Photo by Edward F. Palm)

About Me

My photo
Forest, Virginia, United States
A long time ago, my sophomore English teacher, Father William Campbell, saw something in my writing and predicted that I would someday become a newspaper columnist. He suggested the perfect title for my column--"Leaves of the Palm." Now that I have a little extra time on my hands I've decided to put Father Campbell's prediction to the test. I'm going to start using this blog site not just to reprint opinion pieces I've published elsewhere but to try to get more of my ideas and opinions out there. Feedback is welcome. To find out more about me, please check out my Web site: www.EdwardFPalm.com (Click on any of the photos below for an enlarged view.)

Monday, March 31, 2014

My Column for March 2, 2014

ED PALM | The bad taste of halazone is back

By Ed Palm
Saturday, March 1, 2014 

If that proverbial road to hell is indeed paved with good intentions, our troops and our teachers must feel that they’re almost there.

As I was checking out at Walgreens recently, the clerk asked me if I wanted to donate a pack of chewing gum to the troops. “Yes, Bazooka Bubble Gum!” I should have replied.
Seriously? This is Walgreens' idea of supporting the troops?

The gum-for-the-troops gaffe reminds me of the great Kool-Aid crusade from my time in Vietnam. We purified our water with halazone, which gave it an iodine taste. Some shortsighted soldier or Marine asked the folks back home to send him packets of Kool-Aid to mask the taste of halazone, and the word spread like wildfire. In short order, we were inundated with packets of Kool-Aid from family, friends, and strangers. All well and good — except that Kool-Aid and halazone tasted even worse than water and halazone alone.

Curmudgeon that I am, I also have to take issue with a recent TV commercial for the Wounded Warrior Project. It’s narrated by Mark Wahlberg and features a blind veteran who is properly grateful for the project’s help. I have no quarrel with the Wounded Warrior Project; I’m glad they’re there to pick up the slack. It’s just that I have this retrograde, liberal conviction that the government that sends you out to get wounded should bear complete responsibility for your rehabilitation.

Probably the most pernicious falsehood about our all-volunteer force — embraced and exploited by the likes of Cheney and Rumsfeld — is that today’s volunteers are “warriors” in the stoical, cavalier sense of the term. Our troops are soldiers, not warriors. Most didn’t enlist in search of a good war — or, failing that, any war we’ve got. If you believe our troops are all hardened professionals, I have another important book for you: David Finkel’s “The Good Soldiers.” It’s the prequel to the book I touted before: Finkel’s “Thank You for Your Service. Read “The Good Soldiers” to discover how and why good soldiers like Adam Schumann were left psychologically broken by their war experiences.
The other thing that has brought out the curmudgeon in me lately has been the Sun’s six-part series on the “intersections of race and school discipline.” It’s not that the Sun did a bad job. To the contrary, I thought the series was thoughtful and reasonably well-balanced. My concern is that the Departments of Education and Justice, in invoking the specter of discrimination, are only exacerbating the racial divide in America.

The attitudes of some of the Sun’s well-meaning sources reminded of an old French proverb: “To understand all is to forgive all.” I was also reminded of one of the classic logical fallacies: post hoc, ergo propter hoc, meaning “after this, therefore because of this.” The fact that students of color are disproportionately disciplined in our schools is not proof that they are being discriminated against or that the individuals concerned didn’t merit the degree of punishment they received.

From firsthand experience, I know that a teacher who expects bad behavior from students, black or white, is likely to get it. And, as the Sun’s editorial board pointed out, arbitrary “zero-tolerance” policies that leave no room for teachers and principals to exercise independent judgment were always a bad idea. But, by the same token, our schools have to be evenhanded in disciplining black and white students lest they foster resentment and reinforce racist attitudes. To understand all is not to forgive all, and there is some truth to the adage, “Elastic rules are a poor man’s tools.”

In all fairness, racist presumptions may in part account for the disproportionate number of black students being disciplined in our schools, but the problem goes deeper than the need for a little cultural sensitivity.

As black leaders on both sides of the political spectrum — most notably Bill Cosby and the Rev. Jesse Jackson — have complained, there is a subculture in the black community that discourages academic achievement and reinforces resentment and acting out against white authority. Some 72 percent of black children are raised in single-parent homes — many living in poverty, and without positive role models, in crime-infested neighborhoods. Until we can ameliorate these problems, it stands to reason that black students overall are not going to achieve or behave as well as white students, 23 percent of whom are now being raised in single-parent homes. Success in America requires the ability to swim in the cultural mainstream.

Education is too important to be left to educational theorists. The problem is that Pollyannaish ideologues armored in their good intentions predominate in departments of education. They have principals and teachers running scared. Political correctness is trumping common sense. If you doubt that, look back at the Sun’s coverage of the recent Claudia Alves controversy in Poulsbo.

No comments: