December
21st 2008
Bad apples, and how they ruin it for the rest of us

Posted under: Bodily modification, book reviews, jobs

This weekend’s This American Life radio program was a bellyfull of Christmas candy (including the accompanying stomach ache) for the writer and readers of this blog.  The program, “Ruining It for the Rest of Us,” opened with an interview with researcher Will Phelps Felps, who conducts research on “bad apples” in the workplace (aka bullies), and how they can take over an office culture.  His conclusions?  The bad news is that bad apples can single-handedly commandeer a workplace culture and drive it into the ditch.  He hired an actor to play one of three “bad apple” types:  the bullying jerk (who attacks and insults people), the slacker, and the depressive pessimist. 

The good news is that leadership by another person can counteract the effect of the bad apple.  This person doesn’t directly confront the bully, but instead asks questions, engages team members, and works to diffuse conflicts.  (This happened in only one group, however; in every other test case Phelps Felps ran, the bad apple dominated the group, and the other group members took on the bad apple’s characteristics.)  This segment is only 5 minutes long, and it’s right at the start of the program, so if you’re interested in workplace bullying issues, click here to listen for free.  By the way, the This American Life website doesn’t list Phelps‘s Felps’s name or his affiliation, and my efforts to try to locate his research with EBSCOhost databases and the google have failed.  I’m not sure I’ve even got his name spelled right (and in fact I didn’t, as you can see from the edits above.  This is bad form, This American Life.  Any time you interview a researcher, you really should at least provide hir name and affiliation on your website, if not also link to hir publications.)

The program’s main feature was an exploration of a recent outbreak of measles in San Diego caused by a family who refused to vaccinate their children.  The story features an interview with an anti-vaxer who is friends with the family that brought the disease to San Diego, which sickened dozens of children, and with a woman whose 11 month old son was a victim of the outbreak.  If this woman’s description of measles doesn’t lead everyone listening to run out and vaccinate their kids, then I don’t know what will.  The ultimate message of the program is that both the anti-vaxer camp and the pro-vaxer camp are utterly entrenched in their rival views of medicine and science.  However, these camps are hardly morally equivalent:  one camp is actively punching holes in herd immunity, which puts at risk infants too young for the vaccine as well as people whose immune systems are compromised.  Moreover, the anti-vaxer camp’s beliefs are utterly evidence-free and based on magical thinking.

The magical thinking of the anti-vaxer crowd is very well documented in a riveting new book by Paul A. Offit called Autism’s False Prophets:  Bad Science, Risky Medicine, and the Search for a Cure (Columbia University Press, 2008).  Offit, the chief of Infectious Diseases at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, documents the financial self-interest and evidence-free claims of the hucksters who prey on the parents of autistic children and who have created unfounded public skepticism of the safety and value of vaccinations.  Of course, peer-reviewed study after peer-reviewed study has demonstrated absolutely no link between vaccinations and autism.  Offit shows how once the false belief that the MMR vaccine caused autism was debunked in 2004, anti-vax hysteria shifted to the use of mercury-based thimerosal as a vaccine preservative.  Thimerosal has been phased out of vaccines, and yet children are still diagnosed with autism.  I’m sure they’ll come up with a new pretend cause they can profit from again. 

Offit’s descriptions of the thuggery and threats he has endured from the anti-vaxer crowd are sobering, and are reminiscent of the menacing that abortion providers have suffered.  He writes,

[w]hile I was on a federal advisory committee to the [Center for Disease Control]–one that had made recommendations about the use of the mercury-containing preservative thimerosal in vaccines–I got a death threat.  A man from Seattle wrote, “I will hang you by your neck until you are dead!”  I called the CDC, which sent the e-mail to the Department of Justice, which sent it to the FBI.  The threat was deemed credible, and for the next few years an armed guard was placed at the back of advisory committee meetings; for the first few months, he followed me to and from lunch, a gun hanging at his side.  The mail room at my hospital regularly checks my mail for suspicious letters and packages. 

