The (Not So) Latest
11/26/04: Freedom Under Attack
The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution says the government cannot restrict people's political speech. In the 1960's, the Supreme Court clarified that this means public schools (since they are agents of the government) cannot stop students from using their clothing to promote political views. (In that specific case, Tinker v. Des Moines, a school tried to punish students who wore black arm bands to protest Vietnam. The Supreme Court rightly ruled the dress code violated the First Amendment.) Yet to this day, schools break the law. In their quest to make students more obedient, these schools disobey the courts.
In the latest case, a Delaware middle school is threatening to suspend 13-year-old Stephen Truszkowski for wearing a shirt that calls Pres. Bush a "terrorist." Yes, this is strong wording, but it represents precisely the kind of speech our First Amendment was written to protect.
Schools are supposed to prepare students to be citizens in a democracy. Too many schools, however, would rather inure students to the conditions of dictatorship.
If you care about American freedoms, please send an email to principal Claude McAllister at Claude.Mcallister@appo.k12.de.us. While you're at it, send an email the school board members:
11/8/04: AOL in its Death Throes
AOL is now being forced to lay off 700 employees. I'm always sorry to see people lose their jobs, but maybe these people will take new jobs with honorable companies while AOL collapses. Or AOL could just stop insulting youth and we could end our boycott. Whichever happens, we'll be happy.
10/28/04: Working for the Youth Vote
If Kerry manages to win the youth vote the way Democrats used to, it will be because of two people: Bush and Eminem. If you have broadband, check out Eminem's "Mosh" video at http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=
10/25/04: Congress wants to Waste more Money on Abstinence "Education"
Another study has come out showing what we already knew: these abstinence-only sex "education" courses do not make students less likely to have sex, only less likely to use protection. So what is Congress now trying to do? They're trying to increase the amount of money taken away from other schools and given to the schools that do this abstinence "education." Republican politicians used to tell us you can't solve a problem by simply throwing money at it. But I guess when it comes to lecturing teenagers about their sex lives (the teenagers' sex lives, not the politicians'), no amount of money is too much.
Full story here. One note: this story refers to this program as "the Bush administrationís abstinence-only initiative." It was actually the Clinton administration that started this, though Bush did already increase the funding for it once.
10/22/04: Laughing at Your Pain
This week in my Teaching Methods class, our teacher (who also teaches at a high school) told us about some times she has had to break up fights between students. She told us one time she actually saw a girl yank a fistful of hair from the skull of another. When I heard that, my reaction was horror. My heart goes out to any victim of violence, whatever her age.
My classmates reacted differently. Most of them laughed at the image of this student in pain. These are people who will soon work as teachers if they don't already, and they see the pain of students as funny.
After that, I went to my student teacher seminar. This class is always good for examples of what's wrong with our school system, and tonight was no different. In fact it seemed to follow the theme started in the Methods class. One of the speakers told us about a teacher who hit students in the head with a textbook. This too got a laugh from my classmates.
Later, this speaker told us about another teacher who let students leave the class before the bell rang. Now my classmates gasped. I kid you not. These people who laughed about students being battered gasped in horror at students being released from the classroom a minute early. These are people about to become high school teachers.
For the students reading this, be aware that battery (hitting someone) and assault (threatening someone with violence) are both illegal, whether committed by a student or by a teacher. If you see an illegal act, you can report it to the police, and should.
As I earn my teaching credential, I am taking a course in Evaluation. Our teacher is teaching us how to grade our students. So last week, she handed back our first homework assignment. My score was 4. Is that good? I can't say, because she didn't tell us how many points a perfect paper would be worth.
I read her scribbled handwriting, and I got the impression she didn't like my work, though I'm not sure why. I was going to ask her this week, but I didn't have a chance. We started class in a rush, and I had to leave promptly at the end of class to catch my bus. Yes, this woman is teaching us how to grade, and she grades in a way we can't understand.
10/1/04: Bush comes out against Draft
Yes, John Kerry won the first debate. No question. Kerry looked better. He had better style. But reporters are missing the important substance that emerged in the debate.
In the closing remarks, Bush said of our military, "It will be an all-volunteer army." In other words, Bush pledged there will be no draft.
For months, Democrats have argued that a second term for Bush will mean a draft, and if you want to avoid a draft, you'd better elect Kerry. But Kerry has made no promises regarding the draft. At rallies attended by a few hundred, he has said he is leaning against a draft. When Kerry is on national television, he says nothing on the issue. It was Bush who stood up on national television last night and promised there will be no draft under his administration.
Last month, John Kerry appeared on the David Letterman show and said it was important to get the youth vote. But what is Kerry doing to reach the youth vote? Does he think young people will vote for him because he rode a motorcycle? Because he went wind-surfing? It seems only Bush believes young voters might choose a leader based on substance rather than style.
This pains me. I'm a Democrat. I believe Bush has been a terrible president in many ways, including youth issues. I have been eager to see him replaced. But look who the Democrats nominated.
