This week marked the beginning of the spring semester at Kent State, where I teach journalism as a professional in residence. One of the rituals of the first day of class is to go over the syllabus, which, because of required language, reads like a last will and testament.
I spruce it up where I can, and I always include a few thoughts about how we will conduct ourselves for the next 15 weeks:
Whenever you send an email, use proper grammar and punctuation. Also, good manners elevate human exchanges, and they will help you in whatever career you pursue. I’m not worried about this with all of you. In my experience, virtually all students have engaged with respect and thoughtfulness. I recommend this approach as a lifelong practice. ... Every class will be a discussion among writers. Let’s not talk over one another. We will engage with civility, always.
This is an unnecessary reminder, really. As I have learned, civility—which, to me, involves using basic manners—is the currency of most millennials. Every group has its outliers, but if I were forced to choose one group of people to be cooped up with during these long days of winter, I’d pick millennials. So, lucky me, here I am.
Civility matters to me, in large part because of who is excluded with the coarsening. Most thoughtful people don’t want to be yelled at, and they certainly don’t want to feel threatened. They want to be heard.
For about a decade now, I’ve been moderating public discussions on my Facebook wall. We’ve built quite a community by agreeing that we will engage with civility. I block anyone who isn’t willing to do so. My kitchen, my rules.
Every so often, I post a list of guidelines with a photo of our dog, Franklin, looking over a pair of reading glasses. Mock me if you will, but I’m telling you, nothing gets the public’s attention faster than the face of a canine intellectual.
I encourage people to avoid questioning fellow commenters’ intelligence, their capacity to learn or the strength of their family’s gene pool. I also ask them not to correct other people’s spelling or grammar in threads on my wall. As far back as January 2015, I explained that “as the last few months in Washington, D.C., have illustrated, many a fine education is wasted. Learned is not the same as wise.”
My Lord, what I didn’t see coming.
There’s a reason I’m laying out my commitment to civility, and it has everything to do with coverage of recent comments by the president of the United States.
On Jan. 11, Donald Trump sat in the Oval Office and reportedly complained to lawmakers about immigrants from Haiti, El Salvador and the whole continent of Africa.
Some news organizations initially struggled over whether they should quote Trump directly as saying, “Why are we having all these people from shithole countries come here?” He also reportedly suggested the U.S. should bring in more people from Norway, which, not remotely coincidentally, is a lot whiter than Haiti, El Salvador and Africa.
A full 24 hours after this was reported, not one Republican in that room had rebutted this account. By the weekend, though, a couple of them sounded like two kids coordinating their story about how the cat got in the dryer.
Uh-uh, they claimed, Trump didn’t say “hole.” He said “house.” How is that any better? More than a whole day later, and that’s what they came up with. Nothing like the tick-tick-tick of time to reveal a straight-out lie.
It didn’t occur to me that news organizations wouldn’t accurately quote the president’s racist comment until I woke up Friday morning to NPR’s repeatedly referring to it as merely “vulgar.” The story on NPR’s website used “shole.” I was one of many on social media who criticized this decision, and I’m glad that NPR rethought its policy.
Still, too much of the discussion about this is turning on whether we’re letting Trump debase our discourse. This is not the issue at hand, and I say that as someone deeply committed to civility. It’s not our job to protect the American public from the president’s racism.
This is the world we’re in, not the world we want. Our challenge, as Americans who care about this country, is how to combat the former while working to bring about the latter.
Yes, yes, the children are listening.
Could there be any greater incentive than that?
Congressional Republicans breathed new life last year into the all-but-ignored Congressional Review Act, using it to reverse a wide range of Obama administration regulations on the environment, consumer protection and workplace issues.
Now Senate Democrats are trotting out the act to undo a Republican effort to let cable and phone companies meddle with the internet. This particular turnabout is most definitely fair play.
At issue is the Federal Communications Commission’s move not just to repeal the strict net neutrality rules it adopted in 2015, but also to renounce virtually all of the commission’s regulatory authority over broadband internet providers.
Its new “Restoring Internet Freedom” order, adopted last month on a party-line vote, opens the door to the likes of Comcast, AT&T and Verizon giving deep-pocketed websites and services priority access to their customers for a fee. It also lifts the ban on broadband providers blocking or slowing down traffic from legal online sites and services, provided they do so openly. Such steps could cause unprecedented distortion in what has been a free and open internet.
The Restoring Internet Freedom order was a triumph of ideology over sense, sacrificing the interests of internet users and innovators on the altar of deregulatory purity. Some leading broadband providers, recognizing that they got more from the FCC than they’d bargained for, pledged never to use their newfound freedom to interfere online. But that’s not enough.
