—victims of the continuous exhortations from “experts” about the dangers of letting kids be, victims of the increased power of the school system and the schooling mentality that says kids develop best when carefully guided and supervised by adults, and victims of increased legal and social sanctions for allowing kids into public spaces without adult accompaniment. We have become, unfortunately, a “helicopter society.”

The only other thing I’ll add is that letting kids not only play, but also experience hard work (sometimes we have to do things that are not fun but are necessary, like the dishes) will help them get through those (not rare) times in life that require hard work.

NYT Op-Ed: Buying Sex Should Not Be Legal

Another way of stating that is “buying women should not be legal”. The latter statement seems more clear, or at least I assume it is, given Amnesty International’s potential call to end laws against sex work for all involved, for the sake of “human rights”.  Because nothing says human rights of women like legalizing the roles of pimps and johns, whatever they do to “their” women.

Amnesty International is about to vote on their stance on sex work. This will potentially harm women and girls across the world.

The NYT has posted a great op-ed discussing the (lack of) merits of such a legal move.  I’ve yet to read a convincing argument on how decriminalizing pimps and johns actually protects women, but in this op-ed we get a real solution to the abuse, force, and trafficking that often goes hand-in-hand with sex work.  The author, Rachel Moran, was once a sex worker herself, beginning at the age of 15 (does that look like human rights to you?).  She suggests making the sale of sex legal, but keeping the purchasing of sex illegal, and she has data to back this stance up.

In countries that have decriminalized the sex trade, legal has attracted illegal…. In New Zealand, where prostitution was decriminalized in 2003, young women in brothels have told me that men now demand more than ever for less than ever. And because the trade is socially sanctioned, there is no incentive for the government to provide exit strategies for those who want to get out of it. These women are trapped.

There is an alternative: an approach, which originated in Sweden, that has now been adopted by other countries such as Norway, Iceland and Canada and is sometimes called the “Nordic model.”

The concept is simple: Make selling sex legal but buying it illegal — so that women can get help without being arrested, harassed or worse, and the criminal law is used to deter the buyers, because they fuel the market. There are numerous techniques, including hotel sting operations, placing fake ads to inhibit johns, and mailing court summonses to home addresses, where accused men’s spouses can see them.

I’m not sure if the “Nordic Model” leaves room to criminalize the roles of pimps, but overall seems like a much better solution, one that really protects the human rights of women and girls (girls! people, girls).  Moran even has great suggestions on what to do with the fines collected from prosecuting johns, read the whole article to find out (hint: it involves helping women).

19th Century Russia is Current America?

Portrait of an Unknown Woman - Ivan Nikolaevich Kramskoi
Portrait of an Unknown Woman – Ivan Nikolaevich Kramskoi

“The liberal party said that in Russia everything is wrong, and certainly Stepan Arkadyevitch had many debts and was decidedly short of money. The liberal party said that marriage is an institution quite out of date, and that it needs reconstruction; and family life certainly afforded Stepan Arkadyevitch little gratification, and forced him into lying and hypocrisy, which was so repulsive to his nature. The liberal party said, or rather allowed it to be understood, that religion is only a curb to keep in check the barbarous classes of the people; and Stepan Arkadyevitch could not get through even a short service without his legs aching from standing up, and could never make out what was the object of all the terrible and high-flown language about another world when life might be so very amusing in this world… He read the leading article, in which it was maintained that it was quite senseless in our day to raise an outcry that radicalism was threatening to swallow up all conservative elements, and that the government ought to take measures to crush the revolutionary hydra; that, on the contrary, ‘in our opinion the danger lies not in that fantastic revolutionary hydra, but in the obstinacy of traditionalism clogging progress,’ etc. etc.”

-Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina

Problems in Higher Education

Over at alternet, a liberal/progessive news source, there is an article about the demise of higher education. This author immediately set off my loony-toons indicator with her “big business is secretly subverting higher education” conspiracy, but even beyond that I think most of her points can be directly argued against.  The problems she brings up (if they are problems at all) cannot simply be fixed by 1. remembering that higher education is about expanding our minds and 2. getting more funding for our schools (but no funding from corporations!)  However, she does make a few reasonable observations.

We’re just here to expand our minds.

1. Defunding education:

“For example, in the University of Washington school system, state funding for schools decreased as a percentage of total public education budgets from 82% in 1989 to 51% in 2011.” That’s a loss of more than a third of its public funding.” (Lone quotation was original to text). Just because the percentage of the budget is decreased, does not mean the amount of money going to schools has decreased. For instance, if the funding for public education doubled from 1989 to 2011 (this is hypothetical), then that means funding to schools actually increased over that time period by 25%. (Statistics!!) But we should also seriously question where public education funds are going, if not to schools. I don’t believe Washington state, a known liberal state, is defunding its schools for “corporatism” if it is defunding its schools at all, it’s probably just wasting that extra money, which is on to the next point.

“Newfield explains that much of the motive behind conservative advocacy for defunding of public education is racial, pro-corporate and anti-protest in nature.” This is a huge jump to conclusions. How many elite and liberal schools have to force racial diversity on their campuses? Higher education is, in general, an elite white man’s game (or with current statistics, white woman’s) and to claim that it’s different in that regard to corporate America, or that it’s the fault of conservative forces outside the institution, is ridiculous. To immediately claim a conservative racist reason may be easy, but it has no justification.


Also, it’s offensive that this author tries to claim that only humanities “train[s] and expand[s] the mind”. Nothing teaches you to think like mathematics and logic, which are also practical in the job market. As nice as it is to think about art, philosophy, and gender studies, those aren’t actually useful skills to most jobs. Trumpeting liberal arts education over any practical education is basically saying “higher education isn’t for getting a job, it’s for learning about culture.” That’s all well and good unless you’re in a suffering job market at graduation time. And to deny the important ways science and mathematics teaches you to think is hurting our students, her acclaimed era of liberal arts education in the 50s and 60s would have required much more in science and math than universities require today.

