Circles In Thinking — a blast from the past post from March 2012

*We don’t have a raiding party post and that’s partly my fault, as I should have given them a schedule by now, but I also decided not to push anyone, because they’re all either dealing with family or health stuff.  So I hope you guys will be happy with a blast from the past post. The kids  guests will be back next week*

Something has been working at me since my post against using stupid slogans instead of thinking (when reality is almost if not actually the opposite – and no, I’m not going to reprise that.  I made all the arguments I wanted to make in that post.  And everyone got a chance to yell at me.  Enough.)  Weirdly, what bothered me most was not the name calling, but a seemingly innocuous comment, which was echoed and repeated by any number of commenters.

To begin with, it was the way it was repeated – not, like a lot of it, as though the person were working from a cheat-sheet, but more – as though a lot of people at the same time had come up with the same clinching argument…  Or what they thought was a clinching argument.

Except it wasn’t, not when you step back and analyze it.  Worse, when you step back and analyze it, you grow quite alarmed at its underpinnings and the fact that ANYONE would think this served as an argument to defend anything.

If, like me, you are – for your sins – a graduate of an excellent college, and hold a degree in the humanities, you don’t wonder why so many people echoed it probably without coordination.  The reason is that they all heard this in school and that in school, if this had been a college paper, it would have won a good grade.  And like most such arguments, it echoes the bias of thought of college professors and current academia.

I don’t remember off the top of my head whether we let any of those comments through.  I wasn’t the only one weeding through them – I have helpers who do that also, so I have time to write.  So, I’ll have to reprise it.

The comment omitted what they were against so I’ll put it in square brackets [It doesn’t surprise me that you think that men get a worse deal in current society than women because] This reminds me of all the Victorian women who were against female suffrage. [presumably meaning: and you don’t realize that just like them you are brainwashed.]

If you are nodding along, you probably ALSO had an excellent college education in the humanities and learned what would get you an A in sociology or feminist literature or whatever the heck it was you took.  (In my case it was theory of Literature, American Literature and Comparative Literature.  Also American Culture, British Culture and German Culture.  Possibly also linguistics, though those tended to be more factual.)

If you are nodding along you ALSO never took the time to unpack this argument.  Don’t feel bad about it, though.  It bothered me – and not in the sense that it felt right – because though it felt like while it was a “valid” – i.e. “logical” – argument, I had a feeling it was wrong.  Not just in my case, but in general.

Still even now, several decades after leaving college, it took me hours and the fact I had a lot of time in a waiting room yesterday to unpack it and figure out the LEVELS of wrong in it: in general, in particular, and when applied to my blog.  We are ALL the product of our education, and if you think that unlike your grandmother you had an education that prepared you to think without bias, it just means you haven’t seen through the bias.

This is a staggeringly bad argument in general because it can be used to dismiss anyone’s ideas based on what a group in the past did.  Say you don’t believe – I plead the fifth.  Most of the time I have a better image of humans in general and yes, women in particular.  Periodically I get annoyed and have to point out certain issues – that women tend to repeat slogans without examining them and fall for quasi-messianic movements without examining their underpinnings.  I could sneeringly dismiss your argument with “Well, you know, the first thing women did, given the vote, was pass prohibition.”

And then you’ll say – rightly – “but Sarah, that was a different set of women, educated under different circumstances, informed by a different set of beliefs, which make your argument irrelevant.”

Which brings us to the second part of why this argument is wrong in the specific and why it’s appalling that people with a college education can’t unpack it.  Repeat after me: The past is another country.  Not only do you not know how you’d have reacted to the suffragette movement if you lived in that time (rather irrelevant, really, since if you lived in that time, you wouldn’t be you) BUT you have no idea if they were right for their time and by their lights.

Now before you go screaming around the echo chamber that Sarah Hoyt believes women shouldn’t have right to vote, let’s register it for posterity that Sarah Hoyt has her doubts on universal suffrage regardless of gender.  It’s a horrible system.  It’s just the best one we’ve come up with so far.  The average woman is no dumber or less equipped to make a voting decision than the average man, and at the high end, women are as equipped to do it as high-end men.

What I’d like say, though – and what I’d like you to listen to, if you can remove the wads of indoctrination blocking your ears – is that just because women’s suffrage won and the results (except prohibition) have been pretty good, they had no intellectual way of knowing that at the time.

First of all you’re assuming that suffrage is always an universal good.  I will grant you our history – which they didn’t have – seems to show it.  Societies where more people vote tend to, if nothing else, decay into tyranny slower.  And it’s possible we might avert it altogether (maybe.  History hasn’t weighed in.)  However, at the time this was not clear.  I like to joke that in the Portuguese civil war my ancestors fought and died never to have a say in their governance again.  That is to say, they fought and died for the guy who wanted to be an absolute monarch.  (Yes, there are other things there, including local and hereditary loyalty, but–) It’s a funny line, and it works for us, but it is just a joke.  I don’t presume to judge their choice, and neither should you.  Why?  They remembered the French revolution and, btw, the British one.  They had grandfather-handed-down memories of mob rule.  Their choice of the king and stability might have seemed the best at the time.  NOT mine.  I disapprove of any dictatorship.  But theirs.  Their best choice, at the time, not knowing the future, and armed with what they did know of their people and place which are stranger to me than any culture on Earth today.

