aTypical Joe: a gay New Yorker living in the rural South
Monday, March 20, 2006
About ‘gay’: style matters
“For the AP Stylebook to update these entries is a significant milestone,” said GLAAD President Neil G. Giuliano, who praised the AP’s decisions to, among other things, encourage use of the term “transgender,” restrict usage of the word “homosexual” and prohibit use of the term “sexual preference.”
“Given the fundamental inaccuracy of terms like ‘sexual preference’ and the pejorative connotations of words like ‘homosexual,’ the AP’s style guidelines have been updated to reflect contemporary usage that’s more fair, more accurate and more inclusive,” Giuliano added.
I’m one of those who believes language matters, particularly for gay people. In fact, in the spring of 1982 I wrote a paper on the etymology of the word gay. I’ll spare you the full flowery prose, but some excerpts might be fun:
Though the word ‘homosexual’ has about it a certain venerable quality, contrary to public convictions, the word has neither a long nor distinguished history. Coined in Germany in 1860 by a Hungarian physician named Henkert (using the pseudonym K.M.Kertbeny), it was not introduced into the English language until 1891(1) and was considered too new to be included when in 1899 the Oxford English Dictionary published its “Hod-Horizontal” volume.(2) It was conceived as a neutral term--and remains lexically opaque--at a time when no single terminology existed.
The ancient Greeks had no need for a word to describe homosexuality (they were ambisexual) but Europe in the eighteenth century not only believed there was a need, she found herself with a plethora of terms vying for public acceptance. ‘Uranian’ and its derivative ‘urning’ were popular among homosexual authors and their sympathizers, but as these words were derived from a speech in Plato’s Symposium wherein homosexual love is described as heavenly and heterosexual passions as vulgar,(3) their acceptance by the popular or scientific communities could scarcely have been expected. ‘Third sex’, intermediate sex’, and ‘inversion’, though not as hostile as queer (4), seemed to imply that gay people were not quite human. ‘Intersexual’ (sex between?), ‘simulsexual’ (sex at the same time?), and ‘isosexual’ (sex alone?), though valiant attempts at the allusive neutrality, failed miserably (5*). So ‘homosexual’ won its acceptance not for its linguistic integrity, but rather because no one came up with a better word.
* Others that failed: ‘androgenic’, ‘catamite’, ‘controsexuality’, ‘hermaphroditism’, ‘homogenic’, ‘invert’, ‘morphadite’, ‘pathic’, ‘platonist’, ‘psychosexual’, and ‘transsexual’ (sic).
More from Dr. Moira Gunn’s Tech Nation podcast conversation with Dr. Carol Dweck, the Lewis and Virginia Eaton Professor of Psychology at Stanford University and author of Mindset—The New Psychology of Success. Here she defines Mindset: [clip]
Most people have one of two mindsets about their most basic qualities. Some people think their qualities like their intelligence or their personality are fixed traits, carved in stone, they have only a certain amount. Where as other people believe that’s silly, these are things you can develop and cultivate your whole life through.
And also it makes such a difference because when you have this fixed view, the fixed mindset, your whole life becomes about proving yourself, not making mistakes, shoring up your ego, looking smart, making sure you feel worthy instead of stretching and growing. When you have this growth mindset, life is about stretching and growing. You’re not afraid of stretching and growing, you’re not afraid that mistakes will measure you. You’re not afraid to go for it.
[How do we know which mindset we have?]
Answer these questions about intelligence. Your intelligence is something very basic about you that you can’t really change. You can learn new things but you can’t change how smart you are. Do you agree with those statements or do you disagree? If you agree, that’s a fixed mindset. If you disagree, that’s a growth mindset.
[Can we change?]
You can literally change from a fixed mindset to a growth mindset. It’s interesting because it’s a fundamental belief that guides a lot of your life. But it’s just a belief and it can be changed.
SEE ALSO: On self-esteem.
The 65% distraction
In an excellent post on The Rightwing’s War on the Public Schools, Nathan Newman exposes the 65% Solution for what it is:
[D]istraction is what the newest rightwing educational campaign - the so-called ”65% Solution”—is all about.
The proposal requires each district to spend at least 65% of all revenue “in the classroom.” It’s poll-tested and sounds good-- Texas, Kansas, and Louisiana passed the law last year, and Georgia passed it just last month, with many other states proposing similar bills.
The problem is that their definition of spending “inside the classroom” excludes teacher training, speech therapy for students, curriculum development, and school libraries, while athletics and field trips count as “in the classroom.” It’s hard to explain how a rule that creates incentives for a school to cut libraries to fund uniforms for the football team is some magic solution to educational problems.
And there is zero evidence from the experience of school districts that the 65% mandate will make a difference. The credit-rating agency Standard & Poor’s published a report last November which found “some of the highest- performing districts spend less than 65%, and some of the lowest- performing districts spend more than 65%” and concluded that “no minimum spending allocation is a ‘silver bullet’ solution for raising student achievement.”
The whole post is a must read.
I now realize that I made a big mistake in posting a blog without clearly identifying that the material in it didn’t originate as a blog post but was pieced together from previous interviews.
