Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Ow! My freakin' ears!

Jesus and Mo, still at it.

Friday, May 7, 2010

American Academy of Pediatrics on female genital mutilation

The American Academy of Pediatrics' policy statement on female genital mutilation can be found here. The statement is far more nuanced than was suggested by the original reports I read—what initially seemed blind obeisance to multiculturalism is actually an attempt to minimize harm:
Most forms of FGC* are decidedly harmful, and pediatricians should decline to perform them, even in the absence of any legal constraints. However, the ritual nick suggested by some pediatricians is not physically harmful and is much less extensive than routine newborn male genital cutting. There is reason to believe that offering such a compromise may build trust between hospitals and immigrant communities, save some girls from undergoing disfiguring and life-threatening procedures in their native countries, and play a role in the eventual eradication of FGC. It might be more effective if federal and state laws enabled pediatricians to reach out to families by offering a ritual nick as a possible compromise to avoid greater harm.

Efforts should be made to use all available educational and counseling resources to dissuade parents from seeking a ritual genital procedure for their daughter. For circumstances in which an infant, child, or adolescent seems to be at risk of FGC, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that its members educate and counsel the family about the detrimental health effects of FGC. Parents should be reminded that performing FGC is illegal and constitutes child abuse in the United States.
The primary goal here seems not to be mere trust-building for its own sake, contrary to the way the policy has been publicized, but rather to find the most effective route to saving girls from having their genitals mutilated. The key worry is that mere illegalization of FGM, without offering the "ritual nick," will just result in families sending their girls back to their barbaric home countries to have the full procedure performed.

I understand why admirable groups like Equality Now are opposed to this policy, but I am not sure they are right. The danger of the AAP policy is that it may help to legitimize female genital mutilation. But the intent of the policy is to actually prevent female genital mutilation by offering a substitute which, while outrageous in itself, is far better than the alternative. It is not clear which effect is more probable. I think this is something that deserves to be tried, and carefully monitored, so we can determine empirically the fastest route to eliminating female genital mutilation.

*FGC refers to "female genital cutting"—a term which the AAP insists on using instead of the more accurate "female genital mutilation," because using the latter term is "inflammatory" and "culturally insensitive." This part, of course, really is blind obeisance to cultural relativism. Sometimes neutral terms do not accurately describe a practice.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Singer faces jail-time for remarks about Bible

This just goes to show you—the willingness to impose barbaric laws and squelch free speech, in the name of protecting one's precious, brittle feelings, is not by any means the exclusively Muslim quality it is often portrayed as. On the contrary, any religion, given sufficient power, will, in an apoplectic fit of self-righteous rage, oppress those who offend them in the slightest.
Better known by her stage name Doda, the 26-year-old singer ruffled conservative sentiment in Catholic Poland by explaining that she believed more in dinosaurs than the Bible because "it is hard to believe in something written by people who drank too much wine and smoked herbal cigarettes." This prompted furious Catholic groups to lodge complaints with the prosecutor's office.

"It is clear that Doda thinks that the Bible was written by drunkards and junkies," said Ryszard Nowak, chairman of the Committee for the Defence Against Sects, an organisation dedicated to protecting Christian values. "I believe that she committed a crime and offended the religious feelings of both Christians and Jews." If found guilty the pop star faces a two-year jail sentence or a hefty fine under Polish blasphemy laws.
Spoken like a true mullah, Nowak! For those who would counsel Europe to fend off the encroachment of Islam by encouraging a serious return to Christianity, you are trading one hell for another—there are things in the world that are just as bad as sharia.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Blackboard test generator

I'm in the middle of working on the last quizzes for my classes, and thought I would take a break to make a related post, here.

On the off chance that any of my readers teach Internet or hybrid classes using Blackboard, I have found a very useful tool for quiz generation: you just write a text document according to these specifications, and then paste it into the generator here. It will give you a file which from which you can upload all of your questions at once using the last option in the "Add" drop-down menu when you create a new quiz. It doesn't do everything, but it eliminates about a third of the work; and, frankly, for me, more advanced test software, like Respondus, just has too many bells and whistles to be practical.