I was hoping the Democrats would nominate someone better. When they nominated Kerry, I hoped Kerry would change. I hoped he would drop his anti-youth positions or least compensate with some pro-youth positions. He did quietly drop his worst threat against youth. But he has not reached out to youth in any meaningful way. The draft issue gave him a great opportunity to do it. His supporters know that and have tried to use the issue. But their candidate has not. Kerry missed the chance, and Bush grabbed it.
If Al Gore had won the youth vote in 2000 as previous Democrats had, Gore would be president today. If Kerry wants to get elected, he must give us a reason to vote for him. He must convince us he will be better than George W. Bush. How hard can that be?
9/16/04: Teachers not Thinking
One of my teacher-credentialing classmates was laughing to another about one of her students asking her the supposedly stupid question, "Why do we have to learn state capitals?"
That didn't strike me as a stupid question. In fact, in the only college course I ever took in U.S. Geography, the teacher told us learning state capitals is not only a waste of time but a great disservice to the discipline of geography as it convinces so many students geography is a dumb discipline. He made us promise if we ever became teachers that we would not waste our students' time with state capitals.
So I asked my classmate, "Why is it important to learn state capitals?"
"Because," she laughed at my stupid question, "it's one of those things you need to learn."
And that was all she had to say. I don't think she'll inspire many students. What's scarier is what this says about her thinking - namely the fact that she isn't doing any. Someone told her it was important to memorize state capitals, and she just accepted that opinion without ever considering why she might agree or disagree.
She isn't the only classmate I have who seemed to graduate college without critical thinking skills.
Last week or the week before, I was in another class where one student complained that the newest teachers get the toughest classes to teach. He argued this cheats students and leads to high burnout among new teachers.
Another classmate supported the status quo. When I asked him why, he said, "Well, would you want to put in 25 years and get stuck teaching the hard classes?"
"I wouldn't want to get stuck as a first year teacher, either," I countered. I asked why an older teacher should get preferential treatment, and he just repeated his question, asking how I'd feel if I were the older teacher and didn't get my choice.
There may be logical reasons for the more senior teacher getting preferential treatment, but this guy couldn't articulate them. He didn't seem to be thinking for himself but just repeating something that he'd been told and that he'd never bothered to examine.
How will these people be good teachers if they don't have what it takes to be good learners?
9/11/04: Teaching Teachers to Find Trouble
Speaking of teachers finding problems where they don't exist. In one of my teacher credentialing classes, our homework was to read an article on how to deal with disruptive students. The article was written by three education professionals, and apparently not one of them knew what the word "disruption" meant.
They open the article with a hypothetical example of an "extremely disruptive" "defiant, aggressive student." The student they describe is quietly minding his own business, bothering no one, but not obeying his teacher's order to do some work he finds pointless. This may be a blow to the teacher's ego, but it is not a disruption. The teacher then gets in his face and orders him to walk to the principal's office. The student, the authors tell us, "goes ballistic" by obeying the teacher but swearing as he does so.
The article seethes with bias against students, and this crap is thrown in front of future teachers like me, trying to sway us to see students who think for themselves and refuse to hide their emotions as "extremely disruptive." I suppose next week, they'll show us the movie Birth of a Nation to teach us how to handle the black kids.
Read the article for yourself.
9/7/04: Trouble-Making Teachers
High school students may often wonder if their teachers are trained to act like jerks. The answer turns out to be yes.
I recently began a teacher credentialing program. In the first week and a half, I've had several supposed experts in teaching encourage me to antagonize students.
One class I have is a seminar attached to my first semester as a student teacher. On the first day, we were introduced to one of our seminar teachers, a former high school teacher and former principal. This man's first advice to us was: "On the first day of school, you've got to walk into your class like you own it. Otherwise, the kids will eat you alive. Someone's going to control that classroom. It's either going to be you or the kids. You need to make it clear to them that you are going to be the one in charge." We haven't even begun our student teaching yet, and already our teachers are encouraging us to view our students, not as our clients, but as our enemies; not as people to serve but as people to conquer.
In another class, I had a teacher announce she would begin every class with a hypothetical discipline problem for us to try to solve. Her first one: "You ask the class, 'Who was the first Emperor of Roam?' And one of the students makes a joke, and this is the joke they always make. He says, 'Me!' What do you do about that?"
Is there a problem with a student making a joke? In college classes, students make jokes all the time, and no one has a problem with that. Jokes make the classes more fun. Yet this teacher was asking us future teachers to come up with ways to "deal with" students who make jokes, as if this were a problem. Her solution, by the way, was that we should try to embarrass the student who makes the joke, either by staring him down until he's cowed into silence or by making our own jokes at his expense.
This is typical. Frequently, teachers are encouraged to see problems where none exist, or at least where we would see no problem if the people we were dealing with were adults. We are trained to see young people's dignity as a problem, to see their self-respect as a problem, to see their humor and their humanity as a problem.
