GARY D. GADDY
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Friday, May 28, 2010
The freedom to "Choose Life" -- or perhaps not

I RECENTLY GOT a specialized license plate for my car. The special plate I chose has an interlocking "N" and "C" on it, but there are also plates honoring, and funding, Clemson, NC State and Duke (not to mention the mystifying one for Purdue University which is located in West Lafayette, Indiana).

The state of North Carolina currently offers over 130 different such special license plates. Surely you have seen some of them, each of which allow the driver to promote a personal cause, while supporting it financially and at the same time giving a few extra dollars to the state.

With a special license plate, you can support, uncontroversially, Litter Prevention and, bizarrely, Watermelon. You can support stock car racing 26 different ways, including displaying a lovely Jimmy Johnson plate, an ugly Tony Stewart one, or, for the noncommittal, a NASCAR® Generic Design edition.

While there is a "Kids First" plate (which provides funds to the North Carolina Children's Trust Fund), so you can support children after they are born, there is one plate you can't get: one that says "Choose Life," which would support children being born. Funds from the sale of the proposed, but not voted on, "Choose Life" plate would be used to help women who elect to give birth by offering them pregnancy support services, placement in a maternity homes, or adoption placement of the baby, which ever the women choose.

In 2009 alone, 50 specialty plate bills passed out of the North Carolina legislative committee which first hears them. But for the past eight years, the Democratic leadership of the North Carolina General Assembly has chosen not to allow the full legislature to vote on this one particular specialty plate.

According to the Carolina Pregnancy Care Fellowship, the umbrella organization that would distribute the funds raised by the "Choose Life" plate, it is the only proposed license the committee refused to let out for a vote. Other states do not consider this plate controversial. The "Choose Life" license plate currently is available in 24 states, including all the other southeastern states.

NC drivers can get an "Animal Lovers" plate (which says "I Care"), and a "Save The Sea Turtle" plate (which supports sea turtle rescue), but they can't get one if they care to support the rescue of baby humans.

The proposed new plate has been held up, it is said, by a general rule prohibiting political viewpoints on specialty plates. But while "Choose Life" is said to be too political, one currently offered plate supports the National Rifle Association. The NRA is not political? News to me. What is political is suppressing a vote on a bill, for whatever reason.

Some argue that the "Choose Life" plate should not be allowed because it is religious (a very tenuous argument), but one plate which is currently available says, "In God We Trust" (which supports the NC National Guard Soldiers and Airmen Assistance Fund) -- which I would say is a religious statement by pretty much any definition.

Planned Parenthood opposes the "Choose Life" plate because it would distribute proceeds to groups do not give women information about abortion as an option. Of course, Planned Parenthood could have their own plate, if they followed the same procedure that Carolina Pregnancy Care Fellowship has followed -- and they got the votes to allow it.

These special license plates are not, in my view, a state-government endorsement of anything -- unless we are in a very confused state -- which we may be. These plates simply allow NC drivers to visibly support causes they individually endorse. It's called freedom of choice.

The real question is, from my perspective, is this how a democratic legislature should operate? (Which should be contrasted with how a Democrat-controlled legislature actually does.) I say let the legislators vote, then let the people choose. I guess the fear is they might "Choose Life."

 

Gary D. Gaddy mostly displays his support of various causes via this column. 

A version of this story was published in the Chapel Hill Herald on Friday May 28, 2010.

Copyright  2010  Gary D. Gaddy


Authored by Gary G. Gaddy at 6:20 PM EDT
Updated: Saturday, June 5, 2010 6:25 PM EDT
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Friday, May 21, 2010
The Gulf oil spill disaster: Who is to blame?

FOLLOWING THE RECENT EXPLOSION and oil-pipe rupture at the British Petroleum drilling platform Deepwater Horizon in the Gulf of Mexico, President Obama, in an unusual display of emotion, said, "I did not appreciate what I considered to be a ridiculous spectacle during the congressional hearings . . . (oil executives) falling over each other to point the finger of blame at somebody else. The American people could not have been impressed with that display, and I certainly wasn't." Obama then added there was "enough responsibility to go around."

I too want to stop the blame game, so I will -- by telling who is actually to blame: You. Yes, you.

If you ever bought gas from BP (or one of their competitors), or if you ever rode in a car, bus, train or plane, you are to blame.

If you got up this morning from your polyurethane foam bed, put on your polycarbonate eyeglasses or polymethyl methacrylate contact lenses, brushed your teeth with your nylon toothbrush with some water from your PVC plumbing pipes before you drove off to work, after strapping on a polyester seat belt, while sitting on your vinyl car seat, drinking juice from a styrofoam cup, using a polypropylene drinking straw, guess what?  Petroleum products all. You are to blame.

And even if you rode to work on a bicycle with "rubber" tires, since most "rubber" tires are synthetic, made predominately of petrochemicals, and the roads you rode are paved with asphalt made from petroleum, you are still to blame.

If you are reading this newspaper, you may think that since its ink was made from soybean oil, you are excused.  Sorry.  Just as with corn-based ethanol fuel, soy-based inks are produced from plants grown using, primarily, you guessed it, petrochemical fertilizers and fuel -- you're still to blame.

