French Moms and Social Psychologist Silliness

Česky: Eiffelova věž z Martova pole Deutsch: D...
Should parents shout, "Vive la France"? (Image via Wikipedia)

This weekend, I read the Wall Street Journal’s wonderful article “Why French Moms are Superior” by Pamela Druckerman, who has written a book with the same theme (Bringing Up Bébé: One American Mother Discovers the Wisdom of French Parenting) that is being published today. It seems to be similar in spirit to the recent “Tiger Mom” fad, inspired by Amy Chua’s book about the benefits her daughters had gained from her Chinese (versus nominally Western) approach to parenting.

Those who think such books are simply a matter of the horrific “Let’s adopt the practices of other cultures because everything truly American stinks” should think again, because they are not necessarily so. Judging by her WSJ article, Mrs. Druckerman’s discoveries in France match the parenting techniques and approaches that I have seen in many happy households here in the U.S. — frankly, many biblical approaches to parenting, that, indeed, are shamefully lacking on this side of the Atlantic. For instance, there is a focus on real parental authority in the home, “discipline” as training and not just as punishment, being loving but firm and expecting obedience, not seeing good parents as those who are “at the constant service of their children” (which, in reality, does a disservice to those children).

Reactions to the article and the book have varied, some good and some stupid.  Closer to the latter end of that spectrum were some of the reactions I saw in a Yahoo! “Shine” item on the book, “Are French Women the New Tiger Mothers?” provided by a “social psychologist” who “specializes in parenting.”

For instance, here’s the beginning of one such instance:

“While you can’t blame parents for everything, some popular parenting practices aren’t worth adapting. A 2003 poll found that 84 percent of French parents admit to slapping or spanking their child.”

You have to love that choice of word, “admit.” Interesting how the choice of a single word can make spanking seem like something one should be ashamed of, isn’t it? After all, who would say, “Yes, I admit that I kiss my wife on the cheek every morning”?

Expect the standard (false) equivocation: spanking = abuse. And to deliver on our expectation, the article provides the social psychologist “expert”:

“Anytime you hit or spank a child, you are teaching them that that’s acceptable behavior,” Susan Newman, Ph.D., a social psychologist who specializes in parenting, tells Shine. “There’s study after study that says abused children have the potential to become abusers themselves. From my thinking there’s no excuse for a parent hitting their child.”

Did you catch the switch? The move from “spank” to “abuse”? I’m glad that she qualified that last sentence with a “From my thinking” — that’s more qualification than most give.

(I’ve posted on spanking before — here and here. The “spanking = abuse” scam is one of the most damaging aspects of our society’s approaches to child rearing.)

But the “good advice well” in the article had not yet run dry…

But there are some things we can teach the world, too. “American parents are known for putting their children first,” says Newman. “As a result, children overall feel and know they’re special.”

This is a bit ambiguous, so I’d love to give our “expert” the benefit of a doubt as to what she really means. But does this mean putting the children’s “needs” at the very top of the family’s needs? If so, then it’s contributing to part of our society’s problems not the solutions.  If spanking them supposedly turns them into abusive monsters (it doesn’t), then why doesn’t making sure the children’s desires come first in everything turn them into narcissistic little entitlement monsters (it does)? We suffer from a terrible “I’m special and the world owes me” entitlement mentality in younger people today, thanks to the insidious influence of Darth Rogers. (Okay, I’m exaggerating a bit. Mister Rogers was a sweet fellow. But read the article at the link for what I’m talking about.) And families have been ruined by the choices some parents make in putting their children’s wants ahead of even the health of their marriage, ironically and tragically sacrificing the most important foundation children need in the name of those same children.

If anyone reads the article or book for himself or herself, feel free to leave your comments below. But, as the above comments demonstrate, don’t expect it to be reviewed sensibly by a society that may see some of its most cherished “sacred cows” offered up as barbecue.

The Super Bowl: To Watch or Not To Watch?

super bowl
super bowl (Photo credit: sinosplice)

Well, this weekend we’ll all see the Super Bowl. Or will we?

To be honest, I forgot it was this weekend until someone pointed it out to me.

[By the way, sometimes some say “I didn’t even know it was on” as a way to demonstrate that they too “enlightened” a person to pay attention to such “boorish” matters. Me? I admit to being simply unobservant.] 🙂

Generally, my family does not watch it. It’s not that we think football is somehow inherently evil (it’s not) or that we’re against watching television in general (we’re not). We’re just not “football” folks and tend not to care too much.

