I Thought Berkeley Was Already Occupied

A few years ago we were told that the “Occupy”  movement would usher in a “new way of living.” Of course it did no such thing—how could it, as the entire movement was based around sleeping in parks and not showering? Oh, well, at least the spirit of “Occupy” has remained alive and well on the left. Take, for instance, a recent piece in the Daily Californian, a student-run newspaper serving the University of California, Berkeley, and whatever Marxist-Feminist coffee shop cooperatives are located nearby. “Occupy the syllabus” declares this article; the authors claim to voice “major concerns about social theory courses in which white men are the only authors assigned.” If you’re interested in the often-exhausting fundamentals of academic social liberalism, the whole thing is worth reading; if you want a nice little microcosm of the entire article, however, you can read the following paragraph:

Sometimes, we were so uncomfortable that we had to leave the classroom in the middle of lecture. For example, when lecturing on Marx’s idea of the “natural division of labor between men and women,” the professor attributed some intellectual merit to this idea because men and women are biologically distinct from each other, because women give birth while men do not. One student asked, “What about trans* people?” to which the professor retorted, “There will always be exceptions.” Then, laughing, the professor teased, “We may all be transgender in the future.” Although one might be tempted to dismiss these remarks as a harmless attempt at humor, mocking trans* people and calling them “exceptions” is unacceptable.

I would like to address the wacky gender theory which is the focus of this vignette, but first it is worth spending a little time on the frankly pathetic opening admission: “Sometimes, we were so uncomfortable that we had to leave the classroom in the middle of the lecture.” I myself have been highly uncomfortable within academic settings; most liberal arts environments are generally hostile towards and dismissive of young white men, with the result that the students (and even a professor or two) in a number of my classes at VCU were openly and unapologetically nasty towards me and other whites. It was uncomfortable—but I was able to recognize it for the stupid progressive hangup that it was, and I never had to “leave the classroom in the middle of the lecture.” It’s also highly likely that the source of the authors’ discomfort was entirely imaginary. Nearly all college professors are exquisitely sensitive and deferential towards what the authors call “marginalized people,” and it’s just not probable that the average professor (at UC Berkeley, no less!) would ever intentionally or even unintentionally insult a member of a privileged campus identity group. If you have to “leave the classroom” at UC Berkeley because you felt “uncomfortable” due to some perceived social justice slight, it’s probable that you shouldn’t be at college at all—you’re simply not a grownup or a serious person.

On that note, it is equally bizarre to read about the students getting upset over their professor’s little “trans*” slip-up. Even if we are to accept the students’ premise, their distress is still nonsensical. For starters, transgender people are exceptions: at most, 5% of people identify with the label. Secondly, the professor was in no way at all “mocking” transgender people; at worst, he was attempting a lame joke, probably because he felt uncomfortable and embarrassed. The professor’s behavior, in other words, was not in any way “unacceptable.” All of that is kind of irrelevant, of course, because the professor was correct at the outset: women do give birth, and men don’t. There’s no crossover; a man can not give birth, and if a person gives birth that person is by definition female. This is a biological fact. The student’s objection was meaningless and incorrect, and the only mistake the professor made—the only “unacceptable” thing he did—was not point this out.

What is doubly strange, of course, is that the authors of this article are arguing for a better education: their current learning environment, they claim, is “epistemically poor,” and they bemoan that they must “accumulate debt” for such a lackluster product. And yet if we were to fashion the kind of educational atmosphere for which they advocate, we would be left with something both useless and repellent: a college that is hostile to science and fact, full of students that are oversensitive to fake slights, and run by a professorship that is scared and cowed by an angry and irrational student body. This would, as per Occupy’s mission, be a “new way of living;” it would also be a demonstrably worse way to live, as well.

Getting a Master’s in Microagressions

At The Federalist today, you can find my latest: “From Fake Rapes To Petty ‘Microaggressions,’ American Colleges Have Lost Their Way.” If you’ve spent any time in an American university in the last twenty years or so, then you’ll understand the sorry shape they’re in. As the Washington Post points out this morning, the average college graduate is “severely lacking in some basic skills, particularly problem solving, decision making, and the ability to prioritize tasks.” The bulk of learning that takes place in your garden-variety liberal arts program these days focuses less on, well, learning, and more on how to be perpetually offended by and terrified of the world: instead of education, we’re left with “lynch mobs and thought police.” And it can all be yours for the low, low price of tens of thousands of dollars in debt and an increasingly devalued Bachelor’s degree!

To be perfectly fair, I myself learned some interesting and useful things during my time at VCU, and met plenty of wonderful people; it just wasn’t worth the $40,000 price tag and the four years of tiresome progressive slop with which one has to contend at the average American university. College has become an expensive and indulgent playground, and one that struggles even to teach its students how to function at entry-level jobs after they graduate. To reform these sub-par institutions will take something of an Herculean effort, but of course the alternative is to condemn our young scholars to the kind of rotten pulp that’s the current mainstay of American colleges.

Some Lives Matter

At this point it’s hard not to have heard of the “#BlackLivesMatter” movement, one of those social justice crusades so aggressively overbearing that it can’t refer to itself but in the form of a hashtag. The movement’s primary purpose seems to revolve around shutting down city streets for no discernible reason, though if they need a source of outrage and anger from which to draw their energy, they need look no farther than the nearest abortion clinic:

For every black murder victim in 2011 there were 19 blacks killed by abortion, according to data from the FBI and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). 2011 is the latest year for which the data is available.

The CDC’s Abortion Surveillance Report for 2011 shows that 117,293 black babies were aborted that year in the 32 states and the District of Columbia that report abortion numbers to the CDC.

The FBI’s Uniform Crime Report for 2011, shows that 6,329 blacks were murder victims that year (5,416 males, 910 females, and 3 unknown gender).

“Black lives matter,” indeed. Black women account for over a third of abortions in the country, even as blacks account for just over 13% of the population. A plurality of the abortion industry’s profits come from killing black babies: 117,293 the last time anyone checked. Picture the World Trade Center collapsing with its 3,000 victims inside. Now picture that happening every day for about forty days, and you have the number of black children aborted in 2011. This is not quite a genocide, but it is a wholesale slaughter, and moreover it’s a legal one.

And yet “#BlackLivesMatter” doesn’t really seem to care about this, which is a testament to the triumph of modern feminist discourse. A woman’s “right to choose,” by which is meant the right to legally choose infanticide, must trump everything else; this is why a movement can declare that black lives “matter” while ignoring the jaw-dropping loss of black life that occurs every day in plain sight across the country. Feminism knows what it’s doing in this regard. Jessica Valenti, for instance, recently declared that anti-abortion efforts deal “irreparable harm” to women; ignoring the inanity of the false characterization, instead witness how grandly the point is missed: most harm actually is reparable, but there’s one specific type of harm you can’t undo—the kind of harm for which Valenti and many other feminists gleefully advocate. Death can’t be undone, not for anyone, and not for the unborn black babies that fall outside the purview of the social justice movement. And yet there are no protests about it. A better slogan for the campaign might run along the lines of, “#BlackLivesMatter #WithSomeExceptions.”

Not that we should expect it to catch on. This is a movement that seems terminally deficient in self-awareness, if its recent Richmond demonstration is any indication:

Justice RVA says that #BlackLivesMatter is a concept that needs the involvement of local, state and federal government to address multiple policy issues like: raising minimum wage, ending racial profiling, fixing broken public schools, ending the war on drugs, improving conditions in public housing, voting not to build an Atlantic Coast Pipeline through communities.

Flanked by several police officers, protesters marched along the streets of Richmond and held a die-in Monday, in front of the Seigel [sic] Center at Broad Street and Harrison.

Yes, we all know the devastating racist history of Atlantic Coast Pipelines. Thank God someone’s finally taking a stand against natural gas. As well, what the hell is a “die-in” supposed to accomplish? As a metaphorical tool, it’s completely lousy and counterproductive. In contrast to the righteous defiance and strength of, say, a march, a “die-in” symbolizes that your movement is weak and susceptible to total failure: the other guy won, you lost, and now you’re dead. Nobody wants to join a political cause in which death is the primary rallying point—well, unless you count feminists and abortion, anyway.

