Thursday, August 04, 2011

Lying science reporting: "Spanking can scar kids for life"

Read the rubbishy article below and then look at what the research actually found -- appended below the article:
Parents who smack their children could be depriving them the skills they need to cope with school - and even adulthood - international research has revealed.

Young kids exposed to physical punishment have far less "self control" than those spared punitive discipline, the study of children aged three to six years found. They also fall short when it comes to verbal communication, decision-making and resisting temptation.

Lead researcher Professor Kang Lee said "the ability to control behaviours, to switch from one task to another, and to plan actions" were all stronger in children raised under "positive parental control". "All these skills are essential for a child to succeed in school, as well as outside school, for example in sports, and of course in the future in many job situations," he said.

The study, published in the journal Social Development, compared the performance of children at overseas schools practising physical and non-physical discipline.

While corporal punishment is banned in all Australian government schools, Prof Lee said the principles also applied to home discipline. "If parents mete out corporal punishment regularly for various transgressions, big and small . . . then I think it is likely that the kids from such homes will have a long-term deficit in the ability to control behaviours," said Prof Lee, from the University of Toronto.

He warned that smacking could also backfire on parents, because some children could view it as "a reward, not a punishment" because kids saw it as the attention from mum or dad that they craved.


The original academic journal Abstract follows:
Few studies have examined the influence of environmental factors on children's executive functioning (EF) performance. The present study examined the effects of a punitive vs. non-punitive school environment on West African children's EF skills. Tasks included a ‘cool’ (relatively non-affective) and ‘hot’ (relatively affective/motivational) version of three EF tasks: delay of gratification; gift delay; and dimensional change card sort. Children had more difficulties with the hot versions of the tasks than the cool versions, and older children outperformed younger children. After controlling for verbal ability (Peabody picture vocabulary test-third edition), a consistent pattern of interaction between school and grade level emerged. Overall, kindergarten children in the punitive school performed no differently than their counterparts in the non-punitive school. However, in grade 1, children in the punitive school performed significantly worse than their counterparts in the non-punitive school. These results point to the need to consider interactions among discipline style, age, and internalization processes of self-regulation to better understand environmental influences on EF development.

I hardly know where to start: Out of two grade levels they considered, the asserted superiority of the "no spanking" school applied in only one of them. In the other year there was NO DIFFERENCE between the two types of school! They have cherry-picked the result that suited them and ignored the result which did not! How can you generalize from conflicting results? Who knows what would apply in other years?

Other qustions: Would West African findings generalize to an affluent environment? WHY were there different practices followed at the two types of school? Were the kids from different social backgrounds, for instance?

So we have a totally inconclusive study that is grossly overgeneralized and grossly misreported!

From working class to incapacitated class

How radical activists in Britain shifted from viewing the working classes as powerful to pitying them as pathetic

Criticisms of the government’s ‘fit for work’ welfare tests betray a view among radical campaigners that, far from having the capacity to forge a living for themselves or even change the world, many working people are only fit for a sickbed.

Official UK government statistics released yesterday showed that, of the 1.3million Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) – formerly Incapacity Benefit – claims made between October 2008 and November 2010, only seven per cent of people attempting to claim incapacity benefits were actually deemed too ill to work. A further 17 per cent were categorised as fit for ‘work-related activities’ and a total of 39 per cent were deemed to be fully capable of working.

Many on the left have reacted strongly to these findings. The general secretary of the Trades Union Congress (TUC) Brendan Barber argued that this ‘much tougher’ test is cynically ‘designed to save the government money by excluding more people… These figures certainly don’t suggest that thousands of disabled people are suddenly “trying it on”’.

The vast majority of claimants probably weren’t ‘trying it on’. Following advice from government officials, many were undoubtedly led to believe they were genuinely incapable of working. And, without question, a proportion of them suffer from conditions that prevent them from doing so. But Barber’s comments assume that the individuals being ‘excluded’ from state support are all genuinely disabled and unable to work. This fails to explain why, over a period of decades, the number of people claiming incapacity benefits has rocketed in a way that can’t possibly be explained by increasing numbers of people becoming ill.