If you are an environmentalist who opposed drilling the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge -- a much, much, much less risky place, environmentally, to drill for oil and gas -- then you are to blame.

If you think it was the owners of BP (and other oil and gas companies) who are at fault, well, if you participate in a retirement account, pension plan or investment fund that holds pretty much any index, large-cap or energy-based mutual fund -- which is a whole lot of you (whether or not you know it), you are one of the owners of BP -- and so you are to blame.

If pressure on BP employees and contractors to cut costs and speed up production was a factor in the disaster, then you are to blame -- if you ever bought an energy product where the price was lower or complained about high gasoline, natural gas and heating oil prices.

And you are definitely to blame if you are a Prius-driving, "Local Voices" columnist who before the disaster suggested that off-shore drilling was a good idea. (That, for the record, would be me -- and President Obama, as well, except for the columnist and Prius-driving parts.)

Off-shore drilling is not a good idea; it is just a necessary one -- and will be done now or later -- if we wish to continue living the life to which we have grown accustomed. We live in a petrochemical-based world, where our wealth may as well be measured in joules, ergs, BTUs or kilocalories as in dollars and cents.

Our only significant readily available non-petroleum energy substitute is coal. (Alternative energy sources, such as solar, wind and biofuels, produce, worldwide, only about 1.25% of our energy, and have little prospect for generating, anytime soon, anything close to what either oil, gas or coal now produce.)  And if coal were to become our primary energy source, it would make for worsened carbon dioxide emissions, more mountaintop removal and more future West Virginia mining disasters.

And, finally, if you are a federal government regulator, a congressman or senator or an oil company executive, you are to blame as well – for giving us what we asked for.


Gary D. Gaddy is not actually a pessimist, despite the tenor of this column.

A version of this story was published in the Chapel Hill Herald on Friday May 21, 2010.

Copyright  2010  Gary D. Gaddy

 


Authored by Gary G. Gaddy at 8:00 AM EDT
Updated: Wednesday, May 19, 2010 9:03 PM EDT
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Friday, May 14, 2010
College basketball, the season now under review

JUST AS THIS WAS THE SEASON where college basketballdom discovered the wonderful innovation of stopping every game with 14 minutes left to go in the first half to spend several interminable minutes determining whether a toe was on the three-point line or not (which is, I am sure, what all of us fans watch basketball for), now is the time for me to put this season under review.

I hate to be the one to say it -- but if I don't who will? Roy Williams is a bad loser. Now, don't get me wrong, he is not a sore loser. Williams is as gracious in defeat as any coach -- and far better than many. No, he is not a sore loser; he is a bad loser. He doesn't know how to do it -- which could be construed, generally, as a good thing. Seriously, until this season, he hadn't had much experience at it. This did mean, however, that he did not know how to rescue a sinking ship -- all his previous ships just went plowing through the water like destroyers at battle speed.

Williams has always had, he says -- and I believe him -- to deal with teams with inflated egos. He never had to massage wounded ones. He has always had to push team egos down, never boost them up. (Based on what I have seen and heard of the incoming freshmen, he won’t have self-confidence problems with them.)

In more than one basketball conversation in this post-season, I have heard local fans of both blue persuasions say that Coach K would have done better in the same sinking situation. Au contraire! They seem to have forgotten, or, more likely, if Duke fans, repressed their memories of 1994-1995. I haven't -- of course. I was there for "the season Krzyzewski's back went out."

For those of you who need your memories refreshed that was the year of two coaches – absentee Krzyzewski who went nine and three and conscript Pete Gaudet (who earned about $300 a week as a "restricted earnings coach") who went four and 15. My lovely, talented and Duke-degreed wife thinks it was the Clemson loss that put his back over the limit.

[My wife and I well remember the season if for no other reason than we attended the February 2, 1995 game between Duke and UNC at Cameroon Indoor Stadium, standing in the student section, rooting for our beloved Tar Heels. (This made possible because she was a ticket-holding Duke law student and one of her classmates was money-grubbing enough – imagine that! -- to sell his ticket to me, Tar Heel fan.) This game was projected to be no contest, by the records and the rankings, as it was between one of the best teams in major college basketball (that would be UNC) and one of the worst (that would be Duke). Instead, it ended up being a game for the ages, one that when ESPN made a reel of a dozen or so college basketball highlights included three plays from this glorious game (which, incidentally, UNC won 102 to 100 in double overtime).]

Roy Williams’ back didn't go out this season but you may remember him wearing his Alexander-Julian-designed arm sling for his painfully torn labrum -- whatever that is. When Roy Williams had surgery on his left shoulder, the Tar Heels were ranked No. 11 in the AP poll. The Tar Heels finished the season as runners up in the also-ran NIT. (And, you know, when you think about it, "barely better than Butler," really doesn't sound all that different from "not quite as good as Dayton," does it?)

