What? You disagree? Post a comment - Argue your point!

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Rutgers Professor Calls Minority Athletic Scholarships ‘racist'

"If you were giving the scholarship to an intellectually brilliant kid who happens to play a sport, that's fine, but they give it to a functional illiterate who can't read a cereal box, and then make him spend 50 hours a week on physical skills. That's not opportunity. If you want to give financial help to minorities, go find the ones who are at the library after school."
- William C. Dowling

While surfing the interwebs a while back, I found this fascinating article, in which a Rutger's professor comes under fire for violating the conventions of political correctness: He has demanded that his university focus on academics instead of intercollegiate sports.

What is wrong with the picture here? Am I wrong when I say that the job of our nation’s university system is to educate and broaden the minds of our young adults? No wonder our students consistently have some of the lowest standardized test scores in the world. Our focus should be on teaching the skills needed to survive in an increasingly demanding international community, but we seem to care more about what color our students are, and what game they can play, than what they learn. Not only that, but our persistent ambition for money and prestige, even in the educational community, has lead us to use ‘affirmative action’ as an excuse for admitting substandard students to outstanding universities for the benefit of high profile athletic programs.

I don’t care what color you are, where you come from, what language you speak, or what sport you play. If you cannot meet the standard academically, you don’t belong in a top university. That’s the bottom line.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Gross Domestic Happiness

Measuring GDP gives an incomplete picture of the health of a society.

American citizens are conditioned from birth to act a certain way, to value certain possessions, and to respect certain attitudes. This not only part of our culture, it is the definition of culture, and it is why we as a society feel the way we do about our lives and our selves. If we learn to value thin people, we will be happy when we are thin. If we learn to value wealth, we will be happy when we are wealthy. The problem arises when we are conditioned to want something that society cannot provide.

As a nation, we want several conflicting things: We want to be wealthy, we want a family, we want free time, we want to be successful, we want a myriad of other things that vary greatly between individuals, but most of them share the characteristic of being mutually exclusive in our society. To be successful, a person must work long hours, often to the detriment of his family life. To gain more income, most people would have to obtain a second job, or put in more hours at their current employer, which would interfere with their free time. Obviously, there is a conflict here that cannot be easily resolved within the framework of a capitalistic system, but that must be addressed if we are to become collectively happier.

The small Himalayan country of Bhutan has addressed this by focusing on the things that matter to their people, while gently bringing their nation into the 21st century. They have preserved their culture, but allow people to choose between traditional and western ways of doing things. They are an incredible and unique example of how gracefully a society can integrate itself into the global community without losing its identity.

Unfortunately, this same strategy won’t work for everyone. In the case of Americans, we are always in search of more. This is the primary reason why we aren’t happy: Nothing is ever enough. Executives with more money than most of us could dream of feel the need to steal. Why? Why would the well-respected head of a media empire commit an insider trading violation, or skim of the top of shareholder profits? To save a fraction of her monthly income? No, because most of us cannot pass up an opportunity to take more.

There are some exceptions to this of course. We have poor people, people who are the victims of crime, natural disaster, or just bad luck. But mainstream, middle class American citizens have nothing to complain about, and yet seem to do nothing but. We have clean water, warm homes, government subsidized education, high relative income levels, access to a varied diet, an effective justice system, and high rates of mental illness. From an economic standpoint, it makes little sense, but if you look at this from another perspective, you can begin to see that we ourselves are the problem.

The problem is not that our measuring system views society as an economic statistic, it’s that American citizens view their lives as an economic statistic. It is a change of attitude that we need, and perhaps a change in the definition of happiness.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Skepticism 101

Throughout this semester I will be posting journal entries examining the claims made by one of my instructors. Make no mistake, this is a coping mechanism! There have been more outlandish claims made in this class than I could ever hope to debunk, but I will try to address a few of them. My hope is that I will be able to entertain and inform both myself and others. (and keep my mouth shut until grades are posted)

This particular instructor holds a PhD in Philosophy, and has been an instructor for many years. She is also a practitioner of alternative medicine, considers herself a "catholic", and believes that chiropractors reading auras can cure terminal cancer. Beyond her metaphysical claims, she also has made patently false comments about the human nervous system (in print, in her 'textbook'), and seems equally unable to apply the principles of English grammar and Occam's Razor.

