Thursday, March 14, 2013

"Racism" inborn

A discriminating side to babies has been revealed in a study that showed they condone bullying of those 'dissimilar' to them.

The University of British Columbia carried out research that found infants divide their friends from their foes as young as nine-months-old.

Previous research has shown that babies generally prefer people who act kindly, but this new study is the first to find that they condone antisocial behaviour directed at individuals who are different to them.

Professor Kiley Hamlin of the University's Department of Psychology, who carried out the study, said: 'Our research shows that by nine months, babies are busy assessing their surroundings, trying to determine who is friend or foe.  'One important way they make these distinctions, our study finds, is based on perceived differences and similarities.'

Researchers made babies choose which food they preferred between crackers and green beans then treated the babies to a puppet show.

During the show one puppet demonstrated the same food preference as the infant, while another exhibited the opposite preference.

In the experiments, other puppets harmed, helped or acted neutrally towards the puppets with different or similar food preferences.

Prompted to pick their favourite puppet, infants demonstrated a strong preference for the puppets who harmed the 'dissimilar' puppet and helped the 'similar' one.

One baby even went as far as planting a kiss on the head of the familiar puppet.

Professor Hamlin added: 'These findings suggest that babies feel something like schaudenfreude - pleasure when an individual they dislike or consider threatening experiences harm.  'Or babies have some early understanding of social alliances, recognising that the 'enemy of their enemy' is their friend.'

Hamlin described the behaviour as an early form of the social biases that exist in most adults.  She said that as humans get older, they favour individuals who are more familiar to themselves - over people with whom they have fewer things in common.

These familiarities include origins, languages, appearances - even birthdays and sports affiliations.

While studies show that humans tend to gravitate toward people who have things in common, these preferences can have a dark side.

Professor Hamlin said: 'Disliking people who are different may lead us to mistreat them, and excuse - or even applaud - others who mistreat people who are different than us.

'But this does not mean that more extreme outcomes, like xenophobia and intergroup conflict, are inevitable.

'Rather, this research points to the importance of socialization practices that recognize just how basic these social biases might be and confront them head-on.'

The study, called Not Like Me = Bad: Infants Prefer Those Who Harm Dissimilar Others was published by the Association for Psychological Science.


More Calls For Censorship To Prevent “Bullying”

We live in a culture where harsh but truthful criticism, or exposure of wrongdoing, is viewed by some as “bullying,” especially when it affects someone’s inflated “self-esteem.” For example, “DePaul University has punished a student for publicizing the names of fellow students who admitted to vandalizing his organization’s pro-life display,” classifying his speech as “bullying.”

When historian Michael Bellesiles’ academic fraud was exposed by fellow historians, resulting in his forced resignation,  a leading “anti-bullying” expert, who shared Bellesiles’ progressive political views, got him a new job at her university, claiming that he “was the victim of a “mobbing” or group “bullying” campaign by his fellow historians, who were distinguished people across the political spectrum.

The Minister of Education in Ontario, the most populous Canadian province, has sought to define pro-life advocacy in religious schools as gender-based bullying.  Self-styled crusaders against “workplace bullying” want to impose broad definitions of bullying at the expense of free speech and use existing overly broad school bullying rules as models for laws against workplace bullying that would hold employers and co-workers liable for compensatory and punitive damages for speech and expressive conduct deemed to be bullying — something that disturbs groups such as the Chamber of Commerce.  Activists claim bullying is an “epidemic” and a “pandemic.” But in reality, bullying and violence have steadily gone down in the nation’s schools.

In the name of preventing “bullying,” Minnesota’s Democratic-controlled state legislature is poised to pass an unconstitutionally vague, overbroad, and viewpoint-discriminatory ban on speech in public schools and in private schools that receive state funds.  It would ban certain speech that denies students a “supportive environment” as bullying.  (As someone who practiced education law for years,

I can assure you “supportive environment” is not a term of art that is made any clearer or fleshed out by case law.  Rather, it is just as vague and subjective as it sounds.  It is much vaguer than the already rather ambiguous concept of “hostile work environment” that exists in workplace harassment cases, which applies only to specified categories of harassment such as sexual harassment, and — in theory — requires a showing the harassment be “severe or pervasive” rather than “isolated.” 

