Free speech versus censorship? (Grade 10 version)

A Vancouver Island teacher cut a boy’s photograph and comments out of the middle school yearbook before distributing the books. The problem? In the comments accompanying his photo, the Grade 10 student had criticized the principal for spending money on a fence instead of on schoolbooks. The teacher, Ken Piercy, did the censoring because he viewed the comments as “hurtful and untrue.”

After the predictable outcry, the school will be reprinting 150 yearbooks with a revised comment from the student, Brandon Armstrong. The principal has received hate mail. The boy’s mother says he didn’t mean anything by it. The boy says the comments are true and also, he thought, “kind of funny.”

Brandon’s original “favourite memory of school” was “When Ms. Carpenter spent all our money on a new fence instead of new textbooks.”

Interesting dilemma: How much censorship is appropriate for a school yearbook? A worthy subject for next year’s class to discuss.

Interesting things to consider when making up future curricula:
Maybe they could add a module on making difficult choices when budgeting.

Interesting situation for the principal:
What possessed the teacher to cut out the student’s photograph and comments? Surely he must have realized that it would create much more of a furore than had the school just ignored this relatively harmless exercise of free speech. But teaching is a high-stress occupation: maybe he needs some time off.

Interesting lesson for Brandon.


Brain invasion

Sharing yam wedges and tamarind aioli with a friend the other day, I became aware that I couldn’t concentrate on what he was saying. The reason was the two big TV screens hanging over his left shoulder. It’s hard to have a thoughtful conversation when there is constant distraction from something big and loud and fast-moving in one’s field of vision.

I thought that was bad enough, but the programming on the left-most screen appeared to be all news — and the more violent the better.

The first image was of a burning tanker truck, overturned on a highway. There were leaping flames and a plume of black smoke. The second was of a woman’s face, with a transcript of the 911 conversation in which she tells the operator she has killed her children running across the screen below. The third was of men wearing dusty army fatigues and carrying machine guns kicking in a door. I felt my brain had been invaded by disturbing images that I hadn’t been prepared to watch .

It was HLN, which I later discovered to be CNN Headline News. The format is the ultra-condensed version of the news, the television equivalent of the USA Today newspaper.

Due to the network’s tradition of rolling news coverage, the network has become popular with people who may not have time to watch lengthy news reports, in addition to places where a high demand for “get to the point” news exists, such as airports, bars, and many other places.

I read newspapers with a modest amount of in-depth content and I occasionally check breaking news online, but that’s initiated by me. Having news and entertainment pushed at me is a reason why I tend to stay away from certain kinds of bars and restaurants. I yearn for the old-style British neighbourhood pub, where you could sit in a corner with friends, drink real beer, and set the world to rights through talking about it.

Tria iuncta in uno

cbA relative of mine received an honour in the Queen’s New Year list. He is now a Companion of the Bath. The Order of the Bath, one of the British Orders of Chivalry, dates from 1725, when it was founded by King George I. Today, the honours list is a way of recognizing individual achievement or service to the country.

The name refers to the historic practice of a bath as a ritual of purification for knights just prior to the accolade, or dubbing, which conferred the honour.

The Order of the Bath has six officers, including the wonderfully named Gentleman Usher of the Scarlet Rod, whose equivalent in the Order of the Garter is the Gentleman Usher of the Black Rod. I am caught between a desire to make bad puns about these names and delight at the survival of these remnants of medieval times in today’s world.  

The order’s motto is Tria iuncta in uno  ((Three joined in one), but the significance of the motto has been lost.

Signs of Life

The body of a woman was recently discovered in a Burnaby ravine. She had been missing for two weeks.

Police suspected that the victim was dead because she “had no cellphone activity, no bank account activity, no credit card activity.”

Hello, SupremeBeing: your report for today

Experiment #108-02
Recent news media headlines on this planet exceeding the acceptable levels of depravity threshhold:

  • Terrorists use mentally impaired women to carry deadly bombs: 64 people killed
  • Teen badly burned after gang of 4 sets him alight
  • Journalist, 23, sentenced to death for distributing a report he printed off the Internet to journalism students

End experiment? yes / no