Keep your hands off my social engineering!

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Jonathan McLeod

Jonathan McLeod is a writer living in Ottawa, Ontario. (That means Canada.) He spends too much time following local politics and writing about zoning issues. Follow him on Twitter.

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320 Responses

  1. The nature/nurture debate really should have been played out by now. Both sides are wrong. There are biologically based differences between the genders, but they’re statistical, not absolute, and they’re a sort of putty for nurture to shape, but not with infinite elasticity.Report

    • I agree and disagree.

      You’re right that the nurture/nature debate has been pretty well settled (and not just by Dan Akroyd and Eddie Murphy), but it is undeniable the degree to which we’ve socialized boys and girls.

      Anecdote (so it’s irrefutable!): Last Christmas, my sister’s family was over and her nephew wasn’t having any fun because he wouldn’t play with any of the toys, because they were “girl toys”. We had playmobile out and we had a train set–things he plays with at home–but because they belonged to girls (we have two daughter), he wouldn’t play with them.

      That’s fucked up. He didn’t just decide on his own that there were girls toys and boys toys. That was taught to him.Report

    • Avatar j r in reply to J@m3z Aitch says:

      I could not think of a more succinct way to say this than what you wrote, so I won’t try.

      I will only add that the very idea of the nature/nurture argument is nonsense itself. In reality, there is no such thing as nature (as a separate thing or idea from how we interact with nature) and there’s no such thing as nurture (as a separate thing or idea from how nature shapes human socialization). We have a certain genetic makeup that expresses itself in a certain manner dependent upon the environment in which we develop. Nature and nurture are artificial categories that we as a sort of shorthand to allow our rather limited brains to comprehend a process that is infinitely complex and very likely non-linear in how it plays out.Report

      • Avatar Chris in reply to j r says:

        This sort of reductionism doesn’t get us very far either. There are good reasons to focus in ontogeny or phylogeny, reasons that don’t go away because we reduce everything to gene expression.

        Also, the research on gender differences has been really hot lately. There’s a good paper in the latest issue of Trends In Cognitive Sciences if you’re interested in that sort of thing.Report

      • Avatar J@m3z Aitch in reply to j r says:

        I don’t think J.R. reduced everything to gene expression. If anything he’s talking about gene-environment interaction and how deeply intertwined the two are.Report

      • Avatar Chris in reply to j r says:

        Yeah, I was exaggerating, but it’s still useless reductionism.Report

      • Avatar J@m3z Aitch in reply to j r says:

        I disagree, of course. At minimum there are dangers to an excessive focus on social constructionism, and warning folks away from that by reminding them that we are in fact biological critters that cognitively are less than wholly plastic is far from useless, lest we slip into a sort of facile Skinnerism.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater in reply to j r says:

        James, I agree. But if what you say is correct, j r’s comment that the distinction is “nonsense” is incorrect, no? Personally, I don’t think its nonsense at all, tho some people can – and do – use the distinction to argue a whole slew of things that might in fact be nonsense.Report

      • Avatar J@m3z Aitch in reply to j r says:

        Stillwater,

        I think what JR means is that in explaining human behavior, to talk about either just nature or just nurture is nonsense. And he may even go a bit deeper than that, suggesting–as I would myself–that the nurture side of things, culture, is itself a product of our genes; that we are as a species evolutionarily adapted to the creation of, and to being deeply influenced by, culture, so that there is no real distinct line between those things.

        I don’t know if that clarifies at all. Take it as an attempt, and if it fails that’s on me.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater in reply to j r says:

        James, thanks for elaborating. Two things jump out at me about the analysis, tho. THe first is that it’s actually an argument that in an argument over any specific nature/nurture dispute, nature is conceptually (or causally) prior to the concept of nurture, so it in some sense it provides an negative response to the question of whether the distinction is nonsense.

        The second is that saying social activity must be consistent with our biological predispositions to behave in certain ways doesn’t address the actually issue in play. Eg, is the association of the color pink with girls a biologically determined fact, or is it a cultural construct? The answer on the table seems to be merely that associating colors with genders is a biological predisposition inhering in human beings. But that doesn’t answer the specific question (of course) of whether the specific colors associated with are biologically predetermined.

        It also takes as a given what most people (at least in my experience) who take these issues seriously are completely willing to concede: that it’s sorta impossible to act in ways for which there is no fundamental biological predisposition to act.

        Take gender more broadly: are Traditional Gender Roles socially constructed or are they biologically determined? The suggestion (if I’m understanding right!) is that the question itself is nonsense because biological predispositions inform culture with in turn informs biology. That strikes me as a non-answer to a legitimate (meaning, “intelligible”) question.

        Here’s another way to elucidate the distinction in play: Certainly it’s true that people are biologically predisposed to accept certain types identifications (or maybe not!), but why these particular identifications? Are they socially constructed or are they biologically determined?Report

      • Avatar j r in reply to j r says:

        Huh? I make a comment that says reducing the complicated process of human development down to either “nature” or “nurture” is nonsense. And then I get accused of reductionism. How does that work?Report

      • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to j r says:

        Accusing people of reductionism is a learned behavior, reinforced in some by an inborn predisposition.Report

      • Avatar J@m3z Aitch in reply to j r says:

        @stillwater

        an argument that in an argument over any specific nature/nurture dispute, nature is conceptually (or causally) prior to the concept of nurture,

        Well, in a sense that has to be the case, as your genes are normally going to be put into place before there are any cultural influences, and your culture’s not exactly going to change your genetic makeup, once your genes are in place. On the other hand there’s some unknown extent to which culture (more broadly, environment) shapes which genes are more likely to get expressed, or at least reproduced.

        The second is that saying social activity must be consistent with our biological predispositions to behave in certain ways doesn’t address the actually issue in play. Eg, is the association of the color pink with girls a biologically determined fact, or is it a cultural construct?
        No, it doesn’t. But I’m pretty sure neither J.R. nor I was suggesting it does. And the third option is, is it a function of both? (I’m skeptical that there’s a solid genetic basis to favoring “pink,” though.)

        It also takes as a given what most people (at least in my experience) who take these issues seriously are completely willing to concede: that it’s sorta impossible to act in ways for which there is no fundamental biological predisposition to act.
        Hard core social constructionists still insist on the concept of tabula rasa, that we’re born as cognitive blank slates, completely plastic and wholly shaped, in our cognition, personality, beliefs, like and dislikes, by our environment. I don’t think most people believe that, but there are those who do and they’re the ones I’m rebutting. Heck, I even know a guy who thinks physical differences are purely environmental, and looks at the tremendous performance increases in women’s athletics as evidence that all it will take to make women as fast and strong as men is continued environmental/cultural changes along the path we’ve been traveling. But that’s the kind of case where we can readily demonstrate that the differences between the genders are statistical, rather than absolute. We have separate normal distributions for the genders, that overlap but are not identical. So while a great number of women have the capacity to be faster and stronger than a great number of men (men like me), at the top end the fastest and strongest men will always be faster and stronger than the fastest and strongest women.

        Take gender more broadly: are Traditional Gender Roles socially constructed or are they biologically determined? The suggestion (if I’m understanding right!) is that the question itself is nonsense because biological predispositions inform culture with in turn informs biology. That strikes me as a non-answer to a legitimate (meaning, “intelligible”) question.

        I don’t think it’s a non-answer so much as it is revealing that the question is not well formed as an “either/or” question. To criticize the response is to assume the accuracy of the question, but that accuracy is what we’re disputing.

        why these particular identifications? Are they socially constructed or are they biologically determined?

        Yes. 😉Report

      • Avatar Stillwater in reply to j r says:

        there are those who do and they’re the ones I’m rebutting.

        With ya on that. And the tabula rasa stuff, too.Report

      • Avatar Chris in reply to j r says:

        We have a certain genetic makeup that expresses itself in a certain manner dependent upon the environment in which we develop.

        If that’s not reductionism, I don’t know what is: you’ve reduced two complex concepts, phylogeny and ontogeny, to one thing: genes expressing themselves in a certain manner depending on the environment. This has little explanatory power. And as I noted, phylogeny and ontogeny are treated separately, but as interrelated, because there are important distinctions. Levels of explanation, including “nature” and “nurture,” can be quite useful, particularly when things are, as you note, quite complex and dynamically interrelated.

        This is particularly true of humans, where cultural processes create an entirely new level of complexity that can’t be treated as merely an emergent or even supervening property of phylogeny. Without a “nurture” level of analysis, you’re going to miss a whole hell of a lot.Report

      • Avatar Chris in reply to j r says:

        I left out a phrase: little explanatory power when it comes to behavior. I’d add another, too: if for no other reason than because we aren’t even close to a knowledge of genetics that gives us real insight into specific behavioral patterns. We’re only starting to grasp the role of genes in relatively abstract behavioral patterns like “aggression” or “addiction.”Report

      • Avatar j r in reply to j r says:

        @chris

        The thing to which you are objecting and the thing that I am saying are not the same thing. Let me try again.

        Nature and nurture are useful concepts for us to understand and discuss human development, but reducing human development to one or the other is nonsense.

        If that’s wrong, I would be curious to know where.Report

      • Avatar Chris in reply to j r says:

        Who does that?Report

      • Avatar Chris in reply to j r says:

        I ask again, who does that. The nativists and the constructionists were never so naive, at least not since the 18th century. And since what you’ve described is basically the nativist position anyway, poorly described (it still looks like reductionism to me), I’m not sure who you’re arguing against.Report

      • Avatar Jam3z Aitch in reply to j r says:

        Chris,

        You keep uding reductionist as though it’s a bad word. I hear it and I think scientific progress.Report

      • Avatar Chris in reply to j r says:

        I’m wary of reductionism, particularly in behavioral sciences. I’m not sure it always represents progress, and it sometimes hinders progress.Report

      • Avatar Will H. in reply to j r says:

        I’m wary of reductionism, particularly in behavioral sciences. I’m not sure it always represents progress, and it sometimes hinders progress.

        Yeah, but you’re just saying that because of [the toys that you played with as a kid] [some in utero auditory sensation] [a vague and lingering sense of loss due to circumcision].

        Have your pick.Report

      • Avatar Chris in reply to j r says:

        Prenatal hormone levels.Report

      • Avatar Jam3z Aitch in reply to j r says:

        Chris,
        I think resistance to reductionism is what holds back progress in the social sciences.Report

      • Avatar Jam3z Aitch in reply to j r says:

        Of course reductionism != determinism.Report

      • Avatar Chris in reply to j r says:

        James, there is nothing inherently wrong with reductionism, but there is nothing inherently better about it either.

        Have you ever encountered David Marr, a vision scientist who died all too young in the early 80s? If not, I recommend checking this out. It’s specifically aimed at vision, but its influence and importance have extended well beyond vision (it’s been influential throughout the cognitive sciences, including AI, neuroscience, and philosophy of mind).Report

      • Avatar J@m3z Aitch in reply to j r says:

        Chris,

        I disagree. Every higher order thing is made up of constituent parts. If we understand those constituent parts, how they fit together and operate, and their constituent parts and how they fit together and operate, then we have a better understanding of the whole. And if we don’t go down to that level, we’ll never know what important processes we’re missing. It’s certainly possible to be satisfactorily predictive at a higher level, but total explanatory power is limited.Report

      • Avatar Chris in reply to j r says:

        James, on this we definitely disagree, then.Report

      • Avatar J@m3z Aitch in reply to j r says:

        I’m sorry, Chris, but that means we can’t be friends anymore. I could live with your defense of Texas, but this goes too far!

        *grin*Report

      • Avatar Chris in reply to j r says:

        ‘Sok, friendship is just the the spin and orientation of certain subatomic particles acting on each other through the various forces. No biggie. 😉Report

      • Avatar Kim in reply to j r says:

        *twirls a Mexican hat*Report

      • Avatar j r in reply to j r says:

        Who does that?

        Lot’s of people do it.

        Lots of people make arguments against things in the form of “Gay marriage/women in combat/genetically modified foods/etc. is bad because it is unnatural!”

        And lots of people make arguments against evolved social institutions and structures on the grounds that “Gender roles/aesthetic beauty preferences/etc. are bad because they are purely socially constructed!”

        Any one of those arguments may have merit and deserved to be considered, but not for the reductionist reasoning.Report

      • Avatar Chris in reply to j r says:

        Eh, I suppose there are internet commenters who do it. Granted, the people I know who think gender is entirely socially constructed also discuss a difference between gender and sex, and if they wouldn’t agree that there are (statistical) sex differences, it would be because they would argue that a binary division into male and female is itself unnatural, but again, I suppose there are people in internet comment sections who don’t understand any of this and just parrot the “gender is socially constructed” message.

        The “unnatural” people whom you describe may or may not be doing what you say. Simply saying something is unnatural, while it may be essentialist, doesn’t rule out environmental influence. I can’t imagine that many of those people are strict nativists about much of anything except perhaps stuff they’ve decided has certain religious/moral implications.Report

      • Avatar J@m3z Aitch in reply to j r says:

        ‘Sok, friendship is just the the spin and orientation of certain subatomic particles acting on each other through the various forces.

        Well, yes, actually. 😉 I’m not one for positing there’s a ghost in the machine.Report

      • Avatar Patrick in reply to j r says:

        Every higher order thing is made up of constituent parts. If we understand those constituent parts, how they fit together and operate, and their constituent parts and how they fit together and operate, then we have a better understanding of the whole.

        This assumes that we can meaningfully segregate the higher order thing into meaningfully separate parts. You can’t always do that.

        In software engineering, the folks like to talk about cohesion and coupling. Optimally, you want your software to have high cohesion and low coupling; each chunk of code is meaningfully associated with itself, and each chunk of code interacts with other chunks of code in a fairly small number of ways. Object-oriented programming takes this to religious status, but it existed before OOP was around.

        But that’s not necessarily how biological organisms work. In fact, it’s pretty clearly *not* how biological organisms work. The brain itself has shitty cohesion, since it’s impacted quite significantly by things that aren’t related to the core function of cognition at all (like blood sugar level, hormone levels, etc).

        Reductionism is fine as long as you can say, “this thing can be broken up into these N things, each of which works like that, and they interact with each other in these M different ways”.Report

      • Avatar Jam3z Aitch in reply to j r says:

        The brain itself has shitty cohesion, since it’s impacted quite significantly by things that aren’t related to the core function of cognition at all (like blood sugar level, hormone levels, etc).

        If you want to understand how those things affect brain function, you have to be reductionist.

        I’m skeptical of your overall claim about living organisms, because I hang out with the biologists at my college, and I hear a different story from them. They’re pretty damned reductionist.Report

      • Avatar Patrick in reply to j r says:

        I’m skeptical of your overall claim about living organisms, because I hang out with the biologists at my college, and I hear a different story from them. They’re pretty damned reductionist.

        I wrote that comment badly, so let me revise it thus: “But that’s not necessarily how biological organisms’ brains work. In fact, it’s pretty clearly *not* how biological organisms’ brains work. ”

        Reductionist approaches work to describe a lot of biological organisms’ internal functions, no argument there. I’m just not certain it works so great when talking about the brain, specifically.

        One would think that if a reductionist approach to cognition worked well, we’d already have a definitive answer to a number of questions that are currently under debate.Report

      • Avatar Chris in reply to j r says:

        If you want to understand how those things affect brain function, you have to be reductionist.

        No, you don’t. Again, I highly recommend checking out that Marr chapter:

        http://www.ling.upenn.edu/~kroch/courses/lx400/Marr1982.pdf

        It’s a quick and easy read.Report

      • Avatar Jam3z Aitch in reply to j r says:

        Chris,
        I printed the paper and will read it over the holiday. But I’m calling B.s, because blood sugar, for example is going to affect some part(s) of the brain. I don’t buy that there’s a wholistic effect or some such that isn’t affecting the function of constituent parts.

        Patrick,
        Not necessarily. What is actually happening and how adept we are at observing what is actually happening are very different things. And I don’t think there’s any debate that cognition is not one of the easier things in this world to directly observe, although we’re getting better. (And then there’s consciousness, which probably makes observing cognition look like child’s play.)Report

      • Avatar Chris in reply to j r says:

        James, we can get into what it means for something to be only its parts and their interactions, but I’m not arguing that the brain isn’t made up of subatomic particles with their attendant forces that build atoms which form molecules which build proteins which build genes which direct the organization of molecules to build cells and so on, in combination with whatever laws of physics and principles of causality apply. I’m suggesting, and the Marr chapter will spell this out in a specific domain, that explanations at multiple levels of analysis often convey more information than one-level analyses of the most basic constituents (or even the most basic constituents at which we can currently understand at least to a degree the relationship between the constituents and the whole to be explained).Report

      • Avatar Jam3z Aitch in reply to j r says:

        explanations at multiple levels of analysis often convey more information than one-level analyses of the most basic constituents

        Wait, do you think reductionism means only looking at the lowest level? That’s not accurate. There’s absolutely nothing about reductionism that precludes multi-level analysis–it just says those higher levels are themselves derived from lower levels. Back when I first read and discussed a bunch of this stuff in grad school I was struck by how many critics of reductionism were attacking a target that self-described reductionists did not recognize. I didn’t realize that was what was happening here.

        If that comes off as snarky, I don’t really mean it to. But, no, a rejection of the value of multiple levels of analysis is not required by reductionism.Report

      • Avatar Chris in reply to j r says:

        If information is lost at each level of explanation, then a complex phenomenon is not merely the sum of its constituent parts. I don’t think reductionism requires only explaining things at the most basic level (though presumably with sufficient knowledge, all explanations would derive from that level, if reductionism is a valid position), but that it argues, as has been done here, that a complex phenomenon is only the sum of its basic constituents.Report

      • Avatar Murali in reply to j r says:

        Sometimes products and exponents are involved tooReport

      • Avatar j r in reply to j r says:

        @chris

        So, first you accuse me of being a reductionist. Then you fault me for not taking reductionism seriously. After that, you say that nobody is making the arguments against which I am writing. And then you say that people may be making those arguments, but they don’t really mean it.

        I applaud you for the speed and efficiency with which you move goalposts.Report

      • Avatar Jam3z Aitch in reply to j r says:

        Not “only,” but “no more than.”

        Losing information doesn’t invalidate that, although gaining information presumably would. Hell, as a political scientist I know that the aggegation of preferences is a valid level of analysis to look at, that it is dependent on the interaction between individual preferences and the aggregation procedure, and that information gets lost in the aggregation process. So unless loss of information has some term of art meaning I’m not following, I don’t see the problem.

        I do know the overall phil-sci debate has often tended to the ideological in a way that has caused the two sides to misinterpret each other in ways that mean they’re shooting at strawmen. From my own side of the divide I know that arguments about social construction of knowledge sometimes get rejected in toto as a claim that there is no empirical reality, which of course is not what most social constructionists are really arguing. I even have a friend who’s rejected Kuhn as merely a social constructionist, which is silly.

        Beyond that, I think we’re at an impasse at least until I read the paper. At any rate, I need to be doing some other things in the next couple of days.Report

      • Avatar Chris in reply to j r says:

        j r, the only thing true in that comment is that I accused you of reductionism, because you reduced behavior and culture to genetics and environment. Your argument was essentially that nativists and constructivists are wrong because nativists are right, and here’s a reductionist version of nativism. Nativism ~= reductionism, but the two are not mutually exclusive in explanations of patterns of behavior.

        James, this gets me back to what reductionism is: the constituent parts version is a pretty philosophically loaded one, but what I was accusing j r of was reducing complex behavioral and social phenomena to genetics + environment, in other words things that are not only not behavioral or social, but an entirely different sort of analysis (a difference science, even a different type of explanation). I accused him of this because he was contrasting his view with nativist and constructivist explanations (note that I did, in fact, later say he was arguing what nativists argue, namely that we are the products of innate tendencies manifested in and through the environment of our development, except they also tend to include other levels of explanation).Report

  2. Avatar LeeEsq says:

    As a boy I wanted to play with princesses, just not in the way that manufacturers and media giants intended.Report

  3. Avatar NewDealer says:

    Speaking of which I noticed this week that my facebook filled with articles and videos about stuff that should get girls into engineering.

