Monday, December 11, 2006

Around the Blogs 12-11-06

A couple of provocative posts for your perusal. Judging Crimes has a nice one questioning Justice Scalia's rep for deep intelligence, pointing out that aggressive debate, aka verbal bullying, frequently gets mistaken for wisdom or depth. I had a department chair who loved to deflect tough questions by sticking "Why do you think . . ." in front of the original question, then smiling benevolently as he waited for your answer, pretending insight and profundity. Scalia's just a mouthier version. The best book out there on Scalia isn't even really on Scalia; it's on the stories and schema that get employed to give impressive sounding rationales for decisions already made by judges regardless of the actual facts of a case. It's Jerome Bruner and Anthony Amsterdam's Minding the Law, a cognitive scientist and an attorney. Guess who's the primary focus of their takedown demonstrating how inconsistencies in reasoning from one case to another get papered over by rhetoric and use of stories and pre-existing schema? As someone who's frequently been mistaken for smart simply because I've been verbally facile, I've benefited from the mistake but I've also gotten fairly good at recognizing it in others. Being clever isn't the same thing as being wise, and all the bluster in the world won't make Scalia wise. Remember--Minding the Law and this post by Judging Crimes. . . . And Prevention Works does another fine job, citing us, I should admit, taking off on our recent post on that U of Pittsburgh study showing that marijuana's place as "gateway drug" is highly suspect in reality, if not in law enforcement mythology. (In OK in the 60s and 70s when I was growing up, the most prevalent starter drug was Coors.) Prevention makes the simple but fundamental point that this research also puts the onus on parents who may actually think twice about toking in front of the younguns but not once about guzzling some booze or going through a pack of cigs. As they note, "If the report is correct, programs that focus on parenting will be far more effective than programs that focus on specific drugs and their effects. Furthermore, instead of drug testing students, schools could better serve their communities by looking for and treating certain anti-social behaviors that are reliable warning signs of future substance abuse problems. Resources should be spent on modifying behaviors and environments, not discouraging particular 'gateway' drugs." Couldn't have said it better (actually, didn't say it better). Keep up the good work, Prevention.

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