Archive for June, 2019

Michigan Social Studies Curriculum

Michigan Social Studies Curriculum

To be clear: I’m proud of our nation, our history, and especially our ideals. I am proud to be an American. But some of the things we do just mystify me.

This past week the Michigan Board of Education approved an update to the curriculum for social science studies in Michigan. There was some controversy. Initially, some standards proposed by conservatives hewed too closely to their unique views of the world. Those were cut back, but the standards approved by the Board have been assailed as inaccurate and anti-Christian. It all seems like an excellent prompt for a classroom of young minds to learn civil discourse and critical thinking. But unfortunately it’s mostly a crude game for political points.

Honestly, I wouldn’t be reacting (overreacting?) to all this in a normal week. But this is the week that The New York Times decided it would no longer run political cartoons. A brief backstory: In April, a Times editor decided to run a syndicated cartoon in its international edition depicting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as a guide dog wearing a Star of David collar tag and leading a blind, yarmulke-wearing President Trump. It was widely seen as anti-Semitic. Because it was.

The Times appropriately apologized and promised corrective action. First, they over-corrected by announcing they would no longer use syndicated cartoons. Then this week they WAY over-corrected sacking their staff cartoonists, the brilliant Patrick Chappatte and Heng Kim Song, to bring the international edition “…into line with the domestic paper by ending daily political cartoons.” (The flagship Times paper famously and inexplicably has not had a daily cartoonist for decades.)

There are much deeper weeds for me to get into here, but I don’t want to drag you all down into the specifics of my obvious self-interest. Let me just say this: When political points or job safety become more important than thoughtful discussion, we become less American (or at least the kind of American we ought to be).

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Rising Lake Levels

Rising Lake Levels

I see that Hulu has new mini-series of the Joseph Heller novel, Catch-22. It looks intriguing, but I don’t know if I’ll check it out. First, my Hulu/Netflix/Amazon queue is already impossibly backlogged. Second, it’s summer in Michigan for godsake — there will be plenty of winter for screen-based entertainment. But mostly because I read Catch-22 at exactly the right time in my life, as a 17 year-old primed and ready to learn just how ludicrous the world can be. I don’t want to mess with the perfect picture in my head.

For those of you unfamiliar with the term Catch-22 or in need of a refresher, I can explain it this way: Say the president of your country tells lies. He or she (let’s go with “he” for simplicity here) says and even tweets things that are demonstrably not true. A lot. Like, a staggering amount of times.

Now say you’re a journalist, a real one with training and ethics and everything. All this lying is a problem. He’s the elected leader of the country! So you do your job, report the lies, and provide the objective facts you have researched to back this up.

The President doesn’t like this, so he says something like, “Fake News!” But when you point out that this is a lie, he says “Fake News! Fake News! Fake News!” The more you report the lies, the more he lies. And if you didn’t report the lies, he would say his lies are true because nobody reported them as lies.

That’s the catch. Catch-22.

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