Eva Feder Kittay: 2014 Guggenheim Fellow

Eva Feder Kittay, Distinguished Professor of Philosophy at Stony Brook University and Senior Fellow of the Stony Brook Center for Medical Humanities, Compassionate Care, and Bioethics, has been awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship to complete a book tentatively titled Disabled Minds and Things that Matter: Lessons for a Humbler Philosophy. The prestigious fellowship, which places Professor Kittay in the company of many illustrious names, which also includes a lengthy list of noble prize laureates (Czeslaw Milosz being a particular favourite of mine), was established in 1925 and is granted to individuals whose work makes substantial contributions to education, literature, art, and science. Professor Kittay’s work pushes philosophical discourse beyond the inadequate rationalistic framework that has traditionally been utilized to measure the worth of persons. She urges that actual relationships of care and love characterize who we are and why we are morally considerable. Equipped with both the argumentative and analytic tools of a philosopher and the personal experience of being a parent of a child with severe cognitive disabilities, Eva Kittay is in a unique position to play the part of a competent judge whose insights have great philosophical, and more saliently, educational value. Although Disabled Minds and Things that Matter: Lessons for a Humbler Philosophy will be a philosophically rigorous contemplation on the place of disability in philosophical discourse, it will nevertheless be aimed at the educated lay reader, meaning that it will not only shape future philosophical projects, but will also serve to educate the public.

Why is a focus on disability important to the future of philosophical research? Taking severe cognitive disabilities into account when formulating questions in philosophy will force us to reframe both traditional and contemporary inquiries. For example, the rationalistic model of personhood inherited from Aristotle and Kant as well as the numerous individualistic psychological accounts of diachronic personal identity that have been developed since Locke’s Essay Concerning Human Understanding will have to give way to other, more inclusive models and accounts that better represent the relational nature of memory, personhood, and moral status of human beings. Relational personhood and an extended account of personal identity, which is the focus of my own research is indebted to such fundamental reframing of philosophical questions by placing the interests of individuals with severe cognitive disabilities at the centre of our philosophical contemplations regarding the moral status of persons. If placing disability at the centre of philosophical inquiry helps philosophy transcend its current theoretical bounds, then not only is Eva Kittay correct in suggesting that disability is at the frontier of philosophy itself, but Professor Kittay and those her research project inspires to work at the intersection of philosophy and disability studies are forging a new philosophical direction in the time honoured spirit of philosophical innovation and transformation.

Adrienne Asch–RIP

Adrienne Asch

by Rob Wilson. 

Many of us have been saddened today to learn of the death of prominent disability rights scholar and activist Adrienne Asch.  Some obituaries tributes have started to appear, and we will gather those we find in the coming days and add them to this one.  Please feel free to add your own in the comments to this post.

Adrienne was the Edward and Robin Milstein Professor of Bioethics, and Director of the Center for Ethics at Yeshiva University in New York.  She wrote on ethical issues in reproduction, death and dying, and justice for disadvantaged minorities in American society, and is perhaps best-known amongst philosophers for her powerful articulations of core arguments in the disability rights critique of the busy-as-usual practices utilizing prenatal diagnosis and testing.

Adrienne had been supportive of the What Sorts Network in its early days,

Continue reading

Future Past: Disability, Eugenics, & Brave New Worlds

Future Past: Disability, Eugenics, & Brave New Worlds. A public symposium on the history and ongoing implications of eugenics ideologies and practices for people with disabilities.
Why do these issues matter? How can we address them in teaching and pedagogy, in policy and activism, and in art?

On November 1, 2013 at San Francisco State University, Seven Hill Conference Center from 9:00 am – 8:00 pm.
The Living Archives on Eugenics in Western Canada is co-sponsoring a conference, dinner and reception plus the screening of FIXED: The Science/Fiction of Human Enhancement. Conference organizers include: Paul K. Longmore Institute on Disability, Living Archives on Eugenics in Western Canada, and the Center for Genetics and Society.

Registration is free:  geneticsandsociety.org/futurepast

Future Past is the result of a cross-national collaboration among advocates and academics interested in gaining a deeper understanding of the long and tangled relationship between disability and eugenics, and the contemporary implications of genetic technologies to the lives and futures of people with disabilities.

Program – November 1, 2013

9:00 – 9:15: Welcome

  • Provost Sue Rossier, San Francisco State University
  • Catherine Kudlick, Director, Paul K. Longmore Institute on Disability

9:15 – 9:30: Table Introductions

9:30 – 11:30: What? Eugenics and Disability: Past and Present

Many people are unaware of the history of eugenics movements in North America, yet they are disturbingly relevant today.

Presenters:

  • Alexandra Minna Stern (moderator), Departments of Obstetrics and Gynecology, American Culture, and History at the University of Michigan.
  • Marcy Darnovsky, Center for Genetics and Society
  • Glenn SInclair, Living Archives on Eugenics in Western Canada
  • Nicola Fairbrother, Living Archives on Eugenics in Western Canada

Table Discussions

11:30 – 12:30 : Lunch

12:30 – 2:30: So What? The Consequences of Misremembering Eugenics

What are the social and ethical consequences of omitting eugenics from historical memory or misrepresenting it? What is the price of the pursuit of “human betterment” for reproductive and disability justice?

