Category Archives: Elizabeth Sweeney

Hot Air

My Bully Pulpit

It’s not easy being a thought leader of the free world, especially when operating out of the bustling metrop. of Bloomington, USA. See, this burgh still has a lot of small town qualities, one of which being everybody who’s anybody knows everybody else who’s anybody.

So, unlike my early days as a scribe in my beloved hometown of Chicago, I can’t get away with insulting, degrading, abasing, and otherwise verbally terrorizing people and dismiss them all, once the feedback starts rolling in, with a blase Ah, screw ’em; they’re all strangers to me anyway.

That’s why Friday was a tough one. My post that day had to do with the state of Indiana considering allowing non-professional teachers to teach here, as long as they qualify under a new category called Career Workplace Specialist. Under this proposed guideline, for instance, a working chemist could teach chemistry classes in an Indiana high school. The state teachers ass’n is aghast at the whole notion.

Chemistry Teacher

Those Who Do Can Teach

My take was the professional teachers should quit considering themselves divine emissaries, sent here to elevate our precious snowflake kids from slug-like ignorance to an enlightened swami state. Teaching, I pontificated, is something many, many, many more of us can do than only those who’ve been anointed by this holy land’s schools of education.

I predicted this stance would ruffle a lot of teachers’ feathers, and I was right.

In fact, the most heartfelt reaction came from one of the most beloved and respected teachers at Bloomington North High School. Elizabeth Sweeney told me in no uncertain terms that I was flat out wrong.

As I read her response to my screed, I could sense the undertone of pain of someone who’s devoted herself to the instruction of our town’s youth, who’s spent tens of thousands of dollars learning her craft in college, who is really on the job 24 hours a day, and who is justifiably proud of what she’s chosen to do with her limited time on this planet.

And you know what? I feel really bad about that.

I’ve met E. Sweeney on several occasions. I’ve done business with her. I like her. I respect her. Her reputation around town is sparkling. And now this person feels slighted by me.

I’ve grappled with my feelings about that this whole weekend. My conclusion? That’s the crappy part of running this communications colossus. But, as Linda Ellerbee once observed about the role of a journalist, if you haven’t made someone mad, or at least uncomfortable, you haven’t done your job that day.

So I’m going to continue to take the chance that someone on any given day will be incensed by my barkings and bleatings. I only hope the next such person is more deserving of a kick in the pants than Elizabeth Sweeney.

A Spade Is A Spade

On the other hand, one person, whom I don’t know, told me in the comments section of Friday’s post that I am a lib-tard [sic].

Whoever you are, thanks!

EP Comment

The McDonald’s Gap

Some 2000 fast food workers protested at McDonald’s world headquarters in west suburban Chicago Wednesday. Their main gripe? Pay.

McDonald’s may be one of the two or three most recognized American institutions in the world but its burger flippers make minimum wage ⎯ $8.25 an hour in Illinois. A McDonald’s employee who works, say, 37 hours in a week can expect to bring home, therefore, the princely sum of $213.67 after taxes.

MCDonald’s CEO Don Thompson makes more than $13 million a year.

McDonald's Alternative Handbook

More, Sir?

A Bloomberg article published in December 2012 calculated that a starting worker at McD’s would have to work one million hours to make what the then-CEO of the outfit made in a year. Working 37 hours a week, a person totals some 1924 hours in a year. The article also pointed out that McDonald’s pays for lobbyists to fight against minimum wage increases.

My suggestion for the protesters? Forget the company’s world headquarters; just dig up Don Thompson’s address and pay him a visit.

Hoosier Hornplay

Here’s a fun piece from Louis Armstrong:

h/t to Jan Takehara who, BTW, is such a Cubs fan that as a young adult she lived in an unheated, rundown apartment just because it was across the street from Wrigley Field. She lived there with a cat named Jose Cardenal.

Cardenal

Jose Cardenal

Hot Air On The Bus

Get Back

Bloomington’s very own far flung correspondent and English teacher deluxe, Elizabeth Sweeney, reminded our small part of the world yesterday that December 1st is the anniversary of Rosa Parks sitting in the front of a Montgomery, Alabama bus and refusing to give up her seat for a white person.

Parks

Parks Being Booked

Imagine that! It was a revolutionary act. People could have been killed for doing such things back in 1955.

We all know the story of Parks, the ensuing bus boycott, and the emergence of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Ralph Abernathy as civil rights leaders. But did you know that another great trailblazer did pretty much the same thing more than a decade before Parks’ seminal stand?

Jackie Robinson — yep, the baseball player who integrated the Major Leagues in 1947 — was arrested and charged in 1944 while he was a lieutenant in the US Army with the 761st “Black Panthers” Tank Battalion at Camp Hood, Texas. He got on a bus on a July day that year and took a seat near the front. The driver told him he was to go to the back of the bus. Robinson — a hardhead if there ever was one — told the driver to mind his own business. The two argued until the bus came to Robinson’s stop, at which point a bus company official had arrived, just in time to call Robinson a “nigger.”

Robinson

Jack Roosevelt Robinson

The argument continued at full blast, drawing a crowd of onlookers. MPs arrived and asked Robinson to come in for questioning. Before they were able to leave, another MP dashed up and asked, loudly, if the first MPs had collared “the nigger lieutenant.”

At this point, Robinson, just as loudly, announced the he’d “break in two” the next guy who called him a nigger.

When the MPs and Robinson finally did arrive at headquarters to sort out the affair, investigators dropped more racial pejoratives. Their overall tone indicated to Robinson that he wasn’t about to get a fair shake so he simply walked out.

Well, the investigators found that kind of uppity-ness unbearable so they recommended Robinson be brought before a court martial. Robinson’s battalion commander refused to press charges so the Army immediately transferred him to another unit. His new commander happily wrote up the court martial, charging Robinson with, among other things, insubordination and being drunk. Funny thing was Robinson did not drink, but silly things like the truth have rarely concerned racists.

Robinson was confined to quarters until his trial which took place the next month before an all-white panel of judges. In the meantime, Robinson wrote a letter complaining of his treatment to the War Department and notified the NAACP and black newspapers about his predicament.

Fortunately for him, the Army at the time was slowly but surely becoming more cognizant of civil rights for its black members. In fact, the Army had outlawed segregation on its buses long before the original incident, making the driver’s accusation against Robinson a red herring. Still, there was enough vestigial racism in the military that the trumped up charges could be prosecuted. In any case, the judges acquitted him.

Court Martial Verdict

All’s well that ends well, sure, but being subjected to the court martial certainly was the very definition of harassment and persecution. The Army would be desegregated fully by presidential order in 1948. But, to be sure, the state of race relations around the nation would be a source of legal upheaval, murder, and rioting for decades to come.

Yes, things are better now. But a pessimist might point out that although the public usage of terms like nigger is frowned upon now, racists have devised clever codes to say, essentially, the same thing. Otherwise, why would anyone call the first dark-skinned President of the United States, as proud a practicing capitalist as can be found in 50 states, a socialist? And why would some wags to this day doubt that he is a “real American”?

We’ve come a long way. Yet we have a long way to go.

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