They don’t hire editorial writers at the Virginian Pilot for their wit or intelligence. Today’s exhibit is a column written by Shawn Day.
The subhead, found in the dead tree version of the column read “Try as Republican Legislators might, it’s hard to convince Virginians that their votes against a judicial candidate weren’t base on his sexual orientation.”
Perhaps Shawn Day didn’t write the subhead, but whoever did should be ashamed.
First, the they confuse themselves with Virginians in general. The people who write for the Virginian Pilot represent Virginians the same way as Grant's army represented the Confederacy. Virginians are not particularly interested in who gets appointed to judgeships. It's not a hot topic around the dinner table, unlike - for example - jobs and the economy. Those who understand the system and who care understand that judgeships are mostly awarded as political favors to supporters.
Second, Virginia – especially Tidewater Virginia, home of the largest Navy base in the world – is home to a population that understands better than most people that deliberately disobeying a lawful command is a grave offence. Tracy Thorne-Begland enlisted in the Navy knowing he was homosexual and lied about. He then came out as homosexual in such a way that the Navy could not pretend it did not know in direct contradiction of lawful orders. People in this Navy town hear and read about officers relieved of duty or cashiered for lesser offenses on a regular basis.
What can we conclude from Thorne-Begland’s actions? We know that if he feels strongly enough about an issue, rules, regulations and laws are not going to restrain him. It appears that Shawn Day is fine with that because he makes a few points supporting Thorne-Begland:
- He committed his offense 20 years ago.
- A General District Court judge is mostly concerned with traffic and misdemeanor cases.
To which my response is that oath and law breaking should disqualify a person from being a judge. There is no shortage of good people, people who have not broken their oath, who would love to be appointed to the bench. The pay is good, there is no heavy lifting and unless you do something really bad you have a lifetime job. We don't have to appoint liars because we have run out of honest citizens.
But this article was really not about Throrne-Begland. It was an exercise in Republican bashing. It was an excuse for a badly educated bully with access to the press to cast Republicans – as a group – as homophobes. I know some of the people who voted against the appointment and know two things about them: (1) there is not a bigoted bone in their bodies and (2) they were courageous in their vote because they knew that they would be attacked as bigots by the Liberal media. The selective quotes from supporters of the nominee, the weak reasons given for his appointment really don’t have to hang together as a rational argument. The answer to anyone who disagrees with the Liberal agenda a “shut up” followed by name calling.
Ironically, in the same edition of the Virginian Pilot the editors decide to print two letters attacking Mitt Romney for cutting a classmate's hair 40 years ago and one attacking his religion. It's the Virginian Pilot way.
Which brings me to a recent post by Janice Fiamengo, a professor of English at the University of Ottawa. Her essay entitled The Unteachables: A Generation that Cannot Learn neatly encapsulates the kind of people, like Shawn day, who write for the Virginian Pilot.
“The honeymoon is over.” Instructors who award low grades in humanities disciplines will likely be familiar with a phenomenon that occurs after the first essays are returned to students: former smiles vanish, hands once jubilantly raised to answer questions are now resentfully folded across chests, offended pride and sulkiness replace the careless cheer of former days. Too often, the smiles are gone for good because the customary “B+” or “A” grades have been withheld, and many students cannot forgive the insult.
.... Every instructor who has been so besieged knows the legion of excuses and expressions of indignation offered, the certainty that such work was always judged acceptable in the past, the implication that a few small slip-ups, a wrong word or two, have been blown out of proportion. When one points out grievous inadequacies — factual errors, self-contradiction, illogical argument, and howlers of nonsensical phrasing — the student shrugs it off: yes, yes, a few mistakes, the consequences of too much coffee, my roommate’s poor typing, another assignment due the same day; but you could still see what I meant, couldn’t you, and the general idea was good, wasn’t it? “I’m better at the big ideas,” students have sometimes boasted to me. “On the details, well … ”.
Meetings about bad grades are uncomfortable not merely because it is unpleasant to wound feelings unaccustomed to the sting. Too often, such meetings are exercises in futility. I have spent hours explaining an essay’s grammatical, stylistic, and logical weaknesses in the wearying certainty that the student was unable, both intellectually and emotionally, to comprehend what I was saying or to act on my advice. It is rare for such students to be genuinely desirous and capable of learning how to improve. Most of them simply hope that I will come around.
The unteachable student has been told all her life that she is excellent: gifted, creative, insightful, thoughtful, able to succeed at whatever she tries, full of potential and innate ability. … ...In the past twenty years, the well-documented phenomenon of grade inflation in humanities subjects — the awarding of high “Bs” and “As” to the vast majority of students — has increased the conviction that everyone is first-rate.…Of course, the progressive approach has advantages, not the least of which is that it enables university administrators to boast of the ever-greater numbers of students taking degrees at their institutions. ... Thus our universities participate in a happy make-believe. Students get their degrees. Parents are reassured that their money has been well-spent. And compliant professors are, if not exactly satisfied — it corrodes the soul to give unearned grades — at least relieved not to encounter student complaints.More than a few students know that something fishy is going on. The intelligent ones see their indifferent, mediocre, or inept counterparts receiving grades similar to their own, and the realization offends their sense of justice. ...In contrast, the weak student who believes in his high grades has also had a disservice done him. He has been misled about his abilities, falsely persuaded that career paths and goals are open that may be out of reach. …
Even more seriously, such students have not only been misled but fundamentally malformed. They have never learned to listen to criticism, to recover from disappointment, or to slog through difficulties with no guarantee of success except commitment. The person who is never challenged is also never refined, never learns to cope with the setbacks that come on the way to high endeavor. And it is not only in the academic realm, of course, that they may be hampered: a full life outside of university also requires the ability to confront one’s weaknesses and recover from defeat. Despite the admittedly important emphasis on character formation in our schools — on tolerance, anti-racism, refusal of bullying, and so on — it seems that we have failed to show students what real achievement looks like and what it will require of them.
Not everyone of them is unemployed and camping out at an OWS hate-fest. A few get jobs writing editorials for the Virginian Pilot.