September 28th, 2006


Thinking about the "school as work" analogy

A surprisingly bitter discussion in the comments of this Ann Althouse post regarding T-shirts with messages in public schools. One of the things that surprises me is that nobody brought up the obvious point that since school is supposed to be preparing kids for the workplace, the argument over what they're allowed to wear should be DOA. If you work in a cube farm or some other office environment, the default mode of dress is business casual, which does not include T-shirts and jeans, much less T-shirts with "clever" sayings like BITCH BITCH BITCH or FRENCH CONNECTION U.K.. For that matter, if you work in food service or in a factory, your clothes choices are even more restricted: you have to wear a uniform in most of those places.

So why is there such a big furor over what high school kids are allowed to wear to school? In some systems there's no question why uniforms are required: some cities are so infested with murderous gangs that wearing the wrong clothes in the wrong place can literally get you killed, and a school uniform is like the flag of a neutral nation in wartime: "I'm not involved, leave me alone!" Other schools adopt uniforms because there's a consensus that the kids don't need to be distracted by what their peers are wearing. On one level, though, the whole argument over school dress codes is symptomatic of a breakdown in the societal consensus on what behavior/clothes are appropriate for public spaces, and winds up being another argument in favor of taking the schools away from government, since we've allowed the courts to define clothing as speech and we don't allow the government to say what acceptable speech is for teenagers.

Somewhere past the Hinder Stars

It occurred to P and I this morning on the way in to work that if somebody ever makes a movie (or better yet, a mini-series) out of C. J. Cherryh's Downbelow Station, they could do a lot worse than use the music of Sisters of Mercy for the soundtrack. It has the dark, bleak, brooding tone so appropriate for that most Gothic of space operas.

Out of curiosity, oh f-list members, who would you cast in a TV version of Cherryh's novel? I'm partial to Sharon Gless (Cagney and Lacey) for the role of Signy Mallory, and Taye Diggs (Equilibrium) as Edward Porey.
Boss Coffee

My soul is just fine, thank you

So much of human culture and its history seems like a long slow journey through the ebb and flow of various ideas that have shaped the dominant cultures of one era or another. Much of what underlies modern Western civilization is the scientific method and its approach to truth. Unfortunately, as Tom Wolfe shows us in "Sorry, Your Soul Just Died" the method tends to break down when it gets applied to touchy subjects like the brain and why (or if) it makes us do the things we do.

Ironically, at just the point when the humanities are beginning to pull out of their navel-gazing obsession with societal constructs as the root of all human behavior, the neuroscientists seem poised to ram us right back to the other extreme by maintaining that we're all hard wired by our genes to do the nasty things...we must? A little historical perspective would be valuable to help resist the ramming, since history tells us that in fact man can become something more than what his genes shape him to be. For that matter, a cursory acquaintance with biofeedback and motivational theory tells you that you can, in fact, make changes in your (genetically determined! preordained!) brain chemistry by sheer force of will alone....and those changes can go better with a shot of the right psychotropic chemicals, as anyone taking lithium or Ritalin can tell you.

I think this is one of the reasons that people who adhere to a consistent religious ritual tend, on average, to be happier than those people who don't. Yes, religion can make you happy. There are various reasons for this, but the bottom line is that religious people are engaged in an activity that changes their brain chemistry and makes them happy...whether their genes want them to be happy or not. There are other ways to get happy, of course, but one would be a fool to reject something that's worked consistently for over two thousand years of recorded human history unless one had a damned good reason. I'm thinking the latest report from the boys in the neuroscience lab and their flacks in the press isn't that reason.

(h/t Ed Driscoll, who went in a completely different direction with this)


I guess I was lucky. Mostly.
What has happened is that society (at least in the U.S.) has decided not to support The PromiseTM It is easier to get divorced (even over the objections of the other party in the contract) than it is to get out of a car lease.

And we wonder why men are afraid of getting married. They love their wife, are a wonderful provider, fabulous father and still find their wife has left them, taken their children and half or more of what they may have primarily earned with a note that says "I don't love you any more."

And heck, why should a man have to. With the advent of birth control, women everywhere sterilize the normal and sacred functioning of their bodies so they can make them available for the pleasure of men, risk free. And if an "accident happens", there's always Plan B, (when plan A[bstinence] always works). If plan B fails, there's always plan D & C. :P

From the comments to this post on adultery. (Via Tigerhawk)