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Voice Thursday, April 17, 2014

Author stands for life

The

H e r a ld

our mission The Herald is a student-run newspaper that seeks to provide training in journalism for its staff and produce a quality newspaper, freely available to the campus community. We strive to meet high journalistic

standards, print timely news articles and to provide a forum to freely express and encourage student opinions. These opinions, however, do not necessarily reflect those of the university as a whole.

Editorial Board Garret Craig, Managing Editor Brittany Jacobson, Assistant Managing Editor

Cassie Daszko, Campus Editor Nick Mulder, Arts Editor Meredith Sweet, Copy Editor

Guest View Equality in Discipline George Leef, director of research for the North Carolina-based John William Pope Center for Higher Education Policy, authored a Forbes op-ed article titled “Obama Administration Takes Groupthink To Absurd Lengths.” The subtitle is “School Discipline Rates Must Be ‘Proportionate.’” Let’s examine some of the absurdity of the Obama administration’s take on student discipline. Last January, the departments of Justice and Education published a “guidance” letter describing how schools can meet their obligations under federal law to administer student discipline without discriminating on the basis of race, color or national origin. Its underlying threat is that if federal bureaucrats learn of racial disproportionality in the punishments meted out for misbehavior, they will descend upon a school’s administrators. If schools cannot justify differentials in rates of punishment by race or ethnic group, they will face the loss of federal funds and be forced to undertake costly diversity training. The nation’s educators can avoid sanctions by adopting a racial quota system for student discipline. So as Roger Clegg, president and general counsel of the Center for Equal Opportunity, predicts, “school officials will either start disciplining students who shouldn’t be, or, more likely, will not discipline some students who ought to be.” I can imagine school administrators reasoning this way: “Blacks are 20 percent of our student body, and 20 percent of suspensions this year have been of black students. In order to discipline another black student while maintaining our suspension quota, we will have to suspend some white students, whether they’re guilty or not.” Some administrators might see some injustice in that approach and simply ignore the misbehavior of black students. Leef cites Manhattan Institute’s Heather Mac Donald, who wrote in City Journal that “the Departments of Education and Justice have launched a campaign against disproportionate minority discipline rates, which show up in virtually every school district with significant numbers of black and Hispanic students. The possibility that students’ behavior, not educators’ racism, drives those rates lies outside the Obama administration’s conceptual universe.” She quoted Aaron Benner, a black teacher in a St. Paul, Minn., school who abhors the idea that school officials should go easy on black students who act up because (as a “facilitator” said) that’s what black culture is. “They’re trying to pull

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WALTER E. WILLIAMS Guest Columnist

one over on us. Black folks are drinking the Kool-Aid; this ‘letthem-clown’ philosophy could have been devised by the KKK.” Benner is right. I can’t think of a more racist argument than one that holds that disruptive, rude behavior and foul language are a part of black culture. If Barack Obama’s Department of Justice thinks that disproportionality in school punishments is probative of racial discrimination, what about our criminal justice system, in which a disproportionate number of blacks are imprisoned, on parole or probation, and executed? According to the NAACP’s criminal justice fact sheet, blacks now constitute nearly 1 million of the total 2.3 million people who are incarcerated. Blacks are incarcerated at nearly six times the rate of whites. The NAACP goes on to report that if blacks and Hispanics were incarcerated at the same rate as whites, today’s prison and jail populations would decline by approximately 50 percent. So what to do? For example, blacks are 13 percent of the population but over 50 percent of homicide victims and about 46 percent of convicted murderers. Seeing as the Obama administration is concerned about punishment disproportionality, should black convicts be released so that only 13 percent of incarcerated murderers are black? Or should the Department of Justice order the conviction of whites, whether they’re guilty or not, so that the number of people convicted of murder by race is equal to their number in the general population? You say, “Williams, that not only is a stupid suggestion but violates all concepts of justice!” You’re absolutely right, but isn’t it just as stupid and unjust for the Obama administration to seek punishment equality in schools? Walter E. Williams is a professor of economics at George Mason University. To find out more about Walter E. Williams and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com. © 2014 CREATORS.COM

