Get Out of Dodge

Study abroad programs can take students to nearly every corner of the world, providing a chance to learn something about an entirely different culture. So why does it seem like most students end up in Western Europe? Here are some programs that will take you outside the ordinary.
Transitioning to Eastern Europe
Here\’s a study abroad program in Europe that will take you outside more typical countries into a truly different side of the continent.
Spend five days in Hungary visiting Budapest, the largest Eastern European city. Then spend two weeks each in Cluj, a city in Romania, and Istanbul, the largest city in Turkey. Folke Lindahl, Political Theory and Constitutional Democracy professor, said any major is welcome on the program, but that James Madison College students typically participate. [europe pic]
During earlier years, the program looked at former communist countries in Eastern Europe. However, Lindahl said the program is now looking for a new title, concentrating more on problems of political economic power and democratization in practice. Romania, for instance, is in transition from communism to democracy and is still outside the European Union. According to Lindahl, Turkey in particular is a big issue facing the European Union. “[Turkey] is half in Europe and half in Asia, an Islamic country but also a democracy of sorts,” he said. “The questions are what problems is it facing now? Can a giant Islamic country like Turkey really fit into Europe?”
While raising questions like these, students on the program enroll in two courses for eight credits and attend classes Monday through Thursday. In addition to classes, students attend guest lectures of local academics. Students live in dorms or nearby hotels and interact with local students who help show them around.
“It was a great experience, just to be in that part of the world,” Cheyney Dobson, a social relations and political theory and constitutional democracy junior, said of her time spent during the program last summer. Not only did the program allow students to travel within the designated countries, but students would also go on weekend trips to places such as Greece. Dobson decided to go after hearing about the program from a friend who had gone the summer before. “It opened me up to new cultures,” she said. “I can’t imagine a better study abroad.”
Going Back to Israel
Five years ago, MSU halted study abroad programs to Israel after the state department issued a warning citing the considerable violence in the area. This summer, MSU students may once again venture abroad to Israel to Hebrew University, thanks to international relations sophomore Avi Davidoff, who worked with some other students to bring the Israel Study Abroad program back to MSU.
Although Davidoff has already been to Israel four times, he said it would be a great experience to go with students from MSU. “[The program is] not just about going to school, going to school,” he said. “It’s also an opportunity to see the country and take different classes,” Davidoff said, referring to Israeli politics classes that are not offered at MSU.
To ensure safety of the students, the university has gates and guards surrounding the dorms where students will stay, and bags will be checked around campus. In addition to these measures, students are issued cell phones so that the university can easily contact them in case of an emergency.
“A lot of students are interested in Israel as a society and culture,” Jewish studies faculty director Ken Waltzer said. “They want to study the Middle East.” Some students have also gone on the program to Israel for religious reasons, whether they’re Jewish or Christian. Waltzer, who earned a Study Abroad award from the College of Arts and Letters, said the final group of students to embark to Israel five years ago “raved about it.”
Learning from Teaching in South Africa
Coming from a small town, curriculum and teaching graduate student Melissa Rabineau said she wanted to experience something totally different from what she was used to. She had always wanted to go to Africa, and got her chance after hearing someone talk to her class about the pre-internship teaching program in South Africa. Rabineau was able to spend last summer teaching in a rural South African school in the town of Richards Bay. [south africa 1]
According to Anne Schneller, a specialist in international studies in education, students between graduation and beginning their teaching internships can get six master’s credits in South Africa, working and living with the family of a cooperating teacher for five to six weeks.
In addition to spending time in South African classrooms, Schneller said students on the program attend field trips and lectures, and interact with people in education in South Africa to achieve a more in depth understanding of the education system, as well as challenges that affect the education system – like economics and the prevalence rates of HIV/AIDS. [south africa 2]
While learning about the education system and teaching techniques, participants also have the opportunity to help the community of Richards Bay. Each participant brings a suitcase of books for the school library and also engages in community projects, like planting trees on school grounds, painting a first grade classroom and starting a low-price snack shop for students.
Rabineau’s experience not only helped her personally but professionally as well. This year she is teaching in a Fennville middle school because of her trip last summer. \”Without a doubt, the trip got me a job,\” said Rabineau.
Broadening Horizons in Ghana
Anyone not in the teacher certification program can still experience the magnificent continent of Africa, and the powerful effects of poverty by traveling to Ghana. “I don’t think they have any idea what to expect,” said Connie Currier, the coordinator for international programming, about the six-week multidisciplinary perspective summer program in Ghana. In the program, students earn four credits for either interdisciplinary studies in social sciences or journalism, as well as two nursing credits. The nursing credits are available to all students and focus on Western and traditional health care beliefs.
According to Currier, students perform a community diagnosis by interviewing villagers and also learn why diseases in a developing country like Ghana persist as they witness chickens and goats running around a compound, the spread of droppings and people using bushes instead of toilets. They also learn why the villagers don’t go to the clinic, taking into account preferences of traditional healers over doctors, their attitude toward the clinic and a general lack of money.
The big buzz words in health care these days are \”cultural competence,\” said Currier. She believes the program in Ghana helps students achieve this competence. “I don’t know how you can gain that kind of awareness if you haven’t been in that kind of setting.”
In addition to health care, the program teaches the background of Africa and Ghana with field trips to museums, cultural centers and to Kakum National Park. Students earning journalism credit spend three days interning in local newspapers and radio stations.
Currier said coming to Ghana enables students to develop a better understanding of why people do certain things within a particular culture, whether it\’s in Ghana or the United States. “[It] makes [students] look at the world differently,” she said. “That’s the value of study abroad – to question your values.”
If you’re interested in any of these programs and would like to know more, go to www.studyabroad.msu.edu

