My humble opinion on
November 26, 2001
A Federal Case?
This week, the United States Supreme
Court will consider and debate one of the weightiest, most important
issues of our time. The fate of the country, and maybe even the world,
rests on this one pivotal case. The issue:
Peer grading in elementary schools.
That's right, the same distinguished
and honored body, the highest court in the land, the same court that has
issued countless historical opinions, will decide if little Johnny
should grade little Suzie's math homework.
The case was brought by a mom who sued
her local school district to stop peer grading. Her precious little
boy's self-esteem was damaged because fellow students teased him for a
poor score on a quiz. She pressed the school to stop the peer grading,
but got nowhere, so she literally made a federal case out of it.
Even worse, her cause is supported by
a conservative group, on the grounds that a child's grades are protected
by law under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act. In addition,
the school - indeed, all schools - should stop peer grading because some
parents don't like it. The National Education Association, the liberal
teacher's union, opposes the case, saying that routine, everyday
schoolwork should not be private.
It's not often that I agree with the
NEA, but this time I do. My elementary school practiced peer grading,
from first to eighth grade, and while I didn't enjoy another student
marking my mistakes, I didn't feel violated by it. In fact, it spurred
me to do better. Besides, I felt a certain immature yet smug
satisfaction in circling mistakes made by lesser students.
Of course, that's no argument to be
used in court, which leads to my main problem with this case. Such a
minor issue never should have gotten to the courts in the first place.
It's not the Supreme Court's place, or any other court, to dictate
grading policy to every school district in the nation. Each district
should be free to make its own policy. If enough parents in one district
complain loudly enough to get it changed, fine. The board should
definitely listen and respond to its customers. But there's no reason to
change a policy if just one customer complains. And that one customer
should expect nothing different.
The real problem here is the
entanglement of education and state. Because children are forced to
attend government schools, their lives essentially become the state's
responsibility, at least while the little kiddies are at school. Parents
and children aren't really customers, merely serfs. A parent unhappy
with a school has few options. It's not like a mom can send little
Johnny to another school, unless she can afford to pay for a private
one. She's stuck.
That's no reason to make a federal
case out of peer grading, but it's a great reason for, at the very
least, school vouchers, and at most, a total separation of education and
Liberal Media Bias on Display
My Sunday paper contained a story
about fighting sexual harassment in the workplace. As is now the
unspoken media role for any story dealing with sexual harassment, the
paper included a photo of Anita Hill, who had famously accused Clarence
Thomas of sexual harassment. The caption read: "Anita Hill detailed
workplace harassment against Clarence Thomas."
This is a fine example of liberal
media bias. Note the word "detailed." It implies Hill merely
outlined factual events. It implies Thomas was guilty. Never mind that
her accusations remain to this day unfounded and unproven. Never mind
that the Senate ultimately voted against her and for Thomas.
A copy editor should have deleted that
word and substituted "accused" or "alleged" instead.
But odds are neither the writer nor editor saw nothing wrong or
misleading with the caption.
The paper also ran a photo of Paula
Jones. That caption: "Paula Jones made headlines by filing a
high-profile suit against Bill Clinton." Factually, there is
nothing wrong with that sentence. She did indeed file a lawsuit against
Clinton. But it does not mention that the suit alleged sexual
harassment, and it does not mention that Clinton eventually
There's only so much space, I
understand, and a caption can't tell the whole sordid story, but it's
obvious that the Hill caption implies the conservative is guilty while
leaving out relevant facts from the Jones caption, relevant facts
damaging to the liberal Democrat.
It's either sloppy editing or liberal
bias. Either way, it's shoddy journalism.
Price of Life: 37 Months
Remember Melissa Drexler? On June 6,
1997, while attending her high school prom, she gave birth to a 6-pound,
6-ounce baby boy. In the school bathroom. She then strangled the child
with her bare hands, cut the umbilical cord on a sanitary napkin
disposal bin, and threw the tiny body into the trash can. Then she
returned to the prom. Her then-boyfriend and father of the child
(amazingly, the same person) claimed he didn't know she was
For her act of murder, Drexler
received a 15-year sentence. That was on October 29, 1998. Today, she
So that is what a human life is now
worth. A mere 37 months.
It's good to know.