Saturday, January 31, 2004

The Globe and Scare-mongering Mail

I threw the Globe Focus section across the room while eating brunch this morning. I've never seen such tripe in The Globe ever. Seriously.

The First Article That Pissed Me Off: Alanna Mitchell writing about kids these days. The lead-in to the article is: "What is it with so many children today? Sullen and surly, they ignore their elders and live to be with their peers."

Ms. Mitchell decides to figure it all out by talking to a group of baggy-pants teens outside of a Famous Players theatre. But the kids just won't tell her why they're so damn sullen and surly:

Delivered by one of the boys, the brush-off is immediate and absolute. "We're kind of busy," he says, with a hard look on his face. Then he turns his back.

When Gordon Neufeld hears this story a few days later, he laughs. An experienced clinical psychologist in Vancouver, he recognizes the symptoms all too well. This is a sign of what he calls "peer-orientation" or "peer-attachment disorder," which he contends is a modern blight responsible for today's dangerous teen landscape and getting worse all the time.

Excuse my language, but What The Fuck? A group of kids refuse to talk to a stranger, and not just a stranger, but a stranger with an agenda to find out if they are "like the [kids] who have spawned the parent-freaking headlines of the past few years: suicide, gangs, early sex, pregnancy, alienation, Littleton, Taber, Reena Virk and other random acts of violence from coast to coast" and this is diagnosed with a disorder? All they did was brush off a nosey reporter... Plus, I thought parents taught their kids not to talk to strangers.

The article gets worse, much worse.

"I'm convinced that peer-attachment disorder is the greatest disorder of our times," Dr. Neufeld says, adding that the problems of 90 to 95 per cent of the patients he sees are rooted in a skewed attachment.

In effect, he says, children are bringing up other children, and that's a recipe for dystopia straight out of Lord of the Flies. It's the death of parenthood.

Yes. Kids these days. When they hang out with their friends, it's just like the Lord of the Flies.

Does no one remember what it was like to be a teenager at The Globe? I think the real question is: Why are parents so afraid of their children these days?

Dr. Neufeld, by the way, does not even believe that children should leave their parents to go to school, though that's not mentioned in the article, of course. Quoth Neufeld: "[D]evelopmental science does not support school as the best context for children to learn, to mature or to become socialized."

Neufeld is a homeschooling proponent and, in my humble opinion, one of the nuttier ones. Check this out: "The prevailing assumption is that the greatest drawback to homeschooling is the loss of social interaction with peers. Times have changed however, making peer interaction more of a problem than an asset... If current trends in society continue, homeschooling may very well become a necessary antidote to escalating peer-orientation. We may need to reclaim our children not only to preserve or recover the context in which to teach and parent them but also for the sake of society at large and the transmission of culture."

The emphasis is mine. You know what he means by "transmission of culture", don't you?

The Second Article That Really Pissed Me Off: Michael Valpy writing about internet pornography.

It begins like this: "The mouse-driven quest for sex is tearing apart marriages and wrecking love affairs. It is undermining work and family life, sinking university and college students in a sticky swamp of failing grades and leading users of Internet pornography -- the crack cocaine of erotica -- into secret lives of shame."

Excuse my language again, but Give Me a Fucking Break. Valpy main interviewee is Professor David Delmonico from Duquesne University in Pennsylvania, but Valpy neglects to mention that Duquesne is a Catholic university with a mission statement to "serve god." In other words, Professor Delmonico and his colleagues are not just against masturbating to internet porn, but against masturbation in general.

My favourite bit is this: "[University of Toronto criminologist Marian Valverde, a specialist in both pornography and compulsive behaviour,] suggests that the bulk of today's excessive viewers of Internet pornography are likely overweight young men who avoid sports and who, 10 or 15 years back, would have been obsessive stamp collectors."

I seriously can't believe that got in the paper. It's full-on like something out of The Onion.

Globe Focus in summary -- Dubious experts say the following things are scary and liable to ruin your life: Kids and the Internet.


There was one other thing that irritated me in the Focus section today, though not in a fling-the-paper-in-outrage way. An article with the wonderfully subtle headline "Why are you here Mr. Nigger?"

The lead-in reads: "Back in the USSR, racial tolerance was a top priority, but in today's Russia, writes Mark MacKinnon, people of colour live in perpetual fear."

Yeah, the USSR was really racially tolerant. Oh, except for the time Stalin killed six to seven million Ukrainians in the Ukrainian Genocide.

There are two reasons why this article is not fling-worthy, however.

First, why punish MacKinnon for the headline writer's ignorance. MacKinnon, a brilliant reporter, says nowhere in the article that racial tolerance was a top priority in the USSR. What he writes is: "It's a long way from the days when the Soviet Union bragged of seamlessly blending its Slavic, Caucasian and Central Asian populations, claiming to have created a non-racial 'homo sovieticus,' while condemning the United States and other Western countries for their inequalities and racial violence." (Notice his use of words like "bragged" and "claiming.")

Secondly, racism is a very, very scary problem in Russia right now. Read the article.


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