Why We Marched

I had the pleasure of spending yesterday at the forty-second annual March for Life. It’s rather dismaying that the March has had to meet for forty-two years at this point, though it is still encouraging to witness the sea of people willing to travel from literally around the world to attend this event. The culture of death is currently in vogue, but the culture of life is very strong, and it has the added benefit of being right. Unfortunately, there are plenty of people who are fully committed to a national policy of legalized infanticide, such as President Obama, who yesterday issued a statement worth reprinting in full:

Forty-two years ago today, the U.S. Supreme Court issued its ruling in Roe v. Wade, a decision that protects a woman’s freedom to make her own choices about her body and her health, and reaffirms a fundamental American value: that government should not intrude in our most private and personal family matters.

I am deeply committed to protecting this core constitutional right, and I believe that efforts like H.R. 7, the bill the House considered today, would intrude on women’s reproductive freedom and access to health care and unnecessarily restrict the private insurance choices that consumers have today. The federal government should not be injecting itself into decisions best made between women, their families, and their doctors. I am also deeply committed to continuing our work to reduce unintended pregnancies, support maternal and child health, promote adoptions, and minimize the need for abortion.

Today, as we reflect on this critical moment in our history, may we all rededicate ourselves to ensuring that our daughters have the same rights, freedoms, and opportunities as our sons.

This is a declaration nearly perfect in its duplicitous ignorance and its mendacity. For one, it’s simply astounding that the man who brought us Obamacare presumes to lecture us on the government’s “intrud[ing] in our most private and personal family matters” and “restrict[ing] the private insurance choices that consumers have.” Moreover, barring instances in which the mother’s life is in danger, there is never a “need for abortion:” if you minus the extremely rare occasions in which abortion is required to save a woman’s life, then you are left with about a million babies killed per year simply for convenience’s sake. This is how a grown man, the head of the executive branch of the United States of America, identifies the “need” for infanticide: it’s handier to kill someone than put them up for adoption. And while the president is welcome to issue a stirring call for gender equality, he’s neglecting to mention that the “rights, freedoms and opportunities” of unborn babies have been sharply curtailed in the four decades since Roe v. Wade passed: the Supreme Court declared an entire class of human life entirely optional, and it’s probably important to remember that one’s freedoms and opportunities tend to be somewhat limited when one is being dismembered in the womb.

Our president is a cowardly little man who is wholly unwilling to be honest to himself about what abortion entails. To be fair, many people have a tendency to look away when it comes to this topic, the media more so than anyone. Witness, for example, the parade of headlines in the wake of yesterday’s march:

The Washington Post: Thousands ‘March for Life’ in D.C.

USA Today: ‘Roe v. Wade’ turns 42; thousands march in opposition

The Guardian: Thousands gather in ‘March for Life’ as activists seek to halt abortion ‘through prayer’

The Columbus Dispatch: Thousands gather in Washington for annual March for Life

If you were there, you would know how disingenuous these headlines really are. It was not a gathering of “thousands” but of hundreds of thousands; at one point near the top of Constitution Avenue, I looked back to see a half-mile-long crowd of people stretching back towards and around 14th Street SW; space was extremely tight, I couldn’t even see the end of the line, and there were tens of thousands of more in front of us. To accurately estimate the number of marchers in yesterday’s demonstration would require the media to acknowledge the enormity and the power of the pro-life movement, something they’re apparently terrified of doing. Luckily for them, they’ll have a chance to count us again next year—and every year afterwards, for as long as it takes.

Abstaining From Dumb Arguments

I have to confess, I’m pretty impressed at how adept Pope Francis has come to be at throwing the media into wild and embarrassing fits; part of it, of course, is that media do not really understand religion, but part of it is that Pope Francis is just so good at it. He spoke recently, for instance, on the need to practice “responsible parenthood,” referring to a woman who was having an eighth child by Cesarean section; “Does she want,” he asked, “to leave the [other] seven [children] orphans?” This would be an excellent theological and practical conundrum to ponder and discuss—but of course that didn’t happen. “God gives you methods to be responsible,” Francis said (He does); “many, many ways,” in fact. To this, Slate’s resident feminist scold Amanda Marcotte complained:

He didn’t elaborate. Probably because there are not, in fact, “many, many” ways that the Catholic Church allows women to prevent pregnancy. There is only one: not having sex. You can remain a lifelong virgin, or you can give up on sex within your marriage, or you can practice periodic abstinence, which proponents euphemistically call “natural family planning,” but all methods come back to this idea that you should be having less sex. This isn’t just a bummer for happy couples for whom sex is an important, fun, and bonding activity. For women living in male-dominated marriages, being able to say no to your husband when he wants it isn’t really an option.

