Category Archives: Education

A Victim of FOFO

Prince George At Euro 2020 Final

I feel for ya kid. If my dad made me wear a suit and tie to a sporting event AND my team lost I’d be pissed too.

A few years ago a new acronym entered the lexicon- FOMO. It stands for Fear Of Missing Out, the notion that because via our phones we can see in real time events our friends and relations are engaging in we are somehow missing out on those events by not actually being there.

This past Sunday I became a victim of FOFO. Like FOMO, FOFO involves our relationship with technology and the toys that bring the tech to our fingertips. But FOFO isn’t about missing out on something, it’s about the active desire to not want to know something. FOFO stands for Fear Of Finding Out.

The particular event this relates to was the final of the Euro Cup Soccer Tournament between England (the good guys) and Italy (the less good guys). Out here on the Left Coast the match began at noon. I could not watch it then. There was business to attend to, business that would not be finished till well after the end of the game. No problem thought I. I would simply record the game, avoid any information about what happened in the game, and watch it in pure unadulterated sports ignorance bliss when I got home.

And that’s when I encountered FOFO.

It might not be a big deal here in the US of A, but the Euro Cup IS a big deal everywhere else in the world. While I had disabled all the alerts I have for sports stories and even went to the extent of disabling alerts from news organizations on the off chance a score would find it’s way to my binging phone, I so wanted to know nothing of the match in order to better enjoy it via tape delay that I took to not even looking at my phone the entire afternoon.

That’s a lot more difficult than you would think. I didn’t miss out on anything really important, but every time there was a vibration and a bing in my pocket (is that a bing in your pocket or are you just glad to see me?) I felt I had to ignore it on the oft chance it might contain information I didn’t want to know.

And suddenly I understood the Fox News viewer better than I ever have.

While I didn’t want to know who scored or what team was ahead, the Fox News viewer doesn’t want to get information from any other source on the oft chance he or she might have their preconceived notions of right and wrong challenged. Their FOFO is directly connected to their own self image or perhaps to the lack of same.

Their FOFO is so strong that their elected officials are taking them up on it. January 6th? Never heard of it. Did something happen that day? I just remember there being a lot more than usual tourists traipsing through the building. No big deal.

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Stupid Fell On Alabama

Kyle Whitmire is a columnist for the Alabama Media Group d/b/a online as AL.Com. He’s a national treasure who coined the phrase “the Alabamafication of America.” His Twitter handle sums up his approach: @WarOnDumb.

Speaking of dumb, the latest wingnut craze is attacking critical race theory. CRT came to prominence because of the NYT’s 1619 Project, but it’s been  around as an academic discipline for decades. It takes a revisionist look at the history of race in America. That’s my simplistic thumbnail sketch. The simpletons who are trying to ban it have no idea what CRT is. One could even call them CRT cretins.

Whitmire decided to ask the sponsor of a bill banning CRT in Alabama schools what it is.

There’s been a lot of talk about critical race theory lately, and I’ve felt at a loss. I’ve heard so many conflicting things about critical race theory, I’ve gotten more and more confused.

So I did what middle-aged white men are prone to do — I asked another middle-aged white man. But not just any. I called an Alabama lawmaker, state Rep. Chris Pringle, R-Mobile, who wants to make it illegal to teach critical race theory in Alabama.

<SNIP>

How would his bill define critical race theory?

“It basically teaches that certain children are inherently bad people because of the color of their skin, period,” Pringle said.
That sounded very serious, indeed. Nazi-like, even. So I asked Pringle if there were any critical race theorists he could point to who have been spreading such toxic garbage?
“Yeah, uh, well — I can assure you — I’ll have to read a lot more,” he said.

A canned answer from a guy who shares his surname with canned chips.

Shorter Pringle: I heard about it from Tucker and Hannity. It sounds scary and fear is a great fundraising tool.

The Canned Chips Chap’s story got even weirder when he discussed an article he supposedly read:

“These people, when they were doing the training programs — and the government — if you didn’t buy into what they taught you a hundred percent, they sent you away to a reeducation camp,” Pringle said.

<SNIP>

“The white male executives are sent to a three-day re-education camp, where they were told that their white male culture wasn’t their —” he trailed off again.

Re-education camps? So, there are concentration camps for racist peckerwoods? Who knew? That’s some serious shit.

The good news is that Pringle is making shit up. There is no such article, and nobody is teaching CRT in Alabama K-12 classrooms.

The bad news is that we’re having this discussion at all.  I wish the culture war would cancel itself.

Anything that CRT cretins such as Texas Governor Greg Abbott and the Canned Chips Chap are against, I’m for.

Waging the war on dumb is exhausting. I don’t know how Kyle Whitmire does it. Actually, I do. I live in the Gret Stet of Louisiana, after all.

The last word goes to the Chairman of the Board:

Malaka Of The Week: Stanford Law Federalist Society

The Federalist Society was founded in 1982 by conservative law students. I attended one meeting as a student at Tulane Law just for the hell of it.  I was immediately outed as a pro-Brennan, anti-Bork type. That branch thought it was funny for a liberal law student to attend one of its meetings. The Stanford Law Federalist Society does NOT have a sense of humor. And that is why it is malaka of the week.

I’ll let Slate’s Mark Joseph Stern tell you what happened:

On Jan. 25, Nicholas Wallace, a third-year student at Stanford Law School, sent a satirical flyer to a student listserv reserved for debate and political commentary. The flyer promoted a fake event, “The Originalist Case for Inciting Insurrection,” ostensibly sponsored by the Stanford Federalist Society. It advertised the participation of two politicians who tried to overturn the 2020 election, Missouri Sen. Joshua Hawley and Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton. “Violent insurrection, also known as doing a coup, is a classical system of installing a government,” the flyer read, adding that insurrection “can be an effective approach to upholding the principle of limited government.”

Wallace’s email was designed to mock the Stanford Federalist Society for refusing to disavow the many Federalist Society luminaries who fomented the storming of the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, including Hawley and Paxton. It worked: The flyer went viral, prompting USA Today to confirm that it was, indeed, satire. But the Stanford Federalist Society was not amused. In March, one of the group’s top officers filed a complaint against Wallace with Stanford’s Office of Community Standards. (This person’s name has been redacted from all documents.) The student alleged that Wallace’s satire “defamed” the Stanford Federalist Society, causing “harm” to the student group and to the “individual reputations” of the officers.

Wallace’s graduation was placed on hold for 11 days. The hold was lifted by Stanford Law after it determined that the email was protected speech under the First Amendment and that the Stanford Federalists were a bunch of humorless silly billies.

I feel Nick Wallace’s pain. He was notified of the hold on the last day of classes. It hung over his head like a Scalia dissent during exams. Finals are bad enough without dealing with that sort of bullshit, especially for a 3L. I’m not speaking for Wallace but in my third year of law school, I was not as diligent a student as in previous years, so I had to cram for finals.

I slapped the Federalist Society logo on the post because of the ironic 3 words thereon. Uh oh, that’s a lawyer word. I’m relapsing…

Debate: There seems to have been none.

Discuss: Like a bunch of rich entitled preppies, the Stanford Feds got all whiny and went to daddy. Nobody likes a tattletale.

Decide: Mercifully, the decision went against them, but it shouldn’t have taken that long since it didn’t pass the either the laugh or smell test. Malakatude is stinky.

They should change that slogan to Denounce. Defame. Deny.

That’s James Madison’s silhouette on the Federalist Society logo. I seem to recall Little Jemmy being in favor of free speech in between fleeing the White House in terror. I’ve always found it odd that a slave owner who opposed the Federalist Party is on this logo. I guess that qualifies as originalist humor. They couldn’t very well use Hamilton or John Marshall since they favored a robust central government. So did Madison until his mentor Jefferson returned home from France.

I’m about to use a term that I vowed never to use but it fits the egregious malakatude displayed by the Stanford Federalist Society. Who knew it favored cancel culture?

