Tongue Tied

Voters in two states next month will decide whether or not to bring their aging constitutions up to date. Constitutional amendments on the ballots in Nebraska and Delaware would instruct their secretaries of state to make the documents "gender neutral" by replacing all male-specific pronouns. No word on what pronoun they will use if the measures pass. Legislators in New York want a similar measure on the ballot there in 2001.

Does One Plus One Still Equal Two? 

Universities in several states are discovering a new way to teach algebra, geometry and calculus. It's called ethnomathematics, reports the Chronicle of Higher Education, and it is especially prevalent in courses for aspiring primary and secondary school teachers. Students study geometric designs in Navajo rugs, African fractals and Mormon street layouts to learn about basic mathematical principles. 

A critic of the trend, David Klein, a professor of mathematics at California State University at Northridge, said he is all for teaching about math contributions from China, India, Africa or anywhere else. But he worries that "the professors are so politically correct that they are reluctant to use Arabic numbers and European theorems and the powerful ideas of mathematics that were developed in the last few centuries in Europe." 

Teachers of the new discipline already have their own support group — the North American chapter of the International Study Group on Ethnomathematics. 


Maybe Wen Ho Lee Will Join the Struggle 

In the Don't-They-Have-Anything-Better-to-do-Down-There-These-Days category, the AP reports last week that workers at the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico are urging the state's United Way to stop funding the Boy Scouts because of the group's ban on gay troop leaders. Persecuted organizations apparently don't stick together. 


Surely Oakland Will Be Next 

Seneca Valley, Pa.'s People Engaged in Acceptance, Compassion and Equality (PEACE) will have to find another cause. 

Last week, the local school board voted 9-0 to keep the local high school's "Raiders" nickname, even though it dared refer to colonial era raids on American Indians. The board also voted to retain the Seneca Valley mascot — a female student who wears a tunic, fringed pants and a headband. 

G.E. Schutz, council president of the Native American Coalition of Pennsylvania, vowed to keep up the protests. 


Due Process = Red Tape 

The Wall Street Journal reported last week that Columbia University will no longer burden anyone accused of sexual misconduct on campus with such bureaucratic red tape as due process, the right to confront their accuser, have an attorney present or cross-examine witnesses. 

A new policy, which is being held up as a model for other universities, excuses victims of physical conduct in which lack of consent can be inferred by "the victim's mental or physical incapacity or impairment of which the perpetrator was aware or should have been aware" from having to face their accusers. It's just too traumatic for them. 


So How Does it Feel, Spike? 


Spike Lee found himself on the other side of the PC coin last week when the New York Times refused to run an ad for his new movie, Bamboozled. The ad featured a caraciture of a black person eating a watermelon, which the Times deemed too racy for its pages. Instead, the director had to revert to an image of minstrels in black face. At a junket, he told that some people might have found the image offensive. But "Just because it might be offensive to some people, that doesn't negate the fact that we still have to deal with these images," he said. 


Somehow, 'She's About to Take Her Hat Off' Doesn't Cut It 

Internet portal Yahoo's in the feminists' doghouse at Ohio University in Athens for running an ad being called misogynistic. The ad, for its messenger and mail services, featured a message saying, "Stoney — get over here quick! She's about to take her top off. — Bob." Kristin Tucker, president of the campus Feminist Majority, found the ad highly inappropriate, "especially after considering sexual harassment issues on college campuses." Yahoo yanked the ad.