The W.Va. Teachers’ Strike On Wikipedia
Posted on 03.05.18 by Danny Glover @ 9:44 pm

The teachers’ strike dominating headlines in West Virginia for the past week has been a relatively peaceful affair by historical standards in the Mountain State. Teachers and their allies are making a lot of noise inside and around the state Capitol, and so far they haven’t faced any crackdowns for it. The clashes have been verbal in nature rather than physical, and the rhetoric has been pointed without getting ugly.

It was a different story on Wikipedia over the weekend. Anyone can edit content at the online encyclopedia, and a few mischievous users decided to abuse that editing privilege by vandalizing the entries of at least two key West Virginia senators. Wikipedia restricted access to those pages because of the troublemakers.

Senate President Mitch Carmichael, who also holds the title of lieutenant governor, was the primary target. His Wikipedia page was altered repeatedly on Saturday.

Several of the edits were so childishly ornery that you had to chuckle at them. The editors accused Blair of hating pepperoni rolls, the official state food, and being either a “closet” or “verified” fan of Pitt, the much-maligned rival of West Virginia University. He also was dubbed the “Son of Voldemort,” a reference to the evil villain in the “Harry Potter” books and movies.

But other revisions to Blair’s Wikipedia page, such as changing the office he holds to “Smug Ignoramus” and his college degree to “Bachelor of Being a Big Ahole” and “Bachelor of Being a Jerk,” were downright nasty. Here are some of the other edits that were quickly stricken:

  • “He is known to hate all teachers and public employees.”
  • “He can only laugh when children cry.”
  • “Hobbies include kicking puppies and making babies cry.”
  • “His life goal is to stop all celebrations of holidays.”
  • “He is perhaps best known for his theme song, ‘Move Mitch, Get Out Da Way,’” an allusion to a vulgar song by the rapper Ludacris.

The ad hominem vandalism aimed at Sen. Ryan Ferns, on both his Wikipedia page and Carmichael’s page, was even worse. The edits mocked Ferns as being a “favorite puppet” and “in a relationship with” Carmichael and the rest of the Republican-controlled Senate.

Other changes called out Ferns for his drunken-driving arrest in 2012 and his party switch from Democrat to Republican in 2013. Here are two of the more extensive changes that were deleted:

  • “After realizing he made a horrible mistake, both by driving drunk and being elected as a Democrat, he quickly decided to mend his ways and become an ego-maniacal yes man to Mitch Carmichael. Little did he know his biggest accomplishment would be to hold the entire state of WV hostage while stroking his bosses ‘ego’ and breaking every rule of parliamentary law that WV has to offer because of a dumb bunny mistake they made.”
  • “Ryan Ferns not only looks like Sam Hunt but also has a ‘Body like a Back Road.’ He enjoys doing Cross Fit at his gym (that his rich family bought him). Ryan also is the first senator in the history of West Virginia to have two DUIs!” (I couldn’t find any news of a second DUI.)

The editing history of both pages shows that a more responsible editor protected them in reaction to “persistent disruptive editing.” If this is a sign of labor strikes to come, Wikipedia may become the picket line of the digital age.


Filed under: Education and Government and Media and Music and News & Politics and People and West Virginia
Comments: None

Why We Home-School: Lesson #52
Posted on 01.11.18 by Danny Glover @ 7:50 pm

We live in the information age, not the industrial age, and we educate accordingly — just like the parents of “Young Einstein” Romanieo Golphin Jr.

He was featured on “The Today Show” this morning, and the reference to him being homeschooled sent me to Google for more information. Here’s what The Washington Post said about a year ago:

Romanieo has never been enrolled in a public or private school. … Dissatisfied with the outcomes in traditional education, both parents have committed themselves to homeschooling Romanieo and preparing him for the future their way. “Enough with the Industrial Age approach to education in the 21st century,” Golphin said.

Education isn’t a static process, and neither should the systems that foster it be.


Filed under: Education and Home Schooling and Why We Home-School
Comments: None

The Hazing Of Yesteryear … And Today
Posted on 12.13.16 by Danny Glover @ 11:56 am

Back in the day, the Paden City High School band engaged in hazing by assigning freshman “slaves” to seniors during the week of “band camp,” which occurred at Bethany College in West Virginia. We boys not only had to dress as women but had to march in costume, including pantyhose and water balloons in our bras.

