Category Archives: Of Interest

Seeds of Hope

The young woman sitting next to me scrunched up her face as she looked at a resume I would have killed for at her age. She had three internships, including one at a major media outlet and a second at a center for investigative journalism. She was the editor of her paper and had earned honors and awards along the way. Still, she had that look.

“I just hope I get a job,” she said. “It’s rough out there…”

I half smiled as I shook my head and told her, “You’re going to be fine. You have a ton of great experience. We just need to rearrange a few things to put the emphasis on the best stuff first…”

I suggested moving a few things around, emphasizing professional experience and pushing her college work down. We talked about her social media presence and if it would be something that would showcase her journalism or if it fit the “I ate a hot dog today. It was good.” motif. I told her I knew her boss and that he didn’t hire crappy people, so that should help her feel better about herself and that she should ask if he would be a reference for her.

In the end, she seemed to feel better and thanked me for my time.

“You’ll be fine,” I told her again, emphasizing each word. “You’ll be just fine.”

I’ve spent the last two weekends working with student journalist at a variety of conventions, which is one of the best things I do in life. Last week, it was Minnesota’s best of the Midwest convention while this week, we convened for a pro/college hybrid for the best journalism the state has to offer.

Being around people “like me” is usually a comfort to most humans, in that we enjoy social gatherings that emphasize shared, learned behavior. Even more, we tend to understand each other better when we have chewed some of the same dirt. As Eddie Murphy once remarked about marriage, “Find the perfect person for you. I’m not saying they’re perfect. Find someone just as fucked up as you are in the same way and settle down.”

Still, this convention was one I had dreaded for a number of reasons. First, I’m running the board of the college group, which means I need to show up, dress sharp and schmooze with people, all things that don’t really thrill me. Second, it’s like Bill Buckner walking back into Shea Stadium for me in many ways.

The people I know there knew the much younger version of me: The one who fucked up a lot. The one who bordered on arrogance and then swung to a complete lack of self-esteem. The one who was probably the annoying kid they wished would learn to calm down a little more and not be so excited over every police scanner call. It’s painful thinking back about that “me” and it’s even more difficult realizing how long ago that was.

The kid I helped work through her resume was someone I probably would have never dealt with back then. She worked at the Badger Herald. I’m from the Daily Cardinal. Capulet and Montague don’t have shit on that turf war. However, as I talked with her a bit, it dawned on me she wasn’t even born when I was a college journalist. The dislike I have for her institution remains, but for some reason, it wasn’t as hard as I would have once thought it to be when I helped her plan out Life 2.0.

Later that day, I walked through the exhibit hall, and I ran across a guy I worked with back when I was a night-desk reporter. Andy now runs that center for investigative journalism at which this kid was interning. When he noticed me, he stopped what he was doing to say hi and prepared to introduce me to the folks gathered around him.

One of the people who turned around was another former newspaper staff who remembered me and gave me a huge hug. It turns out Pat had retired from the paper during one of the rounds of “downsizing” efforts and was now teaching at a small, private college and advising the paper. I told her, “We need to get you onto our board…” before explaining what it is I was doing and what our college group was all about.

She had this look on her face, and I couldn’t really figure it out. It was half amazement and half pride.

“Yeah,” Andy chimed in. “He’s all grown up now…”

I laughed. He just smiled.

He remembered how excited I was the time he offered to buy me a six-pack of beer if I’d take some mundane assignment he’d been given. Andy was happy he could go on his vacation without worry. I was thrilled: You mean I’ll get some extra hours, mileage money, a story in the paper AND BEER? Holy shit!

I didn’t know if Pat remembered the time she and I were working on a Sunday together and two stories had rolled in: Racist literature was found in a news rack at a grocery store and major vandalism had hit the area Walgreens. She was coming in later and I had half of each story and I hoped she’d let me keep one. When she arrived, she told me, “Take them both. I’m working on something else.” It was like a day of free ice cream. I can still remember thinking to myself, “Wow. I’ve got TWO STORIES in the paper today. This is unbelievable.”

Back then, moments like those were the world to me. For them, it was just another day of work.

After I left Andy’s booth, I wandered over to the walls of poster board that contained the award-winning work of journalists throughout the state. Not more than a minute of browsing went by before something grabbed me: A column with a familiar face staring back at me. The hair was more professionally cut, the cheeks a bit fuller but I knew the half-grimace that stared back at me.

One of my former students: First place for local sports column.

I backed up and started from the very first board, carefully examining each byline.

Second Place: Environmental writing

Third Place: Business coverage

First Place: Local education coverage

Third Place: Feature Writing

More and more of the names came back to me. Scared kids, wondering if they’d ever get an internship. Wondering if they’d get a job. Wondering if they’d be any good.

Professional journalists, all. Award-winners to boot.

My eyes settled on the last panel where the college winners were and found one bittersweet moment:

First place, News/news features.

The kid who wrote it was my editor during last year’s run of crushing misery. She stuck with me through thick and thin, knowing her life would be so much easier if she just asked me to quit. Instead, she hunkered down and dealt with the pounding, just like I had. In the end, though, she couldn’t take it anymore.

She dropped out of school, refusing to return for her senior year. She moved on to the tech school last semester, where she hopes to earn a degree that will let her work as a nursing assistant. She never wants to be in journalism again.

She wrote a personal experience feature story on Project Semicolon, a movement that started in 2013 after founder Amy Bleuel lost her father to suicide. Bleuel also struggled with depression and suicidal thoughts, so she looked for a way to communicate that struggle to others in hopes of shedding light on these mental illness issues. The non-profit organization uses the semi-colon as a symbol of how you are the author of your life and authors choose how to end a sentence. The semi-colon says, “I’m pausing here, but I will choose to continue.” Many people who back the movement get a tattoo of a semi-colon as a way of reinforcing this belief.

Katie’s piece wove her own struggles into the broader story of Project Semi-Colon, which was started only about an hour’s drive from here. The narrative thread was her decision to get the tattoo and to share that moment with her mother.

I could feel the tears welling up as I started to read the story, so I just moved on and took a breath.

A great moment. A great kid. The one I couldn’t save.

My career choice often leaves me with mixed emotions. I think back to the most stinging comment people make about educators: “Those who can’t do, teach.” There are days I think maybe they’re right. Could I have stuck with journalism for 22 years and done more and better things than I did? Maybe I’m that tragic tale of wasted youth, the human vessel of lost potential I now try to drag out of other people as some sort of penance for my own transgressions…

Then there are days like yesterday, where I see how the kids who once pondered their own inadequacies are tearing it up at various publications in places they want to be. I see it in every “noun-verb” attribution they use and how I pounded that into them. I see it in their commitment to fairness and accuracy. I see it when they email me to ask, “Hey, I don’t know if you remember me, but I was a student of yours and you really helped me out a ton… I’m looking for an intern and I was hoping you had one of your kids to help me fill the slot…”

Those days, I see myself as a good farmer: I take those little seeds and put them in the best soil I have, tend them the best I can and then watch them grow to fruition. I help make sure the seedlings get what they need to survive. I realize how important this is now more than ever, in a field littered with cutbacks, high stress and public malice toward the profession.

Maybe that’s a good way to look at this.

I sow some of these seeds of hope for journalism.

And sometimes, it’s important to step back and enjoy the garden.

Sometimes, My Kid Just Wrecks Me

Of all the gut-wrenching, out-of-the-blue, kick-in-the-balls moments that happened this year (and I admit there have been a lot of them), it took my kid’s school project to break me into a thousand pieces.

She came home from school with a piece of cardboard, wrapped in festive Christmas wrap, a gift she had been working on for my mother-in-law. In years past, my wife and I have been the gracious recipients of cellophane ornaments, macaroni artwork and various wads of hardened clay that required long and detailed explanations. In each case, the thought was what counted, and the items went into their appropriate spots of deification and occasional dusting.

So, as we were all rushing around the week before Christmas, buying gifts, making travel plans and trying to get the right choir outfit ironed for the right concert, she comes home with this package and asks her grandmother to open it. I thought nothing of it, other than, “Don’t open that! It’s not Christmas yet! I still have three days before I’m late with everything I said I’d do before Christmas!” Thus, I wandered off to some other part of the house to nail down something or other that I had yet to do. When I came back, my mother-in-law had this completely decimated look on her face and the cardboard gift in her hand. She passed it to me and I read it:

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Some of you know that my mother-in-law came to live with us a few years back after a stroke disabled the left side of her body. She had previously lived in the North Woods of Wisconsin, where you were just as likely to see a bear in your yard as you were to see a neighbor. The home was the dream of her mother, who had longed to leave the Racine/Kenosha area and go back to nature.

After several years, the home began to deteriorate, as did the finances of the family. The bills and the mortgage weren’t getting paid. Gutters were rusting, plumbing was failing and other things were collapsing. When we went to get her, the house had no running water, the septic tank hadn’t been pumped in quite some time and the propane tank was empty. We knew she couldn’t survive a winter up there with my father-in-law posting a half-dozen electric heaters around her, praying that a power outage wouldn’t end them both. Even more, lawyers and title agents had been sending pounds of mail my father-in-law continually ignored, most of which explained the home had moved into foreclosure. Over the last year, at Mom’s urging, I worked with them to help facilitate the final stages of this to bring her some closure and remove this albatross from around her neck.

For much of the time they owned it, I never really liked that house. It was isolated and you always seemed to be about 20 miles away from anything you needed. Everywhere you went, the deer seemed bound and determined to fuck up your vehicle. I once smashed up my truck while on a Christmas visit, slamming into a giant buck that was chasing a doe across Highway 141. The people up there were friendly in a way, but they had that underlying edge of “You ain’t from around here, are you?” I would often affect a “Yooper” accent while I was up there, partially to blend and partially for mockery.

The time I spent up there was always awkward for me. I never really seemed to have a place or a thing that I was supposed to be doing. Mom’s OCD meant everything had to be in exactly the right spot and I never could seem to find any of them. As time wore on, there were financial issues that made it weird to be there as well. Would there be enough propane to run a shower and the dishwasher? Why was the house heat set so low… Oh… At one point, a sheriff’s deputy came out to deliver a mortgage delinquency notice. I always felt odd when they brought home pizza or stocked the fridge with Diet Coke for me, as I kept feeling like they couldn’t afford it and that I was somehow draining precious family resources. (Of course, offering to buy or bring my own stuff was verboten, because that’s insulting so, there you go with that…)

When we last visited the house, it was to pull out whatever we could salvage of Mom’s stuff before the home was gone for good. Mom, OCD to the Nth degree, sent us with a laundry list of specific items she desperately needed and exactly where they should be. Of course, it had been months since she had lived there and even longer since the stroke robbed her of the ability to make ABSOLUTELY SURE that stuff was where she put it. My father-in-law was supposedly still living there, but there was little evidence to demonstrate that fact. We guessed he was just sleeping in the backroom at the gas station he was running about a half-hour away in the upper peninsula of Michigan.