Well, no good deed goes unpunished, eh?  A lifetime devoted to stamping out pediatric disease–what a selfish bastard.

Here’s something that those of us who are too young to have ever had a pal suffer from measles or to have seen a friend in an iron lung need to remember:  civilization is a privilege.  Have a little respect for how we got here, and how lucky you are to be living at this point in human history.  Along with taxes, vaccination is the price we must pay to maintain civilization.  If you choose not to vaccinate, then you must also choose not to enjoy public services like neighborhoods, parks, roads, utilities, public transportation, day care centers, preschools, churches, schools, community colleges, universities, supermarkets, shopping malls, and the like.  By all means, go do your Swiss Family Robinson thing, but please do it in splendid isolation from the rest of us.  Homeschool your kids, grow your own food, and pave your own roads, so that the innocent or the unfortunate aren’t victimized by your exaggerated fear of imaginary problems.

33 Comments »

33 Responses to “Bad apples, and how they ruin it for the rest of us”

  1. Meg on 21 Dec 2008 at 7:03 pm #

    Anti-vaxers make me see red like nothing else. I’m immunocompromised and a standard childhood disease would have life threatening consequences for me. It’s an issue I won’t even discuss because the whole thing distresses me so much I can’t talk about it rationally.

  2. Matt Young on 21 Dec 2008 at 7:39 pm #

    I too thought his name was Will Phelps, and I cd not find him either. But did not the broadcast say he was at the Rotterdam School of Management? Unfortunately, I cd not find any faculty there.

  3. Erica on 21 Dec 2008 at 8:34 pm #

    What I really hate is when I occasionally write a blog post saying “here’s some evidence against anti-vaccination claims”, I have a bunch of commenters who claim to be RN’s who drop by and chide me for not being open-minded and for not looking at the evidence. (They never provide evidence, just wild numbers. I’m happy to look up the references for those numbers to, y’know, LOOK AT THE EVIDENCE? The references are mysteriously never there.) It chills me that nurses who are responsible for people’s well-being will wave that badge in the hopes that their bullshit claims will be made more plausible. (So, you’ve got crazy comment trolls to look forward to, Historiann…)

    My father-in-law had measles as an adult — his mother said he had measles as a child, he assumed he was immune, then grew up to be a pediatrician and a measles-kid coughed in his eye. I didn’t know him at the time, but I do know how sick he got, and that he has chronic consequences.

    Generations of very mild childhood diseases (thanks to vaccines, not “good hygiene” and other claims I’ve heard) have lulled most people into a false sense of security. There are some incredibly dangerous illnesses that aren’t extinct. Measles isn’t just chicken pox. Pertussis isn’t a bad cough. I am incredibly glad I don’t have to worry about losing most of my children to disease.

  4. Historiann on 21 Dec 2008 at 9:41 pm #

    Meg, I feel the same as you intellectually, and I am not immunocompromised (although emotionally I’m sure it’s a totally different experience for you.) Vaccinations are good–the problem is that they’re so good that many people don’t percieve the need for them. Matt, don’t you think it’s weird that we can’t track down this guy? I will e-mail the show to see if they can send us his name and affiliation.

    Erica, as you’ve clearly discerned, they can’t show you any evidence because it’s not there. It’s just their fears, which are considerable, but are not a good excuse for trashing our public health system. (I’m not sure what would be a good excuse, come to think of it…!)

  5. MCE on 21 Dec 2008 at 10:19 pm #

    Hi, saw your post was googleing for more information for more information on this this episode. It seems that Dr. Felps is currently at the Rotterdam School of Management at Erasmus University. I’ve put links to more info on Dr. Felps at the end of my post on this topic.

  6. Historiann on 22 Dec 2008 at 7:36 am #

    Thanks so much, MCE–I’ve made your link a hot link for ease of clickyness. Here’s an Erasmus U. description of Felps and his study from MCE’s blog.

