Utterly Meaningless » Blog Archive » Diversity Training
  • Diversity Training

    Filed at 11:15 am under by Scott Somerville

    I’ve been learning a lot in the comment threads to my various complaints about the New York Times. I’ve admired people like Daryl, Chris O’Donnell, JJ Ross, and Nance Confer, and I assumed that the fact that I admired them meant I understood them. This discussion of media bias has been a real eye-opener.

    The biggest surprise was the degree to which these members of the “reality-based community” believe that the media should not even bother reporting the religiously-based point of view on various issues. I had assumed that there was general agreement that good journalists should cite opposing views on every subject. I’ve learned I was wrong about this.

    I take religious viewpoints seriously, even when I think they are in error. I’ve been honored to be invited to speak at Muslim homeschool conferences, Mormon homeschool conferences, a United Methodist church, etc. I’ve had the privilege of defending New Age families in court and before school boards. I’ve learned a lot about the things that bring homeschoolers together–and the things that separate them.

    In my opinion, based on my experience, we do well to listen to what religious people are saying, even if we devoutly believe that their theology is complete nonsense. If they are sincere believers, they will tend to express their ultimate concerns in religious terms. Thus, my Catholic friends may talk about family issues in terms of what would honor the Virgin, while my Muslim friends explain the same things in terms of total submission to the will of Allah. As I listen hard, I begin to see that these very different people both have a sense of something sacred in their role as parents–something too big for the government to regulate.

    I spent last weekend at the Catholic Family Expo, where I got a chance to meet black nuns, celibate priests, parochial school teachers, pro-life activists, and the like. I didn’t let my disagreements with Roman Catholic doctrine keep me from seeking out our shared concerns–and there were plenty.

    I don’t think there are enough homeschoolers for us to indulge in division. I’m not asking the hardcore Darwinists here to start teaching Creationism–but I would like to encourage reality-based homeschoolers to keep listening to the faith-based folks.

    And vice versa.

    16 Responses to “Diversity Training”


    Comment by
    Daryl Cobranchi
    July 13th, 2006
    at 11:37 am

    Scott,
    I believe this is the second time that I’ve had to correct you on the meaning of “reality-based community.” It has nothing to do with religion. The phrase comes from an anonymous staffer in the Bush Adminstration–

    The source of the term is a quotation in an October 17, 2004, New York Times Magazine article by writer Ron Suskind, quoting an unnamed aide to George W. Bush:

    The aide said that guys like me were “in what we call the reality-based community,” which he defined as people who “believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality.” … “That’s not the way the world really works anymore,” he continued. “We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you’re studying that reality—judiciously, as you will—we’ll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that’s how things will sort out. We’re history’s actors . . . and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.”

    Thus, my reference to the “reality-based community” in the earlier thread was meant to show up the difference between us, for whom facts are real things, and (evidently) you, for whom it’s all just a matter of perception.

    There are lots of religious folks in the reality-based community.


    Comment by
    Scott Somerville
    July 13th, 2006
    at 11:51 am

    Daryl, I find the “reality-based community” label to be very meaningful, in that it has been actively embraced by an identifiable “community,” which primarily consists of folks online.

    I like the Wikipedia entry on the “reality-based community.” I note that Google shows 2,000,000 hits for the term. (By contrast, there are only a tenth as many hits for “faith-based community.”) I find it hard to believe that all two million hits are referring to the vision first articulated by that anonymous Bush staffer.

    I don’t use the term to diss anybody, but I’m using it as it is BEING USED, not as it was first propounded. I’m trying to use the term to stand for the things that self-identified “reality-based” people think it stands for.


    Comment by
    sam
    July 13th, 2006
    at 1:34 pm

    I put my opinion at my blog. I won’t comment here more than that because I felt that some of my own feelings about this may be less than appropriate for the location, maybe even a little inflamatory.


