Sunday, 31 July 2011

Yet another nail in the coffin of Rad Fem transphobia.

It is not as if the transphobic “Radical” Feminists need any more discrediting, “Rad Fem Hub” has done that job already. Sheila Jeffries’ transphobic rant has even raised questions of the sanity of those involved. Indeed her rant effectively marks the nadir of a campaign of hatred, which has seen many low points and has rarely climbed out of the sewers. Gendertrender's blog which reads like carpet chewing fascism has even tried to 'out' trans people by recording and searching the IP addresses of those who post on her vile blog, something which could endanger trans people's lives.

Indeed the well-known incitement to hate-crime, which Janice Raymond wrote back in 1979 set a low tone which subsequent equally transphobic rants adopted, based on conjecture and supposition rather than evidence or empirical research.

Once of those pieces of conjecture and theorising has formed the Rad Fem article of faith that, since girls are brought up to have lower self-esteem than boys by a sexist and misogynistic society, transwomen can never be real women. The fact that, despite this theory being around for quite some time, it has never been tested through research, suggests that, despite the Rad Fem hatred of transwomen being largely centred on this, the Rad Fems had little confidence in their own arguments.

Now, however, this crucial supposition has been tested empirically. A Swiss study, carried out in the US has shown that girls and women between the ages of 14 and 30 have no difference in their levels of self-esteem than males of the same age. Indeed the only differences in self-esteem were found to be culturally dependent rather than dependent on gender.

In other words, girls do not end up with lower self-esteem than boys as a result of their upbringing. One of the central arguments of Rad Fem transphobia has been comprehensively undermined. The entire theoretical basis for their hatred has been shown through empirical research, to be based on false premises.

This is not to suggest that I expect them to stop hating trans people. Their hatred has clearly become emotionally-based. It is as if Rad Fem transphobia has taken on the characteristics of a religion. The fact that the devil has been proven not to exist will not alter their beliefs that transwomen are evil.

One suspects they will scrape around to find some other theory, this time one which they hope will be impossible to disprove through empirical research. Meanwhile they sideline themselves as the rest of the world, especially other women, increasingly view them as some kind of eccentric cult which security services ought to keep half an eye on...

Bill Gates, Rupert Murdoch & the New Education "Reformers"

If you read any of the right-wing press in the US it would appear that the people who know the most about education are not teachers, educationists or parents but billionnaires. Billionnaires have been getting involved in education "reform" in a supposed effort to "transform" American schools.

However his latest pronouncement, that schools can improve educational outcomes even when its pupils come from a poor socioeconomic background, suggests that he is getting desperate. I suspect he would like it to be true, but he needs to face facts, it is never going to be true. The biggest single determinant of educational failure is poverty. You can control for all other variables and find schools able to educate children regardless or ethnicity, religion, disability etc, but when you look at poverty, there is a particularly high correlation, which no education system has been able to change.

One can understand Gates's position; he is a very rich person. He woud like to believe two things; that his success is not down to his own good fortune for being born in the right bed, and that he is not rich becaiuse others are poor. In other words the billionnaires's refrain that the educational cart can be put before the horse is personal. It is about assuageing their own guilt, it is about making them feel that they became rich entirely deservedly and not because of any amount of good luck. It is also about trying to promote the ideology of the rich that the poor are only poor because of their fecklessness and laziness.

So the failed 20-year involvement of the very rich in schools in the United States is, underliying the need of the wealthy for personal justification, ideological. It is about trying to justify their own "success" and justify their oppression of the poor. Oppression which includes not paying their taxes

The problem is that right-wing billionnaires like Gates are able to shout louder when it comes to just about anything. They can both control and hog the media, and the constant repetition of this ideological position results in it being taken as self-evident, in the way Dr Goebbels constant repitition of lies made them "true".

Bill Gates used to be at the vanguard of a new age; whether or not you hate Microsoft, it was his operating system that made computers and the internet accessible to us all, and which initially helped enable the exponential generative growth of online and offline resources. However he has now become just another sad right-wing billionnaire, misusing his wealth to oppress the poor and disempower others.