    1. A toy called GoldieBox

    2. Some kind of Rube Goldberg video that uses a Beastie Boys song.

    I’m not sure we can toy or music video way our way out of the divide between girls and boys who enter science or not. This sort of stuff seems more designed for people to post about on social media and feel “awesome” and like they are doing some kind of distant empowering.

    I still don’t think STEM is a cure-all for our educational and economic woes but that is just me it seems. And I still seem to maintain an unrepentant belief in an arts and humanities education. I’d rather have children that were into Turner (JMW) over Twitter.Report

    • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to NewDealer says:

      I agree with you that promoting the humanities is important but I think getting more women into STEM is an important task if only to break the massive sexism in those fields.Report

      • Avatar j r in reply to LeeEsq says:

        What is the basis for the “massive sexism” comment? Is the STEM or tech world really more sexist than finance or the trades or any other field? A lot of this just seems like picking on geeks, because geeks are an easy target.

        It’s also a bit odd when you stop and think through what actually happens. You have boys who are a bit socially awkward and interested in things that a lot of their peers aren’t. They retreat into something like computer programming. For the most part, girls aren’t all that interested in them, the boys or their pursuits. Some of these kids end up developing skills that let build some really cool and really profitable things. And only then the activists show up and demand gender parity.

        Why is that this happens only once something becomes popular and there’s lots of money to be made in it? I don’t remember the last time I heard people calling for more women in plumbing or sewer work.

        If someone wants to find a way to support girls who show an interest and an aptitude in STEM fields, I’m all for it. However, I’m not so sure that’s not already happening. The nature of how schools are run these days is much more oriented towards how girls develop than to how boys do.Report

      • Avatar NewDealer in reply to LeeEsq says:

        @j-r

        The basis is the numbers. Most women in Silicon Valley are in admin positions and not on the engineering side.

        There is also the fact that there have been many high profile stories in the media over the past few years of women receiving rape and death threats.

        A documentary filmmaker did a kickstarter for a documentary on how women were portrayed in videogames and she received a huge amount of rape and death threats.

        There was another woman who made a tweet about sexist comments made by two programmers at a conference and she also received rape and death threats.

        There is the fact that every time I read about a conference, there seems to be a huge amount of time dedicating to sexist and juvenille apps. These are just three examples. I’m sure I can find more and there is more that is not being reported on.

        I’m sympathetic to the idea that a lot of guys in tech might or might not be socially awkward and might or might not be somewhere on the autism spectrum and computer programming represents a safe space. However, you can’t keep it a treehouse forever especially now that tech is big business. Even if it wasn’t a big business you shouldn’t be able to keep it a treehouse forever.Report

      • Avatar Just Me in reply to LeeEsq says:

        Women were the first programmers. They were pushed out as it became popular. It used to be considered women’s work, a low skilled clerical job. Then men realized it was cool and technical and made sure that it was no longer women’s work. I think J.R. has the story mixed up as to who jumped on the programming band wagon when it was looked on as a cool and profitable career choice.Report

      • Avatar j r in reply to LeeEsq says:

        Women were the first programmers.

        That is somewhat accurate, but not in any meaningful way. The sort of programming that was done when it was a female-dominated field was completely different and mostly clerical nature. It doesn’t really resemble computer programming as it today.

        This is a like saying that since women do most of the cooking at home, most restaurant cooks ought to be women.Report

      • Avatar Alan Scott in reply to LeeEsq says:

        @j-r it’s weird that most restaurant cooks aren’t women, and that statistic is likely due to the fact that restaurant kitchens are often hostile work environments for women.

        Sure, the ENIAC girls weren’t doing the software engineering, but what they did took specialized technical skills. Would you call today’s entry-level coders “clerical” because someone else planned the code they’re writing?Report

      • Avatar Stillwater in reply to LeeEsq says:

        restaurant kitchens are often hostile work environments for women.

        I wonder what role the tolerance of hostility plays in a whole spectrum of employment-related issues. I also wonder to what extent social turbulence created by hostility is equated with performance and productivity, and why that turbulence continues to be valued.Report

      • Avatar j r in reply to LeeEsq says:

        it’s weird that most restaurant cooks aren’t women, and that statistic is likely due to the fact that restaurant kitchens are often hostile work environments for women.

        Or maybe it’s that restaurant kitchens are hostile work environments. Full stop. It’s hard, somewhat dangerous work with little pay, crappy hours and, prior to the current cultural infatuation with chefs, very little prestige. A certain kind of person is attracted to those environments, historically it’s been mostly immigrants and outcasts.

        Is it really so beyond the pale to accept that there are innate differences in men and women that show up at the statistical level and that influence how males and females develop and, consequently, the sorts of interests and pursuits to which they are respectively drawn?

        A lot of the objections to this seem to come from a place of not wanting to concede any ground to the hardcore gender essentialist side.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater in reply to LeeEsq says:

        A lot of the objections to this seem to come from a place of not wanting to concede any ground to the hardcore gender essentialist side.

        Even if you make those concessions there are plenty of issues to dispute. One is that restaurant kitchen work is hostile because of the reasons you’ve mentioned. Why do any of the conditions you identify regarding restaurant kitchen work (and I disagree with your take on them) justify (or suffice for, or causally account for, etc) an acceptance of hostility?

        Take it one level higher, to my point above, why should hostility be viewed as something to not only be tolerated but equated with productivity? Does intrinsic workplace hostility lead to greater productivity? Could it have a downside?Report

      • Avatar j r in reply to LeeEsq says:

        @newdealer

        I know who Anita Sarkeesian is. And she is the personification of what I’m talking about. She presents herself as a gamer who came to see a need for feminism in the gaming community. In reality, she’s a feminist activist who saw gaming as fertile ground to do her work. And there’s nothing wrong with that, but there’s something a bit dishonest about how she presents herself. If you look on YouTube, you can find video footage of her giving a presentation at some earlier time and saying that she’s not a gamer.

        And sure, a bunch of a$$holes on the internet called her dirty names and met threats. However, she then used her notoriety to raise six figures to make a bunch of YouTube videos. I’d take that trade off any day and twice on Sunday.

        Also, Twitter is kind of like a great big bathroom wall. Of course, people are going to use it to say crude things. So what? Let’s stop pretending that what people say on Twitter or on YouTube comments is in argument in favor or against any particular proposition. You can find Twitter comments to prove just about anything. For instance, here is a Twitter feed of women saying mean things about short men (https://twitter.com/expsnghghtsm).Report

      • Avatar Alan Scott in reply to LeeEsq says:

        @j-r

        Or maybe it’s that restaurant kitchens are hostile work environments. Full stop.

        Well, sure. It’s hostile to everyone, rather than hostile to women specifically. But it’s hostile in a sort of specific way that we expect and encourage men to tolerate, but expect and encourage women to avoid.

        As best I can figure out, most restaurant kitchens are bastions of a harassment culture. Everyone whose part of it is subjected to harassment, regardless of race, gender, or sexuality. But the effects of harassment are invariably the worst for those with the least privileged backgrounds.

        Take, for example, the night shift guys at the place I used to work: The gays were harassed about their sexuality. The Mexicans harassed about their ethnicity. The straight white men? The harassment falsely implied one was gay, one was mentally disables, and one had a sexually promiscuous wife.

        Tell me, when co-workers mocking a straight white dude for being woman-like, who’s suffering more? The man who accepts it as all part of the workplace culture? Or the woman standing next to him whose co-workers constantly describe her gender as evil, weak, and worthy of contempt?Report

      • Avatar NewDealer in reply to LeeEsq says:

        @j-r

        Proof.

        Also gaming is not something objective like going to Harvard or Cal or MIT or being born or residing in a certain area. If someone says they are a gamer, they are a gamer. It is completely subjective. I don’t know what criteria one would use to determine a gamer besides “Do you play video games?” If the answer is yes, that person is a gamer. I don’t really play video games. I’m not a games

        Accusing someone of being an X activist is merely a linguistic tool of discrediting and a way of invalidating their concerns which might be valid.

        Even if she was a feminist activist, that is no reason for rape or death threats. There is no need for threats of violence.Report

      • Avatar Jim Heffman in reply to LeeEsq says:

        “If someone says they are a gamer, they are a gamer. It is completely subjective. ”

        Sure. But if someone says “I am a gamer and therefore I speak with authority on the subject of gaming“, it invites defining the term a little more stringently, looking into their background a little more rigorously.Report

    • Avatar Alan Scott in reply to NewDealer says:

      @newdealer : That’s a rather artificial divide, particularly when it comes to an examination of boy toys vs. girl toys.

      Aren’t legos art? For that matter, Even a Rube Goldberg device is just as much sculpture as it is science project.

      When I was growing up, Disney Princesses were kick-ass role models and American Girls were a window into our nation’s history. Now, Disney Princesses are just Barbies in poofier dresses, and American Girls are dolls that look “just like me!”.

      The people forwarding those videos around are doing so because they’re involved in STEM, and want to see more girls encouraged to take that path–and they a gendered socialization that discourages that path from birth. But as someone in the humanities, do you see the toys on the girls list to be in any way encouraging that path either?Report

    • Avatar Kazzy in reply to NewDealer says:

      “And I still seem to maintain an unrepentant belief in an arts and humanities education.”

      Why?Report

      • Avatar NewDealer in reply to Kazzy says:

        As Lee said “Why not?”

        More in depth. Science and technology and engineering are great. We need them but the tech 2.0 boom leaves me very cold especially because a lot of it seems to focus on fadish social media and is getting a lot of venture capital and I think there is going to be another burst.

        I also don’t think that this new tech boom is producing stuff for the ages. Will tweets from today inspire people a hundred years from now? The works of Sappho, Euripides, Shakespeare, Rembrandt, Turner, Wolstoncraft, Mozart, Matisse, and countless others are from the ages. We can still laugh and transcend through Shakespeare plays and experience Catharsis through Euripides. The arts and humanities connect us to the whole of the human experience: past, present, and, future. They teach us joy and compassion and rage and anger. I cannot say I feel the same way about much of tech boom 2.0.

        There is also a lot of self-regard that tech boom 2.0 has for themselves. They seem to be replacing Wall Street as the masters for self-regard/thinking they are Masters of the Universe. They are not. They work in an industry and come up with new ideas. Some of these are successful and good and others not. But they are not the experts on all things.

        http://valleywag.gawker.com/marc-benioff-is-the-ron-burgundy-of-tech-1469662002Report

      • Avatar Brandon Berg in reply to Kazzy says:

        Did everyday conversations and graffiti from Shakespeare’s age produce stuff for the ages? Twitter isn’t a substitute for literature—it’s a way of doing…whatever it is people use it for. It’s not as though people have stopped writing novels or poetry.

        Honestly, I don’t see much value in Twitter. But people whom I respect do find value in it, so who am I to tell them they’re wrong?Report

      • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Kazzy says:

        Why not?

        Well, that obviously doesn’t answer kazzy’s question even tho it’s a good question. Could you answer that one instead?Report

      • Avatar Alan Scott in reply to Kazzy says:

        MacBeth was the equivalent of tweeting in Shakespeare’s day. Ask a cultural critic of the 1600s whose plays we would be watching four centuries later and he’d name Marlowe and Jonson. Even Shakespeare regarded his plays as something to pay the bills, expecting his poetry to be his lasting work.Report

    • Avatar Kim in reply to NewDealer says:

      Arts and Humanities is STEM, ain’t it? At least a good part of it is. Music, Geometry, all that jazz.Report

  4. Avatar LeeEsq says:

    More seriously, I do sometimes wonder about the ethics of Princess culture in a democratic society. The problem with Princess culture is that the ethics of being a Princess are inherently anti-Democratic. We, generally, don’t like it to raise our boys to be privileged snots. Thats why we don’t have a corresponding Prince culture for boys. Princesses are privileged snots, female version. Your either born a Princess or become one through marriage. The first option is anti-democratic. The second option is anti-feminist. Whats worse is that even for active princesses like Wonder Woman or Eilonwy from the Chronicles of Prydain, their special traits and abilities are inherent. Princesses are special because they are princesses rather than being special because the worked hard at something. Somehow this doesn’t seem like a healthy ethic for kids.Report

    • I once got sick of my daughter saying she was a princess and explained to her exactly why being a princess was a bid thing.Report

      • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to Jonathan McLeod says:

        The thing is that princess culture is relatively new. It didn’t seem really that big during the 1980s when I was in elementary school. After 2000, it seemed to have grown exponentially. I suppose its training for inequality.Report

      • Princesses were significant when I was growing up. Cinderella and all that.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Jonathan McLeod says:

        The interest among young girls (and sometimes boys) in princesses is less about democracy or anything like that and more about power.

        Young children are very curious about power — how powerful are they, where does their power extend to, what are the limits on their power, etc. As they hit four-years-old and become more independent and autonomous, they want to explore that power. Correspondingly, they become interested in powerful things… dinosaurs, superheroes, princesses. And while an adult reading of most princess stories often shows the princesses to be powerless — mere damsel in distress characters — the children don’t see them as such. They see them as powerful and they want to be powerful, too.

        As I note below, toy manufacturers and media conglomerates know this, which is why the princess culture has exploded. The exploit a natural tendency in children into a billion dollar industry.

        So if your daughter (or son) says she (or he) wants to be a princess, she (or he) is not expressing an interest in the monarchy or hereditary rights or female-characters-with-no-agency. She (or he) is telling you she (or he) wants to be powerful.Report

      • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to Jonathan McLeod says:

        Kazzy, an interest in princesses might mean an interest in power but because of the cultural baggage associated with princesses, monarchy, and aristocracy it is an unacceptable way to express an interest. The trappings of power associated with princesses is the power to give orders.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Jonathan McLeod says:

        @leeesq

        But you are looking at that through an adult (and a particularly astute adult) perspective. The kids don’t know the baggage. So the interest is not inappropriate. But it is perhaps an inappropriate avenue that we (as a society) provide them to explore it.

        And while I agree with you about the baggage attached to princesses et al., I wonder if there is any real fire behind the smoke. Is there any evidence that children who grow up amongst princess culture end up with skewed views on democracy, merit, etc? If so, I haven’t seen it. I think the bigger issue is what it promotes about womanhood and the like, which there is plenty of research on.Report

      • Avatar ScarletNumbers in reply to Jonathan McLeod says:

        Can you explain it to the rest of us?Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Jonathan McLeod says:

        @scarletnumbers

        Is that to me? If so, which part would you like me to explain?Report

    • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to LeeEsq says:

      Eilonwy accomplished a lot more by being smart and brave than she did through magic. And she gave the magic up to marry Taran.

      Now, Arwen, all she is is beautiful and high-born. (In the real LOTR, don’t tell me about Liv Tyler as warrior elf-hottie.)Report

    • Avatar J@m3z Aitch in reply to LeeEsq says:

      We, generally, don’t like it to raise our boys to be privileged snots. Thats why we don’t have a corresponding Prince culture for boys

      It’s called sports, and it even comes with droits de seigneur.Report

  5. Avatar Kazzy says:

    As a bit of an expert on the subject, here is what both my experience and my research has taught me:

    As @jm3z-aitch says above, there are indeed sex differences that are not absolute but are real. For instance, young boys and girls eyes develop differently. This is largely the result of evolutionary stuff… hunter-gatherer type distinctions. Boys eyes develop to track movement better/earlier while girls eyes develop to track detail better. As men hunted, they needed to be able to tell if something in the distance was alive and moving or just a rock. As women gathered, they needed to determine which berries were safe and which were poison. This has huge implications on their development, play, and response to socialization.

    If you put a 3- or 4-year-old boy and 3- or 4-year-old girl down at a table with some crayons and ask them to draw something, you’ll get very different results. The “typical” boy will race his crayon around the paper — seeming to create scribble scrabble — and tell you he is drawing a car. And he is… but rather than paying attention to the details of the car — the shape, the size, the color — he is paying attention to the movement of the car. That is what he is drawing. The “typical” girl will begin work on a more representational drawing — perhaps a flower with leaves and a stem and petals. She is drawing the details. To the untrained eye, we assume the girl is better at drawing, praise her accordingly, and she returns to the drawing table. We look askew at the boy’s scribbling, perhaps leading him to think drawing isn’t for him and he looks elsewhere for engagement.

    The block area is another space where the sex divide can be vast. Boys tend to be more action based in their play, girls more narrative. This is something that Goldiblocks (mentioned above by @newdealer ) is attempting to resolve. I get many more girls in the block area when I add props for them to incorporate into their work — people, vehicles, animals. Now they can build something that is part of a story. They didn’t just build a house — they built a house and here is the bedroom where the mom sleeps and this is the garage where the car goes and, oh, it is time to make dinner so here is the kitchen and the stove and now the mom moves to the kitchen to get things ready. But if you don’t give those probe, girls might shy away from the space.

    So there are these little tendencies, these small angles of deflection, between the sexes but which socialization (intentional or not) turns into vast chasms. It creates a really perverse feedback loop. And the role of the media in this can’t be understated. You don’t think they’ve seen the same research I have? You don’t think they know how to make something appeal not just to children, but specific subsets of children? They love the sex divide because it allows them to sell twice as much crap. I can get the boys and girls in my class to use all the same materials because I am careful in my selections and purposeful in my setup. If I wasn’t — if I cowed to socialization and the media — I’d need more stuff because some of it would only be used by boys and some of it only used by girls and I’d want to make sure both sexes had ample supplies. The color coding is just part of it (a big part, no doubt), but there is even more to it than that. And it is really insidious when you start to peel back the layers.

    I take issue with the “everything is sex neutral and sex differences are entirely socialized” line of thinking. The biology doesn’t back that up. Boys and girls tend to be different and ignoring this ultimately does both a disservice. I also take issue with the “sex is a hardline determinant and we are all slaves to it” line of thinking. It’s not that hard and fast, either.Report

    • Avatar aaron david in reply to Kazzy says:

      Excellent Kazzy.Report

    • Avatar Roger in reply to Kazzy says:

      +100

      As usual I agree with Kazzy. Last paragraph was gold.Report

    • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Kazzy says:

      @kazzy

      You’re saying that sex isn’t hard and fast/?Report

    • Avatar Chris in reply to Kazzy says:

      I agree with Kazzy’s basic point, but the hunter-gatherer stuff is off. Sex differences in color vision, the perception of motion, spatial reasoning, etc., exist in many other primate species, and thus probably predate the early human environment in which hunting and gathering would have had an impact on our evolutionary makeup by millions of years.Report

      • Avatar Chris in reply to Chris says:

        Also, gender essentialism (of which I’m not accusing Kazzy) is as bad biology as it is bad social theory.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Chris says:

        Thanks, @chris . I didn’t know that. Is there an alternative theory that explains the broader disparity among primates?Report

      • Avatar Glyph in reply to Chris says:

        Yeah, I’d want to hear more about the primates as well. IIRC, I believe that when chimps hunt for meat (they like to eat monkeys and such) it’s typically adult males that cooperate to do so (though the hunting group does sometimes include females or juveniles).

        Do the females “gather” (that is, share any of the plants etc. they forage?) If so, would chimps be considered to be engaging in primitive hunter/gatherer behaviors and division of labor; and these behaviors predate “humanity” as well?Report

      • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Chris says:

        Does anyone besides me giggle when an archbishop is called a “Primate?”Report

      • Avatar Chris in reply to Chris says:

        @Kazzy, I don’t know much about why those differences exist in nonhuman primates (and they don’t exist in all nonhuman primates, of course).

        I can tell you that for human sex differences in color vision, for example, which some have speculated, and it’s important to note that it is speculation entirely, might have evolved during our time as hunter-gatherers, there is a much simpler, more straightforward explanation: deficiencies in color vision are a result of mutations on x chromosomes, of which males only have one. In order for a female to exhibit deficiencies, she’ll need to inherit two abnormal x’s, while a male only needs the one.

        It may even be that, to the extent that hunter-gatherer societies were divided such that men did the hunting and women the gathering, women did the gathering because they were better at it due to better color vision along certain ends of the spectrum (specifically green, if I remember correctly), rather than the other way around.Report

    • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Kazzy says:

      Boys and girls tend to be different and ignoring this ultimately does both a disservice.

      The phrase “tend to” implies a statistical distribution, yes? What disservice results from ignoring it? That we’re depriving individuals of their right to be lumped into statistical distributions?