In other words, this should be interesting.

Stay tuned for more. This particular feature will be published on alternate days from my regular blog postings.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

A Controversial View of Immigration Policy...

Swiss immigration policies spark international debate, and provide an example of what it looks like to enforce immigration laws.

Switzerland’s People’s Party has been referred to by ABC News as “evoking Nazi-era practices” with their new plan to deport immigrants who commit violent or drug related crimes, the BBC has published headlines suggesting that the Swiss citizenship system may be “racist”, and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees has criticized their strict documentation requirements for incoming refugees. The Muslim world is outraged at restrictions on minarets, and at strict language proficiency requirements for citizenship, but beneath all of the bad publicity, Switzerland has some of the highest personal income levels in the world.

They also have a pristinely beautiful country, extremely low crime rates (compared to other states in the region), and a true representative democracy with the ability for any citizen to make a real change in government (if he can gather 100,000 like minded individuals). Their children score 4th in the world at standardized testing, above all other European countries and the United States. They have low levels of mental and chronic illnesses as compared to other industrialized countries, and citizens tend to be extremely involved with their local governments. Obviously, this society is doing something right, and far from trying to ban immigration completely, they have made traveling and living in Switzerland extremely easy for European Union citizens, despite the fact that they have chosen not to be a full fledged member themselves.

Local governments spend millions each year for language classes for immigrants, and potential citizens have twelve mandatory years of residency before they can even apply for citizenship, that allow them to adapt and become a productive part of Swiss society. Keeping all of this in mind, why is the international community so upset that criminals and people unwilling (not unable, merely unwilling) to become gainfully employed are not allowed to be Swiss citizens? It may be that there is something that the United States can learn from this.

The United States of America is currently inundated will illegal immigrants who are completely unwilling to abide by the legal system that is partially responsible for the security and economic opportunity they want for themselves. It is ridiculous to me that an illegal immigrant whose very existence in this country is a violation of law could claim that they have rights under that same law. In examining Swiss immigration policies and the public outrage surrounding them, one begins to wonder if they have the right idea.

No, it doesn’t make sense from a human rights standpoint to force whole families out of the country for a single individual’s actions, but what exactly is wrong with requiring a person to speak a countries native language (and therefore be a productive citizen) in order to become a citizen of that country? It is true that taking a popular vote of the community before allowing a person citizenship could allow racist tendencies among the people, but why is it wrong to stop a known criminal from becoming a citizen? I believe that the international community needs to keep this issue in perspective. Citizenship for immigrants in any country is a privilege, not a right.

You would find it difficult to become a citizen of Iran, or Yemen, but you don’t hear outrage at their immigration policies. The reason is, we as the international community don’t feel that it is wrong to deny someone the right to live under a totalitarian regime, or in a country with a meager economy. It is time that critics of strict immigration laws consider why countries like Switzerland are so strong economically and in many other social aspects. They have high standards for their educational, political, and healthcare systems, which partially account for their prosperity and freedom as a society. Why would we ask them to compromise their success? If successful, developed countries are forced to allow criminals and people unwilling to culturally integrate themselves to become citizens, their economy, government, and justice system will ultimately be bogged down by the extra burden. In effect, this type of leniency could destroy the system these immigrants so desperately want to enjoy.

On the other hand, there is certainly a moral imperative for industrialized countries to help less developed countries. I am not suggesting that refugees be left to wander between tent cities. I am not even suggesting that we stop legal immigration. (in fact, I am also not suggesting that I have all the answers!) I am merely asking for potential immigrants to have the most basic level of respect for the societies whose protection they seek - abiding by its laws.

Yes, some of the Swiss policies have gone too far, especially when it comes to punishing families for their relatives’ mistakes. And, yes, part of the the purpose of having more than one branch of government is to prevent personal prejudices from entering into important pubic decisions (having communities vote on immigrants may be somewhat unfair), but to force Switzerland to accept criminals, and those unwilling to learn their language as citizens would profoundly affect their social order; ultimately to the detriment of their success.