“Working Mothers’ Children Unfit”

So sayeth the BBC. A study

found that five-year-olds whose mothers worked part-time or full-time were more likely to primarily consume sweetened drinks between meals. They used their computers or watched television for at least two hours a day compared to the children of “stay at home” mothers who spent less than two hours on these activities. They were also more likely to be driven to school compared to the children of “stay at home” mothers who tended to walk or cycle.

The study’s author, Professor Catherine Law says:

they had not looked at fathers in this study because fathers employment levels had not changed whereas the numbers of working mothers had increased dramatically. [Further,] “Time constraints may limit parents’ capacity to provide their children with healthy foods and opportunities for physical activity. Our results do not imply that mothers should not work. Rather they highlight the need for policies and programmes to help support parents.”

Imagine if the BBC had framed their article to reflect that: “Better after-school care needed”, for example. But no, they’ve opted for the very catchy mother-blaming option. And one that completely absolves fathers of responsibility for childcare. (Thanks, Jender-Parents!)

Ethical issues about academic advice

I do an awful lot of academic advising, from the very formal writing of letters and filling out forms, to the informal chats with students about careers in philosophy. And I have to say there are days when it all seems ethically complicated to me. There are a few different sorts of dilemmas I face. here’s one: Clearly I want there to be more women in philosophy, more sexual diversity too, as well as ethnic and racial diversity. But I also think philosophy can be a lonely place for those who don’t fit the mold. It’s a conservative discipline and while that will only change as the people who make up philosophy departments change, there are days when I’m not sure about encouraging young people to pursue careers in philosophy. It’s this mix of utilitarian considerations—we’d all be better off if the discipline were more diverse—and paternalistic concern for those first faces of diversity. I want to say, “I love philosophy too but it can lonely here. Some philosophers might not think the kind of issues that interest you are sufficiently philosophical. Or if they are seen as philosophical, they might be seen as ‘light weight’ or on the edge of the discipline. Many philosophers with interests in gender, sexuality, and race end up with joint appointments in order to find an intellectual community where there work is valued. Or, philosophers might expect you to teach courses about race/gender even if your interests are in logic or analytic metaphysics.” Am I just having a bad day? What do you say to students who you think won’t fit in but for whom there ought to be a place? How to we balance the goals of promoting diversity and being honest about how rough it can be?

Combating Creationism: A useful resource

It’s a bit scary and/or creepy.  If you teach in the US, you probably have students in your classes who have a very different  understanding of causation of our world than most philosophy professors do.  It isn’t exactly that they think the walls of your classroom are actually supported by the leprechauns – though quite possibly a few do – but they certainly think that what science purports to tell them about the originals of the universe and the evolution of the species is just all wrong.  And this means that their capacity to react critically to all sorts of things is impaired.

TalkOrigins has what  looks to be a useful site, with a depressingly long list of false claims creationists make.  Some are very familiar, others perhaps less so – such as sea shells on mountain tops – and still others I think very esoteric.   I had no idea, for example, there was anything special about woodpeckers’ tongues.  Actually, there isn’t, but that’s not what creationists claim.

You can click on a claim and you are taken to an explanation and rebuttal.  The rebuttals are sometimes too short, I think, and require more thought than may be available in the actual dialectic, but it’s something teachers can figure out, and sources are cited.  So don’t despair the next time a student tells you that NASA scientists  have discovered a day is missing.

Trouble with virginity

It was probably just coincidence that I saw this article about mass marriages and accompanying forced virginity tests in India and this article on the scandalous atrocity of faking virginity in Egypt on the same day (thanks delphicoracle).

Of course it’s not just exotic countries where there’s such a stress on virginity before wedlock; there’s the concept of virginity pledges in the US as well.

Made me wonder whether there are actually non religious folk who focus on virginity like that, so I googled it, and got an answer on yahoo answers. There probably are better answers, but at least it was funny, while the whole virginity cultus is not.

Wrong embryo implanted

A fertility clinic accidentally implanted the wrong embryo into Carolyn Savage’s womb, and they found out quite early. All parties involved felt it was very clear whose baby was born, and that’s why Savage voluntarily handed it over to its genetic parents.

“This was someone else’s child,” 40-year-old Carolyn Savage told the AP on Wednesday. “We didn’t know who it was. We didn’t know if they didn’t have children or if this was their last chance for a child.”

But I imagine there are plenty of views of motherhood on which this is far from a straightforward case. (Thanks, Jender-Parents.)