A modest proposal: Avoid satire

In A Modest Proposal, satirist Jonathan Swift proposed that poverty-stricken Irish peasants sell their children to be eaten by the rich. “A young healthy child well nursed is at a year old a most delicious, nourishing, and wholesome food, whether stewed, roasted, baked, or boiled; and I make no doubt that it will equally serve in a fricassée or a ragout,” he wrote. Satirically.

At a Maryland high school, students were assigned to write a Swiftian essay as part of a lesson on satire, reports Reason‘s Hit & Run blog. One diligent lad proposed solving U.S. racism by deporting blacks to the Sahara Desert.

I’d say that’s less offensive than urging the the buying, boiling and eating Irish children, but still offensive.

The district scheduled meetings “to allow students to express their opinions and say why they’re hurt, why they’re angered,” said Bob Mosier, Anne Arundel County Schools.

In a letter sent home to parents, North County High Principal Julie Cares wrote: “Just as one could argue that the content of [the original] piece was ill-advised and insensitive, such is the case with the content of the student’s piece.”

Betcha this is the last time a North County High teacher asks students to emulate Jonathan Swift.

No swastikas for school version of ‘Producers’

A New York high school is staging The Producers, which features a deliberately terrible show within a show called Springtime for Hitler, but swastikas are verboten.

“There is no context in a public high school where a swastika is appropriate,” South Orangetown Superintendent Bob Pritchard told CBS2’s Tony Aiello.

What about a history textbook?

“It’s satire, not supposed to be taken seriously,” Tyler Lowe, a high school performer, told CBS2. He said as a young Jew, he’s not offended by the swastikas in the show.

“I personally think Mel Brooks would be honored that the controversy is going on,  but I think he would be disappointed by the censorship,” Orangetown resident Lenora Mesibov said.

In the Mel Brooks comedy,  producer Max Bialystock and accountant Leo Bloom try to put on a sure-fire flop to avoid paying back investors. They figure a musical glorifying Hitler is just the thing, but audiences find it hilarious.

If the superintendent can’t handle a swastika, why did Tappan Zee High choose to put a musical that includes lyrics such as “Don’t be stupid, be a smarty, come and join the Nazi party?”

Let ‘Charlie’ speak on campus

A woman carries a Charlie Hebdo cover that says “love is stronger than hate” at a gathering in Rennes, France.

“The massacre at Charlie Hebdo should be an occasion to end speech codes on college campuses, writes David Brooks in the New York Times.

The journalists at Charlie Hebdo are now rightly being celebrated as martyrs on behalf of freedom of expression, but let’s face it: If they had tried to publish their satirical newspaper on any American university campus over the last two decades it wouldn’t have lasted 30 seconds. Student and faculty groups would have accused them of hate speech. The administration would have cut financing and shut them down.

. . .  The University of Illinois fired a professor who taught the Roman Catholic view on homosexuality. The University of Kansas suspended a professor for writing a harsh tweet against the N.R.A. Vanderbilt University derecognized a Christian group that insisted that it be led by Christians.

Americans may laud Charlie Hebdo for being brave enough to publish cartoons ridiculing the Prophet Muhammad, but, if Ayaan Hirsi Ali is invited to campus, there are often calls to deny her a podium.

We don’t have respect vulgar, offensive speech, Brooks writes. But we have to protect it.

BTW, the magazine once ran a sodomy cover featuring God, Jesus and the Holy Ghost that . . . Talk about offensive. But nobody used it as an excuse to try to murder the cartoonists.

Voltaire said it first: “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” (Actually, Beatrice Evelyn Hall wrote the line to characterize Voltaire’s thinking in a 1906 biography, The Friends of Voltaire, according to a blogger.)

Everyone who wants to “be Charlie” should oppose the fad for casting annoyances as “microaggressions.” The word is a way to shut people up instead of engaging them in argument. There is no right to be free from offense — on campus or elsewhere.

Murdering satire

Translation: “100 lashes if you don’t die laughing.”

Masked gunmen claiming to “avenge” Mohammed killed 12 people at the Paris office of Charlie Hebdo, a satire magazine that made fun of Islamic terrorists.

Claire Berlinski was walking in Paris, when she saw the aftermath of the terror attack.

I also knew from the location just who’d been attacked: Charlie-Hebdo, the magazine known for many things, but, above all, for its fearlessness in publishing caricatures of Mohamed. They’d been firebombed for this in 2011, but their response — in effect — was the only one free men would ever consider: “As long as we’re alive, you’ll never shut us up.”

They are no longer alive. They managed to shut them up.

Here’s more on the murdered editor, cartoonists and writers. Two police officers protecting the office also were killed.

Here’s one of the Mohammed cartoons that Charlie Hebdo published:

All that needs to be said about Charlie Hebdo  #WeAreAllCharlieHebdo


Cartoonists have responded to the attack. But is it really true that pencils are stronger than guns?


I like this one.


