Friday, April 28, 2006


Student self-display matters a lot more than the facts at UCLA

In order to ride a high horse for any considerable length of time without getting sore, you need a fancy saddle. A group of righteous high horse hobbyists on campus has chosen the accusation of murder as theirs. The student group Coke-Free Campus wants to ban Coca-Cola products from UCLA because some of the casualties of the ongoing civil war in Colombia have allegedly included union leaders and Coca-Cola factory workers.

Economically, Coke has no incentive to have employees murdered by guerrillas. No workers, no Coke: no-brainer. Legally, they have been acquitted of any responsibility by two judicial inquiries. So why the persecution? I tried to find out on Friday. While Associated Students UCLA heard arguments for and against the charges, a stampede of high horses gathered to whinny in protest outside Kerckhoff. I found two answers before my cover was blown: "Our campus" and "students' power." These were in reply to the questions of "Whose campus?" and "Whose power?" This was the Q&A portion of the protest, but I couldn't decipher what it had to do with Coke's supposed guilt.

One student began the rally by announcing the group's intent to silence Coke's representatives. He told everyone that when the time came for the representatives to speak in their defense at the meeting inside, he would signal for all to scream and holler. "You can't speak here," he yelled. "It's our school and we'll tell you when to speak." The bullhorn then went to the hands of Karume James, chairman of the African Student Union. He proceeded to compare what Coke hasn't done to "apartheid, Vietnam, the genocide of black people in the Sudan region." "It's all for profit," he continued, revealing in one fell swoop the breadth of economic, historical, legal and political knowledge stocked by Coke-Free Campus.

I asked James, between his many speeches, why he's mad at Coke and what evidence he has of its guilt. "Direct your conversation to one of the organizers," he said. "I'm just here in support." Minutes later he was leading the chant, "Coca-Cola stop your lying! Because of you people are dying!"

The bullhorn made its way to Claire Douglas, who spoke of "the urgency of this issue." After her speech, she admitted to not being able to say why Coke was guilty. My search went on. Finally I was directed to Emily Villagrana, of Conciencia Libre and Raza Womyn. Villagrana admitted "(Coke isn't) the one doing the killing. ... The paramilitary in Colombia is the one causing all these deaths, massacres and tortures." Two minutes later, she was chanting: "Cherry, diet or vanilla: Coca-Cola is a killa." She admitted Coke was giving Colombians jobs they otherwise would not have. Two minutes later, she was chanting: "We support workers, we don't support Coke."

After these admissions, all that remained was the complaint that Coke hasn't provided enough protection for its workers. Any sensible person dreams of a world in which corporations have armed battalions guarding their factories from government intrusion. Sadly, we have yet to achieve that ideal. For now, private corporations are subject to the political realities of whatever government they operate under. How are they expected to provide protection in a war-ravaged country such as Colombia? "As far as I know, they haven't tried anything," Villagrana said.

I suggested that her knowledge might be augmented by listening to Coca-Cola's defenders at the meeting, rather than attempting to physically silence their free speech. "You're entitled to believe that," she said.

Her fellow riders who actually attended the meeting were jolted off their horses when a young Colombian refugee emotionally testified to the heroism of the Coca-Cola Company in her native land. She begged Coke to stay and hold its own, as the thousands of jobs it and other corporations provide help those who would otherwise probably end up joining the paramilitaries.

Colombian Professor Miguel Ceballos, of Foundation for Education, Colombia, said that no Colombian lacks a friend or family member - union or nonunion, Coke worker or non-Coke worker - who's been killed in the violence. He bashed the protestors for knowing nothing about the violent context in Colombia, where Coke is a rare force for saving lives.

Ed Potter, the Coke representative, added that Coke has more union employees than any other Colombian company, and that it provides a hotline for its workers to call to get a safety escort to work. Such are the condition-enhancing incentives of the profit motive, wherever it is allowed to motivate. Not that the riders really care about Colombian workers or the real effects of profit motive. They're there for the ride, fairgrounds be darned.

The anti-Coke protesters can only hope to be taken as ridiculously as they sound. If taken seriously, they'd have to be placed in the same category as Salem witch-hunters and Southern lynch mobs - so strong is their willingness to disregard free speech, pursuit of truth and presumption of innocence for the sake of a righteous crusade. Those tenets are among the core principles of a free society. If our university has any responsibility, it is to discourage the type of moral inflation that devalues those principles.