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Importing Mickey

Last month, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld traveled to China to improve the military relations between the Chinese and the Americans. But even before Rumsfeld’s plane landed, the United States had, in a way, already sent an American representative to China: Mickey Mouse.
The opening of Hong Kong Disneyland marks the Disney company’s big break in the Asian market, where the Disney “D” signature that looks an awful lot like a “G” is barely known. Although Disneyland Tokyo has been very successful since its 1983 ribbon-cutting, the Japanese park is not owned by Disney, but rather “the Oriental Land Company, which pays Disney royalties on the use of Disney characters and attractions, and also pays Disney for work by Imagineers to create new attractions for the park. OLC also has a Disney-mandated list of guidelines they must follow in running the park,” Mark Goldhaber, World View editor for the independent Disney news and review site Mouseplanet (www.mouseplanet.com) wrote in an e-mail interview, “But, again, the Japanese people have helped to make Tokyo Disneyland one of the top three parks in the world in attendance pretty much since it opened. (Many years, it has been number one.)”
The other Disney theme park over seas, Disneyland Paris, has not been as successful as the park in Tokyo. Originally EuroDisney, the French labeled it a “Cultural Chernobyl”, seeing it “as an invasion of American cultural imperialism,” according to Goldhaber. Although the park has become a popular tourist attraction, Disney did not take “into consideration the manner in which Europeans take their vacations. Europeans on the whole do not look for resort-type accommodations in the same manner as Americans. Often, they will stay at cheap lodging, or even camp out, rather than stay in expensive hotels…They generally do not look for American-type lodgings. Because of this…the resort as a whole has repeatedly been in financial situations.”
Theme parks are a staple of the Disney company. “The parks are one of the fist things people think of when they hear “Disney”,” Goldhaber wrote. “In the years when the other parts of the business have been down, the parks always manage to pull in a great deal of income to keep the company on steady footing. In years when the parks are having difficulty, other business lines manage to pick up the slack. They are a key marketing tool by which the company can push other business lines.” Movies and television shows are both promoted in the Disney theme parks, from rides such as Stitch’s Great Escape!, to Who Wants to be a Millionaire – Play It!.
While the new park in Hong Kong will help Disney promote it’s name and products, it may also promote the United States. Although the park was designed with the Chinese art of feng shui, the park retains many American aspects, most notably that of Main Street, USA.
Perhaps most important in how Disney represents the United States in Hong Kong is how it treats its Chinese employees. “Disney long enjoyed a reputation as a great place to work,” Godlhaber wrote. “Recently, however, mass layoffs of creative staff and low pay scales, decreased benefits and increased reliance on lower-paid College- and International-Program workers in the theme parks have turned that around. Front-line theme park employees are now largely the ones who are willing to work for less under worse conditions in order to work for Disney. When theme park employees are making about the same as (or less than) people flipping burgers down the road, that doesn’t do much for Disney’s reputation”.
Advertising senior Jennifer Yager worked in Walt Disney World’s Animal Kingdom during the spring semester of 2003 as an intern with the Disney College Program. She considers the experience a “semester-long vacation.” Those she worked with in the park were “really professional.” Although they could be strict, everyone was nice and friendly, Yager said, “like when you’re a tourist.” Some in the program didn’t enjoy it, however. Sometimes working as many as 45 hours a week, Yager said, some students left the program early.
A Disney park in Hong Kong seems like a good idea to Yager. She saw “tons of Asian tourists” at Walt Disney World. Citing the park in France, Yager said it’s “just a matter of time before there’s a Disney in every country.” There is entertainment value in the parks, but also, Yager said, a huge impact on employment when someone can list ‘Disney’ on their resume.