  7. koshem bos on 22 Dec 2008 at 9:14 am #

    Vaccinations are not nearly a single point where people decide based on rumors, innuendo and “my neighbor said.” Starting from the arcane, people saw UFOs and big foot, others know that deregulation of the market or Milton Friedmanism is the way to affluence.

  8. GayProf on 22 Dec 2008 at 9:30 am #

    The anti-vaxers are a symptom of where this nation has gone in the past twenty years. One’s personal opinion has become “just as valid” as anybody else’s, even if that opinion is based on little or no evidence. While we should always be cautious about giving “experts” ultimate authority, it is still the case that some people simply know more than others.

  9. Buzz on 22 Dec 2008 at 10:26 am #

    We aren’t going to solve the problem with anti-vaccination types until we recognize that the problem is not that people are poorly informed about the science. Rather, the problem is psychological. People are not opposed to vaccination because they see the faulty evidence against it; they accept the bad evidence because they are looking for justification of their ingrained dislike of vaccination. It is inevitable that some people are going to develop negative feelings about vaccine injections; they are, after all, painful (literally) childhood events. Once something is associated with a strong negative emotional response, a person is hugely more likely to remember and give credence to other negative information they encounter. That is why some people latch onto the groundless claims about vaccines’ dangers. And it also explains why this reaction against vaccines is nigh-universal in the developed world, even though there are completely different theories about what makes vaccines dangerous in America, Britain, France, etc. And also why anti-vaccine activists, even when they admit that their past claims turned out not to be valid, always have some reason they are peddling why kids should not get their shots. Until we address the issue with an understanding that people are looking for any excuse to justify their ingrained, irrational dislike of vaccination, we are not going to deal with the problem.

  10. Historiann on 22 Dec 2008 at 10:41 am #

    Buzz, I see your point, but I really think that the anti-vaxers are just as entrenched and impervious to evidence and reason as are people who (for example) oppose abortion absolutely, or people who have a highly specific vision of God and the correct way to worship him. Their opposition to vaccination is faith-based, not evidence-based, so how do you argue someone out of her faith?

    I’ve come to the conclusion that you can’t argue with them or reason with them. No number of peer-reviewed studies in allopathic medical journals will convince them of anything except the “conspiracy of silence” of MDs who are all secretly in cahoots to spread autism. I mean, really! Shunning (as Erica did very courageously once) is the only way to go, for the protection of the rest of our “herd.”

  11. Historiann on 22 Dec 2008 at 10:49 am #

    To continue briefly on this point: I strongly recommend Offit’s book. It’s a speedy read, and it shows how this free-floating, irrational fear of vaccinations being the root cause of all evil moves very swiftly from one bogus theory to another, abetted by a few physicians and medical researchers that give the movement a gloss of respectability. The MMR is actually safe? OK, then it’s the thimerosal. Thimerosal is gone, and there are still children diagnosed with autism? Then it’s back to the MMR woo again, thanks to celebrity spokespeople like Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., and Jenny McCarthy.

  12. Dame Eleanor Hull on 22 Dec 2008 at 11:21 am #

    My father is 83. He says most of his childhood memories involve being quarantined for one of the illnesses we now routinely vaccinate for, or being kept home for fear of polio. The measles vaccine came out between the time my older brothers were born and my own birth, and my father speaks feelingly of the relief of being able to have all his children safe from all the scourges that shaped his childhood (and which, at least, he survived!). I wish the anti-vac people would talk to their grandparents’ generation and hear first-hand about measles epidemics and losing your friends and siblings when you and they are still children, or the non-fatal but still damaging effects like blindness, sterility, and brain damage.

  13. Penny on 22 Dec 2008 at 11:48 am #

    What always astonishes me is when a parent who doesn’t vaccinate says “well, but my kids aren’t around a lot of high-risk people anyway.” WHAT? Your kids are never in a grocery store line next to an person in fragile health? You know the medical history of all their classmates? You’re absolutely sure that none of the kids who frequent your local playground visited relatives in in rural Mexico or urban India last school break? Really? Because that’s not the world I live in.