From fatwa-survivor Salman Rushdie:

Religion, a mediaeval form of unreason, when combined with modern weaponry becomes a real threat to our freedoms. This religious totalitarianism has caused a deadly mutation in the heart of Islam and we see the tragic consequences in Paris today. I stand with Charlie Hebdo, as we all must, to defend the art of satire, which has always been a force for liberty and against tyranny, dishonesty and stupidity. ‘Respect for religion’ has become a code phrase meaning ‘fear of religion.’ Religions, like all other ideas, deserve criticism, satire, and, yes, our fearless disrespect.

Among the dead are editor Stephane Charbonnier, known as Charb. After the offices were fire-bombed in 2012, he said, “I prefer to die standing up than to live on my knees.”

With no soccer ball, every child ‘wins’

According to the Soccer Association of Midlake, kids imaginations are runnign wild. (Steve DePolo/FLICKR)

According to the Soccer Association of Midlake, kids imaginations are running wild. (Steve DePolo/FLICKR)

Worried about too much competition, many Canadian youth soccer associations no longer keep score, reports This is That, a CBC radio show. Removing the soccer ball is even better, according to the Soccer Association of Midlake, Ontario.

Without a ball, “it’s absolutely impossible to say ‘this team won’ and ‘this team lost’ or ‘this child is better at soccer than that child,'” said Helen Dabney-Coyle. “We want our children to grow up learning that sport is not about competition, rather it’s about using your imagination. If you imagine you’re good at soccer, then, you are.”

Is this for real? No, it’s satire. But it’s eerily close to plausible.

Ed reform needs ‘happy’ rebranding

Education reform should be the “happy” movement, reports Education Gladfly in its April Fool’s Day edition. “Closing sh***y, no good schools” is seen as mean and divisive. After rebranding, “This school evokes a World War II bomb shelter” can become “We must transform education for the twenty-first century.”

Rather than “This teacher’s grasp of pedagogy is on par with that of a Barbie doll, her classroom presence wouldn’t fog a mirror, and her content knowledge is surpassed by my dog,” say, “We must open up new, twenty-first-century career opportunities for our struggling education professionals.”

The April Fool’s ‘Fly also reports on “tough times” for Chicago union leader Karen Lewis, who’s under attack from members for being too soft.

Dissidents’ demands:

Classes no bigger than eight kids
Tenure after one year of teaching (rounding up any partial years)
Rahm Emanuel’s head on a plate
Rahm Emanuel’s hide as a coat
Rahm Emanuel’s ears on a cat
Ten-year moratorium on standardized testing
Free ponies for all

Chicago “Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced (from his ski chateau) his decision to close all Chicago public schools.” He recommended home schooling.

Cherry-picking isn’t just for fruit anymore

 Cherry-picking: It Isn’t Just For Fruit Anymore, reports Students Last, a satirical site.

Philadelphia – Global Alliance Charter School is scrambling today to respond to questions from the School District of Philadelphia about its complicated and some say overbearing application process.

The application, which is more than 10-pages in length, requires  a 3,000-word essay, responses to 20 short-answer questions, proof of citizenship for the child and parents, three recommendations, and an interview. Additionally, parents of Global applicants have to complete a lengthy obstacle course which includes:  outrunning a pack of wild dogs, scaling an 8-foot fence, bench pressing their own body weight and trying to stay awake while watching, “Won’t Back Down” (a movie about turning a public school into a charter school).

Meanwhile, The Onion (also satire) reports that Chinese third graders have fallen behind U.S. high school students in math and science on international tests.

“This is certainly a wake-up call for China,” said Dr. Michael Fornasier, an IEA senior fellow and coauthor of the report. “Simply put, how can these third-graders be expected to eventually compete in the global marketplace if they’re only receiving the equivalent of a U.S. high school education?”

“The majority of Chinese third-graders are now a full year behind the average U.S. 12th-grader in their knowledge of calculus,” The Onion reports. In addition, third graders in Germany, Japan, South Korea, Switzerland and New Guinea have fallen behind U.S. 12th-graders in physics.

In more satirical news, a new federal law will set C- as the minimum grade in schools across the country. Some argue this is too low: California now requires a minimum grade of B+.

Testing first

New York schools will spend more days on testing and test prep than instruction in 2013-14, according to Students Last, a satire site.

New York State’s Education Commissioner John King (said):  “We acknowledge that given the number of days for benchmark assessments, the National Assessment of Educational Progress, state tests, mid-terms, finals, exams for English Language Learners and those taking alternative assessments, unit tests, make-up days for those who were absent and given that teachers typically use the weeks before a high-stakes exam for test preparation, that for the first time in New York State history there are actually fewer instructional days than testing days.”

Asked if he saw anything wrong with requiring more testing than teaching, Commissioner King responded, “I don’t really give a crap. My children attend private school.”

The first comment is satire too. At least, I hope so.

U.S. students fall behind China, monkeys

U.S. High School Students Falling Behind China, Many Animals In Basic Object Permanence, reports The Onion, a satirical publication.

Teacher, differentiate thyself

Barry Garelick thought this animation was satire. It’s not. It was made as an ed school project.

This one from TeachBad is satire.