Archived Posts December 2012 - Page 6 of 17 | Acton PowerBlog

Writing over at The Atlantic, American Enterprise Institute scholar Christina Hoff Sommers shares the unsettling story of what a growing number of Swedish activist groups and political factions are attempting to do to “traditional” gender roles.

Is it discriminatory and degrading for toy catalogs to show girls playing with tea sets and boys with Nerf guns? A Swedish regulatory group says yes. The Reklamombudsmannen (RO) has reprimanded Top-Toy, a licensee of Toys”R”Us and one of the largest toy companies in Northern Europe, for its “outdated” advertisements and has pressured it to mend its “narrow-minded” ways. After receiving “training and guidance” from RO equity experts, Top-Toy introduced gender neutrality in its 2012 Christmas catalogue. The catalog shows little boys playing with a Barbie Dream House and girls with guns and gory action figures. As its marketing director explains, “For several years, we have found that the gender debate has grown so strong in the Swedish market that we have had to adjust.”

Swedes can be remarkably thorough in their pursuit of gender parity. A few years ago, a feminist political party proposed a law requiring men to sit while urinating—less messy and more equal. In 2004, the leader of the Sweden’s Left Party Feminist Council, Gudrun Schyman,proposed a “man tax”—a special tariff to be levied on men to pay for all the violence and mayhem wrought by their sex. In April 2012, following the celebration of International Women’s Day, the Swedes formally introduced the genderless pronoun “hen” to be used in place of he and she (han and hon).

It’s easy to laugh off such seemingly ludicrous things as this, but we’re talking real indoctrination of precious and impressionable “hearts and minds” here. And the Swedish government is directly involved. (more…)

Writing for the Harvard Business Review, my friend (and coauthor) John Coleman argues that business professionals can benefit from reading poetry. While his article is not directed at people of faith, I think his claims are particularly relevant to Christians in the business world:

Poetry can also help users develop a more acute sense of empathy. In the poem “Celestial Music,” for example, Louise Glück explores her feelings on heaven and mortality by seeing the issue through the eyes of a friend, and many poets focus intensely on understanding the people around them. In January of 2006, the Poetry Foundation released a landmark study, “Poetry in America,” outlining trends in reading poetry and characteristics of poetry readers. The number one thematic benefit poetry users cited was “understanding” — of the world, the self, and others. They were even found to be more sociable than their non-poetry-using counterparts. And bevies of new research show that reading fiction and poetry more broadly develops empathy. Raymond Mar, for example, has conducted studies showing fiction reading is essential to developing empathy in young children (PDF) and empathy and theory of mind in adults (PDF). The program in Medical Humanities & Arts (PDF) even included poetry in their curriculum as a way of enhancing empathy and compassion in doctors, and the intense empathy developed by so many poets is a skill essential to those who occupy executive suites and regularly need to understand the feelings and motivations of board members, colleagues, customers, suppliers, community members, and employees.

Read more . . .

Blog author: jcarter
Wednesday, December 19, 2012

An Engagement with Acton on Right to Work
Brian Dijkema, Cardus

A helpful piece by Jordan Ballor suggests that right to work legislation disestablishes unions from the state.

An intriguing look inside religion and Congress: Who prays and for what?
Andrew Malcolm, Investor’s Business Daily

Despite the sacred separation of church and state in American governmental tradition, religion is an everyday fact of life for most Americans and is reflected in the operations of its government.

Alleviating World Poverty: A Progress Report
Wendell Cox, New Geography

There has been a substantial reduction in both the extreme poverty rate and the number of people living in extreme poverty since the early 1980s, according to information from the World Bank poverty database.

The Church and the Mandate
George Weigel, National Review Online

As the Catholic Church and the Obama administration approach the first anniversary of what has become the most serious confrontation between the Church and the federal government in U.S. history — a confrontation caused by a regulatory mandate implementing Obamacare — a review of the strategic situation is in order, with an eye to the terrain ahead.

