Unfair Advantage

Read it and weap… reading for pleasure and a loving family reading to your kids is an “unfair advantage” for the liberal crowd.

Children who read for pleasure are likely to perform significantly better in the classroom than their peers who rarely read, according to a recent report published by the University of London’s Institute of Education.

According to a story published by the institute, its research examined the childhood reading practices of 6000 teenagers from similar social backgrounds, comparing their test results at ages five, 10 and 16 in the areas of vocabulary, spelling and maths.

The researchers concluded that children whose parents regularly read to them performed better in all three tests at age 16.

It was also determined that children who read often at 10, and more than once a week at 16, also scored higher in the same tests than those who read less often.

Lead researcher Dr Alice Sullivan reported that although vocabulary development was found to be the most affected area, the impact on spelling and maths was still significant.

“It may seem surprising that reading for pleasure would help to improve children’s maths scores, but it is likely that strong reading ability will enable children to absorb and understand new information and affect their attainment in all subjects,” Dr Sullivan said in the institute’s report. (Sydney Morning Herald)

Mother and child reading

So Liberals naturally gravitate to this being an “unfair advantage” YOU BASTARDS! :). Seriously, read on from ABC.com – Australia:

Plato famously wanted to abolish the family and put children into care of the state. Some still think the traditional family has a lot to answer for, but some plausible arguments remain in favour of it. Joe Gelonesi meets a philosopher with a rescue plan very much in tune with the times.

So many disputes in our liberal democratic society hinge on the tension between inequality and fairness: between groups, between sexes, between individuals, and increasingly between families.

The power of the family to tilt equality hasn’t gone unnoticed, and academics and public commentators have been blowing the whistle for some time. Now, philosophers Adam Swift and Harry Brighouse have felt compelled to conduct a cool reassessment.

No wonder Liberals hate the family unit so much and so much of the poor are broken family units.

Swift in particular has been conflicted for some time over the curious situation that arises when a parent wants to do the best for her child but in the process makes the playing field for others even more lopsided.

‘I got interested in this question because I was interested in equality of opportunity,’ he says.

‘I had done some work on social mobility and the evidence is overwhelmingly that the reason why children born to different families have very different chances in life is because of what happens in those families.’   

Once he got thinking, Swift could see that the issue stretches well beyond the fact that some families can afford private schooling, nannies, tutors, and houses in good suburbs. Functional family interactions—from going to the cricket to reading bedtime stories—form a largely unseen but palpable fault line between families. The consequence is a gap in social mobility and equality that can last for generations.

So, what to do?

According to Swift, from a purely instrumental position the answer is straightforward.

One way philosophers might think about solving the social justice problem would be by simply abolishing the family. If the family is this source of unfairness in society then it looks plausible to think that if we abolished the family there would be a more level playing field.’   

It’s not the first time a philosopher has thought about such a drastic solution. Two thousand four hundred years ago another sage reasoned that the care of children should be undertaken by the state.

Plato pulled few punches in The Republic when he called for the abolition of the family and for the children of the elite to be given over to the state. Aristotle didn’t agree, citing the since oft-used argument of the neglect of things held in common. Swift echoes the Aristotelian line. The break-up of the family is plausible maybe, he thinks, but even to the most hard-hearted there’s something off-key about it.

‘Nearly everyone who has thought about this would conclude that it is a really bad idea to be raised by state institutions, unless something has gone wrong,’ he says.

Intuitively it doesn’t feel right, but for a philosopher, solutions require more than an initial reaction. So Swift and his college Brighouse set to work on a respectable analytical defence of the family, asking themselves the deceptively simple question: ‘Why are families a good thing exactly?’

Not surprisingly, it begins with kids and ends with parents.

‘It’s the children’s interest in family life that is the most important,’ says Swift. ‘From all we now know, it is in the child’s interest to be parented, and to be parented well. Meanwhile, from the adult point of view it looks as if there is something very valuable in being a parent.’

He concedes parenting might not be for everyone and for some it can go badly wrong, but in general it is an irreplaceable relationship.

‘Parenting a child makes for what we call a distinctive and special contribution to the flourishing and wellbeing of adults.’

