....LMB: "They Don't Need No Education"....

January 19, 2003

Lot of talk about affirmative action again. Why? Because of President Bush. Students at the University of Michigan have filed a lawsuit against the school for its affirmative action admissions policies, and in a fairly rare move, the White House filed a brief with the Supreme Court, who is about to hear the case. The brief opposes affirmative action.

Why would Bush & co. do this?

My thoughts: 1) a reverse "wag the dog" ploy, distracting the public from international issues (like the war) with a debate about domestic policy; 2) reassure conservatives that the White House hasn't forgotten its roots in the wake of the Trent Lott scandal; 3) win back the lost bigot vote by supporting a policy stance that can easily be interpretted as racist.

Liberals are actually coming back swinging with a semi-effective tactic. When conservatives argue that "affirmative action" and "quotas" are unfair, liberals are coutnering with "neither are legacy admissions." "Legacy" is a term that means "we let this student into the school because one of his relatives went to this school." And the liberals are right, it's not fair. Your aunt went to Harvard so you should get to go too? What kind of logic is that? Unfortunately, the argument doesn't try to justify affirmative action at all. As a political tactic, it's quite good. As a debate strategy, not very.

Conservatives are often fond of justifying their opposition to affirmative action by quoting Martin Luther King's famous statement about people being judged "not be judged by the color of their skins but bythe content of their character." Therefore the modern exemplar of civil rights and black struggle is on their side. But when you examine his views more thoroughly instead of grabbing a single quote, MLK certainly seems to have been in favor of affirmative action. That link there has many longer quotes by King, and answers to specific questions about some sort of "preferences" and reparations, and King argues in their favor (perhaps most explicitly in "A society that has done something special against the Negro for hundreds of years must now do something special for the Negro"). But, to be fair, here is an article which claims that King was not so much in favor of race-based preferences/reparation/aid as he was in favor of these policies color-blindly aiding people living in poverty. I think the author's argument is weak, but you can see for yourself.

I wrote a column in my old college newspaper that touched on affirmative action, and I got a response from a conservative who actually brought up a good point and something of an alternative solution. Her comment went something like "why do we wait until minorities turn 18 and are entering college to help them out? Why don't we improve their elementary and high schools?"

Excellent point, really. Let's educate everyone a little better. Or hell, a lot better, whether we re-think affirmative action or not. American schools are terrible. I'll talk about that in detail one of these days.

The reason that affirmative action and college admission are important is that a college education, whether you learn a single fact or not, is frequently a gateway to a well-paying career, no matter what your race. So it's almost like people of all races are fighting each other for a middle to upper class future. For middle class kids (generally more white than non-white), this means fearing a drop in their quality of life. For poorer kids (generally more non-white than white), this means fearing their only opportunity for a better life. And the reason for this anxiety is due to the exclusivity of college admissions.

But why the hell are colleges hard to get into? Why the hell do they try to accept only the smartest people? Why shouldn't everyone be welcome to continue their learning, regardless of what their high school grades were? Hell, couldn't you make a case that only the dumbest kids should get into college, to try to give everyone the amount of schooling they need to survive and succeed?

Maybe there is competition for college acceptance because there are a limited number of colleges in the U.S. Then build some more! Build enough colleges to accomodate the demand for education! There's no goddam reason we need to be fighting each other to learn.

But then again, [insert something about how colleges are specifically set up this way to insert necessary capitalist stratification into society, a goal that has nothing to do with education].

Posted by Jake at 12:18 AM

you contribute to the myth that all public schools are terrible with your blind acceptance and your statements. read 'manufacture crisis' and you may learn that while public schools have many problems and terrible schools, the system itself does much better today than it did in any of the so-called "golden eras" of public schools. compare public schools today with any time and your will see graduation rates higher, drop-out rates lower and in a time when the public schools have been asked to take on and handle hundreds of social problems never attempted by public schools of the 40's and 50's or by the elite private schools with which public schools today are so wrongfully compared. i look forward to your commentary on today's public schools, because if it is fair and not just a rehashing of tire myths and urban legends, then your commentary should vindicate the public school system from twenty years of falsehoods.

Posted by: raymond at January 20, 2003 06:16 AM

Please note that Bush supports giving more tax dollars to "black" colleges (how much promised vs actually given?) so we can assume he really does care about helping minorities. As long as they don't presume to attend "white" schools, that is.

Raymond, public schools are nothing more than social institutions. I have never understood why we don't prioritize real, continuing education and at least minimal health care for every citizen. Don't the elites undestand it's in their interest too, to have healthy citizen/voters making educated decisions instead of munching fried fat chips while transfixed by their favorite HDTV reality show?

Hah! I really am a cynic aren't I?

"Rarely is the questioned asked: Is our children learning?" óGeorge W. Bush, Florence, S.C., Jan. 11, 2000

Posted by: wfeather at January 20, 2003 09:32 AM

No, affirmative action is far from perfect. It's a liberal band-aid to a greater problem. But I seriously doubt that many conservatives are really concerned about A.A. being "degrading" to minorities.