In the 1980s and 1990s, the numbers of men claiming incapacity benefits rose sharply, increasing almost every single year, from 463,000 in 1981 to 1,276,000 in 1999. Tellingly, a significant proportion of these claims came from areas of the country which had seen a hollowing out of productive industries, and the jobs that they provided. As observed previously on spiked, it’s not feasible that so many people have actually fallen ill. Rather ‘the welfare state was cynically soaking up these people, desperately attempting to offset their potential political anger at being unemployed by inviting them to view their predicament as a health-based problem instead’.

Instead of being seen to be deprived of work by social and economic factors – such as factories closing down and the government lacking a strategy for economic growth - the jobless were instead recast as physically or mentally incapable of working. It’s understandable that some, not least those who have been led to believe they are incapacitated, now find it jarring to hear the government backtrack on this and redefine what it is to be incapacitated. But the extent to which some on the left have reacted to welfare reforms, viewing the unemployed as suffering from health-related problems, incapable of surviving without state help, jars even more.

As Guardian columnist John Harris wrote recently, our ‘flexible labour market and increasingly brutal welfare system are now so constructed that even if you are doing well, it is perfectly possible that you could fall ill’. We are all potentially vulnerable individuals who would face a nasty, brutish and short existence under the new system of welfare support. Riffing on the National Lottery slogan, Harris claims we are all fragile and potentially facing a life of ‘terror’ under the benefits system: ‘it could be you’.

This sense of utter dependency on the state for support is exemplified in the recent protests held against Atos Healthcare, the French-owned private company contracted by the government to carry out tests to see if someone should receive ESA. They carry banners declaring that, by deciding some people on benefits are actually capable of working, Atos is effectively committing murder, undertaking ‘unlawful killings’, ‘making money out of misery’ and depriving people of their ‘freedom’. Atos’ very name, according to one MP, generates a sense of ‘fear and loathing’ among those applying for benefits.

Although there are aspects of Atos’ bureaucratic ‘computer says no’ approach to assessing whether people are deserving of benefits that have been rightly criticised, the hysterical casting of Atos as ‘killers’ reveals an underlying attitude toward the people who are being assessed. Since when did people gain ‘freedom’ by demanding that the state support them? When did it become the role of progressives to emphasise the incapacity of working people?

Historically, working-class people were seen as active, decent, strong and capable of running their lives and of changing society. Now they are instead seen as incapable and in need of defence from harm and harassment. If the state doesn’t offer sufficient support and protection, so the protesters argue, then it’s leaving helpless working people for dead.

In other words, working-class people are weak and are in need of big, strong defenders like the trade unions. Once upon a time, the workers were seen as a force that could seize control of society; now, the working classes are increasingly seen as in need of nursing.


Can Islam Be Reformed?

Dennis Prager

The question is in no way meant to be provocative, let alone insulting. But the world, including vast numbers of Muslims, needs this question answered.

After having studied Arabic at college and lectured on comparative religion for decades, and having devoted years to writing my upcoming book comparing American values with leftist and Islamist values, I have become convinced of two things regarding Islam: It must be reformed, and it can be reformed.

Both suppositions are highly controversial. Few believing Muslims think that Islam needs to be reformed; the suggestion would strike most religious Muslims as absurd, if not insulting and ultimately blasphemous. And it would strike many non-Muslim critics of Islam as naive. As Lord Cromer, British consul-general in Egypt from 1883 to 1907, put it in a quote known to all Western students of Islam, "Islam reformed is Islam no longer."

Let's deal first with the question of whether Islam needs reforming. The case for it is compelling. Here are a few reasons:

-- Majority-Muslim and Islam-based countries are not, and have not been, free societies. According to the 2010 Freedom House "Freedom in the World" survey, of the world's 47 Muslim-majority countries, only two are free, 18 are partly free, and 27 are not free. There is no honest explanation for this nearly total absence of liberty in Muslim countries that does not reflect in some way on Islam.

