Category Archives: Education

Bias-Free Language Guide claims the word ‘American’ is ‘problematic’

tampon earrrings

Quote at the top of the page on the Bias-Free Language Guide, from one of our greatest philosophers:

In a democracy, recognition matters. Everyone wants to be seen as who they are. If they are not, then it’s impossible for them to enjoy the experience of being full citizens.  -Melissa Harris-Perry

Campus Reform: “American,” “illegal alien,” “foreigners,” “mothering,” and “fathering” are just a handful of words deemed “problematic” by the University of New Hampshire’s Bias-Free Language Guide.

According to the university’s website, the guide “is meant to invite inclusive excellence in [the] campus community.”

The guide defines words such as “homosexual” as “problematic,” offering “Same Gender Loving” as a more inclusive substitute. Similarly, a lack of gender-neutral bathrooms is, according to the university, “ciscentrism.”

The university defines “ciscentrism” as “[a] pervasive and institutionalized system that places transgender people in the ‘other’ category and treats their needs and identities as less important than those of cisgender people.” “Ciscentrism,” according to the university, “includes the lack of gender-neutral restrooms, locker rooms, and residences.”

This is problematic? Too bad, so sad!

This is problematic? Too bad, so sad!

Saying “American” to reference Americans is also problematic. The guide encourages the use of the more inclusive substitutes “U.S. citizen” or “Resident of the U.S.”

The guide notes that “American” is problematic because it “assumes the U.S. is the only country inside [the continents of North and South America].” (The guide doesn’t address whether or not the terms “Canadians” and “Mexicans” should be abandoned in favor of “Residents of Canada” and “Residents of Mexico,” respectively.)

illegal

The guide clarifies that saying “illegal alien” is also problematic. While “undocumented immigrant” is acceptable, the guide recommends saying “person seeking asylum,” or “refugee,” instead. Even saying “foreigners” is problematic; the preferred term is “international people.”

Using the word “Caucasian” is considered problematic as well, and should be discontinued in favor of “European-American individuals.” The guide also states that the notion of race is “a social construct…that was designed to maintain slavery.”

The guide also discourages the use of “mothering” or “fathering,” so as to “avoid gendering a non-gendered activity.”

Even saying the word “healthy” is problematic, the university says. The “preferred term for people without disabilities,” the university says, is “non-disabled.” Similarly, saying “handicapped” or “physically-challenged” is also problematic. Instead, the university wants people to use the more inclusive “wheelchair user,” or “person who is wheelchair mobile.”

Using the words “rich” or “poor” is also frowned upon. Instead of saying “rich,” the university encourages people to say “person of material wealth.” Rather than saying a person is “poor,” the university encourages its members to substitute “person who lacks advantages that others have” or “low economic status related to a person’s education, occupation and income.”

Terms also considered problematic include: “elders,” “senior citizen,” “overweight” (which the guide says is “arbitrary”), “speech impediment,” “dumb,” “sexual preference,” “manpower,” “freshmen,” “mailman,” and “chairman,” in addition to many others.

The Bias-Free Language Guide includes a link to the university’s “Gender Pronouns Guide,” which the university appears to have borrowed from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. UNH offers the guide as “a starting point for using pronouns respectfully.”

are you serious

The Gender Pronouns Guide uses a chart to explain how to use “nonbinary pronouns” such as spivak pronouns or ze/zie/hir sets. For example, instead of saying the sentence “their eyes gleam” (using binary pronouns), the sentence would become “hir [pronounced identically to “here,” and “hear”] eyes gleam.” Nonbinary pronouns, the guide explains, “are often used by trans, genderqueer, and gender non-conforming people.”

In addition to the guides on bias-free language and gender pronouns, the university also offers faculty training to combat microaggressions. The training, the university says, “explores the danger of microaggressions and the cumulating effects on those being discriminated against.”

Inviting “inclusive excellence” is apparently not all that abandoning the use of the word “American” will do for the university. In the university’s words, “Each step of inclusion moves us closer to a full democracy.”

The university defines “inclusive language” as “communication that does not stereotype or demean people based on personal characteristics.” The university website encourages readers to understand that the guide “is not a means to censor but rather to create dialogues of inclusion where all of us feel comfortable and welcomed.”

DCG

Calif. students now given six ‘gender identity’ choices on college admissions applications

genders

College Fix: Questions about gender identity and sexual orientation have been added to admissions applications used by the University of California system, including no less than six choices for students when checking off their “gender identity.”

One new question posed to those seeking admittance to the system – which educates 233,000 students enrolled in 10 campuses statewide – is “How do you describe yourself? (Mark one answer).”

The choices are: “male; female; trans male/trans man; trans female/trans woman; gender queer/gender non-conforming; and different identity.”

The application also asks “what sex were you assigned at birth, such as on an original birth certificate?” and the two choices are: male or female.

The questions are voluntary and responses to the questions will not impact admissions decisions, Shelly Meron, a spokesperson for the UC Office of the President, told The College Fix via email.

The questions were added in response to legislation passed in 2011 that requested the system provide students, faculty and staff an opportunity to report their sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression on forms used to collect demographic data, Meron stated. Another question added to the application this year asks students’ sexual orientation, and offers “heterosexual or straight,” “gay or lesbian,” or a fill in the blank category.

“Allowing the LGBT community to self-identify also supports the university’s priority of creating an inclusive and welcoming campus environment,” Meron stated in an email to The Fix. “Responses will also provide UC campuses with data that will help us better understand and meet the diverse needs of our students.”

These changes underscore additional modifications made recently to accommodate LGBTQ students and faculty.

“In 2014, UC began adjusting its student record systems to allow students to indicate a preferred name to appear on campus records along with their legal name. And many campuses have already begun converting single-stall restrooms into gender-neutral facilities in existing buildings, where practicable,” according to UCR Today.

“In addition, the university is initiating a two-year project designed to coordinate and promote interdisciplinary study of genders and sexualities across the UC system,” UCR Today added.

The project will include convening UC stakeholders to identify ways to advance student learning about LGBT issues, and conclude with a systemwide symposium that will showcase research from students and faculty in the field of genders and sexualities.”

As for the application changes, student opinion on the issue is divided, with some students happy to see the amendments and others skeptical of the university’s intentions.

Shannon Frick, a senior aerospace engineering student at the University of California San Diego, told The College Fix in an email that “I think that putting it on there might actually open it up to claims of discrimination.” He also said he believes in a merit system, and he questioned how adding the question to the application could preserve such a system.

On the flipside, 2015 UCLA graduate and political science major Tyler Kroteskey told The College Fix, “Provided it is used for research purposes as opposed to influencing admissions decisions, I see the move to allow UC applicants to voluntarily list their gender and sexual orientation as a positive step.”

He went on to say that the demographic data could help the campuses better provide resources to students. Among solutions that could be proffered to “meet the diverse needs of students” are more “gender neutral” bathrooms. For example, the UC Berkeley “Bathroom Brigade” contends it is inconvenient for some students to use the restroom because only a third of Berkeley buildings have gender neutral restrooms.

There is a small but growing minority of colleges that have a sexual orientation question on their application.

The college to start the trend, Elmhurst College in Illinois, began listing a sexual orientation question in 2011. Since then, MIT, Boston University, University of Pennsylvania, and several others have hopped on the band wagon. This year Duke University and all UC campuses followed suit.

DCG

Feds Spend $125,000 Studying Sexist Adjectives

are you serious

FreeBeacon: The federal government is spending $125,000 to study adjectives that could be perceived as sexist or racist. The National Science Foundation (NSF) tasked the University of Kansas with conducting the study last year.

The proposed research predicts that stereotypes activate different standards of judgments for members of different groups; therefore, evaluations (adjectives) mean different things depending on the person described,” according to the grant for the study.

“For example, in a masculine work domain where women are stereotyped as less competent, ‘good’ for a woman may mean something objectively less good than ‘good’ for a man,” it said.

The project will examine letters of recommendation to see whether letters for women and minorities are “influenced by gender and racial stereotypes” that affect chances of admission into graduate school. “In everyday life, we often are asked to provide assessments or evaluations of others’ abilities,” the grant said. “Stereotypes can subtly shape these evaluations and judgments, even among those who view themselves as non-prejudiced.”

“This can be very consequential in certain contexts; for example, hiring and admissions decisions can be based in part on the evaluative language used in letters of recommendation, and the language used may be influenced by gender and racial stereotypes,” the grant continued. “Further, audiences may also interpret this language with reference to those negative stereotypes about women and ethnic minorities.”

