|For leftists, junk science 'R us
By Michael Bates
Blogosphere liberals were chuckling to themselves last week. I don't begrudge them that. It's a refreshing change of pace from talking to themselves. The source of their amusement was a recent article in the Toronto Star titled, "How to spot a baby conservative." The story centered on a study conducted by University of California at Berkeley professor Jack Block that tracked 95 people from their days as nursery school students to adulthood.
According to the article, "The whiny kids tended to grow up conservative, and turned into rigid young adults who hewed closely to traditional gender roles and were uncomfortable with ambiguity."
By contrast, "The confident kids turned out liberal and were still hanging loose, turning into bright, non-conforming adults with wide interests." For those unfamiliar with lib-speak, "rigid" and "uncomfortable with ambiguity" are code for having a sense of right and wrong. "Hewing closely to traditional gender roles" means heterosexual, believing in conventional marriage and accepting that men and women are different.
Block's study appears in the Journal of Research Into Personality. I'm not acquainted with that obviously scintillating publication, but would hope that its other offerings are more persuasively substantive than this one.
I don't know that much can reliably be extrapolated from examining fewer than a hundred people. What objective criteria were used to establish which kids were "whiny" and which ones were "confident?" Were these the only determinants of an individual's politics or were other factors measured and taken into account?
How representative of the general population were kids enrolled in a nursery school in Berkeley, California decades ago? Could the fact they weren't still cared for at home by their mothers have affected the outcome?
Professor Block gained some notoriety in 1990 with another study, one related to teen drug use. His research, of a group of only 101, found that those who had experimented with illegal drugs tended to be healthier and better adjusted than either drug abusers or people who had never tried dope.
Compared to the experimenters, the young people who abstained were "not warm and responsive, not curious and open to new experience, not active, not vital, and not cheerful." Sounds like another way of calling them rigid young adults who hewed closely to traditional gender roles and were uncomfortable with ambiguity.
Jack Block's curriculum vitae, thoughtfully posted on the Internet, reflects several grants from different government agencies over the years. Federal Election Commission records show the admiration is mutual; he's made many financial contributions to big government liberals.
Howard Dean, Dennis Kucinich, Ralph Nader, Russell Feingold and Barack Obama are but a few who've enjoyed Block's jack. So have lefty outfits such as Moveon.org, the Council for a Livable World and America Coming Together.
It may be tempting to think that the professor's findings are colored by his own political views. It's an enticement I'll avoid since I don't want to make the same mistake he seemingly does, of drawing conclusions based on inadequate data. I'll have to remember this quality the next time I update my own curriculum vitae.
Liberals have been trying to portray non-liberals as psychologically or mentally or morally unfit for a long time. More than half a century ago psychologist Harry Overstreet warned the public about individuals who resisted programs such as public housing and foreign aid. Such people, he asserted, "may appear ' normal' in the sense that they are able to hold a job and otherwise maintain their status as members of society; but they are, we now recognize, well along the road to mental illness."
That's ironic when you consider reality. After all, it's liberals who have developed an unhealthful addiction to the state. They demand that government make all sorts of decisions - from retirement plans to the size of their toilets - for responsible adults. Who see conspiracies everywhere but in abortion clinics. Who still fixate on the 2000 presidential election and just can't, if you'll pardon the expression, move on.
Who are so emotionally fragile that Kerry's loss sent them scurrying to mental health professionals in an effort to assuage their trauma and depression. At least one man was so distressed over the 2004 election that he blew his brains out with a shotgun. No doubt some study would have identified him as one of those active, vital, cheerful folks open to new experiences.
So, OK, let liberals feel better about themselves by imagining that conservatives are complainers when they're small children. The rest of us know with certitude which adults have a monopoly on whining.
Mike Bates is the author of Right Angles and Other Obstinate Truths. This essay originally appeared in the March 23, 2006 Oak Lawn Reporter.
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