    Comment by
    Daryl Cobranchi
    July 13th, 2006
    at 3:52 pm

    I just did a quick Google search. Nowhere int he top 100 did I see an item that indicated that “reality based” was in opposition to “faith based.” Can either of y’all provide an example? Preferably not a Right Blogistan site, as the folks who use it to describe themselves ought to get to define it.

    Personally, I’ve never seen it used the way you’re interpreting it.


    Comment by
    Scott Somerville
    July 13th, 2006
    at 4:01 pm

    My perception of the contrast between the “faith-based community” and the “reality-based community” was based on reading stuff like this article (in the New York Times, of course):

    nytime...i=5088

    Matthew Yglesias had suggested adopting the “reality-based” meme here:

    yglesi...e.html

    You can get your RBC T-shirts here:

    cafepr...shnuts

    Please don’t get me wrong here. I’m not bringing out the “reality-based” label to bust on anybody. I have been intrigued by the speed with which this meme has spread (2 million Google hits and counting). It’s struck a nerve somewhere, big time.


    Comment by
    Daryl Cobranchi
    July 13th, 2006
    at 4:48 pm

    I read the Times’ piece and Yglesias. Yglegias is completely silent on the current question. The Times’ piece kind of presents the RBC as opposed to Bush’s faith based form of governance. But I still believe that that interpretation is a minority. OTOH, there were tons of lefty blogs in early ’05 with the sub-title “A Proud Member of the Reality-based Community.”

    But it’s really irrelevant as I was the one who (both times) invoked the term RBC. And I’ve both times made clear that I’m using the original definition.

    Finally, do you still subscribe to the “he said/she said” school of journalism? That is the epitome of unreality-based. Every story does not have an equally valid “conservative” and “liberal” slant. Some facts just are.


    Comment by
    Scott Somerville
    July 13th, 2006
    at 5:06 pm

    I think that’s a “complex question,” Daryl, and I’m going to need to divide it.

    First, my use of the RBC label comes from reading blogs that claimed to be “Proud Members of the Reality-Based Community.” My sense of what that community is comes from looking at who is “proud” to be in it, and what they share with others who claim the label. It’s like asking “what is unschooling?” You can go back to read some of the original articles on unschooling, or you can look around to see who claims the label now. I think both approaches give you valid–albeit different–definitions of the term.

    As for who invoked the term RBC first, I’ve been using it in my own thinking for quite a while, so I responded to your use of the term gladly–but not derivatively. I had thought it would be a handy way of identifying something that is otherwise hard to put a finger on. Perhaps I was wrong about that.

    As for a contrast between two schools of journalism–the old “he said/she said” version versus the “reality-based” version, I’m going to have to come down hard on the old-fashioned approach.

    Blogs can afford to be “reality-based,” as you define it, because each blogger has the absolute right to define their own horizon of certainty. Each blogger is the center of his or her own cognitive universe. Traditional media, by contrast, have traditionally claimed they play a different role. The “he said/she said” rule seems to be an important structural aspect of that role.


    Comment by
    Daryl Cobranchi
    July 13th, 2006
    at 6:13 pm

    I disagree. He said/she said is a relatively new development which was a response to the Right working the refs. The MSM, in order to disprove the charges of liberal bias, bent over backwards to present the conservative side (in addition to the factual side).

    I think you are confusing editorializing with making editorial judgments. One can state a fact, however uncomfortable for the Right, without advocating for a particular position. So, for instance, let’s say we are discussing why the sky is blue. I claim it’s due to Rayleigh scatter and you claim it’s because there are billions of tiny little blue men floating around in the atmosphere. Should a reporter obligingly report both sides with equal credit?


    Comment by
    NMcV
    July 13th, 2006
    at 6:37 pm

    Scott Somerville said:
    If they are sincere believers, they will tend to express their ultimate concerns in religious terms.

    That’s simply untrue.

    Perhaps some people are unable to recognize those “sincere believers” who don’t wear their beliefs on their sleeves?