The NSF project said it has major implications for “understanding bias in real world, evaluative settings.”

“Understanding how and when stereotyping can occur in evaluative contexts is a critical step towards reducing bias, prejudice, and discrimination,” the grant said.

Dr. Biernat

Dr. Biernat

Dr. Monica Biernat, a psychology professor at the University of Kansas, is leading the study. Biernat previously received $505,001 from the NSF, as well as $7,029 from the agency for a trip to Warsaw in 2006 for the “European Social Cognition Network.”

The prior NSF projects included “a meta-analysis” of stereotyping and judgments and the hypothesis that stereotypes “exert a wide-ranging influence on social life in that they pervade our language, our interpretations of what others say and do, our decisions about others, and our thoughts about ourselves.”

The latest project on stereotypes has cost $125,000. Biernat told the Washington Free Beacon that she would likely apply for additional funding in 2016, though “that by no means guarantees I’ll get it,” she said.

Aside from the adjective “good,” Biernat provided other examples from her research of the effects of stereotypes. “Because of shifting standards, a female chief of staff may be described as highly competent, a hit from a female softball player may generate more enthusiasm than the same hit from a male, and a Black student may receive more praise than a White student for an identical transcript,” she wrote in Volume 45 of Advances in Experimental Social Psychology. “In each case, the target is being judged relative to lower expectations or standards for their group.”

Biernat also suggested that men should think about using words such as “aggressive” when describing a woman. “This practice may be less practical in the kinds of social judgments we render as part of everyday social discourse—judging a female driver as ‘aggressive,’ a mediocre Black student as ‘really smart,’ or a father who walks his kids to school as a ‘great’ parent,” she wrote.

“But in these cases, awareness, education, and conscious self-correction may be important tools (‘I called her aggressive; would I have used the same label for a man?’),” Biernat continued. “This would of course require ability and motivation to correct on the part of the evaluator.”

DCG

Oregon State student ‘nothing short of heroic’ in burning car rescue

car burning

Oregon Live: It’s not every day that you see a car burning in front of you. So when Phillipe Bittar and his 16-year-old brother, Raphael, spotted flames and thick smoke rising from a sedan Saturday at a Raleigh Hills Chevron station, they stopped to take a picture. Then they noticed the woman inside.

Another woman ran up to the car and desperately tried to open the passenger side door as the fire spread to a gas pump and worked its way through the car’s trunk. The passenger, who firefighters say is in her 70s, was shaking in the seat. “Seeing her like that hit me in a certain way that just made me react,” said Bittar, 19, of Raleigh Hills.

Though a Chevron attendant scrambled to shut the lines that flow gasoline to the pumps, Bittar didn’t see anyone else trying to help and ran to the car. By this time the flames had reached the back seats, and the woman in the car was still frantically trying to free herself. Bittar looked for another way in.

Then with only one punch, the former Beaverton High School linebacker shattered the window. The 19-year-old told the woman he was going to get her out. He reached in and grabbed her under her armpits and pulled her through the window. “She was light in my arms,” he said.

Once out of the car, Bittar held her up and walked her over to two other women, who embraced her. Then they hugged and thanked him. By the time Bittar turned back to look at the car, it was engulfed in flames.

car burned

Adrenaline helped mask the heat of the fire and the initial pain of smashing the window with his bare fist, Bittar said. Firefighters responded around 2:15 p.m. to the station along Southwest Beaverton-Hillsdale Highway, and paramedics treated the cuts on his hand.

The woman, whose name has not been released, was treated at the scene for smoke inhalation, said Alisa Cour, a Tualatin Fire & Rescue spokeswoman. She was taken to a hospital as a precaution, but is expected to recover.

woman rescued

What caused the fire is still under investigation, Cour said. No one else was injured.

Firefighters likely would not have been able to reach the woman in time had Bittar not gotten her out, said Tualatin Valley Fire & Rescue Battalion Chief Leonard Damian. “His actions were nothing short of heroic,” he said.

The Bittar brothers: (l) and Raphael (r)

The Bittar brothers: Phillipe (l) and Raphael (r)

The brothers had been leaving a nearby New Seasons Market to get some food when they drove toward the gas station and saw the burning car. Afterward, once the woman was safe, Bittar said that he felt dazed as he watched the flames consume the car.

