Sunday, September 16, 2018

Is feminist hate and anger justified?

Prominent American feminist Robin Morgan thinks it is justified. One of her well-known sayings is: "The oppressed have a right to class-hatred against the class that is oppressing them."

That does make some sense.  If someone was oppressing you, you might well hate them. Though Christians of course would say "Turn the other cheek".

So what are the problems with that saying as it applies to feminists?  One problem is that chronic hostility is bad for your heart.  It leads to a greater risk of heart attacks and is probably bad for your mental health as well.

The major problem, however is the assumption that a particular group is being oppressed.  Before they became open elitists, Leftists were always of the view that the workers were oppressed and that they should "cast off their chains".  And the lesser income of the workers gave that some plausibility.  One needs fairly elborate arguments to dispute that claim.

But is that the case with women?  Are women oppressed?  Feminists wholeheartedly think so but are they right?  The formal evidence most often  advanced is the lower average pay of female employees.  But there have been any number of demonstrations that the lower pay of women is wholly due, not to injustice but to the different choices men and women make.  And each sex is of course fully entitled to their divergent choices.

After that, the main evidence put forward by feminsts is anecdotal.  They point to instances when men have treated them badly. But when I look at such instances, it seems to me that in many cases the attribution is not clear.  Were you treated badly because you were a women or were you treated badly because of one other of your characteristics? 

Many of the women who think they got a bad deal may in fact have been treated badly because they were, for instance, hostile people.  Everybody shies way from hostile people and the woman concerned may have been a feminist.  And feminists are usually readily seen as doing a slow burn. They are not pleasant people.  They are angry people.  As such they bring rejection down on their own heads. 

And there are many other reasons that might lead a woman to be rejected.  Was she too shy? Did she have bad breath? Did she speak too loudly? Did she speak a lot more than she listened? -- etc.  There may still be some organizations that reject women qua women but they would be very rare these days. I have listened to many tales of rejection from women and minorities and it has never been clear to me that the things they complain of are securely attributed.  The possibility of false attribution is not even considered usually.  For an excellent example of false attribution by a feminist, first read this and then this

A common form of misattribution occurs when a meeting is being held to discuss some issue and the contribution of a woman or women present is ignored.  This is routinely taken as contemptuous of women.  It rarely is.  It is usually a polite form of disagreement.  It may be a way of saying, "That raises too many new issues for us to consider here" or it may be to say, "You are way off beam here but we don't like to criticize you for that".   Silence can be a form of politeness.  It is used in lieu of open criticism.  Women need to learn that.  It is a way of conflict minimization that comes naturally to men.  Women have their own methods that come naturally to them

And what about women being kept out of frontline service in the armed forces?. Obama allowed it. Trump has stopped it. Does that refusal express contempt for women?  Far from it.  It expresses an especially high value for women.  The thinking is that a healthy society protects its mothers.  It does not deliberately expose them to danger.  In a war many men may be lost but if the mothers are safe, the men can be replaced.  So, yes, it is discrimination but it is discrimination with a benevolent aim and effect.

And what about some balance?  Are there some men who treat women more favourably than they would a man?  I think to ask that question is to answer it.  Some men may treat women badly just because they have a low view of women generally but many others find women attractive and as a consequence treat women very well.  So are women oppressed overall?  Many men would argue that women get unfairly FAVORABLE treatment.

I will not dispute that there were once rather wooden-headed ways that society treated women.  They were discriminated against in access to education etc.  But is that true now?  I can't see it.  A majority of university graduates is now female. By the sort of logic feminists use, that would be evidence that men are now discriminated against and that men should now be angry. Fortunately men in general are more mature than that.  They can "take their lumps".

So I think it is clear that women and their feminist minority may once have been oppressed but they are no longer.  Their hate and anger is unjustified and wrong.  At best, they are living in  the past -- JR

Serena Williams exposes limits of identity politics

Tennis careers are defined by moments. The right shot on the biggest points. The shadow of a ball catching a line instead of falling wide. Finding purpose amid the cacophony. Calming your mind when everyone else is losing theirs.

