An Inclusive Litany


USA Today reports from Muskogee, Oklahoma, September 25, 1997:
Four special-education students at Howe Public Schools are suing a teacher and the principal, saying they were bound and forced into a shower stall smeared with feces from diapers as part of a lesson on slave ships.

As a novel extension of a program originally intended for physically handicapped students and athletes with scheduling conflicts, the University of Illinois at Chicago has bestowed preference upon minorities not only in the admissions process, but in course selection as well. Last spring, 4,000 minority students were allowed to enroll early, effectively taking seats from other classmates.

After Ventura County, California, air pollution officials received a complaint about smoke rising from the local American Legion meeting hall, they informed Legionnaires that their burning of American flags violated state environmental law. No, the Legionnaires were not protesting anything. Following protocol, they were ceremonially cremating flags that had been worn beyond usefulness and had ended their service.

Irritated Legionnaires discovered a loophole for ceremonial flag-burning under an exemption for "recreational activity," but, unsatisfied with that rather fickle category, sought an exemption specifically for proper flag disposal. Legislation proposed in the state assembly was defeated in committee due to concerns that the exemption ran afoul of the Constitution by endorsing only "respectful and dignified" burning of the flag. As written, the legislation would still permit, if not encourage, environmental sanctions against those who burned the flag in protest.

According to the London Guardian, Scientists in New Zealand have determined that each of the nation's 3.7 million sheep emit almost 5 gallons of methane a day, which some scientists claim contributes to global warming. They determined this in two ways. First, a team of scientists built a tower downwind from a herd of sheep, which they equipped with sensors to measure wind, temperature, and methane emissions. Second, scientists outfitted individual sheep with sensors that fit over their snouts, from which the sheep release 98 percent of the methane they emit. There were no plans to affix sensors to the other end of the animals, from which the remaining 2 percent of gas is passed.

Yet another turn in the campus separatism craze. Yale University has denied the request of five orthodox Jewish students who do not want to live in campus dormitories. The students compare the atmosphere in the dorms to that of Sodom—repellent to their own code of sexual modesty and abstinence—so they sought to opt out of Yale's requirement to live in the dorms, immersed in the "community of scholars." As one astute history professor pointed out, "The university would be in chaos if it bent over backwards to accommodate everyone's sensitivities."

At a special summit meeting in Washington, Vice President Al Gore delivered a speech in which he decried hunger in America. Declaring that "All is not right with America," Gore announced that there are "millions of Americans ... who are simply not getting enough to eat" because they cannot "figure out how to make ends meet, how to get food on the table." What's more, chronic hunger routinely causes children to lay awake at night, tormented by a "sore pain." This problem is "appalling," a "tragedy," a "blight on our nation's soul." Gore concluded, "We cannot stand by and let people in this nation starve." Secretary of Agriculture Dan Glickman likewise determined that one in three children "live in families that do constant battle with hunger" and are "at constant risk of malnutrition and the lifetime of chronic illness that can accompany it."

But the Centers for Disease Control's "National Health and Nutrition Survey" has found no significant nutritional deficiency in any segment of the nation's population. Another CDC report notes that life expectancy is at an all-time high, with infant mortality at a corresponding low point—considerably less than half what it was in 1970. Even the poorest Americans spend a smaller percentage of their income on food than middle-class Europeans. The CDC also notes that obesity is a growing concern, its rate having roughly doubled among children and increased to 35 percent for American adults—up from 25 percent. Other federal statistics consistently establish the prevalence of obesity among poorer Americans. Chronic malnutrition is statistically almost undetectable, and is correlated not so much with poverty but with alcoholism, drug addiction, mental illness, and child abuse.

