A beautiful story about the power of forgiveness.
Waging war on the dead at Harvard
By Ted Gup
Ted Gup is an author and a journalism professor at Emerson College.
Last week, a university governing board declared that the time-honored seal of Harvard Law School must be retired because it is tied to that of a slave-holding family that funded the school’s first professorship more than 200 years ago.
With that decision, Harvard is about to slide down what lawyers like to call the “slippery slope,” which could produce a wave of both comic and dangerous results. I say this having steeped myself in the university’s archives over the past decade, focusing on issues of racism, sexism, anti-Semitism, homophobia and other expressions of prejudice. I fear that if the university is bent on expunging all major remnants of what is today seen as morally repugnant, nothing will be left of Harvard as we know it. House names, professorships, busts and portraits will have to be removed, for if Harvard has been home to many great minds, it has also been home to many closed ones — like other American institutions. If this is followed to its logical conclusion, Harvard will undergo nothing short of total self-renunciation. Consider this much-abbreviated litany of offenses:
The Dudleian Lecture is given annually at the Harvard School of Divinity, but its roots are darkened by virulent anti-Catholicism. Paul Dudley, chief justice of the Massachusetts Supreme Court, in 1750 bequeathed funds for a series of four rotating lecture topics. One of those was to be an attack on the pope and Catholicism, representing widespread suspicions of the church at that time. That oration was for the purpose of “exposing the idolatry of the Romish Church, their tyranny, usurpations, damnable heresies, fatal errors, abominable superstitions.”
Fearing that it might lose the bequest if it did not comply, Harvard hosted anti-Catholic harangues for nearly 150 years. Only at the dawn of the 20th century did it liberate itself from such odious terms, but the name remains and the lectureship enjoys a lofty place on the Divinity School’s calendar. Must it now be changed?
Or what of the endowed chair named for Richard Pearson Strong? Strong’s research into tropical diseases doubtless saved lives — but it also took lives in a particularly gruesome way. In 1906, as part of experiments with inmates in the Philippines’ Bilibid Prison, Strong administered doses of various dread diseases, cigarettes being the inducement for participation. One of these experiments in pursuit of a vaccine went terribly awry after he injected 24 prisoners with cholera tainted with plague. Thirteen died. Seven years later, when Strong was appointed a professor, Harvard hailed his efforts at “overcoming conditions which made life in the tropics almost impossible for white men and dangerous and enervating even to natives.”
And what of Clarence James Gamble, grandson of the founder of Procter & Gamble, and the professorship in economics and demography that carries his name? The official Harvard entry on Gamble describes him as a “man with a mission for using his considerable wealth and intellectual expertise for the good of mankind.” But Gamble’s “mission” was not so pure. In 1947, he helped found the Human Betterment League, which promoted involuntary sterilizations, targeting society’s most vulnerable — epileptics, the “feeble-minded” and others deemed undesirable.
Then there’s the professorship of literature named for Ernest Bernbaum, a literary scholar. But he was also director of the School for Anti-Suffrage Speakers, which helped lead the opposition to women voting. In 1916, just four years before ratification of the 19th Amendment, Bernbaum remained an oft-cited authority on why women were wholly unsuited for politics and the ballot.
And can Harvard Law School make peace with the Oliver Wendell Holmes Lectures? These honor the Supreme Court justice who authored the 1927Buck v. Bell decision that led to the sterilization of epileptics, the “feeble-minded” and, like Carrie Buck herself, the poor who were neither epileptic nor feeble-minded. A New York Times reviewer recently called it “one of the ugliest cases” in the court’s history and cited Holmes’s notorious declaration that “three generations of imbeciles are enough.”
And the Perkins Professorship of Astronomy and Mathematics, named for James Perkins Jr., who died in 1822? Then-Harvard President Josiah Quincy III said he “was formed on the noblest and purest model of professional uprightness,” but Perkins made much of his fortune trading in slaves and shipping opium to China.