Gates is part of a movement of right-wing ideologues, many of whom are very rich, who want to control education and force teachers to work in ways they think are best, even though they have never taught a class themselves in their lives. Why large amounts of money makes them "experts" on education is a question none of them have answered. Another of these right-wing ideologues with too much money is Rupert Murdoch, who is getting involved in education through the UK's right-wing education minister; Michael Gove. This is quite frankly alarming; after we have seen the way in which he runs his newspapers, one has to fear for any children who end up in Murdoch High School.

However Murdoch is not just getting involved in education in the standard way, sponsoring "Free" or "charter" schools like Gates and others; he is making "educational" softeware which will result in teachers having even less freedom to teach and making lessons even more boring and repetitive for children. The problem for rich oligarchs like Gates and Murdoch is that their "reforms" can only be implemented by destroying teachers' professional abilities. Their solutions all involve a high degree of centralisation and an excessive amount of testing, leaving teachers with little or no opportunity to exercise their professionalism as educators to benefit the children they teach.

Their educational ideology been shown to fail; schools in many parts of the US including New York and Wisconsin have had the ologarch's kind of education system for many years and have conspicuously failed to deliver the reform or "transformation" they have told us it can. Nonetheless they want to import it to the UK. It will be another expensive failure.

Yet there is an alternative; the education system in Finland works without any testing at all, it emphasises teachers' professionalism and trains them very highly, giving them the tools for the job they do and allowing them to get on with it. And it has worked. Finland's economy went from being almost exclusively reliant on timber in the 1970s to being a high-tech industrial/post-industrial economy today, thanks to its education system. It produces more patents per head of population than any other country in the world, and has a population which has been described as one of the most creatively entreprenurial on the planet.

Schools can do fine in terms of educating children without making them the playthings of the very rich and their lackeys on the political righ. It is time to say No to centralisation of schools, No to more testing and No to the failed policies of Murdoch, Gates and Gove. All we need them to do is shut up and pay their taxes.

Sunday, 10 July 2011

"Freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed." - Martin Luther King

Regular readers of UnCommon Sense will have realised that I have been taking a bit of a break from blogging recently. The pressure of work and to get some more of my studies done has been the reason for that. However the Murdoch outrages we have been hearing about recently have prompted me to post this...

Whilst the revelations about NewsCorp and News International are welcome, Murdoch is by no means defeated. If his bid to get 100% control of Sky TV is turned down then it will most likely be Ofcom deciding that he is not a "fit and proper" person to own it. If this does happen, his global empire will be in serious trouble; many other countries have similar laws, including the US, Oz, NZ and India. If he is deemed not to be fit and proper to own a TV station in the UK then it is likely he will also be deemed unfit and improper in these, and many other countries. Despite his empire being worth many billions of dollars, the possibility of bankruptcy is staring him in the face.

As such the Murdoch family will fight tooth an claw to make sure his bid goes through. It is likely that this will happen by public means as well as devious means. Already we have been told that News International has directly threatened Ed Miliband. So I would expect blackmail, threats and all kinds of cloak-and-dagger tactics to be deployed against politicians, members of Ofcom, the police and journalists on other newspapers.

When you add to this the fact that the Tories are gauleiters who have benefitted most from Murdoch's dictatorship, there is still a formidable organisation trying to push for his SKY takeover. The right-wing agendas they push in everything from industrial relations to social policy, education, economic policy and the pursuit of wars around the world, have been the policies of Rupert Murdoch. They stand to lose most from Murdoch's loss of power, and in particular David Cameron stands to lose a great deal as the undertow of the ship News International starts to drag others down with it. His relationship with Rebekah Brooks and his decision to employ Andy Coulson and to suffer from memory lapses when it comes to the fact that he was warned about him, suggest that he is on the verge of becoming a lame duck Prime Minister already.

So despite all the revelations about the Murdoch press being uncovered, and the liklihood of further revelations in the coming months, we're not out of the woods yet by a long way. There will be a fighback from the Murdochs, there will be a significant number of people in the Tory party who will try to further Murdoch's interests, including, I suspect, David Cameron and George Osborne, whose careers remain too entangled with the Evil Empire for comfort.

Martin Luther King also said "Human progress is neither automatic nor inevitable... Every step toward the goal of justice requires sacrifice, suffering, and struggle; the tireless exertions and passionate concern of dedicated individuals." Now is the time everyone in the country stands up and demands independence from the opression of the dead hand of Newscorp. Things are moving but we still have a fight on our hands. It ain't over till the fat lady sings...