Archive for April 2008

Two Arguments In Favor Of Home Schooling

April 30, 2008

The first:

A Portland high school has raised eyebrows with its brow grooming policy: Shave ’em or go home.

Some students at Centennial High School have shaved vertical lines into their eyebrows in a trend recently made popular by hip-hop star Soulja Boy. School officials said the mark looks like a gang symbol.

Centennial administrators told students with the lines that they can’t return to school until they shave off their eyebrows. Assistant Principal Mark Porterfield said the students were not suspended, but they were not allowed in school until they cooperated.

That one is at least defensible. Maybe the lines could be a gang symbol. And maybe allowing them could lead to some kind of actual disturbance. Maybe. I don’t think the maybes justify the absolute prohibition, but hey, I can at least understand the other side.

This one, though, is patently absurd:

In September of 2007, the principal at Hollis F. Price Middle College High told teachers she wanted the names of all student couples, “hetero and homo,” because she wanted to monitor them personally to prevent students from engaging in public displays of affction.

The two students now represented by the ACLU, Andrew and Nicholas (who have asked that their last names not be revealed), were two A students who had been seeing each other for a short time and were attempting to keep their relationship quiet and private.

The principal heard about them through another student, then wrote their names on a list she posted next to her desk, in full view of anyone who entered her office.

One of the boys’ mothers personally witnessed the list when she met with the principal a few days later. . .

Although the boys had never been observed by any school staff engaging in any sort of display of affection, the principal called Nicholas’s mother Nichole.

According to Nichole, the principal said things like “Did you know your son is gay?” repeatedly and went on to say that she didn’t like gay people and wouldn’t tolerate homosexuality at her school.

Both students say they’ve had to deal with verbal harassment from both teachers and students since word got out around the school about their principal’s actions.

According to Nicholas, he also suffered another consequence of the principal’s discrimination. He had submitted extensive paperwork and several recommendations from teachers for a school trip to New Orleans to assist in rebuilding efforts.

Having a long history of community service, he was considered a shoo-in to be selected to go before the incident, but then a teacher told Nicholas some faculty were afraid he might “embarrass the school” or engage in “inappropriate behavior.”

A few days later, another student who hadn’t even applied to go on the trip was selected in his place.

“We never bothered anyone or did a single thing at school that broke any of the rules,” said Nicholas, a junior and honor student. “Every day I feel like they’re still punishing me, and I’m worried that this is going to hurt my chances to get into a good college.”

Let’s take this one piece at a time.

One, how ridiculous is it to ask for a list of all student couples? Unless you want them im’d in real time, any list would be totally out of date by the time she got it.

Two, Chris Hansen might want to give this lady a call, given that she wanted the names of the couples so she could personally monitor them. Catching two kids in the middle of a PDA is one thing, sneaking around hoping to find them is just creepy.

Three, I hate to use such crude metaphors given the subject of the post, but the teachers who gave her the list need to grow some cajones. If my principal asked me to do something like this, I would laugh at her.

Four, note that these two kids did nothing wrong. As ass-headed as was the principal’s stalking idea, she did not even catch them breaking any rules. They are excellent students, yet they now face mockery from peers and other teachers, as well as doubts about their futures. All that because of their status as homosexuals. Seems a bit disproportional to me.

Five, even if you think being gay is wrong, you have to admit this is an unbelievably clumsy and ignorant way to deal with what you think is a problem. Wouldn’t the better approach have been a private conference, rather than exposing these kids to humiliation and harm? What do you suppose they now think about people who disapprove of homosexuality? My guess is that they think those folks are ignorant, nasty, mean-spirited fools. Sure, most aren’t. But this principal certainly was.

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Right Decision, Wrong Reason

April 29, 2008

This would have been pure verbiage:

The Louisiana House of Representatives today killed a bill that would have defined school bullying as harassing, threatening or harming students for reasons including race, religion or sexual orientation.

Rep. Walt Leger, of New Orleans, told the House the bill is needed to beef up law that already requires school boards to develop and enforce anti-bullying policies. His bill would have defined bullying as intimidating behavior based on race, religion, perceived or actual sexual orientation, gender, ancestry, disability, physical characteristics or clothing.

There’s no reason for the state to define and forbid bullying, even doing it at the board level is silly. Each school can handle this on their own. Every teacher and every administrator knows what bullying is and knows not to allow it. And if you think anyone would possibly look to a statute to determine whether a student’s actions were bullying, well, you’re crazy. But it isn’t just unnecessary, it’s also poorly written. That is, why the limits on motive? Under this bill, if Billy threatened Bobby in order to take Bobby’s lunch money, it would not be bullying. It needs a catch all, like “with the intent to harass, bother, humiliate or annoy.”

But of course, if you know anything at all about Louisiana, you know the real reason the bill died:

In recent committee testimony, some opponents said the bill would encourage homosexuality.

Boy, I’d like to have heard that testimony: “Oh my God! Kids might catch the gay if we pass this! Holy s**t, do you think we can get it just from discussing the homersexshuls? Quick, kill the bill, kill the bill!”