    My very healthy daughter tested positive for TB exposure at age 4. How? She’d never traveled outside the US, or visited anyone in prison, or rode on crowded public transit. But exposure is *always* a possibility unless you’re a very committed hermit. And if it can happen with TB, it can happen with measles, it can happen with polio, it can happen with diphtheria. Nobody likes shots, but vaccinations sure beat these alternatives.

  14. Buzz on 22 Dec 2008 at 1:16 pm #

    Historiann, I think agree with you, and in fact, that’s my point. The problem with anti-vaccination people is not one of a lack of good information available, but that they are not in a position psychologically to examine and accept that information. It’s very similar to religious people, and I think that gives us an important pointer toward how to deal with this serious public health problem. The medical profession and public health authorities need to approach this not as a situation when more information needs to be disseminated, but one where a group of cult followers needs to be deprogrammed. Beyond that, however, I have no concrete advice.

    I do however, have an anecdote about how people’s unfamiliarity with dangerous childhood diseases warps their perceptions. As mentioned above, my father had measles as an adult. But at the time, he refused to believe that he could have anything serious, because the only symptoms he had were fever and rash. Even though he was a doctor, he didn’t really believe that people could still catch dangerous infectious fevers. (The kid who gave him the measles was the first case he’d seen in a decade.) As he worsened, my mother begged him to call a colleague and get himself seen, but he really thought he couldn’t have anything worse than the flu. Eventually, my mom and I convinced him that it was not just the flu, not when he had a temperature of 104 and a chest covered in quarter-size red spots. (We rarely see people–except cartoon characters–covered with spots like that when they’re sick these days. Chicken pox just isn’t the same. If you do ever see it in person though, it’s shocking.) He called a doctor, who told him to go to the emergency room right away, even though he had not idea what the problem was. It took the hospital physicians a week to agree on what my Dad had, because none of them had ever seen an adult case of measles before.

  15. Janice on 22 Dec 2008 at 1:29 pm #

    Huzzah for this post! As the mother of an autistic child, I’m really offended at the anti-vaxers claiming to speak for me. I have amazing children, both of them, even if one isn’t neurotypical.

    The crazy claims that my daughter’s autism is due to vaccinations is like the crazy claims of old that blamed autism on refrigerator moms. However, in this case, the outcome of their anti-vaccine ploy is affecting the physical health of countless millions, not just the emotional and mental well-being of families who were accused of being “bad parents”.

  16. Historiann on 22 Dec 2008 at 1:45 pm #

    Janice, you and your group of friends and supporters might especially be interested in Offit’s book. I think you’re right that the anti-vaxers are just as cruel as the Bruno Bettelheims: in both cases, parents can be blamed for their children’s conditions. They imply, “if only you were as visionary and revolutionary as we, then your child might not have contracted autism!”

    BTW, you may be interested to hear (via a pediatrician relative of mine) that people are reviewing videos of supposedly “normal” children who only became autistic after the MMR vaccination (i.e. at 15 months, when most babies become todders in pretty rapid fashion), and they’re finding evidence of autism in the children at much younger ages. I absolutely understand the frantic search for a cause and a cure–and I would certainly have supported researching the link between MMR and autism, especially if I were a parent of a child with autism. But, as we all learned in debate camp (or just the extremely geeky among us, anyway)–correlation does not equal causation.

    And Buzz: I see where you are now–but in a free society, I doubt that most people would countenance mass involuntary deprogramming! It will come down to other parents refusing to socialize with anti-vaxer parents and their unvaccinated children. If there is no price to pay for refusing vaccination, then there’s no incentive to vaccinate. But, just as public schools require children to have their shots (heck, just as kennels require dogs and cats to have their shots), so voluntary associations should make and enforce vaccination rules.

    And Penny and Dame Eleanor–thanks for stopping by again to comment. Disease is omnipresent, and it takes older family members sometimes to remind us of that. We are fortunate to be going on three or four full generations since the polio vaccine was invented, and two since the measles shot, but it does make it seem like the risk of these diseases is imaginary. Maybe people believe they or their children could survive measles, but I fear for the day when we have a polio epidemic again.