By contrast, the Minnesota bill applies even to the “use of one or a series of words”).  UCLA Law Professor Eugene Volokh notes the Minnesota anti-bullying legislation violates even the fairly limited free speech rights possessed by K-12 public school students and that other language in the bill — not just the “supportive environment” language — is hopelessly vague:

    First, what does interfering with “the ability of an individual … to participate in a … supportive learning environment” mean, exactly? Say students are talking over lunch about how a classmate committed a crime, cheated, said racist things, treated his girlfriend cruelly or whatever else that causes people to feel hostile towards the classmate. That interferes with his ability “to participate in a … supportive learning environment.” Presumably that’s now forbidden, right?

    Second, what on earth does “creat[ing] or exacerbat[ing] a real or perceived imbalance of power between students” mean? What kind of power? Social power? Financial power? Power within student-run institutions, such as clubs or businesses that students set up?

    Third, what does “violates the reasonable expectation of privacy of one or more individuals” mean? The disclosure of private facts tort doesn’t really tell us, because it is by design limited to speech said to a large group. Would a girl telling a friend that her ex-boyfriend has an STD violate the ex-boyfriend’s reasonable expectation of privacy? (What if the boyfriend is hitting on the friend?) Would revealing a secret qualify? Revealing an acquaintance’s religious or political beliefs, if the acquaintance views them as a private matter?

    Fourth, “relates to the actual or perceived race, ethnicity, color, creed, religion, national origin, immigration status, sex, age, marital status, familial status, socioeconomic status, physical appearance, sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, academic status, disability, or status with regard to public assistance, [or] age … of a person or of a person with whom that person associates” would require restrictions on a vast range of speech.

    Condemning illegal aliens, Scientologists, people who marry too young, people who are flunking out of school, or people who are on welfare would have to be forbidden as “bullying.” That’s true whether one says this about a student, about the students’ family members (“person[s] with whom that person associates”), or presumably about the group as a whole: After all, even a general condemnation of illegal aliens might interfere with the ability of an illegal alien student who “observes the conduct” to “participate in a … supportive learning environment.” (It’s not very supportive when people think that people like you should be deported, no matter how strong the case for deportation might be.)

    Now public schools have broader authority to restrict student speech than does the government acting as sovereign. But even public schools’ authority is limited (see here for more details); and a public school policy that’s this broad would, I think, be unconstitutionally overbroad and thus invalid on its face, see, e.g., Saxe v. State College Area School Dist. (3d Cir. 2001) (Alito, J.). The government’s use of funds for private schools — even funds that amount to a small fraction of the school’s budget — as leverage to suppress a wide range of speech at those schools is even more constitutionally problematic, see FCC v. League of Women Voters (1984). And beyond that, the proposal’s overbreadth is bad policy as well as being unconstitutional.

Vague provisions in the amended bill purporting to exempt First Amendment-protected speech do not adequately fix these problems and will not prevent censorship in practice.  See Nitzberg v. Parks (1975) and Gentile v. State Bar (1991).

Earlier, a school superintendent labeled a column in a school newspaper that criticized homosexuality as “bullying,” even though the column was part of a debate about adoption by same-sex couples that the school itself had invited (K-12 school newspapers have no obligation to feature such debates in the first place, but if they do, students should not be punished for taking part in them; doing so violates principles of fair notice and viewpoint-neutrality).

A federal appeals court ruled in Saxe v. State College Area School District (2001), there is no “harassment” exception to the First Amendment for religious and political speech that offends members of minority groups. Speech cannot be banned simply by labeling it as “bullying” or violence, either: For example, in Bauer v. Sampson, another federal appeals court ruled a campus newspaper’s depiction of a college official’s imaginary death was protected by the First Amendment, even though the college declared it a violation of its policy against “workplace violence.”

