University of Warwick

Highlighted yesterday by the Rush Limbaugh Show, an article featured at ABC — that is, the Australian Broadcasting Company — ponders how reading to your children may give them an “unfair” advantage.

Professors Adam Swift (University of Warwick) and Harry Brighouse (University of Wisconsin-Madison) are working together on developing a “liberal egalitarian theory of the family.” Swift, the ABC article notes, “has been conflicted for some time” about how the “playing field” becomes lopsided — because some parents do more for their children than others.

‘I got interested in this question because I was interested in equality of opportunity,’ he says.

‘I had done some work on social mobility and the evidence is overwhelmingly that the reason why children born to different families have very different chances in life is because of what happens in those families.’

Once he got thinking, Swift could see that the issue stretches well beyond the fact that some families can afford private schooling, nannies, tutors, and houses in good suburbs. Functional family interactions—from going to the cricket to reading bedtime stories—form a largely unseen but palpable fault line between families. The consequence is a gap in social mobility and equality that can last for generations.

So, what to do?

According to Swift, from a purely instrumental position the answer is straightforward.

‘One way philosophers might think about solving the social justice problem would be by simply abolishing the family. If the family is this source of unfairness in society then it looks plausible to think that if we abolished the family there would be a more level playing field.’

Although Swift invokes Plato and his advocacy of the abolition of family, he and Brighouse recognize that they can’t go that far.

Instead, they “sort[ed] out those activities that contribute to unnecessary inequality from those that don’t.” Like, for example, private schooling:

‘Private schooling cannot be justified by appeal to these familial relationship goods,’ he says. ‘It’s just not the case that in order for a family to realise these intimate, loving, authoritative, affectionate, love-based relationships you need to be able to send your child to an elite private school.’

In contrast, reading stories at bedtime, argues Swift, gives rise to acceptable familial relationship goods, even though this also bestows advantage.

“We could prevent elite private schooling without any real hit to healthy family relationships,” Swift says, but doing away with reading to your kids would be “too big a hit at the core of family life.”

Boy, I guess we should all feel … lucky that Swift still allows us that “luxury?”

Even with that “concession,” Swift says “I don’t think parents reading their children bedtime stories should constantly have in their minds the way that they are unfairly disadvantaging other people’s children, but I think they should have that thought occasionally.”

A quick personal aside: Professor Brighouse contributes to the progressive Crooked Timber blog.  He was very fair-minded in my conversations with him over a decade ago regarding an educational consultant whose primary thesis is that the black-white achievement gap in schools is due to … white racism. You might expect a liberal to be right on board with such a theory; however, Professor Brighouse believes that such a philosophy is quite toxic.

Read the full ABC article.

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Getting naked, or just barely, in the name of charity or just plain fun is the latest trend on college campuses across America. Whether it’s a 5K run in bras and panties, posing in the buff for a fundraising calendar, or taking a Christmas card photo with Santa hats on and little else – coeds are getting naked nationwide.

More and more coeds, in fact.

Case in point: Arizona State University’s “Undie Run” Facebook page has more than 16,000“Likes,” and the upcoming run this year is already packed with pledged participants.

At the annual ASU run, female coeds don some of their best lingerie and their male counterparts don their own tighty whiteys. It draws thousands and has been described by at least one student as “a little freaky,” according to a local news report. The effort aids a variety of charities.

Similarly, the annual Nearly Naked Run at Boston University is so popular it had to change to a larger venue. It’s billed as a chance to “Undress, De-Stress and Do Good,” according to its Facebook page. The effort collects clothes for the homeless.

At Washington University in St. Louis, about 40 students took part in its inaugural Nearly Naked Run in December to raise money for an arts outreach program for underprivileged youth. Students ran around the campus in their underwear, sports bras and little else.

Many other campuses across the nation offer similar excuses to strip down for charity. But fun runs aren’t the only show around.

Yale University Men’s Freshman Heavyweight Crew in December took a Christmas card team photo in which they wore nothing but Santa hats and big grins, holding stockings over their privates.

Across the pond, both the male and female rowing teams at the UK-based University of Warwick took nude photos of themselves in which they were cleverly positioned or used props to show nearly everything, stopping just shy of the Full Monty, although there was plenty of buttocks to go around. The pictures, published in December, were taken to fundraise for their athletic programs as well as raise money for charity.

While some applaud the efforts or simply brush them off as youthful fun, others argue it’s an example of the sexualization of America’s youth and an abandonment of modesty.

Colleen Carroll Campbell, a prominent conservative commentator, said in an interview with The College Fix that these students have been raised in a sexualized culture and “absorbed its messages all too well, mistakenly equating exhibitionism with liberation and objectification with positive attention.”

The efforts are also misguided, added Campbell, a journalist, EWTN host, former presidential speechwriter, and author of “My Sisters the Saints: A Spiritual Memoir” and “The New Faithful: Why Young Adults Are Embracing Christian Orthodoxy.”

“College students have been pulling silly stunts and shocking pranks for generations, so that’s nothing new,” she said. “What is new, perhaps, is to try to recast group stripteases as evidence of altruism – as if scampering in your undies is somehow more selfless than serving in a soup kitchen, tutoring struggling students or helping build new homes for low-income families.”

She also questions whether students have thought longterm about their actions.

“This trend probably won’t be one that wears well,” Campbell said. “Romping in the nude may feel exciting when you’re 20, but when you’re 30 and job hunting – or spouse hunting – and trying to explain those compromising online photos, it’s another story.”

Fix contributor Judith Ayers is a student at York College of Pennsylvania.

IMAGE CREDIT: Huffington Post

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