There was a moment Serena Williams could have altered the course of her US Open final against Naomi Osaka. It wouldn’t have saved the match but she could have salvaged far more.

It came as Williams was seated at the change of ends, a set and a break down. She was furious at the chair umpire, Carlos Ramos, for an earlier call he’d made when he had warned her for receiving coaching. Her breathing was ragged. Her blood and a parochial New York crowd was roaring in her ears.

“For you to attack my character, something is wrong, it is wrong’’ she upbraided him. “You are attacking my character. Yes you are. You owe me an apology. You will never, ever, ever be on another court of mine as long as you live. You are the liar.”

She takes a sip of water. It does nothing to sate her.

“When are you going to give me my apology?’’ she continued. “You owe me an apology. Say it. Say you’re sorry. Well then, don’t talk to me. Don’t talk to me.’’

Ramos, an experienced umpire who had tried many times to explain to Williams why he had made the call, took her advice. For 20 long seconds, they sat silently in their respective chairs, staring into the middle of a mutinous Arthur Ashe Stadium.

Williams nibbled something to eat. She wiped her face with a towel. She searched for composure. This was her moment.

Had Williams said nothing more, picked up her racquet and played out the match, her feud with Ramos would have receded and tennis would have celebrated a new star. Instead, she rose from her chair and delivered Ramos a final, fateful spray. “You stole a point from me. You’re a thief, too.’’

In a US Open final, little goes unseen or unheard. There is no question Williams’s coach was signalling to her during the match. There is no quibble about whether she earned a second code violation for smashing her racquet a few games later. There is no ambiguity about what Williams said to Ramos. The grand slam rule book defines anything that implies dishonesty on the part of an umpire as verbal abuse.

The only question left is why Williams did and said what she did. It is here that reason, common sense and simple observation have been consumed by a pervasive cultural ideology. This, in turn, has exposed the limits of identity politics. A week after Williams sought to portray herself as a victim of sexism, her unlikely cause has been taken up by some of America’s most ardent cultural warriors. Along the way, the facts of what happened in New York have been buried beneath a polemic that reduces Williams, one of the most successful and powerful women in world sport, to the sum of her sexual and racial grievances.

This is how Toni Van Pelt, the president of the National Organisation for Women, describes the interaction between the game’s greatest women’s player and one of its most respected umpires:

“In what was a blatantly racist and sexist move, tennis umpire Carlos Ramos unfairly penalised Serena Williams in an abhorrent display of male dominance and discrimination. This would not have happened if Serena Williams was a man.

“Ramos claimed he was just following the rules, but in actuality, men stretch the rules all the time and are lionised for being ‘bad boys’ while women are benched. This is also a prime example of how racism and sexism are two of the biggest obstacles that black women in America face. NOW is calling on the US Tennis Association to cancel any contracts with Carlos Ramos to umpire tournaments in the future.’’ Van Pelt’s statement picked up where Williams left off in her post-match press conference where, instead of apologising to Ramos, she positioned herself as a champion of women’s rights. In this construct, abuse of an umpire becomes a right to self-expression.

“I have seen other men call other umpires things and I am here fighting for women’s rights and for women’s equality and for all kinds of stuff,’’ Williams said. “The fact that I have to go through this is just an example for the next person that has emotions and that wants to express themselves. They want to be a strong woman and they are going to be able to do that because of today.’’

The Williams argument was backed by Katrina Adams, chief executive of the US Tennis Association, the sport’s governing body in America. The women’s tour also sided with Williams. Billie Jean King, a pioneer of the women’s professional tour, accused Ramos of an abuse of power.

By this stage, an unstoppable, irreversible narrative had taken shape. Kimberle Crenshaw, a civil rights advocate, University of California, Los Angeles and Columbia University academic and a leading figure in the US identity politics movement, drew a parallel between Williams being penalised a game and a black woman being pulled over for a busted tail-light.

