Trigger Warnings and Coal Mine Canaries


In discussion of trigger warnings  (particularly when requested by college students), I've seen a fair amount of think pieces suggest that this is more evidence that young'uns have gone soft.  It's not quite "When I was your age, I walked uphill both ways, five miles, through a sea of graphically dismembered bodies marked with racial slurs, and it made me stronger!" but there's a certain family resemblance.  There just seems to be a suspicion that attaches itself to people complaining that the st … [Read more...]

False Friends and Tone Policing

ear trumpet

When I went on a two-week exchange trip to China, it was clear the cultural briefing was informed by whatever mistakes or misunderstandings had occurred on previous trips, recorded and relayed to us so that we wouldn't think, for example, that our host siblings were hitting on us if they took our hands while we were walking.But the most memorable warning had to do with Mandarin filler words.  While English speakers cover gaps with "uh" "um" "ah" and so forth, the equivalent filler words in … [Read more...]

Put Up Your Ideological Dukes!

fish shooting

Earlier this week, Michael Roth, the president of Wesleyan University, published a good op-ed on the danger of focusing too hard on the "critical" part of critical thinking. The combination of resistance to influence and deflection of responsibility by confessing to one’s advantages is a sure sign of one’s ability to negotiate the politics of learning on campus. But this ability will not take you very far beyond the university. Taking things apart, or taking people down, can provide the sat … [Read more...]

Debating Brendan Eich’s Resignation


This weekend, my DC friends and I will meet to hold a debate on the Brendan Eich debacle.  In order to assure civility, there will be cookies (to break bread together) and a gavel (for the enforcement of Robert's Rules and the potential breaking of kneecaps).  We've been trying to pick a resolution for the debate (though, at some point in the afternoon, I'll stop asking for affs and negs and call for speeches "on or about the topic").  Of the options we came up with, the best is probably the si … [Read more...]

The Epistemological Peril of Punching Down


Over at Slate Star Codex, Scott has an excellent post on the epistemological dangers of punching down.  I'm using a long quote, so that you can get the crux of the argument, but I strongly recommend reading the whole thing. What annoys me about the people who harp on moon-hoaxing and homeopathy – without any interest in the rest of medicine or space history – is that it seems like an attempt to Other irrationality.(yes, I did just use “other” as a verb. Maybe I’ve been hanging around Contine … [Read more...]

The Uncharity of Ideological Containment


There's an unpleasant undertone to Terry Firma's vision of a kinder, humbler Christianity over at Friendly Atheist.  He reads through an essay from The New York Times about a Christian parent's discomfort when her daughter wants to put an evangelical sign on their lawn.  The author talks about her immediate flinch, and Firma thinks that's all to the good. Along with that gratitude, there’s a bit of embarrassment woven through Taylor’s account, and I think it becomes her. She knows that her belie … [Read more...]

Pulling Off Casual Proselytization

chatting nun

In this week's installment of the Pope Francis bookclub, the then-Archbishop talked about "missionary joy" that invites people in to learn the source.  I was reminded of a nun who recently gave a talk in D.C. on Spe Salvi.  In her talk. she mentioned being asked on the street, "What is the reason for your joy?"When people ask a habited nun this question, they've got a reasonable guess as to what kind of answer they're going to get.  I'm less sure what to do when I get a similar qu … [Read more...]