  17. notyettenured on 22 Dec 2008 at 2:15 pm #

    Did anyone else make the connection between Felp’s research and the classroom? I have observed in teaching how one “bad” student (rude to classmates/teacher, disruptive, disengaged) can demoralize the dynamic of the classroom. I really learned my lesson one semester when I had a female student in class who ridiculed the other students, and the whole class went south. I ended up feeling like I was teaching grade 13, rather than college.

    What do you do when confronted with a student who demoralizes the classroom? In moderate-sized classes I use personal interactions to try and remedy the situation. But this past semester I was teaching a 250-person class, and I had a really hard time figuring out how to deal with the bad apples. I didn’t want to discipline from the stage, because I felt like it would make my only personal interactions with the students all negative. But I ended up feeling like I had very few better options.

  18. quixote on 22 Dec 2008 at 2:46 pm #

    I’m old enough that measles shots with live vaccine were a very new thing when I was a kid. And my grandmother was a medical professional who was old enough to know all about actual measles. The doctor warned us I might feel a bit under the weather for a few days, and I did. I even ran a slight fever. But what I remember most vividly was my Gran’s reaction. Bed rest, she said, because you can get heart complications from measles. And the window shades were drawn. That was standard practice in the good old days to reduce stress on the eyes and the chance of damage. All this, and my Gran was not at all the nervous type. It really brought home to me how devastating these diseases had been.

    Just recently I was reading an anti-vaccine comment somewhere by a man who said the stuff had to be bad. After getting MMR vaccine, his daughter was kind of quiet for a couple of days.

    That made me think part of the anti-vaxers problem may be more than ignorance of the past. Doctors these days may not be taking the time for a sentence or two telling parents what to expect.

  19. Historiann on 22 Dec 2008 at 2:47 pm #

    Notyettenured–great observation. My tendency generally is to avoid conflict, but I’ve learned (from sad experience) that the professor must intervene to discipline and (if all else fails) to marginalize the “bad apple” student. The professor has to become the effective leader that Felps describes: asking questions, engaging people, and diffusing conflicts. To that I would add: making a conscious effort in every class to model interactions with students as you would like them to interact with each other. Confronting a student privately about hir disruptive behavior in class is usually the first step, but sometimes actively intervening in class is necessary.

    But as you point out, this works in classes of perhaps 10-40 or 50 people, whereas it doesn’t work so much in those 250-seat classes. There is so much else wrong about classes that size that this is only one more complaint to add to the list, but I would say that letting them know that you can see/hear them once or twice each class, preferably with good humor if you can muster it, isn’t a bad thing to do. Also, depending on how comfortable you are lecturing, I’ve also found that walking up and down the rows, and lecturing from the back of the classroom (Oprah-style, incorporating student questions and contributions) also works in that you’re letting them know that you’re not attached to the podium.

    In the end, in classes like that, I think it’s important for the good students who want to listen and learn to move into the front rows. Those who want to text message and screw around can do so in the back of the room. (Why they even bother to attend class, I’ll never understand.) But this is a lesson that all good students have to learn if they’re going to survive universities that ask them to take “intro” classes of that size: they have to cowboy/cowgirl up and take responsibility for their own learning environment too, so they need to sit upr front near other people who are quietly taking notes. One faculty member–even with the help of a few TAs–can’t possibly exert control over the entire class all of the time.

    I’m sure other commenters will have more and better ideas on this subject–please!

  20. Historiann on 22 Dec 2008 at 2:52 pm #

    quixote–thanks for your comment. If only the problem was ignorance, rather than an ideological commitment to believing that vaccination is evil! But as a historian, of course, I’m very attracted to your notion that it’s ignorance of the past that may be a part of the problem…

    I don’t know what physicians tell parents to expect from their kids after they receive vaccines. I thought everyone knew that kids may be a bit cranky and sore, and even might develop a low fever, but these “complications” are very mild in comparison to the real deal of measles, mumps, rubella, polio, etc.

