education

Gay Manimals

What do you think about teaching about sexuality, homo or hetero, in school? Here’s one guy’s opinion (Actually a fairly knowledgeable guy who has his own blog “Primate Diaries” on Science Blogs):

By now everyone has heard of the high school English honors teacher, Dan DeLong, who was suspended for offering students the Seed magazine article “The Gay Animal Kingdom” by Jonah Lehrer as an optional extra credit assignment.

According to the Alton, IL based Telegraph newspaper, DeLong has now been reinstated at Southwestern High School after several hundred students and parents attended a six-hour long disciplinary hearing:

At Monday night’s meeting, more than 200 people lined the stairs, sidewalk and office space at the district’s small unit office at 884 Piasa Road in the Macoupin County village of Piasa. Many of DeLong’s supporters had handmade posters and banners stating: “Mr. DeLong Inspires Us,” and chanting, “Broadening minds is not a crime.”

Unfortunately, what it looks like is that DeLong entered a plea deal with the Board of Education where he would admit that the article was “inappropriate” in exchange for going back to work. In a statement that DeLong read, on behalf of both himself and the School Board, this agreement was that:

[T]he Board of Education and administrator’s concern was never about sexual preference or homophobic condemnation. Rather, the issue of concern was the age appropriateness of the material. . . I agree with the board that the material in my class was not age appropriate for my sophomores and for that I apologize. I understand the board has decided that I shall receive a Notice of Remedial Warning.

This is wrong on several levels. First off, this is absolutely about homophobic condemnation. No one would have had any problems with a science article that described the evolution of heterosexual monogamy in voles or gibbons. Such an article would have naturalized a belief that many people hold as the only legitimate kind of relationship for our society today. However, by showing that same-sex pairs exist in the natural world (and that gender is a much more fluid concept than people may have realized) it challenges people’s assumptions about what “natural” actually is. Because they were threatened by this idea, the Board is confessing that ANY discussion that homosexuality could be natural is therefore inappropriate. It’s homophobia, pure and simple.

Secondly, does the Southwestern Board of Education even know what teenagers are exposed to these days? This is the generation that invented sexting and half of whom have had oral sex (according to the National Center for Health Statistics). Students today are fascinated by sexuality and are ardent consumers of information. They know full well that homosexuality exists and that there is currently a “debate” about whether or not all people should be granted human rights. Not only is the discussion of how humans define themselves useful in this regard, it should be required. Across the country we’re asking that people vote on the civil rights of people with other sexual orientations. Isn’t it a good idea to know something about the issues involved? Plus, Lehrer’s article was completely tame and had no explicit content (that is, unless the word “ejaculate” causes you to get the vapors). What this overreaction does is say far more about what makes some parents and school board officials uncomfortable than any need to “protect the children.”

The whole situation is a farce. If I was still teaching high school students (which I did for about two years) I would use this opportunity to make Lehrer’s article required reading and ask students to discuss whether or not they thought a teacher should be suspended for making it available. It would be a terrific lesson in civics. And if not this article, I would certainly make the issues of gay marriage, gay adoption, and gay service in the military part of any discussion on current affairs.

What’s ironic about the conservative outrage over gay rights is that the “homosexual agenda” is revealing itself to be an inherently conservative movement. Think about it. What other group is advocating for the right to get married, adopt children, and serve in the military? And conservatives have a problem with this? Perhaps a high school teacher somewhere should offer an article to students seeking to explain that strange phenomenon.

What do you guys think?

psychology

Guys are clueless, and we’re cool with that.

This study done by Indiana University’s Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences says that guys are clueless when it comes to women’s visual cues when trying to determine whether the woman is being friendly, sexual, sad, or rejecting.
Traditionally the argument has been that guys interpret every cue from women as a sexual advance. The researchers say that guys misinterpreted both friendly and sexual cues, so therefore they’re just clueless or less able to communicate all around.
I’m still not convinced. I still think there’s a biological advantage for men who misinterpret cues as sexual, whether the cues are or not. Maybe these college age kids weren’t as sexually aggressive as others. Maybe men are intimidated by women in this new age of political correctness. I also imagine it has to do with the context. If a woman flashes a man a small at the bar versus the library, what is he going to think?

In another study, researchers found that people who are socially awkward make the best long-term mates (score one for the nerds!).

Uncategorized

Women want girly men?

Lynda Boothroyd came out with a study that finds that women think more feminine-featured men make better dads: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/20167786/.

While this is nothing new, the conclusion that she makes, that women don’t like macho men at all, is a bit overstated. She even goes on to say that we shouldn’t look at masculinity as an indicator of genetic fitness. The article doesn’t state whether a certain question was asked of the study participants, but it is an important question: Just because these people in the study think the more feminine-looking man would make a better father, which type of man are they more likely to want to have sex with? One is not exclusive to the other. It is entirely likely that women would want to mate with a masculine man but have a feminine man help raise the kid, if they could get away with it. There are cultures where women mate with their husbands but their brothers help raise the kids, so these women don’t need to worry about whether their husband will be a good dad, they just have to make sure he’s got strong swimmers (so to speak), and a powerful position in society.

I think that she needed to go deeper than she did and not frame her conclusions with such a Western frame of mind.

Uncategorized

Activists the world over

Activists in Washington State are trying to pass an initiative that would annul weddings in Washington after three years if no offspring had been produced (it is in reference to arguments made by the state supreme court): http://www.queerty.com/queer/news/wash-state-gay-activist-put-marriage-to-the-test-20070206.php
They acknowledge it’s silly, and even some gay activist groups have said they won’t sign the petition, but even as a straight person who will probably someday get married and have kids, it’s damned amusing.

Evangelical Churchies in Kenya are protesting against a skeleton uncovered by Richard Leakey in the 80’s, who is claimed to be the most complete prehistoric skeleton ever found, and it’s release to the public this month BECAUSE…they think it would disprove the church on creationism: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/17029155/.

Jeez, these people are driving me CRAZY! “No, don’t release hard science, because it’ll hurt our poor little fragile egos that have to be constantly fluffed by all our adoring fans, um, I mean worshippers, um, I mean GOD’s worshippers. It is God’s will we close our ears and eyes to actually see how the earth is put together!” Argghhdsdlafj! I don’t believe in God, but did it every occur to these people that, assuming there was a god, he might have made the earth a little bit differently than some pompous humans living 1000 years ago wrote it down? Or whenever the first written versions of the Bible came out.

*takes a few deep breaths to regain composure*

In other news, refugees are seeking asylum in Mauritania: http://www.alertnet.org/thenews/newsdesk/IRIN/2dd8d8fec300efb17f98d99c3f7554e4.htm
Last I heard Spain finally talked Mauritania into letting them dock. My first thought was: why in the world would you want to seek refuge in Mauritania? They say most of the refugees are from Pakistan or India, and unless they’re Muslim it’s going to get real awkward real fast. And after listening to Tarn’s stories of the place, why aren’t they going anywhere else on the West Coast of Africa? I mean, yes, they were trying to get to Europe first, but why would anyone pick Mauritania as their second choice?