Sunday, February 20, 2005

Good Bye, Lenin! A Movie with a Message for American Academe


In a great little movie about the fantasy of idelogical views of reality, Wolfgang Becker's 'Good Bye, Lenin!' is a classic that should be required viewing for students of recent history.

Alexander Kerner's mother, Christiane is a devout Marxist Leninist living in East Berlin before the collapse of communism. Her husband abandons her to go live in the West and she was commited to a mental hospital for eight weeks. When she was released, her whole life became enwraped in promoting the cause of socialism.

Then, just before the Berlin Wall fell, she had a heart attack and fell into a comma for eight months. After she regains consciousness, the doctor tells her son Alex that she could easily have another heart attack if she becomes excited.

But Alex realizes that the news of recent events, the tearing down of the Berlin Wall, the end of state socialism in East Germany, etc, would excite her to the extreme.

So there is only one solution; surround his mother with a Potemkin Village of continued socialism, of course! Alexes Quixotic attempt to keep his mothers illusions alive for her is a dramatic symbol of the Western Academ, especially of the US where the last hold outs for Marxism still control the Universities and colleges of the nation that won the Cold War in grande style.

This movie is a humorous portrayal of that ideological obsession with fantasy that allows one to continue to entertain prefered delusions over blatant reality that swirls all around. If you plan to go into any post-graduate program in humanities in the US, this movie is a must see!

Amazon reviews here

Patriotic symbols now politically incorrect at school

"A Mont Pleasant middle school student is taking her freedom-of-expression fight to federal court, claiming Schenectady school officials have no right to ban her from wearing a handmade red, white and blue necklace to class. The beads, which Raven Furbert got as a string-it-yourself Christmas gift, symbolize love of country and respect for soldiers serving in Iraq, according to the lawsuit her mother, Katie Grzywna, filed in U.S. District Court in Albany. Among those soldiers is her uncle, J. Barnes, who is a member of the Army National Guard's 42nd Rainbow Division, and three other relatives. Barnes shipped out to Kuwait in October, and went on active duty in Iraq the first week in January.

Raven, 12, made the necklace over the Christmas vacation and wore it on her first day back to school on Jan. 4. She said it was to commemorate Barnes' move into a danger zone and that it is her way of trying to protect him. She said she can't understand what the big deal is. "I just want to wear them for my uncle," she said. "I'll be really glad when this is all over."

Schenectady school officials immediately banned her from displaying her unique neckwear in a belief such "gang-related" jewelry violates policy, court papers alleged. Raven was threatened with suspension if she continued to wear the beads. "I still don't see anything wrong with this," her mother said of the case that has created a stir. It was featured last week on the Fox News Channel program "Hannity & Colmes." "(School officials) even said on that program that they do not have a gang problem in the Schenectady school district," she said.

And that isn't all, added the frustrated mother. Grzywna said it seems now that Raven is being targeted, and the child who used to sail through her school days without incident is now tagged frequently for in-school detention and other disciplinary measures. Grzywna said she tried to explain to school officials that the necklace was nothing more than a show of patriotism. But they wouldn't listen. On Jan. 14, word came home that the beads had been banned, she said. Officials then said beads could be worn but not displayed, she said. So Raven began wearing the jewelry under her clothing, her mom said.

This week, on both Monday and Tuesday, administrators again told Raven to remove the beads, Grzywna said. She complied. But then put them back on. Named in the federal action are Assistant Superintendent Eric Ely, Mont Pleasant Middle School Principal Gary Comley and Assistant Principals Nicki DiLeva and Matthew DeLorenzo. Sherry Greenleaf, who is employed full time as the school district's attorney, said she couldn't comment specifically because the school district hadn't yet seen any court papers. "But certainly we believe the policy is valid and properly enforced," she said.

Bob Keach, a lawyer who specializes in civil and constitutional rights violations cases, said several of Raven's friends also have been told not to wear the beads even though the Mont Pleasant dress code does not mention beaded jewelry as a banned item. Grzywna is seeking a permanent injunction preventing the school district from banning expressive clothing. She also wants monetary damages and declaratory judgment, which allows a judge to decide whose position is correct. "As of today's date, the wearing of the red, white and blue beaded necklace made by a 12-year-old to show support for soldiers dying to protect this country's freedom is still forbidden ... under penalty of suspension from school," Keach said in court papers. And the mascot for the Schenectady City School District is a patriot, he pointed out: "So school colors are red, white and blue." "Patriotism is a virtue to be fostered among the young," he said. "It is not 'gang-related.' We can't believe we've had to take it this far." "

More here


No place should be more committed to freedom of speech than a university. And perhaps no issue deserves more balance, more variety of voices, and more critical thinking than the Middle East, given its importance in world affairs. Universities should be grounds for critical thinking and pluralism of opinion, not brainwashing. Still, when it comes to the Middle East, the difference between should and is can sometimes be as great as the one between night and day.

