Smart people saying smart things

Brian McLaren: “An Open Letter to Rebecca Kadaga”

I have visited Uganda as a Christian leader and met with a wide variety of Christian leaders. They have impressed me as people of compassion, not violence … of grace, not intolerance. They know that Jesus was once put in a situation similar to the one you face in Uganda today. A group of strict religious leaders pressured him to assent to the killing of a woman widely regarded as a damnable, detestable sinner. They quoted the Bible to make their case. But he resisted that pressure and overcame it. He courageously sided with the woman, and he challenged those preparing to throw stones at her to face their own hypocrisy. Rather than handing them a stone “as a Christmas gift,” he risked his reputation, even his life, in an effort to protect her. He handed them another gift: a model of compassion, a new way of being religious, a new way of being human.

Terence Weldon: “Walking in Our Shoes”

The whole point of the word “heteronormative” is that this is the way the world is constructed, based on a single, majority way of seeing things – without ever considering that another perspective is possible.

In the religious sphere, there is often outrage at the very concept of queer biblical interpretation, or theology from an LGBT point of view, with no recognition at all that “traditional” biblical hermeneutics is constructed from an automatically straight perspective, with no particular justification for it. This is especially clear where modern conservatives insist that they are merely trying to protect traditional marriage “as found in the Bible” – when their understanding is of “traditional” is a very modern one.

Rebecca Levi: “‘Just to Make a Statement’: Power, Sincerity, and the Women of the Wall”

Rabbi Rabinowitz is implying, of course, that it’s impossible to demonstrate and worship at the same time. (It’s also worth noting that his wording rhetorically links Women of the Wall to anti-Occupation demonstrators, another group he likely considers deviant and traitorous to the Jewish norm.) And, in all fairness, the idea that worship is an activity in which you remove yourself temporarily from day-to-day concerns is not a position without, you know, significant precedent. Even etymologically, both the English (from Greek) word “sacred” and the Hebrew word kadosh, “holy,” come from roots having to do with “set-apartness” and “withdrawal.” Similarly, it is hardly controversial to suggest that the main goal of worship should be to direct attention not to yourself, but to the Divine.

But what Rabinowitz doesn’t see — or chooses not to see — is that separating worship from daily affairs and not drawing attention to oneself in the practice of worship is a luxury reserved for powerful people with normative practices. If you’re a member of a group that’s “out,” accessing the same prayer sites, practices and rituals, with the same level of respect and dignity, as the “in” group can’t not attract attention. In such a case, worship necessarily becomes a political action.

Steven Hill: “Don’t Cut Social Security — Double It”

Here’s the dilemma that the United States faces. Since World War II, individual retirement has been based on a “three-legged stool,” with the three legs being Social Security, pensions, and personal savings (the latter primarily centered around home ownership). But two out of three of these legs have been chopped back to blunted pegs, leaving the retirement stool as an unstable, one-legged oddity.

… The gritty reality that the Obama administration and House Republicans must face is that the vast majority of America’s retirees cannot afford to watch them hack off part of the only leg that remains of the three-legged stool. Quite the contrary, we should make that leg more robust by doubling the current Social Security payout, and turning it into a true national retirement system called “Social Security Plus.” Doing so not only would be good for American retirees, but also would be good for the greater macro economy.

Steve Benen: “Jindal’s selective concern for the poor”

For Jindal, poor and disadvantaged kids should have the same educational opportunities as kids from wealthy families. Fine. There’s ample evidence that vouchers don’t work, but let’s stick to the larger principle. The next question is pretty straightforward: can poor and disadvantaged kids have the same access to quality health care as kids from wealthy families? How about the same access to safe and affordable housing? How about nutrition? And transportation? And political influence?

  • Consumer Unit 5012

     For something to be a right, I must be able to demand that I always get it (at least when I want to exercise that right.)

    You can DEMAND any fool thing you want.

    Doesn’t mean you’re going to get it.

  • Green Eggs and Ham

     Agreed.

  • Green Eggs and Ham

     True, this is why they will accept social contract theory, but only the barest of social contract theory.    It allows them to kick start the idea that rights have power to effect behaviour in others because the social contract generates a set of rights and reciprocal obligations.

    But their whole social contract is based on the idea of withholding, instead of cooperation or generosity.

  • EllieMurasaki

    That’s the point that the conservative voices whose opinion Green’s relaying are trying to make, I think. There can’t be a right to two thousand calories per person per day if the world population is seven billion people and the world food production is less than 2000 * 365 * 7B calories per year, or if the world makes enough food but distribution’s fucked.

    Why these people think the appropriate solution is to declare that people are not entitled to two thousand calories a day by reason of needing to stay alive, rather than to make sure world food production is sufficient (and population increase isn’t outpacing food production) and food distribution is not fucked, I do not know.

  • P J Evans

     Maybe they think everyone else is a game-generated character. I don’t know; it’s like they can’t, either as individuals or in groups, really see others as real.

  • mb

    I’m actually comforted by your reply, since I also consider myself to be elitist and liberal (or social-democrat, in some contexts), though not very left-wing.
    A cursory Google search shows that I am not delusional in thinking that some extreme left-wing people actually believe in outcome equality in education:
    http://crookedtimber.org/2009/03/31/educational-equity-and-educational-equality/

    “It should be obvious why the radical version of educational equality has counterintuitive consequences: since some children have very low levels of cognitive capacity, implementing it fully would require serious leveling down of prospects of achievement; requiring that we lobotomize the cognitively able, and resulting in very low levels of achievement for all.
    The reason I am not troubled by this is that I think other principles of justice – educational and otherwise – are more important than educational equality.”
    Obviously, I should not hold you responsible for someone else’s views. I apologize for this confusion. I was upset for unrelated reasons on the day I made that posting.

  • mb

    Hm, this is indeed, I think, a left-wing view. Mitterand’s government tried and, I think, failed to implement it, to give one famous example.
    If you meant to call for collective property of all means of production, like in the former communist countries, then, yes, it qualifies as extreme in my view. It doesn’t even have to be the government, in practice the desired totalitarian effect is already achieved when the cooperatives are compulsory to join.Other extreme left-wing views are that private property should be abolished, religion should be banned, or that education should be the same for everyone. The latter view was to some extent implemented by the Cultural Revolution — this is why I refer to it as an extreme left-wing view. In practice these views very often, but not always, go together.

  • mb

    I prefer a third choice — poor SAT scores show one to be completely unsuited for higher education or any sort of serious thought in general.
    The SAT is such a joke that failure to perform well testifies to some sort of flaw, which needs to be remedied, if possible, before going any further.
    Conversely, above-average scores do not prove anything, unless the scores are over 700, in which case they do show that the test-taker is indeed able to study and could potentially (without an absolute guarantee) do a decent job in college, hence should be admitted.
    What the scores say about wealth or ethnicity need not concern me. I don’t think anyone has a guaranteed right to go to college or graduate from high school.

  • EllieMurasaki

    I don’t think anyone has a guaranteed right to go to college or graduate from high school.

    Which means that, in the US where getting a job that makes enough to support more than one person on requires a college degree and getting a job that makes enough to support at least one person requires a high school diploma, you do not think everyone has a guaranteed right to be able to pay their goddamn food and rent.

    Go away for a little bit and think about that.

  • mb

    No, I don’t think that there currently is equality of opportunity. I believe that moving toward that would be a good thing. I don’t think equality of outcome is always a good thing.
    As for why education — it’s the only example of opportunity vs. outcome that came to mind. Speaking more generally, I also believe in equality of opportunity vs. outcome in other regards as well, i.e. I think high inheritance taxes are good, but forcible redistribution of wealth is bad.
    Speaking about college graduation, obviously some people who don’t graduate from college are smarter and harder-working than some who do.
    My answer would be to make graduation harder, so that people who only got in because of their unfair advantages cannot also buy a college diploma.
    On average, poor people have less ability, without it being “intrinsic”. I don’t think that only intrinsic qualities should be considered for college admission and graduation, but that literacy, numeracy, and all sorts of general and specialized knowledge should matter as well.
    I’d rather not talk about race, because I don’t think that suffering should be a qualifying factor for college.
    As for merit, I was thinking about it in the narrow sense of scholarly merit, the merit of being a good student or (later) a good professional. Should this not count as merit, even if the ethnic distribution of people who have it is skewed? I strongly believe it should.