And what of Shaler Hall, named for Nathaniel Shaler, a celebrated professor who, in 1890, wrote “the African is not as good material as either of the original stocks; that it has not the vital energy and the character required for the uses of the state. The African and European races must remain distinct in blood”? A recent University of Alabama anthropology course named Shaler“one of the most influential racists in American history.”
And how can the Lowell House survive modern scrutiny? What of then-Harvard President Abbott Lawrence Lowell’s “Secret Court,” which in 1920 prosecuted students suspected of being gay, banished them not only from campus but also from the city of Cambridge and hounded some of them for years? What of Lowell’s efforts to impose a quota on the number of Jewish students? And wasn’t the family’s wealth derived from mills that relied on slave-picked cotton?
Or Eliot House? Harvard’s president Charles W. Eliot may have helped catapult Harvard into the first ranks, but he was also a segregationist. And Stoughton Hall, named for a judge of the Salem witch trials? And . . . And . . .
There is no end to Harvard’s offenders — or Yale’s or Princeton’s or, for that matter, most American institutions with a history. Few entities can withstand the scrutiny of the modern conscience, and physically disassembling the artifacts of the past, attacking its symbols and its ghosts, is a fool’s errand — no matter how lofty the cause. It illuminates little and is a feel-good distraction that comes at the expense of today’s very real crises. And picking and choosing which ancient offenses warrant purging creates the danger of prioritizing one historically disadvantaged group over another, inadvertently importing into our own age the very toxins of bigotry that activists now seek to condemn.
We can endlessly denounce the long-departed and disavow the already-discredited, but to what end? What we should do instead is devote ourselves to living our lives in a way that allows our descendants to take pride in the history we leave behind.
by Gail Dines, who is a professor of sociology at Wheelock College in Boston and author of "Pornland: How Porn has Hijacked our Sexuality."
Last month, the Republican-led Utah House of Representatives became the first legislative body in the United States to pass a resolution declaring pornography “a public health hazard leading to a broad spectrum of individual and public health impacts and societal harms.” The liberal backlash criticized the measure as an antiquated bit of conservative moralizing, with the Daily Beast calling it “hypocritical” and “short-sighted.” “The science just isn’t there,” wrote Rewire, an online journal dedicated to dispelling “falsehoods and misinformation.”
The thing is, no matter what you think of pornography (whether it’s harmful or harmless fantasy), the science is there. After 40 years of peer-reviewed research, scholars can say with confidence that porn is an industrial product that shapes how we think about gender, sexuality, relationships, intimacy, sexual violence and gender equality — for the worse. By taking a health-focused view of porn and recognizing its radiating impact not only on consumers but also on society at large, Utah’s resolution simply reflects the latest research.
The statistics on today’s porn use are staggering. A Huffington Post headlineannounced in 2013 that “Porn Sites Get More Visitors Each Month Than Netflix, Amazon and Twitter Combined,” and one of the largest free porn sites in the world, YouPorn, streamed six times the bandwidth of Hulu in 2013. Pornhub, another major free porn site, boasted that in 2015 it received 21.2 billion visits and “streamed 75GB of data a second, which translates to enough porn to fill the storage in around 175 million 16GB iPhones.”
Extensive scientific research reveals that exposure to and consumption of porn threaten the social, emotional and physical health of individuals, families and communities, and highlights the degree to which porn is a public health crisis rather than a private matter. But just as the tobacco industry argued for decades that there was no proof of a connection between smoking and lung cancer, so, too, has the porn industry, with the help of a well-oiledpublic relations machine, denied the existence of empirical research on the impact of its products.
Using a wide range of methodologies, researchers from a number of disciplines have shown that viewing pornography is associated with damaging outcomes. In a study of U.S. college men, researchers found that 83 percent reported seeing mainstream pornography, and that those who did were more likely to say they would commit rape or sexual assault (if they knew they wouldn’t be caught) than men who hadn’t seen porn in the past 12 months. The same study found that porn consumers were less likely to intervene if they observed a sexual assault taking place. In a study of young teensthroughout the southeastern United States, 66 percent of boys reported porn consumption in the past year; this early porn exposure was correlated with perpetration of sexual harassment two years later.