      I also take issue with the “sex is a hardline determinant and we are all slaves to it” line of thinking. It’s not that hard and fast, either.

      So why think recognizing that fact is a disservice to individuals?Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Stillwater says:

        @stillwater

        Potential disservice: Given what I said about drawing and the feedback loop AND what we know about tendencies in fine motor development among boys and girls (the latter develop faster/earlier), if we norm our expectations based on the performance of girls, than boys are going to be seen as weak or struggling rather than developing on a slightly separate path.

        To your second point, I take issue with that line of thinking because it is not a fact. The tendencies are slight, reinforced over time through socialization, and become widespread. Do boys tend to develop fine motor later than girls? Yes. Does this mean boys will simply always be worse? No. But some argue that it is. The whole “Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus” thing. That goes too far.Report

    • @kazzy

      Completely off topic, but do some of your students have a hard time working with crayons? I ask because I can’t stand them. The feel of the paper they’re wrapped in, the way they feel on paper (especially construction paper), and the smell really gets to me. I’m not saying I’ve always felt like this, and I don’t think I was like that as a pre-schooler.

      But I’m curious to know if in what you’ve seen or read, is this a thing? Have any of your students been like that?Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Pierre Corneille says:

        Heh…

        Crayons can be frustrating more because they make inconsistent marks. If you color a whole sheet of paper with a single crayon, you won’t get even coloring. Just the nature of the Crayon. Some kids get annoyed by that, but that is more typical of older children who are more product-oriented (i.e., they’re more focused on the final product). My kids are still largely process-oriented (i.e., more focused on the “doing”) so it tends not to be an issue.

        As to what you describe, that sounds like something having to do with sensory integration. We’re only really just beginning to understand sensory integration, but basically some people are more sensitive to sensory input and some people are less sensitive to sensory input. So if you are someone who is more towards the former, I can imagine a crayon being uncomfortable. Are their other textures or scents you find bothersome that most people don’t? Do you tend to have lower thresholds for pain? Those are the sorts of things that would put you towards the hypersensitive end of the spectrum. Me? I’m hypo sensitive. I have multiple burn scars because I’ll put my hand or, more often, arm on something hot and not feel it until it’s too late. Minor burns, but enough to leave a mark and I’m just too insensitive to react in time.Report

      • Thanks for your answer, Kazzy. There are other things that bother me and that I’m sensitive to. Loud sounds or sounds of a certain pitch, especially continuous ones like sirens, really bug me. When it comes to things like crayons, it’s not a big deal because I don’t have to handle them. But with other things, especially as I’ve gotten older, it’s gotten increasingly difficult.

        I imagine the way I feel about crayons is similar to the way some people feel about touching velvet, although I don’t have that particular problem

        At any rate, thanks for chiming in.Report

      • Avatar Anne in reply to Pierre Corneille says:

        My husband cant touch Terra cotta if he picks it up drops it like its on fire saying things like ugh ookie yuckReport

      • Avatar Kim in reply to Pierre Corneille says:

        Pierre,
        plenty of people have texture fetishes (don’t like rubbery food, don’t like mushy food).
        It sounds like you’re getting something similar out of your sense of touch.Report

  6. Avatar Damon says:

    I guess this explains why the Hello Kitty AK 47 didn’t go over too well. 🙂Report

  7. Avatar Jaybird says:

    I think that we can all agree that we, as a society, need to do a better job of socializing girls to like stuff that is cool instead of stuff that sucks.Report

    • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Jaybird says:

      Girls tend to likes movies that are about people that don’t wear costumes or have elaborate fights while stuff blows up in the background. What is wrong with them?Report

    • Avatar NewDealer in reply to Jaybird says:

      How are you defining “stuff that sucks?”Report

      • Avatar Glyph in reply to NewDealer says:

        I have an elaborate sorting and ranking system.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater in reply to NewDealer says:

        I have an elaborate sorting and ranking system.

        Sounds complicated. Dude, I hate to say it but that sucks. Hard.Report

      • Avatar Glyph in reply to NewDealer says:

        [adjusts variables associated with entity “Stillwater”]

        [reviews resulting new classification and/or ranking for entity “Stillwater”]

        [strokes beard thoughtfully]Report

      • Avatar Stillwater in reply to NewDealer says:

        I don’t trust any conclusions that involve beard stroking, bro. Suckitiude is a gut level reaction. It originates in the intestines – the small ones natch – and materializes as an emotion as it approaches either the colon (excrement) or the stomach (regurgitation).Report

      • Avatar Glyph in reply to NewDealer says:

        I disagree. Though it is still a young science, the nascent field of Suckology has much to teach us, as we continue to quantify and qualify the various types and concentrations of Suck (and its opposite numbers – see below) in the universe.

        From its infancy, when Professors Logan and Preston defined the most primitive categories of “excellent” and “bogus”; to the refinements of Doctors Campbell and Algar (not to mention their mathematical demonstration of the relativistic properties of “excellent” that make it interchangeable with “party time”); to the most recent work done (huh-huh) in America by field researchers Beavis and Butthead, who have shown definitively that all matter and energy* can be divided into “things that suck”, and “things that rule” (though here there is some dispute over terms; for further information, please see the April 2010 edition of the Epic/Brutal Report).

        *Admittedly, so-called “Dark Suck” has not yet been located; but it is estimated to constitute 84.5% of the total matter in the universe, and 26.8% of the total content of the universe.Report

      • Avatar greginak in reply to NewDealer says:

        Glyph sounds like a true student of sucking. I bow down to your experience as a sucker.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater in reply to NewDealer says:

        The science of Suckology is new, no doubt, but let’s not allow that to impede reason and clarity of thought. The battle lines had already been drawn at the discipline’s inception, with clarity as well as by invoking a flair for the dramatic. The pejoratively dismissed “traditional” – but well established! – lines were already entrenched by the time Dr. Wayne Campbell introduced the “party on” locution as a verbal talisman to ward off suckiness. It was effective. And powerful. Invoking this verbal symbol constituted a proven method to enshroud believers with Excellence. But specifically, by using that terminology he’s indicating that partying requires intenstinal fortitude, and that reinforces my earlier point: the connection between suckiness and alimentary failures of various degrees and kinds. Along those lines, “bogusness” is an additional marker, since “the bogus” naturally incurs a response of revulsion in the individual confronted with it’s despicable presence.

        Does suckiness – or bogusness, to use Drs. Logan and Preston’s terminology – admit of an objective analysis? Clearly, those revered individuals thought it did. Puking, a loose bowel, perhaps excessive flatulence. But the evidence that suckiness is highly correlated with, and causes!, alimentary failure is overwhelming:Report

      • Avatar Glyph in reply to NewDealer says:

        Let’s not forget to credit the eminent HJ Simpson, a veritable poet of suckitude:

        Report

      • Avatar Stillwater in reply to NewDealer says:

        Or this, from a very carefully filmed documentary from long ago:

        Report

      • Avatar Glyph in reply to NewDealer says:

        @stillwater – but I think you are missing Simpson’s central point. Even a man such as he, who rather famously operates “from the gut”, understands the importance of observation over time (“I mean, I’ve seen sucking before, but…”), plus comparative ranking, historical context and precise classification (“…they were the suckiest bunch of sucks that ever sucked”).

        That is, your gut may sometimes be able to tell you THAT something sucks; but determining how, why and to what extent it sucks (ranging anywhere from “kinda”, to “totally”) requires science and exquisite reasoning.Report

  8. Avatar Roger says:

    “This gender essentialist bullshit is downright stupid. We socialize boys and girls differently. That’s social engineering.”

    1. Boys and girls are different. This is true in all of our recent common ancestor primates (chimps, bonobos and gorillas) and is true of every human society ever studied.
    2. Yes we do socialize them differently and we socialize them to want to be distinct.
    3. It is quite possible they would spontaneously choose to be distinct even absent socialization.
    4. There is nothing wrong with socializing differently or socializing to be distinct in principle, though there may be in execution. (Please no snarks ignoring this point)
    5. I would be extremely suspicious and skeptical of any attempts to socially engineer this out of society.

    In addition, Jonathan, I must stress that decentralized activities of billions of parents and neighbors is not the same as “social engineering.” Social engineering is when master planners that know better than the rest of us try to push their theories on people like Rachel absent the ability to convince her she is wrong.Report

    • Avatar Chris in reply to Roger says:

      What counts as social engineering here? Is a discursive approach to changing the way we perceive traditional gender roles social engineering?Report

    • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Roger says:

      Social engineering is when master planners that know better than the rest of us try to push their theories on people like Rachel absent the ability to convince her she is wrong.

      And you don’t think that can occur completely independent of government?

      Now who’s being naive.Report

      • Avatar Roger in reply to Stillwater says:

        Who brought up government?Report

      • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Stillwater says:

        The term “master planners”, on a normal understanding, requires government involvement either as the direct agents or as principals acting to further the interests of private agents. If you meant something non-normal, then I apologize for misconstruing you.

        More to the point, tho, is the idea that in a free market, with free speech, folks that have the ability to shape public perception of any issue whatsoever will act to shape those perceptions to serve their own individual (tho usually corporate) interests. There’s even a name for it.Report

      • Avatar Roger in reply to Stillwater says:

        Good. So, is Rachel wrong? How? How would you go about persuading her of the errors of her views?Report

      • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Stillwater says:

        How would you go about persuading her of the errors of her views?

        I’m not concerned about the error of Rachel’s views – since she doesn’t exist – but rather the error of Roger’s views. And I’m not sure I’m interested in persuading him of anything regarding that issue. He can believe whatever he wants to believe.Report

    • Avatar greginak in reply to Roger says:

      Social engineering is a conservative catch phrase used to curse things liberals do which they don’t like. Of course when conservatives do things that affect society that is right and good. Rogers last sentence gives that game away.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to greginak says:

        For a long time, the buzzword in schools about this point was “indoctrination”.

        “The schools are indoctrinating our children! This is not what we send them there for!”
        “Okay… so I shouldn’t teach them not to hit and that they should say ‘please’ and ‘thank you’?”
        “No. That stuff is what you’re supposed to teach them.”
        “But it’s indoctrination.”
        “Well, yea. But the right kind.”
        “So it isn’t indoctrination which is the issue. It is what is being indoctrinated.”
        “No, it’s the indoctrination.”
        “Ugh…”

        Dewey made a great point about this, wondering whether it was purely coincidental that America turned out so many capitalists and the Soviet Union so many communists while neither side admitted to indoctrinating their children.Report

      • Avatar greginak in reply to greginak says:

        Yup K. There is a peculiar thing with parents now where some are just terrified their child will be influenced by anything other their unique inner brilliance. You see it Unschooling types. Any thing that influences, effects or limits their child is somehow terrible.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to greginak says:

        I work in a private school, meaning we can pretty much engage in whatever sort of indoctrination we want. And I’m currently engaged in a battle with higher ups about how it would behoove us to be more transparent about our values, polices, and the like (you know, our “indoctrination”) so parents can make an informed choice. We need not demand 100% agreement and many things have sufficient room to represent a broad range of influences, but we can preempt certain headaches. Case in point, there is a mini-kerfuffle brewing with a parent who is incensed that his 2nd grader was told not to include stories about hunting with his father in his writing because “we don’t talk about guns at school because guns are scary”. Regardless of my feelings on this particular matter, I am stressing that IF this is our policy, we should put it in writing in something that parents can read before putting down a deposit. Given that we live in a rural part of the state with many hunters and gun aficionados, this would be the sort of thing a parent might want to know. The powers-that-be object, fearing it invites controversy to actually put our values down on paper. I guess they figure it is better to work under parents noses than to actually be upfront about what we do and believe.

        Sigh…Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to greginak says:

        Oh… and the “unschoolers”… who want their kids to remain pure of outside influences… see what happens when their kid says, “Mommy, I want to go to school.”Report

      • Avatar Roger in reply to greginak says:

        Greg, Kazzy, Murali, Stillwater and Chris

        I tried to be careful in my initial post, explaining my position on gender differences and socialization. I got basically no push back.

        As an aside, I ended with a comment that Rachel was making a point which Jonathan misses. Namely, there is a difference between socialization and social engineering.

        Social engineering is defined as “the application of the findings of social science to the solution of actual social problems.” (Websters)

        Whereas socialization is “…the lifelong process of inheriting and disseminating norms, customs and ideologies, providing an individual with the skills and habits necessary for participating within his or her own society….Primary Socialization occurs when a child learns the attitudes, values, and actions appropriate to individuals as members of a particular culture. It is mainly influenced by the immediate family and friends.” (Wikipedia)

        The appropriate response for sociologists still believing that there are a) no gender differences or b) that any socialization of difference is bad, is to first prove their case, then persuade us of the utility of their ideas. Good luck on either, but feel free to start the debate.

        Jonathan’s argument basically comes down to we all socialize each other now, so we should feel free to use poorly defended sociology to begin reforming humanity into the politically correct model.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to greginak says:

        @roger

        I’m not sure how I got lumped into that comment. My argument is that sex differences/disparities are a function of both nature and nurture, with the latter sometimes taking the form of explicit or overt socialization and sometimes happening more subtly or subconsciously.

        My comments regarding “indoctrination” were about the broader issue of what schools should or should not be teaching children.

        My approach is to be aware of and respect the differences that might naturally arise but do my best to not make them deterministic for my students. So, while a boy might naturally show strength with his gross motor development, I want to make sure I also give him proper opportunities to develop fine motor skill so that if he is so moved to pursue things that require them, he is not in anyway held back by his wiring. Likewise for girls.Report

      • Avatar Roger in reply to greginak says:

        Sorry, K

        I was casting a broad response to the various names joining in on the sub thread. Like I said earlier, I broadly agree with you.Report

    • Avatar veronica dire in reply to Roger says:

      What I oppose is the active policing of gender roles, which is often quite violent.

      This is the reality, the truth on the ground.

      When we oppose gender essentialism, we need not deny the statistical differences between people-with-penises and people-with-vaginas, nor that most of the former will want to act “masculine” and be called “boys,” and conversely the latter will want to act “feminine” and be called “girls.” These things are obvious.

      What we oppose is how actively these categories are enforced, and how difficult it is to move between them or to find a middle ground.

      That is all.Report

      • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to veronica dire says:

        It’s very simple. There are proper roles, created by thousands of years of evolution, which in the absence of social engineering children will naturally adopt. Thus the most pernicious form of social engineering is refusing to force children into those roles.Report

      • Avatar Will H. in reply to veronica dire says:

        You could have opted for the libertarian model, like so:
        Thus the most pernicious form of social engineering is refusing to force children into those roles at the barrel of a gun.Report

      • Avatar veronica dire in reply to veronica dire says:

        @mike-schilling — You’re playing a devil’s advocate role these days, yes?

        You’re often my favorite poster on a thread, as you are brilliant and hilarious.

        Often. Usually.

        But this thing you’re doing now, it isn’t working.Report

      • Avatar Glyph in reply to veronica dire says:

        @veronica-dire – in your original comment, seems to me there’s some stuff that libertarianish people should grasp intuitively – it’s “right of exit” and “freedom from coercion”, applied to enforced gender roles rather than to states.Report

      • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to veronica dire says:

        That was pure black sarcasm. My fault if it didn’t come across that way. (I thought the contrast between “naturally adopt” and “force” would make it clear, but c’est la vie).Report

      • Avatar veronica dire in reply to veronica dire says:

        @mike-schilling — Ah. Okay. I guess the subtlety eluded me.

        Anyway, I think you kinda edged up against that Poe’s law thingy.Report

      • Avatar veronica dire in reply to veronica dire says:

        @glyph — I suppose one could find a libertarian argument for this. On the other hand, much of this deals with the treatment of children, which to my mind is a place where libertarians lack good answers.

        (Since, who decides? The parents? But what if they are oppressive jerks? The kids? At what age?)

        I know personally a number of trans youth in very bad family situations. And the hard truth of contemporary trans medicine is this: puberty, once it occurs, is irreversible. But we can slow it (to give time for hard choices). And we can make it go the other way.

        And if you do it right, it changes everything, your whole life, every smile, every hug, every person who looks at you.

        Imagine being a trans teen and knowing this, and knowing your parents won’t help you. As your body changes.

        It’s horrifying.Report

  9. Avatar Roger says:

    Greg,

    I am not sure where the substance is of this comment… It kinda reads as a thoughtless blanket dismissal.

    Could you please start over and tell me what I wrote that you disagree with? Perhaps I am wrong. Correct me. But don’t make up crap about me that I totally disagree with. Perhaps this will help.

    I did not initiate the use of either term, I adopted them from the main post.

    I explained the difference between the terms above, and whether I like it or not was not part of the distinction.

    I am not a conservative.

    I have huge problems with conservative social engineering too.

    Although I am very leery of social engineering, I can imagine places where it could be useful and beneficial.

    So, what did I say that you actually disagree with me on? Convince me I am wrong and I will be forever in your debt.Report

    • Avatar Murali in reply to Roger says:

      @roger

      Have you read Sunstein and Thaler’s book, Nudge? One of their most interesting theses was that you cannot escape social engineering. Everything about the way choices are presented to us (i.e. the choice architecture) heavily influences which of the choices we pick. if the pre-existing choice architecture is one that results in the current choices we make, changing the choice architecture to get people to make better choices is no more paternalistic than sticking with the status quo.Report

      • Avatar Roger in reply to Murali says:

        Yes, I am quite familiar with it. I’ve also read Kahneman and I used to contract the services of Dan Ariely in my product designs. In product development and marketing it was essential to understand biases, framing, nudges and predictable forms of irrationality.*

        My short answer back is Hayek, Polanyi and Jacobs. Each of these studied what are now called complex adaptive systems. In each case, the central insight is that emergent order can come from decentralized, independent but interlocking decisions using shared rules. Quoting Hayek:

        “…many of the greatest things man has achieved are not the result of consciously directed thought, and still less the product of deliberately coordinated effort of many individuals, but of a process in which the individual plays a part which he can never fully understand. They are greater than any individual precisely because they result from the combination of knowledge more extensive than any single mind can master”

        In other words, societies can in many ways not just function without dependence just upon central command, but in many ways they do so best without it.

        Long set up to my initial point that I am very, very skeptical of attempts to socially engineer a complex adaptive system such as society based upon some people’s feelings that gender differences should be wrong in a perfect universe. The appropriate action is not to use ones unproven assumptions to start social engineering, it is either to persuade us, or prove it by raising your own kids this way and setting an example.

        * i do not remember that quote though. I am in Hawaii now and have no access to my library,Report

      • Avatar Rod in reply to Murali says:

        @murali , Heh. You could just study the methods of stage magicians.

        A couple months back we had a magician by the name of Reza perform at our muni auditorium. As luck would have it I was invited onstage to participate. So he had me mark up a (my!) $100 bill and then he did his thing and made it disappear. Then his assistant brought out three boxes of Cracker Jacks and told me to pick one. I did, opened the box, dug out the little prize thingy, and inside that was my $100.

        Now I’m not sure how he got the bill backstage but I’m sure it was pretty standard misdirection and sleight of hand. And I could see where the little prize packet had been hastily glued back together (it wasn’t quite completely closed, but I wasn’t about to be an asshole and point that out on stage), and I can easily imagine stuffing that into the box from the bottom so it all looks factory sealed. But how the hell did he ensure I chose the right box? Some odd psychological thing about the way they were presented to me I suppose.Report

      • Avatar Murali in reply to Murali says:

        Roger, if the idea of choice architecture makes sense and there is a difference between good choice architecture and bad choice architecture (where good and bad are defined purely from the end user’s perspective) then we can predict that good choice architecture would be under supplied. Why? Because it is a public good. It is neither excludable nor rivalrous.Report

      • Avatar Roger in reply to Murali says:

        Murali,

        Cool point.

        In this case of course, it is one thing to argue that there is a superior choice architecture possible, and another to argue that the superior choice architecture is one in which no current socialization of gender differences exists.

        The appropriate expectation prior to the nudge is that those recommending the nudge first prove their case. After all most changes or variations to complex systems are either neutral or harmful, therefore a random jump (or worse a politically motivated one) is as likely or more likely to do harm than good.