Presenters:

  • Marsha Saxton (moderator), World Institute on Disability
  • Rob WIlson, Living Archives on Eugenics in Western Canada, University of Alberta
  • Troy Duster, Warren Institute for Law and Society Policy, University of California, Berkeley
  • Rosemarie Garland-Thomson, Emory University

Table Discussions

2:30 – 3:00: Break

3:00 – 5:00: Now What? Looking Ahead to Brave New Worlds

What is being done – and what can be done – to increase public and student understanding of the legacies of eugenics through teaching, activism and art?

Presenters:

  • Milton Reynolds (moderator), Facing History and Ourselves
  • Gregor Wolbring, Living Archives on Eugenics in Western Canada, University of Calgary
  • Kate Wiley, Lick-Wilmerding High School
  • Patricia Berne, Sins Invalid

Table Discussions

5:00 – 6:30: Dinner and Reception

6:30 – 8:00 Sneak-preview screening

FIXED: The Science/FIction of Human Enhancement

Producer/DIrector Regan Brashear will answer questions

 Future Past Nov 1

Alberta Eugenics Awareness Week (AEAW) 2013 ~ Oct 16 – Oct 22, 2013

Please join us in Edmonton at the University of Alberta for a series of events throughout Wednesday October 16 to Tuesday October 22, 2013 that mark:

Alberta Eugenics Awareness Week (AEAW) 2013 ~ Oct 16 – Oct 22, 2013

Wednesday Oct 16 – Rob Wilson, University of Alberta, Standpoint Eugenics.  Brown-bag lunch co-sponsored with the Dept. of Educational Policy Studies.  Noon-1:30pm, 7-102 Education North.

Thursday Oct 17 – Eugenics and Indigenous Perspectives.  Discussion panel co-sponsored with the Faculty of Native Studies.  Panelists: Tracy Bear, Joanne Faulkner, Jerry Kachur, Noon-1:00pm, 2-06 Pembina Hall.

Friday Oct 18 – 1) Persons’ Day Panel: Feminism, Motherhood and Eugenics: Historical Perspectives. Panelists: Wendy Kline, University of Cincinnati, Erika Dyck, University of Saskatchewan, and Molly Ladd-Taylor, York University. Noon – 1:00 pm, Henderson Hall, Rutherford South. Wheelchair accessible. 2) Wendy Kline, University of Cincinnati, “The Little Manual that Started a Revolution: How Midwifery Became a Hippie Practice”, 3:30 – 5.00pm, Assiniboia 2-02A, co-sponsored with the Departments of History and Classics, and Women’s and Gender Studies. 3) FIXED: The Science/Fiction of Human Enhancement. A documentary by Regan Brashear www.fixedthemovie.com, co-sponsored with the Faculty of Rehabilitation Medicine and the John Dossetor Health Ethics Centre. Telus Centre 150.  Doors at 6:30 pm, film at 7:00 pm. Q&A with Dr. Gregor Wolbring (who is featured in the film) following the film. Wheelchair accessible and closed captioned.

Saturday Oct 19 – Team Meeting, Living Archives on Eugenics in Western Canada.  2-02A Assiniboia Hall (9:00 am – 4:30 pm) Lunch provided; please RSVP to moyra@ualberta.ca by Noon Oct 16th.

Monday Oct 21 – 1) Joanne Faulkner, University of New South Wales, The Politics of Childhood and Community Identity.  Noon – 1:00 pm in 7-152 Education North.  Co-sponsored by the Departments of Educational Policy Studies and Human Ecology.  2) World Premiere “Surviving Eugenics in the 21st Century: Our Stories Told” 7:00 pm – 9:15 pm Metro Cinema at the Garneau, 8712 – 109 Street NW, Edmonton. Trailer: http://youtu.be/QoM12GAJm8I; closed captioned and ASL interpretation; wheelchair access through the alley entrance.  Please sign up in advance at Facebook to help us with numbers!

Tuesday Oct 22 – 1) Joanne Faulkner, University of New South Wales, The Coming Postcolonial Community: Political Ontology of Aboriginal Childhood in Bringing Them Home.  4.00 – 5.30pm in Assiniboia 2-02a.  Co-sponsored with the Departments of Philosophy and Sociology.  2) Difference and Diversity: An Evening of Performances.  Featuring CRIPSiE (formerly iDance), a reading by Leilani Muir, the art work of Nick Supina III, and much more.  Education North 4-104. Doors at 6:30 pm, performances at 7:00 pm.  Please sign up in advance via Facebook to help us with numbers!

ASL Interpretation can be arranged for events, please contact moyra@ualberta.ca prior to the event.

All Events are FREE and OPEN TO THE PUBLIC!

All events are at the University of Alberta, Edmonton.