It seems that from both the child’s and adult’s point of view there is something to be said about living in a family way. This doesn’t exactly parry the criticism that families exacerbate social inequality. For this, Swift and Brighouse needed to sort out those activities that contribute to unnecessary inequality from those that don’t.

‘What we realised we needed was a way of thinking about what it was we wanted to allow parents to do for their children, and what it was that we didn’t need to allow parents to do for their children, if allowing those activities would create unfairnesses for other people’s children’.

The test they devised was based on what they term ‘familial relationship goods’; those unique and identifiable things that arise within the family unit and contribute to the flourishing of family members.  

For Swift, there’s one particular choice that fails the test.

‘Private schooling cannot be justified by appeal to these familial relationship goods,’ he says. ‘It’s just not the case that in order for a family to realise these intimate, loving, authoritative, affectionate, love-based relationships you need to be able to send your child to an elite private school.’

In contrast, reading stories at bedtime, argues Swift, gives rise to acceptable familial relationship goods, even though this also bestows advantage.

‘The evidence shows that the difference between those who get bedtime stories and those who don’t—the difference in their life chances—is bigger than the difference between those who get elite private schooling and those that don’t,’ he says.

This devilish twist of evidence surely leads to a further conclusion—that perhaps in the interests of levelling the playing field, bedtime stories should also be restricted. In Swift’s mind this is where the evaluation of familial relationship goods goes up a notch.

‘You have to allow parents to engage in bedtime stories activities, in fact we encourage them because those are the kinds of interactions between parents and children that do indeed foster and produce these [desired] familial relationship goods.’

Swift makes it clear that although both elite schooling and bedtime stories might both skew the family game, restricting the former would not interfere with the creation of the special loving bond that families give rise to. Taking the books away is another story.

‘We could prevent elite private schooling without any real hit to healthy family relationships, whereas if we say that you can’t read bedtime stories to your kids because it’s not fair that some kids get them and others don’t, then that would be too big a hit at the core of family life.’

So should parents snuggling up for one last story before lights out be even a little concerned about the advantage they might be conferring?

‘I don’t think parents reading their children bedtime stories should constantly have in their minds the way that they are unfairly disadvantaging other people’s children, but I think they should have that thought occasionally,’ quips Swift.

In the end Swift agrees that all activities will cause some sort of imbalance—from joining faith communities to playing Saturday cricket—and it’s for this reason that a theory of familial goods needs to be established if the family is to be defended against cries of unfairness. 

‘We should accept that lots of stuff that goes on in healthy families—and that our theory defends—will confer unfair advantage,’ he says.

It’s the usual bind in ethics and moral philosophy: very often values clash and you have to make a call. For Swift and Brighouse, the line sits shy of private schooling, inheritance and other predominantly economic ways of conferring advantage.

Their conclusions remind one of a more idyllic (or mythic) age for families: reading together, attending religious services, playing board games, and kicking a ball in the local park, not to mention enjoying roast dinner on Sunday. It conjures a family setting worthy of a classic Norman Rockwell painting. But not so fast: when you ask Swift what sort of families is he talking about, the ‘50s reverie comes crashing down into the 21st century.

‘When we talk about parents’ rights, we’re talking about the person who is parenting the child. How you got to be parenting the child is another issue. One implication of our theory is that it’s not one’s biological relation that does much work in justifying your rights with respect to how the child is parented.’

For Swift and Brighouse, our society is curiously stuck in a time warp of proprietorial rights: if you biologically produce a child you own it.

‘We think that although in practice it makes sense to parent your biological offspring, that is not the same as saying that in virtue of having produced the child the biological parent has the right to parent.’

Then, does the child have a right to be parented by her biological parents? Swift has a ready answer.

‘It’s true that in the societies in which we live, biological origins do tend to form an important part of people’s identities, but that is largely a social and cultural construction. So you could imagine societies in which the parent-child relationship could go really well even without there being this biological link.’

From this realisation arises another twist: two is not the only number.

‘Nothing in our theory assumes two parents: there might be two, there might be three, and there might be four,’ says Swift.

