Saturday, 25 June 2011

Nature v Nurture

Earlier this month I read about a Toronto couple who were keeping the gender of their 4 month old baby (called Storm) a secret so that they could raise "it" in a gender neutral environment with the idea being that the Child can dress, play and act how it wishes without society forcing the Child to conform to gender norms in what the parents call a "Tribute to freedom and choice." However, I would disagree and say that this is infact a rather astounding tribute to stupidity of the highest order and I will attempt to explain why.

While growing up, children are affected by both nature and nurture and will therefore end up as a product of the two. What the Parents of this Child are trying to do is to exclude the nurture factor altogether and are attempting to raise the child purely on nature. However, when it comes to nature alone we find that the Male brain and the Female brain are infact different and are subjected to different hormonal environments. This is can be seen in clinical tests which have proven that while Men are better at tests that involve spatial awareness and logic, Women tend to do better in tests that involve language and communication. As for the differences in hormonal environments this can be easily seen by looking at the early years of high school. From about first to third year in high school where hormones are raging most Boys tend to become very aggressive and fight with each other a lot, while girls tend to be very "bitchy" and emotional conflicts tend to happen regularly. This is simply nature at work and as both Boys and Girls mature things tend to smooth out very rapidly and everyone gets along much better.  Little baby Storm will inevitably go through exactly the same process where his body will clearly tell him exactly what gender he is whether he or his parents agree or not.

The reason I refer to Storm as "he" is because it should be made clear that no question mark really does hover over the head of Storms gender because one look at the child and you can instantly tell that it is a baby Boy. If I am indeed wrong on that then I can only conclude that it is one of the most aesthetically displeasing baby girls I have ever clapped eyes on. The bottom line is simply that this is not - no matter what the Parents might say - an exercise in being individual. It is infact a pretty cruel experiment where poor Storm is the Guinea-Pig. The practical implications of this should be apparent right away: the poor boy will free isolated in school since he may find he does not fit in with either the girls or the boys and he may also find it strange to engage in social situations later on in life. More Parents should realise that there actions will have serious consequences for their Children as they grow up. This can be illustrated with Parents who give their Children ridiculous names and  similarly Storm's Parents should realise they are treading a very fine line between pushing boundaries and all out social suicide for their son.

Even if everything went well for Storm and his upbringing was a success (even though I'm not sure how you would define success in this case) I very much doubt that he would be any happier than had he received a traditional or normal upbringing. Therefore an exercise such as the one his Parents are embarking on is entirely fruitless and futile in the grand scheme of things. 

In conclusion I would once again like to clarify that I am all for being individual but that there is a fine line between being individual and just being plain weird. There are countless Men and Women who do not follow the crowd and are yet perfectly "normal" and strong in character. This is because they do not need a PR stunt such as this to put forward their "Tribute to freedom of choice" in a move that benefits absolutely nobody. 

Having said that I wish Storm the absolute best and every success in the future!

Friday, 11 March 2011

Lock me up before giving Prisoners the vote!

It seems that once again, a group of unelected Judges from the Continent have undermined the authority of not only our Courts but also our Parliament and are forcing the UK to give prisoners the vote. This is not the first time this topic has been brought up: a decade ago the demand for prisoners votes was flatly rejected by the courts and a prisoner John Hirst was unsuccessful in his attempts to change that. Now however, the powers that be in the EU have decided that this is not good form.

I personally find the idea of giving prisoners the vote highly offensive and contrary to the principles of a fair and just society. The reason for this is very simple: In society you have both Rights and Responsibilities of equal stature and if you do not adhere to these Responsibilities then you incur penalties on certain Rights you have. Therefore, if you do not respect the rules and decorum of society then you should have no say in how society is run. Simple.

Many would argue that voting is a Human Right and that Rights cannot be suspended or taken away. This is factually incorrect. Although there are many absolute Human Rights that cannot be breached under any circumstances such as "prohibition of torture",  a lot Human Rights are in fact qualified rights where the state may legitimately deprive an individual of them if they have reason to believe it would be detrimental to society. So for example, if I exercised my Right to Freedom Expression and staged a protest demanding death to an ethnic group in society I would (quite rightly) be deprived of the right to express myself by the State. 

Let us also not forget that prisons today are more comfortable than ever. Prisoners received Sky TV before I did in my house, they had access to a fully kitted out gym long before I did, get fed three thoroughly decent square meals a day and yet pay nothing. This sounds more like a Summer Camp than a prison! Prisoners today have better access to facilities and luxuries than a lot of law abiding families in society and therefore have some cheek to even THINK about asking for the vote. 

Some have suggested that a blanket ban is unfair and that those who have committed minor crimes should still retain the Right to vote. I could get behind this idea, but only if the threshold was set very, very low. Even then, there are many practical issues to be considered. For instance, where do we draw the line between what crime constitutes a right to vote and what does not? What is intrinsically "right" about giving someone who hasn't paid their TV license the vote but not a Murderer? I would argue that there is nothing right about it and that it simply boils down to the same principle I mentioned earlier in this blog. It is a very slippery slope we find ourselves on, and how long before we give murderers, rapists and paedophiles the ability to determine how our country is run?

It is pure hypocrisy that Judges from Russia and the Eastern Block should tell the oldest Parliamentary Democracy in the world how democracy works. I am glad to see David Cameron give MP's the green light to defy the EU in this issue, as it is the first primitive signs of the UK growing a spine and standing up for what it believes in.

Long may this continue.

Sunday, 20 February 2011

Grade F for common sense

For sometime now I have been of the opinion that certain courses offered by Universities are totally pointless and outdated. A fine example of this is History of Art, which guarantees you exactly two career options: an Art Historian (unlikely), or selling the Big Issue. However, a few months ago, it came to my attention via a good friend that Northampton University was offering a joint honours course in Waste Management and Dance. Initially, I thought he was joking, but after I'd picked myself up off the floor and turned on my computer, I have the misery of reporting that he is indeed correct. Furthermore, Northampton also offer Dance with with Equine Studies and (rather ironically) World Development with Pop Music, while Glyndwr University in Wrexham offers an unusual course in Equestrian Psychology which "investigates the unique partnership between horse and rider."

This is absolutely ridiculous. Especially since Universities have had the bare-faced cheek to charge students over TRIPLE what they were previously paying in tuition fees. It seems to me that the government has gone about saving money in tertiary education completely the wrong way. Rather than asking for more money to sustain all the courses currently offered by Universities, what they should have done was to weed out all these Mickey-Mouse subjects and withdraw funding, leaving more money left for the subjects that really matter and will further the development of the country in the future. The majority of students should certainly NOT have to pay to keep these subjects in the prospectus. Therefore, I propose the following: If you really are that concerned about the "unique partnership" between you and your horse and wish to study it in an academic environment, pay for it yourself. If you would like to study how the world benefits from effective waste management through the medium of dance, pay for it yourself. And if you absolutely must study how Bono will save the third world through his music, pay for it yourself! What you should not do, is ask students or tax payers to fund you.

This horrible approach of trying to turn hobbies into academic subjects  permeates every aspect of education in this country. How can a school fund Intermediate 2 Cake Decorating but not find the money to buy the latest textbooks for its English Students? How can a school afford to buy new costumes for the drama club, while giving Musicians old, out-dated instruments?  How can a school plough resources into Media Studies, but not offer decent scientific apparatus to its students? Its a totally wasteful approach that at its core promotes mediocrity.

In many ways I do hope that this financial "belt-tightening" results in these subjects being banished from every curriculum and that we can return to giving proper financial backing to the potential Nobel prize-winners of the future.