Convince me that puppies are cute! And flowers are pretty! And cupcakes are yummy! Let’s hone those critical thinking skills!

16 Apr

puppies

Ok, class, today we are going to try and figure out how it is that an entire society, composed mostly of good people, can nevertheless engage in behaviors so profoundly cruel and evil that it defies the imagination.

We’ll start with the following two maxims:

All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing  

Edmund Burke

 

Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.

George Santayana

Slavery as an institution has been part of human history for as long as human history has been recorded. For tens of thousands of years, humans were bought and sold and used for their labor.

slavery

For over 400 years (1440 – 1888), the Atlantic slave trade flourished, with many nations participating.  Many of the slave traders were themselves black Africans.  Everybody involved found some way to justify what in retrospect seems like pure, unmitigated evil.

scars

But it isn’t particularly helpful to use words like “evil”, because if everyone was “evil”, then the word has no meaning.

There are specific techniques and strategies and methods that can be used to convince otherwise good and kind and decent people to participate in atrocity.

Let’s look at just one of those things:  persuasive writing.  Otherwise known as propaganda.

nellie pic

This is Nellie Norton, writing to defend slavery on Biblical principles.

nellie

MANY books have been written in favor of slavery; but few of them have been generally read. This little volume claims no superiority over any of them. It was thought that a reply to abolition objections, based upon the Divine argument, might satisfy many minds who had not the time to devote to a thorough investigation of the subject, and, perhaps, set the question, as to its moral aspect, forever at rest.

http://docsouth.unc.edu/imls/warren/warren.html

chalkboard

I want you to download Nellie’s entire tract and read it carefully.  Note all the specific ways and arguments that she uses to justify the cruel exploitation of one group of humans by another.  And just to make certain that you understand how these techniques can be deployed to make horror palatable, I want you to construct your own argument to justify slavery.

Use all the same techniques as Nellie.

Use the same arguments.

This might make you uncomfortable.  That’s good.  Pay attention to those feelings.  Ask yourself if you might have been susceptible to such persuasion.  Could you have been a slave owner?  Could you have watched a ship come into harbor and watched the sale of human beings? Don’t automatically discount it.  We understand now that slavery is evil, but we didn’t then.  We didn’t want to.

There are plenty of ways that the modern world continues to exploit and enslave other groups of people, if not explicitly, then implicitly.  Where did your iPhone come from?  Who built it?  What are the conditions under which they labor? Do you care? Do you want to care?

factory

And remember, the reason we study history, the reason we take apart the arguments and justifications, the reason we try to relate those to our own lives is so that we do not repeat history.

Class dismissed.

Personally, I think that’s a great assignment.  Take a bunch of high school sophomores, give them a scenario that is indefensible by any sane person, ask them to examine the arguments carefully and then relate what they have learned to their own lives.

Ask them to think critically.

To consider the world and other people in it.

To see that willful blindness has tragic consequences.

To understand that evil can flourish even when people are basically good.

A teacher in Albany, New York, tried to do exactly that, and she may very well lose her job over it.  The special snowflakes in her class didn’t want to think about yucky things. They shouldn’t have to confront the ways in which they themselves might be complicit in a similar tragedy.  They don’t like intellectual provocation. That’s no fair.  Thinking carefully and critically is bullshit.  Who needs to do that?

pout

After spending weeks looking at Nazi propaganda, the Albany teacher asked her students to demonstrate that they understood the techniques Nazis used to convince an entire population that Jews were evil, and that made some students “uncomfortable”.

nazi

UNCOMFORTABLE?!?!

The Holocaust SHOULD make you uncomfortable! It should horrify you to the very depths of your soul.  It should strip every ounce of self-absorption from your bones and lay bare to you the fact that evil exists and it just might be you.

shoes

This teacher gave her students the opportunity to examine the role that persuasive writing plays in an event in which there are no reasonable, rational justifications. None.  There is not one possible way to rationalize the holocaust. Students who felt that were being asked to defend the Nazis are breath-takingly missing the point. The words “bag of hammers stupid” leap to mind, but mustn’t get too judgy now.

bag of hammers

There is no defense.

