Favorite teachers

Favorite teachers August 29, 2008

(I wrote the following before watching Barack Obama’s convention speech, so there aren’t any specific references to that speech here but, wow, there really probably should be.)

Rick Perlstein recalls a famous anecdote about Adlai Stevenson and explains why it illustrates a dead end for Democrats:

Adlai Stevenson, the Democratic presidential candidate in 1952 and ’56, famously quipped when one of his supporters, overflowing with exuberance after one of his speeches, cried, “Governor Stevenson, you’ll have the vote of every thinking American!” Stevenson replied: “But I need a majority.”

Techically, a true thing to say. But politically, so very, very wrong. In wryly congratuling himself and his audience for comprising some sort of superior intellectual elect, he was calling everyone who didn’t like Adlai Stevenson an idiot. And no one likes to hear that they are an idiot. Especially if they are, in fact, an idiot.

Accusing your opponents and their supporters of being idiots is not an effective electoral strategy. Most candidates have figured that out — although, as Al Gore discovered in his debates with George W. Bush, it can be hard not to treat your opponent as an idiot when he’s playing the part with such enthusiasm.

The bigger problem for Democrats nowadays is that no matter how careful they are not to display a Stevensonian condescension, they’ll end up being accused of it anyway. Gore and Kerry were accused of “elitism” not because they acted like elitists, but because accusing Democrats of elitism is a standard tactic employed by Republican campaigns. The Democrats could nominate Archie Bunker or some Capra-esque Everyman and their nominee would still be accused of elitism. Whether or not the Democratic candidate treats voters as though they were unenlightened idiots in need of re-education, they will be accused of doing so. And, as Perlstein points out, if that accusation sticks they will lose.

PerfessorRelated to this is what we could call the Smartest Guy in the Room dilemma. Nobody likes the Smartest Guy in the Room. Nobody likes to be lectured. Gore, God bless him, has always had a problem with this. He strikes a lot of people as a very smart college professor giving a lecture and that rubs them the wrong way. Even when they have to acknowledge that he really is a very smart guy. Even when they have to acknowledge that his lectures are, inconveniently, true and urgent and even necessary. They end up resenting him for being right rather than admiring him for it.

Which brings us to Barack Obama. He’s clearly a very smart man and he has actually worked as a bona fide college professor. Does this mean he’s doomed as a candidate to have his intelligence used against him?

We’ll get back to Barack Obama in a minute, but first let me tell you about Mrs. Mog.

Mrs. Mog was my favorite teacher in school. I had plenty of good teachers, many of whom probably knew their stuff better than Mrs. Mog did, but I still got more out of her classes than out of any of those others.

And that wasn’t just true for me, she was everybody’s favorite teacher. We all loved Mrs. Mog for one very simple reason: We knew that she loved us. As a result, she never had to waste class time on discipline or playing traffic cop. None of us wanted to disappoint her by causing trouble. And we all worked hard to learn the middle school Social Studies curriculum she taught us — the states and capitals, how a bill becomes a law, how Lenni Lenape longhouses were built — but none of that was the most important thing we learned in her class. The most important thing that Mrs. Mog taught us was that we could do anything.

Mrs. Mog believed that we were capable of being better, of being good, of being great. And because she believed it, she made us believe it too. She made us want to be better, good, great. We wanted to become the people she seemed to see when she looked at us, and thanks to her we believed we could.

If you’re very lucky, then maybe you had a teacher like that too. I hope you did.

The point here, of course, is that Mrs. Mog made all of us, each of us, feel like we were the Smartest Guys in the Room. Whether or not we deserved it, whether or not it was true, she made us believe that it could be true, which led us all to try to make it true — or, at least, to make it closer to true than it had been before. And she didn’t do this through shallow flattery — we’d have seen through that. She did this by challenging us and inspiring us to meet that challenge.

I’m guessing you see where I’m going with this.

At his best, Barack Obama is a lot more like Mrs. Mog than he is like Adlai Stevenson. That’s why, if he continues to be at his best, Barack Obama makes it very difficult for his myriad opponents to brand him as a condescending elitist.

It’s become fashionable — particularly among a certain kind of Stevensonian elite — to dismiss Obama’s oratory and rhetoric as, by definition, insubstantial. The implication, often explicit, is that his audiences are rubes, idiots spellbound by a lot of pretty talk. But it is precisely the substance, not the style, of Obama’s oratory that has been winning over his audiences. That substance is egalitarian, democratic, inclusive and aspirational — precisely the opposite of elitist or condescending.

At his best, in other words, Barack Obama doesn’t come across as a college professor lecturing voters, but as the kind of teacher who makes the class want to be better, to be good, to be great, and to believe that such a thing is possible.