RUSS PULLIAM Guest Columnist russ.pulliam@indystar.com

Why professional relationships matter I’ve already written about how the Hunger Games emphasizes the importance of skills. Skills are just as necessary in the presentday United States as they are in the Panem of the future. Although various social connections have always mattered for finding work and advancing professionally, these relationships have taken on a new relevance in the 21st century global knowledge economy. The Hunger Games helps us examine three kinds of relevant relationships: allies, mentors, and sponsors. Let’s consider allies first. Katniss understood that she would never be able to win the Hunger Games on her own, despite her keen physical and mental skills. She resolved from the outset not to play to win herself, but to protect Peeta, the other Tribute from her district. At first these alliances seemed to put Katniss at greater risk. However, as the contest unfolded, the wisdom of her actions was revealed. Both allies possessed their own unique skills that complemented Katniss’. Though they were weak where she was strong, the opposite was also true. Ultimately she would never have survived had it not been for Peeta’s cunning and Rue’s acumen. The basis of any alliance is trust. That was the biggest obstacle between Katniss and Finnick, who had to prove his trustworthiness in the Quar-

MARTIN HUGHES

Dean of Undergraduate Education

martin.hughes@cornerstone.edu ter Quell by saving Peeta’s life. It was also an issue in her relationship with Haymitch, who as a past winner from her district was her official mentor. Mentors matter. Often the difference between professional success and failure is someone with more experience taking an interest in you. That person can give you advice about situations you may face that they’ve already seen. Whether they handled those situations well or not, you can learn from them if you’re willing to listen. The distrust Katniss had for her mentor was born of dislike. Haymitch had his own reasons for being unpleasant, but this did not prevent him from being useful to her. At first her dislike for Haymitch kept Katniss from taking his advice, but she eventually realized he knew what he was talking about. While mentors can affect the

way we see and respond to a situation, they don’t always have the ability to intervene directly. That’s where sponsors come in. Anyone who’s seen The Hunger Games knows that sponsors provided key resources at critical moments in the contest, on behalf of Tributes they believed would benefit from their intervention. Sponsors were unknown patrons in the Capitol. It wasn’t any more necessary for Katniss to know who they were than it was for her to like or trust them. Their main interest in the contest was to influence the outcome, often by backing an underdog who they believed had what it took to be a winner. If workplace allies are our coworkers and subordinates, and mentors are a direct supervisor or a senior colleague, then sponsors are people in positions of power and influence, usually at the top or outside of the organization. They can certainly provide material resources to influence a situation, but they usually do so only as a means to create an opportunity that didn’t otherwise exist – an opportunity that you then have to make the most of. Cooperation always lessens competition and increases the odds of success. It cannot substitute for skills, but it helps level the playing field, or even gives a leg up, for worthy long shots. Next time we’ll consider the importance of integrating skills and relationships into an overall plan.

Life elsewhere, one reader at a time A few years ago, a columnist who works for one of the largest newspapers in the country told me that he never checks reader response to his work. “Too many personal attacks,” he said. “They’re mean.” I suggested that couldn’t possibly be true of every reader who weighs in. Surely, I said, we can learn from how people respond to our work. “I’m not going to let them in my head,” he said, shaking his head. “I don’t need to know what’s on their minds.” I think journalists should pay attention to how readers respond to their work. Why are we still in this business, if not to connect? I can’t respond to every email and comment, and I happily skip past the trolls, but I do try to get a feel for what readers are thinking. We can’t have a conversation, even a virtual one, if I’m doing all the talking. Having said that, I admit that it took me too long to get here, Web-wise. Over the past six years, I went from vowing never to join Facebook to using it as a primary way to interact with readers, one link and discussion at a time. I started small, but after it became clear that a columnist can’t expect privacy on Facebook, I made all my posts public and opened my page to subscribers. For the first year, I posted regular reminders to keep it civil – no personal attacks, no misogyny or bigotry — but I rarely do that now. Regular visitors help to moderate by either publicly calling out

