What is Humanism and why is it so hard to define?

This question comes up periodically.  And by periodically - I mean all the time. Why? Because people are always in the process of discovering (or rather re-discovering) Humanism.

So - here are a couple of old essays of mine to help you out.

First? What is Humanism?  Is it a religion? A  philosophy or what?


To quote myself:
"Ultimately how Humanism is classified isn’t all that important unless, of course, you are a person with an agenda that depends entirely on whether Humanism is a religion or not. And if this describes you, you need to get a life.  … My Humanist perspective is that it doesn’t matter what we call it. What matters is that we are all striving to be ethical, compassionate responsible people. "

Second: A really good definition of Humanism:


To quote the article which quotes progressive living magazine:
"Humanism is an anti-authoritarian philosophy that emphasizes the importance of reason and the indispensability of both evidence and compassion for others in the formation of values. Contemporary humanistic morality judges acts primarily on the basis of their affect upon other human beings. Humanists believe that the purposes of life are found in the meeting of human needs -intellectual, emotional, and spiritual-and in the fulfillment of human capabilities, mental and physical."

What are the main elements of Humanism?


And again - for those with no intention of linking through to the actual article this list is from the Amsterdam Declaration:

1) Humanism is ethical
2) Humanism is rational
3) Humanism supports democracy and human rights
4) Humanism insists that personal liberty must be combined with social responsibility
5) Humanism is a response to the demand for an alternative to dogmatic religion
6) Humanism recognizes the transforming power of art – and the humanities
7) Humanism is a life stance

Management failures in government - immigration courts

We have a problem with our immigration courts. This problem isn't a result of our current ideological divide - though that doesn't help us solve it. Rather, this is a problem of coordination or lack thereof. 

Coordination is a required management function so that you don’t fix one problem and create 100 more through lack of understanding that comes with lack of coordination. It is the job of management to make sure that fixes - don't cause cascading problems. Ignoring those cascading problems is a failure of management.

So ... what lessons can we learn from this?  First - the article that made me upset. It's titled: Fake court dates are being issued in immigration court. Here’s why


Now - before you get your partisan hackles in a tither from the headline without reading the text - let me say - BOTH sides really are to blame for this and unless we understand what is causing the problem - we can't fix it!  Consider this a lesson in humanistic problem solving.  Research root causes before jumping to conclusions.

The gist of the problem:

The notice saying you've been denied residence - used to not include court dates. But the agency that issues the notices, was ordered by the US Supreme court to include dates in the notices. 

The problem is - the agencies that send the notices, don't have the ability to set up court dates.

In order to comply with the court order, the issuing agency puts in fake dates so that the notice - includes a date and thus - complies with the court order. Problem solved? Right? Obviously - no.

The dates on the notices - are not transmitted to the courts, meaning - the courts have no idea that a notice to appear has been sent to someone denied residence and they don't know that the person denied residence has been ordered to appear on a certain date.  And, even if they were aware of this, the dates on the notice to appear sent by the agency that denied residence, are often for dates that don't exist - like Nov 31st.

Putting fake dates on a notice to appear for denied residence - may make sense to the issuing agency that has to issue these notices and still comply with the law that there be a date, but this "fix" causes all sorts of problems elsewhere in the bureaucracy.

Here is what happens to people who receive these notices to appear. Even if you receive a fake date, you still have to physically appear in court, because ... it's a notice to appear. And if you don't appear - you are breaking the law.  You have to appear on that date - whether the date exists or not.

The result in the actual courts is - lots of people show up at the courts that don't need to be there. This mass of extra people clogs the lines to get in and processed. This causes problems for the clerks doing the processing - because they are processing people who aren't in their system trying to figure out why they have a notice to appear that isn't really real.  This is time wasted by the clerks sorting out people that shouldn't even be at the court house.  It causes financial hardship to the people who appeared when they weren't supposed to because- they have to take time off work, travel etc to be at these courts that are often located in remote areas.  And ... it causes real problems for the people who are supposed to be there (who have real dates) who now can't get into the court room they were ordered to appear at - because because there isn't room in the actual room because the room is clogged with people who aren't supposed to be there but who were ordered to appear.  The people who can't get in who are really supposed to be there - do get deported for not appearing - even though they were at the court house - but couldn't get into the room because of the extra people there - who received court dates that were fake.

