Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Brad Mathewson and the ACLU
have made it on The Volokh Conspiracy. They say, from what they've read of the case, that it should be a clear victory for Mathewson. More here.
David, your last post
makes me wonder how this principal expects teachers to teach, I don't know, most of European history. I mean, there were only religious wars, Inquisitions, tribulations, Reformations, etc, shaping the course of European history.

One of the single greatest events of the early 16th century was the Reformation. How can this be discussed in any meaningful way without exploring the grievances Martin Luther had against the Catholic Church? Or how Luther responded? Indulgences, the abuses of the clergy, thoughts about faith vs works, etc, don't make any sense if there is no religious context given.

Now, something else I wonder about, whether the same administrators who ban any mention of Christian conceptions of God would allow for any conversations about the nature of Islam when discussing their conquests in Southern Europe, or as context during the Crusades.
John Derbyshire is singing praises to Lowe's
over in The Corner. I bleed orange, but perhaps only because it's the only color I know.
Joe, in continuation
of your post on separation of church and state, there's this:
A California teacher has been barred by his school from giving students documents from American history that refer to God -- including the Declaration of Independence.

...

Williams asserts in the lawsuit that since May he has been required to submit all of his lesson plans and supplemental handouts to Vidmar for approval, and that the principal will not permit him to use any that contain references to God or Christianity.

Among the materials she has rejected, according to Williams, are excerpts from the Declaration of Independence, George Washington's journal, John Adams' diary, Samuel Adams' "The Rights of the Colonists" and William Penn's "The Frame of Government of Pennsylvania."

"He hands out a lot of material and perhaps 5 to 10 percent refers to God and Christianity because that's what the founders wrote," said Thompson, a lawyer for the Alliance Defense Fund, which advocates for religious freedom. "The principal seems to be systematically censoring material that refers to Christianity and it is pure discrimination."
For Pete's sake, it's history! To invoke Joe [this really is an echo chamber], you really can't study history if you ignore motivations and beliefs. No one can pretend that religion has not played a role, and a monumentally significant role at that.

This is different than the Pledge of Allegiance issue that is mentioned in the last paragraph of the article (for no reason that I can discern, by the way). I am one who believes that "under God" should be taken out of the Pledge of Allegiance because you shouldn't have to acknowledge a higher power to love this country. The pledge is not a history lesson. There is a difference.
The Ayn Rand Institute has operatives at Pixar,
or so it would seem according to this:
"The Incredibles" suggests "a thorough, feverish immersion in both American comic books and the philosophy of Ayn Rand," writes A.O. Scott in The New York Times, referring to the founder of "objectivism," [scare quotes?] a philosophy anchored in capitalism and atheism [I thought it was anchored in reason and that capitalism and atheism are corollaries, not anchors, but oh well].

When the "Incredibles" hero "balances a globe-shaped robot on his shoulders, should we be thinking of 'Atlas Shrugged'?" writes Newsday critic John Anderson, citing Rand's most famous novel, about a "strike" by gifted leaders that brings an ungrateful society to its knees. The movie's chief subplot, about a superhero imitator, "suggests not only class warfare, but also something approaching a Divine Right of Superheroes," he adds.
Yes, we should worry about this, since the real superheroes in our midst wil see this film and be inspired to rise up. But seriously, Mr. Incredible used his powers to - I don't know - take over the world, then they'd have a point. But he didn't, so they don't.

And then there's this:
A scene cited by several critics shows a homemaker, the former Elastigirl, reminding her husband, the former Mr. Incredible, that their superspeedy son Dash will be graduating soon. "He isn't graduating," says Mr. Incredible with disdain. "He's only moving from fourth grade to fifth grade.

"They're constantly finding ways to celebrate mediocrity!" he adds, exasperated that Dash gets honored for an ordinary achievement - but can't join his school's track team, because his superpowers would make it unfair to the other kids.

Is there a subtle sociological statement embedded in "The Incredibles"?

"I can't help thinking of [philosopher Friedrich] Nietzsche and his idea that some people are better and more deserving than others," says Mikita Brottman, professor of language and literature at the Maryland Institute College of Art in Baltimore.

"The movie salutes Superman," Dr. Brottman adds. "Not the 'superman' in comic books but the one [despots] believe in. Its idea seems to be that even in a democracy some people are 'more equal' than others, and the rest of us shouldn't be so presumptuous as to get in their way."
No, its idea is that you should strive to be your best. Also, there's little meaning to celebrations of ordinary events - "graduating" [yes, I'll use scare quotes] from 4th grade, for example. If you believe these are bad ideas, then you must believe that no one is any more exceptional than anyone else at anything, a lowest-common-denominator way of thinking. You can pretend this is true, but it's not. As the kid points out in this movie, saying that everyone is special is the same as saying that no one is.
Happy Thanksgiving.
Yes, I know I'm a day early, but the Monolith and Mrs. Monolith are visiting the Moderate Libertarian Extremist and his family, and I likely won't think of posting tomorrow.
David,
Brad Mathewson has been to this blog (his comment is here). This, of course, makes me wonder two things: We actually have readers? And how did anyone find us? I usually think of the blog as something of an echo chamber, but that's just me.

As you say, I cannot think of any reason why he shouldn't be allowed to wear the shirt at school. The school board's claiming it's disruptive, but I imagine that it probably isn't a real problem; it's just a pretext because the board doesn't want to invite controversy.

