Tag Archives: Boston Globe

Here We Go Again

Gay groups denied permission to march in St. Patrick’s Day parade in South Boston Wait a minute, that sounds eerily familiar…

Oh yeah, deja vu all over again!

Last year, I found out about a group of LGBT Irish who sought to march in the NYC parade and were turned down. I was upset, thinking that those people wanted to celebrate the fact they were Irish and were refused because they also happened to be gay. They would have to choose whether to celebrate a part of their heritage that basically rejected them simply because of who they were. So I wrote a column for the Chronicle and cited a similar case in Boston that actually was the precedent that the NYC parade organizers used to exclude the group of LGBT Irish.

In the column I mentioned how hard it was to find the policy online. Turns out I didn’t know where to look. Perhaps the rule cited by the parade council is unwritten and barely spoken about, but the court case ruling that favored the parade council in Boston over 15 years ago was easily found once I got the case name, thanks to the Boston.com article.

The decision, to quote Wikipedia

Justice Souter delivered the unanimous opinion of the court on June 19, 1995. The Court reasoned that, even though the Council did not have a narrow, set message that it was intending to convey, the parade nevertheless constituted a message that the Council had a right to protect. Noting that, while the Council had been fairly lenient in its guidelines for who they chose to allow in their parade, the Court said this did not necessarily mean that the Council waived its right to present its message in a way it saw fit. The right to speak, the Court reasoned, includes the right to determine “what not to say.”  Of primary concern to the Court was the fact that anyone observing the parade (which regularly gained a large number of spectators) could rationally believe that those involved in the parade were all part of an overriding message the Council was seeking to provide.  In this vein, the unanimous Court said that the Council could not statutorily be prohibited from excluding the messages of groups it did not agree with. Effectively, the Council could not be forced to endorse a message against its will.

Like with most supreme court rulings, it takes a couple read-throughs to comprehend it. But at least it does have a sense of logic, even if that logic was used to come to a decision that I disagree with.

I just hate the idea of this accepted practice of exclusion. It won’t change anytime soon, as the court ruling basically said it was up to the parade councils to determine what kind of “message” they wanted to say with the units in their parades. Have the parade organizers not heard of the axiom that actions speak louder than words? By not including Gay and Irish groups for many years in a row, they are telling the public that they are old fashioned and narrow-minded, maybe even bigoted.

They are also sending a message to gays: that are gay first and foremost and that makes them less Irish than their straight counterparts.

The only solution I can see is a game of patience. The Gay Irish groups must sadly wait for the last of the old guard who wish to exclude them to die off. Then they can approach the parade’s councils again and hopefully march openly.

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Veterans Preference vs Language Skills

Boston civil servants have long used veteran’s preference to get returning vets into jobs such as the police and fire departments. This year, BFD has asked to set aside 15 of 50 spots in their academy class for people who speak Spanish.

And well, I let the quote speak for itself.

But a group of military veterans, normally given preference for the jobs, has challenged the decision. Alleging in legal documents that the bilingual requirement is being used to “recruit people of color into the uniformed ranks,’’ the veterans have asked the state Civil Service Commission to investigate.

(emphasis is my own)

So when did knowledge of a language determine your skin color? I’m sure this wasn’t the only line of reasoning the veterans put in their legal documents, but this quote makes them seem very racist. Later on in the article, the lawyer for them complains about how they came back from serving in Iraq/Afghanistan to find the rules have changed on them.

And there’s even more background, like how the BFD was legally bound to hire/diversify at a one to one ratio meaning for every white candidate they hired, they needed a black or Hispanic one as well. That rule was disbanded less than ten years ago and since then the department has hired a group that is 88 per cent white.

I don’t really understand why the veterans are so angry. The department finally realized they need more staff who speaks Spanish when they respond to calls from Spanish speaking people. Boston has a huge Hispanic population in one neighborhood, and significant populations in other neighborhoods that are on the other side of the city. In other words the Hispanics are basically all over. It’s time the department should diversify again.

The veterans can always apply again next year, right?

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Book Post Revisited

Over a year ago I wrote about a prep school giving up it’s library of books and switching to a digital library. As a Bibliophile, I was offended.

Now, Boston Globe revisited the school to find all of its students suddenly using the library and loving the change. They did retain couple book stacks. But the students come into the library to do homework, to research on computers (the teachers also started using e-books in class to make the transition easier) or just to hang out. Before the switch no one seemed to use the room of books, but now the school had to hire another librarian to help with the increase demand.

Big picture wise, this is good for the students because they are ahead of the game in digital literacy. But since the school had to remove so many of its books in order to switch over, does that mean these same students will loose valuable skills in researching from a traditional book? I don’t claim to have the library of congress classification memorized, but I do know how to find a specific book with relative ease among the library stacks.

Sacrificing one side of the coin for favor of the other is not a good idea. Librarians have had over 10 years maybe even 20 years, to integrate the digital world with the world of books. Schools should let them do their job to educate students in BOTH worlds of  literacy.