“I didn’t really have much time to think and process everything as it was happening,” he said. “But seeing the fire and the car and knowing she was out, it really hit me that I saved her life, and it felt really good.”

Bittar, a pre-med student at Oregon State University who is on summer break, said he’s often seen videos on YouTube of people captured in life-or-death situations and always wondered how he would react if he happened upon one.

He comes from a family of people who work in the medical field and hopes to become a doctor one day. He said he’s relieved to know that he won’t shy away from a situation where someone needs help. “I just wanted to make sure she was safe,” Bittar said. “Now that I know she is, I know I’ll be able to rest a little easier tonight.”

DCG

Protestors Against Grocery Store and Senior Facility Knocked Down by Car

no sprouts

KTVU (Albany, CA): A protest march in Albany became even more impassioned Thursday evening, after a driver tore through the demonstration, knocking a few people to the ground.

It happened on San Pablo Avenue, as a group of about 60 Occupy the Farm” activists made their way back to two disputed lots slated for commercial development.  “Farm in, Sprouts out, farm in, Sprouts out,” the crowd chanted, declaring their opposition to a Sprouts grocery store on land owned by U.C. Berkeley. They have long lobbied for a community garden on the fenced-off plot.

U.C. Police were monitoring the gathering, and Albany Police were escorting the march, when a Cadillac blaring its horn drove into the midst of the group. When protesters reacted angrily, pounding on the car, the driver hit the gas and sent one woman tumbling. Emotions on both sides were already high.

“There’s a grocery store people can go to, two blocks down,” argued a young woman from Occupy, face to face with counter-protestors, who welcome Sprouts. “This isn’t a wild space, this is an urban area where we live,” insisted an Albany woman, holding her own sign supporting the store.

In addition to the retail space, a senior living facility is approved for a site across the street. Opponents sued to stop the development, but lost in court.

Many residents complain the protesters don’t live in Albany. “I know that having something in town that would bring in some taxes would be a wonderful boost,” Marsha Skinner told KTVU, “and I have friends who would like to live at the senior facility.”

Several years ago, about the time the Occupy movement emerged, the “Occupy the Farm” faction claimed the space as public farmland. It sits next to the Gill Tract, where U.C. already conducts agricultural research and community gardening. The area also has a large student housing complex, an elementary school, and Little League ball fields.

occupy the farm

“I want you to know this struggle right here matters,” shouted an activist into a bullhorn, as protestors cheered. “We are part of a global movement,” she continued, identifying herself as Alexandra from an organization called Food First.

The would-be occupiers say they want produce not pavement on the land, but city leaders say the decision, after a decade of planning, is final. “There’s lots of land they can occupy and grow vegetables on and be welcome to do that, in Oakland,” Albany council member Michael Barnes told KTVU, “but they have never persuaded anybody in Albany that this is a good idea.”

The protestors are hoping their presence will prompt Sprouts to pull out of the project, as Whole Foods did previously. But they were accompanied throughout their demonstration, by a smaller but vocal group of development supporters. “What do we want? Senior housing! When do we want it? Now,” they shouted from across the street.

There is antagonism on both sides, but the hit and run had more to do with impatience than ideology. Police chased the driver for several miles, then gave up the pursuit due to the danger.

The woman who was hit, once back on her feet, rallied fellow marchers. “If it takes getting run over to save the Gill Tract from development,” shouted Mindy Stone, “then I’m happy to throw myself in front of a car.” Witnesses told police there were two young men in the car. With their license plate clearly visible, they will likely be tracked easily.

The development is expected to break ground in the fall.

h/t Weasel Zippers

DCG

Ethnic studies projected costs pegged at $73 million for LAUSD

are you serious

SCPR.org: The Los Angeles Unified School District is looking at a bill of $73 million to cover course development, textbooks and teacher training in ethnic studies, a new high school graduation requirement approved last year.

LAUSD’s school board ushered in the mandatory coursework in November, believing the rollout would cost an estimated $4 million.

Officials later clarified that the original figure was the cost to pull together a pilot program of 30 schools. A draft report from an advisory Ethnic Studies Committee released this week concludes that sum wouldn’t even cover textbooks for the trial run.

