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"Write out of love, write out of instinct, write out of reason. But always for money."
Louis Untermeyer

Weekly Muse
My humble opinion on current events

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 state.

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 settled. 

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 pregnant. 

For her act of murder, Drexler received a 15-year sentence. That was on October 29, 1998. Today, she was released.

So that is what a human life is now worth. A mere 37 months. 

It's good to know.

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