Tuesday, December 12, 2017

The Empty Postmodern Cant Of “Engineering Education”

It is possible, I suppose, for a graduate program to have less value than the one Donna Riley heads, yet it is hard to imagine. Engineering and Engineering Education are two different things, with different needs, and yet here she is, earning an “NSF CAREER award on implementing and assessing pedagogies of liberation in engineering classrooms.“ I have no idea what that might mean in practice, but as Campus Reform informs us, she has gone full-out for duckspeak in the academic peer-reviewed publications:
The leader of Purdue University’s School of Engineering Education recently declared that academic “rigor” reinforces “white male heterosexual privilege.”

Donna Riley, who previously taught engineering at Smith College for 13 years, published an article in the most recent issue of the journal Engineering Education, arguing that academic rigor is a “dirty deed” that upholds “white male heterosexual privilege.”

“One of rigor’s purposes is, to put it bluntly, a thinly veiled assertion of white male (hetero)sexuality,” she writes, explaining that rigor “has a historical lineage of being about hardness, stiffness, and erectness; its sexual connotations—and links to masculinity in particular—are undeniable.”
Is “Engineering Education” now a sinkhole into which any idiot may fall? If Ms. Riley is any indicator, it seems like a sort of bug light for those who glean that engineering is somehow important to society, yet lack a certain felicity with numbers, analytical capacity, and rational habits of mind, her Chem E. degree from Princeton notwithstanding. Being so long ago, she seems to have either forgotten all of it, or held a grudge that they made her work so hard. The dean of Purdue’s engineering school, Mung Chiang, has an anodyne web page which makes no mention of her or her bogus accomplishments. The postmodern barbarians are at the gate, but they have not yet acquired the real keys to power.

Update: What a staggering bibliography she developed for her NSF CAREER award; one day I'm sure the Mech. E. department will gaze in wonder at "Power/Knowledge: Using Foucault to promote critical understandings of content and pedagogy in engineering thermodynamics", and the even more wonderfully named, ""You're All a bunch of fucking feminists": Addressing the perceived conflict between gender and professional identities using the Montreal Massacre". Presumably, "other ways of knowing" will involve unicorns or manticores, although I do not recommend flying aboard any aircraft designed using such a regimen.

Monday, December 4, 2017

Mean Girls Who Code: Marlene Jaeckel's Blackballing

I have not seen anything else on this subject, so Marlene Jaeckel's account of her banishment from Google's Women Techmakers group must necessarily be tempered by the caveat that there are two sides (at least) to every story. Nonetheless, in the current environment it is all too believable, a tale of politics overtaking technical prowess, and individuals secretly banning her from Google-related groups. Alicia Carr, the central figure (as far as I can tell) on the other side of this exchange, blanched when Jaeckel refused to teach a gender-segregated coding class ("I need everybody and anybody to help my Women and I’m sorry there is a gender issues [sic] but right now it [sic] about my ladies"). Hostilities escalated after a September, 2016 incident in which Carr "became loud and disruptive during [an Atlanta iOS Developer's group] meeting". In January, 2017, "[w]ithin hours of signing up" as a mentor for RailsBridge and RailsGirls conference, "both organizations banned me from their groups and events" and "declined to provide me with a formal explanation and refused to explain why or how I had allegedly violated their codes of conduct".

Jaeckel supported James Damore after his firing in August, 2017, a move that drew further ire on the part of Carr and a new figure, Maggie Kane, also apparently purged her from further Google-focused programming groups and sessions (an Atlanta Google Women Techmakers’ event “Idea Jam Session”). Jaeckel has since hired an attorney to launch a cease-and-desist and anti-defamation suit, the merits of which (and likely success of) I cannot ascertain at this distance. The whole thing smells like eighth-grade mean girls posturing. I wish Jaeckel all the success in the world, though I'm not sure of the viability of such a campaign. And, if she wins, of what value is reacquiring the company of such bluestockings?

Update: Really amazing what a lightweight Carr is on her LinkedIn page. One lousy app and she's parading herself as a developer? Okay, great, whatever, and that video? What skills are you selling? Being able to be dressed "fine as hell"?