The Federalist malaka’s informal faculty advisor is Michael McConnell who defended the flyer posted in this stern Stern tweet:

I guess it only qualifies as satire if you agree with it. Some call that cancel culture. I call it malakatude.

This incident shows the creeping authoritarianism of today’s right even among the educated and privileged. That’s why I stopped calling them conservatives. Suppression of free speech, especially in an academic setting, is as radical as it gets. And that is why the Stanford Law Federalist Society is malaka of the week.

The last word goes to Graham Parker:

The Friday Fishwrap

Herb Caen Column Heading

Once upon a time there was a writer for the San Francisco Chronicle (that was a newspaper) named Herb Caen. His column ran in the paper six days a week, but his Friday column was called the Friday Fishwrap. A convenient reminder that that morning’s paper would be used in the evening to wrap up and dispose of the remains of the no meat on Fridays throw aways. Thus he filled the column with throw away items, thoughts, flotsam and jetsam.

In his honor I’m going to try that today.

The Democrats missed an opportunity last week with the 1/6 investigation vote in the Senate. They should have let the Repugnicants filibuster, really filibuster, the Jimmy Stewart in MR SMITH GOES TO WASHINGTON type filibuster, where all work in government comes to a stop. The public would have gotten a look at what the filibuster really is. Then the Dems could have gone on a media blitz tearing up the Repugnicants for bringing the federal government to that halt. It could have built a groundswell of support into a tsunami of criticism, the kind of criticism that would prevent the Repugs from trying to filibuster the For The People Act or the Infrastructure Plan.

On HBO Max right now is a film of the play OSLO. It’s about the back channel negotiations that led to the Oslo Peace Accords in 1993 between Israel and the PLO. The key takeaway from the film is that the Norwegians who acted as facilitators between the two parties insisted that each day when the meeting ended all the participants would then sit down and have dinner and drinks together and talk only of their families and friends. In other words humanizing each side to the other. If the Israelis and the Palestinians can do that, surely those of us on the left can have a meal with those on the right.

The San Jose rail system is still down, a week after the proverbial disgruntled worker killed nine. The reason? He had planted bombs at his house and bomb making materials were found in his locker at the yard. The VTA is taking no chances and methodically going through everything looking for explosive material. Maybe if they had combed his employment record as keenly as this, nine of his fellow workers would be alive today. Just saying.

The Army won’t investigate Herr Obermeister Flynn’s comments on the appropriateness of a “Myanmar style coup” here in the country all members of the armed forces swear an allegiance to protect. They say it’s because they never investigate retired officers. OK then, call him back to duty and court martial his ass for insubordination, treason, and any other crime you can think of that he’s committed.

There’s an old saying in politics: If you’ve got the votes, call the roll. Gavin Newsom has the votes to overcome this insipid recall vote so it looks like we will have the election in early September. Once that is finished, can we please talk about making it more difficult to qualify a recall vote? Ten percent of the electorate should not have the power to force a wasteful and unnecessary recall election.

More after the break

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The Hidden Figure of Ruth Freshour

Ruth Freshour & Avidac

The expert teaches the newbies how to program a computer.

Today would have been my mother-in-law Ruth Freshour’s 94th birthday.

Ruth would be amazed at the world we live in. Not because she would have been amazed at all the wonderous gadgets we can play with. Not because she would be astounded at how technology permeates our lives. No, she would have been astounded because all of those gadgets and systems and technology are things she had a hidden hand in creating.

She grew up in Worcester Massachusetts, her mother a homemaker and her father, well you could say her father had a variety of ways of making money. Most of those ways involved some form of speculation. Speculation as to the turn of a card or the speed of a horse. He must have been pretty good at it since they lived as comfortably as could be expected during the Depression.

Ruth was a bright girl. Really bright. Smarter than her brother and sister. Smarter than a lot of the boys at school. Smart enough that she could apply to and get into Smith College, one of the “Seven Sisters” colleges, the equivalent in the pre-coed days to the Ivy League. Of course while her classmates had their tuitions paid for via the interest, never the principle, of their trust funds, Ruth’s tuitions were paid via crumpled up fives and tens adorned with cryptic notes about various horses’ pedigrees.

I’m sure the Bursar’s department at Smith must have loved that.

At Smith she studied mathematics, not only out of a cerebral love of math and a feeling of calling to the field but out of the prosaic desire to have a job that paid a decent salary, didn’t involve manual labor, and could put her in position to find a husband who she could feel was her intellectual equal. In 1949 she graduated Smith and began applying for jobs.

A degree in math usually meant a ticket to a teaching position, but teaching jobs were hard to come by. Returning WWII vets got first pick, then any other man, then the other guys, then back to the first guys to see if maybe the other job fell through, and then if desperate finally down to highly qualified women. But find a job she did, with the largest employer of mathematicians in the world at the time — the United States government.

First she was sent to Annapolis Maryland, to the Ballistics Research Lab of the Aberdeen Proving Ground. Aberdeen did the research that developed all types of new weapons. They needed a way to be able to test the theories about what those weapons could do before deciding if it was worthwhile making the weapons. For that you turn to math. Math and a giant room filling box of wires, diodes, and lights with the enigmatic name of Electronic Numerical Integrator and Computer.

ENIAC

Ruth spent three years programming the ENIAC though the term programming didn’t even exist back then. It was just math and the people who tamed the mechanical beast were mathematicians, not programmers. She must have been pretty good at it because eventually she got the call to the big leagues and headed off to the deserts of New Mexico, home to the Los Alamos Scientific Lab to work on the math for the second generation of atomic and thermonuclear weapons. Continue reading

Animal Country

Animal House

When you were a teenager and saw ANIMAL HOUSE you probably reveled in the anti-establishment hijinks of the Delta House. Watch it again as an adult and you might giggle at a line or two (remembering a time when you did something similarly asshatted) but more likely you will come away thinking what jerks the characters are. Don’t get down on yourself for not being as counterculture as you once were, it’s all a part of growing up.

If US politics were the movie, the Repugnicants would be the Deltas while the Democrats would be, um, the Jewish Frat the Deltas checked their answers for the Psych exam with. But as much as you enjoyed Animal House and the zany antics of Boon, Otter, Bluto, Pinto (cause he had a spotted dick, a line cut from the movie cause the studio suit said “yeah, that goes TOO far”) you wouldn’t want them running your country.

Fat, drunk, and stupid is no way to go through life, son.

And yet people keep voting for them.

You fucked up… you trusted us! Hey, make the best of it!

Meanwhile the Democrats just keep chugging along lead by their undisputed leader President Joey B Shark who just keeps pumping out new initiatives to try and help both the American people and the American economy. And the American people keep listening and liking what they hear. 68% approval ratings for his two biggest proposals show that.

Better listen to him, Flounder, he’s in pre-med.

But you know there is an old saying that the guy who shouts the loudest is the one who gets heard. And Repugnicants sure do shout loud. What they shout is utter bollocks, whether about Dr. Seuss or red meat, but those bollocks get amplified by the Murdoch media machine till finally the other network talking heads feel they must make mention of whatever stupidity is being uttered, if only to refute it.

A Pledge Pin! On your Uniform!

Honestly, the US Senate would be hilarious if Ted Cruz was played by Stephen Furst, Josh Hawley by Tom Hulce, and Mitch McConnell by Bruce McGill. Of course Donald Trump would be played by John Belushi. We don’t care about grades, who needs grades when we got voter suppressed forever seats!

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More Hick Schtick From John Neely Kennedy

The junior Senator from the Gret Stet of Louisiana is the man I love to hate. I considered two Sue Grafton inspired titles for this post, P Is For Phony or H Is For Hypocrite, before settling on this one. It would take a crack detective such as Kinsey Milhone to locate Neely’s integrity, after all.

