Animals who use drugs

Humans clearly use drugs for pleasure, not just to remove withdrawal symptoms if you’re addicted. Alcohol is a solvent, dissolving anxieties and making it easier to socialize; marijuana has a variety of pleasant effects depending on the consumer (I tend to giggle and get a bad case of munchies); and psychedelic drugs truly can give you an idea about what your neurons are capable of producing.

What we don’t often realize is that, as a new piece at the Animal Cognition site emphasizes, drug use is not a rarity in the animal world. Now I’m not talking here about animals self-medicating  by ingesting various natural remedies, such as primates’ use of plants to eliminate internal parasites and microbes. Rather, I’m talking about the use of drugs for fun. We all know about one such drug: catnip (Nepeta cataria), which some domestic cats (including my last one) love to sniff, lick, and eat. Yes, the active chemical (nepetalactone) is said to mimic cat pheromones, but it would be hard to deny that the cats—including big cats like tigers—really enjoy using the stuff.

But the site gives other examples (with references) of animals using drugs for fun. I’ll just list them, as you can read the piece for yourself, and put up two videos:

  • Cows grazing on locoweed (it’s toxic but seems addictive)
  • Bighorn sheep gnawing lichens off rocks; the lichens are said to affect the sheep’s behavior, and perhaps cause hallucinations
  • Cervids eating psychedelic mushrooms, including fly agaric, which makes them intoxicated
  • Wallabies eat opium! Wallabies are said to cause serious damage to legal opium-poppy fields in Australia. After the marsupials get high, they “run around in circles, then they crash”.
  • Bees preferentially drinking ethanol over unfermented saps and nectars. Sadly, really drunken bees are killed by their nestmates, probably because their aberrant behavior suggests that they’re ill.
  • Australian lorikeets get drunk on fermented nectars, as do many primates.

Now I’m not saying that all these animals take “drugs” because they enjoy the effects. They could be attracted to other things, like flavors, and the drunkenness could be a side effect of that. Or they could be seeking out botanical remedies that have intoxicating side effects. But at least in the case of catnip and the two examples below, it seems as if the animals really enjoy it! And why not? Who knows whether members of another species might, like our own, enjoy altering their consciousness.

Here’s one I didn’t know:

Dolphins have been observed on multiple occasions carrying puffer fish in their mouths, squeezing them, and passing them along to other dolphins. It is speculated that the dolphins are trying to get the puffer fish to release a small burst of neurotoxin, which puts them into a trance-like state.

This behavior was recorded in a BBC documentary produced by zoologist Robert Pilley, who commented “This was a case of young dolphins purposefully experimenting with something we know to be intoxicating. After chewing the puffer and gently passing it round, they began acting most peculiarly, hanging around with their noses at the surface as if fascinated by their own reflection. The dolphins were specifically going for the puffers and deliberately handling them with care. Dolphins seem to be experts on how to prepare puffers and how to handle them.” Since the toxin released by the puffer fish is deadly in large doses, the dolphins would indeed need to handle the fish delicately in order to avoid lethal poisoning.

Have a look at this video, and you tell me.  “Hey, Joe, don’t bogart that puffer!”

And we’ve all seen this BBC video of drunk monkeys. I suggest that they really like getting tipsy.

Some of the animals that indulge in ethanol become dependent on it, showing signs of addiction. When given the option, chimps will consume enough alcohol on a regular basis to experience withdrawals when access to the alcohol is removed. Fruit flies show a preference for solutions containing ethanol, and the higher the ethanol level, the better. Because of this and the fact that they will return to “binge drinking” even after long periods of being denied alcohol, fruit flies are considered a suitable animal model for studying alcoholism.  It’s interesting to note the relation that alcohol consumption has on fruit fly sexuality, and vice versa. Fruit flies that are sexually deprived tend to drink more alcohol, and when they are continuously drunk, male flies will display homosexual behaviors.

h/t: Nicole Reggia

HuffPo stupidity of the day

The Regressive Left Aggregation site continues its effusive and uncritical worship of the hijab and of Hillary Clinton. Every day, it seems, there’s a new piece showing how awesome it is not only that women wear hijabs, but that various places celebrate that.

In this case it’s Playboy, which of course has a reputation completely inimical to the purpose of hijabs (increasing women’s “modesty” and ensuring that they not be seen as sex objects). Note, however, that Playboy no longer features nude women.