“If even Serena gets over-­policed, on the world stage, with millions at stake, for the world to see, in a grand slam final, just think (what) happens to many of us every day,’’ she tweeted.

The meltdown became a politically charged hashtag: YouOweMeAnApology. Maxine Beneba Clarke, an Australian author who has written extensively about racism, saw the incident through the same lens. “Maybe Serena got cranky and yelled at an umpire. Or maybe a black woman dared to stand up against two male colleagues in positions of power, about being treated less than fairly, in front of the entire world, and people just don’t like the New World Order,’’ she tweeted.

It took Martina Navratilova, renowned as an independent thinker and straight talker, to question these arguments. Why, in the name of equality, would women wish to be judged according to the worst standards of men? “In fact, this is the sort of behaviour that no one should be engaging in on the court,’’ she wrote in The Washington Post.

The problem here should be apparent to anyone who steps back from their keyboard long enough to consider the actors in this unfortunate drama. Identity politics would have us believe that Ramos, a white man, is in a position of privilege and Williams, a black woman, struggles daily against ­racism and sexism. In any confrontation, Ramos must be the oppressor and Williams the victim. The truth is rather different.

Williams has dominated her sport for nearly 20 years. She has amassed 23 grand slam singles ­titles, just one behind the record of Australia’s Margaret Court. She is the most marketable female athlete on the planet, with a personal wealth recently estimated at $230 million. She earned $2.6m for finishing runner-up to Osaka. Her family and sporting story, from the gangland streets of Compton, California, to centre court at Wimbledon, is known and celebrated across the world. In world tennis and popular culture, she is an influential figure and powerful voice.

Ramos has been an umpire for 40 years. He has umpired men’s finals in all four grand slam tournaments and is described by the International Tennis Federation as one of the most respected umpires in the sport. What does Ramos say about all this? A condition of his ITF contract prevents him from saying anything at all. He has no voice. He was paid $1450 to officiate the women’s final in New York. If there is sexism in tennis, Ramos was a victim of sorts last Saturday; umpires are paid considerably more to officiate in men’s finals than women’s.

Has Serena Williams experienced racism and sexism in tennis? Of course she has. No tennis player has done more to tear down racial barriers in the sport, both real and perceived, than Williams. But consider what took place last Saturday night in New York. A black woman played the daughter of Haitian and Japanese migrants in a stadium named after another black athlete, Arthur Ashe. They played for the same prizemoney as the men. They played before a global television audience. If only all workplaces were so riddled with sexism and racism.

Bella d’Abrera, an author with the Institute of Public Affairs, says this is the weakness of identity politics, a movement that requires every action to be analysed according to race, sex and gender differences. “Even though the evidence tells us and the facts tell us that she is the most powerful sportswoman in the world and clearly not oppressed, they need to stick with this narrative that because she is black she is oppressed,’’ says d’Abrera. “Whatever the truth about how the match went, it is too late now. They have taken this up as their cause.’’

Let’s try to look at what Williams did not as the actions of a black woman but, rather, an ageing tennis player returning to the game after giving birth, chasing an elusive grand slam title to equal Margaret Court’s record.

When Williams was 10 years old, her father, Richard, predicted that Venus Williams would be a grand slam champion and Serena would be even better than her sister. At the time, she didn’t hit the ball as hard as Venus but had an amazing ability to work the angles on a tennis court.

She was also, already, an intensely fierce competitor. “Serena is something like a pet bulldog,’’ Richard Williams explained. “Once she gets a hold of you, she won’t let go.’’

Williams is a remarkable athlete. Beyond the power of her groundstrokes, the speed of her court movement and her punishing serve, she has an unyielding self-belief. This has been critical to her success. It can also manifest in poor sportsmanship. Williams believes every match is hers to win or lose off her own racquet. She gives no thought to the notion that the other woman on court might be better on the day. When she loses, she will often seek to blame instead of crediting an opponent.

