1st and Five: The Weekly Tendown, A Special Halfdown May 30-June 5 2010

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Dear Internet:

Jason Bateman and Dustin Hoffman get their makeout on for the Kiss Cam.

I got nothin'.

Let's do some Tendown 29!

First: You Can't Be Neutral on a Moving Train

The LA School District this week announced that the Arizona Show Your Papers law would become part of the civics curriculum.  Although the passed provison was facially neutral - commentary by the school board President suggested that the Arizona law was "anti-American" - and in the linked piece, law professor Jonathan Turley expressed concern that the way it might be presented in class might be slanted:

I have long supported schools incorporating such public issues into civics discussion to tie foundational principles to contemporary examples. Arizona’s law could make for some interesting debate and thought-provoking questions. However, only if it is taught in a neutral way and elicits discussion on both perspectives — not just opposition to the law. The message from the board appears to be that the classes should characterize the law as akin to racism and anti-Semitism. That would seem more like indoctrination than education.

This is, let me suggest, trickier than Turley presents.

Should every issue be presented in a neutral way?  Is it possible to do so?

Understandably, we want to lurch toward an idea of fairness - ideas aren't math problems, there isn't a "correct" answer to the question "is the show your papers law anti-American" in the way that we know 2+2=4 (or in the way we know that evolution is true; which adds another plank to this discussion; "teach the controversy" has become the creationist mantra for the past couple of decades - it was the position taken by Bush 43, that "both sides" of the evolution "debate" should be taught - as if the two possibilities of human existence were (1) the best analysis of the facts as currently knowable to us or (2) Genesis.  Oh...just briefly, the reason Christians really, and I mean really don't want that "controversy" taught - is we'd have to apply the same standard of rigor in evaluating evidence to creationism as we do toward actual science - and that would be a bit of a massacre. No one really argues that 2+2=7 or that Thursday comes before Wednesday should receive equal time; we could collectively decide that "facts do not exist" in a post-Foucaldian fashion should be a greater element of public school education - but it would make it kinda difficult to grade papers.  Certainly would have helped my Chemistry grade junior year:

The atomic weights of oxygen and of carbon are 16.0 and 12.0, respectively. How much heavier is the oxygen atom in relation to carbon?

Correct Solution: Atomic weights represent the relative masses of different kinds of atoms. This means that the atom of oxygen has a mass that is 16/12 = 4/3 ≈ 1.33 as great as the mass of a carbon atom.

My Answer: 4

But if my answer is motivated by my sincerely held belief that Avogadro's number is merely a secular theory designed to strip me of my religious heritage; one that would later lead to the extermination of the Jews in the Holocaust, then clearly I should have gotten credit; otherwise I am being denied my religious liberty.  Sort of like the recent argument from military chaplains that repealing Don't Ask Don't Tell would be infringing upon their free exercise right to discriminate against gays.)

Which sort of gets us to the right spot.

We can agree, you and I and Professor Turley, that a math teacher should teach that 1+1=2 without room for much interpretation.

Let's put that on one end.  I'd suggest to you gravity, the heliocentric universe and evolution are pretty near that end.

On the extreme other end, there are some matters that we can largely agree are matters solely of taste.  Cake is better than pie.  Vanilla is better than chocolate.  Unlikely we want to teach those things as matters which are knowable.   

Where's the Holocaust on that scale?  Not "did it happen" - but "what does it mean"?

Or slavery?  Is the role of the instructor to look to have a balanced discussion about the merits of genocide? 

Turley, even as he's saying that a condemnation of the Show Your Papers law would be an inappropriate use of the classroom puts that law in contrast with racism and anti Semitism; by clear implication, Turley is saying that racism isn't a matter of opinion, that it is a clear wrong, should be taught as a clear wrong - that racism looks more like math than like dessert preference.

Once we move from a position that the job of the instructor is total neutrality about matters not factual we open the door to interpretation.  If Professor Turley takes for himself the ability to say the Holocaust was an atrocity - or that the conception of slavery, placing one man in a legally subordinate position to another man based solely on race, was "anti-American", given the stated comittment in our founding documents to the principle of all men being created equal - then presumably ideas are not all to be presented neutrally - ideas are presented in the manner in which they are most reasonably understood.

