You don’t tell me when I should speak English — multicultural parenting and language rights

From @@JRhodesPianist
From @JRhodesPianist

Last month, this story from Wales:

The most perfect thing I have ever seen just happened on the replacement train bus service between Newport and Cwmbran:

White man sat in front of a mother and her son. Mother was wearing a niqab. After about 5 minutes of the mother talking to her son in another language the man, for whatever reason, feels the need to tell the woman “When you’re in the UK you should really be speaking English.”

At which point, an old woman in front of him turns around and says, “She’s in Wales. And she’s speaking Welsh.”

Perfect.

Apocryphal maybe, but perfect nonetheless. It’s got all the elements of a great story: some ignorant rube makes an ass of himself in public and gets his comeuppance.

Unfortunately, the vast majority of publicly ignorant rubes get away with it. Continue reading “You don’t tell me when I should speak English — multicultural parenting and language rights”

Arguments v. Beliefs and responsibility

Eviscerating pundits who use boatloads of clichés is akin to shooting fish in a barrel (I took a couple of shots myself recently). But that doesn’t stop Thomas Frank in the latest edition of Harper’s from lamenting the tiresome and vacuous use of language by the punditocracy. One of his targets is the use of “argument” as a way to distance oneself from a conclusion. He gives the following examples:

“history just argues incredibly strong against it.”
“one could argue that Barack Obama’s smartest political move was putting Hillary Clinton in his Cabinet so that she wasn’t outside with Bill Clinton causing mischief.”
“Presidents have always been taking vacations and complaining about it amounts to a little more than partisan carping, one could argue.”

Frank calls this usage pattern “an epidemic”, writing:

People in the land of professional commentary no longer believe things or propose things or even assert things; they argue them.

Nice observation, but why is this? The true epidemic here is twofold. Firstly, lack of ownership. Pundits must loudly and reductively state their position in the most indirect way as a matter of job security. In The Signal and the Noise Nate Silver analyzed the accuracy of election predictions made by The McLaughlin Group, a rotating subgroup of the professional pundit class, and concluded that they offer as much predictive value as a mere penny.

The second source of these weasel words is due to the unassailable quality of beliefs. Rampant relativism and extreme individualism create an environment where beliefs are a personal right not to be criticized. Thus, no one is able to assert any beliefs, because they might infringe upon the beliefs of others. If you are not convinced, test this on a nearby creationist.

Certainly a lamentable situation. Although I enjoyed Frank’s observations, I wish he followed his lamentations with some assertions.