Down Syndrome Teen Stripped of Varsity Letter Jacket

A sad, complicated story.

varsity-letter-jacket

Michael Kelley is an athlete at a public school in Wichita, Kansas. But he’s had his letterman’s jacket taken away from him.

WaPo (“Why school officials forced a special needs teenager to remove his varsity jacket“):

Family members describe Michael Kelley as “warm and loving.”

If there’s one thing the outgoing teenager with the infectious smile loves, it’s suiting up for games on the Wichita East High School special needs basketball team in Wichita, Kan.

Wanting to recognize her son’s participation, his mother, Jolinda Kelley, purchased a varsity letter and placed it on her son’s jacket, according to NBC affiliate KSNW. She was shocked, she said, when school officials told him to remove the jacket because he’s not a varsity player.

“Another parent, from what I’ve been told, was upset that my son was wearing his letter jacket,” she told KSNW, noting that her son — who has autism and Down Syndrome — was given a girl’s sweatshirt to wear after his jacket was confiscated.

After Kelley’s family got the news, his sister got on Twitter and started a hashtag to support her brother: #GiveThemLetters.

Asked if his administration would consider giving varsity letters to special needs athletes, Wichita East High School principal Ken Thiessen told the KSNW the matter was already decided.

“We have considered it and our decision was no,” he said. “That is not appropriate, we believe, in our situation, because it is not a varsity level competition.”

There is no district-wide policy against special needs students earning letters, but school board members said they would consider implementing a new policy to address potential discrimination, according to KSNW.

A Facebook friend asks, “What petty and unkind parent complains about a special needs student getting a varsity letter?” While I’m inclined to agree that the reaction is petty and unkind, it’s not unreasonable.

A varsity letter is a symbol of a specific attainment: participation in varsity sports. Kelley isn’t a varsity athlete. To allow him to wear a letterman’s jacket may make him feel better—and that’s a good thing, given the hand he’s dealt—but it also lessens the symbol, since most seeing it won’t know it’s just something his mom sewed on. If he gets to wear it, then of course all the other special needs athletes should be entitled. And why not the jayvee athletes? Those on intramural teams? Those who play ball at recess?

If the argument is that the special needs kids are different because, through circumstances completely outside their control, they weren’t born with the abilities that others take for granted, then I’m not sure where to draw the line. Most kids don’t have the size, speed, and other attributes to play varsity sports, especially at a large public school. I wasn’t very good at sports, which frankly is more socially beneficial in high school than being a good student, but it never occurred to me that I should get a varsity letter I didn’t earn.

While I didn’t really understand it at the time, participation in high school sports and wearing that varsity letter is not only a big deal to those who earn it, it’s often the pinnacle of their achievement. Aside from their children’s lives, it’s the thing they look back most upon most fondly and with the most pride. While the memories of playing on the team would be there regardless, giving the same honor to those who didn’t earn it cheapens it.

For that matter, if we’re going to given unearned accolades to special needs kids simply on the basis that it makes them feel good—and, again, I’m all for making them feel good—then why not put them on the honor roll? Make them valedictorians?

This controversy is a sad, even ironic, outcome of the generally good policy of mainstreaming special needs kids. By being in the same classrooms and gymnasiums, they’re more directly comparing themselves the rest of the students. But surely there’s a way to recognize the achievements of special needs kids without giving them the prized symbols actually earned by others? Perhaps they could compete in a high school equivalent of the Special Olympics and earn medals and other symbols of achievement from that venue?

As an aside, the school should have handled this better. They shouldn’t have taken the kid’s jacket away from him, much less made him wear a girl’s sweater. They could have called his mom and let her know the policy. Then again, his mom should have known better than to send him to school wearing a varsity letter he hadn’t been awarded.

FILED UNDER: Education, Health
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. anjin-san says:

    Sad. I can’t imagine myself, even as teenager, begrudging this kid a letter jacket. The principal is an idiot.

  2. T says:

    “participation in high school sports and wearing that varsity letter is not only a big deal to those who earn it, it’s often the pinnacle of their achievement.”

    http://assets.sbnation.com/imported_assets/81024/albundy33_medium.jpg

  3. CSK says:

    If they have special needs athletic teams, then they can designate those teams varsity and junior varsity. That would seem the kind and reasonable thing to do.

    I understand Mrs. Kelley’s feelings, and I sympathize with her desire to see her son acknowledged for his efforts, but it would be better (and more meaningful) if the acknowledgment were official.

  4. James Joyner says:

    @anjin-san: I gather that it’s a more general policy rather than the principal’s call.

    @T: Yeah.

    @CSK: How many special needs kids can a school possibly have that they’d have enough to have a varsity and JV? Unless it’s an absurdly large school, it’s at best an intramural level competition.

  5. ernieyeball says:

    To allow him to wear a letterman’s jacket may make him feel better—and that’s a good thing, given the hand he’s dealt—but it also lessens the symbol,..

    I am trying to figure out how this kid wearing a letter jacket would lessen the symbol.
    Were the Varsity athletes somehow dissed by this fellow student?
    Were they really afraid that this young lad was encroaching on their turf?
    Looks to me like it’s the adults in this affair who are whining about this.
    I never got a letter jacket when I was in High School but if I had one I think I’d send it to Master Kelley and tell him to wear it with pride.

  6. “We have considered it and our decision was no,” he said. “That is not appropriate, we believe, in our situation, because it is not a varsity level competition.”

    Cue line of lawyers salivating over the chance to sue school for failing to provide varsity competition options for special needs students.

  7. @James Joyner:

    How many special needs kids can a school possibly have that they’d have enough to have a varsity and JV? Unless it’s an absurdly large school, it’s at best an intramural level competition.

    And clearly if they designated the existing special needs basketball team to be a varsity team, the International Association of High School Cliques will yank their Jocking License. Do you know how much the fines for jocking without a license are?

  8. wr says:

    @ernieyeball: “I am trying to figure out how this kid wearing a letter jacket would lessen the symbol.”

    In exactly the same way that two gay men marrying each other lessens a straight man’s marriage.

    To Republicans it’s never enough that they have something — if anyone they don’t like is allowed to have it to, it makes it valueless.

    I’m surprised to hear this coming from James, but I cut him some slack because he’s former military, where such decorations have great meaning and great impact.

    But on the whole, if the problem is that there are men out there whose greatest accomplishment in life is having a letter in high school, the answer is actually not to build up the importance of the jacket but for them to accomplish something of greater substance in their adult lives.

  9. michael reynolds says:

    Were I the principal I think this would have ended when I asked the offended parent, “Just WTF is the matter with you? Get out of my office.”

  10. CSK says:

    @James Joyner:

    The total enrollment for Wichita East High School is 2307. Given that they already have a special needs team, it probably wouldn’t be that difficult to designate everyone on that team a “Special Needs Varsity Player.” It probably wouldn’t be that difficult to have a JV Special Needs team.

  11. James says:

    …it’s often the pinnacle of their achievement

    It is a game.

  12. Also:

    1.) I doubt the school has the legal authority to ban certain students from wearing a jacket with the letter ‘W’ on it while permitting others to do so.
    2.) Even assuming there do have said authority, I doubt there was there a written policy to that effect at the time of this incident.

    As far as I’m concerned, this is a story about a bunch of adults attacking a disabled child and stealing his clothes. Frankly I’d like to see the officials involved charged with aggravated assault.