The anti-bullying website, and schools such as Alvarado Elementary, define even “eye rolling” and other mild expressions of displeasure or hostility as bullying, even though doing so raises First Amendment problems. Banning all eye-rolling as “bullying” violates the First Amendment under the Saxe decision, which invalidated a harassment code that banned isolated instances of hostile speech, holding that even a hostile “purpose” is not always reason enough to ban speech that is neither lewd nor disruptive. 

Equating “teasing” with bullying, and calling for it to end (as Education Secretary Arne Duncan once did in a speech) is a bad idea, according to psychologist Dacher Keltner, who noted in The New York Times that teasing is educational for children and teaches them “the wisdom of laughing at ourselves, and not taking the self too seriously.”

The anti-bullying panic has enriched high-paid consultants. After New Jersey passed a broad anti-bullying law, hundreds of schools “snapped up a $1,295 package put together by a consulting firm that includes a 100-page manual.”  Reason’s Jacob Sullum wrote earlier about how New Jersey’s law infringes on free speech and imposed illegal unfunded mandates. When New Jersey passed its incredibly complicated and burdensome anti-bullying law, which contains 18 pages of “required components,” that gave a huge boost to a burgeoning “anti-bullying” industry that seeks to define bullying as broadly as possible (to include behavior like a kid always associating with the same group of friends) in order to create demand for its services.

Broad anti-bullying rules can backfire and be harmful to child development. As a school administrator noted after passage of New Jersey’s bureaucratically rigid anti-bullying law, “The anti-bullying law also may not be appropriate for our youngest students, such as kindergartners who are just learning how to socialize with their peers. Previously, name-calling or shoving on the playground could be handled on the spot as a teachable moment, with the teacher reinforcing the appropriate behavior. That’s no longer the case. Now it has to be documented, reviewed and resolved by everyone from the teacher to the anti-bullying specialist, principal, superintendent and local board of education.”


Baby P sackings 'WERE justified': Two social workers lose appeals

It's very hard to get evil British social workers fired

Two social workers responsible for the care of Baby P have lost their claim that they were unjustly fired because of the 'hysterical media outcry' after his death.

Maria ward and her supervisor Gillie Christou claim they were 'hung out to dry' by London's Haringey Council after the tragic death of 17-month old Peter Connelly nearly six years ago.

But the Court of Appeal yesterday ruled that an employment tribunal was right to say the council acted reasonably in dismissing the two women in April 2009.

Sharon Shoesmith, the former Director of Social Services at the council, had previously won her own claim for unfair dismissal and is due £1m in compensation.  Mrs Shoesmith had appeared in the public gallery to support Mrs Christou and Miss Ward at an earlier hearing last month.

Peter had suffered more than 50 injuries despite being on an at-risk register and receiving 60 visits from social workers, police and health professionals over eight months.

Peter's mother, Tracey Connelly, her boyfriend Steven Barker - and Barker's brother, Jason Owen - were jailed in 2009 for causing or allowing the toddler's death.

Mrs Christou and Miss Ward were sacked after an investigation which discovered there was a period in mid-2007 when they did not know where the child was.

Peter's mother claimed she had taken the little boy to visit her sick uncle in Cricklewood, north west London, despite being told to return home.

The pair's legal teams had claimed they suffered 'double jeopardy' because they faced two Haringey misconduct panels looking at the same allegations against them.

The first simplified disciplinary procedure concluded that they only needed to receive written warnings.  However later, more formal proceedings - after the criminal trial of those responsible for Peter's death - resulted in summary dismissal for gross misconduct.

In their ruling Lord Justice Laws, Lord Justice Elias and Lord Justice McCombe dismissed their claims to have suffered 'double jeopardy'.


You've no right to a house near your parents: National Trust chief warning to children of rural families

Housing is heavily regulated in Britain and efforts to free it up have met much opposition  -- example below

Children raised in the countryside have no automatic right to live near their parents’ homes when they grow up, the chairman of the National Trust declared yesterday.

Sir Simon Jenkins said the majority of new homes should be built in towns and cities, rather than in unspoilt rural areas.