A major portion of the latest $73 million estimate is needed for teaching staff. “We figured we are going to have to add at least one teacher per school site, and that’s an ongoing cost,” said Angel Barrett, the district’s executive director of curriculum and instruction and among the committee’s members.

The committee, which includes administrators, teachers and scholars, recommended postponing the ethnic studies requirement so that it takes effect for the Class of 2022 rather than the Class of 2019. The delay would give high schools three more years to train and recruit the 250 teachers needed to implement the new requirement.

The ethnic studies report, released Thursday, comes out as the school board takes up a looming problem with the college preparation graduation requirements known as A-G coursework. Starting with the Class of 2017, students must pass the slate of college prep courses that are required to qualify for entry into the University of California and Cal State University systems.

The district estimates about 45 percent of sophomores are still not on track to meet the A-G mandate.

The A-G requirement is criticized by some who say it will hold back students who otherwise would meet the state’s graduation qualifications. The ethnic studies requirement got the green light before the latest district estimate that many students may fail to graduate on time.

Ethnic studies explores race and racism as “powerful social and cultural forces,” according to a University of California at Berkeley definition adopted by LAUSD. Students can meet the graduation requirement by taking African-American history, Mexican American literature or similar classes.

Manuel Criollo

Manuel Criollo

“We think this builds a young person’s sense of self and empathy in others,” said Manuel Criollo with Community Rights Campaign who advocated for the new course requirement at the school board’s November meeting.

EL Rancho Unified in Pico Rivera was the first district in the state to require students to take classes in ethnic studies, catching the attention of ethnic studies advocates and school administrators around California.

San Francisco Unified pledged to offer ethnic studies at every high school less than a month after LAUSD required it for graduation.

Tamar Galatzan was the only LAUSD board member to oppose the ethnic studies requirement, voicing concerns at the November meeting about its financial impact and whether the added requirement would pack students’ schedules too tightly.

“I believe we should work these issues out first,” Galatzan said last fall. Galatzan lost her bid for re-election in Tuesday’s runoff.

From the Community Rights Campaign web site:

“We are told the only solution to the symptoms of urban neglect—drugs, violence, joblessness—is more prisons, more police, and more punitive and discriminatory laws to lock more people up. A racist re-enslavement complex and rising police state are enveloping entire Black, Latino, immigrant, and low-income schools, communities, and individual lives—and tracking them into prison cells. 

The Community Rights Campaign is organizing in L.A. high schools and among L.A.’s 500,000 low-income bus riders to build campaigns to push back the growing police/prison state and push forward an expanded social welfare state; push back the police/prisons/punishment approach to organizing society and push foward (sic) a resources/reparations/ redistribution approach.

We organize high school students in Take Action after school clubs to stop the school-to-prison pipeline and the schools-as-jails culture in favor of building a positive, empowered learning environment. We also seek to build broad coalitions to defeat local and state initiatives (such as Prop 6 and Prop 9 on the 2008 ballot) and police state programs (such as regional gang-databases) that criminalize our communities.  Real public safety will be achieved only by challenging the Prison/Police State — not allying with it.”

Some of their “demands”:

  • Schools, Not Pre-Prisons! Decriminalize tardiness, truancy and all student behavior issues.
  • Cut funding for Police and Sheriffs
  • End to the ICE Raids, Amnesty Now!
  • End the racist “War on Drugs”
  • Defeat and overturn reactionary “tough on crime” laws

End ICE raids and amnesty now? Well I hope they include these stories in their ethnic studies class. Maybe the the story of Kate Steinle will build a young person’s sense of empathy in others.

DCG

A woman reveals why she has never regretted having an abortion… and how she told her ex-partner by text

Text...

The author: Thea De Gallier

DailyMail: ‘I never thought I’d need an abortion. In my mind, it was one of those things that happened to other people – unlucky people. In my early twenties, two friends confided in me that they’d had one, and I remember the cold horror that washed over me at the thought of dealing with an unwanted pregnancy. I remember how thankful I felt that I’d never been in, and probably never would be, in that situation.

How naive I was. The cold horror that did wash over me when, aged 24, I watched two pink lines appear on a pregnancy test, was far more paralysing that I could have imagined. There was no choice to be made – I was having an abortion, and I wanted one as soon as possible. Tuesday’s Femail article about women confessing to guilt-free abortions on a secrets app shows that I’m not alone in my lack of hesitation around choosing an abortion.

