Tuesday, February 01, 2005


America's Failure

There were two articles that I read today. Neither one of them was, by its own, more than interesting. However, combined, I think they display a certain trend within two key American professions, teaching and journalism, to take the easy way out, to avoid inflaming controversy, at the expense of any sense of greater responsibility.

The first article is from Haaretz, and it is about American ombudsman (at NPR and the LA Times among others) reacting to the constant assault on them (from both sides, but primarily from pro-Israel individuals and pressure groups) whenever they print anything on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The result has been (although the ombudsmen deny that this is a concious decision) to simply have less coverage of the conflict.

The second article is from the New York Times (which has been widely linked on other blogs and was forwarded to me by Aunt Deb) about teaching evolution in American high schools, and the decisions by many teachers to either skip over it entirely or skim over it quickly or assign it as reading but not discuss it in class. They don't need to take the shit that they'll get from parents, community members, or their principals.

There is a serious problem here in American society. Now that I think about it, the first story is also related to the widely circulated story about students thinking that the First Amendment is overrated. The idea that the schools and the press should not be a place where ideas are challenged, where things should be discussed openly, is a departure from my conception of a healthy democracy. Even if these ideas are not important to the general American society as a whole (sad enough) I think it is important that these ideas should be at the core of those beliefs that are held by those inside the profession - journalists and teachers. When these people simply let things pass by because its easier, this is disturbing to me. This tells me that democracy, or certain ideals that are at the core of a healthy, open democracy, are being put on the back burner. And that's scary.

I'm sorry if any of this was not written with clarity. I've been trying to write it while at the same time listening to the panel discussion with Ali Abunimah and Norman Finkelstiein in Chicago that is available online at ElectronicIntifada. It's definitely interesting to listen to, but it's very very very long.

Don't worry I forgive you
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