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December 01, 2000 - Image 4

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The Michigan Daily, 2000-12-01

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4 - The Michigan Daily - Friday, December 1, 2000

ije £ibtigan aig

Writing opinion columns without opinions

420 Maynard Street
Ann Arbor, MI 48109
daily. letters@umich.edu
Edited and managed by
students at the
University of Michigan

MIKE SPAHN
Editor in Chief
EMILY ACHENBAIM
Editorial Page Editor

Unless otherwise noted, unsigned editorials reflect the opinion of the majority of
the Daily's editorial board. All other articles, letters and cartoons do not
necessarily reflect the opinion of The Michigan Daily.

Online learning
'U' affiliated Website can help students

I think this is my sixth column. I'm a
.daisy-fresh columnist. I'm still slippery
with afterbirth. What will I have gained
from this experience when it concludes? I
don't want to bore anyone, so I'll just
answer in monetary terms: it looks like
about $30.
I'm not slamming
the Daily's wages. I
just think it's kind of
funny that anyone
would blow that kind
of cash on several
thousand, capricious-
ly assembled words.
With my year's salary
I could borrow some-
one's car, fill up the
tank, drive to some- Patrick
where in Indiana, get
Taco Bell and still Kiley
have enough left-over; v
to purchase myself an
incomprehensible y
homeless bride in
Indianapolis. Life is cheap and wonderful.
After reading one of my columns, my
Dad encouraged me to be more concrete and
realistic. It was good advice. The problem is
that if you want to write within a factual
structure, then you have to be opinionated. I
should have suspected as much when I was
offered an opinion column.
The fallout from that little undesirable is

that I've spent more time philosophizing
about "opinion" than contemplating and
composing the actual columns. Please don't
take offense at my negligence in entertain-
ing your intellect, or, more broadly, your
fancy; as I reflect, this enterprise was self-
ish at its conception. I'm the only loser
here.
But perhaps not, because what I have
gleaned about my personal opinions should
have sent me running for office a long time
ago: I don't have any. Well, that's not true.
But, like a politician, my strongest opinions
are exactly the ones I keep quiet about.
Take a for instance: In my opinion, the
NRA is evil incarnate. You can argue this
point with me for 40 days and 40 nights,
and even if somehow you warp my mouth
into agreement, I guarantee that I will never
watch "Planet of the Apes" without rooting
for the bad apes. It's as good as fact to me.
And then there is a second tier of my
opinions, the ones that mutate faster than a
cancer cell smoking a cigarette. For exam-
ple, try me on abortion. One day I'm think-
ing that the procedure is clearly as
inhumane as any other form of killing peo-
ple. The next day I'm reconsidering, think-
ing that an unborn child is a part of a
woman's body and so, whether I like it or
not, she can do with it what she pleases.
Pretty soon I'm noticing that I have a penis
and perhaps I should just focus on that and
keep my mouth shut.

My point, I think, is that I am not an
opinionated person"- that is, in the sense of
yelling and citing sources and giving people
the finger. At the same time, though, I'm
not passive, or passive-aggressive and when
I have a point I make it. If the option were
open to me, I would gladly wear a monkey
suit and read this column to Charlton Hes-
ton in person. Outside of being hilarious,
the spectacle turned violent would finally,
prove that even pretending to be simian
makes a person aggressive-aggressive.
America really appreciates opinion; or at
least, it gets off on it. In communist Russia
Rush Limbaugh and Howard Stern would
just be regular guys. Perhaps democracy
confuses the right to hold opinion with the
rarely questioned idolatry of its expression.
To clarify, my wish is not to stifle people's
expression. I don't support totalitarianism,
but then again, those people who do proba
bly don't care that I don't, and I can appre-
ciate that.
It's Friday. All this talk about opinions is
making me dizzy. To speak in concreteo
terms, I promise that for my next column I
will present an argument - an opinion=
addressing some substantial topic. It is up to
you to determine what is substantial, so e-
mail me suggestions that do not include the
Beatles versus Stones contest. If it comes to
that, I'm siding with the Monkees.
- Patrick Kiley can be reached via
e-mail at pkiley@umich.edu.
' ' ae5*1W NUMwoa