That’s the kind of teacher you want your kids to have. That’s the kind of candidate you want your party to have. That’s the kind of president you want your country to have.

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  • Cowboy Diva

    This group had also registered mccainhutchinson.com on 01-28-08.
    You may find this guy’s post interesting as well.

  • hapax: I agree with you regarding comprehensive sex education. I don’t think it’s fair to conclude that, because Palin supports the concept of abstinence-only programs, therefore she supports the distribution of misinformation that is prevalent in such programs in their current form.
    Cowboy Diva: I do not wish to discuss Sarah Palin’s daughter. I do not wish to know details about her personal life. I was trying to make a point about jumping to conclusions based on assumptions. I went about it in an awkward manner, and it’s probably a good idea for me just to drop that subject.

  • Jon

    @ cowboy diva: Interesting. I thought the timing was worth noting, but I don’t know that it’s particularly significant beyond a simple, “Huh, that’s interesting.”
    Certainly it’s possible that someone was doing some cyber-squatting, or that – as noted in the linked post – the campaign was preemptively registering domains to prevent cyber-squatting or a repeat of the old whitehouse.com thing, so in and of itself the date of registration doesn’t mean much, just…huh, that’s interesting.

  • Jeff

    I don’t think it’s fair to conclude that, because Palin supports the concept of abstinence-only programs, therefore she supports the distribution of misinformation that is prevalent in such programs in their current form.
    Unless and until she clarifies that she believes that misinformation is prevalent in abstinance-only programs, to support them is to support the misinformation.

  • Amaryllis

    Jeff: If she were a Dem, “Troopergate” would be a killer.
    I’m reserving judgment on “Troopergate, not having followed all the facts, as far as they can be known. But if the trooper in question is guilty of the acts of domestic violence and abuse of position that he’s accused of, I believe there’s a federal law that would prevent him from carrying a gun, and that any police department would be required to fire, or at least suspend him. So is that fact that he hasn’t, as far as I’m aware, been fired, mean that the charges were baseless or exaggerated, or merely that he beat the rap? Was there a serious investigation of the charges?
    Again, don’t know the details, but on this one, I’m at the moment giving Palin the benefit of the doubt. After all, I’ve got enough else against her!

  • Jeff

    So is that fact that he hasn’t, as far as I’m aware, been fired, mean that the charges were baseless or exaggerated, or merely that he beat the rap? Was there a serious investigation of the charges?
    It’s not so much that Palin tried to get the b-i-l off the force, it’s that when his boss refused, she fired the boss and replaced him with a known sexual harasser. Ooops!
    From what I’ve read, the judge in the custody battle was favoring the b-i-l over the sister. That doesn’t mean there wasn’t domestic abuse; the judge could be overlooking it for any number of reasons — I just put it out there as another piece of evidence.

  • hapax

    I don’t think it’s fair to conclude that, because Palin supports the concept of abstinence-only programs, therefore she supports the distribution of misinformation that is prevalent in such programs in their current form.
    Yes, aunursa, but I think we’ve had this same argument many times in different forms.
    I also believe that you “don’t think it’s fair to conclude that” because some hypothetical person “supports the concept of” soi-disant “enhanced interrogation techniques”, that same person supports the horrific torture that is prevalent in institutions that claim to utilize “such programs in their current form.”
    Most reality-based people, however, think that if it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it’s lying about birth control and beating the snot out of teenagers in a hellhole in Cuba.
    Your mileage, obviously, varies.

  • Hey, Cerberus? I don’t know if you’re still reading this thread or if our little exchange earlier is totally old news by now, but I did want to let you know that I read your responses when I did finally return to the thread. Thank you. Your first post, it sounded a lot like an internet trope I purely hate, which is “I am enlightened enough to know that this is hopeless/par for the course/just the way the world goes. That you are surprised at X/trying to fix X/working toward a world without X makes you naive. One day you’ll learn.” Your response to me and Praline, though, was much more nuanced, and included a very important addition: We’re doomed unless. Which puts us back in the Sisyphean territory hapax correctly read you as describing. Without the “unless,” “doomed” communicates impossibility. “Sisyphean” only points toward difficulty. And “Doomed unless we perform this Sisyphean task” communicates that, difficulties not withstanding, we must succeed.
    Since I do, in fact, believe we here in the U.S. have an incredibly hard but necessary task in front of us, I react very badly to what looks like someone telling me “We’re doomed, just accept it, give up.” I think I’d have reacted much better to “This line of inquiry is a dead-end; we’re doomed unless we pursue a different strategy.”
    Anyway, sorry I didn’t get back to you sooner. I hope you do see this. And now I am off to the (*snrk*) Sisyphean task of catching up on this thread.