Click on screenshots if you must read the article. It’s odd that Playboy, which while being accused of objectifying women was also consistently on the side of women’s rights, now is celebrating women’s oppression.

Curiously, PuffHo also had an open letter from another Muslim women criticizing the decision of Noor Tagouri to appear in Playboy, and the Washington Post did the same. An excerpt from the Post‘s piece by Asma Uddin:

But the Playboy interview is a step too far. It represents Muslim women, as purportedly represented by Tagouri, not on their own terms but in Playboy’s terms — and, in the process, mocks the very ethics and morals the hijab is religiously intended to reflect.

The hijab, though politicized in a variety of contexts, is at its religious core a symbol of chastity and spiritual connection to God. As one prominent Islamic scholar has explained, the hijab is “essentially a mode of living” that reflects the sanctity of privacy and private spaces. In other words, it is a repudiation of the voyeurism Playboy is fundamentally about.

. . . The presence of a hijab-wearing woman in a magazine known for lasciviously undressing and objectifying women is jarring in a number of ways, and there are reasons to believe that’s what Playboy intended.Playboy’s philosophy celebrates open sexuality and believes that modesty and chastity are a product of a shaming and oppressive culture, which it condemns.


Finally, I was taken aback by the article below, thinking that its purpose was to show that there are a lot of reasons that people don’t like Hillary Clinton that have nothing to do with her gender. But nope, it says that the only reason people hate her is because of her gender. I wonder, then, how we explain all the young Millennial women who favored Bernie Sanders? An excerpt:

It’s time to stop pretending that this is about substance. This is about an eagerness to believe that a woman who seeks power will say or do anything to get it. This is about a Lady MacBeth stereotype that, frankly, should never have existed in the first place. This is about the one thing no one wants to admit it’s about.


Is the idea of objective knowledge sexist? Is there a “woman’s way of knowing”?

It’s unbelievable to any rational person—but not those who have read postmodern philosophy or discourse—that anyone can deny there’s an objective reality in the Universe, that we can know about it through science, and claim as well that science is merely a “social construction”. These misguided people argue not only that there is no objective reality, but that attempts to find and teach it are sexist: that such endeavors are masculine ones, and that the methods of science themselves make the discipline sexist and patriarchal.

Those who make this claim, as does Laura Parson in a paper in The Qualitative Report (reference and free link below), advocate a brand of “feminist science” that is more cooperative and less competitive. Well, that’s a suggestion worth considering, as is the idea that we need to make science more welcoming to women. But along with this goes the notion that there really isn’t any objective truth to be found: that science is, in the end, like lit-crit, a farrago of competing claims that can’t be adjudicated. Let a thousand truths blossom! They’re all true in their own way.

Parson also makes the claim that there are female “ways of knowing” that differ from male ways of knowing, implicitly arguing, as did Evelyn Fox Keller in her biography of geneticist Barbara McClintock, that women can have a “feeling for the organism” that differs from the scientific behavior of males. This is a claim that men, by their very nature, are incapable of finding some truths about nature accessible to women.

Parson is a doctoral candidate in the “teaching and learning department” in the University of North Dakota’s higher education concentration.  And, it seems, she’s drunk the “no objective truth” Kool-Aid in her attempt to ferret out misogyny in the syllabi of STEM courses. Like many of these feminist-imbued analyses, like ones I’ve posted about glaciology or Pilates, Parson’s study masquerades as an objective attempt to learn something, but is really an ideologically-freighted exercise in confirmation bias, for she already knows what she wants to find: male views conditioning the way science is done. Her paper centers on the language in syllabi of STEM courses. You can see the confirmation bias in the abstract of her paper. Here’s an excerpt:

This study explored the gendered nature of STEM higher education institution through a feminist critical discourse analysis of STEM course syllabi from a Midwest research university. I explored STEM syllabi to understand how linguistic features such as stance and interdiscursivity are used in the syllabus and how language and discourses used in the syllabus replicate the masculine nature of STEM education.

And of course she finds what she wants—the “understanding” that she assumed she’d get before she started:

Findings suggest that the discourses identified in the syllabi reinforce traditional STEM academic roles, and that power and gender in the STEM syllabi are revealed through exploration of the themes of knowledge, learning, and the teaching and learning environment created by the language used in the syllabus.

