Sir, Sir, it’s a causal fallacy: School Uniform and politics…

So – we have seen a call from the Conservative Party for schools to enforce smart uniforms, have pupils stand when teachers enter the room, and call them Sir and Miss (or like some,perhaps, Madam).

The argument seems to run that good schools have uniforms / formal aspects: therefore the goodness of the schools must be a function of the dress of the pupils and the formal relation with teachers. (It may also be that the proponents of such a view have memories of their own formal schooling and the relative quality of the experience – but the principle is the same).

It looks here – to me – like a good old-fashioned causal fallacy. Without evidence that the uniforms and formal means of address have a causal connection to the behaviour / attainment of pupils – the connection could surely be either coincidental, or both could be the effects of some other, third cause…

Now – I was schooled in the 70s and 80s, and have, possibly as a result of liberal social conditioning, a deep aversion to school uniforms: but when I raise this in classes – my students all seem in favour of them – as do the parents of many of those at the same schools as my children: what’s going on in the world?

Is school uniform really a good thing? Why? Can anyone tell me good reasons for it?

Philosophy and Popular Culture…

Since 2000 Open Court publishers (and Blackwells in the UK republishing them) have been putting out a series entitled Philosophy and Popular Culture. The first one I saw (as I unwrapped it one Christmas) was The Simpsons and Philosophy: The D’Oh of Homer – which I found, in the quality of its essays, rather mixed.

Since then this phenomena has really taken off (Click here for UK list, or here for USA one) – including volumes on South Park, The Office, Family Guy, Baseball, Running, Woody Allen, Bob Dylan and many more: with more coming all the time.

Is this a good thing? You might think this a stupid question – surely applying to philosophy that things people are actually interested in is a positive move – and exposing the fans of these cultural phenomena is a good way to interest people in philosophy and demonstrate that it is not a pointless waste of everyone’s time…

Yes – and Stephen T. Asma argues this in a piece entitled: Looking up from the Gutter: Philosophy & Popular Culture. Why would anyone disagree?

You can also read more, from the Pop Matters website, where there is a piece entitled: Pop Goes Philosophy talking both about the Philosophy and South Park book, the Asma article, and the phenomena in general. The authors, I thin, make a good point when they say (after commenting on Asma’s piece:

So Asma is missing the big picture when he concludes that philosophy and popular culture are and will remain worlds apart. He is right, however, to be amused by the missionary (and presumptive, I would add) zeal of those who suppose that merely by sugar coating their lectures with references to pop culture, they make philosophy appealing or rewarding to the masses. The fact that most people know little about the history of the mind-body problem and other workhorse topics of professional philosophy does not mean, however, they yearn to know more.

Well – I have read a few (currently reading ‘Running and Philosophy: A Marathon for the Mind’) – and although I have enjoyed some essays I have an odd sense of dis-ease with the series at times: but am not sure why – is it snobbery on my part – I don’t think so… also, some essays in them are rather good – so why this sense of concern with the phenomena as a whole?

Will ponder and get back to you: responses welcome – do you think this is – overall a ‘good thing’?

Dave

Staff-Student Christmas Meal


Following the runaway success of last year’s event, I am told that students are planning to have another staff-student meal this Christmas.

The date under discussion is Monday 10th December, with The Indus (Indian Restuarant, on Bath Road) as a possible location. Please feel free to comment here – or contact Level 3 Student Rep Frances O’Hagan (I can forward e-mail if you don’t have her address). If you want to come make sure Frances knows, as she wants to book the table(s) as soon as possible.. staff too…

Religious Dress back in the News: Sikh Girl Excluded from School


The BBC (and many others) report this case of a girl excluded for refusing to take off a bangle which she considers part of her Sikh faith.
Read the story at: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/wales/south_east/7081573.stm

While the BBC has its usual ranting site at http://newsforums.bbc.co.uk/nol/thread.jspa?forumID=3792&edition=1&ttl=20071107145207 I thought maybe some of the readers of this blog would like to comment here:
– should a school have a uniform policy that bans all religious expression?
– should it have uniform at all?
– should this pupil be allowed back – is she right to hold firm to her belief that she must wear this item?

I look forward to comments…
Dave

Philosophy Reading Group

Following a couple of hours dissecting Sartre’s Nausea last night and discussing the implications of accepting the Existentialist position, we have agreed our next book (actually, it’s a play) to be Arcadia by Tom Stoppard. More information can be found on the wordpress site:
http://readingphilosophy.wordpress.com/

Our next meeting is on Tuesday 4th December so I hope to see as many of you there as possible.

Woody Guthrie: Hard Times and Hard Travellin’

Hi. This thursday (November 8th, 2007) there will be an event at FCH entitled Woody Guthrie: Hard Times and Hard Travellin’.


Will Kaufman from the University of Central Lancashire presents this partly-spoken and partly sung event.

‘Woody Guthrie: Hard Times and Hard Travellin’ is a live musical programme that sets the songs of Woody Guthrie in the context of the American 1930s — the Dust Bowl, the Depression, the New Deal and the state of popular music itself. Will Kaufman brings such hard-hitting Guthrie songs as ‘Vigilante Man’, ‘Pretty Boy Floyd’ and ‘I Ain’t Got No Home’ into conversation with other songs of the Depression Era — from Joe Hill’s ‘The Preacher and the Slave’ to ‘Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?’. These renditions, buttressed by detailed historical commentary, exemplify the blending of music and radical politics that marks Guthrie’s most powerful and evocative work.’

See http://www.uclan.ac.uk/facs/class/humanities/staff/kaufman2.htm for testimonials.

It is 5.30pm in TC006a (FCH) – contact Professor Neil Wynn for more details.
Dave