Neely loves to go on teevee and denounce the liberals; one of whom he used to be. That was before he lowered his political IQ and became a Fox News favorite. He did it again the other day but first some background snark about Neely’s hick schtick.

As Treasurer of the Gret Stet of Louisiana for seventeen years, Neely was a publicity hound, but his brand was as a skinflint guarding the public coffers against both Democrats and Republicans, not the rabid wingnut of today. He was every bit as hard on Bobby Jindal as on his Democratic predecessor, Kathleen Blanco. Of course, he was a Democrat until 2007.

Neely didn’t start hicking up his accent and speaking style until he changed parties. Before then, he was not ashamed of being well-educated and articulate. The dumbing down began in his second run for the US Senate in 2008 against incumbent Mary Landrieu who had also served as Gret Stet Treasurer.

Neely perfected his hick schtick in his successful run for the Senate in 2016. Having secured the prize he’d spent his entire life chasing, he became one of the loudest Trump sycophants and enablers in a Republican party full of them. I wrote a long piece for Bayou Brief in 2018 about what I called his Neelyisms: the cornpone “wisdom” he dispenses on the boob tube.

The Neelyisms stopped being funny when he started using them to defend retrograde, racist, and downright stupid policies. After the slaughter in Boulder, Colorado he said that what America needed was idiot control, not gun control. He’s not really an idiot, he just plays one on teevee.

Neely popped up on Fox News the other day and deployed his cornpone “wisdom” against Major League Baseball for relocating the All Star Game from Atlanta to Denver:

Forget Mars. We need to search for intelligent life in the Major League Baseball commissioner’s office. I have never seen anything like this. Commissioner Manfred has a fiduciary responsibility to Major League Baseball. His job is to do the very best that he can not to suck. He has failed at that. Think about what he’s done. Major League Baseball is losing popularity to football and other sports. His job is to grow it. So what is the first thing he does? He decides to get involved in national politics and alienate hundreds of millions of Americans who actually like the Georgia bill and think that it is an honest effort for election security.

The commissioner hasn’t explained why he thinks these hundreds of millions of Americans who support the Georgia effort are a bunch of racists. He hasn’t bothered to explain why he thinks the bill is racist. The only excuse I can think is he made all of these decisions after his morning beer. I have never seen anything like it. It costs $150 to attend a major league baseball game in some cities. Is this going to encourage people to go? I just don’t think so.

This has nothing to do with Jackie Robinson. It has nothing to do with race.

It has everything to do with race, Senator. In fact, Jackie Robinson was born in Georgia, but his family fled Jim Crow and moved to California in search of a better life.

Republicans are afraid that they’re losing their grip on power in Georgia, so that state’s lege passed an atrocious bill that overwhelmingly effects black voters who are overwhelmingly Democratic. It might as well be called the Beat Raphael Warnock Bill.  One would think that logic would reach a man who was an adjunct professor at LSU law school for 14 years, but he’s only interested in the next election. His election.

Neely is also fond of mocking diversity and claiming that racism is not systematic. Our old pal Deep Blog saw the faux idiot on Faux News the other day and got a bellyful of his pseudo ignorant spiel. He sent me a screen shot of Vanderbilt University’s yearbook from 1973. John Neely Kennedy is second from the right on the top row:

The observant among you have surely noticed that, except for two Asian dudes, everyone on this page is of one race. It explains a lot about John Neely Kennedy. He not only mocks diversity, he’s uncomfortable with it. Imagine that.

Presumably, Vanderbilt is considerably more diverse in 2021 than it was in Neely’s day, which was a mere 9 years after that pricey private school was fully desegregated. In the Seventies, Black Commodores were still rare on the University’s Nashville campus unless some students owned records by the band then fronted by Lionel Richie.

John Neely Kennedy is a cornpone con man who thinks diversity is for suckers. To paraphrase Teddy Roosevelt, Neely talks loudly and carries a hick schtick. I look forward to voting against him in 2022.

Since Neely is so fond of guns, the last word goes to The Commodores with the title track of their debut album:

Fixing Schools

I got mad sometime in 2004 or so, when the war in Afghanistan became less about KILLING OSAMA BIN LADEN and more about “let’s paint some schools there to show ‘them’ Americans, despite dropping bombs on them for decades, are nice people they should love and emulate right down to endless re-runs of ‘Friends.'”

I got mad because on a near-daily basis I spent time in schools that had literal holes in the roof and doors that wouldn’t stay shut unless they were padlocked, where in one classroom kids wore parkas and another the windows were open in January because the heating was just … like that.

Why can’t we paint THOSE schools, I would ask, and silly girl. Honestly.

We can wrap our heads around charity far, far away, much more easily than we can here at home. This gets to some of why:

This story, which I read years ago and never forgot, gets to the rest: 

Winfrey, who devoted five years to creating the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls outside Johannesburg, also said of the assistance she has given at home, “I became so frustrated with visiting inner-city schools that I just stopped going. The sense that you need to learn just isn’t there.”

In America, she says, “If you ask the kids what they want or need, they will say an iPod or some sneakers. In South Africa, they don’t ask for money or toys. They ask for uniforms so they can go to school.”

We have this idea that there’s a way people should behave, properly grateful for the things they should get, and when we’re confronted with the fact that people are PEOPLE, and messy, and don’t act like we think they should, we throw up our hands and throw in the towel.

Forgetting that, of course, we owe one another not just our resources and our care but also our absolute understanding that once something leaves our hands it’s not up to us anymore what people do with it.

If we see the same panhandler on the corner every weekend looking drunker and twitchier no matter how much money we give him, we start to think he’s just spending our money on a high. But if we give to the faraway, if we do the mission trip and come home and only see the newsletter the mission sends which is designed to make us feel good and keep giving, well, then we know our time was well-spent.

These are both assumptions, and they’re dangerous and damaging, as is the constant drumbeat that “government” wastes our money on “welfare” and “those people,” superimposed over images of a Black person somewhere, sometime, breaking something. In other words, the entire Fox oeuvre. The church missions are to the Developing World, not down the block. We are conditioned, by now, to make those assumptions, to see in care for others the faces not of our friends and neighbors but of an “other.”

And while I’d like to believe the pandemic would change that, any relief money received is likely to be accompanied by a flood of those same FOX NEWS WATCHDOG INVESTIGATES stories about “people” spending it on jewelry or something, sourced to an anecdote from an anonymous Costco employee in, say, Ohio.

The needs are real, just as real as any “for pennies a day you could save a child” commercial: 

The pandemic is giving us an opportunity to make a pivot that we should have made long ago. We have been on a treadmill of short-term fixes, pretending that if we just get the right test, the right incentives, put the right pressure on teachers and students, they will achieve what is good for them, like it or not. But we are realizing what we should have known all along: that you can’t widget your way to powerful learning, that relationships are critical for learning, that students’ interests need to be stimulated and their selves need to be recognized.

If we’d had a real functioning government we’d have spent this year doing unsexy things like upgrading the HVAC systems in every school in the land and doubling the pay of every custodian. Making sure the windows all open, and are screened.

But it’s hard to make that glossy enough to goose donors for cash. We can’t have a conference about it and design software and metrics. And the kids it’ll benefit likely won’t even notice except that they’ll, you know, still be alive and healthy, so you can see why it’s far more attractive to parachute a pallet of cash into someplace far away and never ask where it really ends up.

A.

Maliciousness

I’m never one to credit evil as an explanation where stupidity will do nicely, but as this post points out, this is starting to surpass the “wishful thinking” phase: 

You pushed faculty to offer in-person classes or classes that could at least have an in-person component. Classes that drew students to campus and put butts in classroom seats were valued. You created all sorts of untested hybrid options with the idea that some personal interaction was better than none. Faculty objected and students went with online options when possible, but still you persisted.