Update 13:12: It took her a year and a half to learn Objective C? Okay, I guess... A quick look at her blog reveals a disturbing absence of technical articles, and a lot of self-puffery and lifestyle chatter (look at me in my granddaughter's Tesla!). Ditto Maggie Kane's LinkedIn profile, which is long on things other than coding skills. Opposite the Polyglot Programming blog, which features wall-to-wall coverage of various tech articles. The people opposing Jaeckel are pretty clearly posers.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Scott Greenfield On The Lowest Common Dominatrix

Home run:
There is a key detail here, one that eludes reason and pervades belief: that true or false, it’s true.

Perhaps what made Lindin’s twit different is that she openly said what many knew but denied. This has been the case for years with Title IX. This was the case when women, after Jackie in the Rolling Stone/UVA story, after the Mattress Girl melodrama, still argued in support of their victims. That these claims were false was of no consequence. They were true as long as women chose to believe they were true.
We are at a crossroads. Soon enough, this will become apparent, but it will take some more time before the cowed and fearful come to the only conclusion possible. There is no tenable way to allow this game to be played, whether in work, in school, on the streets or in the home, without committing yourself, you family, your future to potential doom.

You did nothing wrong? Great. You lose anyway. Explain to your friends, your spouse, your children that you aren’t a rapist, but they still won’t have food on their plate, shoes on their feet, because your job, your reputation, the future you spent your life building, was wrongfully taken from you because women are victims and should be entitled to their “truth” despite your innocence.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

The Importance Of Holding The Right Opinion About Louis C.K.

The general proscription against reading the comments on Internet fora are well-founded, but often enough wrong, as when I was passing through Manohla Dargis' reconsideration of the now-disgraced Louis C.K.'s I Love You, Daddy. As one commenter pointed out, it looks very like she's elected to blunt the praise in her glowing, earlier review, where she wrote, "At heart, the film is a multipronged debate that circles, again and again, around the question of whether it is possible, permissible and morally justifiable to love the art and loathe the artist. Yes, no, maybe so." But clearly, once Mr. C.K.'s apology came to light (one which many simply weren't having), it became necessary to reconsider that calculus.

Mostly, that reckoning spins on the axis of what she calls his "provocations": the character Leslie "even defines radical feminism for China, a scene that mirrors another in which Glen delivers a more generalized feminist lesson." Later, she laments
... how the movies see women. How they use and use up young women, at least until they turn 18 or 20 or so when some moviemaker or some suit deems her no longer desirable and turns her putative lack of desirability on her, as if she were responsible for this lack of interest in her.
These, particularly, appear as so much virtue signaling. Anyone with eyes can observe that half the moviegoing audience is male, which has concomitant effects on female casting. Men having opinions about the contours of sexual equality — that, also, is not allowed. If Leslie's speech was sexist in some way, she never makes the case for it or even bothers to quote it. The charge itself is now adequate to sustain it, apparently. What is important is having the Right Opinions, and being seen doing so.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Sunday Bullets

  • From the increasingly indispensable QuilletteMarta Iglesias on "Why Feminists Must Understand Evolution". Excerpt:
    The fact that men and women are different ... does not preclude feminists from striving for completely equal rights between the sexes. However, it is important to understand how things really are if we are to try to modify them ...
    But some feminists would prefer to doubt the applicability of evolutionary biology to the human species. They believe that equality of behaviour in the sexes would exist in nature, but culture generates our inter-sexual differences (for examples see Chapter 1 in A Mind of Her Own).19 20 Apparently, contradicting this line of thought means that one is adopting a ‘biological determinist’ position....
  • Also from Quillette: Lexa Frankl on "Why I'm Uneasy With The #metoo Movement". Frankl opens with a discussion of a one-night-stand gone bad; the sex wax consensual, but after a night of heavy drinking, and ended with her contracting herpes simplex type 2.
    Then she asked if the intercourse had been consensual. Had I verbally consented to sex, I wondered? The answer was a resounding no. Perhaps I had been too drunk to give meaningful consent, and what had seemed consensual at the time was in fact something more sinister – predatory opportunism or even assault. For a moment, I found myself tempted by an escape into victimhood. Certainly, the emotional burden would be easier to bear if the fault could be projected elsewhere.