You can read the methods yourself, but they involve poring through a total of—get this—eight syllabi from college STEM courses after 2010: courses in math, chemistry, biology, physics, and geology. Parson was looking for evidence of toxic patriarchal infusion into the course syllabi. To do this, she examined “modal verbs,” pronouns, and “interdiscursivity” (parts of the syllabi that connect to other aspects of culture and society).

She didn’t find overt sexism in the syllabi, and one senses her disappointment at this. But she still found a marginalization of women in the pronouns and language used in the eight syllabi, as well as in the fallacious idea that there is objective knowledge:

Initial exploration of the STEM syllabi in this study did not reveal overt references to gender, such as through the use of gendered pronouns. However, upon deeper review, language used in the syllabi reflects institutionalized STEM teaching practices and views about knowledge that are inherently discriminatory to women and minorities by promoting a view of knowledge as static and unchanging, a view of teaching that promotes the idea of a passive student, and by promoting a chilly climate that marginalizes women. First, the STEM syllabi explored in this analysis promoted the male-biased STEM institution by reinforcing views of knowledge as static and unchanging, as it is traditionally considered to be in science, which is a masculine concept of knowledge (Mayberry & Rose, 1999).

. . . In response to research question three, gender is not explicitly referenced within this corpus but the masculine or male-biased views of knowledge, learning and teaching that are seen in the STEM education institution are reinforced in the syllabus. Throughout the syllabi, knowledge is represented as static and unchanging, with some nods to collaborative and active learning to encourage students to acquire course content. Language used in the syllabi Laura Parson 114 reinforces the unfriendly and difficult nature of STEM courses, and STEM teaching is framed as the instructor’s role to deposit static knowledge into students. In those ways, the syllabi replicate the gendered STEM education institution and are gendered to the disadvantage of women.

So it’s not just objective knowledge that is masculine, but static knowledge, the view that what one finds in science is writ in stone. But that, of course, is bogus. Not only does Parson give no evidence that scientists as a whole, much less male ones, see scientific knowledge as unchanging, but ignores the many times that male scientists have not only admitted the provisional nature of scientific “truth”, but changed what was considered to be firm knowledge, like the idea that continents didn’t move or that, in the late 1800s, we’d pretty much learned everything we could about physics.

Now Parson seems to think that conveying a body of knowledge, as is common practice in STEM courses, means that knowledge must be unchanging, but she gives no evidence for that.  She concentrates instead on the “chilly classroom atmosphere”, which is promulgated not just by the idea of objective knowledge, but by things like emphasis on course prerequisites, the authoritarianism of course instructors, competitive practices like grading, and so on. The “chilly” atmosphere these things create, argues Parson, marginalizes both women minorities. Here’s one example of academic dry ice (Parson’s words in plain type, syllabus text in italics and quotes):

Also reinforcing the difficulty of the courses was the treatment of prerequisites as skills or topics that the instructor would not have time to cover in the course.

“Good algebra and trig skills are essential if you expect to be successful in this course. In addition, you are expected to have sufficiently mastered the material in Calculus I to be able to use it when needed. We will not have time in this class to devote to prerequisite materials (Lower level math).”

Instead of only listing prerequisite courses, these syllabi included prerequisite knowledge and skills, creating an even more intimidating view of the course. That language implied that not only would students be held to difficult high standards, but also that there was also a base of knowledge that was required to be successful in the course. While it is not unrealistic to include prerequisites in a syllabus, the language used to discuss the prerequisites indicated that students who had not learned or did not remember that knowledge would be unsuccessful because there was not support within the course or from the instructor. The language used in this corpus of syllabi created an impression of extremely difficult courses, which contributes to the chilly climate in STEM courses, and would be prohibitive for those not confident in those areas, such as women and minorities.

Lordy! If that kind of stuff is “chilling”, then the students need to chill out. Is there something wrong with holding students to high standards? Must everyone get prizes? In reality, such instructions tell the students what they need to have under their belts before taking a class. The presumption that this is somehow racist or sexist is completely bogus. Parson is simply sniffing as hard as she can to catch the scent of anything that could support her preconceived thesis.

I won’t go on further, except to say that Parson found what she was determined to find:

Although the corpus of syllabi explored was small, the findings from this exploration support the view of STEM courses as chilly. This suggests that there is an opportunity for STEM courses to reduce the perception of courses as difficult and unfriendly through language use in the syllabi, and also as a guide for how to use less competitive teaching methods and grading profiles that could improve the experience of female students.