  • Still catching up.
    Wanted to throw a big “thank you” to Yeltar and Amaryllis – I suspect I’m a good 10 or 15 years younger than y’all are, but “chick” is not a word I like to hear. All that class of word/phrase – chick, babe, hottie, broad, MILF, “cat fight,” and now this cougar thing – strike me as terribly demeaning and dismissive of women.
    I am often driven to tears of frustration trying to explain that to men of my aquaintance–and sometimes even to women.
    At this point I’d like to throw in a couple links to examples of why Palin is a bad, bad, bad choice for VP – namely, how she fucked up financially in her hubris as mayor and how she is currently undergoing an abuse of power investigation for wrongful firings – but I haven’t caught up yet, so, maybe someone else got there by now. I mean, surely there is enough community overlap between this blog and Making Light (where those issues were front-and-center at the blog’s response to McCain choosing her) that it’s been brought up by now.
    Not caught up yet and probably won’t be for a while – I’m running late for stuff and things.

  • Amaryllis

    Jeff: she fired the boss and replaced him with a known sexual harasser. Really?! Ouch. I guess I’ll have to go read the dreary details from an impartial source (if I can find such a creature) before I open my mouth again.
    What I think is really an IOKIYAR is her membership in that Alaskan-separatist party, even if it was years ago. I mean, can you imagine the outcry from the right if Barack Obama had been seen anywhere near an equivalent Hawaiian organization?

  • Dash

    Bugmaster: I just don’t see an even 50/50 gender split (ignoring all the other genders for a moment) as a reasonable goal.
    Enough with the straw man. No one is proposing an even 50/50 gender split. What we are saying is that numbers can be instructive, and it is, as has been noted, worth asking why the numbers are so skewed. Deciding upfront that everything is just rosy-dandy and women aren’t going into IT because they don’t like the kind of work involved, much as, e.g., observant Jews don’t go to work in non-kosher slaughterhouses, is just silly. Especially since there is some evidence that there are several factors, some of which are not inherent to the work.
    If there are factors keeping women out of IT (or men out of nursing or observant Jews out of the Air Force) that aren’t inherent to the work, then we’re not getting the best possible IT people–or the best nurses or the best Air Force personnel; we’re only getting the best ones out of that portion of the population that is left after artificial disincentives are applied.

  • Ecks

    chick, babe, hottie, broad, MILF, “cat fight,” and now this cougar thing – strike me as terribly demeaning and dismissive of women.
    In fairness to my prior defense, these words have changed in meaning, and are now quite dependent on context.
    ‘chick’ can be “female guy”, or objectifying term depending who is saying it in what context. (much as the word ‘queer’ can be offensive or not depending on context)
    ‘babe’ is appropriate only when referring to one’s partner (it’s pretty much the default term of address between me and my lass). There may be some extra exceptions – in the book “confederacy of dunces” the protagonists mother and her friends refer to each other as ‘babe’ all the time. That’s set in New Orleans a few decades back, so who knows if it was just local usage. Also I notice some waitresses in southern parts of the US use this for customers, but that always seemed weird to me, and I have no idea how comfortable they are with this (vs. just having to say it to get better tips). Otherwise it is a creepy way of assuming too much intimacy, which is obnoxious.
    ‘hottie’ – the only people I know who ever use this word are women and they seem to mean it as a benign complement… YMMV.
    ‘broad’ – does anyone actually say this outside of 1930’s detective cliche’s?
    ‘MILF’ – clearly straight up sexist. Permissable only in very secure environments, very tongue in cheek.
    “cat fight,” – stupidly sexist
    ‘cougar’ – I’m under the impression that some groups of women use this as a self descriptor, but outside that context it seems like a term easily available to abuse.

  • Ecks

    Bugs – if you want to look at gender stratification of jobs you’ve got a whole lot of stuff to explain. As has been pointed out, some jobs have flipped. Historically nurses and teachers were male, and reasonably high status jobs. Now that they are predominently female pay and status has fallen dramatically. Pick a direction of causality for this relationship, any direction of causality, and the conclusion is still the same: Women are getting the short end of the stick.
    Going back to the original context, can you think of any stunningly clever reasons why women shouldn’t be presidents or high level executives? Neither can I, but there seem to be some terribly systematic forces keeping them out of these roles.
    For bonus points, you can note that some women have made high level executive, though far below the rate you would expect by chance, yet none at all have made the even more prestigious role of president. In fact, so far only 1 has gotten close to even being allowed to run for it.

