We are developing the social individualist meta-context for the future. From the very serious to the extremely frivolous... lets see what is on the mind of the Samizdata people.

Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

A formula for failure

There is a shortage of baby milk in the US. Few fears are more primal than that of not being able to feed your baby. Parents across America are stressed and angry. (Some people, however, find the situation amusing.) One of the many reasons to like unbridled capitalism is that by reducing scarcity it reduces conflict. Whenever there is a shortage people become angry when they see others getting what they cannot get.

“Texas governor criticises Biden administration for giving baby formula to migrant children”, writes the Independent. There are several things worth discussing there. It would be unconscionable not to give formula to children who need it, but the knowledge that “Uncle Sam will provide” probably is a factor attracting illegal immigrants to the US, including children both accompanied and unaccompanied. The consequences of that can be horrible.

However the thing that struck me most about this story was tucked away as background information:

A recall of formula produced at a Michigan manufacturing facility – along with a Covid-19-fuelled supply chain issues – has made formula difficult for families to find, or subject to purchase limits in stores, after manufacturers shut down and warehouse stocks were recalled but not replaced. US formula is largely monopolised, with stringent regulations on imports; shortages from the recall are compounded by demand among a handful of companies relying on the same fragile supply chain.

President Biden has called on federal agencies to help address the shortages, including easing rules that manufacturers must follow for their products to be eligible under the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children, or WIC, which supports low-income families.

Few dare argue when “stringent regulations on imports” and “rules that manufacturers must follow” are introduced under the cry of “We must protect the children!” Yet now that the children are being protected half to death, these measures seem astonishingly hard to remove.

Update: Eric Boehm of Reason magazine has more detail: America’s Trade and Regulatory Policies Have Contributed to the Baby Formula Shortage

Thanks to strict FDA regulations and oppressive tariffs, America is already largely dependent on only domestic suppliers for infant formula: America exports far more than it imports every year.

That’s exactly the situation the economic nationalist want in all industries—and we’re now seeing exactly how that can go wrong. Cutting off foreign trade and protecting domestic suppliers can make a country more vulnerable to unexpected supply problems, not more resilient.

Children without parents

Inevitably, it was Friday afternoon by the time Kevin [not his real name] was slowly and ineptly explaining in the headmistress’ office. All parents know what a talent children have for falling ill on Friday evening. The headmistress knew what a talent pupils have of presenting hard-to-handle problems on Friday afternoon.

Kevin had been acting up in class that morning – not unusual for either Kevin or the school, but this seemed different. The headmistress already knew somewhat about Kevin, of course, but only as three-in-the-afternoon came and went, did his full situation begin to emerge.

Years ago, mummy and daddy had little Kevin. Some years later, mummy and daddy had a falling out. Usually it’s the father who disappears first in this situation but in Kevin’s case it was his mother. Maybe she had some thought of retrieving him when she had a place he could stay and events just got on top of her – or maybe not. Kevin stayed with his father and step-mother, the new woman in daddy’s life. In time, this relationship too soured and daddy walked away from it, leaving Kevin cohabiting with his step-mum and, soon enough, his step-dad – a man she acquired. This occurred once or twice or thrice more – it was not entirely clear how many ‘step-‘s preceded the courtesy titles of the final ‘mum’ and ‘dad’ with whom Kevin was cohabiting when the Friday I’m talking about rolled round.

On that Friday, for reasons not worth detailing, Kevin’s step-(step-)parents were departing that habitation (whether in the same direction or in two different directions was uncertain) so other people could take vacant occupancy of it. It had been made clear to Kevin that he was not going to sleep there that night. He had no idea where he was going to sleep that night.

Of course, the Scottish government has assigned people, institutions and funding to handle this kind of situation. And of course, when you pay people to care, some work for the pay and not because they care (luckily for Kevin, his school’s headmistress was an exception). She was not surprised to discover, after she got her head fully round Kevin’s problem and phoned them, that the clock-watchers in the relevant social work department were almost all gone and no-one still there would take any responsibility or do anything before Monday.

Further questioning and checking elicited that Kevin had a granny living in the city. The headmistress managed to work out an address and phone number. Granny didn’t want Kevin – let’s be frank about it, he was not the kind of kid one instantly warmed to, although his distress and (when it penetrated his thick skull she would help him) willingness to cooperate made the headmistress like him a bit better than she ever had before. However Granny did not have that icy determination to get her off the phone before imminent departure for the weekend that had been shown by such social workers as had not departed even before she rang. (To be strictly fair, that city was unusually well supplied with the kind of people who consume social workers’ time and state handouts, and some of them greatly exceeded Kevin in being the kind of people one did not instantly warm to.) The strong-willed headmistress extracted consent to Kevin’s sleeping at granny’s for the weekend, “but he goes to school on Monday morning and he does not come back”.