Gee, that’s good to know: two thousand years of moral theology boiled down to the pejorative “bummer.” Actually, Marcotte’s first two options—virginity and total abstinence—are, barring extenuating circumstances, sort of discouraged: Church law states that marriage, in part, “is ordered by its nature to…the procreation and education of offspring” (emphasis added). Childbearing and -rearing is one of the primary functions of marriage, in other words, not a secondary or tertiary one. At any rate, yes, let us so stipulate: the periodic abstinence demanded by natural family planning can be difficult, as anyone who has ever practiced sexual abstinence for any amount of time can attest. But so what? Lots of things are both difficult and essential; if you’re of the faith, you can easily stomach the eight to twelve days of abstinence per month that NFP usually demands. Abstinence can be mildly uncomfortable and annoying; it’s not Medieval torture.

Marcotte here resembles a pouty six-year-old more than an adult woman. Children are generally unable to think in the long term when it comes to the abiding benefits of delayed gratification; thus when she is told that there might be reasonable and important limits to some element of pleasure in her life, Marcotte stamps her feet and throws a little fit. Grow up, lady. Also, what’s with this “male-dominated marriage” and “not being able to say no” thing? A responsible couple, Catholic or otherwise, will have discussed and agreed upon the particulars of their sexual relationship and their plans for childbearing before the marriage occurs. The fever dream Marcotte is describing here is more or less marital rape—a stark and disgusting perversion of the marriage sacrament, not a fulfillment of it.

Speaking of contraception, the Virginia senate recently did the right thing and voted down a bill that,  much like Obamacare’s disgraced contraception mandate, would have ordered insurance companies to start covering more contraceptives in their insurance plans. RH Reality Check seemed a little miffed about it:

A Virginia senate committee composed of only men on Monday voted to defeat a bill that would have increased access to prescription contraceptives by mandating insurance plans cover more of them.

Wait, what does the qualifier “composed of only men” have to do with anything? Do we honestly believe that the Left would be satisfied if the committee were “composed only of women?” As we’ve seen, for instance, Joni Ernst has been trashed by pro-abortion groups for her pro-life stance; “Being a woman politician,” they claim, “does not make her a pro-woman politician.” Progressives like to pretend that an all-male committee, say, is somehow unqualified to vote on issues like contraception, but they’ll happily trash a conservative female politician for voting the same way that conservative men do. Liberals are generally fundamentally dishonest, two-faced and opportunistic when it comes to issues like this, so it’s best to ignore them when they start screeching about issues as complex and important as sexuality and contraception.

Global Warmism, Perpetually Humiliated

At the Federalist today, Robert Tracinski has an excellent piece debunking the latest global warming alarmist scare. As Tracinski points out, the much-trumpeted “warmest year on record” was brought about by an average global temperature increase of 0.02C—with a margin of error of 0.1C:

Pause for a moment to digest that. The margin of error was plus or minus one tenth of a degree. The difference supposedly being measured here is two hundredths of a degree—five times smaller than the margin of error.

This is, in effect, what the world’s climate change alarmists are up-in-arms about: an infinitesimal increase in global temperatures with a margin of error five times larger than the increase itself. For this we are expected to transition to a “100 percent clean energy future;” for the dubious increase of a couple of measly hundredths of one degree Celsius, there are serious voices demanding that we upend the foundation upon which rests the entirety of global prosperity and commerce.

