Monday, April 26, 2010

Misc. repugnant transactions

Repugnant transactions are those that some people don't want others to engage in. Here are a few that caught my eye recently.

Double fees buy spot on college’s fast track: Bristol deal with for-profit eliminates waiting list, raises questions of fairness
"Bristol Community College is teaming up with a for-profit education company to offer classes in popular allied health programs, a first-of-its-kind partnership that will allow students to bypass waiting lists — provided they pay double the tuition.

The initiative, which the college will offer with The Princeton Review at its New Bedford campus beginning next fall for some programs, has stirred criticism among some educators, who say providing a fast-track education only to students who can afford to pay more than $8,000 a year runs counter to the mission of the state’s community colleges: a commitment to access and equity for all.
“It’s just unfair,’’ said Joe LeBlanc, president of the Massachusetts Community College Council. “I would be quite upset if a student who could pay two times as much jumped to the head of the line to take Bristol Community College classes. Public education, in my mind, means you’re keeping your costs as low as you possibly can. We serve everyone, and in particular, the have-nots.’’
But college officials say the partnership is a creative way for the school to meet burgeoning demand to train health care workers. Enrollment in Massachusetts community colleges has jumped 10 percent in the past year, the largest increase in recent years. And education officials expect similar collaborations on other public campuses in Massachusetts and around the country in coming years.
“In an age of scarce resources, we’re just not going to get money from our state to expand our enrollments,’’ said John Sbrega, president of Bristol Community College. “Such public-private partnerships are the wave of the future.’’"

Drug addicts offered cash to stop reproducing: Addicts are being offered up to £200 cash to be sterilised so they do not give birth to drug dependent children.
"A controversial American charity is now offering the service to addicts in the UK and has set up a helpline for those interested.
Pro-life campaigners said the offer was "inhuman". "

How do morals change? (Yale psychologist Paul Bloom, writing in Nature):
"Where does morality come from? The modern consensus on this question lies close to the position laid out by the eighteenth-century Scottish philosopher David Hume. He thought moral reason to be “the slave of the passions”. Hume's view is supported by studies that suggest that our judgements of good and evil are influenced by emotional reactions such as empathy and disgust. ...

"All this leaves little room for rational deliberation in shaping our moral outlook. Indeed, many psychologists think that the reasoned arguments we make about why we have certain beliefs are mostly post-hoc justifications for gut reactions. As the social psychologist Jonathan Haidt puts it, although we like to think of ourselves as judges, reasoning through cases according to deeply held principles, in reality we are more like lawyers, making arguments for positions that have already been established. This implies we have little conscious control over our sense of right and wrong.
I predict that this theory of morality will be proved wrong in its wholesale rejection of reason. Emotional responses alone cannot explain one of the most interesting aspects of human nature: that morals evolve. The extent of the average person's sympathies has grown substantially and continues to do so. Contemporary readers of Nature, for example, have different beliefs about the rights of women, racial minorities and homosexuals compared with readers in the late 1800s, and different intuitions about the morality of practices such as slavery, child labour and the abuse of animals for public entertainment. Rational deliberation and debate have played a large part in this development."

12-year-old bride’s divorce prompts marriage age review in Saudi Arabia
"A girl aged 12 has won a divorce from her 80-year-old husband in Saudi Arabia in a case that may help to introduce a minimum age of marriage in the kingdom for the first time. The girl’s unusual legal challenge to the arrangement generated international media attention and scrutiny of Saudi Arabia’s record of child marriages.
It also prompted the state-run Human Rights Commission to appoint a lawyer to represent her. The commission has capitalised on the case and pushed for a legal minimum age for marriage of at least 16. "

Belgium to vote on face veil ban
"Belgian lawmakers are set to vote on a proposed ban on wearing face-covering veils in public, a day after neighbouring France proposed enacting similar legislation."

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