His comments are at odds with existing policies that encourage affordable housing to be built in villages for local families.

Sir Simon said: ‘Somehow it is considered the right of people in the country to have their children living next door at public expense. I don’t understand it.

‘Are you going to say that people who have lived in the Windrush Valley [in the Cotswolds] for 100 years have a right to go on living there? No, I’m afraid they don’t. Sorry.’

Last night, some countryside groups attacked his comments, warning that villages without young families risked being turned into ‘little more than retirement ghettoes’.

But Sir Simon, who owns homes in west London and rural Wales, even called for areas of the countryside to be listed to protect the most beautiful parts. He suggested introducing four different listed ‘grades’ of countryside – one of which could include a ‘presumption against development’.

He said: ‘We should list the countryside as we list the town by virtue of its beauty.What it is that people want to retain.

‘We don’t want to pull down Belgravia. We don’t want to build housing estates in Hyde Park. We should adopt the same approach to the countryside.’

But opponents warned that house prices will rise even higher in rural areas if new homes are not built there.

The row comes at a time when the average home in the countryside costs around £200,000 – around £30,000 more than a town house.

The Windrush is a river in the Cotswolds, which flows through the famously picturesque village of Bourton-on-the-Water as well as the Prime Minister’s constituency town of Witney.

Prices of homes near the Windrush can be eye-watering, with bungalows in Bourton-on-the-Water selling for up to £645,000 in recent months.

But Sir Simon, who was speaking in a personal capacity, told the Home Builders’ Federation conference in central London: ‘I want building to take place in towns on the whole. I want there to be massive incentives to build in towns because it makes more sense.’

He said there will be many parts of the countryside – ‘on the whole, rather lovely parts of the countryside’ – that ‘just don’t want to take large numbers of more people.’

He singled out the Cotswolds village of Stow-on-the-Wold, where he said many residents are ‘seriously angry’ at proposals to build a large number of new homes.

Last night his comments were attacked by those who said more affordable rural homes were needed.

Stewart Baseley, executive chairman of the Home Builders’ Federation, said: ‘We need to be providing homes across the country in places where people want to live. We should not be trying to just pigeon-hole people into living in towns where they might not want to live.’

Kate Houghton, from the Campaign to Protect Rural England, said: ‘We do agree that the bulk of new housing should be built in or near to urban areas, so people have more easy access to public transport, community facilities and essential services.

‘However, if we don’t make provision for at least some affordable houses in rural areas, where it is clear that there is need and people do want to stay, then our villages could become little more than retirement ghettoes or commuter dormitories.’

At the conference, Malcolm Harris, chairman of house builders Bovis, accused Sir Simon of being ‘quite naïve’.

He said: ‘These are your children. These are people who already live in the community. We have failed for year after year after year to provide the housing. That is a real issue in Great Britain.’

In England, around 110,000 new homes are built ever year, but this is way behind the rate at which new households are being formed, estimated to be around 230,000 a year.

A spokesman for Priced Out, the first-time buyers’ campaign group, accused Sir Simon of being ‘out of touch with the aspirations of hard-working young adults who have been priced out of a home in their local area.’

Housing Minister Mark Prisk, who spoke at the same conference, said home ownership remains the dream of the vast majority of Britons.

He told builders that the quality of the homes they build is just as important as the quantity, calling on them to reject the stereotype of the ‘rabbit hutch’.

Sir Simon’s intervention comes weeks after Planning Minister Nick Boles warned Britain will be dragged back to the 19th century when home-ownership was the preserve of the wealthiest unless more homes are built.

He said: ‘We can pass by on the other side while working men and women in their twenties and thirties have to live with their parents or share bedrooms with friends.

We can shrug our shoulders as home ownership reverts to what it was in the 19th century: a privilege, the exclusive preserve of people with large incomes or wealthy parents.

‘Or we can accept that we are going to have to build on previously undeveloped land and resolve that we will make these decisions locally.’



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, AUSTRALIAN POLITICSDISSECTING 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.  Email me (John Ray) here


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