A columnist at the Newton Tab in Massachusetts suggests that school officials there wondering why scores on standardized math tests have plummeted in recent years look no further than recent curriculum changes for an explanation.

About five years ago, writes Tom Mountain, the Newton school district opted to start emphasizing its commitment to "anti-racist education" instead of division, multiplication, fractions and decimals.

According to benchmarks established by administrators, the No. 1 priority for math teachers was teaching "respect for human differences."

Now, administrators are perplexed that scores on sixth-grade standardized tests have declined steadily over the past three years to the point where 32 percent of sixth-graders are now in the "warning" or "needs improvement" category.

Pigment-Challenged Psychopaths

The National Organization for Albinism And Hypopigmentation (NOAH) is warning film director Ron Howard not to perpetuate demeaning stereotypes by portraying an albino character in the upcoming movie version of "The DaVinci Code" as a red-eyed psychopath.

NOAH people complain that in the book, the albino character Silas has red eyes when most people with pigmentation problems have light blue- or hazel-colored eyes.

"Ron Howard can make a big difference for people with albinism by continuing the trend away from a hack device if they adjust the Silas character to not be an evil albino," said NOAH president Mike McGowan. "Over the years the stereotyping and misinformation foisted on the albinism community by filmmakers does real harm to real people."

The movie due to be released in mid-2006.

Pappadam

A British social worker is said to have been run out of her job after absent-mindedly referring to an Asian colleague as a piece of flatbread, reports the Evening Standard.

Rebecca Miles was working at a center for victims of racism and domestic violence when she uttered the racist remark. She reportedly had been discussing the case of a Bangladeshi woman with her colleagues when she forgot the name of the interpreter and said, "It was Pamala, Popalam or Pappadam — something like that."

She was told she could keep her job only if she attended anti-racism indoctrination and wrote an essay about police racism. She refused and quit instead.

Reprieve for Rapists?

An Ohio child rapist attempting to have his sentence overturned because the judge in his case mentioned the Bible when meting out punishment has had his appeal rejected, reports the Cincinnati Enquirer.

James Arnett claimed that a Hamilton County judge violated his rights when she sentenced him to 51 years in prison for raping his live-in girlfriend’s 13-year-old daughter.

The judge cited a New Testament passage from Matthew when handing down the sentence: "And whoso shall receive one such little child in my name, receiveth me. But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged around his neck, and he were drowned in the depth of the sea."

The Appeals court upheld the sentence, but questioned the "propriety of the trial judge making mention of the Bible at all in her sentencing decision."

Un-Bearable

The AP says mental health advocates have gone ballistic over a company’s straightjacketed teddy bear, claiming it is offensive and demeaning to crazy people.

The Vermont Teddy Bear Co. says it understands the concerns but will continue selling its "Crazy for You Bear" through Valentine's Day. The bear comes with commitment papers and is meant to convey out-of-control love.

Mental health advocates believe the bear is "a tasteless use of marketing that stigmatizes persons with mental illness," says Jerry Goessel, the executive director of the Vermont chapter of the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill.

For more doses of politically correct nuttiness, head on over to the TongueTied daily edition.

Mailbag:

M.R. in Pittsburgh writes:

I would plead with Dr. Newdow on behalf of atheists everywhere. All organizations, including governments, are comprised of individuals and each of those individuals has a right to express his or her personal belief even if that belief is wrong. The virtue that you are fighting for cannot be won by forcing organizations to conform to your standard, even if that standard happens to be their own. It can only be won by the intellectual evolution of individuals within those organizations. There are better ways to fight this battle and you have chosen the worst possible way.

John R. writes:

State Sen. Spencer Coggs suffers from the same syndrome that ails half of the country — "Offendedness Overreactiveness." Similar to the Democratic Party that has turned so many Americans off, he has decided to become one of the offended and overreact to a high school band that played a few bars of Dixie! Big deal!

Our country needs to get over it and get on with life, and so do our leaders!

Wayne G. writes:

When I read Township Trouble, my first thought was "you have got to be making this up." But then I actually clicked on the link to the British newspaper.

Clearly a case of stupidity allowed to run unchecked.

It seems like C.I. McMahon could do a lot more toward reducing crime that, contrary to the liberal media, is rampant in Britain, by focusing on issues relating to crime itself rather than by promulgating nonsensical mandates based on language usage. I can’t believe the town of Manchester pays this person as a public servant in law enforcement. In the meantime, maybe we should all stop using the word "boy" (which has some serious racial undertones) and phrases like "oh my God," "holy cow" and "don’t jump the gun" because they are surely going to be deemed offensive by someone in the future.

Ross W. writes:

A fourth-grade girl was doing a class project on America's slave-holding history, role-played a slave buyer and told her parents? She reported being demeaned and degraded during the project? Excuse me, but maybe that was the point. Slavery is inherently a demeaning and degrading institution and perhaps by giving our youngsters a taste of how rotten it is in a controlled class project, they will understand a bit better why we don't have it any longer, and why we should not condone it elsewhere. Congratulations on being denser than a sock full of rocks.

Chris B. writes:

This is in regards to the article "More Nuttiness in New Paltz." It is absolutely shocking to me that that some people (mostly far left politically and anti-Christian) can write, speak and portray any and every idea that they wish and demand to be able to do so via the right to free speech; however, those same individuals cry fowl when certain people (mostly Christian and/or conservative) decide to write, speak, portray and/or advertise their viewpoints. It appears to me that certain groups of people do not want free speech for all; they simply want to use the term "free speech" as an excuse to promote their agenda/ideas, but are completely blind to that phrase when it entails anyone other than themselves.

Jim W. writes:

What's nutty about activists calling for a boycott of a theater whose owner they think is racist? You may not agree with their opinion, but these people are taking the most responsible course of action possible.

They're not asking activist judges to pass any new PC laws or demanding that the government take any action against the theater or its owner. In fact, they're not forcing their views down people's throats at all. Instead, they're simply asking like-minded members of their community to express their concerns in a constructive way, by ceasing to patronize an establishment that they believe promotes values opposed to their own.

You should be applauding these people for being responsible citizens, not attempting to pass them off as nutty simply because you disagree with their viewpoint. Whether their opinions are sound or not, their method certainly is. I say bravo to them.

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