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Archive for the ‘Kids These Days’ Category

The State of New Mexico is investigating the CBS show “Kid Nation” to see if it broke any laws in respect to work permits, contracts, and refusing to allow inspectors onto the property while filming. 

What caught my eye was the description of the premise of the show. 

Sisneros said officials became aware of the show — which places 40 kids, ages 8 to 15, in the New Mexico desert to build a society without any contact with their parents — when an inspector from the Department of Workforce Solutions notified the attorney general that he was not allowed on the property to inspect work permits.

I really have nothing to say about the particular legal issue. 

But if this were a sociological experiment, it would probably be considered unethical.  But since it’s television, I guess it’s perfectly fine to let kids fend for themselves in the desert.  And yeah, I get that the kids were probably not left completely unsupervised.  But 40 of them from the ages of 8 to 15? 

I saw that television show when it was actually a book called Lord of the Flies.  If it were real, it wouldn’t be appropriate to watch.  And if it’s appropriate to watch, it isn’t real.  So what’s the point? 

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… but luckily, Mike Adams wants to help you clear up that nasty case of emotional crabs. He’s a criminal justice professor, after all. Which means he’s, like, totally qualified to talk to college students about sexual health. How does that make him qualified? … Um, why are you asking such tough questions? Have you, too, been brainwashed by the women’s studies professors teacing blow-job techniques and the dish of condoms in the dining hall salad bar? Obiously, you were. Otherwise, you might even be questioning what the picture accompanying the article has to do with college campuses.
Bowl of Condoms in Bar in India
A bartender arranges packets of free condoms in a bowl at India's first 'Condom Bar' in Chandigarh May 26, 2007. REUTERS/Ajay Verma (INDIA)

You see, it’s because bowls of free condoms are much like terrorists. You might think condoms in India to not affect the hymens of our daughters here at home, but let me assure you that bowls of free condoms anywhere in the world make the whole world that much less safe for wingnuttery.

You can click the link above, and read Adams’ whole column. But I highly recommend just reading Kyso’s fabulous take on it here.

Adams: If you are gay and engaging in anal sex, it is unlikely that you will ever see the words “anal sex” listed among the risk factors for contracting AIDS in any campus publication anywhere. Nor is it likely that you will ever hear these words mentioned by any professor discussing such risk factors in a relevant lecture.”

Kyso: To be fair, you do actually have to open the publications and read what’s inside of them rather than just imagining what might be inside of them.

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This has already been everywhere, but oh well. There are just so many interesting things about danah boyd’s social-neworking/class analysis I don’t know where to start. A few weeks ago I mused that “Myspace will remain as the go-to site for musicians, aspiring porn stars and people looking to hook-up with strangers; Facebook for college kids, hipsters, tech geeks, activists and academics.”

Turns out I’m mostly right, according to danah. She has been interviewing young people across the nation about their relationship with social networking and other technological phenomenon, and writes a series of academic and non-acedmic articles about her observations. One of her latest discussions is on class divisions evident in the Facebook/MySpace divide.

Until recently, American teenagers were flocking to MySpace. The picture is now being blurred. Some teens are flocking to MySpace. And some teens are flocking to Facebook. Who goes where gets kinda sticky… probably because it seems to primarily have to do with socio-economic class.

After hashing out the obvious origins of this divide (facebook’s original .edu account only membership policy), danah attempts to briefly deal with just what “class” actually means in U.S. society, which I thought was one of the most interesting parts of the essay. She cites sociologist Nalini Kotamraju, who argued that lifestyle and “social stratification” are more indicative of class in the U.S. than income.

In other words,” danah writes, “all of my anti-capitalist college friends who work in cafes and read Engels are not working class just because they make $14K a year and have no benefits. Class divisions in the United States have more to do with social networks (the real ones, not FB/MS), social capital, cultural capital, and attitudes than income.

Ezra picks up this thread and adds

I’m not making very much right now, but … there’s an issue of potential here. I’m choosing a low-income field, but it would be easy enough for me to take the LSAT, dart off to law school, and quintuple my salary. Not choosing that option doesn’t mean it’s not there. Should class actually be tired to the most-renumerative reality you could feasibly inhabit?

Similarly, I’ve been in grad school this year, and making practically nothing, like most of my fellow students. But no one would look at us, our lives, our possessions, and call us “working class.” We have ikea furniture and laptops and iPods and embarrassingly high weekly bar tabs, though combinations of previous incarnations in the working world, help from parents, student loans, meager part-time incomes, school stipends, etc. (for the record, my parents are not paying for anything for me, lest you think I’m one of those subsidized academic brats). And we have post-grad prospects that, while dismally not as bright-and-shiny as we’d like, at least mean that we’ll be able to make our way in the world and keep drinking expensive beer and maybe even open a savings account some day soon. Commenters at Ezra’s point out that, really, education is what we’re talking about here. And upward mobility. But education is the clearest predictor of upward mobility, so … class can be boiled down to education.