  13. michael reynolds says:

    By the way, just one more thing I despise about high school. What a stupid, pointless, corrupt system. WTF does any of it have to do with education? Education doesn’t come with a rigid timeline or with punishment. High School today is about babysitting, credentialing, defending sinecures for teachers and administrators and propping up local real estate prices with high test scores. None of that is about education.

    And I’m baffled by what the hell high school sports has to do with anything. So they can go off to college and be used by the NCAA like field hands? And maybe a handful make it to the pros where they can learn to beat their wives and behave like thugs? If they haven’t already learned that in high school.

    I’ll believe someone’s serious about reforming education when they suggest eliminating sports. Save a lot of money eliminating sports – put condos up on the football field, fire the coaches, spend less money covering up your team’s gang rape. You want exercise? Set up a gym. Mats, weights, machines, still way cheaper.

  14. de stijl says:

    Teen Stripped of Varsity Letter Jacket

    Yo! OG crime for old school loot. It’s 1984 redux, yo. Wuz da gangstar perp sporting Raiders or White Sox gear? Mebbe G-Town Hoyas? Wuz Grandmaster Flash dropping The Message?

    Droppin bombs on your moms yo

    Word to your mother

  15. CSK says:

    @michael reynolds:

    I couldn’t agree with you more, but eliminating high school sports, particularly in the south and the midwest, will never, ever happen.

  16. Paul Hooson says:

    This is unacceptable and outside of treating everyone with respect, dignity and charity.

  17. Gustopher says:

    The article makes it sound like this was the school’s first reaction to the complaint. I can see the school’s position, and even generally sympathize with it — you shouldn’t wear an honor you haven’t earned, whether it is a varsity letter, a Purple Heart, or the congressional medal of freedom — but there’s a way to enforce it while treating the kid respectfully, and this wasn’t it.

  18. MarkedMan says:

    I gotta agree with James here. Varsity letters are for those that have earned them. As another example: My sister teaches special ed high school kids. 25 years ago that meant helping hthem learn how to make change and deal with traffic signals. Today all those kids have been mainstreamed and her classes consist of kids with very severe disabilities who often have a full time caregiver with them. For quite a few of them their teachers literally have no idea whether or not the kids is even aware of their surroundings. But these kids, the mainstream kids and the regular kids all get the exact same high school diploma. I respect what all the kids and their parents are trying to do in improving their lives, but giving them a diploma does devalue it for everyone. An employer cannot tell a single thing about someone’s fitness for a job if they tell them they have a high school diploma. Heck, it’s not even proof of attendance, since any kid can be out for weeks or months at a time due to health problems.

  19. Just Me says:

    My kids have had a great experiences with sports and high school.

    I don’t really see a big deal here. He plays on a special needs athletic team and I see no problem with the school giving letters for that.

    One of the larger schools in my state has a young man with Down’s Syndrome who helps manage the wrestling team and every small meet he would have an exhibition match with a teammate. That school thankfully allowed him to earn a letter and his teammates supported him fully. Would like to see more kids with this attitude than whiny parents.

  20. Aquanerd says:

    Teenagers don’t wear varsity jackets anymore. What is this Teenwolf.

  21. wr says:

    @MarkedMan: “But these kids, the mainstream kids and the regular kids all get the exact same high school diploma. I respect what all the kids and their parents are trying to do in improving their lives, but giving them a diploma does devalue it for everyone. An employer cannot tell a single thing about someone’s fitness for a job if they tell them they have a high school diploma”

    If an employer can’t tell the difference between a “mainstreamed” kid and “regular” kids because they have the same diploma, either the mainstreamed kids have come along really well and deserve the job… or the employer really needs to take some lessons in interviewing.

  22. Franklin says:

    I think this was alluded to in one of Stormy Dragon’s posts, but here’s my more direct observation: the school didn’t *award* him the varsity letter, so what’s the problem? The mom bought it, like a counterfeit Rolex. Is the principal going to start confiscating those, too?

  23. Yolo Contendere says:

    When I went to high school, most letter jackets were worn by the girlfriends of the athletes. I don’t know if that is the tradition at this school, but somehow I don’t think the principal would be confiscating jackets if it was.

    For that matter, if we’re going to given unearned accolades to special needs kids simply on the basis that it makes them feel good—and, again, I’m all for making them feel good—then why not put them on the honor role? Make them valedictorians?

    No one is giving this kid unearned accolades. I’ll let you in on a little secret James, no one at this school is fooled by the Down’s syndrome kid wearing a varsity letter. They know he doesn’t excel at sports. They know it makes this kid feel good to wear it, and probably don’t give a damn that he does.

    Finally, it was earned in the most important way possible for a lot of Republicans. It was bought and paid for by his mother…

  24. Uh…what?

    The government can’t punish someone who falsely claims to have a received a military commendation (see Stolen Valor Act of 2005 and United States v. Alvarez) but a high school and stop a student, who has Down’s Syndrome, from wearing a fraking jacket?

  25. anjin-san says:

    @ James

    but it never occurred to me that I should get a varsity letter I didn’t earn

    Yea, but you were a normal kid. This is a special needs kid.

    If he needs a varsity jacket to make his path through a difficult life a bit easier, let him have one. As a guy who once played varsity sports, I will not be offended or feel my very modest accomplishments as an athlete are lessened.

  26. MarkedMan says:

    @wr:

    If an employer can’t tell the difference between a “mainstreamed” kid and “regular” kids … the employer really needs to take some lessons in interviewing.

    That’s my point though. The diploma itself no longer means anything. In another place, another generation, an employer could post a job and say “high school diploma required” and knew they were getting applicants who could do simple math (i.e. make change at a register) and able to read simple instructions. That is no longer true. So, maybe not the end of the world. But it still makes me wonder if there is any value in giving out a high school diploma at all. Does it mean anything? Should it mean anything?

  27. Yolo Contendere says:

    @MarkedMan: Actually, no they couldn’t. It has never been the case that employers would only get applicants who had the qualifications advertised. Nor could they be sure those qualifications translated to particular skills.

    I am curious though, how confident you are about the “diploma” you believe “mainstreamed kids” are getting. There are special needs kids that with help can actually pass the same classes the “regular kids” take. I’m not sure why they don’t deserve a diploma, nor why they wouldn’t be as qualified as any high school graduate. As for the severely disabled, the schools I know of let them walk at graduation, but they are presented with a certificate of attendance, not a diploma.

    Honestly, this whole issue could be a test to see where people are on the empathy spectrum. Who is the victim here? Is it the kid who was dealt a bad hand in life, born with Down’s & autism, who is just trying to fit in with his peers and get something out of life? Or is it the (theoretical) kid who is a gifted athlete but now has his accomplishments diminished because the retard’s mom bought him a letter and sewed it on his jacket? And I parenthesize theoretical because I really have to wonder how many varsity students at this school give a damn.

  28. MarkedMan says:

    @Yolo Contendere:

    As for the severely disabled, the schools I know of let them walk at graduation, but they are presented with a certificate of attendance, not a diploma.

    In the case of my sister’s school at least, the diploma is exactly the same. They used to give the certificate you described but Special Ed parents successfully lobbied for a rule change.

    To be honest though, this information is years old. I’m going to check back with her and see where it all stands now. For instance, the way things stood the first year it happened a severely special ed kid could have technically become the class valedictorian, or at least that was the belief among her and her colleagues. I’m pretty certain that never happened and to be honest, I don’t know if the policy still remains in place or not. I’ll report back when I hear from her.