Former residents settle Huronia lawsuit

The Huronia Regional Centre – this case has settled; there will not be a trail. To read the settlement agreement go to: http://www.kmlaw.ca/site_documents/080659_SettlementAgreement_17sep13.pdf

Members of the lawsuit looking for information can call 1-866-777-6311, or email huroniaclassaction@kmlaw.ca

~The History~

The Huronia Regional Centre located in Orilla, Ontario, was operated by the Ontario government from 1876 to March 31, 2009. It was the first institution of its kind in Ontario and was designed to house individuals who were deemed to have cognitive and other disabilities. Individuals could be admitted by parents and guardians, from training schools, or through the Children’s Aid Society.
At its peak, Huronia’s population exceeded 2,500 people. By the mid 1970s, the Ontario government operated 16 such facilities across the province.
When Huronia opened, there were no community services and supports available for individuals with developmental disabilities. Huronia was one of the last three facilities of its kind in Ontario, along with the Southwestern Regional Centre in Chatham-Kent and the Rideau Regional Centre I Smiths Falls, all of which closed in 2009.
~The Class Action~
Two former residents of the facility, assisted by their litigation guardians, are proceeding with a class action against the Ontario government to seek justice and compensation for severe abuse they and other class members suffered while residing in Huronia.
On July 30, 2010 the Ontario Superior Court of Justice certified this lawsuit as a class action for residents living at Huronia between 1945 and 2009 and other family members. The claim alleges that the Ontario government was negligent and breached its fiduciary duties to the residents and their families in the operation, control, and management of Huronia.

It is alleged that residents of Huronia suffered inhumane treatment and abuse at the hands of some of the staff. The allegations include severe mental and physical punishments for “acting out”, rooms were unnecessarily locked creating a prison-like environment, unnecessarily medicating the residents, residents were often not bathed, and forced to work without pay.

The class action will seek to provide evidence that officials knew about the abuse taking place but did not take the required action to stop it. Examples of such evidence include:

  • A 1971 report by Walter B. Williston, which was sponsored by the Ministry of Health, examined the conditions of Huronia. The report concluded that severe abuse and inadequate facilities were present at Huronia.
  • A 1960 article by Pierre Berton entitled, “What’s Wrong at Orillia – Out of Sight, Out of Mind”, which describes what he called “atrocities” at Huronia, including extreme overcrowding and physical and emotional abuse. This article ultimately led to Parliamentary debate.
  • A 1973 report by Robert Welch, Secretary for Social Development, calling for the creation of appropriate residential homes in the community to facilitate deinstitutionalization.
  • In 1976, a report authored for the Minister of Community and Social Services known as the “Willard Report” found serious allegations about the administration at Huronia. The report made several recommendations.
  • Affidavits by both plaintiffs, corroborated by their litigation guardians, chronicling the abuse each experienced while residing at Huronia.
  • Affidavits from former staff and family members of residents.

Since 1876 thousands of people in Ontario have resided in facilities like Huronia.  There have been many accounts of abuse taking place at these facilities, however little has been done to help the victims.

The victims of these abuses are entitled to adequate compensation and an acknowledgement from the Ontario government that it failed to live up to its obligations to care for these vulnerable individuals.

The Representative Plaintiffs

Patricia was admitted to Huronia at the age of six in 1964. At the time of her admission , Patricia was labelled as “developmentally challenged”. Everything in her life was dictated by Huronia staff.  Patricia recalls being repeatedly abused and punished – hit by a fly swatter or radiator brush, and held upside down in ice cold water. She was also administered medication to pacify her when she was found to be “speaking out”. Patricia was unable to report the abuse she experienced or saw at Huronia for fear of repercussion and threat of increased abuse. Patricia is now 52 years of age and living independently with assistance from the Ontario Disability Support Program.

Marie was admitted to Huronia at the age of seven in 1961. At the time of her admission, like Patricia, Marie was labelled as “developmentally challenged”. While at Huronia, her life was regimented and controlled and she was placed on medication to pacify her for “acting out”. At 16 she was placed into an “approved home” off the grounds of Huronia (but still operated by Huronia) where she was threatened, teased and physically and sexually abused. She did not report this, because she feared being returned to the centre. Marie lives in her own apartment   and supports herself.

Both women understand that their greatest obstacle has not been their disabilities, but the harm they experienced through institutionalization. They want this legal action to help others and ensure similar systemic abuse can never happen again.

The Litigation Guardians

To assist Patricia and Marie with this complex litigation, Marilyn Dolmage, a former social worker at Huronia, and her husband, Jim Dolmage, have agreed to act as Marie and Patricia’s litigation guardians respectively. The Dolmages have been friends with Marie and Patricia for many years. Both Marilyn and Jim have worked alongside people with disabilities in the past and are well informed in this area.

Huronia Trial Management Timetable:

(see the original source for links to many of these original documents)

September 17, 2013: This case has settled; there will not be a trial.

Important Dates ( these dates have links to original documents in the online source, see link at the end)

September 17, 2013 – This case has settled; there will not be a trial.

June 7, 2013 – An article written by Carol Goar entitled “Ugly secret of Ontario psychiatric hospitals won’t stay hidden,” has been published in the Toronto Star.

June 3, 2013 – The World this Weekend (CBC), June 2nd, Sunday edition,  featured a piece on the Huronia Class Action.

May 30, 2013 –  The survivors of the Huronia Regional Centre Patricia Seth and Marie Slark, along with their Litigation Guardians Marilyn and Jim Dolmage and legal counsel held a press conference today at Queen’s Park.

