Thursday, June 26, 2008

Fathers' day on the way to being banned

If Scotland is a bellwether

Christian references have been removed from Christmas cards and school sports days excised of competitiveness. Now Father's Day has become the latest event to fall victim to the forces of political correctness. Last week thousands of children were prevented from making Father’s Day cards at school to avoid causing embarrassment to classmates who live with single mothers and lesbian couples. The politically correct policy in the interests of “sensitivity” over the growing number of lone-parent and same-sex households, has been quietly adopted by schools across Scotland.

It only emerged this year after a large number of fathers failed to receive their traditional cards and gifts last Sunday. While primary children are banned from making cards for their fathers, few schools impose similar restrictions in the run up to Mothering Sunday. The ban has been introduced by schools in Glasgow, Edinburgh, East Renfrewshire, Dumfries and Galloway and Clackmannanshire. Currently, some 280,000 children in Scotland live in single parent households, accounting for just 7% of the total.

Tina Woolnough, 45, from Edinburgh, whose son Felix attends Blackhall primary, said a number of teachers at the school had not allowed children to make Father’s Day cards this year. “This is something I know they do on a class-by-class basis at my son Felix’s school,” said Woolnough, who is a member of the school’s parent-teacher council. Some classes send Father’s Day cards and some do not. “The teachers are aware of the family circumstances of the children in each class and if a child hasn’t got a father living at home, the teacher will avoid getting the children to make a card.”

Family rights campaigners have condemned the policy as “absurd” and claimed it is marginalising fathers. “I’m astonished at this, it totally undermines the role and significance of fathers whether they are still with the child’s mother or not,” said Matt O’Connor, founder of Fathers For Justice. “It also sends out a troubling message to young boys that fathers aren’t important.”

Alastair Noble, education officer with the charity Christian Action, Research and Education, added: “This seems to be an extreme and somewhat absurd reaction. I would have thought that the traditional family and marriage are still the majority lifestyles of people in Scotland. To deny the experience of the majority just does not seem sensible.”

Victoria Gillick, the family values campaigner, accused schools of politicising a traditional fun activity for children. “Children like making things, and making things for someone is great fun. I wouldn’t call it politically correct, I’d just call it stupid,” she said. “It seems quite unfair to deny those children whose parents are together and who want to make cards from enjoying the experience. Stopping children from making Father’s Day cards is reinforcing the fact that some fathers are not there, it’s actually drawing attention to the issue.”

Local authorities defended the move, saying teachers needed to act sensitively at a time when many children were experiencing family breakdown and divorce. “Increasingly, it is the case that there are children who haven’t got fathers or haven’t got fathers living with them and teachers are having to be sensitive about this,” said a spokesman for East Renfrewshire council. “Teachers have always had to deal with some pupils not having fathers or mothers, but with marital breakdown it is accelerating.”

Jim Goodall, head of education at Clackmannanshire council, said: “We expect teachers and headteachers to apply their professional skills and behave in a common sense manner. They have to be sensitive to the appropriate use of class time and the changing pattern of family life. We trust our staff to act sensibly and sensitively." A spokesman for South Ayrshire council said: “We are aware of the sensitivities of the issue and wouldn’t do anything that would make any child feel left out or unwanted in any way.” Edinburgh city council said the practice on Father’s Day cards was a matter for individual schools.


Age discrimination in the USA

Concerning the issue of age discrimination, the Supreme Court in Meacham v. Knolls said that the burden of proof resides on the employer. If a company lays off too many older people (meaning, incredibly, people older than 40), it is under the gun, and must show that factors other than age account for the disparate impact. Otherwise, the courts will rule in favor of the plaintiffs and the business will be forced to fork over, even to the point of bankruptcy.

The age-discrimination law in question is 40 years old and an embedded part of the machinery of social planning by the courts. This decision is yet another move toward government control, but the real problem is more fundamental. Step back and think what it means for the government to make and enforce such a law.

Labor relations are as complex as any human relations. There are many reasons why people choose to associate or not associate. How do you decide whom to invite to a birthday? What are the standards you use? There is a scarcity of space and food, so you must discriminate in some way. There is no choice about that.

Think of the last party you held. There are some people you did not invite simply because you can't stand those people, usually for many reasons. And there are some who just might not mix well with others. Some people you want to invite but cannot because you have to cut the list somewhere.

Now imagine that the government appoints a party planner who says that you can invite or not invite whomever you want, provided that one consideration is not part of the mix: you must not decline to invite someone on grounds of hair color. Now, it may never have occurred to you to think along these lines. But now you have to. You notice that you have no redheads attending the party, much to your alarm.

What if this fact is taken as evidence that you are discriminating? Will it? You can't know for sure. You think again: even if no redheads are coming, this is surely not the reason why you are not inviting them. There are other factors, too many factors to name. In any case, how can the state's party planner know for sure what your motivations are? Isn't it astounding that a government agency would presume to read your mind, know your heart, and discern your innermost emotions and motives? Truly it is totalitarian.