That is what makes it such a great assignment.

Real life problems are hardly ever that clear cut.  Should you use that cheaper cancer drug ingredient?  Should you use the pricier ingredient and thereby ensure that some people won’t get treatment at all? How do make a decision like this?  What facts do you consider? What role do your feelings play?  Have you been influenced unduly? How might that have happened?

http://judgybitch.com/2013/04/04/women-are-more-ethical-okay-as-long-as-by-ethical-you-mean-chicken-shit-cowards/

Who wants to bet that the cupcakes who didn’t wike their assignment were girls?

arms crossed

We already know that women don’t like making decisions that are ethically fraught and require careful thinking. We only need to look to cases like Albany to see why that is the case.  I personally cannot believe the adults in charge of the school and the administration caved in to these whiny little assholes, and to frame the objection in terms of anti-Semitism is beyond outrageous.

Those students didn’t object on the basis of prejudice.  Bullshit. They objected because the assignment forced them to confront their own capacity for evil and ugliness and cruelty and brutality.  In special snowflake culture, no one is ever evil or cruel. They’re just misunderstood.

Girls especially.

Boys not so much.  Which is why they tend to be incarcerated at 10 times the rates women are.

http://www.prisonpolicy.org/graphs/genderinc.html

Re-enacting the propaganda of Nazi Germany cannot help but reveal some disturbing truths about humanity. Those truths SHOULD be disturbing.  They haven’t gone anywhere, and allowing children to have tantrums to avoid looking in the mirror is exactly the right strategy to ensure that history does, indeed, repeat itself.

It’s practically begging for it.

And in a way, it’s already happening.  Consider the incredibly disturbing situation in Sweden, where being a man, at least linguistically, has formally been declared illegal.

http://www.slate.com/articles/double_x/doublex/2012/04/hen_sweden_s_new_gender_neutral_pronoun_causes_controversy_.html

How can we expect a new generation of citizens to think about something like the mandatory policing of language to ensure that gender is eradicated when they refuse to even contemplate much less nuanced examples from lived history?

Is that the point?  Could it be that some people have a vested interest in making certain that young people, and young women in particular, are incapable of rationally considering the cultural context in which they live?  That unthinking, willful blindness to injustice is just what the liberal school system is trying to teach?

When teachers like the one in Albany stand up and demand their students think critically, and more importantly, self-critically, they meet a screaming mass of protesters who demand their silence.

The silence allows us to forget.

And those who forget history are indeed doomed to repeat it.  Who will the victims be this time?

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out–

Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out–

Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out–

Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me–and there was no one left to speak for me.

MARTIN NIEMÖLLER

We cannot allow this to happen.

Silence is not golden.  It’s deadly.

Lots of love,

JB

61 Responses to “Convince me that puppies are cute! And flowers are pretty! And cupcakes are yummy! Let’s hone those critical thinking skills!”

  1. Liz April 16, 2013 at 16:33 #

    I disagree.
    The assignment was (in the spirit of ostensibly defending one’s loyalty as a member of the Nazi party): write an essay to convince me Jews are evil and the source of our problems.

    A proper comparison would be to convince the reader slavery is justified because black people deserve to be enslaved (because they are evil, stupid, whatever). Or perhaps they should write an essay demanding hispanics remain employed only in tasks of menial labor due to their (insert genetic shortcomings). Maybe they can discuss how and why Italians (insert character and genetic problems here) and parallel that to the fall of Rome while they’re at it.

    I do not believe this assignment was a critical thinking exercise. It’s a racial character assassination. A critical thinking exercise would be to defend a bad decision or bad practice (I can easily defend Germany’s WWII decisions without advocating the Final Solution to do so), not demonize an entire group of people and claim they deserve death and slavery.