We also had to wear dog biscuits on strings around our necks and eat them at our masters’ command. And we had to go through a gauntlet of humiliation one evening, where all of the seniors dumped molasses on the freshmen and put us through other trials. We didn’t know what was coming because we were all blindfolded. I remember washing my hair with Coca-Cola every night of my freshman year to try to get all of the gunk out of it.

All of this occurred with adult consent and supervision. No parents objected. It was all considered perfectly normal. The tradition went on for years until someone crossed a line that brought an abrupt and merciful end to it. I heard that Bethany officials intervened because of the way one particular freshman was forced to dress and walk through the shared cafeteria, but maybe that was just the band camp equivalent of an urban legend.

It was always a bit ironic that this behavior happened on the campus of a “Christian liberal arts college.”

I didn’t realize until today that the “adults” in Major League Baseball had been engaging in and tolerating similar hazing:

Exactly when the annual dress-up day began around the majors isn’t quite clear. Players often considered it a form of bonding, and it’s become more and more of a production in recent years.

Chase Headley and San Diego Padres newcomers wore the skimpy, shiny orange shorts and tight, white tops of Hooters servers for a September 2008 flight from Denver to Washington. … Other past costumes that would be allowed include San Francisco ace Madison Bumgarner as a giant ketchup bottle, Miami slugger Giancarlo Stanton on the U.S. Olympic men’s water polo team and Dodgers outfielder Yasiel Puig as Gumby.

… Last September, the New York Mets posted photos and video of players going to Starbucks in Philadelphia wearing uniforms from the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League, as portrayed in the 1992 movie A League of Their Own. Several other teams engaged in similar behavior.

In 2012, Harper and Nationals newcomers wore red leotards in the style of Gabby Douglas and the U.S. women’s gymnastics team for a train ride to New York — veteran Washington pitcher Gio Gonzalez tweeted a photo.

In 2007, the Yankees’ theme was The Wizard of Oz. Ian Kennedy wore Dorothy’s ruby red slippers for a flight from New York to Tampa. “I’d rather be here dressing up than anywhere else,” Kennedy said at the time. “It makes you feel like one of the guys.”

Now those practices have been halted. “Times have changed,” players’ union general counsel Dave Prouty. “There is certain conduct that we have to be conscious of.”

Welcome to the 21st century, athletes of America!


Filed under: Culture and Education and News & Politics and Sports
Comments: None

A Voice Of Reason For The Age Of Trump
Posted on 11.12.16 by Danny Glover @ 12:05 pm

On Tuesday, Americans elected Donald Trump as their next president. He won a convincing majority of the Electoral College vote, but Hillary Clinton won more popular votes than Trump.

That reality alone would be enough to irritate Clinton’s supporters under normal circumstances. Now add to that the fact that few political analysts expected Trump to win and that many people rejected Trump as a candidate not only because they disagreed with his political philosophy and policy ideas but also because they deemed him unfit to be president.

That is a recipe for the kind of hostility Americans are seeing in the days since the election, be it in street protests that sometimes turn into riots or bitter and angry online exchanges. Some students were so distraught by Trump’s election that colleges canceled classes. It’s ugly out there right now.

The country needs voices of reason in this atmosphere, and one of them emerged a couple of days after the election in an unexpected place — West Virginia, the heart of Trump territory. Every county in the Mountain State voted for him, with Oklahoma being the only other state where that happened, and 69 percent of West Virginians voted for Trump.

Three days after the balloting, as news of post-election angst and turmoil mounted, West Virginia University president E. Gordon Gee issued a statement to encourage free speech, responsibility, tolerance of all views and open debate in the WVU community. Here’s an excerpt:

Our community must be a safe, supportive home for all Mountaineers. It must be a place where we celebrate the freedom to speak and accept the responsibility to listen and understand.

On our campus, we will come together to argue and rebut, debate and debunk, learn and teach. We can accept nothing else. The only thing we will not tolerate is intolerance.

We will be what a university must be. Not an echo chamber that reinforces fashionable thought. Not a talk-show spectacle where the loudest and most vulgar voices prevail. But an incubator for open and respectful discourse regarding even the most contentious issues.

The statement is full of progressive buzzwords like that aren’t always as open-minded as they sound when uttered within the context of 21st-century academia. “Incivility,” “hatred” and “discrimination” too often are used to describe those with conservative values, for instance, and only conservatives are expected to show “respect” and “empathy” toward those who are different from them.