At the same time, we’ve been to a few Super Bowl viewing events that were a lot of fun–and by “a few,” I mean two. One was at the house of some close friends (that was the infamous “wardrobe malfunction” Super Bowl) and another was with some Church brethren who’d put together a Super Bowl viewing party where we spent more time fixing my wife’s table router than watching the game (though the whole event was a lot of fun, and the fact that I didn’t have to buy a new router was just icing on the cake).

There have also been many occasions in which I tuned in here and there, especially as the game is winding down, and have seen some amazing plays. I may not be a “football” guy (what do they call their scores? Homeruns? Royal Flushes?), but I do enjoy seeing people perform at their best and at the limits of human ability, and championships of all stripes and sizes tend to display exactly that. I enjoy giving my children the chance to see that, as well.

And while I can’t stand the “must buy things” mentality of our society, I do enjoy the creativity that goes into some of the Super Bowl television commercials–when, of course, they aren’t dirtied with sexual innuendo, or advertising a movie for which even brief clips make me want to scrub my eyeballs clean, etc. [By the way: This year’s Super Bowl has set a record in advertising sales and, assuming those paying the exorbitant prices for those TV spots aren’t completely incompetent, this adds to the evidence that the report of television’s demise has been greatly exaggerated.]

After the previously (parenthetically) mentioned 2004 Justin Timberlake/Janet Jackson fiasco, watching the halftime show is something I can almost guarantee we will not do (the halftime show over at the Puppy Bowl is often much more enjoyable). And speaking of that “wardrobe malfunction” moment, if I recall the entire halftime show that year was completely horrific, immoral, and simply disgusting. The fact that everyone focuses on those few fractional moments of Ms. Jackson’s indecent exposure instead of the complete moral cesspool the entire performance represented says something about our society, methinks.

Our Spokesman Club meeting will be over by lunchtime on Sunday, leaving everyone free to make their own choices: skip the game, watch the game, or switch back and forth.

What about you? Let me know in the incredibly exciting poll below!

The Duggars and attitudes about large families

English: Family posing for a portrait, 1900-19...
Look--a large family! Better call the cops... (Image via Wikipedia)

The recent miscarriage experienced by Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar is making a great deal of news headlines these days, as are thoughts about whether or not it was appropriate for photos of the child to have been taken by the family or for some of those photos to have become public (perhaps inadvertently) through social media. (It should be said that this was done by a nonprofit organization that specializes in such photos for grieving families and that they were used in a family ceremony to commemorate the baby’s life–context is important!)

I actually don’t want to speak to the photo “controversy” and simply add my words to the cacophony. They are a family in the public eye, and when private tragedy happens to such public individuals and families, the results are often awkward. I sympathize with the Duggars and I hope that they are able to find comfort in the days ahead.

I would rather use the opportunity to address something I have seen here and there that does bother me, and that is the growing attitude of many–in the media, as well–that large families are somehow, in and of themselves, wrong or that the desire to have a large family is somehow immoral. Our family isn’t even that large (the two of us and four boys), and yet we’ve experienced a bit of that attitude, ourselves. What’s wrong with a large family? If children are a blessing and we’re able to have them, then why is that somehow unethical? When did “big family” become a pair of dirty words?

Before I get to my thoughts on that, let me add some qualifying comments.

For one, I know that there are families out there who actually use a growing family as an opportunity to capitalize on public welfare. There are, as well, related but (IMHO) less-offensive-but-still-very-wrong cases where couples continue actively pursuing making their families larger and larger despite the fact that they know that they do not have the means to support their family as is and despite the fact that they expect the government (which means, of course, taxpayers) to support their family. Yes, I believe this is wrong and, frankly, immoral. (Note: I’m not speaking of a large family that has fallen temporarily on hard times, but, rather, a couple that is deliberately continuing to make their family larger and larger despite knowing that they cannot support the children they have already.)  If a man can’t support a larger family, he should not create a larger family. (cf. 1 Tim. 5:8).