  29. Another Thought says:

    Letterman jackets is basically a type of award. For those who think it is OK for somewhere to wear it who hasn’t earn it, then I assume they wouldn’t mind someone claiming academic awards that they haven’t earned either.

  30. Yolo Contendere says:

    @MarkedMan: I’m honestly not sure how I would feel about that. Having a special needs child myself about to enter the school system, I want him to have every opportunity to succeed. Getting a diploma he didn’t earn wouldn’t necessarily do that.

    I am now super-curious about your sister’s school. I’ve not heard of a case where valedictorian wasn’t based primarily on highest GPA. As raw GPA allowed for gaming the system, many schools now weight GPAs according to academic difficulty. AP Calculus counts for more than Remedial Woodshop. Unless the rules were any class a special needs student was in counted as college-level, and that they would get an automatic “A” just for showing up, I’m not sure how even technically a severely special ed kid could become valedictorian. I have to wonder if this belief was actually a fear of change and loss of control.

  31. Yolo Contendere says:

    @Another Thought: Yeah, some award, that you have to purchase it yourself. Perhaps they shouldn’t have sold Mom a letter in the first place if it was so important.

    And actually, no I wouldn’t mind if the kid wore a chess club sweater, or whatever the academic equivalent of a letterman jacket is. You do realize a sports letter is not exactly an Olympic medal here? They’re awarded according to individual school rules. Many schools award them based on playing time during a season, which effectively makes them participation awards.

    But getting back to the instance at hand, no one at that school is going to be fooled into thinking this kid was on the varsity team. Who is being harmed here?

  32. Grumpy Realist says:

    I don’t know whether varsity letters are distinguished by color, but if they are, why didn’t the school just request of mom that the letter be a different color, if they were so terrified of confusion?

  33. James Joyner says:

    @Just Me: I have no problem at all–indeed, I think it’s really great—to award the letter to the special needs kid who helps out as the team manager.

    @Timothy Watson: I oppose Stolen Valor laws. If the school had suspended the kid for wearing the jacket, I’d have thought it outrageous. Telling him he couldn’t wear it to school I get.

    @wr: @James: I don’t disagree. But the sad fact is that a whole lot of people peak in high school. Looking back at my own cohort from three decades back, many of the athletes, cheerleaders, and Most Popular kids never came close to achieving meaningful status afterwards and went on to hum drum lives. And, of course, many others did that without having that moment in the sun in high school. You know Chris Rock’s job vs. career bit? The overwhelming number of folks have jobs.

    @Yolo Contendere: @anjin-san: Looking into the matter of whether it’s still common to award varsity letters in this day and age, I learned that, typically, the letter is awarded only to varsity athletes who participate in a certain percentage of the team’s plays. So, even varsity athletes who make the team but aren’t good enough to earn playing time don’t get the letter. And yet this kid is running around wearing one. I can see where that would rub someone the wrong way.

  34. superdestroyer says:

    @Stormy Dragon:

    I think you would be amazed that what schools are allowed to do. Would anyone think it OK is non-cheerleaders wore cheerleading uniforms. What about FFA jackets for non-FFA students? What is the difference between students claiming things they have not earned that adults putting things on their resumes that they have not earned?

  35. KM says:

    While I can certainly sympathize with the student and mother’s argument, I find I must agree with James. Claiming membership in something you’re not a member of is dishonest at best, regardless of your intent. Wanting to be something doesn’t make it so otherwise I’d be heading to Rio in 2016 to win the gold for the USA in Epee and Foil.

    Furthermore, belittling the achievements of others is not beneficial to the situation and that’s what many on this thread are doing. You’d be furious if someone spoke about the special ed team like that so why the varsity hate? Those kids did nothing to earn your ire. We do not need to devalue one to raise another. I agree that he has every right to feel welcome and included – he’s an athlete in his own right and should be respected for it. Why is his mother not proud of his accomplishment and gotten him a visible symbol of it, instead of the traditional varsity one? She doesn’t want him marked as the “special team” but with the more “respectable” varsity. But the thing is, he is. And they should be damn proud of it. There’s no shame in it other then what some ignoramus attaches to it. He’s had twice the challenges and the same success – honor him the way he deserves. Wear your pride!

  36. ptfe says:

    @James Joyner: ” If the school had suspended the kid for wearing the jacket, I’d have thought it outrageous. Telling him he couldn’t wear it to school I get.” On what punishment? I believe the only punishment the school can legally dole out is…wait for it…suspension.

    As I understand it, they actually don’t have the legal right to confiscate the jacket unless it’s considered an in-school distraction that can’t otherwise be dealt with, which generally means it needs to violate the established dress code. And let’s look up the East Wichita High School dress code, perhaps:

    Any staff member who deems a student’s clothing to be inappropriate or distracting will send the student to an administrator. All tops and shirts must cover the shoulders, show no cleavage, and cover the beltline. Skirts and shorts should be a modest length. The shortest point on the apparel must be at least as long as the tip of the index finger. Sagging is not allowed. Pants are to be worn at the natural waist. Footwear is to be worn at all times, and house shoes/slippers are not allowed. Clothing with offensive pictures or language is inappropriate. Hats or any other type of headgear, unless for religious or medical purposes, are not allowed. Administration reserves the right to make the final decision on appropriate dress.

    Nothing in there about letters. What, was the kid showing off shoulders? (Yet another problem for the school, which apparently deems questioning its policies in this regard intolerable.)

    I also like the defensive post the principal put up about this. He tries to turn himself into the victim of some national hate campaign. “No, no, we care about everyone! But, you know, we also love basketball. You haters just can’t understand how much we love basketball.”

  37. James says:

    I think that’s basically my point. Don’t you think this special needs kid is going to “peak” in high school? Is he likely to have a career or a job? It’s all a joke anyway I remember when my high school football team was really good and everyone was allowed to join. Most didn’t play because they had no ability but the coach allowed it so they could get the jersey and the letter and say they were on a championship team. Hurray.

  38. James says:

    @KM: It’s not hate. At least my high school, varsity meant you played a sport and were a junior or senior. That’s it. Join your junior year, get a letter. So what’s the big deal?

  39. ptfe says:

    @KM: Do you honestly not understand the difference between symbolic membership in a non-standardized group like “lettermen” and a membership in a legitimate organization with established rules and codes?

    Sure, you can wear a letter without “earning” it. It’s not like you staple your letter to your resume, or even really reference it ever again in your professional life. You never have to justify it — it simply exists. In my h.s. we used to get letters for everything from sports to academics; people collected them like candy. You could probably trade them.

    To me, complaining about this is like complaining about someone buying a Red Sox jersey with no name and an unclaimed number. It’s not like you think the guy is a member of the Red Sox, it points to affinity for the team in question, a pride of place and belonging. Generally this doesn’t imply you’ve “earned” the jersey, but that you purchased the jersey because you want those feelings.

    If these letters truly were an award, the entire jacket would be presented to players, free of charge and only in limited (and well-defined) circumstances, with a codified set of regulations about how one goes about obtaining and keeping them. Instead, they’re sold like airline captain’s shirts and epaulets. Anyone can get them, but you don’t honestly think someone is going to give you a job flying a 747 because you wear them around. Nobody’s going to put you into the basketball championship game because you show up with a letter on your jacket either.

