Sep 302007

When I first saw this Yahoo news article, I figured there had to be more to the story:

A Spencer, N.Y., student was sent home from school last week for wearing a T-shirt that denounces homophobia.

Heathyre Farnham, 16, said she was not trying to be inflammatory by wearing the shirt that says, “Gay? Fine By Me.”

Contrary to what the lead sentence says, there’s nothing in that message about homophobia. (What would have been really interesting would have been a T-shirt that said, “Gay? Fine By Me. Homophobic? Fine By Me.”)

It turns out there are news articles with additional information, though it seems most of the information comes from one side of the conflict. The school doesn’t want to talk to the news media about it, which I suppose is reasonable. These types of stories can get spun one way or another so easily, as any parent or teacher who has had to referee a squabble can tell you.

But it’s interesting that all of a sudden, out of the blue, religion is dragged into it. Here it is, a non sequitur from another version:

Beeman [the kid’s mother] noted that religious issues had proven disruptive the previous school year, with students saying that their lessons at school contradicted their religious training.

Said Beeman, “There’re six churches in the area,” and added that the locale “tends to revolve around this religious hub.”

Added Beeman, “It tends to infiltrate into the school. Last year classes would be interrupted by period-long debates, that ’they shouldn’t be teaching this.’”

Said Beeman, “We’re very tolerant of people’s beliefs, but we don’t want them shoved down our throats and that tends to be what happens.”

Note the word “infiltrate.” It took me a while to realize why that bothered me. But now I remember. Back in the 50s, it was a word often used by people complaining about communists “infiltrating” schools and Hollywood. I know the folks using that word back then meant it was a bad thing. Sounds like this Beeman thinks it’s a bad thing, too.

Others might thing think it healthy that people with diverse beliefs can have their say and debate issues.

Here’s what one academic had to say about the subject of debates in the classroom. It’s something that’s posted in the library in the department where I work. You can find it in various places on the web, too.

It is important that students bring a certain ragamuffin, barefoot irreverence to their studies; they are not here to worship what is known, but to question it. — Jacob Bronowski

Sounds like that’s what’s happening at that school, in more ways than one. It’s too bad the news reporters didn’t do a little more questioning of their own, though, such as asking Beeman how she defines “shoved down our throats.”

Sep 292007

District 3 schoolyard

This photo is dredged up from what once was a web site of mine, circa 1995. I got it to go with an article in the Weekend Edition of the WSJ, titled “Inconvenient Youths.” Here are samples:

In households across the country, kids are going after their parents for environmental offenses, from using plastic cups to serving non-grass-fed beef at the dinner table. Many of these kids are getting more explicit messages about becoming eco-warriors at school and from popular books and movies.


Some parents object to what they see as proselytizing by their kids’ schools. Mark D. Hill, who until recently was chairman of the Republican party in Marin County, says some mothers called him upset when their children came home from Bacich Elementary School in Kentfield, Calif., with fliers stuffed in their backpacks advertising a screening of “An Inconvenient Truth.” The parents thought the public school shouldn’t promote the screening, which was paid for by a local parent, because they considered it a political statement.

Sally Peck, the principal of Bacich, disagrees. “We have a responsibility to educate our children,” she says.

Mr. Hill says the mothers worried their children would be criticized if they spoke out, so they kept their names secret. “It’s very scary for mothers,” he says. “They kind of go with the programs because they don’t want to be viewed as trouble-makers.”

It would seem that Principal Sally Peck is having trouble distinguishing indoctrination from education.   These people think it’s OK to indoctrinate kids in environmental morality, but watch what happens when you suggest that kids be taught sexual morality.

But it can’t be helped.  Some sort of morality is going to be taught.

Here’s an idea, and this is where the photo comes in.   The photo is of the old District No. 3 schoolyard in Bazile Mills, Nebraska.  It was taken a couple of hours before my first bike tour ever, in summer 1995.  The school was long gone, but I’m showing my youngest son where we used to play softball.  When I was a kid we lived in a house to the right of the church in the photo, where my father was pastor.   We usually walked to school across that field.

It was a two-room public school, and when the school consolidation movement came to Nebraska in the 1950s there was a big battle over whether the school should be closed and consolidated with the Creighton school, three miles away.   My parents were on the anti-consolidation side.   They were so unhappy with the high-handed techniques that had been used in an attempt to close the school that when it came time for me to go to high school, they didn’t send me to Creighton.  They instead sent me to a smaller school to the north at Center, on the edge of the Santee Sioux reservation.   I was fortunate to have had that experience — both the school experience and the witnessing of what my parents did to try to  preserve quality of education.

