As if getting good grades…

Who among us has not heard the student in distress, claiming not to know ‘what the professor wants’? As if getting good grades is dependent on finding out each professor’s hidden idiosyncrasies – on figuring out how to please. This attitude has become very prevalent, and I’ve seen students paralysed by it. A professor will assign an essay, and students who are uncertain about how to proceed believe it’s because they don’t know what the professor wants; they truly believe they’re missing some crucial bit of information. Of course, the real reason for their uncertainty is usually their poor academic skills – they don’t know enough about the topic to generate some ideas or opinions with which they can then play around and organize into a paper. But instead of heading to the library, they wander the halls and poll other students, trying to discover ‘what the professor wants’.

My answer to this question, which is Read the rest of this entry »

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God: The Quintessential Deadbeat Dad

He left almost 2,000 years ago. Said he’d be back real soon. Yeah. He never writes. He never calls. He left us these notes though. But half are so cryptic, the rest so contradictory, he must’ve been sloshed at the time. ‘Wait ’till your father gets home.’ That got tired real quick.

Child support? It’s not just that so many of us don’t have enough to eat. A lot of us are starving to death! We have no roof over our heads. And we could use new clothes. ‘Cheque’s in the mail.’ Right.

They say the typical dad interacts with his kids for just two minutes each day. Half of us would weep with gratitude just to hear his voice for two minutes period.

Role model? ‘Like father, like son’ is an understatement. Lots of us have a temper, and we’re a vengeful lot. We kill, we torture, we loot, we lie. We’re racist. And women, well, they’re just not very important.

Bottom line is he’s guilty of neglect and abuse. His kids wouldn’t recognize him if he did show up. As for duty and responsibility, let alone love and affection, he may as well not even exist.

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Christmas Elves

Generally speaking, I don’t do Christmas. At all. But when I see an ad in the classifieds for “Three female elves to work in a mall during the Christmas season”, well, I have to say something.

And the first thing I have to say is, I don’t think they’re going to find any – male or female. They may find three women to play the part, but I doubt they’ll find three elves.

Which brings me to the second thing I have to say: why do they have to be female? What must a Santa’s elf do that a man can’t do?

One, Santa’s elves are industrious; they’re notorious for being hard workers. Well, men are hard workers. No, seriously, some are!

Two, elves are pretty handy in the workshop, making all those toys. Again, I think men can meet this requirement. (Some men are even quite good with their tools, given a little instruction.)

But in the mall, Read the rest of this entry »

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The Absence of Imagination

We notice it when we say ‘Kids don’t know how to play anymore.’ Gone are the games of dress-up and make-believe. The more specific and recognizable the toy, the more popular; least favourite are the ambiguous toys, the ones with so many possibilities.

Later, we observe and lament the fact that the students don’t know how to amuse themselves. They can’t sit quietly. Discipline problems abound. They are bored, school is boring, everything is boring. Their style becomes, necessarily, one of passivity. Or perhaps reactivity. But not proactivity – it takes imagination to initiate.

Why is this so? Why is there this absence of imagination? Read the rest of this entry »

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Short Men

I recently watched, with horrified amusement, a tv program about short men who choose to undergo excruciatingly painful surgical procedures (which basically involve breaking their legs and then keeping the bones slightly apart while they mend) in order to become a few inches taller.

Asked why they would choose to undergo such a drastic, and excruciatingly painful, procedure, they said things like “Do you have any idea what it’s like to go through life as a short person? To sit in a chair and only your toes reach the floor, you can’t put your feet flat on the floor? To not be able to reach stuff on the upper shelves in grocery stores? To be unable to drive trucks because you can’t reach the pedals properly? To have people always looking down at you? Do you know what that’s like?”

Well, yes, actually I do. I’m a woman. And in case you haven’t noticed, we’re almost all shorter than almost all of you.

Which suggests that the real problem is that these poor guys can’t take their rightful place over women. As one man, 5’6” before the surgery, said, “I’ll be a better father and husband and son.” Yup. Sure you will.

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An End to War

At one time, bank tellers and secretaries had a certain prestige – the time when such positions were held by men. Schoolteachers used to be schoolmasters – before women entered the classroom. People who boast that many doctors in Russia are women fail to mention that doctoring in Russia, well, someone’s gotta do it.