  • EllieMurasaki

    My answer would be to make graduation harder, so that people who only got in because of their unfair advantages cannot also buy a college diploma.

    Nice thought, but where does it leave the people who are already working their way through college? Out in the cold, that’s where.

  • mb

    No, I am just allergic to hearing about equality of outcome.

  • EllieMurasaki

    Fortunately for you, no one’s advocating equality of outcome. Among other things, it’s flat out impossible to achieve. What we’re advocating is ensuring that everyone is at least at an adequate if minimal standard of living, with unimpeded access to the tools needed to improve that standard of living. I don’t care if some people are living on beans and others on caviar as long as everyone is getting enough food with a decent balance of nutrients. I don’t care if some people are living in studio apartments and others rotating among five mansions as long as everyone has a leak-free roof over their heads and their functioning electricity and plumbing. Etc.

  • mb

    I agree it’s a problem that needs to be fixed. Few things would make me happier than living in a society where this problem has at least been reduced, hence I wouldn’t mind living in Canada or Switzerland. I hope it works out in the US as well.
    In other words, thanks for the comment, I found it helpful.

  • mb

    I don’t think this is an extreme left-wing point of view; more like a statement of fact. Other prior posters fit my preconceptions for that much better. Thanks anyway.

  • mb

    I agree. I think the SAT (at least the general portion) is too easy, so it can be gamed and doesn’t always reflect meaningful knowledge.

  • mb

    Thanks, this was helpful, I don’t see this as an extreme left-wing point of view, I was incensed by the mention of equality of outcome in the original message, I probably shouldn’t have replied anyway, but was upset for an unrelated reason.

  • EllieMurasaki

    It’s a lot easier for people from some backgrounds than from others. Always has been. Making it harder on the people who breeze through it is just going to fuck with the people who struggle with it due to lacking critical cultural information that the test questions rely on.

  • mb

    Something should be done about that (stronger unions, maybe).
    Employers use high-school diplomas or college degrees in ways they were not meant to be used. Acknowledging that degree inflation is irreversible, here is a practical solution: give a high-school diploma to everyone at the end of middle school, so that people who want to can go to college and actually learn something for the next four years. Names shouldn’t matter so much, what I was complaining about was the actual learning.

  • EllieMurasaki

    Wait, wait, what?

    You think it’s a good idea to say that the average fourteen-year-old has learned everything they need to know to be a good citizen (even if not everything they need to know to make a career in their field of choice) and turn them loose on the world? Because speaking as an ex-fourteen-year-old and the elder sibling of a current fourteen-year-old, and also someone who doubts it’s possible to fit everything taught in the K-12 curriculum into the K-8 years even if we stop letting students take summers and Saturdays off, bad plan.

  • mb

    I think there should be a stage of education where going further depends on accumulated skills and knowledge, not only on general-purpose intelligence. If it isn’t college, then it will be the master’s degree, which is why more and more positions nowadays require it (and they shouldn’t). The GRE is what the SAT should be.
    I believe that one can and should measure knowledge. To me, it’s not about getting into college, it’s about learning something in the process.

  • http://www.metagalacticllamas.com/ Triplanetary

    That’s exactly right, and I think it reflects a Panglossian view of the world wherein, if things are a certain way, they’re that way for a reason, therefore all is well. If a person is living in poverty, they must somehow deserve it, so there’s no need to give them assistance, except in the form of individual largesse that can be withdrawn at any time.

    It’s a much easier worldview to hold when the status quo favors you rather heavily, I imagine. I doubt the Jewish pogrom victims in Candide felt like they were living in the “best of all possible worlds.”

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

    poor SAT scores show one to be completely unsuited for higher education or any sort of serious thought in general.

    Poor people and minorities do worse on the SAT than white people and rich people. This is a fact. Therefore, your statement means “Poor people and minorities are complete unsuited for higher education or any serious thought in general”.

