Tuesday, December 19, 2006

At School, Including By Excluding

Tongue Tied always has great stories about the contortions of logic that political correctness requires:

A teacher in Kentucky was forced to remove a Christmas tree-themed display from her classroom bulletin board because diversity nazis thought the phrase "Santa's Helpers" would be offensive to non-Christian kids who don't celebrate Christmas or believe in Santa Claus, accourting to the Louisville Courier-Journal.

The teacher at Brandeis Elementary made the tree out of construction-paper cutouts of children's hands. Above it, it said: "Santa's Helpers." The teacher removed the offending phrase and put up the more inclusive one, "Happy Holidays."

Aukram Burton, the Jefferson County Public Schools' multi-cultural expert, said the district's policy calls for holiday displays that don't favor one religion over another.

"We want to include everyone and not to exclude anyone," he said.

Exactly which religious text discusses Santa Claus, his flying reindeer, and his northern abode? And which religious text discusses decorating a cut-down evergreen?

Multi-cultural expert? Really? I agree with the term "diversity nazi".

Or how about this situation, which happened to a high school choir?

A high school choir in California performing at an ice-skating exhibition was asked by organizers of the show not to sing Christmas carols during the show lest one of the performers, who is Jewish, be offended, according to the Associated Press.

The Rubidoux High School Madrigals had started belting out "God Rest Ye Merry Gentleman" at the Outdoor Ice Skating Rink in Riverside when they were approached by a city staff member and a police officer and asked to stop singing.

They were afraid Olympic medalist Sasha Cohen, who was performing, might be offended. The skater said she knew nothing of the request.

So no one asked Ms. Cohen if she would be offended. They just assumed she might be, and overreacted accordingly. Asininity apparently knows no bounds.


Anonymous said...

soon, the term "politically correct" will, itself, become politically correct. and OH MY GOD, GOD FORBID THAT ANYONE IS OFFENDED ANYMORE. You can sue for being offended when someone sings Jingle Bells (even if it's not directed at an individual) because it's Christmas related, but you can't sue because you're offended when Mr.Miller calls you pathetic. GOD forbid that people can't put up with a NAME anymore.

There wouldn't even be a CHRISTMAS break if it wasn't for CHRISTMAS, and there wouldnt be a break in April (i think) if it wasn't for EASTER. (i think it's sad i cant remember when easter is).

Anonymous said...

I think the ACLU has succeed in clouding this issue of the separation of church and state. It was meant to prevent forced tithing, a policy enacted by the early settlers. It was never meant to be a freedom FROM religion, but instead the freedom to choose your own religion with impunity. These days, it's getting dicey to be affiliated with any organized group. One group doesn't like gay marriage, the other doesn't like pro-life. There are hurdles and litmus tests and then the ACLU weighs in with some abstract notion that Santa is related to the religious holiday of Christmas. So how far are we going to take it. Will I stop going to get my nails done because the statue with fruit and incense by the door is another religion? Will I stop doing business with my very fine drycleaners because he's Jewish? Will I suddenly start screaming at children in the classroom to convert? Most normal people would not act in such a ridiculous way. But it's equally artificial to ignore the holiday and pretend that makes things alright. If people live in a multicultural society, they need to learn to DEAL WITH THE OUTCOME. And that means that Muslims can't get in a snit over a public menorah and Christians might have to deal with people who don't believe and Jewish people are going to have to tolerate those of us who enjoy a nice pork chop now and again. The bottom line is this-the casual mention of something connected with religion is not in and of itself going to upset the applecart-but overreacting will. I am sure we could all go out today and find something that offends us. I choose to do what I do and if someone is offended, too bad. I don't restrict them and they cannot restrict me. Schools that stop music such as Handel's "Messiah" or perhaps any of the glorious church related works of the masters are shortchanging these kids culturally all for the appearance of compliane to PC beliefs. Isn't limiting access just the same as censorship?

Darren said...

Beautifully said, EllenK.

Darren said...

Or maybe she wouldn't have cared either way, focusing more on her ice skating than on the songs being sung by high school students.

Anonymous said...

University PressWire (UPR)
Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Hand Gesture Conveys New Message

Sociologists at the University of Okoboji have determined that the meaning of a hand gesture common in North America has undergone a recent, dramatic shift. Semioticians, who study signs and symbols, and how their meanings are constructed and understood, have theorized the possibility of what is called "sudden denotative shift," but only a few considered it a real possibility.

"We have vindicated the SDS (sudden denotative shift) theory," said Peter Watson, a member of the UO research team that conducted the study. "These new findings should open up completely new avenues for research."

