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A Swede in Germany

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Yet another firing based on opinion

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Browsing the pages of SVT teletext, I encountered a very disturbing entry*, dealing with events at Kalmar HC, a lower-level Swedish ice-hockey team:

*The source does not provide permanent content; however, I have saved a copy locally, should anyone require the full Swedish text.

Its trainer, one Duane Smith, has been fired for expressing private opinions on Twitter, with no immediate relation to the team or his work.

It is claimed that he made at least ten relevant statements*. Two** quotes are given, “Nigeria är världens aidshuvudstad” (“Nigeria is the aids capital of the world”) and “Fuck Islam” (no translation needed).

*“inlägg”: This is vague term that could mean different things in different contexts. I chose “statements” as a similarly vague English term. In context, “tweets” is probably what is meant.

**Note that if some of the other quotes were, in some sense, worse, it is reasonable to assume that they would have been used instead. Most likely, these two statements were those considered the most convincing. (While, cf. below, not being convincing at all…)

In the body of the text, it is claimed that he has expressed xenophobe opinions (“uttryckt främlingsfientliga åsikter”); the heading speaks of racist statements (“rasistiska inlägg”).

Looking at the two given statements, it is clear that neither can be considered racist or xenophobe in it self. Further, that even ascribing a racist or xenophobe motivation is pure speculation*. (The same applies to the alleged violation of KHC’s values. Cf. below.)

*With reservation for information not present in the entry. However, if such information was present, it would be inexcusable to not present it correspondingly, instead giving two quotes that do not support the claims. It is possible that Duane Smith is racist, but it is up to the “prosecution” to prove it.

The first claim comes close to being factually true*, does not (alone) contain any type of value statement, and could, depending on context, be seen as a factual observation or even something supportive of e.g. Nigeria**. Would there have been much outrage if he had said “The U.S. is the crime capital of the world”? Highly unlikely, even though this claim is further from the truth.

*According to Wikipedia “Nigeria has the second-largest number of people living with HIV.”, making the claim off-by-one if we count absolute numbers. Going by relative numbers, there are those who do much worse, including South-Africa, which is also the number one in absolute numbers; however, the rate is still disastrous by e.g. Swedish standards. (I give him the benefit of the doubt, and assume that “capital” is used just to follow the template phrase. However, even if he actually believed that Nigeria is a city, rather than a country, that only makes him weak at African geography—not racist.)

**Say, “Nigeria is the AIDS capital of the world. Please donate to help give the sick modern medicine.” or something implying that “AIDS capital” means “AIDS research capital”. (Which is not to say that this is what Duane Smith actually intended. The point is rather that condemning someone for this statement, without additional support, and without being explicit about context, is incompetent, intellectually dishonest, or both.)

The second expresses a negative opinion about a religion—and a religion which has members of a great number of nationalities and ethnicities, including white-as-snow Swedes. Note carefully that the claim is not even “Fuck Muslims”—it is “Fuck Islam”. To boot, this opinion is one that is shared by very many otherwise considered sensible (although most would be less blunt), be it because they dislike Islam specifically or religion in general. Here too, the context could be quite relevant.* Would there have been much outrage had he said “Fuck Christianity”? Highly unlikely (at least in Sweden).

*Compare e.g. “I just heard about the latest ISIS attack. Fuck Islam.” with “I just saw another woman with a burka. Fuck Islam.”, and note how very different these two words come over. (Notwithstanding that even the first could be seen as unfair or ignorant, seeing that ISIS is just one part of Islam, just like Nazi-Germany was just one part of Europe.)

To boot, we have to consider that Twitter, by its nature, is not a medium for eloquence and deep thought—but for soundbites and spur-of-the-moment statements. What is said on Twitter should be viewed less seriously than what is written in e.g. an article, for the simple reason that it need not reflect deeper opinions. (And for reasons like the lack of context, cf. above; or the greater relative impact of typos, “auto correction”, an accidental misformulation, …) A recent “Family Guy” episode, “The D in Apartment 23”, contains a brilliant illustration with disturbing parallels to what happened here. Some claims, e.g. “Kill all Jews.” would be out of the question even on Twitter; others, e.g. “Fuck Islam.” is within the realms of what a perfectly reasonable (but careless) person could “tweet” in the wrong circumstances—or a perfectly none-careless person when he assumes that the reader knows the context. (Cf. the above footnote.)