  40. JohnMcC says:

    Given the direction this thread has taken it’s kind of off-topic but it’s clear to me that varsity sports in high schools are really about the local patriotism of parents. Dr Joyner points out that many people seem to ‘peak’ in their late adolescent years but does not pause to consider that the emphasis on high school sports might play some part in that sad event; there probably is a fairly strong correlation between these premature ‘peakers’ and the booster clubs of parents that make HS sports so rabid in some schools.

    In an ideal world the only interest that schools would have in sports is giving students a life-long interest in sports and fitness. I was terribly unsuccessful in sports in those years. But later in life played in the Collegiate Lacrosse Association (GO VOLS!), was a triathlete in my 40s and 50s, and probably survived a heart attack (according to my cardiologist) because of the years of building collateral circulation in my heart by running races up to 1/2 marathon.

    Sports should be a life-long pursuit. A school that fails to teach that has seriously failed in a significant part of its mission

  41. KM says:

    @ptfe:

    Do you honestly not understand the difference between symbolic membership in a non-standardized group like “lettermen” and a membership in a legitimate organization with established rules and codes?

    I understand just fine, I don’t think you understood me. My point was if he’s worked hard, struggled and succeeded on his own merits on his team, why not give him the respect of it? If varsity is as garden variety as you say, why go with it at all? What the hell is wrong with saying you’re on the special needs team? Why does he have to have the “normal” letter- because some idiot won’t respect him as a real player if he doesn’t? It feels like going out of the way to de-emphasize what makes him unique so he can be “just another athlete” and another face in the crowd. Give them their due. He isn’t a fan, he’s a player. He’s already earned his number.

    I was and always will be a proponent of being proud of who you are. My cousin just got her Associates in CS despite her autism and Fetal Alcohol Syndrome. We made it a point of pride at her graduation to let everyone know because she’s worked so much harder then your average student. She was proud of her achievement and will let anyone know just how hard she tried to get where she is in life. There’s no shame in admitting you have a disability – the only shame is if that disability keeps you from living your life.

  42. JKB says:

    One wonders why we let this school-supported gang culture survive in this day and age. One that treats non-member wearing of the gang symbols on jackets in the same manner as motorcycle “clubs.”

    But it is not true that those who haven’t earned the right can’t wear the jacket. As some have mentioned, the jackets are worn by females as both a symbol of their status due to association with the gang member and the gang member’s claim to exclusive sexual access.

    All and all, it is just amusing how the incident has highlighted the hypocrisy of high school. The administrators are anti-gang, unless it is one they “control”. They are for sexual equality unless the school-approved gang uses their symbolism to undermine status equality.

  43. anjin-san says:

    @JKB:

    One wonders why we let this school-supported gang culture survive in this day and age. One that treats non-member wearing of the gang symbols on jackets in the same manner as motorcycle “clubs.”

    So you’ve moved on from resenting college students to resenting high school students?

  44. Loviatar says:

    This thread has become an excellent Rorschach test. We run the gamut from those that care more about their “achievements” being seen as diminished by a special needs person to actual human beings.

  45. anjin-san says:

    giving the same honor to those who didn’t earn it cheapens it.

    Letting that kid wear a letter jacket would not “cheapen” it. It would however, provide kids at the top of the high school food chain with a useful lesson about empathy, compassion, and noblesse oblige, things that will hopefully expand their horizons a bit.

  46. grumpy realist says:

    @James Joyner: That makes it sound like the people who are giving the stink-eye to this kid having a varsity jacket are making a fuss about it because they know that their little football/basketball mad darlings are going to top out in high school and that their own varsity jackets are the only things that they will have for their rest of their lives to demonstrate any accomplishment whatsoever.

    What’s next; the parents of a bunch of six-year olds getting miffed because the teacher gave a gold star to the DS kid in the class?

  47. @superdestroyer:

    I think you would be amazed that what schools are allowed to do. Would anyone think it OK is non-cheerleaders wore cheerleading uniforms.

    Funny you should mention… back when I was in junior high, the dress code allowed students to wear skirts but not shorts. This became an issue one year when there was a big two week heat wave and, with no air condition, the male student were rather miserable.

    A few days in, a bunch of male students decided to start wearing skirts to school to protest the unequal treatment, and the school was powerless to do anything because the written policy just specified what sorts of skirts were permittable, and never said only female students could wear them.

    After a few days, the policy was rewritten to allow pants shorts of the same length as the previous skirt length requirement.

  48. Moderate Mom says:

    This is a high school that is large enough to field a special needs basketball team. I would presume that they play special needs teams from other schools. If that’s the case, what is the difference between the competitions of the special needs team and the competitions of other sports teams at the school.

    As far as I’m concerned, this kid deserves to wear the jacket, and the letter. He is just as much of an athlete as the guy on the football team or the girl on the softball team.

    And shame on the parent that complained. If your kid’s biggest accomplishment in life is making a high school athletic team, I feel for them. It’s just not that important.

  49. Just 'nutha' ig'rant cracker says:

    @michael reynolds: That’s why you are not a building principal (or me either).

    Yeah, I know that you can’t accept the cut in pay, but this is the reason in the metaphysical sense.

  50. Pinky says:

    @Loviatar:

    This thread has become an excellent Rorschach test.

    I agree with you. I wouldn’t have thought that people would line up on this by political affiliation.

  51. Pinky says:

    @James Joyner:

    But the sad fact is that a whole lot of people peak in high school. Looking back at my own cohort from three decades back, many of the athletes, cheerleaders, and Most Popular kids never came close to achieving meaningful status afterwards and went on to hum drum lives.

    Who says? There are a lot of ways to achieve “meaningful status”. Success is not necessarily measured by earnings or prestige. If there’s one thing we should have learned via the internet, it’s that people have a lot of varied interests and skills and find fulfillment in ways they wouldn’t have dreamed of in high school.

  52. ernieyeball says:

    @MarkedMan:..The diploma itself no longer means anything.

    I got a HS Diploma in the spring of 1966.
    I still don’t know how I graduated since I flunked a semester of physics my senior year.
    I guess awarding me a sheepskin must have lessened the value of the parchments my classmates received.
    I didn’t know I had that much smack.

  53. wr says:

    @superdestroyer: “I think you would be amazed that what schools are allowed to do. Would anyone think it OK is non-cheerleaders wore cheerleading uniforms.”

    You might want to ask the proprietors of many porno sites if people think it’s okay non-cheerleaders wear the uniforms, or whether they provide a certificate of cheering along with the age one.

  54. wr says:

    @James Joyner: “But the sad fact is that a whole lot of people peak in high school”

    Sure. And there are a whole lot of people — like SuperD, say — whose sole claim to superior achievement is being white. Should we arrange society to make sure they never never never have to confront the fact that this is not actually that much of an achievment?

  55. @ernieyeball:

    I still don’t know how I graduated since I flunked a semester of physics my senior year.

    Is successfully completing a physics course actually a graduation requirement in your state? Out of curiousity, I just looked up my state’s requirements, and it looks the the junior and senior math (algebra II and trigonometry) and science courses (chemistry and physics) are not actually required to graduate.

  56. ernieyeball says:

    @Stormy Dragon:Is successfully completing a physics course actually a graduation requirement in your state?

    When I was attended H-F HS (1964-1966) the Graduation Requirements were more stringent than State of Illinois requirements.
    Maybe they still are today.