Quite possibly it was the same with female suffrage.  The women you were talking about are not the women of today, with contraceptives and education that make them close enough to men.

Look, you go to war with the weapons you have, not the ones you hope for.  The suffragettes fought for the rights of women as they were, not as they are.  The women they had at the time were not us.  Education in the upper classes schooled women towards subservience (at least if what we know is true, and I’m not saying it is, we weren’t there.)  The lower classes are a lot more opaque.  We study them through excavations of middens and sometimes surviving oral history.  However, we can assume in the first throes of the industrial revolution men and women in the lower classes, both, were NOT equipped to be informed voters.  Add to that the fact most women spent most of their lives pregnant.  I’ve been pregnant.  I’ve researched pregnancy (to figure out what the heck happened to my mind then.)  There is an hormone whose sole purpose is to make you fat, contented and stupid.  And yes, it says that in the literature.  More importantly, when you’re pregnant and you feel your body is coping with all it can handle, you’ll take the path of least resistance in everything else.

This means that women who thought – at the time – about other women getting the vote and shuddered might have had a point.  They foresaw disaster if women got the vote, and – THIS IS VERY IMPORTANT – though we know they weren’t right (the minor thing with prohibition excepted) THEY HAD NO WAY OF KNOWING THAT.  Anyone who’s been through college should be self-aware enough to realize that.  The past is determined, the future isn’t.  We are their future.  They had no way of being sure how things would go.  They were entitled to their doubts and their second thoughts and by having them they showed NOT that they were puppets of the establishment, but that they were thinking human beings.  Even if they were wrong.  Hindsight is twenty twenty.

Now of course you’re saying “But Sarah, they were voting against their interests.”  Stop it.  Stop making me roll my eyes so hard they’ll fall on the floor.

What you’ve just slipped into, whether you realize it or not is “Argument by Marx.”  You probably don’t realize it, because even though lately the establishment has got a lot more bold and started making self-satisfied noises about neo-Marxism (it’s like stupidity.  Calling it neo-stupidity makes it sound so much better) it’s permeated all thought and all teaching for decades – unexamined, unthought-about.  It’s in the bin marked “unexamined foundational beliefs” which in your ancestors’ time held the idea of G-d creating the universe, something that permeated all thought, even that of self-conscious atheists.

And it is the other thing that is wrong, wrong, wrong about that comment.

The comment presupposes what some of their comrades (da, tovarish) said more boldly.  That by saying it is men who are getting the short end of the stick in our society and by standing in front of the feminist mob yelling “stop” I’m a “gender traitor.”  It does this by equaling me with Victorian women who were against their “gender”’s rights.

This is pure Marxism.  It strips me of me and my circumstances in life and what I want, and reduces me to one salient characteristic: the fact I was born with a vagina.  It is one of the most dehumanizing and demeaning theories of history ANYONE could come up with.  And Marx did.

Take your Victorian anti-suffrage woman.  She lived a pretty contented life, and in her experience she didn’t need the vote.  And if you’re going to say “but what about her sisters?”  Her sisters probably had similar lives.  If you mean other women in general, a woman of that time and class remembered the French revolution and was likely to have a sneering disdain for all lower classes.  These were not her sisters.  And the lower class men were not her brothers either. The whole idea would seem absurd to her.  Before you condemn her ask yourself “Why shouldn’t it?  What reason did she have to think of herself as belonging to any group? Why should she fight for more than what guaranteed the best life for her and her immediate loved ones?” (Bringing up nonsense about “false consciousness” and “group betrayal” is not thinking, it’s tourettes.  You’re assuming again that Marx was right. This is some leap of faith since his ideas have yet to work on real people.)

Now, take me.  Yes, I have a vagina.  I checked this morning.  It was still there.  BUT I have a lot of other circumstances in my life.  I have two sons, for instance – sons who’ve seen systematically discriminated against in school starting with the type of work required (group work is deadly for boys.  It’s also dominant now) to the style of teaching (most male brains learn more visually and kinetically.  Most teaching is verbal)  WHY would you presume I’m more interested in bullying males and getting more and more benes for my as yet non-existent female descendants, rather than in fighting for my sons to have at least the same basic treatment as their female peers?  Or, presuming I’ll have female descendants some day (I could have all granddaughters) and I can’t know, WHY would you presume, since I have kids and I don’t know what the future will be, I would want anything beyond “equality under the law?”

Leaving all that aside why would you presume I have more in common with a single woman working in a factory somewhere in the Midwest than with a married man with sons who writes articles for a living a hundred miles away?  What earthly sense does that make?