        Thus we get back to my initial comment, the appropriate first steps pre nudge are to prove their case, then either persuade us or try prove it empirically via example.Report

      • Avatar Kim in reply to Murali says:

        Rod,
        Mark all three, and he wins no matter what you pick.
        (Takes a good forger in the back…)Report

      • Avatar Patrick in reply to Murali says:

        @roger

        My short answer back is Hayek, Polanyi and Jacobs. Each of these studied what are now called complex adaptive systems. In each case, the central insight is that emergent order can come from decentralized, independent but interlocking decisions using shared rules.

        The first symposium on chaos theory took place in 1977. Hayek was still alive, granted.

        While the presentation of chaos theory in popular reading is poor, one thing that generally seems to be missing from economists (or generally, non-mathematicians) studying complex adaptive systems is they focus quite a bit on the “emergent order” and not very much on the phase space of the complex adaptive system, which includes all the states of the system, many of which would be conditions that we would generally refer to as “abject failure of emergent order”.

        Disclaimer: I haven’t read enough of Hayek to know if he understood this problem or not, but I’ve read lots of people who have read Hayek who don’t understand this problem at all, so I’m inclined to think it’s likely that he either didn’t understand it (not surprising, since topological math wasn’t his field – HAH! insider math joke) or didn’t explicate it enough.Report

      • Avatar Kim in reply to Murali says:

        Patrick,
        Who’s the guy from Pitt who just won the Nobel? (roth, was it?) I know he’s worked with some game designers… So at least someone in the field seems to know a bit about “emergent behavior” that doesn’t end up as “emergent order.”Report

      • Avatar Rod in reply to Murali says:

        @patrick , I might suggest a good example of this can be found in orbital mechanics and planetary system evolution. If our current knowledge of exoplanets is half-way accurate, I think it’s safe to say that for every nice orderly system of planets in stately, stable, and circular orbits conducive to “life as we know it” there’s twenty or fifty featuring a gas giant that either spirals in toward the primary or ends up in a highly elliptical orbit. Either of which ends up ejecting any nascent earths to wander through the frigid nothingness of interstellar space.

        If history is any guide, the analogous result in the sociopolitical sphere is a bunch of autocratic regimes featuring greater or lesser degrees of violent oppression for every peaceful republic that you’d actually want to live in. If the founding of the American constitutional democratic republic wasn’t an example of social engineering on a grand scale, I don’t know what would count.Report

      • Avatar Patrick in reply to Murali says:

        If the founding of the American constitutional democratic republic wasn’t an example of social engineering on a grand scale, I don’t know what would count.

        I’m not sure what would count, either. Does the USSR count? Maoist China? The Inca Empire? Do those count because we like negative examples but the U.S. counts as an emergent system because we like positive ones?

        (The political theorist who loves free market capitalism and constitutional republics and who dabbles in using sexy chaos theory language would argue something about initial conditions, I’d bet. But like Mark points out in that post I linked to, initial conditions is only part of it.)

        I look at the U.S. constitution and I see one that was designed to adapt, but I also see one that was designed to adapt because the Founders knew they had a particular problem (slavery) and they didn’t think they could solve it now. I’m unconvinced that they understood generally that they needed adaptive properties. So I’m not really inclined to think of the U.S. as a political system that was designed to be a complex adaptive system (this attributes a couple hundred years of important knowledge to the Founders that they simply didn’t have access to learn in the first place).Report

      • Avatar Rod in reply to Murali says:

        They all count, Patrick, as long as they represent a deliberately engineered departure from the extant norm. In the case of the U.S. that norm would have been just another monarchy (*yawn*).

        I think perhaps you think I was maybe making some other point besides the one I was thunking of. Anyhoo, I wasn’t trying to say that our system of government was an example of emergent order. Just the opposite, in fact. It was a deliberate experiment in social engineering and it seems to have worked out more or less ok. The British parliamentary system might be a better example of an emergent order thingy.Report

      • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Murali says:

        (not surprising, since topological math wasn’t his field)

        You’re telling that joke to the wrong group.Report

      • Avatar J@m3z Aitch in reply to Murali says:

        @patrick
        I’m unconvinced that they understood generally that they needed adaptive properties.

        They did. The Articles of Confederation required unanimous agreement to modify, and the Framers recognized that such a requirement was too stringent, that it made the system brittle rather than adaptable. So they made a lower bar in the Constitution (not very low, and arguably too high still, but it has worked better).

        Also, they were well versed in the tradition of the common law, which is an adaptive system. And where was some muttering when the Supreme Court claimed the power of judicial review–which requires the power to be able to interpret, and thus to reinterpret the meaning of the Constitution–it was fairly well agreed that such a power was an intrinsic and necessary aspect of the judiciary.Report

      • Avatar Patrick in reply to Murali says:

        Fair enough, James, but I’m talking about adaptive properties in the complex adaptive system sense, since Roger brought it up.

        Realizing that you might need to change something someday is different from realizing that you will need to change something someday.Report

      • Avatar Roger in reply to Murali says:

        @patrick

        Interesting. Do you believe the flexibility built into the constitution was aimed at the slavery issue? That is a fascinating idea.

        It isn’t what I took away from the Federalist papers, but perhaps I just have a bad memory.

        Note, I am not arguing in the slightest. I really find the idea fascinating.Report

      • Avatar Roger in reply to Murali says:

        The term I have used on the imposed order vs spontaneous order issue is the Big Kahuna bias. The bias isn’t about which is more important, after all most complex systems are a combination of both.*

        The BK bias is ignoring that spontaneous or decentralized order exists at all. It is being blind to the possibility or value of spontaneous order. In more moderate terms it involves assuming imposed design when it may not be there at all or may not be the only source in that case.

        By the way, it is not a bias that is unique to the left or the right. I have sometimes thought about writing a guest post on history through the lens of overcoming the Big Kahuna bias. Democracy. The scientific method. Consciousness. Economics. Evolution. Eusocial insects. Language. Culture. Even physics.

        In each case, our initial assumptions shifted from primarily top down to something much more sophisticated and nuanced.

        *though in all honesty libertarians and classical liberals are strongly biased in favor of spontaneous order because of the ability (with proper rules**) to avoid coercion and capitalize on the value of local and implicit knowledge.

        ** and of course as James will always point out, the rules themselves can be spontaneous or planned, or some combo thereofReport

      • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Murali says:

        *though in all honesty libertarians and classical liberals are strongly biased in favor of spontaneous order because of the ability (with proper rules**)

        So, order which is not *entirely* spontaneous, then, yes?Report

      • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Murali says:

        “If we can set up the initial conditions just right, then a favorable order will spontaneously emerge….Report

      • Avatar Jam3z Aitch in reply to Murali says:

        Stillwater,

        Why did you ignore Roger’s second footnote?Report

      • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Murali says:

        Because an “engineered” order isn’t a “spontaneous” order. Pretty simple, really.

        If the argument is that order will emerge within any set of rules, then we have one set of normative conclusions to draw.

        If the argument is that an order derived from a certain specific set of rules is better than an order derived from another set of rules, then we aren’t talking about order any more (at least not specifically) but the rules that constrain the types of behaviors that become “ordered.”Report

      • Avatar Jam3z Aitch in reply to Murali says:

        Doesn’t really answer the question.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Murali says:

        It does to me. Maybe you could help me out with here: how am I not answering the question?Report

      • Avatar Jam3z Aitch in reply to Murali says:

        Does his second footnote, the double-asterisked one, not preemptively answer your question that immediately follows, or perhaps invalidate/rebut the question’s premise?Report

      • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Murali says:

        Does his second footnote, the double-asterisked one, not preemptively answer your question that immediately follows, or perhaps invalidate/rebut the question’s premise?

        No. Why should it? I’m still not following. Roger wrote that spontaneous order can be constrained rules, and I commented that the order which emerges from a set of rules is no longer spontaneous (or naturally emerging, or whatever). And if that’s the case, then the argument isn’t about the spontaneous order anymore, but rather the rules that constrain behaviors that become “sontaneously” ordered within that set of rules.

        I really don’t see how I didn’t answer the question you asked.Report

      • Avatar Jam3z Aitch in reply to Murali says:

        Roger: “biased in favor of spontaneous order because of the ability (with proper rules**)
        **…the rules themselves can be spontaneous or planned, or some combo thereof”

        Stillwater: “So, order which is not *entirely* spontaneous, then, yes?”

        So from Roger’s argument, the presence of these rules does not lead to the conclusion that the order is not entirely spontaneous (although it allows for the possibility). Your question appears to me to have been answered before you asked it, and the answer is “possibly, but not necessarily.”Report

    • Avatar greginak in reply to Roger says:

      Roger- See Murali’s comment. I fully stand by my view of how the term Social Engineering is used. There is actually no way to make many choices that doesn’t involve some expert person making a choices that effect other. You drive on the roads; who decides how wide the roads are? How wide they are affects how fast people drive or how long are the traffic lights or how wide on the white lines,etc. All those things change peoples behavior based on some engineer deciding what to do.

      I understand how you use words/phrases like freedom or coercion or etc. But each of the proposals you have made, which i’m directly discussing, would favor certain options and limits others. Every idea about how to structure a society favors some things and limits others. That seems to be as much social engineering as anything if i’m to take the words in the term for what they mean.Report

      • Avatar Roger in reply to greginak says:

        Good morning Greg,

        Actually most of the order we see around us in society is spontaneous, a result of narrowly focused human action more so than wide scale human design. Coordinated activities, conventions and informal norms frequently scale up into a larger order. The complexity we see in culture and markets is often beyond human understanding and we should beware the conceit of willy-nilly re-engineering of that which we do not comprehend.

        You are correct though that sometimes it makes sense to agree on a set of rules. These can even be rules proposed by social engineers. I await the argument and empirical data from these social engineers that counters my initial comment. If their argument basically comes down to they really hope it is true despite seven million years of evolution and countless anthropological studies to the contrary, then I think the appropriate response is to tell them to bug off.Report

      • Avatar J@m3z Aitch in reply to greginak says:

        You drive on the roads; who decides how wide the roads are? How wide they are affects how fast people drive or how long are the traffic lights or how wide on the white lines,etc. All those things change peoples behavior based on some engineer deciding what to do.

        Understood correctly, I think, you guys aren’t so far off from each other, but are simply looking at this from different ends, so seeing different parts of the overall process. The roads example provides a good case to show that.

        Greg is right that some engineer decided how to construct that road, and in that sense it was an authoritative choice that engineered drivers’ behavior. But at what level did that decision occur?

        These engineering decisions begin in the minds of particular engineers, who are observing problems and looking for solutions, and eventually one says “A ha! I think I’ve found one.” And (to simplify) she then goes out and designs a road in that manner (banked curves for speed and safety, traffic calming devices in high-pedestrian areas, roundabouts instead of 4 way stops, etc.). The implementation of that one idea by that one engineer becomes an experiment that other engineers observe and potentially adopt. This is spontaneous order.

        Given enough proven success with a particular solution, duly authorized decision-makers are likely to take note and think, “if that works so damn well, why aren’t we requiring it everywhere?” and so they make an authoritative rule requiring it everywhere. Then it becomes top-down, but in a real sense it’s simply a ratification of what happened from the bottom up.

        And when it works that way, it’s all very reasonable. But when it begins top-down, with widespread implementation before localized testing, then we’re banking an awful lot on theory without experience, and that’s not so reasonable.

        Those two processes are different, and while both are truly forms of engineering social responses, it’s problematic to try to lump them under the same term. Because they’re different they need to be analyzed as different things, which means they need different terms. It seems to me, although obviously I could be wrong, that “social engineering” has traditionally been applied to the top-down approach, rather than the bottom-up-with-top-level ratification approach. So I don’t really understand the value behind insisting that the bottom-up approach is also social engineering, even though the claim makes literal sense.

        Is it a frustration that the term itself insufficiently distinguishes? Or is it an effort to obscure the difference between the two approaches? If the former, then let’s try to create better language. If the latter, then folks really should just stop doing it.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater in reply to greginak says:

        Roger, What are you even arguing for here? What are you arguing against? And who are you arguing against? Surely not me, since I’ve not supported any the views you’re attributing to me.

        More to the point, tho, surely you cannot possibly believe that the totality of gender-related behaviors, norms and expectations which any particular society assigns to boys and girls (and men and women) are biologically determined. Such a belief is so trivially incorrect no one really thinks it requires a refutation.Report

      • Avatar greginak in reply to greginak says:

        First, I second Still’s question. I’m not really sure what you are railing against. But i’ll add that while Top Down vs. Bottom Up is a useful distinction, i think you have a tendency, which you are doing here, of way over stating how it plays out in reality. I think in the actual world few things are truly TD or BU. Most things liberal types want the Fed’s to enact people have , at the lowest level, been agitating for, for years. Civil Rights legislation in the 60’s is certainly an example of that. Blacks, primarily, were pushing for changes for years but got worse than no where so they asked for the Fed’s for help and eventually got it. The TD was the result of solutions bubbling up from the bottom. In the same way the Women’s Movement got going in the 60’s based on the WW2 of women and their daughters wanting equal opportunity. Especially after been a vital part of the war effort in all sorts of “mens” work. While they pushed for more in whatever work they had they were almost completely blocked in schools, colleges and jobs. This led to pushing for more state and fed level help to prevent discrimination, open up jobs so women would be equally considered and an end to funneling all women into Home Econ. The TD bunch of solutions was a result of a failure at the lowest level to achieve much of anything and a belief only a overarching solution would get anywhere.

        Top Down is very often the result of Bottom Up not working. Neither direction is inherently better or worse, it depends on the situation. But rarely does anybody go to the TD route unless the BU hasn’t work. Even more both styles of solution are often present at the same time. The dichotomy, while real, is often wildly over played. Somewhere up thread i noted the term Social Engineering was mostly a Conservative slur term. Well C’s only use it to slam things L’s do at the Fed level, somehow their own SE doesn’t count so i certainly seems to me to be only invoked at things they don’t like without consideration of anything else.Report

      • Avatar J@m3z Aitch in reply to greginak says:

        Greg,

        Sometimes bottom up doesn’t work for a reason. Looking from the top down and saying, “hey, that bottom up solution isn’t getting there on its own, so let’s do top down,” ignores the important question of why the bottom up isn’t actually moving upward.

        And when it comes to the Civil Rights movement, I have a real beef with white liberals praising the federal government for its top down policies and pretending that the bottom up wasn’t working. That ignores the efforts, coordination, successes, and deaths of African-Americans who fought for civil rights, and who had made huge strides before the federal government finally acted. In fact an awful lot of the discriminatory policies and resistance to civil rights were themselves top-down policies.Report

      • Avatar greginak in reply to greginak says:

        James- I agree.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater in reply to greginak says:

        James, I have a question, which requires outlining a scenario first.

        In a little town I used to live in a few years ago there was a referendum to limit growth (to something like 6% per year or something like that), which passed (and was in fact sustained from a repeal effort in each of the next four years). Finally tho (via some trickery, actually) the growth cap was repealed opening up the eastern edges of the town – unincorporated farmland which was subsequently annexed – to be developed.

        part of the proposal to voters from the anti-growth cap side was that all this new development (hundreds and hundreds of houses on mixed use tracts) would be master planned by the city government and the city approved design and infrastructure development would be contracted out to private firms in a bidding process (or something like that).

        Here’s the question: is the use of government to accomplish those ends a top down or a bottoms up process? Neither? A mix?Report

      • Avatar J@m3z Aitch in reply to greginak says:

        An interesting question. After pondering, I’d say it’s a bit of both.

        Consider a slightly more extreme case, a guy wants to build a 100 story penis shaped tower in a village of 3,000 adamantly-opposed inhabitants, and there are no rules they can use to stop him. What’s the bottom there, the 5,000 individuals or the one individual? I’d suggest there are multiple bottoms, some congruent with each other, others incongruent, and what we have in that case are multiple incongruent bottoms. So the 5,000 individuals turning to the government to create some rules is arguably bottom up, rather than top down. (Certainly it would be too much to argue that every time citizens turn to government–when the government is being responsive to the overwhelming majority, as opposed to a small elite minority–it’s clearly top-down.)

        But in your case the citizens are asking for more than just rules preventing an individual action that would harm/disturb them; that is, they are asking for more than just general rules by which everyone has to abide. They are asking the government to take on a detailed planning project that dictates not just what are acceptable processes, but that dictates precise outcomes. And that authoritative planning of outcomes, as opposed to general rules, is very much a top-down activity, I think.

        As I tell my students repeatedly, we devise categories to help us make sense of the world, but it always turns out that the categories only imperfectly capture the real world. The distinctions are real and important, but almost always lack sharp boundaries. Species, for example, are normally defined on ability to reproduce viable offspring, but dogs, coyotes and wolves can reproduce viable offspring and yet are generally (but not always) treated as distinct species. And let’s not even go into some of the weird physics stuff that mocks our straightforward categories. So it’s not too surprising that we can come up with tough cases in our more social science categories, too. And while those tough cases don’t invalidate the categories (unless there are more tough cases than there are clearly applicable ones), they are very important for us to think about so we can better understand our categories and recognize their analytical limits.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater in reply to greginak says:

        James,

        And that authoritative planning of outcomes, as opposed to general rules, is very much a top-down activity, I think.

        It might not have been that stringent in actuality – I can’t really remember the precise details. But one thing I seem to recall is that the role of the city in planning and realizing certain types of development was offered as an assurance to citizens that development, which was going to occur in any event (once the growth cap was repealed), wouldn’t be haphazard or random. It would be “master planned”!!! At a minimum, I think that meant each development proposal needed to be approved by the planning commission and zoning boards and whatnot (not necessarily that the city drew up the architectural designs).

        I’m also leaving out some pertinent details which make the scenario a little less congenial to pro-government sentiment: some conflicts of interest bordering on shenanigans, some water-treatment and tap fee related issues, the shenanigans about how the cap was in fact repealed. It wasn’t an entirely clean process.

        Thanks for the answer.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to greginak says:

        “I’d suggest there are multiple bottoms…”

        A 100-story penis would help with that.Report

      • Avatar Roger in reply to greginak says:

        @stillwater

        “What are you even arguing for here? What are you arguing against?”

        Here is my argument:

        1. Boys and girls are different. This is true in all of our recent common ancestor primates (chimps, bonobos and gorillas) and is true of every human society ever studied.
        2. Yes we do socialize them differently and we socialize them to want to be distinct.
        3. It is quite possible they would spontaneously choose to be distinct even absent socialization.
        4. There is nothing wrong with socializing differently or socializing to be distinct in principle, though there may be in execution. (Please no snarks ignoring this point)
        5. I would be extremely suspicious and skeptical of any attempts to socially engineer this out of society.
        6. Finally, there is a difference between socializing and social engineering. A lot of the distinction is on the who and how.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to greginak says:

        @roger

        I disagree with you starting at point #4. As I understand it (and as the evolutionary nature of the differences stretch back to our primate days), we have largely outpaced the need to further socialize for differences beyond what exists genetically. It might have been the case at one time that we needed to socialize women into more domestic roles because they tended to be slower and more vulnerable on hunts and our species would have been harmed if too many died hunting. But that’s not the case anymore. So it seems silly to hold to those forms of socialization which may be millennia old at this point.Report

      • Avatar Will H. in reply to greginak says:

        @kazzy
        1) And this distinct lack of socializing or social engineering of males into playing with dolls, and the like (things traditionally considered “girl toys”) demands that each and every father who acts as primary caretaker of his children is utterly incapable of that task.
        Else, it’s wholly irrelevant.

        2) Your argument negates itself, if you haven’t noticed. If this is a thing which has been going on for millennia, then the primitive origins are irrelevant. It is much more probable that secondary and tertiary influences developed and influenced those conditions. So unless all those considerations are accounted for as well, whose idea it was in the first place doesn’t matter in the slightest, nor does the reasoning behind it.
        Or do I understand you to mean that your belief is that Betsy Ross sewed the flag because Washington could outrun her?Report

      • Avatar greginak in reply to greginak says:

        Roger- Once you, correctly, admit that the difference between socializing and social engineering is who and how you can pretty much refine that further down to “whether you like it or not.” The most overwhelming social engineering/socializing occurs at the bottom level of the family and also small town churches which brook no difference or deviance.

