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April 08, 2005 - Image 4

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The Michigan Daily, 2005-04-08

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4 - The Michigan Daily - Friday, April 8, 2005

OPINION

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JASON Z. PESICK
Editor in Chief

SUHAEL MOMIN
SAM SINGER
Editorial Page Editors

ALISON GO
Managing Editor

EDITED AND MANAGED BY STUDENTS AT
THE UNIVERSITY OF MICHIGAN SINCE 1890

420 MAYNARD STREET
ANN ARBOR, MI 48109
tothedaily@michigandaily. com

NOTABLE
QUOTABLE
''We stand today
through a portal
to history."
- Connecticut state Sen. Andrew McDon-
ald, a Democrat, celebrating the state
Senate's approval of a bill that would make
Connecticut the first state to recognize
civil unions for same-sex couples without
being pressured by the courts, as reported
yesterday by The Associated Press.

SAM BUTLER THE oAriox

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Time to act
JEFF CRAVENS JAYH AWK BLUES

n a letter to the edi-
tor printed Monday
(Daily is misinformed
about school reform,
04/04/2005), a Flint
teacher offered a chal-
lenge from the real world:
"Take your interest in
school reform out of well-
meaning, misinformed
editorials and bring it to urban areas like Flint
or Detroit. By all means, do not go to the
School of Education. Join Teach for America,
pay your dues in the trenches, come back ready
for another career and then we'll talk."
Buzz Alexander, founder of the Prisoner Cre-
ative Arts Project and co-curator of the recent
prison art show on campus, called me out with
a similar argument. I was writing in my class
journal about wanting to "help" the poor, to
reform education and the justice system, to
eliminate poverty. Buzz told me to ground my
desire to "help" in the people I want to work
for, to go down in the trenches and learn the
hard way what's going on. My passion couldn't
be "theoretical and be valid," he said.
Too many of us speak or write passionately
about social causes - affirmative action, gay
rights, education reform, Social Security -
without doing a damn thing about them. This
University is overflowing with progressive
minds and voices. By the way we talk you'd
think we were all Mother Teresas and Martin
Luther King Jrs - but when are we going to
stand up and act? After we've gone to gradu-
ate school, or made some money, established
ourselves, started a family?
I'm worried what four more years of theo-
retical learning with predominantly rich, white
people will do to my progressive spirit.

I will never forget what child advocate
Jonathan Kozol said a few weeks ago in Ann
Arbor: "Patience is only a virtue to those who
are not in pain."
According to a recent article in Time Maga-
zine, more than eight million people in the world
die each year from poverty. That breaks down
to more than 20,000 deaths daily. Those people
can't wait for us to finish graduate school or to
make some money. Unfortunately for them, in
America we have been raised to climb the social
and economic ladders, to get the most expensive
education possible, to live for ourselves, and in
doing so, to trample on everyone else.
Too many of us in this country have sac-
rificed our humanity on the altar of individ-
uality. I'm not a very religious person, but I
find many bits of wisdom in the Bible. After
murdering Abel, Cain asks, "Am I my broth-
er's keeper?" The resounding answer in this
country is no, and that pisses me off. How
does your good fortune, more often than not
a birth-right, justify your brother's suffering?
How can a person raise himself up by his boot
straps if he doesn't have any boots? What if
you've hoarded all the boots?
I'm a great admirer of Ralph Waldo Emer-
son and his essay "Self-Reliance," but his
beliefs don't justify our brand of individualism.
Beneath the surface of his essay is the idea that,
if we all do what we feel is right in our souls, we
will ultimately do what is best for each other.
But does anybody actually think, "Deep in my
heart I know my purpose in life, the right thing
for me to do, is to optimize profits in a capi-
talist Market?" Individualism has lost its soul-
searching element and has become an excuse
for selfishness and social irresponsibility.
Emerson says that all great men are hypo-
crites, and he was no exception. In "The Night

Thoreau Spent in Jail," Emerson asks Thoreau,
"Why are you in jail?" and Thoreau responds,
"Why are you not in jail?" The play, which was
written by Jerome Lawrence and Robert E.
Lee, alludes to the famous quote from Thoreau
that the only place for a just man to be in an
unjust society is in jail.
How many of us who decry the injustices in
this country are in jail?
I'm not asking everyone to go to jail in politi-
cal protest, because our current government
would probably keep you there indefinitely, but
it's time we put our money where our mouths
are. Writing for social change is important,
especially if you're as good as Emerson or Tho-
reau. But if we're sincere in our desire to bring
about change, we should go into the trenches.
Earlier this year I figured I'd go to law school,
but after Buzz's classes and some serious think-
ing, I realize I need to go into a community and
work directly with people first. I need to put
some faces to the big terms like "social justice"
that we all like to throw around. I need to see
what kind of work is needed most and how I'm
going to intersect with that work.
In "Pedagogy of the Oppressed," Freire
warns us about presuming to know how to help
oppressed people - a term he uses to include
any marginalized group. If you educate a poor
kid and train him to be a successful business-
person, he may then screw over thousands of
workers. You've only reversed the roles of
oppressor and oppressed; you haven't changed
the system. I don't know how to begin chang-
ing the system, or what my role will be, but I
know those answers won't be found in a uni-
versity classroom.
Cravens can be reached at
jcrave@umich.edu.