What does that have to do with our little eco-warriors?   Well, if teachers really want to teach about cutting down on greenhouse gases, they will want to teach the kids that the school districts should be broken up into small neighborhood schools — us-consolidated, if you will,  so that not so much fuel will need to be burned transporting kids to school and school activities.

One photo I didn’t find was of the area at the base of the Gull Creek valley in Kalamazoo County, MI.  That used to be the prettiest little valley in Kalamazoo County.  It reminded me of Ireland somewhat.  But when the community of Galesburg decided to build a new school, they did the same as so many others and built it out in the country where there was room for massive parking lots for all the kids who drive to school.   It destroyed the lower end of that little valley.  And who can blame kids for driving, or parents for driving their young ones, when the alternative is that abomination known as the school bus Whether children travel by bus or by car, if schools were unconsolidated it would make a huge difference in greenhouse gas emissions.

But no, just the opposite is being done.  Our Gull Lake school district recently closed a fine little elementary school in Bedford — the one my youngest son attended.    Now kids have to be transported a much greater distance to a centralized school.   Given that research has shown that smaller community schools usually provide better education, the school district isn’t going to have much credibility the next time it appeals for more money.

Of course, teachers and administrators are -not- going to advocate decentralization.  Doing so would give parents a greater say in their children’s education, which is anathema to the modern educational establishment.  Environmental issues are OK up to a point, and that is one of those points.

Sep 282007

1959 vacation camp

This photo is one of my father’s 35mm slides from 1959. It was deteriorating badly, but I did what I could with it, along with a bunch of others I did for my parents’ 60th wedding anniversary this summer.

So what does it have to do with George Bush and SCHIP? Well, now that the Senate has passed the expansion of SCHIP, the script calls for George Bush to let some of his followers go out on a limb and support his threatened veto, then cut them down and stab them in the back by signing it anyway. Then conservative commentators will be bewildered as to why George Bush would have done such a thing, given that he’s done the same thing every time he’s had an opportunity to do so up to now.

That still doesn’t explain the photo.

I put it here because the problem with SCHIP is not so much that it will be an expensive boondoggle (though it will be that) as that it helps destroy families.

We didn’t have much money when I was growing up, but my parents managed to save enough so we could have one good travel vacation every summer. Dad built the travel trailer shown in the photo, and for a few years had to explain what it was every time we stopped at a gas station. Later pop-up campers became common. This one may look clunky, but you ought to have seen the one we borrowed for a trip to California in 1956. Dad improved on the design, substituting aluminum framework for the steel bedposts used as a tent frame on that one, and using thinner plywood.

In 1959 (the year of this photo) we went to the Canadian Rockies. I remember that Nikita Khruschev’s upcoming visit was in the news, and the idea of it was about as controversial as the recent one by Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. I remember Dad getting into a conversation with someone in Canada, saying maybe it was good that Khruschev would come for talks. It surprised me somewhat to hear him say that.  (Now that I think about it some more, I remember it better.  Dad did not say that.  It was a topic of conversation at more than one campsite, and someone else said it. )

We managed to have money for a vacation every year, but to do that we had to do without other things. For example, I have crooked teeth because my parents couldn’t afford to get them straightened. I’ve always been grateful that they chose to take us on travel vacations instead. There are lots of good memories from those trips.

When I mentioned this a few years ago to my sister (who is in the photo, as am I) she said no parent should have to make such choices. I retorted that who could better make that choice than the parents? Do we want governments making those choices for us?

Resources are limited, and such choices will be made at one place or another.

But the real problem is that if you take away all of those terrifying decisions that parents have to make for their children, they cease to be parents and the children cease to be their children. The family community is replaced by an extreme individualism in which each individual’s relationship is more with the state, and less with the family. And that results in social pathologies such as we see in Great Britain, which is now carelessly throwing away its hard-won advances in human rights in order to deal with it. (Anti-social behaviour orders, anyone?)

Would our government really be breaking up families on purpose in order to replace family relationships with others more to its liking? Of course it would. It wouldn’t be the first time. Listen to James Monroe’s state of the union address in 1818:

Experience has clearly demonstrated that independent savage communities can not long exist within the limits of a civilized population. The progress of the latter has almost invariably terminated in the extinction of the former, especially of the tribes belonging to our portion of this hemisphere, among whom loftiness of sentiment and gallantry in action have been conspicuous. To civilize them, and even to prevent their extinction, it seems to be indispensable that their independence as communities should cease, and that the control of the United States over them should be complete and undisputed. The hunter state will then be more easily abandoned, and recourse will be had to the acquisition and culture of land and to other pursuits tending to dissolve the ties which connect them together as a savage community and to give a new character to every individual. I present this subject to the consideration of Congress on the presumption that it may be found expedient and practicable to adopt some benevolent provisions, having these objects in view, relative to the tribes within our settlements.