In my first week and a half in the credentialing program, I can't even count the number of times I've heard teachers voice the fear of being "eaten alive" by students. "Being eaten alive by the kids" seems to be a code phrase meaning: the kids won't subjugate themselves to you.
This strikes me as a conflict of interest. A teacher's goal is supposed to be to educate students. That's what teachers are paid for. Knowledge is power, so educating students means making students stronger. Yet we're being told we should try to make students weaker, more submissive. We're paid to help students stand up, but we're trained to bring students to their knees.
We can't do both.
8/22/04: Danny Goldberg
I recently read Danny Goldberg's book Dispatches from the Culture War: How the Left Lost Teen Spirit. Goldberg, a music industry executive, recounts his many attempts to bring youth culture and left-wing politics together.
Goldberg points out one reason this merger is needed:
...[M]any members of my generation, the generation now in power, have a basic resentment toward young people. This is a particularly foolish position for people to the left of center, since no progressive change has ever occurred anywhere in the world without the energy and inspiration of young people, who traditionally have provided the shock troops for the left.
Goldberg is right. Unfortunately in this book he doesn't say enough. The book is mostly his memoirs, interrupted by the occasional rant about "liberal snobs" rejecting pop culture and rejecting the millions of youth who embrace it. By using the word "rant," I don't mean to suggest Goldberg is wrong. He's right. But he hasn't done any research on the topic and he doesn't offer any new thoughts, or at least not any thoughts that were new to me.
Political figures would do well to heed Goldberg's advice if they want their ideologies to survive among future generations. But if they find Goldberg's arguments new, we're in worse shape than I'd thought.
8/6/04: John Kerry Drops Threat
Under pressure from youth-advocates, Kerry has dropped his threat to force teenagers into involuntary servitude. Of course, he still has a way to go before he earns our endorsement.
7/11/04: CA's Education Secretary Verbally Abuses Preschooler
Here's one more example of how much the education system cares about children. Richard Riordan, the former mayor of Los Angeles whom Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger appointed to head California's education system, told a preschooler her first name, Isis, meant "stupid, dirty girl."
Assemblyman Mervyn Dymally, who is black, called a press conference with the NAACP to denounce the racism of a white politician verbally attacking a black child. When Dymally learned Isis was actually white, he canceled the press conference since he apparently saw nothing wrong with California having an Education Secretary who verbally abuses white children.
The NAACP, to their credit, are pushing forward with a campaign to have the Education Secretary replaced. Unfortunately, Schwarzenegger refuses to replace Riordan. When Schwarzenegger ran for office, he said his motive was his desire to be "for the children and all that stuff." Now Schwarzenegger is fighting to keep the children under a bureaucrat who displays hatred for children. I guess now we know what "all that stuff" was.
7/11/04: School District Bans the Color Pink
A school district in Indiana banned students from wearing pink. Why? Because the color is popular.
Administrators noticed that suddenly more students than before were wearing the color pink. Some might think this was a harmless fashion trend, but these administrators weren't falling for that. Instead, they concluded pink must mean trouble. It must be a new gang color. So they banned it. Associate Superintendent Michael Berta admitted, "There is no evidence of gang activity. But because of the growing use of the color pink we decided to be proactive."
If use of pink clothing gets out of hand, who know what could happen? It's just safer that the kids return to wearing black.
Seriously, are the tax-payers getting their money's worth paying the salaries of these decision-makers?
7/2/04: Isn't Child-Abuse Domestic Violence?
In California, child-abuse currently does not count as domestic violence. As a result, when a DA tries to prosecute a child-abuser, he cannot mention the abuser's history of domestic violence because that is considered irrelevant to the charge of child-abuse. Likewise, when they try to prosecute spousal abuse, they cannot mention the perp's history of child-abuse.
Assembly Bill 141 would change that by declaring child-abuse a form of domestic violence. This bill has passed through the legislature and now needs to be signed by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Please contact Gov. Schwarzenegger and tell him how you feel about this bill. You can leave him a message at http://www.govmail.ca.gov/ or you can call his office at 916-445-2841.
7/1/04: MPAA's Arrogance
The Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) has gone loony once again. According to the Los Angeles Daily News (6/30/04), the MPAA has banned advertisements of the film Fahrenheit 9/11 from using a quote from film critic Richard Roeper saying, "Everyone in the country should see this film!" Why are they banning this quote? Because it contradicts the MPAA's judgement in giving the film an "R" rating. By giving it this rating, the MPAA was deciding the film should not be seen by those younger than 17, but this film critic dared to offer a less bigoted opinion; and the MPAA is trying to suppress this dissent from their judgement.
Isn't it time we ditched the MPAA? For too long, this group has been confining young movie goers to lame-brain comedies and dumb action films that portray violence as a joke. They claim the ratings system is a way to avoid censorship, but for filmmakers who want to reach audiences of all ages, there is more censorship today than there was under the Hayes Code.