    Graduation requirements for the Classes of 2015-2018
    Science — 3 units of credit are required, specifically: Biology, Chemistry and Physics.
    http://www.hfhighschool.org/academics/graduation-requirements/

  57. ernieyeball says:

    @ernieyeball:..was attending…

  58. Loviatar says:

    @Pinky:

    I wouldn’t have thought that people would line up on this by political affiliation.

    As has been said many times before, Republicans lack the empathy gene. They lack the ability to look at a situation and say “there for the grace of god go I”. Unless the negative situation has a direct impact on their lives (family or close friend) a Republicans first response to an accommodation is usually a negative one. Republicans seem to immediately ask themselves how is giving this accommodation making my life worse, why is this person taking advantage of me, why are they trying to diminish my accomplishments.

    However let the negative situation directly impact their life and you’ll see how quickly they gain that empathy gene.
    .

    Example of the Republican empathy gene:

    Rob Portman backs gay marriage after son comes out

    Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio), once a staunch opponent of gay marriage, says that he now supports same-sex nuptials after his son told him he was gay.

  59. @ernieyeball:

    Graduation requirements for the Classes of 2015-2018
    Science — 3 units of credit are required, specifically: Biology, Chemistry and Physics.

    Yes, but is that a requirement by the state, or a requirement by the school?

  60. ernieyeball says:

    @Stormy Dragon:..I just looked up my state’s requirements,..

    Insert Illinois where you wrote in Confusion.

  61. Just Me says:

    Movistar I call Bullshit! On your whole “republicans have no empathy” it’s what judgemental liberals argue because they can’t take the time to get to know republicans. It’s middle school name calling.

    As for this kid-

    First he is an athlete. He plays in a team for other special needs kids, but he is active and representing his school. I see absolutely no problem with kids who play in a special needs team receiving letters. At most schools there are multiple sports-our high school wrestling team is pretty much non competitive because they only have 8 wrestlers. If the kids earn a letter in wrestling (a team that loses every meet) that doesn’t diminish the achievement of the basketball team or the swimming team. They are different sports. Imo a special needs basketball team would be one more sport offered at the school where a letter is possible.

    Also our state has a mixed special needs/neurotypical volleyball team that competes in the spring. There are specific rules for how many of each a team has to have and how many must be in the court at any given time but students that participate earn school letters and there is a state championship that awards champions like any other sport.

    I think if the focus here is wrong and the school rules for how to qualify for a letter may be part of the problem but if a kid plays for their school then they should be able to earn a letter-and at the very least a JV letter.

    I will also note that nobody at our school bothers with Letterman’s jackets. All four of my kids have varsity lettered in at least 1 sport (and both girls in three sports) and non of them have/had a jacket or wanted one. Here athletes are more likely to want a “team” jacket that recognizes being in the team not necessarily whether they are JV, Varsity or have earned a letter yet.

  62. Loviatar says:

    It’s middle school name calling.

    Middle school name calling may be cruel but it usually has a basis in fact.

    Republicans don’t care about anyone but themselves. As I said up thread this has become an excellent Rorschach test. You have the original OP where James (a Republican) agrees with the principal and school in their humiliation and embarrassment of a special needs child by taking away a sports letter. Why, of what purpose does that serve other than to make the kid feel bad about himself, yet James (a Republican) feels this is justifiable. Anecdotal, but fact.

    Lets talk a little more statically, pick a subject, any subject where rights are to be expanded, where accommodations are being made for a minority or an oppressed portion of our society. Gay Marriage, majority of Republicans polled would deny LGBT persons the ability to marry. Voting Rights, majority of Republicans polled would roll back the protections. Come on you pick the subject where rights are being expanded for minorities or oppressed persons and Republicans are in the lead. You can’t.

    Don’t blame it on judgmental liberals, Republicans have earned their reputation as uncaring, unempathetic bullies.

  63. Pinky says:

    @Loviatar: There’s another explanation that fits. It’s one I typically don’t give much credence to, but it does fit so well that I couldn’t help but think about it. Evan Sayet, a few years back, gave a speech at Heritage Foundation called “Regurgitating the Apple: How Modern Liberals Think”:

    “I assume that just about everybody in this room agrees that the Democrats are wrong on just about every issue. Well, I’m here to propose to you that it’s not “just about” every issue; it’s quite literally every issue. And it’s not just wrong; it’s as wrong as wrong can be; it’s 180 degrees from right; it is diametrically opposed to that which is good, right, and successful….

    “[T]hey’re convinced that since all of these ideas of man have proved to be wrong, the real cause of war, poverty, crime, and injustice must be found–can only be found–in the attempt to be right….

    “What you have is people who think that the best way to eliminate rational thought, the best way to eliminate the attempt to be right, is to work always to prove that right isn’t right and to prove that wrong isn’t wrong….

    “[T]hey are indoctrinated into what I call a “cult of indiscriminateness.” The way the elite does this is by teaching our children, starting with the very young, that rational and moral thought is an act of bigotry; that no matter how sincerely you may seek to gather the facts, no matter how earnestly you may look at the evidence, no matter how disciplined you may try to be in your reasoning, your conclusion is going to be so tainted by your personal bigotries, by your upbringing, by your religion, by the color of your skin, by the nation of your great-great-great-great-great grandfather’s birth; that no matter what your conclusion, it is useless. It is nothing other than the reflection of your bigotries, and the only way to eliminate bigotry is to eliminate rational thought.”

    http://www.heritage.org/research/lecture/regurgitating-the-apple-how-modern-liberals-think

    There’s a lot more to it. Even if you don’t agree with it, you should give it a read. It’s very influential on the right.

  64. James says:

    @Pinky: The argument is flawed from the start. It proposes, from the start, that conservative thought is the only moral and rational one (which is funny because a moral decision is not inherently a rational one). That’s not even a proper argument. Instead of starting with a statement and presenting evidence to support his conclusion. He makes a conclusion and then proceeds to argue under the assumption that his conclusion is correct. That’s not a rational argument, that’s a sermon.

    Then there is the elite trope. If liberals were really the elite, the totality of the elite, then why isn’t the country run by liberals, after all they are the elite and therefore in power. How do liberals make make up the elite when the Bush’s are working on sending a third member to the White House? It’s certainly no rational to believe that. Fox News will proudly tell you that they are the most watched cable news channel and yet somehow, they are not part of the mainstream news. That’s not rational.

    Now you’ll undoubtedly say that already stated you didn’t really agree with it but, as you said, it is influential on the right. Which shows that the right is more interested in building it’s dogma and then trying to find facts that support it then they are about seriously looking for answers.

  65. Loviatar says:

    @Pinky: / @James:

    They lost me here:

    The Heritage Foun­dation has a very fine reputation for excellent research and writing on policy issues that are facing our nation and our world, focusing on Capitol Hill.

    At that point I stopped reading and went back to watching the UConn women dominate another team on their way to a championship.

  66. michael reynolds says:

    @Pinky:
    As James points out, it’s a faith-based (or at least assumption-driven) argument, which is to say no argument at all. It’s an intellectual vacuum, a nothingness.

    As liberals keep pointing out, not only do you guys never have facts, you never have logic, either. The era of the conservative intellectual is long gone because you folks don’t require logic or facts, you just keep repeating the same untested (and generally false) assumptions. So that arguments between conservatives and liberals end up boiling down to a conservative asserting that 2+2=19, and when challenged the conservative simply repeats that 2+2=19. And no amount of evidence can alter that belief. I mean, just how much proof do you need that the Laffer curve doesn’t actually reflect reality?

