News From Terre Haute, Indiana

August 20, 2013

EDITORIALS: Back to school costs; Rodeo clown over-reaction


CNHI News Service

Helping families handle back-to-school costs

Press-Republican / Plattsburgh, N.Y.

Store aisles are already crowded with parents and children shopping for back-to-school needs. We trust that teachers have been judicious about their requests in empathy with family finances.

When the kids are barely past the halfway mark of their summer vacations, the notebooks, pens, writing paper and the like start appearing on store shelves.

It used to be, many years ago, that all these items were doled out to students on the first day of school. Many Baby Boomers can recall the smell of composition books, the nervous excitement of lifting the classroom desktops to store their pencil holders.

But as schools struggled to reduce costs, more and more of the supplies needed for students have to be provided by their families. Lists are sent home specifying how many binders, notebooks and pens are needed. Shopping also often includes book covers, Kleenex, markers, erasers, calculators, rulers and more. It can get pricey, especially for those with multiple children in school.

And that is not even factoring in the fact that most families do at least a little back-to-school clothes shopping. The marketing for that begins in mid summer, as well.

We applaud the schools that have begun to recycle supplies in June as classes wrap up. A number of schools provide bins where students can drop off items they haven’t used. Every school should make this a spring ritual, as it not only provides supplies to those who can’t afford them but also keeps perfectly usable items from winding up in the landfill.

Another worthy effort in our area is the supply drives held by community organizations and some stores. They set up drop-off sites where people can donate new backpacks and school supplies. With all the sales taking place this time of year, it’s easy to stock up at bargain prices, so even modest generosity can go a long way. We encourage more schools and agencies to establish supply drop-off sites.

Another consideration as supply lists are compiled is the strain on young backs as students haul around the thick binders, notebooks and textbooks. The less they have to carry, the easier it will be on their growing bodies.

As teachers devise their lists, we feel confident that they are thinking hard about what their students truly will need for supplies. As schools move more toward the use of computers, Smart Boards and digital devices, we hope the reliance on so many family-provided items can ease up.

With summer vacation drawing to a close, people in our area are getting school supplies together. For some, it will be a serious strain on family finances, and we hope they are able to find help available in their communities.

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Humorless left cannot abide an Obama-mocking clown

The Eagle-Tribune / North Andover, Mass.

Clowns are supposed to be funny, irreverent and mocking of authority. They live by the philosophy expressed by the fictional Chuckles the Clown from the old “Mary Tyler Moore Show” — “A little song, a little dance, a little seltzer down your pants.”

Clowns were never intended to be arbiters of good taste — until now, in today’s humorless, joyless America, where every incident, however minor, is sure to offend someone.

The most ridiculous story of the year — perhaps of the past several years — erupted last week when a rodeo clown at the Missouri State Fair dared to ply his trade wearing a rubber mask of President Obama.

Let the Festival of Grievance begin!

Democrats in Missouri and, indeed, across the country, exploded in self-righteous fury at the insult to the president. U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill issued a statement of outrage that typified the reaction to the Obama-mocking clown.

“The young Missourians who witnessed this stunt learned exactly the wrong lesson about political discourse – that somehow it’s ever acceptable to, in a public event, disrespect, taunt, and joke about harming the President of our great nation,” McCaskill said. “Missouri is better than this and I expect someone to be held accountable.”

Others called the incident “racist” and “degrading.” Some Missouri Republicans joined in condemning the performance.

To be sure, the performance of rodeo clown Tuffy Gessling and his supporting cast was tasteless. Gessling, who says he did the announcing while an unnamed colleague wore the Obama get-up, can be heard over the public address system saying, “I know I’m a clown; he’s just running around acting like one.” He can also be heard warning the Obama clown that the next bull was “gonna getcha!”

Gessling has been banned for life from performing at the state fair. Other performers at the rodeo have been ordered to take sensitivity training. Another rodeo announcer, Mark Ficken, resigned last week as president of the Missouri Cowboy Rodeo Association, a position to which he had been elected just two days previously.

But the reaction goes well beyond a mere clown purge. The Missouri branch of the NAACP has called for a federal investigation into the incident.

“I think that a hate crime occurred,” Missouri NAACP chapter President Mary Ratliff told KXNT Radio in Las Vegas. ”I think a hate crime occurs when you use a person’s race to depict who they are and to make degrading comments, gestures, et cetera, against them.”

It’s telling that the bulk of the outrage directed against the rodeo clown is coming from Democrats, whose fellow travelers mocked President George W. Bush mercilessly throughout his term in office. Bush was depicted as a chimp, as a murderer, as Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler — but this was when we were told “dissent is the highest form of patriotism.” Now, even gentle mockery is considered a “hate crime.”

Conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh compared the outrage to the Muslim fundamentalist reaction to the publication of cartoons depicting the prophet Muhammad. It’s an apt analogy.

Masks depicting presidents have been popular joke items at least since the days of Richard Nixon. Obama himself wore an Obama mask during the campaign in a 2007 appearance on “Saturday Night Live.”

The level of anger directed at a rodeo clown for an admittedly tasteless performance is ludicrous.

Congressman Steve Stockman, R-Texas, expressed the silliness of it all on Twitter.

“If you’re demanding a rodeo jester be thrown in the dungeons for mocking the king, don’t pretend you support a free country,” he wrote.