The Comprehension Gap

The logo for the organization Reading Is Fundamental

I feel it is obligatory to write about the whole Google memo thing; it’s all everybody is talking about anyway, so why not chime in?

“Because enough is enough, Alex!”

Ah, but I think you’ll find my take to be slightly different than your average customers’.

(See what I did there? It’s called foreshadowing).

So the memo, what some are calling an “anti-diversity screed” and are characterizing as “arguing that women are not biologically fit for tech roles.”

Which begs the question: did these outlets even read the memo, or are they lying about it?

You see, I am not here to discuss the contents of the memo, or its now-fired author James Damore, or even discuss what this means to the future of the American workplace–if you want to read a good article about all that stuff, check out Lord Adeonistake on the whole controversy.

I’m not even here to talk about the media: I do not expect honesty from them, nor do I expect them to be particularly intelligent enough to grasp what the memo actually said, which can be boiled down thusly:

The gap in representation in STEM fields does not stem from sexism, but from the AVERAGE PREFERENCES women make when choosing an occupation, some of which are driven by biological differences between men and women, and Google’s strategy of using discrimination to promote women, and certain other groups in general, does more harm than good.

That’s it. The author wanted more women to be working in STEM fields generally, and at Google in particular–in fact, he sounds like a fan of diversity (this is where reading comprehension comes in: did people just skip that part, or ignore it?). The memo is not “anti-diversity”; it is more “anti-Google’s current diversity policies, which he claims are not producing the desired effect, and are in fact causing more harm than good.”

A picture of the outside of Google headquarters

That’s a bit more nuanced, right? It’s not as good for clickbait, though. And you’ll notice that I am neither attacking nor defending the contents of the memo . . . I’m just trying to set a baseline of understanding so we know what we are talking about. It’s like in a formal debate or an informal argument: both sides need to be sure that they are talking about the same thing. Remember when that used to be important?

And yet, people want him drawn and quartered. People are frothing-at-the-mouth mad. You may find the contents of the memo offensive or distasteful–and that’s fine–but I certainly hope you at least read and understood what it actually said.

More shocking, to me at least, is this:

So many people seem to lack both a basic understanding of statistics and of basic reading comprehension.

And many of these people went to college.

This is what disturbs me the most. Continue reading “The Comprehension Gap”

The Pros and Cons of Suicide

It’s no secret that human beings have a self-destructive streak. It’s a dark part of life that’s nobody likes talking about, but it explains so much. I myself chalk it up to Original Sin, but if your mileage may vary depending on, if any.

In any event, much of what civilization, religion, and other structures try to do is to mitigate and channel these impulses towards good ends. But it’s not always so easy.

There is a picture I like to post on social media depicting Donald Duck willfully inhaling what purports to be some cyanide gas with his superimposed voice bubble saying “Thank you, Jesus.” I like to post this after pictures of certain stories or other things that honestly make me give up hope for humanity.

It’s dark and it’s farcical, but sometimes death can be funny and it needs to be joked about because the world is pretty awful. After all, unless you’re incredibly optimistic, you really have to admit that the world is pretty much garbage. But what separates the living from the dead is what you do with this knowledge.

Personally, and I’m not trying to convert anybody here, religion does the trick for me. But it is important to note that there are many in the world who actively want you to become a statistic.

I see this with men, especially in America, and particularly the white ones, of which I am a member.

It’s true: White men in America are offing themselves at alarming rates. Now depending on your particular brand of hatred, you might view this as a good thing. But as one who tends to like everybody, and not to be a fan of suicide, this is disturbing. Not because I can’t understand why anybody would want to kill themselves, but because of how many people actually go through with it.

Before we go on, lest you think I am a pro suicide, the song suicide chump by Frank Zappa, posted below, pretty much encapsulates my feelings on the subject:

In fact, my point is that, while I don’t know why so many men, particularly white ones, are killing themselves, I’d really like to encourage them not to do it.

Let’s take a look at why one might actually do this–this applies universally, but having more experience as a male of the species, some of this is more directed at them. And like the title of this post suggests, let’s look at the pros and cons of suicide. Continue reading “The Pros and Cons of Suicide”