All posts filed under: Top Stories

When Disruptive Students Are Coddled, the Whole Class Suffers

Last month, NBC Nightly News aired a segment on the latest classroom-management technique to sweep America’s schools: “room clears”: When a child throws a tantrum that could physically endanger his peers, teachers evacuate all of the other students from the classroom until the troublemaker has vented his rage upon empty desks, tables and chairs. The technique was virtually unheard of five years ago. But 56 percent of surveyed teachers and parents in Oregon now report having experienced a room clear in their or their child’s classroom over the last year. Surrendering the classroom to a single student: The average reader might well ask why anyone thinks this would be a good idea. Yet the policies that make this approach inevitable have been applauded by a wide range of authorities, from the Southern Poverty Law Center to the Trump-administration’s Department of Education. The emergence of room clears is a product of several fashionable education-policy trends designed to protect the rights of troubled students, often with little regard for the rights of their classmates. These include the …

Ivory-Tower Sex-Work Activists Have Lost Touch with the Needs of Actual Sex Workers

Earlier this month, a video emerged of Vancouver activist Amanda Jabbour protesting a Meghan Murphy-headlined speaking event entitled “How media bias shapes the gender identity debate.” In the video, Jabbour is seen harassing just about every person who passes by, blowing cigarette smoke into journalists’ faces, and blocking reporters from filming by attempting to lick their cameras. Most notably, she approaches a male attendee and, without provocation, accuses an Asian woman accompanying him of being a “mail-order bride”—and repeatedly jeers, “How much?” (all the while completely ignoring the Asian woman herself). As was quickly noted by online critics, Jabbour was publicly listed as an Occupational Health and Safety Facilitator at the PACE Society, an advocacy group for Vancouver sex workers based out of the city’s troubled Downtown Eastside. PACE’s stated mission is to “promote safer working conditions by reducing harm and isolation through education and support.” It is ironic that someone who professes to speak for sex workers would stereotypically objectify an Asian woman as engaged in a quid pro quo with a Caucasian male …

Is Gender a Social Construct?

About once every generation, it becomes intellectually fashionable to believe that gender or gender identity is a malleable trait, largely devoid of biological imperatives and at the mercy of parental initiatives or other social forces. Within time, these narratives meet an inevitable backlash from the natural sciences and the furor dies down, only to repeat itself twenty or so years later. We appear to be in the grip of another such cycle, with some individuals declaring that “Gender is a social construct!” and others pronouncing such ideas to be hogwash. This debate suffers from three problems. First, the terms involved—sex, gender, gender identity, and gender role—are often poorly defined, which causes a good deal of confusion. Second, and related, in many cases participants in this debate may be using the term gender to mean two different things, which causes them to talk past one another. And third, these debates are often dominated by the loudest and most inflexible voices on either side, reducing opportunities for dialogue about how nature and nurture interact to produce behavioral …

The Case for Compulsory Voting

The right to vote is under relentless assault in the United States today. In 2013, the Supreme Court nullified a pivotal provision of the Voting Rights Act in Shelby County v. Holder, which required states to secure approval from the government before changing their election laws. The consequences of the ruling were swift. North Carolina immediately proposed a voter suppression bill that eliminated same-day voter registration. In 2016, 14 states implemented new voting restrictions for the first time in a presidential election. Five years since the ruling, the number of polling closures has doubled. During a town hall event in Cleveland, Ohio, in 2015, Barack Obama commented on America’s disappointing culture of voter suppression: “We shouldn’t be making it harder to vote, we should be making it easier to vote.” He also considered the radical potential of a mandatory voting law. “It would be transformative if everybody voted—that would counteract money [in politics] more than anything.” The former president’s comments were immediately met with heavy conservative criticism. “Forcing people to vote violates their freedom of …

The Availability Heuristic and Mass Shooting Fears

Fear of mass shootings is becoming a source of pervasive anxiety for an increasing number of people in the United States. A recent APA survey of American adults found that 79 percent of respondents reported experiencing stress because of the possibility of a mass shooting; a third of the sample even said that this fear held them back from going to certain places and attending events. This widespread anxiety is starkly out of step with the level of risk presented by these events, but that doesn’t mean we should dismiss it. It’s easy to cite statistics about the number of people who die in mass shootings each year (372 in 2018 according to the Gun Violence Archive) and to reassure people that their actual risk of falling victim to a mass shooting is exceedingly low, yet, on its own, this sort of thinking does little to assuage fears. But why? Why doesn’t focusing on the numbers alleviate fear? And why are people so frightened of an event that poses such a minor overall risk? Part of the answer to these …