How in the world do people get that stupid?

Obama, Wright, And Batson

April 28, 2008

You know the first two, the third is the Scotus case that said prosecutors can’t exclude people from juries based on race.

How would a defendant know whether a prosecutor excluded Joe Juror because Joe is black, as opposed to Joe’s criminal record? Well, one way is if white jurors with criminal records also served, or if the prosecutor only asked black people about the existence, vel non, of a criminal past. In either case, the proffered reason for excluding the black person is properly seen as a pretext. That is, if having a criminal record is such an awful thing, why did he not ask that of all the jurors? The answer, of course, is that skin color was the real issue.

Today, I heard Rev. Wright’s explanation of his controversial remarks. A sample:

Leinwand asked Wright to explain what he meant in a sermon delivered shortly after the Sept. 11 attacks, when he said the United States had brought the terrorist attacks on itself.

“Have you heard the whole sermon?” Wright responded. “No, no, the whole sermon. That’s yes or no. No, you haven’t heard the whole sermon? That nullifies that question.”

Wright then said he would try to answer the question in a “non-bombastic way.” He said he was quoting an ambassador to Iraq in that sermon, although he did not give the ambassador’s name.

“Jesus said, ‘Do unto others as you would have them do unto you,'” Wright added. “You cannot do terrorism on other people and expect it never to come back on you. Those are biblical principles, not Jeremiah Wright bombastic, divisive principles.”

Another:

Wright said the comment captured on YouTube — in which he says, “Not God bless America, but God damn America” — was taken out of context.

“God doesn’t bless everything,” he said. “God damns some practices, and there’s no excuse for the things that the government — not the American people — have done. That doesn’t make me not like America or unpatriotic.”

So he says God might be mad at America, and that we might have deserved 9/11. Gee, that sounds kind of familiar:

Television evangelists Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson, two of the most prominent voices of the religious right, said liberal civil liberties groups, feminists, homosexuals and abortion rights supporters bear partial responsibility for Tuesday’s terrorist attacks because their actions have turned God’s anger against America.

“God continues to lift the curtain and allow the enemies of America to give us probably what we deserve,” said Falwell, appearing yesterday on the Christian Broadcasting Network’s “700 Club,” hosted by Robertson.

“Jerry, that’s my feeling,” Robertson responded. “I think we’ve just seen the antechamber to terror. We haven’t even begun to see what they can do to the major population.”

Falwell said the American Civil Liberties Union has “got to take a lot of blame for this,” again winning Robertson’s agreement: “Well, yes.”

Then Falwell broadened his blast to include the federal courts and others who he said were “throwing God out of the public square.” He added: “The abortionists have got to bear some burden for this because God will not be mocked. And when we destroy 40 million little innocent babies, we make God mad. I really believe that the pagans, and the abortionists, and the feminists, and the gays and the lesbians who are actively trying to make that an alternative lifestyle, the ACLU, People for the American Way — all of them who have tried to secularize America — I point the finger in their face and say, ‘You helped this happen.’ “

Robertson, of course, endorsed Rudy Giuliani this year, and though he (thank God) lost to John McCain, McCain has actually kissed Falwell’s ring. So why no slamming McCain for his active courting of the Falwell/Robertson vote?

Seems to me if the general complaint against Wright is that he is unpatriotic, then that applies with equal force to Falwell/Robertson (and Dobson, and thousands of other religious righters). So if you slam Obama for going to an anti-American church, you ought to be slamming McCain (and most of the Republican party), too. But no one is doing that.

Why the disparate treatment? The only real differences between Wright and Falwell/Robertson are: 1) skin color, and 2) the rationale for their condemnation of America. In other words, folks who are just fine with Falwell (and Dobson, etc.) but hate Wright either: 1) have a race problem, or 2) think it’s perfectly believable that God would destroy America for allowing gays to marry, but that it is preposterous to think God would destroy America for what they see as the old news of slavery. Accepting either of those distinctions, I think, makes you an idiot. With a race problem.

I guess I’m taking a really long time to say that if you condemn Obama for Wright, you ought to condemn McCain (and most of the Republican party) for their relationship to the religious right. If you are concerned about integrity and consistency, that is.

BTW, I am NOT an Obamaniac. This is pretty much my view on the POTUS race.

No more pacies

April 28, 2008

Today, the babies and I said “bye, bye” to the ever-faithful pacifier. Mommy cut the tip off, then gave what was left to the babies. They both put the pacies in their mouths, looked rather confused, then spit them out on the floor. After several more attempts in different positions – with no change in the pacifier – they listened as I told them that the pacies were broken and needed to be thrown away. We all marched stoically to the trash can and threw the nubs away. Well, Omi grabbed both nubs off the floor and ran to the trash can; Mac followed behind screaming for his. After Omi threw them both in the trash, we looked at them lying in the bottom and again said, “bye, bye.” Mac, still crying for his, stopped long enough to listen as I explained again how they were broken and that he was a big boy now and didn’t need it. He grinned and said, “big boy!” He seemed excited at this idea.