The house was frigid and mostly dark, with standing water in the basement. Boxes of paper had turned to a slushy mess and mold crept along every surface downstairs. We quickly moved from delicate examination and list checking to triage-and-trash mode. Whatever we found that we thought was important and worth saving, we put on the U-Haul. Whatever was beyond reclamation, we tossed into a corner of the basement. The environment turned our fingers bluish gray; our breath became steamy puffs and coughs. Several hours later, we had worked our way through each room of the structure, crossing off the list what we found and coming up with plausible explanations for the items we couldn’t locate. We drove home, bone tired and achy. I looked back at the place through the side-view mirror of the moving truck and thought, “This is the last time I’ll ever have to see this shithole.”

My child saw none of this. That wasn’t the house she remembered.

She knew of the bench where she kept her “rock collection,” a series of non-descript stones she had freed from the dirt driveway near the stand-alone garage. She remembered the flowers on the graves of Lucky the Dog and Oreo the Cat, pets who guarded her as a baby, played with her as a toddler and slept on her bed from time to time. She recalled the stories of the black bear that kept breaking the bird feeders to grab the suet cakes and who smashed the fence around the backyard. The giant mother, with her two playful cubs in tow, who ate as she saw fit and largely viewed Lucky’s furious barking with passing amusement.

My kid remembered the flowers and the yard. She remembered the dilapidated tree house she was never allowed into but that served as a constant flight of fancy. Maybe, just maybe, THIS summer Grandpa Moose would fix up the structure so she could play in it. She hated the bees that built nests that kept her away from parts of the yard and she wondered how high the snow would be that winter. She remembered the fun that comes with not knowing the adult things that imbrued it. She remembered all the things I never even thought about.

I tell my writing and reporting students that one of the best ways to find story ideas is to “wonder more.” I note that when you’re a little kid, everything is so wonderful and magical and we ask “why” 274 times an hour because we desperately want to understand everything. As we get older, we look past most of those things that were once so important. Instead, we focus on whatever it is that is causing the biggest pain in the ass at that moment and try to fix it. That house was filled with wonder for my kid, for reasons I’ll never really fully know and yet I can completely understand.

I never knew how broke my mom’s mom was for most of her life. All I knew was that she had a dog that was mine whenever I wanted to come over and play with it. There was a “tree house” that was really nothing more than a carpet-covered board wedged into the fork of a big maple in her backyard, where I sat and read for hours. I ate a ground up mixture of bologna, onion, pickle and mayonnaise each time I went there and it was the greatest thing ever made. Every night I spent there, just before bedtime, we would pull out a giant pail of generic ice cream out of the deep freeze and have a bowl as a treat.

It was only much, much later that terms like “alcoholism” and “bankruptcy” and “cancer” crept into my vocabulary and added those blotches of gray to my rose-colored view of life with Grandma. My kid now knows the kinds of the things about her grandmother that I once found out about mine. The conversations around the house gave her words like “foreclosure” and “disability” and “disrepair.”

I often wanted to go back to that time where I knew none of those things and I could just hang on to those good things.

My kid knows everything. All she wants is a picture of their land.

And that just wrecks me.

“It’s Not About You” AKA- Stop writing shitty columns

Column writing is a lot like comedy: Everyone thinks they can do it and that it’s easy, but only a few people actually have the chops to do it well often.

For every Richard Pryor or Erma Bombeck who breaks ground and creates timeless moments of social awareness, there are thousands of people who think dropping N-bombs or coming up with theories on how socks get lost in the dryer will land them a comedy Grammy or a publishing deal.

And for every Mike Royko or Leonard Pitts who captures the essence of a place or people and shines a bright light on the problems there, there are tons of us (I include myself here) who use too much space to talk only about shit that lacks value to the readership at large.

When I was in college, I figured this out when our paper’s opinion editor asked me to write a weekly column. The first two or three were fine, but then it got into “Here’s what pisses me off this week” and it really went downhill. I stopped writing for a while, that with the promise if something ever really hit home and I thought it mattered, I’d write a column.

When I did, I heard people telling me, “Wow, that was great! You should do this every week!”

No, I shouldn’t. The whole reason it was good was because it had value to me, it had broader applicability to my audience and I wanted to write it. It couldn’t be just about me. It had to include research, depth and value. It had to say, “This is how WE as a collective are seeing X or dealing with Y.

In short, I learned “It’s not about you.”

When I would write without keeping that in mind, I’d devolve into the kind of shit I’ve been seeing this week from a number of professionals.

Start with the column the Minneapolis Star-Tribune had to retract and scrub from its site by columnist “C.J.” that attacked Jana Shortal for her choice of fashion while reporting on the Jacob Wetterling story.

Despite producing a great report on the revelation that a man finally confessed to kidnapping, sexually assaulting and killing the boy in 1989, “C.J.” focused on Shortal’s choice of fashion:

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With the exception of a few screen caps floating around, you’d have better luck finding Jimmy Hoffa than a copy of this column, which the Star-Trib apologized for after removing it. Shortal is trying to stay above the fray on this one, refocusing the point of this on the story itself: A dead kid as opposed to her pants.

Another modern marvel of sensitivity, Dave Hon, gave readers a lot to think about in his look at “Why I’ll never date a feminist.”

Hon outlines his thesis that feminists are basically looking for reasons to hate men and that because “political issues have been creeping into the bedroom” he has trouble with people who “are more loyal to their gender and not their significant other.”

After I saw the mug shot and saw the title, I honestly thought it was an Onion satire at first. When I figured out it wasn’t, and I realized that I was going to have to tell “C.J.” to fuck off for “beauty shaming” Shortal, I had this moment:

 

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If the comments after the column are any indication, we’re about six minutes away from when the “wow what a sexually desirous partner” memes force the Internet to implode. Skipping past that for a moment, reading Hon’s column led to several questions:

 

  • You do understand that by just linking to stuff, you aren’t actually proving anything, right? The link has to have something of value behind it that supports your claim and not just other assholes rambling on without any sort of support for their stupid position? Or that linking to things that simply have a word you want to feature in your point doesn’t make your point true? Based on your use of links to random bits of information that required a stretch of reality to see how they applied to your point, I don’t think you understand how linking works. Looking at your “disagree” videos and your “consent texts” link, I think you don’t understand that links aren’t like a magic spell: Using them on words doesn’t magically make things true.Case in point, check this out: Dave Hon is likely rumored to keep fucking that chicken when the time has come today to do so.
  • You do know what a “time peg” is, right? As in a reason why you are writing whatever the hell you’re writing about at this point in time? For example, a “never forget” 9/11/2001 column makes sense this weekend, as it’s the 15th anniversary of the terrorist attacks on that day. A “Michael Dukakis is Not Getting My Vote for President This Year” column makes no sense because he’s not running for anything other than the bathroom at this point in his life.Why am I reading this diatribe against feminists at this point in life? Did you just get dumped by someone who didn’t like it when you called her “sugar tits?” Did your downstairs neighbors play their Indigo Girls music too loud while you were trying to watch The O’Reilly Factor reruns? Did a woman with an unshaved armpit lean on you during your bus ride to work? What? What is it that evoked the Hon-icane of anger that was this column? You probably want to put that in there…
  • For whom were you writing this? I can’t imagine that you looked at your audience in St. Joseph, Missouri, studied the demographics, determined your niche and then thought about how best to serve those people. The closest thing I can think of is that you and the rest of the cast from the first season of the Big Bang Theory got together over a few beers before one of you uttered, “Women are bitches, man,” thus leading to your magnum opus. I’m sure there are tons of real stories out there that demand attention and could use a strong voice to promote and advocate resolution. Even worse, this showed up in the women’s section titled “Josephine” (shudder), so it’s clear you didn’t really think about what the audience wanted to hear.

 

There are other questions that came up, including “Why couldn’t you wait until John Oliver was back on the air to publish this? People have already compared you to a rat and an ogre, but Oliver is the master at finding just the right comparative for pea-brained dipshits.” However, I keep going back to the third item: What made you think other people wanted to read this shit?

When I teach opinion writing, the first rule is: This isn’t about you. The other five basic rules all stem from that, most of which people pick up on pretty easily. It’s that first rule, though, that people either forget or ignore too often.

Journalists like column writing for two basic reasons:

  • It conveys an aura of importance. You get to be the voice of authority, deeming a topic worthy of attention and then yourself worthy of explaining to the masses how to think about it. Plus, you get to have your mug shot in the paper, which is really cool. (That said, I have a feeling at least one feminist artist is airbrushing Hon’s mug onto a few maxi-pads as we speak…)
  • It takes less work (when you do it the way these people did) to do a column than it does to do an actual story. Reporters have to go out and get facts and interview people and stuff. Columnists get to be glib and snarky and tell people to suck it. Even better, if people lose their shit over your previous column, this can lead to ANOTHER COLUMN talking about how people hated your last column and why THEY can suck it! It’s like the loaves and fishes of column opportunities!

 

I get the allure of columns and since we all get to be experts now in whatever way we want, the desire to play the “dig me!” game will always continue to grow. However, the whole reason “mass” media is going down the crapper is because the people in charge of it fail to address the audience principle: If you don’t give people what they want or need, you will cease to have an audience.

And I’d bet a dollar to a dime that no one gives a shit what a columnist charged with tracking the fucking habits of local news personnel thinks about a reporter’s pants or the sexual desires (full-body shudder) of a sentient jar of mayonnaise.

The more I see Donald Trump, the more I love my car

Once upon a time on this blog, I was accused of creating “haigiography of a gas guzzling testament to why we don’t have widespread public transportation” in my tribute to Betsy, a gold, 1968 Mustang that saved me as much as I saved her. If that reader is still around, I’m sure she would be horrified of my most recent purchase: a 1966 Ford F-250 Camper edition with a 460 engine that gets about 10 miles to the gallon on a good day.

I’m not thrilled at the impact I’m having on the environment, which is why we own a Prius and drive it as much possible. Still, there is a reason I own these cars beyond the cool factor and the sense that this is a better way of dealing with a midlife crisis than fucking some random college chick, getting hair plugs and wearing a beret.

The beauty of these beauties is that I learned a lot about life by spending time working on them. The older cars are simpler and easier to understand than some of the more computerized gizmos and yet a lot harder to fix in some regards.

When I was growing up in Milwaukee, I had a fleeting dalliance with life as a mechanic. I was a snotty kid who went to “the good schools” and was pursuing a college degree, something rare in my family. During one summer, my boss at the gas station put me in the garage to help me pick up a few hours. I immediately went from the smartest guy in the room to the dumbest one. During those days, I managed to lose a lug nut down a drain, set my arm on fire and almost take my head off with a tire machine. Tom, the master mechanic, referred to me as being “as useless as tits on a bull.”

Eventually, I stopped coming home for summers and I gave up that job. The garage eventually closed, I got a bunch of degrees and I became the guy in the Ivory Tower who never had to really “work” at work. When I was thinking of buying Betsy, I had my dad’s car guy look her over to make sure I wasn’t buying a hole in the garage you throw money into. The guy told my dad something I’d always remember: If he want a show car, forget it, but if he can learn to be a bit handy and do things himself, it’s a good car. In short, I had to learn to be handy. Me, an uncoordinated intellectual dork who could get hurt walking out to the mailbox.