Let’s ask a few questions:

  • Is there objective knowledge about the world, or is everything equally “true”? Of course there’s objective knowledge, for if there wasn’t, we wouldn’t be able to make predictions that worked, cure diseases, or achieve any progress, practical or otherwise. Western medicine is effective; spiritual medicine is not. If you have an infection, antibiotics will more than likely cure it; a shaman will not. We can put space probes on small comets using the laws of physics and advances in technology; intuition will not succeed here. Not all “truths” are equal.
  • Are there special “women’s ways of knowing”? I’ve read a fair amount of feminist literature claiming that women’s special sensitivities and interests give them insights into science that men can’t access as easily. I have not been convinced, for the methods of science that have evolved over centuries, it seems, are not tied to whether or not you have a Y chromosome. Yes, for years men dominated science, something that is now changingfor the better, but I haven’t seen women who have achieved scientific fame having done so using practices any different from those used by successful male scientists. (Of course, feminists could argue that those women were forced to adopt male methods of doing science in order to “join the club”.)

Some counterarguments are presented in an earlier paper by Jill Bowling and Brian Martin, “Science: a masculine disorder?” (answer: yes) published in Science and Public Policy in 1985 (reference and free download below). Bowling and Martin claim that science, by its multiply hierarchical claims about the structure of nature, evinces a masculine bias. Here are their examples:

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I don’t see these things as reflecting implicit sexism, but of course I’m a male.

Let me add that the idea that there are special “women’s ways of knowing” carries with it the claim that women’s brains operate in ways different from men’s. That, I thought, was anathema to those feminists who claim there are no biological differences between men and women. Now one can admit biological differences without admitting evolutionarily-based genetic differences (differences could be due to socialization), but one has to admit some sort of difference. I happen to think that there are evolutionarily based differences in behavior between men and women—mostly in sexual behavior—but I’m not convinced that there are different ways of thinking about science that should be both recognized and accommodated. I believe there are “ways of feeling” that differ between the sexes, and that some of that is due to evolution, but I am not convinced there are different “ways of knowing.” Finally:

  • Are there scientific practices, such as these syllabi, that discourage women from entering STEM professions? Several studies have shown bias against women in science; I’ve heard it myself from men when women weren’t listening, and I’ve seen it in my classroom, where, in discussions, men tend to talk over women, interrupt them more frequently, and even get the credit for their ideas. This kind of stuff can clearly make women feel that they’re not welcome, and these practices must be stopped. But let’s find the discrimination where it really is, instead of writing tedious and misguided papers about the language in syllabi.

h/t: Cindy


L. Parson. 2016. Are STEM syllabi gendered? A feminist critical discourse analysis. The Qualitative Report 21:102-116.

Bowling, Jill, and B. Martin. 1985.  Science: a masculine disorder. Science and Public Policy 12: 308-316.

Jesus ‘n’ Mo ‘n’ modesty

Today’s Jesus and Mo comes with an explanation:

Today’s comic inspired, in part, by an article in The Beast about a Playboy interview with a hijab wearing young woman. There are a lots of ironies on display here, and this comic focuses on just one.

We’ve talked a lot lately about Muslim veiling and its reprehensible celebration by Regressive Lefitsts, and this is the topic of the the Daily Beast article by Maajid Nawaz. An excerpt:

White religious-conservatism is not often celebrated or glamorized by American liberals and progressives, it is derided. But switch up white Amish or Catholic notions of modesty with brown Muslim ones, take a fashion shoot complete with a graffiti-ridden backdrop, and presto: brown religious-conservative attitudes about hiding the female form in the name of modesty become… progressive.

. . . The assumption made by some liberals is that the “authentic” Muslim woman is the hijab-wearing one, while non-hijabis are seen as Westernized, inauthentic Muslims. Likewise, the religious-conservative Muslim assumption equates concealing the female form to “modesty,” as if a woman who shows her hair or reveals her figure is somehow immodest.

This is a not-so-subtle form of bigotry against the female form, and it has real consequences, including rising social-conservative attitudes across Muslim communities around gender and sexual freedom. In too many instances across Muslim-majority societies, including those embedded in Europe, this “modesty theology” has led to slut-shaming of women who do not cover. Worse yet, it can lead to so-called honor killings.