Which leads me to the following anecdote I heard recently after a tennis match at Hollow Rock. Note that this is hearsay, not admissible in a court of law. During a concert in Chapel Hill a few days before, one of the band members, in a lull between songs, asked from the stage, "Say, what's up with the Tar Heel basketball team?" Got only a general moan. When he brought it up again, someone from the audience yelled out: "We'll be alright. . . . Just wait 'til last year."

 

Gary D. Gaddy is proud to say that he and his basketball-loving wife attended every home game of Matt Doherty's 8-22 season.

A version of this story was published in the Chapel Hill Herald on Friday May 14, 2010.

Copyright  2010  Gary D. Gaddy


Authored by Gary G. Gaddy at 8:40 AM EDT
Updated: Wednesday, May 19, 2010 9:07 PM EDT
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Friday, May 7, 2010
Our new state song, I hope: Carolina in the Fall

NORTH CAROLINA NEEDS A NEW STATE SONG. Our old one (Remember it? Didn't think so.) is, well, old and, at best, forgettable. (Although my lovely and talented wife could, when I quizzed her, as I am wont to do, sing major parts of it verbatim. With no reflection on her vocal talents, it was not a pleasant experience.) It is a nineteenth century song, and sounds about 175 years out of date -- as it is. Besides, "The Old North State" is a highly partisan song -- really -- first receiving statewide attention during the 1840 presidential campaign -- at a Whig rally in Raleigh.

Written in 1835 by William Gaston, the current state anthem begins "Carolina! Carolina! Heaven's blessings attend her, while we live we will cherish, protect and defend her. Tho' the scorner may sneer at and witlings defame her, still our hearts swell with gladness whenever we name her." Hurrah! indeed. It is possibly the most defensive state song ever concocted. And the tune was stolen from a travelling Swiss bell choir. Surely, even we witlings can do better.

I have a candidate to propose as our new state song -- but first let me dispense with the other pretenders to the office.

"Carolina in the Morning" (with words by Gus Kahn and music by Walter Donaldson) has been a popular song since 1922 -- making it only about a century out of date. It is a clever little ditty -- nothing could be finah -- but Kahn was born in Germany, immigrated to the Chicago, worked in New York and died in LA, and Donaldson, who was born in Brooklyn, also died in LA. It is not clear either of them ever took more than a drive through North Carolina. Case closed.

"Carolina in My Mind," by native North Carolinian James Taylor, has its merits. But consider this: Taylor has lived for decades in the Berkshire Mountains of Massachusetts. "In his mind," and for the occasional concert, is the only way Taylor makes it down here. Case closed.

"Carolina Girls" by General Johnson and the Chairmen of the Board is pleasant beach music to which to shag -- but General Johnson, of Virginia, formed his band in Detroit and several of the current Chairmen hail from South Carolina -- where they think the song is about them. ( "Carolina Girls" tied for first place [with Taylor's "Carolina in My Mind"] in voting for the South Carolina Information Highway soundtrack.) Case closed.

The composers of my state song nominee reside in our own Wilkes County. The Krüger Brothers are comprised of Uwe Krüger, one of the best guitar pickers you'll ever hear, Joel Landsberg, one of the best bass players I've ever heard, and Jens Krüger, who is often introduced as "arguably the best banjo player in the world" (to which I commonly respond: "Who is arguing and what are they arguing about?")

"Carolina in the Fall" is not your traditional, formal, almost elegiac state anthem, it is a love song -- to our state. Written by a person who, having travelled the world, now knows "since I've been there where I was meant to be," the song falls loosely in the bluegrass ballad tradition the Krügers learned from the records of North Carolinian Doc Watson.

The Krügers are not NC natives -- those born here because of their ancestors' decisions -- they are immigrants to the Brushy Mountains, coming from the Alps of Switzerland. Like many here in picturesque North Carolina, they live here because they love it here.

And it is not foremost the topography, or the botany, or the climate, that lured the Krügers, and some others of us, to North Carolina; it is the welcoming people. As they put it: "In the hills of Carolina, folks have opened up the door, for the first time in my life I'm not a stranger anymore."

Read the words to the song's chorus and tell me this wouldn't make for a lovely state song:

"I've seen sunsets on the ocean. I've seen the desert bloom.
I've driven endless highways beneath a prairie moon.
Yet the picture in my mind I see when I think about it all
Is the color of the leaves in Carolina in the fall."

Listen to the delightful tune on YouTube (search for "Kruger Brothers, Carolina in the Fall") -- and sing along. Then join me in the campaign to make it the official state song.

 

Gary D. Gaddy is an immigrant to North Carolina, coming all the way from Danville, Virginia.

A version of this story is set to be published in the Chapel Hill Herald on Friday May 7, 2010.

Copyright  2010  Gary D. Gaddy


Authored by Gary G. Gaddy at 11:08 AM EDT
Updated: Friday, May 14, 2010 8:56 AM EDT
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Friday, April 30, 2010
Why angry and aggravated Arizonans are angry and aggravated

MY SWEET, SMART MOM ASKED ME why what was going on in Arizona was going on in Arizona.  "Wasn't America made up of immigrants?" she asked.  It is a good question, why are those surly people so surly?