    Like

  2. judgybitch April 16, 2013 at 16:40 #

    Sorry, Liz, I don’t agree.

    The assignment specifically asks students to deploy logos, ethos and pathos, the basic Aristotelian principles for persuasive argument.

    A simple assassination requires none of those techniques. Ad hominem is sufficient.

    Like

  3. Bob Wallace April 16, 2013 at 16:41 #

    When people denigrate the Founding Fathers as slave-owners I ask them why they buy things assembled by child-slaves in Third World hellholes. When they tell me “they were men of their times” I ask them where abolitionists came from. And as for Jefferson being a slave-owner and at the same time wishing to make it illegal….their brains blow up.

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  4. Athan Nyx April 16, 2013 at 16:43 #

    Great article! I wish my teacher had talked about it in this way. It would have been much more constructive. I’m actually one of those kids who were really scarred by the class on the holocaust. But it wasn’t because the Nazi’s were evil but because no one ever put it into human terms.

    I did a whole bunch of my own research trying to understand. We have some survivors in Canada and I got to hear one speak when I was in high school. I also saw footage from the holocaust. I’m not saying my teacher was a bad teacher… They showed the class a video on how people’s minds can be influenced.

    But right now it is a distant, another kind of evil. It was terrifying to me while it still seemed inhuman. But when put with this critical thinking assignment I think it would have really helped me get over that unit sooner. I don’t see why that teacher is going to be punished for that.

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  5. ar10308 April 16, 2013 at 16:43 #

    What’s funny is that you only think the Nazi’s were bad because they were racist. That is what is taught in schools. When in actuality they were evil because of their Collecitivist government (just like the Communists). The Communists murdered far people, but they weren’t racist, so they aren’t characterized as being as evil as the Nazi’s.

    They can’t teach that Collectivist governments are inherently evil, because that would contradict what they are teaching as good in Social Studies class. It would expose the default Liberal position that our schools currently educate the children from.

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  6. Z April 16, 2013 at 16:58 #

    What I find most infuriating is the liberal school system (and politics in general) tries to play themselves off as “good and decent and helping the little guy”. Which is total BS. I also think a lot of our social problems can be tied back to discomfort with discomfort. If people don’t want to do something, they don’t anymore. For some things, I think this is smart, but for responsibilities/obligations any given person has, not so much. And when it comes to educating an entire generation to think critically and have compassion for others, yeah.

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  7. Liz April 16, 2013 at 17:00 #

    I don’t “only think the Nazis were bad because they were racist”.

    Like

  8. Z April 16, 2013 at 17:01 #

    Also, I thought this post was going to be about puppies, flowers and cupcakes!

    Like

  9. Liz April 16, 2013 at 17:08 #

    We’ll just have to disagree.

    I don’t see what can be reasonably gained by an exercise in arguing that a race deserves to be annihilated, “persuasively” or otherwise? There seem a thousand other ways to defend the indefensible without stooping to genocide advocacy.

    Every debate does this when a class is divided and one portion argues for an issue, another against. In the case of WWII there are a lot of very persuasive arguments about the justifications for their actions…genocide is the not only the most morally bankrupt argument, it’s the most intrinsically ignorant one.

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  10. Liz April 16, 2013 at 17:12 #

    The puppies are adorable!!!

    Like

  11. ar10308 April 16, 2013 at 17:28 #

    Sorry, didn’t mean to personalize it like that.

    Like

  12. judgybitch April 16, 2013 at 17:29 #

    The complete moral bankruptcy of the argument is what makes it useful, though.

    You can focus entirely on technique, because there is literally nothing else to consider.

    That way, when students approach more complex debates like abortion, or euthanasia or the death penalty, for example, they understand the techniques underneath all the complexity.