It’s a must-read article for those who frequent this site. And Mo has donned a burqa in solidarity:


Readers’ wildlife photographs

Today we have a bunch of swell photographs from a new contributor, Chetiya Sahabandu, who took these photos at Yala National Park in Sri Lanka.
Ceylon Green Bee-Eater (Merops orientalis ceylonicus):

White-Breasted Kingfisher (Halcyon smyrnensis): (also in MG 2514


 Indian Pond Heron (Ardeola grayii):
Crested Hawk-Eagle (Nisaetus cirrhatus ceylanensis):
 Grey Headed Fish Eagle (Ichthyophaga ichthyaetus):
 Spotted Deer (Axis axis ceylonensis):

Painted Storks (Mycteria leucocephala) and Mugger Crocodile (Crocodylus palustris).

The log right in front of the painted stork in the photo below is resting on a crocodile. It is an inadvertent (as far as I can tell) camouflage. The crocodiles did not seem all that interested in the storks, and the storks flapped out of the way whenever a crocodile sidled up.
 Black-Headed Ibis(Threskiornis melanocephalus):
 Tufted Grey Langur (Semnopithecus priam):
Sri Lankan Leopard (Panthera pardus kotiya):
Sri Lankan Elephant (Elephas maximus maximus):

Wednesday: Hili dialogue

It’s Wednesday, September 28, and a day that nearly everyone can celebrate: National Drink a Beer Day. I’ll have a Goose Island Honkers Ale (though I’ll be wishing for a nice, well-kept pint of Landlord), and if you plan imbibing to celebrate, list your tipple below. On this day in 1066, William the Conqueror invaded England. And in England in 1928, it was on September 28 that Alexander Fleming noted, in a Petri dish, a mold that appeared to kill bacteria. The rest is history: antibiotics. On this day in 1970, Gamal Nasser died of a heart attack in Egypt, and his successor, Anwar Sadat, became the permanent replacement.

Notables born on this day include Georges Clemenceau (1841), Ed Sullivan (1901), Al Capp (1909), Brigette Bardot (1934), Sylvia Kristel (1952 ♥), and Janeane Garofalo (1964 ♥).  Those who died on this day include Louis Pasteur (1895), Edwin Hubble (1953), Harpo Marx (1964), John Dos Passos (1970), Miles Davis (1991), Elia Kazan (2003), and Shimon Peres (today).  Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Andrzej and Malgorzata were given burnooses by a friend, as they had two spare ones made out of wool, which might help stave off the cold of the coming Polish winter. Unfortunately, Hili has no truck with these new garments:

A: Deo gratias.
Hili: Oh no, prayers again!

In Polish:
Ja: Deo gratias.
Hili: O nie, znowu modlitwy!

HuffPo stupidity of the day

The debate last night wasn’t even over before HuffPo was falling all over itself with glee at Trump’s performance. That’s fine for a Democrat, but not so fine for a news site. And so, if you go to PuffHo right now, you’ll find this headline (click on screenshot to go to story):


And talking about ad hominems, this one’s a doozy. I didn’t watch the debate, but heard that Trump sniffed a lot. That inspired this article:


Yes, Robert Durst, not a convicted killer but an accused one, also sniffed! OMG! Now imagine if Hillary Clinton had had a cold and sniffed like Trump. Do you suppose PuffHo would put up a similar article?

The Trump-bashing and Hillary adulation go on and on on the main page of PuffHo. But, over on the religion pages, the endless celebration of genuine female oppression continues:



What does it mean to be a hijabi and a fashionista?

This all started when I saw this tw**t from Sarah Haider, co-founder of Ex-Muslims of North America:

. . . which referenced this Facebook post by Haute Hijab, a community of hijab-wearing fashionistas:


And what happened is shown in part below: Anniesa Hasibuan, a fashion designer who produces incredibly elaborate clothes for the hijab-wearer (see some of her designs here), had a fashion show in New York, and after the catwalk parade there was a standing ovation from a non-Muslim crowd:


This, of course, is something that would be—and probably has—been touted by PuffHo. Sarah was saying that the standing ovation was actually a celebration of women’s oppression—oppression in the form of the hijab, a scarf meant to cover the hair as a sign of women’s modesty dictated by some sects of Islam.

And at first I thought, “Maybe Sarah is being too harsh here. Maybe these women don’t wear the hijab to be modest, but simply (as Jews wear yarmulkes) to be “closer to God.”