May 27, 2013 – The parties have exchanged responding expert reports in preparation for trial.

April 2, 2013 – The parties have exchanged expert reports in preparation for trial and in accordance with the trial timetable.

February 8, 2013 – Master Glustein presided over the Plaintiff’s motion to compel the Defendant to answer refusals made on the examination for discovery of Mr. Brian Low. Master Glustein ordered the Defendant to answer a number of questions that it had previously refused.

December 18, 2012 – A motion in this action will be heard by the Court on February 8, 2013. The motion relates to refusals made on examinations for discovery and documentary productions issues. The Plaintiff is seeking an Order from the Court that the Crown answer certain questions and produce further documents.

October 10, 2012 – In the process of answering undertakings and written questions for discovery, the Defendant advised that it had located a significant source of further documents to be produced.  The production of documents in this action was to have been completed February 29, 2012.  The Defendant has already produced over 50,000 documents to date.  In a case conference with the Honourable Justice Archibald, the Defendant sought and were granted an extension of time for certain aspects of the previous timetable (from March 7, 2012).  The trial of this action is still scheduled for September 2013.

October 1, 2012 – This action continues to proceed towards trial scheduled for the Fall of 2013.  The Plaintiffs have delivered a Request to Admit to the Defendant asking them to admit certain facts in advance of trial.  The Defendant’s responses are due November 1, 2012.

April 25, 2012 – The Plaintiffs completed three days of examinations for discovery of the Defendant between April 23-25, 2012.  The action continues towards trial which is scheduled for September 2013.  Expert reports, requests to admit, answers to questions taken at examinations for discovery are all expected to be completed in the coming months.

March 8, 2012 – A revised timetable has been set by the Honourable Justice Archibald that provides for this action to proceed to trial September 30, 2013. The next step in this proceeding is for the Plaintiff to complete the examinations for discovery of the Defendant, which are set to be completed by May 15, 2012.

February 24, 2012 – The Plaintiffs completed the first 4 days of examinations for discovery of the Defendant.  A further 5 days of examinations are tentatively scheduled for April 2012.

February 7, 2012 – Oral discoveries (examinations) of a representative of the Defendant will take place February 21-24, 2012.

December 23, 2011 – The Defendant delivered another set of documents as part of its ongoing obligations. The Defendant has now produced over 50,000 documents. Examinations for discovery of the Defendant are scheduled to take place in mid-February 2012.

December 2, 2011 – The Defendant delivered what is believed to be the last set of documents for the Plaintiffs’ review, bringing the total number of documents delivered to approximately 48,000.  Examinations for discovery of the Defendant is scheduled to take place in mid-February 2013.

November 17, 2011 – A trial date has been set for this action for a period of 10 weeks beginning September 30, 2013.

October 14, 2011 – The parties reached an agreement with respect to the redactions in the first two sets of documents produced by the Defendant, which averted the Plaintiffs’ motion which was scheduled for October 5, 2011.  The Defendant has produced un-redacted copies of most of the documents it previously redacted.  The Defendant has also produced its 3rd and 4th sets of documents, which are being reviewed by the Plaintiffs.

August 29, 2011 – As a result of concern regarding the aging class  members, the Plaintiffs filed a motion to fix a trial date at the  earliest practical convenience.  The Plaintiffs believe that the age of  the class members warrants a speedy pursuit to trial.  While no date is  set for the motion it is expected to be heard shortly.

August 8, 2011 – the Defendant produced its second set of documents  (approximately 4,000 documents).  The Plaintiffs have noted similar  redactions in the documents provided as with the documents provided  previously.   The Plaintiff intends on pursuing such redactions in the  motion noted below.

August 5, 2011 – After receiving the first set of documents from the defendant (approximately 2,000 documents) it was apparent to the Plaintiffs that the Defendant redacted (blacked out) information on a number of documents they produced.  Such information redacted included  names of ministerial employees and potential witnesses, information relating to assaults on residents, admissions information, and in other cases extensive portions of a document were redacted such that the Plaintiffs could not know what information was being withheld.   It is the Plaintiffs’ position that the Defendant inappropriately redacted such documents.  The Plaintiffs are concerned that further production from the Defendant will include similar redactions.   Accordingly the Plaintiffs filed a motion today seeking the removal of such redactions from the documents already produced and those the Defendant has yet to produce.  While no date is set for the motion it is expected to be heard shortly.

Additional information on the Huronia Regional Centre class action can be found on the Koskie Minsky  LLP website here.  Legal Counsel Koskie Minsky LLP – See more at: http://www.institutionalsurvivors.com/background/huronia/#sthash.ctTmZn4L.dpuf

– See more at: http://www.institutionalsurvivors.com/background/huronia/#sthash.ctTmZn4L.dpuf

Source: http://www.institutionalsurvivors.com/background/huronia/

The story in The Star, September 17, 2013: http://www.thestar.com/news/gta/2013/09/17/former_residents_settle_huronia_lawsuit_for_35m.html

Judge approves man’s sterilization

It is the first time in England and Wales a court has sanctioned a man’s sterilization. A High Court judge has sanctioned the sterilization of a man “in his best interests” in a landmark legal ruling.
The 36-year-old, from the Midlands, has learning difficulties and already has a son, born in 2010, with his girlfriend.
Justice Eleanor King ruled that a vasectomy could take place after hearing that another child could cause the man :psychological harm.”
Experts said he was capable of sexual consent but did not have the capacity to make decisions about contraception.