It is precisely the same in workplace management. There are an unending variety of factors that go into the makeup of the workforce of a single firm. How the mix turns out in the end is not something you can entirely plan. It might be dictated by any of a million factors depending on time and place.

The state says that you the employer may not discriminate on grounds of age. Fine, you think. You would never think to do that. You just want a job well done. But let's say your firm is heavily into new technologies. Everyone must have great programming skills and quickly adapt to new web interfaces and innovations.

That has no direct bearing on age. A 60-year-old can in principle be just right for the job. But it so happens that the young have more technological skills than the old. Your workforce, then, is dominated by people under 40. Then a Federal Reserve recession comes along, and you must choose the better programmers. The remaining people over 40 are cut.

Have you discriminated on grounds of age? Not to your mind. You are thinking only of job skills and profitability. But from the perspective of a government planner with an agenda, it is different. Looking at the facts, it seems like a clear case of age discrimination.

With this new court decision, the burden of proof is on you to show otherwise. But how can something like the absence of a motivation be demonstrated? Now, it is possible or even likely that you might be able to show that factors other than age constitute the main reason for the disparity. But it is a toss-up as to whether the court or the EEOC will agree with you.

The only way to be off the hook completely is to pad your workforce with people hired because they are older. In the name of proving that you are not discriminating against a group, your only protection is to discriminate in favor of that group. And by doing so, you are necessarily discriminating against other groups, since young people will be turned way to make room for the older group.

But isn't this a case of age discrimination of a "reverse" sort? Of course. After all, everyone is either young or old. The charge that the employer is weighing decisions by age can be trumped up in every case one can imagine. Here we see an amazing thicket, created entirely by a state that presumes the capacity and the right to read minds like a swami guru or mystic soothsayer. The state has assigned to itself superhuman powers, and it is up to you to obey.

In contrast, here is what the free market permits. Employers can hire or fire for any reason they want. Employers can be biased, bigoted, or have poor judgment, but it is the employers' judgment to make. The same is true of employees. They can quit for any reason, including one that discriminates against some trait of the employer.

Imagine if the state said that you may not quit your job on grounds that you dislike your boss's age, race, religion, or sex. If that is your reason, you must stay working there. We would all recognize that this is a case of involuntary servitude. It is an attack on freedom. So why do we not see that it is the same with the employer?

Under freedom, if an employer decides, for no good reason, that employees should not be older than 40, that is his judgment. If it is a bad decision, the competition will gain an edge by hiring the people who have been passed over.

A final point about the employee. Would you want to work for a company that doesn't really want you there, that is only maintaining your job for fear of the bureaucrat? That is not a prescription for a happy life. The happy life comes through permitting maximum freedom to associate and choose - a freedom that applies to everyone and under all circumstances, without exception.


A world without children

IN 1965, the population of Italy was 52 million, of which 4.6 million, or just under 9 percent, were children younger than 5. A decade later, that age group had shrunk to 4.3 million - about 7.8 percent of Italians. By 1985, it was down to 3 million and 5.3 percent. Today, the figures are 2.5 million and 4.2 percent. Young children are disappearing from Italian society, and the end isn't in sight. According to one estimate by the UN's Population Division, their numbers will drop to fewer than 1.6 million in 2020, and to 1.3 million by 2050. At that point, they will account for a mere 2.8 percent of the Italian nation.

Italy isn't alone. There are 1.7 million fewer young children in Poland today than there were in 1960, a 50 percent drop. In Spain 30 years ago, there were nearly 3.3 million young children; there are just 2.2 million today. Across Europe, there were more than 57 million children under 5 in 1960; today, that age group has plummeted to 35 million, a decline of 38 percent.

The world's population is still growing, thanks to rising longevity. But fertility rates - the average number of children born per woman - are falling nearly everywhere. More and more adults are deciding to have fewer and fewer children. Worldwide, reports the UN, there are 6 million fewer babies and young children today than there were in 1990. By 2015, according to one calculation, there will be 83 million fewer. By 2025, 127 million fewer. By 2050, the world's supply of the youngest children may have plunged by a quarter of a billion, and will amount to less than 5 percent of the human family.

The reasons for this birth dearth are many. Among them: As the number of women in the workforce has soared, many have delayed marriage and childbearing, or decided against them altogether. The Sexual Revolution, by making sex readily available without marriage, removed what for many men had been a powerful motive to marry. Skyrocketing rates of divorce have made women less likely to have as many children as in generations past. Years of indoctrination about the perils of "overpopulation" have led many couples to embrace childlessness as a virtue.

Result: a dramatic and inexorable aging of society. In the years ahead, the ranks of the elderly are going to swell to unprecedented levels, while the number of young people continues to dwindle. The working-age population will shrink, first in relation to the population of retirees, then in absolute terms.