You created pokazukha websites and plans and fliers for your students and faculty, complete with testing sites and “dashboard numbers” of tests and cases. You told them that “We’re all in this together” and that things would be fine because you were locked and loaded for this war.

Then, you passed the buck to a group of 18-to-22-year-olds and told them, “We want you to have a normal college experience” in the same breath that you layered on admonitions and restrictions that made such an experience impossible. You also told these students to act in a fashion that belied your decades of experience observing students, even as you lacked the resources or structure to enforce such edicts to the extent necessary to avoid case spikes.

It’s becoming clear that the spike in cases in the Midwest is due to college reopening (not to mention GOP legislatures and GOP-appointed judges overthrowing safety measures in the name of having something to yell to their resentment-roided supporters about) and I’m about 100 percent done with blaming kids for not doing what grown-ass people cannot do without throwing a fit in the Trader Joe’s.

And let’s not let municipalities off the hook here. My entire neighborhood melted down over the weekend about a house party some high schoolers threw that infected a whole shitload of people and we were 100 comments into “when do I get my tax money back from the school since these kids obviously didn’t learn anything” by the time someone pointed out that Illinois is in Phase Four. Gatherings of up to 50 people are allowed. Legally.

Restaurants are open. Stores are open, and not just grocery stores. Bars are open, and you know, the longer this goes on the more sympathy I have for people who need a drink with friends. I’m more open to going to a bar where I know they clean the place, than I am to the HomeGoods where who the hell knows where half that stuff’s been, and do you really need a throw pillow at the moment? Sports are going on every single weekend on every single soccer and baseball field. Some schools are open, too.

So if a group of students does something perfectly legal, who are we to then take to the internet and shame them? You don’t like what they’re doing? THEN CLOSE THE FUCKING BARS. CLOSE THE FRATS. CLOSE THE DAMN CAMPUS. SEND EVERYBODY HOME. I hate this idea, I hate everything about it, I loved college and I still love my university more than anyplace else on earth including my current actual house. But I want everybody to live is the thing.

The post above references canaries in coal mines and to spin that out to its end, the canary didn’t lock itself in the cage and carry itself down into the dark. We are so busy yelling at the canaries that we let the company that built the mine pack up and leave without a single consequence.

A.

Saturday Odds & Sods: Higher Ground

Blue Night by Edward Hopper.

The tropics have been busy this week. There are two named storms in the Gulf. Neither is headed our way, but it’s been a wet week. Oh, to be on the dry side of a storm.

It was qualifying week for the 2020 election in the Gret Stet of Louisiana.  Senator Double Bill Cassidy gained a name opponent when Democratic Shreveport Mayor Adrian Perkins filed to challenge him. He has his work cut out for him: he’s not well known in South Louisiana. The spineless incumbent remains a heavy favorite.

The most interesting local race is for Orleans Parish District Attorney. Incumbent Leon Cannizzaro is retiring, which makes it a wide-open race. City Council President Jason Williams looked like a very strong candidate until he was indicted on federal tax charges. The funniest moment of qualifying week was when Williams told us not to be distracted by his indictment. Dude, you’re running for DA. You need a better argument than that.

This week’s theme song was written by Stevie Wonder for his smash hit 1973 album Innervisions.  It’s about reincarnation or some such shit but I like it for the funky groove.

We have two versions of Higher Ground for your listening pleasure: Stevie’s original and a 1989 cover by Red Hot Chili Peppers.

Glad I was able to funkify your lives today. I took lessons from the Meters:

That George Porter Jr. bass line makes me want to jump…to the break. See you on the other side.

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They Did This On Purpose

Read this and think about what you learned about history, and why: 

Here’s another example: Teenagers in both states will learn about the Harlem Renaissance and debates about the movement’s impact on African-American life.

But Texas students will read that some critics “dismissed the quality of literature produced.”

I get frustrated day after day after day listening to Our Thought Leaders lamenting how divided we “have become” and how polarized “things are” like a storm just moved in and nobody knows why. Children for decades have been deliberately taught different stories, for a very specific reason, and the article presents this as if that reason doesn’t exist.

California and Texas textbooks sometimes offer different explanations for white backlash to black advancement after the Civil War, from Reconstruction to housing discrimination in the 20th century.

Southern whites resisted Reconstruction, according to a McGraw-Hill textbook, because they “did not want African-Americans to have more rights.” But the Texas edition offers an additional reason: Reforms cost money, and that meant higher taxes.

Whole paragraphs on redlining and restrictive deeds appear only in the California editions of textbooks, partly as a result of different state standards. Texas’ social studies guidelines do not mention housing discrimination at all.

It’s as if “discrimination exists” and “no, reverse racism does” are two competing ideas with no way to prove the fact of one or the other. Whites were just scared of their taxes paying for black people? Sure, okay, that certainly seems to be what’s happening here:

reconstruction nast

No racial discrimination there, at all. Nothing irrational about that resistance to black political power.

If you accept that “both sides” want their version of history taught because they both benefit from it, you have to outline what those benefits are. The right benefits electorally and financially from actively discriminating in housing, employment, voting rights, and any number of a thousand other areas, and has for decades. Their version of history supports an ideology that actively prevents low-income people and non-whites from accessing huge swaths of American life.

That is a CONSEQUENCE of their actions. That is a result that can be seen and measured, a direct outcome of the story they tell.

For this to be equivalent to the left’s desire to, say, honestly describe what happened to Native Americans when whitey showed up, there would have to be an ongoing and systemic effort to prevent white people from gaining rights that were historically given to non-whites. That’s … not occurring, not even in socialist California. I know we joke all the time about how we need to stop electing white people but as far as I know no one’s actually trying to make that the case.

That there is the PERCEPTION that any uplift to non-whites, non-straights, non-Christians comes at the expense of all you nice Land Rovering ladies at book club is not anybody’s problem but yours, and it’s certainly not an argument to teach history differently, Jesus tits.

Texas policymakers feel strongly about giving students a positive view of the American economy; since 1995, state law has required that high school economics courses offer an “emphasis on the free enterprise system and its benefits.” That emphasis seems to have made its way into the history curriculum as well.

California’s curriculum materials, by contrast, sometimes read like a brief from a Bernie Sanders rally. “The yawning gap between the haves and have-nots and what is to be done about it is one of the great questions of this time,” says the state’s 2016 social studies framework.

Bernie Sanders would slap that line right out of his own mouth, it’s so tame, and I’m far from a Bernie stan. What is the point of that dig? Tee hee, so silly and communist, the idea that people talk about inequality.

We’re saying there are two versions of this story, and one of them is “everything is GREAT” and another is “let’s think about stuff.” Those aren’t even competing ideas, much less competing on equal ground.

Again, who benefits from the narrative that the American economy is OMG BESTEST EVARR!11!? The people in power, who are generally Republican, and oppose taxes on corporations, and want you to believe that the reason there ain’t no raises coming this year is that they just can’t afford it.

We are not teaching two different versions of history because we’re just so horrifically divided. We are horrifically divided because there is a concerted effort to paint a picture of American history that devalues certain voices, to its distinct financial and political benefit. Division hasn’t HAPPENED. It’s been done, and we see who’s made out like bandits, and who’s suffered.

A.

LET’S MAIL SOME LEGOS TO ALASKA

I dunno if anybody else is struggling right now but I AM. Holy balls, am I ever.

The world is a dark miserable shitass place and being on Twitter is losing its goddamn charm as all I ever see is people attacking each other over who’s really a Bernie bro and who humped their cat and who has the WORST ideas for revamping local news and who I used to love yesterday who now has to be cancelled because he has revenge or rape or race-war fantasies.

And I do not have a hot take on any of it. I’m just annoyed by everything. Once upon a time I would have enjoyed laughing at Cat Humper Twitter as much as I did David Cameron Dead Pig Humper Twitter, but lately my overarching reaction is just to be really, really tired by everyone’s antics. Which is not productive. Or helpful.

You know what is?

