Tuesday, March 08, 2016

Women are left off Britain's High School philosophy syllabus by the Education Secretary even though she's also Minister for Women

I spent 3 years studying analytical philosophy during my student days and the only notable female philosopher I know of is Elizabeth Anscombe.  Omitting her was rather regrettable but she is a difficult read so it is also perhaps understandable.  The token women eventually included are nowhere near the stature of Anscombe, who was a close associate of Wittgenstein -- JR

It's news that will embarrass Britain's multi-tasking Education Secretary Nicky Morgan.

Because despite the fact she's also Minister for Women and Equalities, her Department for Education failed to include a single woman in its new AS and A-level philosophy courses.

While the works of Plato, Aristotle, Descartes and David Hume were recommended in drafts of the syllabus, no female philosophers were mentioned.

The omission was highlighted during an 'equality analysis' of the new exams and officials hastily added female thinkers to the final papers which will be introduced into schools in 2017.

They include Oxford academic Anita Avramides and US professor Lisa Shapiro.

The row follows last year's controversy over music GCSEs excluding female composers.

But perhaps Ms Morgan just can't win – as her education department is now being attacked for 'tokenism'.

Former Tory Minister Ann Widdecombe, who read philosophy, politics and economics at Oxford, said: 'It's daft. You need to study the great philosophers, first and foremost.

'If they all happened to be male because that is historically how it fell out, then so be it.'


Students Had BDSM Sex. Male Says He Obeyed Safe Word. GMU Agreed, Expelled Him Anyway

George Mason University expelled a male student engaged in a BDSM relationship with a young woman—even though the panel agreed their disputed sexual encounter was consensual because he stopped when he heard the safe word.

That outcome didn't satisfy an assistant dean of students, so the administrator improperly granted an appeal and then reversed the panel's decision himself. That administrator, Brent Ericson, conceded that he "had already prejudged the appeal and decided to find plaintiff responsible for sexual assault." He did so, and the student was expelled.

Also notable: the expelled student, identified as "John Doe," was found guilty of misconduct relating to other encounters with his then-girlfriend "Jane Roe," who was not a student at GMU. But he was never informed that these encounters were in dispute, and thus never had an opportunity to prove his innocence.

Doe filed suit against GMU. Last week, a Virginia district court sided with Doe, and is giving his lawyers an opportunity to make the case for an appropriate remedy to his situation.

The case is a complicated one, given the nature of Doe and Roe's relationship. They were engaged in BDSM, which means the usual consent standards don't apply in quite the same way. They had a preexisting agreement that saying the word "stop," for instance, did not mean that either party was withdrawing consent. Instead, their safe word was "red." If Roe used the word "red," Doe was supposed to cease the activity.

On October 27, 2013, the two were engaged in such activity when Roe pushed Doe away. He asked whether she wanted to continue. She replied, "I don't know," and he continued anyway, since she didn't use the safe word.

Doe, it should be noted, perpetrated several disciplinary infractions at GMU, which included disrupting class and possessing lighter fluid in his dorm room. After the couple broke up, Doe continued to contact Roe, which led her to inform her university that he was harassing her. She eventually contacted GMU's police department, which put her in touch with Ericson, the assistant dean of students.

Doe was tried before a three-person GMU panel for violating the university's sexual misconduct policy during the encounter on October 27. Both parties were interviewed at the hearing, which lasted 10 hours. The panel eventually cleared Doe of wrongdoing.

This decision infuriated Roe, who filed an appeal on the grounds that the verdict represented a "substantial procedural irregularity." In context, the "irregularity" was that the panel didn't agree with Roe.

But Ericson did, and so he granted the appeal and assigned it to himself.

What happened from that point on was a farce. Ericson had no intention of giving Doe a fair hearing, since he had already predetermined the student's guilt. Doe was expelled.

All these details come from the judge's decision, which is favorable to Doe. Even just based on this perspective, it seems like Doe is at the very least a troubled student with some behavioral issues.

But even troubled students are entitled to due process. Doe wasn't even aware his conduct on dates other than October 27, 2013 was an issue. The university didn't give him proper notice of the charges against him, and permitted a biased administrator to retry his case.

The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education's Samantha Harris writes, "Generally speaking, students in public university disciplinary proceedings are constitutionally entitled, at a minimum, to notice and an opportunity to be heard. In this case, the federal district court ruled that the notice given to the plaintiff was constitutionally inadequate."

The judge's decision is a win for civil libertarians: it asserts that people don't lose their due process rights when they become public university students.

I would add that the dispute itself presents a compelling argument that university administrators should be divorced from the process of adjudicating sexual assault. Who thinks campus bureaucrats can competently navigate the consent issues at stake in a BDSM relationship?