It’s almost a joke, but in another way it is deeply troubling and bizarre that the conversation has swung so far in favor of the Left and the Left’s deleterious climate change agenda. Those of us on the Right are, after a fashion, responsible for letting it get this bad. The principal conservative talking point up until this point has been, more or less, “The science isn’t settled on global warming.” But I think this has been a flawed approach to the whole matter. Yes, climate science is in a state of disarray and disagreement about a wide range of things—there are literally dozens of explanations for the global warming pause, for instance—but in the end, it might be better to play the Left’s game on this one: instead of saying, “The science isn’t settled,” it’s perhaps more pointed to say, “Sure, the science is settled—and so what?” The next time some grad student screeches at you that we’re experiencing the warmest year in thirty-squirty centuries, try accepting the premise of the statement off the bat. Then ask them if they know by how much it is a record year of warmth; it could be worth a laugh. In any case, just don’t think the whole “I’m not a scientist” line is going to suffice anymore, at least as it’s currently being used. It would be more worthwhile to say, “I’m not a scientist, but I know that a few hundredths of one degree isn’t anything to worry about.”

Meanwhile, the Pope’s upcoming encyclical on climate change continues to make headlines, and in the Philippines recently, the Pope offered his opinion on the matter at a news conference:

He said global warming was “mostly” man-made. And he said he wanted his encyclical out in plenty of time to be absorbed before the next round of U.N. climate change talks in Paris in November after the last round in Lima, Peru, failed to reach an agreement.

“I don’t know if it (human activity) is the only cause, but mostly, in great part, it is man who has slapped nature in the face,” Francis said. “We have in a sense taken over nature.”

This is an odd appraisal of the situation. One of the key rhetorical points of global warmism is that man hasn‘t “taken over nature;” the point is supposed to be that we think we’ve “taken over nature,” when in fact we’re still entirely dependent on it and still subject to its negative consequences if we are poor stewards of its majesty. As well, it’s kind of odd to say we’ve “slapped nature in the face” when the slap occurs at a rate of two-hundredths of a degree per year. That’s more like a little pat, and of course the enormous margin of error means that it may not have occurred at all. At any rate, progressives seem rather delirious over the Pope’s upcoming encyclical, which is understandable—but if the Left is so willing to follow the Pope when it comes to climate change, is it too much to ask they agree with the Church on abortion and gay marriage, too?

The Low-Income Barometer

Yesterday the Washington Post published a report on the state of American child poverty, in which it declared, based on a recent study by the Southern Education Center, that the “Majority of U.S. public school students are in poverty.” Well, actually, it’s kind of hard to tell if the sensationalist headline is justified. The SEF’s actual report appears to declare that the majority of public school students are low-income, using data from the National Center for Education Statistics, which has defined low-income elsewhere as 125% over the poverty line. The National Center for Children in Poverty has a similar definition, qualifying “low-income” as “income below 200% of the federal poverty level.” These kinds of definitions are hard to pin down in the United States, which is why a major U.S. newspaper can take the term “low-income”—which means above the poverty line—and declare it to mean, in effect, “below the poverty line.” For all practical purposes the Post may be correct, but then again they’re citing a report that appears to have gone out of its way to avoid the word “poverty” and that draws a clear distinction between the statuses of poverty and low income. So who knows.

None of which is to say that this report does not signal a problem, for it clearly does: the Post declares that “51 percent of students in pre-kindergarten through 12th grade in the 2012-2013 school year were eligible for the federal program that provides free and reduced-price lunches.” That half of our country’s students are in an income bracket that qualifies for government handouts is a dismaying and foreboding set of affairs; I get that we’re supposed to be in some sort of Obama-generated economic mega-recovery, but when you have this many people making so little money that they potentially can’t even feed their kids, it does not bode well, not for anyone. The usual proposed solution to this problem rests in large part on more, and more-expanded, government assistance; I doubt that’s the solution, given that it hasn’t really worked over the past half-century, but then again federal welfare spending is going to skyrocket over the next decade, so I guess we’ll get our chance to see one way or the other.

