Chanticleer #17

Chanticleer
I do not propose to write an ode to dejection, but to brag as lustily as chanticleer in the morning, standing on his roost, if only to wake my neighbors up. 

Henry David Thoreau

June 5, 2000


Chanticleer sticks his neck out to say a few words on the subject of “protection”. My daughter and her friend did some yard work for me last week. They remembered to apply sun screen on their faces, but unfortunately, forgot about protecting their backs. A few hours later, and for several days afterward, they painfully remembered.

Using sunscreen, or clothing, or a hat, to protect one’s skin against burning from the sun amounts to a straightforward, pretty much non-controversial, incontrovertible and not inconsequential act. However, we oftentimes engage in efforts that, while they ostensibly aim to protect, they many times do not represent a sensible, or sense-able, thought process.

To wit:

BIRD BRAINS

From the Dallas Morning News (DMN)… The Hurst-Euless-Bedford school district, with approval of the city of Euless and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), cleared eight wooded acres of district-owned land in preparation for selling the property. For the past 18 years, the woods (referred to as a “rookery”) served as a seasonal home to flocks of egrets and herons. Most of the neighborhood residents considered the birds, their noise and their waste as nuisances and welcomed the action. Others, such as Ms. Beth Stone, attempted to block the rookery razing. Said Ms. Stone, “I’m looking at this and I’m just having a fit. In a sense, it’s necessary, but I don’t know where the birds are going to go.”

Not wanting to sound mean-spirited toward Ms. Stone, but I submit that in the Big Scheme of Things (BSOT), humans don’t need to assume role of Grand Protectors of All Things Living, notwithstanding the nobleness of their intents. Ms. Stone may not “know where the birds are going to go,” but I myself find no fault with her ignorance.

After all, it takes a bird brain to know a bird brain. Over the long term, I’d bet on the birds.


PROTECTING LIBRARIES FROM CYBRERPORN

This is dated by a few months, but I suspect the issue will be repeated around the country.

A local referendum in Holland, Michigan, initiated by a petition drive sponsored by the Mississippi-based American Family Association, sought to cut off city funding to the local library unless the library instituted Internet filtering software. The motivation for the mavens of moral mandate was to offer library patrons (presumably children) protection from “obscene, sexually explicit, or other material harmful to minors.”

Supporters include a mother who said she was using an Internet terminal at the library when “pornographic pictures started popping up on the screen.” Said she, “If it happened to me, it could happen to kids. The library is not doing enough to protect them.”

Another supporter, age 62: “I just think that children really don’t know what’s for their own good.”

A library spokesman replied: “This is a manufactured problem.” The Detroit Free Press reported that: In the four years since the library has had Internet access – not in its children’s area, by the way — there has been only one documented incident of a patron surfing to an inappropriate site. Material was questioned five other times. None of it led to inappropriate behavior in the library.

Meanwhile on the political front, Holland Mayor Pro Tem Craig Rich declared, “I have hopes that the issue will fail on the ballot and the people of the area will then have a sane and sensible discussion … instead of one forced by the American Family Association’s commando tactics.”

Holland voters rejected the proposal 54%-46%.

Chanticleer asks these probing personal questions: Have you ever seen something that you would label as pornography? If you were ‘harmed,’ how were you ‘harmed’? How do you describe the ‘harmful’ effects? If you were not ‘harmed,’ when and how did you learn to not be ‘harmed’? At what age might you expect someone to be ‘harmed’ by whatever you observed that you labeled as pornography? What might be the evidence, or symptoms, of this ‘harm’?

I wish to make two ThisIsNotThat types of distinctions here:

1. Acting to prevent a child from observing, hearing, doing, or saying something that you (and perhaps even a lot of others) find morally, culturally, socially, or religiously “inappropriate” IS NOT the same as “protecting them from harm”.

2. If one fears the effects of ‘something’ that a child might encounter as that child goes about his/her daily business of growing up, preventing the child from encountering the ‘something’ IS NOT the same as preventing the feared effects of that ‘something’. In other words, better to prepare the child for how to deal with, respond to, react to the ‘something’, rather than to (futilely, vainly, and illusorially in most cases) ‘protect’ them from the ‘something’. Or at least, if not “better” … “equally important”.