Last Saturday in New York, Williams was decisively outplayed by Osaka. The shifting tone of her exchanges with Ramos can be charted against the scoreline. At 3-0 up in the second set, she was courteous and controlled. When she double faulted to give back the break, she smashed her racquet and started to vent against Ramos. By the time Osaka broke serve again to lead 4-3, Williams was in a rage.

It is not the first time New York has seen this side of Williams. In 2009, she stormed off the court after she was penalised a point, on match point, for abusing a lineswoman in her semi-final against Kim Clijsters. “I swear to God I’ll f..king take that ball and shove it down your f..king throat,’’ she reportedly said. In the 2011 US Open final, after Williams lost the first set, she was docked a point for yelling out while her opponent, Sam Stosur, was trying to hit the ball. At a change of ends, she berated the umpire. “You’re a hater and you’re unattractive inside. What a loser.’’

In both these matches, the central chair umpires were women. In both these matches, Williams was well beaten in front of her home fans.

Williams turns 37 this month. Osaka is 20. Margaret Court, who won three grand slam titles in the year she returned to the tour after giving birth, understands as well as anyone the pressure building on Williams. “She knows there are some young ones coming through who are very capable,’’ Court says. “She will be sensing that.’’ Anyone who understands sport should be sensing that as well. The career of Williams is approaching its end. Her greatest fight is not against sexism or racism in her sport, whether real or imagined, but sporting mortality. This is something every athlete must confront, whatever their sex and colour.


Why Sweden’s populist moment matters

The rise of the Sweden Democrats is a blow to Europe’s elites.

The outcome of the parliamentary elections in Sweden represents a significant setback to the Swedish political establishment. Though still the largest party, the Social Democrats suffered their worst electoral result in over a century. Sweden now faces political gridlock as neither the Social Democratic Party nor its centre-right Alliance rivals is in a position to assume power.

The biggest winner of the night was the anti-establishment, right-wing nationalist party, the Sweden Democrats, which increased its vote from 12.9 per cent in the 2014 elections to 18 per cent. More significantly, perhaps, this ‘outsider’, populist party ensured that its political agenda became the focus of debate throughout the election campaign.

What’s happened in Sweden?

Long before voters cast their ballots, the electoral campaign in Sweden had already been transformed into an anti-populist morality play. The Sweden Democrats were accused of harnessing the politics of fear to turn otherwise secondary issues – migration, integration, crime, loss of community cohesion – into the main event. This accusation quickly mutated into scaremongering about the existential threat posed by such an anti-elitist movement. It was a message reinforced by parts of the Western media, which focused almost entirely on the Sweden Democrats. What, wondered incredulous commentators, were Swedish voters thinking? How could they possibly think of voting for unambiguously pro-Swedish, anti-EU nationalists, especially at a time when the Swedish economy is doing so well.

Concerned about the rise of the Sweden Democrats, numerous EU leaders came out in support of Sweden’s Social Democrat-led ruling coalition. French President Emmanuel Macron focused his fire on Jimmie Akesson, the leader of the Sweden Democrats, telling Swedes that ‘[Akesson] is not compliant with your story and your values’. Spain’s prime minister, Pedro Sánchez, even joined his Swedish counterpart, Stefan Lofven, on the campaign trail. ‘Your economy has grown’, Sanchez told voters, ‘and your government has been on the frontline against all forms of inequality’.

As is the case with almost all elections these days, the elite-dominated media class raised concerns about fake news and Russian trolling. Sweden’s state-run SVT channel made no attempt to hide its hostility towards the Sweden Democrats, taking the unprecedented step of rebuking Akesson after a televised leaders’ debate. Akesson’s crime was to argue that the reason many immigrants cannot find a job is because ‘they are not Swedes’, and have not succeeded in fitting into Sweden. He then called for more opportunities for immigrants both to assimilate into the Swedish way of life and to integrate into the labour market.

The significance of the election

The most important feature of the election was that it exposed the fragile foundation on which the authority and legitimacy of the Swedish political establishment rests. It is important to note that the Social Democratic Party has possessed a virtual monopoly over political and institutional power since 1917. And now it finds itself wrongfooted not by a strong, long-term rival, but by the resource-poor, upstart Sweden Democrats.