    I don’t think I ever had a live vaccine, but I’m old enough to have had a smallpox shot (and I’ve got the fingerprint-sized scar on my shoulder to prove it.)

  21. nhokkanen on 22 Dec 2008 at 3:58 pm #

    This argument is not black and white, either/or. The reality is that most people are protected by vaccines, and some people are injured by vaccines.

    Distinctions must be made between the terms “anti-vaccinator” and “vaccine critic.” By some definitions, the noted immunogeneticist H. Hugh Fudenberg would be mislabeled as “antivaccine.”

    To learn, read the medical records and expert testimony at the Federal Omnibus Autism Proceedings website. Or try the Vaccine Adverse Events Reporting System.
    http://www.uscfc.uscourts.gov/omnibus-autism-proceeding
    http://vaers.hhs.gov/

    I did not understand nor believe in vaccine injury until a woman showed me her son’s lab tests. Biopsies revealed vaccine-strain measles in lesions lining the boy’s gastrointestinal tract. Excruciating, but thankfully they responded to antivirals and steroids. Other parents showed tests of their children’s mercury levels being off the charts.

    Please put some of your energies into requesting that vaccine manufacturers and public health administrators direct funding toward determining the causes of vaccine injury. Especially given the February DHHS concession in the Hannah Poling case, in which mitochondrial dysfunction played a role.

    One question is this: was the mitochondrial condition preexisting, or triggered by Thimerosal — which, according to its MSDS, is a mutagen and teratogen? Among hundreds of toxicology studies, a 2006 UC-Davis study shows that Thimerosal at 20 parts per billion damages dendritic cells. The EPA drinking water limit for mercury is 4 ppb; most injected flu shots contain 50,000 ppb.

    Can researchers develop a test to detect genetic predispositions to vaccine injuries? Let’s hope so, and soon. People with egg allergies are excluded from the vaccinated herd. Let’s not write off so many children as collateral damage in the war on disease.

  22. Dr. Crazy on 22 Dec 2008 at 5:14 pm #

    re: the bad apples in the classroom. One way to mitigate the problem in esp. large classes (that I don’t teach at my institution) that I saw in grad school in a course that I TA’d in was that a percentage of the students were “on” for discussion for each class period, and those students had to sit in a particular area that day. This helped because a lot of times students who bully are big talkers, but with this method, they only get to talk maybe 1/5 of the class meetings, and even in those meetings when they are “supposed” to talk, other students know that their grade will be screwed if they let that person take over. (The TA’s had to keep track of who spoke on the “on” days, so participation credit would be meaningful.)

    But just generally, what Historiann said about it being on the professor to keep order and to exert authority when necessary.

  23. Fratguy on 22 Dec 2008 at 9:14 pm #

    nhokkanen,

    1. Federal Omnibus Autism Proceedings. The courts are a terrible place to referee accademic and scientific matters. Just because you have a seat at the plaintifs table does not make your arguements a scientific equivalent.

    2. Mitochondrial disorders are inheirited. They are not aquired. Only in the Hannah Poling case, where a preexisting mitochondrial condition was exacerbated by vaccinations, have vaccinations been implicated in a court of law (again not a great place to ejudicate scientific hypothesis) to be responsible for mental retardation. Mitochondeial disorders themselves are very rare and tend to present with seizures, mental retardation and recurrent bouts of dangerous buildup of acid the blood, all without vaccinations.

    3. People with egg allergies are generally no longer excluded from routine MMR or flu vaccinations (the 2 most common egg cultured vaccinations)

    4. The EPA limits on mercury are so much lower than the concentrations that USED to be found in vaccinations because people tend to consume much much much much more water than vaccinations over the course of their lives. 2 cc of vaccinations 4 times in the first year of life vs 100 cc/kg/day of water minimum necessary consumption for infants.