And before you lecture me about how Marxism envisions people as belonging to several interest groups – thank you muchly.  I was raised in a country that was going head over heels for Marxism.  I studied Marx in several classes.  I also had the dubious pleasure, a few months ago, of reading what earnest Utopian American Marxists in the seventies viewed as the ideal system of government.  It was bewildering and vomit-inducing.  They wanted the country organized into “soviets” (in real soviet, country organizes you) each of them representing an interest group to which you “belonged” in some way.  For instance, take me (please) I’d be in the women’s soviet, the Colorado soviet, the mother’s soviet, the Latino soviet and – presumably – the intellectuals soviet (Okay, for minus three seconds, after which I’d be in the Gulag soviet.)  Each of these would elect representatives.

And none of these would represent anyone.  For these to work, it presupposes that you have more than a marginal interest in common with other people in the same group.  Heck, even if you put me in the “Portuguese immigrants soviet” I’d have barely nothing in common with most of them because for one most don’t come from my part of the country and very few write or read SF (Okay Larry Correia, but he’s third generation.  Also, I’d be more likely to be with him in the Gulag soviet.)

The essential failure of making individuals go through groups with which they share a characteristic, is that ultimately groups are too amorphous for the representative to represent anything but himself. The last irreducible group is one.  Which is why our system establishes rights of the individual and equality under the law.  ANYTHING else, no matter how “progressive” it sounds is a shambling step back into the mists of tribalism and irrational group think.

(And yes, I realize to group people by region as we do has its issues too.  OTOH if your city is razed, it kind of matters to you.  But I’m not saying that representation in other ways can’t or shouldn’t be considered.  I’m just saying multiplying the number of “representatives” and subtracting from the individual is not a step in the right direction.  And that groups aren’t as obvious as you think.)

The only place where it is appropriate for me to “think as a woman” or fight for an issue “as a woman” is the type of situation as in Arab countries where women AS A WHOLE are subjected to prohibitions in driving, working, learning or dressing the way they please (and no, it couldn’t happen here.  NEVER to that extent.  It’s the result of complex forces of culture and history.  Correction: It couldn’t happen here that fast and without some serious foundational changes.)  That fight has been fought for me already, and I’m guaranteed life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.  Oh, yeah, and equality under the law.  And I will fight for those for EVERYONE, man, woman or yet undiscovered sentient being.  Yes, even against a group to which I nominally belong because you think I do.

And now that we’ve gone through why that comment was stupid and irrelevant in general and in particular, let’s talk about why it was wrong as a comment to put in my blog…

Having unpacked the levels of unthinking and unreasoning repetition of college-learning in that comment, we can now stand back and be amazed at the staggering arrogance of it.  To wit, the person making it assumes that a) I’d never heard it.  b) I’d never studied history.  c) I didn’t have the ability to reflect upon my situation in the light of history.

Given that this is the blog of – forget formal education – someone who is addicted to books, interested in history, and who has written historical fiction, the hubris in that comment is staggering.  And it shows something else.  It shows the desperate need to count intellectual superiority over anyone who disagrees with you, without even giving it a moment’s thought.  (None of these people said something like “I’m surprised someone like you didn’t realize” – no, the presumption is always that I never thought in historical or self-reflective terms.)

Make a note of it: if this is the only type of argument you can marshal – one size fits all and regurgitated from college classes – and if you think it will win the discussion, you’ve already lost.

132 responses to “Circles In Thinking — a blast from the past post from March 2012

  1. You can vote for April themes here:

    Also, we’re reading The White Company.

  2. Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

    Don’t know if this was mentioned earlier, but this “error” is IMO related to Bulverism.

  3. You know, G. K. Chesterton observed of suffrage that if the women who were against it were unfit to make that decision, then — what political decision were they capable of making? One would think their information on the question would be the best of all possible questions they could face.

  4. Bastiat argued that universal suffrage would force democracies away from their main function of ensuring freedom and security, and into granting special benies for special sections of the electorate to buy their votes; the main driver of female suffrage being the desire of picking up extra votes for the politicians and the understood need by the electorate to find some way to protect or enrich themselves from a government growing in power and influence over their lives.

  5. Y’know, Sarah, an evil person (not that I would know any such no no not at all) would agitate for so many micro-soviets that the net Venn intersection would always be one person. They would then nominate and vote for themselves to represent this agglomeration. Lather-rinse-repeat, and you have stealth democracy! I don’t see why we can’t subvert THEIR paradigms….
    (Comrade Representative of the Collective Cat Slave Soviet, the I Hate Pink Soviet, the Mildly Lactose Averse Soviet, and the H.Beam Piper Fangirl Soviet)

  6. The Roman Republic lasted 482 years before becoming a monarchy. I’m very skeptical of whether or not the USA can last that long. I bring it up because of the statement that “Societies where more people vote tend to, if nothing else, decay into tyranny slower.”

    In Rome citizenship was not handed out nearly as easily as it is in America, and not every citizen had a right to vote. So I’m not sure that your statement there is true.

    “To wit, the person making it assumes that a) I’d never heard it. b) I’d never studied history. c) I didn’t have the ability to reflect upon my situation in the light of history.”

    I love how people who buy into mainstream thought almost universally react to counter thought by pointing out the mainstream party line as though the counter thinker has never heard it before. Maybe it’s a symptom of them thinking that they came up with their own ideas.

    • While in America as long as you look like you will vote for the right party, there is no need to be a citizen to vote.