A recent meta-analysis of 22 studies between 1978 and 2014 from seven different countries concluded that pornography consumption is associated with an increased likelihood of committing acts of verbal or physical sexual aggression, regardless of age. A2010 meta-analysis of several studies found “an overall significant positive association between pornography use and attitudes supporting violence against women.”
A 2012 study of college-aged women with male partners who used porn concluded that the young women suffered diminished self-esteem, relationship quality and sexual satisfaction correlated with their partners’ porn use. Meanwhile, a2004 study found that exposure to filmed sexual content profoundly hastens adolescents’ initiation of sexual behavior: “The size of the adjusted intercourse effect was such that youths in the 90th percentile of TV sex viewing had a predicted probability of intercourse initiation [in the subsequent year] that was approximately double that of youths in the 10th percentile,” the study’s authors wrote. All of these studies were published in peer-reviewed journals.
Because so much porn is free and unfiltered on most digital devices, theaverage age of first viewing porn is estimated by some researchers to be 11. In the absence of a comprehensive sex-education curriculum in many schools, pornography has become de facto sex education for youth. And what are these children looking at? If you have in your mind’s eye a Playboy centerfold with a naked woman smiling in a cornfield, then think again. While “classy” lad mags like Playboy are dispensing with the soft-core nudes of yesteryear, free and widely available pornography is often violent, degrading and extreme.
In a content analysis of best-selling and most-rented porn films, researchers found that 88 percent of analyzed scenes contained physical aggression: generally spanking, gagging, choking or slapping. Verbal aggression occurred in 49 percent of the scenes, most often in the form of calling a woman “bitch” and “slut.” Men perpetrated 70 percent of the aggressive acts, while women were the targets 94 percent of the time. It is difficult to account for all of the “gonzo” and amateur porn available online, but there is reason to believe that the rented and purchased porn in the analysis largely reflects the content of free porn sites. As researcher Shira Tarrant points out, “The tube sites are aggregators of a bunch of different links and clips, and they are very often pirated or stolen.” So porn that was produced for sale is proffered for free.
The performers who make up the porn industry are also at risk, in ways that affect them as well as members of the broader public. Aside from frequent claims of sexual violence and harassment, film sets are often flush with sexually transmitted infections. In a 2012 study that examined 168 sex industry performers (67 percent were female and 33 percent were male), 28 percent were suffering from one of 96 infections. Even more troubling, according to the authors, was that the porn industry’s protocols significantly underdiagnosed infections: 95 percent of mouth and throat infections, and 91 percent of rectal infections, were asymptomatic, which, the authors argue, made them more likely to be passed on to partners both in and out of the sex industry. Since members of the industry have protested proposed safety measures requiring the use of condoms and other prophylactics, legislating to protect these performers has proven challenging.
Beyond the porn industry, legislators have begun to respond to yet another genre of pornography quickly proliferating on the Web: “revenge porn,” whose perpetrators post and disseminate sexually explicit photos of their victims (often their former girlfriends) online without their consent. Unsurprisingly, revenge porn has been linked to several suicides and has been used to blackmail and sexually exploit minors.
As the evidence piles up, a coalition of academics, health professionals, educators, feminist activists and caregivers has decided that they can no longer allow the porn industry to hijack the physical and emotional well-being of our culture. This means understanding that porn is everyone’s problem. Culture Reframed, an organization I founded and currently chair, is pioneering a strategy to address porn as the public health crisis of the digital age. We are developing educational programs for parents, youth and a range of professionals that aim to help shift the culture from one that normalizes a pornographic, oppression-based sexuality to one that values and promotes a sexuality rooted in healthy intimacy, mutual care and respect.