The entire story was released today in the BBC News and can be viewed here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-23721893

Sterilization Abuse in State Prisons: Time to Break with California’s Long Eugenic Patterns

An article by Professor Alex Stern, Living Archives Team Member, has been released today in The Huffington Post. The article, Sterilization Abuse in State Prisons: Time to Break With California’s Long Eugenic Patterns, reveals that at least 148 female prisoners in 2 California institutions were sterilized between 2006 and 2010. Tubal ligations in violation of prison rules during those five years – and there are perhaps 100 more dating back to the late 1990s, according to state documents and interviews.  Professor Stern’s work points to a discernible racial bias in the state’s sterilization and eugenics programs.

Corey G. Johnson of the Center for Investigative Reporting (CIR) published on July 7th a detailed expose’ of unauthorized sterilizations of unwilling women in California prisons. Johnson’s excellent report brought international attention to a scandal that some activists and researchers have at least partially documented. It is important to note that, as the CIR report says, these sterilizations were illegal: Federal and state laws ban inmate sterilizations if federal funds are used, reflecting concerns that prisoners might feel pressured to comply. California used state funds instead, but since 1994, the procedure has required approval from top medical officials in Sacramento on a case-by-case basis. Yet no tubal ligation requests have come before the health care committee responsible for approving such restricted surgeries….

How could this happen?

Governor Gray Davis apologized in 2003 for California’s twentieth-century sterilizations, 20,000  procedures carried out under an explicitly eugenic law. He did so  quietly, via press release, and with no attempt to discover or  compensate the victims. (Recognized experts on American eugenics were  disappointed at the time: Paul Lombardo called it “premature” and Alexandra Minna Stern said it was “preemptive.”) Now his statement seems like a sham. The  fault is no longer the law, it’s the failure to follow the law.

North Carolina is still struggling to pass a budget that includes compensation for its victims of eugenic sterilization.  California has barely started the process of coming to terms with its  troubled history.

The California state prison system is overcrowded — Governor Jerry Brown is appealing a federal court order to release inmates — and conditions are so bad that 30,000 are on  hunger strike. If this report about sterilization helps to usher in a  period of genuine reform, that would be wonderful.

We would still need to educate all too many people, inside and  outside the jail system, about the moral and practical harm of modern  eugenics. Based on some of the remarks by state officials that Johnson  reported, and on some of the comments on coverage of his investigation,  people slide right back into eugenic ways of thinking.

Justice Now is an organization that works with women in prison. Their website has links to the CIR  reports and videos.

Professor Stern’s article in the Huffington Post raises awareness about eugenic practices and calls for a new era of human rights and the protection of vulnerable populations. Tony Platt co-authored the post. The original article can be found here: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/alex-stern/sterilization-california-prisons_b_3631287.html

Rob Sparrow: talks on eugenics TODAY in Edmonton

Just a quick reminder:

Professor Rob Sparrow will be giving two talks in Edmonton at the University of Alberta on Monday April 8 and Tuesday April 9, 2013. Both talks are open to the public and free! Talks are being held on campus in ETLC (Engineering Teaching & Learning Complex) Continue reading

Meet the New Eugenics, Same as the Old Eugenics

From the Center for Genetics and Society blog, by Gina Maranto, Biopolitical Times guest editor, March 4, 2013

The unfortunate truth is that discredited ideas never do die, they just rise again in slightly altered forms—witness eugenics. Despite the horrors perpetuated in its name, including forced sterilization and the Holocaust, the eugenic impulse is with us still. One of the forms it takes is schemes for “improving” offspring through the selection and manipulation of embryos.

In the last year or so, one neo-eugenic advocate in particular has been garnering media attention. He’s Julian Savulescu, holder of an array of titles, including an endowed chair and directorship of a center at the University of Oxford funded by the Uehiro Foundation on Ethics and Education.

Continue reading

Parent Bullies: Homophobic Parents Protest Making Schools Safe for ‘Gay’ Kids

The Anoka-Hennepin Independent School District 11, located just north of Minneapolis, changed its policy of neutrality regarding questions of sexual orientation in favour of active affirmation of the dignity of all students regardless of their race, disability, or sexual orientation.  The New York Times reports:

 In response to conflicting pressures, Anoka-Hennepin officials had devised an unusual policy, directing teachers to remain neutral on any questions involving sexual orientation. But some teachers said that this hampered their ability to support gay students and that the overall climate was still hostile.  Last month, the district rescinded the neutrality policy in favor of a requirement to “affirm the dignity and self-worth of students” regardless of race, sexual orientation, disabilities or other factors. In addition, according to the new agreement, the district will strengthen measures to prevent, detect and punish bullying based on gender or sexual orientation, hire a full-time “harassment-prevention” official, bolster mental health counseling and identify harassment “hot spots” on the campuses of middle and high schools.