Further, even if Duane Smith, for the sake of argument, is a racist (xenophobe, whatnot), that is in and by itself not a legitimate reason to fire him: Actions are what counts—not opinions. A world in which opinions alone lead to such consequences is a tyranny and a dystopia, where diversity of opinion will be severely diminished, where faulty decisions will be made because they happen to be more orthodox, where even science will be hindered, where personal freedoms are unfairly reduced, … Unfortunately, this is the world towards we are increasingly heading, and even now all this, including restrictions on science, is happening—the question is merely one of degree and whether we will be able to turn this disastrous trend in time. Such firings are the more unfortunate, even offensive, considering the very large number of incompetent, negligent, and/or lazy people who are allowed to keep their jobs despite legitimate reasons to get rid of them.

His firing might have been legitimate, had it been shown that these opinions hindered him in his work. No such argument was raised, however, with the claimed reason “These opinions conflict with KHC’s values on the equal worth of all humans” (“Dessa uppfattningar står i strid med KHC:s värderingar om alla människors lika värde”). As can be seen, this was purely a matter of Duane Smith’s allegedly* having the wrong opinions. A firing might also have been legitimate, had he claimed to speak for KHC; however, no indication is made that this was the case.

*As can be seen from the above discussion, even this has not been demonstrated.

Did Duane Smith do something wrong? Yes! He appears to have apologized and not taken a fight, thereby giving the forces of intolerance and political correctness yet another easy victory, making repetitions of such scenarios even more likely, moving us even closer to dystopia.

Please, if you are ever in such a situation, in particular should you be a politician, executive, celebrity, …, have the guts to do the right thing! Take a stand for freedom of speech! Stand by your opinions! Do not just cave and apologize! (And if a PR specialist advises you to the contrary, fire him…) If sufficiently many stand up against scenarios like these, they will cease.

Clarifying note:
In the analysis of the text, it is often unclear who is to blame for what. For instance, is the grossly incorrect use of “racism” stemming from KHC or from the incompetent and PC obsessed “journalists” from SVT? Were there actual damning information that SVT left out through poor judgment? Etc. In the big picture, this does not really matter, because the overall, societal problem remains the same and of roughly the same scope. For this reason, I have chosen not to dwell deeper into the details of the issue to clarify blame, to check whether other sources might have more damming information, whatnot. However, I do advice the reader to be aware that it is not a given where, in this case, the societal problem has manifested how and who is to be criticized in detail for what.

Excursion on the PC crowd vs. Muslims:
The treatment of Islam and Muslims in PC circles is quite inconsistent: In situations like the above, anyone who says anything negative is a racist and should be fired. In other circumstances, Muslims are evil sexist bastards and … should be fired. I note specifically several cases of Muslim men refusing to shake hands with women for religious or decency reasons—despite Muslim women often having the same attitude of not wanting to shake hands with men. Indeed, this is the type of cultural difference that should be tolerated—but in PC circles imaginary misogynism appears to trump real cultural intolerance. (And misandrism is mysteriously considered non-existent…) This attitude to handshakes is not comparable to the attitude against pork, but appears to be more comparable to a Christian man not feeling up women during introductions—a matter of respect, not contempt.

Excursion on organizations and values:
It is questionable whether organizations should be allowed to profess or require values in the first place (unless, like a political party, values are a central aspect). Take KHC: It has players, it has volunteers, it has paying members, …* What if the board or whatnot suddenly decides that it has a certain set of values? What if a player/volunteer/whatnot has different values? What if, as is often the case, someone has spent decades actively supporting the club with his time and money, this someone is member of party X, and the new values are incompatible with those of X? Etc. What if the board today has different personal preferences than the board five years ago, and in another five years the new board has yet another view? Worse: Chances are that there is not even a decision on values, a list of values, or anyway to verify compliance in advance. More likely than not, these “values” were made up ad hoc to sound good in front of the press or to conform with societal expectations, like the stereotypical answer of “World peace!” from a beauty-pageant contestant.

*Assuming that it follows typical patterns in sport. I have not verified this.

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Written by michaeleriksson

June 1, 2018 at 4:06 am

Interesting sports events

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There have been a few recent sports events that have been more interesting to me outside of sports than within:

Firstly, the European Championships in handball: During the time when I was the most interested in sports (late teens or so), Sweden was one of the world’s leading handball nations, often dueling it out with Russia. These days are long gone, and the world has changed sufficiently that Sweden’s smaller neighbor Denmark, an absolute nobody back then, is the reigning Olympic champion—something that teenage me would likely have considered an absurdity, even an insult, seeing that Sweden has racked up four silver medals without ever reaching the gold.