        One of the common phrases relating to gender difference is that the differences within group are far wider than the differences between groups. Very true. Our best policy would be to allow each child the freedom to find their own line. Doing that of course means offering boy choices to girls and girl choices to boys, etc etc. Of even offering all choices to all children of course. Of course many people will describe that as social engineering.Report

      • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to greginak says:

        “Time to sew the flag.”

        “No, you sew the flag!”

        “Mister, you sit yourself right down in that chair, and… Hey, where are you going? Come back!”

        “Haha, can’t catch me, Ross.”

        “Get back here, you goddam…. Crap, I HATE it when this happens!”Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to greginak says:

        @will-h

        That made zero sense.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to greginak says:

        Ross sewed the flag because we were and are still wed to the idea that men are inherently superior because we tended to be physically superior millennia ago.Report

      • Avatar Will H. in reply to greginak says:

        @greginak :
        Not speaking for Roger here, but . . .
        Engineering has set points as parameters. Not one thing can be engineered absent design parameters. (The same reason that regulating carbon emissions would be beneficial for the industry: when you have a “?” as a design parameter, this leads to many, many meetings.)
        Socialization occurs as a natural condition. (And I posit that no human interaction is needed for socialization.)
        It’s the difference between a river and a canal (though lots of rivers have extensive engineering built into them these days . . .).

        Now, as far as the goal of parenting is to raise healthy and independent adults, gender is irrelevant. Training children to conduct themselves in a responsible manner is relevant.
        Without going into a big, long discourse on training a child to be responsible, let’s cut to the chase and say that responsibilities are meted out a little at a time; more and more, until at last, they’re out the door.
        Now, assuming everything you said is true, then where is the evidence that birth is the proper time for a child to assume the responsibility for their own gendering? Shouldn’t they at least learn a little bit about the concept before making such decisions?Report

      • Avatar Will H. in reply to greginak says:

        @kazzy :
        Actually, Franklin’s saying, “A stitch in time saves nine,” is something he thought of while sewing his socks. He put nine stitches in to mend the hole, then thought back to when it was just a small hole that would have taken a single stitch.

        Prescriptive behaviors based on theory is definitionally experimental. It’s non-proven. It means, “We think this might work, but we’re not really sure.”
        It’s really not the proper role of developmental psychology.Report

      • Avatar greginak in reply to greginak says:

        @will-h Kids have and will pick a metric mega ton of nudges and overt lessons about gender roles from all around them as they grow from day 1 on up. Nothing is ever going to change that. But what does that prove or say, it seems pretty obvious to me. I’m not really sure what to say from there. I think it also completely reasonable that many parents do not want their children to have to live by the conventional gender roles. They want their little girl to choose her own path instead of being restricted to girl choices. They don’t’ want that girl ostracized for not wearing pink or being athletic. In fact they would like to rebuild the definitions of what being a good girl or boy mean. Boys can be caring and loving, girls can be aggressive and athletic. Personally i’d go as far to say what makes a good boy or good girl are the same things: being responsible, mature, loyal, and loving. But that is just me, some parents want to raise their little boys to run in fear of ever touching a diaper. That is their deal and choice.Report

      • Avatar Murali in reply to greginak says:

        @jm3z-aitch @roger

        Contra Hayek, there can be bad (and even unjust) spontaneous orders. Take rape culture or patriarchy for example. There is no cabal of men out there actively designing cultural institutions to subjugate women and make them feel less safe than their male counterparts. Yet a variety of human actions come together to create something which no human designed. And this can systematically benefit men at the expense of women even if most men do not carry out or even overtly threaten violence.

        http://charleswjohnson.name/essays/women-and-the-invisible-fist/Report

      • Avatar Roger in reply to greginak says:

        Kazzy,

        You are doing what I tried to warn against in my parenthetical on 4. I am not arguing for a domestic role for women, or foot binding or anything in particular. I am suggesting that there is nothing inherent in socializing differently by gender that is wrong. There are lots of specific socializing practices which can be harmful or limiting. There are also socialization practices that might prove beneficial to both. I will leave the thought experiment up to you. What types of gender specific socialization could be good?

        The reason that I am skeptical of social engineering is best illustrated by this very topic. There are groups of social engineers (sociologists) trying to pretend points one through three — which you do agree with me on — are not true. The appropriate courses of action is to
        1) establish their case according to the tenets of science
        2) test the theory and see if it actually works
        3) persuade us to adopt it based upon their overwhelming empirical support.

        If they could do that, it would no longer be social engineering. It would be enlightenment. And despite the comments from Greg to the contrary, it is their methods I disagree with. Conservatives doing similar things is just as distasteful.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater in reply to greginak says:

        Now, assuming everything you said is true, then where is the evidence that birth is the proper time for a child to assume the responsibility for their own gendering?

        Absolutely.

        Shouldn’t they at least learn a little bit about the concept before making such decisions?

        Yes! Which – if you’re serious about this! – means refraining from imposing a culturally determined gender identity on them based exclusively on their type of genitalia, right?Report

      • Avatar Roger in reply to greginak says:

        Murali,

        Agreed completely. Spontaneous emergence is not synonymous with good. I am not arguing that it is.Report

      • Avatar Will H. in reply to greginak says:

        I’m not so sure of the validity of such nudges and overt lessons (or music listened to in utero, for that matter) in establishing a basis for gender absent conceptualization of gender as existing.
        But I get your drift.
        I still think peer pressure plays a greater role in our understanding of gender differences than any parental interaction (excepting some rather extreme instances).

        But I see the negation argument again. Right here:
        In fact they would like to rebuild the definitions of what being a good girl or boy mean. Boys can be caring and loving, girls can be aggressive and athletic. Personally i’d go as far to say what makes a good boy or good girl are the same things: being responsible, mature, loyal, and loving.

        So, you, personally, as a male, are therefore incapable of being caring and loving, but are instead aggressive and athletic?

        Once again, it’s the argument I hear so much of from certain quarters these days. It runs like this:
        The way that your parents raised children is so screwed up, no one could ever possibly grow up to be a healthy and responsible adult having suffered through such an upbringing.
        What is actually being said in such statements is that the speaker is so off-kilter the entirety of their statements may then be disregarded. (I.e., “The way my parents raised me is so screwed up, I am unable to be a healthy and responsible adult.” Because it’s true in every case if it’s true in the one.)

        What I’m getting at here is that, in order for this thing to be true, then its inverse needs to be proven false.
        And there’s no proof that the inverse is false.Report

      • Avatar Roger in reply to greginak says:

        Here is a long quote which explains EMERGENT or SPONTANEOUS ORDER as compared to IMPOSED ORDER.

        “This volume presents “two ways of looking at the pattern of human activities.” The first is to see society as a product of human construction, and to view every institution as the embodiment of some deliberate design, achieving precisely what it was intended to achieve. In this view, institutions serve human purposes when they have been designed to achieve those purposes. This view, writes Hayek, is “pleasing to human vanity” because it exalts intellectuals and their power over events and the shape of the world. Hayek calls this view constructivism or constructivist rationalism because it imagines that the whole of society can be made or comprehended through individual mental efforts.

        The second view is the one Hayek was dedicated to elaborating upon in the work of his later years. He sees society as not solely due to institutions and practices constructed for specific ends but rather to the growth and evolution of institutions (including cultural habits and mores) that were preserved and flourished, even accidentally, because they were gradually refined in a way that allowed great success in navigating the social order, even if such institutions and practices were not specifically intended to bring about particular results. This view he liked to call the “spontaneous order” perspective, not because action is aimless but because social and cultural results are not designed or constructed but rather emerge from lived experienced and right reason.

        Many of the institutions of society which are indispensable conditions for the successful pursuit of our conscious aims are in fact the result of customs, habits, or practices which have been neither invented nor are observed with any such purpose in view. We live in a society in which we can successfully orientate ourselves, and in which our actions have a good chance of achieving their aims, not only because our fellows are governed by known aims or known connections between means and ends, but because they are also confined by rules whose purpose or origin we often do not know and of whose very existence we are often not aware.

        These separate and distinct models of understanding the social order have profound implications for the prospects of human freedom. In Hayek’s view, the main reason why people have been unwilling to admit the limits of the state in human affairs is due to this arrogant belief that scientific rationalism is capable of structuring the social order according to the design by intellectuals. Socialism, then, represents the fullest presentation of the constructivist vision, complete with a specific vision of the end state of society and role of everyone in it. But it also emerges in the legislative state that is constantly using the force of law to somehow forge results that rarely if ever come to be.

        Hayek argues that intended human design is not what makes the social order work and not what drives human action and development. He goes so far as to say that the social order is constructed not by any one human being’s knowledge but rather by the reality that we all benefit from knowledge that is not possessed by people but rather comes to us through embedded institutions and habits formed over time. The key problem of social order, he says, is not the acquisition or accumulation of knowledge but the utilization of existing knowledge that is dispersed widely throughout all the members of society.

        Using that knowledge effectively requires a high value on human volition, an openness to discovery, opportunities for learning, institutions that convey knowledge, and an environment of liberty that is tolerant of mistakes and provides opportunities for successful patterns of action to prevail and persist. The social order itself is never complete and its direction of change cannot be mapped out in advance of human choice. We need a broad framework of rules that come to us by virtue of cultural inheritance, worthy of man based on the capacity of human intelligence to identify the good and then seeking to realize it.

        The spreading and persistence of these rules are made possible not only through intentions but also through the imitation of prevailing practices and the process of observing, transmitting, and developing these habits. Indeed, we all tend to follow practices in manners, morals, and law that we might not be able to defend or even articulate.

        The common (and easiest) examples that Hayek would give here, within the field of economics, are prices on the market which act to accumulate the knowledge of its billions of participants and their actions. But it also pertains to everyday modes of being, from the times we eat and sleep to the manner in which we go about conducting our lives in marriages, ceremonies, professional conduct, business life, burial rituals, family structure and much else besides.

        Today, as compared with the late middle ages, prices are an even more brilliant example of the spontaneous order celebrated by Hayek. They never stop changing….. It is a classic example of what Hayek called the extended order: an impossibly complex system of institutional expression that results from human decision making that creates results far removed from the intentions of any particular individuals.

        In the Hayekian view, this tendency from progressive revelation through real experience pertains not only to markets and prices but also to language, customs, mores, laws stemming from human experience (as opposed to rationalistic legislation), and the whole structure of society itself. The complexities are beyond the comprehension of rulers or intellectuals to describe,, much less to construct. They are the result of the gradual unfolding of experience.

        The conclusion of Hayek’s reflection on the structure of social order is that society needs to remove barriers to development and permit the flourishing of the choices of people who can adapt according to the conditions of time and place, gradually melding practices to their environment and remain rooted in their values. In colloquial terms, the social order must be built from the bottom up and not imposed from the top down. Intellectuals who seek to understand the social order need to develop an attitude of humility and deference to the complexities of the extended order that emerges from human choices, and not imagine that they can comprehend the whole and adapt it according to their own designs.”

        This is all a quote by Robert SiricoReport

      • Avatar greginak in reply to greginak says:

        Will- I think you are way over exaggerating the views of those who you disagree with. There are still strong gender biases in how we raise kids. Lots of boys are taught not to cry, to always be tough, that caring is not manly. Heck those kids can be raised just fine with those beliefs. But there are other people who don’t really want to raise their kids with those values, so they do it differently. They also don’t want to see their schools pushing one version of gender roles. Of course stopping schools from pushing one set of roles and giving as many options to all kids, is pretty much what people are talking about when they scream about social engineering.

        FWIW. My parents raised me fine is most ways. However my dad was trapped in the very old fashioned style of being a man where he couldn’t express emotions which wasn’t good for any of us. I’m glad i grew up in a time where being a man, or woman, was being redefined and possibilities were being opened up. It led me to be a much better father and uncle.Report

      • Avatar Will H. in reply to greginak says:

        I think you are way over exaggerating the views of those who you disagree with.
        Two thoughts on this:
        1) I don’t think so. But then, maybe the way it was expressed to me amounted to sensationalism; lacking in critical thought, definitely.
        2) Which makes me wonder if I’m really disagreeing more with an understanding developed from much older interactions than any person in particular in this thread.

        But I think the real issue is one of making the molehill of “tendencies” into the mountain of “pre-determination.” There’s a big leap there; unjustified.Report

      • Avatar Murali in reply to greginak says:

        @roger
        Hayek is just wrong about the distinction. The mere fact that I aim to make everything comprehensible to human reason does not mean that I aim to centrally plan everything. Hayek makes the same mistake a lot of continental philosophers (mostly Hegelians and Marxists) do: that is, to mistake a historical progression for logical necessity.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to greginak says:

        @roger

        “What types of gender specific socialization could be good?”

        The only ones I can think of are those which would be in response to existing social biases. Perhaps you can offer a suggestion?

        Now, I would argue that the natural tendencies towards certain sex disparities might demand differentiated treatment in order to account for these (e.g., a toy like Goldiblocks which is ultimately aimed at mitigating the effects of inherent sex differences), but i’m not sure I’d qualify that as “socialization”. As I understand socialization, it is the process of teaching people what ought to be. As far as I’m concerned, there ought to be no oughts with regards to sex and gender. Everyone ought to be able to pursue whatever angles they might like regardless of their sex or gender.Report

      • Avatar Roger in reply to greginak says:

        Murali,

        I was using this as a quote to explain the differences between imposed and emergent order.

        I agree with you on both criticisms of Hayek, and many/most people that have built upon his thoughts do so as well. Modern economists can find fault with Smith too, and modern biologists understand evolution much better than Darwin.

        Spontaneous or emergent order may not be good. However it is possible to establish complex adaptive systems where order or problem solving comes about via decentralized interaction constrained by a set of rules (which can themselves be imposed or emergent). In addition the nature of the rules affects the nature of what kind of order is produced.

        I need to go to dinner now, but can continue the discussion tomorrow.Report

      • Avatar Jam3z Aitch in reply to greginak says:

        Murali,

        Do you have a cite for Hayek claiming spontaneous order could never be bad?Report

      • Avatar Murali in reply to greginak says:

        @kazzy
        What raises my political liberal hackles is that whereas we want (for politically liberal reasons*) schools to remain neutral. Yet, school policies may veer too far into re socialising children who have been socialised according to more traditional gender norms. So, while I agree that agree that children who have been socialised by their parents more gender neutrally should have the option to continue to be socialised in such a way maybe by providing them with Goldiblocks and such, I don’t think schools should necessarily reverse or negate the socialising aims that parents have for their own kids. Given that teachers AFAICT tend to be more socially liberal (in their personal views) than the general public (and parents in particular) there is a real worry that if public school teachers (private school teachers can do whatever they damn want) reverse their parent’s socialisation, this denigrates the parent’s values in such a way that they would not feel that there was sufficient reason to commit to a regime that permitted or even encouraged it. And this would be fatal to any purported solution to what seems to be the fundamental coordination problem in society: How can people with fundamentally differing world views come to agree on a set of social rules that will govern their relations with one another?

        *as opposed to comprehensive liberal reasons. I’m big on the distinction between political and comprehensive liberalism.Report

      • Avatar Murali in reply to greginak says:

        @jm3z-aitch
        Hayek thinks spontaneous order is beyond moral critique, it just is. The argument is somewhere in constitution of liberty. I’ll have to do some diggingReport

      • Avatar Roger in reply to greginak says:

        Kazzy,

        Brief comment before rushing off to go for a night swim…

        First, socialization is “…the lifelong process of inheriting and disseminating norms, customs and ideologies, providing an individual with the skills and habits necessary for participating within his or her own society….Primary Socialization occurs when a child learns the attitudes, values, and actions appropriate to individuals as members of a particular culture. It is mainly influenced by the immediate family and friends.” (Wikipedia)

        If you have a hypothesis that we should provide gender neutral socialization, then I have already explained how I recommend you move forward. First, do basic research proving this hypothesis to your scientific peers. Second do some controlled test and small scale experiments with willing parents. Then make a stronger case based upon the empirical results. Then persuade the rest of us we are wrong.

        What I do not want is for you to recommend it goes immediately into the teacher curriculum. I am not saying you would, I am explaining the difference between social engineering and persuasion.

        In a follow up post I will explain why I think your hypothesis will fail.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to greginak says:

        @roger

        “First, do basic research proving this hypothesis to your scientific peers. Second do some controlled test and small scale experiments with willing parents. Then make a stronger case based upon the empirical results. Then persuade the rest of us we are wrong.”

        Is the same thing going to be demanded of people who want to socialize the sexes differently? If not, then I reject your proposed approach.

        And if your argument as to why there are different expectations for the different sides is that the differentiated model has been proven via history, then I reject that. Look at basic outcomes for men and women across the globe — a globe which has almost universally socialized men as the dominant sex — and tell me that our current approach to socializing the sexes results in the best possible outcomes for *both* sexes. Sure, socializing the sexes differently may help maintain the status quo in an already-sexist society, but I reject the idea that society necessarily be sexist.Report

      • Avatar Chris in reply to greginak says:

        Well said, Kazzy.Report

      • Avatar Will H. in reply to greginak says:

        Not once you dig into the terms.

        Nit: Actually, I think society-at-large is a lot more indifferent than sexist.
        Don’t mistake don’t-give-a-damn with ill-will.

        Now, back to the social engineering / socialization thing . . .
        Where the one is a natural process, which (as we’ve both noted previously is possible to achieve without any manner of contact) unfolds according to time-frame and environmental factors more than anything else, and the other is a pre-conceptualized vision of what should and ought to be (and for all peoples, no less):
        How can a natural process without overt volition be properly held to the same standard of proof as a determined volitional act?
        If people currently breathe air, and you happen to think there’s a better way of doing things, where does the burden of proof lie?

        I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again:
        It’s when developmental psychology takes the leap from descriptive to prescriptive that it goes off course.

        And if that discipline has even half as many amazing theories over the next 50 years as it’s had over the past 40, what then of all this prescriptive nonsense?
        If it’s simply a matter of strength of conviction grounded on faith in the science of it, then just wait around awhile; it will change.Report

      • Avatar Roger in reply to greginak says:

        @greginak @kazzy

        This answer goes to both of you (and Chris and Will). Greg suggested that if the difference between socialization and social engineering( as I argue) is the who and the how, that it translates into whatever I want or don’t want.

        Kazzy says: “Is the same thing going to be demanded of people who want to socialize the sexes differently? If not, then I reject your proposed approach.”

        Your objections dovetail perfectly.

        There is a fundamental difference in society between decisions that individuals make on their own, and those that those in a position of power impose on others. Of course in the case of children, they are not yet expected to be rational adults, so we abdicate responsibility to the parents. The evolutionary logic for this is strong, as parents tend as a rule to love their kids and consider their best interest. This is a good, but not perfect rule of thumb with well known reasons to violate the heuristic in extraordinary cases.

        The benefit of allowing parents to decide are multiple.

        One they tend to love their kids.

        Two they know what their values are.

        Three they are closest to the situation at hand, not sitting off in some library

        Four their interests clearly align with the kid

        Five they actually experience the feedback of the decision and can adjust appropriately. Separating feedback and decision making is a recipe for disaster (see Taleb)

        In most cases, sociologists relationship to particular children is the antithesis of the above.

        So, on the WHO, the person making the decision is the individual or their parent. As a general rule. This is by the way, pretty much the established legal precedent, and the reasoning isn’t far off what I laid out. It is not crazy libertarian talk.

        On the HOW. If sociologists do indeed know better, because they have done rigorous scientific testing based upon extensive research and experiments, then the appropriate course of action is to persuade parents of their logic. This can be done via knowledge sharing or providing their institutional ideas a a parental choice.

        At the extreme, I would suggest they persuade parents via the democratic process, but I would use this for… Well extremes.

        So, my who is parents. (Yes, Greg, even those parents disagreeing with me). My how is via volition or persuasion. Both are heuristics, or rules of thumb, not absolutes.

        Failure to respect this rule of thumb leads to the mess Will alludes to. You would have willy nilly social engineering and indoctrination imposed upon society for every half assed idea sociologists have come up with in past 100 years. This would be hell on earth. It would be totalitarian, 1984 stuff.Report

      • Avatar Roger in reply to greginak says:

        @murali
        @jam3z-aitch

        The attached article goes onto extensive depth on the issue of Hayek and the desirability of evolved orders. It includes every relevant Hayek quote and summarizes the controversy and subsequent efforts to free him from the potential fallacy.