In the days before the ratings system, filmmakers could offer all interested movie-goers gritty crime dramas (The Maltese Falcon), raunchy sex comedies (Mae West's movies), and even Tarantino-esque films (Bonnie and Clyde). Today, filmmakers who want to reach all interested movie-goers must edit their films severely.
When White Heat was released in 1949, movie-goers of all ages were free to enjoy it. If White Heat were released today, the filmmakers would be forced to choose between accepting a restricted audience or cutting out much of the film's greatness. That is what the MPAA has done to us with its rating system. Since the ratings system was introduced, adults have been offered increasingly crass entertainment while younger film-goers have been restricted to increasingly trivial films.
6/25/04: Clinton's Hypocrisy won't End
On every talk show, we hear Bill Clinton whining about how Ken Starr and other Republicans exposed his adultery and persecuted him for his private affairs. The funny thing is, Clinton spent his political career attacking citizens for their private lives.
When Clinton signed the welfare reform, taking food money away from many poor people, he said one reason he was doing it was because too many poor people were giving birth out of wedlock. They were immoral, so they deserved economic punishment. Clinton also signed a law banning gay marriages. He apparently found gay people's sex lives so sinful that allowing gays to marry would taint the very institution of marriage. (But adultery doesn't?!?)
Clinton saved his most serious persecution for youth. One year before Monica Lewinski became a household name, Clinton signed a bill that withholds millions of dollars from public schools unless they have classes dedicated to lecturing students about the importance of abstinence. Clinton made a public speech when he signed that bill railing against sinful teenagers having sex out of wedlock.
Clinton devoted much of his presidency to getting us V-chips because, he insisted, it was important that youth not even think about having sex.
As Governor of Arkansas, Bill Clinton signed an age-limit on who can get a safe, legal abortion. Teenagers who dare to have sex, or who get raped, apparently deserve to choose between back alley abortions or bearing children they can't afford to raise. (The majority of "teen pregnancies" are actually caused by men older than 20. Clinton had no plan to lecture older men — like himself — about the evils of pressuring teenagers to have sex with them.)
The Gospel of John tells us Jesus once encountered some Pharisees who were planning to stone a woman for adultery. Jesus told them, "Let he who is without sin throw the first stone." Then Jesus sat and wrote in the sand with his finger. John never tells us what, if anything, Jesus wrote. But a tradition in many Christian churches tells us Jesus wrote a list of the persecutors' sins, and this exposure is what shamed the Pharisees into putting down their stones and leaving. It's unfortunate Bill Clinton never had as much decency as these biblical Pharisees. When Ken Starr and other Republicans wrote out a list of Clinton's sins, he didn't stop his persecutions. He kept attacking youth in hopes of distracting the public from his sins.
Now that Clinton no longer need worry about his standing in polls, he seems to have quieted his attacks on children and teenagers, but he hasn't yet apologized for them. And with the publication of his autobiography, he now appears on every talk show whining about how the Republicans dared to question his sexual morality.
He spent his career throwing stones at children and teenagers, and he keeps complaining that his glass house got scratched. Am I the only one who sees something wrong here?
6/21/04: Take That, Philip Morris!
Since the Pro-Youth Pages began in 2001, we have urged a boycott against tobacco companies, most especially Philip Morris, because of their attacks on youth rights.
Great results are surfacing. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) just released a study showing that the smoking rate among high school students is now at its lowest ever. At least, the smoking rate is at its lowest since the CDC started keeping track in 1975. More boastworthy for teenagers: the CDC study also shows that, for the first time, the smoking rate among high schoolers is even lower than the smoking rate among adults. This means adults can no longer seriously claim to be smarter than teenagers. It also means these tobacco companies that attack youth rights are losing profits.
Who's choking now, Philip?
6/13/04: Old Man God
I was watching Bruce Almighty the other night and something hit me: Why is God always depicted as old? Hollywood often depicts Satan as a child, but God and the angels are always old.
If God has been around since the moment of creation, then God of course would be old — for a human. But is God old for a deity? Is God really closing in on His life-expectancy? Or isn't it possible that God has barely gotten started?
I think this stubborn depiction of God as an adult is not a statement about God or religion, but a statement about youth. These filmmakers cannot conceive of a youth who has power and is good. American pop-culture demands that for youth, the greatest virtue is submission, weakness. The youth who is strong, therefore, cannot be good. And a being who is powerful and good cannot be young.
I've added a few paragraphs to my analysis of Bless the Child discussing this.
5/30/04: Kerry's Sick Website
John Kerry has been steadily losing younger voters as more youth learn about his anti-youth attitude. Suddenly, Kerry has discovered young voters might be important. So to win them back he has (no, not changed his anti-youth policies, but) built a new website!
This one has features guaranteed to appeal to young voters, such as slang terms that used to be popular with teenagers. The website, for example, displays a made-up quote from a fictitious college student who squeals, "This site is sick!" About six years ago, some people were using "sick" as a slang term meaning cool. The trend died quick as people tired of talking like this:
"Dude, the x-rated video you got for us was sick."