The study that prompted the hunger summit—what Gore called "the first-ever baseline study of the scope of hunger in America"—was a joint project of the departments of Agriculture and Health and Human Services. However, the authors of the study did not claim it measured hunger per se, since by their estimation, measurements of the "physical sensation caused by a lack of food" do not provide "sensitive indicators" of any problem as it is "primarily experienced in the U.S. context." Instead, a sample of American households was asked 58 questions designed to measure "characteristic affective states"—anxiety and uncertainty—involving food budgets and consumption. At any point in the past 12 months, did you have time to restock the refrigerator before running out of essential goods? Did you ever eat "less than you felt you should," or a low-cost meal for purposes of economy? Bolstering reports of budget anxiety was the fact that the survey was administered from April 16 through April 22, right after tax time. Not surprisingly, the report concluded that there are 11.9 million "food insecure" households in the United States, comprising a whopping 34.7 million citizens living with "resource-constrained hunger"—about one in seven Americans.

Protesting meat consumption as part of its "Summer of the Hot Dog," members of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals picketed the Oscar Mayer Weinermobile at one of the vehicle's stops in San Diego, where it had been sent on a charitable mission to raise money for muscular dystrophy research. According to PETA spokesperson Bruce Friedrich, the Weinermobile "is very, very fun, which is why it's so invidious [sic]. It's selling the idea that eating hot dogs is fun, when in fact it is a violent, bloody business."


After a work by sculptor Sarah Lucas—a working toilet titled The Great Flood—sold for $20,000, it was later loaned to the Institute for Contemporary Arts in London, where art lovers were allowed to flush it but not otherwise use it. However, two exhibit patrons did in fact relieve themselves in the work, an act a curator said represented "the ultimate involvement of the audience."

New York state lawmakers allotted $15,000 for the organizers of the Seneca Lake Whale Watch, an annual festival in the Finger Lakes region in which boaters sail Lake Seneca while pretending to look for whales.

The Associated Press reports from New York City, September 23, 1997:
Fund-raising by parents to pay the salaries of full-time teachers has been banned by the city's schools chancellor, who called the effort unfair to schools in poor communities.

Chancellor Rudy Crew ordered the moratorium Monday, saying parents' groups should not be allowed to fund teachers' jobs in some schools while class sizes continued to grow at others in the nation's largest school system.

The order was prompted by a frantic effort in the affluent Greenwich Village neighborhood last week. Parents learned that officials planned to transfer Lauren Zangara from Public School 41 to a more crowded school and scatter her 26 fourth-grade students among four other classes....

Parents raised the $46,000 salary in cash and pledges in just four days.

The newspaper quoted unidentified school officials as saying that Crew feared the efforts could blur the line between public and private education and allow affluent parents to create schools far better than those in poorer areas. Privately raised money can still be used to help pay for part-time teachers in art, music, and science and for some school supplies. Crew's order does not prohibit schools or parents from seeking corporate donations or grants to pay for full-time teachers.


An Associated Press dispatch from Portland, Maine, September 24, 1997:
Gary Sledzik may have plowed his pickup truck into a toll booth at the Maine Turnpike, but he says police are partly to blame for the crash that killed a New Hampshire woman and her daughter.

Sledzik's lawyer, Anthony Sineni III, has filed a notice of claim with the state Attorney General's Office accusing state police of negligence for not stopping Sledzik even though they received calls that he was driving erratically.

The claim says Sledzik deserves more than $300,000 in damages from the state.

However, Sineni said Tuesday the claim is legal maneuvering, and Sledzik, 44, of Webster, Mass., will not sue the state. Filing the notice of claim simply allows Sledzik to bring in the state police as a co-defendant should the victims' relatives sue Sledzik, Sineni said.

In that event, a jury might find Sledzik and state police at fault, assigning part of the financial damages to the state.


Starting January 1, a doctor who provides medical services to a Medicare-eligible patient without billing Medicare must sign an affidavit to the Secretary of Health and Human Services that he or she will not treat a single Medicare patient for the next two years. Any doctor found treating both Medicare patients and Medicare-eligible private patients will be subject to fines and a possible prison term.