MAILING LEGOS TO ALASKA. 

Continue reading

Stop Asking People to Prostitute Their Experiences for You

Ugh:

As college admissions become ever more competitive, with the most elite schools admitting only 4 percent or 5 percent of applicants, the pressure to exaggerate, embellish, lie and cheat on college applications has intensified, admissions officials say. The high-stakes process remains largely based on trust: Very little is done in the way of fact-checking, and on the few occasions officials do catch outright lies, they often do so by chance.

How about we stop making it heartwarming that people basically have to beg in public for everything now? A good education, a way to get to and from work, cancer treatment, meds for a sick baby or grandmother, these are all occasions for these “sweet” stories in which people donate because they’re moved by the personal circumstances, which means people have to strip their sleeves and show their scars in public.

Should we take into account people’s life experiences? Absolutely. But there’s something vaguely gross about having to have a dead mom (or talk about the dead mom you have) in order to gain college admission. It’s gross that this kid did this, of course, because there are actual orphans and, you know, incredibly talented and overlooked students generally, out there applying too.

It’s grosser that this is considered an effective strategy. It’s not okay to substitute that kind of pressure to self-exposure for a social safety net and a society in general that protects everyone and gives everyone a chance to succeed. Without them having to “prove” anything, dead mom or no.

A.

Schooldays

Glory Days

The blogger (in hat and shades) as a wayward youth with his posse.

What is it that they say about great minds? I’m not sure if I qualify but Athenae surely does. I had already planned to write about my schooldays then A did it and did it well:

I went to a Catholic college-prep high school, after 8 years of Catholic elementary. I did this because my family was Catholic, and religious schooling was important to my not-rich  parents and grandparents. And a hell of a lot of my fellow students did the same because their families were wealthy, and the Catholic schools were predominantly white.

I grew up in a different time and place. My mother’s favorite sister was a principal back home in Wisconsin. Mom believed in public education and the schools in San Mateo County, California were outstanding so I always attended public schools.

Looking back, I’m amazed at how DIVERSE my high school was. We lived in middle class Foster City, but our group of students was diverse in and of itself with a slew of Jewish and Asian kids in the mix. Then, there were the white working class kids from Shoreview just across the Bayshore Freeway from San Mateo High. The neighborhood around the school itself was largely working class African-American and Hispanic. Finally, there were the upper middle class kids from San Mateo Park and the big money kids from Hillsborough. That was where people like the Hearsts and the Crosbys lived. I’ve been away for a long time, but I assume the demographics of many of these areas are different in 2018; except the wealthier ones. The rich are always with us.

Our school’s diversity is one reason so many of the schoolmates I’m still in touch with are howling liberals. It may not have always been pretty, but we learned how to deal with different types of people without thinking of them as the OTHER.

One year there was some racial tension but the problem was largely between rival groups of jocks; one group were white rough boys, the other black football players and their hangers-on. It didn’t last long. The two groups resumed picking on the stoners, which was easier and more profitable. Who could complain to the Vice Principal about their weed getting stolen? Not that I know about such things…

I had a protector among the white jocks or hard guys as they called themselves. Kelly lived around the corner from me, our parents were friends, and we played little league baseball together. He played shortstop and I rode the bench but I had access to free Giants tickets, which made me a popular kid. I was mildly roughed up by some high school jocks once. I told Kelly and it never happened again. Thanks, man.

High school was where I met guys like Brett Kavanaugh. There were some wealthy parents who sent their kids to San Mateo High: many were members of the “greatest generation” and were on the frugal side. Besides, the school was academically excellent and our football, basketball, and track teams were competitive.  Because of that we got many wealthy jocks who might have gone to private schools in another time and place.

As I watched Kavanaugh testify, I thought to myself “I know the type.” He was the sort of kid who kissed up and kicked down. Prep school jock asshole Brett thought he was better than everyone else, especially students with a vagina, not a penis. He was a boozy Eddie Haskell, the phoniest choir boy who ever sucked up to grown ups while simultaneously bullying kids weaker than himself.

Essentially, Brett Kavanaugh is Donald Trump with brains. He’s lied and bullied his way through life and sees no reason to change. We saw the real Brett Kavanaugh last Thursday. His mask repeatedly slipped as he ranted and raved about left-wing conspiracies.  Ken Starr may be proud of him but his lies and extreme partisanship make him unfit for the Supreme Court. He may have gone to the right schools but he seems to have drawn the wrong lessons from them.

Let’s circle back to my schooldays and give the Kinks, Paul Simon, and Steely Dan the last word with some contemporaneous music. I really need to post Kodachrome since I quoted it in the post summary.



School Segregation and Brett Kavanaugh’s Entitlement Complex

Shot: 

I saw this growing up with kids in private high schools who had never been to public school. They really thought public school kids spent their days drinking paint before inevitably heading off to juvenile hall for an extended stay. This is a slight exaggeration, of course, but if the base assumption is that your private school is better, and some of your classmates aren’t exactly perfect, then Those Other Kids must be soooooo bad.

Chaser: 

So imagine my surprise when, thanks to the Facebook page for an upcoming high school reunion, I learned the school is getting a new $5.7 million stadium. The stadium will have artificial grass and a new track for WIAA events. The report I saw didn’t mention metal detectors, but it would be a good idea.

The new stadium is part of an $11 million improvement in athletic facilities for Milwaukee Public Schools (MPS), presumably so the little convicts can have the best facilities before being sent to the penitentiary.

I went to a Catholic college-prep high school, after 8 years of Catholic elementary. I did this because my family was Catholic, and religious schooling was important to my not-rich  parents and grandparents. And a hell of a lot of my fellow students did the same because their families were wealthy, and the Catholic schools were predominantly white.

This isn’t unusual. The Catholic Church in America benefitted immensely from the fears of white-flight parents who didn’t want their children attending segregated schools after Brown v. Board. These were the days before anyone with a haircut and a handshake could open a charter school. Holy Mother Church offered a network of private schools, already in existence, segregated by income rather than by law. Sign us up, suburban parents said, and their kids followed suit with their children.

And the propaganda they subjected themselves to was that all the city schools were horrific shitholes where you’d as likely be shanked by a gang member as take a math test. Poor kids went to those schools. Nobody ever flat-out said black and Hispanic kids went there, but the implication was pretty clear: public schools were for trash. OUR education was superior.

I dated a boy, late in high school, who went to a public school. He was a sweet kid who wasn’t unintelligent, but the way people reacted, you’d have thought he was a knuckle-dragging thug unqualified to work in a car-theft chop shop.

That’s the mindset the blogger quoted second up there, talking about Milwaukee Public Schools, is parroting. Poor kids, kids of color, can’t be educated, they’re just future criminals and should be treated as such. Of course, since they should just be warehoused until juvie can take over, we don’t need to adequately fund them or treat them like they matter at all.

And then we can hold ourselves above them, and pretend our drinking and rapey escapades are sophisticated fun because we go to the finest academies and learn from the best teachers in the cleanest buildings. As if it’s a law of nature and money and will had nothing to do with it at all.

For such people, people like Kavanaugh, of course it comes as a shock that not everybody thinks he’s hot shit just because he went to Yale. He’s been sequestered away from THOSE PEOPLE his entire life, and now he has to answer to them. To us. To all of us.

A.

All This … Or The Guns

We’ll take away every civil right you have, in the name of safety, before we pass some fucking gun laws that make sense in this country: 

Under the Salem method, threats are evaluated at a Level One stage by a school-based team that may include school police. If it is determined that parents would be constructive, they can be brought in during the process, the handbook says.

The handbook outlining the Salem method that Parkrose uses advises that aggression exists on a continuum, from a low end of “scratch, bite, hit” up to “rape, strangle, stab, shoot, bomb, kill.”