Also, I know that there are so-called Christian movements out there (e.g., some “Quiverfull” folks) who believe that it is a sin to plan your family in any way and that any sort of contraception (not abortive birth control, which is wrong, but true contraception) or “natural family planning” techniques involving timing, etc. are against God’s will. While it would be beyond the scope of this post to discuss the matter in depth, let me simply say that this is not what the Bible says. The fact is that God, Himself, is carefully planning His family and not just going about it “willy nilly” (e.g., John 6:44, 1 Cor. 1:26-29), and lovingly planning a family is not the same as being anti-family. (It is a terrible shame that the satanic abortion industry has co-opted the words “family planning” and “planned parenthood” as they are actually in the business of “family destroying” and “corrupted parenthood.”)  The Bible is NOT against the wise use of contraception, nor is the Church of God that teaches from that Bible.

On this point, since we’ve been talking about Herbert W. Armstrong, it might be good to point out that he was very forcefully clear on this matter, as well, and that he taught very straightforwardly: “To PLAN a family in an intelligent manner, as to the time of the first arrival, and the time-spacing of other children–this is a different matter [versus purposefully avoiding family altogether]. Nothing in the Bible forbids this. MUCH in the Bible, in principle, supports it!” (The Missing Dimension in Sex, p.232). He then recommends to married couples some secular books on contraception and birth control (p.233) that could satisfy their need for contraceptive information to help plan their families. As he says (back on p.232), failing to apply principles of what he called “planned parenthood” (not the evil, pro-abortion “Planned Parenthood” but the principle of actively planning your family) actually meant missing out on an element of God’s “supreme purpose of character building.” Mr. Armstrong was right about this then, and he’s still right, today.

And–one more point–it is true that some can make an idol of “family” and an idol of “procreation.” They worship the idea of family instead of the God who created the family. That, too, is wrong.

From what I understand of them, I do not agree with the Duggars concerning their beliefs about what it means to “trust God” concerning the having children. Trusting God with such things does not entail adopting such attitudes about family planning any more than trusting God with your family’s protection means that you have to leave the doors to your house unlocked and open while you sleep–or any more than trusting God with providing for your family means that you don’t try to do your best at your job or career and be the best provider you can be.

However, much of the criticism they seem to receive comes more from those who seem absolutely against big families.  Yes, some of the criticism comes from those who aren’t against big families, per se, but against certain choices they’ve made concerning their family (are they exploiting their children on television, etc.) — I understand that, and I’m not addressing that.  I don’t watch them on TV enough to speak intelligibly on that. And, yes, some may criticize whether or not families of that size are wise or may question if they are really doing right by their kids — I understand that, too, and I’m not addressing that. If you decide to allow your family choices to be the centerpiece of a television series, you open yourself up for those sorts of discussions. And they can be good discussions.

But then there are those critics who seem to be against the idea of big families, at all, where “big” in their minds, varies but isn’t necessarily truly “big” at all. If a husband can truly support a large family, and his wife’s health is not unreasonably at risk, and they are able to give those children the love they owe them, then what’s wrong with a large family?

It seems such criticism is grounded in a few different things. Some feel that it is an additional burden on the earth’s resources–global warming, overpopulation and all that–that is immoral to allow at this stage in human history. Others seem to be offended at the need such a large family has for customary, biblical husband/father & wife/mother roles–outdated, oppressive, yadda, yadda, yadda, and all that rot.  Still others seem affronted by the focus such families generate on traditional family structure versus, say, homosexual “marriage”, etc.

Each of those criticisms is misplaced.  As for the environment, a rightly raised generation can do wonders for the world.  The burden of proof would be on those who so loosely

connect large families with environmental degradation, and I don’t know that this would be the easiest argument to make (see entry on “China”)–nor that it would even be relevant if it could be made.  God is the source of moral law, and it would be in the laws of God that the case for “immorality” would have to be made.  As for traditional roles for parents and the traditional family structure, well God is for both. Those with issues about such things are invited to take it up with Him. 🙂

(I’ll add that my wife makes a good observation at this point. Though we disagree with them on what God expects of a husband and wife with regard to family planning, my wife believes that some of the criticism they receive comes fro those who believe that God has no place in telling you what to do with your family at all. I think she’s right about that.)

No, there are those who would turn their nose up at a large family whether they were on television or not. Seeing them at the mall or grocery store would be just as offensive as seeing them on TV. And that’s a shame.

If the husband and wife can truly love them, if their health is up to the task, and they can actually, physically support them, what’s wrong with having a large family? Nothing that I can see. And aside from all the legitimate and helpful discussion that a public family like the Duggars’ might generate, there is an element that derides them purely for the fact that they believe that children are a blessing, that big families can be a wonder thing, and/or that religious beliefs should actively guide our decisions regardless of convenience. Having a large family definitely means that one will have to give up focusing on yourself and your own wants and desires and sacrifice for the sake of others. And, frankly, that goes against the “Religion of Me” that so saturates this world.