Los Angeles screenwriters are protesting a new city ordinance that requires them, as home workers, to fill out licensing forms on which they must categorize their output as either "retail" or "wholesale," and to submit to inspections of their "workplace."


From "About Plastics," a New York City Department of Sanitation brochure designed to explain the city's recycling program:
Currently, the City recycles PET (Polyethylene Terephalate) and HDPE (High Density Polyethylene) plastics in the form of plastic bottles and jugs ONLY.

Residents are instructed to place all other plastics in the regular trash. PET and HDPE plastics, and all other types of plastic, are usually labeled with a code—recycling arrows with a number inside—on the bottom. This voluntary code, developed by the Society of the Plastics Industry (SPI) and referred to as an SPI code, specifies the type of plastic according to the resin from which it is made.

The City asks residents to separate items for plastic recycling by container type (bottles and jugs) and not by SPI code [1] and [2] because:

  • All HDPE [2] plastics are not the same. Bottles and jugs (containers with the neck smaller than the body) are formed by blow-molding—a bubble of air is blown into the plastic to form its shape. All plastic containers other than bottles and jugs (the neck is larger than the body) are formed by injection-molding—plastic is squirted into a closed mold that is then broken open. Melted injection-molded resin is thin (like water) and melted blow-molded resin is thick (like molasses). If mixed together, the resulting resin is not ideal for either process. Currently, the City does not separate and recycle resin from injection-molded HDPE.

  • Current technology does not enable processors to sort plastics according to SPI codes. Workers would not know which plastics are [1]s and [2]s without picking them up and looking for a code. Inspecting each container as it moves along the conveyer belt would be inefficient and extremely costly.

  • Almost all plastic bottles and jugs are PET [1] or HDPE [2]. However, other kinds of containers are made of various resins; e.g., some ice cream and yogurt containers may be made of HDPE [2] and some may be made of PP [5].

  • 99% of PET and 86% of HDPE containers are produced in the form of bottles and jugs. Therefore, collecting bottles and jugs yields the vast majority of PET and HDPE containers. Even if processors could sort out and recycle all other HDPE and PET containers, asking residents to set out all [1]s and [2]s would not result in the collection of significantly more material.

  • The SPI coding system is voluntary; not all PET and HDPE is labeled.

  • Significant quantities of non-container HDPE plastic is sold in the U.S. in the form of film plastic (e.g., grocery bags). Bags labeled as HDPE or coded [2] would mistakenly end up in recycling containers; they are not recycled and would be a contaminant.

  • It is easier to understand and follow instructions to recycle plastic bottles and jugs than it would be to inspect every type of plastic to find the code.
All [1]s and [2]s that are not bottles and jugs are considered residue and end up in the landfill. THE DEPARTMENT OF SANITATION COLLECTS ONLY PLASTIC BOTTLES AND JUGS FOR RECYCLING.

[Ed.: Plastics recycling often squanders some of the Earth's most precious resources, namely, my time and my patience. Also note that some of the most notorious Superfund sites are plastics recyclers.]

The Environmental Protection Agency has delayed its approval of a proposed plastics plant in the predominantly black southern Louisiana town of Convent—its first ruling based on the recently developed theory of "environmental justice" or "environmental racism," a claim that polluting industries locate themselves in poor and minority areas because their residents are politically powerless to stop them. As EPA Administrator Carol Browner wrote in her decision obstructing plans for Shintech's $700 million facility, "It is essential that minority and low-income communities not be disproportionately subjected to environmental hazards."

But as it turns out, a majority of Convent's residents eagerly favor siting the Shintech plant in their town—73 percent, according to a poll by the local NAACP chapter. Henry Payne reports in the Wall Street Journal that the plant's opponents mostly hail from the town's wealthier middle class. (National black leaders Jesse Jackson and the Rev. Joseph Loury also oppose the plant.)

The plant's siting had already been approved by Louisiana's Department of Environmental Quality, which is charged by the EPA to regulate state industry. It had also been approved specifically as a form of economic affirmative action, under which the state would grant Shintech tax breaks in return for hiring at least 35 percent of its work force from the surrounding population. In addition to the jobs, Shintech would also bring $5.6 million in school revenue.