Anyway, I’ve had a little experience discussing matters related to “free” school lunches in the past, in which I suggested that we shouldn’t remove the stigma associated with government handouts, particularly where children are concerned. This was back in August, but give me credit, I have staying power. Jamelle Bouie, in response to the dismaying child poverty (or is it low-income?) news yesterday, decided to resurrect an old favorite:

This is bizarre and nonsensical for a number of reasons. For starters, if one reads the article—and there’s no real indication that Bouie has done so—then you’ll see that I specifically warned against shaming anyone who receives a government handout. Second of all, school lunch is already free for the low-income children referenced in the study. Third and most importantly, in Bouie’s twisted appraisal of what I wrote, receiving school lunch was supposed to confirm “shame,” not deny it; to “make school lunch free” would expand the instances of “shame” that students would feel, not reduce them (if, that is, I had ever written anything in favor of “shaming” children—which of course I did not). Bouie has fashioned a caricature that doesn’t make sense, based on a welfare program he doesn’t appear to understand, in order to mock an argument that nobody ever made! If anyone needs to feel “shame,” it’s Jamelle Bouie for writing this ridiculous tweet.

The Myth of the Gun Controller’s Myth

I wrote at the beginning of this month that 2014 was an excellent year for the Second Amendment: support for gun control is down, support for gun rights are up, the gun control movement is in a state of disarray and humiliation, and there’s not much indication that gun grabbers will have any success in the near future. But gun control efforts will nonetheless probably continue perforce, at least if Evan DeFilippis and Devin Hughes are any indication: the duo published an essay earlier this week claiming to expose “the myth behind defensive gun ownership.”

See, it’s a myth. Actually, much of the pair’s disproving of the myth seems to rest on the axiom that, in effect, gun owners will lie about using their guns defensively: we apparnetly can’t trust gun owners to tell the truth about whether or how they used their firearms to defend themselves. If you’re desperate to de-legitimize American gun culture, I guess you’ll go to any lengths to do it, so maybe we shouldn’t be surprised that half of their argument consists of, “Um, you’re a liar.” But the pair then goes a step further in order to slander American gun ownership:

The myth of widespread defensive gun use is at the heart of the push to weaken already near catatonic laws controlling the use of guns and expand where good guys can carry guns to bars, houses of worship and college campuses—all in the mistaken belief that more “good guys with guns” will help stop the “bad guys.” As Wayne LaPierre of the NRA railed in the wake of the Sandy Hook shooting: “The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun, is a good guy with a gun.”

From a purely practical perspective, Wayne LaPierre is correct, and the sneering DeFilippis and Hughes are just completely wrong. Good guys with guns do indeed stop bad guys with guns, and they do it all the time. It’s why we arm police officers, for instance—why, say, police officers in France responded to the terrorist activity there with guns instead of batons. It is a self-evident fact that good guys with guns can stop bad guys with guns, which I guess is why gun controllers are committed to remaining so cluelessly unaware of it. At any rate, what’s most amusing is the breathless commentary on the recent liberalization of many states’ firearm carry laws: the authors are terrified that America’s laws regarding gun carrying have been expanded to the point that “good guys can carry guns to bars, houses of worship and college campuses.” As has been pointed out countless times, expanded carry laws have not resulted in a rise in gun violence; indeed, many times gun violence has dropped in the wake of such laws. Gun controllers consistently refuse to address this flat-out contradiction of their worldview; one assumes that they’re aware that it makes them look willfully oblivious and completely incompetent in the realm of public commentary. It’s interesting that DeFilippis and Hughes are interested in disproving a “myth” while they remain in thrall to some of the most easily-disprovable (and consistently disproved) myths of all.

Blaming the Victim Once Removed

I have always liked Ron Paul as a politician, in part because he shares a great many of my views on government, and in part because he’s kind of got that whole Wacky Uncle vibe going on: he’s got some excellent convictions but he’s a dreadful public speaker with a penchant for rambling. Sometimes, unfortunately, he really doesn’t get it, as in the case of his response to the French terrorist attacks:

Beginning with Afghanistan in the 1980s, the US and its allies have deliberately radicalized Muslim fighters in the hopes they would strictly fight those they are told to fight. We learned on 9/11 that sometimes they come back to fight us. The French learned the same thing last week. Will they make better decisions knowing the blowback from such risky foreign policy? It is unlikely because they refuse to consider blowback. They prefer to believe the fantasy that they attack us because they hate our freedoms, or that they cannot stand our free speech.

