Friday, August 07, 2009

Anti-military attitudes in politically correct Britain

Grieving soldiers were prevented from entering a bar because they were in military uniform after attending the funeral of a comrade killed in Afghanistan. Door staff at Phatz in Maidenhead, Berkshire, refused to lift a 'no uniforms' policy, despite the group being accompanied by the dead soldier's father. The snub is the latest in a string of incidents where military personnel have been ill treated because of the clothes they wear.

Official concern is so great that Gordon Brown approved the creation of an Armed Forces Day.

Rifleman Daniel Hume, 22, was killed by a roadside bomb last month while on foot patrol with 4th Battalion The Rifles at Nad e-Ali, in Helmand. His funeral took place last Thursday afternoon. Members of the public applauded spontaneously as the coffin was brought into the church, which contained hundreds of mourners including over 50 servicemen and women in uniform. Rfn Hume was given an honour guard of riflemen.

Afterwards mourners went for a drink and at around midnight 12 members of the group - including three soldiers in fatigues and a Royal Marine in full dress uniform - headed to Phatz. Rifleman Hume's father Adrian said: 'They weren't drunk. They were totally in control and were behaving with dignity.' Phatz manager Grant Page said he had been told 100 soldiers had been drinking all day and some would be heading for his bar. He said: 'Knowing what these guys do for our country it saddens me, but I have to protect my customers' interests.'

'They arrived at the Phatz bar, which Daniel had been to on occasion when he was on home leave, before me. When I got there they appeared a bit upset. 'They said the guy on the door had told them "you can all come in, apart from the squaddies". He refused to let the four who wearing uniform into the bar - because they were wearing their uniform.'

Mr Hume said the servicemen were resigned to the situation, having experienced similar situations in the past, however the Royal British Legion was less sanguine. A spokesman for the charity said: 'Pubs and businesses should be proud to have young men and women serving for their country as their customers. 'These men had been at a funeral for a brave young man who gave his life for his country and it is a great pity that the bar thought they were not suitable customers given the sacrifice their friend had made.'

The first annual Armed Forces Day will be held on June 27th next year. It was created following an incident in which RAF personnel were encouraged not to wear their uniforms in Peterborough, Cambs after RAF personnel were subjected to verbal abuse from members of the public.

Other recent examples of anti-military prejudice include a hotel in Surrey refusing a room to a soldier in uniform and local residents objecting to the military turning an house near the a military rehabilitation centre into accommodation for families visiting injured troops.


Even labor unionists are under the feminist thumb in Britain

High-heeled shoes should be banned from the workplace because they are sexist and pose a health and safety hazard, say union bosses. The predominantly male Trade Union Congress has proposed a motion decrying the stiletto heel as demeaning to women. Members insisted that female workers should sport 'sensible shoes' no more than an inch high to avoid injuries and long-term foot and back problems. They claim that while heels might be vaunted on the catwalk, many women feel compelled to totter around in vertiginous shoes to do high-powered jobs.

But high-flying women said the motion was patronising. Former Apprentice winner Michelle Dewberry said: 'This is absolutely ridiculous and I think these union officials should be spending their time dealing with more important issues. 'I'm at work in five-inch heels and perfectly able to do my job. Heels are sexy, they boost your confidence and they are empowering to women.'

Miss Dewberry, who gave up her £100,000 a year job with Sir Alan Sugar and has founded the beauty website, said: 'I can't imagine these officials debating a motion about how tightly men should wear their ties. Wearing heels is a personal choice.'

Tory MP Nadine Dorries said the extra height can help women in the workplace. She added: 'I'm 5ft 3in need every inch of my Christian Louboutin heels to look my male colleagues in the eye. If high heels were banned in Westminster, no one would be able to find me. 'The TUC need to get real, stop using overtly sexist tactics by discussing women's stilettos to divert attention away from Labour chaos.'