I'd argue that the most reasonable way to view Show Your Papers is that it's anti-American; that the essence of our criminal justice system is we place a burden not to prove innocence - but to prove guilt.  The reason we have a 4th Amendment is to make the government demonstrate good cause before accusing us of crimes; if the government wants to come into my house to investigate me, it needs something more than just suspicion; it needs probable cause.  We don't like in a country where the police pull your car over just to do.  We don't live in a country where, if you're walking down the street, you'd better have an ID at the ready.

Or at least we didn't used to.  This is the slippery slope in action.  Twenty years ago, we had a debate about drug testing in high school sports.  The government decided that, despite the language of the 4th Amendment, high school athletes could have their bodies searched, even if there were no suspicion at all of illegal activity.

I'd suggest to you this is anti-American.  I don't need to prove myself innocent.

Ten years ago, after 9-11, there were checkpoints placed in subways, there were patdowns in front of football stadiums.  The government argued that, despite the language of the 4th Amendment, the threat of terrorism required that we could have our property searched, even if there were no suspicion at all of illegal activity.

I'd suggest to you this is anti-American.  I don't need to prove myself innocent.

I shouldn't be allowed to falsely shout fire in a crowded theater, despite first amendment language.  It poses an immediate threat to life.  Okay.  Fair exception.

I shouldn't be allowed to walk onto an airplane without going through a metal detector, despite fourth amendment language.  It poses an immediate threat to life.  Okay.  Fair exception.

Show Your Papers isn't that.  We can have a debate about the level of  "crisis" that undocumented immigration possesses - I'd argue it's fairly small in the universe of current American problems - but there's not a reasonable argument that it's the functional equivalent of getting on an airplane.

And that's not really the point, I recognize - the point is, as an instructor, what is my role - once we open the door and are willing to acknowledge a non-neutrality on ideas like "racism and anti-Semitism" - to what does that lead?

I don't have a good answer.  When it's the Texas School Board officially casting doubt on the separation of church and state, I think it's contrary to the manifest weight of historical evidence, but I get that pretty quickly we hit a whose ox is being gored place.

The problem is, as Howard Zinn observed, "you can't stay neutral on a moving train" - the idea of instructor as neutral arbiter doesn't exist;  we can offer rigorous analysis and offer that analysis from multiple perspectives - but just because multiple views exist, that doesn't mean they are all equally valid.  The ministers linked above are arguing that homosexuality is harmful and sinful - how much class time should that view get?  Should that view be presented neutrally?  Not much more than two generations ago a state like Virginia had a law against interracial marriage.  Would a Los Angeles high school teacher have been out of line by branding it un-American?  90 years ago the Supreme Court ruled that the forced sterilization of those judged mentally incompetent was constitutionally permissible.  What was the level of neutrality required when considering that?  Or Japanese internment?  Or Indian removal?

I get that it's hard; no, I don't have a good place to draw the line - ideas are complicated; if the LA School District had actually taken an official position that the meaning of the Show Your Papers law was anti-American and students should be instructed of such (this didn't happen, as Turley points out) I'd be opposed.  But if an instructor were to argue such, if he were to argue that the slow diminishment of the 4th Amendment over the past 30 years has been anti-American - if he were to point out that Show Your Papers occurs in the same racially charged environment that produced the lightening of the faces in a public school mural:

City Councilman Steve Blair spearheaded a public campaign on his talk show at Prescott radio station KYCA-AM (1490) to remove the mural.

In a broadcast last month, according to the Daily Courier in Prescott, Blair mistakenly complained that the most prominent child in the painting is African-American, saying: "To depict the biggest picture on the building as a Black person, I would have to ask the question: Why?"

I think that's not only a reasonable argument - I think it's the most reasonable way to view the evidence.
I think, I'd guess, that a professor should have something to profess.  That's what I think.

After the jump, the rest of the Tendown (I'll take the offsides penalty, only need 5 this week)

1. Money Can't Buy You Class
The most watched (and best) season of the entire Real Housewives franchise just ended this week - this site offers psychological analyses of a handful of the castmates.  The Countess is diagnosed with Compensatory Narcissistic Personality Disorder, Kelly Bensimon with Paranoid Personality Disorder, and Jill Zarin as a Classic Narcissist.  New York gives way to New Jersey, about which there was a piece in Saturday's NY Post.  Seems like Teresa is 11 million dollars in debt.

Which is presumably not as egregious a moral offense as having being engaged 19 times, but will nonetheless
make its way into Danielle's mouth at some point in the season one assumes. 