If school professionals remain unsure at Level One, the protocol goes to Level Two. A broader team completes a second analysis. In Sanders’ case, that included representatives from local police agencies, the county mental health office, a  child welfare agency and the county developmental disabilities office.

Proponents of threat assessments say they’re more effective than security measures that make a school feel like a prison. But their impact on students assessed as threats, rather than their value to the school as a whole, is rarely considered.

The impact on this student and his family is horrifying, and the impact on the school, equally so. I’d like to talk about the money.

Because of course, capitalist, but bear with me.

The school spends on school police. They spend on threat assessment protocols and handbooks and they spend on staff time going to meetings and trainings and I’m sure somewhere in here was a seminar/webinar with an insufferable powerpoint and the word “utilizing.”

When, if we had gun laws that made any sense at all in this country, if we had any kind of laws that made any kind of sense, we’d have guidance counselors, not threat assessors. For students with special needs like the one described in the story above, we’d have trained aides and accommodations that would make school and everything that goes with it a learning experience, not a motherfucking gauntlet.

Yes, we’d still worry about violence, about kids with knife collections or irrational grudges, but we wouldn’t worry about them re-enacting the opening of Saving Private Ryan on Senior Skip Day, because we’d do what these idiots up in that story are trying to do with “threat assessments,” and take care of our goddamn kids.

We could do all of that with the money we spend on the things we do instead of taking the guns. We are making these endless end-runs around the thing we think we can’t address and it’s so exhausting watching us lie to ourselves that we’re powerless, that we HAVE to do the threat assessments and the stupid meetings and spend more on school police when what we have to do is take away the guns.

It would be CHEAPER, Jesus, if that’s your only metric, if the flagrant civil rights violations aren’t apparent, if the counterproductive nonsense detailed above isn’t enough, if all that persuades you is the spreadsheet, think of how much time it would save.

We can do all of that, or we can take the guns. You tell me which sounds better. And then you vote in November for the people most likely to SOLVE the problem, instead of assessing the threat.

A.

Tenure: Thanks for fucking it up for everybody else

I’ve written before here about the fundamental misunderstanding most people have about tenure, including why it matters, how it works and what it’s supposed to provide. The simplest explanation is that tenure guarantees educators and scholars at institutions of higher education the right to fearlessly challenge convention within a field, seek scholarship in areas that might not jibe with social norms and conduct research in ways their expertise dictates is necessary and valuable.

It’s not meant to protect you when you act like a dick.

Unfortunately, the public seems to think that tenure does this, which is why they’re constantly looking for ways to eliminate it. The term “life time employment” is bandied about whenever tenure is discussed, as is the idea of ivory towers, elitism and generally haughty assholes.

And, again, when people like Randa Jarrar and John McAdams are in the news, it’s easy to see why the public thinks this way.

Jarrar, a creative-writing professor at Fresno State, took to Twitter in the wake of Barbara Bush’s death to call her “racist” and accuse her of having raised “a war criminal.” (I’m assuming she meant Millie, but I could be wrong.)

barbara

She then followed up with this gem:

In another tweet, the professor wrote: “I’m happy the witch is dead. can’t wait for the rest of her family to fall to their demise the way 1.5 million iraqis have. byyyeeeeeee.”

Of course, everything is subtle and nuanced on Twitter, so she completely solved the problem of a grieving nation in less than 280 characters…

Or, a large group of angry Twitter users started spreading this dung pile like Nutella all over the place, allowing CAPS LOCK NATION to come flailing at this educator.

And of course, because Twitter is a place of reason, logic and decency, Jarrar said she understood their point, she did not wish to continue the argument and she quietly let the issue die…

OR, she decided to fuck with each and every one of them over and over again, including posting what was supposedly her private phone number, but actually turned out to be a suicide prevention hotline in Arizona. This led to CAPS LOCK NATION flooding the center with threatening calls and preventing actual work from getting done, so that was helpful…

Still, of all the stupid shit that came out of this, the one that really had me considering a CAPS LOCK NATION MEMBERSHIP CARD was her mention that she had tenure and then this:

“I will never be fired.”

Fresno State says it’s “looking into the matter” which means that six people are now in a room going, “So… that happened…” Still, it’s better than what Marquette University is dealing with this week, thanks to an angry tenured professor on the other end of the political spectrum.

John McAdams is the poli sci prof and “everybody’s asshole grandpa in every bad comedy film” who used his blog as a cudgel against colleagues and foes alike. The university had a stack of paper on this guy dating back to the Clinton administration, all of which basically demonstrating he’s the exact reason people think tenure is a “Designated Asshole Pass.”

The U apparently found the straw that broke the camel’s back in McAdams’ post about a grad student teaching a class, in which a conservative student voiced an opinion the instructor found to be homophobic. McAdams posted about her by name and apparently encouraged people to “let your voice be heard,” which is a great code phrase for “break out the caps lock and call her a whore.” He apparently also was hostile to her, to the point where she dropped out of her program and finished elsewhere.

MU suspended McAdams and he’s now at the state’s Supreme Court, suing to get his job back. His argument is that tenure protects him and that his “free speech” on the blog should not allow for retaliation. (Point of order: Marquette is a private school, so this gets even weirder, as the court is clearly figuring out…)

So, to recap, two people who have diametrically opposing belief systems and who teach in two fields that just scream to John Q. Public “If my kid majors in this, he’s never getting a fucking job,” are espousing their rights to be assholes. They also are arguing their dickish behavior is protected by tenure so, “neener, neener, neeeeennnerrr…”

And academics wonder why people hate us…

Tenure is supposed to be a shield against the encroachment of external forces as we use our expertise to find out greater truths and research complex problems that may go against the societal grain. Running your mouth on social media and then hiding behind your “big friend” isn’t what anyone had in mind for this thing. Even more, all it does is really fuck over the rest of us who are actually doing those things and understand there is a concept called objective reality, something you bypassed long ago.

We’re like the people who are in a fraternity who have good GPAs, do good philanthropy work and then have to explain, “No, we’re not those idiots from Syracuse.” No matter what we say, people are still giving us the stink eye.

So, on behalf of the actual working scholars, academics and people who teach without managing to say shit like “y’know what’s wrong with the Coloreds these days,” I’d like to thank professors Jarrar and McAdams and others who think tenure is a lifetime “get out of fuckups free card,” thank you for fucking this up for the rest of us.

 

Good night, Jack Hamilton

(Posting a bit early because of a sad bit of news. Hope it’s acceptable. – Doc.)

Of all the baubles and trinkets I’ve collected over the years that adorn my office, one of my favorite ones is a baseball signed by Jack Hamilton, who died earlier today.

Hamilton

The reason I got it was that I taught one of his grandchildren during one of my many stops in journalism education. I still remember her approaching me during our introductory reporting course to ask for special dispensation when it came to her profile.

“I know you said that we can’t do this on family members, but…” she began.

I had heard all sorts of excuses over the years: “I don’t have time to find anyone else,” or “My mom is my hero” or “I don’t know who else I’d do.”

I kind of did that “Justify your existence” thing and said, “Who and why?”

The answer was “My grandfather and he used to pitch in the major leagues.”

I decided it would be OK. After all, I let some kid do a piece on her grandmother because she was Jerry “Beaver Cleaver” Mathers’ mom, so why not a pitcher? Besides, I liked baseball. It was only after she turned in the piece that I realized who this man was.

Jack Hamilton had a relatively pedestrian career record of 32-40 during the heart of the 1960s. He bottomed out with Cleveland and the White Sox in 1969, going 0-5 before retiring. At 6-foot and 200 pounds, he wasn’t a giant, but a solid man who could mix his pitches well. His best season ended up being his most memorable one for all the wrong reasons.

In 1967, he started 2-0 for the New York Mets, who sent him to the Angels for Nick Willhite, who would retire from the game following a 0-1 campaign for New York that season. He was 8-2 and on the way to his only double-digit winning season on Aug. 18 when he threw the pitch that would define his career.