        I have another great article comparing Hayek with Mises on the topic but cannot find it yet.

        Excellent reading:

        http://mason.gmu.edu/~eangner/pdf/Hayek_Naturalistic_Fallacy.pdfReport

      • Avatar J@m3z Aitch in reply to greginak says:

        Roger,

        The article’s pretty persuasive, if only because it reinforces what I already believed, which is that Hayek’s argument about the goodness of spontaneous order was probabilistic–it’s more likely than not to be good, so it gets the benefit of the doubt and the burden of proof is on those who would change it. Of course we could all quibble forever about high stringent that burden is, and Hayek would probably require a more stringent standard than many others here, but that he recognizes the burden can be met in some cases is sufficient against the claim that he though spontaneous order is beyond critique.

        It’s also worth noting that the article contains a quote that makes it clear Hayek wanted us to distinguish between spontaneous order and extant order; that just because a current order exists and has for a very long time (like the Indian caste system), it is not necessarily spontaneous. And he specifically references how particular classes can shape social institutions to their own advantage, and denies that as an example of spontaneous order.Report

      • Avatar Kim in reply to greginak says:

        Roger,
        Remember a while back, I asked a question about emergent behavior? You pointed me to some articles on Emergent Order. I would like to postulate that there is a big difference between the two, and that where possible we should try not to create systems where emergent order is the rule of the day.Report

      • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to greginak says:

        Likewise, system that arise from religious values are superior, so long as I approve of both the religion and the way its values were applied.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to greginak says:

        @roger

        So when a school (like my own) requires that the girls and young ladies wear skirts or dresses for formal events — regardless of the feelings of the individual or her parents — is that better, worse, or the same as me arguing that our dress code should exist independent of sex (e.g., we deem dresses as appropriate formal wear, slacks as appropriate formal wear, and let the students and their families choose for themselves)?Report

      • Avatar Will H. in reply to greginak says:

        @kazzy :
        I’m glad you asked that; because something occurred to me later, and I didn’t think it would come up in this thread.
        Let’s consider the matter from a completely different perspective.

        Suppose we institute some manner of behavioral modification program in our schools; say, we make every boy wear a fez, but only for formal occasions.
        Now, most, if not all, of the children subjected to this behavioral modification program are not diagnosable with any particular condition. They’re just being subjected to treatment, the extent of which being both questionable and fluid, because there’s some fear that one of them may later develop a condition which is diagnosable.

        Is this ethical?Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to greginak says:

        @will-h

        I’m not sure I’m understanding. In a way, it sounds like your describing vaccination. But not quite.

        So the fez is intended to prevent a condition which most boys are at no risk of developing but some may so let’s just fez every kid? And you’re asking if this is ethical?

        On the one hand — say with a true vaccination — I would leave the decision to individual families, helping them to make an educated decision that weighs the cost of taking action versus the cost of inaction (Note: W/R/T vaccination, the cost of inaction is high and the cost of action is nil save for a pin prick so, yes, everyone should vaccinate).

        On the other hand, there are a number of steps I take that could fall under the umbrella of behavior modification with the goal of helping my students move towards certain beneficial outcomes and away from negative ones. For instance, I do extensive work with my students on resolving conflicts without violence. Odds are most of them would not turn into violent sociopaths without this, but presuming the work I do is built upon in subsequent years, it likely gets them closer to the outcomes we as a society generally prefer.

        And that, I think, is the crux of the matter (and is something I will explore in depth later): promoting the values and ideals of the broader society. Schools absolutely should engage in behavior modification. Using the example above, we teach kids not to hit. Not because we can necessarily demonstrate that hitting is worse than discussing an issue (in the way that we can demonstrate objectively that 2+2=4), but because we as a society have decided that we value solving problems with words instead of fists.

        To bring it full circle — and I assume this is the point you were trying to get at — the question then becomes whether forcing girls and young women to wear skirts and dresses helps promote a broader societal value. I would argue that it doesn’t. And the extent to which it might have previously and still does today is diminishing. We generally recognize that women should be treated with the same respect whether they opt for the skirt suit or the pants suit or the dress. So it seems to run counter when we teacher girls and young women that to be considered appropriately formal is to wear a skirt or dress and only a skirt or dress.Report

      • Avatar Will H. in reply to greginak says:

        @kazzy :
        Terribly sorry to have been less than clear.
        It’s more about clinical psychology than medical treatment.
        So, let’s say that instead of everyone all at once, we subject these same children to a behavioral modification program under the direction of a psychologist in a clinical environment.
        Now, they’re being treated for a psychological condition which, arguably, none of them have (though this factor must necessarily remain an unknown); say, schizophrenia. They’re being doped up with Thorazine on a regular basis, just to keep the schizophrenia in check.

        Ethical, yes or no?Report

      • Avatar j r in reply to greginak says:

        I must say that I find the coyness about social engineering to be a bit amusing. It reminds me of a YouTube video I saw where the most mustache-waxed, sock hat-wearing, disaffected facial expression-having hipster in all of Williamsburg incredulously asks an interviewer what the word hipster even means.

        China’s one-child policy is social engineering. A cohort of mother’s naming their child Autumn as the name becomes popular is not social engineering. Yes, political partisans, mostly conservatives, often throw the term around in an attempt to discredit fairly innocuous actions, but that doesn’t negate the objective existence of the term.

        I fully stand by my view of how the term Social Engineering is used. There is actually no way to make many choices that doesn’t involve some expert person making a choices that effect other. You drive on the roads; who decides how wide the roads are? How wide they are affects how fast people drive or how long are the traffic lights or how wide on the white lines,etc. All those things change peoples behavior based on some engineer deciding what to do.

        Traffic engineering is not, in itself, social engineering. It is… well, it’s traffic engineering. However, when Robert Moses demolished whole neighborhoods to make room for highways and super blocks and purposefully built parkway overpasses so that buses don’t fit under them, that is social engineering.Report

      • Avatar greginak in reply to greginak says:

        JR- What coyness? There are all sorts of things we do as a society that fit under the definition of social engineering. Offering girls sports as opposed to just home ec, mandating college have equal sports for boys and girls, discouraging gay bashing or even allowing gays to live openly…all these things can easily fit under the definition of social engineering. My problem with the term is that the people who use it, don’t seem to understand it so they just use it is as a shallow attack term. It is impossible to have a society with myriad forms of social engineering unless you have no rules or structures at all. Well of course not having rules or any structures or morays or boundaries would, you know, obviously one way to engineer a society.

        People throw out the words social engineering like they do political correctness, just using the term is supposed to define both sides, explain everything about the situation and end the discussion with a triumphant win by the person so cleverly deploying the term.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to greginak says:

        @will-h

        So the children are being subjected to a behavior modification program intended to treat a psychological condition none of them have? Why are they being subjected to it?Report

      • Avatar Roger in reply to greginak says:

        @kazzy

        Good question. To make it more clear, let me use a public school, not private, as the parents agree to your basic terms when they enroll in a private.

        My expectation is that the school conform to community standards. If unisex clothes are the norm, then I would expect the school to abide.

        If the school wants to social engineer the kids into unisex widgets, then they have one hell of a burden of proof. Allowing parents to decide, or even allowing parents to choose their school would be be even better.Report

      • Avatar Will H. in reply to greginak says:

        @kazzy :
        Why?
        Because schizophrenia is undesirable. Untreated schizophrenia has been deemed so harmful that the needs of those where the possibility of risk exists have been determined to outweigh whatever harm might be done indiscriminately to those not at risk.
        It’s just a matter of equalizing the risk. Those at risk will have reduced risk, while those not at risk will have increased risk.

        With risk comes profit, yes?Report

      • Avatar Roger in reply to greginak says:

        Greg,

        Requiring all the kids to be practicing Mormons or to believe evolution is a lie is social engineering too. Are you for these things as well?

        See my response to K. There is a big difference between complying with community standards and deciding that you want to impose new standards by indoctrinating kids.Report

      • Avatar Will H. in reply to greginak says:

        @roger :
        I think the phenomenon Greg is seeing is inherent in all rules; that we assimilate the principles as a given over time, and move on to other rule-making, finding other hairs to split.
        E.g., it is widely accepted these days that urine in dentifrice is undesirable. However, at one point in history, such a suggestion was near-heretical.
        Providing public services can’t be social engineering, in and of themselves; such services evolve from demand. Yet clearly, public services can be provided in such a way as to properly be ‘social engineering.’
        Simply engineering things for ‘society’ is, iirc, “civil engineering.”Report

      • Avatar Roger in reply to greginak says:

        @jm3z-aitch

        Hi James.

        Various thoughts…

        One. I wish Murali would weigh in more on his opinion, rather than just nibbling away at the edges. Murali?

        Two. I think the persistence of a social norm says something for it. Not everything, but something. A probabilistic argument.

        Three. I think that cultures are complex adaptive systems that evolved on their own. Social engineering of a system which is not just not understood, but is beyond human understanding is suspect. Deconstructing a complex feedback rich system with delayed reaction that you don’t understand can lead to unexpected disaster with no clear signs what change it was that caused the problem.

        Four. I think that a society in isolation is much more likely to develop spontaneous dysfunctionality than one society competing and cooperating with many. Evolution is a population effect. I think this point is vastly under estimated. This is especially true if the competition is constructive in nature.

        Fifth. I think that there are all kinds of decentralized complex adaptive systems. From ant colonies, to city layout, to science, to markets. They differ partly because their rules differ. The rules of science are different than the rules of markets.

        I think better rules lead to more successful systems and outcomes. Note of course that the rules themselves can emerge — they do not have to be designed (ant colony rules, market rules and the scientific method all emerged without grand design).

        I think systems where people use violence and coercion can lead to spontaneous emergent disasters. Lord of the flies.Report

      • Avatar greginak in reply to greginak says:

        Roger- I’m not praising or attacking any particular policy. The point is that any possible arrangement of society is actually social engineering. Going by community standards certainly is SE. And whose standards, and what about those who don’t quite fit the dominant community. If the community says women should be subservient and should marry up right out of HS, which they don’t need in the first place since their job is to incubate then teaching them all that fancy pants learning in HS is SE. If anybody doesn’t think they are for social engineering then they don’t understand the two words that make up the phrase. If you think only other people do it, well than again, you are missing my point. Any set of rules or arrangements implies a type of engineering that minimizes or eliminates some choices and favors other choices. That is inherent in any system.Report

      • Avatar Jam3z Aitch in reply to greginak says:

        Roger,

        Are you familiar with James Scott’s Seeing Like a State? If not, I think you’d like it.Report

      • Avatar j r in reply to greginak says:

        The point is that any possible arrangement of society is actually social engineering.

        That’s not true. If the arrangement came about by a decentralized process of people making one-off decisions and negotiating over points of contention, that’s not social engineering. As I said above, just because lots of people misuse the term doesn’t mean that the term is meaningless. Lots of people misuse the word literally, but the word still has an objective definition.

        Even if you are intent on expanding the term social engineering to fit all manner of decisions large and small, all that does reassert the discussion at another level. So know you have small-scale one-off instances of social engineering vs. large, top-down bureaucratic instances of social engineering. There is still a meaningful distinction to be made between the two categories.

        Actually, I just learned from Wikipedia that Karl Popper made a similar distinction between what he termed piecemeal social engineering and utopian social engineering.Report

      • Avatar greginak in reply to greginak says:

        Seeing things as discretely bubbling up from below vs. imposed from above is pretty much a false dichotomy. Plenty of things, like civil rights or womens rights leg/rules started at the lowest level until they could gain influence at the top level moving downward. Anything that starts at the lowest level but then becomes part of society then has a top level support since that is what societies do. They maintain and enforce rules etc.

        I don’t think the term means much as all. If there is an argument it should be had at the level of the specific issue. To many discussions are just swapping generic terms or using the terms to imply far to much. I don’t care if you call something social engineering, tell me about the specific issue and why it is good or bad. The generics, the insults, the put down terms tell me nothing. Show me where X idea is coming from and why that is good or bad since most things aren’t completely top or bottom issues. They are usually a mix of both.Report

      • Avatar Jam3z Aitch in reply to greginak says:

        Seeing things as discretely bubbling up from below vs. imposed from above is pretty much a false dichotomy.

        I would suggest they are actually ideal types, where most, if not all, real world institutions are not perfectly either one or the other. But real world institutions are not perfect mixtures of the two; some are much more of one type than the other. And to try to wholly collapse that distinction is to ignore real meaningful difference that has important analytical value (regardless of one’s normative view of the ideal types).

        You can reject that meaningful difference, but from our perspective it really does look like a failure to recognize an empirical reality.Report

      • Avatar Murali in reply to greginak says:

        @jm3z-aitch and @roger

        Look at Law, Legislation and Liberty vol(II) pp69 – 70

        It is part of a longer sustained argument where he argues that social justice is incoherent.

        Though we are in this case less ready to admit it, our complaints about the outcome of the market as unjust do not really assert that somebody has been unjust; and there is no answer to the question of who has been unjust. Society has simply become the new deity to which we complain and clamour for redress if it does not fulfil the expectations it has created. There is no individual and no cooperating group of people against which the sufferer would have a just complaint, and there are no conceivable rules of just individual conduct which would at the same time secure a functioning order and prevent such disappointments.

        The only blame implicit in those complaints is that we tolerate a system in which each is allowed to choose his occupation and therefore nobody can have the power and the duty to see that the results correspond to our wishes. For in such a system in which each is allowed to use his knowledge for his own purposes 9 the concept of. ‘social justice’ is necessarily empty and meaningless, because in it nobody’s will can determine the relative incomes of the different people, or prevent that they be partly dependent on accident. ‘Social justice’ can be given a meaning only in a directed or ‘command’ economy (such as an army) in which the individuals are ordered what to do; and any particular conception of ‘social
        justice’ could be realized only in such a centrally directed system. It presupposes that people are guided by specific directions and not by rules of just individual conduct. Indeed, no system of rules of just individual conduct, and therefore no free action of the individuals, could produce results satisfying any principle of distributive justice.

        We are of course not wrong in perceiving that the effects of the processes of a free society on the fates of the different individuals are not distributed according to some recognizable principle of justice. Where we go wrong is in concluding from this that they are unjust and that somebody is to be blamed for this. In a free society
        in which the position of the different individuals and groups is not the result of anybody’s design-or could, within such a society, be altered in accordance with a generally applicable principle-the differences in reward simply cannot meaningfully be described as just or unjust.

        Report

      • Avatar greginak in reply to greginak says:

        James- I can buy that.I can see how they can be ideals or far more of one than another. I can picture , as a thought experiment, Bottom Up being like taking a shot of hard booze while Top Down is like doing a beer bong. So i can’t disagree with the way you have stated it. I do think how they are often deployed in debate is often a false dichotomy though. Most things are a mix of both.Report

      • Avatar Jam3z Aitch in reply to greginak says:

        As an example, Spanish fishing villages (cofradias, or brotherhoods) have a centuries old method for managing fisheries. Each village’s fishermen stick to their village’s territory, respecting other villages territory, enforced mostly through tit-for-tat behavior of individual fishermen. Within each village the resource is protected from overfishing by observation of each others’ hours and equipment and enforced through peer pressure. These rules are informal, evolved across generations, and have never been formally ratified by any authoritative body.

        Under new EU rules, passed by a supra-national legislature in which those fishing villages had mo effective voice, an open-access rule has been implemented which over-rides those old rules (at least formally).

        Setting aside any debates about which outcome is better, to claim that the processes that produced those outcomes are not analytically distinguishable goes against not just that infernal Austrian Hayek but against the overwhelming majority of work in the study of common pool resource management.Report

      • Avatar Murali in reply to greginak says:

        @jm3z-aitch and @roger

        Sorry if the previous post came out of nowhere. I have been busy trying to complete the final draft of my thesis. So I have been unable to do more than nibble at the edges. The above was in response to Hanley’s request for a quote about Hayek.

        I honestly don’t know what to think about top down vs bottom up. I think that people have pre existing commitments to one kind of thing being better than the other and thus tend to label things they like as top down or bottom up based on which they think is better. The fact that things as they actually are often are mixtures of the two inclines me to think that top down and bottom up (as they are applied in the vast majority of internet discussions) is just a matter of perspective. And the difficulty in finding pure instances of either certainly does not help. Neither does the lack of a clear, ready and uncontroversial operationalization of top-down-ness. That’s one reason I’m hesitant to talk about top-down and bottom-up.Report

      • Avatar Jam3z Aitch in reply to greginak says:

        @murali

        I have been busy trying to complete the final draft of my thesis. So I have been unable to do more than nibble at the edges.

        I think you need to reconsider your priorities, young man. 😉

        As to the quote, I now read your earlier comment differently. I first read it as saying Hayek thought all spontaneous order is morally good, but in fact his quote seems to say that moral analysis isn’t applicable. A dubious argument, if that’s what he means. But the article Roger linked to, it seems to me, satisfactorily demonstrated that Hayek did in fact argue that spontaneous order had moral dimensions, and that a spontaneous order could be morally reproachable, even if he thought that would be the unusual case.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater in reply to greginak says:

        Will H:

        Is this ethical?

        And again, you appear to be defending the liberal view here even tho you think you’re opposing it. If it’s not ethical to impose fex-wearing on kids, why think it’s ethical to impose gender identities on them?Report

      • Avatar Stillwater in reply to greginak says:

        Roger,

        Requiring all the kids to be practicing Mormons or to believe evolution is a lie is social engineering too. Are you for these things as well?

        Well, I could ask the same of you, Roger, since you’re the one who’s most strenuously advocating for continuing to socialize children into traditional – or what you apparently like to call “anthropologically determined” gender roles.

        Personally, I have no idea what you mean by that concept, or why anthropological evidence of anything matters in this discussion. It’s categorically different. In a bunch of ways, actually.

        First, anthropological evidence is descriptive. Second, anthropological theories are notoriously incomplete (they underdetermine the totality of evidence). Third, given that social norms change (and perhaps even improve!), arguments deriving an ought from an historical is are pretty much irrelevant (unless you beg some important questions).

        To be honest, I still have no idea what specifically your arguing in this thread. I can say with complete conviction, tho, that I disagree strenuously with the general claims you’ve been making. Take that for what it’s worth, of course.Report

      • Avatar Will H. in reply to greginak says:

        @stillwater :
        I didn’t say making the kids all wear a fez is unethical. The school has a right to impose a dress code.
        It’s when the dress code becomes one of requiring every first-grade teacher to wear a strap-on to class to promote gender neutrality that I take issue.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater in reply to greginak says:

        Will H:

        I didn’t say making the kids all wear a fez is unethical. The school has a right to impose a dress code. [I said] when the dress code becomes one of requiring every first-grade teacher to wear a strap-on to class to promote gender neutrality that I take issue.

        Huh. I didn’t get that from the quoted comment.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater in reply to greginak says:

        My bad, of course.Report

      • Avatar Roger in reply to greginak says:

        Currently I am arguing for why socialization by parents is quite different from social engineering by sociologists.

        Why in the hell would you continue to repeat that you are not familiar with my arguments, but that whatever I say is so wrong you are sure you will disagree with?

        Is this really how you enjoy your time online?Report

      • Avatar Stillwater in reply to greginak says:

        Is this really how you enjoy your time online?

        Yes.

        Roger, everything you’ve said on this thread with such Certainty and Definitiveness is not only disputed and disputable, but in lots of cases just plain wrong. I mean, even the above comment about socialization by parents VS socialization by socialiogists makes no sense at all. Except insofar as offering that distinction furthers your conclusions.Report

      • Avatar Will H. in reply to greginak says:

        @stillwater :
        No harm done.
        I was just trying to point out that treating a person for a condition they do not have is unethical in the discipline of clinical psychology.
        To say that it’s A-ok for a schoolteacher to treat a person for a psychological condition which they do not have makes no sense to me.
        Teachers seem to be of a mind that genitalia are irrelevant in gendering. Nonetheless, a gay man is not a woman, nor should we expect them to be.

        Q: Were I to describe a particular gay man as “effeminate,” is this sexist of me?

        I happen to agree with Roger quite a bit on this one; though I believe in actual practice peer pressure plays a greater role than parental guidance (perhaps this is best described as being of various weights).
        And I see that socialization can occur absent any manner of interaction; e.g., observation of the animal kingdom, etc.

        Oddly enough, I also agree with Kazzy quite a bit in practice, though not in theory.
        That’s what makes this thread particularly enjoyable for me.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater in reply to greginak says:

        Will H:

        No harm done.

        I’m glad of that!

        I was just trying to point out that treating a person for a condition they do not have is unethical in the discipline of clinical psychology.

        To your point, what clinical psychologists determine what constitutes a “condition”, so if they’re acting according to the conclusions and prescriptions determined by consensus withing the field they can’t be acting unethically. Maybe that’s your worry tho. I get that, actually.

        To say that it’s A-ok for a schoolteacher to treat a person for a psychological condition which they do not have makes no sense to me.

        I don’t think anyone on my side of the argument (at least on this thread) is arguing that having a gender identity revealed by behaviors is a psychological condition in children. The argument goes the other way: to not impose a gender identity on them.

        Teachers seem to be of a mind that genitalia are irrelevant in gendering. Nonetheless, a gay man is not a woman, nor should we expect them to be.

        I don’t think teachers have anything to do with this discussion, actually. And certainly a gay man is still a man (a biological male!), tho he might not be a Man! (a cultural construct of what “manliness” requires!). But lots of not-gay men aren’t A Man! in that sense either.Report

      • Avatar Will H. in reply to greginak says:

        I haven’t actually checked, but I feel fairly certain that the DSM-IV does not identify gender identity corresponding to biological genitalia as a treatable condition.
        So, to initiate a behavioral modification program under the direction of a clinical psychologist for such a condition would indeed be unethical.
        More so for a teacher.

        And I think the argument from the other side falsifies itself.
        1) Everything is a hidden message.
        2) These messages instruct children as to their gender identity.
        3) Some may not have a gender identity coinciding with their biological genitalia.
        4) Therefore, non-traditional gendering roles should be wholly commonplace, in complete disregard of 1, 2, and the inverse of 3.

        Even were it true, it’s not well-thought.
        If it is proper to assume that children corresponding to Item 3 would suffer harm absent 4, then it is also proper to assume that children who do not correspond to Item 3 would suffer harm in the presence of 4.
        Harm the many for the few.
        Why?
        Do not the many enjoy the same rights as the few?Report

      • Avatar Stillwater in reply to greginak says:

        Will H,

        So, to initiate a behavioral modification program under the direction of a clinical psychologist for such a condition would indeed be unethical.

        yeah, I agree. It’s, for example, like all those efforts to Turn Gay people straight.

        More so for a teacher.

        Teachers? How could teachers “impose” a behavior modification program? Do you mean via the union? Or collusion with lefty, west coast liberal elitist academics (everyone Movement needs a political arm, right)? Via the State? (Well, I think that’s a non-starter, really, if you think about it.)

        And I think the argument from the other side falsifies itself.

        Let’s see if it does, shall we?

        1) Everything is a hidden message.

        No. That’s not what the other side is arguing.

        2) These messages instruct children as to their gender identity.

        Yes, that’s very much what the other side is arguing.

        3) Some may not have a gender identity coinciding with their biological genitalia.

        Yes, that’s true. But it’s also true that two people with the same genitalia might not share the same gender identity.

        4) Therefore, non-traditional gendering roles should be wholly commonplace, in complete disregard of 1, 2, and the inverse of 3.

        No. First, the conclusion of the other side is that imposing traditional gender roles on young children (especially very young children) serves no productive purpose for so-called “traditionally gendered” people (and what does that even mean?) and harms children who aren’t “traditionally gendered”.

        Second, the conclusion drawn doesn’t actually follow from the premises since the conclusion (and I’m stretching a bit here to fill in the gaps) assumes that on the “other side’s view”, teachers are required to impose non-genderism (nice word, eh?) on kids, which doesn’t follow from the premises. It also isn’t a fair expression of the view. The view is in interesting permutation: that people should not impose genderism on kids.Report

      • Avatar Will H. in reply to greginak says:

        Remind me: Why exactly is it that children are not to be instructed in recognizing gender differences?
        If parents are to instruct their children in practically everything else, why would this important aspect be off-limits*?

        I can agree with your first conclusion, but the second seems unsound**; in that a eunuch is a eunuch, and not a person wholly without gender.
        Mammals have gender; and there is no absence of gender among them.

        * I agree that it should properly be off-limits for teachers, but not for parents.
        Teachers aren’t raising the children as a part of their family.
        Whether the child should be castrated should not be the decision of the school board or the teacher (and really, I feel a bit uncomfortable permitting parents such leeway).

        ** What else do you suppose we should teach children to suck on rather than breasts in order to provide a gender-neutral feeding experience?Report

      • Avatar Stillwater in reply to greginak says:

        I can agree with your first conclusion, but the second seems unsound**; in that a eunuch is a eunuch, and not a person wholly without gender.
        Mammals have gender; and there is no absence of gender among them.

        Do non-human mammals have a gender because it was imposed on them?

        (Also, I get the feeling you’d be surprised by the gender-related evidence regarding non-human mammals. Maybe I’m wrong about that, and I apologize if so. But you might as well check this out and and watch the video at the bottom.)Report

      • Avatar Will H. in reply to greginak says:

        I tried that Doolittle stuff, but it didn’t work out.
        I still talk to them though, and sometimes they talk to me.
        It’s just that their vocabulary is so limited, there are only a certain range of topics on which we can truly relate.Report

      • Avatar Roger in reply to greginak says:

        Stillwater,

        There is a big difference between an intellectual argument and an insult vaguely disguised as one. Your comments to me are starting to gravitate strongly toward the latter.

        You say my argument on the differences between sociologists deciding how children are socialized vs parents “makes no sense at all.” I provided five reasons why parental socialization would be preferred as a a general rule over contradictory socialization attempts by sociologists. Please let me know where my argument falls flat.Report

      • Avatar Roger in reply to greginak says:

        Stillwater,

        By the way, you seem to misunderstand my argument at just about every turn, so let me clarify a few bits.

        “….you’re the one who’s most strenuously advocating for continuing to socialize children into traditional – or what you apparently like to call “anthropologically determined” gender roles.”

        Actually no. My argument actually lays out a clear direction of how we would transition to gender neutral socialization. The process is for sociologists to to study the topic and lay out an argument that is sufficient to sway parents or at least public opinion.

        Attempting to oppose traditional or parental preference is indeed social engineering. Where social engineering butts up against parental socialization, I would suggest that as a general rule we should be extremely demanding of the engineers.

        “Personally, I have no idea what you mean by that concept [anthropologically determined], or why anthropological evidence of anything matters in this discussion. It’s categorically different. In a bunch of ways, actually.”

        I kinda agree. Which is why I am scratching my head. When did I even use the quoted phrase? What was the context? The only time I remember mentioning anthropologists was in the descriptive part of my comment that dealt with whether there are indeed differences between genders. The fact that we know of no society without differentiated gender roles certainly does not prove that if we eliminated roles in our society that it wouldn’t make things better based upon our values. Again, can you just do me a favor and point out where you lifted this quoted term from?Report

      • Avatar Michael Cain in reply to greginak says:

        Ross sewed the flag because we were and are still wed to the idea that men are inherently superior because we tended to be physically superior millennia ago.

        Late to the party and off on a tangent here, but one of the things I’ve always wondered about our neolithic ancestors involved tolerance for the differently-abled. The image I have in my head is the male with the long legs, wide shoulders, and terrific distance vision who is absolutely the best at tracking and killing a deer saying something along the lines of, “Yeah, Ugh is a scrawny cross-eyed little runt, and I don’t know how he manages to sit there in one place all day knapping flint and scraping tree branches, but just look at the spears he makes: straight, strong, sharp and the heads never come off. And that’s why we take care of him.”Report

      • Avatar Roger in reply to greginak says:

        Michael,

        Not to mention that he has the best spearheads to exchange for food.

        I am currently reading a book by Haim Orek called Second Nature. The hypothesis is that division of labor and exchange (economics) is responsible for the origins of human nature. Fascinating though controversial ideas. Matt Ridley has also popularized similar ideas of late.Report

  10. Re nature vs. nurture:

    Can’t we say it’s a little bit of both? Maybe the question oughtn’t be whether it’s nature OR nurture, but “in what ways is it nature and in what ways is it nurture.” That probably doesn’t resolve the issue, but it might be useful when it comes to refraining from drawing lines in the sand and staking positions as if it’s either / or.Report

    • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Pierre Corneille says:

      Whenever I get asked the “nature versus nurture” comment (be it with regards to sex/gender differences or other things), my answer is almost always, “Yes.”

      There are some exceptions, but even those are typically influenced to some degree by both (e.g., height; there is probably nothing I could have done to have made me 6’10” instead of 5’10”, but had I been malnourished through much of my life, I might never have reached 5’10”).Report

    • Avatar Will H. in reply to Pierre Corneille says:

      You express my own position rather well (and I happen to agree with Roger upthread).

      While reading this, I was thinking about a little girl’s birthday some years ago. I wanted to bring her a gift, and I wasn’t sure what to get. I asked a friend, and she suggested some Barbie stuff. It sounded like a good idea, but when I got to the store and saw how much Barbie stuff there is, I knew that I would never be able to figure out which is the cool Barbie stuff and which is the Barbie stuff that sucks.
      I will never know Barbie as well as a 5 yr old girl.
      So I got her something else.

      At any rate, she had a lot of Barbie stuff already, and 2 or 3 of some of the things.
      But she, and all of her friends, knew exactly which was the cool Barbie stuff.

      So, I’m sort of skeptical to begin with.
      But I think that peer pressure often has greater “social engineering” effect than parental choices.
      Unless your parents are selling you as a prostitute for drug money or something. A few other notable exceptions.Report

  11. Avatar LeeEsq says:

    After reading this entire thread, I’m of the firm belief that somebody should design a social engineering major for college students. It’ll put sociology to good use.Report

  12. Avatar Jaybird says:

    If I had a question, which I don’t, because I’m awesome, but *IF* I had one, I’d say that it seems that we’re upset by what appears to be an authentic enjoyment of stuff that we, as serious adults, don’t approve of but I’d want to know whether the kids (girls, in this particular case) aren’t, in fact, enjoying stuff that is a matter of taste rather than a matter of morality in which case we’re just freaking out, yet again, over people liking stuff that we don’t like that they like.Report

    • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Jaybird says:

      Not so much.

      We’re asking whether we’re implicitly narrowing the choices they make, and whether if we stopped doing that, they might find stuff they liked even better. Sure, little Kanye enjoys playing with that broom and little Ming with the calculator, but maybe if we didn’t make our expectations of them so clear, Kanye would try the briefcase and Ming the football.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Mike Schilling says:

        It is amazing how quickly children will seek to meet the expectations they believe they are expected to.Report

      • Taking what Kazzy says into account (children seeking to meet expectations), I can’t help but hear echoes of the folks who made sure that I always had Christian books to read, Christian music to listen to, Christian television shows to watch (Oh, Davey!), and made sure that I kept away from Iron Maiden.

        Is it that, this time, we know what’s bad for children to be exposed to?Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Mike Schilling says:

        @jaybird

        As I understand it, the issue isn’t limiting but expanding. So, sure, if you want to have Christian books, that’s fine. But make sure you have Muslim books and Jewish books and atheist books as well.

        Boys shouldn’t be denied trucks. But they should also be given dolls and crayons and told and showed that it is totally cool for them to play with any and every and then allowed to decide.Report

      • Avatar Jim Heffman in reply to Mike Schilling says:

        That just seems like turning the hotdog over and eating from the other end.

        “Oh, we still have boys playing with trucks and girls playing with dolls? I guess that means we didn’t expose the boys to dolls vigorously enough. Or maybe those goddamn parents are undermining our educational activity again by not reinforcing the proper attitudes in the home. I bet those boys play with trucks all night long and not a doll in sight. Better get rid of the trucks in the classroom, just to compensate.”Report

      • I would come at it from a different angle. The automatic assumption seems that it would always be that the only authentic yes would be the one that diverges from “normal”. Otherwise, how do we know that peer pressure isn’t behind it? How do we know that our own society’s unconscious bias didn’t influence the decision?

        And, with that in mind, we find ourselves, as serious adults, frowning when the wrong toy is played with. And smiling when the “authentic” toy is played with.

        And we forget that, just a few moments earlier, we said “It is amazing how quickly children will seek to meet the expectations they believe they are expected to.”Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Mike Schilling says:

        My argument is that there is no wrong toy. But there are wrong environments. No child should be denied a toy they are interested in playing with because of expectations about sex/gender. So if a boy wants a truck — for whatever reason — give him a truck. And if a girl wants a doll — for whatever reason — give her a girl. However, if a boy wants a doll — for whatever reason — give him a doll. And if a girl wants a truck — for whatever reason — give her a truck.

        Why is that difficult to understand?Report

      • In theory? It’s not difficult to understand at all.

        In practice? Well, I reckon that the observers change the outcome of the experiment without even noticing that they’re doing so.Report

      • Avatar Jim Heffman in reply to Mike Schilling says:

        “However, if a boy wants a doll — for whatever reason — give him a doll. And if a girl wants a truck — for whatever reason — give her a truck.”

        But what if the boy actually wanted a doll, but didn’t know it because he was never exposed to dolls in a situation that made wanting them acceptable?Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Mike Schilling says:

        @jim-heffman
        Than we provide those opportunities to those boys.

        I don’t like dolls. Be it nature or nurture, I never really played with them. However, I make sure my boys see me play with the dolls. I don’t make a huge show of it — I just make sure the boys (and girls) see me in that space and in that role. If a comment is made, I engage the conversation. If not, I simply serve as a model. It may move some boys to play with dolls and not others. Which is fine. My goal isn’t to make boys play with dolls; rather, it’s to let them know it is fine if they choose to do so.

        The model need not be the father. It can be a teacher, a media personality (e.g. Mr. Rogers), a mentor…Report

    • Avatar Will H. in reply to Jaybird says:

      Thanks a lot, JB! You just socially engineered me!
      Now I’m going to go pet a cat and play a video game . . .Report

  13. Avatar Kazzy says:

    @roger

    Who defines the community?

    Public schools — each and every day — teach kids not to resolve conflict with fists. Would you believe me if I told you not all parents agree to this? I’ve had parents tell me, “I want my kid to stand up for himself. If he gets hit, I want him to hit back.” So everyday that that child goes to school, be it public or private, he is being socialized in a way that runs counter to the wishes of his parents. Is that wrong?

    And what if a small community in the south is full of white racists and wants its public school to teach the moral superiority of the white race. Do we acquiesce to the demands of that community? And, if so, what happens when those kids grow up and enter the broader American community, full of hate and racism? Does that micro community have no obligation to the broader one? If that community’s school teaches those children that no race is morally superior, is that social engineering? Why or why not?Report

    • Avatar Roger in reply to Kazzy says:

      I don’t think you will have any trouble building a case that persuades most parents that violence at school is unacceptable. Not all parents, just most. Nor will you find controversy in the scientific community on it. As such we are just dealing with a norm.

      Compare that with coercive gender neutral reprogramming. My guess is that parents would go nuts if they learned we wanted to reprogram their kids to be gender neutral. I am absolutely sure that you could never get anything close to a scientific consensus that gender should be programmed out of kids.

      As to KKK socialization, my repeated overuse of the term “rule of thumb” was borderline comical in my comment this morning. I included it because I knew someone would throw out an absurd case where we do believe we should override the parents.

      Just because we all agree parents shouldn’t be allowed to establish racism as a school norm doesn’t mean any half assed theory gets to override parental choice.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Roger says:

        Compare that with coercive gender neutral reprogramming.

        I think you’re confusing two things here Roger: 1) refraining from imposing (culturally constructed, yes I know) gender identities on young children, and 2) requiring children to refrain from engaging in gender based activities, desires and behaviors.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Roger says:

        @roger

        Who is pushing to “coercive gender neutral reprogramming”?

        Schools are, whether we like it or not, going to socialize one form of gender role or another. The question isn’t socializing versus not socializing. It is socializing for this versus socializing for that. My goal is to provide the children as many avenues towards realization and expression of their gender as possible, including traditional roles. If a boy in my class is a super boy’s boy and has no interest in playing with dolls, so be it! I leave space for it. It is the alternative 1- the rigid adherence to traditional gender norms — that is restrictive. By that logic, if my community demands that boys be forbidden from using dolls (despite no scientific consensus that it is harmful), should I then refuse a doll to a boy who is interested in one?

        As I said, I disagree with radical gender neutrality. Sex differences exist and they are amplified by our current societal methods of socialization. It appears you are saying, more or less, “Don’t socialize the children.” That’s asking for some to remain still on a moving train. If I sit idlh by while a child parrots his parent and insists, “Boys can’t like red,” I give tacit approval to that idea and given the power and influence I wield, I have contributed to that socialization.

        An American value we espouse to hold is that people are deserving of the same respect, dignity, and oppourtunity to succeed regardless of sex/gender (among other things). Do you agree with that idea, even if we don’t always realize that value? If so, are public school teachers — charged with fostering the ideals and values of our society — not dutybound to teach the kids, “Boys can play with dolls and girls with trucks”? If they do otherwise — if they restrict access as traditional gender norms would demand — they would be communicating to the children that sex differences are greater than they actually are, necessarily so, and will be imposed on children even if they are not applicable to that individual.

        Show me evidence that that is a key undergirding value of our society OR that there is scientific consensus on that.

        With all due respect, it seems to me you’ve tipped from the more nuanced position you initially staked out (which you and I largely agreed on) to one closer to “Damn liberals wanna pussify our boys!”

        Do I qualify as a sociogist? Do I lose my standing as a parent if I put Mayo in pink? I am charged with doing the best by my students as possible, a duty I take seriously. This sometimes means saying, “No, Jimmy, you can’t just eat cake for lunch — even if you do so at home and even if you really want to.” But at no point do I think it means saying, “Sorry, Claire. See, you have a vagina, so I’m going to need that truck back.” And I’ve seen zero convincing evidence offered as to why I should. The most I’ve seen argued is that Claire may deal with later social pressures to conform and abandon something that ultimately harms no one. I say fuck that. There are also social pressures on kids to eschew school – particularly so among African-American youth. Should I tell little Malcolm to put down the book and pick up the basketball?Report

      • Avatar Will H. in reply to Roger says:

        Do you mind explaining once again why it is that you take such an interest in what toys which child happens to be playing with?
        Is a child permitted to have a favorite toy, where it would wish to play with that one toy only?Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Roger says:

        @will-h

        I’m not sure if you knew, but I’m a preschool teacher. The toys that children play with is sort of my job. If a child had a favorite toy to the exclusion of all others, it would be a potential concern. Children’s play is their work. It is how they learn about the world and how they express what they learn. It is one of the best sources of data about that child. So, yea, I care about the toys children play with.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Roger says:

        @roger

        Regarding scientific consensus, what, exactly, would we be looking for science to tell us? If it could be scientifically proven that women, collectively, were less equipped to be effective in the practice of medicine than man, should that have any implications on our educational or medical systems? Should we say to little Susie, “No, no, Susie, put down the toy stethoscope”? Anything the scientific community could tell us about sex disparities would have little bearing on any individual boy or girl. So I’m not sure why you are suddenly harping on science.

        Also, where has science taught us that mediating through words is better than through fists? That is simply a norm as well. Mediating through fists is highly effective if your goal is simply to impose your will. As such, it was the dominant form of mediating for a long time where the norm was to impose one’s will at all costs. Many societies have moved away from this as a goal, identifying the loss of life and limb to such mediation strategies as not worth it.

        You are putting far, far too much value into the status quo. Sure, most parents will agree not to hit. Unless we’re talking about foreign policy. Then you see a decidedly different view on the use of force. So which is it? What has science taught us about the use of force? What is the knowable fact about the use of force? Or is it possible that we have one norm for interpersonal relations and a different norm for international relations, neither of which is an objective, scientifically proven fact and both of which are predicated on values, morals, and other non-absolute, subjective criteria?Report

      • Avatar Roger in reply to Roger says:

        @kazzy ,

        I have no issues with how you treat kids in a classroom. None.