  • Ecks

    Since when did the news start taking on the literal structure of jokes? From the NYT:

    Then, on June 2, the McCain campaign sent a pair of organizers to Ohio to meet with about 40 state-level Christian conservative leaders, hoping to enlist them in the kind of voter turnout efforts they had engaged in for Mr. Bush four years before. But the response was notably cool, several participants said.
    Phil Burress, head of the Ohio group Citizens for Community Values and a driving force in church-based get-out-the-vote efforts four years ago, had already said publicly that he would do nothing to help the McCain campaign, and he made clear that he left the meeting unconvinced, people present said.
    McCain aides took notice. Two weeks later, Mr. McCain sat down for an hour with six Christian conservative organizers in Ohio, including Mr. Burress, who grilled him on his views.
    “For me this election is primarily about the next Supreme Court appointments,” Mr. Burress later wrote in an e-mail message explaining that Mr. McCain had won him over. “John McCain, unlike most politicians, will not be bullied, threatened, paid off or pressured into changing his position.”

    punchline: Tag onto that last quote “now that we have successfully bullied, threatened, pressured, and paid McCain off with political influence to change his view on this exact topic.”
    BTW Aunursa, still sticking to your view that Palin was properly vetted? Even though the republicans in Alaska report that nobody asked them about her? Nor checked her hometown newspaper archives? After all these little mini-scandals are emerging and McCain doesn’t have responses ready? Oh wait, and it seems nobody even contacted the city hall back where she used to be mayor.
    The take on this over at balloon juice is that after pointing out that Barrack was supposedly hobbled by the extended drama with Hillary leaving little time to vet candidates, Johny M doesn’t seem to have done much with his extra time:

    The evidence is so strong that this was a haphazard, rushed, and incomplete vetting that I don’t even need to argue the case. They can swear up and down that they did a thorough vetting of Palin, but when they had to release the bit about the pregnant daughter because they were about to get the Edwards treatment by the National Enquirer, and when they are just now flying lawyers in a panic to Alaska, and when the close-knit political establishment of Alaska, to a person, state that they were asked nothing about Sarah Palin, you have to realize that we have been down this road before. We have seen this type of reckless nonsense from these clowns before.
    This behavior is no different from the reckless abandon with which a certain administration rushed into a war in Iraq, with no plan, with no forethought- shooting from the hip, going with the gut. John McCain had five months to choose and vet his nominee, and he failed to do so. It doesn’t matter if Sarah Palin turns out to be the best person on the planet, this sort of rash and ill-conceived behavior on McCain’s part is not only reckless, it is dangerous.
    This country can not survive four more years of this kind of terrible judgment. Compare the behavior and judgment demonstrated by Barack Obama with his choice and John McCain’s choice of an unknown who at this point should be adding extra closets to the Alaska governor’s mansion to hide all the skeletons. Obama spent months getting to know his running mate, McCain talked to his on a phone for 15 minutes, met her maybe another time, and then went on Fox and declared her a soul mate.
    Who do you want as Commander In Chief? An intemperate flyboy, or a cautious thinker?
    … By the way, I keep hearing and reading the media types tell us that McCain gambled with Palin, but without seeming to internalize what that means. It isn’t just that he gambled the election with his choice, it is that he gambled with the future and the economic and military security of this nation. He didn’t just gamble an election. He gambled your future. Thanks for playing.

  • “an assistant at a hospital”
    As I’ve mentioned, my fiancee is a registered nurse. Only weeks ago she had to stonewall an MD’s medication orders because she had information about the patient that the MD didn’t. (To his credit, the doctor changed his orders as soon as this information was brought to his attention.) Having helped her with her studies, I can attest that she is highly trained; she is also competent, intelligent, and compassionate.
    (Of course, I’m slightly biased. Nevertheless, she and her co-workers are skilled professionals in an unforgiving field.)
    In other words, it is perfectly possible, given Sarah Palin’s stated aversion to “explicit sex-ed programs”, that her daughter literally didn’t know where babies came from, or how and why to keep them from coming.
    A fellow fan with whom I used to constantly hang told me a story of his days in a West Virginia video store: the local pastor walked in and asked to rent a pornographic video. Startled, but wishing to be helpful, my friend brought out a few. Blushing redder and redder, the pastor eventually asked if any of the tapes contained only heterosexual, missionary-position sex; finally, he explained that he was counseling a young couple who were trying to have children… and didn’t know how.

