Ed student expelled for Facebook comment

A graduate education student at Syracuse University, Matthew Werenczak signed up to tutor at a predominantly black middle school. On his first day, a community leader said the school should hire teachers from historically black colleges.

“Just making sure we’re okay with racism,” wrote Werenczak on his Facebook page. “It’s not enough I’m … tutoring in the worst school in the city, I suppose I oughta be black or stay in my own side of town.”

The School of Education expelled him for “unprofessional, offensive, and insensitive” comments. When FIRE went public with the case, he was readmitted and earned his master’s degree.

Teen back in school — in NRA shirt

A West Virginia 14-year-old is back in middle school — wearing a National Rifle Association T-shirt — after being suspended and arrested for refusing to take it off last week. On Monday, Jared Marcum and about 100 other Logan County students wore shirts with gun rights themes provided by the Sons of the Second Amendment, a gun rights group.

Jared, an eighth grader at Logan Middle School, attended his morning classes wearing a shirt with an NRA logo, a picture of a hunting rifle and the slogan, “Protect your right.” He was standing in a cafeteria line when a teacher told him to turn his shirt inside out. He refused. He was sent to the office, where he again refused to remove the shirt, and arrested on charges of disrupting the educational process and obstructing an officer. He was released to his mother and suspended for a day.

Jared’s attorney, Ben White, said video evidence shows the cafeteria was orderly until the teacher raised his voice while confronting Jared. “I think the disruption came from the teacher,” he said, predicting all charges will be dropped.

The student believes the Second Amendment is being threatened and wore the shirt as an “expression of political speech,” White said.

“What the video shows is that students did step up on the benches to the tables in the lunchroom when they were escorting Jared out of building. Kids jumped up, clapping. Teachers said to get off and be quiet, and they did.”

Logan County schools’ dress code bans clothing and accessories that display profanity, violence, discriminatory messages or sexual language, along with ads for alcohol, tobacco or drugs.

Jared is an honor roll student who plans a career in the military, his attorney said. The 14-year-old certainly understands his legal rights.

A veteran Chicago teacher is suing to reverse a four-day suspension for bringing a pocket knife to school. Douglas Bartlett showed second graders the knife, a box cutter, various wrenches, screwdrivers and pliers “as part of a curriculum-mandated ‘tool discussion’,” his lawsuit states.

Blackface vs. make-up

A second-grader in Colorado was assigned to dress up as a historical figure for a “wax museum day”.

Given the sheer amount of time and attention given to Martin Luther King in the typical school year, it might come as no surprise that this second-grader wanted to come as King.

Sean’s mother, Michelle King-Roca, told Denver’s 7News her son was really excited about the project.

“He said, ‘Mom, I want to wear a black suit because that’s what he wore, a black tie, a white shirt, and also I want to do my face black and wear a mustache,’” said King-Roca.

Hilarity ensues.  Well, sort of.

After complaints from a faculty member that took issue with the blackface, the principal asked Sean to remove the face paint or leave the school.

* * * *

A spokeswoman for the principal told KRDO that some students, as well as the faculty member who initially complained, felt the costume was offensive. It’s the principal’s job to make sure the school is a safe environment for students, she said.

Face paint violates the school’s dress code policy, she said.

Sigh.  These people (and by “these people” I mean the morons who perpetuate this sort of stupidity — morons of all races) never get tired of proclaiming perfectly well-intentioned things to be offensive, do they?

I had always thought that there was an obvious (and reasonable) distinction between “Blackface” proper — the gross cariacature of Black people using extremely dark make-up that gave an illusion of giant-sized lips, usually coupled with vulgarly offensive steretyped acting or singing — and simple stage make-up to alter one’s apparent skin tone in an attempt to make one’s costume a better costume.    Was I wrong?

