Friday, June 29, 2012

More on tiny houses

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Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Affirmative Action Follies and truths

Wherein I don't take the usual approach in such a discussion.

My daughter was four years, varsity, on the rifle team in high school.  In her junior year, a number of guys in the high school ROTC program started complaining about how a girl had stolen a spot from a deserving guy by means of affirmative action.

One of them made the mistake of saying so in front of the colonel, who was pretty laid back, all in all.  The colonel marched him 25' in one direction and my daughter 25' in the other and then, standing in the middle, rather loudly explained to the young man that my daughter was on the team because at that distance she could reliably shoot the pupil out of his eye prone, kneeling or standing.  The young man could not even see a pupil at 50' and ... Well, the grousing stopped.

But you will discover similar follies, and many companies encourage them.  Recently I know an about to graduate engineer who interviewed with a company.  They had announced they were hiring five people, four open slots and one dedicated to hiring a female engineer.  The two female candidates were rather rudely treated by the male candidates.  One of them took the time to chat up secretaries and others, having arrived early.

She discovered that the company makes that announcement every year, and has for some time.  In fifty years they have never hired a female engineer.  They only hire female secretaries and janitorial staff.  They never hire as many people as they say they are hiring either. 

Why would they say otherwise?  I know from friends in HR and headhunting that there are two reasons for that sort of behavior.

First, if you announce a larger set of openings, you get better quality applicants, people who are very qualified, but who don't want to waste their time applying if the hiring slots are few.

Second, if you announce affirmative action goals, the people you do not hire are not upset with you, they blame the "Black guy" or "the Girl" for stealing their job and just by having stated affirmative action goals you will get a lot less negative trouble from the job applicants you did not hire.

If you've ever wondered about Justice Clarence Thomas and his hostility towards affirmative action, it stems from experiences like that, combined with the fact that when he accomplished anything people would credit it not to his ability, but to affirmative action (consider his admission to Yale law school where he was in the top half of the class -- how often have you heard that he only got into Yale because of affirmative action?  Yet, statistically, Blacks perform below the statistical indicators.  Which means, more likely than not, if he was in the top half at Yale, his LSAT/grades on his application put him in the top 25% or so of those who were admitted).

Reprising, that company, referred to above, they did not hire "a Girl" this time either.  They just outsourced some abuse and hostility to the female applicants.  Last I heard, both of the female engineering students they interviewed are still looking for work.  Still getting a good deal of hostility from male engineers too, since they are sure that the "girls" are not working as hard and having an easy time of the job market compared to the "deserving guys."

Oh, I'll bet that none of the grousers can shoot the pupil out of someone's eye at 50' either.  Bet they would complain about a "girl" being on the rifle team if they tried to get on and failed.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

What makes arguments about women and the priesthood flawed.

Many of the arguments people put out in favor of women and the priesthood resolve to sounding like "I just want the change to exercise unrighteous dominion too." (I am not saying that they are making that argument, I'm saying that they sound like that argument).

For example when people write about wanting to exercise power or influence, they will trigger the following thoughts:
No apower or influence can or ought to be maintained by virtue of the bpriesthood, only by cpersuasion, by dlong-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned;
So when someone writes that they feel powerless without the Priesthood, and want to be able to exert power and influence, they will have that scripture sounding in the echo chamber of the minds of those who hear them. If you state that you want the priesthood to exercise power and influence, you've just stated that you (in accord with D&C 121) are not entitled to it, e.g.:
to gratify our cpride, our vain ambition, or to exercise control or ddominion or compulsion upon the souls of the children of men,
The problem is that not only do you need to make an argument that is not saying that, you need to make an argument that does not sound like that either.  If your argument sounds like that is what you want (regardless of what you mean), you immediately create that semantic contamination of your argument or reasons.

The same is true of "I serve enough, I just want to serve in a better scope."  That sounds like "I just want to be important."  Elder deJager of the 70 had as his first calling putting up the books after Sacrament.  At the time he was a relatively important executive with a large company.  His response was not "I want a more important job."  Instead, he served with diligence. 

Christ washed the apostles feet to drive hope the point that it is about service, being the servant of all, rather than about being important.  If you are going to make any argument about the place where you serve rather than serving more, you will face serious semantic contamination and echos of pride in the semantic contamination you create.

The same comes when blessing babies comes up.  Already leaders are being counseled not to push fathers aside when it comes to ordaining sons or blessing babies, about taking steps to make sure men are involved and can be allowed to participate (the reference to battlefield promotions in the recent conference was part of a call not to shunt fathers aside).

That sounds very much like "I want to push men aside and take over."  Now, even when the need or desire is "I just want to participate" or "I hate being excluded" it is very easy to get the message contaminated with the one "I am pushing others aside and alienating them."