Why am I telling you this? Two-thirds of the way through this long post, I mention Rotherham, where many of the abused girls were in the state’s not-so-tender care. My post below says power should be given to parents and taken from educational bureaucrats (especially the ones in that city, of whom I could tell you a tale). So, why indeed am I telling you this?

Well, if anyone ever implements (or just argues for) the scheme in my post below – to protect children by empowering their parents and disempowering the educational bureaucracy – then I want them to know beforehand, not discover afterwards, that these situations happen. Woke tyrants love their theories, but we believe in learning from experience – from the many that tell us the family is the best protector of children, and also from the few that warn us that parents aren’t always good, that step-parents can be worse, and that on a Friday afternoon, someone in our brave new-old educational world might suddenly discover that the parents, and the step-step-parents, and the clock-watching employees of that ultimate step-step-…step-parent the state, have all gone.

An education in the true meaning of power

We laugh at them for not knowing what ‘woman’ means. They laugh at us for not knowing what ‘power’ means.

“Only power arrests power.” (Montesquieu)

“In a conflict between mere law and power, it is seldom law will emerge as the victor.” (Hannah Arendt)

The state of Tennessee has laws. A law taxes its citizens and gives a hefty chunk of the proceeds to maintain a large education bureaucracy. A law compels Tennessee children to attend the schools this bureaucracy administers. A law forbids this education establishment to push critical race theory on the kids – but the education establishment is not as eager to obey this law as they are to enforce the others.

“We don’t really let anybody tell us what to do.”

The same casual contempt of the idea that laws apply to teachers, not just to parents and children, can be seen in Oklahoma. In Florida, laws force parents to pay education taxes and children to go to school from a young age, and they get enforced. But the law against teachers sexualising kindergarteners is another matter. Amber junior doesn’t feel like going to school? Amber senior doesn’t feel like paying so much tax? “Tough!”, says Amber the teacher. “You can’t break the law but I can.”

The educational establishment’s belief in its right to ignore the parents and those they vote for – its right to confine their role strictly to providing the kids and the money – is not new. They will behave this way while they have the power to do so. While the tax laws and the attendance laws provide the base for the educational establishment’s power, it will be hard to impose an external power to restrain their power. The parents may want it, but the parents have been deprived of direct power – they must pay taxes to a bureaucracy that can (and prefers to) ignore their wishes. The kids may want it, but the kids are compelled to attend school, and to treat the teachers’ narrative as fact and their doubts as ignorance. As long as all that operates, it will be hard to find the additional taxes and the additional government employees and lawyers to make a contemptuous bureaucracy obey an external power. Until the power dynamic can be changed, expect the education bureaucracy to spend much time laughing at the impotent rage of governors and the despair of parents while grooming their kids, or punishing them for teacher-defined *isms and *phobias. It will be hard work for even an unusually able and energetic governor to focus external power effectively upon them. As for parents, the bureaucrats think they have no right even to know, and ‘interpret’ the rules to impose costs on any who try.

Parents are pretty-well the only available independent resource with which to counter this power-dynamic. The idea of giving back to parents the power the bureaucrats took from them has been around for a long time. Past ‘school choice’ schemes have often offered parents only a little choice – ‘Education vouchers’ that let them choose an education-establishment-run school that is less full than others of inept teachers the teacher’s union will not let be weeded. Any legislature that wants the education laws they pass treated as facts, not jokes, needs to transfer a lot more power. Make the definition of school minimal. Give administering that definition to a small finance authority focussed on avoiding fraud, not on enforcing a narrative. Tie the tax money to the child and transfer it directly to the school they attend – and to the new school attended if the parents pull the kid from the old one. Cut the education bureaucracy out of every decision. In legal theory, the state will lose some power, but in actual reality they will lose the illusion of it; the education bureaucracy will lose the reality of it.

The education bureaucracy has a long track record of cheating to destroy voucher schemes. Everything I said about why they will nullify state law applies tenfold to a state law designed to give parents more power and them less. That’s why the handling of the money must be pulled back from the education department to an adjunct of the revenue. Revenue is everything. Taking the receipt of education revenue away from the education bureaucracy is everything. Taking the disbursement of it to schools and teachers away from the education bureaucracy is everything. Until that happens, a child’s parents may have the law on their side but the educational establishment will have the power.

