Jan 092014
 

Lately, I’ve gotten a slew of hits to this video from Philosophy in Action: Should a man unwilling to be a father have to pay child support? It’s now gotten nearly 5,000 views. Nice!

That’s awesome. Alas, awesome often comes paired with crazy, such as this comment:

Let’s think about this bit — “If a woman steals a mans seed without his consent, does she have a right to live?” — for a moment.

First, I’m pretty sure that a man voluntarily gives his “seed” to a woman in having sex with her. That’s rather the point, in fact.

Second, are we talking death penalty?!? Um, wow.

Finally, here’s a pro-tip: Don’t ever suggest up-front that your audience might think you a sociopath after reading your opinion. It might just prejudice them against you… just a bit.

Jan 072014
 

Recently, I ran across this list of 25 Manners Every Kid Should Know By Age 9. It’s not a great list in many ways, but some of the proposed rules are fine. Kids should learn to make polite requests, including saying “please” and “thank-you.” Obviously, that’s part of being a decent adult too.

However, I have a strong aversion to the rules designed just for kids, such as #3:

Do not interrupt grown-ups who are speaking with each other unless there is an emergency. They will notice you and respond when they are finished talking.

Really? Adults interrupt each other all the time. Can’t kids be taught those mores — or how to do that politely? Surely, this rule seems to imply that any conversation among adults, no matter how trivial, is more important than any concern of the child, except life-and-death. That’s not good!

Also, #6:

The world is not interested in what you dislike. Keep negative opinions to yourself, or between you and your friends, and out of earshot of adults.

Dislikes are important! Knowing what you dislike is part of knowing what you like. A kid who can introspect and explain his dislikes is going to be better equipped to pursue his values, both as a kid and as an adult. He will be able to assert himself, including against bullies and exploiters. Yes, dislikes can be expressed in rude or otherwise inappropriate ways. However, merely expressing dislikes is far from rude in and of itself. That’s why adults express dislikes routinely. (Alas, part of the problem here is that parents often don’t take the likes and dislikes of their children seriously.)

Oh, and #13:

Never use foul language in front of adults. Grown-ups already know all those words, and they find them boring and unpleasant.

To that, I will only say: Speak for yourself, jerkwad!

Obviously, I’m not opposed to all rules designed for kids. Kids aren’t just small adults, so any rules should consider their ignorance, lack of self-control, clumsiness, weakness, and other relevant facts. So definitely don’t let the two-year-old run around the house with the kitchen knives.

However, when teaching social graces, kids need practice at polite methods of accomplishing their aims. Simply demanding that kids never interrupt, keep silent about what they dislike, and never curse doesn’t do that. Such bans leave kids without guidance and without practice — and likely with some resentment of their parents for being hypocritical and oppressive. Parents, you can do better than that!

Embarrassed by Hollie McNish

 Posted by on 22 August 2013 at 10:00 am  Children, Culture, Parenting
Aug 222013
 

This is an amazingly powerful poem about the social shame imposed on women for public breastfeeding:

For what it’s worth, I answered a question about public breastfeeding on the 8 April 2012 episode of Philosophy in Action Radio. If you’ve not yet heard it, you can listen to or download the relevant segment of the podcast here:

For more details, check out the question’s archive page. The full episode – where I answered questions on cultivating good luck, public breastfeeding, national identification card, mulling over memories, and more – is available as a podcast too.

Mr. T for Mother’s Day

 Posted by on 12 May 2013 at 2:00 pm  Children, Funny, Parenting
May 122013
 

Mr. T explains how and why to treat your mother right:

Happy Mother’s Day!

Maternal Affection by Hugues Merle

 Posted by on 12 May 2013 at 10:00 am  Art, Children, Painting, Parenting
May 122013
 

Happy Mother’s Day!

Hugues Merle (French painter) 1823 – 1881
Maternal Affection, 1867
oil on canvas
39 3/4 x 32 in. (100.9 x 81.2 cm.)
signed Hugues Merle and dated 1867 (upper right)
private collection

Catalogue Note

After studying with Léon Cogniet, Hugues Merle became a regular contributor to the Salon between 1847 and 1880, up until the last year of his life, receiving medals for his entries in 1861 and 1863. His themes of maternal love found a ready audience with newly affluent art patrons in America. In fact, by 1878-9, in his Art Treasures of America, Edward Strahan could cite as many as 52 works by Merle in American collections. His reputation was equally great at home in France, where he enjoyed the patronage of the Duc de Morny and also enjoyed the support of Adolphe Goupil, the most prestigious art dealer in Paris whose other leading artists included William Bouguereau and Jean-Léon Gèrôme.

Merle was most often associated with his friend and rival, Bouguereau, not only because they depicted similar subjects but also employed a high finish and naturalistic technique. Merle was just two years older than Bouguereau, and their thematic and artistic similarities begged comparison from critics and collectors alike.

Apr 172013
 

Tonight, I’ll interview Eric Barnhill about Cognition, Movement, and Music. The topic is a bit obscure, but I’ve always been fascinated to hear Eric talk about his work. For me, this interview an excellent opportunity to have yet another interesting conversation… and you get to listen in!

Eric began his career as a Julliard-trained concert pianist, but now he’s a graduate student in medical physics in Scotland. Yes, that’s a bit of a strange path. Oddly, it’s been a path with a mostly steady trajectory, as you can see from his recent write-up for his alma matter. Here’s a bit:

During my time at Juilliard, I was introduced to an obscure field called Dalcroze Eurhythmics, which was developed by the Swiss composer and music theorist Emile Jaques-Dalcroze at the turn of the 20th century. In Dalcroze, movement is combined with vocal work and improvisation to create an alternative approach to teaching music. However, musical subjects are intermediate goals, used to develop attention, focus, coordination and physical performance via movement.