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The Benefits of Catholic Schools

During Finals week,  I had an hour-long conversation with my friends at dinner. (When I should have been studying!) We were talking about religion mainly, as most of my friends were observing the conversation that was happening on my blog. My friends were all from a variety of religious backgrounds, and I was the only practicing Catholic at our table. I remember suggesting that sending your child to a religious school for their elementary years was immensely beneficial to the child, especially if you were raising your family in that faith. I used myself as an example because my Parents sent both myself and my brother to a parochial school a town over because the public school options were rather slim when I was 5. I suggested to my friends that what I learned in the house about morality was reinforced at school and what I learned about my faith at school was reinforced at home (and by going to Mass every week)

I didn’t realize that there are other reasons why a family might prefer a parochial education for their young children until I stumbled across an OP-ED column on the Boston Globe’s website last night/this morning.  The author, who is a freelance writer living in Cambridge MA, needs to pick schools for his children for next school year. The Cambridge School district allows parents to choose 3 elementary schools out of the dozen in the city. If the child doesn’t get into those three, then what are the parents to do? A plan B for private schools usually comes with a $20,000 a year price tag, but the parochial schools offer education for less, sometimes a fourth of the cost of regular private schools.

There have been studies that determined that students in elementary parochial schools have a leg up on public school kids. Also students from economically disadvantaged areas/families tend to excel when they are in parochial schools. The benefits seem to go beyond just the (possible) religion reinforcement.

I don’t feel that my personal experience really falls into either of the above examples. While I know going to St. Anthony’s for seven years (Kindergarten through Sixth Grade) was beneficial to my upbringing, I have trouble seeing how it was beneficial to my education. I seemed to grasp concepts quicker than my class and sat at top of my class all six years they kept track. (At the end of every year, I had the highest average) Looking back, I wasn’t very challenged at all. It was only when I tested into Boston Latin School for seventh grade that school became a (mostly fun) challenge for me.

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Female vs. Woman

In another Words column from the Boston Globe, the question of female versus woman arose when Christa Kelleher, research director at UMass Boston’s Center for Women in Politics & Public Policy, e-mailed to ask which word went with politicians. Was it okay to say woman senator or female senator (or both)?

The column brings up an interesting point and that is female as a noun is fine in contemporary language, but the adjective has come by a negative connotation and is avoided by most people these days. So when we say female senator, it’s using female the noun, not the adjective. Nouns can pull double duty as adjectives, like cat food, bubble wrap etc.

The idea that there might be a difference  between female and woman, reminds me of the difference between sex and gender. I learned in freshmen year, there’s a huge difference between those two words. But is there a huge difference between female and woman? I don’t think so, other than the rules of a noun and an adjective in terms of their use. I looked up female in the Oxford English Dictionary (Hofstra has a subscription) and a lot of the definitions somehow included female.  The same went for woman (which is also a verb but not an adjective) but it didn’t seem as many definitions had female included.

As the article points out, the idea that we distinguish between man senators and woman senators (or at least highlight the ones that are female with a woman/female label in front of Senator) doesn’t transfer over to judges. Maybe because we don’t usually elect judges. We want to applaud ourselves for electing a diverse candidate. (Black President anyone?) And in the end, there isn’t a distinction between a female senator and a woman senator, as both words are proper English. So why bother even saying woman/female senator then?

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‘Meep’ follow up

A column from the Ideas section of the Boston Globe follows up on the story about the Danvers High school banning the word meep.   ( Which I wrote a blog post about a month ago)

Meep has been used many ways as slang. The column says that Urbandictionary has 71 entries for it!

A word is only as powerful as people says it is. So why am I still hung up about the principal banning the word? Maybe because by banning it, he gave it more power than it had before. I don’t really know…  but I found the ending of the column to be really interesting:

All words mean only what we all collectively agree they should mean, no more and no less. In Danvers, meep came to mean: “We’ll obey your rules when we feel like it.” And that, in the end, made it a dirty word.

~Erin McKean

When I take that in to consideration, banning the word makes more sense. It was never about the word (the school was quoted to not banning the word for the sake of the word itself) but what it stood for. In effect, they banned the word for its definition.

It’s just a little surreal to see meep on a list of words that should not be spoken at school with the likes of real four letter words and other swear words.

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Meep – a four letter word?

According to an blurb on boston.com website, the principal of Danvers High School has banned the word Meep. The principal went further and warned that suspension is a possibility if students say or display the word again.

All because “students said it to repeatedly interrupt school.”  The students had planned it on facebook.

This is a little extreme. I think it was harmless. Most of the comments on the article say that it was harmless as well to varying degrees.

At the root of the problem is the principal’s fear of losing control – which is pretty pathetic that he feels threatened by  a word used most often by a character from “The Muppet Show.”

It’s just a show of exercising power that ends up being useless. The students are most likely going to ignore his threat. It would be better for the Principal to ignore the Meep and just deal with the disruptions on their own.

Also it is an example of the widening gap between generations. I don’t know exactly how old this principal is, but I can bet by his reaction to Meep that he doesn’t understand it as a trivial word the way high school and college kids do. Meep is just a random word to say, nothing more and nothing less.

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