TEENAGE SEXUAL ASSAULT – BY ELLIN CURLEY

Judge Brett Kavanaugh has been nominated to the Supreme Court and has been accused of attempted rape as a seventeen year old. This has precipitated a national debate over acceptable teenage behavior.

Bett Kavanaugh and Donald Trump

Kavanaugh’s enablers have several, typical defenses for him. He was a hormone filled boy and boys will be boys – so he’s not responsible for his behavior. He was a teenager and we all know they have no judgment and can’t be held responsible for what they do. Or the favorite – he was blind drunk so of course, he can’t be responsible for his behavior.

Excessive alcohol at teenage parties

What are we telling our teenagers? We tell the boys “you have a free pass until legal adulthood.” To the girls, we say “avoid teenage boys unless you want to be raped and have no recourse, legal, or social protection.”

Aren’t we supposed to be training teenagers to be responsible adults? I understand their brains are not fully developed, their impulses are not under full control. Their judgment is still a work in progress.

Regardless, we still should be teaching them and holding them to society’s standards, like decency and respect for others. They may fail to achieve these standards all the time, but the standards still have to be there, as goals to strive for.

We have generations of twenty-somethings still living with parents, not making a living wage, and socially isolated. Maybe that’s, in part, because we don’t ask them to grow up while they are teenagers. Maybe they absorb the message that they’re not responsible for their behavior, their achievements, or their lives. When that message is internalized, it’s hard to flick a switch and suddenly have kids who are motivated, moral, and goal-oriented adults.

This is a bigger problem than sexual misconduct in teenage boys. In addition to absolving boys of responsibility for egregious and unacceptable behavior, it teaches them toxic attitudes to women that often follow them throughout their lives. They are taught to dehumanize and disrespect women.

If a boy wants sex, he can just do what Trump does – grab them by the pussy! If she doesn’t kick him in the nuts, he can do what he wants with her body. If she complains afterward, he can just say she asked for it, she wanted it, or she’s lying and it never happened. Take your pick.

Boys are seeing that this bullshit works. Women who say “NO” are either not being heard, or not being believed. Girls are seeing they are powerless – victims of a male-oriented sexual culture. These are not the attitudes we want in our young adults.

Why should we tolerate them in our teenagers?

High school is difficult enough for girls without having to worry about being a victim of sexual assault. The odds are too many high school girls will experience some form of sexual harassment. Most girls will never report it because they know they will be attacked and pilloried if they do.

So we are fostering a sense of entitlement in boys and an acceptance of victimhood and powerlessness in girls. These are really bad lessons to be teaching our kids. We are also creating a nationwide “us-against-them” situation between men and women.

How we handle high school sexual misconduct can have huge ramifications throughout our culture. Maybe this spotlight on the issue can give us a chance to recalibrate our attitudes. Maybe it will motivate us to train our teenagers to become responsible adults and citizens.

GLASS VIGNETTES – PART 2 – BY ELLIN CURLEY

I love creating decorative vignettes with my glass pieces. I already posted a blog with photos of some of my favorite glass groupings in my house. Here is the second installment of glass vignettes.

THE PSYCHOLOGY OF STORMS – BY ELLIN CURLEY

The news has been inundated recently with reports of Hurricane Florence, which is bashing North and South Carolina. I’ve always wondered why so many people refuse to evacuate when the government tells them to. And why people don’t adequately prepare even when they’re told exactly what to expect.

Hurricane Florence

I read an interesting article on this subject by Robert J. Meyer in the Washington Post on September 12, 2018. He addressed the psychological issues at play when people face an impending natural disaster. The article is called “Why do people stay put during hurricanes? Here’s what psychology says.”

Despite endless warnings and specific information and suggestions about what to do to stay safe, lack of preparedness is responsible for most of the property damage and loss of life in major storms. “…lack of preparedness…is caused by cognitive biases that lead people to underplay warnings and make poor decisions, even when they have the information they need.”

people shopping to prepare for hurricane

Failure to evacuate resulted in 40 drowning deaths in Hurricane Sandy in 2012. Surveys showed that only 20% of residents had a preparedness plan. And that storm was hyped up the wazoo! It hit my area so I know! We even took our boat out of the water and planted it in the parking lot of the marina to minimize the likelihood of costly damage.

What goes wrong in these situations? Here are some of the cognitive biases that lead us astray in natural disasters.

Excessive optimism is the first cognitive bias that kicks in. People understand that many residents of their area will be affected. They just don’t believe that THEY will be negatively affected. Others rationalize that they survived other storms without preparation so why not this one?

Hurricane Florence in North Carolina

Herd thinking also comes into play. If neighbors aren’t preparing then there’s no social pressure to do more than the basics.

Myopia is another key psychological factor in lack of adequate preparedness. People are short-sighted when it comes to spending money or expending energy on preëmptive actions. They focus on the immediate cost and discomfort, not the more abstract future benefit. So they cheap out on preparedness measures and take the easy way out.