The defensive and insecure campaign of the Social Democrats has important implications for the West’s other globalist political leaders. For if there is one party that embodies technocratic managerialism and cosmopolitanism it is the Swedish Social Democrats. It represents the gold standard of illiberal social engineering, otherwise known as political correctness.

In the middle of the 20th century, the Social Democrats’ grim social-engineering project was devoted to the promotion of eugenics. During a near 40-year-long programme, between 1934 and 1970, the Swedish government’s eugenics policy resulted in the sterilisation of between 60,000 and 70,000 women. All in a bid to ‘improve’ Sweden’s ethnic purity. Today the Social Democrat-led coalition has a new crusade: to re-engineer relations between the sexes and, in particular, to rid boys of their masculinity. So, during the election campaign, Gustav Fridolin, co-leader of the Green Party in coalition Social Democrats, promised that, if re-elected, he would ‘reform’ the preschool curriculum to promote gender neutrality. In particular, Fridolin pledged to stop boys behaving like boys. His distrust of boys is justified on the grounds that there is a connection between the naughty behaviour of boys in preschools and ‘men’s behaviour at their workplaces’.

The Social Democrat-led coalition government’s obsession with social-engineering projects such as gender neutrality plays well among international NGOs and cosmopolitan political circles, but less well with ordinary Swedes. The gap between this elite worldview and the cultural and national aspirations of many voters has allowed the Sweden Democrats to move in and expand their influence. As the historian Lars Tragardh explains:

‘A lot of people still think Sweden exists, that citizenship is a legitimate idea and that national community and national culture matter. Like in many Western countries, Sweden has an elite that has overinvested in globalism and underinvested in ordinary politics at the national level – the elite has forgotten that the only democracy we have takes place within the nation state.’

Arguably one of the most significant outcomes of this election is that it has opened up a debate about a hitherto taboo subject – immigration and multiculturalism.

As Jonathan Friedman, a Sweden-based American anthropologist, explains that until recently anyone who raised questions about immigration policy was shut down with the remark, ‘you are a racist’. But thanks to the growing momentum behind the Sweden Democrats’ campaign, many of the other parties have been forced to discuss and debate the immigration issue. At least for now, it will not be possible to de-legitimise attempts to challenge prevailing immigration and integration policies.

The problem of integration

Contrary to hysterical media reports, Swedish citizens, including supporters of the Sweden Democrats, are not hardline xenophobes and racists. They are principally concerned not with immigration, but with multiculturalism and its negative impact on community cohesion. Even many immigrants and their children recognise that far more needs to be done to integrate newcomers in Sweden. The policy of multiculturalism impedes such efforts. Instead, it creates a segregated society in which people lead parallel lives.

Even Ahmed Abdirahman, a Somali-born ‘integration expert’ at the Stockholm Chamber of Commerce, concedes that the Sweden Democrats’ focus on integration may create an opportunity to forge a greater sense of ‘togetherness’ in Sweden. However, those immigrants who see the downside of multiculturalism are often shunned and silenced.

Take the case of Amineh Kakabaveh, an Iranian-Kurdish ex-Peshmerga fighter who gained asylum in Sweden in the 1990s. Though she is a member of the post-communist Swedish Left Party, and a member of parliament since 2008, she is a vociferous opponent of Sweden’s integration policies. She has been especially vocal in criticising Sweden’s handling of the 400,000 asylum seekers taken in since 2012, including 160,000 in 2015 alone, the highest number in Europe per capita. She argues that the failure to integrate such a large number of immigrants has led to a rise in Islamic fundamentalism in Sweden’s suburbs. Though she dislikes the Sweden Democrats, she recognises that many see the party as ‘heroic because the others don’t rise to the challenge’. But for daring to raise questions about integration, she has been punished by the leaders of the Left Party, who refused to put her on their list of recommended candidates for this weekend’s election.

