Recently in Culture Category

A Story of Slavery in Modern America - The Atlantic

Alex Tizon, who came to America with his family from the Philippines in 1964, tells the story of the woman who was closer to him and his siblings than their own mother, who lived out her final years with his wife and children, and who finally had the chance to return home.

"Her name was Eudocia Tomas Pulido. We called her Lola. She was 4 foot 11, with mocha-brown skin and almond eyes that I can still see looking into mine--my first memory. She was 18 years old when my grandfather gave her to my mother as a gift, and when my family moved to the United States, we brought her with us. No other word but slave encompassed the life she lived. Her days began before everyone else woke and ended after we went to bed. She prepared three meals a day, cleaned the house, waited on my parents, and took care of my four siblings and me. My parents never paid her, and they scolded her constantly. She wasn't kept in leg irons, but she might as well have been. So many nights, on my way to the bathroom, I'd spot her sleeping in a corner, slumped against a mound of laundry, her fingers clutching a garment she was in the middle of folding."

This was Tizon's final story. He died in his sleep in March. "The Pulitzer prize-winning reporter Alex Tizon built an exemplary career by listening to certain types of people--forgotten people, people on the margins, people who had never before been asked for their stories. Alex's wife, Melissa Tizon, told me recently that her husband was always impatient with small talk, because he believed that all people had within them an epic story, and he wanted to hear those epic stories--and then help tell them to the world. 'Somewhere in the tangle of the subject's burden and the subject's desire is your story,' he liked to say."

Christian parents, your kids aren't equipped to be public school missionaries - TheBlaze

"...your child is not ready to be a missionary. He cannot be a 'witness' to others until he himself has been properly formed in the faith. It's no surprise that most of the young 'missionaries' we commission and send forth to minister to the lost souls in public schools quickly become one of the lost souls. We don't need to sit around theorizing about whether the missionary approach to education is wise or effective. We already know that it isn't. The vast majority of the parents who think their kids are being 'salt and light' to their peers in school are simply oblivious to the fact that their little Bible warriors have long since defected and joined the heathens. You can hardly blame the kids for this. They're just kids, after all. They aren't warriors. Warriors are trained and disciplined. Children are neither of those things. I imagine this is why St. Paul didn't travel to Athens and Corinth recruiting toddlers to help him carry the Gospel into pagan lands.

"Education is supposed to prepare a child to carry the torch of truth. That is, he's supposed to be ready to carry it once his education has been completed. This should not be a 'throw them into the deep end to see if they can swim' strategy. They can't swim. You and I can barely swim, morally and spiritually speaking, and we're adults. Do you expect your child to be more spiritually mature and morally courageous than you?"

After the Exile: Poetry and the Death of Culture | Public Discourse

"I have lately begun to wonder whether a good gauge of what I and other professors in arts and letters accomplish might be this: to raise up a few students every year who could read my old issues of magazines like The Century and understand half of what is there.

"Academe has largely become an institution devoted to the destruction of cultural memory. Most of my best freshmen Honors students have never heard of Tennyson, much less had their imaginations formed by his eminently humane and approachable poetry. That is no reflection on Tennyson in particular. They have also never heard of Milton, Wordsworth, Keats, and any number of the great artists in what is supposedly their mother tongue....

"We are a people now illiterate in a way that is unprecedented for the human race. We can decipher linguistic signs on a page, but we have no songs and immemorial stories in our hearts....

"I have sometimes been accused of wishing that the culture roundabout me were truly Catholic, or truly Christian, or truly something or other, but my principal objection to it is that it is no longer, properly speaking, a culture at all. The deep roots have been severed. There is no agriculture in a dust bowl of tumbleweeds, and no human culture among people who derive their mental landscape from the ephemeral and quasi-lingual utterances of the mass media and, God help us, from the new and improved inanities of mass education."

A MAN IN THE WOMEN'S RESTROOM AT DISNEYLAND -- The Get Real Mom

A man hangs out in the ladies' room at Disneyland, and no one challenges him:

"If this had been 5 years ago, you bet your a-- every woman in there would've been like, 'Ummm what are you doing in here?', but in 2017? the mood has shifted. We had been culturally bullied into silenced. Women were mid-changing their baby's diapers on the changing tables and I could see them shifting to block his view. But they remained silent. I stayed silent. We all did. Every woman who exited a stall and immediately zeroed right in on him...said nothing. And why? B/c I...and I'm sure all the others were scared of that 'what if'. What if I say something and he says he 'identifies as a woman' and then I come off as the intolerant a------ at the happiest place on earth? So we all stood there, shifting in our uncomfortableness...trading looks. I saw two women leave the line with their children. Still nothing was said. An older lady said to me outloud, 'What is he doing in here?' I'm ashamed to admit I silently shrugged and mouthed, 'I don't know.' She immediately walked out...from a bathroom she had every right to use without fear....

"...But this notion that we're shamed into silence b/c we might offend someone, has gone too far. There was a man in the bathroom. Not transgender. There was a man who felt entitled to be in the woman restroom, because he knew no one would say anything. There were 20-25 people by the time I left, who were scared and uncomfortable by his ominous presence. And the only thing stopping us, was our fear of political correctness and that the media has told us we don't know what gender is anymore. I never want to be in the position again....

"Gender must be clearly defined to keep women safe. We can not tell women they don't know what a man is anymore. We can not coddle this small fraction of people (people who are men, 'identify as women', but have made no external attempt to show that) at the risk of women and children everywhere. The wrong men will take advantage of this loophole and put others in danger. "

David French: Male Vulnerability Isn't a Virtue | National Review

"Here is the key question -- what better equips a man to confront a difficult and challenging world? Is it more tears? Or is it more toughness? Is it teaching men to be compassionate or to be objects of compassion? The vulnerable male's cry is "help me." The masculine male's quest is to become the helper....