He says he wants to break up the community relationships of the Indians so they can be more easily controlled by the government. That’s what was done then, and that’s what’s happening now with things like SCHIP.

There! Not only did I tie together George Bush, SCHIP, and our family vacations from the 50s, but I tossed in a bonus connection to James Monroe and the conquest of the Native Americans, not to mention Nikita Khruschev and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. It’s not for nothing that I’m called The Reticulator. (Other people tend to use slightly different language for it, though.)

Sep 282007

Here at Suicide of the West you can find photos of evildoers getting in a little R&R:

What is most monstrous about these photographs is that they depict no monsters. No spaced-out, khat-chewing raiders ripping around in technical trucks. No rampaging, machete-wielding mobs caught up in the vortex of spontaneous violence. One is struck here by the sheer ordinariness of the happy people smiling back at the camera, people who at those very moments were willing, even enthusiastic accessories to the most horrific crime in human history. They were functionaries, bureaucrats, administering the machinery of genocide with professional detachment and absolute moral disinterest.  Clock in and kill the Jews. Clock out and catch a movie with the wife. And, unlike the rest of the German nation, the people in these photographs lacked even the false excuse, “We never really knew.” To the contrary, these were the accountants who worked the numbers, the stockmen who inventoried the gold teeth and shoes, the musclemen who slammed and locked shut the doors to the showers and the crematoria. These people knew full well, and still they drank wine and poked at volleyballs, kissed their kids goodnight and made love to their wives.

It’s scary to see this, but it’s important that we do.   These aren’t ranting maniacs (though there were a few of those in Nazi Germany.)  These are people not that different from us.    Evil is not something out there in an alternate universe.

It’s something I think about when working on my Black Hawk Slept Here history at and  I can identify with the Euro-American settlers.   I can take pride with them in their accomplishments and in the communities they built.   Yet they were also participants in evil done to the Native Americans whose land they took.   And the evil is not marked with spooky music, dark hats, bad hair and bad complexions like in the movies.   It’s very ordinary.

Sep 272007

Buckle up on buses?  The Kalamazoo Gazette asks whether Michigan should require seat belts on school buses.

A better question would be why we have such abominations as school buses in the first place?  Someday people are going to look back like we now do on child labor in factories, asking what kind of brutish people those were who could make their own children waste hundreds of hours of their childhoods on those things.

I wish I had back all the time I spent on school buses during my high school days.  (For most of my elementary school, I usually walked to school — a quick walk across a hay field in good weather, maybe a little longer if I had to go round by the road.)  I wish we had never had to put our own kids on those things.   I still remember the first day our oldest got on a bus to go to a pre-school class.  It was probably more traumatic for us than for her, but those things don’t do anyone any good.

How will kids get to school without buses?  Well, we sometimes put some extra CO2 in the atmosphere to drive our kids to school instead of making them take the bus.  But the real solution is to break up large school districts in favor of neighborhood schools closer to homes.   If we put kids on buses, the least we can do is keep the time spent there as short as possible.   It will do until an enlightened age comes that does away with them altogether.

Sep 272007

Quote of the day. is going to send the Times a check for $77,000. The Times has apologized, which is sweet, but normally the FEC does not accept apologies in lieu of fines. –George Will

Thanks to The Main Adversary for pointing this one out to me. Normally I would have got it from, but I’ve somehow managed not to look at that site for a couple of days.

Sep 262007

I got called in for jury duty today, and was sent home after a morning in the jury assembly room.   Hopefully that will be the extent of my duty this time.

I didn’t exactly spend my time in that room, though.   I walked out when the television was turned on — presumably to pacify us while we waited.   I couldn’t walk far enough to get completely away from the idiot noise that came out of the box — they don’t want potential jurors mingling with people involved in the cases.  But at least I could stand out there and read a book without being made dumber for every minute that I would have spent in the same room with the idiots on the tube.

Why is it that we’re not allowed to bring cell phones and communications devices into the building, yet they’re allowed to assault us with television?   And they don’t allow smoking.  They try to protect us from second-hand smoke, but what’s the point when we have second-hand teevee idiocy around us?

The least they could do is provide a separate non-TV room where those of us who don’t want to listen to second-hand idiots could go?   Eventually, people will realize this tv crap is a greater threat to health than smoking, and all public places will be made teevee free.     (Don’t get me started about hospital waiting rooms.)

