Undercover With the Alt-Right – The New York Times

Good long disturbing read. Part I found most interesting is the relationship between the more and less extreme elements:

The extreme alt-right are benefiting immensely from the energy being produced by a more moderate — but still far-right — faction known as the “alt-light.”

The alt-light promotes a slightly softer set of messages. Its figures — such as Milo Yiannopoulos, Paul Joseph Watson and Mike Cernovich — generally frame their work as part of an effort to defend “the West” or “Western culture” against supposed left-liberal dominance, rather than making explicitly racist appeals. Many of them, in fact, have renounced explicit racism and anti-Semitism, though they will creep up to the line of explicitly racist speech, especially when Islam and immigration are concerned.

This apparent moderation partly explains why they tend to have much bigger online audiences than even the most important alt-right figures — and why Hope Not Hate describes them as “less extreme, more dangerous.” Alt-light sites like Breitbart, formerly home to Mr. Yiannopoulos, as well as Prison Planet, where Mr. Watson is editor at large, draw millions of readers and are key nodes in a hyperkinetic network that is endlessly broadcasting viral-friendly far-right news, rumors and incitement.

Fluent in the language of online irony and absurdism, and adept at producing successful memes, alt-lighters have pulled off something remarkable: They’ve made far-right ideas hip to a subset of young people, and framed themselves as society’s forgotten underdogs. The alt-light provides its audience easy scapegoats for their social, economic and sexual frustrations: liberals and feminists and migrants and, of course, globalists.

The alt-light’s dedicated fan base runs into the millions. Mr. Watson has more than a million YouTube followers, for example, while Mr. Yiannopoulos has more than 2.3 million on Facebook. If even a tiny fraction of this base is drafted toward more extreme far-right politics, that would represent a significant influx into hate groups.

According to researchers, the key to hooking new recruits into any movement, and to getting them increasingly involved over time, is to simply give them activities to participate in. This often precedes any deep ideological commitment on the recruits’ part and, especially early on, is more about offering them a sense of meaning and community than anything else.

Intentionally or not, the far right has deftly applied these insights to the online world. Viewed through the filters of alt-light outlets like Breitbart and Prison Planet, or through Twitter feeds like Mr. Watson’s, the world is a horror show of crimes by migrants, leftist censorship and attacks on common sense. And the best, easiest way to fight back is through social media.

The newly initiated are offered many opportunities to participate directly. A teenager in a suburban basement can join a coordinated global effort to spread misinformation about Emmanuel Macron, France’s centrist president, in the hopes of helping far-right leader Marine Le Pen. Anyone who wants to do so can help spread the word about supposed mainstream media censorship of the Muslim “crime wave” the far right says is ravaging Europe.

These efforts — a click, a retweet, a YouTube comment — come to feel like important parts of an epochal struggle. The far right, once hemmed in by its own parochialism, has manufactured a worldwide online battlefield anyone with internet access can step into.

And if you’re one of those newcomers happily playing the part of infantryman in the “meme wars” that rage daily, maybe, along the way, one of your new online Twitter buddies will say to you, “Milo’s O.K., but have you checked out this guy Greg Johnson?” Or maybe they’ll invite you to a closed online forum where ideas about how to protect Europe from Muslim migrants are discussed a bit more, well, frankly. Maybe, if you’re really lucky, you’ll eventually discover a whole new political movement to join.

All of which can explain why members of the hard-core alt-right are watching the explosive success of their more moderate counterparts with open glee, unable to believe their good luck. “I’m just fighting less and less opposition to our sorts of ideas when they’re spoken,” Mr. Johnson, the Counter-Currents editor, told Mr. Hermansson. His optimism, unfortunately, appears to be well founded.

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When Picasso and Orwell Went After Tyrants and Risked It All

Good reminder:

This is a story about truth and how, against all the odds, it can be discerned and defended against liars through individual acts of courage and genius. It is a story for all time and particularly our time, when totalitarianism bludgeons the truth tellers with renewed support.

Pablo Picasso and George Orwell never met. But each of them, reaching the heights of their powers, looked at the same events in the same place at the same time, 80 years ago, and used their art to expose the true face of totalitarianism. At the time they were vilified for doing so.

Picasso produced his huge and wrenching masterpiece, Guernica, named for the northern Spanish city that was the first European city to be carpet-bombed. Orwell produced Homage to Catalonia, his gimlet-eyed record of fighting in the Spanish Civil War in which he nearly died.