      Which fact is more likely to speed the fall of our republic than any other single factor I can think of.

      • The roman republic was a very different civilazional level, and at any rate we’d ALREADY consider it a tyranny under the republic, compared to us. I was comparing the US to other, modern “free countries” not Rome.

        • Of course the Roman republic was a tyranny, I was just going off on a tangent about one of my pet peeves. 😉

        • We’ll have to agree to disagree there I think unless you can make some case for roman citizens being under a tyranny under the republic. In many ways they were far freer than we are today.

          • You’ve never read Cicero, have you?

            • BobtheRegisterredFool

              Yeah, but wasn’t the Republic dead and not knowing it by his era?

              I gather that the mortal wound, power politics becoming too much of a blood sport, was well established if not already fatal by the time of Sulla and Marius.

            • Yes. I started to answer, then realized this would turn into a “hunt the quote” and I’d NEVER get any writing done today. Sometimes I have to discipline my inner brat.

              • BobtheRegisterredFool

                Dave Drake does a pretty good job of Rome as it was in his Books of Elements. People should read those and find out if the only know Rome from Hagiography.

            • Not as much as I’d like. But I know he fought to save the republic, which would indicate that he thought that there was something to save.

    • “The Roman Republic lasted 482 years …

      Haven’t read your Livy, have you? Nor grasped the implications of Coriolanus.

      Nor is it likely the various underclasses that constituted the various underclasses — the Plebes, the Slaves, women … — would be so quick to endorse the durability of Rome’s Republic.

      • We have had slaves, underclass people that were not allowed to vote, and denied women the vote in our countries history. But either way this is a shift in argument. You can say that the greatest example of civilization ever seen up to that point in history was a bad thing (which would be extremely silly) but then you’re just changing the conversation from what makes a country last to what makes a country moral.

        • We have never had a system in which the patter familias had right of life or death.

          • Arguments of false equivalence are all too common. The simple fact, as anybody who’s read Livy (still in print after two milennia) would know, Rome was a republic for a very small percentage of its population. It was about as much a republic as we employ the term in contemporary thought as Cuba is a democracy.

  7. I was thinking about the Marx paradigm you referred to– I really think (looking back) that these “foundational” arguments had gained a lot of ground in the 60s and 70s.

  8. I think I get your earlier points. And, because I inveigh on the Knowledge Problem does not mean I’m urging that we never proceed forward in the absence of perfect knowledge, which we’ll never get, but that “Don’t get cocky” is a precis of much of cautionary wisdom and Fallen Angels is not a how-to manual.

  9. “just because women’s suffrage won and the results (except prohibition) have been pretty good”

    I’d question that. To pick just the most recent example, Romney won the male vote in the last election, hands down.

    Having now hacked off over half the human race …

    Group projects in school: Absolutely loathed and despised them.

    But, you know? The workplace has been feminized in this way, too. It’s all about “team building” and “joining our diversity” and stuff. I work best when I’m given responsibility for my part of the project and I’m left alone to carry it out. I’m glad I can get away with working that way as much as I do. But I hear talk about making “pair programming” our regular practice, and my skin crawls.

    • Don’t conflate “extrovert female” with “all female” just because teachers self-select. As a hard-core introvert I loathe all team exercises, and I’m quite female. It’s not “feminizing”, it is “liberalizing” with lots of extroversion. Of course they *claim* it is feminizing, because Earth Mother and “women cooperate” but you should know better than to believe that nonsense. Think for yourself.

      In college when I was forced to have lab partners, I bared my teeth at them and said “you take the notes. I will do the experiment, and we’ll be out of here in half an hour.” They did, we were, we got good grades, and everyone was happy 🙂

      • Oh, I loathed team exercises, but I also “learned like a boy” so…

      • I loathe team exercises too– I usually ended up writing the team papers with little or no input.

        • That’s why I always loathed group projects with a purple passion. I always got stuck in the “group” that never really happened, and stayed x number of people working (more or less) in parallel the whole time. In one, the pieces each of us contributed to the group report were just pasted together with the seams visible, no effort at all to create a unified whole. And that was one of the few in which all members at least made a roughly equal contribution in time and effort. We won’t talk about the ones in which some members skated on the efforts of those of us who actually wanted a good grade.

          • Two projects where I was the one who made the project come together. Then I did a project with someone I picked… she worked hard and I worked hard. We ended up with the best grade in the class. Only person I have ever worked on a team project that I would do it again– Still hate it though.

      • Add me to the list of “oh gads, not a group project, please.”

        • Why in the world is “Does not play well with others” supposed to be a bad thing all the time, anyway?

          If they’d been more specific and defined the “others”, like “Does not play well with the mean girls clique” or “Does not play well with bullies”, well, they might have learned a thing or two about playing well, and why their efforts to lecture me into capitulation were wasted breath.

          • I think it was originally a polite way to say “your little demon needs to be swatted, and next time s/he bites me I’m going to do it.”

            • No. It was my grade in first grade. “She knows the material but she doesn’t play well with others.” It just meant literally that I didn’t like to work with other people, and would take the work and do it on my own.

          • walkerhound

            “Why in the world is “Does not play well with others” supposed to be a bad thing all the time, anyway?”

            unfortunately to a lot of parents it means “OMG my child is ANT-social and well spend there life in the basement BURNING cats and forgetting to put on pant’s for weeks at a time” the question is how intentional on the part of the experts/gov’ workers is that impression?

            brought to you by somebody lucky enough to have parents that realized that I was in fact just self sufficient as a child….and would tell that to the counselor in question.

          • By “playing well with others” do you mean harvesting their femurs for bowling pins and polishing their skulls for bowling balls? Or perhaps you have a different kind of “playing with others” in mind? Something involving operant conditioning, perhaps?

      • Note that all the women here agreeing with you are self-proclaimed “odds”. That being said I loathe group projects and do not ‘play well with others,’ regardless of whether it is feminizing or liberalizing. And quite generally loathe those who like group projects, because most of them lazy users who just want someone else to do the work for them.

        Of course I can stand to spend only very limited time with ‘feminine’ fluffheads, and they tend to tilt dramatically towards the liberal end of the spectrum. So at least to myself the terms feminizing and liberalizing are synonymous. Not to say that tomboys can’t be feminine, but they actually DO something… and I’ve totally lost my train of thought and forgot what point I was trying to make. Apparently an hour and half worth of sleep last night wasn’t enough to promote coherent thought. 😦

        • Just say “yes dear” and we’ll let you live 😀

          Yep, there’s a lot of us. Once is bad luck, twice is coincidence, and when you run into double digits *maybe* the distinguishing characteristic isn’t distinguishing any more. Perhaps. Here, I made you a nice hot toddy to help with the nap. And when you feel restored we’ll have a nice game of “Taunt the Liberal”. Would you like to be the boot, or the stick with the nail in it?

        • In my experience, most women dislike group projects. They like being in charge of groups doing projects, or they like being given their own little subgroup where they can compete like heck with the other subgroups to be either more awesome than everyone else, or exactly the same not standing out a bit.

          School group projects are usually the worst of all possible worlds.

          • I didn’t mind them when I had a good group, but that’s the trick, isn’t it? My presumably somewhat bewildered biology teacher once took me out of the classroom in tears after telling us she was assigning a group project and we’d be penalized if we didn’t make sure everybody participated. Sure enough, I had one group member who barely did anything. Lucky it was only the one.

            (That teacher was usually very good, actually; I don’t know what possessed her on that project.)

      • Birthday girl

        “In college when I was forced to have lab partners, I bared my teeth at them and said “you take the notes. I will do the experiment, and we’ll be out of here in half an hour.” They did, we were, we got good grades, and everyone was happy”

        Heh, I was the happy lab-performance-challenged note-taker and calculation-maker. We got As, never spoke again after the classes, and were quite satisfied. 🙂

      • “Group Project”= do all the work yourself, manage to keep the others from screwing too much up*, and get marked down because there wasn’t enough “teamwork” involved.

        * No, this doesn’t mean “do it in a way I wouldn’t.” It means “write factually wrong things they pulled out of their ear, and delete the stuff I already did according to the instructions.”

      • walkerhound

        you know I was just wondering (kind of chicken vs egg) which way the co-opting went? has the left leaning parties/philosophies managed to attract an (arguably) disproportion number of woman by being more “feminine” or have a lot of modran (sp?) woman been trained to think of these idea’s and systems AS “feminine”

    • Arwen Riddle

      Add me to the list of those who loathe group projects. Give me an assignment, I’ll turn it in and that’s the end of it.

      • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

        On Group Projects.

        Since I can be said to lack tact, I’d find it hard to work on the same part of a project with somebody else.

        However, being somewhat of an “odd” (even among other odds [Wink]), I can see the logic of some types of group projects.

        When I was involved in computer programming I was considered somewhat good at my job but I’d be the first to admit that I didn’t know everything about the job.

        So if I was given a task that involved an area that I lacked knowledge and I was assigned a co-worker who was very knowledgeable in that area, then I would see no problem with working with that person.

        In addition, I’ve been involved in projects that no one person could have done everything so it was necessary to assign parts of the project to different people and they would have to “work together” to make sure all the parts fit/worked.

        In short, I would have a problem with group projects that could be done by one person but I do see situations where a group project is the only way that the job could be done.

        • Had teachers tell us that’s why we were doing them.

          Never bothered to actually make projects that had anything like the requirements to actually teach those skills, though.

          • marycatelli

            Of course not. That would be work.

            The thing is that team projects on the job can be just as nefarious if the coworkers don’t have to do their jobs to keep them.

        • “Professional” software developer / project manager / geek-speaker here. Paul (Drak? May I call you Drak? ***COOOL***) makes a good start but may not take the example far enough within the context of the “group project” comparisons.

          The “best” group projects are those where every member of the group is able to work on the parts that need their strengths, each has enough wherewithal to interact with the other members, and the desired outcome is something that needs that more-than-the-sum-of-the-parts quality that makes it a GOOD THING to have done.

          Do I think I’m good at group projects? No, not particularly. Do I abhor them? Almost always, when one or more of the arbitrary members of the assigned group simply can’t be bothered to spend any energy on working WITH one or more members of the group based upon external or under-examined factors. Was once assigned as a team leader where one team member had very limited scheduling flexibility. Even when the rest of the team did our best to accommodate, we were not being “understanding of the circumstances” — even though some of us had our own life-events that needed attention, and we were facing substantial consequences for trying to accommodate the (perceived) slacker. (They quit, we forged ahead and completed the task on less sleep and with less veracity, as we had to do some remedial-level study and false-starts to cover areas of knowledge the missing participant was supposed to have brought to the table. And, yes, viewpoints she had that the rest of us did not [African American single mother isolated from her family support system by geographical distance — but more importantly for the project at hand was her technical knowledge of how to test the output of a particular reporting tool in the Y2K era].)

          Note that yes, the rest of that particular team was male and of a different skin-tone-group genetic pool. On the whole, that did not matter to “us” — there were a few comments that I as team leader had to address, even one or two I felt necessary to escalate to management-level scrutiny under the workplace rules for the company… What mattered MOST was that even with our attempt at understanding and adapting, it was never “enough” for that individual. My next evaluation? I was both praised and near-reprimanded, due to the rules applicable to the evaluation process…

          Oh, right, my other point: good timing on the “blast” here, Sarah. Good reminder for all of us, IMNSHO, but particularly timely for ME. Thank you.

    • One more here who loathes team exercises – didn’t get them in grade school or college the first time, but my recent time in grad school, yeah, we got them – which, of course, meant I did all the work so we’d get an A. But it’s actually about less work for the teacher to grade. I’ve never met anyone, male or female, who liked group projects.

      And I think everyone learns better with a combination of verbal, visual and kinetic, male or female.

      But the fact that boys are doing poorly, that’s enough for me to agree that the methods are particularly bad for boys. (And I’ve been saying guys have it worse than gals now for about 20 years.)

    • Christopher M. Chupik

      Don’t you know? The only reason anyone voted for Romney was because they were promised binders full of women.

    • Birthday girl

      To be fair, not all girly-women like team work either. My daughter, who is as femininely emotionally-turbocharged as anyone, but not leftist, loathes the team projects inflicted upon her in her college work.

      Feminine /= Leftist, even though that’s what they want you to believe.

    • masgramondou

      Group projects in school: Absolutely loathed and despised them.

      The only group projects I enjoyed were the ones in the boy scouts – teams of 5 build a bridge across this pond or whatever. But guess what? most of the time the project was best done when one of the team was (s)elected as leader and told the rest what to do.

      But we were a traditional boys boarding school so there weren’t many of these group projects things anyway.

      But I hear talk about making “pair programming” our regular practice, and my skin crawls.

      Depending on who your pair is this can work well. The trick is to agree with your partner how to split up the project, do your bit, then review his, integrate the two and debug. Of course this isn’t how pair programming is supposed to work but it is very effective. Apart from anything else simply by dividing the project up you have to have some sort of an API / program structure …

    • MadRocketSci

      On group projects:

      Let me add my two cents to the loathing academic team projects jar. Actually, I wonder why it was that every single *academic* team project I’ve ever been on was a screaming disaster, but in the real world of work, it seldom ended up that bad?

      I was always betrayed, senselessly and spectacularly at the last minute by just about every team I had in every team project I had in undergrad. (Example: Accused of insensitivity and kicked off the team the day before the semester project was due after I had done almost all of the work, then required by the professor to finish the work for the team I was kicked off of as well as reconstructing the entire semester’s project for myself mere hours before it was due)

      It got so bad that by Junior and Senior year, I was on the lookout for when the knives would come out, and managed to keep myself from being framed, failed, and expelled on a few occasions. (Having a team steal my work, barely understand any of it in mangling the writeup, then e-mail the professor claiming that I hadn’t contributed anything for the project and needed to be failed. I anticipated that one and had e-mailed the professor my own contributions just in case they would try something like that. It is a special state of insanity – the paranoia you need to be able to survive in that sort of environment.)

      • Colleges are out of touch with reality. In the real world, businesses that tolerate that go out of business.

  10. BobtheRegisterredFool

    Prohibition a mistake? I disagree.

    Look at the goals of the Anti Saloon League and the degree to and methods by which they were achieved. The only real loss I see is their understanding of alcoholism. Given that the real mechanics of alcoholism are not as bad as they expected, I can’t see that as a bad thing.

    The Wets had gotten in bed with a well connected murderous criminal conspiracy long before the Drys got the votes to amend the constitution and pass federal laws.

    While I say Democrats will be Democrats, facing down the Democrats of today is not necessarily exactly the same as facing down the Democrats of yesterday.

    I suspect the temperance movement might have seen a resurgence if the child labor laws hadn’t lessened the independent purchasing power of minors.

    • marycatelli

      Child labor laws had trivial effect on the independent purchasing power of minors, because they had trivial effect on their employment. The only fields where children did a lot of work at the time the law was passed — such as Hollywood — were specifically exempted from it.