In the first game of the European Championships came the ultimate blow: A humiliating loss against dwarf country Iceland… I wrote off the rest of the Championship, reflecting on how sadly similar things had happened in tennis and table tennis, and noting how well this matched some of my thoughts on how short-lived traditions actually often are and how the world can change from what we know in our formative days. (Cf. my Christmas post.)

Today, Sweden played in the final of the same Championships against Spain, even having a half-time lead and an apparent good chance at victory. (Before, regrettably, losing badly in the second half. Still, a silver is far beyond what seemed possible after the Iceland game and a very positive sign for the future.) The road there was very odd, including the paradox of an extremely narrow semi-final win over Denmark, the aforementioned Olympic Champions, and another embarrassing and unnecessary loss against a smaller neighbor in Norway. Funny thing, sports.

Secondly, the immensity of Roger Federer’s 20th Grand-Slam title. A year ago, he and Nadal met up in the final of the Australian Open for what seemed like their last big hurrah—one of them was going to get a last title before age or injuries ended their competitive careers. Since Federer’s narrow win, we have seen another four Grand-Slam tournaments—with the winners Nadal, Federer, Nadal, and (with this year’s Australian Open) Federer. Indeed, where a year ago I was thrilled over the (presumed) last win, I was now slightly annoyed that Federer narrowly* missed going through the tournament without a loss of set. This is a very good illustration of how humans tend never to be satisfied, to ever want more or better**, and of how our baseline for comparisons can change.

*He entered the final without a lost set, won sets one and three, and only missed the second in a tie break. One or two points more and he would have had it. Such a result is extremely rare. (The oddity of 2017 notwithstanding, where it actually happened twice, making the year the more remarkable: Nadal in the French Open and Federer a few weeks later in Wimbledon.)

**Whether this is a good or bad thing will depend on the circumstances and on whether this tendency leaves us unhappy or not. At any rate, humanity would hardly have gotten to where it is without this drive.

An interesting lesson is the importance of adapting to new circumstances: Apparently, Federer has spent considerable time modifying his approach* to tennis in order to remain reasonably healthy and competitive even at his ancient-by-tennis-standards age of 36. Those who stand still fall behind (generally) and we all do well to adapt to counter aging (specifically).

*In a number of areas including style of play, racket size, and yearly schedule.

Written by michaeleriksson

January 28, 2018 at 11:15 pm

Swedish gender nonsense and bandy

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I have written about the absurd Swedish take on equality (in general) and equality in sports (in particular) in the past. (For example in [1].) The last few weeks, the sports police have been at it again—with what might take the cake:

The fact that the women’s bandy world championship is played on the ice of a lake instead of in a rink is proof that women are mistreated, men and bandy are sexist, or whatnot…

Well:

  1. Even if the decision was wrong, this is not necessarily proof of anything. I am not privy to the decision-making process, but it could quite easily have been something along the line of the international federation giving the championships to China to expand the sport* (cf. below) and the Chinese simply not having a rink** suitable for a world championship (or having promised to build one, only to find themselves out of money). For that matter, they could have wanted to give an authentic (cf. below) introduction to the sport. If worst comes to worst, chances are that any sexism involved was restricted to one or several individuals—nothing more, nothing less. Moreover, in as far as sex played a role, it is very likely to have been in an indirect manner, based on the state of the men’s and women’s bandy (cf. below) or the expected costs and earnings from the event.

    *China only even having a national federation since 2014…

    **Note that the playing field in bandy is more like a soccer field than an ice-hockey field/rink, making the setup that much more resource intense and ruling out the use of many existing artificial ice areas, including typical hockey and ice-skating rinks.

  2. What is wrong with playing on a lake in the first place? It does seem a little unprofessional and there is chance that e.g. the element of chance is increased—but not to a degree that it would have a major impact on the results (considering the state of the women’s sport; cf. below). There are, obviously, differences to playing in a proper rink, but they are not earth-shatteringly large—and the differences present will likely introduce complications of a type that, say, skiers and golfers have to deal with every single time. That games are played outside is the rule either which way—unlike with ice-hockey, question like “with or without a roof” are of little relevance. For that matter, bandy is usually considered a sport for people willing to put up with quite a lot from nature, notably several hours of sometimes biting cold; and to complain about playing on a lake does not seem to be in this traditional spirit.

    Moreover, a great many men’s games have been played on lakes over the years; and for a long time it might even have been the most common setting. (No matter whether rinks are more common today.)