L ast week, the University joined the
ranks of some of the world's finest
learning establishments by partnering
with Fathom.com, a new Internet site
that provides free access to an impres-
sive array of informational resources.
Institutions such as Columbia Univer-
sity, The Cambridge University Press,
The Natural History Museum, the
New York Public Library, and now the
University, offer everything from dis-
cussion forums on every imaginable
field of study to lectures given by fac-
ulty and researchers to exceptional
online courses.
While the University wholehearted-
ly supports the innovative Website and
encourages students to utilize the site
as a valuable resource, it has rightly
chosen not to grant credit for the
offered online courses. The diversity
that contributes to the cultural under-
standing often learned in the class-
room is at stake; taking courses online
to satisfy class requirements would
certainly diminish the everyday inter-
action between students that is crucial
to the college experience.
The experience of broadcasting
Psychology 111 through the Universi-
ty Cable System a few years is a good
reason why the University should not
grant credit for online classes.
Because there were so many students
enrolled in the course in 1997, lectures
became too crowded; As a solution,
some students attended the lecture
"live" while others sat in a separate
classroom, watching the professor on a
TV screen. Still others watched from
their residence hall rooms. While this
idea was originally heralded by stu-

dents for its convenience factor, this
distance learning carried fundamental
flaws, primarily that students no
longer had the opportunity to ask the
professor any questions. If this idea of
class without a classroom was carried
over to online courses, students may
lose out on the most valuable asset this
University offers: Cultural diversity
through perpetual social and intellec-
tual interaction.
Though the issue of piracy and
intellectual property rights has been
raised, the benefits of Fathom.com 's
wide range of resources definitely out-
weigh these concerns. In addition to
library texts and rare documents, Fath-
om.com offers a unique content navi-
gation method called Knowledge
Trails. The site defines a Trail as "a
group of Fathom features or reference
entries that explore a common subject
or theme. Knowledge is a network of
connections, and never neatly orga-
nized." Fathom.com charts these con-
nections and allows students to either
research across a topic or go in depth
about one particular aspect of the sub-
ject, thus facilitating the opportunity
for thorough understanding of an area
of interest.
The University's decision to join
Fathom.com was a smart move. The
decision to not grant credit for online
courses because they would replace
valuable insight learned in the class-
room was also appropriate. Instead,
Fathom encourages independent learn-
ing through the use of Knowledge
Trails as well as promoting intellectual
discussions through its various
forums.

'They should be able to do what they want, when they
want, where they want.'
- Lenny Komendera, manager of DejaVu in Ypsilanti, commenting on
the state Senate's recent passage of a bill banning those aged
18 to 20 from performing in adult entertainment venues.

Concaled danger
More guns endanger Michigan residents

T o all those who lie awake at night
lamenting the fact that more Michi-
gan citizens aren't toting guns around
in their coat pockets and handbags,
whose feeling of safety rises propor-
tionally with the number of armed peo-
ple on the streets, rest easy: Your state
legislators are harboring similar con-
cerns.
A bill that would allow almost any
Michigan resident, age 21 or older, who
has no history of mental illness to
obtain a concealed weapons permit is
well on its way to becoming law. This
dangerous and unnecessary effort to
spread concealed guns has been sim-
mering on the back burner since May
1999, when legislators tabled in the
ywake of the high school shootings in
Colorado and Georgia.
Under the current law, a citizen who
wishes to obtain a concealed weapons
permit must first produce evidence that
he or she has a legitimate need to be
covertly armed. For example, security
guards and people that are required to
carry large amounts of money at work
are likely to be granted permits. If the
proposed legislation goes through, it
will be up to the permit board members
to find some reason not to issue them.
The main argument of lawmakers in
favor of this type of legislation is that it
will make everyone safer. Robbers,
rapists and attackers will be far less
likely to rob, rape and attack if there's a
possibility that their victims are armed,
right? Not only is this a bad reason to
put more weapons out on the street, but
it would not increase the safety of the
general public. If carrying weapons

