Editorial page not consistent on role of religion in schools

To the Daily:

As I was reading the Daily, I couldn’t help but notice the vast change in the Daily’s editorial opinion from one day to the next. Specifically, your editorials (Retiring the Pledge (09/19/2005) and Making Space (09/20/2005) appear to be polar opposites. To summarize, in Retiring the Pledge you stated that the words “under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance were an implicit government endorsement of religion and that the addition of the phrase in the 1950s was a congressional attempt to make the United States more Christian. You then went on to interpret the First Amendment to state that no public school could make the pledge a part of its schedule and that doing so would be unconstitutional. Although I do not agree with this interpretation of the First Amendment, I will admit that it is self-consistent.

I was suprised the very next day when I saw your argument that the University should create additional prayer rooms in its buildings, with the main purpose of these rooms being for Muslim students to engage in their daily prayers. I have to ask: Wouldn’t a government-funded university setting aside space and public money for prayer rooms be a government endorsement of religion and thus unconstitutional by your logic? Did the editorial board make a sudden shift in opinion and arrive at the conclusion that government endorsement of religion is acceptable, or does the editorial board favor government endorsement of some religions over others?

Scott Hartshorn

Rackham

 

Every Three Weekly joke off color, out of context

To the Daily:

I want to say first and foremost that this is not a call for censorship of any kind. The freedom to print whatever the staff feel is necessary is something enjoyed by all campus publications, and that’s part of what makes them some of the best around. I should also mention that I write for the Gargoyle Humor Magazine, but if you accuse me of bias, you’d be wrong. I read the Every Three Weekly regularly, and normally it’s pretty funny.

That said, the most recent edition of the humor paper “The Every Three Weekly” is, a rather sad example of satire. In reality, its not even satire. I am speaking of – and by the time this gets received it will likely be the 5000th letter of the same subject – the “Free Shit” back cover. The picture, as I’m sure many have seen, features a photograph of the city of New Orleans, water-logged, with the now-infamous Super-Dome in the foreground. Above, emblazoned in white text is the phrase “Free Shit.”

Now, things need to be made fun of. Nothing really can be held sacred. If you’re going to make fun of the Bush administration, you need to be willing to stick it to the Democrats as well. Otherwise you’re just espousing rhetoric. The problem with this “Free Shit” gag is that it’s tasteless, and it’s tasteless because it has no context. The joke is not making fun of anything except disaster and human suffering.

In reality, this “Free Shit” joke is simply an invitation for controversy. Much in the same way a small child can scream simply for attention. So “ha-ha”, you’re probably getting quite a bit of mail on this one. Too bad it’s from a sophomoric publicity stunt and not from actual social commentary. Way to go.

Max Eddy

LSA sophomore

 

Gaza pullout did not end Israeli occupation

To the Daily:

Last Thursday, a group of passionate activists got together to spread the word about their campaigns at MPowered and, though we did not receive the attendance we had expected, there was a lot of good dialogue that took place. The description of the attending groups by the Daily (Freshman turnout at activists’ initiation event disappoints, 09/16/2005) was fairly accurate except when it claimed that “Israel no longer occupies the Gaza Strip.”

The disengagement is an end to the need for the Israeli army to directly engage with the civilian Palestinian population on a daily basis. It is not an end to the occupation. Just because there are no settlers present does not remove the title of occupation. Citizens of Gaza are still living under some of the worst conditions in the world, with all their borders, airspace and ports still controlled by the Israeli military, imprisoning more than 1 million residents.

Because the borders of Gaza are either controlled by Israel or must meet Israeli military “standards,” because the airspace is still under foreign control, because no trade can occur without the consent of the Israeli military (which often is not given for no apparent reason), the Gaza strip is still occupied. We must continue to include the Gaza strip in our discussions on divestment and Israeli human rights violations.

Rama A. Salhi

The letter writer is an LSA senior and

president of Students Allied for Freedom and Equality.

 

Every Three Weekly joke off-color, out of context

To the Daily:

Former President John F. Kennedy once said: “The ancient Greek definition of happiness was the full use of your powers along the lines of excellence.”

The words of one of our great presidents provide an appropriate guide for reflection on Suhael Momin’s recent column (Parlez-vouz une autre langue?, 09/19/2005). The column is a convincing prima facie argument that the proposed “2-2” foreign language plan is a “watered-down” resolution for students wanting the easy way out.

Yet Momin’s column fails to even examine the benefits of a proposed change in the requirement. It reeks of an ignorance of the benefits of learning different types of languages concurrently and instead relies upon the stereotype that all one knows how to do after learning two semesters of a language is to ask where the bathroom is.

All I can provide in rebuttal is my own experience, having studied two very different languages, Spanish and ancient Greek. But this study has been one that is invaluable and unmatched throughout my college education. There are benefits to learning a practical skill such as conversational Spanish, but studying contrasting languages has been a far more engaging experience. The study of ancient Greek and the roots of Western culture is an exploration far beyond the acquisition of a specific skill. Translating seminal texts such as Plato’s Republic or the Bible after two semesters of Greek has been an unparalleled intellectual exercise and one of the few instances that could be defined as “critical thinking.”

At a world-class institution such as the University, it seems it would be more academically appropriate to examine whether a proposal can benefit those who wish to pursue their educational goals and excel. Instead, I was disappointed to see the blatant pessimism directed toward our student body’s apparent inclination to abuse the proposal.

However, it speaks well of Momin that he recognizes the ultimate goals of the foreign language requirement. It is imperative that we look to the principles that guide the University for direction in this matter. Thankfully, University President Mary Sue Coleman outlined four principles at the April 2004 meeting with the University Board of Regents for the benefit of the student body. She concluded that the University “will create greater access to Michigan’s academic quality.” By supporting the new language proposal, we will we have the opportunity to reach that goal.

Matt Hanley

LSA senior

 

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