Wednesday, December 16, 2009

What Torture Really Means to Canada

Occasionally, in the middle of all of the politicking and nonsense that goes on, one person makes a simple statement. There aren't often big words in this statement. It's rarely meant to be taken as some grand pronouncement.

But somehow, it sums up exactly what the problem is.

Today, I found that statement. It was in a letter written by Richard Colvin, the much abused diplomat who blew the whistle on the government's mishandling of prisoners detained by Canada.

It's not a Colvin quote, though. It's Colvin quoting someone else.
One detainee told Canadian monitors that at first, he did not want to tell them about having been tortured because Canadians had been responsible for his detention and therefore he did not trust them.

Remember the good old days? Remember when we thought of ourselves as the world's peacekeepers? Remembered when we were well thought of throughout the world? Remember those days?

Those days are gone. Now people who are being tortured are afraid to run to us for fear that they will be tortured even more.

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Monday, December 14, 2009

Freedom of Speech vs. Bullying

This decision sounds wrong.

One student made a youtube video denouncing another girl as a spoiled brat and a slut.

The victim, crying, complained to a teacher. The school took it up and had the offender suspended for two days.

The case was brought to a judge, who wrote the following:
“To allow the school to cast this wide a net and suspend a student simply because another student takes offense to their speech, without any evidence that such speech caused a substantial disruption of the school’s activities, runs afoul [of the law],’’ judge Stephen V. Wilson wrote in a 60-page opinion.

“The court cannot uphold school discipline of student speech simply because young persons are unpredictable or immature, or because, in general, teenagers are emotionally fragile and may often fight over hurtful comments,’’ he wrote.

That sounds well and good. But this isn't merely "taking offense" by one student. This is meant to attack and humiliate another student. And no one is preventing the bullying classmate from posting more screeds on the Internet. What the school is doing is making a decision regarding how students are to treat one another. Stepping outside those bounds is grounds for suspension.

I'm going to guess the judge has never been a teacher. Keeping discipline in the classroom can be difficult. The school has a right and a responsibility to keep the classroom an open and peaceful forum where every student feels welcome. This judge has now decided that schools don't have that right. In other words, even if the school knows that cruel bullying is going on, the school can't do anything about it because that would be infringing on the bully's right to be cruel.

I've said it before and I know I'll say it again: the rules are designed to protect bullies. That's because bullies are the ones with the aggressive natures that get them in to the position where they can make rules.

This situation is no different from many others throughout schools in North America.

h/t to Freddy Stubbs democratic underground.

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