-- Muslim treatment of Jews and Christians in places like medieval Spain was morally far superior to the treatment of non-Christians by European Christians during the same period. But in the modern period, nowhere that Islam has controlled has afforded non-Muslims anywhere near the equality that non-Christians have taken for granted in the Christian world.

-- There was a burst of intellectual and scientific creativity in the Muslim world for a few hundred years, but then the opponents of reason came to dominate Islam, and with it came a loss of scientific and intellectual curiosity.

How could it have been otherwise? The dominant Muslim view was that the natural world had no laws. Everything that occurred did so solely because Allah willed it. If an arrow hit its target, it was not because of the archer's ability or wind patterns or laws of physics; it was because Allah willed it.

According to a United Nations report written by Arab scholars, the Arab world's lack of interest in the non-Arab and non-Muslim worlds is so great that in any given year comparatively tiny Greece translates more books into Greek than all the Arab countries combined translate into Arabic.

-- Regarding women, one cannot name a culture or religion in which the status of women is as low as it is in many Muslim societies. Moreover, the status of women has actually declined in many Muslim societies in the present generation. For example, the veil is more common in Egypt today than it was a hundred years ago.

-- In nearly every Muslim country in which non-Muslims live (usually Christians) -- from Nigeria to Egypt to Iraq -- they suffer persecution.

-- A very small percentage of Muslims are terrorists. But nearly every international terrorist is Muslim. And according to every poll I have seen, at least 70 million of the world's more than a billion Muslims support Islamist actions and theology.

-- Every state that calls itself an Islamic Republic and rules according to Islamic law is a totalitarian state, and it is usually a bloodthirsty one. Saudi Arabia is an example of the first; Taliban Afghanistan, Islamist Iran and Islamist Sudan are examples of both.

So, yes, Islam needs to be reformed. This is no insult to Muslims. Judaism and Christianity have undergone major changes. And needed to.

Can Islam be reformed? I do not agree with Lord Cromer. I believe it can. What is necessary is that Muslim reformers:

1. Honestly acknowledge the Muslim moral record -- i.e. the lack of liberty in Muslim nations, the killing of large numbers of non-Muslims, the low status of women, etc. This does not necessitate rejecting the Quran or Islam.

2. Eschew incorporating Sharia into state law and oppose the establishment of any Islamic theocracy (which is not, in any event, Quran-based, according to moderate Muslims).

3. Publicly and unambiguously condemn all violence in the name of Islam, including violence against Israel.

4. Express a deep appreciation of the moral record of America, including its superb treatment of both its Muslim citizens and Muslim immigrants, along with a complete rejection of the Islamist notion that America is hostile to Muslims.

5. Fully accept the existence of Israel as a Jewish state, and distance themselves from the Muslim/Arab obsession with Israel.

At this very moment, there are Muslim reformers who believe and express all five of these propositions.

Examples include University of Delaware Professor Muqtedar Khan, who runs "American Muslims really have no reason to feel they are victims of anything ... ." The Muslim American community is thriving, proof of "America's benevolence and tolerance of Islam."

Another is Ahmed al-Rahim, a professor of religious studies at the University of Virginia: "The most important message is that we condemn all kinds of hate speech, including anti-Semitism and anti-Americanism, and that we come out as boldly as possible against violence committed by Muslims in Iraq, in Israel ... . "

Regarding the Muslim obsession with Israel, Khan has written: "It is time the leaders of the American Muslim community woke up and realized that ... Islam is not about defeating Jews or conquering Jerusalem. It is about mercy, about virtue, about sacrifice and about duty. Above all, it is the pursuit of moral perfection."

Zainab Al-Suwaij, a refugee from Saddam Hussein's Iraq and executive director of the moderate American Islamic Congress, publicly declared that America "has given Iraqis the most precious gift any nation has ever given another -- the gift of democracy and the freedom to determine its own future."