“It was a fastball that just got away.” I remember reading that line in my student’s profile. It stuck with me all these years and it hung with me today. I never heard the man’s voice, but I can hear it over and over in my head.

The one that “got away” smashed into the head of Boston’s Tony Conigliaro, a promising slugger who had already hit 100 home runs faster than any man in the game. The pitch fractured Tony C’s cheekbone, dislocated his jaw and damaged his retina. He sat out all of 1968 and would never really become the player everyone thought he would be.

Hamilton finished the season with an 11-6 record, but he too would never be the same.

“I had trouble pitching inside,” he told his grand-daughter. I didn’t blame him.

I remember reading that profile my student wrote, almost in awe and yet almost in shame. I felt like I was leering in on this man’s most difficult moment. I was thinking, Good God, man… you let this student ask her grandfather about all this? The hell is wrong with you? Still, I had to grade the thing so I kept on reading and I was glad I did.

He left baseball and settled in Branson, Missouri, where opened up several restaurants and raised a family. People liked him for who he was then, not because he was “a former baseball player.” He was just a great guy.

A year or two later, the student was working in the newsroom near Thanksgiving when we started chatting about something or other and she mentioned she was going home for the break.

“Are you seeing your grandpa?” I asked. “If so, tell him I loved reading about him.”

She said she was and that he’d be glad to hear that someone liked reading his story. I laughed a bit and tossed in a line: “Tell him I’d love to have his autograph.”

When she returned from Thanksgiving, she handed me a baseball. She had explained our exchange to her grandfather and my ask, he got this great big smile on his face and asked, “Really?” He then went out and actually bought a baseball so he could sign it for me. (I would have taken a turkey-stained napkin, for Pete’s sake.) His hand writing was a tad jittery, but right across the sweet spot, he inked his autograph for me.

I bought a plastic container to display it and subsequently found a 1968 copy of his baseball card. It was amazing but I could really see the family resemblance between that man on the card and his grand daughter in my class. I found it to be a nice reminder of a wonderful moment.

He also served as a reminder to me about how life can mix things up on you from time to time, but in the end, if you know who you are and you value the right things, everything will turn out OK. When I finished reading the profile on him, I felt I knew him and how he had become comfortable in his own skin.

He was just the kind of person you’d want as a grandpa.

So, good night, Mr. Hamilton. I hope you are at peace knowing you really were an incredible man.

Parsing the Medill #MeToo Debacle

Yes, even at the Jesus H. Christ School of Journalism Gods, people can be total dipshits:

Ten women released an open letter on Wednesday accusing Northwestern University Professor Alec Klein of persistent sexual harassment and bullying since he has been at the helm of the school’s “crown jewel” investigative journalism program.

Calling it the storied journalism school’s “#MeToo Moment,” the eight former students and two former staffers of the Medill Justice Project wrote that Klein’s “controlling, discriminatory, emotionally and verbally abusive behavior has to end.”

Klein, who has been at Northwestern for a decade and in charge of the Justice Project since 2011, has taken a leave of absence while the university sorts out all the allegations brought forth in the letter. This is likely to take some time, as a) digging into charges that range back five or more years isn’t easy and b) the women who signed the letter set up an email address for others to use if they want to add their stories regarding Klein and his behavior toward them.

Klein’s lawyer, Andrew T. Miltenberg, issued a statement that really does a nice job of making him look guilty as hell:

“While Mr. Klein denies the allegations that are being made, he intends to respect the confidentiality and privacy of Northwestern University and its internal process,” Miltenberg wrote. “It is unfortunate that these allegations are being made in a rush to judgment, denying Mr. Klein of due process. We are confident that upon review, the allegations will be determined to have been unfounded.”

If you are playing “clearly guilty bingo jargon,” you probably got the cover-all here: “denies allegations,” “respect the confidentiality” “respect the… process,” “rush to judgment,” “due process” and unfounded allegations.

Klein, for his part, issued a letter that blamed all of this on a “disgruntled employee” and then pivoted to how great his teaching evaluations have been.

The university conducted an extensive investigation, interviewing current and former employees, former students and others, and reviewing emails, expenses and other records. The complaint was determined to be completely unfounded. I was cleared of any wrongdoing and the claim was dismissed. The university determined the complainant was not credible and documented, through records and her own words, several falsehoods in her charges.

Klein, a journalist, needs to be a little more accurate here. According to media reports, the claim was not “completely unfounded,” but rather it was a situation where the U declined to roll the dice on pursuing it because it didn’t think it had enough to get the goods on him. It’s like that line from “And the Band Played On,” about what do we think, what do we know and what can we prove? In this case, you couldn’t prove the situation was rotten but it did have some serious stank on it. The school paid Olivia Pera off and as part of the payoff, the rule was that she couldn’t reapply for a job, not that she would want to:

 

“I went through absolute hell,” Pera said. “My family saw me go through such personality changes. My son saw me crying every day. That’s not something your kid should see. I have nothing but bad memories of Northwestern.”

The allegations regarding Klein are problematic, and there is nothing I would like more than to jump up and down on this guy. I have frequently come out against professors who treat students like sexual canapes, the arrogance of the elitism that comes with places like the Med-Dildo land that is that journalism school and people who are generally sleazy fucksticks. That said, there are really two sets of allegations here and they need to be separated before hanging this guy from a yardarm.

First set: He’s a sexually sleazy, lecherous fuck:

And let’s be clear: Some of us have also experienced sexual harassment and sexual misconduct.

  • He attempted to kiss a prospective employee, prior to hiring her. On the same occasion, he asked if she smoked marijuana and asked to smoke with her and ordered her several cocktails.

  • He asked a female employee to come to his hotel room “for drinks” on a business trip.

  • He gave unwanted neck massages while a female employee was trying to work.

  • He asked for a hug in return for giving an employee a requested day off.

  • He made other unwarranted physical contact, such as grabbing a student’s hand during conversations

  • He made sexually graphic remarks at work

  • He talked about his sex life and pressed for explicit details about others’

  • He frequently commented on employees’ physical attractiveness, appearances, attire and bodies

  • He told female students they would be good fits for broadcast journalism because they were “good-looking.

  • He asked if an employee was having another baby when she mentioned that her stomach hurt

  • He asked an employee if she was a stripper

  • He sent texts “intended for his wife” to a female

 

I’ll give him a pass on the text issue, as my Twitter followers have often been subjected to the, “So do we still need milk?” Tweets when I fucked up and hit the wrong button. Other than that… What the fuck? Your students are not a smorgasbord of pussy, so knock it off. And as for the asking the woman back to your hotel room thing, could you be any more sleazy while still being cliche? If you’re not with your wife and you suddenly have that pent up dick rage you seem to possess, there is nothing dumber than what you attempted to do. Here’s some advice: Go back to your room, find that little bottle next to the conditioner and go fly a solo mission.

Second set of allegations: He’s a fucking miserable human being:

Let’s start breaking these into “zones of danger.”

  • He repeatedly accused students of insubordination and reprimanded them to the point of tears over minor or perceived offenses, such as pushing back on an editorial misjudgment or offering an alternative method to pursue an investigation, or agreeing with a peer’s suggestion instead of what Alec Klein proposed. Several of us were summoned into his office individually, made to sit on a short cushion in a corner as he hurled accusatory vitriol about our mistakes and then refused to accept any apology. He sometimes retaliated by lowering students’ final term grades even though these disagreements had nothing to do with academics.

  • He retaliated against an employee by giving her a poor performance review after she defended herself against his verbal abuse.

  • He has yelled at employees and students and accused them of “ignoring him” for not immediately answering his phone calls or emails — at times, outside of working hours, or when one employee was on vacation, despite her returning his call within a few minutes.

  • He continued to show retaliatory behavior after discovering that students went to senior staff at Medill to voice their concerns about him.

