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Teachers in Trouble, Diversity Defined

For their commemorations of the Sept. 11 attacks, students at the University of California at Berkeley initially wanted to hand out only white ribbons because to hand out red, white and blue ones might make some students uncomfortable or feel excluded, reports the Daily Californian.

Having any nation's flags on display can arouse nationalist sentiments and create conflict, some student leaders said. Others said the flag would make those who are not American feel excluded from the event.

"There were people in the World Trade Center who were not American and people who were not American who died in the aftermath of Sept. 11," said Graduate Assembly President Jessica Quindel. "It is the role of the leadership of this campus that we don't want to send a message of exclusion."

After word of the color choice and exclusion of such "nationalist" songs as "The Star-Spangled Banner" from the celebration leaked, Berkeley Chancellor Robert Berdahl overruled the student leaders and decided to hand out red, white and blue ribbons and allow the national anthem to be played.

Scandalous Synonyms

A North Carolina teacher was reprimanded and forced to apologize for attempting to teach her students the meaning of the word "niggardly," reports the Wilmington Morning Star.

For a word-of-the-day vocabulary lesson, fourth-grade teacher Stephanie Bell was teaching her students synonyms for the word "stingy."

But parent Akwana Walker said it was inappropriate to use the word because it sounds similar to a racial slur. She demanded an apology, and that Bell be removed from her teaching position.

Bell said she didn't mean to offend anyone, and sent home letters of apology with her students, as her principal instructed.

Musketless Mountaineer

Officials at the University of Wisconsin said the mascot for rival West Virginia would not be welcome at Badger stadium because he carries a musket and the school forbids firearms on campus, reports the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

The West Virginia Mountaineers mascot has been a fixture at the team's games since the 1930s and has even appeared at Wisconsin games in the past. But this year athletics officials in Madison said enough is enough and forbade the bearded, coonskin-topped mascot from carrying or shooting his antique gun.

"We don't need a gun going off in front of 80,000 people," UW associate athletic director Jamie Pollard said. "In the big spirit of it all I understand why they want to do it. But it is our home game."

Less than 24 hours after word of the decision leaked, however, Wisconsin reversed itself and said the mascot and his gun would be allowed in the stadium after all.

Mocking Mental Illness

Sears, Roebuck & Co. decided to stop selling a line of T-shirts after an outcry from mental health advocates who said the slogans on them make fun of the mentally ill, reports Reuters.

The National Alliance for the Mentally Ill had complained about the shirts, which bear the inscription: "You should hear the NAMES the VOICES in my head are calling you."

The organization also called on Wal-Mart Stores, Kmart Inc., Kohl's Corp., and Target Corp. to stop selling the T-shirts and similar merchandise "mocking mental illness" or risk facing potential legal liability under federal or state anti-discrimination laws.

"The T-shirt perpetuates prejudice and discrimination against people with mental illnesses through the intimation of threats flowing from auditory hallucinations," said Ron Honberg, NAMI national legal director. "They reinforce an unfair perception of violence."

Forbidden Truths

A Florida teacher was criticized and placed on administrative leave after telling her theater students that they should not get a tan because darker skin is harder to light on stage than lighter skin, reports the St. Petersburg Times.

Teacher Toni Mitchell was leading a discussion about lighting on stage when she made the remarks. She said she was telling her students the truth about getting into show business.

"The world is ugly, OK, and the television, movie and theater industry is ugly," she said. "How can I teach when I can't teach what's true?"

But some black students thought that was a racially insensitive remark and the mother of one of those students complained to the principal.

'Diversity' Defined

A man described as being of African-Lebanese descent was rejected for a job as assistant vice president for academic affairs and diversity at Loyola College in Maryland because he was not "black enough," reports the Baltimore Sun

Denys Blell applied for the advertised job in the spring of 2001. At the time, he was associate vice president for academic affairs and diversity at the University of South Florida. He holds a master's degree in African and Afro-American history.

But according to a lawsuit, Blell was told by Loyola's hiring official that "the African-American faculty needed to hire an African-American that was visibly black."

The official told him "that race and skin color were important issues because 'Baltimore is predominantly black and the state of Maryland has a significant black presence.'" And he says he was not hired because he is "light-skinned, of Afro-Lebanese origin and not an African-American."

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Mailbag:

David W. writes:

Just for the record, myself and lots of other VOL fans thought the ESPN commercial was hilarious. I especially thought the pig and Lee Corso had a strong family resemblance.

David K. writes:

As for the "scare tactics" that the National Organization of Women is decrying, what about their agenda of scare tactics that tells women they are worth nothing unless they have a career? NOW is determined to make women like men, and let me tell you, it's nothing special.

Cari in Texas writes:

Wow. the Women of NOW sure work hard to make sure the rest of us don’t have our reproductive rights trounced on. I can’t believe that I thought the people of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine were also trying to help women exercise their reproductive rights. Now I see that it was foolish of me to think that women have as much a right to understand successful pregnancy as they do to understand the prevention or termination of pregnancy.

Roger C. in Orlando, Fla., writes:

Do you think for a minute the ACLU wouldn't have had swarms of lawyers all over the Aspen schools if they were telling kids to pray or meditate on the Bible to "cope" with school? The parents were exactly right that forcing kids to chant is ramming Hinduism down their throats.

I can't believe you got suckered into thinking that public schools forcibly twisting young minds (any more than they do anyway) with alien hogwash is a good idea that should be ignored.

Peter L. in Bryant Pond, Maine, writes:

I generally enjoy you accurate looks at political correctness run amok. However, the parents in Colorado who opposed the teaching of yoga were not being politically correct -- they were being responsible parents. Yoga IS an eastern, new-age religion. It is absolutely no different than a school pushing any other religion on the students. In my opinion, you missed the boat on this one!

Ray B. from Nebraska writes:

I do not understand what religion is being brought into the classroom? If this program reduces the "rowdiness" of some of the students and enhances their willingness to learn, isn't that the whole purpose of sending these children to school?

There appears to be a pervasive attitude out there that our children need to be controlled by drugs and/or medical treatments. It would seem to me that using yoga to help these kids become students that enjoy learning and to become better children with positive outlooks would be embraced at all levels.

I guess that making sure we separate church and state is more important than improving our children. God help us!

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