The experience of Kakabaveh shows that even a self-declared socialist cannot question Sweden’s failed immigration and integration policy without being ostracised by the political establishment.

The beneficiaries of the populist moment

As I have argued previously, the populist moment has arrived. Throughout the Western world, a growing section of the electorate is reclaiming national and popular sovereignty. They want their status as citizens to be taken seriously and not undermined by a globalist elite that regards national loyalties and attachments as a 19th-century hangover.

In Sweden, the Sweden Democrats have been the beneficiaries of the populist moment and the crisis of legitimacy of the mainstream political parties. But who are they?

Critics of the Sweden Democrats have accused them of running a negative electoral campaign. Yet it is precisely opponents of the Sweden Democrats who have proven themselves expert in negative campaigning. They continually drew the electorate’s attention to the fact that when the party was formed 30 years, some of its founders had links with neo-Nazi movements. Yes, some of its founders did have unsavoury pasts, but the Sweden Democrats’ critics ignore the party’s ‘zero-tolerance policy’ on racism and the expulsion of several members and officials for making racist comments on social media.

Moreover, the Sweden Democrats have accepted Sweden’s welfare institutions, although party leaders have remained critical of the social-engineering policies directed at citizens’ family lives. Though its politics are still unformed, many are traditionally associated with a nationalist brand of conservatism. But it is a conservatism with a distinctly 21st-century flavour. For example, the party supports gay rights and sexual freedom.

The most important contribution the Sweden Democrats have made to political life is to draw attention to the importance of encouraging all members of society to become Swedish, both culturally and linguistically. Because unless Sweden learns to integrate its immigrant population, it will face further conflict and disorder

Whether the Sweden Democrats can thrive in post-election Sweden is an open question. But whatever the party’s future prospects, it has succeeded in giving voice to the concerns of many Swedes, who, until now, were scared to question the anti-national outlook of the political establishment. That is one discussion the incoming government will not be able to close down.


Top geneticist claims he can prove a child's character is fixed at birth

Plomin is THE expert on the genetics of IQ and behaviour generally

Now, one of the country’s top psychologists and behavioural geneticists, Professor Robert Plomin, of King’s College London, offers an emphatic conclusion.

It is drawn from 45 years of research and hundreds of studies. He says the single most important factor in each and every one of us — the very essence of our individuality — is our genetic make-up, our DNA.

The basic building blocks of life that we inherit from our parents are what determine who we are — not how much they loved us, read us books or which school they sent us to.

DNA accounts for at least half the variance in people’s psychological traits, much more than any other single factor. Put simply, ‘nature’ trumps ‘nurture’ every time, and not just marginally, but by a long, long chalk.

Our DNA, fixed and unchangeable, determines whether we have a predisposition not just to physical traits — from how tall we are to how much we weigh — but also to our intelligence and our psychology, from a tendency to depression to having resilience and grit.

Plomin’s revolutionary conclusion — outlined in a challenging and thought-provoking new book, Blueprint: How DNA Makes Us Who We Are — is a game-changer, he claims, with far-reaching implications for psychology and for society.

He turns much conventional thinking on its head, controversially calling into question many basic assumptions, such as the value of formal education to change people’s lives.

It also undermines the parenting advice industry, the basis of all those groaning shelves of manuals telling us the right way to bring up our children and the disasters that will ensue if we get it wrong.

These sell because every parent wants to think they can make a difference to their child, that they can help him or her with reading and arithmetic or teach them how to be kind or conscientious. But, says Plomin, there’s no hard evidence that this is true.

On the contrary, our ability to read, to learn, to empathise and so on are all ruled primarily by our genes.

Being a tiger mum (or dad) and laying down a strict regime of learning won’t be of the slightest use unless those tendencies already exist in the child’s DNA.

The raw material of our natural selves is what overwhelmingly determines what we can — and cannot — achieve, not how we are brought up. And all those parenting books that promise to deliver developmental outcomes for children are, he maintains, merely ‘peddling snake oil’.