Watson likens his team's efforts to recent work in evolution, which had long been thought to move so slowly as to be nearly undetectable. "Just as Hoffman at Melbourne showed a species can evolve in as little as 20 years, we have shown that the meaning of a gesture can evolve--but even faster," Watson said.

Watson was referring to the work of Ari Hoffman at the Center for Environmental Stress and Adaptation Research at Latrobe University in Melbourne, Australia, who determined that the Australian fruit fly had adapted to global warming in the last 20 years. His findings were published in the journal Science.

James Pike, a statistician and member of Watson's research team, said that gestures, like languages, were also assumed to move very slowly. "Population dynamics and stable communication media, such as the printed word, audio and video recording, were thought to make SDS nearly impossible," Pike says. "Their value as media depend on a stable substrate of meaning. However, meanings are constructed by humans as an abstract process, making them susceptible to nearly arbitrary changes."

To ensure the objectivity and quantifiability of their study, Pike and Watson, along with a group of student volunteers from UO, collected data on the frequency of a gesture involving the use of a raised middle finger at local shopping malls and parking lots during the year, and correlated the data against weather variables, times of day, days of the week, and finally, to days of the year.

"The strongest statistical association between use of the RMF (raised middle finger) came out in the final correlation," Watson said. "In fact, time of the year was the only statistically significant correlation with changes in the rate of the [RMF] gesturing."

Because of this, the researchers conclude that use of the RMF no longer denotes "opprobrium or disrespect," but something more positive in meaning. "Use of the RMF now actually denotes, or conveys, 'Happy Holidays' in the most general sense," Pike says. The gesture was found to have a generic meaning, rather than an association with a particular sectarian holiday, during follow-up interviews with gesturers. The RMF was used in nearly equal proportions by Christians, Jews, Wiccans and atheists.

Watson does not believe this signals a wider cultural use of the RMF. "Since the RMF now denotes 'Happy Holidays,'" he says, "we predict that its use will merely become increasingly more prevalent during the holiday season."


Anonymous said...

Do you think it's possible because of the setting that the assumption was made on her behalf by some PC media person? And...do you think if they produced a wonderful skating program that included such works as Handel's Messiah that she would refuse to skate? I would like to think that people aren't that shallow that they equate hearing or seeing art that may be religiously inspire with the actual act of worship. I teach AP Art History. We have to discuss a whole bunch of different religions in context with history. For example the Flood Story exists in every Mediterranean culture including that which brought forth The Bible. There's evidence now of a huge volcanic eruption that resulted in a massive tsunami in the nations surrounding Mt. Etna. So whose feet do we trample on by stating it's not just in the Bible but in the myths, legends and stories of ancient Egypt, Greece and Rome? Is it religion or is it history-or just possibly is it somewhere in between?

Anonymous said...

Someone just sent me an article from Ben Stein about this specific issue...
The following is Ben Stein's commentary on CBS Sunday News from December of last year.

"Herewith a few confessions from my beating heart: I have no freaking clue who Nick and Jessica are. I see them on the cover of People and Us constantly when I am buying my dog biscuits and kitty litter. I often ask the checkers at the grocery stores. They never know who Nick and Jessica are either. Who are they? Will it change my life if I know who they are and why they have broken up? Why are they so important?

I don't know who Lindsay Lohan is either, and I do not care at all about Tom Cruise's baby. Am I going to be called before a Senate committee and asked if I am a subversive? Maybe, but I just have no clue who Nick and Jessica are. Is this is what it means to be no longer young? Hmm.. not so bad.

Next confession: I am a Jew, and every single one of my ancestors was Jewish. And it does not bother me even a little bit when people call those beautiful lit up, bejeweled trees Christmas trees.

I don't feel threatened. I don't feel discriminated against.
That's what they are: Christmas trees. It doesn't bother me a bit when people say, "Merry Christmas" to me. I don't think they are slighting me or getting ready to put me in a ghetto. In fact, I kind of like it. It shows that we are all brothers and sisters celebrating this happy time of year. It doesn't bother me at all that there is a manger scene on display at a key intersection near my beach house in Malibu. If people want a crèche, it's just as fine with me as is the Menorah a few hundred yards away.

I don't like getting pushed around for being a Jew, and I don't think Christians like getting pushed around for being Christians. I think people who believe in GOD are sick and tired of getting pushed around, period. I have no idea where the concept came from that America is an explicitly atheist country. I can't find it in the Constitution, and I don't like it being shoved down my throat.

Or maybe I can put it another way: where did the idea come from that we should worship Nick and Jessica and we aren't allowed to worship GOD as we understand Him? I guess that's a sign that I'm getting old, too.

But there are a lot of us who are wondering where Nick and Jessica came from and where the America we knew went to."