Monthly Archives: March 2015

The Pilgrims Were Dicks: A Brief Exploration

This is one of those things that, as soon as you learn it, you assume that A) everyone else already knew it and B) you yourself have known it forever. But it occurred to me today that I did NOT, in fact, know this until recently. So, in case anyone doesn’t know this yet, I consider it my duty to implant this fact into your brain.

The Pilgrims were NOT fleeing religious persecution when they sailed on the Mayflower and founded Plymouth Colony.

This lie entered my brain at some point during my childhood and remained lodged there until I read the excellent American Nations a couple years ago.

Here is an imprecise, unsourced, truncated account of what happened:

There was this hella weird church group in rural eastern England in the late 1500s. They were basically a super-strict cult like group. Think like one of those american cult compound groups, basically. They were a sect of Puritans, but even bigger dicks than a lot of Puritans were.

Not surprisingly, all their neighbors hated them. It must have been like having the Westboro Baptist Church in your town. Ugh. So the surrounding, marginally less dickish people made life very difficult for this church of whackos. Eventually, the whackos were like “Fuck you, we don’t have to take this!” and they packed up their wives, children, and farming implements (?) and pissed off to the Netherlands.

What’s that? The Netherlands.

At the time, the Netherlands were the most liberal educated society in Europe. They had advanced commerce, a literate and artistic culture, and freedom of religion. So these Puritan assholes were like “fuck yeah! We can totally do our weird religion stuff here in the Netherlands!” and everything was cool for a like a decade or two, and the whole Plymouth thing almost never happened.

But then a thing happened that you and I can totally see coming, but those dickheads apparently couldn’t. Here’s a hint: The Netherlands were the most liberal nation in Europe. It was too freakin liberal for the Puritans! This is as if the Westboro Baptist Church relocated to San Francisco.

The church leader dudes were like “What the eff? What is this liberal decadence? They won’t let us hang people for breaking church law, and all our kids want to run away to Amsterdam and not be as big dickheads as we are!!”

So the Pilgrims packed up their wives, the children that had not yet run off to Amsterdam, and their farming implements (?), and they fucked off to the New World, where no one could stop them from forcibly keeping their kids in the church and hanging dissenters. Hooray!

The Pilgrims came to the Americas, not because they were seeking religious freedom, but in order to enforce their own religious laws and not have to put up with liberal pluralism.

And that is a truly impressive level of dickishness.

Twitter and Narwhals and Belief

So, musician Patrick Stump is adorable on Twitter, and you’ve probably seen a few of his exchanges floating around the internet. I like this one. But my favorite is this:

do you believe in narwhals?

You see it and think aww, cute, celebrities interacting with their fans on twitter in a manner as wholesome as a puppy romping in a freshly-mown field. It’s been shared bazillions of times and as far as I know no one has objected to it or made a nasty comment about it. And that’s what makes it so remarkable to me.

It seems like, quietly, without me noticing, we’ve come to a cultural consensus that you only need to believe in things that aren’t real. If narwhals exist, it’s nonsense to ask if you believe in them (except in the emotional support sense).

Movies With No Romance In Them: Captain America: The Winter Soldier

I love a good romantic movie. Ask me about how many times I’ve watched Pride and Prejudice, if you want to listen to me talk for like 7 uninterrupted minutes. But sometimes it feels like the film industry forgets that there are other forms of meaningful human experience OTHER THAN ROMANCE. So I get excited about non-romantic films sometimes.

There are a few minor elements of romance in Captain America: The Winter Soldier, but they’re not very annoying and they don’t encroach on the main plot.

The movie that this movie is a sequel to (is there a better phrase for that?) had a romance between Steve Rogers and Peggy Carter as a significant sub-plot. But, being almost entirely free of misogynistic romance tropes, and carried off by some excellent acting, it was enjoyable.

Steve and Peggy

Winter Soldier, on the other hand, has only the following hints of romance:

  • Steve being sad that he can’t be with Peggy
  • Natasha Romanoff trying to set Steve up on dates because she’s sick of him being such a sad puppy all the time
  • A brief overture of Steve asking his neighbor out on a date

These probably take up about five minutes of screen time total. Like Pacific Rim, this is definitely a movie about the importance of friendship (in it’s many forms), and the strongest relationships in the movie are between Steve and Natasha (a complex friendship), Steve and Sam Wilson (a meet-cute-turned-comerades-in-arms friendship, which if it was not a trope before, I now demand become an immensely popular Hollywood trope), and of course, between the two eponymous characters, Steve and Bucky (I would call it a romantic friendship, though it depends on who you ask).

I love superhero movies with well-done romance plots (the first Captain America, Iron Man 2-3, The Superman one with Kate Bosworth) and I even sometimes like superhero movies with corny and shoe-horned romance (Batman Returns, The Incredible Hulk [the Ed Norton one], pretty much all the X-Men movies [ugh, shut up about Logan/Jean already, movies]). But I really, really want more non-romantic superhero movies. Who do I have to bribe to get Black Widow origin movie with no romance?

School is Bullshit: One Level Deeper, with the Unschoolers

In an earlier post, I described how learning about the existence free democratic education rocked me back on my heels and forced me to confront the possibility that coercive education is unnecessary and unjustified.

If you can just let kids play all day and only go to class if they feel like it, and the kids still turn out fine, what are we doing all this “formal education” stuff for?

But it got worse about a year ago, when I started learning about the Unschoolers. I first heard about this from an episode of wife-swap, where one of the families was a sort of hippy-ish, stay-at-home-dad-having family with two little girls who were ‘unschooled’. The swapped-in mom was appalled, and lobbied hard to get the girls some standardized testing. When I first saw it, I was on the appalled mom side. You don’t do school AT ALL with your kids? You just let them do whatever they want and answer their questions and maybe take them to some museums or something? That’s the dumbest idea I’ve ever heard, that would never work!

(“That’s the dumbest idea I’ve ever heard” has been a recurring theme with me as I delve into this stuff.)

Contrary to my expectations, it actually seems like it does pretty much work. I read Sandra Dodd’s The Big Book of Unchooling, and her website. Then I read some blogs of grown unschooled-kids. Although anecdote is the weakest form of data, it is still data. This data was enough to convince me that it’s at least possible to unschool your kid and still have them turn out well-adjusted, literate, educable, and intellectually curious.

One of the few studies (h/t SSC) conducted on unschool kids showed that while public school kids from the same income bracket and parental education level were above grade level, the unschooled kids were only at grade level.

Let me restate that. Without doing ANY SCHOOL AT ALL. EVER. you can still do only slightly worse than kids who’ve done YEARS of public school on school-based tests. Anecdotes from the unschooling community suggest that the kids who wanted to go to college caught up in a year or two and did at least as well in higher ed than their peers.

This is a very small amount of evidence, and it has numerous problems. (More on those later.) I’m not suggesting shuttering all the schools tomorrow. But it’s enough to convince me that the possibility exists that without any school whatsoever, kids can still have perfectly good academic and life outcomes. This possibility should strike terror into the hearts of the entire formal education establishment.