    Considering the low number of expected spectators, it might even have been a better experience for them than using a rink…

  3. In terms of participation, money, popularity, and whatnot, bandy is small sport even among men—with the exception of Sweden (and possibly Sweden’s closest neighbors). For the women, the situation is far worse, as is demonstrated by the medal table in the world championships:

    After the current and 9th championships (played this week), we have little Sweden a dominant leader with 8 Golds and 1 Silver—followed by Russia with 1 Gold and 8 Silvers… The Bronze medals are more even, divided between Norway at 5 and Finland at 4, but still show the limited depth of the sport. Even the 4th places are limited, being divided between Canada and the aforementioned Norway and Finland.

    This year, we saw a whole of 8 teams participating—after the federation failed to find the planned 12 teams willing and able to compete… The medals went Sweden–Russia–Norway (surprise!), with Sweden and Russia being entirely unthreatened in all games but two—the ones they played each other (winning one each). Norway beat Finland a convincing 5–2 in the Bronze game and USA 4–0 in a group game. In its other three games, this Bronze winner was destroyed, losing once to Russia (5–0) and Sweden (9(!)–0) in the group phase and a semi-final re-match against Sweden (5–0).

    The international standard is so low (as is often the case with small sports) that the two groups were deliberately lop-sided to keep things “exciting”. In fact, this to the degree that the real championship arguably consisted of just the four teams from Group A, who took three automatic semi-final places and all three medals, and was a hair’s breadth from taking all four and the fourth place to boot.

    Hair’s breadth? Well, the fourth placer in group A, USA, who failed to score a single goal or winning a single point, played the utterly dominant winner of group B, Finland, for the fourth semi-final—and lost after a penalty shot-out. Finland was then taken down 4–0 by runner-up Russia in its semi-final.

    Utterly dominant? Well, if you think that some of the previous wins were large, consider that Finland went 9–0, 10–0, and 27(!!!)–0 against respectively Estonia, China, and Switzerland.

    Moreover, looking at the sum of 19 games played, only 5 (!) saw the losing team even score a goal—and only three were won with less than three goals. (Specifically, the two Sweden–Russia games and the Finland–USA game.)

    With these differences, I would be unsurprised if the women’s Swedish championships has better depth and (outside the two games between Sweden and Russia) quality than these, as it were, world championships—and there are likely hundreds of men’s soccer teams in Germany alone that play on a higher international level than eight-placer Switzerland…

  4. As for spectators? The Wikipedia page currently links to four match reports. One, home-team China’s first game, show a whopping 350 spectators; the other three 50* each… While this might (or might not) have improved in later games, I feel confident that the grand-total of (physically present) spectators for the entire tournament would have been seen as a fiasco had they occurred in a single game of the men’s soccer Bundesliga. (Unless, that is, the Chinese regime decided to force participation during the later stages…)

    *Some rounding or rough estimation might be involved.

For the above, I have drawn data from the Wikipedia pages on bandy, the 2018 World Championship, and Women’s Bandy World Championship; as well as the Swedish videotext* to supplement the (currently still) incomplete data for 2018 on Wikipedia.

*Note that content here is not preserved in the long-term. Readers should not expect this link to deliver the right contents for more than a few days; however, the same contents should appear on Wikipedia in due time.

Written by michaeleriksson

January 13, 2018 at 11:55 pm

Starting school too soon (Sweden wants reduce the start-of-school age)

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Earlier today, I had a brief talk with two colleagues on the problems of early schooling, including that it is largely a waste of time and that the large developmental differences between individual children makes it highly problematic.

I get home—and find that my native Sweden is about to lower the entry age for mandatory schooling from 7 years to 6… Generally, it is truly depressing how naive politicians, especially in Sweden, try to “solve” problems around schooling, competence levels, skill shortages in the labor force, …, by just throwing on more time, be it an extra early year, an extra later year, more hours per week, or more people directed towards college (irrespective of their suitability). The one hope is that the additional damage in this particular case will be comparatively small—for the simple reason that most Swedish children are already in non-mandatory school at age 6.

Before moving on, I stress that I am a great fan of education (including having earned two master’s degrees)—but that there is a very, very large difference between education and schooling. Understanding this difference is paramount. This post, obviously, deals mostly with schooling.

To now look at some of the issues involved:

  1. Waste of time (as above): The simple truth is that someone 6 (or 7…) years old is not a quick learner. Theoretical learning will be mostly fact based, without any understanding (let alone deeper understanding). The amount retained in memory will be far lower than for an older student, and the time available to forget it again longer (cf. the concept of a learning curve). Practical learning will be equally limited, e.g. in that the ability to write with a pen or pencil is not only dependent on training but also on pre-existing fine-motor skills*, or that it is fairly pointless to learn by rote what the hands of the clock imply when the child’s mind** lacks the ability to understand why and to extrapolate correspondingly.