It’s here that the traditional notions of what constitutes the family come apart. A necessary product of the Swift and Brighouse analytical defence is the calling into question of some rigid definitions.

‘Politicians love to talk about family values, but meanwhile the family is in flux and so we wanted to go back to philosophical basics to work out what are families for and what’s so great about them and then we can start to figure out whether it matters whether you have two parents or three or one, or whether they’re heterosexual etcetera.’

For traditionalists, though, Swift provides a small concession.

‘We do want to defend the family against complete fragmentation and dissolution,’ he says. ‘If you start to think about a child having 10 parents, then that’s looking like a committee rearing a child; there aren’t any parents there at all.’

Although it’s controversial, it seems that Swift and Brighouse are philosophically inching their way to a novel accommodation for a weathered institution ever more in need of a rationale for existing. The bathwater might be going out, but they’re keen to hold on to the baby.

Back to SMH:

The study also concluded that reading for pleasure was a more important factor in children’s cognitive development between the ages of 10 and 16 than their parents’ level of education.

“The combined effect on children’s progress of reading books often, going to the library regularly and reading newspapers at 16, was four times greater than the advantage children gained from having a parent with a degree,” Ms Padgham says.

Children who read often for pleasure are exposed to more complex language structures and vocabulary than they are exposed to in oral situations alone, she says. “This building of a rich language and vocabulary from books from an early age is crucial to reading development,” she says.

Teacher librarian Olivia Neilson has noted that young children appear to have a natural enthusiasm for reading and borrowing books. “As students move up the grades and become more independent readers, they usually voraciously devour whatever they can get their hands on, as they enjoy the feeling of reading to themselves.”

Encouragement is crucial, however, particularly for reluctant readers. Ms Neilson says reading aloud from a variety of authors and genres, and offering children a range of reading materials including magazines and graphic novels, is critical in helping to meet their reading interests.

She explains that to support children in finding the success and positive self-esteem that reading can set them up for, we need to live what we teach.

“As parents, teachers and the whole community, we have a job to demonstrate to young people that reading has value for them personally. Lectures and speeches about that won’t do it for them, but modelling slow reading of great books and articles will.”

So the best option for Liberals is to make people not want to read and expose themselves and to produce an “unfair advantage” and self-esteem that is not conferred UPON them by ht liberals.

Keep ’em stupid. Keep them fragmented. Keep them Liberal. 🙂

As Rush Limbaugh concluded: “As liberals, the answer is not to help the kids who are not in good families. They become the lowest-common denominator. They become the baseline. Everybody must be made to be like them in order for everything to be fair and equal. The natural tendency of the left is to punish success, to punish achievement, to punish anything that they believe gives an unfair advantage.”

Political Cartoons by Michael Ramirez
Political Cartoons by Glenn McCoy
Political Cartoons by Ken Catalino

Doctor’s View

Michael Ramirez Cartoon

 

You shouldn’t judge the Affordable Care Act based on headlines or by listening to politicians or talking heads. I tried for a while, but only heard wildly conflicting stories that seemed to have little basis in reality.

Instead, you should ask someone who actually deals with the law on a daily basis — a doctor, for instance.

The Physicians Foundation did exactly that in its “2014 Survey of American Physicians,” which was released last month. The survey, which reached over 80% of doctors in the U.S. and elicited responses from some 20,000, is doctors’ collective report card on the Affordable Care Act’s first four years.

The grades aren’t good. Only 25% of doctors give it an “A” or a “B” grade. Nearly half ( 46%) give it a “D” or an “F”.

I can help explain why so many of us are fed up with the law: In many cases, it shifts our focus from patients to paperwork, from finding cures to filing documents.

The survey indicates that physicians now spend 20% of their time on non-clinical paperwork. I now spend many hours at a desk or a computer rather than at the bedside assisting patients. This isn’t why I became a doctor.

Unsurprisingly, this shift negatively influences patients’ access to health care — doctors simply don’t have the time to see the same number of patients.

The survey indicates that 44% of doctors “plan to take one or more steps that would reduce patient access to their services.” This includes “cutting back on patients seen, retiring, working part-time, closing their practice to new patients or seeking a non-clinical job.”

I would add another important effect based on my own observations: Spending less time with patients.

The ACA’s regulatory burden directly bears on these decisions. There are already at least 11,000 pages of government regulations related to the law. Some of it applies to insurers, some of it applies to doctors and some applies to the relationship between the two.

No matter who it applies to, it adds bureaucratic hassles to the health care process that may impact your doctors’ ability to attend to your medical needs.

It should come as no surprise, then, that 69% of physicians “believe their clinical autonomy is sometimes or often limited,” meaning they have a diminished ability to make medical decisions in consultation with patients.

And “limited” may be an understatement. The ACA’s implementation has also coincided with a dramatic decline in private practice — the small, personal doctors’ offices that have been in local communities for generations.

The number of private-practice doctors has dropped by nearly half in a mere six years, with the most dramatic drops occurring in the four years since the Affordable Care Act was signed into law.

According to the survey, 35% of physicians are now independent practice owners. In 2012, half were independent. In 2008 — two years before the ACA was passed — 62% were independent. In the last two years alone, the number of solo practitioners has dropped from 25% to 17%.

No wonder: Private and solo practitioners often lack the staff and the financial resources required to implement and keep up with the ACA’s dramatic changes to medicine.

The Physicians Foundation survey indicates that our country’s health care is still going in the wrong direction. Of course, it’s important to note that the Affordable Care Act is only one of many issues affecting doctors’ decisions and outlook.

But it is not a good sign that in the law’s first few years, physicians are seeing fewer patients, private practices are disappearing and nearly twice as many doctors believe the law is harming, not helping, American health care.

• Fodeman is an internal medicine doctor practicing in Tucson, Ariz. (IBD)

Whine & Cheese Tuesday

Heard this one before: “My plan says we’re going to put teachers back in the classrooms, construction workers back to work,” (government union and union employees– the more they are back to work the more union money he can collect) President Obama said at a campaign event today. “Tax cuts for small businesses, tax cuts for hiring veterans, tax cuts if you give your workers a raise –- that’s my plan.”

“The Republicans plan, Obama says, boils down to this: ‘Dirtier air, dirtier water, less people with health insurance.'”

Gee, where’s throwing grandma out in the streets, off a cliff or eating dog food?

Kids starving?

Let’s Kill Kenny?

FEAR IS HOPE

Vote for me, the other guy’s an asshole!

Or better yet, he came up with government Health Care before I did! (Romney!)

“We’ve decided, let’s let them do the right thing one more time. We’re going to give them another chance to do their jobs by looking after your jobs. So this week, I’m asking members of Congress to vote. What we’re going to do is we’re going to break up my jobs bill. Maybe they just couldn’t understand the whole thing all at once. So we’re going to break it up into bite-size pieces so they can take a thoughtful approach to this legislation,” President Obama said at a campaign stop in Asheville, NC.

Congress = Republicans. The Democrats who voted against the thing and sunk it don’t count. But we’ll give them another shot at doing everything we want them to do. Namely, SPEND EVEN MORE MONEY! especially on Union members.

Meanwhile, the Senate Democrats can pass the Constitutionally required budget in over 900 days.

But it’s all the other guy’s fault, he’s a heartless asshole, you know. 🙂

The OCCUPIERS

It just gets better and Better, doesn’t it Comrade?  🙂

The revolution will be corporate-sponsored! That’s according to Harrison Schultz, an Occupy Wall Street organizer who also happens to be a “business intelligence analyst” at a publicly traded company. On a limited-access email list shared by Occupy protesters, Schultz wrote of a ”Corporate Funded Revolution,” calling it “a revolutionary plan.”

Despite protesters’ occupation of a New York City park and their stated goal of ending corporate influence — particularly of Wall Street — in government, e-mails emerged Monday showing Schultz and other anti-corporate organizers were a little more corporate than they like to let on.

“My scheme is to commodify any traffic I manage to successfully drive to the occupywallst.org site, open it up and sell it as advertising space to corporations…,” Schultz allegedly wrote. “A Corporate Funded Revolution is a contradiction in terms, its practically an oxymoron. Something we’ve never considered before. It’s a revolutionary plan…”

Orwell, anyone?

Or better yet, an Occupier Barbie and Slacker Occupier Pot head Ken!! (with optional Nazi Gear)

Occupier Bratz Dolls.

Maybe there’s an App for that! 🙂

Or maybe we should just go after the kids some more:

In response to protest organizer Kelley Wolcott’s open request to “coordinate” a “family day,” another mailing list member offered up socialist literature for use during the festivities.

“I have a story book called Tales for Little Rebels: A Collection of Radical Children’s Literature, with stories ranging from Dr. Seuss to Bolshevik sponsored ‘Fairy Tales for Worker’s Children,’” Nicolas Moselle Allen wrote. “Let me know if you would like this!”

A publisher’s blurb for “Tales for Little Rebels” introduces the book by noting that “[r]ather than teaching children to obey authority, to conform, or to seek redemption through prayer, twentieth-century leftists encouraged children to question the authority of those in power. Tales for Little Rebels collects forty-three mostly out-of-print stories, poems, comic strips, primers, and other texts for children that embody this radical tradition.”

NYU Press describes one of the “tales” this way: “In 1912, a revolutionary chick cries, ‘Strike down the wall!’ and liberates itself from the ‘egg state.’” In another, written against a 1940 backdrop, “ostriches pull their heads out of the sand and unite to fight fascism.” A third tale, set in 1972, tells the story of “Baby X,” who “grows up without a gender and is happy about it.” (DC)

Van Jones, The former “Green Czar” and self-admitted Communist: “We should let the spirit of this movement co-opt the Democratic Party, the Republican Party, and the whole country. It’s the best thing in America right now,” Van Jones said about the Occupy Wall Street movement. (RP)

Viva La Revolution! 🙂

I am in fact recently returned from OWS HQ in Zuccotti Park in lower Manhattan — a magnificent little isle. It’s run by this one-percenter (as opposed to us, the noble 99 percent) named  “Mayor Bloomberg,” who feels just sick about how rich he is, so he’ll only accept one dollar a year in mayoral salary. Proving that you get what you pay for. Over the years, he has banned everything from clergy at 9/11 ceremonies to smoking at city parks or beaches to trans fats in restaurants. But if you’re an unhygienic anarchist costing the city untold sums in police overtime while camping out for a month, serving dirty-fingernail gazpacho without a food-service permit , and pinching a loaf on a squad car, then hey — his casa es su casa!

I don’t wish, however, to harsh the OWS mellow, as we who are pretending it’s still the sixties like to say .

I also made new friends, like Spooky the Anarchist, a masked-up willfully homeless con artist who was charging tourists to have their picture taken with him, and who described the scene as a “homeless man’s dream camp,” which afforded him everything from free food to free clothing. Then there was Sid the Nazi, an obscenity-spewing white supremacist who had also found common cause with the grab-bag of fellow grievance groupers. Sid explained to me how there’s been a lot of America-approved genocides, from Nagasaki to the American Indian, but when someone like Hitler does the Jews wrong — everybody starts crying about it. Not that he’s admitting Hitler did anything to the Jews. Nor that it was wrong. That’s what the Jewish-controlled media wants you to believe.

But even Sid the Nazi had his fill of his fellow protesters, when getting handed all the commie literature — an affront to good taste, and to Hitler. (Old rivalries die hard.) Of course, Spooky and Sid the Nazi and commie literature make for much inconvenience for the scads of leftoid apologists trying to pretend that OWS is about something that it’s not. As do hard poll numbers, such as New York magazine’s report that over one-third of the attendees believe the U.S. government is no better than al Qaida.