The same is true of the "I deserve it" and "I should be part of the hierarchy" argument.  Something that Hopwood and other litigation has pointed out is that much of affirmative action consists of taking people from privileged backgrounds and giving them precedence over people from trailer parks.  That the lead plaintiff from Hopwood was a white woman from a trailer park who was being excluded ... or that every time class issues are introduced to go with other affirmative action steps (the idea being that those from poor and lower class backgrounds are obviously suffering more of the effects of discrimination than those who are wealthy ...).

Consider the first "woman of color" to teach at Harvard Law School.  Blond, blue eyed ....  Now running for the senate in a state near you.  There is a huge issue where it appears to be more of a class struggle and one that ignores and insults the female members of general boards who are in some sort of quasi general authority status.

Combining an insult with something that rings of class warfare will, again, create unpleasant echos.  Especially since the Church continually has to war with class issues.  I still remember in the LDS Serviceman's stake in Germany when a general authority said he had interviewed every worthy high priest in the stake.  Turned out that the list he had been given was only of officers who were high priests.  No matter how otherwise worthy a man was, if he was enlisted, he wasn't truly "worthy."

All of that said, am I coming to a conclusion on the arguments, the conclusions or the future?

No.  Just because someone makes a bad argument, or a good argument that sounds like a bad one and is easily confused for one, does not mean that the position they are taking is a bad position.

So, what am I saying?

I am saying that if you want to make arguments, provide analysis, or be persuasive, you need to do the following:

  1. Avoid arguments that are contaminated by sounding like other arguments.  There are some very specific claims, arguments and approaches that sound very, very much like arguments that are (to the listeners) self-refuting (see the above).  i.e. structure your arguments to clearly not be the contaminated ones, but instead to be saying the alternative (e.g. "I don't want to push men aside, but I want to be able to participate).
  2. Avoid arguments that are basically insults or expressions of pride (e.g. "I serve more than I feel like, but I would rather be in control and have the chance to really exercise my abilities than do something like pick up the song books.").
  3. Avoid arguments that show an ignorance of culture and structure.  (e.g. denying the existence of female board members vs. discussing that the status and existence of female board members does not have meaning for people outside of Utah).
  4. Start discussions in places where everyone is in accord.  E.g. President Hinkley used to stress that the Church needed more leadership and participation from the women in the Church and a common problem that has been with us is men who misunderstand the priesthood and insist that women should not ever exercise any leadership or participation on an equal basis, to the extent of banning women from giving prayers in Sacrament meetings.  A way to move forward on the goal and overcome the problem is ....
Anyway, until things are discussed in those terms, and in those ways, most of the discussions contain within them the seeds of their own failures.

One thing I want to see happen is people express their ideas and positions in ways that are not contaminated by sounding like reasons and arguments that resonate as reasons not to give someone a fair audience -- to avoid hearing them.  Too often the debate is carried out in terms that create automatic rejection (kind of like the political candidate who ran on the basis that it was his turn to share in the stream of graft he was certain he had been excluded from).

That at least would get us to a civil and rational place where what people meant to be saying was heard.

Thursday, June 07, 2012

Why women want the priesthood -- a poll

Everyone speculates, but at Wheat and Tares we are asking our readers for answers:

  • I don't want the priesthood silly -- my husband told me so.
  • Of course I want the priesthood -- do I have to have a reason?
  • I want equal power and influence, so I need equal priesthood.
  • I do not feel as if I am asked to serve enough, I need the priesthood in order to serve more.
  • I want the priesthood so that I feel included.  I'm the right social class and have the right professional background, but without the priesthood I'm stuck like all the men who are the wrong social class and won't progress in the leadership.
  • I feel disconnected from the Church and my family and the priesthood would help me feel more connected.
I got thinking about what Hawkgrrrl had to say earlier and so I thought I'd just ask.

For reference, this is what she had to say:
While we’re speculating on priesthood, I think a sociological argument can be made that priesthood service ties men to families and makes them feel needed in ways that they otherwise might not.  In Spain, most men would spend their evenings in the bar with other men leaving the women at home to raise the kids, but when they joined the church, they became more family-centric and spent time serving others and supporting their families because it was their priesthood duty.  Women already had a family-centric existence in that culture.  If women also had the priesthood, it would reduce their reliance on men for those things.  A role separation model may be more effective at creating family bonds (creating mutual reliance and respect for each other), improving the way men treat their families and others, and provide more support to children on the whole across large groups of people.  Obviously, that’s more of an 80/20 principle – suitable to 80% of society, but not others.

In this sociological model, both motherhood and priesthood are duties and service provided to others, not gifts God gives to an individuall. But E. Oaks didn’t say that.  It’s my own slightly more palatable spin on what he said.
And, of course:

Christ Washing the Disciples' Feet
Artist Tintoretto
Obviously her reflections took more than just a simple line on a poll.  I expect that your reflections and real reasons, for or against wanting the priesthood will take more than a simple line.  My thoughts would be influenced by and by but I want your thoughts, not mine.


So, if you are a woman, tell me why you do or do not want the priesthood and why.  I want honest, both pro and con (you can do silly as well, my poll had that as an option, but I'm hoping for more).

Thank you.