    In order to hold onto your beliefs you’ve had to move further and further away from reality. You started with 2+2=4.5 and gradually advanced until your statements rather than being mere errors became fantasy. You’re now arguing for economic theories that haven’t just been disproven once or twice but again and again and again. Your social theories on everything from long hair to sex education have been blown apart by reality.

    You’re simply wrong about almost literally everything, and the difference is that on each point we can supply assumption-free evidence, and logic, and you’ve never got anything but a credulous reassertion of your cult’s talking points. It’s why you guys lose every single argument here. Or hadn’t you noticed?

    Did you think it was coincidence that you’ve lost the educated classes? Did you think it was coincidence that you’re now concentrated in the most backward and disconnected parts of the country? Did you think it was coincidence that conservatism rather than being a system of the elites became a belief system of bearded hermits and snake handlers?

    You people are no longer living in reality.

  67. Pinky says:

    @michael reynolds: I don’t think it was intended as an argument. Was your last comment intended as an argument? It was all assertions too. I don’t think I’ve ever seen you win an argument, because I don’t think I’ve ever seen you make one.

  68. michael reynolds says:

    @Pinky:

    No, it was not intended as an argument, it was in fact a string of conclusions – opinions.

    As for me not winning an argument, you know how many people here believe that? None. Including you.

  69. Pinky says:

    @michael reynolds: Again, mind reading?

  70. Pinky says:

    @Pinky: The way you assert things that aren’t true is connected to the way you assert things that you “learned” through telepathy.

  71. anjin-san says:

    @Pinky:

    I wouldn’t have thought that people would line up on this by political affiliation.

    Really? It’s pretty predictable. Republicans are mostly worried that someone at the bottom of the heap will somehow take something, anything from those at the top.

    After all, how can a football player possibly enjoy making out with a cheerleader on Saturday night knowing that some poor kid who faces challenges he can’t imagine is wearing a varsity jacket?

  72. michael reynolds says:

    @Pinky:
    Not mind reading. IQ in the top tenth of a percent, very heavily weighted toward the verbal. It’s simple textual analysis, reading what’s there and seeing what’s missing, extrapolating to the underlying thought processes. You know how a mathematician can look at a chalk board covered in numbers and symbols and immediately work out what’s wrong or missing? That stuff doesn’t just work in math. Words are tells. Words avoided are also tells. Topics favored or avoided: tells. Relationship to other commenters: tells. Sources: tells. It’s all information, dude, it all reveals.

  73. MarkedMan says:

    OK, I’ve heard back from my sister who teaches special ed in a major metropolitan area and has done so for over 30 years. She says

    Currently, our special need students get the same diploma as everyone else. Classes are listed but there is no indication of Special Ed on the transcript or diploma. What has happened in the past and is still debated today is that grades are not weighted. Meaning basic math classes and AP calculus are awarded equal value. So technically a student with an A- in AP calculus would be ranked behind a student with an A in basic math. Many schools in this area have discontinued rankings. Yes there were students who were in special ed that were ranked near the very top or could be valedictorian. My worry was the students who needed to be in the top 10% of their class to be considered to be accepted to a college. Yes, special ed students could be part of the 10%.

    So she places this in the larger context of giving equal weight to all classes. At her current school grades are weighted, meaning an Honors class counts more towards GP than a regular class and, presumably, a special ed class. Today in her school the grades are weighted but in the past the grades were not weighted. She goes on to explain the rationale for this, and uses as an example the honors students in her particular school today:

    The theory is you are placed at the level of classes where you should succeed. Honors students will always want to excel. Having weighted grades may discourage students from taking classes that are not weighted. For instance, many of our hour students will not take drivers ed, art or shop classes because they are not weighted. Taking a non weighted class can bring down your GPA. So honor students only want to take honor classes.

  74. MarkedMan says:

    You know, I’m pretty liberal but definitely fall on James’ side of the argument here. Many people on the other side seem to think that since they believe sports are low value, any awards given are meaningless and the kids who get them are losers for believing otherwise. I have two kids who made the varsity team in their sports and they worked darn hard, put in thousands of extracurricular hours to get there and are darn proud of their accomplishments and the accomplishments of their team. Now, their particular school doesn’t have varsity letters, but the kids can buy a school jacket with their name, the school name and their sport on it. They pay for it themselves, but only kids associated with the team can get. it. If some random kid decides they want the cool looking jacket, well, I’m not sure what would happen, except that a lot of people would be pissed off. I imagine they would be mocked pretty soundly.

    So, what if it was a special ed kid, one who was on a different team? I’m not sure how my kids would feel. I do know that they would be 100% supportive of the SE kids getting jackets of their own for their own accomplishments (and, at least as far as my daughter is concerned, god help the person who said otherwise).

    As for me, I find the whole idea that the SE kid should get a pretend Varsity letter just because his Mom thought he should more than a bit condescending. Special Ed kids can be great athletes on their own. And as a parent I would be very supportive of getting a letter or a jacket for making their team. But it should be a legitimately agreed upon honor.

  75. Loviatar says:

    @MarkedMan:

    I have two kids who made the varsity team in their sports and they worked darn hard, put in thousands of extracurricular hours to get there and are darn proud of their accomplishments and the accomplishments of their team.

    You have a hole in your personality, along with being selfish you lack something, society has settled on the term empathy, but I don’t know if thats right in this case. You’re saying a child who in addition to actually playing a sport and who has probably gone through more adversity and has “worked darn hard, put in thousands of extracurricular hours to get there” in his daily life is not as worthy to walk around high school with a varsity jacket as your child whose accomplishments were only earned on some stupid ass playing field.

    —–

    As for me, I find the whole idea that the SE kid should get a pretend Varsity letter just because his Mom thought he should more than a bit condescending.

    And then you have the gall to call the mom condescending because she attempted to give her son a little happiness and a feeling of accomplishment. Thats right she is the condescending one for putting another person happiness first not you who sees this as an affront and a diminishment to your children.

    —–

    Maybe I missed it, but could you answer a question for me; how does it hurt your child or any other varsity athlete when this special needs child walks around with a varsity jacket? And please be specific, name something, they would miss out on an internship because this special needs child wore a varsity jacket. They would miss out on the adulation and cheers of their classmates as they walked the school hallways. Their feeling of accomplishment after “they worked darn hard, put in thousands of extracurricular hours to get there” would not be as great because a special needs kid also got a varsity letter. Name something, anything.

    —–

    This subject was a no brainer and its sad but not surprising to see a portion of the commentary come down on the side of this selfish parent and clueless principal. Any right thinking adult would have looked at the special needs child looked at this parent and told them to get the “F” out of my office. And if they continued to complain make sure to bring it up at the next school board meeting naming the parent and hopefully shaming them in front of their fellow parents.

  76. Just Me says:

    Marked Man this kid was/is an athlete though. He represents his school in a school sponsored special needs team. He doesn’t care less about his team than a neurotypical kid cares about theirs.

  77. anjin-san says:

    @James Joyner:

    I gather that it’s a more general policy rather than the principal’s call.