Local Convent resident Roosevelt Teroud would jump at the chance at a stable job that pays $12 to $15 an hour. Currently, he does backbreaking seasonal work in the town's sugarcane fields for $6 an hour. Sugarcane production entails pesticide-laced agricultural runoffs that pollute the local water. That industry is also federally subsidized for it to be at all profitable.

[Ed.: In 1998 Shintech decided to move to another town that is 30 miles away and is mostly white. Greenpeace, which opposes all polyvinyl plastics production and joined in the environmental racism charge, is expected to challenge the new site as well, but on nonracial grounds.]

Officials at Cal State University, Los Angeles, have decided to arm campus police with Heckler and Koch MP5 semiautomatic submachine guns.


A Supreme Court ruling that requires the broadening of eligibility for affirmative action programs administered by the Small Business Administration will allow an additional 3,000 "socially and economically disadvantaged" contractors to benefit from preferences. Minority groups already covered by the program are reportedly alarmed because, based on the Clinton administration's estimates, the newly qualified firms are likely to be those headed by white women.

Hollywood has released a new movie, G.I. Jane, in which a woman played by Demi Moore undergoes Navy SEAL training. To call the movie a fiction is an understatement, since even an overwhelming majority of men wash out of the physically grueling training regimen. What's more, if you were to call a SEAL a "G.I." rather than a "sailor," he'd probably rip your limbs off.

From a workshop held at the American Bar Association's 1997 convention, a list of ten basic doctrines a lawyer may invoke when reaching a settlement to increase his or her fees, variously referred to as "upward adjustments" and "multipliers":

  • Risk
  • Undesirability
  • Novelty and Difficulty
  • Unpopularity
  • Complex Issues Dealing with a Difficult Adversary
  • Delay
  • Preclusion of Employment
  • Superior Quality of Work
  • Exceptional Results
  • Burden of Justifying Fees

College administrators and the Clinton administration have called for an additional $40 billion to fund student loans for higher education. But there is every sign that subsidized loans have led to increased costs. Student costs at public colleges and universities have risen by 600 percent, well above the rate of inflation, since the Higher Education Act was passed in 1965. For "private" institutions, which rely more heavily on the federal government than their public counterparts, student costs have risen more than 900 percent. Since financial aid is distributed on the basis of "need," the more expensive a school is, the greater the "need" is for students, and the greater schools' incentive to increase prices to attract more federal aid.

Harvard University offers a useful case study. It has a $9 billion endowment—greater than the 1996 budget expenditures of many states—and could provide free education to all its students simply by tapping into the interest from the endowment. But the school has instead increased tuition well above the rate of inflation for the 1997-98 school year. Much of the increased cost for colleges and universities has been due to increases in support staff. Administrators have gone from 15 percent of college employees to 22 percent. The University of Pennsylvania now employs 16,000 full-time employees to educate 18,000 full-time students.

West Virginia convenience-store worker Cheryl Vandevender was awarded $2,699,000 in punitive damages for injuring her back while opening a pickle jar. She received an additional $130,066 in compensation and a $170,000 award for emotional distress, according to the Charleston Daily Mail.

The word "Jesuit" has been excised from the third edition of the Official Scrabble Player's Dictionary because it has, on occasion, been used to describe a scheming person.


In a fit of seventies nostalgia, researchers are once again looking into the possibility that vapor trails left behind by jet airplanes may contribute to global warming and/or ozone depletion.

In an article in City Journal, an exasperated Heather Mac Donald describes a conference of homeless advocates organized by New York's Times Square Business Improvement District. The issue under consideration was how to get the relatively small but conspicuous cluster of Times Square's homeless to respond to the BID's generous outreach program, an innovative $2.5 million beacon program that offered quality shelter, showers, healthy meals, clothing, medical attention, and nearly constant one-on-one attention from dedicated outreach staff working double shifts—all with no strings attached. In other words, given the program's pathetic performance thus far at getting the homeless off the street, "What Do We Do When Homeless People Say 'No'?"

Jack Coleman, former president of Haverford College and of the Edna McConnell Clark Foundation, spoke first. In 1983, Coleman wrote an acclaimed article for New York magazine in which he described living among the homeless for ten days, sparking a minor fad among journalists. Coleman recounted his first moment back home after that harrowing experience, in which he drew a hot bath, lay down in it, and started to cry. Indeed, in telling the story again, Coleman started to cry. He concluded by confessing that he couldn't really claim to have been truly homeless, since he always had change in his pocket with which to call his editor to bail him out.

Next to speak was Mary Ann Gleason, an ex-nun who heads the Washington-based National Coalition for the Homeless, who blamed society's "intolerance of weakness and of the inability to compete in a free market" for causing homelessness. The reason the homeless don't come in off the streets, Gleason said, is that "they don't have meaning in their lives," and they consider the street "the only community they can find." Gleason voiced admiration for Europeans for labeling the homeless the "socially excluded."

Next up was Dr. William Vicic, a "community medicine" specialist at St. Vincent's Hospital and author of Memory of a Homeless Man. Dr. Vicic turned the committee's question around: "Is 'No' from the homeless an answer," he asked dramatically, "or an echo of us and the society we maintain?" the implication being that it is society that says 'No' to the homeless rather than the other way around. "Separatism causes a lot of our problems," he said.

Reverend James A. Forbes Jr., pastor at Manhattan's Riverside Church, also offered his thoughts: "We should value the one gift the homeless bring—the ability to say 'No.' " The "ability to say 'No' is a strength," said Forbes, adding that it was our task to figure out what the homeless are saying "No" to. Forbes concluded by accusing society of a lack of compassion.

Tena Frank, director of homeless services at Lenox Hill Neighborhood House, complained that mainstream value systems regarding work and discipline were simply the way "we get our needs met," just as the homeless get their needs met by using drugs, and our failure to see the similarity "allows us to blame the homeless."

Maria Foscarinis, director of the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty, also spoke. Foscarinis was instrumental in getting the Homeless Assistance Act passed in 1987, which provided federal funds under the premise that homelessness was primarily a housing problem. Speaking before the conference, Foscarinis said that cities have no right to enforce laws outlawing camping or urinating in public because the homeless are "people who literally have no place left to go." "The resources are not there," she said, "to provide an alternative place to sleep or eat."

As was the case with every other speaker, Ms. Foscarinis chose to ignore the very premise of the conference.

In New York City, a meeting of the governor's AIDS advisory panel was interrupted by 20 members of ACT UP, who brandished signs reading "BIGOTRY MUST BE STOPPED," blew whistles and screamed "resign" and "Hodes: pig! Shame!" One protester handcuffed himself to the panelists' table. Even after the police came and arrested the protestors, one panel member circulated a letter demanding Dr. David Hodes's removal from the panel for his "bias, prejudice, and ignorance" as well as for his "outrageous proposals for ending the [AIDS] epidemic." Two other panel members also urged Hodes to resign.

What had Dr. Hodes done? That summer, he recommended to the panel that since "what needs to be prevented is transmission between the infected person and the uninfected person, ... people who are infected should have sex only with other people who are infected."

[Ed.: Unlike every other place in the world, New York officially does not recognize HIV as a sexually transmitted disease, but rather as a blood-borne illness. This gets around a New York law that requires notification of sexual partners for all STDs.]

From a list of new releases at the State University of New York Press:
Ethnomathematics: Challenging Eurocentrism in Mathematics Education; Arthur B. Powell and Marilyn Frankenstein, editors

Presents the emerging field of ethnomathematics from a critical perspective, challenging particular ways in which Eurocentrism permeates mathematics education and mathematics in general.