And Dr. Zuhdi Jasser, a physician in Arizona whose parents fled Syria in the 1960s, is the founder and chairman of the board of the moderate American Islamic Forum for Democracy (AIFD). A believing and practicing Muslim, Jasser advocates American values, promotes a Quran-based life to be practiced by the individual Muslim and never imposed by the state. He is courageous in confronting the Islamist Muslim groups that the mainstream media in the Western world have promoted to appear as the spokesmen for Western Muslims.

As Jasser says of organizations such as CAIR and other so-called Muslim civil rights organizations, "There was more concern with hate crimes against Muslims, which I think were relatively low; there was more focus on that than actually looking at the violence and the hate speech that has been committed in the name of Islam."

Islam is too important to deny its need to reform. And it is too important to deny its ability to ever reform.

And if it does reform, Muslims who have embraced America and American values will lead the way.


Mad march of political correctness

By Janet Albrechtsen, writing from Australia

MARK Twain knew a thing or two about political correctness when he said: "Sometimes I wonder whether the world is run by smart people who are putting us on or by imbeciles who really mean it."

It's tempting to think of the PC crowd as just a bunch of busybodies who are having us on. Early episodes of Sesame Street carry adults-only warnings. Enid Blyton has been cleared of all golliwogs. And last year a Seattle school renamed Easter eggs "spring spheres" so as not to offend children by alluding to the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Political correctness seems to march to an imbecilic beat.

But of course, we know the PC crowd is not having us on. These are smart people who really mean it. Smart because the PC virus has infected so much of what we do, what we read, how we live and how we think. It's the thinking part that should trouble us the most. By telling us what to think, political correctness is a heresy if we are truly committed to liberalism. And it seeps into so many parts of society, so often without us even paying attention to the aim.

Over the past few weeks, some on the Left have claimed that those of us who have raised questions about multiculturalism, immigration and the relationship between Islam and modernity have blood on our hands for the mass murder in Oslo. Here, murder is used as a muzzle to close down free speech. And this is just the latest addition to a growing list of tactics to curb free speech, and even worse, to stifle genuine inquiry.

Consider the other tricks in recent years. To close down discussion about, say, immigration or border control, you call your opponents racists and point to xenophobia in the community. Opponents are not just wrong, they're evil. Their views should not be aired in a civilised society.

But remember this: the stifling political correctness that rejected an open debate about immigration in the early 1990s helped fuel the emergence and popularity of Pauline Hanson.

Another ruse is the victim game. We now live in an age when "feelings" are treated as a measurement of moral values. We live in what author Monica Ali calls "the marketplace of outrage" where groups vie for victimhood status, each claiming their feelings have been hurt more than others.

We have witnessed a familiar opera of Muslim oppression used to shut down debate. It starts with a book called Satanic Verses. Or a silly Danish cartoon. Or a film called Submission. Or a cheeky episode of South Park sending up the fact that Mohammed is the only guy free from ridicule. Then we hear that great aria of all accusations: Islamophobia.

The final act sees the West capitulate, muttering about hurt feelings and preferring the path of least resistance to launching a staunch defence of freedom of expression. And we are left with a new norm of anticipatory surrender and self-censorship.

The victim game works so well because it is augmented by the apparatus of the state. Legal prosecutions are mounting: politician Geert Wilders in Holland, writers Mark Steyn and Ezra Levant in Canada. And in Australia, Herald Sun columnist Andrew Bolt is defending a claim by a group of Aborigines that he "offended, insulted and humiliated" them in breach of the Racial Discrimination Act.

The PC crowd is clever. They know there are no useful legal tests about hurt feelings and inciting hate. They enact nice-sounding laws, build bureaucracies and wait for them to blossom and bludgeon free speech. They have effectively co-opted Islamic-style oppression to prohibit debate; be it about Islam or anything else they wish to fence off from free speech.

The other trick is to quietly exclude certain people from the national discourse. It is best summed up by a German word: totschweigtaktik. To be totsched is to be subjected to death by silence: books, ideas, people that challenge the status quo are simply ignored.