But then I thought, “But Islamic scripture says that you’re closer to God not simply by wearing the headscarf, but because you’re covering the bits of yourself that could inflame men’s desires.” And if that’s the case, then we have not only hypocrisy—the combination of hair covering to enforce modesty combined with glitzy fashion designed to show yourself off (makeup, outline of the bosom, glamorous fabrics)—but Regressive Leftism, in the form of a liberal crowd applauding the women precisely because they’ve exercised this hypocrisy but kept their all-important hair under wraps.

And I think Sarah is right. Yes, women should certainly have a choice about whether to wear the headscarf, and I’m sure some of them do wear it by choice (though fewer than we think), and some do it not to obey religious custom, but to make a political statement. But even that political statement is deeply entangled with faith, for Islam is the most political of religions.

The fact is that there’s nothing in the Qur’an or hadith about covering the hair (see below), but there’s plenty about being modest (see here and here, for instance), and Islamic scripture is clear that women must be far more modest than men.  But there is no scriptural requirement to cover one’s hair, as noted in Wikipedia’s piece on “Intimate parts in Islam“:

And say to the believing women that they should lower their gaze and guard their modesty; that they should not display their beauty and ornaments except what (must ordinarily) appear thereof; that they should draw their khimār over their breasts and not display their beauty except to their husband, their fathers, their husband’s fathers, their sons, their husbands’ sons, their brothers or their brothers’ sons, or their sisters’ sons, or their women, or the slaves whom their right hands possess, or male servants free of physical needs, or small children who have no sense of the shame of sex; and that they should not strike their feet in order to draw attention to their hidden ornaments. (Quran24:31).

You’re supposed to cover your intimate parts, but not necessarily the hair. What has happened in some Islamic countries—and this is recent—is that the hijab worn over the head has been interpreted as necessary for modesty, even if not explicit in Islamic scripture. It’s the interpretation of that scripture that has changed, so that in the last 40 years in places like Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran, and Egypt, hijabs have become more and more common as a sign that a woman is a good Muslim. (Google image “Women Tehran 1970” and then put in “2015” to see the difference. Or substitute “Cairo” or “Kabul” for “Tehran.”)

For most hijabis, then (and I am guessing here from what I know), wearing the scarf is a religious signal, meant to show that you’re abiding by old Islamic dictates of female modesty and newer dictates on how the modesty is instantiated. But all of those dictates, new and old, were and are enforced by men; they’re part of the corrosive patriarchy that pervades Islam. If the hijab makes you feel “closer to God,” then it often does so by making you feel that you’re adhering more closely to an entire code of conduct designed to oppress and marginalize women.

So Sarah is right. Those hijabi fashionistas are simple hypocrites: they’re trying to obey the letter of Islam but violating the spirit. They’d immediately be whacked by the morality police if they appeared on the streets of Kabul in that garb! More important, they can’t have it both ways: hide your beauty under a headscarf in the name of modesty, but flaunt it below the neckline. Well, of course you can do that, as these women have, but let them flaunt their brand of modesty in Kabul or Saudi Arabia!

But what’s even worse is the New York crowd applauding this, not because the fashions are particularly spectacular, but because they’re topped with a hijab.

Yes, Sarah’s right: the crowd is applauding not the women or the designer, but themselves—their liberality, their open-mindedness, their show of support for what they see as an oppressed minority: Muslims. After all, Muslims are people of color. What the enthusiastic crowd doesn’t realize, though, is that it’s simultaneously applauding the oppression of women, symbolized by the very garment that elicited all this approbation.

h/t: Eiynah

The newest microaggression: Mispronouncing someone’s name

A reader sent me a link to, a right-wing libertarian website, describing the newest form of microaggression: mispronouncing someone’s name. (They, in turn, took most of their story from a CNS News report (also a conservative site) by Amy Furr. As you’ll see, the reader was dismayed to have to find this stuff on right-wing sites, but it’s simply not reported on Left-ish media sites, which ignore this kind of story for obvious reasons.

At any rate, Furr says this (my emphasis):

Hundreds of school districts across the country have taken a pledge to “pronounce student’s names correctly” to avoid the “microaggression” of mispronunciation.

