Nice-Guy Discernment Is What Moves Movements, Not Fighting

5 09 2007

Nance and I started saying “thinking” rather than discernment to mean the same thing, as in “thinking parents.” Same power to change, well, everything . . .

Read this nifty “Parenting Beyond Belief” interview with the guy who wrote “I Sold My Soul on E-Bay” and see if you can argue. I sure can’t. It applies to the religious wars and other stuff too. Red and blue partisans obviously have no discernment and so I tend to tune them out. Not a very effective frame for change of anything except whose name is on the checks. And undiscerning homeschool “advocates” full of criticism for charters and other public schools, government, law, intellectuals, teachers, taxes and anybody who defines homeschooling differently than THEY do, who might want to listen up, too:

One of the trickiest bits to negotiate in raising kids without religion is engendering the right attitudes about religion and religious people. Some aspects of religious belief deserve a helluva lot of loud and direct critique. I want them to learn to do that fearlessly, like Harris and Dawkins. But other aspects and actions deserve loud and direct applause. I want them to learn that as well.
[Favorite Daughter is turning out really well in that regard.]

Discernment is called for. While never hesitating to criticize religious malignancies, we should bend over backwards to catch religious folks being and doing good if we ever expect them to notice us being and doing good. It stands to reason. . .

No marginalized group in history has gained a place at the table by telling the majority it is too stupid to live, or by closing its eyes and telling the majority you better damn well be gone before I count to ten. . .Until we realize the same thing and extend a far friendlier hand to the more reasonable representatives of the (most likely shocked and surprised) religious majority, we will be deservedly stuck on the margins.

Don’t worry. People like Hemant just might manage to save us from ourselves.

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11 responses

5 09 2007
Dawn

Thank you! I’ve been a fan of the Friendly Atheist for awhile but hadn’t seen the Parenting Beyond Belief blog (unfortunately). A new one for the blog roll.

6 09 2007
JJ

Maybe the Friendly Atheist could enlighten that Unfriendly Anthropologist? 😉

If politicized science filtered through one’s own personal beliefs and hiding behind academic credibility, is what evolved homeschoolers oppose, then Isn’t stomping about with such a one-track mindset just as offensive from atheist acolytes as from the worst divine design “experts”?

I’ve discovered that last spring, while he was mocking and banning homeschool parents who took his questions at face value and cheerfully invested quite a lot of time to communicate our own answers for his “education” about home education, Greg Laden was busy annoying science commentators elsewhere in cyberspace about real science, with his tin eared, ham-handed approach to human communication (maybe he’s better with animals?)

Putting a Good Picture in a Bad Frame”:

“I really like the blog GregLaden.com both for its content and Greg’s style, so I’m not happy to write this post. Like anyone else I’d much prefer the things I like to have no downside — chocolate for instance.

Snook finds Greg Laden’s blogging an object lesson in the counterproductive, all-attitude-no-discernment approach to advancing um, anything productive and progressive — an enlightened intellect apparently too big for one university to contain, too brashly prolific to listen to anyONE about anyTHING, seeking fame and fortune through some form of politicized “science” as supposed salvation, self-generated sock puppetry brazening it out as online issues education, ugh.

This science blogger goes on to say pretty much what Snook sees, about what’s wrong with Greg Laden’s “analysis” of issues and the unhelpful woolly-fawning comments with which he bolsters his own blogging — especially given his indignant protests that he’s trying to be on your side if only you’ll keep coming back for him to sharpen his claws on, and maybe expose your kids for an idle scratchfest or two too —

Now, if you had written the one-page, Policy Forum article in Science that engendered these comments, would you just let this stuff go by unanswered — especially when it’s getting propagated across a bunch of science blogs? And when the comments on Greg’s post say things like:

