An Inclusive Litany


Two student groups at the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts were denied permission to roast a pig on campus because it may offend vegetarians.


At a school in Inverness, Florida, twelve-year-old Kyle Fredrikson was handcuffed and jailed after he stomped in a puddle and splashed classmates and school officials. He was charged with misdemeanor disruption of school activities.


Following an attack that left two girls injured, John Watkins, Police Minister of New South Wales, Australia, called for a national ban on crossbows. "Crossbows are killing machines—nothing else," said Watkins. "Trafficking in these weapons is as deadly as drugs or guns." Crossbows are already banned in New South Wales. Australia also bans many types of firearm, with strict gun registration and licensure laws.


A Reuters dispatch, May 7, 2003:
Entertainer Ed McMahon reaped a $7 million settlement from several companies he sued for allowing toxic mold to overrun his Los Angeles home and kill his beloved dog, a national mold litigation magazine reported.


A British plan to offer financial incentives for minority police recruit referrals was put on hold following complaints that the practice resembled the "bounties" once offered for escaped slaves.


Connecticut's Wesleyan University announced plans to institute a gender-blind dormitory for incoming students who aren't sure what sex they are.

For much the same reason, the term "co-ed" has been falling out of use on campus. "We don't really use the word 'co-ed,' because 'co-ed' implies one of two genders and a lot of people don't identify with either gender," one transgender student told the Hartford Courant.


Leo Standora, in the New York Daily News, May 15, 2003, demonstrates the perils of a socially constructed reality:
Here's a new study that's bound to send your blood pressure up—and that's the problem.

Updated federal guidelines mean that 45 million more Americans are now considered at risk for high blood pressure because the longtime standard for a healthy reading—120 over 80—has been lowered.

The new guidelines mean a much larger group has a greater chance of heart attack, stroke, kidney damage, blindness and dementia....


The University of Arizona has been warning students that the practice of tossing tortillas into the air at graduation ceremonies might be interpreted as racist.


MSNBC's Ashleigh Banfield, in a speech at Kansas State University, quoted by Matt Moline of the Topeka Capital-Journal, April 24, 2003:
It was a grand and glorious picture that had a lot of people watching, and a lot of advertisers excited about cable TV news, but it wasn't journalism, because I'm not sure Americans are hesitant to do this again—to fight another war, because it looked to them like a courageous and terrific endeavor.

Amarnath Yadav was removed from office as mayor of Gorakhpur, India, after a court ruled that, as an effeminate male eunuch, he was ineligible to run as a female under a preference system for electoral office seekers. This represents the second time someone has been removed from office in India for this reason.


When six-year-old Kevin Long took a plastic butter knife from the lunchroom of Ohio's Struthers Elementary School, officials suspended him for violating the school's weapons ban, and even threatened expulsion. To have the suspension lifted, the boy's parents responded by threatening to have school officials brought up on charges of providing a weapon to a minor.


A Pakistani couple who worked around the clock at their Montreal convenience store were ordered to speak better French to their customers as required by Quebec law. An Anglo-Canadian computer consultant was ordered to post a French version of the website advertising his services even though he knows no French. A Greek immigrant had his truck seized because it said "Bill's Plumbing" on the side, an illegal use of language since he pursued his trade only in Quebec. A mason cutting gravestones was also cited because the epitaphs were not bilingual.

In the midst of California's multibillion-dollar budget deficit, a state and federal task force offered grief therapy to Riverside poultry farmers whose birds were killed in order to halt the spread of Exotic Newcastle Disease.


The Rent Stabilization Board of Berkeley, California, which administers that city's scarce rental housing stock, sponsored a "poetry slam" allowing the city's tenants to rant about their landlords. The winner of the $100 first prize denounced the "platonic master/slave relationship" between landlord and tenant and recalled how his last landlord was so bad that he "chose to be homeless for nine months just to escape the memory."


A workshop organized by the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN, pronounced "glisten") focused on injecting Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) issues into math and science courses in the nation's public schools—not just English, history, and health education courses. As an example of how to "queer" geometry, GLSEN recommends using gay symbols such as the pink triangle to study shapes.

All-female Smith College is removing the words "she" and "her" from its constitution to avoid offending transgendered students.

In her new book, The Language Police, education historian Diane Ravitch examines the process by which potentially offensive ideas are removed from school books and test questions in a process largely determined by a few committees in the disproportionately influential states of California and Texas.

A "bias and sensitivity" panel removed a test essay about patchwork quilts made by 19th-century frontier women because they "objected to the portrayal of women as people who stitch and sew, and who were concerned about preparing for marriage."

A story that featured two young African-American girls—one an athlete and the other a math whiz, who help each other learn new skills—was cited for stereotyping blacks as athletic.

A story about a heroic blind youth who climbed to the top of Mt. McKinley was rejected, both for the implication that blindness is a disability that would that feat more difficult, and because some students from non-mountainous areas might not be able to comprehend a story about the dangers involved. For the same reason, stories with dolphins have been rejected because most students don't live near the sea.

An essay about the varieties of life dwelling in a rotting tree stump was rejected because it compared the stump to an apartment building, which might cause special offense to residents of public housing.