Short answer is they are angry because they have been aggravated too long.  Where most people across the United States see illegal immigration as an abstract problem, for many in Arizona, and the other border states, it is much more real.  They can see the horrific drug-smuggling-fuelled crime wave just across the border.  They know statistics such as 17% of those caught trying to enter Arizona illegally from Mexico have a criminal record. And they may be aware that this is more than a couple of guys. The U.S. Border Patrol apprehended 403,493 entrants without documents in 2006 on the Arizona border.  That's one year and one state -- and, of course, doesn't count those who weren't apprehended.

Wouldn't you be angry and aggravated if you thought the lack of good immigration laws, and the failure to enforce the ones we have now, were putting you out of work, preventing you from obtaining a better job, keeping you from getting a raise at the one you do have, raising your taxes, hiking your town's crime rate and generally lowering your quality of life?  I would.

Amnesty for illegal immigrants has already been tried in 1986 via a bipartisan bill signed by Ronald Reagan. It didn't work -- and without secure borders, real penalties for employers, active prosecution for identity fraud as well as vigorous enforcement of current immigration laws in general, a new amnesty won't either. In fact, it will do just the opposite, as it rewards the original unlawful acts.

Most Americans don't believe, in principle, in rewarding law breakers for their unlawful acts, any unlawful act (and entering this country illegally or overstaying a legal visa is a violation of the law).  Most Americans do believe in limited legal immigration. Most Americans are not racist.  A 2009 survey found that clear majorities of Hispanics (56%), African-Americans (57%) and Asian-Americans (68%), all thought immigration, not just illegal immigration, was too high.  And majorities of all three groups "support enforcement to encourage illegals to go home."

Illegal immigration, like America's many other difficult problems (such as Medicare, Social Security, federal spending deficits and the tax code) has no easy, politically pain-free solution.  So, we mostly do nothing and let the problem get worse.

Besides inaction, why do we have such an overwhelming illegal immigration problem?  One reason is good.  Most of the world sees America as a highly desirable place to live.

The middle-class laborers and working poor don't like illegal immigration, even when they admire the immigrants themselves, because the hardworking illegal immigrants take their jobs and reduce their wages, while the non-working illegal immigrants take social services they pay for.  Taxpayers don't like illegal immigration because they don't think that illegal immigrants pay their fair share of taxes. (Real numbers are hard to come by on this, but even if the illegal immigrants wanted to pay all their taxes -- and tell the truth, who does -- their "undocumented" status would make that difficult.)

Just like water wants to run downhill, the poor run to money, and those without freedom flow to places of where liberty and opportunity abound -- like America.  If this migration were unrestrained, America would be overwhelmed.  That is why we have chosen to put limits on immigration, so that America will remain America.

Ironically, if we don't stanch this continuing influx of immigrants, it may stop itself.  With unabated immigration, America will progressively become more and more like the places that the immigrants were escaping from, so at some point they will stop coming -- when it becomes no better than where they were before.

I think we can come up with a better solution than leaving the status quo.  If we can't, the whole world will be poorer for it.

 

Gary D. Gaddy recommends that his local readers go to YouTube and search for "immigration gumballs" if they have any notion that unchecked immigration to the U.S. can solve the world's problems. He doesn't need to tell this to his Arizona readers, they already know.

A version of this story was published in the Chapel Hill Herald on Friday April 30, 2010.

Copyright 2010  Gary D. Gaddy


Authored by Gary G. Gaddy at 8:59 AM EDT
Updated: Tuesday, August 17, 2010 9:42 PM EDT
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Friday, April 23, 2010
Destroying diversity in order to save it

YOU WOULD HAVE THOUGHT we would have learned this lesson in Vietnam, where a military officer once famously proclaimed that "we had to destroy the village in order to save it" -- but apparently not.  In modern academia, they are out to save campus diversity by eliminating it from campus.

Before the United States Supreme Court this week is a case, Christian Legal Society vs. Martinez, which asks whether a public university can, in the interest of upholding nondiscrimination, require campus organizations to accept as members any student who wishes to join.  Stated that way, the obvious answer would seem to be, sure, why not?

Consider that such a requirement means that a faith-based organization must accept students who do not hold the beliefs and values of the group if that group wishes to be recognized by the university.  A Christian organization would have to admit, among others, atheists.  A Christian group open to all is not a Christian group, I would contend.  It is just a group.  Consider the campus NAACP being required to admit neo-Nazis, the campus Democrats, card-carrying Republicans,  or the campus chapter of NOW, male chauvinists. This does not seem so reasonable.

Couldn't such "exclusive" groups just go on unrecognized?  Yes, but official recognition, which in the case of the Hastings Law School at the University of California in San Francisco allows an organization to use school classroom space, e-mail communications and other facilities, makes recognition almost essential for a fully functioning campus group.  Without official recognition, a "campus" group would be at best at the margins of campus, meeting off campus while only able to communicate with the student body via unofficial means.  They would be, to use a phrase that seems eerily familiar, "separate and unequal."