Four- and five-year-olds who crawl rather than walk

From an anonymous article in Tuesday’s Guardian called “My pupils have been badly set back by the pandemic. ‘Catch-up’ lessons aren’t what they need”:

In my school, some children are now struggling to articulate what they need or want, answer simple questions or follow short instructions. This has a knock-on effect on their social skills. Those who haven’t had much practice taking turns in conversation or sharing with others find playing and using school resources difficult. Many children have missed out on physical development opportunities; it has been eye-opening to witness four- and five-year-olds choosing to crawl down the corridor into the toilets rather than walk.

I take a fairly forgiving view of the actions that our government and others took when the pandemic hit. As an immediate strategy lockdown may well have been the right thing to do, and even if it wasn’t, it is easy to be wise in hindsight and when it is not you who has to make the decision. Boris & Co. were faced with a type of crisis they had never faced before and a cacophony of conflicting advice, all of which claimed to be expert.

But it was clear quite early on that the slight risk that Covid-19 presented to young children was far outweighed by the harm done to their development by masks and lockdown. That is difficult to forgive.

The Islamic Republic of Iran leads the way in getting more women into STEM

Campus magazine, a Singaporean publication aimed at students, published this article on 15th December 2021: The Paradox of Gender Inequality in STEM Education. It was one of many pieces that pointed out the odd fact that

In a nutshell, multiple studies have found that the lower the gender-equality in a given country, the higher the percentage of women studying STEM.

Simply put in numbers, before the pandemic, women made up 70% of engineering students in Iran, 42% in Morocco, 41% in Algeria, and 40% in Jordan, but only 29% in Norway, 19% in the U.S., and just 18% in Australia. Those are just some countries, but the pattern repeats itself almost everywhere.

The Global Gender Gap Report (GGGR) by the World Economic Forum (WEF) calculates global gender inequality based on a matrix, including health and survival, educational attainment, labour force participation, percentage of seats in parliament, and more. According to the 2021 GGGR, Norway was third globally. Iran was 150th. Yet Iran has double the percentage of women studying STEM.

Like almost every other article on the subject I have seen, the one in Campus spends several paragraphs explaining – and lamenting – how cultural factors push female eighteen year-olds away from science subjects. Note the scare quotes around “choosing”.

The unconscious bias may have different sources. For instance, it’s often cultural – the idea that “girls should play with dolls, while boys should build things” is still inherent in many households today. It may be observational – since women in STEM are already underrepresented, we assume that STEM is more a “guy thing.”

Sometimes, it can even be well-intentioned. For instance, parents may assume that STEM is difficult and they fear their daughters won’t be as successful being in a male-dominated course – especially compared to sons who they ascribe different characteristics, like being more competitive.

Facing this litany of discouraging cultural and social messaging, it’s no surprise that young girls in more developed countries – where there are viable, non-STEM study options – are often pushed away from STEM. This is then wrongly interpreted as them actively “choosing” non-STEM subjects.

…but devotes far less attention to the reasons behind superior academic performance of younger girls compared to boys in STEM subjects. There is half a line of acknowledgement that, hey, eggheads argue about why girls do better, but not a word of what those arguments are. Female superiority at thirteen is not seen as a thing needing to be changed or explained:

Multiple studies in dozens of countries show that pre-teen girls outperform their male peers in standardised math and science tests. Psychologists and neuro-scientists may argue the specific reasons, but the result is undisputable. Preteen girls and boys also enjoy/prefer STEM subjects at roughly the same ratio.

If we want Iranian levels of female STEM university students, perhaps we should do what Iran does and embed the superior level of responsibility shown by females into law?

According to Iran’s Islamic law, in cases of murder and certain other capital crimes boys over 15 and girls over nine may be held as culpable as adults and, therefore, punished with the death penalty.

– from “Iran executes 100 young people a year, human rights group says”, the Times, 26th Dec 2021.

The infantorium

I never knew this:

“At the turn of the 20th century, incubators for premature babies were widely available at fairs and amusement parks across America, rather than hospitals.

Infant shows were the main source of healthcare for premature babies for over 40 years.”