    5. Vaccinations, with the exception of multiple dose Flu vaccines no longer contain thimerisol. The decision to remove thimerisol from vaccines was made after 2-3 weeks of deliberations despite absolutely no demonstration of harm. Removing unnecessary additives to vaccines is cool, but unfortunately this has been interprted as an admission of danger on the part of the AAP, CDC ACIP etc (see folowing)

    6. Maybe vaccinations and/or thimerisol don’t cause autism, MMR administration long predates the rise in autism cases. Plenty of money and energy has been wasted on “proving” the association of MMR and autism. The natural experiment of removing thimerisol from vaccinations has not resulted in a decrease in autism cases. Epidemiology of real kids trumps any number of damaged dendrites in a petri dish.

    I’m all for safer vaccines. Vaccines are actively monitored for possible adverse effects. The first rotavirus (50 deaths a year US, >100 K developing world) vaccination was pulled off the market (at no small cost) 6-9 months after introduction due to a demonstrated increased risk of bowel obstruction. Risk was on the order of 1 case for every 5000 to 10,000 infants that were vaccinated. If MMR or thimerisol or a combination of genetic succeptiblity and vaccines and/or thimerisol are reponsible for a 1: 150 incidence of autism, the association would be readily demonstrable. It is high time that the line of inquiry be redirected.

  24. quixote on 22 Dec 2008 at 9:19 pm #

    Historiann, I wasn’t trying to imply that ignorance the main problem. If only! But still, small initial ignorance can contribute, and sometimes it can even be a catalyst for more massive stupidity.

    I’ll jump in on the steering-classes discussion. (I’ve taught for decades, and I can’t resist.) I agree that the first thing to try is a private word, but if that doesn’t have the desired effect then I found the following can work surprisingly well. When you notice the untoward behavior, stop speaking or whatever you’re doing and look at the student. That’s all. Pretty soon everybody’s looking at the student who rapidly gets hugely embarrassed. It’s also very rare that they don’t know exactly why it’s happening, and, at least in my experience, the behavior never happens in your classes again. (If they honestly don’t get it, then try a second private word.) Once the student stops the offensive behavior, carry on with whatever you were doing before. As I say, it’s worked like a charm for me.

  25. Erica on 22 Dec 2008 at 11:10 pm #

    @Penny — I tested positive for TB from the first tine test I ever took until I went off to college. Never had tuberculosis, and was never in any high risk region or situation… apparently there are some people who are simply allergic to whatever proteins they use in the test, and so the little bumps were always irritated.

    @nhokkanen — There are many, many environmental factors which can contribute to high mercury levels. Living near a coal-fired power plant, for example, raised my mercury levels. Numerous species of fish have extremely high mercury levels, including the commonly-eaten tuna. Drinking water has mercury.

    I also am curious about: “… thimerosal at 20 parts per billion damages dendritic cells. The EPA drinking water limit for mercury is 4 ppb; most injected flu shots contain 50,000 ppb.” Once that flu shot is injected into and dispersed throughout a human body, what is the PPB concentration? I don’t know the volume of a flu shot, nor the volume of a person, or I’d do the math. Without that math, we are simply comparing apples to oranges. (A logically comparable statement: I have 250,000 PPM people in my household. Odds of winning the lottery are 0.2 PPM. What conclusions can we draw specifically from those numbers about whether I am a millionaire?)

    Of course vaccine injuries occur. The risks are spelled out on the handy information sheets from my child’s doctor each time he/she gets a shot. But keep the discussion fact-based, rather than drawing speculative conclusions. And please don’t imply that a pro-vaccination viewpoint results in callous disregard for people who can’t be vaccinated or people who have had negative reactions.

  26. Historiann on 23 Dec 2008 at 4:55 am #

    quixote–great suggestion–the silent treatment is a low-key way to make your point about disruptive behavior in class.

    Erica is correct: pro-vaccination does not mean hostility to people who can’t be vaccinated. In fact, it’s only everyone else’s vaccinations that keeps them safe. Given that there are people who either can’t be vaccinated or whose immunity is otherwise compromised, refusing to vaccinate healthy children risks their health and safety especially.