"Um, how do you mean that?"
"I mean it was really sick, Dude!"
"Well, uh, thank you. It took me hours to find something that good."
"'Good'? Dude, you're sick."
"No! Dude, I'm saying ... forget it. What did you rent for us tonight?"
"Yes, I did get What tonight, but I'm putting Whose? on first. What's on second."
Another feature sure to excite students: a poll asking visitors to help pick Kerry's running mate. Choices include Ralph Nader and 80's rap star Chuck D.
It's not that I have anything against Chuck D. "Burn, Hollywood, Burn" is one of my favorite old school rap songs. But is Kerry really so desperate that he's considering this public policy amateur to be a heartbeat away from the presidency so Kerry can win a few votes? Or does he just think college students are dumb enough to think he is?
I'm sure Kerry has another website somewhere for elderly people. Maybe on that site, people can choose running mates for Kerry such as Garrison Kiellor or Angela Landsbury.
Check out the "sick" site for yourself before someone at the Kerry campaign gets a clue and takes away the unintended humor.
5/23/04: Teachers Cheat on Test
The No Child Left Behind Act bases school funding partly on test scores. To get high test scores, teachers could educate students. But instead, many teachers are producing high test scores the easy way: by cheating.
"One [teacher] whispered answers in students' ears as they took the exam. Another photocopied test booklets so students would know vocabulary words in advance. Another erased score sheets marked with the wrong answers and substituted correct ones," says the 5/21/04 Los Angeles Times in an article that goes on to report more than 75 California teachers have been proven guilty of cheating. Almost none have been fired.
When students decide to cheat on a test created by their teacher, we hear endless screaming about dishonest kids and their immoral conduct. We hear cries for tougher punishment. Where is the anger when teachers cheat?
Of course, these teachers have a good excuse for cheating their students out of an education and cheating tax-payers out of extra money. Barbara Kerr, President of the California Teachers Association, says teachers are only doing it because the tests have put them under too much pressure.
When people rail about youth cheating on tests, they never blame those who pressure the students to get good grades. They always put the blame on cheating students themselves, refusing to let the blame be deflected. But apparently we can't expect teachers to bear the kind of pressure we put on children and teenagers every day.
This is one of many double-standards our society throws at youth.
5/23/04: Age Limit on Tanning
Some legislators seem to lie awake at nights struggling to think up new age-limits they can impose. The California State Assembly has now passed a bill that would ban people younger than 18 from using tanning booths. Seriously. If this sucker passes the State Senate and is signed by Governor Schwarzenegger, a 17-year-old will only be able to use a tanning booth if he gets a doctor's prescription.
It used to be that grandparents told children how bad things used to be, how many luxuries they didn't get to enjoy in their hard-scrabble up-brining. I have this fear one day we'll be telling our grandchildren about the "permissive" 20th Century. "When I was your age, Sonny, we ran wild, tanning whenever we wanted, buying cough syrup just because we were sick, hanging out at coffee shops right up until closing time. I tell ya, it was anarchy. Thank goodness you kids today don't have to suffer through that."
I don't think our grandchildren will sympathize.
5/22/04: Innocent Teenager Abused in Iraq
The media have said much recently about American soldiers abusing Iraqi prisoners to get information out of them. The media have said little about this twist, however. A 16-year-old boy was among those sexually abused and terrorized. They knew he was not a terrorist, a soldier, or an insurgent. They knew he did not have any information they wanted. The reason they attacked him: interrogators believed his father had information, and they thought abusing the son would break the father.
Everyone is outraged about the abuse of adults. Where is the outrage about abused teenagers?
We need to tell Bush we're not happy with this. It's time to fire Rumsfeld.
More on this story here.
5/18/04: Separate but Equal?
Lately, the media have been talking about the 50th anniversary of the Supreme Court ruling in Brown vs. Board of Education. We hear much mention of lawyer Thurgood Marshall. We even hear about Mr. Brown, whose role was minimal outside of reluctantly allowing his name to be added to the list of plaintiffs. Yet I have not once heard any broadcast mention the name Barbara Johns. I guess the media feel the accomplishments of youth should be mentioned separately and unequally.
5/17/04: Exporting Democracy
It looks like Belgium will soon be among the countries more democratic than America, letting people younger than 18 vote. The Belgian Prime Minister has now proposed lowering his country's voting age to 16.
Germany and Austria already have regions where 16-year-olds can vote, and Israel has a nation-wide voting age of 17. The UK is preparing to lower their voting age to 16.
Meanwhile in the United States, we still find a barrier at 18. To be fair, several states are now discussing lowering age-barriers, but in California, we're still fighting an uphill battle just to give 17-year-olds half-a vote.
American presidents used to brag about our nation "exporting democracy." Maybe it's time to start importing some.