    If your premise is correct, then rich white people really are superior to the people who have traditionally been oppressed by rich white people.

    There are only two possible conclusions. Either reality itself is racist, or the test is biased.

  • EllieMurasaki

    I’d like to agree with your comment here, but in context of your other comments, I’m just gonna +1 Ross.

  • mb

    Yes, I know it for sure. The US curriculum is quite dilute. On second thought, Americans have so many extracurricular activities (sports, music, arts) to fill the remaining time that I don’t think it could happen. Maybe K-10 is more realistic.
    Preparation to be a good citizen? That is a different issue.
    Anyway, you were referring to the high school diploma as a requirement for employment. I agree that it’s unfair for anyone to be deprived of it. I also think it’s unfair to those people who will actually learn to have to suffer the company of those people who only want a high school diploma for its employment benefits.

  • vsm

    My assumption would be that coming from a privileged background (and the better elementary and high school education that implies) is more likely to equip one with the kinds of skills that enable one to do well in SATs and higher education, rather than the test itself necessarily being biased. I’m not terribly familiar with the issue, though.

  • EllieMurasaki

    Where the hell are you getting the idea that any but the best-funded US schools have time and money for such trivialities as art, music, and sports that don’t fund themselves through ticket sales? Which (since these are essential to a good education but hard to do standardized tests on) brings us right back around to the initial point about disparate school funding.
    Setting sixteen-year-olds on college is a little brighter than setting fourteen-year-olds on college, but not by a hell of a lot. Some sixteen-year-olds are ready for college. Precious few fourteen-year-olds. The vast majority of both age groups are not. I’m not sure the majority of eighteen-year-olds are, but I’m not prepared to argue that the age of legal adulthood should be any higher, either.

  • mb

    I stand by my assertion that doing badly on such a simple test is evidence that one is unsuited for higher education. The best that one can do in such cases is take remedial classes and hope they help.As for the “superiority” part, please note that I didn’t claim that doing somewhat well on the SAT meant anything.OK, I’ll phrase it even more explicitly: those rich white people who do extremely well on this test (whose scores are above 700) are superior, in their ability to take advantage of higher education, to those poor members of minorities who failed miserably on the SAT. All the inflammatory words are yours.

  • EllieMurasaki

    Would you care to explain the precise mechanism by which having low skin melanin and/or high household bank balance makes one inherently (as distinct from as-a-result-of-cultural-forces-that-favor-rich-over-poor-and-white-over-not) more educable?

  • mb

    I then guess the curriculum is built to accomodate those wealthy schools that can afford a lot of extracurricular activities; this is what I meant. I am sure that, leaving them aside, one could go through most US curricula in 8 grades instead of 12. However, few poorer schools are trying, because they (and the parents whom they serve, perhaps?) have the same conception of success as their richer counterparts.
    For the record, I do believe in equal school funding.

  • EllieMurasaki

    No, what’s actually happening is that poorer schools are trying to meet the increasingly high standards set by No Child Left Behind (and who the fuck set those standards anyway? when literally every school in a substantial area is failing to meet those standards, there might be something wrong with the standards), focusing only on the areas NCLB cares about (that is, English and math), teaching in order to improve the students’ chances of passing the NCLB tests rather than in order to have the students go up a grade having acquired all the knowledge in those areas expected of a student who has passed that grade, and letting everything else (art, music, science, social studies, critical fucking thinking) slide.

  • http://dpolicar.livejournal.com/ Dave

    Well, there’s other possibilities.
     
    Suppose we test everyone in the country for their ability to do a standing broad jump, and on the day before the test I go around to every blond in the country and break their ankle with a hammer.

    Blonds will do worse on the Broad Jump Test than everyone else.

    One might conclude from this that the BJT is biased against blonds and needs to be modified, perhaps by changing the scoring so roughly the same percentage of blonds pass it as non-blonds.
    One might instead (mistakenly) conclude from this that blonds are innately inferior, and devote one’s career to looking for genetic or cultural or early-environmental influences that explain this inferiority.
    One might (accurately) conclude from this that blonds are _at this moment_ inferior, and (either callously or incuriously) not care how they got that way.
    One might (accurately) conclude from this that regardless of the BJT the overall *system* (which includes me and my hammer) is biased against blonds.