It was through this process that I truly fell in love with the art of auto mechanics and realized that it made my life better in so many ways I could never see coming.

I’m not a big believer in the “Hey, I just got into this thing, so EVERYBODY should do it too!” philosophy, but I do believe that this world might be a better place if Donald Trump had taken auto-shop instead of going to Wharton.

Here’s what I learned and why it matters:

  • You need to learn or you are screwed: One of the biggest gripes I’ve had about cars is that too many people who work at garages take advantage of people. My mother always feared this, as she thought a woman walking into a garage was essentially a neon sign that said to the owner, “SUCKER!” It wasn’t just a woman thing, though. My buddy, Matt, told me how useless he feels when he walks into a shop and says, “My car won’t start.” This is a guy who works as an EMT and saves people’s lives on a daily basis, but he feels like tits on a bull when it comes to cars.

    I knew that I had to learn what to do when it came to problems with Betsy or I’d be in that same boat. I had a few fragments of knowledge from what Tom showed me in between screaming about the “Fucking Nazi Go-Kart” or “Nip Mobile” he was forced to repair. Still, I knew basically nothing. I read, I prepared and I asked a lot of questions of people I learned to trust. I also avoided people I figured out were out for themselves. Being able to see these distinctions could be valuable if, say, your potential presidential candidate seems to be on your side but fucks you on the bill.

  • There isn’t “The Answer:” People for some reason have gotten used to punching six terms into Google and finding out “The Answer.” We also have pounded standardized tests into our kids for so long that the outcome is the only thing that seems to matter. The Answer, it seems, is always boiled down into a cheap slogan: “No New Taxes” “Make America Great Again” or whatever. It’s a slick marketing ploy that overrides the more complex reality.

    Working on these older cars has taught me there is no answer. There are actually a lot of answers. Where should you set your transmission bands after a fluid change? Depends on how you want it to shift. How many turns out should your carb screws be? Depends on your idle speed and interest in fuel economy. Every answer has three more questions and that’s actually a good thing to know in life. Otherwise, you find yourself following assholes who provide stupid answers, but espouse them with absolute certainty. This leads me to…

  • Everything is feel: New cars are great in some ways. Something goes to shit, so you plug a code reader into a computer and the car tells you a code. You decipher the code and replace the part of the car that matches up with that code failure. (And if you own a dishonest garage, you charge someone $120 for a “diagnostic evaluation” that anyone who ever plugged in an Atari controller or used Google could do.)

    Older cars are about feel and vibe and sense. When I rebuilt the carburetor for about the squillionth time and got it to run right, I spent about an hour making 1/8th turns of the carb screws to dial it in to perfection. It was “In… Better… In… Even Better… In… SHIT! OK, out, out, out… OK… In… In…” for an hour. Smoothing out an idle takes time and patience. It incorporates weird little things like taking a big whiff off your tailpipe to sense if she’s running rich or lean as well as using a note card to sense patterns in the expulsion of exhaust.

    In fact, smell and feel is almost everything. When I was driving the Mustang a few years back, I sensed a vibration I couldn’t pin down. Eventually I took it out on a country road and got her up past 90 to try a few things. Turns out I could coast at 70 in neutral with no vibration, but not go faster than 35 in drive without feeling it. Turns out, I needed new U-Joints, which only operate when the car is in gear.
    When I couldn’t get her to run well, I smelled for gas and found a carb leak. When I smelled something super sweet inside the car, I realized I had a heater core leak.

    When it comes to feel, I’m amazed not only had how little empathy people at that convention had for others, but also how they couldn’t feel a sense that they were being used. I watched it for moments of time and got the sense that you could score some Wagner music to overlay on that thing and not miss a beat. How is it that people couldn’t realize that if they fucked over all the people who they say they want to “take our country back” from that this wouldn’t just perpetuate a continued anger-based tug of war? Maybe it was because they just liked hearing “The Answer” from someone: Build a wall, fuck NATO, make it rain and be awesome. Thus, leading into…

  • Classic Car 101- There isn’t a right answer, but the car will tell you when shit is wrong: Newer cars have issues with computer codes or buggy transmitters and stuff like that, which will cause a problem for five minutes and then never again, or just randomly explode. It’s like being married to a bipolar passive-aggressive person with random psychotic tendencies.
    Older cars are like coming home to someone who just tells you where the bear shit in the buckwheat every day. I’m happy for X reason. You pissed me off because of Y. I’m going to bed.
    On the truck, I think I have about 12 actual wires, not counting the new stereo I put in there, and that’s it. Still, when shit is wrong, you will know it.
    When I rebuilt the Mustang’s carb, I missed a small fragment of metal that managed to slip into the needle seat. How did I know that? Because when I started the car, the carburetor started pouring gas out of it all over the engine. When I bought a battery for it a few years back, the poles were reversed. How did I know that? Because when I hooked it up, the ground wire turned bright red and started the whole electrical system on fire.

    In short, there wasn’t any nuance. Shit was wrong and you had to be an idiot not to see it.

    I wonder if there’s a parallel to be had here… Oh, also…

  • These cars will fucking humble you: Over the years, I’ve gotten better at cars and I’ve become more adventurous in the things I will try. That said, there are some serious situations in which I’ve been left questioning the size of my own brainpan. Monday, I finished some heavy work on the truck, including swapping out some leaky seals, redoing some gasket work, tuning up the carb and reinstalling the steering system. I felt really great about myself and had that “Yep, I’m a garage GOD” moment rolling through my head.

    I started it up and took it on the road for a drive. The minute I tried to go past 30, the truck stuttered and stalled and gagged. Immediately, I pulled off to the side of the road in a panic. There, it idled perfectly. I tried to drive it again and the same thing happened. I started going through a checklist of thousand-dollar repairs I was probably going to have to make until suddenly something occurred to me.

    When I was pulling the valve covers, I couldn’t get a wrench on a bolt because a spark plug wire was in the way. I unplugged the wire and went about my work. Hmm…
    I opened the hood on the side of the road and sure enough: The wire was hanging there like a Great Dane’s balls. I snapped it back onto the plug and the truck ran like a Swiss Watch.

    Humility comes in all shapes and sizes when a car of that age will tell you, “Nope. Still broken.” It can be big or small but it happens to us all. A master mechanic was telling me a story about having a 1971 Mach 1 Mustang and how he loved it. When I asked what happened to it, he simply said, “Missed third gear at about 80 miles per hour. You ever see a rod virtually explode?” Eeesh.

    I learned a lot about having to beg for help, missing simple fixes and having to buy the same part three or four times because I fucked up my fixes. In the process. Humility, I honestly believe, is a lost art in “Fuck You Nation.” It’s why instead of thinking about how stuff works and why it doesn’t do what people want it to, they just chant “U-S-A! U-S-A!” like that’s going to solve everything.

  • Car 102 – If you can problem-solve and you’ll be fine: I know life is a lot more complicated than the cars of the 1960s, but I honestly think too many people have given up on working through problems. I see this with my kid all the time. If she gets the answer right, she’s fine. When she doesn’t, she throws up her hands and declares it can’t be done. When I ask her to take the laundry upstairs, she loads everything into one basket and then says, “That basket is too heavy.” Or, she takes up everything one piece at a time. She never thinks, “If I put half of it in this basket and half in that one, I can get this done quickly and without blowing out several vertebrae.” (Part of that, I’m sure, is willful ignorance, but still…)

    With the car, each system operates independently of the others and that makes for some pretty good step-by-step solutions. For example, the temperature pull switch in the truck wouldn’t shut off the heat, thus leading to a cabin temp of about 98 degrees in the middle of summer. I tried rebuilding the cable that ran it, only to find the cable kept breaking apart. I then stuck my head under the dash and followed the cable to its source, which was a spot where it left the cabin through the firewall and moved out into the engine bay.

    I found where it came to rest: A valve that was so rusted, I couldn’t pry it loose with a pliers. After about five sessions of WD40 and a lot of friction, I got the valve loose. Eventually, it swung free, so I hooked up the cable, repaired the connection and reinstalled it. Works like a charm.

    When the carb on the Mustang wasn’t reacting right to the tuning I was doing, I hooked up a vacuum gauge to test it. The gauge read zero, as opposed to 15-17, which is what it should have read. I checked every connection on that damned piece of shit and found every connection valid. Finally, I decided to just run a new vacuum line from the manifold, which is where I found that there was a giant leak because a plug had snapped off. I installed a new plug and the gauge jumped to 17. Still, not everything works out that way…

  • Failure happens: Where did people get this idea that everything should work out in the end? Was it too many 1980s movies? Was it that summer trip to Nostalgia-ville? Who said each and every one of us is perfect all the time?

    Apparently somebody, because when I see college kids try to write for me and I mark the shit out of their papers, they’re appalled. One kid told me, “I’ve never received anything less than an A on anything I’ve EVER DONE!”

    Well, even DiMaggio’s streak ended, kid.

    I failed a shit ton on those cars and it really pissed me off every time, but not nearly as much as failure pissed off Tom. I remember him at various times throwing a lit blowtorch across the garage once, kicking over a toolbox and screaming (in earshot of a convent member) that something was “fucking tighter than a nun’s cunt.”

    I tried not to do anything that might cause me to fuck up anywhere near him.
    When I was finally on my own and able to fail at my own speed, I learned a ton from failing. I learned what didn’t work and that helped me avoid those things so much more than random success helped me replicate completion. Failure often taught me painful lessons that required stitches, eye flushes and vomit. Failure wasn’t something I sought, but something I saw as a learning opportunity.

    Here in ‘Mur’ca, that’s heresy. We don’t fail. We’re the best. Everyone gets a trophy. When things like Sam Brownback’s economic revival plan of trickle-down economics failed, it wasn’t his fault or the fault of the plan. It was some “unforeseen force” or Democrats or that little fucking Gremlin with the big Mohawk. When Trump’s businesses go bankrupt, it’s the fault of someone else: A developer, a marketer or whatever. Failure isn’t an option. It’s not even a real thing.

    Without failure, there is no pain. Without pain, there is no growth or learning. I have two hands filled with cars that will testify to that.
    This leads to the biggest thing of all…

  • True joy over accomplishment: If you always win, how can you enjoy it? When the Americans knocked off the Soviets in 1980’s Miracle on Ice, the kids were delirious. They were laughing and crying and hugging. Years later, a Russian player said that they won so often, they had forgotten what the feeling was. They were just supposed to win.

    I don’t always win with the cars, but when I do, it’s the greatest thing in the world.
    Yesterday, it rained for about the ninth time in the past month and each and every time it did, there was water on the floorboards of the truck. I had a leak and I was freaking out that it might be the cowl, which would require welding and such. I ran wire cameras, flashlights and even fishing line through the cowl, looking for a telltale sign of deadly rust. I couldn’t find anything, which freaked me out even more. Where was this goddamned water coming from?

    So, I did what any insane person would do: I pulled out everything between the dash and the fire wall so I could see the seams between the outside and the inside of the truck. Glove box, heater vents, radio, all of it came out. I then poured about ten gallons of water on the truck windshield and stuffed my head under the dash with a flashlight.