CONNIE SCHULTZ Guest Columnist con.schultz@yahoo.com inappropriate posts or sending me alerts in private messages. I am moved by the efforts of strangers to preserve what we’ve built. It tells me that many people long for a safe place for conversation, wherever it may take place. It tells me, too, that news organizations could benefit from investing the resources to build the same sort of community on their sites. Readers also remind me that on any day I’m opining for Creators Syndicate or sharing a personal story for Parade magazine, I’m competing for attention with the daily mess of their busy lives. Nowhere is this more evident than it is in the responses to a question I post every month or so: “What’s on your mind today?” On April 4, more than 340 weighed in. A sampling, using only first names because they didn’t sign up for this column: Carol: “Why still no answers in the plane disappearance? And

glad it’s Friday.” Mark: “Nonstop overtime, but layoff comes August. But it’s a good job and good people. So I need to be thankful.” Amber: “I was legally wed to my love yesterday, the weight of it is setting in today.” Michelle: “I am getting divorced and I saw my ex driving yesterday. That hurt very much. I have to let go and face life again but I feel lost and alone.” Judy: “And I wish I could help Michelle and take her pain away ... she is not alone.” On and on it went. Worry for the grieving at Fort Hood. Hope for a new business. Despair over the U.S. Supreme Court’s campaign finance ruling. Joy at the beginning of baseball season. Some posted words of encouragement to those facing divorce, surgery and tough decisions. One post at a time, these readers remind me that most of life is happening somewhere else. Somewhere other than in my own head, to be precise. Connie Schultz is a Pulitzer Prizewinning columnist and an essayist for Parade magazine. She is the author of two books, including “...and His Lovely Wife,” which chronicled the successful race of her husband, Sherrod Brown, for the U.S. Senate. To find out more about Connie Schultz (con.schultz@yahoo.com) and read her past columns, please visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com. © 2014 CREATORS.COM

Eric Metaxas may be the most famous writer you have not heard of yet. For older readers, think of a Protestant version of William F. Buckley – a witty and intelligent force against the decline of traditional values. Metaxas will visit Indy on May 1, for a Life Centers banquet, sharing the limelight that evening with Gov. Mike Pence. Metaxas is better known as a biographer and radio comnmentator than as a pro-life advocate. But he sees a link between helping women in crisis pregnancies and his research on anti-Nazi pastor and theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer and British abolitionist William Wilberforce. His Wilberforce biography, “Amazing Grace,” accompanied the 2007 film about how Wilberforce worked to end slavery in the British empire. A member of Parliament, Wilberforce helped Britain find a better path to abolition than our bloody Civil War. Metaxas’ 2011 biography of Bonhoeffer gave American readers a new look at the German theologian who conspired to assassinate Hitler and end Nazi tyranny. Bonhoeffer was hung by the Nazis when the plot failed. Metaxas offers this lesson in an interview: “In the days of Wilberforce and Bonhoeffer, slavery and Nazism respectively seemed inevitable and entrenched, because Africans and Jews were thought less than human. Abortion seems similarly entrenched today. The unborn are thought less than human. These men looked not to the spirit of the age for what is true, so we should be encouraged and inspired to do the same. By God’s grace, what the world now thinks of slavery and Nazism, it will some day think of abortion.” Metaxas abstains from the cynicism of the day in favor of discerning genuine virtue in his biographies. He did not always plan to be a historian. He grew up in New York City with a Greek father and German mother, attended Yale and wrote children’s books and scripts for the “Veggie Tales” video series. His Bonhoeffer biography sold a surprising 600,000 copies, prompting an invitation to speak to the National Prayer Breakfast in 2012. But the book almost didn’t get on the shelves. Publisher HarperOne thought it was too long, but Thomas Nelson gambled on it. “Six hundredpage biographies of German theologians are not known to fly off the shelves,” Metaxas acknowledges. The pro-life theme runs in the family. His wife, Susanne, runs the Midtown Pregnancy Support Center in Manhattan. He and his wife have been honored with the Great Defender of Life Award from the “Human Life Review.” His most recent book is “7 Men,” which features short stories about Wilberforce, Bonhoeffer and others. An upcoming book: “7 Women.” Russ Pulliam, associate editor and weekly columnist for the Indianapolis Star, is a member of the Cornerstone Journalism Advisory Council and an annual presenter at the summer high school Cornerstone Journalism Institute – www.indystar.com


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