Tongue Tied: A Report From the Front Line of the Culture Wars

The parents and teachers of a group of elementary-school students in Oregon have enlisted the kids in a crusade to change the state's official song, which they say is too masculine, aggressive and offensive, the Salem (Ore.) Statesman Journal reported.

The effort began four years ago when they heard kids singing the current state song, "Oregon, My Oregon." Mark Rowell, who was a student teacher at Brush College Elementary School at the time, was appalled.

"It's about people who were felled fighting Indians," said Rowell. "They were seen as the heroes, the empire builders. The idea of empire building is a worldview that is very centralized, lacking in diversity and very racist. When that song was coined, there were a lot of people who were marginalized."

With the help of Toby Abraham-Rhine, a progressive-minded mother of one of the students with a performance-artist background, the group came up with "Our Oregon," which she describes as a cross between a lullaby and a folk song.

Segregation, Now and Forever

Hundreds of Northeastern University students — angry about the university's decision to raze the existing campus center for black students and put up a new building 10 times its size —chased the university president around campus and blocked a busy avenue during rush hour in protest, The Associated Press reported.

The protest erupted after President Richard M. Freeland told an advisory committee of students and faculty that the private university would tear down the John D. O'Bryant African-American Institute in 2003, and replace it with a larger building housing the institute as well as other university programs.

The students want a freestanding structure dedicated solely to black students.

Gender-Equal Platforms

To put on a diverse face for the upcoming election, the United Kingdom's ruling Labour Party has decreed that there be "gender balance" on platforms at media events, London's Daily Telegraph reported.

The party, the paper said, is desperate not to look like a dour old boys' club, so it will require that there be females on the platforms at all press conferences and election events.

"We do believe it is right to have some sort of gender balance," a senior party official told the paper. "By and large we feel we should have a balanced platform."

Corralling Choruses in Columbus

The American Civil Liberties Union has filed a lawsuit on behalf of three Ohio families challenging the Columbus School District's practice of having student choral groups perform Christian music, the AP reported.

The suit says the practice is "effectively endorsing, promoting and sponsoring religion over non-religion and the Christian faith over other faiths, all in violation of the establishment clause of the First Amendment."

A member of the Columbus Board of Education, David Dobos, said the ACLU is acting in a "childish manner and trying to dictate their ideas and morals on our community. I'm very disappointed that this outside organization has decided to come in and make an issue of this," he said.

Standing Firm in Rome

The Vatican has rejected efforts by Catholic bishops in the United States to make the liturgy more "inclusive," saying it is "not always wise or necessary" to bow to modern standards of political correctness, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported.

In recent years, some scholars have begun translating the church's original Latin, Greek and Hebrew texts in ways more sensitive to modern sensibilities — substituting "humanity" or "men and women" for "man," for example, or "brothers" into "brothers and sisters." Liturgical texts should not be "overly servile" to "prevailing modes of expression," the Vatican said in the document clarifying the rules about such translations. The document is titled Liturgiam Authenticam.

In Berkeley, an Army of None

The Berkeley, Calif., Board of Education banned U.S. Army recruiters from a high school there because of the service's "discriminatory hiring practices" vis-à-vis gays and because its recruiting procedures violate district policies regarding violence and weapon use on campus, the Daily Californian reported.

Members of the board were particularly irked by an April 2 visit by the Army's Armor Adventure Van, which rolled onto campus complete with weapons simulators and a model tank. "I felt it wasn't appropriate to have weapons simulators on the high-school campus given all the violence at schools recently," said board member Joaquin Rivera.

Michael Fallon, battalion commander of Northern California Army recruiting, said it was unfortunate to deprive the students of information about the opportunities available to them in the military. "I was surprised at Berkeley, with its focus on community service, that it would put a ban on the ultimate community service — serving your country," he said.

For Once, Words Fail Us

A Manhattan private school has, to protect the feelings of children raised by same-sex couples, banned Mother's Day, and in the interest of fairness, Father's Day, too, the New York Post reported.

In a letter to parents of students at the Rodeph Sholom Day School, the director of the school's lower elementary division, Cindi Samson, said the kids will not be making cards for mommy or pencil holders for daddy this year. "The reasoning was several-fold," Samson told the Post, explaining the decision. "One is, it didn't serve an academic and educational need. Number two, families are changing. Some children were very uncomfortable."

The complaints of a parent, a man who adopted his son with a male partner, persuaded administrators to remove Mother's Day from the school's holiday list, the paper said.

From the Central Servers:

Jason S. writes re the Monty Montezuma debate:

What is missing from the LA Times article is the fact that the student body voted overwhelmingly to keep Monty as is.

So once again the agenda of a very small group stands to overrule the wishes of the vast majority. I also find it interesting that before the student vote the concern was for offending people of Aztec heritage. After the political defeat of the vote, the concern has been broadened to include all people of Latin heritage.

Personally I could care less whether or not Monty stays or goes. What infuriates me is the determination to push through one miniscule group's agenda, against the clear votes of the majority. Frustrating me further is the knowledge that it is only a matter of time before they win. People with real lives simply do not have the time to stand continually vigilant against such ridiculousness!

J. Santana in Coconut Creek, Fla., writes:

We're offended. You're offended. They're offended. It's almost to the point where no one should utter a single word without worrying about how another will take it and we pray (oops, no we can't pray) that they won't be offended.

David C in Yuma, Ariz., says:

From what I read, it appears like a Jerry Springer show gone wild. Is there that many people out there with nothing better to do?

Kevin S. in Middletown, N.Y., writes:

Let me get this straight. If a traditional conservative disagrees with anything that GLAAD postulates, they are by default considered narrow-minded hate mongers bent on forcing their supremacist views down the throat's of average American citizens and should be silenced without question or discussion.

However, if GLAAD disagrees with anything remotely conservative, they are enlightened philanthropists crusading for the rights and freedoms of all Americans everywhere and should be allotted the broadest latitude on the public forum with respect to their own personal presuppositions of right and wrong.

Hmmmm. I guess, as Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn's 'Ivan Ivanovich' said, "some people are more equal than others."

Mike S. notes:

Latin American history professor Tom Davies noted that if a more historically accurate version of Montezuma were to be used as a mascot at San Diego State University, he would have to be carried around on a litter and nobody would be allowed to look at him. But Prof. Davies forgot to mention that for the game to proceed, there would probably also have to be a human sacrifice at halftime.

Dan H. in Iowa asks:

Please forgive the lack of research, but didn't one of the great Greek philosophers, Plato I think, say something to the effect that a democracy is doomed when the rights of the one become more important than the rights of the society?  

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