* Is [Nisbet] a hack?
* Excellent post, Greg. I think you hit the nail on the head, in that Nisbet and Mooney probably have a useful point which is obscured by their unfortunate misuse of the term “frame”.
* I’m glad the post explained this so thoroughly. Since Nisbet according to Blake’s comment is aware of a “turf battle”, it should come as no surprise to him that he has muddied the waters. Not a good start for an initiative on communication.
* This is one of the better response I have read throughout this whole storm-in-a-teacup stirred by the Mooney & Nisbet “paper” this weekend. And I applaud you, Greg, for not pulling your punches on the credibility of this “paper” — even PZ Myers and Larry Moran were surprisingly polite on the questionable scholarship behind this opinion piece, apparently taking it on face value instead. . .

Ignoring published research is not something any scientist is likely to parade. Greg explains:”I’m a busy biological anthropologist and I’m engaged in keeping a handle on that set of thousands of peer reviewed papers.”

Whoops. Saying you have plenty of time to trash the work of another scientist but are too busy to actually look at the relevant research doesn’t have a good ring to it. . .

Even as he writes this Greg realizes (”only somewhat lame”) he’s on thin ice. What science blogger wants to say his blog response to material published in a major science journal is nothing more than a hack job? From personal experience I know Greg’s writing, with this one notable exception, is nothing like that.

[Well, that’s what I first thought about his “homeschool” commentary, which is arguably worse than this! Maybe if we all compared notes we’d find out how close to SOP this is in his “commentary” –]

You can almost feel Greg’s acknowledgement that — to be blunt — he really fucked up in the first post. But rather than saying that he asks us to take the Nisbet-Mooney paper as a hack job as well. Sort of like saying “we’re all just talking shit here, aren’t we?”

And here’s the signature move in action, the same one he keeps trying on evolved homeschoolers until they catch on to the rampant falsity in his “study” or desire to come together on anything — he’s the brainy scientist on every possible issue and expression, while the rest of us (homeschoolers or not, and despite our own degrees, experiences, perspectives, whatever) are just hacks and we’re ALL unfair to him, poor thing:

“My initial intent was to bring more into the discussion … more information about the idea at hand. What I got back in return was nothing about the irrelevancy of what I said … nothing about the substance. just a jab about having not read the literature in a field other than my own three or four fields.”

Almost exactly what he kept whining about at Rolfe’s, and here, and at Lynn’s and Dawn’s if I remember, gee almost like he was spamming us to further his own profile?
And then as usual, the “discussion” ends when the chopsocky-meaty puppet “cmf” shows up in all his doublespeak splendor to say what a prince of a consensus-building guy Greg is :

G.Laden says: “I think the real shame in all of this is that instead of verging on a flame war, we really should be putting our heads together.”
Wow. I take a bow to adult and approaches to criticism, and consensus building….. though from that thick skinned, scaly, multi folded,and, geewizzz, that horn of a shnoz!

Reading list for self-guided instruction on this chapter:

“There’s Been Some Homeschool Talk…”

“Science: How the thinking parent experiences risk”

Here’s the REAL concern if we’re smart”

“Schools teach last test while education writes next one”

“Dunno where Greg Laden was going with this – “

“So we were saying censorship is a bad thing. . .”

“Greg Laden Supports Evolved Home Education With Slash and Burn From His Bunker”

“Creationism (of sock puppets and young disciples)”

“Greg Laden Blog Full of Unscientific Crap That Keeps On Giving”

“Incoherence and Obnoxiousness”

. . .and intending to advance education policy beyond identity politics (not just from Young Earth Christian homeschool fundamentalists, but from any scientists, atheists and anarchists confused about the difference too) there’s this:

“Ancient history lessons for homeschool hegemonists”
(Like GL’s blog, this post is about anthropology being shamelessly politicized.)

6 09 2007
JJ

Looks like eagles, hawks and doves can “see” their way “clear” now and then to accepting a mixed picture of reality calling for sharing the skies with nice-guy discernment, instead of one polarizing lens of absolutism.