I was once in a production of Fiddler on the Roof once as a Russian Dancer.  It occurred to me, as I was doing make-up on opening night, that there weren’t many Mexican-Americans in turn of the century Russia.  So I thought for a moment, and decided to make myself into something of a Mongol-blooded Cossack — with a slightly darker foundation and some clever eye make-up.  I certainly didn’t think I was being racist.

But maybe I was mistaken.  Maybe really dark foundation isn’t just make-up, to be used when the appropriate need arises… but is really foundation exclusively for use by black people.  I mean, nothing says racial harmony like having a make-up counter with products you can’t buy because of your race, right?

You might be forgiven if you thought that the point of a costume was to, you know, look like the person as whom you are dressing.  If I’m going to dress as Kareem Abdul Jabbar, I’m not just going to need some darker make-up — I’m going to need stilts and a nametag that says “Roger Murdock”.

My friend Bradley (who is quite dark-skinned, as such things go) is going to need some pale make-up and a wheelchair if he wants to be FDR.

But maybe that would be offensive, too.

Could we all agree that, were it possible to buy an MLK silicone or latex mask, that wouldn’t be racist?  But what’s the difference, really?

(Good luck trying to find one, though.  I looked for twenty minutes; maybe it is offensive.)


UPDATE: Minor ambiguity in the second sentence corrected.

‘Harassment’ rules threaten free speech

“Overly broad harassment codes remain the weapon of choice on campus to punish speech that administrators dislike,” writes Greg Lukianoff, president of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, in the Washington Post op-ed.

In a decade fighting campus censorship, I have seen harassment defined as expressions as mild as “inappropriately directed laughter” and used to police students for references to a student government candidate as a “jerk and a fool” (at the University of Central Florida in 2006) and a factually verifiable if unflattering piece on Islamic extremism in a conservative student magazine (at Tufts University in 2007). Other examples abound. Worryingly, such broad codes and heavy-handed enforcement are teaching a generation of students that it may be safer to keep their mouths shut when important or controversial issues arise. Such illiberal lessons on how to live in a free society are poison to freewheeling debate and thought experimentation and, therefore, to the innovative thinking that both higher education and our democracy need.

In April, the Office of Civil Rights told colleges to use “the lowest possible standard of evidence” in sexual harassment and assault cases, Lukianoff writes. “The letter makes no mention of the First Amendment or free speech.”

In the 1999 case Davis v. Monroe County Board of Education, the U.S. Supreme Court defined harassment as discriminatory conduct, directed at an individual, that is “so severe, pervasive, and objectively offensive” that “victim-students are effectively denied equal access to an institution’s resources and opportunities.” FIRE and other groups want OCR to adopt the Davis definition of harassment.


College ‘beach books’ are new, easy

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, a 2010 book on a black cancer victim whose cells were used for medical research, is by far the most popular book assigned to new college students as “common summer reading,” concludes a survey by the National Association of Scholars.

Almost 90 percent of college chose books published since the start of 2000; only two selected books published before 1972. Only two books — one by Mark Twain and one by Aldous Huxley — could be considered classics.

It’s not just political correctness, says Peter Wood, president of NAS. “Colleges have lowered their expectations of what college students are capable of understanding.”

Federalist Papers: Where's the sex?

On Jay Nordlinger’s corner of The Corner, a reader writes about disclaimers:

Our home library needed a new copy of the Federalist Papers (the old copy having succumbed to 25 years of thumbing, page-turning, and note-taking). The new copy, published by Wilder Publications in 2008, offers this disclaimer:

“This book is a product of its time and does not reflect the same values as it would if it were written today. Parents might wish to discuss with their children how views on race, gender, sexuality, ethnicity, and interpersonal relations have changed since this book was written before allowing them to read this classic work.”

Nordlinger is rereading the Federalist Papers to look for the sex. (In Federalist 6, Alexander Hamilton mentions Pericles going to war at a prostitute’s behest. Maybe that’s it.)

One does wonder what values the disclaimer writers were disclaiming.