The incompetence of all of this is staggering but unsurprising. There are several breakdowns in the process. And blame is spread around. There is a lack of coordination in the decision making process. There was orders to process more people, but not enough resources allocated to - actually process them.   The people who decided how to comply with the court order to include dates - clear did not talk to anyone who would be impacted by their solution to know that their solution - was just going to cause even more problems and hardship - for everyone. 

What ideally should happen is that - the denied residence notices - should be held and not sent out - until a court date is set.  But to do that - requires different agencies working together to make that happen.

The people sending out the notices - are being judged by what they are getting done. Management by numbers, is not a good way to manage or make decisions, because - it blinds us to the real life impact of our decisions.

Lesson? Don't make decisions in a vacuum. Bring in a diverse team that represents all aspects of the process - and come up with a process that a) complies with the law and b) will work for everyone!

And no - this isn't too much to ask of Government. I work with government employees all the time. They are well meaning, intelligent people. This is no different from any other organization. Smart organizations make team decisions. Our government can and should too.  All organizations should coordinate their work. No more siloing. 

How the socratic method can help us cut through confirmation bias

There is a big think video by Dr. Shali Tarot on why facts don't change people's minds. And ... what can help.  What she says works is exactly what I teach in my course – winning arguments without winning. The socratic method.

Here is the link for the article. https://bigthink.com/videos/tali-sharot-facts-dont-win-fights-heres-how-to-cut-through-confirmation-bias

Arguing facts - doesn't change people's minds. Facts, instead -  "polarizes groups of people even further, because of our in-built confirmation biases—something we all fall prey to, equally."

What does work?  Finding common motives. We do that - by asking questions to identify our areas of common agreement and then work from there to build up to a solution we all can agree on.

Yes, this works. Yes, it's very humanistic.  Yes - I teach how to do this.

Yes - it also comes in book form - https://humanistlearning.com/book-how-to-win-arguments-without-arguing/

Creating an effective diversity program

I teach how to stop harassment in the workplace using behavioral science as well as implicit bias that affect diversity.

There are several reasons why diversity trainings fail to create diverse work groups.  So it’s helpful to think of processes that prevent diversity – rather than training to encourage it.

The research on the efficacy of diversity training is that – it really doesn’t matter the methodology of the training. The training will raise awareness of diversity issues, but is unlikely to result in behavioral change. The reason why is – behavioral change requires behavioral conditioning which is a process that takes place over time and is impacted by real events in the workplace. A training is a great way to start that process, but it’s only a start. If the processes don’t support diversity – the initiative will fail because – the pro-diversity behaviors will not be rewarded if the processes aren’t changed.

To create diverse workforces, you have to accomplish 3 things.

1.    Eliminate bias in personnel decisions
2.    Eliminate social exclusion/bullying
3.    De-escalate conflicts to create social cohesion

If we don’t eliminate bias in personnel decisions than our hiring, promoting and development programs will socially exclude people. It’s just a fact of life. There are things we can do in hiring to promote diversity by eliminating bias for instance. Salary negotiations can be eliminated and salaries normalized. These can all help improve the diversity coming into an organization through new hires AND ensure that everyone is treated equally in the organization – at least within the employee development system

If we don’t eliminate social exclusion through bullying/harassment – we will continue to have diversity issues.  One person has the ability to kill a diversity initiative if we don’t shut down bullying. A good diversity training must include a harassment/bullying program that teaches people how to actually shut down the unwanted bullying behavior to create space for the targets to actually stay and thrive instead of being driven out by small minded people committed to racism/sexism/whateverism.   This sort of enhanced harassment training is important because – as long as we people are socially excluded from groups for being different by bullies, your organization won’t be able to create diverse yet cohesive workgroups.

Finally, creating cohesive work groups are hard because, people with diverse backgrounds often disagree. The challenge of creating a cohesive team out of diverse people should not be under-estimated.  Helping people learn how to de-escalate conflicts so that they can engage in dignity based disagreements is essential.

My ideal diversity program would first, analyze the processes and tweak them to eliminate bias.

Then my training program would include bias elimination, diversity awareness, behavioral based harassment/bullying elimination training and a training on how to de-escalate conflicts effectively and ethically.  I would start with management and then move on to staff.  And I would have a plan for what to do about managers – that – turn out to be anti-diversity.

You can read my white paper on: Combining philosophy, science and education to create more diverse workforces – here:  https://drive.google.com/file/d/1SAQXj5aogXTA44QZtOQfI_y74e_m9d6L/view?usp=sharing

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...