Insanity Defense, More Humbuggery

The National Alliance for the Mentally Ill is out for blood over a scene in the new Harry Potter movie that shows a crazy wizard in a straitjacket because it is a "cruel parody" that perpetuates harmful stigmas.

A call to action by no less than Stigmabusters demands that its shock troops call the movie's distributor and to demand that it be removed from future editions.

"Straitjackets are symbols of profound pain and suffering," a release says.

"In context, the scene is a cruel parody of a person with bipolar disorder or schizophrenia, a homeless person, or an elderly person with dementia."

In the movie, Professor Lockhart loses his mind when a spell backfires. The final scene, after the credits, shows him on the cover of a book in a straitjacket. He is wiggling and mumbling aimlessly.

Native Ebonics Speaker?

A Harvard professor who made the mistake of scheduling a lecture on Ebonics after a performance by a singing group named the Brothers and Sisters of Kuumba is now paying for his lack of sensitivity, reports The Harvard Crimson.

Following the performance, linguistics professor Bert Vaux said to his class: "Thank you for that, that was very nice. Now, appropriately enough after that, I have [a student] to comment on our Ebonics vocabulary."

Members of the group are demanding an apology, saying Vaux's reaction when being confronted after class was dismissive and condescending.

"The segue was still really detrimental to the work a lot of members of Kuumba are trying to do in erasing misperceptions about what black culture and diversity are," said Kuumba President Johanna N. Paretzky. Vaux said he merely thought there might be a native Ebonics speaker in Kuumba who could answer a grammar question he raised for the class.

More Humbuggery

Decorations specific to any particular winter holiday, even nonreligious ones like Christmas trees, have been banned from public schools in Yonkers, N.Y., reports The Journal News.

Interim Superintendent Angelo Petrone told teachers to remove all decorations that go beyond a generic "Happy Holidays" or "Season's Greetings." Holiday assemblies featuring religious songs, poems and reports on holidays will still be permitted, said district spokesman Eric Schoen.

Because of the edict, teachers scrapped lesson plans involving holiday decorations and took down bulletin boards loaded with children's artwork.

Amanda Pendleton, who has a daughter in fifth grade, told the paper that when word of the order began to spread: "Anybody who heard it thought it was a joke at first; they couldn't believe it. Then they had to literally tear everything off the walls."

Public school teachers in Michigan do not allow the kids to sing Christmas carols such as "Silent Night" and "First Noel" because such religiously themed songs might offend kids from "diverse populations," reports the Lansing State Journal.

Linda Winters, a 19-year veteran music teacher at Holbrook Elementary School in Grand Ledge, says she keeps the music "very secular" with such songs as "Let It Snow" and "Jingle Bell Rock."

Winters' students are allowed, however, to sing a song about Kwanzaa. At Riddle Magnet School in Lansing they have a different solution to the problem. So no one feels left out, they perform songs from a number of cultures and religions -- from Christmas to the Chinese New Year, Kwanzaa and Hanukkah -- during the winter concert.

Big Miss-take

A high school principal who allegedly referred to one of his teachers as "little lady" and "missy" is being sentenced to sensitivity training following an investigation by the school district, reports The Palm Beach Post.

The allegation arose during an investigation of charges by science teacher Patricia Icart that Principal Dave Cantley also pinched her. An inquiry into charges of inappropriate physical contact, comments and harassment was conducted, but investigators found Icart's charges to be unsubstantiated.

Robert Shalhoub, the attorney for Icart, is on the case, however. He is promising his own investigation and says it ain't over yet.


A college junior in Kentucky who declared his major as philosophy-religion was told that the state scholarship he was receiving would disappear because of concerns about violating church-state issues, reports The Associated Press.

Cumberland College junior Michael Nash was awarded $2,900 under the lottery-funded Kentucky Educational Excellence Scholarship program in his freshman and sophomore years. When Nash declared his major as a junior, the college notified him that the scholarship funding would be cut off.

Rick Casey, general counsel for the education authority, said the restrictions on the use of scholarship funds are based on a section of the state constitution that limits expenditure of public funds to aid any sectarian purpose.

Nash is suing, claiming the policy discriminates against students who want to pursue degrees in religious studies.

Leap of Faith

Episcopal bishops in Massachusetts believe the Vatican's reluctance to go with the flow and embrace homosexuality is irresponsible and leads to murders like that of Matthew Shepard, reports The Boston Globe.

The bishops believe the danger to gays and lesbians is so great that they feel compelled to speak out despite reservations about getting involved in another denomination's controversy.

"I'm really concerned about hate crimes and homophobia that comes from supposedly responsible people making statements like this," said M. Thomas Shaw, the bishop of Massachusetts. Then, referring to Shepard, the gay college student who was brutally beaten and left to die in a field in Wyoming in 1998, he added, "Matthew Shepard was an Episcopalian."

"Suggestions that gays molest children lead to homophobia and create a dangerous atmosphere in which hate crimes flourish," Shaw wrote in an op-ed piece for the Globe. "They are irresponsible."

Finally! The daily edition of Tongue Tied is here. For those who can’t wait until the end of the week for a dose of PC wackiness, head over to the Tongue Tied Web site.


Dave K. writes:

Does it not occur to you folks that terms like before Christ might be anachronistic in a time when large minorities of the population are not Christian? Christ is not a neutral word, it literally means savior and its use implies the belief that Jesus was the Messiah. How would conservatives like it if we dated everything from the birth of Mohammed, and had to say that Jesus was born in 634 BP (before the Prophet) and this year is 1368 in the year of OUR prophet?

Further, no action group was listed as forcing the change by threat; the institution made it on its own, as is more common in academic circles these days anyway. It's their right and a correct choice.

Michael S. in West Virginia writes:

First of all, the terms "CE" and "BCE" have been in use by scientists since the 1700's. The system originally just contained "CE" with 1 CE being the same as 1 AD, but 1 BC being 0 CE and 2 BC being -1 CE. This was so that scientists could do time calculations across the BC/AD line.

Secondly, the inscription on the "James" ossuary was proven to be a fake more than a month ago. (The ossuary itself is from the time of Jesus, but the inscription itself is no older than about 1300AD)

Neil L. writes:

What's going to happen when all those enlightened folks who want to replace the word "Christmas" with "Holiday" find out that the word "holiday" is derived from the Middle English word "holidai", meaning "Holy day?"

Kristine H. in Minneapolis, Minn., writes:

I can't imagine how anyone would be surprised at the reaction of Muslims to Tony Auth's cartoon. What if a Muslim cartoonist wrote: "Christianity is a very tolerant religion! We tolerate priests who molest boys, rape novice nuns, supply drugs to minors, and then claim bankruptcy to avoid paying a settlement!"? Come one, tell us that such a cartoon wouldn't provoke howls of outrage from you!

Andrew A. writes:

Tony Auth's cartoon merely pointed out that Muslims have been silent when they should voice the loudest cry against violence done in name of their faith. Christians pointed to Hitler and said, "He does NOT represent our religion." If Islam is to have any credibility, it must be on the forefront of any protest against the violence in Bali, Nigeria, Iraq, Iran, Yemen, Phillipines, Somalia, Kenya and Saudi Arabia.

Geof W. writes:

Isn’t referring to homosexual as an "orientation towards people of the same sex" a bit like referring to sugar as "sweet white powdery substance often used in coffee?" There is a certain elegance in the ability to simply use a word, rather than the definition of the word, when communicating. Furthermore, the U.K.’s new forward definition of homosexuality omits any reference to the nature of the "orientation." Apparently an orientation toward playing soccer or drinking beer with people of the same sex is indistinguishable from homosexuality.

Heather W. in Reno, Nev., writes:

It is endlessly fascinating to me that everyday I seem to find yet another aspect of everyday life that is considered offensive to the Muslim people. With every reference to the Muslim religion I hear the word offensive in one ear and the word tolerant in the other. Perhaps we should return to days of segregation... Christians and dogs on one side of the country, and the easily-offended tolerant on the other.

A mole at Gannett Newspapers writes:

At USA Today we have several AS/400 midrange computers. When you open up a TN5250 session you get a black background with green letters. The green letters spell out USAT and prompts for login and password.

So each holiday we in IT thought it would be nice to spruce up the sign on screen. Happy Easter, April Fools Day, Happy Thanksgiving, Happy Christmas. Even changed the green to other colors. Never had one complaint from those who actually use the AS/400 to do work.

But PC scared managers. First we were told to change Happy Christmas to Happy Holidays. Then we were told to no longer do Happy Easter. This year 2002 we were told to not change the sign on screen.

In the age of PC, USA Today prefers to be boring old green letters. Can't get sued for having green letters and the generic login id and password.

Needless to say, the morale of the IT staff went down, because our happy spirits were dampened by the PC crowd.

All material copyright 2002 by Scott Norvell. Reprinted with permission of the author.

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