This collection brings together classic, previously published articles and new research to present the emerging field of ethnomathematics from a critical perspective, challenging particular ways in which Eurocentrism permeates mathematics education. The contributors identify several of the field's broad themes—reconsidering what counts as mathematical knowledge, considering interactions between culture and mathematical knowledge, and uncovering hidden and distorted histories of mathematical knowledge. The book offers a diversity of ethnomathematics perspectives that develop both theoretical and practical issues from various disciplines including mathematics, mathematics education, history, anthropology, cognitive psychology, feminist studies, and African studies written by authors from Brazil, England, Australia, Mozambique, Palestine, Belgium, and the United States.

"This volume brings focus to the issues of access and equity within mathematics and identifies ways to assist teachers in providing quality mathematics to traditionally underserved and underrepresented students. Culturally responsive pedagogy is an area that is sorely lacking given the fact that our nation' s classrooms are becoming increasingly diverse. We cannot have enough work in this area. Such material should be required for teacher preparation as well as professional development."

—Sharon Nelson-Barber, Far West Laboratory for Education Research and Development

"This is a collection of some of the most important papers in ethnomathematics. The authors provide insightful and historical analyses of the development and use of mathematical concepts. Traditionally, this perspective is absent from discussions in mathematics education, yet this book makes a unique contribution to the literature."

—William F. Tate, University of Wisconsin-Madison

Arthur B. Powell is Associate Professor in the Academic Foundations Department at Rutgers University-Newark. He has co-authored Math: A Rich Heritage; translated Sona Geometry: Reflections on the Tradition of Sand Drawings in Africa South of the Equator, and co-translated Sipatsi: Technology, Art and Geometry in Inhambane. Marilyn Frankenstein is Professor at the Center for Applied Language and Mathematics, College of Public and Community Service at the University of Massachusetts, Boston. She has also written Basic Algebra and Relearning Mathematics: A Different Third R-Radical Maths. Together, they are co-founders of the Critical Mathematics Educators Group and members of the Radical Teacher Editorial Collective.


Boston Mayor Thomas Menino placed a statue of Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti—two professed anarchists executed for their part in a 1920 robbery-murder in southeastern Massachusetts—in front of the city's public library. Previously in 1977, on the 50th anniversary of the pair's execution, governor Michael Dukakis issued an official apology for the execution, a decision that was promptly condemned in a vote of the state senate.


When Hamden, Connecticut, school superintendent David Shaw was picked up twice by the police for drunk driving, he pleaded guilty and was hit with a fine and had his license suspended. But when it became clear the press would report embarrassing details of the second arrest—he'd been picked up leaving a pornographic bookstore dressed in what appeared in a police photo to be women's clothing—he proceeded to flee the state "without his Prozac," as the Hartford Courant put it, and made himself unreachable for about two weeks in the midst of the school year.

When Shaw came back, he entered rehab and sued the board for trying to fire him, charging that they failed to treat his alcoholism as a disability. Two months later town officials settled, paying Shaw a reported $240,000. As the town's attorney explained, "Termination would have been difficult under the [Americans with Disabilities Act]."

CNN Interactive, September 7, 1997.
San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown proclaimed Saturday as "Martin McGuinness Day" and gave him the key to the city. "The struggle you are engaged in is a very noble one," Brown said.
[Ed.: Mr. McGuinness is chief negotiator for Sinn Fein, the political wing of the Irish Republican Army.]


A fire that burned 700 acres of forest near Los Angeles was started when an environmentally aware camper dutifully burned his used toilet paper.

USA Today, September 2, 1997:
Jonnie Barr might lose his job, because he brought a men's magazine to work. But it wasn't Playboy, Penthouse or Hustler. The Olympia, Wash., waste water treatment plant operator bought Esquire to work. The city says Esquire is "inappropriate and offensive reading material." Barr says he threw the magazine away but somehow it wound up on the desk of a female co-worker. She complained that the lingerie ads were offensive.