I’m sorry I didn’t see this earlier. But I see it now and here is what I’m going to do about it:
1. Going forward, any time the HuffPost uses repurposed material we will identify it as such and source where it originally appeared and link to it. (Thank you Jeff Jarvis)
2. Even though the point of providing George Clooney a sample blog was to show how it’s done and encourage him to join the blogosphere, I will curb my enthusiasm and not do this in the future.
3. When I read something or hear something in an interview or have something said to me in person that I think is really important and should have as wide an audience as possible, I will put it in my own blog, becoming Boswell to all the Dr. Johnsons out there just as I did once with Arthur Schlesinger.
I wondered would this dust-up make it to the Times. It did, today. By the way, I don’t think it should have.
Remember the Excellence in Journalism report finding that bloggers don’t do much original reporting? I said something along the lines of, what bloggers do “is a good and important contribution to the media landscape.” And also that Big Media would do well to do more BIG REPORTING and let go of their market-driven emphasis on piddly fluff.
Dr. Carol Dweck is the Lewis and Virginia Eaton Professor of Psychology at Stanford University, a recognized world leader in the study of personality, and author of Mindset—The New Psychology of Success. She spoke with Dr. Moira Gunn in this outstanding Tech Nation podcast [clip]:
Self-esteem per se is just fine, but I think we have a misguided model of what it is and how to promote it. We think it’s something that you can just pump into a child the way you inflate a tire. And we think we can do that by telling them how great they are. That’s the misguided part.
In our work we’ve shown that telling children how great they are… makes them very happy for a few minutes, but it makes them completely unable to cope with setbacks. How does it do that? ... Well it puts them into a fixed mindset. It tells them, “Hey, you did well on this test. That lets me read your underlying fixed ability and I think it’s pretty good.”
But it also tells children the name of the game is to look smart. So that when we then offer these students a chance to do something that stretches them and would help them learn, they say, “No thank you. I’d rather keep on looking smart.”
We also showed that when they then got something that was more difficult, they crashed. They said, “I guess I’m not smart after all.” They lost their enthusiasm for the task and their performance went way down. Incidentally this was an IQ test, so praising their intelligence made them less smart.
What’s the alternative? For other students we praised their efforts or their strategies.
You can guess that the outcome was dramatically different. “When we offered them a chance to keep on looking smart or learn sometthing new, 90% of them wanted to learn something new, even if they would make mistakes and not look very good.” [More in this clip.]
This is a vitally important point for those working with all children. But I quote it here, now, in the context of addressing the plight of Black men discussed in the Times’ story today.
LATER: Here she speculates how this dynamic played out in a couple famous cases:
There are these famous cases of Janet Cook and Stephen Glass, famous young reporters who made up stuff. Had to give back a Pulitzer Prize. Had to leave the New Republic in shame. What was that about? Were they just cheaters with deep down bad qualities? I think they were like the children in my studies who received lavish praise for their intelligence or talent and then didn’t feel that they had the luxury of learning. Maybe Janet Cook and Stephen Glass felt they had to be brilliant right away. They couldn’t take the time to learn the ropes and do the legwork and yes, they came out with these great stories right away, but they weren’t true.
You may have noticed, I’ve become increasingly convinced that Roe has been of no use whatsoever to the Reproductive Rights movement.
Similarly, Brown v. Board of Ed has done little for black men:
BALTIMORE - Black men in the United States face a far more dire situation than is portrayed by common employment and education statistics, a flurry of new scholarly studies warn, and it has worsened in recent years even as an economic boom and a welfare overhaul have brought gains to black women and other groups.
Focusing more closely than ever on the life patterns of young black men, the new studies, by experts at Columbia, Princeton, Harvard and other institutions, show that the huge pool of poorly educated black men are becoming ever more disconnected from the mainstream society, and to a far greater degree than comparable white or Hispanic men.
Especially in the country’s inner cities, the studies show, finishing high school is the exception, legal work is scarcer than ever and prison is almost routine, with incarceration rates climbing for blacks even as urban crime rates have declined. [...]
These were among the recent findings:
Ã‚Â¶The share of young black men without jobs has climbed relentlessly, with only a slight pause during the economic peak of the late 1990’s. In 2000, 65 percent of black male high school dropouts in their 20’s were jobless - that is, unable to find work, not seeking it or incarcerated. By 2004, the share had grown to 72 percent, compared with 34 percent of white and 19 percent of Hispanic dropouts. Even when high school graduates were included, half of black men in their 20’s were jobless in 2004, up from 46 percent in 2000.
Ã‚Â¶Incarceration rates climbed in the 1990’s and reached historic highs in the past few years. In 1995, 16 percent of black men in their 20’s who did not attend college were in jail or prison; by 2004, 21 percent were incarcerated. By their mid-30’s, 6 in 10 black men who had dropped out of school had spent time in prison.
Ã‚Â¶In the inner cities, more than half of all black men do not finish high school.
I’ll say again, my experience tells me too many Americans are looking South at the problem. Look around you; that’s where the problem is. We must do something!