Additionally this week, I watched Whip It (which isn't good, but it's not awful - if we're making a list of sports movies...and we are not, we absolutely are not - I'm gonna say it somewhere approximates Remember the Titans.  Maybe a couple notches below) I watched the Informant (which is good, but you can skip it if you'd like; it might make a good double feature with the Talented Mr. Ripley in looking at the Matt Damon filmography) and I watched Crazy Heart - which you should probably see for the quiet parts with Bridges and Gyllenhaal. 

But none of it was as good as this week's episode of Friday Night Lights.  I'll take Matt Saracen this week (one assumes the actor has a name, he's stuck in my head as Matt Saracen) over last year's Best Actor in a Motion Picture winner.  Yes.  Yes I will, yes.  At this point, I'm officially placing Friday Night Lights above both Freaks and Geeks and My So Called Life on the list of high school themed television shows; the career value of FNL given the length of its run now overcomes the peak value of both of those one season and out
perfect slices of culture.  FNL sits now second only to Buffy on the high school tv list - I don't know what the fictional sports TV list would consist the top of my head:

1. Friday Night Lights
2. Sports Night
3. The White Shadow
4. The Slap Maxwell Story

Is there a 5th?  Am I missing something?  Sports themed TV....I don't think the Odd Couple counts (or Cheers, for that matter).  Bay City Blues was bad...hey, I guess my blog was named after 1st and Ten, remember, the Delta Burke sitcom on HBO...hmmm...Arliss...Arliss was not a good show...

Oh, One Tree Hill - yeah, that's enough of a sports show to win.  I'll put it third (this was a bad season; just godawful; the new agent character looks like he's been hit in the face with a board).  Good talk.  (edit - it's Monday AM, I just thought about Eastbound and Down; I'll put it ahead of the Dabney Coleman show now, in the fifth spot, and we'll revisit that in a couple of years).

2. Match of the Year
I also enjoy the graps and have made my way through my entire backlog of wrestling (although I just got this year's Chikara King of Trios and I'm nearing the ROH Mania weekend show I haven't seen).  This week, I got five 4 star matches watched - Miyamoto v. Ito, 4 1/4, from Big Japan-April; Kaz v. Bushi, 4, from All Japan-April, and Davey v. Omega, 4 from PWG-February.

The other two were 4 1/2+, meaning they go into the race for Match of the Year - a race that's at the half way mark now (December of the previous year counts, so we're six months in).  I'll see other events from the first half of 2010, as mentioned, but I've gotten through most of the year thusfar - and here's where we are:

Marufuji v. Devitt (NJ Dec 09) 4 ¾

Go v. Suguira (NOAH Dec 09) 4 ½

Marufuji v. Kanemoto (NJ Mar) 4 ½

Davey v. Ibushi (Evolve Jan) 4 ¾

Yoshikawa/Usuda v. Hidaka/Sawa (Battlearts Feb) 4 ¾

Dick Togo v. BKK (Osaka Feb) 4 ½

Goto v. Nakamura (NJ Apr) 4 ¾

Black v. Strong v. Aries (ROH Apr) 4 ½

Shingo v. Yamato (DGate May) 4 ½

Briscoes v. Wolves (ROH – March) 4 ¾

That's just 10 - last year I had a total of 42 matches at 4 1/2+, so one assumes this list will grow; I don't think I'm watching less wrestling than in 2009.  The last two are the ones I watched this week; my inclination is to say the Davey/Ibushi match is currently the best match of 2010.  Kenta was supposed to return this weekend to meet Marufuji - and I couldn't be looking more forward.

Business Week did a long piece about Vince''s running for Senate.  The money quote is probably this:

"There's some evidence sometimes of muscle disease, or cardiac disease, but it's really hard to know because you didn't know the condition of the performer's heart, or whatever, prior to," she told me. "So I still don't think we know the long-term effects of steroids. They are continuing to study it more and more, but I don't believe there are a lot of studies out there today that are conclusive."

Which is probably true, I'd suggest.  But given the body count in the company of which she was previously CEO I'm uncertain if that's a line of thought that she can safely ride to DC.

3. Google Oil Spill
The McMahons are in the perception management business.  For those of you with just the slightest awareness of WWE programming - the word "wrestling" is virtually never used - or "wrestler" - that's not the brand Vince McMahon has tried to build - when I discuss the best matches of 2010, they are not only matches Vince McMahon has not and never will see, they are with wrestlers he has not ever heard of - Vince McMahon's wrestling reality extends as far as his grasp - WWE owns the tape libraries of many of its former competitors, and they produce historically themed DVDs and books which create what they attempt to make "official histories" of the wrestling industry.  The success of this corporatethink has, I'd suggest, impacted the way in which otherwise dispassionate wrestling fans/journalists/observers think of wrestling quality; think even of what it is a wrestling match should consist.  Occasionally, I'll think that it's akin to Roddy Piper's 80's film They Live, and I'm one of the few wrestling fans wearing the correct sunglasses such that I can see (for example) John Cena's alien face when he's in the ring. 

