Sunday, December 19, 2004

First Class Dunderheads

Readers will doubtless suppose that the following account is a fiction, a fabrication. No one, the reader will think, can be as blockheaded as the administrators in this school district must be. Yet it is true. This is not a fabrication. It pains us to post it because we believe that too often teachers and administrators are unfairly criticized, but there are some in the employ of our communities who are not criticized enough, and apparently the supervisors in this district are among them.

On December 7th an announcement was made in a nearby elementary school (which, for reasons which will be explained later, will remain unnamed) to the effect that students will not be able to access books on hunting (!), Christmas, or Christianity from the school library. These books, some 35 to 40 titles, were going to be removed from the shelves.

One child at the school told her mother about the announcement, and the mother decided to check it out for herself. She called the elementary supervisor who explained to her that the books needed to be reviewed because they had religious content, and the district didn't want books in the library which were too evangelical. Besides, the supervisor went on, there was an imbalance between books partial to Christianity and those of other religions.

The mother asked which titles would be pulled and was refused an answer. She indicated that she would like to go to the school to find out, and was told not to do that. She went anyway, obtained a visitor's pass, and found the books piled on a table in the library. She began copying the titles, and was confronted by the building principal who asked her to desist and leave the building. The banned books included the "Touched By an Angel" books as well as Lisa Biemer's "Let's Roll", written in honor of her husband who died a hero on 9/11. No books involving mention of any religion other than Christianity were in the stack.

In the course of her discussion with the principal she was told that there can be no religious symbols in the school and that even the cross she wore on her necklace would not be permitted on a faculty member. Evidently, there was a fear that youngsters might be unduly influenced by a respected teacher's choice in jewelry to favor what that teacher implicitly favors, and that would be somehow unconstitutional. This suggests that these administrators would also object if teachers were overtly instructing their children not to hit or make fun of others, and not to cheat, lie, steal, exclude others from games, or be intolerant of their classmates because these behaviors are morally wrong. Surely the inculcation of moral values derived from a teacher's religious convictions is even more unacceptable to the district than wearing a piece of jewelry which may or may not express a teacher's endorsement of some vague religious belief. It would be interesting to discover how often teachers are admonished in this district for explicitly imposing their morality upon their students.

The mother was told by the principle that the hunting books were being pulled because a young boy might learn from them how to kill animals with a gun and then use that information to shoot people. This statement all by itself should be enough to promote this principle to dunderhead first class except that would seem too much like a Boy Scout award and Boy Scout literature is certainly next to be committed to the flames in this district.

A day or so later the superintendent called the mother's home and informed her husband that the books would be available to students but would not be displayed. Clever. Third through fifth graders would be able to read the books but only if they knew the secret procedure for accessing them. This reveals what the superintendent thinks of Christianity. He wishes to treat it like stores treat pornography.

The couple then called school board members to complain of the censorship and the religious discrimination in the district in which they pay taxes. The board members, being board members, were somewhat non-committal, reluctant to step on the administrative prerogatives of their staff. Even so, by Thursday evening the superintendent had called back to tell them that the books were going to be reshelved the next day and that he thought they should now halt their campaign. He was obviously concerned that the couple was on the verge of taking this story to the newspapers and local talk radio, and the thought of that kind of publicity evidently softened the district's stance.

Since the couple now had a promise from the superintendent that the books would not be removed, they decided it would be improper to go through with making their concerns public, and so Viewpoint is not divulging which district or district personnel were involved either. However, the only reason that the district relented was because they had been caught. If the announcement hadn't been made to the children last Tuesday, or if this mother/taxpayer had not decided that she was going to check the matter out for herself, the authorities would have removed the books and no one would have been the wiser. So, if the district is later found to have gone back on its word then such courtesies as the couple (and Viewpoint) are presently extending them will be set aside.

This whole episode raises the question of how many other schools in the district, or indeed in the state, have quietly purged their collections of any books which present any mention of Christianity (or hunting!). Is there a surreptitious effort among public school personnel in our local school districts to censor religious reading material? This is a question to which an answer would be easy to find simply by e-mailing or calling your school's librarian. If anyone does learn of other instances of this we invite you to let us know about it through our Feedback Forum.