becomes commonplace, criminals too
will find it easier to arm themselves
without fear of being caught. Also,
there are many more gun-related sui-
cides and accidental shootings each
year than there are gun-related murders.
Another disturbing twist proponents
put on such legislation is that it empow-
ers women to defend themselves
against male assailants. This rationale is
flawed; it ignores the fact that men buy
nearly ten times more guns than women
do. Additionally, only a tiny fraction of
women who own guns obtain permits to
carry them. In 1997, here in Washtenaw
County, women obtained less than five
percent of all concealed weapons per-
mits.
While the bill does prohibit guns in
certain areas such as schools, day care
centers, churches and places where
alcohol is served, it would still create a
more hostile environment in the state of
Michigan. The only ways to enforce
these restrictions would be to install
metal detectors or conduct body search-
es in the aforementioned areas. Danger
and mistrust are implicit in such mea-
sures, but without them, who is to be
sure that the weapons are kept out?
This bill, to say the least, is a dan-
gerous and unnecessary measure.
Putting more guns in everyday circula-
tion does nothing to address the larger
issue of gun violence. Guns are
designed to be killing machines and the
last thing the government should be
doing is making it easier for them to be
carried into the grocery store, to the
movies or to the post office. Phone your
state-representative before it's too late.

Students shouldn't be
used as billboards
TO THE DAILY:
It seems strange to me that an athletic
department that is attempting to win the favor
of students and bring them out to games en
masse would decide to use them as walking
billboards to raise revenue. When I arrived at
the basketball game Tuesday, I was shocked to
see that this year's edition of the Maize Rage
t-shirt was emblazoned with a "XanEdu.com"
logo.
Where I previously felt proud to wear the
shirt that recognized me as a member of a
small but hearty group of season ticket hold-
ers, I now feel taken advantage of. Against
their will, the students have become another
piece of the overcommercialization of college
athletics. If the gear that a rowdy student sec-
tion wears to promote unity and team spirit is
littered with advertisements, then nothing is
sacred. Next, I'm waiting for Duke University
to insist that we refer to its student section as
the "Coca-Cola Cameron Crazies." And for
you, XanEdu.com, I don't know what kind of
wares you hawk and neither will the guy who
sits behind me, because I'm going to wear my
shirt from last year.
TOM HABITZ
LSA SOPHOMORE
Boy Scouts wrongly
kept out of schools
TO THE DAILY:
I just finished reading the viewpoint writ-
ten by Michael St. John in Wednesday's
Daily, "Boy Scouts should not have to suffer
for leaders' faults." I'd like to thank him for
putting into words what I tried to tell the
school board and PTO at my son's charter
school here in Ann Arbor.
The school decided to disband the Boy
Scout pack this fall, and this decision broke
my son's seven year old heart. I tried to get
the school to reconsider the decision, but I
was met with so much opposition that I even-
tually got my son into another local pack. It
truly is the innocent young boys who are get-
ting hurt by the exclusion of Boy Scout packs
by the local schools. I don't agree with
national Boy Scouts stance on homosexuals,
but at the same time I don't agree with adults
deciding to disband Boy Scout programs.
This does nothing to fight discrimination.
You have to fight these battles from within.
BETTY SIMONIS
UNIVERSITY STAFF
Boy Scouts deserve
loss of support
TO THE DAILY:
A number of recent letters to the editor have
expressed criticism of organizations that have
withdrawn their support from the Boy Scouts of
America because of its exclusion of homosexu-
al members. Although there are numerous
aspects of the BSA's policies that exclude gays
that are detrimental to society, I'm choosing to
concentrate on one in particular here. One of
the primary arguments has been that the boys
should not be punished for the decisions of the
administration. However I find this argument
offensive since it ignores the existence of gay