    *To some degree the fine-motor skills can certainly be improved by e.g. learning hand-writing. However, at this age, the physical maturation is more important. What I took away from the early days of mindlessly repeating letters (which was the Swedish approach at the time), was a hatred of writing—nothing more. My handwriting remained a disaster through-out my entire school years. As an adult, when I had forgotten the hatred and I could draw on the fine-motor skills I had since developed, I easily learned how to write at least passably (when I wanted to…), and I fully assume that I had sufficiently strong motor skills years earlier—with the initial “training” sabotaging my use of them. Similarly, this hatred for writing (extended from the mere motorics to the overall intellectual process) set back other parts of my remaining development: Only as an adult, long after school ended, did I rediscover writing as something positive. (My current belief in the benefits of voluntary writing e.g. for developing my own thoughts and understanding should be manifestly clear.)

    **Not to mention the teacher’s mind… Now, very few teachers, even of first year students, are so dense that they have problems with comprehending the clock—but they do exist. More to the point, very many, even in the majority that does understand the clock, do not understand that understanding is important, that understanding is more valuable than knowledge, than understanding makes remembering that much easier, that someone who understands can take a special case (“when the little hand is on 3…”) and apply it more generally (“when the little hand is on X…”), etc. Notably, this problem is not in anyway limited to the first school years—even in high school I had a few teachers with severe problems in this regard (when dealing with more complex topics than the hands of the clock).

    Comparing the amount of material covered in various years of my own education is tricky, both due to my fallible memory and due to the very different contents and goals at various stages. However, I can say with certainty that I learned more in my last semester of high school than I did during the entire “lågstadiet” (the first three years). What if I had skipped lågstadiet and spent an extra semester in high school? (This suggestion is admittedly a bit simplistic, in that a later start could have slowed down the following stages. The general principle holds true, however, and this danger could have been reduced severely by ensuring that some core skills, notably reading, were still covered in a minimized hour plan covering, say, ten hours a week.) Similarly, why are some younger children allowed to “skip a grade”? Normally, it is not because they have already learned all the material of that grade, but because they are deemed to be sufficiently intelligent or sufficiently strong learners that they are better off in a higher grade. That they would “miss” some material (and that this is considered acceptable) and/or have to make up for it in parallel with their normal studies is a strong sign of how little ground is actually covered.

  2. Developmental differences (as above): Not only do children develop at different rates, including a somewhat consistent boy–girl difference*, but they are also born at different points of the year—and the younger the children, the larger is the relative difference, possibly even absolute difference. In typical systems**, there can be close to a year’s age difference between the oldest and youngest child in a group, to which the development rates must be added. How do we sensibly, effectively, and efficiently teach a class where the one child is on the intellectual level of an eight y.o. and the other of a five y.o.? It might be possible to do—but the one-size-fits-all schooling that is normally attempted will fail.

    *It is possible, however, that this is of little relevance for this specific age group. Overall, it remains a very important issue.

    **Here and elsewhere some problems could conceivably be reduced through alternate approaches (although often with new side-effects). For instance, by grouping children by the half-year they are born in, instead of the year, the above problem would shrink. I will not explicitly discuss such alternate approaches elsewhere, but I encourage the reader to keep the possibilities in mind.

  3. Taking in younger children increases the risk of a harmful uniformization and indoctrination (cf. e.g. parts of [1]. Note that this is not primarily a matter of being in school for a longer period—the main problem is the lower ability to analyze arguments, think critically, etc. I point specifically to the risk of a deliberate abuse: We do not have to worry about just individual teachers with an agenda or a distorted world view. We also have to consider more systematic abuse from above—even in Sweden, I have heard the claim that school should be used to raise good social-democrat citizens… (Consider also the situation in many U.S. colleges.)

    I note that a Swedish source cites the minister of education (Gustav Fridolin, whom I have considered a complete idiot for years…) as saying “Vi vill ge barnen en jämlik start”—“We want to give the children an equal* start”.

    *“Equal” does not catch exactly the right nuisances. “Jämlik[het]” historically started in an “equal rights”/“equal opportunity” sense, but is not very often used in an “equal outcome” sense and/or has strong implications of “social justice”, where the playing field is leveled at all cost, even if it means making the situation worse for one person without improving it for anyone else. Depending on who uses it, other implications are possible, e.g. as with a sport reporter who considered it a sign of increasing jämlikhet that the number of female competitors in a city run had almost caught up with the number of male competitors… Use often goes hand in hand with extreme and out-dated “tabula rasa” opinions of human development. (While I cannot speak for the exact intentions of Fridolin, his previous history points in the direction of these interpretations.)