According to ‘My Name, My Identity: A Declaration of Self,’ a national campaign launched in 2015 by the Santa Clara County, Calif. Office of Education (SCCOE) and the National Association for Bilingual Education, a teacher who mispronounces a student’s name can cause that student “anxiety and resentment”.

“Mispronouncing a student’s name truly negates his or her identity, which, in turn, can hinder academic progress,” according to Yee Wan, SCCOE’s director of multilingual education services.

Rita Kohli, assistant professor of education at the University of California at Riverside, says it is a sign of “microagression” when a teacher mispronounces, disregards, or changes a child’s name, because “they are in a sense disregarding the family and culture of the student as well.”

The Washoe County School District in Reno, Nevada is one of 528 school districts across the country that have recently implemented a campaign to “pronounce students’ names correctly” – including names teachers and administrators find difficult or unfamiliar – in order to be sensitive to the ancestral and historical significance of a child’s name.

Truly, a good teacher should make every effort to pronounce a student’s name properly, though it’s hard to do when you teach 100-200 students, as I often did in beginning evolution. There is simply no time to go around the class during the first session and have everyone say their name, so you have to learn names during either labs or office hours, and you can forget both names and pronounciations for a lot of students. But seriously, does it really “negate a student’s identity” to have their name pronounced incorrectly in a large class?

If that’s the case, then I was negated many, many times—and still am. My name is rarely pronounced correctly (like a “coin”), but more often as Cone-ee, Coin-ee, Cone, and all possible permutations. But of course I am a white male, and so there’s no chance of identity negation. (Nor did it ever both me, but of course I have Privilege: It’s okay to mispronounce my name.) The campaign is most likely aimed at minority students—not blacks, but perhaps Hispanics, Africans, or those from the Middle East, and, of course, Poland, where there are no vowels.

What is the evidence for psychological damage? The National Education Association cites a study showing that mispronounciation of names does this:

The effects can be long-lasting. In 2012, Kohli and Daniel Solorzano examined the issue in a study called “Teachers, Please Learn Our Names!: Racial Microagressions and the K-12 Classrooms.” They found that the failure to pronounce a name correctly impacts the world view and social emotional well-being of students, which, of course, is linked to learning.

What appears to be missing is evidence that, as Furr’s piece suggests, mispronounciation hinders academic progress itself.

Nevertheless, it’s a matter of simple civility to try to pronounce everybody’s name correctly, for it shows you are paying attention to them as a person, whether they be white, black, Asian, or Hispanic. Sometimes it’s harder to pronounce foreign names, so some slack should be allowed, and of course when I lived in France, working in academics, nobody pronounced my name properly.

But “microaggression”? No way—not unless you’re bigoted and boorish enough to call all Hispanic males “José”.  To turn this into a political issue conflates incivility or difficulty with language with being a bigot or racist, inflating the ever-expanding sphere of the Offense Culture. As the piece, written by Lenore Skenazy, notes:

So far, 528 school districts have taken the pledge to try to get names right—which you’d think most teachers would do without a pledge.

But if they never quite get the accent right? Is that really a diss or simply the fact that with a melting pot like America, some names are going to be (am I microaggressing?) harder to pronounce? My family and I hosted an exchange student here for a year and I don’t think we ever pronounced “Giovanni” like an Italian. We said it with our American accents. This did not seem to stymie him in any way.

It’s interesting that the reader who sent me this link has a name I’d have trouble with, too, but it’s not a name associated with “oppressed people.” He also felt bad being allied with the Right on this issue:

Now, with my genetic and cultural heritage as a Scots-Irish-Anglo-German-Welsh-Cherokee-Jew and with my very Irish, very long last name, I have always had my name mispronounced, as has my son with his traditional, but quite common, Welsh-origin name  that gets mispronounced and misspelled, I had no idea I was supposed to be offended and to have felt abused, but then I’m sure this counts for us; we’re not “ethnic” enough to count as aggressed against, I suppose.
I’m sure getting sick of this Looney-Left regressive stupidity.  I’m also getting sick of finding myself siding with the Right.
I think that many of us, including me, don’t like agreeing with a fair amount of what we see on right-wing websites.

Here are the caimans

In this morning’s “Readers’ wildlife” series, Lou Jost had a “find the caiman” photo, in which, he said, there were a mother Spectacled Caiman and at least seven babies. Did you find them all? Here’s the reveal. (Click to enlarge: caimans are circled with olive-green ovals.)