    Like

  13. sqt April 16, 2013 at 18:03 #

    My husband likens politicians to car salesmen– liars and thieves all of them. I say politics is show business for the ugly. Either way their agendas are not about empowering the little guy. But the low information voter loves a good slogan.

    Like

  14. Jane the Grad Student April 16, 2013 at 18:07 #

    The setup: first year in graduate school, final exam for a course in biodefense. Our professor asked two separate questions which involved thinking like the Bad Guys, in detail. He wanted names of germs, where you’d get them, how you’d deploy them, what kind of targets… etc. The more believable, the better. I remember shaking my head and thinking, “Oh God, Dr. Genius– I sure you hope you got a REALLY good paper shredder!!” as I picked up my pen and started writing like a fiend. Yes, somewhere in the Great Academia Wayback Machine is a paper with my real name on it and some very specific details for attempting chaos and mayhem. Because the first step in DEFENSE is actually knowing what you’re defending AGAINST, aka “know thine enemy.” Which is a good argument for critical thinking skills, even if you don’t like what you’re being asked to imagine.

    By the way, that same assignment later became the basis for a lengthy paper on panic factor and emergency response, for a future class, which I got an A on.

    Like

  15. Leap of a Beta April 16, 2013 at 18:16 #

    You’re not seeing, or maybe ignoring, that the most critical part of mistreating a person or group of people is to be convince yourself (or others) that the group deserves such treatment. They’re less than human. Less than the group that is in the right.

    Without convincing people of that, you’ll never achieve being able to do things such as Germany did. You might, MIGHT, be able to get people to turn blind eyes, but not be able to convince the soldiers to enforce such brutal treatment nor neighbors to turn one another in. Any action would have to remain covert and maintain peoples plausible deniability

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  16. Liz April 16, 2013 at 18:20 #

    You do make a good argument. I’ll concede that much, but still disagree.

    Wish I’d had you on my debate team in highschool. 🙂

    Like

  17. Goober April 16, 2013 at 18:41 #

    Exactly. Know thy enemy. The best way to truly understand your opponent is to put yourself in his shoes and understand what it would take for you to become him.

    A student that completes this assignment will be that much more immune to falling into propagandas trap.

    Which perhaps is the problem here, the Sina can meet remarks

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  18. Goober April 16, 2013 at 18:42 #

    Should have read ” the cynic in me remarks”. I got autocorrected there

    Like

  19. Joseph April 16, 2013 at 19:44 #

    For some reason, I am reminded of “Ender’s Game”. To learn how he had to fight the aliens, he had to mentally place himself as being one of them…

    Like

  20. judgybitch April 16, 2013 at 19:45 #

    I love that book!

    The sequels sucked.

    Piggies were boring.

    Like

  21. Athan Nyx April 16, 2013 at 19:52 #

    I disagree… Piggies were an interesting discussion in miscommunication and whether it is right to not share resources with native cultures because you want to not change their lifestyle. If they want to know do we have a right to tell them no for something like keeping culture?

    Plus that book was rather interesting in bringing in the concept of Speaker for the Dead and seeing how Ender has been handling things. And I did like Ender’s game but I kind of wish it went into discussion more.

    Like

  22. Athan Nyx April 16, 2013 at 19:58 #

    Also the need to understand that humans have a capability to shut off their brains or even better… I wish more people discussed like my Natural Science professor did. She talked about how at the time every other country was also studying Eugenics. They only backpedalled on it because the Nazi’s brought it to its extremist, horrible conclusion.

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  23. Red Pill Theory April 16, 2013 at 20:23 #

    When we jettisoned the Christian belief that all individuals are sinful, and replaced it with a humanist idea of fundamental goodness, we unwittingly accepted the assumption that since our students were good people inherently, whatever made them uncomfortable was therefore bad. It just goes to show how secularism in public schools (something I’m guardedly positive about) can have really unfavorable consequences.