contributed to the intense anxiety no one should
ever have to deal with while coming to terms
with their sexuality.
I must applaud all the organizations with-
drawing their support from the BSA at this
time. The BSA will continue on but will feel
pressure to evolve into the more all-American
organization it strives to and should be. It is
foolish to rely on significant changes to come
from within since no openly gay members are
involved in scouting and people are rarely pas-
sionate about an issue until they are directly
affected by it. While scouts will be temporarily
inconvenienced by their lack of support they
will still be acquiring valuable lessons indirectly
by learning about acceptance and social protest.
I wish my former scout troop could have made
those lessons more of a priority than tying
knots. Just because an organization is providing
several good services is by no means a reason
to be exempt from criticism stemming from its
unjust actions.
TOM SLAZINSKI
ARCHITECTURE JUNIOR
Legality of online
gambling unclear
TO THE DAILY:
In reference to the Daily's article "Internet
gambling illegal, popular" (11/28/00), I have to
object to a few flaws in the article. To simply
say it is illegal to place bets online is incorrect.
Online gambling is in a fuzzy section of the law
and to be honest, nobody is sure as to whether
or not it is legal.
My rationale is that it is fundamentally no
different than flying to Las Vegas everyday,
placing my bets and coming back. Since when
betting offshore the money is actually being bet
in Antigua, Costa Rica or other foreign coun-
tries, laws preventing betting in the U.S. cannot
be enforced. Also as to the comment regarding
being cheated out of your money, this simply
takes some research. Websites such as
www.osga.com and www.theprescription.com
are designed to keep users informed of which
offshore sites to use and which not to use.
MICHAEL BERRY
ENGINEERING SENIOR
Inexperienced team
deserves support
TO THE DAILY:
I would like to preface this by saying, there
are no moral victories.
Clearly, though the Michigan men's basket-
ball teams performance against Wake Forest on
Tuesday showed me a few things. First, the
effort was outstanding. It has been a long time
since I have seen our players dive into the press
row for a loose ball (Blanchard) or wage war on
I1 A Vw T 1).A Wl VTi'L

the boards like our big guys did (Asselin and -
Young). Secondly, anyone who knows athletics
can tell that those kids believe in Brian Ellerbe
and his system. People don't play hard for lead-
ers they don't believe in. The Detroit Lions are
a prime example. Finally and most importantly,
this team is very young.
How much easier was the last three years of
college compared to your first? Now, multiply
that inexperience by the amount of freshmen
and sophomores on the basketball team. I was
fortunate enough to play baseball from '96-'99
and I came in with a freshman class of 11. In
the beginning of the year there were times when
six of the nine guys on the field were freshman.
We started out with one win and 13 losses.
Despite the terrible start we finished something
like 27-30. The very next year we won the Big
Ten and in '99 won the Big Ten Tourney and.
went to a NCAA Regional.
The explanation is experience, plain and
simple. What we as fans have to understand is
that this crew is not the Fab Five. In fact, that
will never happen again in college basketball.
Understand that this team is going to win some
games that they aren't supposed to and unfortu-
nately they are going to lose games that they
probably should win. Bottom line is that glory
days for this team may not be in the near future.
But, if we as fans stay with this team and with
coach Ellerbee, there will be happy times that
return to Crisler Arena in the years to come.
BOBBY SCALES
ALUMNUS
Christianity leads to
societal justice
TO THE DAILY:
In his column, "Celebrate a God-free holi->
day season" (11/28/00) Nick Woomer suggests
that religion's primary function is to preserve@&
the status quo, claiming that belief in an after-
life keeps people, especially the poor, from
fighting for their rights. If an "eternal paradise
... waits," he writes, "there ceases to be any
motivation to risk much here on earth."
A moment's thought shows how silly
Woomer's claim is: If you believe that heaven
is to come, why not risk everything in this life?
On the other hand, if this world were all there
is, why would you risk your wealth and life,
knowing that if you lose, you've lost every-
thing? But when God calls Christians to love
justice and hate inequality, and offers eternal
life to His children, those who truly love Him
will risk everything to seek ajust society.
History in fact demonstrates this. Precisely
because they looked to God, Oskar Romero,.- ,
Father Damien, Mother Teresa, and countless,
others gave up everything - often even their
lives -to work for justice and equality, to help
the poor and outcast. Precisely because their
eyes were fixed on heaven, they risked every-
thing trying to build a better society on earth.
ANDERS HENDRICKSON
RACKHAM
$o" r 33 i u SN - . R.. . -

LVANE DARN ESLhIiS IU1UBEL) C3LI2A2X

Our Representatives
John Hansen, 52nd District Liz Brater, 53rd District
Phone: (517) 373-1792 Phone: (517) 373-2577
E-mail: jphansenhouse.state. mi. us. E-mail: lbrater@house.state. mi. us.

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