Parents and educators at every level need to know that if porn is not discussed in a research-based, age-appropriate sexual health curriculum, its effects will surely show up as sexual harassment, dating violence and inadvertent “child pornography” on students’ phones. Pornography can cause lifelong problems if young people are not taught to distinguish between exploitative porn sex and healthy, safe sex. As the research shows, porn is not merely a moral nuisance and subject for culture-war debates. It’s a threat to our public health.
By Barry Svrluga
Before this week, Adam LaRoche was known to baseball fans as so many things: first baseman and designated hitter, more than occasional slugger of home runs, a well-traveled veteran with stops in six major league cities over 12 seasons, including four as a Washington National.
But LaRoche’s retirement this week from the Chicago White Sox assured he will be remembered for one role over all others: father.
LaRoche’s abrupt decision to leave behind his baseball career because his employer wanted to limit the time his 14-year-old son could spend at the ballpark has reverberated well beyond the White Sox’s spring training headquarters in Glendale, Ariz. LaRoche’s conclusion, that he would rather abandon his $13 million salary than go through a year without his son by his side, has been featured on TV’s morning talk shows and been the subject of debate and discussion in baseball clubhouses and corporate board rooms, not to mention across social media: About children in the workplace. The demands of modern-day parenting. The value of formal education vs. time together as a family.
And, in LaRoche’s unique case, the wisdom of having his child with him for almost every one of 162 regular season games, not to mention the entirety of spring training.
With the baseball season just more than three weeks off, it also has caused a rift within the White Sox organization, with some players furious at management, which they believe changed the clubhouse rules midstream.
LaRoche and Drake walk to the White Sox clubhouse before a spring training workout. (John Locher/AP)On Friday, LaRoche revealed in a lengthy statement — his first public words since he left White Sox camp Tuesday — that while his decision might be up for debate nationally, it was hardly a debate personally.
“I had to make a decision,” LaRoche wrote in the statement, released through his Twitter account. “Do I choose my teammates and my career? Or do I choose my family? The decision was easy.”
The case of Drake LaRoche, who followed his father to work nearly every day of the season since Adam’s time with the Nationals from 2011 to 2014, has long been anything but typical, even in the world of baseball, where fathers frequently bring sons into the clubhouse long before games begin or after victories are over. Drake LaRoche was a constant presence at Adam’s side, shagging fly balls during batting practice, remaining in the clubhouse during games, helping the attendants with odd jobs all the while.
LaRoche and his wife, Jennifer, always have removed their two children from school in their home state of Kansas and received educational help from a tutoring service to keep the family together during the baseball season. LaRoche not only believed having Drake with him at the ballpark didn’t hinder his son’s education, he felt it enhanced it.
“As fathers, we have an opportunity to help mold our kids into men and women of character, with morals and values that can’t be shaken by the world around them,” LaRoche wrote in his statement. “Of one thing I am certain: we will regret NOT spending enough time with our kids, not the other way around.”
When Ken Williams, the White Sox executive vice president, met with LaRoche to encourage him to limit Drake’s clubhouse appearances, LaRoche said in his statement that he was disappointed in Williams’s “decision to alter the agreement” he had made with the club before signing with it before the 2015 season. Then he expressed to the White Sox the importance of having Drake with him, as he had been for much of his time in Washington. In 2015, the White Sox complied. Williams, though, told LaRoche this spring that he wanted to “dial back” Drake’s time in the clubhouse, where father and son had adjacent lockers.
Twelve-year-old Drake LaRoche might not have an actual contract with the Washington Nationals, but the team has considered him one of their own ever since he started showing up at spring training with his father Adam LaRoche six years ago. (Whitney Leaming/The Washington Post)When LaRoche left the team’s facility Tuesday, he couldn’t have known the ripples his personal choice would make.