  • He was openly dismissive in class to a student who struggled with English and made it apparent that he did not like her Middle Eastern accent. According to this student, he “killed” her confidence and made her feel like “nothing,” and he screamed at and hung up on her friend whom she had put on the phone with him for help.

The concept of retaliation, reprimand and dismissiveness are often in the eye of the beholder, especially in student-faculty relationships. Not saying these things didn’t happen, but on occasion students aren’t as amazing as they think they are and any attempt to demonstrate that is likely to lead to “melting snowflakes.” It also pains me to say this, but I have found that students at some of the best (as in most prestigious, highest ranked etc.) institutions are the ones that are the least able to deal with hearing that they don’t quite measure up. If I had a nickel for every time a kid blamed a bad grade on me or cried over not being told he or she was perfect in every way, I wouldn’t need a job any more. This group needs more cooking before it becomes soup.

Chunk two:

  • He has said: “You aren’t as smart as you think you are ”

  • He has said: “You will never be a journalist.”

  • He told one of us, after learning her mother is a professional writer: “Your mother is a writer, I’d expect you to be a better writer.”

  • He told one of us she needed an A- to earn his recommendation. He later promised a male student in the same class a recommendation in exchange for a B+.

  • He scolded employees for “taking too much credit” for their work and in one instance denied any credit until proof was provided.

When I hear back from students years later, I find out that a lot of shit came rolling out of my mouth that I can’t believe actually did. Part of it is working in a newsroom environment. Part of it is finding the need to buzz a kid with a fastball to back him or her off the plate a bit. Part of it was that I fucked up and learned that I needed to smooth off some of the rough edges. Part of it is that I’m just a dick sometimes, despite my best efforts.

I’ve said the first one, I’m sure. The second one was actually said to me when I was in high school, by a female teacher. She told me that not only would I never be a journalist, but that I’d never be ANYTHING and that I needed to go to a trade school if I wanted to be able to support a family. The third one is weird. The fourth one is something that I could easily see happening. I can’t remember what I ate for lunch yesterday as opposed to who I promised what to whom. The last one, again, some kids need to get backed off the plate or forced to prove stuff. Even students I’ve had dead to rights on plagiarism or other such things would deny it and threaten and bluster until I literally had to say, “You bring your proof and I’ll bring mine and we’ll see what the U has to say.” Then, they fucking crumbled. If these items alone were the basis for a complaint, I could see how the admin would wave this off and call it a day.

CHUNK 3:

  • He often required excessive and unnecessary closed-door meetings during which he pressed several of us to divulge deeply personal details about our lives, only to later use this information against us as a tool of manipulation.

  • He questioned whether an employee had actually attended her grandfather’s funeral after she had requested and taken the day off.

  • He has said about and to female students that they are “too emotional” and “immature.”

This is really problematic stuff in that a) it shows a gender bias and b) it infuses him into the private lives of his students and employees. The gender thing is already discussed above. The other one is something that is an issue because we have to draw lines as faculty and prevent ourselves from crossing them. I have always told newsroom students that I don’t care who you’re sleeping with or what you’re drinking or where you threw up last night. That’s none of my business. However, if I can’t get photos for the front page because my design editor was sleeping with the photo editor, but now they broke up and they’re not talking… OK, NOW I have to care.

I think logically that a lot of this stuff in chunks one and two wouldn’t be as horribly problematic if it weren’t for the first set of allegations (stuff on the harassment) and the last chunk of section two (getting involved in their business). Yes, this isn’t nice workplace behavior in those other two subsections, but I found out something once about stuff like this: There’s no law that prevents people from being an asshole at work.

I had a long discussion with HR and with a harassment specialty lawyer when I was getting knocked around by a particularly shitty colleague in ways like those listed in the two  (non-sex stuff) chunks. I was told, “Look, this isn’t good and he shouldn’t be able to do this, but there is no law against him being a dick.” I wasn’t pleased with that answer, but I got it.

However, there ARE laws about getting your business into my private business. There ARE laws about keeping your fucking hands to yourself and not treating everyone like they’re a fuckdoll with a personality, installed at work for your amusement.

And those laws need to be enforced everywhere, including this situation.

There are always people like this.

Somehow, she thought this was OK.

Something, somewhere in her life convinced Harley Barber that it was OK to open her mouth and pour forth a river of vile, putrid, ignorant racism.

Somehow, she figured she’d get away with it. Maybe it was her “finsta” profile, a fake Instagram account that she erroneously thought would provide her with the anonymity to act with impunity. Maybe it was alcohol or the invincibility that comes with youth that told her nothing bad would happen because nobody knew her or nobody took this stuff seriously. Maybe it was a life of privilege or a “mob mentality” that gave her a sense of protection from whatever might be out there.

Maybe, she didn’t care who saw it or what they thought.

After all, as she pointed out multiple times, she’s in the South, where denigrating people based on the color of their skin seemed to be as normal as the sun rising in the east and setting in the west. After all, she’s from NEW JERSEY, which gave us such greatness as Chris Christie’s bloated bravado and the anger-soaked rhetoric of “The Sopranos.”

After all, she has a fur vest from Nieman Marcus, bitches, so don’t fucking think of “snaking” her again.

Like many people, I watched the first video, and shook my head at the stupidity of her thoughtless words. What the fuck is wrong with her, I asked myself. I wonder how she’s going to try to get out of this.

Like many people, I watched the second video where she… whatever the infinity factor of “doubled down” is on her racist tirade, dropping n-bomb after n-bomb as a dare, shouting that she couldn’t give a fuck less if it was Martin Luther King Day. It was like watching a car wreck unfold in front of me on the highway: First a swerve, then a skid, then suddenly it was flipping over and over and over before catching fire and exploding in the ditch.

As she finished up and the video halted, my throat locked and my mouth filled with ashes. I thought about her parents. I thought of them because of the simple rule my father gave me when he sent me off to college: “Have fun, do whatever you want, but don’t bring shame on the family. It’s my name, too.” I lack the capacity to imagine what my father would have thought if a horrific personal failing on my part had made the family name the number one trending story on the Washington Post’s website for an entire day.

(Her estranged mother stepped forward today and said she completely agreed with the decision Alabama made to rid itself of her daughter. She said the child was not raised to be a racist, although with the few exceptions of those people in scary documentaries on the Klan, I can’t think of anyone who would state their child had been raised for such a purpose.)

What I do know is that various people will take various things from this incident. Perhaps those who view the Greek system as elitist and racist will have another exhibit in their case against it. Perhaps students will see that there is no fool-proof level of privacy in a digital age and once again, we have a fool who proved it. Perhaps social media users will understand that they are always playing with live ammunition and that consequences exist for every action taken in the public arena.

Unfortunately, few people will take away the one thing we all need to understand when it comes to our humanity and our ability to live and breathe as a nation. For every poverty-soaked redneck who sees their losses as the black man’s gains and for every person who professes love for the “history” of the Confederacy and for “fogey” who “just grew up in a different time,” we likely have at least one Harley Barber.

Harley Barber is 19. She is from the “union” side of the fight. She has the money to attend an out of state school and pledge a sorority. On the surface, she would lack any reason to harbor the racist resentments we can so easily ascribe to those fungible elements of time, place and deprivation listed above. And yet there she was, not “making a mistake” of using race as a costume or “failing to fully grasp” what it meant to appropriate another person’s culture, but rather defiantly displaying her racial animus.

The thing people need to understand is that there are Harley Barbers all around us, quietly lurking, politely nodding and peacefully existing. They “pretend to like black people” enough that on the surface, there’s no reason to think otherwise. They are the “least racist people” you would ever know. Until they reveal themselves with an n-bomb, a “Miss Housekeeper” comment or a general flinch of disgust about “those people.”

In each of those people, under that polite surface and those occasional dermis-level glimpses rests the heart and soul of that video: A rich, thick hatred that only lies dormant because to release it would be to their demise.