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Re-Education?

This summer, Michigan State University, like colleges and universities across the nation, will release yet another class of academically-trained individuals into the world. These graduating seniors have learned a great deal during their stay at higher education institutions, from writing to economics…to liberalism?
In early April, a study conducted by professors at Smith College, George Mason University and the University of Toronto was published, showing 72 percent of people teaching in American colleges and universities consider themselves liberal, while 15 percent say they’re conservative. This study has alarmed people such as conservative columnist Cal Thomas, who warned conservative parents in an April 4 column about these “re-education camps.”
Although the faculty of colleges such as MSU may hold liberal beliefs, are college students really being subjected to political re-education during ISP 207?
Professor William McHarris, who teaches that very course, said that although he was conservative in his political views for the first half of his life, he now supports “very, very liberal causes.” Describing his views as “middle left,” he explained that most “scientists tend to be liberal,” as conservatives tend to be “anti-science” in their attitudes toward evolution and the Big Bang and have supported cutting science funding.
In the classroom, McHarris tries to keep politics to a minimum. He doesn’t avoid it, however, if political viewpoints come up during a lecture, or “when politics contradict” science, he said. During a lecture on global warming, for instance, he let his students know when politicians had gotten the statistics wrong, such as when George W. Bush said in 2001 that China was the second-largest emitter of greenhouse gases. Rather than simply denying that statistic, McHarris explained to his students why it was wrong.
To date, no one has accused McHarris of lecturing on liberalism. “I try not to give them cause to,” he said.
Just because someone may be liberal does not mean they are striving to convert the innocent young minds of college students to their side of the political spectrum, nor do most set out to train students to be agents of liberalism after graduation. They are still conservative or liberal or moderate or even apathetic, some perhaps changing their minds since they entered their first college class at 18. And as college seniors graduate, new freshmen will appear across the country, fresh out of high school, treading the grass at higher education facilities for the first time this fall. While they will spend their next 4+ years learning at these colleges and universities across the company, they won’t necessarily be taking courses in liberalism.

