23 May 2004

I write this while sitting at a computer terminal in my parents local library because their house is under rennovation. Truthfully, there is internet there, but it's dial up and I have become so spoiled by the high speed internet at school. I mean, my alma mater.
I am now a college graduate with a degree.
What I am most frustrated by right now, is the idea of political correctness, which is really a nice way of saying that these days you can't just be respectful, you have to be uber-sensitive. How can we honestly have a open dialogue about issues if simply admitting there is an issue is now equated with being racist, sexist, or some other "ist"? I admit that generalisations have their drawbacks and should be used carefully, but how can we talk about "Americans" without generalising the citizens? No one has a problem with that. But talk about "blacks" as a community and suddenly you have a problem. Statisitcally the black population earns less than it's white counterpart. That statement alone will earn me all kinds of retribution from readers... yet, if we take a mathematical approach, that statement is correct. Some would see it as a problem... but simply identifying the statement, let alone the problem, will already land you in hot water. You can now be not simply a racist, but a "colour-blind racist."
My brother is reading a book for school on the idea of colour blind racism and there are some points in there that spark worthwhile conversation. However, according to the author, simply being white makes me racist. Talk about original sin! It doesn't matter how I act, treat people, or wish for the world, I simply am a racist in a society that will allow other minorities to flourish in order to keep the black population oppressed. End of story.
Um, no.
Not the end of the story. I don't believe you can call a race "racist". I think this is one situation where a generalisation is not appropriate. People are not born racist, they become so. There may be all kinds of societal factors creating a racist atmosphere, there may be all kinds of subtle ways in which white people offend or hurt black people, but I do not believe that I was born racist because my parents are white. Not only is that racist, but its extremely pessimisstic.
If we can get people past deciding which labels are appropriate and calling each other names like "racist" and "bigot" then maybe we'd actually get somewhere. Maybe we'd be able to point out a problem or two and actually work towards a solution. Black people earn less. This can be linked to inferior education... so lets work on education. There have been some very promising schools that have been carefully integrated so the populations reflect the neighborhoods, and the kids grow up tolerant. Now its time for the adults to play nice.
I'm sure I'm going to get kicked for this, but:
Slavery ended hundreds of years ago. You can't ask us to pay for what our parents parents parents parents did. Not going to happen, not ethical, lets move forward.
What's needed is money... and lots of it. Since white people have so much of it, we pay tons and tons of tax. We give lots in charity and lots of it goes to black communities. Where's the money and the support from Jay Z and Biggie? How much did they give back to the schools they went to? Oh yeah, none. They were too busy buying 10 beamers and a tricked out Navigator. Do you know how many school books that money would have bought? Where's the sense of community?
We don't like to mention it but there are successful black people in the world. Not as many as there should be, but they exist. And I'm sure many of them do try and help their commnunities, but this is where change is going to come from. That's how other minorities made it. It's possible. It's even probable. But its not going to come from the white man alone.
I am going to get killed for writing this. If I was smart, I would have hit delete.

08 May 2004

What a day. It's amazing how you can lead a fairly boring life and then once and a while you have those days where it feels like everything turned upside down. Lucky for me all the news was good :)
Apparently Ben Affleck and Ted Kennedy are joining forces to campaign for higher minimum wage, which please tell me, seems weird to at least one other person. I mean, I don't *think* it works that way: a couple of mildly famous people walk around Washington with their bright idea and absolutely no clue about say... economics or.... fiscal policy. Interesting to note that we're in a mini-recession right now and job creation isn't quite rebounding - the majority of the recent increase was in temp and part time work (not a strong economic driver) - and consumer spending hasn't dropped, which means people are increasing their debt levels. Now, the way to fix the economy would be to reinvest in growth industry and for people to stop spending money they don't have (which seems really obvious - if you don't have the money, don't buy stuff you don't need). Anyway, raising the cost of labour is 1) not going to keep labour in the US, it will drive it overseas and 2) not a good idea unless we see a concurrent rise in productivity or we're paying without getting any production. If they really want to help workers, why don't they campaign for more skill building (ie education) so our population is more employable and capable of innovation?
In case some people haven't been watching, there's a trend developing to start outsourcing what were traditionally considered "safe" jobs - programming, customer service, call centres, and the like. Those jobs are now more productive overseas, which means to stay ahead of the economic curve, we need to find a new niche. When economies develop, nations need to stay at the frontier of their capabilities: we used to be a manufacturing hotbed before those jobs moved overseas (Taiwan, China, Malaysia, etc). Now, we're watching soft IT and service jobs move offshore. Other economies have reached that point in development, and we've grown past it. So what now for us? What do we do? We innovate. We think of it, we improve it, we design it, we revolutionise it, and someone else builds it. Our new job market is not in implementation, but in creation. What is the number one thing that will drive this trend? An educated population. Which once again brings me back to Ben and Ted. We don't need higher minimum wage, we need better education for all ages.
I'm getting off of my soapbox now.

03 May 2004

I'm watching Anderson Cooper 360 and they want to get DNA from an old pair of Michael Jackson's underwear they found in storage. I know they're doing their job and child molestation is a serious charge, but honestly, who puts their underwear in storage?
Oh, I must say thanks to Davo, since I stole this title from him.
The New York Times did an interesting article on ending grade inflation - using statistics to weight each class by professor and subject. It's an interesting thought, but I have a question: if the average grade a professor gives in a given class is a B+, then you would never be able to get a full 10 out of 10 in the weighting system. Now what if your curriculum requires lots of classes like that? In other words, would it become possible that some majors simply do not contain enough rigerous courses to get the highest grades and therefore graduate with honours?
I'd say one thing we really need to be looking at is the grading in liberal arts courses. It is generally accepted that they tend to be easier than say, engineering. However, I know lots of people who scored badly in verbal or can't write a coherant paper. My neighbor even admitted one of his papers had no thesis! Liberal arts teachers need to be tougher when they're grading, especially essays. It's far too easy to knock something together at the last minute and still get A's. Then again, I am the beneficiary of such A's, so maybe I shouldn't complain so loudly, after all, I don't get my degree (with honours) for another two weeks.