Archive for September 7th, 2010

September 7, 2010

Pictures of the Day

by Vince

Picture taken on September 6, 2010 in Lyon, eastern France, shows a new gargoyle put on the the cathedral, which looks like Benzizine Ahmed (R), the Muslim foreman who led the restoration of the tower and worked on the cathedral for 30 years. The gargoyle, in honour of Ahmed, stands over a sign saying ‘Allah Akbar’ (God is Greatest) in both Arabic and French language. By Philippe Desmazes/AFP/Getty Images. [From the Daily Dish]

Marcia Coyle reports that “for the first time in more than 30 years, the U.S. military has allowed an enlisted Sikh soldier to maintain his religiously-mandated turban, beard and hair while serving in the Army.”

Reaction from James Joyner:

And, goodness knows, we need more soldiers with South Asian language proficiency.

The Army wants everyone to look the same — hence the uniforms — and conform to an image.   Men in beards, long hair, and turbans don’t fit that image.    Then again, neither do women.   Yet, while they wear essentially the same uniforms, they’re allowed to wear their hair at a reasonable length — far shorter than the tight taper mandated for male soldiers.  And, frankly, long hair looks  funny under a beret.  Somehow, we’ve managed to adapt.

(Image: AP)
[From the Daily Dish]

September 7, 2010

“Our Ultimate End…”

by michaelrdrane

“…the creation of the beloved community.”

I’m leaving today for the annual Christian Community Development Association (CCDA) Conference. I’ve been waiting for this moment for months! As one of the CCDA’s value is racial reconciliation made possible by Christ’s ultimate act of reconciling by his death on the cross, I thought I’d post on the topic of white privilege. It may be one of the most misunderstood concepts in American society today. Jim Webb serves as Exhibit A here. Anyway, let’s take a closer look at the term’s true connotation.

In this economy, many have argued against white privilege as an outdated idea. “Millions of poor white people are out of work,” they say, “so how can they possibly hold some sort of privilege?” Or even, “There are accomplished black people all across the country and many white people in cities and rural areas still living in poverty. Sounds like black privilege to me.” While these two statements might seem to carry some weight, at their root is a fundamental misunderstanding of the term.

Let’s write a hypothetical history of golf. Pretend that for a long time back in the day, black people weren’t allowed to golf at all. White people played on all the best courses and shared all the latest advancements, but if black people wanted to play, they had to do so in secret. Now let’s say that we’ve had golf minus overt segregation for decades and a black man overcomes the hurdles and wins a title. Is that our sign that white privilege has ended in golf? It isn’t, because the heart of white privilege doesn’t lie in the ability of white people to collectively and completely control power.

Let’s look at a realistic example. If a group of people is enslaved, utterly, and brutally shut out of society for four hundred years, it stands to reason that after less than one hundred and fifty years of freedom (and most of that restricted and still overtly oppressed) there are still deep, lingering inequalities and prejudices.  One black person “making it” doesn’t negate that. Though he, with one arm tied behind his back, is stronger than whoever his white competition is at the time, white privilege is not erased.

At its core, white privilege is the idea that given a white man and a black man with equal abilities and similar backgrounds, the white man will always, or almost always, get the position, promotion, admittance, etc. over his black counterpart. This goes for the Harvard educated and the impoverished rural farmer. Don’t believe me? Check the facts (and much respect if you can make it through the whole link).

If you’re white, like me, I hope you don’t walk away from this feeling guilty or defensive. In reality, the truth is you are culpable. If you have benefited from white privilege (and you have), you have a responsibility to bring justice. You still have your privilege, so use it to level the playing field. Let’s stop fighting against each other, and start fighting for each other. While we’re at it, let’s celebrate too. White people, your ethnicity isn’t something to be ashamed of; it’s to be celebrated. You were created good by your Creator. Celebrate that, and celebrate the same truth inherent in every other ethnic group. When more people of different ethnicities get together to celebrate each other’s strengths, we will begin to see the shadows of shame and the animosity it births recede in the face of joy and unity.

September 7, 2010

How to Learn Things and Influence Neurons

by cpmy3rs

It is a terrible title. It is also 2am, sue me.  I hate to make my first entry here about something so mundane, thoroughly non-political, and controversial only in the psychology and education departments of America’s universities — especially after Vince’s generous introduction.  Therefore it is with no small measure of regret that I feel the vestigial fetters from my recent liberation from college life demanding that I draw everyone’s attention to this wonderful little article in the New York Times.

Yet there are effective approaches to learning, at least for those who are motivated. In recent years, cognitive scientists have shown that a few simple techniques can reliably improve what matters most: how much a student learns from studying.

The findings can help anyone, from a fourth grader doing long division to a retiree taking on a new language. But they directly contradict much of the common wisdom about good study habits, and they have not caught on.

Yes, I know, I have failed to actually say which bits of conventional study wisdom are binned by current research, but then I would be spoiling the surprise!