    I found it.

    The mountings where the windshield wipers met the firewall were dripping like Chinese Water Torture. Turns out, the two holes that let the wipers drain were plugged. I cleaned them out and added a silicone seal around the edges of the mounts. When it poured later, my wife and child feared a tornado. I was in the garage, jumping around like a teen after his first kiss because the floorboards were dry.

    For all the stuff cars don’t do, the one thing they will do is let you know when you have actually succeeded. When the Mustang didn’t have heat, I played with the cooling system for weeks until I finally figured out what was wrong and fixed it. I drove around with the windows open and the heat on full blast in the middle of the summer, giggling like schoolgirl that I had heat. Truth be told, I was never going to really need it, as I stored the car in the winter, but fuck it.

    I. HAD. HEAT.

    I don’t know how normal this is or how many people feel it on a daily basis, but I do know that yesterday I would much rather have told people about fixing the truck than anything else that happened to me. I would win a major award that day and yet still want to say, “Yeah, that’s great! But check out the truck!”

 

There are dozens of other lessons I found over time: You get dirty as shit and you learn to enjoy it. There are nice people all over the world on chat boards and in auto parts stores who want to see you succeed, regardless of your opinion on immigration, abortion, guns or whatever. Don’t throw money at the thing and think it’s a solution. There are things you can live with and you need to find them.

The cars I love have taught me symbiosis in a strange way: I give them more time on this Earth, they return the favor to me through joy, pain and life lessons. I don’t know if everyone has something like this, but if we did, maybe we could get on board with the idea that we don’t have to be chest-beating assholes who exercise moral superiority over people while simultaneously enacting laws based on fear of those same individuals. Maybe we might learn that “The Answer” isn’t out there and that certainty is an illusion. Nothing is ever perfect. It’s just fixed enough for now.

We might also learn that looking back in time at “great” through our fun-house mirror of desperation will only breed discontent as we move to the future of the possible.

Just like America, these cars showed me that things weren’t “great” back then. The lap-only seatbelts, the rust-bucket floor pans, the rear-wheel drive and the lack of airbags are only a few things that show me what we have now is a hell of a lot better in a lot of ways than what we had then. “Governmental interference” gave us crumple zones, safety markers, three-point seatbelts and other things the car manufactures weren’t too thrilled with, even though they have made our lives exponentially better.

Still, for those few short months each summer, when working on a car is more fun than work, I get a chance to learn and grow and become someone better.

It’s a small price to pay for such a gift.

Survival is beautiful

In my experience, the most difficult thing about surviving a trauma has been the dark, grim sense of how I felt I was supposed to react. When it comes to other successful endeavors in life, people are always looking for positive things they can tell you:

“Hey, congratulations on the big promotion!”

“Way to go! Your home run won the game!”

“Nice job on this paper! 100 percent! A+”

Positivity oozes out of everything we like to tell people for whom we are happy or grateful.

However, in surviving horrible colleagues, baseless inquisitions, heavy bouts of depression and other issues, I have never found people lauding my efforts as if they were joyous or beautiful experiences:

“Great job not punching out that asshole you work with!”

“Nice job of not getting fired after someone filed that grievance against you!”

“Hey! Way to go! You didn’t kill yourself!”

The saddest line I think I ever read in a book captured this perfectly. When the Minnesota Golden Gophers won their first NCAA hockey championship under Herb Brooks, an aide found his team celebrating like crazy in the locker room. A few dozen feet away, Brooks sat drained, silently resting in a hallway. John Powers noted the following about that moment:

“They had succeeded. He had avoided failure.”

I hate that my survival has often been seen as avoiding failure. For me, there is a sense of having been lessened permanently by the act and that survival means continuing as a damaged shell of my former self.

I hate that survival is seen as a dark happenstance that allowed a scarred and damaged person to luckily continue on a now-ruined path. Stories of survival should inspire greatness, not fear and shame. They should show the indelible nature of strength and the beauty of the indefatigable individuals who survived.

Enter “Art is Survival.”

I ran into this website recently after a few friends recommended it. The idea is that two brave storytellers were opening up their wounds to the public and inviting others to do the same in that scary, often rude and somewhat horrifying medium known as The Internet. People can tell their stories in whichever way they want: Text, audio, video and what-have-you, but the stories will be accompanied with inspired art.

The visual representations of survival will look to provide readers with a sense of beauty that can unlock the grace and value of survival. They will also serve as a reminder that survival is just the start of a truly incredible transformation of self. They provide a grace, a dignity and a beauty that is often lost when black text meets white screens. They also show how the horrifying act that forced survival may be ugly, but the survival itself is what matters now.

And it’s truly a beautiful thing.

Don’t Hate The Donald, Hate the Lame

 

So I get that you are VERY against trump… Are you as vehement when on Facebook and see anti trump stuff?.…. Just wondering…

One of the guys I know who has been a lifesaver when it comes to helping me keep Betsy tuned up posted this on my Facebook feed this week. It came after about the third time I posted a “Snopes” link on his, debunking some meme his cousin Cletus or somebody sent him about something. This time, it was the Trump retweet of the “black on black” crime graphic, which had some journalists trying to verify the numbers and others tracking it back to some neo-Nazi website across The Pond.

After he got sick of me posting “Snopes” stuff, it became a game of “Well, that’s just one site’s opinion” crap, which of course led me to find nine other sites from various spots, including the exchange Trump had with conservative hero Bill O’Reilly about the bullshit in that graphic.

Thus, the question above.

The answer I gave was mostly honest: I’m not “anti-Trump.” Granted, I hate that the guy essentially killed the USFL, he’s spouting racist shit (and sexist shit and xenophobic shit and…) and that he’s the kind of guy who acts like he hit a triple but was actually born on third base. (Hell, he was probably born at home plate, but regressed, and yet I digress…) None of those things endear me to him.

However, this isn’t about Trump. Or Cruz. Or Jeb! Or Hillary. Or Bernie. Or whoever that other guy is who keeps showing up at the Democratic debates, like that random guy who shows up in your wedding photos, but no one ever remembered inviting.

This is about all the stupid that circulates out there and how easy it is to feel superior to others without doing any of the work that you used to have to do in order to actually back it up.

One of the hardest things I have to teach student journalists is that they need to verify the hell out of everything they want to publish. The line, “If your mother says she loves you, go check it out” has become our mantra.

In one class, I give students ten sports “facts” that people SWEAR they know to be true (example: When the 1980 U.S. Olympic Hockey team beat the Soviet Union, the U.S. won the gold medal. False: USA had to beat Finland two days later to clinch the gold.). In almost EVERY case, the students who are supposed to look this stuff up will say, “Oh, yeah I know that” and then go find a citation to slap on the paper without reading it. Even more, in most of those cases, the citation is either wrong because it’s a shitty source (e.g. jimmysdickfaceblog.blogspot.com) or the citation is right, but the kid never read it.

I don’t know why this is, but other than worrying about their grades, students seem to lack a sense of paranoia, something that would be great for journalists to have. However, when the good ones do get it, they become almost as outraged as I am about the world at large and its complete disinterest in checking things out.

“Where the hell did they get this shit from?” is a common refrain I get from students in the newsroom who are reading their Facebook feeds. It’s usually some racist meme from Uncle Charlie who is saying something about how all crimes in the state of Alabama have been committed by “Negroes with unlicensed weapons” or something. The kid then does a simple Internet search and can debunk the bullshit in 10 seconds or less and posts about a dozen “this is crap” links out there for Uncle Charlie to read.

Here’s the problem: Even if Uncle Charlie or Cousin Cletus or that Guy You Know From Work does take the damned thing down or stops forwarding the email chain about Trayvon Martin beating the shit out of a bus driver, it’s not enough. For starters, they perpetuated a continuing strand of bullshit that pollutes the important discussions of the day.

Second and more importantly, this is like putting a pot underneath a leaky spot in your ceiling: Sure, you managed the problem, but the root cause isn’t getting fixed.

If we value intelligence and we value knowledge, we tend to want to be able to prove our point through information, logic and reasoning.

If we only value proving our point, even though that point may lack information, logic and rational thought, we end up with people who continue to forward and repost ignorant and inaccurate information, with all the grace of a monkey shit-fight at the zoo.

It seems today that people just want to be right about everything they think or feel and yet lack the desire to work to make sure they ARE right. It’s so much easier for them to blame contradicting information on “the liberal media” or “some hack” out there than it is to take the time and really learn something before speaking about it. I’m not sure how many people are beyond salvation when it comes to this. If you read the comments on any political stories, I think you’d agree with me we’re all on the way to hell in a speedboat.

However, to be fair to the guy who posted this and found himself being “snoped” to death, he took down the meme and left me with this:

 

Cool. I’ll prolly repost incorrect things again in the future. I’ll count on u to keep me informed as that is your profession. Lol, I’ll also count on you to not be judgemental of me.

 

I had to give the guy credit, because if there are people who actually will consider that maybe, just maybe, it’s important to take correction on stuff like this, maybe we won’t end up with President Trump trying to nuke Nova Scotia for because someone fucked up his breakfast cereal.

I’ll take the small victories on stuff like this.

Grammar and spelling can always come later.

The Fog Of History: Reading List

I decided to post this under the FOH rubric because I'm feeling a bit foggy this morning. Actually, most of the articles linked to are about stuff in the past so I think the history thing works. It does for me.

Geaux Tigers: LSU Prof Bob Mann wrote a swell piece about how Hubert Humphrey's time as a grad student in Red Stick imbued him with a passion for civil rights. After all, there weren't a lot of black folks in either his native South Dakota or Minnesota.

Historical News of the Weird; The WaPo had an oddball story about how the kid cast by the Nazi regime as the perfect aryan in a propaganda campaign was, in fact, Jewish. I hope David Dukke hasn't seen this one…

The Slatest Sporting News: UGA history Prof Claudio Saunt wrote a fascinating take on the American Indian mascot furor: This Land Is Their Land.  

Ice Cream and Segregation: I learned something new about the absurdity of Jim Crow from Michael Twitty's non-twitty piece in the Guardian: Black people were denied vanilla ice cream in the Jim Crow south- except on Independence Day. Totally ridiculous and completely fascinating.

The New Louisiana Hayride: This one is kind of a stretch but Edwin Edwards is clearly a historical figure. My buddy Lamar White interviewed the Congressional candidate and 4 term Governor and posted about it at his blog, Cen Lamar. 

Feed Ferguson

While I’ve been following the events of Ferguson as closely as I can from three states away, I haven’t felt like my white ass has had a lot to add on the subject.

Clearly I’m speaking up today, but I’ll still just keep this short and to the point:

As the world watches the events unfolding in Ferguson, many people have thought “how can I help?”. As a public school teacher, my first thought is always about the children involved in any tragic situation like this. When I found out school had been canceled for several days as a result of the civil unrest, I immediately became worried for the students in households with food instability. Many children in the US eat their only meals of the day, breakfast and lunch, at school. With school out, kids are undoubtedly going hungry.