    Comment by
    Scott Somerville
    July 13th, 2006
    at 9:55 pm

    Nancy McV, perhaps I expressed myself badly. What I’m trying to say about “expressing ultimate concerns in religious terms” is true of me and many of the other religious people that I know. It WON’T be true of people who express their ultimate concerns through non-religious language. That doesn’t mean non-religious people don’t have ultimate concerns!


    Comment by
    Daryl Cobranchi
    July 13th, 2006
    at 10:06 pm

    JJ,

    Scott has framed this discussion (and on the other threads) as the religious/conservative viewpoint vs. the “reality based”/liberal viewpoint. My argument is that “reality based” equals factual. Hence my snarky comment above.


    Comment by
    Scott Somerville
    July 14th, 2006
    at 10:35 am

    Nance, I base my actions on the assumption that Hillary is going to be my next President. My reason for taking this conversation so seriously is that I think it’s quite realistic to assume that George Miller will be chair of the House Education Committee next spring. I don’t think we “faith-based” folks can afford to take the risk of ignoring the “reality-based community.”

    On the other hand, I think you guys (whether you call yourselves “reality-based” or something else) are NOT going to win a lot of elections if you make your argument the way you just did in the comment above. The “dolts” in the Democratic Party to which you refer could have kept ME as a Democrat if they had learned to speak my language. I voted for Jimmy Carter twice and still wince every time I pull the “R” lever in a voting booth. If Democrats could communicate their message in my language I’d listen.

    Hillary knows this, and is hard at work to win back people like me. I think her odds for success are fair-to-middling. If “reality-based” people like you attack her for trying to reach out across the religious divide, however, her chances go down.

    As a current Republican, I wish you all the best. Please be my guest in any crusade to purge the Democratic Party of faith-based nonsense. As a past Democrat and loyal American, however, I would respectfully quote my favorite actress (Emma Thompson, in “Treasure Planet”) to ask you to zip your howling screamer!

    (And I mean that in a most caring way.)


    Comment by
    NMcV
    July 14th, 2006
    at 5:39 pm

    Scott Somerville said:
    I don’t think we “faith-based” folks can afford to take the risk of ignoring the “reality-based community.”

    On the other hand, I think you guys (whether you call yourselves “reality-based” or something else)…”

    You’re still missing the point, Scott. I don’t know why I’m still trying after more than a decade of failing to get this across to you, but here it goes again:

    Your polarized view is wrong. Stop dividing the world between “religious” (or “faith-based”, or any other term you care to use), meaning those whose religious beliefs are in tune with yours, and “seculars” (or “reality-based”, or or any other term you care to use), meaning those whose beliefs are not like yours.

    I used to think this was a political ploy, but now I’m wondering if you really lack the ability to percieve that many people have deeply-held spiritual beliefs that differ from yours in terms of values, political leanings, etc.

    Do you really not understand this? That some of us believe, for instance, that evolution is part of a sacred pattern and that attempts to force anti-science views on other people’s children is inherently evil?

    We manage to work well with people of different spiritual beliefs, and with agnostics and athiests of all types. All you seem to be doing is changing the labels on your perceived polarized camps.


    Comment by
    NMcV
    July 14th, 2006
    at 5:42 pm

    Scott Somerville also said:
    “…the assumption that Hillary is going to be my next President.”


    Comment by
    NMcV
    July 14th, 2006
    at 5:44 pm

    Oh, that second comment I made to Scott had another line, but I put it in and it didn’t show.

    Without the , it went like this:

    Scott Somerville also said:
    “…the assumption that Hillary is going to be my next President.”

    ::cough::gag::puke::


    Comment by
    Daryl Cobranchi
    July 15th, 2006
    at 6:01 am

    I seriously doubt Hillary will be the Democratic nominee, let alone the first female President. The Right has a foaming-at-the-mouth irrational hatred of her, and the Left is pissed over her Iraq War cheerleading.

    My long-range prediction– She’s got a big war chest, so she’ll make it through to Super Tuesday. But after that she’ll be an also-ran.