I wish I could recall which of you suggested this (remind me and I’ll mention you), but a pragmatic solution for other libraries facing this challenge could be as simple as to arrange all the Internet terminals in a circle, with screens facing outward.


PROTECTING LOCKNEY FROM DRUGS

January 2000

The Lockney, Texas school district announces a drug testing policy for all teachers and students from 6th through 12th grade. [Chanticleer is familiar with Lockney, a farming community of 2,100 residents, in the Texas Panhandle, as it sits about 35 miles from my home town. We used to be in the same district.] Parents are asked to sign consent forms allowing their children to be tested. The policy dictates that if the parents refuse to sign the consent forms, the children will be considered as failing a test and disciplined accordingly for a first-time offense: 21-day suspension from extracurricular activities 3 days of in-school suspension 3 sessions of drug counseling Teachers who test positive will be fired.

Superintendent Raymond Lusk defends the testing: “It’s a long story, but society has just brought us to this point. Schools have kind of become all things, and our job description has expanded.”

Parent, and life-long Lockney resident Larry Tannahill disagrees: “What scares me the most, if I do not sign it, they are going to punish my child for what I do, and I definitely do not think that’s right.”

March 2000

Larry Tannahill loses his job at the Floyd County Farm and Ranch Supply store. He and his wife Traci are the only parents in town who refuse to sign the consent form to have their son drug tested. Due to their stance, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) files suit on their behalf against the school district.

Proponents of the drug testing policy include:

Warren Mathis, 64, and a Lockney for almost 60 years: “He has a right to his opinion, but we have a right to ours, too. The people don’t think very good of Larry right now. We’ve got 400 kids we’re trying to help, and one person’s trying to spoil everything… What they’re unhappy with Larry about is he’s the only one against this and he has no good reason. If he doesn’t want to do drug testing, all he has to do is pull him (his son) out and send him to Plainview. We’re not forcing him to do this.”

Debbie Montandon says a majority want the testing: “As adults, we have options everywhere we turn. I’m opposed to people outside [ACLU] making decisions for what we want right here in town.”

Bobby Hill: “I think what people in Lockney most want people to realize is this: Number 1, there is a drug problem in our community; Number 2, it took a decade to arrive at this policy; Number 3, this is what an overwhelming majority of those in Lockney wanted; Number 4, it is doing exactly what we wanted done.”

Seven hundred people attend a town hall meeting to discuss the controversy. Many supporters wear red and white t-shirts in unity. About half-a-dozen supporters speak on behalf of the policy, each receiving a standing ovation and applause. Only Larry Tannahill and his lawyer speak against the policy, whose comments generate no noticeable reaction from the attendees. The school board takes no action, leaving the drug testing policy in place.

The next morning, Tannahill is fired. His employer, Lindan Morris, defends the action due to excessive absence and says the action was not a reaction to the controversy. He admits that some customers have quit coming to the store because of Tannahill’s presence. Morris observes: “Instead of being confrontational, people just avoid each other.”

Tannahill has no plans to leave town and is thankful that the impact on his son, Brady, has been minimized. He says that Brady has not been ostracized or experienced any negative incidents.

“It’s kind of amazing to me that the kids in school are acting more adult than the adults are.”

May 2000

In its response to a federal lawsuit filed against it by the ACLU, the Lockney school district states that its drug testing policy does not violate the constitutional rights of 12-year-old Brady Tannahill. The district’s statement declares that the policy constitutes the community’s solution to a drug problem.

Questioning observations: If you assume that a “drug problem” results from a certain set of conditions, environments, factors, considerations, etc., … how much does post-behavior testing and punishment affect those underlying conditions, environments, factors, considerations, etc.? Is it possible that there are some social and group behavior characteristics and attitudes that might constitute a graver threat to a community than a “drug problem”?


STANDARDIZED TESTS

January 2000

A report by the Center on Education Policy and the American Youth Policy Forum says that “public schools are doing a better job of educating the nation’s children and preparing them for college.”

The report cites an increase of 17 points on the math portion of the SAT standardized test from 1983 to 1999, and a 2-point rise on the verbal portion. The report also stated a 14-percent increase in the number of students attending college in 1997 compared to 1983.

January 2000 U.S. District Judge Edward Prado ruled that the Texas mandatory graduation test (TAAS – Texas Assessment of Academic Skills) is not discriminatory against minority students. Since enacted by law in 1990, about 100,000 Texas students have been denied a high school diploma because they repeatedly failed the test. About three-quarters (75%) of those denied graduation were black or Hispanic.