However, the Anoka-Hennepin Parents Action League (see their website here) complained that  “[m]aking schools safe for ‘gay’ kids means indoctrinating impressionable, young minds with homosexual propaganda” (see The New York Times).  The Parents Action League website states that

Teaching about sexual orientation is not a part of the District adopted curriculum; rather, such matters are best addressed within individual family homes, churches, or community organizations.

Two things are quite striking here and both are examples of narrow-minded groups making students worse off by making themselves vocal.  First, and most obviously, the reported statement that “[m]aking schools safe for ‘gay’ kids means indoctrinating impressionable, young minds with homosexual propaganda” is outrageous in itself especially since it implies that what I take to mean the majority (that is, the heterosexual kids) are better served if ‘gay’ kids are not protected from bullying.  I am not sure whether the parents who agreed on such a formulation in their e-mail were appealing to some seriously misguided utilitarian calculation or whether they were just expressing their support for bullying based on sexual orientation?  Either way, the statement represents an unusually ugly thought!

Second, the statement on the Parents Action League website is a further testament to the dangers of giving narrow minded and aggressively fearful groups power over the education of future generations.  Statements like: “[t]eaching about sexual orientation is not a part of the District adopted curriculum; rather, such matters are best addressed within individual family homes, churches, or community organizations” is reminiscent of burning the “Satanic” Harry Potter Books (see the 2001 BBC News Story).  All such practices will do (practices of withdrawing educational content from the curriculum and relegating it to the home), and I imagine that this is the hope of the Parents Action League, is to perpetuate discrimination based on sexual orientation precisely because homophobic parents seem to want to shield their children from any statements that confer dignity and self-worth upon homosexual students.

Parents should certainly play a greater supportive role in their children’s education.  Having had teaching experience at the secondary education level, I have seen my share of too much resentment toward teachers for the low achievement of their child and too little active participation in the child’s education.  Of course, this is not descriptive of all, or even most, parents.  However, participation in a child’s education should not come in the form of lobbying to truncate the educational experience of students.  If schools are to teach only the core subjects (math, social, science, and english), and remain silent (since being neutral in this context just means staying silent) on all other issues, then the quality of citizens leaving the school system will be poor indeed.

Fortunately, the Anoka-Hennepin Independent School District 11 went ahead with its new policy.  Perhaps once they eradicate bullying based on sexual orientation in their hallways, they will start to fight the source of bullying, namely the opinions and beliefs of homophobic parents!

Ethicist gets hate mail

A Melbourne academic has triggered an ethical storm by suggesting it is acceptable to kill newborns in so-called after-birth abortions if parents do not want them.

Ethicist Francesca Minerva said yesterday that she had received hate mail since a provocative article she co-wrote with Dr Alberto Giubilini appeared online.

They argued after-birth abortion should be allowed in cases when abortion would be permitted, including if a child had a defect such as Down syndrome.

Even in cases where the baby was born perfectly healthy, parents should have the right to end the life of the child if their own wellbeing was at risk.

The researchers said a newborn baby and a foetus were “morally equivalent” and both were “potential people”.

“If criteria such as the social, psychological and economic costs for potential parents are good enough reasons for having an abortion even when the foetus is healthy…then the same reasons which justify abortion should also justify the killing of the potential person when it is as the stage of a newborn, they said.

Adopting out an unwanted baby was not necessarily a solution because the mother might suffer psychological distress from giving up her child for adoption.

Dr Minerva said the article was not intended for public debate but rather for discussion among bioethicists.

“This debate has been going on for 30 years,” she said.

The BMJ Group said the researchers had been subjected to personal abuse, including threats to their lives.

It said the concept of infanticide was not new and the researchers had made an argument that deserved to be heard without receiving hostile abuse.
Catholic Respect Life executive officer Bronia Karniewicz said the argument that killing a healthy baby rather than putting them up for adoption because it might better benefit the parents was disturbing.

the article can be found here: http://au.news.yahoo.com/thewest/a/-/wa/13056055/ethicist-gets-hate-mail/

Australian paper says Euthanizing Babies should be allowed

A paper published in the Journal of Medical Ethics argues that abortion should be extended to make the killing of newborn babies permissible, even if the baby is perfectly healthy, in a shocking example of how the medical establishment is still dominated by a vicious mindset.

The paper is authored by Alberto Giubilini of Monash University in Melbourne and Francesca Minerva at the Centre for Applied Philosophy and Public Ethics at the University of Melbourne.

The authors argue that “both fetuses and newborns do not have the same moral status as actual persons,” and that because abortion is allowed even when there is no problem with the fetus’ health, “killing a newborn should be permissible in all the cases where abortion is, including cases where the newborn is not disabled.”

The complete article can be found here:http://www.eutimes.net/2012/03/australian-paper-says-euthanizing-babies-should-be-allowed-as-abortion/

Gender Stereotyping and Parenthood Dilemmas

In an effort to avoid gender stereotyping, Beck Laxton and partner Kieran Cooper concealed the gender of their son from the world.  The gender neutrally named Sasha has now turned five and is starting school.  Prior to the commencement of formative school years, Sasha has been given the choice to dress in clothes that appealed to him, be they hand-me-downs from an older sister or an older brother.  When Sasha turned five, his parents were forced to reveal his gender, which means that Sasha will have to get used to being perceived as a boy by his peers.  Although the school requires different uniforms for boys and girls, Sasha’s mom is intervening by letting Sasha wear a girl’s blouse with his pants.