That plan seems to have backfired.
The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie is silly,
which I suppose is the point, but it was too silly for me. My kids liked it, and their friends that we took along liked it, and Thomas Hibbs thinks it's okay, but I thought it was dumb. And I like the TV show. The pirates were a nice touch, but I could have done without David Hasselhoff. And maybe I'm turning into an old fuddy-duddy, but I don't think the kids needed to see SpongeBob hungover (albeit from an ice cream binge) or SpongeBob in a thong or Patrick with a flag stuck in the crack of his butt. The Incredibles is so much better.

That being said, there was a sequence I found funny enough to laugh out loud, although I still think it was inappropriate for kids. To set this up, it's enough to know that Patrick has the hots for King Neptune's daughter Mindy and at one point in the film Patrick has his pants down and just gets them pulled back up when Mindy arrives:
Patrick: Did you see me in my underwear?

Mindy: No.

Patrick: Do you want to?
I don't know why I found that so funny, but I did.
So now the ACLU
is suing the Webb City school district over the dress code:
The American Civil Liberties Union sued the school district Tuesday after Brad Mathewson, 16, was twice told that his T-shirts were disruptive and violated the school dress code. The suit also names Webb City High School Principal Stephen P. Gollhofer.

The ACLU contends that school officials violated Mathewson's rights when they told him to turn the shirts inside out.

"We're not asking Webb City to change their dress code," said Joplin lawyer Bill Fleischaker, who is serving as Mathewson's co-counsel. "We're only asking the school board apply its code evenly and fairly."

Fleischaker said the suit asks that the district reverse its position and permit Mathewson to wear the shirts that have been called into question by school officials. The first, which Mathewson wore to school on Oct. 20, identified the FHS Gay-Straight Alliance, a group at Mathewson's former school in Fayetteville, Ark., on the front. On the back, it displayed a pink triangle with symbols representing gay and straight couples, and the words "Make a Difference." The second shirt, which he wore to school on Oct. 27, was homemade, and said "I'm gay and I'm proud."

At a news conference Tuesday afternoon at Fleischaker's office, Mathewson rejected claims that his stance centered around sexual orientation.

"This issue is not about homosexuality," he said. "It's about my constitutional rights."
This is the issue that's drawing Fred Phelps to the area for a few days:
The Rev. Fred Phelps Sr., leader of the Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, Kan., plans to mount protests on Sunday outside five Joplin churches and a Webb City church, and on Monday morning outside Webb City High School.
So maybe I'll have something to do this weekend - standing in the snow holding a sign reading, "You make me wish there really was a God so He could send you to an eternity of watching Will & Grace and Queer Eye reruns while being caressed by Chippendales dancers, you schmuck".

That being said, the school needs to be able to enforce its dress code, but it also needs to enforce it fairly. When I was in high school, I had to change out of my "Bear Whiz Beer" shirt because the principal found the cartoon of a bear taking a leak on my chest a tad uncouth. At the time I was bummed, but of course now I agree with his decision (Joe, how could our parents let me go to school like that, anyway?).

However, I don't think Mathewson's shirts are obscene or otherwise worthy of being banned (sorry, I've been unable to find pictures online, but I've seen photos in the local paper). Of course, there are those that believe homosexuality itself is obscene and don't want to see any mention of it anywhere. But if the school banned everything that could possibly offend someone, then everyone would be wearing plain white t-shirts.

Bottom line: let the kid wear the shirts. They're not hurting anyone.

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

This doesn't look like it really came
from a '54 edition of Popular Mechanics to me (the printer looks too new for 1954), but still, the concept is consistent. That probably is the smallest possible computer most would envision at the time.
I believe in the separation of church and state,
but this is just silly. How are civics and American history teachers supposed to handle, say, the early coloniztion of the U.S. if they can't mention religious themes? How about the founding of Rhode Island?

One would think that a key to historical study would be to discover what motivated them -- what was their driving ideology or motivation. If you can't mention the religious ideals of the Puritans, how do you explain their actions?
Watched Van Helsing last night.
What a terrible film. There's a scene right out of the Wizard of Oz where I thought Faramir would start yelling "Fly, fly, my pretties!" (I refer to the friar-guy as Faramir as I'm sure it's the same actor from LOTR and he'll always be the captain of Gondor to me.) Then there's a scene at the end of the movie where I thought a cartoon of God would pop out of the clouds and tell Van Helsing to go on a quest for the Grail. Oh, and the grave digger looked in Transylvania reminded me too much of the butler from The Rocky Horror Picture Show. If only Dracula had been wearing fishnet stockings, the illusion would have been complete. Lame.

Monday, November 22, 2004

Being fined for using the remote
may become a reality:
A new bill before Congress may eventually have DVD-viewers thinking twice before fast-forwarding through the ads and previews.

The proposed legislation would make fast-forwarding through those ads illegal -- not only in theaters, but also at home, NBC News reported.
You can find more details here.

Holy crap. What's next? You're not allowed to go to the fridge during commercials?

Sunday, November 21, 2004

Take that, safety school!
Harvard beat Yale 35 - 3. That's an ass-whuppin'.
Hard luck for poor Eli,
Tough on the blue
Now. All together,
Smash them and break them through.
‘Gainst the line of Crimson
They can’t prevail
Three cheers for Harvard!
And down with Yale!
Rah! Rah! Rah!
Down with Yale!
Or...
Ten Thousand Men of Harvard want victory today
For they know that o’er old Eli
Fair Harvard holds sway.
So then we’ll conquer all old Eli’s men,
And when the game ends we’ll sing again:
Ten Thousand Men of Harvard gained vict’ry today.