In this post, guest contributor Liam Shields discusses an important dilemma related to the strike in UK higher education institutions.
Members of the University and College Union, the trade union that represents many lecturers and other university staff in the UK, at 60 universities will be called upon to withdraw their labour from their employers from 25th November to 4th December. However, some are on research leave, or will not be doing any teaching on some or all strike days, so their striking will go unnoticed. The question then is: should they go on strike or not?
Engaged parenting is hard work. That is one reason most of us prefer to have a co-parent. But why stop at one? As I argue in a recent article, I don’t think there is a good and general answer to that question. Some people are committed to an existing two-parent family, or to starting one, but there is no reason why society should endorse that family form as a norm.
Fears over ‘fake news’, targeted disinformation, and the rise of post-truth politics have met with a central mainstream solution: ‘fact-checking’. Fact-checking is featuring prominently in coverage of the 2019 UK General Election. ITV News, for instance, will use FullFact.org to analyse the claims made by Boris Johnson and Jeremy Corbyn in their forthcoming leadership debate, with the aim of better informing their viewers by exposing misleading statements.
This reflects the wider embrace of fact-checking as a panacea against the rise of anti-expert politics. It has been employed in coverage of US presidential and primary debates, as well as the parliamentary theatre of Brexit. Third party fact-checking organisations have also been championed by social media companies in response to demands by regulators and legislatures that they take responsibility for the content circulated on their platforms. Indeed the use of ‘independent’ fact-checkers to flag content was highlighted by Mark Zuckerberg, during his various appearances before Congress, in defence of Facebook’s practices.
However, the concept of fact-checking frames the problems of post-truth politics in narrowly positivist terms – as reducible to a lack of information (‘facts’), leading to sub-optimally rational decision-making by electorates. It has not been underpinned by a sophisticated account of the epistemic conditions for the exercise of democratic citizenship. Fact-checking occupies an increasingly central place in our political culture, but the justification for it remains largely implicit and untheorized.
In most rich countries, and increasingly in low and middle income countries, there is a ‘fertility gap’: people say they want to have more children than they end up having. For example, two-thirds of Australian 44 year olds have fewer children than they intended to, working out at one and a half children per parent. While the size of the discrepancy varies from place to place, the pattern is the same in most of Europe and the US:
Most countries are getting more and more unequal. But the core of democracy is political equality: that everyone should have an equal say in how their country is run. Can we really expect these things to go together? Can people have equal political power while economic inequality grows and grows? Take this course and decide for yourself.
Earlier this year I published a short article arguing that multi-parenting can provide a solution to a contemporary conundrum: on the one hand, many people are increasingly worried about climate change and environmental destruction. They know that having fewer children is, for a majority of people, the most effective individual action they can take to reduce their carbon footprint. Some women go on “birth strikes” – they decide not to bring children into the world. On the other hand, life without children can be terribly impoverished. Parenting may be the most important – and creative! – act one can engage in, a non-substitutable occasion for personal growth and, for many, the central source of meaning in life. (Which is not to deny that, for many other people, a childless life is perfectly fine.)