5/09/04: Part-Way to Half-a-Vote
In California, the Vasconcellos bill got one step closer this week to becoming law. The state senate Elections Committee passed it after a hearing that included some insecure legislators getting rude and aggressive with Robert Reynolds as he patiently testified in favor of the bill. (Some of these law-makers apparently believe they cannot win a polite and reasoned debate against a 17-year-old.) Soon the bill should be before the full state senate and then (if it passes there) the voters of California will get a chance to decide.
What is really funny is that many opponents of this bill are trying to present themselves as supporters of youth. Many are comparing this proposal (which would give 16-year-olds half-a-vote) to early America's infamous three-fifths compromise. These people insist we should reject the bill because it insults 16-year-olds by treating them as if they were only half-a-person or only half-human.
Let us follow the logic of this argument. If giving someone half-a-vote means treating him as half-human, what does it mean to give someone no vote at all? Doesn't that mean treating him as not at all human? How can these critics pose as defenders of young people's dignity while supporting a status quo that (according to their own logic) treats teenagers as being not even a little bit human?
Of course, comparing this bill to the three-fifths compromise is ignorant in the first place. The three-fifths compromise did not give blacks three-fifths of a vote or even one-half of a vote. It gave blacks no votes at all. It merely counted slaves as three-fifths of a person for purposes of calculating the number of seats in Congress each state would get. (Free blacks, in this calculation, were counted as whole persons. The compromise was about class, not race.) If the three-fifths compromise had allowed slaves to enjoy three-fifths of a vote, it would be remembered today as a great step forward.
There is, however, a strong similarity between the arguments made against this bill and the arguments once made against blacks getting the right to vote. When black suffrage was proposed, many insisted it was irresponsible. 'Most blacks can't even read!' they screamed. 'How can they be trusted to make the right decisions in the voting booth?' And it was true. Most blacks were very ignorant, thanks to our government refusing to educate them. After the 15th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution banned racial discrimination in voting, many racist politicians imposed literacy tests, knowing full well most black Americans could not pass a literacy test and therefore would get no vote. Today, of course, literacy tests are banned. Even an illiterate man has as much of a vote as a prize-winning economist, provided the illiterate man is older than 18.
California is now hearing the argument that 17-year-olds should be denied even half-a-vote because they don't understand government well enough. There is truth to this. The government has refused to offer young people a thorough education in civics. Of course, it is also true that most voting adults also have too little understanding of our government. Right here in California, we just elected Arnold Schwarzenegger governor. Schwarzenegger got 50% of the vote; and voters younger than 30 were actually less likely to vote for Schwarzenegger than voters in other age groups. Most of Schwarzenegger's supporters did not know Schwarzenegger's views on the death penalty or corporate welfare. They liked his movies so they voted for him, not knowing or caring what effect he could have on the state. Now many of those same middle-aged voters insist youth are too ignorant and too irresponsible to be trusted with even partial votes.
People who cannot see the irony here have no right to call teenagers stupid.
4/25/04: Corruption in California
California recently had a situation where some guards at a prison for youth battered two young prisoners. The guards claimed the kids started it. A video tape of the event doesn't show that. It does show the guards beating these youths even after they were on the floor, handcuffed and helpless, lying in a pool of their own blood. Six prison employees were involved either in this battery or in illegally falsifying the report afterward to cover up the crime.
The district attorney chose not to prosecute the adults.
When is the last time they had video tape of teenagers attacking a helpless adult and chose not to prosecute? My guess is: Never.
One state senator asked California Attorney General Bill Lockyer to investigate this corruption. Lockyer has now announced he will turn a blind eye to the whole situation, letting the criminals win.
Sometimes government corruption is caused by money, sometimes by lust for power. And sometimes it is caused by hatred.
4/20/04: Moore Bigotry
Michael Moore is attacking youth again. In an April 14, 2004 email to his thousands of supporters, Moore seems to relish the deaths of young American soldiers in Iraq. He writes:
Why should the other countries of this world, countries who tried to talk us out of this folly, now have to clean up our mess? I oppose the U.N. or anyone else risking the lives of their citizens to extract us from our debacle. I'm sorry, but the majority of Americans supported this war once it began and, sadly, that majority must now sacrifice their children until enough blood has been let that maybe -- just maybe -- God and the Iraqi people will forgive us in the end.
Why should "their children" be the ones to suffer? If someone has to die, why not the voters who actually supported Bush? Or the voters who chose not to vote at all? Better yet, why don't we try to minimize the deaths instead of relishing them as America's 'just deserts'?
When Moore licks his chops at the deaths of our young soldiers, he is no better than those sick Palestinians who danced in the streets on 9/11.
Many of our soldiers were barred from voting in the 2000 election because of their age. Yet Moore insists they are the ones who deserve to die for the mistakes of Bush and the mistakes of those who helped elect Bush (including Moore himself who, like me, urged people in 2000 to vote for Nader instead of Gore).