This is junk, and a dishonor to the victims of this latest Islamist attack. The other day I spoke about these terrorists with Cliff Kelley on WVON in Chicago; at one point one of his callers accused me of ignoring the substantial mischief and wrongdoing perpetrated by the CIA and various other intelligence agencies who have been fomenting discord in the Middle East for decades now. But that’s the thing: when it comes down to it, these guys aren’t attacking the CIA, they’re murdering in cold blood the staff of a middling French satirical newspaper. If Ron Paul’s “blowback” were so intimately tied up with U.S. foreign policy, then why are these psychopaths targeting “children, women and elderly people who could not run fast enough?” Is there a connection between the DNI and a bunch of Nigerian babies? Can even Ron Paul pretend as if there is?

As I’ve written, I’m no expert on Islam—and yet it doesn’t take an expert to recognize that we’re denying the problem on a grand and dangerous scale. Talking with Taylor Cormier on WBSM yesterday, I mentioned the White House’s planned summit for counteracting “violent extremism;” not Islamic extremism, just the normal garden-variety “extremism” that regularly inspires “acts of violence” around the world, nothing distinctive about it. Yesterday, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest was doubling down on the matter:

Liasson repeatedly asked Earnest why the White House has “gone to great lengths” and “bent over backwards” to avoid using the phrase “radical Islam.” Earnest argued it’s an issue of “accuracy,” because “these terrorists are individuals who would like to cloak themselves in the veil of a particular religion.”

The terrorists wouldn’t “like” to “cloak themselves in the veil of a particular religion;” they already have done that. That religion is Islam. Acknowledging this fact does not mean we have to outlaw Islam—the First Amendment’s protections extend to all religions, including Islam. Nor does it mean that we have to be intolerant and bigoted towards Muslims—they deserve the same presumption of innocence that everyone else gets. But it is foolish and dangerous to deny the connection between Islamic terrorism and Islam generally. That our government officials are so eager to do so does not bode well for our security and our future.

Playing Hooky and Getting Paid

Apparently the rigors of teaching are enough to make some teachers flee their jobs on a regular basis:

Gallup determined that teachers who reported feeling less engaged with their work were more likely to report that poor health kept them from their usual teaching routine. Based on data about the number of full-time teachers in the country, the study estimated that “not engaged” teachers missed over 780,000 more days of school a year in total than engaged teachers. Actively disengaged teachers missed over 1,500,000 more days of school than their happier counterparts.

In total, these groups of teachers are estimated to have missed 2.3 million more days of school than teachers who were engaged.

“Absenteeism associated with a lack of teacher engagement creates a drain on school productivity,” the Gallup report says. “Schools districts must foot the bill for classroom replacements. And when substitute teachers are relied on to execute a regular teacher’s lesson plans, often with limited advance notice, it can easily create a suboptimal learning environment for students.”

Assuming that Gallup is correct, and that this “absenteeism” is due to “a lack of teacher engagement,” then these numbers represent a shocking dereliction of duty from our country’s teacher workforce: by dint of simply being unhappy with their job, many teachers apparently feel entitled to simply abandon their students to a “suboptimal learning environment.” This is unconscionable. If you signed up to teach, you’d better damn well slog through it when you’re feeling low, or else you should find another job.

To be fair, most teachers—at least most that I have encountered—seem genuinely unhappy with their jobs, usually given to a great deal of stress and gloom on even the good days. I guess it is unsurprising that a lot of them would feel compelled to stay home if they’re feeling down: why go to a work environment, after all, where you’re just going to have your unhappiness verified and reinforced? It can’t be pleasant.

That being said, while I know I’ve ragged on teachers in the past for how much they complain, let us at least stipulate that teachers do have a difficult job, and that complaining can sometimes help ameliorate the worst effects of a stressful work environment. Nevertheless, modern teaching culture often rises to a shameful level of churlish and bitter grousing to the point that it’s hard to take teachers seriously about the whole thing. Teaching may be hard, but there’s a special grace and dignity in doing a hard job well without making everybody listen to your bellyaching.