Chicago-born Plomin’s startling conclusions come from two of his long-term studies. Over the course of 40 years, he tracked 250 adopted children in Colorado along with the birth parents who gave them their genes, and the adoptive parents who raised them. After moving to London in 1994, he launched a 20-year study of more than 12,000 pairs of twins.

From these studies, it was possible to unravel the relative importance of genes as opposed to environment when it came to their development.

Millions of pieces of data were amassed from the parents, teachers and the children themselves, about psychological traits such as hyperactivity and inattention, talents such as school achievement and the ability to learn languages, and physical characteristics, such as the propensity to put on weight and become obese.

From all this, he found overwhelming evidence that adopted children are similar to their birth parents, not the parents who raised them. Identical twins (ie, from a single egg and therefore with the same DNA) develop much more similarly to each other as compared with non-identical twins (from separate eggs and with different DNA).

The conclusion was clear — DNA makes us who we are. In the long term, the environment you grow up in has little impact on the way you turn out.

Even stressful life events such as relationship break-ups, financial difficulties and illness don’t have the impact that people generally assume.

In fact, what really matters in such situations is our genes, because it is our genes that determine how well or badly an individual deals with such setbacks. And whether we’re resilient to life’s catastrophes or cave in is determined by our DNA, too.

Take divorce. Even though the children in a family are all affected, how each individual deals with it often differs. It is often harder on one sibling than the other(s) — and that difference is because of their different DNA.

In fact, Plomin argues, there are genetic influences in virtually everything we do. Those differences determine how we perceive and interpret the world we grow up in, and how we modify our behaviour accordingly.

In school, genetic differences in children’s aptitudes and interests, inherited from their parents, affect the extent to which they take advantage of educational opportunities. Similarly, genetic differences in our vulnerability to depression affect the extent to which we interpret experiences we undergo positively or negatively.

The blueprint of our DNA even affects seemingly unrelated events such as road accidents. Car crashes are often caused by reckless driving, driving too fast, taking chances, or driving under the influence of alcohol and other drugs. Genetic differences in personality can increase the likelihood of accidents happening.

As his research developed over the years, Plomin was taken by surprise by the all-pervasiveness of genetic influences he discovered in almost every aspect of human behaviour — even down to being a nice person or not.

Altruism, caring and kindness are components of what personality researchers call ‘agreeableness’, and for years it seemed logical to him that these traits had to be the result of the environment we live in and the influence of those around us.

But his research showed this was not the case. Being nice is also something in our DNA. The same goes for grit and determination. Nurture and example do not teach some children to be tougher than others, their genes do.

All this leads Plomin to a conclusion that is hard to take: the family, he tells us, far from being the monolithic determinant of who we are, the bedrock from which we learn and grow, actually makes little difference to our personalities and the way we turn out.

There are exceptions.

Abuse, for example, can make huge differences to individuals, but because these instances are comparatively rare they do not alter the general finding that overall it is DNA that rules the roost.

This, too, explains why siblings are often so different in personality and temperament from each other even though they grow up side by side — something that often has parents shaking their heads in frustration. ‘Why can’t you be hard-working like your sister?!’

For example, Boris Johnson, is chaotic and boisterous, a flamboyant extrovert — the opposite of his rather more restrained and quiet little brother, government minister Jo Johnson, though they were brought up in the same household went to the same school and the same college at the same university. This indicates that nature, not nurture, makes the difference

So what, then, is the role of parents if they can’t make much of a difference in their children’s development beyond the genes they provide at conception?

This is, Plomin concedes, a ‘shocking and profound’ issue and many parents will see the suggestion that all their efforts are useless as untrue, insulting even.

After all, they devote their time and love to encouraging their children to learn, to play sport or a musical instrument, to manoeuvre their way through life. Surely that’s not wasted? The answer is that at one level it is, because children are not blobs of clay that can be moulded to their parents’ wishes.

All the parental input in the world can’t make a tone-deaf child musical. Similarly, children who are wired by their DNA to be sporty or artistic will badger their parents to let them pursue their interests.