I do hope that the Duggars grow in their understanding of God’s true desires and purposes. (I know a television program I could recommend they watch!) I do hope that they are able to see that trusting God with your family does not mean abdicating responsibility for planning that family. I do hope that they are able to see that just because children are a blessing and a heritage from the Lord (and they are: Psalm 127:3), that doesn’t mean that we can’t have a role in prudently planning the timing and spacing of such blessings, any more than the fact that a prudent wife’s being a blessing and gift from God (and she is: Proverbs 19:14) means that we should “get one” as soon as possible whether we’re ready or not (nor does it mean that we should try to obtain as many wives as possible 🙂 ). Blessings such as these are also stewardships–something I am sure they understand but something I believe they could understand more fully.

But when it comes to those who seem to look at their family in disgust simply for the fact that they are a large family, I’m on their side. It’s true that when it’s done wrong it can be a disaster. But when it’s done right, a big family can be a very beautiful thing, indeed, and something to be celebrated.

On Tim Tebow and something refreshing in football

[UPDATE, 12/13/2011: I can’t believe that I missed the fact that we had a commentary run this very weekend on the Tomorrow’s World website that discusses Tim Tebow, as well! I subscribe to our commentary updates (and I urge you to do so, as well!), but in the hustle and bustle of the weekend, I must have missed it. My thanks to my Beautiful Wife for pointing it out to me! I’d rather you read that than this or at least go read than and come back. Here it is: “Faith on the Football Field?” by Mr. Dexter Wakefield.]

Posting this graphic may be the closest I get to a real football in the foreseeable future...

Well, many hate him and many love him, but few football fans seem to feel one way or the other about Tim Tebow.

If you have no idea who that is, don’t worry, you’re fine. No need to adjust your TV set. He’s the current starting quarterback for the Denver Broncos who (1) happens to be enjoying a very good season so far in spite of a number of shortcomings in his technique, (2) happens to be very open (and sincere) about his nominally Christian faith, frequently kneeling (increasingly called “Tebowing”) and praying after successful moments on the field, and (3) happens to seem like a genuinely decent and caring fellow.

As for his religion, itself, I have no comment beyond my normal comments about mainstream Christianity: It is a far cry from “the faith once delivered” and I would suspect that Mr. Tebow’s preferred version of Christianity is no different.

But rather than pick at the details (e.g., are his public displays, however sincerely motivated, violations of Matthew 6:5-6?), I’d like to focus on the fact that his attitude is terribly refreshing in a world–that of professional sports–that seems so often to be one of glorifying the self above others. Football is just like any other professional sport in the sense that it is what you make of it — not inherently vile or righteous in and of itself, and commendable/condemnable based on the attitudes of its participants and fans.  I’ve seen “no contact” sports like golf, tennis, and track produce and display individuals with incredibly satanic attitudes, and I’ve seen “full contact” sports like football and wrestling produce and display some pretty decent human beings and moments of real virtue. But all sports, especially at the professional level, seem to risk a glorifying of the self above others–definitely not the attitude of Philippians 2:3.  And all the kneeling and “I thank the Lord Jesus” Tebow moments aside, those moments where he simply behaves like a clean decent fellow are, I think, wonderfully refreshing.

There are a few anecdotes related in the Wall Street Journal’s article this weekend “Tim Tebow: God’s Quarterback” (12/10/2011 — and no paywall!) that illustrate this refreshing quality.  Here’s my favorite, I think: The moment after Tim Tebow had been sacked (that’s where the quarterback is tackled while still in possession of the ball, for the sports ignorant) in the Broncos’ came against the Detroit Lions, the “sacker,” Stephen Tulloch, took a knee to the ground in an obvious attempt to mock Tebow’s own kneeling prayers.  But when asked later what he felt about Tulloch’s mean spirited jab, the WSJ reports that Tebow responded, “He was probably just having fun and was excited he made a good play and had a sack. And good for him.”

Now, on one hand, this sort of response should be non-news. On the other hand, the fact that it is news is what makes it news. (Those looking for an unending iterative loop in that statement are free to have at it.)