Last year, a different couple made a similar decision not to reveal their child’s gender.  Some psychiatric experts voiced their concerns:

“To have a sense of self and personal identity is a critical part of normal healthy development,” Dr. Eugene Beresin, director of training in child and adolescent psychiatry at Massachusetts General Hospital, told ABC News. “This blocks that and sets the child up for bullying, scapegoating and marginalization.”

The article continues:

But as parents well know, bullying is hard for any child to avoid. It’s more important to raise someone who’s confident enough in himself to overcome peer pressure. It’s also important to have his parents have his back.

The question of personal identity is interesting as gender is certainly a big part of it.  However, that’s precisely the problem couples like Beck Laxton and Kieran Cooper are attempting to avoid.  The question of bullying, scapegoating and marginalization is a bit trickier since such actions are certainly a product of dogmatically ingrained gender stereotyping, but they will not cease to exist just because Sasha’s parents have grown past them.  Although bullying may well be hard for any child to avoid, some children do get bullied more than others.  And although Laxton and Cooper are trying to inculcate a sense of self and others in Sasha, which they hope will be lacking gender stereotyping, are they also not sacrificing their child’s emotional and physical safety by setting him up for potential bullying?  It is quite important to raise someone who’s confident enough in him or herself to overcome peer pressure, but it could also be the case that exposing a child to more risk of bullying may have an adverse effect on his or her confidence.

That’s not to say that Sasha will be bullied, but it will depend on his environment.  If Laxton and Cooper chose an appropriate school, perhaps their goal of raising their son to be confident in himself and have a valuable dual perspective on gender will not be compromised by the very gender stereotypes they are attempting to undermine.  “Egalia,” a preschool in Stockholm, Sweden comes to mind (as an example of the kind of environment in which Sasha could flourish).  Staff do not use words like “him” or “her,” but rather a made-up neutral term and students are encouraged to do the same.  Moreover, traditional “boy” and “girl” toys are spatially integrated so as to obliterate any value systems associated with stereotypical gender preferences.  For those interested, here is the article.

Bullying has not ceased in spite of a laudable movement to curb it.  Although Laxton and Cooper’s hearts may be in the right place, they have influence only over Sasha’s worldview and not that of other children (who get theirs from their own parents or guardians).  Are they putting Sasha at risk, as Dr. Eugene Beresin claims?  And if the answer is yes, are they entitled to make such choices for Sasha if they lead to increased risk of bullying, which could potentially be developmentally as well as physically harmful?

Health Ethics Seminar: Howard Nye on Psychological Continuity and Neonatal Medicine

The following seminar announcement may be of interest to many What Sorts readers.  You can find the abstract for the presentation below.

JOHN DOSSETOR HEALTH ETHICS CENTRE

HEALTH ETHICS SEMINAR

The Bearing of Psychological Continuity on Fetal and Neonatal Medicine

Presented by

Howard Nye, PhD

Assistant Professor, Department of Philosophy

Faculty of Arts, University of Alberta

Friday, 24 September 2010

12:00-12:45pm

Room 2-07 Heritage Medical Research Centre

(link to map:

http://www.campusmap.ualberta.ca/index.cfm?campus=1&sector=5&feature=66)

EVERYONE WELCOME!

For more information please e-mail: dossetor.centre@ualberta.ca

Abstract

Continue reading

Euthanasia Hearings Begin in Quebec

Euthanasia, always a controversial topic, is about to get alot of media attention again…

From CTV.ca

As public hearings on the controversial topic of dying with dignity get underway in Quebec, the chair of the committee expects debate to become emotional.

Quebec Liberal MNA Geoff Kelley says it’s been 17 years since B.C.’s Sue Rodriguez brought the issues of mercy killing to the fore, when she fought all the way to the Supreme Court for the right to kill herself. And though the court eventually ruled against her, the debate has never gone away, he says. Continue reading

Cognitive Disability and its Challenge to Moral Philosophy

Readers of the blog who followed our Thinking in Action series of blog posts on the above-named conference, held in New York in September 2008, as well as others, might be interested in having a look at the finished papers from that conference. They have now been published in a special issue of the journal Metaphilosophy (which strikes me, at least, as a strange venue). The table of contents is below and from here you can link to the abstracts for each of the papers; for the full versions, you need an individual or institutional subscription, it seems. To see some videoclips from the conference, together with critical commentary, check out the Thinking in Action posts themselves; nearly all of these directly discuss the talks at the conference corresponding to some of the papers listed below. The videos are both closed captioned and have transcripts with them to enhance accessibility.

thanks to shortintro for the blog comment that drew this to our attention.

**********

ARTICLES

INTRODUCTION: RETHINKING PHILOSOPHICAL PRESUMPTIONS IN LIGHT OF COGNITIVE DISABILITY (p 307-330)
LICIA CARLSON, EVA FEDER KITTAY
Published Online: Sep 18 2009 11:37AM
DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-9973.2009.01609.x

Abstract | References | Full Text: HTML, PDF (Size: 161K)
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The new growth attenuation paper by Dr. Diekema, Dr. Fost with others

I read the full text of the growth-attenuation paper written by Dr. Diekema and Dr. Fost with others in the June issue of the Pediatrics. So many questions and mysteries again. I will point out some of them here for now. Some of the questions and mysteries will be reviewed more closely in my future posts.