At next month's annual conference, members will debate the motion: 'Congress believes high heels may look glamorous on the Hollywood catwalks but are completely inappropriate for the day-today working environment.' TUC officials have in the past condemned high heels as 'blatantly sexist' and the latest motion highlights their effects on women's health. Union chiefs warned that women who work for airlines, City banks and West End department stores are forced to wear high heels, even though they are unsuitable.

The motion adds: 'Feet bear the brunt of daily life, and for many workers prolonged standing, badly fitted footwear, and in particular high heels can be a hazard. Around two million days a year are lost through sickness as a result of lower limb disorders. 'Wearing high heels can cause long-term foot problems, such as blisters, corns and calluses, and also serious foot, knee and back pain. More needs to be done to raise awareness of this problem.' It has even published a safety in heels guide for employers declaring: 'Heels should have a broad base and be no higher than 4cm (1.5 in) ... if worn for long stretches no higher than 2cm (0.8 inch).'


The truth about grit

Modern science builds the case for an old-fashioned virtue. A few decades back "stick-to-it-iveness" was widely promoted as a virtue. It seems that the same concept has been rediscovered, but with a much more convenient name

It’s the single most famous story of scientific discovery: in 1666, Isaac Newton was walking in his garden outside Cambridge, England - he was avoiding the city because of the plague - when he saw an apple fall from a tree. The fruit fell straight to the earth, as if tugged by an invisible force. (Subsequent versions of the story had the apple hitting Newton on the head.) This mundane observation led Newton to devise the concept of universal gravitation, which explained everything from the falling apple to the orbit of the moon.

There is something appealing about such narratives. They reduce the scientific process to a sudden epiphany: There is no sweat or toil, just a new idea, produced by a genius. Everybody knows that things fall - it took Newton to explain why.

Unfortunately, the story of the apple is almost certainly false; Voltaire probably made it up. Even if Newton started thinking about gravity in 1666, it took him years of painstaking work before he understood it. He filled entire vellum notebooks with his scribbles and spent weeks recording the exact movements of a pendulum. (It made, on average, 1,512 ticks per hour.) The discovery of gravity, in other words, wasn’t a flash of insight - it required decades of effort, which is one of the reasons Newton didn’t publish his theory until 1687, in the “Principia.”

Although biographers have long celebrated Newton’s intellect - he also pioneered calculus - it’s clear that his achievements aren’t solely a byproduct of his piercing intelligence. Newton also had an astonishing ability to persist in the face of obstacles, to stick with the same stubborn mystery - why did the apple fall, but the moon remain in the sky? - until he found the answer.

In recent years, psychologists have come up with a term to describe this mental trait: grit. Although the idea itself isn’t new - “Genius is 1 percent inspiration and 99 percent perspiration,” Thomas Edison famously remarked - the researchers are quick to point out that grit isn’t simply about the willingness to work hard. Instead, it’s about setting a specific long-term goal and doing whatever it takes until the goal has been reached. It’s always much easier to give up, but people with grit can keep going.

While stories of grit have long been associated with self-help manuals and life coaches - Samuel Smiles, the author of the influential Victorian text “Self-Help” preached the virtue of perseverance - these new scientific studies rely on new techniques for reliably measuring grit in individuals. As a result, they’re able to compare the relative importance of grit, intelligence, and innate talent when it comes to determining lifetime achievement. Although this field of study is only a few years old, it’s already made important progress toward identifying the mental traits that allow some people to accomplish their goals, while others struggle and quit. Grit, it turns out, is an essential (and often overlooked) component of success.

“I’d bet that there isn’t a single highly successful person who hasn’t depended on grit,” says Angela Duckworth, a psychologist at the University of Pennsylvania who helped pioneer the study of grit. “Nobody is talented enough to not have to work hard, and that’s what grit allows you to do.”

The hope among scientists is that a better understanding of grit will allow educators to teach the skill in schools and lead to a generation of grittier children. Parents, of course, have a big role to play as well, since there’s evidence that even offhand comments - such as how a child is praised - can significantly influence the manner in which kids respond to challenges. And it’s not just educators and parents who are interested in grit: the United States Army has supported much of the research, as it searches for new methods of identifying who is best suited for the stress of the battlefield.

The new focus on grit is part of a larger scientific attempt to study the personality traits that best predict achievement in the real world. While researchers have long focused on measurements of intelligence, such as the IQ test, as the crucial marker of future success, these scientists point out that most of the variation in individual achievement - what makes one person successful, while another might struggle - has nothing to do with being smart. Instead, it largely depends on personality traits such as grit and conscientiousness. It’s not that intelligence isn’t really important - Newton was clearly a genius - but that having a high IQ is not nearly enough.

Consider, for instance, a recent study led by Duckworth that measured the grittiness of cadets at West Point, the elite military academy. Although West Point is highly selective, approximately 5 percent of cadets drop out after the first summer of training, which is known as “Beast Barracks.” The Army has long searched for the variables that best predict whether or not cadets will graduate, using everything from SAT scores to physical fitness. But none of those variables were particularly useful. In fact, it wasn’t until Duckworth tested the cadets of the 2008 West Point class using a questionnaire - the test consists of statements such as “Setbacks don’t discourage me” - that the Army found a measurement that actually worked. Duckworth has since repeated the survey with subsequent West Point classes, and the result is always the same : the cadets that remain are those with grit.

In 1869, Francis Galton published “Hereditary Genius,” his landmark investigation into the factors underlying achievement. Galton’s method was straightforward: he gathered as much information as possible on dozens of men with “very high reputations,” including poets, politicians, and scientists. That’s when Galton noticed something rather surprising: success wasn’t simply a matter of intelligence or talent. Instead, Galton concluded that eminent achievement was only possible when “ability combined with zeal and the capacity for hard labour.”

Lewis Terman, the inventor of the Stanford-Binet IQ test, came to a similar conclusion. He spent decades following a large sample of “gifted” students, searching for evidence that his measurement of intelligence was linked to real world success. While the most accomplished men did have slightly higher scores, Terman also found that other traits, such as “perseverance,” were much more pertinent. Terman concluded that one of the most fundamental tasks of modern psychology was to figure out why intelligence is not a more important part of achievement: “Why this is so, and what circumstances affect the fruition of human talent, are questions of such transcendent importance that they should be investigated by every method that promises the slightest reduction of our present ignorance.”

Unfortunately, in the decades following Terman’s declaration, little progress was made on the subject. Because intelligence was so easy to measure - the IQ test could be given to schoolchildren, and often took less than an hour - it continued to dominate research on individual achievement.

The end result, says James J. Heckman, a Nobel Prize-winning economist at the University of Chicago, is that “there was a generation of social scientists who focused almost exclusively on trying to raise IQ and academic test scores. The assumption was that intelligence is what mattered and what could be measured, and so everything else, all these non-cognitive traits like grit and self-control, shouldn’t be bothered with.”

One of the main obstacles for scientists trying to document the influence of personality traits on achievement was that the standard definition of traits - attributes such as conscientiousness and extroversion - was rather vague. Duckworth began wondering if more narrowly defined traits might prove to be more predictive. She began by focusing on aspects of conscientiousness that have to do with “long-term stamina,” such as maintaining a consistent set of interests, and downplayed aspects of the trait related to short-term self-control, such as staying on a diet. In other words, a gritty person might occasionally eat too much chocolate cake, but they won’t change careers every year. “Grit is very much about the big picture,” Duckworth says. “It’s about picking a specific goal off in the distant future and not swerving from it.”

After developing a survey to measure this narrowly defined trait - you can take the survey at - Duckworth set out to test the relevance of grit. The initial evidence suggests that measurements of grit can often be just as predictive of success, if not more, than measurements of intelligence. For instance, in a 2007 study of 175 finalists in the Scripps National Spelling Bee, Duckworth found that her simple grit survey was better at predicting whether or not a child would make the final round than an IQ score.

But grit isn’t just about stubborn perseverance - it’s also about finding a goal that can sustain our interest for years at a time. Consider two children learning to play the piano, each with the same level of raw talent and each expending the same effort toward musical training. However, while one child focuses on the piano, the other child experiments with the saxophone and cello. “The kid who sticks with one instrument is demonstrating grit,” Duckworth says. “Maybe it’s more fun to try something new, but high levels of achievement require a certain single-mindedness.”

Duckworth has recently begun analyzing student resumes submitted during the college application process, as she attempts to measure grit based on the diversity of listed interests. While parents and teachers have long emphasized the importance of being well-rounded - this is why most colleges require students to take courses in all the major disciplines, from history to math - success in the real world may depend more on the development of narrow passions.

“I first got interested in grit after watching how my friends fared after college,” Duckworth says. She noticed that the most successful people in her Harvard class chose a goal and stuck with it, while others just flitted from pursuit to pursuit. “Those who were less successful were often just as smart and talented,” Duckworth notes, “but they were constantly changing plans and trying something new. They never stuck with anything long enough to get really good at it.”

In recent decades, the American educational system has had a single-minded focus on raising student test scores on everything from the IQ to the MCAS. The problem with this approach, researchers say, is that these academic scores are often of limited real world relevance. However, the newfound importance of personality traits such as grit raises an obvious question: Can grit be learned?

While Duckworth and others are quick to point out that there is no secret recipe for increasing grit - “We’ve only started to study this, so it’s too soon to begin planning interventions,” she cautions - there’s a growing consensus on what successful interventions might look like.

One of the most important elements is teaching kids that talent takes time to develop, and requires continuous effort. Carol S. Dweck, a psychologist at Stanford University, refers to this as a “growth mindset.” She compares this view with the “fixed mindset,” the belief that achievement results from abilities we are born with. “A child with the fixed mindset is much more likely to give up when they encounter a challenging obstacle, like algebra, since they assume that they’re just not up to the task,” says Dweck.

In a recent paper, Dweck and colleagues demonstrated that teaching at-risk seventh-graders about the growth mindset - this included lessons about the importance of effort - led to significantly improved grades for the rest of middle school.

Interestingly, it also appears that praising children for their intelligence can make them less likely to persist in the face of challenges, a crucial element of grit. For much of the last decade, Dweck and her colleagues have tracked hundreds of fifth-graders in 12 different New York City schools. The children were randomly assigned to two groups, both of which took an age-appropriate version of the IQ test. After taking the test, one group was praised for their intelligence - “You must be smart at this,” the researcher said - while the other group was praised for their effort and told they “must have worked really hard.”

Dweck then gave the same fifth-graders another test. This test was designed to be extremely difficult - it was an intelligence test for eighth-graders - but Dweck wanted to see how they would respond to the challenge. The students who were initially praised for their effort worked hard at figuring out the puzzles. Kids praised for their smarts, on the other hand, quickly became discouraged.

The final round of intelligence tests was the same difficulty level as the initial test. The students who had been praised for their effort raised their score, on average, by 30 percent. This result was even more impressive when compared to the students who had been praised for their intelligence: their scores on the final test dropped by nearly 20 percent. A big part of success, Dweck says, stems from our beliefs about what leads to success.

Woody Allen once remarked that “Eighty percent of success is showing up.” Duckworth points out that it’s not enough to just show up; one must show up again and again and again. Sometimes it isn’t easy or fun to keep showing up. Success, however, requires nothing less. That’s why it takes grit.


Leftist Jews

A canonical Jewish joke tells of the Jewish family in the old country many years ago that invites a poor man to Sabbath dinner. The hostess brings out a dish of smoked whitefish, and the poor man proceeds to wolf it down. Chagrined, the hostess says, “You know, whitefish is very expensive.” Between mouthfuls the poor man replies, “Believe me–it’s worth it!”

There are a lot of things that are worth it when you don’t have to pay for it yourself, and one of them is Jewish blood. The old joke came to mind while reading the July 31 profile of Rahm Emanuel in Ha’aretz. Binyamin Netanyahu was quoted by Ha’aretz recently calling Emanuel and his White House colleague David Axelrod “self-hating Jews,” which the Israeli prime minister later denied (which doesn’t prove that he didn’t say it).

Why is Emanuel, the son of an Israeli pediatrician who served in the Irgun (the illegal pre-state underground), bashing Israel over settlements? The answer is simple, and well documented by the Israeli newspaper feature. His views have remained frozen in time since he arranged the 1993 handshake inthe White House Rose Garden between then Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and Yassir Arafat, like those of Oslo Accord negotiator Yossi Beilin. He still believes with religious fervor in the old peace process, while events have convinced the vast majority of Israelis that it is a dreadful idea. Ha’aretz reports,
When he was president Clinton’s adviser, Emanuel orchestrated the handshaking ceremony between Israeli prime minister Yitzhak Rabin and PLO chairman Yasser Arafat. It is even said that after Rabin’s assassination, it was he who suggested to Clinton that he include the expression “Shalom, haver” (Goodbye, friend) in his eulogy to Rabin. But in spite of the disappointments of the intifada and his criticism of the Palestinians and the Arab states, which he called on to impose “pressure” on the Palestinians – he has not forgotten the September 13, 1993, ceremony at the White House, which moved him profoundly. He was one of the only two Jews in Congress who agreed to support the Geneva Initiative, in 2003.

“What’s happening today makes me angry,” says Yossi Beilin, one of the originators of the Geneva Accords. “The moment Rahm became such a significant factor in the administration and because he’s also the son of a former Israeli and speaks Hebrew, he became a target … The right in Israel considers people in the administration who want peace, whose views would be between those of Kadima and Meretz if they were to vote in Israel, a type of traitor.”
The Geneva Accords were a public relations stunt, an unofficial attempt to circumvent the “road map” and sketch a final status agreement between Israelis and Palestinians. They were taken seriously by no-one but the Israeli extreme left. I use the term “extreme left” advisedly, for what Beilin and Emanuel represent was in the Israeli mainstream fifteen years ago. Today Beilin has no official position and his party has three seats in the Knesset. And Rahm Emanuel was one of two Jewish congressmen who supported Beilin’s recent antics.

It happens that the left-wing Zionist youth organization Hashomer Hatzair is associated with Beilin’s fragmentary party. I belonged to Hashomer in the 1960s, and spent a summer on a kibbutz where the red flag flew above the flag of Israel. Sadly, I understand the mentality: it is an ideological commitment to a secular sort of universalism that demands a fanatical sort of faith.

After hundreds of deaths by terrorism and the Palestinian refusal to accept Ehud Barak’s peace offer as brokered by then President Clinton in 1998, the Israeli public repudiated Beilin’s ideological fanaticism. Not so American Jews, whose left-wing sympathies and sentimental attachment to secular universalism come cheap, like the poor man’s whitefish. Israelis pay for the experiments of leftist leaders in blood, and American liberals like Rahm Emanuel respond: “Believe me, it’s worth it.”

A personal anecdote: last December my mother passed away. She had belonged to what was advertised as a “meditative synagogue” in Seattle. At her funeral service, the “rabbi” of this synagogue (well, he wore a beard and a kipa) advised me that “our tradition” was to add the words “and all of [the people of Ishmael]” to the concluding line of our ancient prayer, the Kaddish: “May He who establishes harmony in the heavens also make peace for us and all of [the people of] Israel.” To alter a prayer we have recited for more than two millennia to make a political point bespeaks a putrid soul. I merely told the “rabbi” that as my mother held no such feelings for the Arabs, I would decline to recite the Kaddish according to his “tradition.” Out of regard for mourning family members present, I did not say anything else.

There simply isn’t any arguing with liberal Jews. The only solution is the Biblical one: in forty years, all of them will be dead, like the feckless generation of freedmen who left Egypt with Moses. Secular Jews have one child per family, Reform Jews 1.3, Conservative Jews 1.6, and modern Orthodox nearly 4. A new Jewish majority will form over the next forty years, and it will be religiously observant, close to Israeli thinking, and politically conservative.



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 readers in China or for times when is playing up, there is a mirror of this site here.


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