Minnesota panic: Fire drills give way to lockdown exercises

Even though fire is a much more dangerous threat

Melissa Galarneault's fourth-grade class at Indian Mounds Elementary had just started a math quiz when the alert came over the loudspeaker: "Attention staff, this is a lockdown." The 20 children instantly dropped their pencils, sprang from their desks, scrambled to the front of the classroom and sat silently on the floor. Galarneault rushed to the doorway, dimmed the lights, scanned the hall for stragglers and pulled the locked door shut. She checked to make sure the blinds were drawn, and then joined the huddled youngsters until a coded, all-clear message was sounded over the intercom. The entire episode lasted four minutes. This time, it was only a drill.

Across the country, many schools hold lockdown drills because of terrorism fears and school shootings like the one at Columbine High School in Colorado in 1999 that left 15 people dead. But Minnesota could apparently become the first state to require such exercises. A proposal before the Minnesota Legislature would mandate at least five lockdown drills a year. To free up time, the number of required fire drills would be reduced from nine to five. "There haven't been any kids killed in school fires in Minnesota because we've done a good job with fire safety equipment, with fire drills and so on," said Democratic state Senator John Marty, a sponsor of the bill. "Unfortunately, times have changed in such a way that we have lots of other threats." Last month offered a fresh reminder of the danger, with the first anniversary of a rampage at Red Lake High School in Minnesota that left a teacher, a security guard and six students dead, including the teenage gunman.

Lockdown drills are this generation's version of the duck-and-cover exercises held during the Cold War 1950s and '60s. Some states, including Arkansas and Connecticut, have laws encouraging -- but not requiring -- drills in case of a terrorist attack or other threat. Backers of the Minnesota bill and groups that track education trends say they are not aware of any state laws that require lockdown drills. Legislatures in Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio and South Dakota are among those weighing laws that would require schools to update safety plans periodically and practice them regularly. Kenneth Trump, president of the Ohio-based National School Safety and Security Services, said he wishes all schools would be nearly as conscientious about mock lockdowns as they are about fire drills. He said the exercises teach students and staff to respond instinctively to emergencies without panicking, and they allow the staff to identify weaknesses in the preparations. "The bottom line is that a plan that's sitting on a shelf in a fancy notebook collecting dust is worth little more than the paper it's printed on if it's not practiced," Trump said.

Deadly violence in the nation's schools is actually less prevalent now than in the 1990s, according to a 2005 government report. In the 1990s, the number of homicides per year was two dozen to three dozen; from 2000 to 2002, the number has been in the low to middle teens. The Minnesota legislation has advanced through committees without protest. While observing the Red Lake anniversary, Governor Tim Pawlenty threw his support behind it. The state fire marshal is neutral despite the reduction in fire drills.

In Michigan, fire agencies have come out against a lockdown drill plan because it allows schools to cut back on fire drills. The state's Association of Secondary School Principals has concerns of its own. "You are actually teaching the robbers how to rob the bank," said executive director Jim Ballard. "Most violent crime within schools has been student against student. If you're teaching those students what you are going to do in your lockdown procedures, they basically know what's going to happen."

Minnesota state Republican Representative Dean Urdahl said there are not many secrets to give away: "The plan is to lock the rooms." Child development experts are split over whether the lockdown exercises subject children unnecessarily to stress and fear. Ted Feinberg, assistant executive director of the National Association of School Psychologists, said he is not convinced the drills are harmful. But he said teachers and parents should discuss with children why they are done. "We have to empower our children to not feel frightened about life but be prepared for it," Feinberg said.

In Bloomington, school leaders rehearse the plan monthly. The elementary school called a real lockdown last year when teachers heard gunfire outside. The commotion turned out to be a military ceremony at a senior center.


Some Education Quotes

A university is what a college becomes when the faculty loses interest in students. John Ciardi (1916 - 1986)

America believes in education: the average professor earns more money in a year than a professional athlete earns in a whole week. - Evan Esar (1899 - 1995)

Everyone has a right to a university degree in America, even if it's in Hamburger Technology. - Clive James

The advantage of a classical education is that it enables you to despise the wealth that it prevents you from achieving. - Russell Green

Education is when you read the fine print. Experience is what you get if you don't. Pete Seeger


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.

The NEA and similar unions worldwide believe that children should be thoroughly indoctrinated with Green/Left, feminist/homosexual ideology but the "3 R's" are something that kids should just be allowed to "discover"

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