Spain, Orwell discovered, “was a pawn in an enormous struggle that was being fought out between two political theories.” He fought with the republican government forces against the fascists but in the course of several battles realized that the republicans were being manipulated by Moscow and that “the Communists stood not upon the extreme Left but upon the extreme Right.”

The error—made by many thousands of European and American volunteers fighting with the republicans—was to believe that the forces opposing Generalissimo Franco’s fascists were naturally on the side of the angels simply because they were anti-fascist. As Orwell himself was swiftly disabused of this idea he came to the core revelation of his political life—that the true evil was totalitarianism, no matter what uniform it wore or what language it spoke.

Eventually that revelation shaped his two literary masterpieces, Animal Farm and 1984.However, the most immediate and personal result was that Orwell, in Homage To Catalonia,had delivered a message that nobody wanted to hear. In London his old socialist friends disowned him. Many of them were in thrall to Moscow’s utopian propaganda that the struggle in Spain was for universal liberty, rather than the slavery that Stalin had in mind.

Picasso was in a different kind of trap. When Guernica was exhibited in the U.S. the American Right labeled it “Bolshevist art controlled by the hand of Moscow.”  In fact, Picasso did not join the French Communist Party until 1944, when Paris was liberated from the Nazis. Political theory had nothing to do with the raging art that drove Guernica.

On the afternoon of April 27, 1937, successive waves of German and Italian bombers dropped a combination of bombs on Guernica carefully designed to kill, maim and terrorize the civilian population—they included fragmentation bombs that eviscerated people and incendiaries burning at 2,500 degrees centigrade that turned the city into a fireball. People who fled into the hills were strafed with machine guns. More than 1,600 people died and nearly 1,000 more were injured.

Seen in the perspective of what followed, Guernica was a calculated forewarning to the world that total war now included the mass slaughter of civilians. Picasso’s canvas was more than 25 feet wide and eight feet deep. Within this space every figure—including a bull, a horse, a mother with a dead child, was eviscerated. Limbs, fingers, skulls interlocked in a gruesome dance of death. What Picasso took from the atrocity was intensely personal: the people of his native country had become the cannon fodder of a new order in Spain. Franco, abetted by Hitler and Mussolini, would rule by terror.

Guernica was exhibited in London before being shipped to the US. Critics were divided. As a commentary on war some ranked it with Goya’s rending account of the savagery of the Napoleonic wars. But the hand of ideology also surfaced. The critic Anthony Blunt called the painting “hopelessly obscure, its meaning elusive.” Unknown to anyone then, Blunt was a Soviet sleeper agent, unmasked only in 1979 as the long-sought Fourth Man in an espionage ring—his rejection of Guernica was the Stalinist party line conveyed as aesthetic distaste.

Source: When Picasso and Orwell Went After Tyrants and Risked It All

Andrew Potter: Don’t be so free to set limits on your right to hear

The first part of the article provides a useful account of the rationale for free speech along with its purpose, and why some free speech is subject to less protections than free speech that meets these core principles: “search for truth, the quest for self-development and the fostering of democracy.”

But then, when Potter turns to the right to hear, he seems to ignore the question of whether the right to hear should also be subject to the same test of core principles or not. Perhaps his next column?:

After a few hundred years of working on it you’d think by now we’d have a handle on this freedom of expression thing. But it’s 2017 and here we are, still arguing about who has the right to speak, on what platforms, to which audiences and in what contexts. We don’t agree on much, except that free speech is a good thing except when it isn’t. And increasingly, it isn’t more often than it is.

This failure to take free speech seriously is a thoroughly bipartisan affliction. The monkey-king leaders of the alt-right and their talking muppet servants like Ann Coulter and Milo Yiannopoulos have effectively turned hate speech into performance art, with no real interest in either the consequences of the hate or in the value sincere debate can contribute to democracy.

And the ctrl-left, from campus snowflakes to the just-in-it-for-the-riot forces of antifa, happily play into their hands, from whining about safe spaces to forcibly and violently preventing people from exercising their legitimate civil liberties.

But there’s a bigger problem at work, which is that this sort of behaviour from both sides is not actually at odds with the most common understandings of free expression and its rationale. In fact, just the opposite is the case: most of the current attempts to restrict free speech are natural extensions of the justifications for it.

If you ask most people why free speech is a good thing, they’ll point out that it’s in the constitution. But why is it in the constitution? Well, maybe because it’s good for democracy, for artistic ennoblement, or self-discovery, or because it is the foundation of scientific inquiry or for the search for truth more generally.

What all of these justifications for a right to free expression have in common is that they are consequentialist in nature. That is, they ground the defence of freedom of speech in the effects speech has. On the whole, we believe that allowing broad protections for freedom of expression results in good things for society.

Actually, the court goes even further. It has identified what it calls the “core principles” that are served by free expression, which include the search for truth, the quest for self-development and the fostering of democracy. As the court sees it, speech that doesn’t serve these goals is not necessarily entitled to the same constitutional protections.

Lots of people have pointed out that this amounts to a reverse-onus clause. In theory, it should be up to the state to explain why it should have the right to limit speech, but in Canada we are well down the road to a place where people have to justify to the courts why their speech should be permitted. It’s not a long toss from there to the bizarro-land conclusion that entire groups can be silenced on the grounds that this silencing is an effective way of serving the goals that free speech serves more generally.

We got here because the problem is with the way we framed the question in the first place, as a debate over the benefits of free speech and the consequences we are willing to tolerate. Instead, what we should be focused on is the right of people to hear what others have to say, and how this fits into a broader account of individual freedom.

What’s the difference? If you turn the free speech debate on its head and treat it as a right to hear what someone has to say, the constitutional rationale for it becomes a lot clearer: The right to hear or read something and judge its worth or merit for yourself is the basis for being treated as an equal, rational and autonomous agent. We shield things from children precisely because we don’t think their rational faculties are sufficiently well developed. They don’t know how to evaluate something by their own lights. That’s why a big part of parenting is bringing kids along the path to autonomy, teaching them to judge and think for themselves.

Hearing what people have to say and judging its merits for yourself is the mark of being an adult. And part of being an adult is having the right to make mistakes, to make bad judgments or decisions, and take responsibility for what follows.

It just so happens that a society made up of autonomous individuals making independent rational judgments about what others have to say is the basic condition for the possibility of a liberal democracy. The fact that so many people, on the right and the left, are willing to have their right to hear limited by governments, universities or even social media mobs, is a further sign of the relentless infantilization of our culture — and goes a long way toward explaining the current crisis of liberalism

This line of defence has a solid philosophical and legal pedigree. Probably the best-known version is found in John Stuart Mill’s essay On Liberty, where he argued that the right to speak was limited by the harms that result. But this focus on the consequences of speech is firmly embedded in the Supreme Court’s interpretations of the freedoms outlined in section 2 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The court’s take, through various rulings from Taylor to Keegstra to Whatcott, has been relentlessly consequentialist, always taking care to weigh the guaranteed right to free expression against the harms — both actual and hypothetical — that might come from hate speech.

Actually, the court goes even further. It has identified what it calls the “core principles” that are served by free expression, which include the search for truth, the quest for self-development and the fostering of democracy. As the court sees it, speech that doesn’t serve these goals is not necessarily entitled to the same constitutional protections.

Lots of people have pointed out that this amounts to a reverse-onus clause. In theory, it should be up to the state to explain why it should have the right to limit speech, but in Canada we are well down the road to a place where people have to justify to the courts why their speech should be permitted. It’s not a long toss from there to the bizarro-land conclusion that entire groups can be silenced on the grounds that this silencing is an effective way of serving the goals that free speech serves more generally.

We got here because the problem is with the way we framed the question in the first place, as a debate over the benefits of free speech and the consequences we are willing to tolerate. Instead, what we should be focused on is the right of people to hear what others have to say, and how this fits into a broader account of individual freedom.

What’s the difference? If you turn the free speech debate on its head and treat it as a right to hear what someone has to say, the constitutional rationale for it becomes a lot clearer: The right to hear or read something and judge its worth or merit for yourself is the basis for being treated as an equal, rational and autonomous agent. We shield things from children precisely because we don’t think their rational faculties are sufficiently well developed. They don’t know how to evaluate something by their own lights. That’s why a big part of parenting is bringing kids along the path to autonomy, teaching them to judge and think for themselves.

Hearing what people have to say and judging its merits for yourself is the mark of being an adult. And part of being an adult is having the right to make mistakes, to make bad judgments or decisions, and take responsibility for what follows.

It just so happens that a society made up of autonomous individuals making independent rational judgments about what others have to say is the basic condition for the possibility of a liberal democracy. The fact that so many people, on the right and the left, are willing to have their right to hear limited by governments, universities or even social media mobs, is a further sign of the relentless infantilization of our culture — and goes a long way toward explaining the current crisis of liberalism.