The thing is this: whenever women enter an occupation, it becomes devalued. It loses glory. It loses funding. It loses media coverage. It becomes unpopular, even invisible. So if we were serious, really serious, about ending war, we’d fill the military ranks with women. When becoming a soldier has about as much appeal as becoming a waitress (another archetype of the service sector industry) – Read the rest of this entry »

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Hunting

Well, it’s autumn. That time of year when the breeze gets brisk, the leaves start to fall, and good men from all walks of life wear something besides blue, brown, grey, and black: they wear orange. Hunter orange. Yes this is the time of year when good men from all walks of life go into the forest to perform that masculine bloodwinner ritual involving beer, bullets, and Bubba. I don’t understand hunting. I don’t understand the desire to kill.

‘Oh no,’ the hunters say, ‘it’s not that, it’s the excitement, it’s the thrill of stalking an animal that’s big and wild, and can tear you apart!’ Yeah right. Like Bambi’s cousin is going to tear you apart.

‘And it’s the challenge! Deer are smart, you know!’ I’d say the average deer has an IQ of what, four? So I have to ask, smart compared to who? Read the rest of this entry »

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Sex and Salespeople

Given that the people who use washers, dryers, ovens, dishwashers, and the like are usually female, I find it puzzling that the people who sell these items are usually male. Especially because it’s inconsistent with the rest of the sales world, in which men tend to sell things men use, such as hardware and men’s clothing, and women tend to sell things women use, such as cosmetics and women’s clothing.

Hypothesis #1 – The current sexist state of affairs is just a carry-over from the days when all salespeople were male. Gee, I don’t think men ever sold cosmetics or women’s clothing. (And even if this were so, why is the field of kitchen appliances the last to evolve?)

Hypothesis #2 – These are big heavy items and so the superior strength of men is needed. Well, the salespeople don’t have to move ’em, they just have to sell ’em. (And even if they did have to move them, your average appliance salesman is not exactly Arnold Schwarzenegger.) (And anyway, ever hear of a lever? A cart? And, hang onto your hats, a forklift?) Read the rest of this entry »

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Why are women more religious than men?

Why are women more religious, in belief and in practice, than men?

1. Religious belief is more of an emotional thing than a cognitive thing. (Consider the fact that merely thinking about religious beliefs is usually sufficient to reveal they’re unwarranted.) And women are raised to be more emotional than cognitive; men are raised to be more cognitive than emotional (in fact, they are encouraged, even taught, to deny their emotions).

2. Religious authority figures, mythological (God, Allah, Zeus, and so on) and real (priests, rabbi, ministers, and so on), are male. And since women are raised to be subservient to males, to regard males as authorities, it’s easy for them to accept God, for example, as an authority and subordinate themselves to him. Men, on the other hand, are encouraged to be the authority; they’re also encouraged to compete with other men. So to accept God, for example, as an authority and subordinate themselves to him would not be easy — in fact, it would be emasculating. (Which is why the macho Promise Keepers came to be.) (And why its popularity didn’t last very long.) Read the rest of this entry »

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On Demonstrations

Though I consider myself to be rather socially conscious, and while I have written many letters and cheques, I’ve never been part of a demonstration. For a number of reasons.

Let’s consider first to whom the demonstration is directed. Perhaps primarily, it’s meant for the people in power. It’s meant to send them a message. But what possible message could be sent by a mass of people, some carrying placards, many shouting their contents. What’s in a phrase, or even a complete sentence? If the goal is change, presenting claims without evidence, without argument, is surely insufficient. Do we really expect others to change their minds, their policies and practices, without evidence or argument? Do we really want them to be so stupid?

Perhaps the message is not in the placards but in the masses, in the show of numbers. Why are numbers important? Are we thus insisting the majority should rule? First, a demonstration, consisting of self-selected people, is hardly representative enough to justify claims of being any majority. Second, why should the majority rule? I know that our system of democracy is based on this principle, but consider it for a moment. ‘Majority rule’ is really an appeal to popularity, a bandwagon appeal. Should the opinion of the majority rule, no matter how ridiculous, immoral, or simply unsupported it is? Read the rest of this entry »

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