  4. An extra year of school is not free: teachers cost money, facilities cost money, stationary costs money, school books cost money, … Someone has to foot the bill. In Sweden, this most likely means the tax payers—irrespective of how many, few, or any children they have. This, of course, unless the new expenses are offset with cost-cuts for older children… (With potential effects similar to the next item.)
  5. More schooling almost necessarily implies a lower quality of tuition: The number of people who are suitable* to be teachers is limited. If more schooling is needed, then we have to take in more people not suited, and/or let those suited work longer hours, and/or cut the hours spent per child, and/or yank up class sizes even further.** In all cases an extra year implies choosing quantity over quality, which is entirely the wrong way to go about education.

    *I note that, contrary to what many naive politicians believe, just ensuring that someone has the appropriate degree (as a teacher, engineer, physician, …) does not automatically make him good at the job—people are not fungible! Just increasing the number of graduates with a degree in teaching will not remove the underlying problem.

    **Some relief might be available through directing candidates from other areas into teaching. However, this comes with at least two problems: Firstly, this will not remove the resource problem, just move it from one area to another. Secondly, these people did not go into teaching for a reason, and they might not be willing to reconsider, or they might require more money, or they might make the switch only to later grow dissatisfied, …

  6. The more time is spent in school, the greater the risk that the will to learn, natural curiosity, and the like, are diminished. (Cf. e.g. an earlier footnote.) This is a big enough problem as it is. We should not make the problem larger.
  7. The result of an extra school year is more time spent with age peers and less with adults, yet more time with adults will give the children better examples, better opportunities to learn, etc. More time with other children will, if anything, be harmful. This holds already for fairly average children—when we move on to those who are highly introverted, sensitive, and/or on the autistic spectrum, it holds ten times over. “Hell is other children” to us.

    I note that people favoring more time with other children tend to use the “they learn social skills” argument (as more-or-less their only argument). There is little or no support for this from research, and both common sense and my own experiences clearly indicate that social skills are best learned in interaction with adults or considerably older children—not same-age children.

  8. More early-years schooling is arguably a theft of childhood. Life is long and filled with duties. Let children be children.

    By all means, give them skills, teach them how to read (and encourage reading!), give them every opportunity to learn when they want to learn, … But: Do so in a reasonable manner that does not entail hours a day of being force fed information.

Some of the above points apply generally to increased schooling, others specifically to increased early-years schooling. However, there are also points that would apply to a discussion of the high-school or college years, but not the early years. Consider e.g. that someone in college is not available to the job market. True, once done with college, he might be “a better product”, but it is not a given that this will outweigh the opportunity costs caused by the earlier absence from a societal point of view. This especially, since it is possible that he will be able to improve the skill set relevant for the job better on the job than in school. Also note that one of the greatest benefits with hiring a college graduate in the past was that he had been filtered more strongly (than e.g. a high-school graduate) on criteria like intelligence, work ethic, ability to work independently, … With the current strong trends towards dumbing-down college and ever more people entering and graduating college, this filter effect is more-or-less gone.

I note that there are many other points of criticism towards the school system in e.g. Sweden. The above deals with a specific sub-issue and is not intended as a complete analysis of the problems. Consider e.g. the ineffectiveness of school in that I learned more English from watching TV than I did in the class room, or that I learned things about physics from educational television at age seven that impressed a few class-mates when we were in seventh grade.

Written by michaeleriksson

November 16, 2017 at 1:08 am

Follow-up: Swedish teletext and PC obsession

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And I visit the teletext again, only to find:

Page 304 and 305 deal with the alleged sending of “penis images” to a female official (?) by three members of the Swedish national soccer team.

Page 306 deals with a claim that FIFA spent about as much money on a celebratory event as on developing women’s soccer. (FIFA retorts that the numbers are incorrect.)

(Remember that these pages are the very first pages of the sport section after the table of contents, the equivalent of the front page of an ordinary news paper.)

This is a truly sickening agenda pushing and abuse of what should be the sports section.

Written by michaeleriksson

October 26, 2017 at 7:03 pm

Swedish teletext and PC obsession

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I have already written repeatedly about incompetent journalism in Sweden (in general) and the teletext of the Swedish national television (in particular, cf. e.g. [1]). At the same time, topics like feminism and political correctness have been extremely common.

Quite often these areas of concern overlap in my daily observations. For instance: Earlier today, I visited the aforementioned teletext online. For the umpteenth time, the sports section had prioritized PC issues over actual sports news.

Pages 303 and 304 (i.e. the first and second article page, after the “table of contents” for the sport section on pages 300–302) dealt with criticism of the nomination of one Deyna Castellanos, apparently an 18 y.o. amateur, for FIFA’s female player of the year award. This is border-line news worthy to begin with, better suited for a single paragraph in an overall discussion of the award—and it is given two full pages* at the virtual front page. I saw no other entry dealing with the awards or nominations in general… Apparently poor Deyna is not good enough for the nomination and this is proof that FIFA does not care enough about women’s soccer**. (Of course, another interpretation is that FIFA does care and wants to increase attention through picking someone young and exciting. Yet another that FIFA simply and honestly thinks very highly of her…) The pages were (justifiably) categorized as “soccer”.

*But beware that the teletext pages are much shorter than regular news paper pages.

**Specifically, a quote by a U.S. player, Megan Rapinoe, is given in Swedish “Det skickar en tydlig signal att Fifa inte bryr sig om damfotboll”, which re-translated into English amounts to “It sends a clear signal that Fifa does not care about women’s soccer”. This would not be quote-worthy for someone not trying to angle this into a “pesky old white men” issue, and that they have to resort to quoting a U.S. player is a strong sign that they either dug deep or deliberately have cherry-picked the topic from an English source. (Which is the case, I can only speculate. Neither case would happen with a news source and individual writer without an agenda, however.)

Page 305 (the third page) dealt with a Swedish cross-country skier (Charlotte Kalla) praising some form of social media campaign (“MeToo”) on sharing abuse experiences. In as far as this is news worthy, it has little or nothing to do with sport and should be put in a more general news sector. This page was very dubiously classified as “cross-country skiing”, likely for the sole reason that this is Kalla’s sport.

Page 307* contained claims by an alleged sports researcher (“Idrottsforskaren”) Jesper Fundberg, who is not surprised about alleged penis images sent by players on the national team… (There is no context given and there is no substantiation that this had actually taken place, but such information might be clear from previous reporting.) He says e.g. “Jag skulle säga att det finns en normalisering av hur män tar plats. Det är en normalisering av mäns sätt att trycka dit, trycka upp och trycka ner kvinnor på olika sätt”—“I would say that there is a normalization** of how men take up space***. It is a normalization of men’s way to press on, press up and press down**** women in various ways”. This page was extremely dubiously classified as “soccer”.

*I am a little confused as to what happened to page 306. In my recollection, these were all consecutive pages. It could be that I misremembered; it could be that page 306 dealt with either the same topic as 305 or 307 and was prematurely closed by me. By the nature of the medium, I cannot go back and check, but have to go by what is in those tabs I kept open. (No, the page is not in my browser cache either.)

**Likely in the sense of having become/begin considered a state of normality, something taken more or less for granted. While this is a legitimate academic and “social discourse” term, I have found it to be rare outside certain circles of ideologically driven pseudo-scientists and propagandists, and to some degree it serves as a shibboleth (at least when used outside an academic context).

***Or, possibly, how men take seats. Either which way, it is a metaphorical expression for alleged male behaviors centering around attention hogging and similar phenomena in the general, highly prejudiced and unfair “men feel entitled, especially when they compare themselves to women” genre.

****The sentence is only very marginally better in Swedish. He appears to invent expressions as he goes along… What he actually intends to say is almost certainly that tired old lie/prejudice that men oppress women.

This is exactly the type of astrology level bull-shit a serious news source should filter out—certainly not feature prominently. He contributes to anti-male prejudices, spreads misinformation, and gives a very distorted view of the world to those too uninformed or too weak at critical thinking see through it. His talk of “normalization” borders on the offensive, considering how heavily tilted large portions of Swedish society is towards women as the norm and/or the “good” sex.

To boot, he does not at all appear to be a sports researcher: Going by an Internet search, he is more of a gender studies guy to begin with, and I saw no signs of sports research. His own web pages calls him an ethnologist and consultant, and puts down his field of business as gender, equality, and diversity. (In the Swedish original, respectively “etnolog”, “konsult”, “genus”, “jämställdhet” and “etnisk mångfald”.) In other words: He is not only a gender studies guy, with all what that implies, but he actually makes money from spreading this type of misinformation and relies on the continuation of such prejudices for his livelihood…

(Note: Using “post by email” I originally managed to publish a version in which some changes were not yet written to disk. That version has been deleted.)

Written by michaeleriksson

October 23, 2017 at 11:58 pm

Swedish teletext and incompetence

with 2 comments

In this era of Internet news, one of my main news sources is svt-text—the teletext (!) pages of the Swedish national television, which I visit about once a day (albeit in the Internet version). The brevity of each individual page (being limited by what fits within teletext) makes the “articles” highly compact and it is easy to get a quick overview. If something seems interesting, there is always the possibility to find more detailed information elsewhere.