Yes, plenty of greedhead Wall Street types abused the hell out of the system, and caused our country great pain. Nobody can honestly dispute that. Likewise, plenty of people are hurting (some of them my friends and family), and understandably want somebody to blame. But what is this particular protest about? From my experience, I learned that it’s primarily about overeducated, underemployed twentysomethings who are frustrated they haven’t found their dream jobs as documentary filmmakers in the worst economy in several generations, all while amassing 100 grand in student loans. Perhaps they should instead occupy the NYU admissions office, or better still, question their choices and keep their fingers crossed for a rebound. (Things must not be too dire, however, since several protesters I spoke with had quit their jobs to join the movement.) But instead, they’d rather blame JPMorgan Chase for everything from their eczema to their poor Wi-Fi connectivity, so that they can play bongos in the park while pretending their permanent disaffection is about credit default swaps, if they even know what those are.

And this is the larger problem with their movement, as it is with so many movements, truth be told. Movements seek to generalize, and to patch over specifics. To make the complex simple. To find convenient fall guys, and a universal theory of everything. So that if I bought a Mercedes when all I could afford was a Toyota, or bought a $900,000 McMansion when all I could really afford was a townhouse, it must be Lehman Brothers’ fault, not mine. (Matt Labash)

Thomas Sowell:

Like so many people, in so many countries, who started out to “spread the wealth,” Barack Obama has ended up spreading poverty.

Have you ever heard anyone as incoherent as the people staging protests across the country? Taxpayers ought to be protesting against having their money spent to educate people who end up unable to say anything beyond repeating political catch phrases.

It is hard to understand politics if you are hung up on reality. Politicians leave reality to others. What matters in politics is what you can get the voters to believe, whether it bears any resemblance to reality or not.

I hate getting bills that show a zero balance. If I don’t owe anything, why bother me with a bill? There is too much junk mail already.

Radical feminists seem to assume that men are hostile to women. But what would they say to the fact that most of the women on the Titanic were saved, and most of the men perished — due to rules written by men and enforced by men on the sinking ship?

If he were debating Barack Obama, Newt Gingrich could chew him up and spit him out.

Whether the particular issue is housing, medical care or anything in between, the agenda of the left is to take the decision out of the hands of those directly involved and transfer that decision to third parties, who pay no price for making decisions that turn out to be counterproductive.

It is truly the era of the New Math when a couple making $125,000 a year each are taxed at rates that are said to apply to “millionaires and billionaires.”

On many issues, the strongest argument of the left is that there is no argument. This has been the left’s party line on the issue of man-made global warming and the calamities they claim will follow. But there are many scientists — some with Nobel Prizes — who have repudiated the global warming hysteria.

With professional athletes earning megabucks incomes, it is a farce to punish their violations of rules with fines. When Serena Williams was fined $2,000 for misconduct during a tennis match, that was like fining you or me a nickel or a dime. Suspensions are something that even the highest-paid athletes can feel.

Most of us may lament the fact that so many more people are today dependent on food stamps and other government subsidies. But dependency usually translates into votes for whoever is handing out the benefits, so an economic disaster can be a political bonanza, as it was for Franklin D. Roosevelt. Don’t count Obama out in 2012.

Politicians can solve almost any problem — usually by creating a bigger problem. But, so long as the voters are aware of the problem that the politicians have solved, and unaware of the bigger problems they have created, political “solutions” are a political success.

Do people who advocate special government programs for blacks realize that the federal government has had special programs for American Indians, including affirmative action, since the early 19th century — and that American Indians remain one of the few groups worse off than blacks?

I hope the people who are challenging Obamacare in the Supreme Court point out that the equal application of the laws, mandated by the 14th Amendment to the Constitution, is violated when the president can arbitrarily grant hundreds of waivers to the Obamacare law to his political favorites, while everyone else has to follow its costly provisions.

People who live within their means are increasingly being forced to pay for people who didn’t live within their means — whether individual home buyers here or whole nations in Europe.

Regardless of how the current Republican presidential nomination process ends, I hope that they will never again have these televised “debates” among a crowd of candidates, which just turn into a circular firing squad — damaging whoever ends up with the nomination, and leaving the voters knowing only who is quickest with glib answers.

Have you noticed that we no longer seem to be hearing the old familiar argument that illegal aliens are just taking jobs that Americans won’t do?

Fascinating…

Political Cartoons by Lisa Benson

Political Cartoons by Chip Bok