That's a long way to get to this - BP bought the top google search links for "oil spill" 

Consider that use of funds for a moment.  Every available dollar could go to clean up.

Or some of those dollars could go to controlling perception of that clean up.

The right wing (Love you guys.  Mean it.) has looked to do some of that controlling of perception on the oil spill.  After all, when the Republican Party makes the collective decision to boil down their energy policy to "Drill Baby Drill" you gotta scramble a bit not to get some of the spillage on you.

Yeah, that's right.  The BP oil spill proves Sarah Palin right.  Now do you get it?  Greenies? 

The right wing argued this week that its the environmentalists who are to blame for the oil spill.  Like the first African-american President happens to be a "racist with a deep seated hatred of white people."  Just like that - exactly as sound.  How much of those thoughts deserve neutral expression in class.  How much equal time to "see, Drill Baby Drill is the light and the way and this proves it" and "that black president hates white people" should we allot?

4. A Raghead in the White House
From a South Carolina State Senator this week.:

We already got one raghead in the White House, we don’t need a raghead in the governor’s mansion.

Anti-American or not?  Can we call it such in a high school classroom?  What would be the equivalent statement one could find by a Democratic who holds similar elected office?  While you consider it -

Also from this week, here's a Republican city councilman in Oklahoma City voting against a permit for a gay pride parade:

“I don’t want my vote to be construed as support, because I really don’t support that, the same way that I wouldn’t support a group of, say, pedophiles who wanted to assemble," council member Brian Walters said, according to Oklahoma City's Journal Record. "I would not vote yes on that either, [or] men who beat up their wives. Anything like that.”

And in Louisiana, the start of the Christian Party, with the avowed goal of "putting God back in government."

Because that's really what the United States doesn't have enough (as seen in our stance on Israel this week) religion influencing policy decisions. 

5. From a Trojan, About the Greatest Bruin of All

RIP Coach Wooden

That's it for this time; I'll be back next time.  If there is a next time...

Your pal,



Anonymous said...

Various thoughts on the tendown:

* Really, I'd have thought Bateman could do better. But that's just me.

* I get where you're talking about not having an absolutely true neutral observer. But the second best option, to me is to constantly be debating and challenging the issue, and hope that over time a consensus can be reached.

I'm on the fence on the Arizona Law- Illegal immigration is a serious issue, and I can see the desire to do something about it. The law strikes me as the type that works fines 999 times out of 1000, but that one case that's wrong turns into a nightmare for all involved.

* The oil spill- a pox on both BP and the government; there's enough incompetence to go around on this one.

But here's the thing- we need the energy from somewhere. People don't want to drill for oil in their backyard. They don't want to drill in ANWR. Air and Solar is impacrtical. We've been waiting for fusion for 50 years, but it's still not feasible. No one wants to build fission nuclear power plants. And importing oil gives money to countries and people that have said they want to destroy us- not a good idea.

If drilling that deep in the ocean is too dangerous... ok, let's ban it. But then someone needs to answer the question- "Where's the energy going to come from?"

* That "Raghead" comment- horrible, awful, wretched- and believe it or not, bipartisan. The "governor's office" the jackass is referring to is for Nikki Haley, the GOP frontrunner for Governor.

Blog said...

Could last night's RAW ending be the greatest Sports Entertainment angle of the 21st century?

I'm hoping that this leads to a war between kiddie friendly WWE sports entertainment faction and the "smart" NXT wrestling faction. Will "Mark vs Smark" bring about the next wrestling boom?

Jim said...

I liked it - it's a good way to start an invasion.

Other than Danielson, they don't have anything of interest to smart fans on that side (and not a lot of workers otherwise, which makes for a challenging ongoing program).

But I didn't see it coming, and giving them the benefit of the doubt, maybe the reason for Low Ki being stuck with the divas and Curt Hennig's kid getting the ridiculous name is that they join that angle.

Blog said...

So now they've lost Danielson as well, apparently because he did his job too well. Too bad TNA isn't going live on Mondays anymore...

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