Before you think Columbia University and the recent controversy surrounding some of its Middle East studies scholars, or Hamilton College and Ward Churchill, think England and the great tradition of scholarship on the Orient that made U.K. universities so distinguished, their scholars so renowned, and their works so enduring. And before you surmise that scholars manipulate their students into uncritical and one-sided thinking, look at the students. Judging by how this generation promotes free speech and a diversity of opinions, one gets the impression that students don't need bad teachers to stifle their learning: They are doing well enough on their own.

Enter the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), a famous institution of learning in the heart of London, which is part of the University of London college system. Its faculty is dedicated to subjects ranging from the Far East to Africa and much in between, and it includes a wide range of scholars with diverse opinions and expertise on the Middle East. There is no room for complaint about a lack of views and opinions among those imparting wisdom to the next generation. SOAS invites scholars of all backgrounds. Some university forums - such as the University of London, SOAS-based Sir Joseph Hotung Programme for Law, Human Rights, and Peace Building in the Middle East - are so one-sided that their public activities border on pro-Palestinian propaganda. But the Middle East program can be faulted for little.

Scholars there play fair, but their students have a different idea of what higher education is about. Maybe what the next generation wants is not wisdom. It does not seek tools to form independent judgments. Rather, it seeks ready-made answers and a conventional wisdom that no alternative voice should be allowed to challenge.

Consider the following: SOAS's student union recently hosted Palestinian politician Hanan Ashrawi, PLO ambassador to London Afif Safieh, and a two-day extravaganza dedicated to boycotting Israel. Not to be accused of one-sidedness - past guests of various student associations include Columbia University professor Joseph Massad and Haifa University professor Ilan Pappe, both avowed supporters of Israel's end as a Jewish state - the Palestine Student Society also had an Israeli speaker recently: Azmi Bishara, the lone pan-Arabist anti-Zionist Israeli parliamentarian, whose solution to the Arab-Israeli dispute is a bi-national state, code for the end of the Jewish state. With such a range of opinions, who needs an additional speaker from the Israeli embassy or, indeed, an Israeli student society? That is what the Student Union thought and still thinks.

Until last year, an Israeli society was unthinkable at SOAS: It would have violated official Student Union policy, which states that "Peace requires the achievement of national liberation and independence, the elimination of colonialism and neo-colonialism and foreign occupation, apartheid, Zionism and racial discrimination in all forms..." Official policy also condemns "Any form of racism, Islamophobia, anti-Semitism, Zionism and other forms of racism on campus," and on those grounds the university until recently prevented pro-Israel students from forming their own organization. But then, SOAS exerted enough pressure on the union to allow for an Israel society - alongside an existing Jewish society - to be established.

An intolerable act of censorship of students' independent judgment, or a rare moment of sanity among union's leaders? Don't hold your breath for the latter.

Pro-Israel students can now have their society, but that does not mean they can hold events. The Israel Student Society invited a speaker, Roy Gilead from Israel's embassy, to speak on campus on February 22. The Union voted to force the sponsors to disinvite him. Again, a swift intervention from the administration had the Union backtrack and the event can now go on. Still, Kavita Meelu, co-president of the Union, said in a statement, "we have advised the society that the student body... has explicitly expressed that they do not wish for this speaker to be allowed a platform, and therefore will not be actively supporting the society's event."

Veiled threat or grudging concession? Hard to say. Don't anticipate a Student Union welcoming committee when Gilead arrives.

What is obvious is that when it comes to students, at SOAS dissenting views have no place. It is only thanks to pressures exerted from above - and Professor Colin Bundy, head of SOAS, should be commended for coming down on the side of freedom of speech - that a lone Israeli embassy spokesman could get a one-time chance to offer an alternative view of the Arab-Israeli conflict, before the old tune is monotonously sung again by the usual suspects.

So what's the trouble? Perhaps what Gilead has to say terrifies the Student Union's thought-control police - with the notion that one or two students might actually start thinking with their own minds. And that, even more than a Zionist speaking on campus, would be truly terrible.



For greatest efficiency, lowest cost and maximum choice, ALL schools should be privately owned and run -- with government-paid vouchers for the poor and minimal regulation.

Comments? Email me here. For times when is playing up, there is a mirror of this site (viewable even in China!) here


No comments: