SOLAR ECLIPSE

The Navajo word for eclipse is “eating the sun.” In the Navajo tradition it is believed that the “sun dies” during a solar eclipse and that it is an intimate event between the Earth, Sun and Moon.

People are told to stay inside and keep still during the dark period. There’s no eating, drinking, sleeping, weaving or any other activity.

Golden State sets the standard for resistance to Trump agenda

California’s big pushback:

Attorney General Xavier Becerra and progressive legislators are fighting back against the Trump agenda

California's big pushback: Golden State sets the standard for resistance to Trump agenda
Donald Trump; Xavier Becerra (Credit: AP/Alex Brandon/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

After Donald Trump’s shocking meltdown on Tuesday afternoon, it’s even clearer that progressives need effective strategies to blunt the effect of having a conspiracy-theory-driven, racist authoritarian in the Oval Office, backed by a congressional majority that is still too afraid to offer meaningful checks on his worst behavior. The good news is that some of the nation’s biggest cities and states remain controlled by Democrats. Activists and politicians in those states are looking for meaningful ways to throw wrenches in the Trump agenda.

At the top of that list is California, which not only has the largest population of any state but is controlled by progressive Democrats (relatively speaking) who seem ready and eager to fight Trump, especially on the issues of climate change and immigration. (New York is the next biggest state controlled by Democrats, but intra-party warfare has crippled the ability of progressives to get much done.)

California fired a significant shot across the bow at Trump on Monday, when state Attorney General Xavier Becerra declared that the state would sue the Trump administration over threats to withdraw law enforcement grants if the local and state police refuse to cooperate with federal efforts to deport immigrants. The lawsuit will be joined with an earlier one filed by the city of San Francisco.

“It’s a low blow to our men and women who wear the badge, for the federal government to threaten their crime-fighting resources in order to force them to do the work of the federal government when it comes to immigration enforcement,” Becerra said during a press conference announcing the suit. California received $28 million in law enforcement grants from the federal government this year, money it could lose if the police prioritize actual crime-fighting over federal demands that they focus their resources on deporting people.

“The government’s plan for deporting millions of people in this country is to coerce local law enforcement to be their force-multipliers,” explained Jennie Pasquarella, director of immigrants’ rights for the ACLU of California.

Pasquarella noted that most deportations currently occur because of an encounter with local law enforcement. By resisting pressure to step up efforts to persecute undocumented immigrants, she said, California can make it safe for people to “access basic services that are vital to our state and communities without fear of deportation, like schools and hospitals and libraries and health clinics.”

Some Democrats in the state are trying to take this idea even further, backing SB 54, titled the California Values Act. According to The Los Angeles Times, the bill would prohibit “state and local law enforcement agencies, including school police and security departments, from using resources to investigate, interrogate, detain, detect or arrest people for immigration enforcement purposes.”

While SB 54 is still being worked over in the legislature, California has already made progress in resisting the Trump administration’s efforts to repeal Obama-era actions to fight climate change. In July, Gov. Jerry Brown signed a bill extending a cap-and-trade program to reduce carbon emissions until 2030. The bill passed by a two-thirds majority in both the State Assembly and Senate.

Many environmentalist groups have come out against the bill, arguing that it doesn’t go far enough. Still, compared to the federal government’s evident retreat, it’s progress in the right direction. California has the largest state economy in the country, and demonstrating that climate action does not have to undermine economic growth could go a long way towards convincing other states to take similar action. This, in turn, could help the country meet the goals set by the Paris Accords, defying Trump’s efforts to pull the United States out of the historic climate change agreement.

This strategy to resist right-wing policies and protect California residents predates Trump, to be clear. While much of the country was experiencing an unprecedented rollback of reproductive rights — with numerous red states passing alarming new abortion restrictions while anti-choice activists fought insurance coverage of contraception in the courts — California moved to make birth control and abortion easier and safer to get.

In 2013, responding to research showing that abortions provided by nurse practitioners and midwives are safe, Brown signed a law giving those groups authority to offer abortion services. Brown has also signed off on three provisions to make it easier for women to get birth control: Letting pharmacists dispense it without a doctor’s prescription, requiring that health care plans cover contraception without a co-pay, and allowing women to get a full year’s worth of birth-control pills at a time.

These policies were already in place before Trump’s election, but they are all the more necessary now that the president is backing conservative efforts to make contraception more expensive and harder to get. It has also helped create a model for progressive cities and states to resist reactionary policies pushed by the federal government, which is already inspiring Democrats in other states. Chicago, for instance, is also suing the federal government over the threat to sanctuary cities.

There’s a deep philosophical irony here, because for decades now conservatives have claimed they wanted to reduce the power of the federal government and hand more decision-making authority to the states. That was always a disingenuous pose, of course. This conservative “principle” was largely invented to justify state resistance to Supreme Court decisions and federal legislation legalizing abortion, desegregating schools and protecting voting rights.

Still, it’s nice to see states like California calling the Republican bluff and showing that their supposed devotion to “small government” dries up the second states and cities move to protect human rights, instead of to attack them. Trump’s attorney general, Jeff Sessions, has always held himself out to be a small-government conservative, for instance. But his reaction to state and local officials who claim the power to set law enforcement priorities for themselves has been to accuse those officials of being law-breakers. This hypocrisy is already obvious, and it may soon be exposed in court.

Amanda Marcotte is a politics writer for Salon. She’s on Twitter @AmandaMarcotte

As Americans die younger, corporations to reap billions in pension costs

By Kate Randall
11 August 2017

Life expectancy for Americans has stalled and reversed in recent years, ending decades of improvement. According to a new Bloomberg study, this grim reality has an upside for US corporations, saving them billions in pension and other retirement obligations owed to workers who are dying at younger ages.

In 2015, the American death rate rose slightly for the first time since 1999, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Over the last two years, at least 12 large companies have reported that negative trends in mortality have led them to reduce their estimates for how much they could owe to retirees by a combined $9.7 billion, according to Bloomberg’s analysis of company filings.

It is highly unusual in modern times, except under epidemic or war conditions, for life expectancy in an industrial country to stop improving, let alone decline. Laudan Aron, a demographer at the Urban Institute, told Bloomberg that falling US life expectancy, especially when compared to other high-income countries, should be “as urgent a national issue as any other that’s on our national agenda.”

But this has not sounded alarm bells in Washington. In fact, shortened life expectancy in the 21st century is the result of deliberate government policy of both big business parties: to restrict access to affordable health care, resulting in increased disease, suffering and early death.

Those who stand to cash in on the shortened lifespans of workers include General Motors, Verizon and other giant corporations. Lockheed Martin, for instance, has reduced its estimated retirement obligations for 2015 and 2016 by a total of about $1.6 billion, according to a recent annual report.

Companies have reduced estimates of what they will owe future retirees. According to a Society of Actuaries (SOA) report, companies can expect to lower their pension obligations by about 1.5 to 2 percent, based on a 2016 update of mortality data.

Life expectancy for the US population was 78.8 in 2015, a decrease of 0.1 year from 2014, according to the CDC, with the age-adjusted death rate increasing 1.2 percent over the year. Since the introduction in 1965 of Medicare and Medicaid—the government insurance programs for the elderly, poor and disabled—US life expectancy has steadily increased.

Death rates for Americans over age 50 have improved by 1 percent on average each year since 1950, according the SOA. In 1970, a 65-year-old American could expect to live another 15.2 years, on average, until just past 80 years.

From 2000 to 2009, the death rates for Americans over age 50 decreased, with annual improvements of 1.5 to 2 percent. By 2010, a 65-year-old could expect to live to 84. But these increases have slowed in recent years, with life expectancy at 65 rising only about four months between 2010 and 2015.

The slowing in death rate improvements since 2010, and the actual lowering of life expectancy in 2015, have followed the global financial crash of 2007-2008. Despite the Obama administration’s declaration that the Great Recession ended mid-2009, millions of US workers and their families continue to suffer under the weight of unemployment, underemployment, and stagnant or falling wages.

Seven years after the Affordable Care Act was signed into law, a staggering 28 million Americans remain uninsured. Those who are insured have seen their premiums, deductibles and other out-of-pocket costs skyrocket. Families are saddled with billions of dollars in medical debt.

The lack of access to affordable health care is resulting in an unprecedented health crisis in the US. A 2015 study showed that mortality was rising for middle-aged white Americans, with deaths from suicides, drug overdoses and alcohol, collectively referred to as “ deaths of despair.” Both women and men have been affected by this phenomenon.

CDC data shows that more than 500,000 Americans have died of drug overdoses in the period between 2000 and 2015, now approaching an average of 60,000 a year.

The 10 leading causes of death in 2015 were heart disease, cancer, chronic lower respiratory diseases, unintentional injuries, stroke, Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, influenza and pneumonia, kidney disease, and suicide, according the CDC. Despite scientific advances in medical treatment and the development of new drugs to treat these diseases and conditions, they still accounted for 74.3 of all US deaths in 2015.

Moreover, from 2014 to 2015, age-adjusted death rates increased 0.9 percent for heart disease, 2.7 percent for chronic lower respiratory diseases, 6.7 percent for unintentional injuries, 3 percent for stroke, 15.7 percent for Alzheimer’s disease, 1.9 percent for diabetes, 1.5 percent for kidney disease, and 2.3 percent for suicide. Only cancer saw a reduction, of 1.7 percent.

It is on the backs of workers dying earlier from these diseases, alongside “deaths of despair,” that US corporations now stand to save billions, increasing their bottom lines by not paying out pensions and retirement benefits.

This is by design. Obamacare was the first significant effort to reduce the trend of increasing life expectancy by shifting the costs of medical care from the corporations and government to the working class. The ACA was drafted in close consultation with the insurance industry, requiring those without insurance to purchase coverage from private insurers under the threat of tax penalty.

The ACA set into motion the rationing of health care for ordinary Americans, making vitally needed treatments and medicines increasingly inaccessible for millions. This has now borne fruit in the first reduction in US life expectancy in more than half a century.

Following the Republicans’ failure to “repeal and replace” Obamacare, the Democrats have responded by offering to work with the Republicans to “repair” the ACA. But they do not mean reducing the number of uninsured or further expanding Medicaid.

Instead they have offered a five-point plan to shore up the insurance companies by setting up a “stability fund” for companies to insure high-risk enrollees, and guaranteeing they receive $8 billion in government cost-sharing payments to the insurance firms that the Trump administration has threatened to cut off.

Such measures, along with savings from unpaid retirement benefits, will further bloat corporate profits along with those of the private insurance companies and health care industry as a whole.

WSWS

The Extinction Event Gains Momentum

Photo by Bryan Alexander | CC BY 2.0

“In the next few decades we’ll be driving species to extinction a thousand times faster than we should be,” Dr. Stuart Pimm, conservation ecologist, Duke University.

“It is quite possible that the baby boomer generation is the most impactful generation that this planet has ever seen,”(Source: Racing Extinction directed by Louie Psihoyos, Discovery Channel, 2015).

The Great Suffocation

Imagine for a moment that phytoplankton, the foundation of the aquatic food web startlingly dies off. All of a sudden gone! Phytoplankton feeds everything from microscopic zooplankton to multi-tonne Blue Whales (the largest animal on Earth). But first and foremost, every 2nd human breath is oxygen produced by phytoplankton. Without phytoplankton, life dies.

According to Dr. Boris Worm, marine research ecologist at Dalhousie University and head of the Worm Lab study of marine biodiversity: The planet has lost 40% of plankton production over the past 50 years, primarily as a consequence of climate change/global warming. “We are changing the geology of the planet. We are changing the ocean chemistry… The anthropocene means that what happens to this planet is now in our hands.” (Boris Worm, et al, Global Phytoplankton Decline Over the Past Century, Nature Vol. 466, Issue 7306, July 29, 2010 and interview in Racing Extinction)

“Falling oxygen levels caused by global warming could be a greater threat to the survival of life on Earth than flooding, according to researchers from the University of Leicester.” The study claims an increase of water temps of six degrees Celsius, which could occur as soon as 2100, could stop oxygen production by phytoplankton. (Source: Global Warming Disaster Could Suffocate Life on Planet Earth, Research Shows, University of Leicester Press Office, Dec. 1, 2015).

Deadly Ocean Acidification

When cars, trucks, planes, and factories emit carbon dioxide (CO2) into the atmosphere, it doesn’t all stay there. The ocean absorbs one-third up to one-half. In turn, CO2 reacts with water and forms carbonic acid resulting in a more acidic ocean, prompting the question: What is the problem with acidic ocean water? Answer: Drop seashells in a glass of vinegar. Over time, the shells dissolve.

For a real time example of changing ocean chemistry, professional hatcheries of shellfish in America have already experienced too much ocean acidification. Ocean water intakes for inland shellfish hatcheries killed off shellfish larvae because of excessive acidity.

Taylor Shellfish Farms (100 years of farming the World’s Best Oysters) Bill Dewey claims: “The rate of change that we’re seeing in the ocean and the changes it’s going to create in our food chain, it’s going to be dramatic and it’s going to be in our lifetime. The things that we’re used to eating may not be available any more, and we’ll need to transition to eating jellyfish or something like that.” (Source: Racing Extinction)

Bon appétit, tonight’s menu: Boiled Jellyfish.

“No one knows exactly how marine life around the world will fare as the seas continue to sour, but fear is spreading. ‘People who are aware are panicked,’ said Dewey, who recently traveled to New York to speak at the United Nation’s first Ocean Conference. ‘The level of awareness is increasing rapidly and the story is getting out there.” (Source: Lisa Stiffler, Investigate West, Climate Change Turns Puget Sound Acidic and Region’s Signature Oysters Struggle to Survive, July 10, 2017).

It is very discomforting (and then some) to read Dewey’s prophetic words: “People who are aware are panicked.”

Skyrocketing CO2

“The rate of carbon dioxide growth over the last decade is 100 to 200 times faster than what the Earth experienced during the transition from the last Ice Age,” Peter Tans, atmospheric scientist at ESRL, said in a press release. “This is a real shock to the atmosphere.” (Source: Brian Kahn, Carbon Dioxide Is Rising at Record Rates, Climate Central, March 2017).

According to Dr. Jen Veron, former chief scientist, Australian Institute of Marine Science: “There’s been five mass extinctions… there’s been one common factor in all, a massive increase in carbon dioxide, and we’ve never had a carbon dioxide spike like we’re having now” (Source: Racing Extinction)

Unfortunately, growth of CO2 in the atmosphere is accelerating, not decelerating or holding steady, even though CO2 from fossil fuels has barely grown over the past three years. Ouch! In 2016 CO2 grew by more than 3.00 ppm, a new record and considerably higher than the rate in 2015. This is deeply troubling. The reasons are multi-fold but significantly, it is believed the oceans have turned from carbon sinks to new sources of CO2 emission. “Oceans appear to have turned from sinks into sources of CO2, releasing CO2 into the atmosphere.” (Source: Accelerating Growth in CO2 Levels in the Atmosphere, Arctic News, Feb. 25, 2017).

It is mind boggling how much science-based evidence exists about the destructiveness of human-generated carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. The world community knows this. Otherwise, why did 195 countries adopt the Paris Agreement in 2015?

Interestingly, Trump’s exit strengthens the Paris Agreement. Several governing details have not yet finalized. Negotiators will be working between now and 2020, committing those details to paper. If the U.S. had stayed in the agreement, Rex Tillerson’s State Department would have veto power in the talks, likely weaken the agreement even more than it already stands.

Still, with/without Trump, too little too late remains the major question mark overhanging the Paris Agreement, and furthermore, it’s not properly structured to stop the extinction event.

Postscript: “One saw a bird dying, shot by a man. It was flying with rhythmic beat and beautifully, with such freedom and lack of fear. And the gun shattered it; it fell to the earth and all the life had gone out of it. A dog fetched it, and the man collected other dead birds. He was chattering with his friend and seemed so utterly indifferent. All that he was concerned with was bringing down so many birds, and it was over as far as he was concerned. They are killing all over the world… Man is the only animal that is to be dreaded.” Jiddu Krishnamurti, Indian Philosopher

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Google’s new search protocol is restricting access to 13 leading socialist, progressive and anti-war web sites

2 August 2017

New data compiled by the World Socialist Web Site, with the assistance of other Internet-based news outlets and search technology experts, proves that a massive loss of readership observed by socialist, anti-war and progressive web sites over the past three months has been caused by a cumulative 45 percent decrease in traffic from Google searches.

The drop followed the implementation of changes in Google’s search evaluation protocols. In a statement issued on April 25, Ben Gomes, the company’s vice president for engineering, stated that Google’s update of its search engine would block access to “offensive” sites, while working to surface more “authoritative content.”

The World Socialist Web Site has obtained statistical data from SEMrush estimating the decline of traffic generated by Google searches for 13 sites with substantial readerships. The results are as follows:

* wsws.org fell by 67 percent
* alternet.org fell by 63 percent
* globalresearch.ca fell by 62 percent
* consortiumnews.com fell by 47 percent
* socialistworker.org fell by 47 percent
* mediamatters.org fell by 42 percent
* commondreams.org fell by 37 percent
* internationalviewpoint.org fell by 36 percent
* democracynow.org fell by 36 percent
* wikileaks.org fell by 30 percent
* truth-out.org fell by 25 percent
* counterpunch.org fell by 21 percent
* theintercept.com fell by 19 percent

Of the 13 web sites on the list, the World Socialist Web Site has been the most heavily affected. Its traffic from Google searches has fallen by two thirds.

The new statistics demonstrate that the WSWS is a central target of Google’s censorship campaign. In the twelve months preceding the implementation of the new Google protocols, the WSWS had experienced a substantial increase in readership. A significant component of this increase was the product of Google search results. The rapid rise in search traffic reflected the well-documented growth in popular interest in socialist politics during 2016. The rate of growth accelerated following the November election, which led to large protests against the election of Trump.

Search traffic to the WSWS peaked in April 2017, precisely at the point when Google began the implementation of its censorship protocols.

Another site affected by Google’s action has provided information that confirms the findings of the WSWS.

“In late May, changes to Google’s algorithm negatively impacted the volume of traffic to the Common Dreams website from organic Google searches,” said Aaron Kaufman, director of development at progressive news outlet Common Dreams. “Since May, traffic from Google Search as a percentage of total traffic to the Common Dreams website has decreased nearly 50 percent.”

The extent and impact of Google’s actions prove that a combination of techniques is being employed to block access to targeted sites. These involve the direct flagging and blackballing of the WSWS and the other 12 sites listed above by Google evaluators. These sites are assigned a highly negative rating that assures that their articles will be either demoted or entirely bypassed. In addition, new programming technology teaches the computers to think like the evaluators, that is, to emulate their preferences and prejudices.

Finally, the precision of this operation strongly suggests that there is an additional range of exclusion techniques involving the selection of terms, words, phrases and topics that are associated with socialist and left-wing websites.

This would explain why the World Socialist Web Site, which focuses on issues such as war, geopolitics, social inequality and working class struggles has experienced such a dramatic fall in Google-generated searches on these very topics. We have seen that the very terms and phrases that would under normal circumstances be most likely to generate the highest level of hits—such as “socialism,” “Marxism” and “Trotskyism”—produce the lowest results.

This is an ongoing process in which one can expect that Google evaluators are continuously adding suspect terms to make their algorithm ever more precise, with the eventual goal of eliminating traffic to the WSWS and other targeted sites.

The information that has been gathered and published by the WSWS during the past week exposes that Google is at the center of a corporate-state conspiracy to drastically curtail democratic rights. The attack on free speech and uncensored access to information is aimed at crippling popular opposition to social inequality, war and authoritarianism.

The central and sinister role of Google in this process demonstrates that freedom of speech and thought is incompatible with corporate control of the Internet.

As we continue our exposure of Google’s assault on democratic rights, we demand that it immediately and unequivocally halt and revoke its censorship program.

It is critical that a coordinated campaign be organized within the United States and internationally against Google’s censorship of the Internet. We intend to do everything in our power to develop and contribute to a counter-offensive against its efforts to suppress freedom of speech and thought.

The fight against corporate-state censorship of the Internet is central to the defense of democratic rights, and there must be a broad-based collaboration among socialist, left and progressive websites to alert the public and the widest sections of the working class.

Andre Damon and David North

http://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2017/08/02/pers-a02.html

Why the Myth of Meritocracy Hurts Kids of Color

A new study finds that believing society is fair can lead disadvantaged adolescents to act out and engage in risky behavior.

An abandoned, boarded up building in Chicago that two years before this photo was taken housed a school that was later closed
This Chicago campus was shuttered in 2013 as part of a rash of school closures that disproportionately affected poor black and Latino children.Jim Young / Reuters

MELINDA D. ANDERSON

JUL 27, 2017

Brighton Park is a predominantly Latino community on the southwest side of Chicago. It’s a neighborhood threatened by poverty, gang violenceICE raids, and isolation—in a city where income, race, and zip code can determine access to jobs, schools, healthy food, and essential services. It is against this backdrop that the Chicago teacher Xian Franzinger Barrett arrived at the neighborhood’s elementary school in 2014.

Recognizing the vast economic and racial inequalities his students faced, he chose what some might consider a radical approach for his writing and social-studies classes, weaving in concepts such as racism, classism, oppression, and prejudice. Barrett said it was vital to reject the oft-perpetuated narrative that society is fair and equal to address students’ questions and concerns about their current conditions. And Brighton Elementary’s seventh- and eighth-graders quickly put the lessons to work—confronting the school board over inequitable funding, fighting to install a playground, and creating a classroom library focused on black and Latino authors.

“Students who are told that things are fair implode pretty quickly in middle school as self-doubt hits them,” he said, “and they begin to blame themselves for problems they can’t control.”

Barrett’s personal observation is validated by a newly published study in the peer-reviewed journal Child Development that finds traditionally marginalized youth who grew up believing in the American ideal that hard work and perseverance naturally lead to success show a decline in self-esteem and an increase in risky behaviors during their middle-school years. The research is considered the first evidence linking preteens’ emotional and behavioral outcomes to their belief in meritocracy, the widely held assertion that individual merit is always rewarded.

“If you’re in an advantaged position in society, believing the system is fair and that everyone could just get ahead if they just tried hard enough doesn’t create any conflict for you … [you] can feel good about how [you] made it,” said Erin Godfrey, the study’s lead author and an assistant professor of applied psychology at New York University’s Steinhardt School. But for those marginalized by the system—economically, racially, and ethnically—believing the system is fair puts them in conflict with themselves and can have negative consequences.

If the system is fair, why am I seeing that everybody who has brown skin is in this kind of job? You’re having to think about that … like you’re not as good, or your social group isn’t as good,” Godfrey said. “That’s the piece … that I was trying to really get at [by studying] these kids.”

The findings build upon a body of literature on “system justification”—a social-psychology theory that believes humans tend to defend, bolster, or rationalize the status quo and see overarching social, economic, and political systems as good, fair, and legitimate. System justification is a distinctively American notion, Godfrey said, built on myths used to justify inequities, like “If you just work hard enough you can pull yourself up by your bootstraps … it’s just a matter of motivation and talent and grit.” Yet, as she and her colleagues discovered, these beliefs can be a liability for disadvantaged adolescents once their identity as a member of a marginalized group begins to gel—and once they become keenly aware of how institutional discrimination disadvantages them and their group.