    Like

  24. phatuous April 16, 2013 at 20:25 #

    Not that I would defend communism or collectivism, but the United States killed millions of native Americans simply because they were in the way of US expansion, and they dehumanized them using the same techniques used to justify every genocide in history. You don’t have to look to the Nazis or slavery or communism. We capitalists are just as good at genocide as anyone else.

    Like

  25. ar10308 April 16, 2013 at 21:04 #

    That was open war. War is different from gulags. Oh, there were definitely atrocities on both sides, but it was still war.

    Like

  26. LostSailor April 16, 2013 at 21:36 #

    Yes, somewhere in the Great Academia Wayback Machine is a paper with my real name on it and some very specific details for attempting chaos and mayhem.

    This was actually my first thought when I read JB’s account of the assignment. I’m all for critical thinking and all, but if the exercise is done well, but any of those papers survived, it could be difficult to defend later on.

    (“Well, son, in the course of examining your application we did some research and found a paper you wrote on the internet where you advocated for the Nazi final solution and genocide of Jews. Sorry, we don’t hire your kind of trash here”

    “But, but, it was an exercise in critical thinking for a class not…”

    “Security!”)

    And I, too, was hoping for puppies. They’re delicious….

    Like

  27. Z April 16, 2013 at 21:58 #

    Politics is all about divide and conquer.

    Like

  28. phatuous April 16, 2013 at 22:03 #

    I don’t see how war enters into it. Genocide doesn’t depend on whether the victims fight back or not.

    Indian reservations were concentration camps. We invaded their land (pretending to be friends), attacked them, used biological warfare (smallpox blankets), starved them (forced marches and other means), scalped them, etc. We made peace treaties with them, and then reneged and killed them anyway.

    I think this goes along exactly with what JB was talking about in the article – when someone else does it, it’s evil, but when we do it, we find rationalizations. So the decimation of native Americans was a “war”, but was it really just war? Or did we invade their land, decide we liked it, and systematically wipe them out so we could take over?

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  29. Alex April 16, 2013 at 22:10 #

    when you can make people feel good about genocide based on whatever bullshit you come up with, you can get them to feel good while denying basic human rights of a certain group (like say, males), you yourself do less work when trying to do whatever to said group and have more support on hand. which is probably mostly the biggest reason the holocaust was so successful up until the end of WW2

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  30. Alex April 16, 2013 at 22:23 #

    wasn’t there a notion going out at one time that people were capable of both great good and great evil? if so, where did it go? we need it

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  31. Alex April 16, 2013 at 22:27 #

    to be the conspiracy nut in basket, methinks someone in the government latched on and ramped the masses against it so that way there would be less people being able to see through the bullshit about the foreign wars and terrorism. half a minute thinking should lead most to conclude that there is a high level of bullshit goin on about that. i wonder what would’ve happened had the assignment been about justifying racism. also, i bet that some of them raised objections because they didn’t want to show just how evil their inner bitch is. to themselves as much as anyone else

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  32. Mark April 16, 2013 at 23:13 #

    Interestingly, the degree of self-consciousness in many propagators of the ‘final solution’ is higher than what many would like to believe. Heinrich Himmler made a speech to new initiates into the SS explaining how, even though most of them knew particular good Jews, they had to think more abstractly; hence concepts like the tyranny of “Jewish ideas” like Bolshevism or western Capitalism. He knew he had to abstract from the individual to the general. He knew that he had to rely on ends justifying the means in order to defy their visceral repulsion to the idea. Despite Hannah Arendt’s idea, evil is often not banal at all. Often, it is frighteningly sophisticated.

    Unrelatedly, I learned today that tomorrow I will have the amazing opportunity to hear illustrious Michael Kimmel speak in person. Was thinking I might attend and ask him a couple questions that may make him sweat. Unfortunately, I also have an organic chemistry exam the day after tomorrow to study for. It’s like the gods are taunting me; sending him here the day before the exam and not the day after. Curses!

