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Clarissa's Blog

An academic's opinions on feminism, politics, literature, philosophy, teaching, academia, and a lot more.

Archive for the day “May 25, 2011”

Why Do People Lie About Going to Church?

Via François  Tremblay‘s blog, I found this curious report about the striking numbers of people in Canada and the US who lie about how often they go to church. Here is a graph that illustrates how often people go (in gray) as opposed to how often they claim they do (in blue):

I am not surprised that people lie because being honest about not going to church often gets you practically bullied by those who like to engage in exhibits of showy religiosity. If this regularly happens to me, whose acquaintances are all academics, I can only imagine how often people in less progressive environments are persecuted by their churchified, self-righteous neighbors and colleagues.

I had a colleague in grad school who was dedicated to making her religiousness as widely known as possible. Once after I mentioned something about being Jewish in class, she approached me.

“So, Clarissa, I heard you were a Jew,” she said looking as grave as if she had heard I had a terminal disease.

“Yes, but we are a secular family,” I responded. “We haven’t practiced Judaism in over a century.”

“Oh, so you are a Christian!” she exclaimed with relief.

“No, we don’t practice Christianity either. We are a secular family,” I explained.

“So you are nobody?” she responded.

Another colleague at the same grad school kept exposing everybody in sight to passionate speeches about how it was extremely irresponsible for people from different religions and even from different denominations within the same religion to have children together.

“You aren’t a real family unless you can go to church on Sunday together. Nobody who loves their children would expose them to this kind of environment,” the colleague raved.

“Is it OK when neither parent goes to any Church then? Is my family real? Because that’s what we do,” I would respond.

“Well, you are from a different culture,” the colleague always responded self-righteously.

But all that was nothing compared to yet another colleague who stormed out on me yelling, “How dare you say that our Jesus was a Jew!”

I have many more stories about religious bullies. None of them made me invent non-existent trips to the church but I can understand the temptation.

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Yet Another Tornado

Another tornado is coming to our town. This is getting too annoying for words. We’ve already had maybe 10 of them this spring. I can’t hear the recorded announcement exhorting people to take shelter immediately any more.

Enough already!

I don’t know who this request is addressed to, of course.

What Is a Good Graduation Gift?

I’m not American, and there are still things that I’m unfamiliar with culturally. The good news is that blogging allows me to ask my readers for advice.

I have been invited to a high school graduation party of a colleague’s daughter. What kind of gifts do people in this country usually bring for this kind of occasion?

Any advice will be highly appreciated. The party is on Sunday, so there is still plenty of time.

Tenure and the Business World

I am disturbed by the increasing number of comparisons between the worlds of academia and business. They were first made as part of a concerted (and still  continuing) assault on the institution of academic tenure. Now, however, even very progressive people have now interiorized this unfair and dangerous comparison. See, for example, an excerpt from a post I linked to yesterday:

Manufacturing companies do it, by creating two-tier wage systems.* Universities do it, by hiring non-tenure-track faculty members, such as professional specialists, adjuncts, and graduate students. And now law firms [ht: mwg] are doing it, by hiring “career associates” who are not on the partner track.

Lumping manufacturing companies, law firms and universities together disregards the crucial differences between them and endangers the concept of academic tenure. One of the main arguments that the detractors of tenure use is that it offers academics something that nobody else has in the world of business: job security. The idea that tenure exists to provide job security for people like me is deeply misguided. The job of an academic consists not only of preserving and dissemination knowledge, but, even more importantly, creating knowledge. Without being able to generate new ideas freely in an environment where nobody’s personal politics or ideologies hamper this important task, academics will produce no ideas of value. There is no other reason why tenure should exist.

However, any suggestion of creating tenure or anything similar at institutions whose raison d’être is to make profit is completely unsustainable. Nobody can be expected to run a business and guarantee permanent employment to people. You cannot have the benefits of capitalism and communism at the same time.

Want permanent employment guaranteed to you for life and provided by the state without any need for you to go through job interviews and competition? Want to be paid exactly the same as everybody else? That’s fine, but be prepared that this exact same salary you will all get will keep you at subsistence level all your life. Also, be prepared to have no goods and services to buy with this pittance you will be paid.

Want a huge selection of goods and services? Want to be rewarded for being more hard-working than your neighbor? Welcome to capitalism. However, the price you pay for that is competition, insecurity, and merit pay.

Finally, a Voice of Reason on the Burqa Issue

This is what I just found on University Diaries:

Enter Nazila Fathi from Iran. A reporter for The New York Times, Fathi has been instrumental in providing the Tehran perspective and has written countless on-the-ground articles exploring political and social development in an ever-changing Iran. Fathi visited Dartmouth’s campus on May 6 to give a lecture regarding reporting in her native country and touched on the issue of the burqa.

In fielding a question about her opinion of the French government’s viewpoint on the burqa, Fathi responded, “I can’t speak objectively since I don’t support wearing it. If you want to wear it, go back to where you’re from.” . . . According to Fathi, the burqa exists as a tool for many men to control their wives. It acts as a shield between society and women, a metaphorical piece of fabric that symbolizes the importance and meaning that a woman lacks within her community. Fathi said she was one of many women in Iran who felt this way and thought the burqa to be a covering “no mobile woman would willingly don.”

After being exposed to the inane propaganda of burqas as a tool of feminist empowerment, I’m glad to hear this voice of reason on the issue. Of course, the well-meaning celebrators of barbarity posing as cultural diversity and freedom of religion will not listen.

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