An Inclusive Litany


President Clinton issued an executive order banning discrimination against parents, step-parents, foster parents, custodians of legal wards, and people "actively seeking legal custody or adoption" of children. The order would prohibit employers from "taking a mother or father off a career-advancing path out of a belief that parents cannot meet the requirements of these jobs." The White House could cite no examples of this sort of discrimination occurring.

17-year-old Gary Falkenham may face criminal charges for wearing Dippity Do hair gel and Aqua Velva deodorant to his school in Sheet Harbour, Nova Scotia. Falkenham was suspended twice for violating the school's strict anti-scent policy, which is designed to protect people with asthma and allergies. He was later placed under criminal investigation based on a complaint by his aroma-sensitive teacher, Tanya MacDonald. "If her reaction was severe enough, you could actually even look at an assault charge," warned Constable Scott Manning. Falkenham says he is willing to give up his Dippity Do, but says wearing deodorant is not negotiable.

After an African-American student at the University of Iowa's School of Dentistry was arrested for e-mailing bomb threats filled of racial invective against other blacks as part of a hoaxed hate crime, Ann Rhodes, the university's vice president for university relations, called a press conference and joked that she had assumed the threats had come from "a white guy between the ages of 25 and 55 because they're the root of most evil." This led to three civil rights complaints by the end of the day.

In Colorado, school district officials announced plans for a permanent memorial to victims of the Columbine High School massacre, and parents of slain students were asked to design and submit their own ceramic tiles for inclusion in the memorial. The families of Daniel Rohrbough and Kelly Fleming submitted several tiles with religious themes, one with thirteen crosses, another with a verse from the Bible. The school district rejected the tiles, apparently fearing a lawsuit based on church-state separation, and returned them to the families. As a result, the families sued the school district for violating their rights. Brian Rohrbough pointed out that his son's killers, Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris, used to sport swastikas in school hallways without encountering similar legal problems.

A group of students at the Albany campus of the State University of New York scheduled a picnic to honor Jackie Robinson, the Hall of Famer who broke baseball's color barrier. Another group of about 40 students protested the use of the word "picnic" to promote the event, insisting the word originally was a form of code that referred to planned lynchings of blacks (to "pick" a "nigger"). In fact, the word is of innocent 17th-century French origin, but no matter. The school's affirmative action director, Zaheer Mustafa, released a memo asking everyone to stop using the word, regardless of its origin. "Whether the claims are true or not, the point is the word offended." In subsequent publicity, the word picnic was changed to "outing." But this offended members of the school's gay and lesbian community. So as a result, the event was promoted without the use of a noun to describe what it was. "Every day we come up with a new word we can't use," commented student editor Richard Ryback.

In Gloucester, England, undercover police agents have gone into restaurants simply to listen for bigoted conversation. In the first week of "Operation Napkin," one man was arrested for unacceptable talk. Another was briefly detained for mimicking an Indian waiter, but was let go because police decided it wasn't serious enough to warrant prosecution. Last year, an official British report even proposed criminalizing racist remarks made in one's own home.

The state of Iowa has established several new scholarships to the state's public universities, each to be awarded to an "openly gay" student.

In Florida, the family of a Dutch tourist who was slain after she stopped to ask directions in the high-crime Liberty City neighborhood near Miami was awarded $5.2 million by a jury who determined that Alamo Rent-A-Car should have warned her about driving through the neighborhood, even though she rented her car in Tampa, halfway across the state.

Internet-filtering programs prevented many from viewing web sites that mentioned Super Bowl XXXIV.


The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, May 21, 2000:
Nearly half of the schools participating in Milwaukee's private school choice program had to return money to the state last year—in two cases, more than $100,000 each—because, hard as they tried, they couldn't spend the $4,894 they were given to educate each of their choice students, records show.

As Milwaukee Public Schools officials prepare to approve a budget for 2000-'01 that comes to about $9,500 per student, audits of schools in the choice program show they are struggling to spend just half of what is spent by their public counterparts.