Source: Andrew Potter: Don’t be so free to set limits on your right to hear | National Post

Free expression at universities gagged by anti-Trump backlash

James Turk, Ryerson’s Director of the Centre for Free Expression, on free speech in universities following Ryerson’s cancelling an event with right-wing speakers (Jordan Peterson, Faith Goldy):

That harmful legacy of university cowardice and complicity took years to overcome. We need to remember this past if we do not want to relive it, albeit in the name of new passions and different ideologies and concerns.

Instead, it appears as if we are starting down a dark road that threatens the raison d’être of the university and the fundamental rights to freedom of expression guaranteed by Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

If standing by its principles requires a university to make a greater investment in security personnel to protect freedom of expression, that must be seen as a proper cost of doing business.

If threats continue to blossom, then there needs to be discussions with governments to ensure universities have the additional financial resources to ensure free expression does not fall victim to intimidation.

Not only are censorship and suppression fatal to the purpose of the university, they undermine the foundation of democratic society.

When individual rights to freedom of expression are diminished or taken away for an allegedly good cause, they are necessarily invested in some higher authority that is given the right to determine what is acceptable.

The result is censorship from above — ultimately the state — with the likelihood that the champions of that censorship today are its vulnerable targets tomorrow.

Source: Free expression at universities gagged by anti-Trump backlash

A new study claims we can tell rich from poor in split seconds

Interesting study and provides further insights to our implicit biases:

Rich or poor? The answer may be written on your face.

A recent study by researchers at the University of Toronto has found that we are able to judge a person’s income with surprising accuracy just from a glimpse of the face.

Researchers conducted the study by asking participants to categorize photos of people as rich or poor. In one stage of the study, photos were collected from dating sites and individual income was self-reported as either more than $150,ooo or less than $35,000. A second set of tests used photos captured in a lab, featuring 156 undergraduate students with neutral, expressionless faces whose median household incomes were either below $60,000 or above $100,000. Only Caucasian and East Asian students featured in the photos, in an effort to account for racial bias or stereotyping by participants, according to Nicholas Rule, associate professor of psychology at U of T who worked on the study.

Those asked to categorize the photo subjects by income level were accurate 68 per cent of the time in the first study and 52 per cent of the time in the second, more controlled set, even when given only split seconds to make their choice. Statistically, peoples’ guesses in both studies were too high to be pure chance, according to Rule, who says he was astonished by their accuracy, given that subjects of the second study were purposefully devoid of expression. “Those [differences] are just so extremely subtle in someone’s appearance and the fact that people were picking up on this and extracting that information from the face so readily really did surprise me,” said Rule.

The findings of the study, which Rule co-authored with Thora Bjornsdottir, are both fascinating and troubling. They have implications in hiring, law enforcement and our day-to-day interactions with colleagues and peers. If you grow up poor, to some degree, you’ll always look it—and face the subconscious bias of those who can tell. “You look a certain way, people treat you a certain way—people treat you like you’re poor; it’s a cycle you can’t get out of,” says Rule. By the same token, those who are deemed richer—because they seem happier or more attractive—may be given opportunities and treated better as a result of their perceived wealth and the positive traits we seem to associate with it.

It’s not something to take lightly—these are judgements we make on a daily basis, scrolling through newsfeeds and ‘liking’ our friends’ pictures. Gordon Patzer, author of The Physical Attractiveness Phenomena, who studies the power of beauty on perception, says that the prevalence of social media—like Facebook or Tinder—will only continue to make faces a key way we evaluate our peers (and strangers). “We rely so much on photos on social media…I would have to speculate that [we’re putting] more and more importance on a person’s image all the time.”

At the heart of peoples’ correct guesses in the study is the stereotype that the rich are happier due to their less arduous childhoods and lifestyles, and vice versa for the poor. The study found that faces people associated more strongly with positive traits such as attractiveness and empathy were more often labelled wealthy. To be sure, in all the photos taken in the controlled lab setting the subjects appear quite glum—but the wealthy just looked a little less so.

The giveaway, it seems, is the mouth. Part of the study involved asking people to guess incomes while only seeing parts of a subject’s face—the mouths rather than eyes were the strongest, most accurate indicators of wealth. All it took to skew the accuracy of participants in their exercise was to categorize images of smiling people—a grin erased any cues people could use to make their choice.

“The face changes over time. Your mom might’ve always said ‘if you make a funny face, it’ll stay that way.’ There’s a kernel of truth in that, it turns out,” says Rule. The face has 43 muscles and they’re no different than the other muscles in your body—the more you work them out, the larger they’ll get. The smiling, happy childhoods of the rich had left imprints on their faces.

It’s an awkward truth that we may shy away from wanting to acknowledge for fear of perpetuating stereotypes. “In my opinion it’s far more dangerous for us to pretend the stereotypes don’t exist,” says Rule.