Some will screech and squawk to high heaven to warn their own flock, guard only their own nests and peck each other’s eyes out if it comes to that. That’s natural instinct as well as their established right, of course. But in another view of reality, we’re all birds after all . . .

With a mixed picture emerging about progress in Iraq, Senate Democratic leaders are showing a new openness to compromise. . .

6 09 2007
JJ

And speaking of discernment rather than no-holds-barred warfare, here’s my promo of what’s coming in the Sunday Sept 9 NYT Magazine:

Conscience of a Conservative
By JEFFREY ROSEN

. . .Goldsmith considered these opinions, now known as the “torture memos,” to be tendentious, overly broad and legally flawed, and he fought to change them. He also found himself challenging the White House on a variety of other issues, ranging from surveillance to the trial of suspected terrorists. His efforts succeeded in bringing the Bush administration somewhat closer to what Goldsmith considered the rule of law — although at considerable cost to Goldsmith himself.

By the end of his tenure, he was worn out. “I was disgusted with the whole process and fed up and exhausted,” he told me recently.

[I’ve felt that way and paid that price in education politics my whole life, even as a schoolchild pawn used in political power plays like busing and illegal teacher union strikes, and in recent years even in HOME education politics — thoughtful discernment is not a universal value, it seems; no-holds-barred fighting is.]

After leaving the Office of Legal Counsel, Goldsmith was uncertain about what, if anything, he should say publicly about his resignation. His silence came to be widely misinterpreted. After leaving the Justice Department, he accepted a tenured professorship at Harvard Law School, where he currently teaches. During his first weeks in Cambridge, in the fall of 2004, some of his colleagues denounced him for what they mistakenly assumed was his role in drafting the torture memos.

One colleague, Elizabeth Bartholet, complained to a Boston Globe reporter that the faculty was remiss in not investigating any role Goldsmith might have played in “justifying torture.”

“It was a nightmare,” Goldsmith told me. “I didn’t say anything to defend myself, except that I didn’t do the things I was accused of.”

Now Goldsmith is speaking out. In a new book, “The Terror Presidency,” which will be published later this month, and in a series of conversations I had with him this summer, Goldsmith has recounted how, from his first weeks on the job, he fought vigorously against an expansive view of executive power championed by officials in the White House, including Alberto Gonzales, who was then the White House counsel and who recently resigned as attorney general, and David Addington, who was then Vice President Cheney’s legal adviser and is now his chief of staff.

Goldsmith says he is not speaking out for the money; though he received a low six-figure advance for the book, he is, after deducting some minor expenses, donating the advance and any profits to charity.

Nor is he speaking out because he disagrees with the basic goals of the Bush administration in the war on terror. “I shared, and I still share, a lot of their concerns about what we have to do to meet the terrorist threat,” he told me.

When I asked whether he thought Gonzales should have resigned and whether Addington should follow, he demurred. “I was friends with Gonzales and feel very sorry for him,” he said. “We got along really well. I admired and respected Addington, even when I thought his judgment was crazy. They thought they were doing the right thing.” . . .

Jeffrey Rosen, a law professor at George Washington University, is a frequent contributor to the magazine. He is the author most recently of ‘‘The Supreme Court: The Personalities and Rivalries That Defined America.’’

(What an apt title, personalities and rivalries very much define America and not just on the bench . . .)

6 09 2007
Dawn

I have to say, I think I finally agree with you. Greg posted about homeschooling again not too long ago and what was being used? Inflamatory invented terms (‘radical homeschoolers’) and claims (”To be perfectly honest with you, I think that avoiding and rejecting accountability is more important to some radical homeschoolers than the education of their own children.”)

If he’s sure those ‘radicals’ aren’t reading his blog anymore, why bother to keep targeting them? If his interest is discussing education alternatives, why keep bringing up homeschooling in a context that only ever is meant to attack the ‘radicals’?

I find it frustrating because I generally enjoy his posts but what he claims to want in terms of discussion is often at odds with how he acts when he engages in a discussion. I’m at the point now though where I don’t think the enjoyment of some his posts is worth the aggravation of seeing yet another post on homeschooling that’s simply an attack on those he had a tiff with. Especially when I know who’s attacking and respect those people.

6 09 2007
JJ

I know what you mean — so other than that, how’d you like the play, Mrs. Lincoln? 😉

6 09 2007
JJ

AS always, the liberal Harvard genius cognitive psychologist and education professor Howard Gardner springs to mind — his leadership studies pretty much PROVE that if we want positive change, we want to tell a winning story to people ready and eager to hear it, not tell a story about winning to the people we’re ready to beat.

6 09 2007
Lynn

At first, I thought Greg was trying to say “radical UNschoolers,” a term that I hear some use occasionally in referring to themselves. I didn’t realize that he was using it in a derogatory, inflammatory way until he started responding. Yeah, it’s not about homeschooling. Thanks to Dawn for reading my mind and making my comments for me. I’m done.

7 09 2007
JJ

My southern family has been mobile and overeducated for generations, to the point that when we watch college football, we usually feel some kind of conflicting affiliation to both teams. Then our play is to “root for the quarterbacks” and hope each in turn and the game as an integrated whole, will be well-wrought and fun to watch. (Except when my own lizard brain attachment to the Florida Gators comes into play — then I am totally irrational and proud of it!)

So as we sizzle together on these conversation gridirons, I think instead of picking one side and ragging on the other guys, I’ll “root for the neocortex” to win out on both sides so the whole game can be elevated.

More about right-left ideology battles, with one in progress here — you can’t educate the amygdala but you can educate the neocortex. No matter which team you play for, attacking the other side’s rationalized unthinking with our own instincts and stereotypical beliefs is anti-education; it gets us nowhere anyone wants to go. Human progress through enlightened government policy depends on well-educated neocortical discernment to recognize, understand and effectively override (our own and each other’s) lizard-brain heuristics:

It turns out that Doctor Seuss (Theodor Geisel, not actually a physician or Ph.D.) was indeed passionately pro-life but in the antiwar sense, not the conservative Christian anti-abortion sense. . . It’s complicated — he was for example prejudiced against Japanese in WWII, which fits this from Antiwar.com in 2005:

“So before all you liberals – who have been writing me, praising my recent column on the subject of the threat of fascism from the Right – get too smug and full of yourselves, remember that the witch-hunting dissent-crushers of the neoconservative Right, who have thrown the traditional conservative distrust of government power and centralization out the window, have their antecedents on the Rooseveltian Left.”

…What poses a particular danger is that American liberals, as well as neoconservatives, can hark back to elements of their own ideological traditions in support of a distinctly American authoritarianism. This is why there has been almost no opposition in Congress to what is essentially a bipartisan policy of Big Government and endless war.”

19 09 2007
JJ

Dale McGowan on “discernment” as loving, practical parenting —

There is something between throwing out the baby and letting it marinate endlessly in the cold and filthy water. My intention is to do what any parent does: discern which is the baby and which the bathwater, then lift the baby gently from the water, dry her off, dress her in warm jammies, feed her, nuzzle her, and sing her to sleep.

My single greatest complaint with religion is not that it contains both good and bad, but that it has no procedure for separating one from the other. My highest praise for science is not that it is devoid of bad consequences but that it comes complete with ways to discern, that it is founded on a method for separating wheat from chaff — that it tries, however haltingly and imperfectly, to perfect itself.

The next time someone invokes babies and bathwater, stop the conversation, define the baby — and reach for a clean, dry towel . . .

21 10 2007
NHEN’s Laura Derrick Comes Up for Air at Daryl’s « Cocking A Snook!

[…] truly intelligent design reflects the discernment sorely lacking in most political advocacy and public policy conflict nowadays. During the maddeningly self-destructive years among ourselves […]

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