Friday, September 13, 2013

Changing the Name of "Grand Wizard High School"

The bad news: 

There is a public high school in Jacksonville, Florida named for Nathan Bedford Forrest, the Confederate general who was the first Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan.  The then all-white school was given that name in 1959 as a protest against the federal requirement that public schools integrate.

The worse news:

When parents at the now-integrated (and half black) school asked the school board to change the school's name in 2007, the board voted 5-2 to keep the name.

The good news:

Parents are leading a new movement to change the school name.  75,000 have signed their petition.  And all five pro-Grand Wizard members of the school board have been replaced.

The movement to end anti-black racism in this country will be long and slow, and still has decades to go.  But we make progress by little steps, like changing a school name.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

National Exceptionalism is True of Every Nation, and Dangerous

This is taken from CNN's account of today's minor dustup over national exceptionalism:

It was a reference to President Vladimir Putin's address Tuesday night, in which he said that while Russia can't be a global cop, it ought to act when in certain situations.

"That's what makes us exceptional," Putin said. "With humility, but with resolve, let us never lose sight of that essential truth."

Obama's answer to that?
"It is extremely dangerous to encourage people to see themselves as exceptional, whatever the motivation," he wrote.

He concluded with the line, "We are all different, but when we ask for the Lord's blessings, we must not forget that God created us equal."
This seems to me to be true and not really that controversial. As a sociologist I have to object to equating God creating all individuals equal with all nations being equal. Likewise, I object to conflating nations with the governments of those nations.

The main point, though, holds.  All nations are exceptional in some way.  But when a government thinks that its policies are justified because our nation is better than other nations, that is dangerous.  It is dangerous for everyone, most especially for the nation imagining that it is above the laws that affect other nations. 

The United States as a state, and the American people as a nation, have some distinctive virtues.  I celebrate and promote them often. But we also have the same kind of self-serving temptations that all states do to see our interests as justifying acting unilaterally, and claiming it is for the common good.

Now, as you have probably realized, I did amend CNN's account of the kerfuffle slightly: I swapped "Putin" and "Obama," and substituted "Russia" for "America."  But the same principle holds.  And it would hold if any other leader were swapped for "Putin" and any other country swapped for "Russia."

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Better-off People Seem to Be Having More Children

This is the conclusion of a private report from BCA Research, described in The Economist.

The birth dearth that was threatening to crash the populations of developed nations in a generation or two seems to be reversing. And it is reversing in exactly the cohorts one would most hope it would: educated, married couples who have the structure and resources most conducive to raising children.

A generation ago, the more educated a woman was, the fewer children she was likely to have.  Now, it appears, the opposite is true for younger cohorts.

This is good news, indeed.

Monday, September 09, 2013

The Russians Get the Syrians to Destroy Chemical Weapons? Win, Win, Win

The great news coming out the Syrian crisis would be a win for everyone. 

A win for the Syrian people, first and foremost, who would no longer be gassed by their government.

A win for the United States and its allies in not having to bomb the Syrian weapon capacity.

A win for the Russians in showing that they have the power to help, and actually helping.

It is probably also a win, if only temporary, for the Syrian the dictatorship, in showing that they are slightly less awful than they could possibly be.

This is not a done deal, of course, but it certainly would be happy news if it can be brought home.