Unfortunately, the people behind this service are not intellectual giants, and I often find myself sighing over the unnecessary quality loss and inconveniences.

To take a few examples (some Internet-specific; some problematic for TV users to):

  1. The article titles are often so lacking in information that is hard to judge which articles are worth reading without actually reading them. In at least some cases, in particular with sports, even the rough topic cannot be predicted from the title…

    For instance, I just called up the sports page and found the title “Rekordstort intresse för mästarna” (roughly “Interest for champions on record high”). What champions? What sport? What level (national? world? …?) What type of interest? Who is interested? Men’s team or women’s? “Ordinary” sports or “para-sports”?

    Looking at the detail page, the actual story is so uninteresting that few would have bothered to open it with a better title and it can seriously be questioned whether it should have even been published in the first place: The Swedish national champions in floorball (!) have managed to sell 100 (!!!) season’s tickets. The page did not say whether this was the men’s or women’s champions. Honestly, this is something that barely qualifies for the local news paper of wherever these champions were based.

    Sigh…

  2. During the conversion to HTML, links are added in such an unintelligent manner that any number occurring in the page stands the risk of being interpreted as referring to another page and being turned into a link. (Remember that teletext pages are identified by three-digit numbers.)

    This has, admittedly, grown considerably better over the years, but it still happens, possibly as much as 15 years after my first visit…

    This is the weirder as implies that the whole setup is amateurish, most likely in the form that a plain-text page is composed to be published “on the TV” without any alterations, while the Internet version is just generated from this plain-text without any semantic information. A professional would, as a matter of course, have kept the “master version” separate form the “TV version” and used a markup language (even be it a rudimentary one) to keep semantic information. The TV and Internet version would then both be generated from this master. This would include marking page references so that they cannot be confused with numbers during generation.

    Sigh…

  3. While the language level is poor overall, there are two specific ever recurring and highly annoying problems:

    Firstly, differences between A and B are almost invariably formulated as “A is better than B at [something or other]”, even when the “better” is highly subjective and even when it is not really supported by the text (e.g. because absolute numbers are compared when relative numbers would be appropriate). This in particular where differences between men and women are concerned*. I would only be marginally surprised if the headline “women are better than men at using drugs” would be used for an article reporting that women use more cocaine than men…

    *Generally, they have a problem with a feminist or PC world-view, but with a Swedish news source that almost goes without saying…

    Secondly, there is a virtual obsession with “hylla” (hard to translate, but “praise” when used as in the phrase “praise the Lord” is a decent match; “eulogize” can come close to, in some uses). If someone makes any form of positive statement about someone else, he allegedly “hyllade” him. If someone wins an international gold medal, one or two pages are dedicated to “tittarnas hyllningar” (or similar; roughly, “the viewers praise”)*. Etc.

    *Why they waste space by including the praise of the viewers in the first place is beyond me. It has no news value and the page could have been saved for something more valuable.

    The word, normally reserved for special occasions, is thrown around in a blanket manner and with very little value attached to it. Often it amounts to confusing “Would you have dinner with me?” and “Would you marry me?”…

    Sigh…

  4. Naturally, as news items arrive or are removed, page numbers will change. To handle this should not be that hard: Alter the page numbers and references of all involved pages and then publish them together. But no: Individual pages are altered separately and published immediately, leading to such effects as someone opening a page on X and finding an article dealing with Y or both page 110 and 111 having the exact same contents.*

    *Both can happen even when publishing all changes together, be it through unfortunate timing or because someone has opened an index page and then waited a minute or two before opening article pages. However, it will be a rare occurrence. The frequency at svt-text is far, far too high to be explained by such instances.

    Sigh…

  5. Generally, there are many problems around page numbers and page handling. For instance, it is quite common that the contents that once were on page X stays on page X for days—even after the page contents have officially changed. (Following the new contents as a virtual page within the page.) Or take the leader-board for the recent British Open/The Open golf-tournament: With a fellow Swede winning, I tried to follow the results through svt-text, but found that every single time that I refreshed the page, the leader-board had moved to another page. After some five or six times I gave up (ESPN had something that worked much better). Is it not obvious that such contents should be treated differently and fixed on the same page? This especially since they do have a dedicated number interval for “live” sports results that is used for that exact purpose, e.g. to track the score of soccer games.

    Sigh…

Written by michaeleriksson

August 2, 2016 at 10:34 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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