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October 12, 1990 - Image 14

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Text
Publication:
The Michigan Daily, 1990-10-12
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This is a tabloid page

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A com pulsory
double standard

The basic disagreement over what
is science, what is politics, what is
"your opinion," and so on has
cropped up again with a vengeance
around the issue of what used to be
informally called the "mandatory
course on racism" -now the much
more benign-sounding "diversity
requirement."
On Monday last, the
University faculty passed the
Faculty Proposal for a diversity
requirement, which will be
mandatory for all ISA students.
The reactionary right
considers the possibility of a
required course on anything
having to do with race, racism,
ethnicity, etc. a repugnant
infringement on freedom of
speech. More liberal critics,
contend the course won't succeed
if students don't want to take it,
and that forcing this material on
students is distasteful and
unacceptable in an open academic
community.
For example, the Ann Arbor News
last Sunday wrote, "Sensitivity to
different perspectives is not
accomplishedby compulsory
instruction."
Wait a minute.
Let's approach this question on
two levels of contradiction. First,
someone decided at some point that
the decision by a group of students
and academic experts to deliberately
alter the content of the curriculum -
to reflect progress in their various
fields - represented a new,
unacceptable form of compulsory
instruction, and an infringement on
Attack 01 the armed and
dangerous televis-ion

I

the rights of other professors to
continue to teach outdated and
discredited material.
In all areas of the University,
however, the disciplines have to
adapt as our understanding changes.
Certainly engineering students,
physics students and
biology-students all
are forced to study
the latest
developments in
their fields. But they
are also expected to
study their entire
fields from the new
perspectives created
by those advances.
These requirements
are explicitly
welcomed at all
ohen levels, under the
banner of progress.
Second, consider
just a little more broadly the reality of
the University curriculum in general.
A university education is required to
advance in most areas of society, and
in that sense while students may
choose between areas of study, there
is no infinite choice. And, of course,
for millions of people there is no
choice at all, since universities are
simply closed to them through means
of economic and educational
deprivation.
Further, if the integration of
"different perspectives" will not
succeed through "compulsory
education," what about those
members of non-dominant cultures
who have no choice but to take part
in an entire program based on what to
frenetic law-and-order fervor by the
stirring theme music, I literally
epoxied my eyes to the screen so I
wouldn't miss a minute of this:
justice's greatest ally in the 20th
century.
So what wretched nemeses of
humanity did they parade before us,
in murky mugshots with tattoos and
scars amateurishly penciled in by
overzealous interns? A bunch of lousy
unarmed convenience store heisters
and perpetrators of that most heinous
of all sins (the only one left
unforgivable in the
Catholic Church's newly-
updated taxonomy of
human error), mail fraud.
And each time they would
tell us, "The suspect is_
EXTREMELY
dangerous," (sure, if you're
a postal ordinance) "if you;
think you have identified
him, DO NOT attempt to
detain him on your own. Call the
number at the bottom of the screen
and local law enforcement will make
the arrest." And each time, I'd peek
out my window, only to see millions
of bored housespouses peeking out
their windows checking to see if I
was the "suspect". Fortunately, I'm
not blurry enough and don't have

t are "different perspectives.*
There is a double-standard at work
here.
U..
Let's get something straight as far
as the developments I'm talking
about. This is important because too.
many people'still see the proponents
of anti-racist education as political
demagogues bent on propagating
their beliefs at the expense of ourw
educations.
The belief that some races are
better than others is not some archaic
remnant of the days of slavery.
Scientific theories about the
inferiority of one race or another still
abound, and they are not relegated to
the fringes of society. It wasn't that
long ago that the Harard Educational
Review ran an article by a guy named
A. R. Jenson, who thought he had
proved not only that intelligence is
genetic, but that African Americans as
a race had less of it then white people.
Jenson's genetic links were weak
enough to be easily disproved -
based on his simple failure to
incorporate the environmental impact
on a person's ability to learn what
white people define as intelligence.
But the truth had hardly got its boots
on before Harvard blabbed the lie all
over the place - and it ran wild.
Why? Maybe people wanted to
believe it.
Stephen Jay Gould, in his
refutation of Jenson's work -
pointing out that Jenson's ideas were
not new - asked, "Why now?" The
'60s, were "good years for liberalism,"
in which "a fair amount of money was
spent on poverty programs," but
"very little happened."
So Gould raised two possible
interpretations for welfare's failure.
"1) we didn't spend enough
money, we didn't make sufficiently
creative efforts, or (and this makes
any established leader jittery) we
cannot solve these problems without
a fundamental social and economic
transformation of society; or 2) the
enough tattoos, so I have yet to be
turned in. Yet.
Now, remember that propagandist
the United States purchased from the
Soviet Union some years ago? Yakov
Smirnov. One of his characteristically
annoying routines, with the exact
words of which I will not bother to
agonize you now (up with THAT
put, Winston Churchill), dealt with
how Soviet citizens were supposedly
put upon by the KGB to turn in their
neighbors for every little crime. I've
been struggling to come up with a
substantive
difference between
the United States'
latest example of
free-market
vigilantism and the
phenomenon for
which we looked
down our red,
white and blue
noses at the
communist Soviet Union. I've found
very little, except that the KGB agents
probably speak better English than
their FBI counterparts.
Our willingness to believe what
television puts in front of us is
astounding. Make the analogy from
the preceding paragraph to the
average 36-channel-cable American