    Not according to the article you linked to:

    Thiessen says his school decided varsity letters would only be for varsity letter winners. There is no district-wide policy.

    http://www.wfsb.com/story/28635455/ks-high-school-says-no-to-varsity-letter-for-special-needs-student#ixzz3Vy9z1jyt

    Sounds to me like the principal made the call. Then there is the matter of the “girls sweatshirt” that the kid was apparently given to wear in place of the varsity jacket. WFT? At the social level of a high school, it’s pretty easy to interpret that as an effort to deliberately humiliate him.

  78. MarkedMan says:

    @Loviatar: Wait. You disagree with me on this issue and so you immediately decide that

    You have a hole in your personality, along with being selfish you lack something,

    The only way you could imagine me disagreeing with you is that I’m a terrible person? What is this thing that I lack anyway? Oh yeah. Empathy.

    Things that make you go “hmmmm”

  79. James says:

    @MarkedMan: I think the word pretend is where you’re missing things. Remember this is a kid who is an may not be capable of understanding why it is that other athletes get to wear the jacket and he doesn’t. I don’t know if you’ve ever worked with special needs people but they often can’t see the world in the shades of gray that we do. He sees other athletes wearing their “club” jackets, he’s an athlete so he’s supposed to wear one too. You’re framing the issue in details that many of these kids cannot grasp so all he probably knows is that he’s been told he’s not as good as everyone else but doesn’t have the capacity to understand why.

  80. MarkedMan says:

    @Just Me:

    He doesn’t care less about his team than a neurotypical kid cares about theirs.

    I’m not disagreeing with you. In fact, if you go back and read what I said, I actually agree with you quite strongly. I even said that I’m fine with the SE team getting recognized as a varsity team and then they would legitimately get varsity letters. I have a problem with only two things: First, the general case, not limited to the SE kids, wherein anyone can buy a letter and sew it on their jacket. Second, the tone of some on this thread who feel that because they believe sports are a load of BS, that award is worthless and by implication, the kids who get it are losers for believing they had accomplished something.

    As for the story as reported, the Principle mishandled it badly. We are only getting one side of the story though, since I imagine the Principle cannot talk about this kid specifically. So in my mind: potentially a d*ckish move on his part.

  81. Tillman says:

    @michael reynolds: oh come on, dude, you know sports are just our way of working off all that war and violence we’ve got tons of in our system without there being “actual” bloodshed. The kinds of rivalries you get in sports, without sports, would turn into the sort of shit you saw in the French wars of religion. Carolina and Duke hate each other, but Chapel Hill and Durham can’t stand each other municipality-to-municipality. Without the sporting rivalry, there might be militia fights.

    I don’t think social mores are so firm that we’d avoid the militia fights. White people (my people) are getting somewhat crazy lately.

    @Loviatar: I was going to say this thread is a great demonstration of how local and state control of education, as we have in this country, results in vastly different experiences and outcomes among people who went to high school and can also get on a computer with an Internet connection.

  82. Just Me says:

    Marked Man-I have four kids-all are/were varsity athletes in at least 1 sport. One of my daughters was All State but I don’t think any of them (by the way Loviator one of them is a registered republican and has a ton of empathy) would support this kid having his letter taken away or would be offended or bothered by him wearing a letter.

    I will note that our school doesn’t sell varsity letters (kids receive them who play athletics and earn them but they aren’t sold by the school-I Have no idea where a parent would buy one).

    My hope is that the principal is told to shove it, the kid gets his letter jacket back and the parents/school board take steps to allow the kids in the special needs team to receive letters and recognition for their sport.

  83. Tillman says:

    @Tillman: To expand on that militia point: I have revealed before that I live in North Carolina, which isn’t “Deep South” by any means but recently has decided to take a turn towards. I live in a city. It turns out, counties with cities in them in this state reliably vote Democratic. Part of that is the local political scene here defines a Democrat as something like a really liberal Rockefeller Republican at best, but part of it is also being a city of a certain size. I didn’t realize, for instance, that my city has roughly the same population as the state of Alaska, and it’s not a big city by any means.

    However, this city is surrounded by suburbs and then further out by small town America. Like, walk back into the ’70s small town America, except with the odd modern touch here and there. And while I don’t doubt we could hold them off, populous as we are, I’m fairly certain high school sports is the only thing keeping these guys from igniting some sort of patriotic race war.

    Not all of them are like that. Any of them that has a city relative (which would be about a third of them at least) would probably join us. These are the people with real hick or backcountry accents talking about gay marriage like it’s a God-given right for two men to get hitched and adopt children. It blows your mind. They also have lots of guns, so that’ll come in handy.

    This is why it’s always important in your “politics-as-sports” “red state versus blue state” rhetoric to remember: some of us are down here in cities taming the mother****in’ wilderness through social activities and constant exposure to the Other Side. We’d like not to be forgotten. 🙂

  84. Tillman says:

    @Pinky: Michael is not an arguer. He is a narrator.

    Two sides of the same coin in politics. Developing one helps the other too.

    I mean, aren’t we all just assertions on the Internet? I’ve had a few people say my avatar was a disgrace to the Dude due to some sort of miscommunication here or there. Am I asserting that I’m the Dude, or that I carry the Dude’s, uh, abiding by having the avatar? Is Michael Reynolds really an author of young adult fiction? Does wr writes scripts or teleplays or whatever the hell it was? Does Matt actually own some sort of farm and need guns to keep some damn animals away? Is Stormy Dragon a glibertarian lizard flying in the squalls of the free market? Is Jenos really a person? Does Modulo Myself really compartmentalize like that, or is it just his postmodern joke at our expense? Is HarvardLaw92 really a Jewish Harvard-trained lawyer with enough time on his hands to vivisect a troll? Are you actually a communist? Let’s not even get started with the shifty people who only have alphabet soup for callsigns. (KM, CB, cd6, JKB, JVH, etc.)

    There’s a lot of assertions around here. Still not convinced superdestroyer isn’t Christopher Walken trolling us between takes.

  85. Pinky says:

    @Tillman:

    However, this city is surrounded by suburbs and then further out by small town America. Like, walk back into the ’70s small town America, except with the odd modern touch here and there. And while I don’t doubt we could hold them off, populous as we are, I’m fairly certain high school sports is the only thing keeping these guys from igniting some sort of patriotic race war.

    Tillman, I think of you as pretty level-headed, but that just sounds crazy.

    I do believe that a lot of what we talk about as the red/blue split is more like urban/rural. But to believe that the other guys are so awful – a lot of commenters on this thread seem to think that way – I wonder if there’s an empathy problem there, or at minimum some kind of drastic confirmation bias thing that projects the worst three things you ever overheard onto an entire group of people. I assume that most people hold loosely-reasoned beliefs (which is why I have a problem with Sayet) and have a general sense of decency most of the time.

  86. Pinky says:

    @Tillman: I assume that HarvardLaw92 went to Harvard Law. It’s like the line from The Untouchables: who would claim to be that who wasn’t?

    I typically don’t notice individuals on sites like this unless they represent a distinct view or their behavior is way outside the norm. I’ve seen sites turn into grudge-feeding machines, with old disagreements being picked over repeatedly, and even as I type this sentence I realize that I’m stuck in exactly that kind of situation on OTB despite trying to avoid it. Oh well. Michael stands out among us random-asserters because he seems to think he’s winning a debate. As I’ve said before, he reminds me of Michael Savage in terms of his bluster. I don’t usually care, and I was interested in his comments about education, but when he complains that someone else didn’t present an argument, the absurdity is too much.