This is gonna get me off on a tangent here, but … I never realized how much the type of education you had predicts your future success until I moved to DC. I went to a state school in Ohio and entered the job market in Ohio and pretty much everybody else I was competing with went to school in Ohio and nobody much cared if you went to a private school or a state school or a community college. But in DC, which can afford to be much more picky, I’ve noticed that certain internships, certain types of jobs, certain networks, are nearly exclusively brimming with Ivy-leaguers or people with equally impressive academic credentials. Sometimes it’s hard not to feel like because you didn’t do the right internships at 20, you’re never gonna get where you want to be. But this is neither here nor there. Back to the class thing … I think it’s about education, but also about mindset. Which is what danah was originally saying, I think. So back to danah’s essay. Danah posits that:

The goodie two shoes, jocks, athletes, or other “good” kids are now going to Facebook. These kids tend to come from families who emphasize education and going to college. They are part of what we’d call hegemonic society. They are primarily white, but not exclusively. They are in honors classes, looking forward to the prom, and live in a world dictated by after school activities. MySpace is still home for Latino/Hispanic teens, immigrant teens, “burnouts,” “alternative kids,” “art fags,” punks, emos, goths, gangstas, queer kids, and other kids who didn’t play into the dominant high school popularity paradigm. These are kids whose parents didn’t go to college, who are expected to get a job when they finish high school. These are the teens who plan to go into the military immediately after schools. Teens who are really into music or in a band are also on MySpace. MySpace has most of the kids who are socially ostracized at school because they are geeks, freaks, or queers.

She points out that this is visually represented by the difference in Myspace and Facebook aesthetics. Personally I am horrified when someone (usually not a current friend but someone I went to high school with or something) posts a glittery blinking loony toon flash graphic on my MySpace comments section. Similarly by people whose pages have, like, sixteen slide shows of their friends or their kids, graphic memes, and blinking backgrounds. But danah points out that in certain cultures, “showy, sparkly, brash visual displays are acceptable and valued” (that explains all those moving-waterfall-florescent-wall-hangings that are so popular in my home town).

The look and feel of MySpace resonates far better with subaltern communities than it does with the upwardly mobile hegemonic teens. This is even clear in the blogosphere where people talk about how gauche MySpace is while commending Facebook on its aesthetics. I’m sure that a visual analyst would be able to explain how classed aesthetics are, but aesthetics are more than simply the “eye of the beholder” – they are culturally narrated and replicated. That “clean” or “modern” look of Facebook is akin to West Elm or Pottery Barn or any poshy Scandinavian design house (that I admit I’m drawn to) while the more flashy look of MySpace resembles the Las Vegas imagery that attracts millions every year. I suspect that lifestyles have aesthetic values and that these are being reproduced on MySpace and Facebook.

This is getting really long, but the last thing I want to share from danah’s essay is her analysis of class divisions in military use of social networking sites.

A month ago, the military banned MySpace but not Facebook. This was a very interesting move because the division in the military reflects the division in high schools. Soldiers are on MySpace; officers are on Facebook. MySpace is the primary way that young soldiers communicate with their peers. When I first started tracking soldiers’ MySpace profiles, I had to take a long deep breath. Many of them were extremely pro-war, pro-guns, anti-Arab, anti-Muslim, pro-killing, and xenophobic as hell. Over the last year, I’ve watched more and more profiles emerge from soldiers who aren’t quite sure what they are doing in Iraq.

I can’t help but wonder if part of the goal is to cut off communication between current soldiers and the group that the military hopes to recruit. Many young soldiers’ profiles aren’t public so it’s not about making a bad public impression. That said, young soldiers tend to have reasonably large networks because they tend to accept friend requests of anyone that they knew back home which means that they’re connecting to almost everyone from their high school. Many of these familiar strangers write comments supporting them. But what happens if the soldiers start to question why they’re in Iraq? And if this is witnessed by high school students from working class communities who the Army intends to recruit?”

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Looking for even more ways to avoid interaaction with the real world? Ning is a “meta-networking” site that allows users to create their own social networks for whatever they want to. On the front page of the site right now (I’m assuming it changes daily) are networks for something called the Brooklyn Art Project, the “Sick Puppies Network,” and the “One Tree Hill VIP Lounge.” Ning’s passion, they tell us, is “putting new social networks in the hands of anyone with a good idea.”

With Ning, your social network can be anything and for anyone. You start by choosing a combination of features (videos, blogs, photos, forums, etc.) from an ever-growing list of options. Then customize how it looks, decide if it’s public or private, add your brand logo if you have one, and enable the people on your network to create their own custom personal profile pages.

I read about this today on Cultureby, and my first thought was, oh, that’s kind of cool, because I think I’m kind of conditioned to think that about every new Web platform that gets introduced. But then one of the commenters asked, “what is the value?”

Indeed.