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  33. Mark April 16, 2013 at 23:18 #

    Most native Americans (about 95% of them) died from disease. Tragic, but due more to ignorance of the immune system than malevolence.

    Not to say that that justifies the minority who were deliberately murdered, but the whole affair paled in comparison to the actions of the Soviets with the Gulags and the Holodomor, the Nazi genocide, the Khmer Rouge, et al.

    In truth, I agree that it should be just as socially unacceptable to be a communist as to be a fascist. Arguably no ideology ever conceived wreaked more havoc than communism. Capitalism has wreaked its havoc, sure, but it’s also created unprecedented wealth. All communism did in that department was cripple the economy of almost half the world. But I’m getting off topic. A habit of mine, unfortunately.

    Like

  34. Mark April 16, 2013 at 23:24 #

    I’m sometimes inclined to take the opposite opinion. Our politicians are reflections of ourselves. They’re a mirror of society. We put them their. We only elect those who are willing to lie to us. A great analogy would be the doctor in Ibsen’s play ‘Enemy of the People’ but no one read Ibsen in this country so probably not a good analogy.

    We need someone to blame out problems on too, so politicians are the lightening rod. Who caused the housing crisis? Well, everyone says it was the banks, the corporations, or the politicians. I say, it was the people who took the bullshit loans, who insisted on believing what was too good to be true. It was ‘the masses’ who caused it. The bankers and politicians just had something to gain by going along with it.

    It is also possible of course that, in my misanthropy, I’m always mistakenly inclined to blame ‘the people.’ It’s a bias of mine I guess.

    Like

  35. The Karamazov Idea April 16, 2013 at 23:56 #

    I saw this in the news and felt the urge to toss the laptop out the window. Conservatives betrayed their normally coherent standards and somehow found a reason why a teacher actually teaching was a bad thing. Liberals, who only support antisemitism if it comes from Muslims, were equally upset. I was overjoyed to hear a teacher challenged his class to believe that horrific dictatorships do not only arise in “everywherebuthereland.”

    God forbid they study Hitler’s rhetoric and find some scary parallels in Barack Obama’s screeds against the “wealthy” who need to “pay their fair share,” and the more extremist liberals who altogether want the rich tried for high crimes against humanity.

    Hitler ran on the platform that he’d get the Jews out of the country or at least save the working class Germans from them. Change Jews to “rich” and you start to get a little scared here.

    What I want is for whenever these kids hear somebody saying “we need to get rid of the rich” or “we need to get rid of the bigots” or “we need to get rid of the sexists,” to think back to that other society which decided it needed to get rid of a group of people and what happened when they set about doing it.

    Like

  36. The Karamazov Idea April 16, 2013 at 23:57 #

    *her class

    Like

  37. Z April 17, 2013 at 01:05 #

    I agree with you about the loans. There isn’t very much accountability anymore. And I’m not saying I disagree about the other. The thing about complex issues is there are multiple ways to look at it and still have some truth to what you’re saying, but the truth is always way more complex than a sound byte. But normally my posts are eyeball-sporking long, so I thought I’d give people a break. 😛

    Like

  38. Alex April 17, 2013 at 01:32 #

    nah man, not puppies, kittens. kittens are best 🙂

    Like

  39. Keen Observer April 17, 2013 at 02:01 #

    I remember watching a short film in elementary school (grade seven, I think) about TV advertising. It was where I first learned about some of the subtle tricks that are used to fool the average viewer, and it’s where I first learned the concept of “forced perspective”. I never looked at advertising again the same way (and believed little), though I appreciate a well-crafted commercial. I’m thankful my teacher showed this in class (and was allowed to), because it was my first lesson in seeing through BS and critical analysis (and being a cynic), and it’s stuck with me. A teacher that teaches such things–especially deconstructing propaganda–is to be lauded.

    Like

  40. Mark April 17, 2013 at 04:10 #

    You may have noticed I have the same problem with length. Ironic fact: in real life, I almost don’t talk at all. Was basically a mute until junior high. I guess I make up for it by being excessively verbose on the internet.

