Monday, August 31, 2009

Air France Discriminates

Air France no longer allows men to sit next to unaccompanied children less than 12 years old. Translation:

The French airline Air France no longer allows unaccompanied men to sit next to unaccompanied children of less than 12 years.

"This happens for safety reasons," said a speaker of the airline on Monday in Paris. No further explanations were given by the spokeswoman. The rule does not apply to women.

According to the information of the magazine "Le Point" this goes back to a series of complaints in the USA according to which passengers have behaved immoderately when seated next to unaccompanied children. Part of Air France pilots consider this rule pointless and refuse to apply it, the paper writes. British Airways had opted for the same rule in 2006, which attracted criticism from men who felt discriminated against.

"This happens for safety reasons." No further explanation.

You'd think their PR department could do better than that. If that's their only reason, then it's a stupid reason. And if such is really done for safety reasons, why not include 13 year olds? Are they any more safe from in-flight molestation? This is nothing more than sickening sexism and paranoia.

Ebert's Paranoid Insults

Roger Ebert of all people had some choice things to say about young people in a recent column this month entitled The Gathering Dark Age in the Chicago-Sun Times, where he essentially criticized the movie-going interests of young people in recent years and used it to make a point about the dumbing down of America. To be fair, Ebert was not overtly unkind to young people. He recognized the reality that there are a minority of teens who value good film making and he emphasized their non-conformist plight--the issue with his statements is that he grossly underestimates the so-called majority of young people (the ones who flock to films like Transformers over his beloved The Hurt Locker).
If I mention the cliché "the dumbing-down of America," it's only because there's no way around it. And this dumbing-down seems more pronounced among younger Americans....It proceeds from a lack of curiosity and, in many cases, a criminally useless system of primary and secondary education. Until a few decades ago, almost all high school graduates could read a daily newspaper. The issue today is not whether they read a daily paper, but whether they can.
The fact that more teens like box-office draws like Transformers doesn't mean they're dumb, it just means that they enjoy lighter faire. Teens have been doing this since motion pictures began becoming popular. As Roger Ebert might remember, in the 1950's teens used to flock to inane horror and science fiction flicks devoid of any demension, it wasn't because they were dumb, it was because they wanted a fun outing with friends or lovers. The movie was simply set up to get them together, and the same thing is going on in the modern age.

His arguments about the growing commercialism in media are spot on, but it's a shame that he continues to drag young people's movie-going interests into it. As one commenter to this column points out, the reason why young people may not be "flocking" to The Hurt Locker (the film Ebert thinks young people should have paid more attention to if not for their youthful ignorance) is because of its R Rating- a barrior that is put up by adults to keep the young people away. It's all too typical that adults will impose a limitation on young people and then condemn them for following suit--condemn them for not rebelling against the social order as expected and then slap the cuffs on them when they do. They just can't win.

To be fair, the worst insults come from the commenters, both young and old alike.

So many of the comments are either adults condemning young people for being dumber than they supposedly were as teens, or young people condemning themselves to the delight of older readers (and Ebert himself) who seem to get off on it. When confronted with the possibility that what they're saying is in fact insulting to young people, they choose to begin hurling blame at the grand conspiracy of the world that is turning the younger generations dumber--such paranoia in the guise of social consciousness is no model for young people--they don't need to be convinced that young people are dumb by a bunch of adults concocting conspiracy theories about how their kids are in peril (as if we haven't heard that before).

In the end, it just a very low blow for adults to repeatedly condemn young people for the mistakes being made by adults. If kids are indeed getting dumber, it's not their fault. Teens have no say in running this world because adults won't let them, so maybe that's the first indication about who's really at fault for this...if we're going to start playing blame games.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Indifference to Bullying

After a bit of a summer break, I returned to see this chestnut in the headlines: Openly gay teen sues Mohawk school district, Claims leaders' indifference failed to stop ongoing abuse. Since we read all the time about how schools cause more problems than they solve by being absurdly reactionary or just downright irrational, a story about a school not doing enough to prevent a crisis seems like a rare thing these days.

Readers will remember it wasn't too long ago that the story of the Springfield boy who committed suicide due to the school's indifference toward the severe bullying he'd been suffering with dropped a similar feel as this one. On the same occasion, we also heard of the middle school that sought to prevent bullying by banning all touch whether good or bad. Why does it seem that some schools either deal with bullying with an all or nothing approach?

We know all schools have to deal with bullying, that not every case of bullying a school is dealing with winds up in the news (and not everything in the news is true), and that on the whole schools do an adequate and reasonable job preventing unthinkable crises from escalating. It's really about doing what is adequate (as in, doing enough to protect victims of harassment in schools), while still remaining in the realm of what is reasonable (as in, not throwing down overly simple solutions--like banning all touch). But in these individual cases, sometimes you just have to wonder whether they are erring too far one way or the other.
He’d been picked on in seventh grade for not acting or looking “how a boy should look.” Students threw food at him, called him names, broke his cell phone and iPod, and constantly hurled names his way. Last year was worse.

“I had a hard time concentrating at school because I was constantly being harassed,” the teen said in an interview Wednesday. While all this was happening, Jacob and his parents say, Mohawk Central School District officials did nothing.
Due to the fact that the student is openly homosexual, there's always going to be the possibility that the school, for some reason, didn't count harassment on the basis of sexual orientation (something young people don't legally have) as actual harassment, or was for any reason of opinion willfully ignorant to it. The lawsuit goes on to describe various incidents of complaints made by the student and his family that the high school principal repeatedly took no action on, it also describes how a teacher explicitly on a number of occasions made the student's sexual orientation the subject of ridicule and humiliation.

Those who are implicated--the school, the principal, and the teacher--all deny these charges. If it is the case here that the school knowingly ignored his complaints of harassment on the basis of his sexual orientation, then that is one issue. If they knowingly ignored his complaints simply because that's their policy, then they're just not doing what is adequate. And if such is the case, let's hope they don't throw themselves too far in the opposite, unreasonable, direction as a response.