ALL OF THIS MONEY WILL GO TO FEED KIDS IN FERGUSON. A dollar or a hundred dollars, it doesn’t matter. You will be helping to put food in the mouth of a child who needs it. Regardless of your opinion on the civil unrest in Ferguson, there is no need for innocent children to go hungry because of it.

There’s only a day left in the fundly campaign, which started with a goal of $20K and as of this writing is over $125K. These kids aren’t going to be starting class until next Monday at the earliest. Let’s make sure they’re not going hungry in the meantime.

(Additionally, if you’re in the St. Louis area and want to volunteer, contact the Food Bank directly.)

Wisconsin School District Institutes Censorship After Student Newspaper Points Out Rape Jokes Aren’t Funny

Administrators in the Fond du Lac, Wis. school district this week implemented a policy that guarantees them the right to review all content of school media prior to publication. Any article that the administrators deem “poorly written, inadequately researched, false, defamatory or libelous, vulgar or profane, unsuitable for immature audiences, or biased or prejudiced”will be yanked from the publication or otherwise censored.

The root of this heavy-handed approach to student media?An article written by the Cardinal Columns editor in chief, in which she points out that a lot of people in her school have made and heard rape jokes and that the rape victims in her school don’t find them funny. Senior Tanvi Kumar uses a well-executed survey of her peers to show how people have no problem talking about rape like it’s the funniest thing out there. In addition, she interviews several rape victims about their experiences and victimization.

The piece is better than most coverage I’ve seen in college papers and even some pro publications. It’s also interesting that no one is accusing the publication of being libelous or anything else listed above. Instead, couched deeper in this policy is a “we can do what we want if we want to” clause.

The school’s response is one that should make almost everyone cringe.Let’s skip past the whole “First Amendment is still a thing” issue and cut to the specificity of this incident.

The student PUBLICATION is being punished for pointing out that RAPE IS REAL and it SUCKS WHEN IT HAPPENS TO HIGH SCHOOL KIDS.

After I read the article, I had a conversation with another parent in my kid’s class about it and the reaction from the parent was, “Well, when your kid gets to high school, would you want her reading about this?”

My answer was pretty simple: That’s not even close to the point. The kid pointed out something real and scary and my hope as a parent is that the school would DO SOMETHING at the school about the issue of rape. Administrators could open more dialogue, look for ways to reinforce the issue that this isn’t OK and joking about it is not cool. That’s what I’d want to happen. Even more, I would hope that my kid would read about it and we could talk about what to do in situations where she felt pressure and what was not acceptable behavior. Information breeds dialogue, which in turn creates opportunities to prevent scary things like this.

Administrators don’t like dialogue for the most part and use a horrible SCOTUS decision in an ass-backward fashion to suppress student speech.

In 1988the Hazelwood v. Kuhlmeier casedetermined that administrators may inhibit the publication of some content if they believe it has the ability to inhibit education within the school. In other words, if you create an article that can grind the school to a halt, administrators have the right to censor it.

Subsequent decisions at lower courts have tried to refine this, and explain that the bar for this is really pretty high. Still, administrators treat this decision like it came from God and endows them with the power of the Avengers: I CAN HAZ MY CENZORS!

The administration’s reaction in this case is probably the worst one possible:

[Superintendent James Sebert] points to aspects of “The Rape Joke” article —which includes some graphic description of the types of rape a student endured, a letter from the editors called “The Punchline,” and a Pledge of Allegiance editorial that instructs students on their rights to not stand during the Pledge as questionable material for a school publication. Sebert said he and Wiltzius met with Matthew Smith, the print journalism teacher at the high school and adviser to the magazine’s staff, to discuss the issues.

“Cardinal Columns is created as part of the print journalism class at Fond du Lac High School,” Sebert wrote. “District resources are utilized and the publication represents the school and the district. The guidelines created will ensure this publication as well as any school-sponsored publications are reviewed by the principal prior to print and publication.This is a reasonable expectation for a school-sponsored publication.

(Emphasis mine)

So, the superintendent didn’t like the really icky description of rape that the students used because, y’know, it might be uncomfortable for people to hear. The lesson here? Remember, kids, when discussing rape, make sure to use language that accentuates the positivity of the issue and that you don’t make people feel uncomfortable about it. It was also horrible that they pointed out that students still have Constitutional rights and that the students came out against rape culture.

No wonder we need to censor them.

The principal, however, said students don’t really need to worry about this because he’s a cool guy:

High School principal Jon Wiltzius says,”If an article would come to me with a topic that does not meet the expectations or guidelines then yes I will have to deny that.”

But Principal Wiltzius says that doesn’t mean the story is dead. Instead he says he will work with the journalism students and their teacher to come up with what he deems is an acceptable way to present a topic.

Says Wiltzius, “As we work through that process now of identifying what’s appropriate, what’s not based on those guidelines I think that’s where the communication has to occur as well.”

I’m sure there are a number of hyperbolic comparatives we could make here about a leader taking away the rights of others, only to tell them not to worry because he will assure them that he’s acting in their best interest. However, to make any of them would distract from the importance of the message here: I’m censoring you and I have the final say about this, but don’t worry about it because I promise you I’ll be nice about it.

This kind of thing can’t be allowed to stand.The students have created a petition, requesting that the superintendent reverse the policy and restore the rights of the school publications.

I ask that you sign it, but you don’t have to if you don’t want to. Unlike the Fond du Lac administrators, I’m not presuming that I know better than you or that I can force you to bend to my will because I want you to.

Wisconsin School District Institutes Censorship After Student Newspaper Points Out Rape Jokes Aren’t Funny

Administrators in the Fond du Lac, Wis. school district this week implemented a policy that guarantees them the right to review all content of school media prior to publication. Any article that the administrators deem “poorly written, inadequately researched, false, defamatory or libelous, vulgar or profane, unsuitable for immature audiences, or biased or prejudiced”will be yanked from the publication or otherwise censored.

The root of this heavy-handed approach to student media? An article written by the Cardinal Columns editor in chief, in which she points out that a lot of people in her school have made and heard rape jokes and that the rape victims in her school don’t find them funny. Senior Tanvi Kumar uses a well-executed survey of her peers to show how people have no problem talking about rape like it’s the funniest thing out there. In addition, she interviews several rape victims about their experiences and victimization.

The piece is better than most coverage I’ve seen in college papers and even some pro publications. It’s also interesting that no one is accusing the publication of being libelous or anything else listed above. Instead, couched deeper in this policy is a “we can do what we want if we want to” clause.

The school’s response is one that should make almost everyone cringe.Let’s skip past the whole “First Amendment is still a thing” issue and cut to the specificity of this incident.

The student PUBLICATION is being punished for pointing out that RAPE IS REAL and it SUCKS WHEN IT HAPPENS TO HIGH SCHOOL KIDS.

After I read the article, I had a conversation with another parent in my kid’s class about it and the reaction from the parent was, “Well, when your kid gets to high school, would you want her reading about this?”

My answer was pretty simple: That’s not even close to the point. The kid pointed out something real and scary and my hope as a parent is that the school would DO SOMETHING at the school about the issue of rape. Administrators could open more dialogue, look for ways to reinforce the issue that this isn’t OK and joking about it is not cool. That’s what I’d want to happen. Even more, I would hope that my kid would read about it and we could talk about what to do in situations where she felt pressure and what was not acceptable behavior. Information breeds dialogue, which in turn creates opportunities to prevent scary things like this.

Administrators don’t like dialogue for the most part and use a horrible SCOTUS decision in an ass-backward fashion to suppress student speech.

In 1988 the Hazelwood v. Kuhlmeier casedetermined that administrators may inhibit the publication of some content if they believe it has the ability to inhibit education within the school. In other words, if you create an article that can grind the school to a halt, administrators have the right to censor it.

Subsequent decisions at lower courts have tried to refine this, and explain that the bar for this is really pretty high. Still, administrators treat this decision like it came from God and endows them with the power of the Avengers: I CAN HAZ MY CENZORS!

The administration’s reaction in this case is probably the worst one possible:

[Superintendent James Sebert] points to aspects of “The Rape Joke” article — which includes some graphic description of the types of rape a student endured, a letter from the editors called “The Punchline,” and a Pledge of Allegiance editorial that instructs students on their rights to not stand during the Pledge as questionable material for a school publication. Sebert said he and Wiltzius met with Matthew Smith, the print journalism teacher at the high school and adviser to the magazine’s staff, to discuss the issues.

“Cardinal Columns is created as part of the print journalism class at Fond du Lac High School,” Sebert wrote. “District resources are utilized and the publication represents the school and the district. The guidelines created will ensure this publication as well as any school-sponsored publications are reviewed by the principal prior to print and publication. This is a reasonable expectation for a school-sponsored publication.

(Emphasis mine)

So, the superintendent didn’t like the really icky description of rape that the students used because, y’know, it might be uncomfortable for people to hear. The lesson here? Remember, kids, when discussing rape, make sure to use language that accentuates the positivity of the issue and that you don’t make people feel uncomfortable about it. It was also horrible that they pointed out that students still have Constitutional rights and that the students came out against rape culture.

No wonder we need to censor them.

The principal, however, said students don’t really need to worry about this because he’s a cool guy:

High School principal Jon Wiltzius says,”If an article would come to me with a topic that does not meet the expectations or guidelines then yes I will have to deny that.”

But Principal Wiltzius says that doesn’t mean the story is dead. Instead he says he will work with the journalism students and their teacher to come up with what he deems is an acceptable way to present a topic.

Says Wiltzius, “As we work through that process now of identifying what’s appropriate, what’s not based on those guidelines I think that’s where the communication has to occur as well.”

I’m sure there are a number of hyperbolic comparatives we could make here about a leader taking away the rights of others, only to tell them not to worry because he will assure them that he’s acting in their best interest. However, to make any of them would distract from the importance of the message here: I’m censoring you and I have the final say about this, but don’t worry about it because I promise you I’ll be nice about it.

This kind of thing can’t be allowed to stand. The students have created a petition, requesting that the superintendent reverse the policy and restore the rights of the school publications.

I ask that you sign it, but you don’t have to if you don’t want to. Unlike the Fond du Lac administrators, I’m not presuming that I know better than you or that I can force you to bend to my will because I want you to.

Wisconsin School District Institutes Censorship After Student Newspaper Points Out Rape Jokes Aren’t Funny

Administrators in the Fond du Lac, Wis. school district this week implemented a policy that guarantees them the right to review all content of school media prior to publication. Any article that the administrators deem “poorly written, inadequately researched, false, defamatory or libelous, vulgar or profane, unsuitable for immature audiences, or biased or prejudiced”will be yanked from the publication or otherwise censored.

The root of this heavy-handed approach to student media? An article written by the Cardinal Columns editor in chief, in which she points out that a lot of people in her school have made and heard rape jokes and that the rape victims in her school don’t find them funny. Senior Tanvi Kumar uses a well-executed survey of her peers to show how people have no problem talking about rape like it’s the funniest thing out there. In addition, she interviews several rape victims about their experiences and victimization.

