Reviewed Books & Films

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April 2015

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Best Practices for Diversity/Inclusion Efforts

APA

Richard Harvey and Ana Hernandez Kent reviewed The Color Bind: Talking (and not Talking) About Race at Work by Erica Gabrielle Foldy and Tamara R. Buckley. Like many organizations, my university has struggled and continues to struggle with diversity/inclusion (D/I) efforts. The administration has included D/I information on the website, as have individual departments. Human resource professionals and associate deans with D/I experience have been hired. Committees have been formed. Student government has become involved. Speakers, workshops, seminars, open forums, and other activities have been scheduled. My own department recently proposed a D/I essay contest for our psychology majors. Earlier in my career, I had some interest in program evaluation, so I often wonder to what extent have these efforts made a difference and how can we evaluate their effectiveness.

So, what are the best practices for instituting D/I efforts? What recommendations would you make to organizations, including higher educational institutions? And if you feel really ambitious, provide suggestions on how to evaluate their effectiveness.

Read the Review
By Richard D. Harvey and Ana Hernandez Kent
       PsycCRITIQUES, 2015 Vol 60(15)

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Drug Wars

APA

The War on Drugs of the 20th century continues today with a more appropriate military metaphor. The armies of good and evil are not lined up on fronts. Now good fights a complexity of scattered forces – ISIS and others – as well as terrorists within our communities. The 21st century War on Drugs has metaphorical car bombers (drunk drivers), battles for urban territory, and terrorist enclaves in remote areas (Ozark meth labs).

Drug wars also take place in historical and political contexts. In his review of Brain-Robbers: How Alcohol, Cocaine, Nicotine, and Opiates Have Changed Human History, Ben Sessa observes, “This war [on drugs} has always been about bigotry and economics and not, as we are still told today, about health or morals” (para. 4).  He writes, 

[W]e see racism, prohibition, greed, oppression and control of the poor; our chronic inability to see the wood for the trees that allows these passionately sought-after drugs to run roughshod over human sensibility and judgment. (para. 3)

Later in his review Sessa adds this is “still a battle of ‘good versus evil’; a war where the casualties are common people, collateral damage in political greed games . . . ” (para. 8).

Where are psychologists in this battle? Our clinics surely do some heavy lifting when treating addictions and mounting prevention programs. I am not a clinician so can only admire those professionals who face this challenge. I wonder, however, if there is agreement that social control of the poor and the economics of the drug market make this challenge more difficult. If so, is there much that psychologists can do, individually or collectively, about those factors? And do we only fight this battle when it reaches our middle-class suburban enclaves?

Read the Review

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Once Again, It’s Race to the Top

APA

Recently we published a pair of dramatically contrasting reviews of Nicolas Wade’s A Troublesome Inheritance:  Genes, Race, and Human History.  On the one hand, James Flynn argues that all psychologists should read the book, “particularly those who dismiss hypotheses about whether genetic differences between races or ethnic groups are correlated with trait differences” (para. 1). Although acknowledging we must await direct genetic evidence, he raises the possibility that American Blacks might be “a race whose genes give them collectively a greater inclination toward impetuosity” (para. 8).

On the other hand, Robert Sternberg writes that the book’s premise of “a biological concept of race... is not tenable” (para. 7), describes the book as “deeply flawed” scientifically (last para.), and suggests that race is a social construction rather than a biological fact. As one example, Sternberg points out that “there is more difference in genetic makeup among different black-skinned groups in Africa than there is between typically white- and black-skinned people in the United States” (para. 15).  

Where do you stand on the question of whether race is a biological reality or social construction?

 

Read the Reviews
ReviewWrong Problem, Wrong Solution
By Robert J. Sternberg
      PsycCRITIQUES, 2015 Vol 60(13)

 

ReviewGenetic Differences Between Races for Desirable Traits
By James R. Flynn
      PsycCRITIQUES, 2015 Vol 60(13)

Thursday, April 09, 2015

Modern Slavery, Human Trafficking: The Never-Ending Evil

APA

Hillary Clinton, former U.S. secretary of state, wrote:

Elementary students across America are taught that slavery ended in the 19th century. But, sadly, nearly 150 years later, the fight to end this global scourge is far from over. Today it takes a different form and we call it by a different name - “human trafficking” - but it is still an affront to basic human dignity in the United States and around the world. (Clinton, 2010, para. 1)