    But, try as I might, I could not persuade myself that this was a good faith account of what had actually happened. Self-examination forced me to acknowledge that both my partner and I shared responsibility for the events of that night, and that martyrdom would be a cowardly and dishonest excuse for my own poor judgment.
    She goes from there to the kinds of trite and pointless advice handed out by so many sexual assault victim agencies:
    Feminist and activist sites set up to counsel and advise victims of sexual assault seemed perversely determined to convince me that I had in fact been assaulted, and sternly warned against any assumption of personal responsibility which they invariably describe as “victim-blaming.” Instead, they offered trite slogans such as “Drinking is not a crime – rape is” and “Don’t tell your daughter not to go out, tell your son to behave properly” and “Teach men to respect women.”
    It's significant that there are no countries free of rape anywhere on the globe. If the right culture were all it took to end the crime, it has long ago failed, and in all places. Moving on, she notes the problems with feminist objections to self-responsibility:
    I might refuse to wear a seatbelt on the basis that I am particularly fastidious about road safety. But if another less cautious driver were to drive his vehicle into mine, most reasonable people would accept that I bear responsibility for any injuries I would not have sustained had I taken the sensible precaution of wearing a safety belt.


    In neither circumstance does “Don’t tell me to wear a safety belt, tell others to drive carefully” or “Don’t tell children not to talk to strangers, tell strangers not to abduct children” sound remotely like sensible or wise advice. We recognise that, as adults and moral agents, we have a duty to look after own well-being and the well-being of dependents who cannot look out for themselves.
    This ultimately is the problem with all demands to "teach men not to rape": it is a demand for a utopia. It is not terribly satisfying to those who actually have suffered such attacks, but that will not change the likelihood of its existing. Male sexual impulses are the residue of millennia of evolution; they will not (lightly) yield to exhortation.

    She has other salient points:
    • "[R]evealing attire will attract the attention of the opposite sex, and that it is designed and (usually) worn for precisely this purpose."
    • "To notice that certain behaviors predictably increase a person’s vulnerability is so obvious as to be banal. But any attempt to ask women to acknowledge the associated risks is routinely described as ‘rape apologism.’"
    • "[I]t is precisely because the behaviour of others lies beyond my control that I must remain responsible for taking precautions in the interest of self-protection."
  • Campus rape tribunals hand down so many guilty verdicts because they are trained to do so.
  • Conor Friedersdorf thinks more Christian dialogue about sex needs to start with the Golden Rule.
  • Interesting chapter about academic sociology political bias. About a third of those involved in a survey (n=335) reject the idea that evolution has left any fingerprints on the human brain and behavior. (Von Hippel, W., and Buss, D.M., 2017, "Do Ideologically Driven Scientific Agendas Impede The Understanding And Acceptance Of Evolutionary Principles In Social Psychology?", The Politics Of Social Psychology, New York: Psychology Press.)
  • Pretty good essay from a female Silicon Valley startup founder about sex in that place. Excerpt:
    I knew being hot got me in the door and that after that I had to make that work for me. Culturally, we are taught as women that our main power is our looks and sexuality. Then it's a matter of what you do with it. Personally, I used the s--- out of it, and I was more successful than my male colleagues because of it.

    However, I had a hard line of not crossing a physical line with men I was actively doing deals with, and I kept that boundary well. And then, as I got more established, men didn't meet with me for my voice or for what I might be wearing. They met with me because they knew my name and because I knew things that they wanted to know.