Many media reports, such as one in USA Today, characterize the constitutional question here as whether "a state-run law school may refuse to recognize a religious student group that keeps out gay students and non-Christians."  It is not.  The Christian Legal Society does not "keep out gays" anymore than it "keeps out heterosexuals."  It does, however, keep out as members gays, and straights, who don't hold to its religious tenets and moral values.  Those include its statement of "biblical principles of sexual morality," which says that a student who "advocates or unrepentantly engages in sexual conduct outside of marriage between a man and a woman" isn't eligible to vote for or become a group leader.

The CLS does not exclude anyone from attending their meetings, but they do limit leaders and voting members to those who are Christian, as defined by the CLS.  That is, I would venture, why they call themselves the Christian Legal Society and not something else.  This ability to define who may and who may not join their organization, according to their beliefs and behaviors, is a fundamental freedom.  The freedom to associate necessarily presupposes a right not to associate.

One group understands this.  Gays and Lesbians for Individual Liberty, which in their amicus brief supporting the CLS, point out that the freedom for gay Americans to form gay associations -- whose membership rules they defined for themselves -- gave them their collective voice in the face of an often hostile majority.  "[U]nder Hastings' forced membership policy, only majority viewpoints . . . are actually assured a voice in Hastings' forum," argues their brief, which notes that this is "a patently unreasonable way" to "promote a diversity of viewpoints."

Anyone who thinks this case is just about the way-out left coast should be reminded that in December 2002 the University of North Carolina told its InterVarsity Christian Fellowship chapter that it objected to IVCF's constitution saying that officers must "subscribe ... to…Christian doctrine.” The InterVarsity chapter was instructed to “modify the wording" of its charter or have its "university recognition” revoked.  Alan Charles Kors, the founder of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, which successfully advocated on behalf of UNC's InterVarsity chapter, characterized UNC’s demand this way: “In short, it is prohibited at this public university for a Christian organization to be Christian.”  Odd way to promote diversity, I would think.

 

Gary D. Gaddy would not see fit to join any organization that would have him as a member.

A version of this story is set to be published in the Chapel Hill Herald on Friday April 23, 2010.

Copyright  2010  Gary D. Gaddy

 


Authored by Gary G. Gaddy at 8:03 AM EDT
Updated: Saturday, June 5, 2010 6:37 PM EDT
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Friday, April 16, 2010
Who hates Duke? Not me, certainly not me

HAVING BEEN A CAROLINA BASKETBALL FAN ever since Al Wood's senior season (which just so happened to be my first year in graduate school at UNC's illustrious School of Journalism and Mass Communication), I know about ABC fans.  (In case you don't know what an ABC fan is, they are, usually proudly self-proclaimed, "Anybody But Carolina" fans.  Sometimes they even paste it on the bumper of their car.)  Now, why would a fan pull against someone else's team, in some cases even more than they pull for their own team?

Let us answer this query using the time-tested Socratic dialogue.

A couple of questions:  Which is the most hated team in professional baseball?  Which is the most hated team in professional football (over the long haul, not just this year)?  And, on a slightly different topic, which is the most hated country in the world?

Now that you have answered those questions, answer this one:  In pro baseball, pro football and the Olympic combined event of geopolitics and economics, which teams and country are the most successful, respectively, in baseball, football and generally dominating the world?

[For those keeping score at home, the answers are the New York Yankees, Dallas Cowboys (America’s Team -- to hate) and the other Yankees (Please Go Home!), that is, the United States of America.]

Final question, anyone see a correlation here? 

Good answer, Bob.  Could you elaborate on "yes"? 

That's right, they are synonymous.  The correlation is one to one.

Now let us consider the world of college basketball.  What are currently the four most hated teams in college basketball?

That's correct, Anne.  That would be Kentucky, Kansas, UNC and Duke.

Now, which schools have the most wins in the history of college basketball? 

Right again, Anne.  Kentucky, Kansas, UNC and Duke.  Anyone see a pattern beginning to emerge?

Thanks, Bob, but could you elaborate on "yes"?

That's right, they are synonymous.  The correlation is one to one.

So, class, what conclusion are we to draw?  (Let me give you a hint, it is as easy as ABD.)

That's right, Mike.  When the other kids start to pick on you, it just may be because they are jealous of your success, envious of your trophies and generally tired of losing to you.  They hate you because deep down they want to be you -- except, of course, for the Christian Laettner part.

As for me, a fan of Carolina, one of the few schools which have had more basketball success than Duke, I have no need to hate Duke.  Honestly, I don't hate, despise or even really dislike Duke (except, of course, for the Christian Laettner part) -- but I sure do love beating them.  That's 'cause it is more fun to beat a good team than it is to beat a bad one. (Sorry, State fans, it just is.)

And, another thing, about "people hating Duke," has anyone, by any chance, ever noticed the boorish behavior of many Duke fans, as epitomized by their beloved Cameron Crazies, the unrivaled masters of the obscene chant?  Any possibility that the Crazies have ever crossed any boundaries that brought disdain back onto their team from the fans of the teams they have verbally abused?

I didn't think so either.  So, I guess it is just the high graduation rate that ABD fans despise.