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Highly Qualified Worries

From the inner city of Detroit to the rural town of Grass Lake, Mich., public schools are feeling the heat. The No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 has left many schools grappling, despite its promises. [bug2]
In 2001, the federal government passed the education legislation. The “blueprint” of this bipartisan legislation, as President George W. Bush put it, is to increase accountability for student performance, focusing on what works—in every school—from Detroit to Grass Lake.
According to the White House Web site, “Federal dollars will be spent on effective, research-based programs and practices. Funds will be targeted to improve schools and enhance teacher quality.” The success and implications of the legislation are very debatable, but one thing is certain—some schools are being left behind.
The intent was to reduce bureaucracy, increase flexibility and empower parents. “Additional flexibility will be provided to states and school districts and flexible funding will be increased at the local level,” the White House reported. But one aspect of the legislation is proving very difficult for rural schools.
This is the requirement that teachers be “highly qualified” to teach, an idea that sounds extremely responsible at first. According to the U.S. Department of Education Web site, a highly qualified teacher must have a bachelor’s degree, complete state licensing and certification and demonstrate sufficient knowledge of all subjects taught. This prompted many high school teachers across the nation to take the classes and tests they needed to become “highly qualified.”
[teach]For new middle and secondary teachers, being “highly qualified” in a subject matter means passing the rigorous State test in the subject they wish to teach, successful completion of an undergraduate major in the area, a Master’s degree in the area, completing coursework equivalent to a degree or advanced certification.
For rural high schools especially, it is much more economical for a teacher to be able to teach more than one subject. For instance, if the school has a small language program, it is more efficient that a teacher hired to teach French could also teach a core subject like math. If instructors were able to teach only their college major, a French teacher would be impractical to employ at a school for only a few classes a day and the French program would most likely be cut.
To catch up, rural high school teachers were being granted an extra three years to become qualified in “the additional subjects they teach,” according to the No Child Left Behind Web site. But even with these extra three years, rural schools are feeling the pressure. Although teachers who have taken the Michigan Test for Teacher Certification (MTTC) since 1992 are considered qualified, older and more experienced teachers must achieve this status within the next few years or they will find themselves unable to teach the classes they have taught for years.
Doctoral student Kathleen McCorral is the principal Grass Lake High School in Grass Lake, Mich., a small town nestled between Jackson and Ann Arbor. Having worked in both small and large schools, McCorral explains, in a smaller school, one must “wear more hats.”
Responsibilities like chaperoning a school dance aren’t usually left to the staff of a large school, but in a small rural school such as Grass Lake High School, they are. Smaller schools also have a more limited curriculum to offer.
As No Child Left Behind requires classes to be taught by qualified individuals, McCorral is unable to offer a journalism class, as she doesn’t have an experienced teacher on staff. And although her school has a new auditorium, McCorral can only offer a drama class if it is listed as an English class. A teacher who is not qualified in English, but is a frequent participant in community theater, is not able to teach her craft to students. However, an English teacher who suffers from severe stage fright could.
The “highly qualified teacher” requirement has worried some education students at MSU, alarmed by rumors that No Child Left Behind meant that as they graduated and became certified to teach secondary school, they would only be allowed to teach their major subject.
According to the Michigan Department of Education’s “Highly Qualified Teachers Questions & Answers,” dated November 8, 2004, “Teachers with a minor in a core academic subject,” such as math, science or English, “may teach that subject, if they have the appropriate endorsement on their Michigan Teacher Certificate and if they have passed the appropriate Michigan Test for Teacher Certification subject area exam or have met one of Michigan’s High Objective Uniform State Standards of Evaluation (HOUSSE) requirements which defines a highly qualified teacher.”
“It limits classes that I’m able to teach,” said biology major and math and chemistry minor Kellie Dean, who will begin student teaching next fall. Once in a while, she said, No Child Left Behind was brought up in her teacher education classes.
Future teachers studying at MSU, like Dean, need not fear a limited subject area to teach. Their minors could still be used to get certified in a second subject. Rural schools, however, are left behind to sweat.