Women on the anonymous messaging app Whisper have been describing their feelings of relief, and even happiness, after the procedure, proving that the popular trope of a woman agonising over the decision and feeling consumed with guilt afterwards is often inaccurate.

The website womenonweb.org, a network where women who have had abortions, or are planning to have one, can find support and information, states that ‘most women do not need psychological help after an abortion’. And, while it acknowledges that every woman reacts differently, it also points out that ‘most women feel a sense of relief that they have made the best decision under the circumstances’.

I am, without doubt, one of those women. When I found out I was pregnant on a sunny July day last year, the first thing I did was pour myself a double vodka and light a cigarette. I sat on the balcony of my rented, shared London flat and thought to myself that even if I wanted a child, I couldn’t possibly bring one into my current circumstances. I had no savings and no house of my own.

I was at the beginning of my career as a journalist, and my freelance work at that point was unreliable at best. My parents lived over 100 miles away, in a two-bed terrace that couldn’t accommodate me and a baby. But, most importantly, I had no desire whatsoever to be a mother. To make matters worse, my then-boyfriend had ended our short relationship just hours before I took the pregnancy test. We were incompatible in almost every way, from our political views to our taste in movies, but even if we’d been happy and together, I wouldn’t have wanted to continue the pregnancy.

I’ve never felt a desire to become a mother, and the positive test didn’t ignite any hidden maternal feelings. The thought of re-writing my future and giving up on my ambitions to bring up an unwanted child was out of the question.

So why is it still tacitly expected that I’ll feel any regret? If I disclose to friends that I’ve had an abortion, their reaction is invariably to offer their sympathies. While I appreciate the gesture, I’m not sure how to feel about the assumption that I’m somehow struggling with the experience.

A scan at my preliminary hospital appointment told me that I was nine weeks* pregnant, and I cried. Not because I was unsure whether to terminate the pregnancy, but because of my all-consuming desire not to be pregnant in the first place. On the day of the procedure, my mother was with me. We’ve always had a close relationship, and she supported my decision from the start. My biggest fear that day was that the anaesthetic would make me sick; since childhood, I’ve had a phobia of vomiting that I’ve never quite been able to shake off, and this was, hand on heart, my only concern.

When I came round after the termination, mercifully nausea-free, I felt utterly liberated. I sent my ex-boyfriend a text that simply read ‘it’s done’, and was amazed that the heavy biliousness that had plagued me for the last few weeks had lifted instantly.

One woman on the Whisper app says that she went to a nightclub on the same day as her termination. While I wasn’t vocally celebrating, I understand her desire to get straight back to normal and embrace her freedom. After my procedure, I felt excited about the future for the first time since finding out I was pregnant. I threw myself back into work, moved into a nicer flat and, after a few months, started dating again. Almost a year on, I haven’t felt any regret or sadness. The only emotion I occasionally feel is a wave of relief that I don’t now have a three-month-old child.

Apart from that relief, I haven’t ever wondered what my life would be like if I’d had a baby. Because I was so set on my decision from the start, it was never a scenario that needed any consideration, and I still feel that being a parent would only have changed my life for the worse. Perhaps that’s the reason I rarely, if ever, think about the abortion now; it certainly doesn’t stand out in my memory as a particularly traumatic event.

Most of the time, there’s no need to talk about it, but if the subject arises with friends, I have no issue discussing it. People’s default reaction to finding out I had an abortion is to say how sorry they are that I had to go through it, before asking if I ever considered continuing the pregnancy. When I explain my feelings, I’m invariably met with understanding, and a good few of my friends have said they would have felt the same in my position.

That isn’t to say that some women don’t feel negative emotions following an abortion; counselling is offered before the procedure for this very reason. But there’s no correct way to feel, and my reaction is just as valid as the next woman’s. I have no doubt that I made the right decision.’

DCG

*A Baby at Nine Weeks

fetal-development-week-9

Your baby now has earlobes. Your baby’s eyelids are now fused shut and won’t open until 27 weeks. The tips of your baby’s fingers are slightly enlarged where his “touch pads” are developing. Your baby can now move his limbs; all the major joints are working, including the shoulders, elbows, wrists, knees, and ankles.