Arrogant, gloating fans in general can also be a problem for any winning team.  But, speaking for Carolinafandom at large, it is hard to be humble, when, for example, your school has won more conference sports titles (39) this millennium (not including this unfinished academic year) than any other ACC school, and has done so in 17 different sports.  So it would not be becoming to even mention the six national titles in four sports in the same period.  I think that those few of you among my readers who are not Tar Heel fans know exactly what I mean.

Gary D. Gaddy remembers one year when he was working at UNC, when, across all sports, Carolina won more ACC championships than the other seven or eight conference schools put together -- and cannot imagine what the other schools' fans found not to love.

A version of this story is set to be published in the Chapel Hill Herald on Friday April 16, 2010.

Copyright  2010  Gary D. Gaddy

AUTHOR'S UPDATE

It took him a while, but apparently Coach K finally got around to reading my article. Coach Krzyzewski was quoted in the News & Observer on June 9, 2010 as saying he gets fans rooting against the Devils: "I understand it. I would rather be booed for being good than for being bad."

 


Authored by Gary G. Gaddy at 10:36 AM EDT
Updated: Wednesday, June 9, 2010 1:47 PM EDT
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Friday, April 9, 2010
Duke basketball victory celebration muted

DURHAM -- Amid the whoops and hollers, and the traditional bonfire bench burnings, longtime basketball observers could not help but notice a distinct shadow falling across Duke's on-campus national championship victory celebration.  The celebration, they observed, was less exuberant, less unabridgedly blissful than previous such celebrations as Duke fans, the team and its coaches included, admitted still not having fully recovered from the University of North Carolina team's loss in the National Invitational Tournament final on Thursday night.

"It was a testament to our team's heart that my boys were even able to play tonight's game at all after watching UNC go down on Thursday," said Duke Coach Michael Krzyzewski just after the game. "They were just in a funk, but they fought through it," he said.  According to Krzyzewski, "A lot of the tears after the championship game were not for joy, they were out of sadness that the Heels couldn't celebrate with us."

"The first thing I did after I got off the court," said Krzyzewski, "was call Roy (Williams) to make sure he was doing OK.  It's hard to put your heart into a celebration when you know your friend is in pain."

"It's difficult to fully enjoy our success while still smarting from the Tar Heels falling just short of their goal," said Final Four MVP Kyle Singler.  "To tell the truth, this doesn't feel quite as good as the feeling I had last year when the Tar Heels won it all," the Duke forward added.

According to Duke point guard Jon Scheyer, “One thing that carried me through, that motivated me, was knowing that the whole Tar Heel Nation was behind us, and that maybe our victory would boost them just little out of their doldrums.”

"Maybe later," said Duke assistant coach Chris Collins, "after the Tar Heel team has a chance to appreciate how good their incoming players are and that they still have a chance to win in future, they will cheer up, then our team and fans will be able to fully appreciate our win too."

Duke students were sober as well in their assessment of the championship's meaning given the Tar Heels' falling one step short of unprecedented back-to-back NCAA and NIT titles. Said Duke sophomore Jan Goldstein of Paramus, "I felt so bad watching how the Tar Heel team reacted after losing to Dayton, I almost didn't watch the Butler game, but I am glad I did because I did feel better after Duke won, at least a little bit. But, to tell the truth, I did spend a lot of time during the game thinking about Marcus (Ginyard) and Deon (Thompson) and how much it must hurt to lose your final game as a college player."

Duke senior psychology major Lawrence Runkin from Brooklyn said he had been acting as a volunteer bereavement counselor at UNC's Campus Health Services on all day on Friday and Saturday and had not much time to even think about the Duke and Butler contest until he saw some guys in the dorm lounge watching the game when got home late Saturday.  "I guess I am glad we won but the looking at the impact of the Tar Heel loss had on students there had already put sports into some larger perspective for me," Runkin said.

As students and other Duke fans entered the welcoming ceremony for the return of the Duke team in Cameron Indoor Stadium on Tuesday afternoon, they could look across Wallace Wade Stadium at the flag which had been flying at half mast for Carolina since Friday morning, the sight of which had to dampen their spirits.  The welcoming ceremony, which did eventually become more lively, began with a brief moment of "silence and meditation for our friends in Chapel Hill" led by Duke Chaplain the Rev. Bernard T. Stubbs.


Gary D. Gaddy has to admit he pulled for Butler -- along with about everybody else not from west Durham or the Tri-State Area.

A version of this story is set to be published in the Chapel Hill Herald on Friday April 9, 2010.

Copyright 2010  Gary D. Gaddy

 


Authored by Gary G. Gaddy at 6:46 AM EDT
Updated: Friday, April 9, 2010 6:58 AM EDT
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Friday, April 2, 2010
Deconstructing the Defenestrations of Prague

"DEFENESTRATION: Sales dive leads to turnover at the top," the online headline said, which prompted me to quiz my lovely and unsuspecting wife (who was also online at a different computer in the same room).  Reading the headline aloud, I asked: “What does defenestration mean?"  Her response: "It seems like I ought to know."