By burying our heads in the sand we might just never solve the problems our first impressions lead us to. For instance, in the last part of the study, Rule assembled a group of participants and asked them to rate how likely the subjects were to be hired as accountants (a profession that was chosen since it isn’t associated with wealth or poverty). The rich won out here, too.

But where did this specific knack for visually categorizing people by their income status come from? There’s an evolutionary argument to be made, speculates Rule, that as humans we would want to know what resources our peers have access to so we could decide whether we’d want to continue associating with them. Indeed, there are studies that suggest that our ability to convey emotions via facial expression—and to interpret them—evolved throughout time and became important skills in predicting behaviour.

While disconcerting, the results are a step towards progress, says Rule. If perceived wealth and our feelings towards class can affect hiring decisions, then perhaps hiring managers need to be trained accordingly. Being aware of their biases means they can make an effort to change the way they perceive people. Acknowledging you have a problem is the first step towards recovery, after all. On the other hand, if people are aware that they’re being judged subconsciously, as Patzer suggests, they can make changes to how they carry themselves to combat their resting-poor-face.

“If we want equality as a society, we need to face some of the facts about things we don’t like, which is that we do judge people based on their appearance and we do use stereotypes to do that,” says Rule.

So, next time you have a job interview, you might want to practice donning the slightest of smiles—it may level the playing field, if only just a little bit.

Source: A new study claims we can tell rich from poor in split seconds

ICYMI: NCDD Community News » Tips and Resources for Better Thanksgiving Conversations

While designed for the US Thanksgiving following Trump’s election, I think these tips are timeless and adaptable to most contentious discussions:

For many people, the Thanksgiving holiday this week and the holiday season around the corner bring the likelihood of difficult conversations and out-right fights around the dinner table. Talk of politics and other hot topics can be tricky to navigate with family and friends – especially when we don’t see eye to eye – and it seems like the loud, divisive election season might only make holiday conflicts harder to avoid this year.tday-plate-faces

NCDD will continue to carry on our #BridgingOurDivides campaign through the holidays because we recognize that the holiday season can be a time when the divides our country is grappling with become most personal and hard to deal with, especially when Uncle Bob is on his third beer.

So to help folks enter the holiday with a game plan for productive, thoughtful conversations, we at NCDD want to share some tips and resources that you can use to help keep the family dinner conversations more about genuine dialogue and understanding despite differences than heated rhetoric and emotional outbursts.

Six Tips for Thoughtful Holiday Conversations from NCDD

  1. Be an active listener: Listening is key to respectful conversations. Be sure that you are really seeking to hear and understand what’s being said, not just looking the next moment to interject or thinking about what you’ll say to argue their last point. Be sure to give the person your talking with your full attention – look at them, show you are listening with verbal or non-verbal affirmations (like saying “I see” or nodding),  and ask clarifying questions about what they’ve said. Modeling active listening invites the other person to reciprocate when it’s your turn to talk.
  2. Keep an open mind: Dialogue is most successful when we are open enough to learn something new and even admit that we might be wrong. Be open to others’ ideas and perspectives, to learning something new, to questioning your assumptions, and suspend your judgments for as long as you can. If you hear something that makes you angry or offended, take a moment to think whether your own biases are at play, and take the chance to ask for clarification or for them to say it in a different way. Misunderstandings frequently come from our own assumptions about what someone means, so asking about it can help prevent hurt feelings and breakdowns in communication.
  3. Be curious. The opinions that we hold are usually grounded in a deeper set of values or broader outlook that we hold as important. So ask questions that seek to understand the values, interests, fears, or hopes that underlie a position or opinion you disagree with rather than just reacting against it. Being genuinely curious about what’s important to the other person can open up space for more meaningful dialogue. Focusing conversation on our deeper beliefs, values, and hopes gets at the core of what’s important to us and is a place where we can find more understanding.
  4. Discuss stories rather than debating facts: Stories from your life or that both of you can relate to can help make space for personal connection and perspective taking that can shift an argument to a discussion. Especially in political conversations, telling stories can help you illustrate your points while circumventing disagreement over specific facts or statistics. Sharing a story during an argument can also help slow things down and build empathy, which can often help shift the tone back towards a more positive exchange.
  5. Look for common ground: If you find yourself in an acrimonious debate, try shifting the conversation toward what you can agree on. If it’s a friend or family member, think about what interests, experiences, or beliefs you know you share in common and invite reflection on them. Even if you hold different opinions, is there a shared value that you both bring to the specific issue? Do you both have similar hopes for the future? Bringing discussion back to important things we share in common can help us realize that we’re not so far apart in many cases.
  6. Try to end on a positive note: Even if you don’t agree in the end, that’s OK. Thank them for their willingness to talk with you before you’re done, or acknowledge that you understand more of their perspective now and maybe even learned something.  Disagreements are often healthy and don’t mean people can’t get along just fine. Ending the conversation by reaffirming your appreciation and respect for one another promotes better conversations in the future, and it’s much better than someone getting up from the table and storming out.