“It’s sending shock waves through not only the sports world but so many different media channels,” White Sox outfielder Adam Eaton told reporters. “I think a lot of people have stepped back and said, ‘If a man can step away from $13 million for his family and his son, what does it take for me to spend a little more time with my kid or take a little more responsibility for my family situation?’ ”
Thus, the lines were drawn both within the confines of the Chicago clubhouse and nationally, where discussion focused on the appropriateness of having kids in the workplace.
“There are benefits for families as well as businesses,” said Carla Moquin of the Parenting in the Workplace Institute, a Utah organization that provides resources to help companies implement formal plans to allow kids at work. “The parent doesn’t have to feel like they’re choosing between a paycheck and their profession, and they can help their child learn from Day One, in a baby’s case, about work environments and social conventions.
“In this case, the teenager can see what his father did, all the day-to-day workings of the business, and that’s hugely positive for children.”
White Sox players who spoke publicly about Williams’s decision sided completely with their former teammate. Ace pitcher Chris Sale was particularly pointed in his criticism, saying Williams told different stories to different factions of the organization about his decision. Sale hung a pair of No. 25 jerseys, one for Adam and one for Drake, at his locker Friday.
“We got bold-faced lied to by someone we’re supposed to be able to trust,” Sale told reporters Friday. “You can’t come tell the players it was the coaches and tell the coaches it’s the players and then come in and say something completely different. . . . We’re not rebelling against the rules. It has nothing to do with the rules. It’s a much deeper issue.”
Williams, through the team, issued a statement following Sales’s remarks: “While I disagree with Chris’s assertions today, I certainly have always appreciated his passion.” White Sox chairman Jerry Reinsdorf said in a statement that the club would have no further comment this week, and he had instructed members of the organization to cease talking about the situation.
LaRoche is the son of a former major league pitcher and coach who grew up with regular trips to major league ballparks. Though Drake was around more than most kids dating from his father’s days in Washington, baseball has long had a tradition of fathers and sons spending time together at the ballpark. Ken Griffey Jr., who will be inducted into the Hall of Fame this summer, first gained exposure to big leaguers through his father, longtime outfielder Ken Griffey Sr. Current Nationals Manager Dusty Baker brought his son, Darren, to the park at an early age, and the image of San Francisco Giant J.T. Snow scooping up a 3-year-old Darren as he crossed home plate in the 2002 World Series remains an indelible moment — one that prompted Major League Baseball to institute rules for how old kids must be before they can be on the field.
“You can’t judge from afar,” Baker said this week. “All I can do is answer what we’re going to do here. Personally here, I’m going to do what I’ve always done: invite kids in.”
Even in the generally tight-knit culture of baseball, in which former teammates frequently keep in touch with colleagues after they move on, LaRoche is particularly well liked. This week, those he knows across the game expressed sympathy for his situation.
“Hopefully one day I have kids [and] I can share that with my kid and bring him in the clubhouse and really enjoy my career with me,” said Nationals star Bryce Harper, who played on two division champions with LaRoche. “We’re gone so long from their lives — for eight months of the year — that some guys miss the first steps of their kid. It’s tough. You want to enjoy this as long as you can and do this with them as well. I try to enjoy that with my family. It’s definitely a tough situation.”
LaRoche, 36, was coming off a disappointing season in which he had just a .207 batting average and hit 12 home runs, the lowest marks of his career for a season in which he didn’t miss significant time because of injury. But he had long said that he would walk away from the game before it spit him out. He owns a ranch in Kansas, is pals with Jason Aldean and other prominent country musicians and runs a meat company. In some ways, he could see the end of his career long before this week. He just couldn’t have predicted the ultimate reason.
“In each and every instance, baseball has given me some of my life’s greatest memories,” he wrote. “This was likely to be the last year of my career, and there’s no way I was going to spend it without my son. . . . Do we act based on consequences, or do we act on what we know and believe in our hearts to be right? I chose the latter.”
James Wagner in Viera, Fla., contributed to this report.
(Or, page B1 of the January 15, 2016 Washington Post.)
"An American Void"
Chris Stevenson investigates the indispensability of virtue to the American experiment in self-government.