Posted by: Eric at January 22, 2003 09:58 AM
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Media News

December 01, 2004

Media Mambo

The Great Indecency Hoax- last week, we wrote about how the "massive outcry" to the FCC about a racy Fox TV segment amounted to letters from 20 people. This week, we look at the newest media scandal, the infamous "naked back" commercial. On Monday Night Football, last week, ABC aired an ad for it's popular "Desperate Housewives" TV show, in which one of the actresses from the show attempted to seduce a football player by removing the towel she was wearing to bare her body to him. All the audience saw, however, was her back. No tits, no ass, no crotch, just her back.

No one complained.

The next Wednesday, Rush Limbaugh told his shocked viewers how the woman had appeard in the commercial "buck naked".

Then, the FCC received 50,000 complaints. How many of them actually saw this commercial is anyone's guess.

The article also shows the amazing statistics that although the Right is pretending that the "22% of Americans voted based on 'moral values'" statistic shows the return of the Moral Majority, this is actually a huge drop from the 35% who said that in the 2000 election or the 40% who said that in 1996 (when alleged pervert Bill Clinton was re-elected). This fact is so important I'm going to mention it over in the main news section too.

Brian Williams may surprise America- Tom Brokaw's replacement anchor, Brian Williams, dismissed the impact of blogs by saying that bloggers are "on an equal footing with someone in a bathroom with a modem." Which is really funny, coming out of the mouth of a dude who's idea of journalism is to read words out loud off a teleprompter. Seriously, if parrots were literate, Brian Williams would be reporting live from the line outside the soup kitchen.

In related news, Tom Brokaw has quit NBC Nightly News, and it appears that unlike his predecessor, the new guy can speak without slurring words like a drunk.

PR Meets Psy-Ops in War on Terror- in February of 2002, Donald Rumsfeld announced the creation of the Office of Strategic Influence, a new department that would fight the war on terror through misinformation, especially by lying to journalists. Journalists were so up in arms about this that the Pentagon agreed to scrap the program.

Don't you think that an agency designed to lie to the public might lie about being shut down, too?

This article gives some examples about the US military lying to the press for propaganda and disinformation purposes.

Tavis Smiley leaving NPR in December- African-American talk show host Tavis Smiley is opting to not renew his daily talk show on National Public Radio. He criticized his former employers for failing to: "meaningfully reach out to a broad spectrum of Americans who would benefit from public radio but simply donít know it exists or what it offers ... In the most multicultural, multi-ethnic and multiracial America ever, I believe that NPR can and must do better in the future." He's 100% correct. NPR is white. Polar bear eating a marshmallow at the mayonaise factory white. And the reason it's so white is that it is trying to maintain an affluent listener base (premoniantly older white folks) who will donate money to their stations. This is a great paradox of American public broadcasting, that they have a mandate to express neglected viewpoints and serve marginalized communities, but those folks can't donate money in the amounts that the stations would like to see.

U.S. Muslim Cable TV Channel Aims to Build Bridges- it sounds more positive than it is "Bridges TV" seems to simultaneously be a cable channel pursuing an affluent American Muslim demographic, and a way of building understanding and tolerance among American non-Muslims who might happen to watch the channel's programming. I was hoping it would be aimed more at Muslim's worldwide, but it ain't. Still, I'd be interested in seeing how their news programs cover the issues.

Every Damned Weblog Post Ever- it's funny cuz it's true.

Wikipedia Creators Move Into News- Wikipedia is a free online encyclopedia, created collectively by thousands of contributors. It's one of those non-profit, decentralized, collective, public projects that show how good the internet can be. Now, the Wikipedia founders are working on a similar project to create a collaborative news portal, with original content. Honestly, it's quite similar to IndyMedia sites (which reminds me, happy 5th birthday, IndyMedia!). I'll admit, I'm a bit skeptical about the Wikinews project, though. IndyMedia sites work because they're local, focused on certain lefty issues, and they're run by activists invested in their beliefs. I'm not sure what would drive Wikinews or how it would hang together.

CBS, NBC ban church ad inviting gays- the United Church of Christ created a TV ad which touts the church's inclusion, even implying that they accept homosexuals into their congregation. Both CBS and NBC are refusing to air the ad. This is not too surprising, as many Americans are uncomfortable about homosexuality, and because TV networks are utter cowards. But CBS' explanation for the ban was odd:

"Because this commercial touches on the exclusion of gay couples...and the fact that the executive branch has recently proposed a Constitutional amendment to define marriage as a union between a man and a woman, this spot is unacceptable for broadcast."

Whoa, what? First of all, the ad does not mention marriage at all. Second, since when do positions opposite of the Executive Branch constitute "unacceptable"? This doesn't sound like "we're not airing this because it's controversial", this sounds like "we're afraid of what the President might say."

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