What is the value added here? What do people get out of this? Why does everyone keep joining these things? At a certain point, do you really gain anything from joining a newer/bigger/more-compartmentalized/whatever network? Or do you just spend more time out of your day checking out 13.5 million sites, with absolutely nothing added for belonging to more than one? It’s kind of like blogrolls — the more blogs I read, the more other blogs I get led to, and the more blogs I, in turn, add to my RSS reader. At this point, I just look at my massive list of feeds every morning and feel daunted. I resort to skimming just about everything. I was probably better informed about life, the world and the blogosphere when I only read 5 blogs total.

(Another commenter at Cultureby pointed out that everyone keeps talking about how there needs to be one giant aggregator, something where you can combine Flickr, YouTube, blogging platforms, Facebook, LinkedIn, your RSS reader, etc., but if we got to that place, “would the security issues freak us all out?”)

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Following a link from Emily over at A Softer World, I came across this article on the Minneapolis/St. Paul local news site that describes the author’s disdain at what he calls the Little Blue Smurf boys of the art world.

Where a Scotch-sozzled Big Bruiser once ran onto the fire escape with a roar, rolling up his or her sleeves to challenge the whole U.S. of A. to step outside, now a smallish fellow in a knit cap and woolen sweater sits in the corner with a box of chocolate milk, giggling at his own inadvertent burps.

In the article, Matthew Wilder rips at Wes Anderson, Jonathan Safran Foer, and Conor Oberst as the embodiment of the “new male infantilism… a return to comfort, to nonresponsibility, to sleep.”

He seems to think that what we need in the arts scene is less of the skinny, tight-pants wearing boy-man and more tightrope-walking, fire-breathing circus acts out of the 1930s, to bring back the “America is a Man’s country” macho-nationalism that art has been rebelling against for years.

He claims that Foer’s novel Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, in which a 9-year old boy wanders around Manhattan after his father is killed in the World Trade Center, is “queasy-making” only because of it’s setting. Because obviously, any depiction of the World Trade Center that doesn’t include a flag-draped fireman saluting his country is anti-American and what god-forsaken artist could possibly have the gall to say something human about a child who lost his father? It just turns the stomach!

References to terrorism aside, Wilder mainly focuses on the recent trends in films, music, and writing where artists are 12-year-old boys, just talking about all of the things they really like. If Wes Anderson is a little boy picking flowers in a field, Wilder hopes that his large, burly father will come by soon and tell him to stop playing around because there are bigger things to worry about in the world, like terrorists or the economy.

What I want to know, though, is after all of the artists become the American Heroes of Wilder’s dreams, who is then left to worry about the clouds and the flowers, and everything else that artists should be concerned with?

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The more you pursue a higher education, the more likely you are to abandon your faith — at least that’s what conventional wisdom holds.

“Actually we’ve just been wrong about this for quite a while,” said Mark D. Regnerus, an assistant professor of sociology at the University of Texas at Austin and one of the authors of a new study that suggests students who attend and graduate from college are more likely than others to hold on to their faith.

Ha.

I mean, not that I care much about people holding on to their faith one way or another, but if it’s a blow to the ridiculous stigma of communist secular feminist indoctrination on college campuses, or that universities “were long ago taken over by an elite cadre of latte-quaffing, postmodern, anti-American ultra-liberals” …. well, sweet.

It’s not that colleges necessarily encourage faith, he said, but for all the talk about how intellectuals are out to destroy students’ relationships to their religions and God, the main obstacles to such relationships have to do with maturing and how young people spend their time. “Some kids were bound to lose [their faith] anyway and they do,” Regnerus said. But the evidence suggests that college isn’t responsible.

In fact, it found young adults who didn’t attend college more likely to give up on the whole religion business (76 percent of the non-college group reported a decline in attending religious services, compared to 59 percent of college students). There are obviously a lot of reasons for this difference other than that college somehow magically keeps people religious, but at least it sort of disproves the theory that crazy liberal universities turn everybody into secular humanists as well.

Although unfortunatley this fact — “those who have smoked pot experience more of a drop” in religous attendance — is totally going to get picked up and run with by social conservatives and anti-drug crusaders as some sort of illogical cause-and-effect scenario. Those should be some fun PSAs.

(Says Chad Orzel, “Clearly, militant atheists need to spend less time on education, and more time on the critical task of getting college students stoned and laid. Woo!”)

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What is serrefine. Ah, I get really giddy at spelling bee competitions. I rented Spellbound a couple of years ago and from there I’ve marked my calendar to watch the national spelling bee. And ever year I miss it. This year’s winner, Evan M. O’Dorney, is a spry 13 year old from California. For his loot, check this out.

As the champion, Evan will receive $30,000 in cash, a $5,000 college scholarship, a $2,500 savings bond, a reference library and a trophy, plus $5,000 in cash and 50 reference works for a school or public library of his choice.

Damn, I wish I was 13. It would help if I could spell well too.

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