Actually, the article is a good one for a number of reasons — it’s discussion on why someone such as Tebow, who seems like a genuinely good fellow, stirs such reactions in the public, as well as on other matters, was interesting to me (one who is otherwise not a big sports fan).  A comment made in the article (and highlighted in a sidebar in the print version) that caught my eye was this one: “A public figure’s seemingly admirable character throws us. We don’t know how to trust goodness.”  I really do think it’s a worthwhile read, regardless of one’s opinion about sports — check it out here if you’d like.

Having grown up in the era of Tom Landry and Roger Staubach’s Cowboys, today’s sports and the attitudes that accompany them irritate me to no end. And if even mainstream Christians are irritated at Tebow’s displays, however sincere they may be, I can understand (for example, I can’t imagine Landry or Staubach wearing their faith on their sleeve so much — even though Landry, himself, taught “Sunday School” and adult Bible studies).  But it is refreshing to me to see some positive attitude from a big name player who really does seem to recognize that football is, after all, only a game, and that there really are more important things out there.

Battlestar Galactica and Mormonism

Battlestar Galactica
If that isn't 70s hair, what would be? (Image by Mjr Kool via Flickr)

For most of you, that will seem an odd title. For others, it will be an “Oh, yeah — I’ve heard of that” title.  When I say “Battlestar Galactica” I don’t refer to the horrible “let’s make it gritty & graphic because gritty & graphic is cool” sci-fi series of the same name tossed out to the public in recent years (which a combination of personal viewing standards and strong sentimental feelings prevent me from watching), but the old 1978 one-season-long television saga Battlestar Galacticawith Lorne Green, Richard Hatch, and Dirk Benedict.  You know, the real Batlestar Galactica.  The one where Starbuck was a man, who, after once the fleet finally found Earth, eventually joined the A-Team to work with Mr. T.

For many folks, this is old news, but watching some of the old episodes on Netflix with the kids and talking about it with my mother-in-law (now on her way back to Texas) reminded me that there are many who do not know about the connection between Battlestar Galactica and Mormonism.  The series’ creator, Glen Larson, is Mormon, and it is well known that many elements of Mormonism were incorporated into the television program.  Rather than make a huge list here, allow me to redirect you to a more thorough one that any I would provide: Observations on the correlation between Battlestar Galactica and the LDS Church.

I honestly don’t think that the show was intended as a “subliminal vehicle” for Mormon teachings — rather, I think that it’s a simple case where bits of Mormon belief were simply used as inspiration for elements in the show (Kobol for Kolob, “As you are now, we once were,” etc.), just as names were borrowed from the Bible and from mythology (Adama, Apollo, Athena, Cassiopeia, etc.).  Still, while those borrowings were obvious, those unfamiliar with the tenets or peculiarities of Mormonism may have missed the others.

I know that this isn’t the most earth-shattering blog post on the Internet today, but I still thought it would be interesting for those who didn’t know this bit of trivia related to what may be a warm TV memory from the late 70s.

Beauty as something universally recognizable

About to hit the sack and thought I would post this quickly and see what you folks out there think.

I’ve been obsessed with looking up facts about Barber’s Adagio for Strings at various points this weekend (that’s a problem with the iPhone: you can act on such obsessive impulses too easily), and in one of my Google searches came across this old 2007 article at Christianity.com: “The Loss of Beauty.”

While the thought it expresses is not new to me, the instance of the Washington Post experiment is. (Reminds me of different experiment exploring the beauty of math using the proof of the irrationality of two, but that’s a post for another day!)

What are your thoughts, music lovers? While I would not want this to come across as an endorsement of everything you read on Christianity.com (never heard of it before today, I think), I do recommend that you read the article. If you do, let me know what you think.

Science proves that humans dig music…

PET scan of a normal human brain
PET scan of a normal brain (meaning, not mine). Image via Wikipedia

…though they’re still ironing our the true details of why.

I’ve often wondered why our brain interacts the way it does with music (something God uses to His–and our–benefit; e.g., Deut. 31:19) and have given Bible studies on the topic. The relationship between music and the mind has intrigued scientists, as well, for some time.

Well, new research has demonstrated that music can cause physical reactions in our brain similar to the pleasure derived from eating a good meal or even taking cocaine.

Here’s an article about the study from back in January (as usual, I’m late to the party): “Favourite music evokes same feelings as good food or drugs” (guardian.co.uk, Sunday 9 January 2011).  I think the title is a little misleading, because–as best I can tell–the study wasn’t about favorite music, though I could be wrong.  Subjects did, however, select music that had no lyrics and wasn’t tied to special events, memories, movies, etc., so that the result was music that was enjoyed simply as music and not because it was associated with other things.

In particular, I find it fascinating that Samuel Barber’s Adagio for Strings is mentioned as the most popular single piece of music in the study and that a techno-pop remix of the adagio was the most popular in the dance, trance, and techno category, as well.

I will admit that I love Barber’s Adagio as well, and I have seen it mentioned before in another science article about the connection between the brain and music, although I can’t recall which article that was — something about certain compositions that fit a particularly logical structure.  I find the piece very moving, though no single piece of music has ever moved me as much as the first time I listened to the Pas de Deux from the Nutcracker, sitting at my desk at my dorm room at Texas A & M.  I’ve always wondered why that piece of music hit me in such a manner, but the effect was real and just a little unnerving.

Anyway, consider reading the short piece in the Guardian website website if you are interested (original study here).  And, a tip of the hat to the “B Good Science Blog” that first alerted me to the study.

How Men Are Becoming Boys

When I saw the blurb about the article “Where Have All the Good Men Gone?” a few days ago in the Wall Street Journal, I thought it would just be some whining about dating. However, I picked it up again and read it this morning and found it to be much more significant.

I won’t try too hard to overly summarize it, but I recommend that anyone deeply saddened by what is becoming of men in this country give the article a read.  The author, Kay S. Hymowitz, has written a new book coming out on March 1: Manning Up: How the Rise of Women Has Turned Men Into Boys.

[Image of book cover from Amazon]The gist of the article (which is apparently an excerpt from the book) is summarized nicely by the subtitle: “Kay S. Hymowitz argues that too many men in their 20s are living in a new kind of extended adolescence.”

Here’s a passage from the article:

“What explains this puerile shallowness? I see it as an expression of our cultural uncertainty about the social role of men. It’s been an almost universal rule of civilization that girls became women simply by reaching physical maturity, but boys had to pass a test. They needed to demonstrate courage, physical prowess or mastery of the necessary skills. The goal was to prove their competence as protectors and providers. Today, however, with women moving ahead in our advanced economy, husbands and fathers are now optional, and the qualities of character men once needed to play their roles—fortitude, stoicism, courage, fidelity—are obsolete, even a little embarrassing.”

I would change “husbands and fathers are now optional” to “husbands and fathers are now portrayed as optional” or “mistakenly perceived as optional.”  And how truly, deeply sad that we should live in a culture in which such virtues as fortitude, stoicism, courage, and fidelity are seen as “obsolete, even a little embarrassing.”

The article also introduced me to a pathetic new category in the maturation process: “pre-adulthood” — apparently the new name for this “no longer an adolescent, but not ready to be an adult” stage that used to simply be young adulthood.  It’s the stage where boys who used to turn into men remain, in too many ways, boys.  Individuals who so linger as “adolescents grown large” used to be considered extraordinarily immature.  Now, it is seen as a norm.  Again, from the article:

“For most of us, the cultural habitat of pre-adulthood no longer seems noteworthy. After all, popular culture has been crowded with pre-adults for almost two decades. Hollywood started the affair in the early 1990s with movies like ‘Singles,’ ‘Reality Bites,’ ‘Single White Female’ and ‘Swingers.’ Television soon deepened the relationship, giving us the agreeable company of Monica, Joey, Rachel and Ross; Jerry, Elaine, George and Kramer; Carrie, Miranda, et al.”

Pre-adulthood is apparently not a healthy place to stop:

What also makes pre-adulthood something new is its radical reversal of the sexual hierarchy. Among pre-adults, women are the first sex. They graduate from college in greater numbers (among Americans ages 25 to 34, 34% of women now have a bachelor’s degree but just 27% of men), and they have higher GPAs. As most professors tell it, they also have more confidence and drive. These strengths carry women through their 20s, when they are more likely than men to be in grad school and making strides in the workplace. In a number of cities, they are even out-earning their brothers and boyfriends.

As Mr. Meredith and Dr. Winnail asked us to consider several years ago, much of this may be due to the feminization of our educational system.

