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Monday, May 11, 2015

I Feel So Guilty

Even as cynical and jaded as I am, every once in a while I read an article that makes me realize I'm not yet cynical and jaded enough. Linked indirectly from both instapundit and brothersjudd is an Australian Broadcasting Corporation article entitled "Is having a loving family an unfair advantage?" Note that the Australian Broadcasting Corporation is owned and funded (over $1 billion per year) by the Australian government so it's not a fringe news organization.

In the article, philosopher and Social Justice Warrior Adam Swift notes:
"The evidence shows that the difference between those who get bedtime stories and those who don’t—the difference in their life chances—is bigger than the difference between those who get elite private schooling and those that don’t"
For those who think that inequality is the great evil of the universe, this inherently leads to the following contemplation:
"One way philosophers might think about solving the social justice problem would be by simply abolishing the family. If the family is this source of unfairness in society then it looks plausible to think that if we abolished the family there would be a more level playing field."
I have to wonder if Adam Swift is related to satirist Jonathan Swift who also proposed that the state should raise children in Gulliver's Travels. Alas, Jonathan was kidding, though at least Adam admits it's not a perfect solution:
The break-up of the family is plausible maybe, he thinks, but even to the most hard-hearted there’s something off-key about it.
Hmmm, a bit off-key? Yeah, a bit. Progressives have been known to be a bit tone-deaf from time to time.

Asked if "parents snuggling up for one last story before lights out be even a little concerned about the advantage they might be conferring," Swift responds:
“I don’t think parents reading their children bedtime stories should constantly have in their minds the way that they are unfairly disadvantaging other people’s children, but I think they should have that thought occasionally.”
I'm guilty, oh-so-guilty for disadvantaging other people's children by all that bedtime reading I did. I managed to disadvantage hundreds of millions of children simply by reading bedtime stories.  Oh! The horrors! Guilty, I tell you, guilty guilty guilty!


Bret said...

Clovis, you're the only regular commenter here who has young children so this post was written with you in mind because I know you wouldn't want to disadvantage other kids. So stop reading bedtime stories and being a good parent!!!!! It's too late for the rest of us!

Clovis e Adri said...

Thanks, Bret.

Every now and then I need a reminder that, even though doing and teaching Physics is no great contribution to the world, it could always be worse. The fact he works in the University of Warwick does not surprise me a bit...

Bret said...

With Clovis pointing out that Professor Swift was from University of Warwick I did a google search and found his following, um, clarification of his comments:

"I recently did an interview for The Philosopher's Zone on Australian radio. Careless polemical journalism around that piece has seriously misrepresented my views and led to a barrage of abusive emails.

"For the record: My work with Harry Brighouse on Family Values: The Ethics of Parent-Child Relationships (Princeton UP 2014) is in large part about how vitally important for children are informal interactions like bedtime stories, and many other forms of loving help, from parents. We would never discourage anybody from reading their children bedtime stories, nor criticize them for doing so. Where parents are not willing or able to provide that kind of help, then they should be encouraged to do so, and where necessary supported in doing so.

"We argue that the various means by which parents confer advantage on their children are not all equally important for loving family life. In our view the grounds for protecting elite private education, for example, are considerably less weighty. We also think it is good occasionally to be mindful of the children who, due to factors entirely beyond their control, suffer for lack of loving attention from parents. Of course many will disagree with those views. But if you have read or heard that we object to bedtime stories, or want to create a level playing-field between children in different families, then you have read or heard someone who has misunderstood our theory.

Perhaps I was too swift to poke at the good professor, perhaps not. It could well be that the ABC reporter (Joe Gelonesi) did twist Swift's quotes to make it appear that he thought abolishing families and making bedtime readers feel guilty weren't bad things. Or it could be that Swift swiftly tired of the barrage of incredulous emails and decided to "clarify" his meaning. Or it could be a bit of both. We'll never know.

In any case, I don't feel guilty for my post because I believe someone clearly wanted me to interpret it the way I did.

erp said...

Bret, For a long time it's been my contention that Vonnegut's Harrison Bergeron be required reading.

BTW - I'm curious. What did Orrin have to say about this? Has come to senses yet?

Bret said...


erp said...

It's been so long that I haven't decoded Orrin's repostes, but at first glance it would appear that "lowering all boats" would be a negative outcome? ;-{

Harry Eagar said...

Swift's proposal was a modest one, eh wot?

Clovis e Adri said...


We'll never know.
Warwick is a place full of nasty people, so I have got my answer for that one.

Clovis e Adri said...


Bret, For a long time it's been my contention that Vonnegut's Harrison Bergeron be required reading.
I've just did. Sorry, but that's weak and cheap literature... the guy took a page from Orwell and made an effort to bungle it.

erp said...

Clovis, of course Vonnegut isn't literature. This little essay is an exaggerated and shocking graphic picture of "equality" in the eyes of the compassionates amazing in that it was written in 1961 right at beginning of the end of our culture.

We had equality. Equality under the law. That's the only equality possible until genetics is perfected and we all turn out looking like some lunatic lefty elite's ideal serf -- perhaps a variation on the cave man.

... and yes, Harry, there wasn't equality under the law in the Jim Crow states, but that was changing in a positive way even before the CRA act of 1964 (as I’ve said infinitum, any president could have desegregated federal agencies, public buildings, parks, the military, etc. at any time without an act of congress, but not even Wilson or Frankie had the nerve), but with the second CRA Johnson stopped everything cold by strong arming the RINO's in congress into going along with allowing the government to interfere with the private sector.

Add that to the encouragement of entitlements and race resentment which is leading to the almost complete breakdown of law and order -- the icing on the cake being the cozying up to Islamic fanatics and calling their murderous attacks, “workplace violence” or “lone wolves.”

Semantics they got and a media who’ll play along with their own demise.

Anonymous said...


I think you were quite right to take the Professor at his words. He clearly endorses the idea that "we" permit parents to read bed time stories despite the inequality for specific policy reasons, not because it's intrinsically beyond the power of "we". His denial isn't very substantive because he still holds that "we" can control a child's education regardless of the desires of the parents, specifically to prevent advantage. Simply put, he claims it is in the interest of "we" to prevent children from having better lives and being better people. It is not possible to heap excessive opprobrium on a person who holds such views.

Clovis, when I talk abusively about Tranzis, this is the the kind of person I mean.