Updated at 1:30 p.m. on March 2: Doe's attorney Justin Dillon tells me he's thrilled with the verdict. "As far as I know, our client is the first plaintiff in the country to win summary judgment in a campus sexual assault case. We are extremely pleased with the result and look forward to seeing the judge craft a just remedy."


Duke Prof: Feminist 'Soft' Jihad a Force for Peace

Ellen McLarney, who teaches Asian and Middle Eastern studies at Duke, would have you believe that a "pacifist struggle for civil jihad" led by Islamic feminists offers a benign "alternative kind of jihad" to that practiced by Islamist terrorists worldwide.

She peddled her thesis to about twenty listeners (mostly graduate students) in a February 8 George Washington University lecture, reprising discussion of her recent book, Soft Force: Women in Egypt's Islamic Awakening.  McLarney's lecture omitted the totalitarian jihadist ideology underlying what she described as a "protracted struggle with non-democratic regimes over matters of human rights."

McLarney lauded the 1995 book (in Arabic) Women & Political Work:  An Islamic Perspective, by Cairo University political science professor Heba Raouf Ezzat.  Yet McLarney neglected to mention the book's publisher, none other than the International Institute of Islamic Thought (IIIT) in Herndon, Virginia, an entity founded by Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood (MB).  She noted that Ezzat explicated her concept of feminine "soft force" Islamist subversion, itself derived from the American political scientist Joseph Nye's concept of "soft power."

Beginning in the 1970s, McLarney explained nonchalantly, an Egyptian Islamic revival developed via a "passive revolution" to spark an "Islamic civil society that runs parallel to the more secular civil society in Egypt." As foreshadowed by the 1960s Egyptian writer Nimat Sidqi-who according to McLarney's slides wrote that "Raising Children is Jihad"-women "have a pivotal role to play in this struggle." Borrowing from the American feminist slogan "the personal is political," Ezzat and others developed the "Islamic family as a place for the cultivation of Islamic sensibilities"-the "very seat of politics." 

American University in Cairo sociology professor and feminist Mona Abaza has previously pushed back against this rosy thesis. Her daily contact with this "parallel society" led her in 2012 to decry Egypt's "increasing ‘Islamization' of the public sphere for at least four decades."  Whereas McLarney discussed Islamist "resistance through forms of cultural production," Abaza argues persuasively that "intolerance and censorship was mutual among both the ancient regime of [Hosni] Mubarak and the Muslim Brotherhood."

But McLarney was having none of it.  Her optimism towards "civil jihad" skewed her discussion of Egypt under the MB rule of President Mohammed Morsi following the overthrow of Mubarak's dictatorship in the "Arab Spring":

Under the Morsi government, I am going to get in trouble for saying this, there was a flourishing of certain freedoms, because it was post-revolution. There was a lot of political tumult.

McLarney even claimed, against all evidence, that the 2012 Egyptian constitution drafted under the MB "came out pretty progressive" and included a meaningful gender equality provision. Even Alaa Alwad, the graffiti artist and secularist whose Cairo mural graces McLarney's book cover, as she discussed, stated in 2013 that the "Muslim Brotherhood has captured the government."

Interviewed after the lecture, McLarney conceded that many of her secular Egyptian friends had feared the Morsi government, but downplayed the 2012 constitution's sharia elements.  "In that constitution there wasn't really any sharia," she claimed, but there "was the question: would the Morsi government start interpreting everything through the lens of sharia?" Her answer remained predictably optimistic:  amidst that revolutionary situation, "I don't think they could get away with it." Had she forgotten her 2013 observation that Egyptian "[g]ender inequalities remain encoded in the personal status laws with regards to witnessing, polygamy, and divorce"? 

Ultimately, McLarney could not overcome the reality undermining her evocation of Ezzat and the others as feminist sisters-in-arms struggling for liberation, rather than as Islamic totalitarianism's propagandist enablers.  During the interview, even she acknowledged that "soft force" could merely serve as an ideological flank to all-too-hard jihadists like the MB, whom she admitted had resorted to violent tactics when circumstances allowed.

Evoking the American "mommy wars" over the right career/motherhood balance for women, McLarney, an Ivy League-educated mother, gushed over her study subjects.  These Muslim women "really spoke to my own critiques of Western feminism and of the fetishization of the male realm of paid work as the path to emancipation."  Yet McLarney, whose stylish outfit and V-neck blouse contrasted with the veiling emphasized by her subjects, failed to acknowledge that Islamist "mommy wars" have far more nefarious implications.


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