Tongue Tied

A report by the British government's Commission on the Future of Multi-Ethnic Britain has politicians on both sides of the aisle hopping mad for saying the word "British" borders on the offensive. Using the term "British" to describe residents of the U.K., the commission says, does not reflect the island's diversity these days. Better to go the route of the United States and come up with terms like African-American.


Conservative Party MP Gerald Howarth said he would always be proud to be called British, and called the report totally offensive. It was, he said, a case of "corrosive, new Labour, politically correct garbage." 

The report also recommends new laws forcing TV networks to hire set numbers of black and ethnic Asian staff, as well as race equality and "cultural diversity" inspections of schools. 

It's OK to Teach About Shooting People, but Not if It's Racist? 

Middle School students in the Aldine Independent School District outside Houston will not be using "racist, classist and sexist" worksheets when they study grammar. The worksheets, with such phrases as "Bust a CAP in those PUNCs!" and "my baby's daddy's at the door," were removed from the school following complaints from a parent. 

Education experts called the materials a misguided attempt to use slang and gimmicks to teach proper grammar. For those who don't know, to "bust a cap" is street slang commonly used in gangsta rap to refer to shooting someone. The phrase "my baby's daddy" refers to the father of a child born out of wedlock. 

So Much for Letting People Decide 

Mississippi lawyer Greg Stewart wants the people to decide, through a statewide vote, whether to remove the Confederate stars and bars from the state flag there. But a small group of plaintiffs have sued to block his effort, and a judge will decide Friday whether to allow Stewart to begin collecting signatures on petitions. The plaintiffs, among them a restaurant owner and a novelist, would rather have a commission appointed by Gov. Ronnie Musgrove decide whether to change the flag design instead. 


Custer Stands Down 

PC Patroller Bill C. in Tallahassee, Fla. alerts us to an Associated Press report from Spokane, Wash. that says a high school marching band's rendition of "The Death of Custer" may be dropped because of complaints from an American Indian student. 

The Lewis and Clark High School band uses the 1876 Battle of the Little Bighorn as the theme for a halftime extravaganza which includes students acting out scenes in which Lt. Col. George Armstrong Custer is killed with an arrow and Indians perform a war dance. 

Vickie Countryman, director of equity for Spokane School District 81, said only one complaint was received but that is enough. "Respect of staff and students is our top priority," she said. 

Seems Like the Scales of Justices Have Tilted 

The Daily Telegraph of London reports that a vegetable stand was raided and scales seized because the owner refused to sell his wares using metric measurements as mandated by new pan-European laws. For continuing to use ounces and pounds, he was charged with two counts of "possessing non-automatic weighing machines not fit for business use." 


Of All Things to Squawk About 

Wisconsin is thinking about joining the growing number of states removing the word "squaw" from place names in the state. Already, the state has approved altering the name of Squaw Bay to Mawikwe Bay — which means weeping woman. The state is also considering a request from Sawyer County to change the names of five water bodies that include the word squaw, a slang word for woman that native peoples find demeaning. 

Folks who live in the affected areas were apparently not consulted, and have signed petitions to halt the move. The Milwaukee Journal reports that states such as Maine, Montana and Minnesota enacted laws within the last two years that require new names for places called "squaw." 


And the Difference Is? 

During Gay Awareness month at the Los Angeles school district, teachers and students are invited to post information and opinions about tolerance toward gays on school bulletin boards. Teacher Rob Downs wanted to post his own notes, but his said homosexuality was immoral. The school district would have none of it, and made him take it down. He sued, and lost. Mary Kay Jackson, a lawyer for the L.A. district, says "Mr. Downs wanted to put up his materials that passed over the line from being just a different viewpoint to non tolerant." 

Cross-Dressers Have Rights, Too 

In Boston, a Superior Court judge ruled that schools do not have the right to expel cross-dressing students. The judge ruled that a school district in the city cannot prevent a 15-year-old male — "who is biologically male but identifies himself as female," in the words of the Boston Globe — from attending school in dresses, wigs and padded bras. To prevent him from doing so violates the eighth-grader's right to free expression and constituted sex discrimination, according to the judge. One mother of a 14-year-old gave her son permission to beat up the student if he touched him. 

Surely He Was Thinking of Theme Parks in 1891, Right? 

Opponents of a theme park plan centered on the Wizard of Oz are turning to 110-year-old editorials in South Dakota newspapers to make their case. Groups representing native Americans say editorials by L. Frank Baum, author of the book, advocated for the extermination of Indians. The groups say those editorials should be considered when the State of Kansas decides whether to grant permission to build the theme park. Kristin McCallum, a spokeswoman for Oz Entertainment Co. in Los Angeles, seemed puzzled that the editorials have become an issue. "I don't see any relation," she said.