The Mullahs' Dilemma, and Ours

Bill Roggio The Fourth Rail has a very perceptive piece of analysis of the increasingly likely conflict with Iran from the Iranians' point of view. It's based on an article written by a University of Tehran professor of political science who writes about how Iran would fight a military invader. Roggio replies by saying:

The Iranian military leadership is misguided if they believe they can out-maneuver, out-think, out-man or out-fight American forces in a conventional fight. One thing that should be clear is that America's military has no peer on the conventional battlefield. The American military's command, control, communications, information, weapons and technology are several levels of magnitude greater than Iranian capabilities. If the "certain weaknesses" the Iranians are referring to is the soft logistical chain, then they are not accounting for the U.S. military's adaptations to this problem. The Army has learned valuable lessons in Iraq, and is armoring supply vehicles and increasing the training of support personnel, many of whom also have combat experience in Iraq. And unlike Iran's military, American forces are seasoned combat veterans accustomed to the difficulties of war.

In reality, Iran's ability to strike back lies exclusively in guerrilla warfare, terrorist attacks and its missile technology. Iran's true threats lay in its unconventional assets: Hezbollah, ballistic missiles, and chemical and biological weapons arsenals. Iran's missiles would be able to strike American forces in the region, and tipped with chemical or biological agents, pose a great threat. Dr. Afrasiabi confirms that these unconventional forces are a key to Iran's strategy to counter an American military advance. Interestingly enough, Dr. Afrasiabi neglects to mention the potential of utilizing Hezbollah as an overseas proxy against American military and civilian installations, which should not be discounted. Nor does he mention unleashing al Qaeda personnel who have been sheltered in Iran. Perhaps this would be a tacit admission of Iran's complicity in global terrorism.

Roggio notes that the American military squeeze on Iran is having serious economic consequences and he concludes that the mullahs can't endure this situation indefinitely:

America's policy of containment is frightening the Iranian mullahs, and is forcing them to consider open confrontation with the United States military. Dr. Afrasiabi's analysis indicates that the Iranian military is planning to fight the last war (Lebanon, Iraq) but is not considering America's ability to adapt to weaknesses exposed in Iraq. Iran's advantages include the expected diplomatic pressure leveraged by the international community, Hezbollah operations overseas, a potential nuclear threat, and America's lack of forces at hand at the moment. Due to American military superiority, Iran would be reduced to fighting an unconventional war, much like the current insurgency in Iraq, but American forces have gained valuable combat experience in theater. Iran's ability to launch missiles undetected would not last forever, and the advent of armed unmanned aerial vehicles, which were not present in the First Gulf War, will reduce Iran's ability to launch at will. Any use of WMD will have serious consequences, and will be met in kind. No doubt an American campaign in Iran would be difficult and costly, but allowing Iran to become a nuclear power would have a chilling effect on reshaping the Middle East to reduce the threat of state sponsored terrorism.

Iran has an out - disavow support for Hezbollah, turn over al Qaeda sheltered in-country, and quit their nuclear program. The choice is up to the mullahs, but based on their past history of open defiance to America's presence in the Middle East, the likelihood of Iran backing down from a conflict is low.

The longer we are tied down in Iraq the more time Tehran has to put together a nuclear deterrent. This is one of the main reasons why Iran is working so hard to prevent Iraq from stabilizing. The mullahs prefer to see Iraq descend into chaos for several reasons but chief among them is that it will keep the United states occupied and deter them from getting involved in similar adventures in Iran.

Man of the Year

Time magazine has bestowed their Man of the Year award upon the only person they could have without making themselves risible: George W. Bush. Whether you love him or hate him, no one man has had more of an impact on the world in the past year than has President Bush. Indeed no one has had more impact on the world for the last three years than has George Bush. He has liberated from tyranny 50 million people in Afghanistan and Iraq, and brought hope for peace to a hopeless part of the world. He has ushered us out of a recession compounded by 9/11, restored dignity and professionalism to the White House, and has remained resolute in the face of tremendous difficulties and personal invective, never once responding to his critics in kind.

If the trends of the last three years continue for the next four, if Iraq becomes secure, social security and medicare are reformed, Iran and North Korea step back from the nuclear brink, and terrorism continues to be attrited, he will go down in history as a truly great president. He is the proper choice for Time magazine and the whining of dissenters just makes them look terribly small.