In Quadrant last year, Shelley Gare wrote that those who are totsched find "their efforts left to expire soundlessly like a butterfly in a jar". When Orwell wrote his 1938 classic Homage to Catalonia, which addressed Stalinist Russia's involvement in the Spanish Civil War, the left-wing literati simply ignored it. By the time Orwell died in 1950, barely 1500 copies had been sold. As Gare traces, the same death by silence was used to ignore Australian writers such as Chris Kenny, who challenged the secret women's business behind the Hindmarsh Island affair. It was used when author Kate Jennings aimed her fire at the sisterhood, postmodernism and women's studies.

It's used by those who tell us that climate change will destroy us all if we do not act immediately. The sceptics are being totsched. Opposing views? What opposing views? Governments have their own tactics. Those with poor ideas and even worse policies resort to something best described as the bipartisanship racket. Former prime minister Kevin Rudd called for bipartisanship on indigenous policies. In fact, Rudd sought supine obedience to the rollback of the NT intervention. If you disagreed, you were charged with politicising an issue. Just imagine if similar calls from those defending the status quo had managed to shut out the ideas from people such as Noel Pearson. The very last thing we want is bipartisanship when it is used so blatantly to stifle dissent and vest moral authority in one voice.

A similar trick, the consensus con, emerged from Canberra last year. Treasury boss Ken Henry, touting the emissions trading system and the ill-fated super profits tax on mining companies, said he supported the "contest of ideas" but then said there were "occasions on which economists might, at least for a period, put down their weapons and join a consensus".

It sends shudders up your spine. But Henry lost that debate. And that's the point of free debate. It is the single most effective mechanism for disposing bad ideas. Ideas are not finessed through consensus or bipartisanship. If we are serious about defending free speech, vigilance demands that we look out for the tricks and that we test the trickery against first principles. The alternative means more moral disorientation and a weird Western death wish.

The principles are clear enough: free speech is not a Left-Right thing as Mark Steyn said. It's a free-unfree thing. You don't get to cry in favour of free speech just to defend those with whom you agree. And free speech must include the right to offend. If we prosecute offensive opinions, we just encourage ever more ridiculous claims to protection. We fuel that marketplace of outrage. And we end up shutting down the true genius of modern Western civilisation: the contest of ideas.


No job is lonelier than defending freedom of speech on Australian government TV

Brendan O'Neill

ABE Fortas, the US Supreme Court judge, once said that judging was the loneliest job in the world, "in which a man is, as near as may be, an island entire". I can think of a lonelier job: defending freedom of speech on ABC1's Q&A.

It used to be uncontroversial, even popular, to argue journalists should be free to write what they believe to be true, and newspapers should be free to propel it into the public arena.

Not any more. As I discovered on Q&A on Monday, these days defending the ideal of a free press will win you bemused looks from chin-scratching audience members, narrow-eyed stares from liberty-allergic politicians and a tsunami of tweets asking if you have gone completely mental.

Two freedom-of-the-press issues came up on Q&A: whether right-wing commentators bore responsibility for the actions of the Norway nutter Anders Behring Breivik; and the question of whether, post-phone hacking, it was time to tame and possibly break up the "Murdoch empire".

My answer to both was no.

No, you cannot blame the grotesque murder of 77 Norwegians on the fact Mark Steyn or Keith Windschuttle once wrote a column bemoaning the decline of Western culture. And no, we should not invite the state to dismantle Rupert's regime.

Instead, if you really don't like what his papers have to say, you should set up your own post-Murdochian, pot-stirring paper. That's one of the great things about press freedom: anyone with the nous and the know-how and a fundraising sidekick can press their own ideas and offer them up for public consumption.

I may as well have been calling for Stephen Fry or some other modern-day national treasure to be put in the stocks and pelted with rotten oranges, such were the looks of horror shot my way by my co-panellists. Especially by Labor Minister for Human Services Tanya Plibersek who, according to one blog report, spent the whole show with "narrowed eyes, casting daggers at her tormentor" (that's me). In the discussion on the Norwegian killer, Plibersek seemed outraged when I suggested right-wing writers, however much we might disagree with some of them, were not "the cause of all violence and horror in the world".