Notice that the people Moore wants to protect are "citizens." The people Moore wants to see bleed are "children." Apparently, Moore chose his words on the assumption that his readers would be more willing to support the death of "children" than to support the death of "citizens." Does Moore underestimate his audience? Or do I overestimate them?
While we're on the subject, read our essay on reviving the military draft if you haven't already.
4/06/04: The Heart of Democracy
Once again, it looks like the United Kingdom will show up my beloved United States. The Labour Party, which currently controls the British government (none of that checks-and-balances stuff over there), is preparing to lower the U.K.'s voting age from 18 to 16.
Meanwhile in America, a politically active 17-year-old is being prosecuted for voting. Sure, Mark Lacasse's vote was illegal (just as Susan B. Anthony's was), but you gotta respect someone who cared enough about democracy to risk a year in jail just to vote for George W. Bush in the Republican Primary where Bush ran unopposed. Talk about dedication to civic duty!
William Hart, the Police Captain of Londonderry, NH, explained why police are taking this illegal vote seriously: "it's a crime because it goes to the very heart of our democracy." Yeah, you bet it does, Willie. This is what democracy is all about.
3/12/04: Who's not Informed Enough to Vote?
Friday, the San Francisco NPR station spent an hour discussing a proposed change in the voting age. California State Senator John Vasconcellos has proposed allowing 16- and 17-year-olds to cast 1/2 of a vote in state elections, and allow 14- and 15-year-olds to cast 1/4 of a vote. Needless to say, many adults are angry about the attempt to give youth even this limited voice in elections. Other adults, however, support this move for society to engage youth and get youth more engaged in society.
One woman called in and argued that 17-year-olds are not informed enough to cast even half-a-vote. She said she was a teacher and therefore knew all about teenagers because of the dozens she had encountered personally. One of the in-studio guests was 17-year-old Robert Reynolds from the National Youth Rights Association. When he was finally allowed to speak, he asked the teacher an interesting question. "You said most teenagers aren't informed and can't even name the mayor of their own city. Could you please tell the audience the name of California's Secretary of State?"
The California Secretary of State is the elected official who runs our elections. He not only appears on the news and in his campaign ads, but his name appears prominently on the cover of the voter information booklet mailed to every California voter before every election to explain the details of each ballot proposition. Even the most uninformed voters usually thumb through this booklet before casting their votes. I can name every Secretary of State California has had since I first registered to vote. And no, I cannot name the mayor of my city.
What was the answer from this teacher who considers teenagers too uninformed to join her in voting? A long pause. Then she said, "Well, you're really putting me on the spot."
BAMM!! Right out of the water!
Another in-studio guest, a Republican media strategist who opposed youth voting, finally put the teacher out of her misery by telling her the correct answer.
This exchange forced every listener to question why this woman should be allowed a full vote while 17-year-old Mr. Reynolds is denied even half-a-vote. Clearly, he was better informed than she. Not all 17-year-olds, of course, are as knowledgeable as Reynolds, and not all middle-agers are as ignorant as this teacher. But if the goal is to have only knowledgeable people voting, why are we using age as the criterion?
Good job, Robert.
3/7/04: T-shirts Promoting Youth Silence
A company run by an active Republican is selling T-shirts to convince youth to stay out of politics. The T-shirt reads "Voting is for old people." The idea is for young people to buy the T-shirt and take pride in political apathy. Urban Outfitters, the company pushing these shirts, is run by Republican Richard Hayne. Since his party's President, George W. Bush, is unpopular with young voters, Hayne wants to suppress the youth vote. (Hayne made the decision when it looked like youth-friendly Howard Dean would be Bush's opponent.)
In the political world, as everywhere else, silence has consequences. When you refuse to stand up for yourself, it invites the bullies to attack. And youth are already the favorite target of America's political bullies.
Young people need to vote — in polling places, in the streets, and at the checkout counter. Urban Outfitters makes our list of companies to boycott. Voting with your money is for all people.
Contact Urban Outfitters and let them know why they won't get your business.
More about the issue here.
2/22/04 : Old Enough to Die but Not to Drink
In Japan, it is legal for 20-year-olds to drink. The U.S. has military bases in Japan. Marine Col. David Darrah has now told the bars near his base not to serve any marines younger than 21.
Marines younger than 21 are risking their lives for freedom, but they are not enjoying any. Instead they are excluded and humiliated, and their own leadership is encouraging it.
Whenever President Bush wants to silence those who criticize his war blunders, he admonishes them to "support the troops." Why isn't Bush supporting the troops? As Commander-in-Chief of our armed forces, Pres. Bush has the authority to fire Col. Darrah. Why isn't Bush standing up for the young men and women who risk their lives to serve his military objectives?
For those thinking of serving in our armed forces, here is one more reason to say no.
2/20/04 : Dividing, Conquering, and Cashing In
One way to keep oppressed people weak is to divide them against each other. That way, you get them hurt without having to do your own dirty work.