  87. Tillman says:

    @Pinky: It does sound crazy. And yet I meet all sorts of people, liberal and conservative, who are absolutely batshit about sports. There’s a build-up and cathartic release to it that is essential to their daily lives.

    I don’t think it’s explainable by saying a chunk of the population peaks in high school, I think it’s a cultural thing. When cities win big national championships, it’s not unusual for a riot to break out. It’s the same principle with country folk. Given the political divisions between city and country folk, that’s how the battle-lines would likely be drawn.

    I really just threw in “race war” as the joke. (Or a partisan signifier, maybe.) Can’t believe the race war scene from In Bruges isn’t on the Internet, what a travesty…

    Perhaps I’m just pessimistic today.

  88. Pinky says:

    @Tillman: Understood.

  89. Pinky says:

    @Tillman: I remember Craig Kilborn doing a news story about riots that broke out in Oakland following a sporting event. Arsonists burned two city blocks, causing over $2 million in improvements.

  90. michael reynolds says:

    @Tillman:
    Dave Schuler knows me from the real world. James Joyner knows me because I hired a guy he recommended for a blurb. Here’s a tweet from a verified account. Like Popeye, I yam what I yam, and that’s all what I yam.

  91. michael reynolds says:

    Oh, and Anjin-San also knows me from meat space. Which of course means I can vouch as well for him being who and what he says he is.

  92. JohnMcC says:

    @Tillman: Should I be devastated to have been left out? Do I have an existence? What is the meaning of the existence of an assertion?

    Great fun!

  93. wr says:

    @Tillman: “Does wr writes scripts or teleplays or whatever the hell it was?”

    Without attempting to insist on my identity, I do feel compelled to say that a script and a teleplay are the same thing — or, rather, that a teleplay is a certain type of script.

  94. Tillman says:

    @JohnMcC: It really came down to brevity. At a certain point, I’m plagued by the idea that strangers on the Internet might think I’m ranting.

    Believe me, that was edited down. 🙂

    @michael reynolds: I’m not surprised. My uncle used to say “all old people know each other.”

  95. wr says:

    @Pinky: “I realize that I’m stuck in exactly that kind of situation on OTB despite trying to avoid it. ”

    Because you said something so egregiously offensive and stupid that none of the people you slimed will take you seriously until you man up and apologize?

    Oh, if only there was some way you could get out of that situation you are trying to hard to avoid.

  96. wr says:

    @michael reynolds: “James Joyner knows me because I hired a guy he recommended for a blurb.”

    You pay for blurbs? Dude, busy as I am…

  97. michael reynolds says:

    @Tillman:

    Oh, excuse me for a moment while I catch my breath and remove the stiletto. Anjin’s not as old as I am, but I think Dave has a couple years on me.

  98. michael reynolds says:

    @wr:
    Oh that was shorthand. We wanted a military guy to sort of vet this book I’m writing. New York publishing seems to think the military is an alien species, so I reassured them that the Joint Chiefs would probably not spend much time being offended at my re-telling of WW2, but they still felt we should get the opinion of a military guy. Paid the guy to read it through, see if it set off any “anti-military” land mines. Turned out no, it did not, to the surprise of no one.

    I imagine the push-back (if any) will be evenly split between conservatives who won’t like me screwing with the hagiography, and liberals who will have some tedious nitpick around my treatment of race and gender.

  99. KM says:

    @Tillman:

    Let’s not even get started with the shifty people who only have alphabet soup for callsigns. (KM, CB, cd6, JKB, JVH, etc.)

    Hey, I resemble that remark! 🙂 My initials, actually. I confess I didn’t really put a lot of thought into a name because I never meant to be a poster (always been a lurker). It says something about this site that I post enough for people to remember me so I’m stuck with a reminder of how uncreative I am.

    Let’s see, proof of my identity….. well, I don’t tweet, facebook and am generally social media-avoidant but I’ll be happy to forward a cellphone pic of the last foil I snapped in half at a tournament if you’d like (fencing not exactly a popular sport). Otherwise, I got nothing.

    At a certain point, I’m plagued by the idea that strangers on the Internet might think I’m ranting.

    But they’re fun! Rants are the reason why my cellphone has Speech to Text… or as I prefer, Talk n’ Gripe.

  100. grumpy realist says:

    @Tillman: So what am I ? (grin)

    Very OT but if anyone’s interested Tor books is having a re-read of the whole Daughter of the Empire/Servant of the Empire/Mistress of the Empire books some of you may remember from the 80s. I’m not quite sure how to describe what the reviewer is doing–it’s a cross between reviewing and fisking the books. Her comments are hilarious! (She’s a SF author and has a doctorate in history, which makes for some shrewd analysis) Just go over to tor.com and put Daughter of the Empire into the blog section–you should be able to easily pull the analysis up.

    (I didn’t realize how much commentary and analysis Tor has made available, but a lot of it is quite good. I especially liked the (somewhat cranky) analysis of the Oz books: “Ozma-fail” is now going to be added to my vocabulary. )

  101. @KM:

    It says something about this site that I post enough for people to remember me so I’m stuck with a reminder of how uncreative I am.

    We’re collectively so annoying you’re unable to remain silent in the face of it?

  102. @Tillman:

    Is Stormy Dragon a glibertarian lizard flying in the squalls of the free market?

    I’m not so sure I really qualify as a libertarian (and other libertarians certainly seem sure I don’t) any more, but I lack a term to describe my current beliefs.

  103. Tillman says:

    @Stormy Dragon: I don’t know or only have the faintest inkling what “glibertarian” properly means, but I recall…I think it was Turgid Jacobian describing one of your news sources that way. Obviously I focused on your finer qualities, like your shimmering scales or how you always seem to appear whenever thunderclouds are near.

    @grumpy realist: Educated and multilingual. o.o

  104. MarkedMan says:

    @James: From my point of view, this seems to be the best case on the other side of the argument. If the kid is so cognitively impaired that he doesn’t even understand then it would change things in my eyes. But I guess a lot depends on just where he falls on the spectrum. I know of a number of Downs syndrome kids who can compete very well and win awards on their own merits even if only amongst other SE kids. They work hard, make the team and show up every day. As I’ve said from the beginning, the best case here is that the school recognizes the SE team as a varsity team and then the kids can get their own letters.

  105. @Tillman:

    glibertarian is actually a slur for libertarians originally coined on Balloon Juice

  106. Moosebreath says:

    @Stormy Dragon:

    “glibertarian is actually a slur for libertarians originally coined on Balloon Juice”

    I understood glibertarian to be someone who describes him/herself as a libertarian, but regularly takes positions contrary to libertarian principles (e.g., McMegan). There is (or at the very least should be) a level higher than that, fibertarian, for someone who claims to be libertarian, but whose positions in no way resemble libertarian ones, except by accident (e.g., Glenn Reynolds).

  107. @Moosebreath:

    It originally had a more restricted meaning but it eventually turned into a general purpose slur toward all libertarians, implying none of them really believe in what they claim to believe.

  108. wr says:

    @Moosebreath: “I understood glibertarian to be someone who describes him/herself as a libertarian, but regularly takes positions contrary to libertarian principles (e.g., McMegan). ”

    I’ve taken it to mean one who blithely preaches libertarian “solutions” while completely ignoring all real world consequences and complexities — hence the glib. And yes: eg McMegan.