Ideally, Congress would do something it should have done a decade ago: update federal communications law to give the FCC a mandate and clear authority to protect net neutrality. In the meantime, though, Senate Democrats have gathered more than enough support to force a floor vote on a resolution to reject the new FCC order and bar any similar deregulation for 10 years. In fact, they’ve lined up 50 senators in favor of the resolution, including one Republican, Susan Collins of Maine. That’s just one short of passage.
The prospects are dimmer in the House, where Republicans seem to rank deregulation in the pantheon with Mom and apple pie. Still, the fierce public backlash to the FCC’s order is powering a multi-front effort to repeal it, including lawsuits (one of which was filed Tuesday by the attorneys general of California, 20 other states and the District of Columbia) and proposals for state net neutrality laws in California and elsewhere.
Although the FCC’s abdication invites states to wade in, no one should be eager for a patchwork of state neutrality rules. That’s all the more reason for Congress to step up. Lawmakers should reject the FCC’s latest rule and preserve the qualities that have made the internet what it is today.
—Los Angeles Times
Peck stuck in the past with his attack on crows
With his latest column (Sunday, Page 6B), Ted Peck exposes his outdated biases and willingness to rationalize killing for fun and simple destruction, stating crows “carry” the West Nile Virus and maliciously labeling them “dirty pests.” While crows, like other birds, can contract West Nile, insinuating they spread the disease is nothing more than fake news. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states that the virus is spread by mosquitoes, period.
Crows are known for their intelligence, communication, use of tools, and they mate for life. In addition to vultures, eagles, hawks, owls and other birds and mammals, they eat carrion, which actually benefits the ecosystem. Peck’s trigger-happy promotion of “disease mitigation” is erroneous nonsense. Not only is proof of contamination lacking, experts say this practice controls the spread of disease.
While Peck has demonstrated he can write the occasional gem, he too often proves himself to be happily stuck in a past that many have grown to understand is no longer ethical, despite what the law allows.
He shamelessly indicates a yearning for the rampant carnage of wildlife from previous centuries. Hunting for food is reasonable, but Peck’s assertion that crows are filthy disease-spreading pests is simply a lame, flawed excuse for having a “hoot” blasting them out of existence.
Due to a rare departure from monotonously narrow subject matter and, worse, his backward-thinking archaic promotion of practices better left behind decades ago, surely The Gazette can find someone who writes a more principled, diverse wildlife column, such as Duncan Pledger did. A change is long overdue.
Here’s how to finally make Milwaukee Street right
Do you remember Milwaukee Street in the 1940s and ’50s with its slow, inefficient two-way traffic pattern? Then the three-lane, narrow, dangerous one-way raceway known as the circuit?
Now we have a meandering, two-way cow path that causes drivers to weave back and forth like an OWI driver.
Isn’t it time to change the traffic pattern on Milwaukee Street into a correctly done project?
1) Make two wide lanes from Atwood Avenue to Centerway.
2) Create curbside left-turn lanes at all appropriate intersections.
3) Allow on-street parking on both sides of the street as prudent.
It is simple, safe, cost efficient and correct.
LEONARD W. KOTWITZ
Marquette professor punished for defending free speech
Alas, in our present political climate wherein political correctness has become enforced groupthink and common sense has become endangered and dangerous, one of our prestigious private schools, Marquette University, has entered the 21st century proudly maintaining the Catholic Church’s centuries-old tradition of silencing, nay, vigorously punishing dissent.
Let us all be grateful the Church can no longer burn heretics at the stake as it did Jan Hus or threaten brilliant thinkers with torture as it did Galileo. However, Marquette has done its best to castigate now-former professor John McAdams for defending a student’s right to disagree.
In 2014, a student in an ethics class taught by Cheryl Abbate dared to dispute Abbate’s approval of same sex marriage. Really? An ethics class of all things, and the teacher slams down all discussion posthaste and with a vengeance!
McAdams was subsequently fired because he wrote a blog criticizing Abbate’s silencing of the aforementioned student. Marquette’s president, Michael Lovell, gave McAdams an ultimatum: Apologize or be suspended without pay indefinitely. McAdams did not apologize. While the school, as a private institution, is apparently entitled to disregard First Amendment rights, Marquette guarantees academic freedom to its tenured faculty.
Consequently, McAdams sued, and last May a Wisconsin trial court ruled in favor of the school. However, McAdams has appealed, hoping his case will be accepted by the state Supreme Court.
I pray the court takes the case and has the wisdom to decide in McAdams’ favor.
HESPERUS L. SPOONER