Field Guide to the Hero's JourneyActon is offering a free Christmas gift: a free Kindle download of the new book, A Field Guide to the Hero’s Journey.  The book, co-authored by Jeff Sandefer and Rev. Robert Sirico, has been called a “the modern ‘how-to’ for entrepreneurs working on accomplishing big things” by Andreas Widmer, and is a terrific book not only for adults but for young people.

You can also listen to the authors discussing their collaboration on this book on this Radio Free Acton podcast. The book will be free on Amazon until Dec. 23 at 3 a.m. EST.

Blog author: jcarter
Wednesday, December 19, 2012

In his latest Forbes column, Rev. Robert A. Sirico explains why despite the tragedy in Newton we can speak of joy during this Christmas season:

When we ask our bewildered why? – we are not looking for data points.  Even less should we offer glib responses in the face of this shattering loss – this modern-day slaughter of the innocents. We are, instead, seeking the meaning in the face of thismysterium iniquitatis.  The meaning we seek is not so much the significance of evil as the meaning, the value and the dignity of those young lives, of our lives – indeed of life itself.

And it is precisely here that the words of the Gaudete, have their effect – if we take the time to ponder what it means.

The ultimate response to the evil made manifest at Newtown, or at the shopping mall in Portland, or at Columbine, or in the abortuaries, or in the concentration camps, or anywhere that  evil holds sway over humanity at any time and in any place whether exposed or hidden going all the way back to the beginning of time – is the love made manifest precisely in the midst of so broken and dented a world where such things are conceivable.

The full text of his essay will also be published in today’s Acton News & Commentary. Subscribe to the free, weekly commentary and other Acton publications here.

I rather like Serene Jones’ piece in Huffington Post, “Economists and Innkeepers.” Jones got some things right. She knows that Christian Scripture teaches many economic lessons, like subsidiarity and stewardship (although she doesn’t use those terms.) She says, “Economic theory is replete with theological and moral assumptions about human nature and society” and that is correct. As Istituto Acton’s Kishore Jayabalan reminds us,

Things like the rule of law, a tradition of equality for the law, which should cut down on corruption, which give people the confidence and security in the future to take some risks and to develop the goods that they have either personally or socially, and use them for the good of all.

We make economic, legal and moral decisions that affect others every day, in ways large and small. Jones is practically defining subsidiarity when she says, “I would argue that rather than being merely faceless economic units, we all have a moral responsibility for the care of each other.” (more…)

Blog author: jballor
Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Doctor Checking a Child“What do you want to be when you grow up?” That’s a common question asked of children the world over.

ChildFund International has put out their global survey of children for 2012, and that’s one of the questions they asked, with some intriguing results.

When asked, “If you could grow up to be anything you wanted, what would you be?” there were some rather remarkable disparities between the answers of children in the developed and the developing world.

Kids in the developed world “most typically want to become professional athletes (19%).” Contrast that with the hopes and dreams of children in developing countries, “who aspire to becoming doctors, nurses, dentists (27%).” Now I certainly enjoy my sports; just ask my wife. But these kinds of results may well illustrate a gap in maturity and values between the developing and the developed world, one in which the developing world enjoys the comparative advantage.

As Peter Stockland put it in the context of the NHL lockout,

There comes a point, often a very sharp point, in almost every adult North American male’s life when he clues in to what the women around him have known since childhood: that screen in front of you where those players are playing that game is not a mirror. On the contrary, that screen is delivering the reality-check message that the game those players are playing actually has nothing whatever to do with you, the observer. Nothing. Nada. Bupkas. Or in my favorite line ever to come out of Jerry Seinfeld’s mouth: “They won. You watched.” It’s not even a continuum. It’s a total disconnect.

The ambitions of children are to some extent, at least, reflective of the values of the broader society. And I fear there’s a grave disconnect between what really ought to be valued and what is often valued in our world today.

The survey was based on questions of 6,204 children, and includes other queries like, “If you were president or leader of your country, what would you do to improve the lives of children in your country?” and “What are you most afraid of?” Check out the full report, “Small Voices, Big Dreams” (PDF).