Sunday Reader March 8, 2009  

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Afternoon Inquisition 3.2.09
Do you believe Michael Vick should be allowed to play in the NFL again? Do you believe that a double standard for athletes and celebrity entertainers exists? Does thata double standard apply more to football players?

How Texas Helps Its Teens Get Pregnant
Wiley and Wilson used the Freedom of Information Act to obtain the sex education curricula from 96% of Texas’s school districts. They then analyzed the curricula to reach the startling conclusion that an overwhelming majority of Texas schools are utterly failing to teach comprehensive sex education to their students and are instead substituting irrelevant, false or misleading information in place of medically accurate sex education. Or, put bluntly and without political correctness: All but a tiny minority (3.6%) of Texas schools are helping their teens get pregnant either by lying to them about sex or by teaching them irresponsible, proved-to-fail sexual practices.

What makes this news especially difficult to swallow is that “An August 2004 Scripps Howard Texas Poll found that 90 percent of Texans support ‘teaching students with age-appropriate, medically accurate sex education that includes information on abstinence, birth control, and prevention of sexually transmitted diseases’”(.pdf p.3). Thus, the Texas schools are going against the wishes of the vast majority of Texans in providing kids with irrelevant, false or misleading information on sex.

Chechnya leader tells why 'loose' women deserved to die
Some in Russia say Kadyrov's attempt to create an Islamic society violates the Russian constitution, which guarantees equal rights for women and separation of church and state. But the Kremlin backs him, seeing him as the key to keeping the separatists in check.

Few dare to challenge Kadyrov's rule in this southern Russian region of more than a million people, which is emerging from the devastation of two wars in the past 15 years. The fighting between Islamic separatists and Russian troops, compounded by atrocities on both sides, claimed tens of thousands of lives.

Kadyrov describes women as the property of their husbands and says their main role is to bear children. He encourages men to take more than one wife, even though polygamy is illegal in Russia. Women and girls must wear headscarves in all schools, universities and government offices.

Nonbelieving Literati
NL: The Welsh Girl
Freedom to be without "shackles of nationalism" - the familiar fetters of cynefin. Perhaps Kris Kristofferson was right: "Freedom's just another word for nothin' left to lose". At least, perhaps freedom's another word for being unfettered - even to a place you love.

Patriotism, love of country, is a thorny issue for all three characters, even Esther. Yes, she lives in her homeland, but she feels its colonial status and yearns for escape - to America with Karsten, she dreams at one point; to England with a soldier; maybe even just away, anywhere with the young Welshman who wanted to marry her but for whom she had no affection until after he left... And yet she knows she won't go elsewhere, that the cynefin passed through her mother will bind her to the farm. And she wants that as much as she doesn't - she's always wondering why she has no heritage, no birthright, and the farm her father hates while he serves it - "isn't this my birthright, she wants to cry out", and she hopes the child the English soldier left inside her will be a daughter. Karsten is accused of being loyal to "landscape, at least", but his escape from the POW camp is motivated much less by patriotism, something he barely comprehends, in fact, than by a desire just to be alone for a change, and to erase the stain on his honor (a stain that, as Esther sees, can be erased though her honor is gone for ever). Several times in the book Esther ponders the meaning of patriotism, once when Karsten asks why she doesn't turn him in, why she betrays her country.

Nonbelieving Literati: The Welsh Girl - Peter Ho Davies
But when she goes off with Colin she finds the experience much different than she was hoping for. It starts out alright riding away quickly through the night, walking in the pool, drained and closed for winter, but then rapes her and she's left confused, in shock. She's not even sure it's really rape. It was brief, she escaped, and she's alive to sort through what's happened.

This green and pleasant land
Identity does appear to be the key. Human nature being what it is, we like to congregate in insular groups; no doubt a survival trait inherited from our distant anthropoid ancestors. Outsiders are expressly excluded from the group, thus protecting the group members from potentially harmful pathogens and possibly dangerous individuals. Even today this tendency is clearly visible in our culture. As you might expect, I’m keen to point to the exclusiveness of certain religions in relation to this idea, but patriotism is a perfect example of how readily people will align themselves with a group or faction almost arbitrarily. The stance of this group becomes their own personal stance, psychologically strengthening their position.

Guest Post by William Lobdell: "Without a Doubt"
I have a different theory. I think there are so many closet doubters because people sense there’s no God who personally intervenes in their lives. But they can’t take the final step toward deism, agnosticism or atheism because the religious ties that bind us are thick. I know. I was a closet atheist for four years.

A Look at Liberal Christianity
I agree with the author that the Bible is fallible and open to interpretation. I also agree with him that the Bible simply “gives us a historical understanding of how men and women have understood God and salvation.” If one accepts those things, then how does one determine whether those understandings are right, meaningful, misguided, dangerous or evil? How can the author support claims that his interpretation of the Bible is the right one, but another interpretation, i.e., a misogynist one (which he rejects), is wrong? The reality is this: when one seeks to determine which biblical interpretations trump the others, one inevitably turns to sources other than the Bible. That being the case, why not simply dispense with the Bible completely, or at least relegate it to a much lower level of authority?

Is Science Communication Doomed?
First, have women evolved to enjoy shopping? This may be a question that none of you ever considered, because you’re smarter than that, but nonetheless it is a question that appealed greatly to one particular group of people: namely, the Manchester Arndale Shopping Centre. Certain corporations have learned that an easy way to get your name in the news is to pay a scientist of relatively low integrity to crunch some numbers, fudge some facts, and publicize some stupid bullshit made-up “research” that somehow benefits the client. It’s advertising, but with a sciencey glow.

It’s advertology.

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