Jews are not depicted as diamond cutters, jewelers, doctors, dentists, lawyers, classical musicians, tailors, or shopkeepers, but perhaps as baseball players.

A story about an Asian-American girl, whose mother is a professor, who plays checkers with her grandfather and brings him pizza was also rejected for three reasons: making the mother a professor perpetuates the "model minority" myth that stereotypes Asians; older people may not be depicted playing checkers; and pizza is junk food.

A passage on the uses and nutritional values of peanuts was removed because some students are allergic to peanuts. Mentions of cakes, candy, doughnuts, french fries, and coffee are replaced with references to more healthful foods such as whole-grain breads, yogurt, and beans.

Even owls are frowned on because Navajos don't like them. Mt. Rushmore doesn't make the cut either, because Lakotas might be offended. While often symbols of pride among African Americans, mentioning the palaces of ancient Egypt is frowned on because they suggest elitism. And of course dinosaurs imply evolution, which offends creationists.


Accepting his Academy Award for best documentary, Michael Moore—director of Bowling for Columbine, an examination of American gun culture using the Littleton, Colorado, school massacre as a launching point—invited his fellow nominees to join him onstage.

"They are here in solidarity with me because we like nonfiction," Moore explained, "and we live in fictitious times. We live in a time where we have fictitious election results that elect a fictitious president. We live in a time where we have a man sending us to war for fictitious reasons, whether it's the fictition [sic] of duct tape or the fictitious [sic] of orange alerts. We are against this war, Mr. Bush. Shame on you, Mr. Bush, shame on you." By the end of Moore's presentation, the audience was loudly booing.

Despite Moore's professed fondness for nonfiction, Daniel Lyons of Forbes notes numerous errors and misrepresentations in the film for which he won the best documentary award:

  • The film depicts Moore walking out of a bank in Traverse City, Michigan, with a gun supposedly provided as a gift for opening an account there. Moore jokes as he walks out, "Here's my first question: do you think it's a little dangerous handing out guns at a bank?" But the entire scene must have been staged, because it's only by purchasing a long-term CD that the gift applies, and even then customers must go to a gun store to pick out the weapon following a required background check conducted through the local sheriff's office.
  • Moore suggests that the two teenagers who perpetuated the Columbine massacre in Littleton, Colorado, were partly influenced by the manufacture of "weapons of mass destruction" at a nearby Lockheed Martin plant. The plant actually makes space-launch vehicles for television satellites.
  • In a survey of American foreign policy, Moore claims the U.S. gave $245 million in aid to Afghanistan's Taliban regime in 2000 and 2001. But the aid actually consisted of food assistance programs administered by the United Nations and non-governmental organizations to relieve an impending famine.
  • Moore recounts a 2000 school shooting in which a six-year old boy found a gun in his uncle's house, brought it to a Flint, Michigan school, and shot and killed a six-year-old girl. Moore surmises that the shooting happened because the boy's mother, Tamarla Owens, had to work 40 miles away at two minimum wage jobs, and had to leave her son in the care of her brother. That is, if it were not for the stringency of the state's welfare-to-work laws, she would have been able to adequately supervise her son and thus prevent the shooting.

    But in fact, the uncle's house at which Owens dropped off her son was a crack house, filled with guns that were often traded for drugs. Tamarla herself was a drug addict who admitted she held down her oldest son so he could be beaten with a belt by two male friends. She also admitted she beat the boy with a belt while sitting on him, after first duct-taping his hands, feet and mouth. So it's unclear what benefit her parental supervision would have provided the boy.

  • Even the film's title, Bowling for Columbine, represents an error. According to initial news reports, the two teenagers who perpetrated the attack had gone to a bowling class the morning of the massacre. But Littleton police say the two students skipped the class the day of their rampage.

A notice that appeared in Massachusetts' Concord Journal, May 1, 2003:
The Musketaquid Earth Day Celebration this Saturday, May 3 is a day to raise our voices for the Earth. The celebration begins at 10 a.m. with the River Ceremony at the Lowell Road Bridge. Music, dance, voice and visual delights introduce the theme Make Way for Wildness and launch the riverbound sculptures called Earth Floats.

Again this year, Turtle, an eight-foot floating sculpture, will speak through the voice of artist C.C. King. Joining King will be a liturgical singer, dancer and actor Ellen Oak. Choreographer Alice Heller will lead a group of dancers representing Musketaquid—the place where the water flows through the grasses—with rhythms by Morwen and Jimi Two Feathers of Earth Drum Council.

King and Oak will offer the words of River and Shore, Water and Land. Musical participants include Dillon Bustin and Voices for the Earth chorus. All are invited to come to the Concord River at 10 a.m., to get grounded with song, performance and water and air, and then bring the spirit of the river up to the boisterous Parade through Concord Center to the Festival at the Emerson Umbrella.

Following the river ceremony join the Giant Puppets Parade. The participatory procession steps off from Lowell Road. Hundreds of giant critters, colorful banners, musicians, and dancers take to the streets of Concord Center to celebrate our place on the planet.

After the parade the festivities continue at the Emerson Umbrella Center for the Arts.... During the Arts & Environment Festival enjoy good food, earthy entertainment and express yourself through art activities....

[Ed.: Amazingly, the piece doesn't mention Henry David Thoreau even once.]