Archive for June, 2012
Do you have a question that you’ve always wanted to ask me, but you’ve been waiting for a philosophy professor to interview me on Freethought Blogs to get the answer? Thursday is your lucky day, my friend!
I have 32 followers on this blog. Some of you are very close friends, some of you I have never even heard a peep out of. I’m sure some of you must be asking: Who is this guy whose blog I read every three weeks or so when he gets off his ass and writes a post? Some of you probably know little to nothing about me, save that I wrote a post one time that was good enough to make you subscribe to this blog.
Perhaps you have a question that you have been itching to ask me.
Perhaps you would like to read more about my views on certain issues. Perhaps you have always wanted a Professor of Philosophy or one of those famous Freethought Blog (FtB) bloggers to put my feet to the fire on your behalf. And by “perhaps” I mean “of course you have!”
So if you wanted a Professor of Philosophy OR a FtB blogger to ask me the tough questions- you are about to think you have died and gone to Heaven†. It turns out that Dan Finke, Adjunct Assistant Professor of philosophy at Hofstra University and Hunter College, as well as the author of Camels With Hammers (my longest blog haunt)- is going to be interviewing me as part of his blogathon to support the Secular Student Alliance.
Dan is one of the few people whom I have met on the internet who has, on my end at least, graduated from being merely an online acquaintance to being someone I trust and consider my friend.
I owe Dan a debt of gratitude that I can never repay- both for being a major impetus in my decision to become a blogger rather than just a snarky commenter and for formally introducing me to (and making me love) the discipline of philosophy. If you like reading this blog, you owe Dan (and Jason Thibeault) a big “thank you”. If you don’t like this blog, then by all means blame him.
It’s totally his fault.
The interview will be in a very conversational format. Dan will be starting off the conversation, and he and I will, I think, let it flow from there. Dan will be reading this post, I’m sure, so if you have questions you want him to pose or things you would like touched on during our three-hour discussion, feel free to add them to the comment section of this post. Heck, I’ll answer them after the interview if we don’t touch on them.
I’m excited to be part of the SSA blogathon. I’m excited that I’m not going to have to write a post every half hour for 24 hours in order to participate. As many of you know, my idea of a blogathon is writing more than one post in a single week, and maybe- just maybe- Dan might ask me why I blog with such infrequency. That sounds like a good question to me.
I hope that many of you take the time to read the interview. I hope it helps lead to more discussions on this blog. I hope that we are able to help raise a sizeable sum for the Secular Student Alliance. Most of all though, I hope that some of you will be introduced to- and become regular readers of- Camels With Hammers. It is a blog deserving of your attention.
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† Well actually, that’s a bad metaphor. If you died and went to Heaven, several of you would be staring down the realization that your entire worldview is an embarrassing mistake. That wouldn’t be very exciting, now would it? On the flipside though, you ARE in Heaven, so I guess the mistake wasn’t too costly. Just sort of awkward when you have to hang out with the Big J Man, I guess. Anyway- excited!- you’ll be super excited!!
There is a pattern emerging in the comment section of posts about “good people behaving badly”. It seems that some people seem obsessed with the idea that people we share some common goals with are beyond reproach.
Richard Dawkins writes off sexual harassment as a worthless First World Problem- people insist that he get a pass. Commenters all over the internet tell us that we can disagree, but politely- and we must- MUST- afford his comments the most charitable possible interpretation. I agree with Dawkins on most subjects- but I find his line of reasoning dismissive and dangerous on this issue. So why am I supposed to give that idea less measured criticism than I give to any other?
We come to respect people because they are uncannily right- so when they get something wrong- do they not equally earn criticism as they have earned esteem?
The faux-pas du jour is now DJ Grothe’s. The President of the James Randi Educational Foundation has handled the issue of harassment at TAM with all the tact of a bull moose courting a chihuahua.
DJ decided to do some classic victim blaming. He suggests that harassment victims “regret” past “sexual exploits”. In other words, he suggested that harassment is not that big of an issue because the people claiming to have experienced it are just feeling guilty for letting their hair down. Some of the bloggers out there have suggested (in no uncertain terms) that DJ is forwarding an offensive and unwelcoming opinion of people who are trying to share their experiences in an effort to make conferences safer and more enjoyable.
Once again, the chorus of those who think that certain people deserve a pass chimes in. Why should victim blaming be considered reasonable by virtue of the person who initiates it? Why should I or anybody else give Grothe’s comments the most charitable interpretation when such an interpretation doesn’t even exist? He doesn’t get a pass. He doesn’t get to act like he never said those things. People have a duty to call him to account until he acknowledges his mistake.
Did people call DJ some bad names? Sure. Has he earned most of them? Yep.
Ideas that don’t respect facts don’t deserve respect. Period.
They deserve to be mocked. They deserve to be attacked. They deserve disdain. Measured comments deserve measured responses. Poisonous comments deserve poisonous responses.