  • Amaryllis

    in haste, FWIW:
    Bureau of Labor Statistics mean annual salary data for May 2007 (latest available on their site) —
    IT jobs range from a low of $45,300 for “Computer Support Specialist” to $100,640 for Computer Science Researcher. Average around $75,000 for programmers, analysts, DBAs, SAs, etc.
    Registered nurses, $62,480
    Elementary school teachers, $50,040; secondary school teachers, $52,000

  • McJulie

    Average around $75,000 for programmers, analysts, DBAs, SAs, etc.
    Man, I am underpaid.
    (Of course, I program in a web environment where my competition is a buncha guys in India… that average probably includes people who work at Sun & stuff)
    I dunno about why IT is still as male-dominated as it is — yeah, it could be the hours, but then, most people I know who’ve been in the industry for a while eventually either put their foot down about the extended hours, or they got out. Nobody much past the age of 30 wants to do that, is capable of doing that, or sees the point in doing that.
    It could be something as simple and stupid as social modeling — women don’t get into IT simply because they don’t envision themselves doing it.
    I would be interested to see what the post-Internet kids end up doing.

  • Jeff

    What I think is really an IOKIYAR is her membership in that Alaskan-separatist party, even if it was years ago.
    They’re now saying she was never a member of the AIP (the Ministry of Truth has removed all traces of her membership), but only her husband was. Of course, if she’s the right-wing anti-feminist she says she is, she should demure to the wishes of her husband, so she wouldn’t need to JOIN to believe and contribute.
    It does appear that she rushed from Texas to Alaska so her son would be born in Alaska. But not a MEMBER per se, no.
    ‘babe’ is appropriate only when referring to one’s partner (it’s pretty much the default term of address between me and my lass).
    We use “knucklehead”. (Those who’ve known me here for a while can attest to the aptness in my case.) [grin]
    In fact, so far only 1 has gotten close to even being allowed to run for it.
    Why does everyone denegrate Shirley Chisholm? If she hadn’t been sold out by the male leaders in the Civil Rights movement, she could have been a major contender. As it is, she gets less notice than Sharpton or Jackson, neither of whom had much support anywhere.

  • Ecks: In fairness to my prior defense, these words have changed in meaning, and are now quite dependent on context.
    I am not talking about what their definitions are, but rather how they strike me. That you have helpfully defined in specific every one of the words I brought up as examples does not magically change my emotional reaction to them for worse or better. I’m sorry that my emotional reactions don’t always line up with the Ecks-Approved Definition of Slang, but they don’t. And, as a data point, I’m pointing out that to this 32-year-old woman, “chick” continues to sound terribly demeaning and dismissive on a sexual basis. Consequently, I prefer “gal” as a female equivalent to “guy.” (And no, not “doll,” f*ck-you-very-much Broadway; “doll” is also on my sh*t-list.)
    Glad we agree about “MILF” though!
    (If you’re getting from my response that you’re coming across as Guy Who Explains, you’re right! So you might want to back off on trying to refute womens’ emotional reactions to sometimes-sexist words with Excuse Me Ladies But Here’s Those Words’ Real Definitions, Please Change Your Reactions Accordingly Now That I’ve Educated You. …And I know you’re not usually like that.)
    All that class of words that had their origin in or, if not, have since become entangled with, the concept of defining/identifying a woman by (or demonizing her for, or dismissing her because of) her sexuality… sound very little better than genteel versions of “c*nt” to me. So I don’t use them, and dislike hearing them used. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.
    Thank you, Hawker Hurricane and Jeff and others for bringing up “Troopergate” and Palin’s involvement in that separationist movement. Here are some other links (or they may be the same and I haven’t been careful enough comparing links that showed up pages ago) of interest to those issues and others:
    Alaska legislature will probe Palin’s firing of state’s top cop
    Alaska’s governor admits her staff tried to have trooper fired

    Monegan was fired two weeks ago at Gov. Sarah Palin’s direction by her chief of staff. The firing was unexpected and unexplained and gave rise to accusations that it was retaliation by the Palin family for Monegan’s refusal to fire an Alaska state trooper formerly married to Palin’s sister and currently embroiled in an ugly custody fight with her.

    More good stuff in another post; don’t want to load any one post down with too many links.

  • Apparently, Palin nearly got recalled from her position as Mayor because she fired a librarian and a police chief for, basically, having supported her opposing Mayorial candidate’s campaign. Cronyism: check!
    Also, Alaska’s Palin misrepresented state’s polar bear findings in order to keep them from being protected by the Endangered Species Act. Politics before science: check!
    And this, from a diary at DailyKos:

    Sarah Palin left the finances of her town Wasilla in tatters when she moved on in 2002. She wanted a legacy as mayor, it seems, and pushed hard for the town to build a hyper-expensive sports complex. But Palin screwed the process up badly. Instead of buying the land for the complex when it was offered, her administration allowed a developer named Gary Lundgren to snap it up. Then Wasilla tried to seize the land from Lundgren through eminent domain. In the end, what with court costs Wasilla paid at least $ 1.7 million for land it could have bought for less than one tenth that sum – if the purchase had been handled properly. For this incompetence, Wasilla is still paying a steep price: higher taxes and cutbacks in services.