  27. Penny on 23 Dec 2008 at 3:07 pm #

    @Erica–that’s certainly a possibility–we’ll probably never know if it was a genuine exposure or not. The standard protocol (which we followed) was nine months of prophylactic antibiotics, and chest x-rays instead of the skin test for the rest of her life. She had to enroll in kindergarten during those nine months–so I had to explain to the school nurse why she was taking anti-TB meds… ;)

    “Erica is correct: pro-vaccination does not mean hostility to people who can’t be vaccinated.”

    Agreed!

  28. rhahnen on 27 Dec 2008 at 7:00 pm #

    Thanks for the school references. I never had a problem while teaching college, but now that I’m in a high school environment, the “Bad Apple Effect” is glaring. One bad apple can usually be neutralized through positive attention, humor or quick dismissal. A collogue has a class with at least five or six very bad apples. It’s a nightmare. The sad part is that the good apples are learning nothing and will most likely fail the class along with the bad apples. Does anyone know of educational research in this area? Dr. Felps is real: Dr. Will Felps http://www.rsm.nl/home/faculty/academic_departments/organisation_and_personnel_management/faculty/faculty/felps

  29. Jeanie Peterson on 02 Jan 2009 at 12:23 am #

    TAL did show his name and affiliation, which was Will Felps (currently a professor at Rotterdam School of Management in the Netherlands). By running a Google Search under his name and Bad Apple, I was able to pull up a reference to the book on Google books, see the link below: http://books.google.com/books?id=RKkxJnn73UoC&pg=PA175&lpg=PA175&dq=%22will+felps%22+%2B+bad+apple&source=web&ots=yry0-DQDv7&sig=kP8FoRY-KSSg0U4VHn_Dl4va9Y8&hl=en&sa=X&oi=book_result&resnum=2&ct=result

  30. Raye Craig on 03 Jan 2009 at 3:42 am #

    Like Janice I really resent the anti-vax people. When my sons, now aged 12 and 9, were infants, the polemics about vaccines were at a fever pitch. Seems to me I recall a U.S. Senator getting in on the argument re:thimerosol. I was scared to death, in that way that you can get neurotic with all the responsibility that attends having a small child. Nevertheless, I vaccinated because I believe in it very strongly.

    As it all turned out, both my sons are autistic. I was v. relieved to learn that it couldn’t have been the MMR. It seems likely that we’ve got genetic predisposition in our family, on both sides. I think it’s also likely that one day a better understanding of possible contributary factors will help explain the evident boom in cases. I mean, like many people, I had no clue about autism when I was in my youth (1970′s) and now it’s all over the place. I personally notice what looks like a cluster among my cohort.

  31. Book Review - Autism’s False Prophets | The Global Sociology Blog on 05 Jan 2009 at 11:35 pm #

    [...] want to subscribe to the RSS feed for updates on this topic.Powered by Greet Box A while back, Historiann recommended Paul Offit’s book, Autism False Prophets – Bad Science, Risky Medicine and The [...]

  32. autism epidemic on 03 Feb 2010 at 11:39 pm #

    There is not autism epidemic. Rather, it’s an epidemic of misdiagnosis, mislabeling……..research shows investigations and audits are , more and more, revealing that thousands of kids who are diagnosed ‘autism” in the schools and other public agencies…aren’t really autistic…but the numbers of autistic kids helps schools and other agencies convince the government this is an “epidemic” that requires “more money” more funding, more grants, etc, etc…total scam. con job. As for Jenny Mccarthy she’s a liar. Straight up con artist..she knows that her son wasn’t ever realyy autistic, but she don’t care…it’s all about her….anyone who supports mccartthy will be known as a person who doesn’t know crap about real autism

  33. Tanya on 07 Sep 2010 at 2:23 pm #

    It looks like someone already pointed it out but TAL did describe the segment with Felps on their Web site as they always do with their shows:

    http://www.thisamericanlife.org/radio-archives/episode/370/ruining-it-for-the-rest-of-us

    Their synopsis contains a like to Professor Felps faculty page at University of Rotterdam.

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