Ideas, Linked; Ideals, Inked.

Bong Hits 4 Jesus: Student Breaks Constitution, Principal Helps

OR “How the Supreme Court was Brought to its Knees by an Interesting 1st Amendment in Schools Case” OR “Pot + Jesus + School + Olympics = Supreme Court”

Ideas Being Linked: 1) New 1st Amendment Case (Bong Hits 4 Jesus); 2) The New Justices; 3) Experience as a Teacher; 4) Barnette case; 5) Ken Starr???

The long and short of this case is that in 2002, a student at a school in Alaska brought a banner that said “Bong Hits 4 Jesus” to the Olympic torch parade. Principal sees the banner and suspends student for 10 days. Kid makes a federal case out of it… Literally. There are two main arguments in the case: on the one hand, the principal said the student was promoting drug use. On the other, because it was an outdoor parade, the student claims it was basically a public forum.

The article linked above points out that it may turn out that Alito sides with the student and Roberts with school. If I had writing this blog when these two were appointed, you all would know that my fears had always been that Roberts was the wolf in sheep’s clothing, who was willing to divert sovereign power away from individuals to officials.

As a former teacher, I’m torn. I would call for one of my students to be punished for being disruptive during a school assembly function. At the same time, I would have no trouble with the content of the message. Which, of course, puts me in a bind. If a student had a banner supporting Olympians, I would not object. Clearly the fact that the content was not representative of the school’s opinion is in play, but I don’t think it needs to be central. If I were the principal, my stand would be that the banner itself was disruptive, regardless of what it promoted. On that token, I would probably have objected to a “Support Our Troops” banner.

This case is ripe for reinterpreting the 1st Amendment with a new type of public forum – semi-public. I have always believed that activities that occur on school grounds have the tacit support of school officials, and thus must be held to a higher standard of Constitutional muster. For example, to me, a religious youth group that wishes to use the school grounds after school MUST agree not to exclude those of other faiths, and also not to force religious viewpoints (minor and major) to be accepted. All rules in such a semi-public space must be expressly civil.

Which leads me to Barnette. “No official, high or petty, can prescribe what shall be orthodox…” On that principle alone, I think the principal’s case is weaker. She decided two things: first, that supporting drugs is bad/wrong; and second, that a student may not support bad/wrong things/ideas. This creates a slippery slope, wherein ANYBODY at a school (a teacher is a petty government official, technically first-responders) can tell any student that something is wrong, and then punish the student. Teachers need to have authority, but students must have rights.

Finally, Ken Starr (Mr. Whitewater Special Prosecutor) is helping out the principal’s side, in his 3rd Supreme Court appearance. He has had a very interesting career, with diverse high-profile causes on both sides of the aisle.

EDIT: New title.


Filed under: Culture, Politics, Weird/Funny

Classroom Best Practices: Scare ‘Em with Damnation

… Or “How to Run a School”

Scenario… Public school teacher tells students that they belong in hell if they reject Christianity and accept evolution. Student records conversation. School district bans recording devices.


Schools have always been at the forefront of 1st Amendment cases, but the teacher’s action is absurdly in violation of the Constitution. As for recording devices on public property, I can see a case for not wanting them there to protect other students, but to protect a teacher? Having been a middle school teahcer, I sometimes came up against the rules, and have ranted at children. I never crossed the line into acting illegally, or subjecting children to rights-removing action. Teachers are there to enable learning, growth, and civic leadership, not to take a moralistic stand and lecture about the students’ likelihood of damnation. That’s what churches are for.

PS – In the above-linked Barnette case, the best EVER summation of the American experiment appears: “But freedom to differ is not limited to things that do not matter much. That would be a mere shadow of freedom. The test of its substance is the right to differ as to things that touch the heart of the existing order. If there is any fixed star in our constitutional constellation it is that no official, high or petty, can prescribe what shall be orthodox in politics, nationalism, religion, or other matters of opinion.” – Justice Robert Jackson

Filed under: Culture, Philosophy, Politics, Science, Weird/Funny

RFID Solution – Aluminum Foil!… Maybe

I love low-tech solutions to high-tech problems (see my previous RFID post and other post). Simply put, aluminum foil. I cannot take credit for the solution, but I think there’s something to be said for using some sort of foil protective cover to keep card info from being stolen.

First, this is not a sure thing. There is some controversy over whether doing this, basically creating a Faraday cage, will work. Assuming it does, we have a simple, inexpensive and stylish solution. Okay okay… Most people don’t want an aluminum foil wallet. If you’re female, you might carry around a bag everywhere anyway. I have a solution. Create a foil-based “bag” (using duct tape). Those with bags can use the foil-based bag as satchel. Or something.

Well, if you’re fashion conscious (realspeke: superficial about your stuff and how they look, like me) there is also the market-based solution. Buy something that doesn’t exist to protect you from something that people are creating. Basically, the companies pushing RFID are creating a niche market: RFID blockers.

Yay. More money.One such market-based solution:

There are others out there which you can find online.

Finally, there’s a brute-force solution to the RFID passport problem. Fun for your “mad at the government” moments.

Filed under: Gadgets, Philosophy, Science, Tech, Weird/Funny

Free Whoppers… with RIAA and MPAA on the Side

You may have seen this soon-to-be-defunct technique, but the comments really pose some interesting questions.

I don’t doubt that Burger King will either change or eiminate the system. But speaking to the theft question. Th argument over whether it’s theft or not is certainly interesting. But you can do it to death. This isn’t clearly a moral issue, as one would hope (RIAA and MPAA, this applies to you all).

Once can argue that, as one commenter notes, given the absurd margins most large corporations make, they are actually stealing from you. On the other hand, as another commenter points out, just because someone leaves his/her window open doesn’t mean you are invited to take money from the house. Both valid points, I think. Read the rest of this entry »

Filed under: Culture, Philosophy, Tech, Weird/Funny

Because Horses are People Too…

Finally, a useful law, in this time of terrorism and war and 50 million people without healthcare and higher poverty rate than ever and failing schools.

I mean, who would want to eat Secretariat? Not me….

Seriously. The rationales behind this bill that are in the article are crazy awesome – we should not slaughter horses for human consumption because: 1) it is inhumane because they’re basically pets, and 2) American icons (like Mr. Ed, Secretariat, etc.) should not be eaten. The lack of logic even within this legislation is messed up. From this basis, it follows that…

1) Horses are too “good” for people to eat. But it’s okay for dogs and other pets to eat them. For people that like to exalt humans as special, they’re doing some wacky stuff. (Maybe this is a pets-can-eat-pets-but-you-can’t law?)

2) We Americans are the best judge of what other people in the world may or may not eat. Considering 95% of human-ready horsemeat made in the US is exported, this is worrying.

3) If there is a creature which has reached the status of “icon,” we shouldn’t eat it. Like Babe, the pig. Or Chicken Little. It’s time to ban bacon, I guess. And chicken fries (finally).

4) Eating horses is inhumane. But racing them? Using whips, spurs, and starvation as means to make them run faster? And killing them for breaking a bone? That’s just good old Amurican fun. And a good reason why killing them is inhumane. Wait… I lost myself on that one.

Love it. Go Amurica!

EDIT (12 Sept 9:10 ET): Formatting.

Filed under: Politics, Weird/Funny

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