      • BobtheRegisterredFool

        Some of this on my end comes from family stories. A distant relative who sold alcohol apparently told the guy I heard it from that he would sell to anyone with money, explicitly including children. The guy I heard it from, I gather, had worked in the fields during his minor years.

        That said, farmers were exempted from the child labor laws, so perhaps I’m just being an idiot on that point.

        • First off you are going to have to convince me that the child labor laws are a good thing, and that is going to take a heck of a lot of convincing.

          • And as someone who grew up in the first European country to have child labor laws, which still weren’t OBEYED by the seventies (because laws have to have a modicum of contact with reality to work) I’m going to stand with Bearcat.

          • Half written answer, damn it. Working in the factories was boring etc, but was way better for my classmates than working the family farm.

          • BobtheRegisterredFool

            I’m not convinced of that myself.

            The quality of education today makes me wonder if kids aren’t worse off than if they were able to get a runner position 10 to 15, followed by working their way up.

            Of course, tech makes that obsolete, and there apparently aren’t any jobs of that sort around.

            • Of course, tech makes that obsolete, and there apparently aren’t any jobs of that sort around.

              If that’s true, why does my husband spend so much of his time hand delivering stuff? I know the military is screwy, but if it’s important, you send a body. If you want it now, you send a body. If it’s a physical item, you send a body….

              • BobtheRegisterredFool

                I assumed, this may be another example of idiocy on my part.

                I’d probably need extensive business experience to have grounds to say one way or another, and I don’t have that.

                I imagine kids might not be let in some places where one would send a body, and maybe not have the social status for others.

                • It’s not a bad assumption, since it’s what we’re told and it’s something that doesn’t happen until a business is really big or someone else is paying the bills because it’s too expensive.

                  So once things are big enough that people can’t be trusted on “I really need this, now” you have trained folks wasting their experienced time standing on someone else until the required document is completed. (Most cases that Elfie complains about, he doesn’t have the social status either– it’s just a matter of a human being there, nagging by their mere presence.)

                  • BobtheRegisterredFool

                    So minimum wage interferes, red tape in hiring would interfere, and the increased concern about site security would interfere.

                    No great difficulties as far as speculative fiction is concerned in other words.

          • BobtheRegisterredFool

            Looks like I boogered my post.

            Child labor laws sometimes look to me like a way to make it easier for adults to prey on children.

            I am not trying to sell child labor laws.

            I’ve also doubts about the utility of a modern education, and the opportunity costs versus employment.

    • Do you realize that per capita consumption of alcohol dropped to a fraction during Prohibition and hasn’t returned to pre-Prohibition rates since?

      • BobtheRegisterredFool

        Yes. I did my reading.

        Part of the argument that starting prohibition partway achieved some of the goals of the anti-saloon league, and that stopping it finished off much of the rest.

        The Drys are pretty much dead as a political force. I think a significant part of this is the difference between the alcohol industry before and after.

        I now think Mary is correct about my last statement in my original post being wildly overblown.

      • I’ve occasionally wondered if part of the decline in alcohol consumption can be attributed to the growth of alternative forms or non-intellectual entertainment. Prior to radio and movies (let alone television and the internet) your options for lowbrow entertainment were fairly limited. Drink, violence, sex, and religion (not a slam at religion, but part of its longevity, IMO, is its social-club aspect). And the latter three required other participants (generally). Plays, books, and concerts were more highbrow, and even if aimed at the lower classes were not as easily accessible, or affordable, to most people.

        Just a thought.

        • I don’t know how much of the population drank alcoholic beverages at meals (including children) as a general thing, as in some other countries, but could it be that the majority simply stopped doing so during prohibition and never started again?

          • Oh, Holy mackarel, guys. Correlate with other countries on the same industrialization schedule. I bet it has zero to do with Prohibition and EVERYTHING to do with safe drinking water. Bet you the hit was not particularly to hard liquor but to beer, ale, etc drank by everyone since childhood because water was death. I bet you too that Portuguese alcohol consumption has fallen since the seventies for the same reason. When I was little you still drank half water half wine as a toddler, to make the water safe. Correlation is not causation.

            • Good point. I tend to forget that even as recently as the mid-20th century, clean water wasn’t a given.

            • Go south of the border and the water is NOT clean. My brother found that out– he brushes his teeth dry now.

            • I thought of that, but wasn’t sure of the time frame for safer drinking water coming to the majority of the public.

            • This is true to an extent, but America has always been spread out with much more ‘frontier’ where the drinking of untreated water was much safer than other countries. In the cities, yes it was much the same as other countries, but Europe is simply so much more crowded than the US (and has been for so much longer) that there were very few places, rural or urban, where water was safe to drink there, compared to the US.

              • I don’t think anyone can properly track rural alcohol consumption though. Think stills.

                • And brewing / mazing (mead-making) / home-vintning / etc. (Even where there aren’t full recipes surviving, there are a great number of references to what was being consumed for liquids alongside meals — or demonstrably as part of the meal. I happen to know a tiny bit more about the other non-water liquids being consumed because it is part of my amateur study of pre-17th century cooking as an SCA participant …)

            • marycatelli

              Fun fact: a UN conference on the rights of girls issued a statement that they had a right to contraception, but was unable to frame one about their having a right to potable water. Such priorities.