So why am I writing a post about this? Because a friend of mine is dealing with a troll over at his blog who is arguing that DJ deserves to be treated with more respect than his actions deserve. Not only that, said troll is arguing that he himself doesn’t deserve to be called a troll- and doesn’t deserve to be banned- because he is Kind of A Big Deal™.
The only way that sentiment could be any more annoying is if it was written in Comic Sans.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 33 so far )
Ontario will sometime today have a final reading for some of the most comprehensive anti-bully legislation in
history. Bill 13, known as the Accepting Schools Act, aims to amend the Education Act in our province to define and address bullying in schools.
Bill 13 does an admirable job of defining the concept of bullying. Section 1(1)(ii)(b) even explicitly addresses the concept of power imbalance.
1. (1) Subsection 1 (1) of the Education Act is amended by adding the following definition:
This definition goes a long way toward explaining how privilege plays a part in bullying- the difference between “punching up” and “punching down”.
Ontario may be the first jurisdiction in North America to enshrine programs to address equity and inclusiveness in education that explicitly includes a comprehensive spectrum of sexual identity- including lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, transsexual, two-spirited, intersex, queer and questioning. In those exact words.
During the public consultation process, it was brought to the attention of the government that extra-curricular and social groups helped to foster an environment of tolerance, understanding and inclusiveness for marginalized groups- and that students have had problems at their schools attempting to organize clubs and social groups that include LGBTTIQ issues. To this end the government included in the legislation provisions to give interested students the right to start Gay-Straight Alliances (GSAs) within their school. It also closed a loophole in previous drafts that would have allowed schools to refuse to allow students to name these groups “”gay-straight alliances”.
Bullies To Province: “Only We Get To Define A Group By Narrow Criteria”
So by now I have given away the punchline- you already know who stands opposed to the new anti-bullying legislation. Just to give a little more context though, let me tell you a little more about education in Ontario….
Ontario has a Constitutionally protected publicly funded Catholic school board. This protection is, funny enough, the result of an agreement at the time of Confederation that was designed to acknowledge the privilege of being a Protestant in the province and to give some bit of cultural real estate to a marginalized group. It was enshrined in Section 93 of the British North America Act in 1867- it was protected by section 29 of the Charter in 1982. Since 1867, of course, the naturally privileged Protestant schools in Ontario have all disappeared in favor of secular education while the Constitutionally protected Catholic minority has been allowed to keep their schools religious
focus. Now, the minority that has benefited so greatly by laws designed to level the privilege playing field is shouting at the top of their lungs to avoid giving another minority protection under the law. “This is not something that needs to be protected under the law”, they say. “There is no good that will come from laws focusing on protecting one minority more than all the other disadvantaged groups”, they argue.
Perhaps they are right. There is reason to believe that well-intentioned laws have unintended negative consequences- we have precedent. One need look no further than the protections we afforded to the Catholic church regarding denominational education back in 1867.
The problem with this argument, of course, is that Bill 13 doesn’t focus solely on LGBTTIQ bullying. It points to them by name- as a group that has struggled most with acceptance within the school system. Bill 13 addresses a problem unique to this group when looking to organize extra-curricular groups sanctioned by the school board. It does these things, for sure, yet it still addresses the power of privilege and the roadmap to making headway in the fight against bullying. Why does it focus on LGBTTIQ rights when so many other underprivileged groups also suffer at the hands of bullies? Because the rot of ignorance and ambivalence extends beyond the hormone-swelled students and into the faculty and administration. It is necessary to spell this out for even the adults in the system.
When I went to high school, I was not at the bottom of the pecking order- but I certainly wasn’t near the top. I was called a “fag” for two whole school years because I stood up to a homophobic asshat of a teacher. Oh, and I was in Drama. Also, the Tennis Team-so I was pretty much “asking for it”.
You know what though? I was an “artsy geek”, and I wasn’t entirely alone. I had teachers who befriended me- and helped to make a difference in my life. So did the “MtG geeks”, who had a Staff Advisor who was into D&D as a teen. So did the “Mathletics/Chess Club/Brainer geeks”, who had staff who had been there themselves. Who did the gay kids have? Sure, they fit into other groups. Groups that probably still marginalized them, and staff who probably didn’t feel comfortable reaching out to them. Hell, I was in the Drama Club- that seeming safe haven for homosexuality. We had (that I know of) two closeted gay guys, one bi-curious (at least openly) guy, another who was lifestyle-queer(but swore he was totally straight) and a bunch of girls who made out with each other at parties. Pretty gay, right? Well the one guy who was closeted got called “Princess” by many of the members, and the other one quit after one year when it was apparent that we were just as hostile as the sports clubs. The bi-curious guy was one of my best friends- and I am ashamed to say that I occasionally chastised him for being a bit too “homo” in public. The other guy prided himself on being called gay- at least outwardly. I will tell you that our group was probably the most “gay friendly” you could get in high school. I will also tell you that I wouldn’t trade my hetero-privileged life for theirs. It was still a shitty time for them.