    Like

  41. Mark April 17, 2013 at 04:13 #

    I must ask, are you a fan of Dostoevsky?

    Like

  42. sqt April 17, 2013 at 04:47 #

    The government teed off the process by mandating that the banks give loans to poor credit risk buyers (Community Reinvestment Act). The banks only heard government backed and they in turn gave money to anyone with a pulse. The buyers didn’t bother to wonder whether or not they could pay the loans- they just looked at the payment and didn’t bother to read the terms (I knew so many people with ajustable rate mortgages who later lost their homes…) It was a perfect storm of a housing bubble and everyone sat around pointing the finger at the next guy and no one took responsibility– though a lot of people (and institutions) took it in the shorts. As far as I can tell the politicians got away scott free.

    I live in California so I got to see the whole process close up. We live close to San Francisco and it was NUTS here. We saw people bid on homes sight unseen. Everyone was scared to death that they were going to get priced out forever. We didn’t buy during the frenzy and everyone thought we were stupid. Until we bought a sweet foreclosure after the crash- now we look like geniuses. 🙂

    Like

  43. William April 17, 2013 at 06:23 #

    The assignment is an excellent exercise. I can remember my Father passionately defending slavery at the dinner table while demanding that we children prove to him, using a natural law based argument, that it was wrong. It took several weeks and library time to do it.

    The Nazi angle might make it a bit strong. Remembering that many people immediately personalize any argument, asking them to justify the Holocaust logically, would immediately make them feel emotionally responsible. Cue outrage.

    Good assignment for logical thinkers. Got to know your audience though.

    Like

  44. Luke April 17, 2013 at 10:00 #

    Related: the classic Milgram Experiments, showing how close to 2/3 of ordinary people can be convinced to torture innocent people to death, if an authority figure tells them to do so:

    1) The original: http://psychology.about.com/od/historyofpsychology/a/milgram.htm

    2) One that tested for difference between men and women (women were more willing to torture under orders):
    http://www.museumofhoaxes.com/hoax/Top/ecomments/4755

    Like

  45. Exfernal April 17, 2013 at 10:19 #

    Convincing someone that their behavior has far-reaching consequences is much harder, if the behavior in question has some irrational motivation.

    Here is an excellent illustration, an excerpt from this paper (a PDF copy):

    Finally, Almond and Mazumder [2010] consider diurnal fasting during pregnancy,
    using the fact that Ramadan shifts forward approximately 11 days each
    year. With cohorts born across multiple birth years, Ramadan’s effect can be
    disentangled from seasonal effects on health [Doblhammer and Vaupel, 2001].
    Furthermore, Almond and Mazumder [2010] leverage the fact that away from
    the equator, the Ramadan fast is longer during summer months (as it is defined
    by the hours of daylight). A point of departure from previous analyses
    of Ramadan is to not consider the decision to fast itself as exogenous, or at
    least conditionally independent. Indeed, Almond and Mazumder [2010] do
    not observe whether mothers fasted, and instead construct an Intent to Treat
    estimate based on whether a child was in utero during Ramadan. Interestingly,
    Almond and Mazumder [2010] find no evidence that Muslims time births
    relative to Ramadan’s occurrence. Nevertheless, being exposed to Ramadan
    in early pregnancy has large health effects. Diurnal fasting in early pregnancy
    increases the likelihood of adult disability by over 20% among Uganda’s
    Muslims and Iraqis, with substantially larger effects for mental/learning disabilities.
    The fact that Ramadan is also a relatively mild health shock leads
    us to consider other more commonly-experienced exposures.

    A little fact-finding has more persuasive power than any rhetorical device or publicity stunt.

    Or perhaps not?

    Blaming collectivism is an easy way out.