programs failed because 9
recipients are inherently what they
are.... Now, which alternative will
be chosen by men in power in an age
of retrenchment?"
Gould's essay appears in a
collection entitled "Race and IQ"
(edited by Ashley Montagu).
Eu.
So, for students to advance in any
course of study related to humanity
and society - including "hard"
sciences which impact on and are
affected by societal forces - it makes
sense for people to have the latest
information.
The fallacy of racism is not a
matter of personal or political belief.
At our present level of scientific
understanding it is quite simply
wrong. But that doesn't mean it's easy
to wipe out the remnants of that
ideologically-based science, because
it became the foundation for an entire
series of social structures which
persist today.
That is why the students and
faculty who originally proposed a
specific course requirement got
together a whole syllabus and put
together a plan for an entire program,
instead of just putting up a sign
which says, "Racism was wrong."
And that is why the weak, watered
down proposals which made it to the
vote were inadequate. The proposal
passed by the faculty was the best
one on the table, but it still falls far
short of the intentions of the original
proposal. Celebrating differences is
nice, but Concerned Faculty correctly
pointed out that "issues relating to
these concepts are very complex and
require serious, intensive study."
Since the incorrect scientific
theories have been permitted to
survive for so long, studying them
now requires studying their effects,
and that was the intent of the
proposal when it was first hatched in
1987, and of which far too little
remains. U
and you'll likely receive a lecture in
law-enforcement methods that would
baffle the most accomplished
logicians. Or a good punch in the
nose. Hint to the average American
child that the universe is not being
saved on a daily basis by cartoon
robots with American flags on their
metallic chests, and you'll probably
receive a nice bruised shin for your
trouble.
And 20 years from now, when
those children have grown up, when
their parents, with what little
common sense they still have, have
all been reported by their friends'
parents for looking a little too much
like the latest multiple-parking-ticket
offender (as dramatized on
"America's Most Wanted"), they'll be
coming after you. And under the
Omnibus Zero-Tolerance Zero-Civil-
Rights Thought Control Act of 2010,
you wn't get off easy.
Me, I'm staying inside with my
eyes nicely adhesed to the screen of
my television. Good luck.
"Mathematical disclaimer:Miguel's 5
closest friends all went to high school with
him andslive within 4 blocks of his
.parents' home.

*"Yeah, I want to go into featu . I
want to do comedies, stuff like Tin
Men, Diner, The Pope of Grmnwic
Village."v.
I try the "social conscience" tack
again.
"No, not even with social
conscience. .. films with a gritty edge,
real life drama.
"If I could do it again, I would go-
to film school undergrad, and then to
business school. It's so important to
understand the numbers side. And I
found in Michigan that you have the
freedom that many schools don't, it's
like being a small independent
filmmaker. UCLA and usc are like the
studio system. You may write a script,
and they'll love it, but you won't get
to direct it. It's a lot of politics."
He is shaking his head as he talks
about breaking into the system. We
walk upstairs and he shows me the
scripts vault, where submitted scripts
wait to be read. It looks like the Grad
Library.
"It's a mentor system - a matter
of showing people you're a hustler.
That's what this business is all about.
It's making connections, meeting
people and not showing attitude. You
can't be a schmuck. Maybe if you're
Coppola, you can be a schmuck."
"If you have an attitude, you're
dead."
Idecide on the way to Marina del Ray
that I'llstick to journalism. I'm getting
the hang of the traffc now. They actually
drive fairly carefully out here. There's no
room for crazies that might screw up the
ehole show - one crash on the freeway,
and the traffic grinds to a halt for miles.
Just stick to your lane and watch for the
signposts... .
"Duuudel"
I turn around to meet John
Desjardins, who has emerged from a
computer patch bay that looks like
the inside of the Battlestar Galatica.