"We don't have to pay for a huge administration and a lot of red tape," said Lois Maczuzak, an administrator at St. John Kanty School, 2840 S. 10th St., which spent $3,096 to educate each student, making it the lowest-cost school in the choice program.

Under the program, which lets low-income students attend private and religious schools at taxpayer expense, students in 1998-'99 received vouchers worth either $4,894 or the choice school's cost to educate each pupil, whichever was less. This year, the vouchers are worth slightly more than $5,000.


When nine-year-old Michael Hagood told one of his fourth-grade classmates at Upper Elementary School in Plainsboro, New Jersey, that he was going to "shoot" another student with a "paper wasp"—a piece of paper launched from a rubber band—the classmate's parents notified the school district, who called the police. Hagood was subsequently suspended from school so that he could be questioned by school officials and undergo a psychological evaluation. "We just wanted to make sure that students were safe," explained a district spokesperson.


An elderly couple living in Mount Vernon, Virginia, were prevented by the Fish and Wildlife Service from building a small, wheelchair-accessible home on their property because it may have posed a risk to a bald eagle's nest 90 feet away. The agency eventually ruled that construction could commence, but only after the couple agreed to contribute money to salmon restoration (because the eagles eat salmon, though there are no salmon in the Potomac River) and a bald eagle exhibit, construct two eagle platforms on their property, and agree never to mow their lawn or permit children to play there.

Journalistic rules against smearing entire ethnic groups have been at least temporarily suspended.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch said that efforts on the part of Cuban-Americans to keep Elián González in the United States represented "mob rule," and that demonstrators have a "blindingly obsessive hatred of Fidel Castro." The San Francisco Chronicle referred to the peaceful demonstrators near the home of Elián's Miami relatives as a "racket of rabble rousers" and "shouting street mobs." The Seattle Times editorialized that Elián should not be "a trophy to be paraded around by zealots." Syndicated columnist Mark Russell refers to "the crazy Cubans in Miami."

Criticizing Al Gore's decision to break with the Clinton administration's efforts to return the boy to Cuba, Pete Waldmeir of the Detroit News had this to say: "If he'd cave in to a bunch of wackos just because they hint at civil disobedience if they don't get their way, what would Gore do as president if some Third World nut case got in his face in a real crisis?" Sounding a distinctly nativist note, Indiana's Fort Wayne Journal Gazette criticized politicians of both parties for not having "the guts to tell the most obnoxious Cuban immigrants that if they don't like it, they can go back to where they came from."

Writing in the New York Times, Anthony Lewis asks "Are we going to be governed in this country by law or by mob?" Also in the Times, David Rieff, author of The Exile: Cuba in the Heart of Miami, said that the "most extreme and fanatical elements in the Cuban exile community" want "to defy both the United States and common-sense morality." Miami, says Rieff, is "an out-of-control banana republic within the American body politic."

Speaking on the "McLaughlin Group," Eleanor Clift offered up the following: "Frankly, for a community which fled a dictatorship under Batista, they have come over here, and now they are trying to set up their own dictatorship." After another guest pointed out that most Cubans fled Castro, not Batista, Clift continued: "Yes, they fled Castro, but they seem to enjoy living under a dictatorship. And my point is they are establishing their own dictatorship in this country!"

When asked what effect publication of the famous photo of Elián being removed by U.S. marshals at gunpoint might have, James Warren, Washington bureau chief of the Chicago Tribune, said: "It will ignite all the crazies...." Warren said he would argue against front-page coverage in his paper of "the crazy family running around here all day and bitching on television." Cuban-Americans, said Thomas Friedman of the New York Times, believed "they could get away with kidnapping Elián. America is a lot better off today because Janet Reno taught them otherwise." The New York Daily News expressed relief that the boy had been removed from "the Miami mob scene," safe from "anti-Castro fanatics" and relatives who "used him so shamelessly." According to the St. Petersburg Times, "If Elián's Miami relatives had cared more about the boy's welfare than in using him as a political trophy in the propaganda war against Fidel Castro, they would have sent him back to his father weeks ago." Elián, the Times continued, "was manipulated and brainwashed by his Miami relatives... [who had] abused this child long enough."

A New Jersey man was prevented from building his lakeside dream house because a small portion of the 1.27 acre property might someday provide ideal habitat for the barred owl, though no such owls were known to visit the property at the time.

After the naked corpse of Daniel Dukes was found in a tank with a killer whale at Florida's SeaWorld, park officials determined that he had drowned after slipping past security and trying to swim with the whale. His family later sued SeaWorld, claiming the park should warn visitors that the animal could kill people who enter the water—aside from referring to it as "killer" whale, that is.

A digest of an article, from the March issue of College English, that appeared in the Chronicle of Higher Education, March 15, 2000:
English professors are of two minds about plagiarism. They create regulations that punish students for borrowing language from another text, yet agree that no writing is fully original. Rebecca Moore Howard, an associate professor of writing and rhetoric at Syracuse University, discusses the implications of this conceptual blurring in two forthcoming scholarly books.

In a new piece, she suggests that scholars discard the term plagiarism altogether, in large part because efforts to regulate against it run counter to the political aims of their teaching. "To adjudicate plagiarism in these circumstances is to work against the liberatory, democratic, civic, and critical pedagogies that prevail in English studies," she writes. At heart, Ms. Howard's problem is that plagiarism depends on "gendered metaphors of authorship" that equate originality with masculinity and diminish the benefits of collaboration, a strategy often employed by women writers. These metaphors, which Ms. Howard locates in writing guides new and old, describe plagiarism as a kind of sexual disease that threatens the male writer and his work. Or they go further, and turn the stealing of language into a kind of rape, in which the author of the original text, and his readers, are violated. In all these cases, "'plagiarism represents authorship run amok... and thus incites gender hysteria in the community in which it occurs," she writes. As an antidote, Ms. Howard suggests replacing the term plagiarism with "more specific, less culturally burdened terms" like "fraud," "excessive repetition," or "insufficient citation." Students can and should find their grades lowered, or even be flunked, for these offenses. But Ms. Howard calls on fellow scholars to embark on the "revisionary/revolutionary" task of making room for less novelty. "Let's get out of the business of valorizing an elusive originality, criminalizing imitation, and reinforcing prejudices of gender and sexual preference," she concludes. "Let's leave sexual work out of textual work."


Ruth Ann Burns of Phoenix, Arizona, mother of 2-year-old Nicholas, is suing her doctors for failure to discover her pregnancy in time for her to have an abortion, thus making it difficult, after having two children already, to function independently for the first time in her life.

Attorneys for her doctors counter that she had the option to pursue an abortion after the pregnancy was discovered, but that she failed to pursue it. They add that Ms. Burns already knew a great deal about how to get an abortion in Phoenix, because she had done so three times from 1993 to 1995.

In Minnesota, Thomas Lake Elementary School is changing its logo from a mean-looking tiger because of the violent image it sends out. The new logo features school supplies such as pens, pencils, and a ruler. Students rejected an alternate logo with a picture of a friendlier tiger.


The British government awarded an unusual $160 grant to 390-pound Amanda Saxon, to pay for her to join a weight-loss club so that she can find long-term employment.

Jonathan Tilove of the Newhouse News Service reported that higher education's main problem with diversity was "the underrepresentation of the white, non-Jewish majority, especially such white ethnics as Italian Americans and such religious groups as Southern Baptists and other evangelicals." Though they make up 70 percent of the population, only 40 percent of Harvard's student body consisted of non-Jewish whites, making them far more underrepresented, relative to their numbers in the general population, than blacks or Hispanics.

Responding to Tilove's findings, Harvard Admissions Director Marlyn McGrath Lewis said that it would be a "foolish notion" to filter college admissions by group representation. Stephen Steinberg of Queens College, a defender of affirmative action policies, added that were special attention paid to these groups' representation, "the whole thing begins to look like pork barrel."