    Like

  46. Liz April 17, 2013 at 12:43 #

    Good for you, sqt! Same thing happened in Las Vegas to us, except in reverse order. We bought before the bubble…and sold during the bidding wars when everyone was buying a second, third, forth home as “an investment” because if you didn’t you were “throwing money away” because “you couldn’t lose”.

    I feel sorry for the people who bought at the top because they had to (job relocation, for many people it was the only thing to do if you wanted to live in an area with good schools, and less crime). I know a LOT of those people, all of them military. But I never felt sorry for the ones so greedy they were blinded to risk (I know a lot of those, too).

    Like

  47. The Karamazov Idea April 17, 2013 at 13:12 #

    I am.

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  48. Exfernal April 17, 2013 at 13:21 #

    Here’s the botched link to “A little fact-finding” above.

    Like

  49. Exfernal April 17, 2013 at 13:23 #

    Again, WordPress rejects hyperlinking;
    http://scholar.google.com/scholar?cluster=13598820527180642757

    Like

  50. Bobert April 17, 2013 at 15:21 #

    This is Nellie Norton, writing to defend slavery on Biblical principles.

    Supremely ironic seeing ad Biblical principles were a huge factor in abolishing slavery.

    Like

  51. Bobby April 17, 2013 at 21:10 #

    I love this movie that I found on Youtube a few weeks ago. In it, a teacher shows his class how things like the Holocaust can happen.

    It’s kind of long, but well worth it.

    Like

  52. Nergal April 18, 2013 at 01:05 #

    Very interesting comment. This whole post is very good. I agree with JB in that,if some aspect of technique is being taught, telling someone to argue for “the final solution” or any other morally grotesque idea is acceptable. The problem for me, when leftist academics do things like this (Stomp Jesus) is that nothing is being taught except what is on display (Stomp Jesus). Their problem,of course, is different than mine. They are unable to even distinguish when someone else is trying to teach some deeper lesson and see nothing BUT (Stomp Jesus), even if the assignment is “Stomp Jesus in order to demonstrate cult-like behaviors). The strange thing is this situation used to be reversed, it was the rightists who saw nothing but “Burn The Flag” when the exercise was “Burn The flag to stand up for the lives of others killed in war”.

    I believe it is symptomatic of being with/in defense of the establishment that you are unable to perceive important nuances and only see threats to your “dominance” everywhere.

    Like

  53. judgybitch April 18, 2013 at 01:09 #

    That’s why I think historical examples that offer no room for debate are so valuable.

    The focus is purely on technique, because there is literally no alternate point of view to consider.

    I would put “burning the flag” into the category of no alternate point of view.

    There is no acceptable reason to burn the flag.

    None.

    Fullstop.

    Like

  54. Keen Observer April 18, 2013 at 02:27 #

    I’d forgotten about this one. I remember watching this in school, too. Freaked me out a little at the time. Nice find.

    Like

  55. princesspixiepointless April 18, 2013 at 07:14 #

    Wow. I’ve learned something new about you. Interesting.

    Can one still wear a flag as a mini dress ?

    Like

  56. Exfernal April 18, 2013 at 12:13 #

    Come on, copying “Killing me softly Almond Currie 2011” into Google Scholar, clicking “Related articles” and fast-scrolling through the list to follow any intriguing correlations (like with parasite load, periconceptional nutrition status, or toxicity of heavy metals/persistent organic pollutants) should be easy for any person with enough intellectual curiosity and free time.

    At that point the answer why the Flynn effect seems to taper already in first world countries should be quite obvious.

    Like

  57. Mark April 18, 2013 at 19:13 #

    Wonderful. Me too.

    Like

  58. Erik Norén November 4, 2013 at 17:52 #

    Knowing what i know of danish current culture and old scandinavian culture i could easily argie (well, maybe sau) there is a good reason for burning a flag. The person considers it a way of showing respect. Of course this person would have to be ignorant of current american culture or sinply of the opinion that others opinions don’t matter.

    Like

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