    Of course, I’m not suggesting that there’s one guy going around the country breaking the SAT-muscles of poor performers with a hammer the day before the SATs.

    Still, if I note that group A consistently performs worse than group B on the SATs, I might conclude that the SATs are biased, or I might conclude that group A is innately inferior, as you suggest.
    Or I might conclude that group A is at this moment inferior and not care how they got that way.
    Or I might conclude that my society as a whole is biased in a way that impairs group A’s performance.

    The most important difference between the first and last theory is that the first suggests that intervening by changing the SATs will have useful results, whereas the last one suggests that manipulating the SATs will be as useful as changing the way we score broad jumps, and that to get useful results we need to change the environment in which we raise and educate our kids.

    Of course, changing the environment is hard.

  • mb

    For the skin melanin, I think it’s related to some historical trauma, either slavery or segregation.
    As evidence that this is the actual reason, I submit the fact that people with high skin melanin who didn’t go through slavery or segregation seem to be doing, on average, much better in many ways.
    I do not know the actual mechanism that goes from slavery to poor “educability”. I can imagine several things, but have no idea really, because my skin melanin is quite low, so I don’t have any of the required experience!Concerning fuller bank accounts, I can imagine many mechanisms: better schools, private tutors, a more enriching home environment, different expectations, etc.
    I would drop the “inherent” part, but all these make a difference in “educability”.
    However, please correct me if I’m wrong:  this may have been a trick question? Do you want to have me come off as more patronizing than I already have?

  • EllieMurasaki

    The better schools and the private tutors and the more enriching home environment are all products of the higher household bank balance and say nothing about whether kids with higher household bank balances are better suited to education than kids with lower household bank balances. But you keep saying that the kids with higher etc actually are better suited to education than the kids with lower etc, not simply reaping the advantages conferred by the higher etc.

    For the melanin, part of it’s intersectionality with the above, part of it is, yes, aftermath of slavery and Jim Crow. But you keep saying that, to paraphrase, the reason there weren’t any black students at OIe Miss until nineteen sixty fucking two was that black students actually are less suited to education than white students, nothing to do with the university being run by people who didn’t want black students on their pristine white campus.

  • mb

    My point is that, sooner or later, these advantages actually make students more suitable to education (to put it mildly). The students who have these advantages will actually become better students, on average. I’ll go even further — they’ll end up knowing more and mastering more skills, at every stage of their schooling. The contrary point of view is unintuitive, even, I maintain.
    I don’t feel that your last paragraph is an accurate paraphrase of anything I have written. On the contrary, I can explicitly state the opposite — Ole Miss was leaving out better students than some of those it was taking in, just because they were black. I’ll say the same about Harvard in the 1920s, in regard to Jewish students, most US universities nowadays, in regard to Asian-American students, and most private US universities nowadays, in regard to students who apply for financial aid. I think all these are leaving out better students than they are taking in.

  • EllieMurasaki

    Yes, a kid who is adequately nourished and had evening bedtime stories every night with the result of being able to read at age four is going to do better in elementary school than a kid who’s trying to get by on food stamps and school lunch and who didn’t have any assistance with learning to read till first grade. That advantage will be magnified in high school, and magnified further in the years between eighteen and twenty-two when the first kid is probably in college and the second kid is probably not.

    That is a result of economic forces advantaging the first kid and not the second. It has nothing whatsoever to do with the kids’ actual capabilities. But you keep saying it does.

    And I’d like to go back to the thing about schlemiels. In the 1960s, getting a brilliant black student into a white college was a remarkable achievement. Today, what we’re trying to achieve is getting as many black kids per hundred black kids into college as we get white kids per hundred white kids into college. We’re not succeeding. That might be, as you keep saying, because black kids are not as good at the things needed to get into college as white kids. Or it might be, as we keep saying, because the deck is stacked in favor of white kids and against black kids.

  • mb

    It seems to me that, when writing “actual capabilities” there, you refer to that child’s unspoiled possible potential at birth.
    I will rather consider the actual capabilities. If child A has taken AP Calculus and done quite well, then he or she is actually capable of computing a very basic integral, which may help in college. Child B, who either has not taken it or has done poorly, is not actually capable of computing that integral, only potentially capable. Learning at one stage translates into actual capabilities at the next.
    I think school should be about this learning, not about getting to the next stage.

  • mb

    “That might be, as you keep saying, because black kids are not as good at the things needed to get into college as white kids. Or it might be, as we keep saying, because the deck is stacked in favor of white kids and against black kids.”Why not both? But I think the latter actually leads to the former and (to the best of my knowledge) there is no extra mechanism on top of that, unlike in the 70′s. I guess this is where we disagree?

  • EllieMurasaki

    Oh. We’re having a separated-by-a-common-language problem. Okay. Let me see if I can clarify.

    In Red Universe, there is a child named Sarah. Sarah has one parent who earns enough to provide for five people (Sarah is an only child) and another parent who consequently feels no need to be employed particularly given they’ve a child to raise. That income level permits Sarah’s family to live in a school district that has no school violence to speak of and is quite happy to give Sarah math textbooks from increasingly farther ahead in the curriculum, and Sarah has a stay-at-home parent to give her hints when she gets stuck, such that Sarah takes AP Calculus as a ninth-grader. Sarah, being absolutely in love with calculus, goes on to be an engineer making eighty grand a year.

    In Blue Universe, there is a child named Sarah. Sarah has two parents whose combined income provides for three people, just barely. That income level means Sarah’s family lives in a school district that has metal detectors and daily fights in the hallway and doesn’t offer AP Calculus. Sarah likes math, but it’s a trifle harder for her to enjoy school. Fucked if she’s going to work any harder at school than she has to, and her parents are too busy to help. She graduates high school having taken no math more advanced than trigonometry. She goes on to be a keyboard monkey making thirty grand a year.

    Sarah’s capabilities are the same in both universes. Red Sarah has advantages that Blue Sarah does not, which results in the two Sarahs having vastly different outcomes.

  • EllieMurasaki

    Or maybe I’m just failing to communicate. Somebody help?

  • banancat

    Ok, I’m just gonna call a duck a duck. Mb is racist. She or he believes white people as a group are inherently smarter and nobody will have any success at convincing them otherwise. At this point mb is clearly concern trolling and JAQing off.

  • http://dpolicar.livejournal.com/ Dave

     > Somebody help?

    Not sure if I can. Mostly, I get the impression that when mb uses a word, it means precisely what they wish it to mean, no more and no less.

    That said, I can kind of back-form a coherent model out of their posts if I completely ignore everything that came before taking the SATs, and completely ignore any potential interventions we might make to the system prior to that point.

    That seems like a ridiculous thing to do, but if I take those potential interventions into account then mb’s aggregated position makes no sense to me at all.

    That mostly leads me to conclude that mb is not being sincere, but I’m never sure about that… people do often sincerely hold positions that depend on not thinking about certain questions at all.

  • mb

    My answer to that is simple: the two Sarahs are two different people that share nothing except the same name. The circumstances in which they live literally shape them in such a different manner that they cannot be considered to be the same person. Each of them had, at birth, the potential to do well and have a successful career, but probably only one of them actually will.
    Yes, she had more advantages. One wishes this weren’t the case —  that all children had the same opportunities. However, in practice only one of the two deserves to go to college. The other one, even if she goes, will likely fail.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    One thing people who know statistics should do is discuss if SAT scores show bimodal distributions, which reveal systematic bias to part of the data set for which a cause can’t be assigned unless known. Alternatively it arises when you combine two different populations into the same data set for which different controlling factors exist for each.

    By analogy to the guy-with-a-hammer secretly sabotaging all blond peoples’ jump scores, the bimodal distribution in the jump-score set should show up like a sore thumb. But unless the cause for the systematic bias is known, all kinds of ass-pull guesses can arise.