In her review of Laura Murphy’s book Survivors of Slavery: Modern-Day Slave Narratives Martha Banks presents the realities and complexities of modern slavery in its global context. Slavery today is a system of forced labor that involves no or little pay, involving mostly women. Although most victims are adults, children are also enslaved around the world.  I went to the Web to get a sense of the scope of the population of interest: The two most prevalent types of slavery in the world involve sex work and forced labor. According to United Nations (UN) reports, we may underestimate the rates of human trafficking related to labor because it is less visible, reported, and/or prosecuted. While it is difficult to estimate, UN reports suggest that as many as 2.5 million individuals are trafficked at any one time and billions of dollars of profit are generated annually (United Nations, 2015). Banks notes that while the percentage of those enslaved throughout the world is lower than it has ever been, the sheer number of people enslaved is greater.

Banks goes on to describe how in Survivors of Slavery Murphy organizes the narratives of individuals who because of extreme poverty, and the extreme greed of some, are forced into exploitative systems, through kidnapping, deception, and manipulation. What is startling is the realization that we need to hear these voices to evoke what should be readily provided—human concern for the conditions of those enslaved and a resolve to address their plight. 

The issues highlighted in the book review led me to reflect on the preparation of clinicians who might be called on to treat victims of modern slavery. Do we have sufficient knowledge and understanding of the issues that victims face and the resources that they need? More importantly, are psychologists prepared to understand and respect victims’ right to choice, including the right to refuse treatments and interventions? What impact might our research have on efforts to collaborate in anti-slavery advocacy and social justice initiatives, particularly efforts to persuade the countries that have not signed onto the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children, Supplementing the United Nations Convention Against Transnational Organized Crime (United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, 2004) to do so?

 

References

Clinton, H. R. (2010, November 9).  Op-Ed: An end to human trafficking. Washington, DC: Office of the Spokesman, U. S. State Department. Retrieved March 20, 2015, from http://www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/ps/2010/11/150701.htm

United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (2004). Protocol to prevent, suppress and punish trafficking in persons, especially women and children, supplementing the United Nations Convention Against Transnational Organized Crime. In United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, United Nations Convention Against Transnational Organized Crime and the Protocols Thereto, Annex II (pp. 41-52). New York, NY: United Nations. Available at http://www.unodc.org/documents/treaties/UNTOC/Publications/TOC%20Convention/TOCebook-e.pdf

United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (2015). Human trafficking FAQs. Retrieved March 21, 2015, from http://www.unodc.org/unodc/en/human-trafficking/faqs.html#How_widespread_is_human_trafficking
 
 
Read the Review
ReviewListening to the Reality of Slavery
By Martha E. Banks
      PsycCRITIQUES, 2014 Vol 60(11)

Thursday, April 02, 2015

Academic One Percenters

APA

Is an education at an elite university worth the apparent anxiety produced by the effort to get in, and is it really a better education? Geoffrey Cox reviewed Excellent Sheep: The Miseducation of the American Elite and the Way to a Meaningful Life, a book that is highly critical of the admission process and the graduates (the “excellent sheep”) produced by these elite schools. According to Cox, the author, William Deresiewicz, maintains that the students who get into these universities “have demonstrated manic intensity for success”, and the culture there “continues to encourage the pursuit of external validations of accomplishment” leading to “a great first job” (para. 6).

What’s so bad about that? My education and career happened at pretty good schools, but not elite, and my sons went to a good regional state university, also not elite. Had we been able financially and academically to get into one of these great schools I think we would have done so. My experiences at a couple of universities at this level convinced me that, at least at the graduate level, these places really are of exceptionally high quality.

However, I have little sympathy for the notion that elite schools educate undergraduates significantly better than many others, and less sympathy for parents who must get their children into one of the “best” schools. Cox points out that “we have an extraordinary system of public higher education that, in fact, educates the majority of American students” (last para.), although some of these also would be considered elite.

What drives students and their parents to seek admission only to these allegedly best schools?  Cox himself guided his “bright, ambitious daughters . . . through most of the Ivy League and the non-Ivy equivalents” (para. 1). Surely there are other criteria for selection that would yield as good or better results, and perhaps with less cynicism about the selection process.

Read the Review
ReviewGolden Fleeces
By Geoffrey M. Cox
      PsycCRITIQUES, 2015 Vol 60(7)

Editor of PsycCRITIQUES

Danny Wedding, PhD

Chair of Behavioral Sciences,
College of Medicine,
American University of Antigua

Associate Editors of PsycCRITIQUES

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