So, now for her and the rest of my reading public, I present a tutorial on defenestrations and their place in history.  With the help of tens of thousands of Wikipedia contributors, let me enlighten us all.

When I think defenestration, I think the Defenestration of Prague.  There were, however, two Defenestrations of Prague, not one as I had previously supposed, and neither led to World War I, as I had thought.  (The event I had conflated was probably the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo in 1914.)

The Defenestrations of Prague were, in fact, two distinct incidents in the history of Bohemia. (Right off, don't you love any event in the history of Bohemia?)  The first occurred in 1419 and the second in 1618.  The term "Defenestration of Prague" is more commonly used to refer to the latter incident (the one which I remembered vaguely).  Both incidents helped to trigger prolonged conflict within Bohemia and beyond.

But before history, let's do vocabulary.  Defenestration is the act of throwing someone out of a window. Etymologically it does not come directly from German (fenster: window), as I errantly thought, but is from Latin (de: out of, with a downward motion implied; fenestra: window).

The first Defenestration of Prague occurred on July 30, 1419 -- and was not a lot of fun as it involved the killing of seven members of the city council by a crowd of radical Czech Hussites. It marked the turning point between talk and action leading to the prolonged Hussite wars, which lasted until 1436.  (Hussites, you may be interested to know, are lineal predecessors of the Moravians who founded Old Salem and brought us those really tasty thin sugar cookies and gooey sugar cakes.)

The second, more famous, Defenestration of Prague was initiated when some members of the Bohemian aristocracy rebelled following the selection in 1617 of a much earlier Ferdinand, the Catholic Duke of Styria, as King of Bohemia. On May 23, 1618, an assemblage of Protestants led by Count Thurn, whom the Emperor had deprived of his post as Castellan (whatever that is) of Karlstadt, who reacting to an inflammatory letter from the Emperor's principal adviser, Bishop Klesl, exhorted his followers to throw the Regents appointed by the Emperor out the window "as is customary." (Don't you also love Bohemian customs?)

This group proceeded to bribe their way into the Prague Castle where the Regents were meeting.  Many present in the room later claimed that they thought the Regents were only going to be arrested, saying by the time they realized what was happening, it was too late to stop it. The two Regents, along with their secretary, Philip Fabricius, were thrown out the third floor window.  Falling almost 100 feet, the three landed, happily, I guess, on a large pile of manure -- and thus survived.  (I am not making this up.)

Fabricius, when later ennobled by the Emperor, was granted, apparently without tongue in cheek, the title of Baron von Hohenfall (literally meaning "of high fall").  Roman Catholic Imperial officials claimed that the three men survived due to the mercy of angels assisting the righteousness of the Catholic cause.  Protestant pamphleteers asserted that their survival had more to do with the horse excrement in which they landed than the benevolent acts of angels.  In any case, the defenestration was central to the start of the Thirty Years' War.

For those few of you for whom this little history still does not make clear sense, but who are up on their current events, just substitute Democrat for Catholic and Republican for Protestant (or vice versa), it will all become perfectly obvious.

 

Gary D. Gaddy has walked across the Latin Bridge over the River Miljacka in Sarajevo, Bosnia, near where the later Ferdinand was shot.

A version of this story was published in the Chapel Hill Herald on Friday April 2, 2010.

Copyright 2010  Gary D. Gaddy


Authored by Gary G. Gaddy at 8:01 AM EDT
Updated: Wednesday, March 31, 2010 8:57 AM EDT
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Friday, March 26, 2010
Why my dad married my mom, I think

IT'S A PRETTY GOOD LOVE STORY, my mom and dad.  As I have mentioned before, every Thanksgiving Dad tells the story of how they first met.  This is how it goes. During his freshman year, in the fall of 1940, my dad's roommate at Wingate Junior College, Paul Chapman, invited my dad home to Maiden for Thanksgiving weekend.

Paul asked his younger sister, Inez, then a high school senior, to set him up with a date with a particular girl from town and "to get a date for his roommate Cliff."  So, she did. She picked herself. (Please note that this is about 30 or 40 years before a girl could ask a boy for a date other than on Sadie Hawkins' Day.)

My dad says it was pretty much love at first sight.  If you ever saw my mom during that era (or any other, for that matter), you would understand.  The photo caption from the local newspaper read: "Beauty Queen: Miss Inez Chapman of Maiden recently elected beauty queen in the annual contest held at Wingate Junior College.  She is one the outstanding members of the freshman class, an honor student, and is campaigning for the secretaryship of the student body."  The picture makes the "Beauty Queen" heading quite redundant.

It may be Cliff fell for Inez because she fell for him too. My younger brother Bob recently found a copy of a book of poems which my mom wrote for an English assignment at Wingate. The book is entitled "These Will Remain" and it is dedicated to one Clifford Gaddy. This collection of 31 poems, many about her true love (including two different poems titled "To Clifford."), induced the professor to give her an "A."  My dad probably liked her poetry too.

