Girl (don’t) Look At That Body

Back in May, a first grader was suspended from school due to his singing of the popular song “Sexy and I know it” to a girl at lunch while “shaking his booty” near her face (yes, that’s what the news said). His overflowing confidence was not appreciated by the school administrators and the six-year-old was slapped with a sexual harassment charge by the school. The police were not involved because they only deal with “sexual harassment offenders” aged ten and up. Though the news is disturbing and certainly controversial (the boy had been warned before), what is worrisome is that in the interview, the boy and his mother talked about how often he encountered the song by LMFAO* on the radio, at the department stores, on the TV, and on the internet.

It is true that the popular song is everywhere. The “thong thrusting” music video has garnered hundreds of millions of views on YouTube and the new M&M SuperBowl commercial that uses the song has twenty one million views itself. Even the seemingly innocuous remake called “I’m Elmo and I know it” has a suggested link that leads straight to the original video. (Another entertaining clip here)

We always try to protect our kids – we impose a rating system on movies/channels, we censor lyrics on popular radio stations, we even put a restriction on the commercial time for children’s TV stations. This kind of stuff isn’t new, but in this Information Age, it is simply impossible to supervise what children see and hear (my four-year-old cousin owns a 3G iPad). Imagine how difficult it would be to keep an elementary school child from hearing the song/fully understanding why it is inappropriate? Who is to blame in this situation? The parents? YouTube**? M&M? LMFAO?

This “corporate responsibility” reminded me of the Facebook news last week: Facebook is trying to get rid of its “age 13 and above” rule but the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act is getting in the way. The wording of the law will most likely not stop Facebook, who is more profit thirsty than ever after its IPO failure. Its age check already intentionally shaky, Facebook, like so many other popular companies, stations, and advertisements, need to be aware of their inherent ethical responsibility and the potential consequences they can easily create. As companies that appeal to the masses, their influence is tremendous, and they need to do a better job in monitoring their content.

*LMFAO claims that their acronym stands for “Loving My Friends And Others,” don’t you just love these little coincidences in life? Also the song “Sexy and I know it” was meant to be a parody.

** YouTube does require you to report your age in order to watch the video – obviously not very effective.

Revisiting often questioned TSA practices

A few days ago, the TSA received flack for invading a 95-year-old woman’s privacy beyond the capability of an X-ray machine or a pat-down.

Lena Reppart was one of the three percent of airline travelers pulled aside for a pat down through airport security to fly from Florida to her native Michigan June 18. As if the process of being groped by a stranger wasn’t awkward enough, the security agent encountered a dilemma–Reppart’s adult diaper was full, and they couldn’t let her through the checkpoint without knowing for certain what the liquid was.

To make her flight, Reppart removed her diaper in the bathroom and went through security again, this time without a hitch.

Even more so than 8oz of shampoo or a water bottle, the prospect of a terrorist sneaking a bomb onto a plane through a used diaper seems preposterous and comical, even. But this is what TSA representative Sari Koshetz had to say:

“TSA cannot exempt any group from screening because we know from intelligence that there are terrorists out there that would then exploit that vulnerability.”

I can understand this logic. We can’t just pull aside people who vaguely resemble Osama Bin Laden for “random” screening – not only because that’s racist – but because who’s to say that a 95-year-old, white, American woman doesn’t have a reason to commit an act of terror? The safety of American citizens is obviously important, and if that means we have to check a diaper, then we have to check a diaper.

As much as I value safety, though, I also value privacy – though the Reppart’s screening was in a private room, she still had to discuss her adult diaper with complete strangers and proceed to travel without any underwear. In what other circumstance would that be acceptable?

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Rules are Made to be…Flexible?

We are all told from a young age that we need to follow certain rules to be successful, or to keep order. Certainly, everyone but perhaps the most die-hard of anarchists among us agrees that rules are an important part of our society. What exactly these rules should do or regulate, is a topic of considerable more controversy, but not one I want to discuss today.

Instead, I want to talk about the unnecessary rigidity with which we enforce rules today. Instead of making rules a flexible code by which to properly keep order and respect in society, we have, in many cases, allowed rules to become elevated to sacrosanct status. Instead of looking at the pros and cons of enforcing a rule in any given situation, we repeat the mantra that “rules are rules” and the punishment must be enforced no matter the situation.

One of the best speakers I have seen on this subject is Barry Schwartz, who within this excellent TED talk (it’s long, but worth it) tells the story of a professor who accidentally gave his young son a “Mike’s Hard Lemonade” and nearly ended up losing custody of him.

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Don’t Drink and… Ride?


Everyone knows drinking alcohol and driving vehicles don’t make a good match. But what about handling other means of transportation while under the influence of drugs or alcohol? Recently, a public safety ad in Montana which broadcasts catching a ride home with a horse as a metaphor for finding a safe ride home is now actually calling into question whether riding your horse home while intoxicated is illegal.

According to Montana law, horseback riding while drunk is, in fact, legal, as an animal is not lawfully defined as a vehicle (this isn’t the case in Colorado). So should Duke consider installing a safe-ride horse service to take students between East and West campus post-Wednesday-night Shooters (it may get you home faster than waiting for that C-2)? Not quite.

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Would You Steal to Educate Your Kids?

It’s the classic question: is it still wrong to steal food if you do it to feed your starving children?
Kelley Williams-Bolar, a poor black woman from Ohio, faced the same problem in her own life but slightly modified: is it wrong to commit fraud if it is the only way you can give your kids access to a good education?

Williams-Bolar was arrested and found guilty of tampering with records and falsifying enrollment papers for her two daughters so they could attend a prominently “rich, white” school for two years. The school has closed enrollment policies and it costs $800 per month to enroll students who do not live in the district.

Williams-Bolar was sentenced to 10 days in jail, two years probation, and 80 hours of community service. There is also a possibility that Williams-Bolar will no longer be able to obtain the teaching degree she was close to obtaining at the University of Akron in Ohio.

Most would agree that committing fraud, as a general principle, is unacceptable and must therefore be punished. As a single act, there may not be a hugely significant cost to Williams-Bolar sneaking her daughters into the school, but the entire system would unravel if every poor mother followed in her footsteps.

But it is important to look at Williams-Bolar’s intentions and the situation she lives in.
Is it possible that her only real chance to provide her daughters with a real life opportunity to succeed required her to break the law?

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