High school students in Richmond, Calif., will soon be required to take a course of ethnic studies as part of their freshman coursework, reports the Contra Costa Times.

The move by the local school board last week comes after two years of campaigning by Youth Together, which called the earlier curriculum too Eurocentric and not inclusive enough.

Youth Together activist Helena Fudge said she was sick of hearing about the California gold rush, and already knows enough about the Boston Tea Party, Abraham Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation and the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.'s protests. Now, she said, she wants to learn about the culture and people of Nicaragua, Laos, Cameroon, and points in between.

"The curriculum and school structure supports the European-American paradigm," said Jessica Wright, director of academic affairs at Richmond's Making Waves Educational Program and a former teacher. "It supports the class system and basically, in my opinion, the curriculum is institutionalized racism. Because of that, [an ethnic studies course] is necessary."

Lobster Anguish

Animal rights activists are urging Florida restaurants to remove a game called Lobster Zone from their shops because it is cruel to the crustaceans, reports The Daytona Beach News-Journal.

In the game, customers fork over $2 for a chance to navigate a metal claw over a tank of live lobsters with a joystick and hopefully catch a cheap meal. Customers see it as nothing more than harmless entertainment.

"It's just like fishing," says Don Crowell, a regular customer at the River Deck restaurant in South Daytona, Fla. "I don't see anything wrong with it."

But People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals says the game is callous.

"We're trying to get people to realize that lobsters feel pain," said Kristie Phelps, a campaign coordinator for the group. "It surely should never be considered fun to pluck animals out of a tank with a joystick-controlled crane. Some things are funny, some things are just callous."

What Goes Around …

A group of feminists at the University of New Hampshire attempting to proclaim that sexism is as bad as racism — and using John Lennon lyrics in the process — were themselves attacked for being racist, reports The New Hampshire Online.

In a banner hung on the campus, students affiliated with the National Organization for Women cited the song "Woman Is the Nigger of the World," from Lennon's Shaved Fish album. The banner also asserted that "Rape is to sexism as lynching is to racism."

But the banner was removed within hours on orders of the university's President's Commission on the Status of Women. Phyllis W. Bennett, associate vice president for university relations, said the wall on which the banner was hung is "not a public forum" and is appropriate only for messages about "mutual respect and discussion." 

Jessica L. Wisocky, a junior who worked on the banner, told the paper that her group had simply wanted to show that "all 'isms' are intertwined."

Student Anguish

High schools in Massachusetts and elsewhere are eliminating the titles of valedictorian and salutatorian, along with class rankings, in order to ease competition and prevent some students from getting their feelings hurt, reports The Boston Globe.

The goal, say proponents of the trend, is to create a more nurturing environment for students. Ralph Olsen, principal of Framingham High School near Boston, said students sometimes become so immersed in numbers that they load up on classes just for points.

"We would like to have students take courses for the love of learning," he said.

Others said the move merely gives students an unrealistic view of life.

"Life is full of competition. Most often there is very little difference between the winners and losers so there is no perfectly fair system, whether you're applying to college, taking a bar exam, hoping to get appointed to the Supreme Court," said Abigail Thernstrom, a state Board of Education member and a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute in New York.

Lifting the Downtrodden

A Canadian service club's plans to sponsor a wife-carrying competition to celebrate Canada Day is coming under fire from women's groups who say such an event is barbaric and demeaning to women, reports The London Free Press.

The Tillsonburg Kiwanis Club says its Canadian Wife Carrying Championships, in which men are encouraged to carry their female partners through an obstacle course, is based on similar competitions in Maine and Finland. One of the organizers of the event said that in Finnish folklore, warlords would prove their mettle with such shows of strength.

The slogan of the event is, "Give 'er a lift, eh!"

But at least one women's organization is not amused.

"It makes me feel like ... women are property that anyone can take and steal," said Diane Harris, executive director of the Ingamo Family Home, a housing agency for abused women. "I don't feel it is so tongue-in-cheek when you really look at what is happening in the county with violence against women."

Bleeping Censorship

ABC edited the word "Jesus" out of replays of an episode of The View recently so viewers wouldn't be offended, reports The Associated Press.

On the May 23 edition of the show, Meredith Vieira noted that the daily weigh-ins of her dieting co-host, Joy Behar, had ended. "Yes, and thank you, thank you, Jesus, is all I have to say," Behar replied.

Her words were aired live in much of the country, but when ABC broadcast a taped version of the show on the West Coast, "Jesus" was edited out.

An ABC spokeswoman said the network does not allow Jesus' name to be used in an exclamation. "Under the circumstances, we were concerned it would be offensive to our audience," she said.

The decision drew the ire not only of conservative critics, but also of the hosts of the show themselves. "It was stupid to beep that," co-host Star Jones said. "They let us say all kinds of things on TV, but they beep Jesus? That makes no sense."

Letter From a Cave Dweller

A writer to The Washington Post's "Dr. Gridlock" traffic column complains that the armed soldiers outside the Pentagon make him nervous when he is driving down Route 110 in Virginia.

"I find the presence of these heavily armed Marines by the side of the road offensive and fail to see what additional safety is being provided by these soldiers," writes driver Joshua Sterns of Arlington, Va. "Is there someone I can contact to complain about this disruptive and disrespectful practice?"

Mailbag:

Joshua S. of Temple Terrace, Fla., writes:

You should have seen what the artsy crowd did to Peter and the Wolf at a concert/ballet performance I witnessed in Fort Wayne, Ind. In the real story, the wolf eats the duck, and hunters who shoot the wolf subsequently save Peter. In the performance, the duck was simply hiding behind a tree and in the end they took the wolf to live in the zoo.

It's just a shame that the stories I grew up with are deemed too violent for today's children. I ended up okay, never had to chop up a wolf or roast a witch, but I did learn not to stray too far from home, not to talk to strangers, to beware of wild animals, and to protect my siblings from danger. What were my parents thinking when they read me these vicious stories?

Jason S. in Irvine, Calif., writes:

With regards to the Navajo history course mentioned in your latest Tongue-Tied column, you should be interested to know that the correction made by the college was not complete. If you visit the following link, you will see that although the requirement for a Native American background has been dropped for course HST 191 FS: Navajo History, it has been replaced with the following disclaimer:

"Designed for Native American students, but available to all first-year students."

I guess they wanted to make it clear that although anyone can enroll in the course, the curriculum was designed for the benefit of one particular ethnic group. Hardly a correction in my book.

John H. in Redmond, Wash., wonders:

I'm not a lawyer (thank Heaven) but isn't editing and re-writing a published work a form of copyright violation?

Michael P. in Houston, Texas, writes:

It's utterly amazing that my children are taught in school from day one to respect the heritage of so many different cultures and then are told it's a bad thing to take any pride in their own. Is it any wonder children seem so confused these days?

Mike Wright in Kalamazoo, Mich., writes:

I wholeheartedly agree with the Texas schoolboard's decision to unbias their history as to not offend any of their Latino students. While we're at it, let's get rid of such outdated and offensive cliches like Give liberty or give me death and No taxation without representation in our nation's history textbooks.

Such grotesque utterances might frighten or offend anyone with English or loyalist heritage — and I certainly don't want to upset those tea-drinking crumpet-eating Torries in any way. Now where did I put my tar and feathers?

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