          • Where are you getting your information from? I would like to review your sources. My reading of studies, histories and listening to the old guys when i was a kid indicated that drinking went up during Prohibition, and stayed up afterwards. A fairly recent study found that there had been a long-term reduction in drinking that had started before the turn of the century, that tanked at the first year of Prohibition, then climbed abruptly to higher levels, and after repeal went back down to higher than pre-prohibition levels. The main change was that there was a pretty much permanent switch from beer and wine to hard alcohol, and prices went up severely during prohibition and also settled at higher than pre-prohibition levles. So, Prohibition would have reversed a long-term trend towards less consumption, done so at a higher cost, and turned people away from what had been considered fairly healthy drinks like beer and wine and towards distilled liquors that tended to be unsafe, unsavory, but more concentrated in value per unit. Oh, and the temperance movement was utterly destroyed to the point that now it is generally considered to be the same sort of thing as AA.
            Prohibition was sold by the Wilson administration as a way to save potentially wasted resources for War production. It took so long that it was ratified only after the end of the war. I doubt that anyone involved with passing it thought it was anything more than a way to insert the government into more elements of the people’s lives for their own good. And did so at the destruction of a political and social movement.

  11. I’ve always been annoyed at people who automatically think they’re more enlightened because they live now. There’s two issues I have with that: 1. If they lived a century or more ago, chances are they would react the same as their contemporaries. 2. In the future, there’s going to be something that *our* century is going to seem entirely backwards about—and it’s probably not any of the top contenders that folks like this think (because it’s what they believe.) It’s going to be something that comes from an entirely unexpected direction, for some reason we can’t foresee.

    Recently, I saw someone talking about how horrible Ma in the Little House books is to Laura, telling her to act like a lady and basically repressing her. Projection much? That was the late Victorian age, and even on the frontier you had to fit in, because if you put yourself outside society, you could die. It wasn’t a forgiving time (as today certainly is, by historical standards.) Oh, and Pa was a failure who could barely keep food on the table, according to this person—which is kind of funny, considering that the Ingalls family ended up decently well-off by the end of the series, being able to buy luxuries like a personal organ for Mary to play, and being able to built an extension on the house just to put it in.

    Historical perspective. It matters.

    Isn’t it amazing that we don’t have to spend all of our lives just trying to get enough food to eat?

    • But, but, that isn’t FAIR!

    • My dad fixes those reed organs that people had in their parlors. It’s surprising how many people have one in storage that only their grandma ever remembers hearing played because the bellows sprung a leak and it was never fixed.

    • C.S. Lewis called *that* “argument” Chronological Snobbery. 🙂

      • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard


        Mind you, some of the “those people in the past were idiots” comes from the lack of knowledge about why the people in the past did something.

        One of the classics IMO are the people who think that musket armed armies were idiots for forming lines and shooting standing up.

        Never mind the fact that muskets could be fired from a prone position but couldn’t be reloaded from a prone position. [Evil Grin]

        Of course, there are also the people who don’t understand that early rifles were harder to reload than smooth-bored muskets. [Big Evil Grin]

    • Pa was an agricultural entrepreneur who _did_ fail a lot. But so did a lot of farmers fail on the frontier (and in civilization, and today, and tomorrow….) The important thing was that he found ways to keep going each time he failed.

    • “In the future, there’s going to be something that *our* century is going to seem entirely backwards about—and it’s probably not any of the top contenders that folks like this think (because it’s what they believe.) It’s going to be something that comes from an entirely unexpected direction, for some reason we can’t foresee.”

      Yes, my candidate is blacks and basketball. Blacks here in America worship basketball, and this includes those who are too short to play it professionally. If they are inner-city blacks, they also sneer at soccer, even though it doesn’t have the height requirement that basketball does. So, a black of average height will respect the sport that spits on him while spitting on the sport that respects him. As far as I know, I’m the only one in America saying this, even though it’s a perfect example of “false consciousness.” But I assume that someday sense will prevail and most “enlightened” people will say this.

  12. “Why in the world is “Does not play well with others” supposed to be a bad thing all the time, anyway?”
    Something I’ve been trying to say since I was eleven. I enjoy being a loner. Until meeting this blog, I’ve been feeling defensive and trying to deny, well not really, my separateness. Thanks for letting me know I’m not alone. No group hugs, please.

    • Group hug? This group is more likely to invite you to head down to the range for recoil therapy.

      • Birthday girl

        ” recoil therapy”

        Totally stealing that one, thanks!

        • I’ve just built a new target and renewed my range membership. As soon as it gets above freezing I’m going for “Recoil Therapy” “Recoil therapy’ is definitely going into my ‘useful dictionary.’

  13. So how come you guys always have the big fights on days when I’m not reading the blogs? (Sigh. I never have any fun.)

    • BobtheRegisterredFool

      Maybe I can help?

      What do you want to argue about?

      Do you have a side of ‘The House thinks Bowman from Freefall is a great character’ you prefer?