    Financial ruination as the price of ego: check!
    Sounds more and more like Bush the more I hear about her.

  • Oh, and just a little more:
    Mayor Palin: A Rough Record

    At some point in those fractious first days, Palin told the department heads they needed her permission to talk to reporters. “She put a gag order on those people, something that you’d expect to find in the big city, not here,” says Naegele.[…]Stein says that as mayor, Palin continued to inject religious beliefs into her policy at times. “She asked the library how she could go about banning books,” he says, because some voters thought they had inappropriate language in them. “The librarian was aghast.” That woman, Mary Ellen Baker, couldn’t be reached for comment, but news reports from the time show that Palin had threatened to fire Baker for not giving “full support” to the mayor.

  • Ecks

    I am not talking about what their definitions are, but rather how they strike me.
    Oh! Well that’s different then. I’d read you as saying “these word ARE offensive,” and was reacting accordingly with prevarication and qualification.
    the Ecks-Approved Definition of Slang
    hey, I don’t get to *approve* anything. Nobody asks me. If they did ‘spork’ would be an official cuss word.
    “chick” continues to sound terribly demeaning and dismissive on a sexual basis.
    FTR, Often to me too, I almost never use it, even when hanging out in sub-cultures for which it doesn’t have this meaning.
    Consequently, I prefer “gal” as a female equivalent to “guy.”
    Really? My personal subjective impression of that one is of a 50’s avuncular patriarch saying things like “why don’t you gals just run along now.” But vive la difference and all that.
    And no, not “doll,” f*ck-you-very-much Broadway; “doll” is also on my sh*t-list.)
    Doll, to me, is like ‘wiener’; just slightly this side of ludicrous. But what the spork do I know? :)

  • Bugmaster

    …or that dropping pure sodium into water was a fun science experiment.

    Have you ever seen it performed ? It actually is a lot of fun :-)

  • hapax

    Well, sure, Bug. Not as much fun as unprotected sex, in my experience, though. ;-)
    I just don’t think that the public schools should be endorsing either activity for teens.

  • Bugmaster

    Enough with the straw man. No one is proposing an even 50/50 gender split.

    Ecks is:

    Lets do some math. If one assumes that women are, on average, no less competent than men, they should have a 50% chance of becoming president. The US has had 55 presidential elections to date (according to Wikipedia). The odds of 55 ‘heads’ in a row here is .5^55, which (multiplied by 100 to transform it into a percent)is 0.00000000000000278%.

    Speaking of which:

    Historically nurses and teachers were male, and reasonably high status jobs. Now that they are predominently female pay and status has fallen dramatically.

    Do you have some sources to back this up ? I don’t know about nurses, but AFAIK teachers were never high-status jobs — at least, not since the invention of public education — unless you’re talking about college professors, and not school teachers. This fact actually upsets me greatly; I think teaching should be a high-status profession.
    Additionally, do you think that there’s a strong societal pressure that is forcing women to become teachers (despite their wishes), and thus embark on a low-status, low-paying, high-stress career ? If this is true, should we institute some sort of policy that would prevent women from becoming teachers ?

    Going back to the original context, can you think of any stunningly clever reasons why women shouldn’t be presidents or high level executives ? …

    You keep arguing with someone who is suggesting that elections and promotions to executive office are perfectly fair and based on merit. You’re doing a good job, but I’m not that person, so I’m finding it difficult to argue against you.
    I do agree with you that politics is not merit-based by any means; neither are many other jobs. But I disagree with you on using headcounts as your only means to identify jobs that are not merit-based. I think you have fallen prey to false dichotomy.

  • Caravelle

    Additionally, do you think that there’s a strong societal pressure that is forcing women to become teachers (despite their wishes), and thus embark on a low-status, low-paying, high-stress career ?
    (emphasis mine)
    Do you believe this is the only way societal factors could result in teachers being disproportionately female ? By coercion ?
    If not, then why are you invoking this particular mechanism as if it were the only alternative to “women just like teaching and don’t like IT” ?

  • Jim

    I’ve taken to calling them Maverick and Miss Congeniality. What’s your take on that? “Miss Congeniality” is dismissive and perhaps demeaning as well, but I think not sexist. It’s based on a title that she won in the Miss Alaska contest.

  • Hawker Hurricane

    Jim, except it seems she didn’t win that title…
    You may, of course, “Consider the source”.