    And in real life, if SAT and IQ scores show bimodal distributions, using such results to assign inferiority to the lower-scorers instead of looking for social and economic biases can be a very tempting thing to do since it offers an immediate get-out clause to the hard work of creating an actual equality-of-opportunity society.

    Oh, aren’t Republicans supposed to be all about the ~virtue of working hard~?

  • Maniraptor

    Speaking as someone who did pretty well on the SAT, as this seems to be a requirement for you, if you think that the stuff tested for in the SAT has any resemblance to higher education or indeed any sort of meaningful thought process at all, you might be unsuited for college yourself.

  • mb

    I think you’re right that I got carried away. I need some time off, beginning now. Still, I deny that I believe that “white people as a group are inherently smarter”.

  • EllieMurasaki

    Perhaps I should clarify: the AU breakpoint between Red Sarah and Blue Sarah is Sarah’s father’s job. Sarah’s parents’ history is identical in the Red and Blue universes right up to the point where Red Sarahdad won the coin toss that the hiring manager for the good job did upon realizing that Sarahdad and Othercandidate were equally qualified, and Blue Sarahdad lost that toss. Red Sarahdad walked away with a salary good enough that Red Sarahmom didn’t feel the need to work and the Sarahfamily could still live in a good neighborhood with good schools; Blue Sarahdad couldn’t find any other openings in his field and ended up being underpaid somewhere, and even with Blue Sarahmom getting a job to boost the family income, the best place they could afford to live was still pretty suck. Red Sarah and Blue Sarah have identical genes and identical interests and identical talents. Red Sarah’s family is higher income than Blue Sarah’s. That’s all.

    All the differences between Red Sarah and Blue Sarah come down to that one flipped coin.

    You are saying that, on the basis of the effects of a coin flip, Blue Sarah does not deserve to get as good an education as Red Sarah. You are saying that, on the basis of the effects of a coin flip, Blue Sarah does not even deserve the chance at college, though Red Sarah does.
    What in the actual fuck.

    (In life it is not usually coin flips and it is not possible to compare alternate universes, but the point I’m making still holds.)

  • BaseDeltaZero

    I think he’s saying that, in the example you gave above, Red Sarah and Blue Sarah have equal *potential*, but at the end of the day Red Sarah has better *capabilities*… because she has those advantages, she’s better able to harness her potential, so she’s also going to learn more readily, which in turn will enable her to learn even more quickly…

    Basically, he/she is using ‘Capability’ to refer to an individual’s ‘Learning Score’ at any given point, while you’re using ‘Capability’ to refer to the individual’s innate maximum sort of ‘Learning Score’.

  • EllieMurasaki

    Yeah, okay. (Though there’s got to be dozens of ‘learning scores’ in play.) My point is still that denying Blue Sarah those advantages does not make her less deserving of the results of those advantages.

  • BaseDeltaZero

    Yeah, okay. (Though there’s got to be dozens of ‘learning scores’ in play.)

     True.  It’s a gross simplification for the sake of example, though.

    My point is still that denying Blue Sarah those advantages does not make her less deserving of the results of those advantages.

    Absolutely, but I think what mb is trying to say is that, having been denied those advantages, she is no longer capable of meeting the standards required for the results.  If you can’t meet the requirements to graduate from high school, then you shouldn’t simply be given the degree that says you *do* meet the requirements.  Which… makes a certain amount of sense – a high school diploma, let alone a college degree, is a certification of sorts, and I (personally) think the problem inherent in giving certification to people who can’t actually do the required ‘work’ is… rather significant.

    The problem is that mb seems to be ignoring the root problems (people are being denied opportunity to to Privilege, and those who don’t make the qualification can’t really survive with any kind of comfort), and conflating ‘Equality of Opportunity over one’s (school) lifetime)’ with ‘Equality of Opportunity at the moment of sitting for the SAT’…

    I think mb is (deliberately) interpreting what you’re saying as ‘Both Sarahs should go to college’, rather than ‘Blue Sarah should not be so badly disadvantaged as the result of circumstance’ (or specifically, because it’s impossible for her family to find a good job).

    How to actually achieve the latter result is a more difficult case…


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