Amnesia also colors people’s anticipation of a natural disaster. People tend to remember the facts of a past storm, but forget how awful it felt to live through it. Memories of emotions fade faster than memories of facts. So reminding people how bad it was the last time seems to have limited effect.

Sound decision-making is impaired by inertia and simplification. People who are unsure what to do, often do nothing. That’s the principle of “inertia at work.” Simplification results in people doing just a few of the many things necessary to be adequately prepared. The thinking goes, “I’ve done three out of twelve things to be safe so I should be okay.” In Hurricane Sandy, 90% of residents bought supplies – but only enough for ONE DAY without power. Woefully inadequate and unrealistic! We were without power for six days, and we were lucky!

The article concludes that the key to better preparedness in the future is accepting the reality of these destructive cognitive biases. We can’t change them so we have to work around them. We have to design preparedness plans that accept them and anticipate them. For example, give people ORDERED lists that say “If you’re only going to do three things, these are the three things you should do.”

Science has increased our ability to predict hurricanes and other natural disasters. But science can’t reduce the human and property damage done by these weather events.

Psychology is the key to helping people make better decisions when they are faced with nature’s destructiveness.

WORK AND LIFE BALANCE: THE RIGHT TO DISCONNECT – BY ELLIN CURLEY

I have been interested in the balance between work life and personal life since the days of my first husband’s 60 plus hour work weeks at his New York City law firm. Working so much wreaked havoc with our home life and left me, effectively, a single parent most of the time.

The issue has been magnified with the advent of the 24/7 access to work via the internet. Employers can expect their employees to be available at all hours on all days. But there is some soul searching in the corporate world over how to reasonably limit employee’s accessibility and responsibility to the office.

To manage work stress, some companies provide massages, yoga classes, nap venues, and other wellness services during the workday. This is clearly not enough. There is a horror story out of Japan where a 31-year-old worker logged 159 hours of overtime in one month and worked herself to death.

France is concerned about workers becoming more and more connected to work, online, outside of the office and outside of office hours. France also seems to be taking the lead in legislating to correct the balance between work and life. The French believe that if you limit the amount of overwork, you also limit the amount of burnout and in the process, increase productivity on the job.

France takes the forward-looking position that it is beneficial for people to have downtime away from work. The French believe that workers have the right to draw a line when employers demands interfere with evenings or weekends at home and even vacation time.

So France passed a new provision in the Labor Law that requires companies with over 50 employees, to negotiate new rules to limit work and keep it from spilling into days off and after work hours. Labor consultants have suggested that one way to limit after-hours work is to avoid the ‘reply all’ function on group emails. That way, only one person, not everyone, has to read and respond to each email.

Another suggestion to achieve better work/life balance is to set a time limit for work communications. Some firms have designated the hours from 9 PM to 7 AM or 7 PM to 7 AM as off-limits to employers.

This makes sense to me and is easy to enforce.

In Germany, in 2013, The Labor Ministry ordered its supervisors not to contact employees outside of office hours. In 2011, Volkswagen shut off their BlackBerry servers at the end of the workday.

In Britain, they are studying the use of commuting time for work by employees with long train rides twice a day. They are looking to include commuting time as hours worked since employees are still accessible to employers online on their way to and from work.

Several other European countries are proposing changes in work rules that take long commutes into account. A European Tribunal last year decided a court case that could change how work hours are calculated across the continent. It ruled that in Norway, some employees can count their commutes as work time. The ruling acknowledged that as long as you are at the disposal of your employer, you are technically at work.

Recently, France’s highest court ordered a British company to pay an employee $70,000 after the company required employees to have their phones on at all times. They were expected to answer questions from clients and subordinates at any time, day or night.

The right to disconnect is becoming a battle cry for workers all over the world. We have to learn to balance the new technologies with human values and reasonable lifestyle choices. Permanent access doesn’t mean people should have to work all the time.

It will be interesting to see how these issues get resolved in the years to come.

GLASS VIGNETTES – PART 1 – BY ELLIN CURLEY

When I decorate with glass, I like to create vignettes with several pieces together, forming a decorative unit. I find this process to be one of the most gratifying in the decorating process. And when I find a good combination of pieces, I get pleasure looking at it again an again.

DEMOCRACY STARTS ON THE PLAYGROUND – BY ELLIN CURLEY

I never thought that parenting practices could have a direct effect on the health and functionality of our democracy, yet that was the thesis of an article in the Sunday New York Times on Sept. 1, 2018.

The article, by Jonathan Haidt and Greg Lukianoff, is called “How to Play Our Way To A Better Democracy” – subtitled ‘If we want saner politics, we need to start building better foundations from the playground up’.

The article postulates that democracy requires work and the kind of people who can work well together. “Democracy is hard. It demands teamwork, compromise, respect for rules and a willingness to engage with other opinionated, vociferous individuals. It also demands practice. The best place to get that practice may be out on the playground.”

In 1831, Alexis De Tocqueville was impressed with Americans’ talent for democracy. He felt that the secret to our success was “… our ability to solve problems collectively and cooperatively.” He praised our mastery of the “art of association”, which was crucial, he believed, for a self-governing people.