But the principles are sound if applied fairly across the political spectrum, and America will be a better nation if they are. Let’s hope leaders like Gee mean what they say for a change and model those attitudes for the country.


Filed under: Education and News & Politics and People and Rednecks and West Virginia
Comments: None

Enlightened Rednecks Expose Volkswagen
Posted on 09.25.15 by Danny Glover @ 9:04 pm

Behold the power of enlightened rednecks:

Volkswagen was recently brought to its knees when scientists discovered the company had installed a device in its diesel-powered cars to fool emissions tests. Its stock price tanked, its reputation has been damaged, and its CEO resigned on Wednesday.

So who made the discovery that sent the German car giant into a tailspin? A group of scientists at West Virginia University.

Remember that the next time you read an article trashing West Virginia or hear some elitist tell a joke about those hillbillies in the Mountain State. A little redneck common sense made the researchers at my alma mater skeptical, and a little hard work on their part exposed the alleged deception of a multinational corporation.


Filed under: Business and Education and Government and News & Politics and Rednecks and West Virginia
Comments: None

What Should Have Happened To Ahmed
Posted on 09.20.15 by Danny Glover @ 7:07 am

If the Internet has taught us anything about the news, it’s that the outrage of the week (or day) isn’t always as simple as it seems on the surface.

The heroes and villains that journalists love to anoint in their coverage rarely live up to the hype or down to the demonization. The trite hashtags that the online masses parrot without contemplation seldom reflect the complexity of a situation. The conventional wisdom about winners and losers usually isn’t all that wise.

Think back to the deadly police incidents in Ferguson, Mo., and Baltimore or the jailing of county clerk Kim Davis in Kentucky. Such explosive stories typically involve a chain of events where several people make bad decisions. Just one burst of wisdom could break the chain of foolishness, but no one finds the will or courage to exercise it.

As the stories play out, I often wonder what should have happened at every point along the way.

With that in mind, I’m debuting a new feature on this blog. As opportunities arise, I will compare what actually happened in a given story with “What Should Have Happened.” I won’t address the possible motives behind given decisions; I will simply explore how the various players could have changed the outcome by behaving differently.

I’m going to start with a topic that garnered significant attention last week – the arrest of Ahmed Mohammed, a 14-year-old in Texas, for taking a harmless, homemade “clock” to his school. Suspecting that it might be a hoax bomb, school officials called police, and police briefly detained Mohammed. The school suspended him a couple of days. Local news coverage fueled global outrage, much of it online with the hashtag #IStandWithAhmed.”

Here’s what should have happened:

  • Mohammed’s parents should have prevented him from taking his project to school. The incident occurred just a few days after the anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2011, terrorist attacks, a time of heightened awareness and frazzled nerves. That is not the time to be carrying a case with a device that may look like a bomb.
  • The engineering teacher should have kept the clock until the school day ended. Mohammed took the clock to school to show it to his engineering teacher. The teacher praised the project but told Mohammed not to show it to anyone else. The teacher should have intervened more directly.
  • (more…)


Filed under: Education and Media and News & Politics and People
Comments: None

The Rocket Boy Defends The Clock Boy
Posted on 09.18.15 by Danny Glover @ 7:35 pm

Homer Hickam, the enlightened redneck from Coalwood, W.Va., who rose to rocketry and writing fame, knows exactly how 14-year-old Texan Ahmed Mohammed feels. Both were falsely accused of mischief during their scientific adventures, Hickam for allegedly starting a forest fire with an errant rocket launch and Mohammed for presumably perpetrating a bomb hoax in his school.

Hickam empathized with Mohammed in a blog post that recalled not only Hickam’s own arrest but also some of the run-ins that other brainiacs have had with authoritarian school bureaucrats and police officers:

We boys of Coalwood, West Virginia, had a very similar situation to what Ahmed is now facing. We were summarily commanded to appear at our high school principal’s office to be yelled at by the police for allegedly starting a forest fire with our amateur rockets. We were entirely innocent but that didn’t much matter.

Although we weren’t handcuffed, we were surely told in no uncertain terms that a “bomb squad” would not be allowed at school. This occurred nearly sixty years ago! The intolerance by some school authorities toward bright kids has never really stopped but, during recent years, has been exaggerated by the adoption of zero-tolerance rules.

The other examples of nonconformist geniuses being suspended for their creative pursuits included a boy who made a cardboard mockup of a rocket from a potato chip canister and a girl on the honor roll whose science experiment produced a puff of smoke on school grounds.