1. The authors’ definition of profound cognitive disability “for purpose of growth-attenuation therapy” is not totally about cognitive disabilities but mostly about physical disabilities. It disguises the fact that growth attenuation is in fact a therapy that addresses problems caused by severe physical disabilities, not by cognitive disabilities, which they have been using as a convenient excuse for justification. But maybe we should also note that the authors didn’t forget to add “for present time” when they wrote that it should be limited to children with profound cognitive disability.

2. Their justification for excluding hysterectomy and breast bud removal from discussion is something like this: Criticism was mostly targeted at hysterectomy and breast bud removal in the Ashley case controversy in 2007 (implying maybe that growth attenuation was not all that criticized and pretty much approved?), and in addition, growth attenuation does not necessarily accompany the other two interventions. But these are lame excuses. Continue reading

Philosophy, Eugenics and Disability in Alberta and Places North – Martin Tweedale Q&A

On October 25, 2008, the What Sorts Network hosted a public symposium at the Western Canadian Philosophical Association annual meeting, held in Edmonton, to examine, well, philosophy, eugenics, and disability in Alberta and places north. Four speakers were featured on the panel, Dick Sobsey, Simo Vehmas, Martin Tweedale, and Rob Wilson. This event was video recorded and over the next month we will highlight these videos on this blog. Roughly four videos will be featured each week.

To download the full description of the symposium please click here.

With this video we begin the question and answer portion of the presentation by Martin Tweedale (The first and second parts may be found here, the third and fourth here). Professor Tweedale’s presentation is titled “Ethical Dilemmas in Eliminating the MacEachran Prizes in Philosophy.” It is a discussion of the decision made by the University of Alberta Philosophy Department over whether to continue its association with the prizes in the name of John MacEachran. Professor Tweedale summarizes the factors considered in the deliberations and explores the extent to which the decision taken was rationally demanded by those considerations.

Q&A

Highlights: What is the relevance of John MacEachran’s position within the university? Should the university apologize? Should the Philosophy Department apologize?

A transcript follows the cut.

Continue reading

Philosophy, Eugenics and Disability in Alberta and Places North – Martin Tweedale Parts 3&4

On October 25, 2008, the What Sorts Network hosted a public symposium at the Western Canadian Philosophical Association annual meeting, held in Edmonton, to examine, well, philosophy, eugenics, and disability in Alberta and places north. Four speakers were featured on the panel, Dick Sobsey, Simo Vehmas, Martin Tweedale, and Rob Wilson. This event was video recorded and over the next month we will highlight these videos on this blog. Roughly four videos will be featured each week.

To download the full description of the symposium please click here.

With this video we begin the third portion of the presentation by Martin Tweedale (The preceding parts may be found here). Professor Tweedale’s presentation is titled “Ethical Dilemmas in Eliminating the MacEachran Prizes in Philosophy.” It is a discussion of the decision made by the University of Alberta Philosophy Department over whether to continue its association with the prizes in the name of John MacEachran. Professor Tweedale summarizes the factors considered in the deliberations and explores the extent to which the decision taken was rationally demanded by those considerations.

Part 3

Highlights: exploration of validity of a purely consequentialist argument, challenge of academic cowardice, inadequacy of strict utilitarian approach, what features of the case justify removing the MacEachran prize, (un)importance of overstepping legal authority.

A transcript and the concluding Part 4, follow the cut; fiery Q and A to follow later. Continue reading

Philosophy, Eugenics and Disability in Alberta and Places North – Martin Tweedale Parts 1&2

On October 25, 2008, the What Sorts Network hosted a public symposium at the Western Canadian Philosophical Association annual meeting, held in Edmonton, to examine, well, philosophy, eugenics, and disability in Alberta and places north. Four speakers were featured on the panel, Dick Sobsey, Simo Vehmas, Martin Tweedale, and Rob Wilson. This event was video recorded and over the next month we will highlight these videos on this blog. Roughly four videos will be featured each week.

To download the full description of the symposium please click here.

With this video we begin the presentation by Martin Tweedale. Professor Tweedale’s presentation is titled “Ethical Dilemmas in Eliminating the MacEachran Prizes in Philosophy.” It is a discussion of the decision made by the University of Alberta Philosophy Department over whether to continue its association with the prizes in the name of John MacEachran. Professor Tweedale summarizes the factors considered in the deliberations and explores the extent to which the decision taken was rationally demanded by those considerations..

Part 1

Highlights: summary of the background events prompting the decision to cease offering an award in the name of John MacEachran, reason for prizes being awarded, who is doing the honouring in providing awards in a person’s name?

Part 2

Highlights: reflections on the negative impact on students of canceling the prize, listing of reasons both pro and con for honouring John MacEachran, investigation of the challenge that we honour for the good and only the good that people have done and none of us are saints, threat of scandal, moral posturing.

A transcript for both parts follows the cut.

Continue reading