        I agree that schools are going to socialize kids, full stop. I also have no issue with letting kids play with whatever you they want or wear whatever gender clothes they want.

        Like you I do have concerns with “radical gender neutrality” being forced on kids against the will of parents. Before it is forced, I would expect extremely demanding standards. Let me use this as an example.

        There are indeed proponents of radical gender neutrality. We must consider the possibility that they are right and we are wrong. My expectation is that they prove their case to our satisfaction. They can do this either by persuading individual parents, or by somehow proving that societies with extreme neutrality perform better based upon a particular value set that we share. Over time, it is theoretically possible that they slowly but surely make their case and convert us to radical neutrality.

        Do you support sociologists imposing radical gender neutrality on schools? Why not?Report

      • Avatar Roger in reply to Roger says:

        Kazzy,

        Regarding “scientific consensus” I am indeed probably using sloppy language. I am referring to prescriptions from social sciences.

        As the dictionary defines social engineering as “the application of sociological principles to specific social problems,” my expectation is that there be some rigor behind their process. Otherwise, perhaps they should just stop trying to apply their principles.

        Said another way, To the extent that sociology and psychology and behavioral sciences can tell us nothing about how we should indeed raise our kids, then I certainly agree they should stop trying to override how we actually do so.

        That said I think we both agree that the social and behavioral sciences do add value! They can describe how our actions play out in development and in sociological outcomes. From this, we can overlay our values and use the science to reform or improve our actions.

        You ask what have the social sciences taught us about the use of force? I would say a lot. They study various cultures and how they resolve disputes. In some cultures, Clan based for example, they show that retaliation and reputation based dispute resolution systems are constantly at risk of self amplifying into Hatfield and McCoy type feuds. The vary fabric of society can self destruct. Obviously we as students of the science need to add our values to the mix. In this case, most of us see the value of not tearing the fabric of society apart in escalating cycles of violence, so we choose other avenues of dispute resolution.

        One final point. It seems weird that the side arguing PRO SOCIAL ENGINEERING is the one arguing social sciences tell us nothing.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Roger says:

        @roger
        I am opposed to anyone imposing ‘radical gender neutrality’ because I remain unconvinced that ‘gender neutrality’ exists. The difficulty is determining where the line is between my own approach and that of the radical gender neutralitists. Some people will look at my approach — wherein I tell a boy it’s totes cool for him to play with a doll and a girl that I dig her truck work — and call me a radical.

        I think it is also important that we delineate between the various levels of socialization. For instance, I tell my students that the difference between boys and girls is limited to what’s between their legs because for all intents and purposes, those are the only differences of any relevance to them. It would be useless for me to explain slight and non-absolute disparities in brain or eye or motor development. Is telling my students that boys and girls are more-or-less the same and, more importantly, of completely equal worth, value, and merit… is that radical? Some would say yes. I don’t. And I believe I can back that study up with both science AND attention to our broader societal values.

        Socializing has to do with norms and values. Acknowledging the slight and non-absolute disparities in brain or eye or motor development isn’t socializing; it is responding to a discoverable truth arrived at via the scientific method.

        So, the question is, does our society believe that boys and girls — men and women — are off equal worth, dignity, and respect? And should they have access to the same opportunities and receive the same treatment except in those cases where the biological disparities demand it (e.g., rest rooms; it would be pointless to have urinals in a women’s room or deny them to a men’s room)? Because if the answer to these questions is “Yes”, then I struggle to see the justification for gender-specific dress codes and would put the burden on those arguing on their behalf to demonstrate why they serve a biological purpose that does not unnecessarily harm the pursuit of equal worth, dignity, and respect.Report

      • Avatar Chris in reply to Roger says:

        What a weird definition of “social engineering.”

        By the way, the social and behavioral sciences don’t generally give prescriptions, though people may use their findings to give prescriptions of their own and claim that they have the weight of science behind them.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Roger says:

        “It seems weird that the side arguing PRO SOCIAL ENGINEERING is the one arguing social sciences tell us nothing.”

        Wait, am I pro or anti social engineering?Report

      • Avatar Roger in reply to Roger says:

        Kazzy,

        How many times do I have to repeat that I have no issues with how you work with kids. Quit personalizing it and assuming I have any issue with how you handle kids with equal dignity and respect. None. Zero. Nada.

        We can make more progress on the topic if we find a non personal issue. We both apparently disagree on radical gender neutrality. So I ask, what would it take to convince you that radical gender neutrality should be taught in schools?

        I have explained my standards. What are yours?Report

      • Avatar Roger in reply to Roger says:

        Chris,

        It comes from Websters collegiate dictionary and has been an essential term in the discussion as per the phrasing of the initial post. I used it to define the term two or three days ago. Greg seems to prefer the definition of something along the lines of *any socialIzation which conservatives disagree with.*

        I don’t disagree with your second paragraph, but I did clarify how the social sciences can provide empirical data that we can combine with our values to make decisions. See my example on violence and clan cultures.Report

      • Avatar Chris in reply to Roger says:

        Roger, I didn’t mean to come off as accusing you of coming up with a strange definition, but it is a strange definition. I doubt it’s what anyone here actually means by social engineering. For one, no one’s talking about sociologists doing or guiding the “engineering,” other than you, and that may simply be because you were misled by a bad definition.Report

      • Avatar Roger in reply to Roger says:

        I think when most people talk about social engineering they mean something based upon some theory from the social sciences. Other than Greg of course.

        It is certainly what I meant, and I defined it to clarify my thoughts. Not that I necessarily succeeded.Report

  14. Avatar Kazzy says:

    @will-h

    How much and what sorts of harm are done to the children who are not at risk?

    These are kinda sorta important questions to have answered before I can declare something ethical or not.Report

  15. Avatar Stillwater says:

    Roger, down here.

    You wrote something to the effect that my comments to you are bordering on anti-intellectual insults. I’m not sure how you can draw that conclusion, actually, since I’ve said repeatedly that I have no idea what you’re arguing against in this thread – or even who you’re arguing against – since it appears that no one is actually arguing for the views that you think you’re making a devastating argument against. Personally, I can’t find a clear articulation of what your view actually advocating or rebutting except in vague generalities and implication. For example, it seems to me that you’re arguing against the view that the state ought to impose a regime of gender-reeducation practices on children ensuring that no child has or expresses a gender. If that’s true, then you’re arguing a strawman, since I’ve not seen anyone argue that view.

    But let’s look at the five points you challenged me to show where you’re wrong.

    First, you wrote,

    There is a fundamental difference in society between decisions that individuals make on their own, and those that those in a position of power impose on others. Of course in the case of children, they are not yet expected to be rational adults, so we abdicate responsibility to the parents. The evolutionary logic for this is strong, as parents tend as a rule to love their kids and consider their best interest. This is a good, but not perfect rule of thumb with well known reasons to violate the heuristic in extraordinary cases.

    I object to the entire premise of this argument: that the distinction is between parents and … this other thing you’re objecting to (that the sociologists in collusion with the state make our schools into gender reeducation camps). The distinction in play is whether the imposition of certain types culturally constructed gender identifying expectations and norms can be justified given that children, as you correctly say, aren’t rational actors. It has nothing to do with gender re-education: it has to do with rethinking – and perhaps changing – the mechanisms and reasons for imposing any gender identification on kids. So, I think you’re just plain wrong in your framing, in your premises, and of course you’re conclusion.

    The benefit of allowing parents to decide are multiple.

    As opposed to what? A view that no one is arguing for? OK. You win the strawman debate.

    You then proceed with a list of five reasons why parents, rather than nerds in libraries, are better decision-makers wrt to the interests of their children, which begs the question in a couple of important ways. 1) as I pointed out, you’ve constructed false dichotomy here, one which no one on the thread supports or even recognizes; 2) the so called “extraordinary circumstances” condition is arbitrary and based on (it seems to me) a sentiment rather than anything approaching reason (appeals to anthropological or evolutionary evidence seems question-begging at best); and 3) a resolution to the issue doesn’t begin with assuming anything about the role of parents, but with the kids in question, and whether or not imposing certain types of gender-markers on them can be justified given argument and evidence. So I think you’re wrong in the framing, the premises, and the conclusion.

    Is comment intellectual enough to not be labeled insulting?Report

    • Avatar Roger in reply to Stillwater says:

      SW,

      Thanks for being specific rather than just stating sweeping generalities about how wrong I am.

      These long threads do indeed risk everyone arguing past each other. The turn of the thread which I have been responding to is where Kazzy said he agreed with my first three points on gender differences, but disagreed that sociologists should not impose their values to override the value of parents without an extremely strong and convincing case. My argument is that this would entail social engineering of the worst kind.

      See Kazzy’s comment at 6:58 on the 24th and my response at 8:03.

      If you and Kazzy do not hold this opposing view then the discussion is indeed over.

      “I object to the entire premise of this argument: that the distinction is between parents and … this other thing you’re objecting to (that the sociologists in collusion with the state make our schools into gender reeducation camps). The distinction in play is whether the imposition of certain types culturally constructed gender identifying expectations and norms can be justified given that children, as you correctly say, aren’t rational actors. It has nothing to do with gender re-education: it has to do with rethinking – and perhaps changing – the mechanisms and reasons for imposing any gender identification on kids. So, I think you’re just plain wrong in your framing, in your premises, and of course you’re conclusion.”

      I did not say our schools are gender reeducation camps. My argument is that they should not become gender reeducation camps absent overwhelmingly high evidentiary/persuasive standards. By the way, if the will of the parents in society was that we should be radically gender neutral, then the same argument applies in reverse.

      I am fine with rethinking about the mechanisms of imposing gender identification of kids. This is a cool hypothesis. Sociologists should be encouraged to think away. My high expectations and burdens of proof show up when they want to impose their theories on parents against the will of parents. Does this make sense?

      On the issue of allowing parents to decide being a straw man, no it isn’t. If sociologists and parents agree on how we should socialize kids then there is no debate. If they don’t agree, my argument is that as a rule of thumb I would go with parents absent overwhelmingly convincing arguments to the contrary. Again, if you and Kazzy now agree with me the debate is indeed over on this point.

      You then take issue with “extraordinary circumstances” which is odd because you then answer the objection yourself in your next sentence….”whether or not imposing certain types of gender-markers on them can be justified given argument and evidence.” That works for me.

      You precede this phrase with “a resolution to the issue doesn’t begin with assuming anything about the role of parents.” I disagree. The default position in society is that parents are responsible for their kids. I explained five reasons why this default makes sense.

      Again if sociologists and parents agree on how kids are socialized then we have no issue. It is only where they disagree and where sociologists wish to reengineer their kids against the parents will that my argument applies.Report

  16. Avatar Kazzy says:

    @roger

    I am trying to understand the values you think are justified in being socialized into children and those which you think are unjustified and/or amount to social engineering.

    Do you agree that men and women are deserving of equal worth, value, and merit?
    If so, how do you rectify that with requiring different clothing of the two sexes in school?

    Because my opposition to sex-specific dress codes often gets me labeled as radical. Some would call it social engineering. Me? I see it as promoting one of the ideals and values this country was founded upon — even if only in words but not deeds.

    The most fundamental question we must ask ourselves are what values do we want to instill in our children when it comes to the various sexes and genders. What values do you want to instill in our children when it comes to various sexes and genders?Report

  17. Avatar Roger says:

    @jm3z-aitch

    Thanks for the recommendation. Your suggestions have always been great. This one looks fascinating. I have added it to my Christmas Amazon list…hint hint.

    Interesting tidbit….I read so many books, that I always have this fear that I will read all the good ones and then be in a state with no new good books to read. Keep the suggestions coming.Report

  18. Avatar Roger says:

    @kazzy

    Down here!

    I would be honored to have you teach and socialize my grandson. Of course both genders should be treated with respect and dignity. However, this doesn’t mean they have to dress the same. Nor would I expect “unsocialized humans” if such a thing could ever exist, to want to dress the same. My guess is that they would spontaneously try to accentuate certain things to capture the interest of the other gender by a certain age. Catching the eye or attention of the opposite sex is not necessarily something we are socialized in. Socialization applies more to the how we catch the others eye.

    One final comment is that I strongly suspect that the strategy (as used in game theory) for optimal success for males may differ from that for females. This is probably true for mating and courtship strategies as well as relative success and failure compared to other individuals within ones gender. Status is extremely important to humans.Report

    • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Roger says:

      @roger

      So which of these is social engineering:
      1.) Forcing children to wear a particular clothes item because of their sex and regardless of their personal preferences.
      2.) Allowing children to wear the clothing of their choice.

      To me, it seems obvious that the former is. Now, might the sexes opt for different clothes? Sure. And, if so, that choice should be respected.

      And while you might be right about game theory and mate finding, doesn’t it seem perverse to promote optimal behaviors for such when children are as young as 5? My school is constantly citing girls for wearing too-short skirts — while completely ignorant to the fact that the only reason most of the girls are wearing skirts in the first place is because they are required to. This seems asinine to me.

      And thank you for your kind words. If I seemed to be getting testy, it was because I feared we were talking past each other and I was trying to be more direct.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Kazzy says:

        Kazzy, I just wanted to say that you’ve been En Fuego in this thread. Your comments have been spot on – no, *more* than spot on – on so many levels.

        And Roger, you too. I disagree with just about everything you’ve said (sometimes even your use of “and” and “the”!) but the effort you’ve taken to articulate your views with clarity and patience is pretty damn cool.Report

      • Avatar Roger in reply to Kazzy says:

        I wrote out an answer but then checked myself based upon our discussion.

        Here is my second take, which completely contradicts my first instincts….

        Either could possibly be social engineering if based upon theories in the social sciences.

        On the perverse comment, I suspect successful mate attraction is probably one of the super important things parents socialize on. And I do suspect the “winning” strategies start early. I am not willing to argue it though. Nor do I think parents interests and children’s fully align.

        Thanks for the kind words, Stillwater. You are of course right that I may very well be wrong.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Kazzy says:

        @stillwater
        Thanks for your kind words.
        @roger
        You are probably right about how early the mate-seeking training begins. Even four-year-olds know that “pretty” is a “girl word” and “handsome” a “boy word”, with neither group wanting to be labeled the other (and, no, that isn’t evidence of biological differences… Vocabulary is 100% a social construct). I have a basic understanding of how physicality factors into mate-seeking, but also believe humans have to some degree evolved away from it being the sole determinant. Most of us choose our mates based on criteria beyond reproductive fitness. Yet we seem to put more effort — at least explicit effort — into teaching girls to be pretty and boys to be tough than to just teaching them to be good people who are reliable, trustworthy, kind, and honest (with a greater disparity for girls… See this curiously titled but excellent article: http://m.huffpost.com/us/entry/882510).

        If you would, I’d be curious to hear how the “wear what you want” approach could be construed as social engineering. I mean, ultimately that is the choice we’ve made for society at large so extending it to children (in conjunction with their parents/families) seems to best reflect the current state of our society.Report

      • Avatar Roger in reply to Kazzy says:

        @kazzy

        To the extent that *wear whatever you want* is already in society, then it would not be social engineering. Note I am using the term in a neutral, non disparaging way. If we used the knowledge of the social sciences to recommend changing practices then it meets Webster’s definition.

        Personally I am fine with allowing kids to wear whatever they want. Some parents may not be.

        So, my question back to you. What would it take for you to convert from your current position to “radical gender neutrality”? If you were convinced to change your mind, how would you broach this with parents as an experienced educator? The reason I ask, is I assume our answers would be pretty much the same.

        I could be wrong about that though.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Kazzy says:

        @roger
        I would need to see scientific research that indicated there were zero biological differences between the sexes. The research would have to meet all the standards I typically look for (e.g., peer reviewed, appropriate sample size, etc.). I would then look for evidence of such in my own work with children. Were I convinced, I would share the research with parents (as I do now when broaching a potentially divisive topic).

        Re. where what you want: My approach would allow for parents to disagree. If the Smiths want their daughter to wear a dress everyday, they can pursue that route. What they may not do is demand a school-wide policy that extends their preference to all (well, they can demand it, but I would reject their demands).Report

      • Avatar Roger in reply to Kazzy says:

        @will-truman @stillwater @kazzy

        This is why I love this site. After a great discussion we basically agree. Thanks everyone.Report

  19. Avatar Patrick says:

    @roger

    The term I have used on the imposed order vs spontaneous order issue is the Big Kahuna bias. The bias isn’t about which is more important, after all most complex systems are a combination of both.*

    The BK bias is ignoring that spontaneous or decentralized order exists at all. It is being blind to the possibility or value of spontaneous order. In more moderate terms it involves assuming imposed design when it may not be there at all or may not be the only source in that case.

    There’s a semantic problem in there. I agree that many people who suffer from the Big Kahuna bias don’t see patterns in bottom-up complex systems. But it’s not atomic… “order” can mean different things, and there’s a continuum there where we pass from a fallacy to a quibble over semantics, depending.

    (edited to add) This is kind of confusing, so let me add some more words that will probably make it worse instead of better:

    “Order” in a system generally is interpreted by the layman that, given a snapshot of time, the system itself is reasonably predictable. This is an imprecise definition because some systems have more or less degrees of spontaneous order; the weather is somewhat predictable over short periods of time, but the predictions still occasionally fail spectacularly. It’s a loosely ordered short term system… and at some point “short term” expires and it’s not an ordered system in any meaningful way at all. When people use the term “order” it’s not always clear that they’re talking about formal order, or ordered determinism, or probabilistic or chaotic or what. “Spontaneous order” is a troublesome phrase because people often say it when they mean, “Over time, the system came to act (like this)”… but the “like this” part has jumped the shark and they consider the system to be deterministic, which is an error. It’s a huge error (from what I’ve heard of his interviews, I suspect this is basically Alan Greenspan’s gobsmacker in a nutshell).

    If you say it in the sense of, “Over time, the system started acting somewhat repeatably (like this) and at some point in the future and we’re not sure when it’s going to stop acting (like this), maybe suddenly and maybe catastrophically, and maybe slowly and uninterestingly”, that’s closer to how I look at “spontaneous order”.

    By the way, it is not a bias that is unique to the left or the right.

    Agreed.

    I have sometimes thought about writing a guest post on history through the lens of overcoming the Big Kahuna bias.

    This would be really interesting, please do. I suspect we’ll wrangle over the details, but it’ll be a fun wrangle.

    Interesting. Do you believe the flexibility built into the constitution was aimed at the slavery issue? That is a fascinating idea.

    I’m not going to lay any hard claims in here. As @jam3z-aitch points out, the Articles were inflexible, the Constitution was not. One was abandoned, the other wasn’t. I’m not going to go all post hoc ergo or anything, and I haven’t read enough of the contemporary primary sources to even claim that this is an even a “really educated guess”. But I suspect that “we have problems that are intractable right now” was something that they all recognized from a political standpoint, and figuring out how to get a compromise document through that would satisfy the “status quo” folks and the “things must change at some point” folks was what delivered the Constitution… not an explicit recognition that adaption was a good thing in and of itself.

    From the general body of philosophy, science, mathematics, etc. available between 1600 and 1800, I can draw some pretty basic inferences about what the Founders were unlikely to have explicitly known. Maybe they had some tacit recognition of adaption as being useful, but we have to be really careful when we attribute complex adaptive system theory back on stuff that happened well before now, because most of the “ah-HAH!” moments hadn’t happened yet.

    It isn’t what I took away from the Federalist papers, but perhaps I just have a bad memory.

    Every time I poked my head back into the Federalist papers, I saw something different (probably not coincidentally I see something that appeals to the sort of political framework baggage I was carrying at the time). I think it’s a lot like the Bible, you see the lessons that you think are important. It’s been a while since I re-re-read them, maybe I ought to see if I see something different this time, too.Report

    • Avatar Roger in reply to Patrick says:

      @patrick

      Thanks for the great feedback. I found value and insight in every paragraph.

      The ORDER term is indeed fuzzy. I think some of it relates to the issue of things which are clearly exhibiting design though perhaps without a designer, or at least an overall designer.Report

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