I just got back from the discussion on the CrossBurningIncident
and a group of us have decided we're not getting our recommended daily value of deep and insightful discussion. Accordingly, here's a list of things to ask, in the hopes of starting one. Feel free to walk into the lounge and shout one out.
- What do you think of the aforementioned CrossBurningIncident?
- What about affirmative action?
- Anyone got any ideas on race, racial tensions, or integration?
- Standardized test show a definite difference between the test scores of racial minorities and majorities. Is this a function of the construction of the tests? Is it due to socio-economic factors? Innate differences?
- How about gender, for that matter?
- How many of the differences seen between the genders is cultural and how much is biological? Anything from thought patterns to behaviors to clothing styles?
- How does gender or race make a difference at Mudd? Could you say that people here are already affected by discrimination, due to the aforementioned differences in test scores?
- What exactly is protected by free speech? What is obscene? Is anything?
- Is the Federal deficit a good or bad thing? Is some debt good for a country? How much do we really need, if so?
- Freedom vs. Security: Does the Patriot Act have some good points? It is, at least in some ways, a direct tradeoff.
Add your own. And discuss, people!
Answers and/or places to look:
- Some of these questions are well answered by Steven Pinkers book _The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial of Human Nature_. (Esp biological vs cultural questions). Seriously, its worth reading the book rather than arguing with me because i can't spend the time on it he does. --NickJohnson
- Yes, do. Even though I found it to be the weakest of his four books, it's still quite good (I quote him at the bottom of the page). Interested people can feel free to ask me for any of his books, I've got them all, and all heavily dogeared. --AdamField
- Anything that doesnt potentially cause direct physical harm as the result of the utterance technically falls into free speech. Eg, shouting fire in a crowded room isnt protected because stampeding people can hurt someone. But burning the cross, assuming they owned it (burning someone else's stuff is a different matter), poses no immediate threat of physical harm and so is protected. Though as a private institution, free speech isn't guaranteed to be completely protected on Mudd. They could choose to expel the students regardless (or take other similar action). I'll note that the explicit message a burning cross sends isn't necessarily apparent to young people who grew up outside of areas where this occurred historically, depending on the quality of their education system, so that can hardly be held against the cross-burners by the school. --NickJohnson
- The cross was someone else's stuff. According to what I've heard, it was part of the senior project of a Pomona art student, who had been working on it for quite some time. Many, if not most, of the people I've talked with about it believe that the fact that the cross wasn't the vandals' property is far more relevant than the symbolism of a burning cross (which the vandals claim not to have understood at the time).
- The claim about destruction of public property is entirely different than whether the general action of burning a cross is protected free speech. I will not defend the willful destruction of someone else's property. But that wasnt the question at hand. --NickJohnson
- Yeah, I'm annoyed that the administration seems to be ignoring the "you burned someone else's artwork" issue. On topic, at the presentation last night, someone brought up an incident where a student made something vaguely cross shaped for an art class, and later decided to burn it themselves (not with the intent of intimidating anyone or making a racist statement.) We were told that this was also unacceptable. I have issues with being told that, but I'll save it for another time. --JeffBrenion
- I think that, last night's fever aside, I believe the vandals should be penalized strongly (but not expelled--thrown off campus might also be extreme, but the verdict's still out) for the destruction and desecration of artwork; I don't think they should be pounded strongly for the symbolism of the burning itself, given their intent. On the other hand, I think it would be nice to have a small section of orientation devoted to "Things that Go Beyond Stupid," including vandalism, life-threatening injury, and the (unwitting or otherwise) display of things like swastikas and burning crosses. --WillShipley
- Actually it (historically) did "pose an immediate threat of physical harm", and therefore actually isn't protected in California, from what I've heard -e.g. it's somewhat like pulling knife on someone and threatening to kill them if they don't leave. Not quite the same, of course, but that's probably what the lawmakers were thinking when they made it illegal. I do think, though, that we shouldn't be punished for history we never learned (or learned only passingly). Therefore, I think they should be punished harshly only for the actual crimes they did knowingly. However, I agree completely with Will's orientation idea - perhaps punishing them for their stupidity by making them give the talk, and mention their own mistakes? --AdamField
- Federal Deficit - Take Macroecon to have your question answered in detail. However, the short answer is that in general, it depends what the economy is doing; right now deficits are a good idea. Economies in depressions, recessions, or generally below 80% production capacity (national average of all manufacturers... there is probably an analog statement for service industry) benefit from deficits. Deficits have a multiplier effect because the government effectively creates money now, which pays some people, who spend money (paying other people), etc.... The beneficial effects of deficits during non-boom times has long been recognized, and generally the Democrats have been in favor of deficit spending. When capacity usage is above 80%, this additional spending turns into pure inflation, and in those situations deficits are a bad idea. Balancing the budget in the 90s was done at the perfect moment economically speaking, as it prevented a lot of inflation from occuring. You can think about this in terms of the position of the aggregate demand curve relative to the aggregate supply curve (Before the inflection point good, after the inflection point bad, because deficits tend to push the demand curve up the supply curve). If you don't know what aggregate supply and demand are... take macroecon already. You can't understand deficits without understanding economics. --NickJohnson
- racial tensions exist because people insist on thinking about people in terms of race (including themselves). If we stopped identifying ourselves as afro-americans and hispanics and what have you, there would not be racial tensions. Race as a cultural phenomena disappears when we stop identifying ourselves with racial groups. Eg, cant we all be just plain old americans? Ok, now you can make fun of me cause i'm caucasian and dared say something about race. --NickJohnson
- Speaking of Steven Pinker, I feel the need to put this, the conclusion from The Language Instinct, up: "Among laypeople, race is lamentably salient, but for biologists it is virtually invisible. Eighty-five percent of human genetic variation consists of the differences between one person and another within the same ethnic group, tribe, or nation. Another eight percent is between ethnic groups, and a mere seven percent is between "races." In other words, the genetic difference between, say, two randomly picked Swedes is about twelve times as large as the genetic difference between the average of Swedes and the average of Apaches or Warlpiris. Bodmer and Cavalli-Sforza suggests that the illusion is the result of an unfortunate coincidence. Many of the systematic differences among races are adaptations to climate: melanin protects skin against the tropical sun, eyelid folds insulate eyes from dry cold and snow. But the skin, the part of the body seen by the weather, is also the part of the body seen by other people. Race is, quite literally skin-deep, but to the extent that perceivers generalize from external to internal differences, nature has duped them into thinking that race is important. The X-ray vision of the molecular geneticist reveals the unity of our species." So basically, what Nick said.