So to me, Bill 13 is very important legislation. Will it end bullying? Nope. Will it make high school easy? No. Will it give bullied kids a real avenue to address the daily torture they face? Yes. Will it give some much needed shelter to the queer community from the privilege of a hetero-centered and homophobic school system? Yes…and it should.
The public hearings on Bill 13 were a three-ring circus. There were accusations that Gay-Straight Alliances were “sex clubs”. People testified that schools would have forced GSA’s even if no students were interested- it was mandated.
Why would people be so ridiculously misinformed about this legislation? I’ll give you a guess…..
O.K., still not sure? Here’s a hint.
It’s a group. A group who has the word “Family” in their name. Are you surprised?
Go check out their site. It’s a real prize.
You Know How To Terrorize A Kid? Make Up Shit That Could Plausibly Be True- Tell Everyone, Repeat. How Do You Attack Anti-Bully Legislation? Do The Same…..
Here is a couple of tips for those who want to kill this bill.
- If you are going to write to your Liberal or NDP MPP to tell them how unbelievably horrible this legislation is, you might start by not using the epically ridiculous form e-mail offered by the Family Coalition Party. You know that MPP that you are writing? Yeah. About that. He/She has read the bill. She knows what it does and doesn’t say and do. Why does she know this? Because she read the fucking bill! Hell, she might have actually assisted in drafting it. Don’t piss on someone’s leg and tell them it’s raining.
- If you are going to testify before committee-and I’m dead serious here- read the bill! Know what it says. Know what it doesn’t say. Point out something clever, like the fact that a Staff Advisor may be required to oversee a GSA against their religious principles. Don’t make shit up. Don’t tell them that it is a sex club. Or that kids are going to be forced to join GSAs. Or that “gay kids don’t get bullied any more than other groups”. That’s patently false.
- If you are an opposition MPP, don’t write a letter telling people a whole gaggle of bald-faced lies and logically disjointed arguments in an effort to sway opinion. It makes you look even more ignorant when you are expected to know better.
- If you are the opposition Conservatives- for the love of all that is sacred in this universe- do not introduce a competing bill that has multiple clauses stating “this legislation means absolutely fuck all”. The point of legislation is to legislate something. As near as I can tell, Bill 14 only actually legislates “Bullying Awareness and Prevention Week”. Everything else is just polite suggestions. For those who have better things to do with their lives than read Conservative toothless platitudes, let me sum it up in my revised preamble, then just click the link above and scroll to sections 303.1 (2), 303.2(5), and 303.2(7).
Bullying, particularly in schools, has become an increasing problem in Canada. Victims of bullying have suffered mental anguish, bodily injury and even death at the hands of their tormentors. We as a society must at least feign concern, or else people might say we are heartless.
Bullying is a problem we don’t really want to solve. It can leave children with painful emotional and mental scarring and a lifelong struggle with self-esteem- but it also teaches some good life lessons. Like what to expect under a Conservative Government.
Bullies suffer as well, since bullying may be indicative of deeper psychological and emotional problems. Children who bully more frequently experience psychological problems later in life, such as aggressive tendencies and occasional symptoms of depression. Childhood bullies often display the same types of behaviour as adults and are found to be more likely to harass co-workers or commit spousal, child or senior abuse. So why are you picking on the poor bullies? They are only carrying out the natural social order. It is in this spirit that we introduce this anti-bully legislation. As a Government, we must send an ambiguous but public message that bullying can go on as usual, but we kind of don’t really like it. School officials must have tools in place, other than themselves, that they can use to consider, then disregard if they find cumbersome or inconvenient.
We need anti-bullying legislation that is going to take steps to fix a problem that has been- and will continue to be- with us since we came down from the trees. No one is saying that Bill 13 is going to end bullying. It is going to put the burden on teachers and administrators to act and intervene. It is going to make it illegal to brush it aside as the natural order. It is going to allow students to be proactive in reaching out to fellow students who need a safety net. It is going to allow students to do something about the ignorance and misinformation that exists around a certain flavour of being different.
Bill 13 may be the warning shot in the battle to remove public funding of the Catholic School Board in Ontario- but it won’t be the Province that does them in. It will be themselves. It will be a group that benefited from a gift of synthetic privilege that can’t see the reason for helping their own marginalized students. It will be a Church that wants to be the piglet that insists on being fed well without ever having to walk to the trough.
In Ontario, from now on at least, schools will be places that aren’t endemically homophobic, transphobic, or biphobic. It will be there, for sure, but the ignorance and hatred will be swimming against a current of tolerance. I couldn’t be happier.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 2 so far )