    The meetings became more professional, and I didn't have to play the woman card anymore.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

The Strange Belief Of Male Mind-Reading

Apparently it's too much to expect women to actually ask their partners for help.
This aversion to communicating basic needs is really astonishing, yet I keep seeing it. A few years ago, I encountered an essay about harassment in the context of a daughter's programming class, the gist of which comes down to this graf:
I consulted with friends — female developers — and talked to my daughter about how to handle the situation in class. I suggested that she talk to you. I offered to talk to you [the instructor]. I offered to come talk to the class. I offered to send one of my male friends, perhaps a well-known local programmer, to go talk to the class. Finally, my daughter decided to plow through, finish the class, and avoid all her classmates. I hate to think what less-confident girls would have done in the same situation.
Yet of course, the one thing that arguably needs to be done is to bring it to the attention of the teacher.  In the original essay, that, apparently, had no place in the discussion; he was supposed to just figure it out on his own somehow, even if the abuse had happened outside of his knowledge. This is crazy*.

*It wasn't clear that this already happened when I first read the piece, before the second update appeared. In fact the daughter went to the teacher, who in turn went to the principal, who ... called the girl to his office and told her he wasn't going to do anything. Now, you can argue that's the wrong thing to do, that the teacher should have intervened — but it also points out a flaw in her response as well, to the extent that you won't always have someone around to stick up for you.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Harvey Weinstein's Colonoscopy, Or, The Hannah Arendt Award Goes To...

Bar none, you will not read a more compelling, honest, or damning story about what it was like inside the beast than Scott Rosenberg's Facebook essay, reposted at Deadline: Hollywood:
Simply put: OG Miramax was a blast.
So, yeah, I was there.
And let me tell you one thing.
Let’s be perfectly clear about one thing:


Not that he was raping.
No, that we never heard.
But we were aware of a certain pattern of overly-aggressive behavior that was rather dreadful.
We knew about the man’s hunger; his fervor; his appetite.
There was nothing secret about this voracious rapacity; like a gluttonous ogre out of the Brothers Grimm.
All couched in vague promises of potential movie roles.
(and, it should be noted: there were many who actually succumbed to his bulky charms. Willingly. Which surely must have only impelled him to cast his fetid net even wider).
He does not excuse himself:
So, yeah, I am sorry.
Sorry and ashamed.
Because, in the end, I was complicit.
Which is much less than Dan Rather's accusation that Rosenberg somehow snuck away from acknowledging his role in this.

Other linkies on this subject:
  • The original New York Times story, and the New Yorker followup. 
  • Cathy Young is rightly concerned about lynch mobs going after all men as a consequence of this imbroglio:
    Ironically, as one Twitter user pointed out, actress Rose McGowan, who says she was raped by Weinstein and has denounced his enablers, spoke warmly a few years ago of film director Victor Salva, a child molester convicted of sexually abusing a 12-year-old boy actor in 1988. When asked if working with Salva was awkward given his record, McGowan shrugged it off as “not really my business.”Read more: http://forward.com/opinion/national/385236/its-a-good-thing-that-harvey-weinstein-has-been-stopped-but-lets-not-start/
    The Weinstein story is a depressing reminder of how difficult it can be for victims, female or male — especially victims of high-status predators — to seek recourse. But the post-Weinstein backlash has revived the demand to “believe the women” and take virtually any accusation of sexual assault as fact, at least against a man; and there are risks in that, too, particularly in the digital age, when an accusation can cost nothing more than a few keystrokes.

    Weinstein’s infuriating impunity will now be used to deride or dismiss concerns that men who don’t have his wealth, power or privilege — unless one regards all men as “privileged” — can get a raw deal when accused of sexual harassment or sexual assault. But the simple truth is that impunity for some can easily coexist with zealous, or overzealous, enforcement for others. In recent years, a number of men have suffered devastating consequences for conduct, proven or alleged, that doesn’t even come close to Weinstein’s reported offenses.

  • Update 2017-10-19: Conor Friedersdorf at The Atlantic opines that the populist right is tearing down an institutional left press that has no analog elsewhere. Excerpt:
    If Matthew Boyle had gotten his way last year, Harvey Weinstein would still be a powerful Hollywood producer able to summon aspiring teen actresses to his hotel suites.

    If he ever gets his way, the beneficiaries will be corrupt, powerful actors in Hollywood, Washington, D.C., Silicon Valley, and elsewhere—corrupt actors on the left and on the right—because like a petulant child throwing a tantrum with lit matches in a dry forrest, Boyle and his ilk will have destroyed that which they lack the talent to recreate.