Archive for the ‘Politics’ Category


October 3, 2015

Recently, I was sent a link to an article in The Atlantic (Google American is Still a Patriarchy to find it) about how American society is patriarchal. In the article, the author (a sociology professor called Philip Cohen argues that because men run most institutions, and women take men’s name on marriage, we have evidence that society is patriarchal.

Now my instinct is one of “Well duh, it mostly is, but it’s changing, just talk to the under-35s”, but what irritated me is this last paragraph:

I expect some readers will go right to their favorite statistics or personal experiences in order to challenge my description of our society as patriarchal. In that tit-for-tat, men leading the vast majority of the most powerful institutions, and that American families usually follow the male line, become just another couple of data points. But they shouldn’t be, because some facts are more important than others.

Now I highlighted the last sentence. I did so because it beyond irritated me. It made the whole article read as if the author thinks all men are bar-stewards, and will always be bar-stewards. Facts are facts, if you can’t interpret the trend so you can make predictions about the future, or target thinking in certain areas, then you shouldn’t be in the sciences, social, or otherwise.(the author was a social scientist).

To me the issues are why do women earn less than men, when they’re older than 35? Do women and men make different lifestyle choices that can be addressed to reduce income inequality as they age? And more generally, what are the long term trends in equality between the sexes?

Mao Dun and the Cultural Revolution

April 11, 2015

The school I teach at had its’ Spring Trip yesterday, and we got to see the house of Mao Dun, a Chinese writer who lived in the water town of Wuzhen (which was interesting, but fits all the stereotypes of how towns in formerly powerful third world countries (like China) look).

I think I’ve discovered that the Chinese government had “got all Cultural Revolution” on Mao Dun. He’d been the longest serving Minister for Culture in Communist China’s history (16 years), but disappeared off the face of the Earth for the last 17 years of his life. I honestly cannot find anything about him, or his life as minister, here in China, or more generally, once I penetrated the “Great Firewall.”

Anyhow I got talking to the students and local teachers about Mao Dun, and they know literally nothing about him (or seem to). They weren’t sure about when he died (they all seemed to think it was the 1950s, which is about 25 years out), or what he did after 1948 (when the communists took control of the mainland), which I found interesting.

I’m probably going to do some more digging on this, because to me it’s fascinating how Mao Dun is presented. Everyone was able to tell me “Oh yes, he’s one of our most famous writers”, but what happened is something that people either know not to talk about, or has been so effectively whitewashed that people genuinely don’t know about that part of his life.

An interesting conversation with a student.

November 23, 2013

As I’ve said before, I teach in China. This is my fourth year here, and I like to think I’m pretty clued into the culture, the kids, and how the kids at my school think. Well, just when I was feeling comfy about all that stuff, the kids go and do something that makes me think…. wait, what, run that by me again.

Last time I checked, China was communist, so, perhaps naively given the conversation I had, I assumed they’d be familiar with notable communists of the past (most notably Lenin, Marx, Stalin, Castro, and Guevara). Anyhow, the school I work at had an art display by local artists, and I noticed the kids were looking, so I wandered over and saw them looking at a portrait of Che Guevara. I could tell the some of the students were confused as to who he was, so I asked the students who he was, and what he’d done. I got the blankest of blank stares, and admissions of cluelessness..

When I asked them who said “December 7th -a date that will live in infamy” they decided on “the President at the start of World War II” (which I’ll give credit for). I followed this up with “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for you country” and got “US President again the one who was shot” (which I’ll give credit for too). Finally I asked ” ‘Free at last, Free at last, Thank God Almighty, we are free at last.” They got very excited by that one, and came “Black leader, he was shot too, said in Washington.” It’s been a few hours now, and I’m still surprised the kids knew more about American political leaders than notable communists.

Does this comment sound maybe a tiny bit suspect?

November 22, 2013

I saw this post about the lack of diversity at UCLA the other day…….

In it the author argues that there’s something wrong when there are only 48 African American males enrolled in the freshman class at UCLA this year, and 32 of those managed to get in (at least in part) because of their sporting prowess (they’re being selected for collegiate athletics programs), and of the original 48, only 36 will graduate in 4yrs.

Now I know the arguments about it being a socio-economic issue (African-Americans and Hispanics tend to earn less, and so are less likely to have the expectation of college in the future because of impoverished family backgrounds), and I know that people are wary of affirmative action, but part of me is still somewhat shocked by a woman saying “I was the first person in my family to get a college education. You have to elevate yourself. You can’t blame someone else for not elevating you.” Part of me wants to yell “Oh come on really? You’re really going to make THAT argument?” I mean 150yrs ago in American African-Americans were property, women couldn’t vote, and poor children we sent up chimneys and down mines.

Sure, things are much better now, but women and African Americans still earn less (it’s actually GOT WORSE FOR AFRICAN AMERICANS SINCE 1979), people still dressing up in black-face and assuming its ok, Jim Wright (the Texas Democratic politician) unable to register to vote (for reasons which WILL harm minorities disproportionately), and we’ve got people saying you can’t blame someone else for not elevating you.

I mean…… Jeepers.