Ageist adults in the entertainment business have long taken the opportunity to encourage youth to turn against each other. They make movies and TV shows that depict boys and girls emotionally abusing each other, blackmailing each other, and committing other cruelties — and they depict this cruelty as being cute, something children should emulate to charm the adults and win approval.
Now hateful adults are promoting division through clothing. A company is making t-shirts, which they market to girls, encouraging hatred and violence against boys. Cartoon images accompany captions such as "Boys are stupid; throw rocks at them." These shirts encourage girls to laugh at boys being physically injured or even maimed.
This article exposes the problem but unfortunately twists the issue to attack feminism and "permissiveness." This is wrong. The problem is not that girls have too much freedom in clothing. Girls and boys have too little freedom, which leads to the sort of frustration a girl might vent by wearing these shirts. The problem is not feminism, either. No real feminist would support t-shirts encouraging hatred based on gender. The problem is hateful adults who want to turn youth against one another.
The solution is not for adults to bully girls into wearing different shirts. The solution is for youth and caring adults to tell stores we don't want them to sell hatred and we don't want them to sell anything manufactured by companies that do. Stores need to boycott companies like David and Goliath (the company that makes these t-shirts), or we will boycott the stores. Our money will not be used to promote hate.
2/8/04: An Age Limit on Health
In California, some youths who cannot obtain alcohol have resorted to abusing cough medicine. The high from cough medicine is not all that pleasant, the abuse makes the abuser sick, and people seldom try this more than once. But some have suffered from abusing cough medicine. So what are politicians doing about this problem? That's right. California legislators are debating a bill to put an age limit on over-the-counter medicine.
If these politicians have their way, youth will soon find getting medicine as difficult as getting liquor.
Rather than forcing youth to stay sick, wouldn't it be better to simply repeal the age-limit on beer and wine? It's not as if 12-year-olds are going to drive drunk. A 14-year-old who is drunk out of his mind is still less likely to hurt anyone than a 40-year-old driving back to work from a two-martini lunch.
Better yet, why not allow youth to live an enjoyable life so they won't feel so desperate to escape reality? Why not actually enforce laws against child abuse? Why not fire teachers who humiliate their students? Why not offer youth enjoyable places to spend their hours?
It is immoral to make a person's life miserable and then punish him for trying to escape reality for a brief moment. By depriving youth of medicine, California will make reality even more unbearable for youth and will drive even more youth to struggle for diversions from this reality.
1/29/04: a Peek at John Kerry's America
Moveon.org has put together a TV ad they wanted to run during the Superbowl. CBS refused to run it because it criticizes Pres. Bush, but it looks to us like an even better critique of John Kerry's goal for America.
Watch the ad at http://www.moveon.org/cbs/ad.
1/22/04: Bush's State of the Union
In this election season, Democrats have been attacking Pres. Bush, so it seems only fair Bush would use his State of the Union address to punch back. But instead of attacking Democrats, Bush attacked youth.
Bush demanded the government set aside money for schools to drug-test all students. He did not request drug-testing for teachers or administrators or, for that matter, politicians. But young Americans, who statistically use far less drugs than adults, are to be humiliated and insulted. Treated as suspects simply because of their age, youth are to urinate into a cup, witnessed by an adult in some cases.
Bush also, following Clinton's example, questioned the sexual morality of young Americans. Bush did not question the sexual morality of adults. Adults are above judgment, in Bush's eyes, but youth need to clean up their act. Bush declared schools must lecture that "Abstinence for young people is the only certain way to avoid sexually-transmitted diseases."
Why abstinence "for young people"? Doesn't abstinence work for old people, too?
Bush specifies young people because otherwise middle-agers in his audience might think he was lecturing them, he was judging them, he was meddling in their private business. Offended middle-agers would vote against him. Like John Kerry and Bill Clinton, George W. Bush will not openly attack those who can vote, so when he is angry or scared or defensive, he lashes out at those who cannot vote. He hopes the rest of us won't care about youth or that we hate youth and will enjoy seeing them attacked. Bush is like the schoolyard bully who cannot pick on people his own size so he picks on the smaller children.
America deserves better leadership.
(By the way, these abstinence programs have failed to increase abstinence, as discussed here.)
1/15/04: "Impressionable Youth" Prove Hard to Impress
Instead of trying to manipulate youth with propaganda, why don't they simply try education? Our schools are supposed to educate. That means laying out facts objectively. But too many politicians, wanting to make voters feel warm and fuzzy, use the classrooms to lecture youth to clean up their act. Abstinence-only sex ed classes were imposed by Bill Clinton, who wanted to show voters he was dedicated to sexual purity (without actually having to be sexually pure himself). George W. Bush increased the amount of federal money that is taken away from education and applied instead to abstinence classes. What results have these classes gotten? See for yourself.
Politicians impose restrictions on youth and justify it by claiming youth are impressionable. Then, they institute programs designed to manipulate impressionable youth, and they fail. Isn't it time to admt politicians don't know what they are talking about when they say youth are impressionable?