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

Students should nfintom
To THEDAuxY:
I assume that this letter is going to out-
rage all the crazed liberals on this campus,
but I am fed up. On average, I get asked for
money from about eight to 10 street people,
per day. It isn't really the fact that they ask
me for money that irritates me, though. I
am most irritated by the aggressive behav-
iors that some of these people exhibit, their
endless possession of alcohol and some type
of inhalant, and the overall perverse looks
some of the men give female students as
they pass by.
Take a typical walk down State Street
with me. I first pass by the Michigan Union,
where two men dig through the trash for
pop bottles; going further down the street;
a polite man asks me for change. So far, I'm
not bothered. When I get near Jimmy John's
it's a different story. A man approaches me
for change. I say I don't have any to spare.
He then proceeds to completely bitch me
out and start asking me for bills instead of
change. I start to walk past him. He jumps at
me. He gets his face about two inches from
mine and shouts something in my face. As
he shouts, I get pelted in the eyes by his sali-
va. I walk past him. He approaches another
woman. Naturally, he scares the crap out of
her, and she opens her purse for him.
At this time on my lovely walk, I'm just
passing Nichol's Arcade. Sitting at the cor-
ner of the arcade, I see the drunken man I
always see. He asks a man for money. The
man says that he doesn't have any money
and politely tells him to get away. The man
on the street jumps out of his usual posi-
tion and starts flicking cigarette ashes at
him. I continue to walk on; I'm almost to
Starbucks. I notice one of the most frighten-
ing men I have ever seen wearing a black
cape. Not cap - cape. I notice two female
students walk past him. He makes a 180-
degree turn, almost tripping over his cape.
Then he completely scans both the female
students. He looks up, down, up and then
down again. I notice his eyes somewhat bug
out of his head. He then stands and stares
at the women. I quickly realize that I would

for some, counseling. Simply throwing your
change at a homeless person doesn't do a thing.
It doesn't in the slightest raise the standard of
living for the homeless. And, it causes local
businesses to lose money when homeless men
are lying in the sidewalk in front of their busi-
nesses. It's outrageous, and it's an embarrass-
ment that nothing is being done about this. Get
your act together, Ann Arbor.
Erin Buchko
LSA sophomore
Pn#w r ereinisces on5M
annfivsca of polio MCCdne
To TEDAILY:
As a loyal University alum, I will follow
with interest next week's 50th anniversary
celebration of the announcement of the suc-
cess of former University scientist Jonas
Salk's polio vaccine - particularly because
my own academic career was bound up with
both of the institutions involved, the univer-
sities of Michigan and Pittsburgh. I offer a
recollection, from the distant sidelines, that
might be of passing interest.
On April 12, 1955, 1 was working in 1522
Rackham Building, where the announce-
ment about Salk's success was about to be
made. For some years I had an office in that
large and austere structure. In those days, I
was an academic recluse of sorts and had
not been invited to the ceremony. Worse,
I was only dimly aware of the momentous
events that were unfolding several corridors
and stairs away.
Suddenly, a stranger in a suit and tie,
unusual in my corner of the building (occu-
pied at the time by the English Language
Institute), entered and commanded our
attention: Did anyone have a hotplate? I
was the only proprietor of such a device, so
I pleaded guilty. The stranger immediately
demanded it. Somewhat diffidently, I tried
to ask about his urgent need. I assumed,
though, that I had to comply. This suit was
clearly used to getting his way.
"Edward R. Murrow is reporting today's
ceremony, and he needs something to keep
his coffee warm as he awaits the official
announcement," the stranger said. It was

enough.
Perhaps it was. We in the ELI office
thought briefly of asking the University to
inscribe the device: "Edward R. Murrow
Once Kept His Coffee Warm on this Very
Hotplate on April 12, 1955." But we didn't.
Edward M. Anthony
The letter writer is a professor emeritus of
linguistics at the University of Pittsburgh.
MCRIadheres to principks
of 1964c ..yRigh Act
To THEDAilY:
Proponents of the Michigan Civil Rights
Initiative are accused (Oppose the Michigan
Civil Rights Initiative, 04/07/2005) of mak-
ing "fraudulent and misleading assertions,"
and "misconstruing select quotes from the
1964 Civil Rights Act."
I am one of those proponents. I served for
years as chair of the American Civil Liber-
ties Union, for Ann Arbor and for Michi-
gan; we in the ACLU fought for the equal
treatment of the races. We fought also for
the adoption of the Civil Rights Act of
1964. Here is a typical passage - not out
of context - from Title VI of that act, of
which we are very proud: "No person in the
United States shall, on the ground of race,
color, or national origin ... be subjected to
discrimination under any program or activ-
ity receiving Federal financial assistance."
This principle permeates all portions of the
Civil Rights Act.
This identical principle is the entire sub-
stance of the Michigan Civil Rights Ini-
tiative, which provides, simply, that "The
state (Michigan) shall not discriminate
against, or grant preferential treatment to,
any individual or group on the basis of race,
sex, color, ethnicity, or national origin, in
the operation of public employment, pub-
lic education, or public contracting." There
is nothing fraudulent or misleading in this
unambiguous language.
There is nothing, absolutely nothing, in
the MCRI that is not also in the great Civil
Rights Act of 1964. To ensure the enforce-
ment of those principles, we seek to incor-
porate them explicitly into the constitution

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