Source: NCDD Community News » Tips and Resources for Better Thanksgiving Conversations

New Florida Law Lets Residents Challenge School Textbooks : NPR

Symbolic of an ongoing decline of America, and an increasing age of ignorance:

Keith Flaugh is a retired IBM executive living in Naples, Fla., and a man with a mission. He describes it as “getting the school boards to recognize … the garbage that’s in our textbooks.”

Flaugh helped found Florida Citizens’ Alliance, a conservative group that fought unsuccessfully to stop Florida from signing on to Common Core educational standards.

More recently, the group has turned its attention to the books being used in Florida’s schools. A new state law, developed and pushed through by Flaugh’s group, allows parents, and any residents, to challenge the use of textbooks and instructional materials they find objectionable via an independent hearing.

Flaugh finds many objections with the books used by Florida students. Two years ago, members of the alliance did what he calls a “deep dive” into 60 textbooks.

“We found them to be full of political indoctrination, religious indoctrination, revisionist history and distorting our founding values and principles, even a significant quantity of pornography,” he says.

The pornography, Flaugh says, was in literature and novels such as Angela’s Ashes, A Clockwork Orange and books by author Tony Morrison, which were in school libraries or on summer reading lists.

Flaugh says he’s just as concerned about how textbooks describe U.S. history and our form of government. “I spent over 20 hours with a book called ‘United States Government,'” he says.

He found more than 80 places where he believes the textbook was wrong or showed bias, beginning with the cover. Its subtitle is “Our Democracy.”

“We’re not a democracy, we’re a constitutional republic,” Flaugh says.

He believes many textbooks downplay the importance of individual liberties and promote a reliance on federal authority, and what he calls “a nanny state mentality.”

Members of Florida Citizens’ Alliance have other concerns, including how some textbooks discuss Islam. Others take issue with science textbooks and how they deal with two topics in particular: evolution and climate change.

Flaugh says the law, which was signed by the governor on June 26, is intended to make sure scientific theories are presented in a balanced way.

“There will be people out there that argue that creationism versus Darwinism are facts. They’re both theories,” he says.

Science educators say that’s a familiar argument and one that fundamentally misunderstands the nature of a scientific theory.

“In everyday conversation, a theory is a hunch or guess,” says Glenn Branch, with the National Center for Science Education. “That’s not how scientists use it. For scientists, a theory is a systematic explanation for a range of natural phenomena.”

Cell theory, gravitational theory, and evolutionary theory are all evidence-based, well-tested explanations of aspects of the natural world.

Another member of Florida Citizens’ Alliance, David Bolduc, is most concerned about protecting the U.S. Constitution. But he also sees bias in how textbooks deal with science, including climate change.

“It seems to me it’s very slanted in one direction,” Bolduc says. “That man is at fault, and that it’s definitely happening and that it’s real. You know the Al Gore lines.” Bolduc also believes parents should be able to challenge how textbooks deal with evolution.

In Florida and nationally, it’s those last two topics — climate change and evolution — that have sparked the greatest interest. Branch says the bill clearly was formed with those issues in mind.

“In affidavits submitted to the legislature in support of the bill, they said, ‘we complained that they were teaching evolution. We complained that they were teaching climate change and they wouldn’t listen to us. So that’s why we need this new law,'” he says.

Under the law, school districts will still have the final say. Even so, some worry the law will have a chilling effect.

Brandon Haught, a high school environmental science teacher and a member of Florida Citizens for Science, says “a science teacher might feel like, ‘argh, I’ve got all this heat coming down on all of us teachers. Maybe we should just not teach it as strongly, maybe just briefly cover it and move on.'”

Florida’s Department of Education is developing guidelines for school districts on how to comply with the law. The state school board association says one thing is clear — more challenges to the textbooks adopted by Florida schools are likely.

More women and minorities than ever are taking college-level computer courses in high school – Recode

Encouraging:

The share of women and underrepresented minorities taking computer science for college credit in high school spiked, thanks in part to a second Advanced Placement computer science course that launched this year.