Not that the ladies are completely happy about this situation:

“Still, for these women, one key question won’t go away: Where have the good men gone? Their male peers often come across as aging frat boys, maladroit geeks or grubby slackers…”

I, for one, think I will buy the book.  Maybe you will too, but whether you do or don’t, read the article.  And, stoic man or not, I may “sigh and cry” inwardly à la Ezekiel 9:4 over such things:

“As for My people, children are their oppressors, and women rule over them. O My people! Those who lead you cause you to err, and destroy the way of your paths” (Isaiah 3:12).

[UPDATE: Just read an interesting blog post by Stewart Schneiderman of “Had Enough Therapy?” who discussed the same article in his post “Too Few Good Men”  Among his comments:

When feminists declared war on men and on masculine values, they did not intend to produce a generation of post-adolescent males who can barely hold down jobs, who have no interest in getting married and settling down, and who are lying around the house drinking beer, playing video games, and stuffing themselves with chips and dip.

But when you change cultural policy, you are responsible for the outcome, regardless of whether it was what you intended. Feminists may not have intended to unman men; but, as the old saying goes: they broke it; now they own it. At the very least they should own up to it.

You might be interested in his other observations on the article on the article.  (As always, let the surfer beware.)]

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“I, for one, welcome our new computer overlords.”

Image representing iPhone as depicted in Crunc...
Come on, say something... (Image via CrunchBase)

The title of the post today — Ken Jennings final Simpsons-inspired “answer” in the Jeopardy! bout against the Brad Rutter and IBM’s computer Watson — was the perfect tongue-in-cheek finish to an amazing experience.  Kudos to Jennings and Rutter for participating and kudos to the IBM folks for their amazing work.

As a follow up to Tuesday’s post, I thought I would post a link to a nice New York Times article from yesterday discussing the Watson Jeopardy! experience: “Computer Wins on ‘Jeopardy!’: Trivial, It’s Not” (apparently the title was written by Yoda).

I’ve often waxed whimsical about picking up my iPhone and simply speaking into it and having it perform whatever function, search, etc. I request.  Not just holding down the button and saying, “Call… John Doe… Mobile…”  Not turning on the mapping feature and asking for directions.  But saying, “I’d like a pizza place along our current route — maybe a local joint instead of a national chain.  What’s up in the next ten or twenty miles?” and having it respond sensibly, accurately, and verbally.

Watson gives us a view of that future, and it might not be too far.

Whatever voice those first mega-apps use, if it doesn’t sound like Majel Barrett-Roddenberry then someone will have seriously messed up the future.

Monopoly, meet Big (Brother) Tower

All twelve tokens from the U.S. Deluxe Edition...
Mr. Tower, sir, what piece may I use? (Image via Wikipedia)

Quick hit, today. Hunting for some world news details, I came across this article in the NYTimes website: “No Dice, No Money, No Cheating. Are You Sure This Is Monopoly?”

The article — about the new version of the game, “Monopoly Live” — made me sad, and the pictures and video showing me the giant, speaking tower in the middle of the new board made me think of Big Brother, watching your every move.  The new version seems to automate things so much that it takes some of the human element out of the game of Monopoly.

I used to enjoy playing with my parents and sister when I was a kid. We used to call her “Miss Moneybags” because she always accumulated such wealth (the new game has no paper money and keeps track of accounts electronically).  In more recent days, our family of six has enjoyed the occasional game, as well, and over the years each has had an opportunity to be the victor in the end, I think.

In the new game, rules are dictated (actually “dictated,” as in spoken out loud) and enforced by the tower, in an effort to eliminate the tiresome task of actually learning the rules.  It even rolls virtual dice for you and tells you if you move your piece and incorrect number of spaces.  You simply sit there and do as the nice tower/talking, inverted lava lamp tells you to do.

Yet, some of the best moments of play in our family in the last few years have been those very human moments when the new Monopoly Tower would probably have shot one of us with a laser beam. For instance, once one of our boys — in a rare and to this day unrepeated show of concern for his about-to-be-bankrupt brother — actually gave a big chunk of change to his brother. Not a loan or a quid pro quo deal.  Just a sympathetic helping hand.

That was somewhat unique in our family Monopoly history (other than times Mom and Dad helped out the wee ones), but other very “human” moments are not, such as when land deals are made not just with cash, but with arrangements.  “I’ll sell you this for a lower price, but if you will give me free passage on your properties” and that sort of thing. Wheeling and dealing.  Interacting.  And (something special to me, at least) doing their own math.

The Tower looks as though it will take some or all of that away.  And it looks like an evil blender.  That can’t be good.