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Country Education

In 2001, the federal government passed the education legislation, “No Child Left Behind.” The ‘blueprint’ of this bipartisan legislation, as President George W. Bush puts it, is to increase accountability for student performance, focusing on what works.
“Federal dollars will be spent on effective, research based programs and practices. Funds will be targeted to improve schools and enhance teacher quality,” according to the official White House website. The intent was to reduce bureaucracy, increase flexibility and empower parents. “Additional flexibility will be provided to states and school districts, and flexible funding will be increased at the local level,” the White House reported.
One important facet of this legislation has been the requirement that teachers be ‘highly qualified’ to teach. According to the No Child Left Behind website, a highly qualified teacher must have a bachelor’s degree, complete state licensing and certification, and demonstrate that they sufficiently know every subject that they teach. This prompted many high school teachers across the nation to take the classes and tests they needed to become ‘highly qualified’ for subjects they were teaching. Especially in rural high schools, it is much more economical for a teacher to be able to teach more than one subject. For instance, if the school has a small language program, it is more efficient that a teacher hired to teach French could also teach Algebra. If teachers were able to teach only their college major, a French teacher would be impractical to employ at a school for only a few classes a day, and the French program, then, would most likely be ended. For this reason, rural high school teachers have been granted an extra three years to become highly qualified in “the additional subjects they teach,” according to the No Child Left Behind website.
[whitehouse] The ‘highly qualified teacher’ requirement has worried some aspiring teachers here at Michigan State University, alarmed by rumors that No Child Left Behind meant that as they graduated and became certified to teach secondary school, they would be allowed only to teach their major subject. According to “Highly Qualified Teachers Questions & Answers,” dated November 8, 2004, “Teachers with a minor in a core academic subject,” such as math, science or English, “may teach that subject, if they have the appropriate endorsement on their Michigan Teacher Certificate and, if they have passed the appropriate Michigan Test for Teacher Certification subject area exam or have met one of Michigan’s High Objective Uniform State Standards of Evaluation (HOUSSE) requirements which defines a highly qualified teacher.”
Future teachers still studying at Michigan State University, then, need not fear a limited subject area to teach. Their minors could still be used to get certified in a second subject.

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Facebook Addicts Anonymous

Advertising sophomore Sarah Gonzalez didn’t mean to become addicted. When she first tried it with some friends, she “thought it’d be really stupid, but then we really liked it a lot.”
Some students are able to control their use of it, like education freshman Allison Lavoie. She uses it only occasionally, as a “thing to do” after some friends told her about it. But Gonzalez is hooked, along with tens of thousands of other students at MSU alone, checking it at least once or twice a day. You guessed it, thefacebook.com.
[fblogo] “The fact that there is a wealth of information about your friends and peers consolidated into one site is pretty amazing and can easily become addictive,” Chris Hughes, co-founder and spokesperson of thefacebook.com said via e-mail.
The site, for the few still virginal to it, is a networking database for college students. Once one creates a free account, he or she can upload a picture, add friends to a list, “poke” people, join and create specific interest groups, search for old high school friends and generally waste tons of study hours perusing the site’s databases. “Facebook me,” has become a household phrase for college students similar to “Call me” of years past. Meet someone at a party but you have to leave early? Simply give them your name and a sly “Facebook me” as you’re out the door.
The Web site was born out of an idea of the traditional, boring college facebooks with terrible photos. Instead of the boring books of yesterday, thefacebook.com is interactive and fun, as you can track how many facebook-friend degrees of separation are between you and the hottie from chemistry.
Mark Zuckerberg had the idea last winter for “a universal online database with an interactive social networking interface.” Working with four friends, including Hughes, thefacebook.com was first opened to Harvard students, but now includes hundreds of universities across the country, with more joining all the time. “[We] wanted students to have control over what information they would like to provide to their peers – screennames, favorite movies, classes and friends.”
[fbprofile] “I think students are using the site as an everyday information resource, searching the database for one of their friends’ screennames or cell phone numbers. There’s also the relationship angle – I think students are more comfortable contacting one another through the messaging feature on the site because it doesn’t have the connotation of an e-mail,” said Zuckerberg.
Receiving an email from someone you barely know could make you wonder what on earth they want, but a message or poke on thefacebook is no more serious a communication than a nod or a smile as you pass in the hallway. But can this sort of communication really create friends?
For Gonzalez, it did. Through thefacebook, she connected with several people on her floor. One such friend even entered her dorm while she was interviewed over the phone.
“I see a lot of them a lot,” she said of her long list of friends on thefacebook.com. Many of them are from her high school and now attend MSU. “Several I see on a daily basis,” she said. Others are people from around her dorm. There are a few, she admits, that are strictly “facebook friends” from high school, ones she doesn’t often communicate with.
“Facebook friends” may prove that the site has improved communication for college students, even to the point where it’s easy to find that old friend that got away. Gonzalez was able to find friends from her early childhood. She moved from Oklahoma to Michigan when she was 10 and a friend she had in second grade contacted her through thefacebook. Gonzalez has also found a few others, looking up names from a yearbook on the site. By messaging them back and forth, thefacebook has allowed Gonzalez to reconnect with those from her past who may have otherwise remained pictures in an elementary school yearbook.
Cell phones and instant messaging have made us easier to reach, and now with thefacebook, it is easier for us to be found – by people we may or may not want to find us. As relationships become more and more dependent on these newer communication tools, it’s possible we’ll eventually grow sick and tired of people from our past locating us, or perhaps we’ll prefer the constant virtual companionship. One thing is clear: with 234 MSU students currently members of the “Facebook Is More Addicting Than Crack” group, no one is showing any signs of wanting to give up this online guilty pleasure anytime soon.