  • Ryan Ferneau

    Because Bugmaster is not imaginative enough to think of another reason, we need to try and help him along

  • Jim

    That’s what I get for relying on Wikipedia for information!

  • Julie paradox

    Dash – nothing wrong with iced tea.
    Just so long as you initially used *boiling* water.

  • Ecks

    Bugs, I don’t remember the cite on the teachers thing, it came from some sociology class in undergrad. So lets say I can’t back that one up and stick to nurses as a good example.
    Let’s take a generic blank young woman, call her Tabatha Rasa. She gets up one morning and browses the various pants and shorts in her wardrobe and picks out a nice green dress (but not a real green dress, that’s cruel). Her brother, who is the same size and shares the wadrdrobe doesn’t even bother to consider the dresses and goes straight to pants. Why? Doubt he’s ever really thought about it, it’s just tacit cultural knowledge… it’s what you DO.
    When Taby gets to the end of high school she has to start thinking careers. Medicine occurs to her (she likes biology, likes helping people, though that fetal pig dissection was gross (ew), so she thinks about medicine. Being a doctor seems very hard though (it IS hard), and while she’s generally a confident person, she’s scared about going into the maw of premed classes and getting spat out. She’d feel pretty crappy about herself. She talks to her guidance counsellor and says she’s thinking of doing nursing maybe, which seems more tractable, easier to imagine herself doing. In fact, she can’t really see herself wearing green clothes with a scalpel, that just seems weird and alien. The counselor thinks its a fine idea and gives her all kinds of literature on what life as a nurse is like. As she goes through it, she can visualize herself doing this, and it starts to seem less and less abstract and more like her future.
    Her brother has a similar line of thought. But to him, doctor is more viable as a something you do. Some guys are doctors, right, so it has to be possible. He goes to the same counselor and says “I’m thinking about being a doctor, but I’m worried it’s hard.” Counselor says “yes it’s very competitive” and gives him info on what the process is like…
    So in short, there’s lots of little forces at work – there’s norms that shape what you can see yourself doing, and what you think *others* can see you doing… That affects what risks you’re willing to take, where you invest your time and effort at school, whether you work up the nerve to approach people about doing jobs… whether other people will even think of you as the person to nominate for jobs… And given that some skills are stereotypically male or female, a right-gender person doing them will have an edge in assumed competence, and a wrong-gender person will have to work extra hard just to compensate for the perceptual bias against them – and in highly competitive fields you can only work so hard. If everyone is going flat out, a stereotype against you is a real and serious handicap.
    So, no, I think our lack of female presidents probably doesn’t come down to anyone much shaking their head so hard spittle flies, screaming “I haaaate teh wiiiimmiiinnzzz!”. But there are all kinds of these gendered forces of varying degrees of subtlety that seem to shuffle people into gendered jobs. And there is a decided tendency to see the female dominated jobs as having lower status, and as worthy of lower pay. Hence things like the ‘pink collar ghetto’ of underpaid clerical work, and so on.

  • Not advancing any arguments, just supplying a data point: in my fiancee’s RN training, there were several dozen women and three or four men.
    About forty of the women finished the program; only one of the men did. (He looked slightly odd at graduation; the women all wore white dresses of various traditionality, but he accepted his nursing pin while dressed in pale-green scrubs.)

  • Tonio

    On another board, I questioned the logic of calling Obama elitist, since McCain is wealthier, and when McCain was young the social order was skewed in favor of whites. I was told that elitism is a matter of thinking one’s self better than others, and was offered Obama’s comment about clinging to guns or religion. That surprised me, because from my reading, he didn’t seem to be accusing ALL gun enthusiasts or religious people of being motivated by insecurity. He seemed to be trying to explain the motivations of the extremists in both groups, and doing a poor job of it. The poster in question insisted that Obama’s comment indicated a contempt for working-class whites. Pointing out that some people cling to things out of insecurity is neither elitist nor anti-white or anti-working-class. Did many people see Obama’s cling comment that way?
    Maybe the problem is me – when I hear “elite” used to attack liberals, I expect to hear anti-Semitic code attached to it. Too much exposure to fundamentalist rhetoric and LaHaye fiction, perhaps. I remain suspicious that Dan Quayle’s “cultural elite” remark was a dog whistle for not just anti-Semitic stereotypes but also pseudo-Bircher myths.