Desjardins graduate~om'
Michigan in 1983 with a film/video
degree and considerable computer
skills.
"I used to mess around on
computers a lot," he explains. I try
,not to smile. He looks completely
unlike a computer nerd.
"I came to California on holidays
with a friend who was looking for film
work. He ended up going back to
Michigan, but I got a job here for a
small industrial effects company
because I knew some computer
stuff."
Greg McMurry and Richard
Hollander (who had worked on Close
Encounters of the Third Kind) met John
Wash, another special effects wizard
on the Bladerunner set, and with
another partner, Rhonda Gunner,
formed their own special effects
company, Video Image.
"They had one production
assistant working for them, and when
he left, they asked me if I wanted the
job," says Desjardins, smiling as he
recalls his lucky break. "So I was the
employee."
Video Image now occupies a
sprawling warehouse/studio in Marina
del Ray, where they do all of their
special effects work.
"We do work for all sorts of
movies. We just did the work for
Darkman, like the computer screen
where he builds his face.
"We also did Die Hard 2, and all of
these other movies," he says,
gesturing at the wall behind him.
There are posters for 20/0, Predator,
Terminator, and pictures of Mel
Gibson, and other actors whose
movies they have worked on.
"You'd be surprised at some of the
movies that have special effects. We
even worked on Beaches, that Bette
Midler movie," he says, shaking his
head.
"Is it useful to have a specialized
film degree?" I ask.
"Definitely. It's like being a
doctor - the more you specialize, the
better you'll be. I talk to a lot of
people who come out here (from

Michigan), and 9y have such a
broad base. I've had people come in
here, and I show them the place, and
ask them 'Well, what do you want to
do?' because there's a pretty good
chance I can do something for them,
and they say 'I want to write scripts.'
Well, this ain't it! That's not what we
do here. I shoot computer simulations
through a camera."
He shows me around the studio,
and I half expect to see monsters on
the stages. Instead, there are just
miniature models of planet surfaces
and lots of wires. I trip over a
skateboard.
"That's my board, dude," says
Desjardin. He points to a row of
mountain bikes parked in the corner.
"Some lunchtimes, we all go down to
the beach. It's funny that I ended up
here. These people are great, we all
love the beach, and when you're that
compatible, you don't mess around."
We reach the door of the loading
bay, where my car is parked. It's early

eveninPut the wind coming in off
the ocean-is hot.
"Considering all I only came out
here was for a vacation, this is ok," he
says, grinning. "Back in Michigan, I
had a real surfer mentality about how
to carry out my life, and
unfortunately, I landed in a spot that
caters to that mentality. I could pretty
much ride here for the rest of my
life."
Y
Last month, Falkenstein, who had
first suggested this story, landed a job
as a production assistant on
Parenthood, the spinoff series from the
Ron Howard movie. He delivers the-
scripts to the actors, and does
whatever other work needs to get
done - buying newspapers or
makings photocopies. It's not
glamorous, but it is the first step. I tag

onl
last
. 11
Stud
stor
base
Pea
abou
he s
"It's
H
wall
foot
tows
who
says
I
slow]
'4

I.

p I

Ever turn on the Tv? You know,
the television? Ever sit down and
watch one? Many people do; quite
often, in fact. There's one in the
living room here. It's very nice - it
can show pictures in black and white
and all different shades of gray. It's
got two volume settings - "off" and
"extremely loud", and the picture
rolls once in a while if it thinks we're
not paying attention. One thing it
doesn't have anymore is cable; after
paying out-of-state tuition, out-of-
state rent and out-of-state food bills,
it's hard to write another check each
month for the convenience of round-
the-clock.professional wrestling.
Still, we have quite a lot to choose
from. We get all the networks, the
home shopping channel (it's on UHF
31, and has the best reception of
anything on the dial), and of course
the normal selection of re-run
channels (the official industry term
for these is "Independent
Broadcaster," by the way). Every
home in the country (as I recently

learned by applying modern and
complicated formulae from the Stat
402 textbook to a survey of 5 of my
closest friends*) has at least one
television, and they all pretty much
get the same set of channels. One of
those friends also gets the EKG
network, which uses satellite
technology to enable one to view the
vital signs of patients in any of our
nation's major hospitals.
Anyway, flipping through the dial a
few days ago, I happened across
America's Most Wanted (known to
Simpsons' viewers as "America's Most
Armed and Dangerous"). Naturally, I
was.immediately captivated by the
host's freeze-dried hair and the
promised opportunity to telephone
the FBI long distance at their expense.
I settled back in gleeful
anticipation of vivid re-enactments of
serial crossword-puzzle butter knife
killers, and gay Black Soviet spies
selling young blue-eyed American
children to flouridated-water-swigging
Iraqi army recruiters. Caught up in a

August Snow
Building a future means
letting go of the past
A new play by Reynolds Price
(Author of The Tongues of
Angels and Kate Vaiden)
University Players
Trueblood Theatre
Oct 11-13, 18-20 at 8 PM
Oct 14, 21 at 2 PM
$9 general admission
Students $5 with ID
League Ticket Office
I V

612 E. Liberty, in
campus. It's the I
make a difference.
scarf, the perfect
your looks and ac(

We welcome Jacobson's Charge, MasterCard- and
V. Shop until 9 p.m. on Thursday and Friday. Until 6 p.m. on Monday,-Tuesda

4

WEEKEND

16 WEEKEND ~October 129,19AO - *~ ~ '

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