Sep 242007

One of the most despicable acts of the Clinton administration was the way it turned an innocent young boy over to the murderous dictator Fidel Castro.   A lot of people pretended to uphold parental discretion in this matter, saying it should be up to the father where the kid should go.    Of course, this is probably the only time in their lives that these people ever favored parental custody.  When it comes to abortion, or sex education, school choice, or health care — they are usually in favor of the government’s prerogative over parental control.

There were also a few gullible conservatives who actually bought this line about parental rights, too.  In their case, they probably thought they were being consistent in upholding their principles.

The problem is, we don’t have any way of knowing what Elián’s father really wanted.  The Clinton administration took pains not to find out.

Here’s an example of how parents are not allowed to be parents when they live under the thumb of Fidel’s soulmates:

The KBG’s long war against Rudolf Nureyev

The KGB, however, wanted him back. His celebrated teacher, Alexander Pushkin, and his devoted student friend, Tamara Zakrzhevskaya, were ordered to write pleading letters; his father, a loyal communist, was pressed to fetch him; and Soviet sympathisers in Paris tried to destroy his confidence by pelting him with missiles and catcalls on stage.

When these efforts failed, the KGB made other plans, one of which was to break his legs. He was tried in his absence and sentenced to seven years in prison as a traitor.

Next, the KGB turned to his friends. Pushkin was repeatedly questioned, and suffered a heart attack.

The careers of Leonid Romankov and his twin sister Liuba, scientists whose interest in literature and art had stimulated Nureyev, were blighted because of their friendship with him. Tamara Zakrzhevskaya was expelled from university, and forbidden to travel even to Eastern Europe for 30 years, for the crime of knowing him.


In the weeks after his defection, Nureyev was lonely and depressed. He telephoned home: his father refused to speak to him, but his mother tugged at his heart-strings, with the KGB keenly listening in.

He called East Berlin to speak to the handsome German student, Teja Kremke, with whom he had had an affair in Leningrad. This time the Stasi were listening.

I suspect that many of those on the left knew very well that they were partners in a similar action against Elián.   They certainly tried very hard not to show any glimmer of understanding when things such as this were described to them.


Sep 232007

Joseph B. White at the Wall Street Journal says new car sales are down because cars are boring:

New-car sales are sagging in America and car makers are blaming the housing slump or the credit crunch. I suspect something else. I suspect boredom. Face it. A lot of the cars sold in America are just dull.

Whose heart leaps at the thought of firing up a Toyota Corolla? If you took away the logos, who could discern a significant difference among the interiors of any five $35,000 luxury cars? Black plastic, faux wood grain, even “metallic look” plastics — clichés all. Sport utility vehicles and crossovers? Ho hum.

Well, of course cars are boring. They’ve been boring since the 1970s. They’re commodity items now. And the safety and efficiency people have taken everything of interest out of the main roads. Bridges are just slab-sided affairs that keep you from seeing the scenery you’re crossing. Local safety people cut down the trees that used to provide arbors over country roads, and have cut and filled to provide good lines of sight, and incidentally to disconnect the roads from the world of which they once was a part. And, as White points out, there is the traffic.

White, being a journalist, blames the state of affairs on government. No, not because of governmental meddling. He thinks there hasn’t been enough government meddling. Ho, hum. Dog bites man; journalist wants more government. All the things he wants may make cars more efficient, but they will not make driving less boring.

If you want the open road to be exciting, get a bicycle. In my role as The Spokesrider I get more memories of scenery and road experiences in any day of riding than I do in years’ worth of driving.

Even now, I can review in my mind details of a week-long tour I did eleven years ago. I sometimes surprise myself with what I recall when I try to review the whole ride in my mind, from beginning to end. The closest I come to that in a car was a drive to Canada’s Arctic some years ago — but even there I can’t remember all the little details that I do of bike rides to podunk towns in the Midwest. Bicyling is a multi-sensory experience — with sight, smells, touch, sounds. Sometimes it’s even a tasty experience, as when riding late in the day and insects come out.

Cars, on the other hand, are designed to insulate you from sensation. Get a bicycle.

Sep 222007

From The Economist:

To eschew such tools is to fight terrorism with one hand tied behind your back. But that—with one hand tied behind their back—is precisely how democracies ought to fight terrorism.

Exactly so.  But we’ve spent many decades getting used to the idea that there really are no limits on what government can do.    The General Welfare clause tells us that anything goes, they say, no matter that the Constitution says no.   Interstate Commerce is defined to include much more than interstate commerce.   So how are we going to all of a sudden ask our government accept the limits of the Bill of Rights when it comes to spying on citizens?