  • Ryan Ferneau

    Hey, somebody dug up a cartoon about the Smartest Guy in the Room: http://folk.uio.no/hpv/linuxtoons/dilbert.2007-01-25.gif

  • Ecks

    when I hear “elite” used to attack liberals, I expect to hear anti-Semitic code attached to it.
    Not I. I have the sociology background take on it – there are multiple elites in society, a political elite, a media elite, a business elite, these days a hi tech elite, etc. They’re fairly closed groups of people who only admit people with the right credentials (i.e., parents, wealth, ivy league educations, 133t skilz), social networks (friends, families, backers, other insiders), social skills (conversation about theatre, knowing which anchor is Tweaty, what to talk about at cocktail parties, what the etiquette is in which forum, etc).
    These entities are to some extent quite real, and it’s easy to resent them – after all, they have things you don’t, and they sure as hell aren’t letting you into their club, so you can feel jealous and/or cold shouldered and shat upon. The right wing stretches the point by painting anyone who’s liberal, or possibly even has\ an education from anything upscale of the Central Northeast Iowa And Slightly Off To The Right Technical Institute. It’s a cheap way of dismissing people who would argue with them as unworthy of respect. After all, it’s much less perturbing to have someone attack your beliefs when you already know that they’re a contemptible asshat. It saves you having to take them too seriously, while lending an extra air of smug satisfaction to any blows you do think you’ve landed because now you’re sticking it to the man, and who doesn’t get a kick out of doing that.

  • Otter

    @Clinton Supporter–We need to support the women who are running, not the women we *wish* were running.
    I see what you did there, troll. It’s an inversion of the “ad hominem” construction under discussion, the rarely-seen “pro hominem”:
    Sarah Palin is a woman, therefore she deserves my vote.
    Golf claps all around.

  • McJulie

    I think that the “Democrats and liberals are elitists” meme is an example of pure Rovianism jujitsu — take your opponents strength and use it against him.
    The Democratic party is traditionally the party of labor and the Republican party is traditionally the party of big business. Even now, when you picture a country club, do you picture the members voting Democrat or Republican?
    I think the “elitism” stereotype bubbled up primarily through talk radio. It’s very appealing, in its way. Kind of all-purpose. Because if you have idiotic right wing opinions, and somebody else tells you that they think you’re being an idiot, you can just point back and scream “elitist!”
    It also has some nasty subliminal dog whistles attached, I think — racist, homophobic, and, as Tonio has pointed out, anti-Semitic. “Elites” becomes a code word for a shadowy “other” that secretly controls everything — you can’t talk about the “Jewish conspiracy” anymore, but you can sure talk about those “elitists.”
    Still, I think the concept might have gotten overloaded and now be collapsing under its own weight.
    “Bittergate” didn’t quite have the legs many seemed to hope — too many people responded not to the “guns and religion” note but to the “bitter” note, where the reaction was often “hell, yeah, I’m bitter! I have every right to be!” Also, Chris Matthews’ attempts to elite-ify Obama have been laughably off the mark — he’s elitist because he ordered orange juice in a diner? He’s elitist because he’s good at basketball and not so great at bowling?
    And Giuliani’s recent attempt to vilify “community organizers” in his RNC speech is pretty much the opposite of the kind of faux-populism Republicans have been trying to sell.
    Frankly, I have no idea what he was thinking. The clip I saw of that portion of the speech shows the crowd reaction as pretty much one-hundred-percent baffled. They laugh, sort of, because Giuliani delivers it as a laugh line, but it’s obvious they have no idea what the joke is supposed to be.

  • Anonymous

    I think the “elitism” stereotype bubbled up primarily through talk radio.
    It actually began earlier, with Nixon:
    Harold Meyerson on elitism
    the GOP has resurrected every culture war-whoop, every booboisie resentment, every Nixonian snarl against the educated elites, the city dwellers, the liberal media and the Hollywood dilettantes that has been the party’s meat ever since the Vietnam War (or, even before then, since Joe McCarthy)….the tone of their convention has been more Nixonian than Reaganesque. Nixon’s genius was always his ability to excite working- and middle-class rage against liberal cultural elites, and this remains the default Republican uber-theme to this day. We hadn’t heard that much of it before the convention, but Sarah Palin proved herself a master of maternalized Nixonism in her speech last night.

  • 2006 Alaska Gubernatorial Debate (according to Byron York of NRO):
    QUESTION: In a recent survey you said that you would support abstinence-until-marriage education but that you would not support explicit sex-ed programs. What are explicit sex-ed programs, and does that include talking about condoms in school?
    PALIN: No, I don’t think that it includes something that is relatively benign. Explicit means explicit. No, I am pro-contraception, and I think kids who may not hear about it at home should hear about it in other avenues. So I’m not anti-contraception. But yeah, abstinence is another alternative that should be discussed with kids. I don’t have a problem with that. That doesn’t scare me, so it’s something that I would support also.