Corbynite Economics

A review of Stolen: How to Save the World from Financialisation by Grace Blakeley, Repeater Books (September 2019) 300 pages. It is tempting for Jeremy Corbyn’s critics to write off his electoral promises as bribes—a last-ditch attempt from the most unpopular major party leader in memory to buy his way to victory. There’s some truth to this when it comes to pledged levels of public spending. But Corbynism is not an opportunistic ideology. He and the people around him have a set of beliefs about the economy that they take very seriously, and it’s worth trying to understand them. Stolen: How To Save The World From Financialisation, by New Statesman columnist and socialist campaigner Grace Blakeley, is one of the more serious attempts to set out a version of Corbynism (compared to, say, Aaron Bastani’s buffoonish Fully Automated Luxury Communism). Blakeley, who recently tweeted that reading the Labour manifesto had moved her to tears, has tried to put modern leftism in a post-financial crisis context. Her book hopes to explain why she believes the crisis …

Iran Protests: It’s not about Gas Prices

Iran is a different country today than it was just two weeks ago. An overnight tripling of gas prices precipitated an avalanche of protests, unprecedented in the country’s modern history. Protesters in cities nationwide have torched hundreds of banks, as well as the offices of Friday prayer imams, police stations, and seminaries. Gas stations were initially popular targets, but not anymore. The regime has disconnected the internet across the country. Some reports from the inside suggest that soldiers performing mandatory military service were forbidden from contacting their families, and were mobilized to confront the protesters as law enforcement and career service-members struggled unsuccessfully to re-establish order. The number of killed protestors might be as high as 500. Over the past ten years, gas prices have risen 30 times as the government has cut subsidies in Iranian currency. The currency’s value, during the same period, has dropped 12 times against the U.S. Dollar. The youth unemployment rate stands at 30 percent, to which we must add those who have left the labor force in despair of finding …

Equal Pay for Unequal Work—A Symptom of Prosperity

On Monday, 4 November 2019, Australian media outlets announced a historic deal brokered between the Football Federation of Australia (FFA) and the Professional Footballers Association after a year of negotiations. This new arrangement will see the Matildas (the Australian women’s soccer team) and the Socceroos (the Australian men’s soccer team) evenly splitting the sport’s commercial revenue, rather than each team receiving a cut of their own generated revenue. This follows a number of other nations arranging similar collective bargaining agreements. This change has been described as a major win for women’s sport, but detractors have been quick to point out some logical and ethical inconsistencies. Chief among these is the Matildas’ highly publicised 7-0 loss to a team of teenage boys from Newcastle in 2016 which raised questions about the standards of Australian women’s soccer. At that time, goalkeepers Melissa Barbieri and Mark Bosnich engaged in an online exchange, during which Barbieri argued it was not the intention of female soccer players to be paid the same as their male counterparts. facts continued: we don't …

What Would It Take to Run a 1:50 Marathon?

For the past five years, I have participated in workshops and symposia dedicated to the optimization of human performance. What follows is a transcript of a fictional speech on the subject, which I’ve chosen to imagine as the 12th annual Victor Conte, Jr. Memorial Lecture, as presented to the 2091 instalment of The Society for Human Performance Enhancement annual meeting. The presenter is my imaginary granddaughter, Dr. Mikaela Joyner. * * * Last year, a signal event in the field of human-performance enhancement occurred when Alberto Lanza-Fuerte of Bolivia broke the 1-hour-and-50 minute marathon barrier. The achievement marked a vindication of the prediction offered in the 1960s by American runner Leonard “Buddy” Edelen, who believed that someday a 1:50 marathon might be possible. It also provides a fitting backdrop for the Conte Lecture, because many facets of the performance-enhancement landscape created by Mr. Conte contributed to this achievement. Before I delve into what made a sub-1:50 marathon possible, let me offer a few words about Mr. Conte. Victor Conte Jr. was a junior-college-educated musician-turned-nutrition-entrepreneur who …

YouTube Censored My Interview With Posie Parker

One of the crucial debates in the modern online space in recent years has been about the limits of permitted speech. While the First Amendment protects the rights of Americans to speak their mind, those of us living in Europe and much of the rest of the world are increasingly subjected to restrictions on what we are and aren’t allowed to say. In 2016, the British police detained and questioned 3,300 people for saying the “wrong” thing on social media. A recent example of this style of policing is the ex-cop who was told by the police that he needed to “check his thinking” after he retweeted an offensive limerick. He has brought a case against the police and has launched a crowdfunder to pay his costs. Traditionally, “hate speech” has been understood to mean words aimed at stirring hatred and violence towards members of various protected groups. But today hate speech means whatever tech giants want it to mean. Earlier this year, Francis Foster and I interviewed transgender TV presenter India Willoughby about life …