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Archive for the ‘Social Economics’ Category

Every year its the same story: a small group of bleeding-heart liberals declare war on (terrible) Christmas (songs). For example, last year Funny or Die created a video revealing how rapey “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” is. This year, a couple has re-written some of “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” to emphasize the importance of consent. Based on this short list, you would be forgiven for thinking that the primary objective in this war is to take down “Baby, It’s Cold Outside.” Other songs are also targeted, however.

For example, A.V. Club has a regular feature called “HateSong,” in which people talk about songs they hate (I know, it is a difficult concept to grasp). Last year, Dan Finnerty, who is in a band called Dan Band (that, as far as I can tell, performs primarily in movies) discussed his hatred for “The Christmas Shoes.” As you may know, “The Christmas Shoes” was named “The World’s Most Offensive Christmas Song” in 2010, so Dan’s hatred is well-deserved. Dan’s band also recorded a song called “The Christmas Flip-Flop” to make fun of it, which I suppose demonstrates more commitment to hatred than simply writing a blog post.

Whether you’re full of Christmas spirit or need a 500-reindeer-powered Kringle 3000 to help you get out of bed this time of year, here are some additional posts from the past about Christmas:

2015: Life after murder for Kevin Mcallister

2015: ELF ON THE SHELF!

2015: Preferred pronouns on the shelf

2014: Christmas as social control

2013: Christmas at Fox News

2012: Kevin McCallister, murderer?

2012: Toys for rich and poor

2012: Toys for boys and girls

2012: Thoughts on Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer

2011: Holiday advertising gone wrong (a.k.a. the Folgers commercial)

2009: Christmas spells relief


“Like” Memoirs of a SLACer on Facebook to receive updates and links about spreading Christmas cheer via your news feed.

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Over at Orgtheory, Fabio ruminates about the disruptive effects that driverless cars will have for police, stating:

Another way that driverless cars will disrupt police departments is that they will massively reduce police stops. If a driverless car has insurance and registration (which can be transmitted electronically) and drives according to the rules of the road, then police, literally, have no warrant to pull over a car that has not been previously identified as related to a specific crime. Hopefully, this means that police will no longer use moving violations as an excuse to pull over racial minorities.

This might bring the “massive improvement for humanity” that Fabio foresees at some point in the future, but in the meantime I would argue that it will make things worse for those without the financial means to afford a self-driving car because police will pay disproportionate attention to them. This will, unfortunately, include a disproportionate number of racial minorities. As a result, I suspect that things will get worse before they get better.


“Like” Memoirs of a SLACer on Facebook to receive updates and links via your news feed (what else are you going to do, watch baseball?).

 

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ESPN’s recent documentary, O.J.: Made in America provides an excellent look at the complicated intersections of race and class in the U.S. The five-part series documents how O.J. Simpson rose to fame as a Heisman trophy winner at USC, the first NFL player to rush for over 2,000 yards in a season, and a trend-setting spokesperson for various corporations.

Born in the San Francisco projects, Simpson’s trajectory mirrors that of many Horatio Alger characters. That it occurred in the 1960s made Simpson a perfect example for those who argued (like many today) that if Blacks would just keep their heads down, work hard, and buy into the values of White America, success and acceptance would follow. Interviews from the time indicate that Simpson largely bought into this idea himself.

For me, the relationship between Simpson and race was the most interesting aspect of the documentary. His charisma and success on the football field allowed him to largely transcend the racial restrictions of the time and live a life surrounded by wealthy Whites. Despite this, the trial for the murders he committed (and nearly everybody in the documentary – even his friends – is convinced that he committed them) became a referendum on race in L.A. following the Rodney King trial. Anger at the LAPD’s racial injustice led to a nation that was sharply divided along racial lines about Simpson’s acquittal by a mostly-Black jury but the trial also made Simpson Black again in the eyes of the public and a pariah among his former White friends.

Today, Simpson is in prison as a result of a ridiculously long sentence for a relatively minor crime in which he attempted to steal sports memorabilia that he believed had been stolen from him. Those in the documentary believe that this sentence is essentially payback for Simpson getting away with murder, which was itself payback for Rodney King. Some even blame Simpson’s mid-’90s trial for exacerbating the racial divide in the U.S. The juxtaposition of White and Black interviewees and their views on particular issues is also revealing, even if the conclusions that I took from these comparisons are not likely those that members of the Trump demographic are likely to draw.

Overall, I highly recommend all five parts. I watched most of them on demand through my cable provider and they are also available on ESPN’s Watch ESPN website. Be aware, though, that there are a number of descriptions (including recordings of 911 calls) of Simpson’s domestic violence prior to the murders and a few extremely graphic images of the murdered bodies of Nicole Brown and Ronald Goldman that I had to look away from during the discussion of the trial. There may be some short portions that could be used for class discussions, though the issues involved are probably best considered with a complete viewing.


“Like” Memoirs of a SLACer on Facebook to receive updates and links via your news feed (sometimes frequently, sometimes less so).

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Late December is not only the time for grading and holidays, it is also the time to repost things that were written long ago as an alternative to writing something new when busy with grading and holidays. (Alternatively, one might also post old things by others!) In keeping with this tradition and the approach of Christmas, here are some Christmas-themed posts from the past:

2015: Life after murder for Kevin Mcallister

2015: ELF ON THE SHELF!

2015: Preferred pronouns on the shelf

2014: Christmas as social control

2013: Christmas at Fox News

2012: Kevin McCallister, murderer?

2012: Toys for rich and poor

2012: Toys for boys and girls

2012: Thoughts on Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer

2011: Holiday advertising gone wrong (a.k.a. the Folgers commercial)

2010: The world’s most offensive Christmas song

2009: Christmas spells relief

“Like” Memoirs of a SLACer on Facebook for links to holiday-themed posts a few times a year and non-holiday-themed posts the rest of the year.

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While doing my capitalist duty this weekend, I noticed that there actually is a benefit to those annoying Elf on the Shelf dolls (aside, of course, from social control):

Elf on the Shelf

They can be used to introduce your children to the idea of preferred pronouns (note the upper right corner of the box) and the fact that not everybody is cisgender! Not a bad “new family tradition” to adopt!

“Like” Memoirs of a SLACer on Facebook to receive updates and links about cisgender dolls via your news feed.

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Last year, Target stopped me from making a huge mistake by labeling which Halloween cards were for boys and which were for girls. This year, though, Target has stated it will move away from gender-based signs for toys and children’s bedding. Because gender differences in Target have been completely obliterated for kids, I worried that adults shopping at Target would have a hard time deciding which Halloween costumes to buy for themselves. What if this year’s “sexy” costumes were gender neutral?! What if there were no “sexy” costumes at all?!

Given these legitimate concerns, you can imagine how relieved I was to see that Target had not failed me after all. Although fans have apparently been concerned for years about the fact that there may not be any female stormtroopers, this confusion was caused by the fact that they wore the same armor as their male counterparts. Target has eliminated the need for confusion by revealing a new stormtrooper uniform that does away with those pesky masks and pants that led people to conclude that they were all men:(Female) StormtrooperGender equality in the Star Wars universe doesn’t stop at the lowly stormtroopers, though. Even the leaders of the Empire have the possibility of being women once we remove all the clothing they’ve been wearing. Darth Vader, for example, might not be a crusty old white man. Maybe Darth Vader is a woman. To find out all we have to do is remove that pesky mask and those damn pants. Ta da! Darth Vader is a sassy woman and she will force choke you (if you’re into that sort of thing)!

(Female) Darth VaderWith stormtroopers and Darth Vader upping the sexiness ante this year, I was disappointed to see that sexiness appears to be reserved for those on the dark side of the force (though I guess it makes sense, since Yoda warned: Fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, hate leads to sexiness). Those who want to dress as Princess Leia’s are stuck with this full-length gown, even though she unleashed her sexiness all over Jabba the Hutt’s palace in the movies:(Female, apparently) Princess LeiaHow are we supposed to know she has legs under there? Her lack of sexiness is surely the reason that nobody trusted her with a “sold separately” blaster or lightsaber like the women in the other costumes. Target knows that a hand on your hip doesn’t cut it. You need to show some skin if you want to be taken seriously as a sexy badass!

Keep your head up, Leia. Maybe next year you’ll be able to take on sexy stormtroopers and sexy Darth Vaders in your sexy slave girl costume and they’ll give you more than a finger gun to do it. Until then, use the force, I guess.

“Like” Memoirs of a SLACer on Facebook to receive sexy updates and links via your news feed.

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Last week, US News released the annual rankings for liberal arts institutions. It also released a bunch of other rankings, including “Best Undergraduate Teaching.” “Wait,” you may be thinking, “How different can the best liberal arts schools and the best liberal arts schools for undergraduate teaching be?” The answer is, “More different than you would think.”

You may recall that the overall rankings for national liberal arts institutions are strongly correlated with endowments. Apparently, the things that make a school good at teaching in the eyes of US News differ from those that make a school good overall. Interestingly, the methodology for determining best teaching is similar to that for determining the best graduate programs. Namely, they ask people about their perceptions: “College presidents, provosts and admissions deans who participated in the annual U.S. News peer assessment survey were asked to nominate up to 10 schools in their Best Colleges ranking category with a strength in undergraduate teaching.”

Like the graduate school rankings, then, the undergraduate teaching rankings reflect others’ perceptions rather than a formula that schools might try to game. It turns out that, unlike the national liberal arts rankings, these perceptions are not strongly correlated with a school’s endowment (only .226 vs. .78 for the national rankings). Although there are similarities, some schools are rated much differently in the rankings for undergraduate teaching. Hendrix College has the largest difference between its overall ranking (82) and its teaching ranking (29). Other schools that are at least 40 spots higher in the teaching than overall rankings include: Beloit, Wheaton, St. Olaf, Lawrence, Berea, and Wooster.

Of the schools appearing on both lists, Bowdoin looks the worst, with its overall ranking of 4 and its teaching ranking of 29. Many high-ranking schools in the overall rankings, though, don’t appear on the list of the top 30 teaching schools at all. Eleven schools in the top 30 national rankings do not appear in the top teaching rankings, the highest-ranked of which are the US Naval Academy and Claremont McKenna, tied for 9th in the national rankings.

The takeaway from all of this seems to be that a school’s reputation for teaching is not nearly as dependent on financial wealth as its overall rankings. I think that the different methodologies for different rankings are also interesting, since graduate programs are essentially ranked by those in similar programs, who would seem to know best. Undergraduate teaching is ranked in the same way, but US News is not willing to allow these peer-nominated rankings to make up its most publicized rankings like it is for graduate programs.

Of course, both types of rankings are probably connected only tenuously to actual student experiences at various schools, but by publicizing their overall rankings, US News ensures that they will keep schools focused on the small things they can do to try to climb the rankings, while an emphasis on the perceptions of others may allow schools to shift their foci to the bigger picture, considering what is best for students instead of for US News.

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