That was a tweet from HumanProgress.org which linked to a fascinating article at “99% Invisible”. Apparently it’s a podcast about “all the thought that goes into the things we don’t think about”. I am usually too impatient to listen to podcasts, but if the accompanying articles are as revelatory as this one, I will bookmark the site. The article title is “The Infantorium”. It opens by describing a long-gone amusement park in Minneapolis called “Wonderland”:

The park’s biggest attraction wasn’t the roller coaster, or the dance hall, or the log flume. It was a sideshow called “the Infantorium.” Visitors would pay ten cents to enter a spacious room full of glass boxes that were incubators with tiny premature babies on display. But despite how weird this whole concept might seem today, this wasn’t the only place this was happening.

According to Lauren Rabinovitz, an amusement park historian, at the turn of the century, incubators for premature babies were widely available at fairs and amusement parks across America, rather than hospitals.

At that, many readers will wonder what sort of parents can they have been, to allow their own children to be shown at a fair when they were in peril of death? The answer is desperate parents who had no alternative:

Many parents of premature, at-risk babies pretty much had to bring their infants to an amusement park. And these infant shows were the main source of healthcare for premature babies for over forty years.

Very well then, but what sort of man makes a profit from this deplorable business? That, too, has a surprising answer. The leading exhibitor of premature babies was a man calling himself Dr Martin Couney. He got his start in London:

Unlike the other showmen, Couney’s show had more of a refined air. He hired nurses to hold the babies and feed them breastmilk. The show was a hit so Dr. Couney decided to give it a try in the United States at the Omaha World’s Fair.

[…]

Thousands of people paid ten cents each to see Dr. Couney’s incubator show. And parents from across the city brought their premature babies to Couney, hoping for a miracle. A local medical journal reported that 48 of the 52 babies delivered to Couney that summer had survived.

In the state of medical science as it then was, for such a high proportion of premature babies to live was little short of a miracle. So I see nothing wrong in Couney making a profit, as he did at first. Some may say, OK, maybe that was acceptable in the early days of incubator technology, but surely these baby-shows died off as soon as proper hospitals and doctors acquired incubators?

Nope. For decades most of the proper hospitals and doctors turned down the incubators which Couney repeatedly tried to donate to them for free.

Follow the link to see why. And this Christmas remember the name of Martin Couney, the charlatan and fake doctor who bankrupted himself saving thousands of childrens’ lives:

The babies in his care were more than four times as likely to survive into childhood. He took in babies of all races and classes, and he never once charged the families. Everything was funded by admissions. Money couldn’t buy better care — because there really wasn’t better care available.

The Little Octobrists prepare for their future role

“Schools are accused of ‘brainwashing’ students as children as young as 12 take part in mock trial of Tory MP Richard Drax for ‘benefitting from slavery’ because of his ancestors.”

The carers

I am not usually one for issuing trigger warnings, but this video of an unhappy two year old child is genuinely disturbing:

New York, where two-year-olds are forced to wear masks all day in nursery.

I have a single memory – a three second mental “video clip” of my brother’s fourth birthday – that I can confidently date as having happened before I was three. Humans do not seem to lay down recoverable memories of most of what happens to them before the age of four or so. Yet a child’s experiences in those early years have a profound effect on their later personality. That little boy will probably never remember that he tried again and again to push away the damp thing that made it hard to breathe but that his carers, with pitiless good cheer, always forced it back on. But he will have learned the lesson of the powerless. You are weak, they are strong. Crying and protesting do not help.

I am told that in Muslim societies where women must go fully veiled it is difficult to get the little girls into their coverings at first. But even they wait until the girls are at least five.

Charged with ‘aggravated misconduct’. For a tweet he made when he was 14.

Here is an extract from the report in today’s Times:

The Middlesbrough defender Marc Bola has been charged by the FA [Football Association] with aggravated misconduct for comments he made on social media when he was 14, nine years ago.

The FA has alleged that Bola, now 23, who signed for Middlesbrough from Blackpool in 2019, posted a ‘reference to sexual orientation.’ He is facing a written warning, an education course or a potential three-game ban for the post from 2012.

An FA statement read: “Middlesbrough FC’s Marc Bola has been charged with misconduct for a breach of FA Rule E3 in relation to a social media post on April 14, 2012.

If, rather than mouthing off on Twitter, the fourteen year old Bola had had the forethought to instead commit a violent crime meriting up four years imprisonment, the sentence would have been considered “spent” by now under the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974.

This woman makes me sympathise with Governor Gavin Newsom

Not, obviously, to the extent of wanting him to escape being thrown out on his ear in the coming California gubernatorial recall election, but reading about Newsom’s “epic battle” with Cecily Myart Cruz, President of United Teachers Los Angeles, the major LA teachers’ union, gave me a soupçon of sympathy with the man.

