Sunday, January 21, 2007

Turn of the Screw II: Revenge of the Governess

Peter Jaffe, a London school board trustee and psychologist, was at the head of a coalition of Ontario teachers federation presidents and some parents at a news conference at Queen's Park urging federal and provincial governments to exert political controls over violent content in media. The group demanded provincial age-based ratings and restrictions on sales of music, federal broadcasting laws preventing radio and television from broadcasting violent content or "material intended for adult audiences" before 9 p.m., and, most injudicious and tractable to willful misuse, explicit protection of women and children into federal hate-crime legislation to "curb objectifying programs and websites." Jaffe is also conducting a personal crusade to ban fighting from Ontario Hockey League games, and pushed a motion by the Thames Valley District school board to "warn pupils and parents of potential on-ice violence."

"Politicians must help parents control the violence their kids watch, hear and download," warns Jaffe, lending the appearance of modest ambition to the demands of his coalition — disingenuously, however, because there is nothing in those demands that would involve parents in the slightest way; precisely the opposite, the proposed policies would have federal and provincial governments assume authority from parents.

But this turns out to be only the least misleading aspect of the presentation. The premise behind the demands would appear to Jaffe's contention that there is "a causal connection between exposure to media violence and violent attitudes and behaviours," a relationship that, it should be noted, must suppose a number of assumptions, perceptions and arbitrarily defined variables in the first place. Real or perceived, however, it is entirely beside the point. The critical but unspoken premise is of course that political control over exposure to media violence would somehow reduce actual violence among youth, and on this subject Jaffe's "decades of research" are — unsurprisingly — mute. Fortunately, history and common sense are not.

In fact, the decisions, choices, actions and behaviours that children may make have been increasingly circumscribed and censured over the past few decades by political controls in the form of growing regulations, laws, bans and supervision. So it should not be seen as a coincidence that violence, vandalism and anti-social "attitudes and behaviours" have risen over that same period. The confines of personal conduct and responsibility have been to a large degree replaced by the confines of policy — policy in which youth have had no part in making, and the merits of which they have neither been given nor expected to understand or judge. Children are as much or more likely to learn that an individual sense of responsibility is of little use if the initiative for deciding and managing it has been taken over from themselves and from parents by a cold and indiscriminate political and bureaucratic administration. The punishments for violating a promiscuous and only haphazardly methodical regulatory regime of conduct are themselves necessarily arbitrary and, as much as the political appropriation of personal responsibility wishes to flatter itself, light as well. But more importantly than failing to disclose the negative consequences of anti-social behaviour, political controls deprive children of the natural incentives to discover the mutually agreeable and reinforcing benefits of abiding by voluntary restraints on behaviour to build for themselves a useful, profitable and non-violent society. The added tragedy is that these are the children who grow up into being parents themselves; it is no wonder that they defer their roles as fathers and mothers as well to the government, to no less accidental and detrimental effects.

Simply put, educators and psychologists — the experts — have held greater rein and scrutiny over children than ever before, and perhaps it is time that their failures should be acknowledged. The logical extension of their theories and conclusions, in fact, would be that children should be given over entirely to their administration, by the agency of political power, except that the mediocrity of their good intentions deter them from promoting the absolute communist economy of children. Nevertheless, the expanse in regulatory power by the government affords a beguiling prospect for influence and importance for educators and social scientists. It is too big a job for bureaucrats alone — the system must be outsourced to the rule of experts. The most important variables in their studies, for whatever they can be worth, are most often overlooked or omitted for the seduction of power promised by the trappings of expertise. For this reason, and this reason alone, they are to be doubted.

Bonus: Sonny Drysdale gives his take in Sonny Demands Government to Get Peter Jaffe to Shut His Fuckin' Mouth

But you know, maybe Jaffe does have a point. Maybe the media is a bit to blame in all this. But only for giving him free press and broadcast coverage everytime he opens his big mouth.

8 comments:

Joe Molnar said...

"Sonny Demands Government to Get Peter Jaffe to Shut His Fuckin' Mouth"
Now if Sonny's post could make the pages of the London Free Press . . . . . .!

taxpayerdavid said...

Hey guys...couldn't find an email address for you...but I thought you might be interested in this...

http://taxpayersfederation.blogspot.com/2007/01/cheap-houses.html

MapMaster said...

Thanks, taxpayerdavid. I'll make a link to that.

We can be reached by email at thelondonfog@hotmail.com and by using the "Email Us" button farther down on our sidebar.

Honey Pot said...

I always thought of that Sonny fellow as a quiet, nothing riles him type. I like to see him pissed off. Of course I seem to like to see anyone pissed off, or making them pissed off. I always figure if people are pissed off it makes their blood pump, and their brains work better. Nothing much gets done unless people are pissed off.

MapMaster said...

If that's true, you must be doing more to get things done in London than anyone else! You're keeping Butch busy and alive, that's for sure.

Honey Pot said...

He is always pissed off at me. He will get over it. I just don't think like him, and that bunch on alt, he takes it personally.

I think they would rather die with their ideals, then use logic to decipher what the consequence of their actions will be.

MapMaster said...

That's what makes reading altLondon more entertaining than the Free Press — not really any more informative, but at least there's some good laughs to be had out of the rages and occasional hysteria.

Susan K said...

How long do the idealogues have to promote their dishonest and useless crap (all on our expense). Peter Jaffe cannot just shut up. An e-mail to the trustees suggested he just has too much pomposity to question his own self importance or as he himself believes and claims to be a "legend in his own mind." The arrogance is too much. Lord (if there is one?) protect us from such so called experts. The trustees need to do some real work or just move on.