The piece is better than most coverage I’ve seen in college papers and even some pro publications. It’s also interesting that no one is accusing the publication of being libelous or anything else listed above. Instead, couched deeper in this policy is a “we can do what we want if we want to” clause.

The school’s response is one that should make almost everyone cringe.Let’s skip past the whole “First Amendment is still a thing” issue and cut to the specificity of this incident.

The student PUBLICATION is being punished for pointing out that RAPE IS REAL and it SUCKS WHEN IT HAPPENS TO HIGH SCHOOL KIDS.

After I read the article, I had a conversation with another parent in my kid’s class about it and the reaction from the parent was, “Well, when your kid gets to high school, would you want her reading about this?”

My answer was pretty simple: That’s not even close to the point. The kid pointed out something real and scary and my hope as a parent is that the school would DO SOMETHING at the school about the issue of rape. Administrators could open more dialogue, look for ways to reinforce the issue that this isn’t OK and joking about it is not cool. That’s what I’d want to happen. Even more, I would hope that my kid would read about it and we could talk about what to do in situations where she felt pressure and what was not acceptable behavior. Information breeds dialogue, which in turn creates opportunities to prevent scary things like this.

Administrators don’t like dialogue for the most part and use a horrible SCOTUS decision in an ass-backward fashion to suppress student speech.

In 1988 the Hazelwood v. Kuhlmeier casedetermined that administrators may inhibit the publication of some content if they believe it has the ability to inhibit education within the school. In other words, if you create an article that can grind the school to a halt, administrators have the right to censor it.

Subsequent decisions at lower courts have tried to refine this, and explain that the bar for this is really pretty high. Still, administrators treat this decision like it came from God and endows them with the power of the Avengers: I CAN HAZ MY CENZORS!

The administration’s reaction in this case is probably the worst one possible:

[Superintendent James Sebert] points to aspects of “The Rape Joke” article — which includes some graphic description of the types of rape a student endured, a letter from the editors called “The Punchline,” and a Pledge of Allegiance editorial that instructs students on their rights to not stand during the Pledge as questionable material for a school publication. Sebert said he and Wiltzius met with Matthew Smith, the print journalism teacher at the high school and adviser to the magazine’s staff, to discuss the issues.

“Cardinal Columns is created as part of the print journalism class at Fond du Lac High School,” Sebert wrote. “District resources are utilized and the publication represents the school and the district. The guidelines created will ensure this publication as well as any school-sponsored publications are reviewed by the principal prior to print and publication. This is a reasonable expectation for a school-sponsored publication.

(Emphasis mine)

So, the superintendent didn’t like the really icky description of rape that the students used because, y’know, it might be uncomfortable for people to hear. The lesson here? Remember, kids, when discussing rape, make sure to use language that accentuates the positivity of the issue and that you don’t make people feel uncomfortable about it. It was also horrible that they pointed out that students still have Constitutional rights and that the students came out against rape culture.

No wonder we need to censor them.

The principal, however, said students don’t really need to worry about this because he’s a cool guy:

High School principal Jon Wiltzius says,”If an article would come to me with a topic that does not meet the expectations or guidelines then yes I will have to deny that.”

But Principal Wiltzius says that doesn’t mean the story is dead. Instead he says he will work with the journalism students and their teacher to come up with what he deems is an acceptable way to present a topic.

Says Wiltzius, “As we work through that process now of identifying what’s appropriate, what’s not based on those guidelines I think that’s where the communication has to occur as well.”

I’m sure there are a number of hyperbolic comparatives we could make here about a leader taking away the rights of others, only to tell them not to worry because he will assure them that he’s acting in their best interest. However, to make any of them would distract from the importance of the message here: I’m censoring you and I have the final say about this, but don’t worry about it because I promise you I’ll be nice about it.

This kind of thing can’t be allowed to stand. The students have created a petition, requesting that the superintendent reverse the policy and restore the rights of the school publications.

I ask that you sign it, but you don’t have to if you don’t want to. Unlike the Fond du Lac administrators, I’m not presuming that I know better than you or that I can force you to bend to my will because I want you to.

Wisconsin School District Institutes Censorship After Student Newspaper Points Out Rape Jokes Aren’t Funny

Administrators in the Fond du Lac, Wis. school district this week implemented a policy that guarantees them the right to review all content of school media prior to publication. Any article that the administrators deem “poorly written, inadequately researched, false, defamatory or libelous, vulgar or profane, unsuitable for immature audiences, or biased or prejudiced”will be yanked from the publication or otherwise censored.

The root of this heavy-handed approach to student media? An article written by the Cardinal Columns editor in chief, in which she points out that a lot of people in her school have made and heard rape jokes and that the rape victims in her school don’t find them funny. Senior Tanvi Kumar uses a well-executed survey of her peers to show how people have no problem talking about rape like it’s the funniest thing out there. In addition, she interviews several rape victims about their experiences and victimization.

The piece is better than most coverage I’ve seen in college papers and even some pro publications. It’s also interesting that no one is accusing the publication of being libelous or anything else listed above. Instead, couched deeper in this policy is a “we can do what we want if we want to” clause.

The school’s response is one that should make almost everyone cringe.Let’s skip past the whole “First Amendment is still a thing” issue and cut to the specificity of this incident.

The student PUBLICATION is being punished for pointing out that RAPE IS REAL and it SUCKS WHEN IT HAPPENS TO HIGH SCHOOL KIDS.

After I read the article, I had a conversation with another parent in my kid’s class about it and the reaction from the parent was, “Well, when your kid gets to high school, would you want her reading about this?”

My answer was pretty simple: That’s not even close to the point. The kid pointed out something real and scary and my hope as a parent is that the school would DO SOMETHING at the school about the issue of rape. Administrators could open more dialogue, look for ways to reinforce the issue that this isn’t OK and joking about it is not cool. That’s what I’d want to happen. Even more, I would hope that my kid would read about it and we could talk about what to do in situations where she felt pressure and what was not acceptable behavior. Information breeds dialogue, which in turn creates opportunities to prevent scary things like this.

Administrators don’t like dialogue for the most part and use a horrible SCOTUS decision in an ass-backward fashion to suppress student speech.

In 1988 the Hazelwood v. Kuhlmeier casedetermined that administrators may inhibit the publication of some content if they believe it has the ability to inhibit education within the school. In other words, if you create an article that can grind the school to a halt, administrators have the right to censor it.

Subsequent decisions at lower courts have tried to refine this, and explain that the bar for this is really pretty high. Still, administrators treat this decision like it came from God and endows them with the power of the Avengers: I CAN HAZ MY CENZORS!

The administration’s reaction in this case is probably the worst one possible:

[Superintendent James Sebert] points to aspects of “The Rape Joke” article — which includes some graphic description of the types of rape a student endured, a letter from the editors called “The Punchline,” and a Pledge of Allegiance editorial that instructs students on their rights to not stand during the Pledge as questionable material for a school publication. Sebert said he and Wiltzius met with Matthew Smith, the print journalism teacher at the high school and adviser to the magazine’s staff, to discuss the issues.

“Cardinal Columns is created as part of the print journalism class at Fond du Lac High School,” Sebert wrote. “District resources are utilized and the publication represents the school and the district. The guidelines created will ensure this publication as well as any school-sponsored publications are reviewed by the principal prior to print and publication. This is a reasonable expectation for a school-sponsored publication.

(Emphasis mine)

So, the superintendent didn’t like the really icky description of rape that the students used because, y’know, it might be uncomfortable for people to hear. The lesson here? Remember, kids, when discussing rape, make sure to use language that accentuates the positivity of the issue and that you don’t make people feel uncomfortable about it. It was also horrible that they pointed out that students still have Constitutional rights and that the students came out against rape culture.

No wonder we need to censor them.

The principal, however, said students don’t really need to worry about this because he’s a cool guy:

High School principal Jon Wiltzius says,”If an article would come to me with a topic that does not meet the expectations or guidelines then yes I will have to deny that.”

But Principal Wiltzius says that doesn’t mean the story is dead. Instead he says he will work with the journalism students and their teacher to come up with what he deems is an acceptable way to present a topic.

Says Wiltzius, “As we work through that process now of identifying what’s appropriate, what’s not based on those guidelines I think that’s where the communication has to occur as well.”

I’m sure there are a number of hyperbolic comparatives we could make here about a leader taking away the rights of others, only to tell them not to worry because he will assure them that he’s acting in their best interest. However, to make any of them would distract from the importance of the message here: I’m censoring you and I have the final say about this, but don’t worry about it because I promise you I’ll be nice about it.

This kind of thing can’t be allowed to stand. The students have created a petition, requesting that the superintendent reverse the policy and restore the rights of the school publications.

I ask that you sign it, but you don’t have to if you don’t want to. Unlike the Fond du Lac administrators, I’m not presuming that I know better than you or that I can force you to bend to my will because I want you to.

Wisconsin School District Institutes Censorship After Student Newspaper Points Out Rape Jokes Aren’t Funny

Administrators in the Fond du Lac, Wis. school district this week implemented a policy that guarantees them the right to review all content of school media prior to publication. Any article that the administrators deem “poorly written, inadequately researched, false, defamatory or libelous, vulgar or profane, unsuitable for immature audiences, or biased or prejudiced”will be yanked from the publication or otherwise censored.

The root of this heavy-handed approach to student media? An article written by the Cardinal Columns editor in chief, in which she points out that a lot of people in her school have made and heard rape jokes and that the rape victims in her school don’t find them funny. Senior Tanvi Kumar uses a well-executed survey of her peers to show how people have no problem talking about rape like it’s the funniest thing out there. In addition, she interviews several rape victims about their experiences and victimization.

The piece is better than most coverage I’ve seen in college papers and even some pro publications. It’s also interesting that no one is accusing the publication of being libelous or anything else listed above. Instead, couched deeper in this policy is a “we can do what we want if we want to” clause.

The school’s response is one that should make almost everyone cringe.Let’s skip past the whole “First Amendment is still a thing” issue and cut to the specificity of this incident.

The student PUBLICATION is being punished for pointing out that RAPE IS REAL and it SUCKS WHEN IT HAPPENS TO HIGH SCHOOL KIDS.

After I read the article, I had a conversation with another parent in my kid’s class about it and the reaction from the parent was, “Well, when your kid gets to high school, would you want her reading about this?”

My answer was pretty simple: That’s not even close to the point. The kid pointed out something real and scary and my hope as a parent is that the school would DO SOMETHING at the school about the issue of rape. Administrators could open more dialogue, look for ways to reinforce the issue that this isn’t OK and joking about it is not cool. That’s what I’d want to happen. Even more, I would hope that my kid would read about it and we could talk about what to do in situations where she felt pressure and what was not acceptable behavior. Information breeds dialogue, which in turn creates opportunities to prevent scary things like this.

Administrators don’t like dialogue for the most part and use a horrible SCOTUS decision in an ass-backward fashion to suppress student speech.

In 1988 the Hazelwood v. Kuhlmeier casedetermined that administrators may inhibit the publication of some content if they believe it has the ability to inhibit education within the school. In other words, if you create an article that can grind the school to a halt, administrators have the right to censor it.