2. Deprofessionalize and impoverish the professors (and continue to create a surplus of underemployed and unemployed Ph.D.s).

Oh, this gets me. Why are there a surplus of PhDs? Because people get PhDs in things like philosophy, art, and gender studies. Good luck finding a job in gender studies outside of lobbying. You know why there are PhDs, even in STEM, that will work for adjunct pay (and please note, adjuncts get paid less than graduate students because they have no unions)? Because people get PhDs and then refuse to work outside of academia  (or have degrees in subjects where they can’t possibly get a job outside of academia).There is a limit to the number of professors we can have at our universities. And at most universities with graduate programs, the professors only have to teach 1 class a semester! We could solve the problem of adjunct pay, by getting rid of adjuncts all together and making professors teach at least 2 classes a semester. But then there would be even fewer jobs in academia for all those PhDs who refuse to get other jobs. It’s not a pretty picture, but corporatism/universities aren’t doing this on their own.

3. Move in a managerial/administrative class that takes over governance of the university.

“The money wasn’t saved [by hiring adjuncts], because it was simply re-allocated to administrative salaries, coach salaries and outrageous university president salaries.” OK, I’m totally with this lady here, and may I also add outrageous housing, athletic, and dining facilities. This point is spot on. This is a huge problem not just in higher education, but also in K-12. The problem is more complex though, it seems the more we pour into schools, the more bloated our administrations get. Consider, again a hypothetical, the example of doubling our school budgets. If we have 50% to administration and the rest to teaching, and then we double our budgets, but give our administration 62.5%, we have increased our teaching budgets by 50% (even though their share now is only 37.5% of the total), but those administrators are still making out even better. I don’t know if this is exactly how it happens, but more funding can easily lead to this. Frugality whenever it comes to non-teaching school projects and administration is the solution. Conservatives believe bloated administration is a reason to cut funding, but unfortunately the administration decides where those cuts actually take place None of the funding “problems” can begin to be fixed without first substantially fixing administration internally.

4. Move in corporate culture and corporate money.

“When corporate money floods the universities, corporate values replace academic values. As we said before, humanities get defunded and the business school gets tons of money.” I do find business school to be particularly insidious, but that’s probably because I’m an introvert in computer science who doesn’t understand the need to go to school for schmoozing. I digress. I’m not really sure the problem with businesses funding business schools? Business schools cost a lot (due to supply and demand in the market) and if corporate America takes up part of the tab, doesn’t that help with funding our schools – less to take away from the Arts and Sciences? But then the author moves directly into her point that anything that is non-Humanities is not mind-expanding and not important to higher education, so businesses should only be funding humanities?

“Serious issues of ethics begin to develop when corporate money begins to make donations and form partnerships with science departments – where that money buys influence regarding not only the kinds of research being done but the outcomes of that research.” Sure, this is a problem, if you view it in the most sinister way possible. But guess what, if corporate money isn’t funding our science research, the government is. Let’s not pretend that government has no self- or political-interests.  I’m sure I could find a large swath of college-educated people across the country who would shudder at the idea of George W. Bush once upon a time being in charge of our university science research. And again,this corporate money helps the funding problem. And all the research coming out of America’s universities (in the sciences) is highly peer-reviewed, even by people who are funded by other corporate or government interests.

5. Destroy the students.


“Instead, more and more universities have core curriculum which dictates a large portion of the course of study, in which the majority of classes are administrative-designed “common syllabi” courses, taught by an army of underpaid, part-time faculty in a model that more closely resembles a factory or the industrial kitchen of a fast-food restaurant than an institution of higher learning.” My liberal arts university had a lot of core curriculum. In fact, as a math major, it was because of this core curriculum that I got a “mind-expanding” experience in philosophy, literature, poetry, sociology, history, theatre, and dance. But even if we only consider big state schools, I’m really not going to cry over here about all the sociology majors who also have to take a science and calculus, or, heaven forbid, statistics. Yes, engineering departments may churn out a bunch of over-processed engineer-bots, but those kids are all getting jobs (I know, according to the author, getting a job is not the point. Unfortunately I did not, and I believe most other students did not (by the author’s next point, even), grow up in a family rich enough to allow me the freedom to not consider my job opportunities upon graduation).

“You make college so insanely unaffordable that only the wealthiest students from the wealthiest of families can afford to go to the school debt-free.” Government subsidized loans are a form of government funding. It may put most of the burden on the student, but as someone who has unsubsidized loans, those interest rates can be substantial. I read a comment on an article somewhere that “if the government was giving out $500 loans for a loaf a bread, bread would start to cost $500.” And this all hearkens back to administrations building huge housing, athletic, dining, and lounge facilities. If college was just about class and a place to study, sleep, and keep our stuff, college could be a lot cheaper. With the loans and student expectations feeding off each other, it becomes a downward cycle of unaffordability.


So, yes, there are problems in bloated administration and student costs at universities. But this isn’t some kind of corporate take down of navel-gazing education. Administration is a problem with colleges, as organizations themselves, not because of conservative or corporate America. And the burden of cost is partially on all Americans – for raising kids who want the best and prettiest dorm rooms (private bathrooms, please), exercise facilities, dining experiences, and football teams to go along with expanding their minds.  However, more funding will not directly fix these problems, and may only make the problems worse. With good peer review, outside funding is not going to warp our research institutions. And telling kids that they should consider job prospects (and that PhDs in some subjects are nothing more than mind-expanding hobbies) will not pervert a good liberal arts institution.