I recently had an encounter online in which a friend requested that people avoid using misogynistic slurs on her page. This didn’t seem unreasonable, but one person saw fit to argue it. The argument revolved around what kind of popular culture my friend consumed. “How can you say you don’t want to be exposed to slurs when [x], which you like, has slurs?” This is one of those arguments that appears superficially logical, except it ignores the entire purpose of the original request.
There is a tendency I’ve seen to assume that the current anti-intellectual trends in American politics are new, or especially bad today in ways they weren’t in the past. The reality of the situation is, as usual, far more complex. In 1963, an American historian named Richard Hofstadter published Anti-Intellectualism in American Life, which traced the history of anti-intellectual movements in the US. Per the Columbia Journalism Review,in a recent retrospective, Hofstadter described intellectualism like so:
“Political correctness” has once again become a buzzword in American politics. Criticism of it cuts across both racial and partisan lines. But what is the problem, really? This piece in today’s New York Times offers an overview of how the issue is presented, depending on your political leanings: “I’m so tired of this politically correct crap,” Donald Trump[told a cheering audience of South Carolina business leaders](http://www.politico.com/story/2015/09/donald-trump-politically-correct-crap-213988)in September. “That’s called politicians’ speak.
Today I am mostly going to link to a piece and and quote the specific parts that stand out. It’s good enough to stand on its own, and worth reading in full. In any case, it’s an article in The New Republic, and you can find it here. Now, excerpts: Many people viewed inner-city shootings as an intractable problem. But for two years, McBride had been spreading awareness about Ceasefire, a nearly two-decades-old strategy that had upended how police departments dealt with gang violence Under Ceasefire, police teamed up with community leaders to identify the young men most at risk of shooting someone or being shot, talked to them directly about the risks they faced, offered them support, and promised a tough crackdown on the groups that continued shooting In Boston, the city that developed Ceasefire, the average monthly number of youth homicides dropped by 63 percent in the two years after it was launched.
Education reform is not a new topic in American discourse. The No Child Left Behind Act–perhaps the most extensive education reform carried out in the US in the past half century–was passed in 2001. Fourteen years later, its results are mixed, to say the least. But what if there was nothing to reform in the first place? What if the “education crisis” is another resilient, yet false, construct? The common scapegoats for the perceived failures of our education system are administrators, teachers’ unions, uninvolved parents, and government meddling.
Recently, I took part in a discussion that, among other things, delved into the extent to which influences one doesn’t care about (and are thus ignorant of) ultimately affect the indifferent individual. In truth, many things influence us, especially forces we don’t care about enough to examine seriously. This is a famous scene from The Devil Wears Prada that, believe it or not, helps illustrate the point perfectly: [embed]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vL-KQij0I8I[/embed] In this scene, Anne Hathaway’s character is dismissive toward Meryl Streep’s character, who is attempting to choose from two superficially identical belts in order to complete an outfit.
Some conservatives have been rabidly citing the hot statistic that 25% of American Muslims support terrorism. Where did this come from, and is it actually true? It’s the result of a poll commissioned by the Center for Security Policy, which has spun it as an alarming revelation. But what do the poll and its results actually say? Fortunately, they were nice enough to share the questions, results, and methodology, so we can learn quite a bit from how it was conducted.
Violence in media–and video games in particular–become a topic of popular discussion every now and then, especially after a mass shooting or other highly publicized act of violence. Enough people play video games, and violent games in particular, that as a matter of statistics you’re going to have the occasional violent outburst by somebody who was also a big fan of violent video games. The question is, is there a cause and effect going on here?
A live performance of The Wiz was broadcast on TV last night. If you aren’t familiar with it, The Wiz is a Broadway adaptation of The Wizard of Oz that first debuted in 1974. It has (and always had) an all-black cast. This is intentional. Some white folks, apparently, think it’s racist. It isn’t, though. It’s no more racist than the notion that black people get a free pass to use the n-word and white people don’t.
The number of Americans who consider themselves non-religious is about 7%, accounting for both atheists and agnostics. This is a not a trivial number: it amounts to about 22 million people. Most American atheists and agnostics are not politically active on the basis of their lack of religious belief. Nevertheless, there are political and social movements consisting of atheists organized against religion–most commonly, these days, against Islam. Guys like Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, and the late Christopher Hitchens characterize the thought leaders of these movements, sometimes referred to as New Atheism or the Skeptics’ Movement.