Subsequent decisions at lower courts have tried to refine this, and explain that the bar for this is really pretty high. Still, administrators treat this decision like it came from God and endows them with the power of the Avengers: I CAN HAZ MY CENZORS!

The administration’s reaction in this case is probably the worst one possible:

[Superintendent James Sebert] points to aspects of “The Rape Joke” article — which includes some graphic description of the types of rape a student endured, a letter from the editors called “The Punchline,” and a Pledge of Allegiance editorial that instructs students on their rights to not stand during the Pledge as questionable material for a school publication. Sebert said he and Wiltzius met with Matthew Smith, the print journalism teacher at the high school and adviser to the magazine’s staff, to discuss the issues.

“Cardinal Columns is created as part of the print journalism class at Fond du Lac High School,” Sebert wrote. “District resources are utilized and the publication represents the school and the district. The guidelines created will ensure this publication as well as any school-sponsored publications are reviewed by the principal prior to print and publication. This is a reasonable expectation for a school-sponsored publication.

(Emphasis mine)

So, the superintendent didn’t like the really icky description of rape that the students used because, y’know, it might be uncomfortable for people to hear. The lesson here? Remember, kids, when discussing rape, make sure to use language that accentuates the positivity of the issue and that you don’t make people feel uncomfortable about it. It was also horrible that they pointed out that students still have Constitutional rights and that the students came out against rape culture.

No wonder we need to censor them.

The principal, however, said students don’t really need to worry about this because he’s a cool guy:

High School principal Jon Wiltzius says,”If an article would come to me with a topic that does not meet the expectations or guidelines then yes I will have to deny that.”

But Principal Wiltzius says that doesn’t mean the story is dead. Instead he says he will work with the journalism students and their teacher to come up with what he deems is an acceptable way to present a topic.

Says Wiltzius, “As we work through that process now of identifying what’s appropriate, what’s not based on those guidelines I think that’s where the communication has to occur as well.”

I’m sure there are a number of hyperbolic comparatives we could make here about a leader taking away the rights of others, only to tell them not to worry because he will assure them that he’s acting in their best interest. However, to make any of them would distract from the importance of the message here: I’m censoring you and I have the final say about this, but don’t worry about it because I promise you I’ll be nice about it.

This kind of thing can’t be allowed to stand. The students have created a petition, requesting that the superintendent reverse the policy and restore the rights of the school publications.

I ask that you sign it, but you don’t have to if you don’t want to. Unlike the Fond du Lac administrators, I’m not presuming that I know better than you or that I can force you to bend to my will because I want you to.

Wisconsin School District Institutes Censorship After Student Newspaper Points Out Rape Jokes Aren’t Funny

Administrators in the Fond du Lac, Wis. school district this week implemented a policy that guarantees them the right to review all content of school media prior to publication. Any article that the administrators deem “poorly written, inadequately researched, false, defamatory or libelous, vulgar or profane, unsuitable for immature audiences, or biased or prejudiced”will be yanked from the publication or otherwise censored.

The root of this heavy-handed approach to student media? An article written by the Cardinal Columns editor in chief, in which she points out that a lot of people in her school have made and heard rape jokes and that the rape victims in her school don’t find them funny. Senior Tanvi Kumar uses a well-executed survey of her peers to show how people have no problem talking about rape like it’s the funniest thing out there. In addition, she interviews several rape victims about their experiences and victimization.

The piece is better than most coverage I’ve seen in college papers and even some pro publications. It’s also interesting that no one is accusing the publication of being libelous or anything else listed above. Instead, couched deeper in this policy is a “we can do what we want if we want to” clause.

The school’s response is one that should make almost everyone cringe.Let’s skip past the whole “First Amendment is still a thing” issue and cut to the specificity of this incident.

The student PUBLICATION is being punished for pointing out that RAPE IS REAL and it SUCKS WHEN IT HAPPENS TO HIGH SCHOOL KIDS.

After I read the article, I had a conversation with another parent in my kid’s class about it and the reaction from the parent was, “Well, when your kid gets to high school, would you want her reading about this?”

My answer was pretty simple: That’s not even close to the point. The kid pointed out something real and scary and my hope as a parent is that the school would DO SOMETHING at the school about the issue of rape. Administrators could open more dialogue, look for ways to reinforce the issue that this isn’t OK and joking about it is not cool. That’s what I’d want to happen. Even more, I would hope that my kid would read about it and we could talk about what to do in situations where she felt pressure and what was not acceptable behavior. Information breeds dialogue, which in turn creates opportunities to prevent scary things like this.

Administrators don’t like dialogue for the most part and use a horrible SCOTUS decision in an ass-backward fashion to suppress student speech.

In 1988 the Hazelwood v. Kuhlmeier casedetermined that administrators may inhibit the publication of some content if they believe it has the ability to inhibit education within the school. In other words, if you create an article that can grind the school to a halt, administrators have the right to censor it.

Subsequent decisions at lower courts have tried to refine this, and explain that the bar for this is really pretty high. Still, administrators treat this decision like it came from God and endows them with the power of the Avengers: I CAN HAZ MY CENZORS!

The administration’s reaction in this case is probably the worst one possible:

[Superintendent James Sebert] points to aspects of “The Rape Joke” article — which includes some graphic description of the types of rape a student endured, a letter from the editors called “The Punchline,” and a Pledge of Allegiance editorial that instructs students on their rights to not stand during the Pledge as questionable material for a school publication. Sebert said he and Wiltzius met with Matthew Smith, the print journalism teacher at the high school and adviser to the magazine’s staff, to discuss the issues.

“Cardinal Columns is created as part of the print journalism class at Fond du Lac High School,” Sebert wrote. “District resources are utilized and the publication represents the school and the district. The guidelines created will ensure this publication as well as any school-sponsored publications are reviewed by the principal prior to print and publication. This is a reasonable expectation for a school-sponsored publication.

(Emphasis mine)

So, the superintendent didn’t like the really icky description of rape that the students used because, y’know, it might be uncomfortable for people to hear. The lesson here? Remember, kids, when discussing rape, make sure to use language that accentuates the positivity of the issue and that you don’t make people feel uncomfortable about it. It was also horrible that they pointed out that students still have Constitutional rights and that the students came out against rape culture.

No wonder we need to censor them.

The principal, however, said students don’t really need to worry about this because he’s a cool guy:

High School principal Jon Wiltzius says,”If an article would come to me with a topic that does not meet the expectations or guidelines then yes I will have to deny that.”

But Principal Wiltzius says that doesn’t mean the story is dead. Instead he says he will work with the journalism students and their teacher to come up with what he deems is an acceptable way to present a topic.

Says Wiltzius, “As we work through that process now of identifying what’s appropriate, what’s not based on those guidelines I think that’s where the communication has to occur as well.”

I’m sure there are a number of hyperbolic comparatives we could make here about a leader taking away the rights of others, only to tell them not to worry because he will assure them that he’s acting in their best interest. However, to make any of them would distract from the importance of the message here: I’m censoring you and I have the final say about this, but don’t worry about it because I promise you I’ll be nice about it.

This kind of thing can’t be allowed to stand. The students have created a petition, requesting that the superintendent reverse the policy and restore the rights of the school publications.

I ask that you sign it, but you don’t have to if you don’t want to. Unlike the Fond du Lac administrators, I’m not presuming that I know better than you or that I can force you to bend to my will because I want you to.

Wisconsin School District Institutes Censorship After Student Newspaper Points Out Rape Jokes Aren’t Funny

Administrators in the Fond du Lac, Wis. school district this week implemented a policy that guarantees them the right to review all content of school media prior to publication. Any article that the administrators deem “poorly written, inadequately researched, false, defamatory or libelous, vulgar or profane, unsuitable for immature audiences, or biased or prejudiced”will be yanked from the publication or otherwise censored.

The root of this heavy-handed approach to student media? An article written by the Cardinal Columns editor in chief, in which she points out that a lot of people in her school have made and heard rape jokes and that the rape victims in her school don’t find them funny. Senior Tanvi Kumar uses a well-executed survey of her peers to show how people have no problem talking about rape like it’s the funniest thing out there. In addition, she interviews several rape victims about their experiences and victimization.

The piece is better than most coverage I’ve seen in college papers and even some pro publications. It’s also interesting that no one is accusing the publication of being libelous or anything else listed above. Instead, couched deeper in this policy is a “we can do what we want if we want to” clause.

The school’s response is one that should make almost everyone cringe.Let’s skip past the whole “First Amendment is still a thing” issue and cut to the specificity of this incident.

The student PUBLICATION is being punished for pointing out that RAPE IS REAL and it SUCKS WHEN IT HAPPENS TO HIGH SCHOOL KIDS.

After I read the article, I had a conversation with another parent in my kid’s class about it and the reaction from the parent was, “Well, when your kid gets to high school, would you want her reading about this?”

My answer was pretty simple: That’s not even close to the point. The kid pointed out something real and scary and my hope as a parent is that the school would DO SOMETHING at the school about the issue of rape. Administrators could open more dialogue, look for ways to reinforce the issue that this isn’t OK and joking about it is not cool. That’s what I’d want to happen. Even more, I would hope that my kid would read about it and we could talk about what to do in situations where she felt pressure and what was not acceptable behavior. Information breeds dialogue, which in turn creates opportunities to prevent scary things like this.

Administrators don’t like dialogue for the most part and use a horrible SCOTUS decision in an ass-backward fashion to suppress student speech.

In 1988 the Hazelwood v. Kuhlmeier casedetermined that administrators may inhibit the publication of some content if they believe it has the ability to inhibit education within the school. In other words, if you create an article that can grind the school to a halt, administrators have the right to censor it.

Subsequent decisions at lower courts have tried to refine this, and explain that the bar for this is really pretty high. Still, administrators treat this decision like it came from God and endows them with the power of the Avengers: I CAN HAZ MY CENZORS!

The administration’s reaction in this case is probably the worst one possible:

[Superintendent James Sebert] points to aspects of “The Rape Joke” article — which includes some graphic description of the types of rape a student endured, a letter from the editors called “The Punchline,” and a Pledge of Allegiance editorial that instructs students on their rights to not stand during the Pledge as questionable material for a school publication. Sebert said he and Wiltzius met with Matthew Smith, the print journalism teacher at the high school and adviser to the magazine’s staff, to discuss the issues.

“Cardinal Columns is created as part of the print journalism class at Fond du Lac High School,” Sebert wrote. “District resources are utilized and the publication represents the school and the district. The guidelines created will ensure this publication as well as any school-sponsored publications are reviewed by the principal prior to print and publication. This is a reasonable expectation for a school-sponsored publication.

(Emphasis mine)

So, the superintendent didn’t like the really icky description of rape that the students used because, y’know, it might be uncomfortable for people to hear. The lesson here? Remember, kids, when discussing rape, make sure to use language that accentuates the positivity of the issue and that you don’t make people feel uncomfortable about it. It was also horrible that they pointed out that students still have Constitutional rights and that the students came out against rape culture.

No wonder we need to censor them.