Hickam gave the latter student and her twin sister scholarships to Space Camp in Huntsville, Ala., and now he is offering the same thing to Mohammed. “Space Camp is one place where really bright kids can blossom. … I’m there often enough to see how youngsters, often picked on at school for being too bright, thrive when they find themselves with other students just like them.”


Filed under: Aviation and Education and News & Politics and People and West Virginia
Comments: 1 Comment

It’s Just Like Riding A Bike — Or Not
Posted on 05.30.15 by Danny Glover @ 11:32 am

You may think it’s impossible to forget how to ride a bike, but this video proves otherwise. It is an amazing demonstration of how the brain works. I don’t quite understand it — but that makes it even more amazing.

A Facebook friend who watched the video said the bike made at least two changes in the brain’s how-to-ride-a-bike algorithm — the second being that the change in the handlebars forces the rider to put most of this weight back on the seat rather than leaning forward.

“If you lean into the turn with pressure on the bars, you will push the front wheel in the wrong direction,” he said. “So, it is not just about left-right; it’s about a bike that is in fact impossible to ride with a normal position. You have to have almost 100 percent of your weight on the seat.

That may well be, but it doesn’t make the experiment any less fascinating to me. The fact that every person who tries to ride the backward bike fails is the most impressive to me. If science class had been this interesting, I might have gravitated toward it as a field of study instead of journalism.


Filed under: Culture and Education and Human Interest and Video
Comments: None

Stop Gun Violence … By Taking Guns To School?
Posted on 12.22.14 by Danny Glover @ 9:38 pm

Back in 1995 during the heyday of the war on Big Tobacco, anti-smoking groups created what they thought was a clever marketing campaign. They contrasted the powerful warning labels for cigarettes in other countries with the weaker labels here in the United States.

To illustrate the point, the clueless crusaders sent sample labels to every member of Congress and to journalists like me. There was just one problem: The labels were on actual packs of cigarettes. Activists who had dedicated their lives to kicking tobacco’s butts had become charity tobacco distributors for a day. Free smokes for everyone!

That irony came to mind today when I saw this “public service announcement” against guns:

“What the ad-makers are encouraging is highly illegal and invites danger,” The Daily Caller noted in describing the ad. “The boy would be guilty of weapons theft, illegal concealed carry and carrying a weapon on school property.”

That last point is the most outrageous when you think about the senseless zero-tolerance atmosphere that anti-gun zealots have inspired in public schools. Children can’t even use their fingers to simulate gun play or shape a pastry to look like a gun without being punished severely.

Who’s the ad wizard who thought it would be a good idea to tell students to sneak actual weapons, and presumably loaded ones, onto school property?!

That’s actually a rhetorical question. Her name is Rejina Sincic, and she is standing by her creation, to the point of calling people “cowards” for not sharing it. Thousands of YouTube viewers have voted the video down, compared with a handful who actually like it, yet she still can’t see the hypocrisy of it all.

That’s what happens when you’re blinded by a superiority complex.

Update, Dec. 27: The backlash against her video, including the Hit & Run blog calling it “the worst anti-gun PSA of all time,” prompted Sincic to make private her original upload, which I had embedded here, and block all comments about the new version, which is now embedded above.


Filed under: Advertising and Culture and Education and Hunting & Guns and Video
Comments: 1 Comment

How To Lead Drunken College Students
Posted on 11.21.14 by Danny Glover @ 3:40 pm

West Virginia University has an excellent leader in E. Gordon Gee. He’s currently only on tap to fill the job for a couple of years, but he’s showing himself to be just the kind of administrator the university needs in a challenging time.

I was skeptical earlier this year of WVU’s decision to bring him back to a job he held early in his career. It seemed like WVU was looking backward instead of forward. Gee also has a history of running his mouth in ways that reflect poorly on him and the schools he has led.

But Gee has won me over. He still has the fun-loving character of a young man, as evidenced by his tweet when ESPN’s College Game Day visited Morgantown, W.Va., in October.

Yet he has exercised the kind of wisdom that only comes with age — and perhaps from having learned from his own mistakes. Gee understands that, in the words of King Solomon, there is “a time to tear apart and a time to sew together, a time to be silent and a time to speak.”

His statement today, issued after a WVU student’s recent death in an alcohol-related incident at a fraternity, is an excellent example. I like this message in particular:
(more…)


Filed under: Education and News & Politics and People and West Virginia
Comments: None

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