In recent years, we seem to have lost that ability to work together across party lines. We have lost the ability to cooperate with anyone who doesn’t share our core views and opinions.

There is apparently a biological, evolutionary aspect to our need to play as children. Playing helps develop our ability — as adults — to cooperate and compromise. “… Mammals enter the world with unfinished nervous systems and they require play – lots of it – to finish the job. The young human brain ‘expects’ the child to engage in thousands of hours of play, including thousands of falls, scrapes, conflicts, insults, alliances, betrayals, status competitions and even (within limits) acts of exclusion, in order to develop its full capacities.”

The type of play required for this beneficial brain development is referred to as ‘free play’. It’s defined as unsupervised activities, chosen by the kids and done for its own sake, not to achieve some goal. For example, guitar lessons and soccer practice do not count as free play.

On the other hand, a pickup soccer game with no adults present would be considered free play. Without the adults, the kids have to practice their social skills and take risks.

Starting in the 1980’s and 1990’s, children in America became increasingly more supervised during their downtime. Children became more scheduled, with an increasing amount of organized after-school classes and activities. Children’s play moved indoors and involved computers, but often no other children.

Even schools have reinforced this trend. They have reduced recess and free play time and are giving more homework to be done after school, from an early age.

Kids have two main areas of difficulty if they are deprived of free play and adequate interactions with their peers.

First, they are less resilient. This can be seen in the increased incidences of anxiety and depression in college kids. Second, they are less able to negotiate and deal with conflict management. Instead, kids learn to go to an adult to settle disputes instead of working things out on their own.

Liberal democracies rely on conversation and negotiation to resolve conflicts. But overprotected, play-deprived people tend to appeal to higher authorities to apply coercion to their opponent. Coercion is the enemy of self-governing democracies. The increase in litigation, inside and outside of the government, is a symptom of this.

If this thesis is correct, our high hopes for the younger generations may be misplaced. These young adults may actually be less capable of maintaining democracy than the baby boom generation has. And right now, we’re not doing too well on that front.

Let’s hope the pendulum swings back to allowing kids more free play time. Even if it’s not going to directly help our society as a whole, it will be healthier for future generations of kids.

LEARNING TO HATE – BY ELLIN CURLEY

There’s a beautiful and poignant song in the musical “South Pacific”, by Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein. It’s called, “You’ve Got To Be Carefully Taught”. It opens with the lines “You’ve got to be taught to hate and fear, you’ve got to be taught from year to year.”

I’ve been thinking about those lyrics recently. I was struck by a common statistic in both the Brexit vote in the UK and our election of Donald Trump. In the UK, the voters who voted most heavily anti-immigrant and anti-EU were from areas that had few to no immigrants. The open-minded, pro-immigrant, pro-EU voters were clustered in the areas with the highest volume of immigrants.

Interesting.

The same phenomenon repeated itself in the United States. Trump supporters accepted, if not endorsed his xenophobic, anti-Muslim, racist rhetoric and dog whistling. His voters were concentrated in areas that were most heavily white, with the lowest number of immigrants and other racial minorities.

The cities, where immigrants and minorities are concentrated, were across the board Democratic and anti-Trump. It seems that if you have contacts with minority groups or people not exactly like yourself, you accept and don’t fear them.

If these groups of people are total unknowns to you, you’re open to believing all the negative rhetoric about them. You’re open to seeing them as dangerous and destructive to you and your way of life.

At first, I thought this was counter-intuitive. But I realized that it makes perfect sense. When you live with a diverse group of people, you see that everyone, regardless of race, nationality or religion, shares your life experience. Most importantly, you see all other people as individuals. To you, they’re not, nor can they be seen as, a monolithic, mysterious blob of humanity, threatening everything you hold dear.

On a personal note, I grew up in New York City. Even in the ‘50’s and ‘60’s, I saw different races and nationalities everywhere. I also went to integrated schools. When I was four years old, I had an eye-opening experience that I still remember. I’m a Jewish Caucasian. My beloved Nanny was a Christian black woman.

To me, Ethie was part of the family. She was just like me in every way. The first time that belief was challenged was when something came up about her going to church. It suddenly hit me that Ethie wasn’t JEWISH! She wasn’t just like me, she was different in some ways. It still didn’t register on me that her skin was a different color. That didn’t even show up on my four-year-old radar. I just remember grappling with the idea that Ethie was not really family.

She was not JUST LIKE US. She was, in some crucial way, different. I didn’t love her any less. I learned something that day. That I could love someone who wasn’t exactly like me.

Different was okay.

I guess isolation from different religious and ethnic groups leaves you susceptible to hate and fear.



You’ve got to be taught
To hate and fear,
You’ve got to be taught
From year to year,
It’s got to be drummed
In your dear little ear
You’ve got to be carefully taught.

You’ve got to be taught to be afraid
|Of people whose eyes are oddly made,
And people whose skin is a diff’rent shade,
You’ve got to be carefully taught.
You’ve got to be taught before it’s too late,
Before you are six or seven or eight,
To hate all the people your relatives hate,
You’ve got to be carefully taught!