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Executive Decisions

Not just anyone can become Commander in Chief. At least these days. The authors of the Constitution made this very clear by laying out some strict criteria to follow: You must be no younger than 35 years, you must have been born in the United States and you must have lived in the United States for at least 14 years. Assuming you fit this description, and receive enough votes in the Electoral College come election day, you can be president. But not for more than two four-year terms.
[executive] Today, some of these provisions are being questioned by our society: Why can’t a foreign-born citizen become president of the United States, and are term limits really necessary? Around campus, however, it appears few students disagree with these requirements.
Ashley Dies shrugged at the idea of changing the number of terms a president may serve. The natural science sophomore was a little less apathetic about the possibility of one day allowing a foreign-born citizen to take office. After a “determined length” residency as a citizen, she said, someone born in another country should be able to be president.
And what about those younger than the specified 35? “As long as they have enough experience,” chemistry senior Franky Nguyen said. Dies agreed, although, “I wouldn’t want someone as young as my brother being president,” she said of her 18-year-old sibling.
But Dies doesn’t have to worry about her brother ruling the free world just yet. Political science professor David Rohde said changes to presidential requirements aren’t likely to occur anytime soon. It’s “very hard to change the Constitution,” he explained. It requires a two-thirds vote in both the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives, as well as a three-fourths vote among the states.
After all, these requirements were placed in the Constitution for a reason. According to associate American history professor Tom Summerhill, the writers wanted to ensure the president would be “an older, more experienced and presumably wiser man (or woman)…”
“The requirement that one be born in the U.S. was designed to insure that whoever sat in the president’s office would be de facto ‘American’ and therefore less corruptible by foreign interests,” he said.
Some Americans might argue that a President Schwarzenegger or Granholm might not only be more sympathetic to their home countries (Austria and Canada, respectively), but be more likely to betray the United States for their homelands. “I don’t think it should matter,” Irie Brown, pre-med freshman, said about the possibility of a President Schwarzenegger. “If he’s fit for the job, it shouldn’t matter where he came from.”
But term limits were not originally in the Constitution. George Washington decided to serve only two terms, believing a single citizen should not hold the position for more than eight years. “Until 1940, presidents honored that precedent and stepped down after their second terms [if they were reelected],” Summerhill said. In 1940, he explained, President Roosevelt sought his third term and won. He went on to win a fourth term later. Despite the crises faced throughout Roosevelt’s four terms (the Great Depression, followed by World War II), “many thought that this was dangerous to political democracy,” Summerhill said. Hence, the 22nd amendment was passed in 1951 limiting the president to two terms.
Supporting or opposing longer term limits might have to do with how one voted in last November’s election. When asked whether she thought President George W. Bush should be allowed to have a third term, Brown smiled. “No!”
For all presidential hopefuls out there, it looks like you won’t be able to run any sooner than age 35, or seek more than one re-election, despite rumors of an evolving set of presidential standards. But, at least when you do, you won’t have to debate with the Terminator.