In Dalcroze I saw a methodology of unexplored potential that brought all my varied interests together. However, Dalcroze as a profession, to the extent that it exists at all, mostly consists of young children’s music and movement classes. To many colleagues, I had abandoned interpreting Schubert sonatas for sitting on a floor with 3-year-olds rolling balls around.

Early in my Dalcroze career I was reverse-commuting to a children’s music school in the suburbs (a rite of passage for many a Juilliard grad, in one form or another), where I frequently taught Dalcroze and piano to special-needs and learning-disabled children. I took them on as students because I had a blast teaching them.

However, I began to notice something interesting: The struggles they had executing musical patterns in movement seemed deeply connected to their core special-needs deficits. Similarly, to the extent that these students’ ability to execute rhythmic tasks improved, their core deficits seemed to temporarily recede. If I found a way to help a low-functioning girl keep a beat, she would then become just as present as anyone else. If I could tune up a boy’s ability to track measure, suddenly he would sit up and listen to an entire sentence. Stepping and skipping the rhythms of a nursery rhyme with these children would result in an afterglow of clear and expressive speech from them where none previously existed. This observation was the most exciting one I ever made. It has been the cornerstone on which I have built everything I have done professionally since.

You can read the rest here. Also, Eric gave a talk at TEDxBermuda — Empowering Through Rhythm — that’s an excellent teaser for tonight’s interview:

Fascinating, no? I hope that you join us for the interview!

Mar 202013
 

Here’s a fascinating and horrifying story: “A surrogate’s unimaginable dilemma.” I wish that I could share a relevant tidbit, but alas, it’s the kind of story that you just have to read from beginning to end… and it’s very well-told.

(The story raises all kinds of thorny questions about abortion rights in the context of surrogacy, and I hope that someone submits a question on the topic to Philosophy in Action’s queue. Update: WOOT! Emily submitted the question! You can read and vote for it here.)

As a matter of morality, I think that to inflict a life of pain, suffering, and incapacity on a helpless infant is very wrong. The pregnancy could have been terminated when the abnormalities were discovered, and doing so would not have harmed any person or violated the rights of any person. That’s because the fetus is not an independent person with rights or interests until born, as Ari Armstrong and I argued in our policy paper, The “Personhood” Movement Is Anti-Life: Why It Matters that Rights Begin at Birth, Not Conception.

I value human life, deeply. I’m nothing but delighted by and supportive of people who value their future children while still in the womb. When a culture denies the value of human life — as Nazi Germany did — the results are horrifying.

Yet I cannot relate to people seek to “value life” by prolonging any form of existence by any means possible. Such people seem to value life in some kind of abstract or formalistic way, without regard for the kind of life lived, including the suffering inflicted by the attempts to sustain that life. That’s not the way that a rational and responsible adult values life, in my view. It’s emotional self-indulgence… or religious dogmatism… or duty ethics. Mostly, I’d say, it’s nothing good.

Mar 012013
 

Forbes published my latest OpEd, “Freedom, Not Fertility, Is The Key To A Thriving Economy” (2/27/2013).

I respond to some conservatives fretting about America’s low birth rate, and discuss why it’s not the government’s job to promote any specific lifestyle (e.g., single vs married or childless vs. multiple-child marriage).

Happy Valentine’s Day!

 Posted by on 14 February 2013 at 2:00 pm  Children, Funny, Parenting
Feb 142013
 

Via 22 Words:

Stay classy, kiddo.

Child Beaten by Dollar Store Employee

 Posted by on 11 February 2013 at 10:00 am  Children, Crime, Parenting, Rights
Feb 112013
 

This news story is just flabbergasting:

A Dollar General employee arrested in Wrightsville [Georgia] last week for hitting a child with a belt has now been charged with two felonies, aggravated assault and cruelty to children. The charges were upgraded from simple battery because according to the police chief, store video shows the woman hitting the 8 year old at least 25 times.

… Wrightsville Police Chief Paul Sterling said [the child] Logan was running around in the store and got into a confrontation with [the employee] Bell, 39. Bell told investigators that Logan threw a cookie at her and that’s when she removed her belt, chased the boy down and spanked him behind the counter.

It’s bad enough for a parent to spank his own children, let alone to beat a child with a belt 25 times. (I discussed why on Philosophy in Action Radio in this June 2012 segment: Corporal Punishment of Kids.) It’s sheer insanity for a stranger to do that, and I’m glad that it’s being prosecuted as a serious crime.

The incident reminds me of an exchange that I had with an older check-out lady at Wal-Mart a few years ago. I was buying a really thick and heavy wooden spoon. (I needed it down in the barn to prepare food for the horses.) On scanning the item, the woman fondly remarked that she used to beat her children with such a spoon in order to “teach them respect.”

I was floored. My shock wasn’t so much due to the fact that she’d done that, as I certainly know that many parents still beat their children as punishment. I was shocked because she saw fit to gloat about it to a perfect stranger. She was completely unaware that anyone might be morally opposed to beating children, let alone doing so with a heavy wooden spoon that could only cause severe pain.

I replied that I didn’t think that parents needed to beat their children to teach them respect. I wish that I’d said more. Perhaps I should have even spoken to the manager. But at the time, all that I wanted to do was take my wooden spoon and leave!

Suffusion theme by Sayontan Sinha