Part of the credit also belongs to Code.org, a nonprofit that teaches K-12 computer science curriculum and has been working to bring more women and minorities into the field.

The new AP course, Computer Science Principles, is considered more accessible and creative than the traditional CS offering, which focuses on a specific coding language.

In its first year, 15,000 young women took the new Computer Science Principles final, several hundred more than took the original course this year. Thirteen thousand underrepresented minorities — blacks, Latinos, Native Americans and Native Pacific Islanders — took the Principles final this year compared with 9,000 for the traditional exam.

It was a banner year for both AP computer science courses.

Principles tackles larger computer science concepts and isn’t constrained to one programming language. And as part of their Principles final exam, students submit a portfolio of apps they’ve created rather than simply taking a multiple-choice test. It’s meant to appeal to a wider array of students in general, which also means more women and minorities.

Last summer, Code.org taught 500 teachers its AP Computer Science Principles curriculum and is teaching nearly another 1,000 this summer. Currently, 15 percent of high schools offer computer science AP courses, up from 5 percent when Code.org — which is funded partly by Microsoft, Facebook and Infosys — began its work four years ago.

Twenty-seven percent of students finishing computer science AP courses in 2017 were women, up from 23 percent in 2016. Similarly, underrepresented minorities now make up 20 percent of these test takers, up 5 percentage points from last year.

Of students who took Code.org’s CS Principles AP course, 70 percent said they wanted to study computer science after graduating high school. Half of the students taking Code.org’s AP curriculum are underrepresented minorities.

These AP courses are a way to give high school students college credit and steer them toward an industry with high pay and prestige, but one that has been plagued by inequality in representation, pay and treatment.

The AP trend is positive but computer science participation and the tech industry in general is still far from being equitable.

“We can’t just change it by changing the pipeline because there’s still major issues of culture — unconscious bias and unfair promoting practices in the workplace,” Code.org founder Hadi Partovi said. “Similarly, it’s impossible if we only change workplace culture.”

Source: More women and minorities than ever are taking college-level computer courses in high school – Recode

LGBTQ activists in Halifax need to learn to love corporate Pride: Teitel | Toronto Star

Teitel’s commentary, while made in relation to LGBTQ activists, is also more broadly to activists in general.

Her comment about the importance of symbols and recognition to the more vulnerable compared to the privileged worthy of note:

Or, if like a number of LGBTQ activists in this country you’re determined to be miserable until the day you die, you can lament Trudeau’s presence at Pride instead, and label it “pinkwashing” — the LGBTQ equivalent of “whitewashing.”

Not everybody thinks Trudeau’s planned attendance at the Halifax parade this Saturday is a wholly positive thing. Some, such as Kehisha Wilmot, head of Halifax’s Mount Saint Vincent University Queer Collective, believe Trudeau’s participation is a distraction from the event’s more marginalized participants.

“We have people of colour doing things in this parade,” Wilmot told Halifax magazine The Coast this week, in a story headlined “Trudeau Pinkwashing Pride parade.” “And the big thing we’re currently now looking at is we brought down a white guy in a high-position role to be our focus.”

I don’t want to diminish the work done by groups such as Wilmot’s because it is important work. Yet a reminder is in order that a world leader’s presence at an event does not impede activists from making their voices heard.

Trudeau was in attendance at Toronto’s pride parade in 2016, where Black Lives Matter Toronto managed not only to stage a successful protest that effected tangible change, but to dominate media coverage in the event’s aftermath.

But Trudeau’s presence isn’t the only thing irking some of Halifax’s LGBTQ groups, and similar groups across the country, several of which have boycotted official pride events in their respective cities in recent years.

The corporatization of pride is perceived as a big problem, too: corporate sponsors preaching equality atop enormous company floats, cheesy guys in logo-embroidered thongs handing out coupons for various discounts. “Happy Pride! Here’s five dollars off your next souvlaki platter!”

The corporatization of pride is a fact lamented by many queer activists in the west who appear to yearn for the good old days when the businesses we frequented and services we used didn’t want anything to do with us.

Don’t get me wrong, I understand that corporate interests should share the stage with grassroots organizations, but the refusal by some in my community to see the upside of corporate involvement in pride leads me to believe that a number of LGBTQ activists are completely out of touch with reality.

Moreover, these activists are ever eager to identify privilege in other people but they are utterly blind to the privilege they enjoy themselves: they have integrated into a community of like-minded people. Yes, they are marginalized in society at large, but they have found a place where they belong.