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Value Buster

Meet Buster Baxter. He is a third grader who lives in Elwood City with his mom. This year he’s joined his dad, a pilot, and rock group Los Viajeros for a trip across the country and across a few borders. Along the way, he meets kids and videotapes his time spent with them to share with his friends in Elwood City.
As the star bunny on Postcards from Buster a children’s series on PBS, Buster has been criticized lately for a particular video postcard that was supposed to arrive Feb. 2 from Vermont, in which he introduces one of his newest friends—a new friend with two moms.
This, according to Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings, is not the kind of family the federally-funded program should be depicting.
[pbs] In a letter sent to PBS a week before the episode “Sugartime!” was scheduled to air, Spellings wrote, “Many parents would not want their young children exposed to the lifestyles portrayed in the episode.” Furthermore, the new secretary of education argued that the Ready to Learn grant, which sponsors Postcards from Buster, was not intended to fund such an episode.
As a result, PBS decided not to air the episode, but one of its affiliates, WGBH in Boston, did choose to air it on it’s scheduled date and has offered the episode to other PBS stations in the country, including East Lansing’s local PBS station WKAR.
DeAnne Hamilton, general manager and director of broadcasting services at WKAR, said that a decision will not be made as to the airing of the controversial episode until the station has reviewed it. She said the station has only received a couple of e-mails concerning the controversy.
T.J. Jourian, a member of the campus chapter of Lesbian, Bi, Gay, Transgender and Straight student alliance (LBGT) said he wasn’t surprised when he learned about the controversy surrounding the episode, saying it is an indication of how “LGBT issues are eventually going to be written out of the education system” over the next four years.
Since President Bush’s re-election, which polls suggest was based on “moral values,” there has been speculation that the president and his administration will take the religious sentiments prevalent in their first term to an even higher level. Spellings’ denouncment of the Postcards from Buster episode could be an example of how religious values, which should not affect government funding, may lead to censorship of conflicting ideals.
As a childhood development senior, Amanda Caldemeyer has worked with many kids with same-sex parents and said she thinks it’s “stupid” and “sad” that the episode was revoked. Though she said she can see how some people might be upset by it, she said from her experiences, she’s found that most “kids are familiar” with families having two moms or two dads. Caldemeyer added that kids who aren’t “don’t judge,” but are curious and ask questions. After the teacher explains it to them, she said, they move on.
The effects of keeping homosexuality off the air could be detrimental to kids who are gay or have gay parents. Without the media validation that comes with being exposed to characters or people like themselves, these children may continue to feel marginalized and left out of society. “Kids are wanting and needing to hear this message,” said Jourian.
With 13 states recently passing amendments to ban same-sex marriage, there is no doubt homosexual relationships have become a heated political issue. But, the question remains: what’s next? If Spellings can elect not to expose the existence of same-sex couples in children’s programming, citing the unclear language of the Ready to Learn grant, what other controversial topics might PBS also be discouraged from airing? Unfortunately, officials in the department of education never called me back to answer these questions.
Buster Baxter has since left Vermont and traveled on, but stations are left deciding whether to let children receive his postcard or let conservative values to control the mail, too.