Researchers measured system-justifying beliefs among 257 students from an urban, public middle school in Arizona. All of the students’ families were identified as low-income, as defined by their eligibility for free or reduced-price lunches. The vast majority of the sample—91 percent—were also students of color: Fifty-five percent Latino, 18 percent black, 11 percent Native American, and 7 percent other nonwhite youth. Additionally, the area, populated by many immigrant families and children, was experiencing social and political unrest due to Senate Bill 1070, a controversial Arizona law that in its original form criminalized undocumented people in the state.

Godfrey asked the sixth-graders to rate their endorsement of the “American Dream” and system-justifying ideas—namely, that America is the land of opportunity where everyone who works hard has an equal chance to succeed. Youth were then asked to rate themselves on various qualities, including their self-esteem, risky behaviors (“stayed out all night without your parent’s permission,” “cheated on school tests,” etc.), and perceived discrimination (for example: “How often have others suspected you of doing something wrong because of your ethnicity?” and “How often have the police hassled you because of your ethnicity?”).

At three points over the course of middle school, the youth rated their self-esteem, behavior, and experience with discrimination. The results revealed an alarming trajectory. In sixth grade, among students who believed the system is fair, self-esteem was high and risky behavior was rare; by the end of seventh grade, these same students reported lower self-esteem and more risky behaviors—with no significant differences based on race, ethnicity, gender, or immigration generation (youth from newly arrived immigrant families and native-born counterparts).

What’s more, for youth who perceived more discrimination from an early age, system-justifying beliefs were associated with less-risky behavior in sixth grade, but with a sharp rise in such behaviors by seventh grade. Godfrey attributes this spike to a “perfect storm” in which marginalized young people are experiencing more discrimination; beginning to understand the systemic and institutionalized nature of that discrimination; and starting to strongly identify as a member of a marginalized group, seeing that group as one that’s being discriminated against. As for why this leads to more risky behavior, Godfrey points to research that suggests people who really believe the system is fair internalize stereotypes—believing and acting out false and negative claims about their group—more readily than those who disavow these views.

And while it’s easy to attribute the increase in risky behavior to  developmental changes such as puberty, the fact that the students’ outcomes started high in the sixth grade and then deteriorated suggests that psychosocial phenomena are at play.

“I do think that there’s this element of people think of me this way anyway, so this must be who I am,” Godfrey said, adding that the behaviors—things like stealing and sneaking out—reflect stereotypes perpetuated about youth of color. “If you’re [inclined] to believe that things are the way they should be, and [that] the system is fair, then you’re maybe going to accept stereotypes about you more easily.”

While the sample was relatively small, Godfrey said the findings are informative and mirror prior research. Indeed, previous analyses have found that system-justifying beliefs are associated with lower self-esteem in black adults and lower grade-point averages for Latino college students—though the same beliefs predicted better grades and less distress for “high status” youth.

“I was really interested in trying to think of [early adolescents] as active agents in their world,” Godfrey said, “and as people who can understand and interpret their social world in a way that a lot of research doesn’t recognize.”

David Stovall, professor of educational-policy studies and African American studies at University of Illinois at Chicago, said the paper is a confirmation of decades of analysis on the education of marginalized and isolated youth. It’s a “good preliminary piece” that lays the foundation for more academic study of historically disenfranchised adolescents and their motivations, he said.

“If young folks see themselves being discriminated against, they’ve been told that a system is fair, and they experience things that are unfair, they will begin to reject this particular system and engage in behaviors that will not be to their betterment,” he explained. Stovall said it’s critical to guide young people from “defiant resistance”—defying what they’ve learned to be untrue regarding a just and fair system for all—to “transformative resistance”—developing a critical understanding of the historical context of U.S. society. Educators, he said, play a crucial role in this work.

“We have to ask different questions around school,” he said. “Does [school] contribute further to our [students’] marginalization and oppression? Is it just about order, compliance, and white normative standards that marginalized young folks of color don’t measure up to because the structure never intended for them to measure up?” He also warned educators and youth of color to be prepared for pushback, highlighting the current legal battle over the ethnic-studies ban in Tucson public schools despite its proven academic benefits.

Mildred Boveda, an assistant education professor at Arizona State University, likewise said the findings hold important implications for both teachers and teacher education. “This is of great consequence to … teachers who may think they are protecting children by avoiding conversations about systems of oppressions,” she said, emphasizing that the onus is also on teacher-prep programs to ensure aspiring educators know how to address these controversial topics.

Given her recent experience teaching fifth-graders in Miami-Dade, Florida, Boveda disagrees with the researchers’ notion that sixth-graders lack a full understanding of social hierarchies. Her students on the brink of middle school, she noted, were hyper-aware of social inequalities. Still, she sees valuable insights in the data.

“Unlike the majority of the teaching workforce, I once fit the demographics of the students in this study,” she said, alluding to the fact that more than 80 percent of public-school teachers are white. “I will admit that it sometimes felt risky to tackle these difficult conversations, but this [research] underscores why we cannot equivocate when it comes to preparing our children to face injustices.”

https://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2017/07/internalizing-the-myth-of-meritocracy/535035/?utm_source=atlfb

Reality is Leftist

I received a very interesting comment:

“I haven’t been on medium in 5 months. It was pretty left when I departed. My god it’s so far left it may have looped right now. This opinion piece? I don’t know what to call it is so ludicrous and out of touch it’s crazy”

Let’s examine this comment clearly, because I think it will teach us something, using my well worn list of Big Problems: climate change, mass extinction, inequality, nationalism. Can we solve these problems in a way that’s not “leftist”, i.e. without social investment in public goods and intervention?

Let’s take the simple example of energy grids. Grids are going to have go green, to use renewable energy, or else nations will a) stagnate b) grow isolated c) give up on the future. That’s all simple self interest. Now even if we assign carbon prices and pay people to install solar panels, it’s still determined, sparked, managed, by investment and intervention. There is no non leftist way out of climate change, sorry.

And the same is true for all our big problems in the world today. Reality is leftist.

Lets do another example. How are we to solve inequality? If we can’t, more and worse Trumps will emerge. Inequality is fixed simply by investments in public goods – healthcare, media, education, and so on. Why? They prevent wages from falling, they create jobs, and they give people ways to invest in themselves. Can inequality be solved by more Googles and Goldmans? How could it be?

Reality is leftist today. The world’s big problems can only be solved through better institutions – social and public ones – that genuinely invest in people, the planet, and the future again. That’s not to say capitalism shouldn’t or doesn’t have a role. Solar panels are made by companies – but the incentive to use them is set by societies. So capitalism and socialism are going to have work hand in hand if the world wants to prosper.

Work together how, in what way? That doesn’t mean privatisation and financialization. Often, society, not capital, is going up have to take the drivers seat. It’s going to have to set the agenda, create the incentives, and manage and allocate the investments – in healthcare, energy, etc – all the stuff that fixes my four big problems. Reality is leftist. Naked aggressive capitalism can’t fix the world it broke.

Now let’s zoom out.

Our politics, like any other belief, should fit reality. They shouldn’t be fixed forever – then we’re ideologues, not people of moral reason and genuine self interest. Reality isn’t always leftist. When societies overinvest, when they deny people self determination and autonomy, when society subsumes our humanity, then reality has gone too far to the left. But today reality is precisely the opposite. The world and its societies must cooperate to solve their great existential problems – and so must the cities, states, towns, and countries in that world. Shared interest must precede, define, govern, and manage self interest – especially in an age where genuine self interest appears to have vanished into delusion.

Reality is leftist. It might be hard for you to accept, especially if you’re American. But reality doesn’t care about your cognitive and emotional limitations, your ideology, your cherished beliefs. It just chews you up and spits you out to try to reach the part of you that loves.

Umair

July 2017

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