The principal, however, said students don’t really need to worry about this because he’s a cool guy:

High School principal Jon Wiltzius says,”If an article would come to me with a topic that does not meet the expectations or guidelines then yes I will have to deny that.”

But Principal Wiltzius says that doesn’t mean the story is dead. Instead he says he will work with the journalism students and their teacher to come up with what he deems is an acceptable way to present a topic.

Says Wiltzius, “As we work through that process now of identifying what’s appropriate, what’s not based on those guidelines I think that’s where the communication has to occur as well.”

I’m sure there are a number of hyperbolic comparatives we could make here about a leader taking away the rights of others, only to tell them not to worry because he will assure them that he’s acting in their best interest. However, to make any of them would distract from the importance of the message here: I’m censoring you and I have the final say about this, but don’t worry about it because I promise you I’ll be nice about it.

This kind of thing can’t be allowed to stand. The students have created a petition, requesting that the superintendent reverse the policy and restore the rights of the school publications.

I ask that you sign it, but you don’t have to if you don’t want to. Unlike the Fond du Lac administrators, I’m not presuming that I know better than you or that I can force you to bend to my will because I want you to.

Wisconsin School District Institutes Censorship After Student Newspaper Points Out Rape Jokes Aren’t Funny

Administrators in the Fond du Lac, Wis. school district this week implemented a policy that guarantees them the right to review all content of school media prior to publication. Any article that the administrators deem “poorly written, inadequately researched, false, defamatory or libelous, vulgar or profane, unsuitable for immature audiences, or biased or prejudiced”will be yanked from the publication or otherwise censored.

The root of this heavy-handed approach to student media? An article written by the Cardinal Columns editor in chief, in which she points out that a lot of people in her school have made and heard rape jokes and that the rape victims in her school don’t find them funny. Senior Tanvi Kumar uses a well-executed survey of her peers to show how people have no problem talking about rape like it’s the funniest thing out there. In addition, she interviews several rape victims about their experiences and victimization.

The piece is better than most coverage I’ve seen in college papers and even some pro publications. It’s also interesting that no one is accusing the publication of being libelous or anything else listed above. Instead, couched deeper in this policy is a “we can do what we want if we want to” clause.

The school’s response is one that should make almost everyone cringe.Let’s skip past the whole “First Amendment is still a thing” issue and cut to the specificity of this incident.

The student PUBLICATION is being punished for pointing out that RAPE IS REAL and it SUCKS WHEN IT HAPPENS TO HIGH SCHOOL KIDS.

After I read the article, I had a conversation with another parent in my kid’s class about it and the reaction from the parent was, “Well, when your kid gets to high school, would you want her reading about this?”

My answer was pretty simple: That’s not even close to the point. The kid pointed out something real and scary and my hope as a parent is that the school would DO SOMETHING at the school about the issue of rape. Administrators could open more dialogue, look for ways to reinforce the issue that this isn’t OK and joking about it is not cool. That’s what I’d want to happen. Even more, I would hope that my kid would read about it and we could talk about what to do in situations where she felt pressure and what was not acceptable behavior. Information breeds dialogue, which in turn creates opportunities to prevent scary things like this.

Administrators don’t like dialogue for the most part and use a horrible SCOTUS decision in an ass-backward fashion to suppress student speech.

In 1988 the Hazelwood v. Kuhlmeier casedetermined that administrators may inhibit the publication of some content if they believe it has the ability to inhibit education within the school. In other words, if you create an article that can grind the school to a halt, administrators have the right to censor it.

Subsequent decisions at lower courts have tried to refine this, and explain that the bar for this is really pretty high. Still, administrators treat this decision like it came from God and endows them with the power of the Avengers: I CAN HAZ MY CENZORS!

The administration’s reaction in this case is probably the worst one possible:

[Superintendent James Sebert] points to aspects of “The Rape Joke” article — which includes some graphic description of the types of rape a student endured, a letter from the editors called “The Punchline,” and a Pledge of Allegiance editorial that instructs students on their rights to not stand during the Pledge as questionable material for a school publication. Sebert said he and Wiltzius met with Matthew Smith, the print journalism teacher at the high school and adviser to the magazine’s staff, to discuss the issues.

“Cardinal Columns is created as part of the print journalism class at Fond du Lac High School,” Sebert wrote. “District resources are utilized and the publication represents the school and the district. The guidelines created will ensure this publication as well as any school-sponsored publications are reviewed by the principal prior to print and publication. This is a reasonable expectation for a school-sponsored publication.

(Emphasis mine)

So, the superintendent didn’t like the really icky description of rape that the students used because, y’know, it might be uncomfortable for people to hear. The lesson here? Remember, kids, when discussing rape, make sure to use language that accentuates the positivity of the issue and that you don’t make people feel uncomfortable about it. It was also horrible that they pointed out that students still have Constitutional rights and that the students came out against rape culture.

No wonder we need to censor them.

The principal, however, said students don’t really need to worry about this because he’s a cool guy:

High School principal Jon Wiltzius says,”If an article would come to me with a topic that does not meet the expectations or guidelines then yes I will have to deny that.”

But Principal Wiltzius says that doesn’t mean the story is dead. Instead he says he will work with the journalism students and their teacher to come up with what he deems is an acceptable way to present a topic.

Says Wiltzius, “As we work through that process now of identifying what’s appropriate, what’s not based on those guidelines I think that’s where the communication has to occur as well.”

I’m sure there are a number of hyperbolic comparatives we could make here about a leader taking away the rights of others, only to tell them not to worry because he will assure them that he’s acting in their best interest. However, to make any of them would distract from the importance of the message here: I’m censoring you and I have the final say about this, but don’t worry about it because I promise you I’ll be nice about it.

This kind of thing can’t be allowed to stand. The students have created a petition, requesting that the superintendent reverse the policy and restore the rights of the school publications.

I ask that you sign it, but you don’t have to if you don’t want to. Unlike the Fond du Lac administrators, I’m not presuming that I know better than you or that I can force you to bend to my will because I want you to.

Paragraph Of The Day: Hadley Freeman Edition

Hadley Freeman writes about fashion, popular culture, and whatever else strikes her fancy for the Guardian This graph comes from a piece calledThe Elan Gale internet hoax sums up all that is rotten about our online lives:

Gale is a TV producer from Los Angeles. He is also the proud winner of “Most tragic display of attention-seeking neediness of the week”, beating evenKate Moss posing in Playboy with a pom-pom pinned to her rear end – so you’re already getting an idea of the depths of idiocy here. Last Thursday, while many Americans were trying to escape their families and digest their Thanksgiving turkey, Gale entertained themby live-tweeting an encounter on an aeroplane with a woman called “Diane”. He described how he avenged Diane’s rudeness to the air stewards by telling her to “eat my dick”, and the internet cheered. Thinkpieces sprouted up instantly, some asking why the web was so casually misogynistic, others asking whether so many would have been supportive of Gale’s vigilantism if he’d been anything other than a Caucasian man. Most simply claimed Gale had“won Thanksgiving” (sorry, pilgrims). And then it transpired on Monday night, after several days ofself-defensive self-righteousness from Gale, that he hadmade the whole thing up. Incidentally, Gale is 30. Not 13. Thirty.

When I read about this, I immediately smelled a rat in troll drag. Lots of folks were taken in, but why someone who was rude to defend politeness briefly became a “hero” on the interwebs is beyond me. Having been in retail for many years, I hate it when someone demeans a service industry worker, but stooping to their level is not something that I find attractive or appealing. It’s certainly not “heroic” since being a tweeting smart ass doesn’t remotely rise to the level of heroism. It makes you a mobile couch potato with a smartphone that is being used very, very stupidly.

Make sure you read Hadley’s entire article. It rocks and she rules. That is all.

Louisiana Curses

This hasn’t got anything to do withAmerican Horror Story:Coven or other witchy/voodooy curse nonsense but with a survey about which state curses the most. My current home state, Louisiana is number 4. Fuck yeah, fuckin’ A,

Louisiana is also the fourth most courteous state according to this click bait driven (it worked with me obviously) survey. Thank you for moving out the fucking way. We’re the only motherfuckers to make both goddamn lists thank you very much. They’re not polite in Jersey? Who the fuck knew? Everyone…

Here are some swell looking charts courtesy ofMarcex;

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Stay classy, Sometimes-Picayune

The geniuses who gave us TP Street and a confusing publication schedule have struck again. This time on the editorial side. There was a lurid story on the front page of Wednesday’s dead tree edition, which claimed to *protect* the identity of one of the story’s protagonists:

A New Orleans taxi driver was arrested Monday after allegedly using
his cellphone to record video underneath a woman’s skirt without her
permission, then using the footage to try and bribe her.

Hervey
Farrell, of Metairie, was arrested near the intersection of Canal and
Carondelet streets on Monday about 12:40 p.m. and booked on charges of
voyeurism and extortion for reportedly shooting lewd footage of a
32-year-old woman while she was a passenger in his cab in April 2012.

According
to an arrest warrant filed in Orleans Parish Criminal District Court,
Farrell reportedly shot video of underneath the woman’s skirt, exposing
her underwear and genitals to the camera. The woman told police she had
never given Farrell, 38, permission to record her.

Later, the
court record states, Farrell sent a copy of the video to the woman’s
attorney via email. The message was accompanied by a threat that if he
received $1,000, the camera video footage would disappear, court records
show.

The woman, whose name is being withheld to protect her
identity, agreed to speak with NOLA.com |The Times-Picayune on the
condition that she keep her anonymity.

A lawyer and the host of a
local radio show, the woman calls herself a “public figure” and said
she believes it is because of this, in part, that she was taken
advantage of. She had openly discussed her local notoriety with the
cabdriver before the incident, she said.

“I was intoxicated, I
had had too much to drink,” the woman said, “but that doesn’t make it
OK for him to have done what he did. What he did to me was criminal, and
wrong.”

The story also told us that she was 32 years old and a single mother. (The last detail has been removed from the online version. Holy CYA, Batman.) It took me about 47 seconds to discern her identity with the help of Mr. Google. A friend of mine consulted with Der MS Bingle and figured it out in 72 seconds.

So, the Picayune promised to protect someone’s identity but put so much information in the story that it was easy to figure out who she was. Talk about having it both ways, Advance Media. You promised anonymity to someone but still allowed the commenters on NOLA.com to engage in an orgy of sermonizing and slut shaming.

I wonder if Advance still has “content editors” because this story obviously needed some editing and source protecting. That’s how a “robust” news organization would have handled a story like this.

Another disappointing thing about this debacle is that the story was reported by a woman, Helen Freund. She seems to be a Picayune newbie since her first “post” on NOLA. com is dated 11/7/2012.Baby reporters used to have training and supervision but who knows how it rolls at the Sometimes-Picayune in the dogs days of 2013. Obviously, Helen was no freund to her source…

Finally, repeat after me: Hervey rhymes with Pervy.

That is all.

Cross-posted at Humid City.

Pulp Fiction Thursday: Heads Up

What’s pulpier than severed heads? Nothing. Here’s another classic sideshow banner by Fred G. Johnson:

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