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Prince Charming No More

Once upon a time, I watched Cinderella and Snow White fall in love with their tall, handsome, gentlemanly princes. Even today, when I watch “The Princess Diaries” movies with my little sister, Disney is still promoting royalty as well-meaning individuals destined to rule in the interest of their people with grace and integrity. As small a part as I understood the monarchy of Britain plays, this concept of royalty still seemes to work. But recently, faced with pictures of Prince Harry’s Nazi-inspired attire, my idealistic concept of royalty’s reign came to an end.
Prince Harry’s get-up, a German military uniform adorned with a swastika armband, didn’t just shock me; it’s a big deal to the people of the United Kingdom, as well. British exchange student Gavin Dawes said such a display “makes them disappointed” and said the incident suggested the British monarchs are abusing their power to have a bit of fun.
Dawes described the British monarchy as a “tradition.” According to him, the older generation of British citizens likes the monarchy much more than the younger generation. He sees it as “a waste of time” without purpose.
[crown] Indeed, gone are the days of the monarch’s power to create and pass laws. The absolute monarchs became constitutional monarchs at the beginning of the eighteenth century and are “bound by rules and conventions and remains politically impartial,” according to the official Web site of the British monarchy, www.royal.gov.uk . Now the Queen’s role in the government of Great Britain, according to the site, is as “Head of State, formally appointing prime ministers, approving certain legislation and bestowing honours.”
However, a small percentage of the British population, between 15 to 30 percent according to online encylopedia Wikipedia, would rather there be no more successors to the throne. The site also notes that “scandals involving the Queen’s children, and a decline in respect for traditional institutions have led to a gradual shift in attitudes over the years.”
I have to wonder if his costume will be one of the “scandals” that will eventually bring an end to the British monarchy. But regardless of his position as third to the throne, Prince Harry’s actions were disrespectful and shameful. The days of Prince Charming are over, and Cinderella best find a more suitable mate—one that does not mock a dark history of genocide and human suffering—in order to ensure her happily ever after.

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Is Christ Lost Somewhere Under the Tree?

For many, it’s a Christmas tradition to sit in front of the television and watch the 1965 special “Merry Christmas, Charlie Brown.” We laugh as Lucy reveals her Christmas wish for real estate, empathize with Charlie Brown’s frustrations, and listen carefully as Linus tells us what it’s all about.
Then we turn off the TV, and make our foot-long Christmas lists– detailing size, style, and sometimes, even price. Is something wrong here?
“There seems to be quite a bit of commercialism,” remarked economics junior John Karagoulis. “It’s been passed down to the rest of society as a commercial holiday instead of religious.”
Today’s Christmas gift exchange, some Christians believe, takes away some of the true significance of the holiday. Gift giving is said to be derived from the wise men’s gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh to honor the newborn Jesus, as Karagoulis pointed out, and from the philanthropy of Saint Nicholas.
A graduate student from India, Finny Mathew, says that Christmas in America features a lot of hype. Here it plays a huge role, he said, noting that gifts are a big deal. He doesn’t have a problem with the commercialization of the holiday but feels that people should still know why they celebrate Christmas.
While commercialization has perhaps led Americans astray from the true meaning, it isn’t all bad. Many still recognize the reason for the holiday, and, as Karagoulis mentioned, it “provides additional work” for a slumping economy in December.
Stephanie Coyle, executive team leader for guest service at the Target in Okemos agreed. Her store, “depending on how staffed we already are,” starts hiring between 50 and 70 employees as early as the beginning of November.
Giving presents at Christmas may boost store revenues, but it also boosts the spirit of those who look forward to the holiday every year, not for what they will receive, but for what they will give others.
“I think about it all year, what I’m going to get people…,” Jenny Lerczak said. The apparel and text design junior usually gets something “pretty big” for her parents, and something “unique and special” for her friends. Buying for her friends and family – including her cousins, sets Lerczak back about $300 as she begins her shopping in the middle of November, but she says it’s worth it to show her appreciation for those she cares about.
And does she worry that her gift-giving risks taking ‘Christ’ out of Christmas?
“No. If anything it brings people closer together.”

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