Not everyone enjoys this privilege. Take, for example, my friend Yvonne Jele, a gay refugee from Uganda, who is practically brand new to Canada (she fled her native country last year). Jele, who lives in Toronto, was overjoyed when she learned that the leader of her new home was marching in her city’s pride parade.

“People who are mad (that Trudeau participates in pride events) don’t know what it’s like to not be accepted by your leaders and government,” she told me recently.

Jele has some thoughts about corporate interests in Pride, too: “I think everyone can show support during pride,” she said. “It’s important for businesses to do so because it shows that the business is inclusive.”

These broad gestures of support by politicians and businesses matter a great amount to people who aren’t yet integrated into a tight-knit queer community, and they matter to closeted kids who are watching and reading about Pride from a distance, absent the support of such a community.

It’s a very good thing for these kids to know that their banks, hardware stores, coffee shops, internet providers and, yes, their leaders, take a public stance in favour of their rights.

No, these businesses and politicians aren’t by any means perfect. Yes, some of them make errors and false promises. But their participation in pride parades across the country is a gesture of goodwill felt deeply by those who have not yet found their home away from home.

The Prime Minister’s presence at Halifax pride this Saturday will not matter most to the out and proud, but to LGBTQ people who are neither. And the activism of the former should not extinguish the hopes of the latter.

Source: LGBTQ activists in Halifax need to learn to love corporate Pride: Teitel | Toronto Star

Langevin, Ryerson, Cornwallis: Is our past unfit for the present? – Peter Shawn Taylor

More good commentary by Peter Shawn Taylor (The case for keeping ‘Langevin Block’ – Peter Shawn Taylor, Begbie’s Statue – Bill McKee) and useful citing of historian Witt’s test questions on renaming:

Yale University has long wrestled with similar complaints about Calhoun College, named for benefactor John C. Calhoun, a U.S. senator from South Carolina and outspoken proponent of slavery during the pre-Civil War era. Last year, Yale asked historian John Fabian Witt to resolve the controversy. His response was a unique series of questions meant to gauge the validity of renaming demands. It’s a first stab at a coherent, standardized system for settling commemoration disputes, and other U.S. institutions have quickly grasped its significance. Last month, the University of Mississippi employed Prof. Witt’s test in removing some controversial names from its campus, while letting other remain. In the absence of anything similar in Canada, we should adopt the Witt test to settle our own namesake dilemmas.

Prof. Witt begins with the overarching principal that name changes should be considered “exceptional events” and not frivolous or political acts. “Renaming has often reflected excessive confidence in moral orthodoxies,” he observes, pointing with caution to the Soviet Union. Then again, not every urge to rename is Orwellian: post-Apartheid South Africa or post-Nazi West Germany, for example.

To decide what deserves to be removed and what should stay, the Witt test applies four questions, modified here for domestic use, that weigh the actions and time periods of commemorated individuals.

  • First: Is the principal legacy of the namesake fundamentally at odds with Canadian values? This requires a broad understanding of the life’s work of the individual in question.
  • Second: Was the relevant principal legacy significantly contested during the namesake’s lifetime? Isolated statements or actions considered controversial today may have been conventional wisdom at the time. Context matters.
  • Third: At the time of the naming, was the namesake honoured for reasons fundamentally at odds with Canadian values? Why was this person commemorated?
  • Finally: Does the building play a substantial role in forming community? The more prominent the edifice, the greater the casefor retaining names of historical significance, Prof. Witt says.

Using the Witt test, Yale announced in February the removal of Mr. Calhoun’s name. White supremacy, it concluded, was his principal legacy. Mr. Calhoun claimed slavery was “a positive good” and that the Declaration of Independence erred in stating all men are created equal. For this, he was criticized in his own time and today.

Applying these same standards to Mr. Langevin, however, yields a different result. As an important French-Catholic Conservative federalist in the Confederation era, Mr. Langevin’s principal legacy was building a bicultural Canada, something once considered a great virtue in this country. This is why his name was placed on an important building in Ottawa. Though his name is today often paired with residential schools, Mr. Langevin was primarily involved with constructing the buildings, not championing the policies. The infamous speech he gave in Parliament on the subject was actually parroting what his boss – Sir John A. Macdonald – had said days earlier. While his comments are grating to modern ears, he was merely repeating widely accepted views from his time. The Witt test exonerates Mr. Langevin.

The legacies of Mr. Begbie, Mr. Ryerson, Mr. Cornwallis and the rest of Canada’s historically accused deserve a fair trial as well.

Source: Langevin, Ryerson, Cornwallis: Is our past unfit for the present? – The Globe and Mail