This is how Ms Myart Cruz responded to a question from Jason McGahan of Los Angeles Magazine about children falling behind in their education while Los Angeles schools were closed during the pandemic:

“There is no such thing as learning loss. Our kids didn’t lose anything. It’s OK that our babies may not have learned all their times tables. They learned resilience. They learned survival. They learned critical-thinking skills. They know the difference between a riot and a protest. They know the words insurrection and coup.”

From Cecily Myart-Cruz’s Hostile Takeover of L.A.’s Public Schools by Jason McGahan.

Via Ed Driscoll at Instapundit and Mike Antonucci of the Education Intelligence Agency, which I shall look at again.

Came for tea, stayed for the rape: a beloved children’s classic re-analysed

They’ve come for the tiger.

“Children’s book ‘The Tiger Who Came To Tea’ could lead to rape and harassment’ because it reinforces gender inequality that causes violence against women, campaigner claims”, reports the Mail.

It may have delighted generations of children, but The Tiger Who Came To Tea reinforces gender inequality which causes violence against women and girls, a campaigner said yesterday.

Rachel Adamson, of Zero Tolerance, a charity working to end men’s violence against women, said Judith Kerr’s 1968 classic was ‘problematic’ because of its ‘old fashioned’ portrayal of women and family dynamics.

The book sees an uninvited tiger join a young girl and her mother for tea before eating all the food in the house, drinking everything, running the taps dry and leaving.

The girl’s father then comes home and takes her and her mother to a cafe.

Miss Adamson did not call for the book to be banned but said it could be used to ‘raise a conversation’ in nurseries.

She told BBC Radio Scotland: ‘We know that gender stereotypes are harmful and they reinforce gender inequality, and that gender inequality is the cause of violence against women and girls, such as domestic abuse, rape and sexual harassment.’

Adamson questioned the tiger’s gender and why he was not female or gender neutral.

Um… would this campaigner against violence inflicted on women and girls, whose organisation specifically defends its focus on men’s violence against women really want to see a children’s book in which the enormous, physically dominant predator who blags its way into a space which a woman and a girl had thought their own and abuses their hospitality was female or transgender?

Sigh. As the Mail article points out, Judith Kerr knew a thing or two about prejudice leading to violence. Her father was a well known German Jewish writer who had to flee with his family when the Nazis came to power and put a price on his head. They only just escaped. She wrote a lightly fictionalised account of her family’s story in When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit. Nonetheless, she always resisted attempts to claim that the tiger was a metaphor for Nazism. It was just a big hungry but affable tiger who ate all the buns and drank all the water in the tap.

→ Continue reading: Came for tea, stayed for the rape: a beloved children’s classic re-analysed

What is the payoff for producing such obviously counter-productive propaganda?

One of these links will take you to an article in today’s Times by David Charter:

“Texas stops teaching that Ku Klux Klan was morally wrong”

“Texas stops teaching that Ku Klux Klan was morally wrong”

“Texas stops teaching that Ku Klux Klan was morally wrong”

“Texas stops teaching that Ku Klux Klan was morally wrong”

Which link is it? It doesn’t matter*. You all guessed right. You had no need to actually read the article to predict with a high degree of accuracy what it would say. You had no need of a Times subscription to know that whatever Texas was doing would turn out to be something far less dramatic than the headline suggests.

I am not going to quote the article even now. Do not feel deprived. As I find increasingly often these days, the readers’ comments are better than the stuff above the line.

A commenter called Dick Marlow says,

I think that this headline is misleading.

As I understand it the State of Texas has decided that it should not enumerate in law incidents and beliefs that 99.9% of Texans accept were both wrong and repugnant. This is not the same as “stops teaching that the KKK was morally wrong” which can be interpreted as meaning the state permits teaching that the KKK was morally acceptable.

This is not what they are attempting to do. They are shifting the responsibility of identifying which unacceptable events need to be taught from the state legislature and shifting it downstream, nearer both the ISDs, parents and teachers.

But you already knew it would turn out be something like that.

Why do they do this? I cannot even say that a clickbait headline lets down a respectable article, since the unknown subeditor has merely re-phrased Mr Charter’s very first line. The Times used to be better than this. David Charter has been known to be better than this. It’s not like they’re fooling anyone: there is a veritable flood of comments saying, no, the Texas Department of Education has not decided to take a neutral position on whether the Klan was a Bad Thing.

What is the payoff for producing such obviously counter-productive propaganda?

*The important question, and the one to which you will not find the answer by hovering your mouse over the link, is which of them takes you to the cute video of a sloth in a boat.