"Boys will be boys, but they won't all become men. At their best, shorthand admonitions such as 'man up' or 'be a man' carry with them the weight of tradition and morality that makes a simple, though difficult request: Deny self. Don't indulge your weakness. Show courage. Avoid the easy path. Some men fall naturally into this role, for others it's much more difficult. The proper response to those who struggle is compassion. It's not to redefine masculinity for the minority.

"For a father, there are few more rewarding things in life than helping a son become a man, to watch him test himself in productive ways and to help him cultivate and demonstrate a protective spirit. Among the great gifts a father can give a son is a sense of masculine purpose, and no that purpose isn't a 'box,' it's a powerful force for good."

JC in transition | Climate Etc.

Climate scientist Judith Curry is retiring from her tenured faculty position at Georgia Tech in order to enjoy

"A deciding factor was that I no longer know what to say to students and postdocs regarding how to navigate the CRAZINESS in the field of climate science. Research and other professional activities are professionally rewarded only if they are channeled in certain directions approved by a politicized academic establishment -- funding, ease of getting your papers published, getting hired in prestigious positions, appointments to prestigious committees and boards, professional recognition, etc.

"How young scientists are to navigate all this is beyond me, and it often becomes a battle of scientific integrity versus career suicide (I have worked through these issues with a number of skeptical young scientists).

"Let me relate an interaction that I had with a postdoc about a month ago. She wanted to meet me, as an avid reader of my blog. She works in a field that is certainly relevant to climate science, but she doesn't identify as a climate scientist. She says she gets questioned all the time about global warming issues, and doesn't know what to say, since topics like attribution, etc. are not topics that she explores as a scientist. WOW, a scientist that knows the difference! I advised her to keep her head down and keep doing the research that she thinks interesting and important, and to stay out of the climate debate UNLESS she decides to dig in and pursue it intellectually. Personal opinions about the science and political opinions about policies that are sort of related to your research expertise are just that - personal and political opinions.  Selling such opinions as contributing to a scientific consensus is very much worse than a joke....

"At this point, the private sector seems like a more 'honest' place for a scientist working in a politicized field than universities or government labs -- at least when you are your own boss....

"We'll see how all this plays out, but I figured I've earned the right to explore and do what I want. This is my definition of academic freedom (and I'm not asking anyone else to pay for it)."

An Update on Gender Imbalance in MIT Admissions Maker Portfolios

This is a disappointing bit of obsessing by MIT's administration about an insignificant difference in behavior among students seeking admission. Applicants can submit various kinds of portfolios -- research papers, video/audio of music or theater performances, art or architecture, and "maker" portfolios -- something you've built. Female applicants are more likely than male applicants to submit portfolios in every category except maker portfolios -- three times more likely than men to submit an art or architecture portfolio -- but MIT isn't worried about that. They're worried that men are about 2.5 times more likely than women to submit maker portfolios:

"We solicited advice from readers and took additional steps to increase the representation of women and the diversity of projects featured in public presentations and portfolio materials. After another admissions cycle, we regret to report that the patterns have not changed much.... As we approach the next admissions cycle, the Admissions Office is continuing to work on improving representation and recruitment, including an initiative, in partnership with Maker Media, that will leverage their intellectual property and community of Maker Faires with admissions' database of prospective students to help encourage more women to take up 'making' and identify as makers."

The researchers write: "However, the persistence of this pattern, despite several years of prior work to improve representation and reach targeted populations, leaves us questioning what other dynamics may be in play." Maybe reading Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus would help.

Here's the stat that jumps out at me: Men make up almost 70% of the applicant pool, but are only 51% of the admitted students, and only 53% of the entering freshman class. (By comparison, in 1984, women made up 29% of the incoming class.)

Afraid to speak up: In the era of trigger warnings, a tenured professor stays silent - The Washington Post

Prof. Rajshree Agarwal, director of the Ed Snider Center for Enterprise and Markets at the University of Maryland's Robert H. Smith School of Business, and a Cato adjunct scholar, says that self-censorship in the face of social pressure can be as deadly as government censorship to innovation and inquiry.

"German political scientist Elisabeth Noelle-Neumann first wrote about the 'spiral of silence' in 1974. She recognized the human fear of isolation and people's willingness to keep unpopular opinions to themselves to avoid backlash. Even majority opinions can be stifled when the media amplify minority voices and makes them seem dominant.

"People often discuss academic freedom in the context of the First Amendment, which prohibits prior restraint imposed by heavy-handed governments. The spiral of silence is something different, and perhaps an even greater threat to the human spirit that drives innovation....

"Most people recognize the financial risk involved in starting an enterprise. But fearless leaders also take reputational risks. They must overcome the fears of retaliation, ostracism and derision that feed the spiral of silence....

"...I have been frontally attacked as a Koch 'stooge' by a professor in philosophy who did not even know me, when I chose to become the founding director at the Ed Snider Center. Such comments can take a toll on anyone, including tenured professors. Students and assistant professors who 'think different' are even more vulnerable because of the imbalance of power in academia....

"Greg Lukianoff, president and chief executive officer of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, highlighted the dangers of shutting people up under the guise of political correctness during a Snider Center free speech forum last week. 'It's really hard to innovate if you're afraid to open your mouth,' he said.

"People need filters. Self-regulation is part of emotional intelligence and necessary for reasoned and respectful discourse. But the distinction between self-regulation and self-censorship becomes blurry when a culture of fear silences opposing viewpoints in higher education.

"Rather than looking to others to fix the problem, though, it is imperative to remember that we are intellectual entrepreneurs, who must muster the courage to speak up. Because ideas matter, and academia is their marketplace."