Indeed, my suggestion made Plibersek sick to her stomach, she said. "I cannot understand that you think that it is fine for people to go out and say we should kill all Muslims . . . and that that has no real effect in the world," she said.

Even after I pointed out that the right-wing columnists being fingered as intellectual accessories to the worst crime in peacetime Europe did not call for all Muslims to be killed but simply expressed disagreements with the ideology of multiculturalism, still Plibersek seemed convinced that their words were wicked, the moral equivalent of weapons.

"What you're saying is that there is no responsibility if you preach hate for what happens when you preach hate," she said, once again mixing up "making legitimate criticisms of multiculturalism" with "preaching hate". She said public debate should be "more courteous", which really means more boring.

It is, of course, unsurprising to hear a politician who gets her fair share of flak from shock jocks and uncouth columnists express an inner desire to defang tabloid-style commentary, even if she has to rather shamelessly hijack the Norway massacre to do it. It is more surprising to hear it from journalistic entrepreneur Stephen Mayne, another Q&A panellist.

Firmly elbowing aside the modern, enlightened belief that writers should not be held responsible for how others chose to act on their words, Mayne also bought the idea that words caused violence.

He cited Alan Jones, Sydney's rowdiest radio presenter, and the fact Jones once said, in Mayne's words, "that Julia Gillard should be put in a bag and thrown out to sea". Surely that kind of commentary should be restricted, right? When I said no -- first on the basis that I trusted Jones's listeners knew he was making a joke and not issuing an instruction, and second because if any of those listeners did put Gillard in a bag and chucked her in the ocean then they were responsible for their actions, not Jones -- the audience guffawed. I mean, really, how can we expect the brain-dead bogans who suck in Jones's over-the-top orations as they drive their utes to work to know the difference between a jokey comment and an instruction to assassinate the Prime Minister of Australia?

That is the implication of Plibersek and Mayne's discomfort with provocative discourse: that the little people's minds are so putty-like that one shrill comment from an un-PC loudmouth might be enough to push them over the edge towards murder.

Q&A confirmed that, post-Norway, we're witnessing the rehabilitation of "media effects" theory, the stubbornly unproven idea that words directly cause carnage.

In the old days, that theory was promoted by the stuffy, conservative, purple-rinse lobby, who wanted to ban video nasties and saucy movies on the basis that they might turn men into psycho-killers or rapists. Now it is the so-called "progressive" sections of society who cling most tightly to "media effects" theory, believing that newspaper articles can make men into mass murderers.

The censorious implications of the idea that heated or experimental words and ideas provoke murderous behaviour are profound. Maybe we should ban J.D. Salinger's The Catcher in the Rye? After all, John Lennon's killer cited it as his inspiration. "Media effects" theory lets killers off the hook. It forgets about a little thing called free will, the existence of which should mean that no writer is held accountable for what another free agent does after reading his words.

The second press-related discussion on Q&A confirmed that anti-Murdoch schadenfreude has reached such dizzy heights that people such as Plibersek and Mayne are incapable of recognising its likely impact on press freedom. So when I suggested Britain's post-News of the World inquiry into the ethics and morality of the press was not a good thing, representing the first time in nearly 400 years that the British state had barged back into the world of journalism, my co-panellists looked at me as if I had lost the plot.

They seemed to forget that, throughout modern history, democrats and progressives fought tooth-and-catapult to eject the authorities from the sphere of the press. As 17th-century English poet John Milton put it in his impassioned plea for the freedom to print: "Give me the liberty to know, to utter, and to argue freely according to conscience, above all liberties."

Surely even my scrappers on Q&A can agree that abandoning that liberty today is too high a price to pay for the fleeting joy of seeing Murdoch squirm?



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, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN (Note that EYE ON BRITAIN has regular posts on the reality of socialized medicine). My Home Pages are here or here or here or Email me (John Ray) here. For readers in China or for times when is playing up, there is a mirror of this site here.


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The article from Spiked on the incapacitated class only shows that the left is trying to revive Serfdom where the "educated" class is in complete control of the under-class.