After lunch, it was nap time. I knew this would be the true test. They babies haven’t gotten a pacifier, except at nap time and bedtime, for several months now. Mac only cried for about 10 minutes. I went in and offered him a cup of water, and then he went right to sleep. Omi, the more stubborn of the two, has now been crying for 20 minutes with no sign of stopping.

We’ll see how the rest of the day goes. If anyone has any suggestions or ideas, please feel free to leave them!

Our Church Dilemma

April 27, 2008

One of the nice things about our house is that we are about a half a block from our local church. That, it turns out, is also one of the drawbacks. The services are atrocious, but because of the proximity, I feel compelled to attend.

The renovations to the sanctuary, landing masses in the elementary school’s all purpose room, have caused part of the problem. Fluorescent lights, dropped tile ceilings, the absence of windows, and an incense overpowering aroma caused by the rubberized floor that is very similar to what you get in your local Goodyear store all eliminate anything even remotely close to a reverent atmosphere. But this is temporary, and the new sanctuary should be very nice.

The big problems are the music and the priests. As for the former, all I can say is imagine some simple backwoods Baptist church in which some eighty year old self taught pianist leads music from behind an upright piano while the six member choir sings in multiple keys, and you’ve got our music. Worse, they’ve chosen all kinds of teeny bopper type tunes for the responses and such. The music frequently clashes with what ought to be the mood.

As for the priests, one of the two priests is decent enough. His homilies can be interested, though they are always long winded. The other guy though, is unbelievably bad. To start, he has one of those aspirated high toned “I’m so holy” voices. That is then made worse by what can only be marbles in his mouth, so mumbly is his speech. He is also very long winded and has a terrible habit of chasing rabbit trails. Today, for instance, it took him nearly ten minutes to announce at the end of the mass: 1) The red mass is Friday, and 2) the dedication of the new sanctuary has been moved to July. Several people left while he was wandering through these two apparently simple things. Oh, he also frequently forgets to turn off his microphone, meaning we all get to hear his snorts, sneezes, and hacks broadcast throughout the church.

Anyway, there are two other churches in town that ought to be much better. But then we’d have to load up and drive. That isn’t a big deal now, but when the kids get older, it would mean we would be forced to hang around for adult education while the kids go to parish school of religion. The big bonus here is that we (well, mostly me) could go home and tell the kids to follow when they get done.

So I don’t know what to do. Walk to church but endure masses that had they been my first exposure to Catholicism would have ensured I remained a Baptist? Or, get a more worshipful and dignified experience, but have to load up and drive, and then one day have to sit through the Catholic version of Sunday School? Maybe I could just watch a certain amount of EWTN every week and be done with it.

Why Not Just Wear A Sign That Says “I’m An Ignorant, Xenophobic, P.O.S.?”

April 25, 2008

Because that’s what this one says:

A busy week.

April 25, 2008

We’ve had a very busy few days with the babies. Some good and some not so good….

Just the other day, Mac got his first “boo-boo.” I was in the house, getting ready to join everyone else on the porch when I heard Mac scream, and then Wheeler came rushing past me with a very bloody little boy in his arms. My first response was, “Ohmygod – that’s my baby’s blood!” After a split-second hesitation, I followed them to the kitchen to clear out one side of the sink. With Mac sitting under the faucet, I rushed off to find the peroxide, band aids, and neosporin. Properly armed, we began searching Mac’s arms and hands and after a few minutes, located the cut on one of his fingers. While very small, it bled quite a bit and took several minutes before we were able to stop it. With everyone cleaned up and all the blood wiped off the floors, counters, and sink, Mac examined this thing attached to his finger. Omi tentatively touched it and said “boo-boo.” A small crisis averted, but one that still makes me nervous. No mom wants to see her child bleeding.

Later that same day, the whole family went to the Holiday in Dixie parade. We sat on the courthouse lawn and watched as the floats came closer and closer. After a few went past, and we discovered that every parade in Louisiana is an excuse to throw beads and candy, we decided to venture a little closer to enjoy the loot. Unfortunately, as we walked up to the side of the street, the Shriners drove by in their little cars. These guys really crack me up, but they did not have the same effect on Mac and Omi. They both clung to Wheeler and me, refusing to let go even when floats started throwing beads and chocolate candy. Even with nervous babies clinging to us, we had a blast (and got quite a few new beads, candy, and toys).

Yesterday, we drove to Aunt Alicia and Steph’s house to swim for the first time of the year. With the pool nearing 80 degrees, we strapped on swim diapers and dove in. Well, not quite. Mac and Omi were content to sit on the steps and splash in the water. When we tried to encourage them to go deeper, they climbed out. But, they did have a blast throwing water weights into the pool to see how far they could make Mommy swim to fetch them. They have me well trained. 🙂 After some delicious grilled pork chops, we headed home where the babies (and Mommy) enjoyed their very first full night of sleep in over a week. Maybe we should go swimming every day. They did look awfully cute.

And today? Well, today is Friday. My day off. And since I’ve already cleaned house (and it’s still relatively clean), washed clothes, and bought groceries this week, it will truly be my day off. Ahhh. Glorious, Friday.