However, the Judge judged that: “While the TAAS test does adversely affect minority students in significant numbers, the [state] has demonstrated an educational necessity for the test, and the plaintiffs [the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund] have failed to identify equally effective alternatives.”

The graduation test is first given to students as sophomores, who then have several opportunities over the next two years to take and pass the test. The test includes skills and material generally taught at the eighth-grade level and is not considered ‘difficult’.

Texas Attorney General John Cornyn: “Thanks to Judge Prado’s decision, Texas can continue to prepare its children for higher education and the world beyond. The TAAS test includes material that all students should know and need to know in order to reach their potential.”

Presidential candidate and part-time-Texas-governor George Dubya Bush: “I am pleased that the judge agrees that the achievement gap in Texas is rapidly improving, more so than students in other parts of the country.”
April 2000 – A “record” 80 percent of Texas high school sophomores passed the graduation test this year (which tests primarily 8th-grade material). State Education Commissioner Jim Nelson: “This definitely qualifies as a red-letter day for Texas education.” Passing rates increased among blacks from 60% to 67%; Hispanics from 64% to 70%; whites from 86% to 89%.

Sometimes-Texas-Governor-Bush: “Texas continues to lead the nation in closing the achievement gap, especially among African-American and Hispanic students. When we insist on high standards and real accountability, our educators and students rise to the challenge.”

Observation:There’s a business aphorism that goes – What gets measured gets done. While one may not argue with Mr. Cornyn’s statement that all students “should know and need to know” the material that the TAAS test covers, I believe one can argue that the test cannot cover ALL that a student might need to know. If one focuses too narrowly on the measuring device, one risks losing sight of what’s supposed to be measured. The consequence becoming that the only thing a yardstick is good for is measuring a yardstick.


PROTECTING EUROPEAN-AMERICANS


In January, David Duke, the former KKK leader, organizer of the National Association for the Advancement of White People, and Louisiana state legislator, announced the creation of a new organization called the National Organization For European American Rights.

Said Duke at the National Press Club press conference: they (white European Americans) face “massive discrimination” “European Americans must band together as a group the same way African-Americans do, the same way other minorities do.” “European Americans face a situation where we’re going to be out-numbered and out-voted in our own country.”

“I guarantee there are many European Americans who are refugees in our own cities. We like our values. We like our culture. We want to preserve it.”

Citing low white birth rates, inter-racial marriages and immigration rates, “The destruction of a specific entity of people, it’s called genocide. If the present immigration rates continue … the European-American people will basically be lost as an entity. We are losing our heritage and our way of life.” In February, according to the DMN again, No Fear, Inc., the maker of sporting apparel and equipment, filed suit against David Duke and his organization accusing them of trademark infringement by calling their new group NOFEAR.


AND FINALLY

Last January, the KKK ‘won’ the right to sponsor a one-mile stretch of Interstate 55 south of St. Louis in the states’ Adopt-A-Highway clean-up campaign. In response, some state legislators threatened to re-name that particular stretch of highway in honor of Rosa Parks, the civil rights pioneer from Alabama.

This update from St. Louis: State Senator William (Lacy) Clay, Jr. introduced an amendment to the highway bill to rename a stretch of I-55, in predominately white south St. Louis County, “Rosa Parks Highway.” This is the same stretch of highway that the KKK has a sign posted as the group that is responsible for cleaning up the highway. (There is a question as to whether or not they actually have cleaned up the highway – who would know, dressed up in their sheets and white cover-all hats and all??? (ha))

The sign, defended by the ACLU, has been up less than 24 hours each time it has been erected (about 3 or 4 times now). “Somebody” has run it over with a truck, stolen it and cut it down with a chain saw. The last “somebody”, a white male from the area, was so outraged when he saw the sign he immediately pulled over, cut it down and was promptly arrested by local law enforcement.

There, my friend, is the real story.

Governor Carnahan signed the bill this week, making it law.

BTW: Senator Clay is the son of William Clay, Sr. Congressman, 1st District (D) Missouri. Carnahan is opposing Senator Aschroft for Missouri US Senate.

Election year stunt or the right thing to do? YOU MAKE THE CALL!