Now a determined optimist might take this as good news. In theory, fewer people in the workforce should increase the demand for employees and thus keep unemployment low and the economy humming. But the record tells a different story. In Japan, where the fall in fertility rates began early, the working-age population has been a diminishing share of the nation for 20 years. Yet for much of that period, unemployment has been up, not down. "Similarly, in the United States, the number of people between the ages of 15 and 24 has been declining in relative terms since 1990," demographer Phillip Longman observed in the Harvard Business Review. "But the smaller supply has not made younger workers more valuable; their unemployment rate has increased relative to that of their older counterparts."

Far from boosting the economy, an aging population depresses it. As workers are taxed more heavily to support surging numbers of elders, they respond by working less, which leads to stagnation, which reduces economic opportunity still further. "Imagine that all your taxes went for nothing but Social Security and Medicare," says Longman in "Demographic Winter," a new documentary about the coming population decline, "and you still didn't have health care as a young person."

Gary Becker, a Nobel laureate in economics, emphasizes that nothing is more indispensable to growth than "human capital" - the knowledge, skills, and experience of men and women. That is why baby booms are so often harbingers of economic expansion and vigor. And why businesses and young people drain away from regions where population is waning.

A world without children will be a poorer world - grayer, lonelier, less creative, less confident. Children are a great blessing, but it may take their disappearance for the world to remember why.


The enemy has a name

If you cannot name your enemy, how can you defeat it? Just as a physician must identify a disease before curing a patient, so a strategist must identify the foe before winning a war. Yet Westerners have proven reluctant to identify the opponent in the conflict the US government variously (and euphemistically) calls the "global war on terror," the "long war," the "global struggle against violent extremism," or even the "global struggle for security and progress."

This timidity translates into an inability to define war goals. Two high-level US statements from late 2001 typify the vague and ineffective declarations issued by Western governments. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld defined victory as establishing "an environment where we can in fact fulfill and live [our] freedoms." In contrast, George W. Bush announced a narrower goal, "the defeat of the global terror network" - whatever that undefined network might be.

"Defeating terrorism" has, indeed, remained the basic war goal. By implication, terrorists are the enemy and counterterrorism is the main response. But observers have increasingly concluded that terrorism is just a tactic, not an enemy. Bush effectively admitted this much in mid-2004, acknowledging that "We actually misnamed the war on terror." Instead, he called the war a "struggle against ideological extremists who do not believe in free societies and who happen to use terror as a weapon to try to shake the conscience of the free world."

A year later, in the aftermath of the 7/7 London transport bombings, British prime minister Tony Blair advanced the discussion by speaking of the enemy as "a religious ideology, a strain within the world-wide religion of Islam." Soon after, Bush himself used the terms "Islamic radicalism," "militant Jihadism," and "Islamo-fascism." But these words prompted much criticism and he backtracked.

By mid-2007, Bush had reverted to speaking about "the great struggle against extremism that is now playing out across the broader Middle East." That is where things now stand, with US government agencies being advised to refer to the enemy with such nebulous terms as "death cult," "cult-like," "sectarian cult," and "violent cultists."

IN FACT, that enemy has a precise and concise name: Islamism, a radical utopian version of Islam. Islamists, adherents of this well funded, widespread, totalitarian ideology, are attempting to create a global Islamic order that fully applies the Islamic law (Shari'a).

Thus defined, the needed response becomes clear. It is two-fold: vanquish Islamism and help Muslims develop an alternative form of Islam. Not coincidentally, this approach roughly parallels what the allied powers accomplished vis-…-vis the two prior radical utopian movements, fascism and communism.

First comes the burden of defeating an ideological enemy. As in 1945 and 1991, the goal must be to marginalize and weaken a coherent and aggressive ideological movement, so that it no longer attracts followers nor poses a world-shaking threat. World War II, won through blood, steel, and atomic bombs, offers one model for victory; the Cold War, with its deterrence, complexity, and nearly-peaceful collapse, offers quite another.

Victory against Islamism, presumably, will draw on both these legacies and mix them into a novel brew of conventional war, counterterrorism, counterpropaganda, and many other strategies. At one end, the war effort led to the overthrow of the Taliban government in Afghanistan; at the other, it requires repelling the lawful Islamists who work legitimately within the educational, religious, media, legal, and political arenas.

THE SECOND goal involves helping Muslims who oppose Islamist goals and wish to offer an alternative to Islamism's depravities by reconciling Islam with the best of modern ways. But such Muslims are weak, being but fractured individuals who have only just begun the hard work of researching, communicating, organizing, funding, and mobilizing.

To do all this more quickly and effectively, these moderates need non-Muslim encouragement and sponsorship. However unimpressive they may be at present, moderates, with Western support, alone hold the potential to modernize Islam, and thereby to terminate the threat of Islamism.

In the final analysis, Islamism presents two main challenges to Westerners: To speak frankly and to aim for victory. Neither comes naturally to the modern person, who tends to prefer political correctness and conflict resolution, or even appeasement. But once these hurdles are overcome, the Islamist enemy's objective weakness in terms of arsenal, economy, and resources means it can readily be defeated.



Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.

American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.

For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here. For times when is playing up, there are mirrors of this site here and here.


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