Parents, he insists, need to realise ‘that they are not carpenters building a child from scratch. They are not even much of a gardener, if that means nurturing and pruning a plant to achieve a certain result.

‘We can try to force our dreams on them, that they become, for example, a world-class pianist or a star athlete. But we are unlikely to be successful unless we go with the genetic grain.’

That, though, still leaves an important role for parents — to find out what their children do well and provide the opportunities for them to do it. What we should not do is try to change them into something they are not.

‘Each child is their own person genetically. We need to recognise and respect their genetic differences. If we go against the grain, we run the risk of damaging our relationship with them.’

This has positives for parents, too, relieving them of the anxiety and guilt piled on them in how-to parenting manuals. ‘These can scare us into thinking that one wrong move can ruin a child for ever.’

Plomin hopes his findings will ‘free parents from the illusion that a child’s future success depends on how hard they push them’.

And the same, he insists, goes for schools — a theory that challenges the principles on which our education system is based.

Schools, he says, matter in that they teach basic skills such as literacy and numeracy. They also dispense fundamental information about history, science, maths and culture. But choice of school makes very little difference to a child’s achievement.

‘Genetics is by far the major source of individual differences in school achievement.’

This suggests we should ignore all those league tables of exam results and Ofsted ratings. Plomin argues that differences in schools have very little effect on outcome.

This conclusion will inevitably trigger a great debate about the comparative merits of selective grammar schools and non-selective comprehensives.

On average, GCSE scores for children in selective schools are a grade higher than in non-selective schools, and this difference is usually assumed to be because selective schools provide better schooling. Genetic research, however, shows that if the best pupils are selected according to the abilities they showed at primary school, they’ll inevitably get better GCSE results.

This is because of who they are, not what they’ve learned in the classroom or the way they’ve been taught.

Those higher grades are simply a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Once you discount genetic factors, generally speaking there is little difference between school achievement at age 11 and GCSE results at 16.

The ‘value added’ — a measure used by many top schools — turns out to be very small.

What all schools should aspire to, he maintains, is to be places where children can learn to enjoy learning for its own sake, rather than frenetically teaching pupils to pass the exams that will improve the school’s standing in league tables.

Not that the influence of our DNA is confined to our early years when we’re growing up.

Indeed, Plomin shows that it gets stronger as we get older. More and more, we revert to type. Yes, other factors impact on us, such as our relationships with partners, children and friends, our jobs and interests. All contribute to give life meaning.

But they don’t fundamentally change who we are psychologically — our personality, our mental health and our cognitive abilities. Good and bad things happen to us, but eventually we rebound to our genetic trajectory. Many people, Plomin acknowledges, will be aghast at his ‘bold conclusion’.

It seems to make us automatons, devoid of free will, victims of our DNA. And, indeed, this level of determinism could be an excuse for apathy, a refusal to take responsibility for oneself: ‘Not my fault, guv, it’s my genes!’

However, he categorically rejects this notion. Just because you have a genetic propensity to put on weight, for example, doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t try to lose some pounds. You may have the devil inside you, but you can keep it at bay.

Plomin found that his own genetic mapping threw up a surprise. ‘I am genetically predisposed to put on the pounds and find it hard to lose them. ‘It means I can’t let my guard down and, in those weak moments, give in to those siren snacks in the cupboard whispering to me.’

The same applies to anyone with a genetic propensity to depression, learning disabilities or alcohol abuse.

‘Genes are not destiny,’ says Plomin. You don’t have to succumb.

There was a telling example this week when former England captain Alastair Cook retired from Test cricket. In tribute, commentator Mike Atherton declared: ‘He made himself the best player he could be; he extracted every last ounce of his talent.’

Plomin’s radical new world may force us to bow to our genetic limits but, on the plus side, it will encourage us, like Alastair Cook, to do the best we can with the talents we’ve been given.



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, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS and  DISSECTING LEFTISM.   My Home Pages are here or   here or   here.  Email me (John Ray) here.  Email me (John Ray) here


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