If my dad had seen the future, he may have fallen for her even harder -- if that would have been possible.  As a dedicated wife, she supported him any way she could through the rest of his college and medical school years.  After he finished his internship and residency, my mom served in her church and her community in extraordinary ways. She was, among other things, at different times, the president of the local YWCA, of the Mental Health Association, and of the Wednesday Club, the local women's club for promoting culture and community service.

And she did this while raising six children (four boys and two girls), all born in a span of 11 years.  Most of them turned out pretty good. The six of us ended up with two doctorates, one medical degree, two master’s and the one who didn't finish college is a mechanical genius -- but all would agree that mom, who never finished college, is smarter than any of us.  For the record, my mom made straight "A" grades in school -- before she met my dad.  (Love will do that to you.)

And my mom is pretty sweet too. For her 80th birthday my sister Betty made a poster titled "80 Things We Love About Nez." She had to edit down the list of nominated suggestions made by her children and grandchildren. Probably should have made it 180.

However, my mother is not perfect (although smart, sweet, caring and pretty is a pretty good combination -- just ask my wife).  When I was playing Little League, my older brothers told me to "Always tell Mom practice gets out an hour earlier than it actually does."  So, being the obedient little brother that I was, I did.  On the day when the first practice finished -- right on time -- I looked up and Mom was driving up. Told you she raised smart kids.

Happy anniversary, Mom and Dad!

 

Gary D. Gaddy's parents, Inez Chapman Gaddy and Clifford Garland Gaddy, Sr., have been married for sixty-five years this week. He is hoping the marriage works out. (See the January 8th birthday edition, "Ten or so things that I learned from my dad.")

 A version of this column was published in the Chapel Hill Herald on Friday March 26, 2010.

Copyright  2010  Gary D. Gaddy


Authored by Gary G. Gaddy at 8:25 AM EDT
Updated: Friday, March 26, 2010 9:06 AM EDT
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Friday, March 19, 2010
Welcome to Neologismia and other made-up words

ALL MY COLUMNS ARE WRITTEN IN WORDS.  Mostly the same old words (e.g., the, be, to, of, and, a, in, that, I).  This gets boring for me, so I am sure it gets boring for you, my dedicated readers. (I was thinking here of Sandra and Dan.)  So, this week's edition will move into new linguistic territory.  Welcome to Neologismia!

Let's start with a quiz.  (Please hum any tune from the "Sound of Music" as you answer.).

A neologism is: (C) An amalgam of the Greek words for new and word; (B) The antonym, sort of, of oldlogism; (E) A linguistic indicator of psychosis; (D) Just a made-up word; (A) All of the above.

The answer is: All of the above.

According to Wikipedia, neologism comes from the Greek νέος (neos "new") + λÏŒγος (logos "word" ), and is a newly coined word that has not yet been accepted into mainstream language.  According to the Oxford English Dictionary the word neologism was first used in print in AD 1483, back when neologism was a neologism.

Also, the use of "novel, idiosyncratic words [neologisms] . . . are evidence of psychosis (or possibly, of creativity)," according to Paula T. Trzepacz and Robert W. Baker, authors of "The Psychiatric Mental Status Examination."  [Confer an alternative linguistic indicator of psychosis, echolalia, which is the immediate and involuntary repetition of words or phrases just spoken by others, often characteristic of Miss America contestants.]

Oldlogism is, in fact, a neologism for an old neologism.

So, why should we care about neologisms, besides that they are funny and fun to say? Scholars suggest that neologisms are essential to every human's mental construction of the world.  The Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis contends that the varying cultural concepts and categories inherent in different languages constrain the cognitive classification of the experienced world in such a way that speakers of different languages think (and thus behave) differently because of them.  In other words, we cannot think or act outside the confines of our language.

So, whenever we can't explain the world with existing vocabulary, we invent new words.

But, now, let's take another neologism quiz.

Arrange the following neologisms in the order of their first appearance in print from earliest to latest: truthiness, prequel, Internet, retronym, Blogosphere.

This was easy.  They are in order from oldest to newest.

Truthiness was first attested in print in 1824, according to the Oxford English Dictionary  It meant truthful. In its more recent incarnation, truthiness is a "truth" that a person claims to know intuitively "from the gut" without regard to evidence, logic, intellectual examination -- or facts.  Comedian Stephen Colbert presented this newer definition during his political satire program The Colbert Report in 2005.

Prequel first appeared in print in 1958 in an article by Anthony Boucher in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, and refers to a "sequel" which comes in time before the original. Other sequel variants include midquel, sidequel and threequel.

Internet was first used, as shorthand for internetworking; in 1974, starting out as an adjective rather than the noun it is most frequently today.

Retronym, coined by Frank Mankiewicz in 1980, is a new or augmented name for an object or concept to differentiate the original from a more recent form or version.  An example of a retronym is "acoustic guitar" (coined after electric guitars appeared).

Blogosphere was so named by Brad L. Graham in 1999, as a joke. The Blogosphere is the collective community of all blogs.  A blog (a contraction of "web log") is a type of website, usually maintained by an individual with regular entries of commentary and descriptions of events, with the entries displayed in reverse-chronological order.  In 2007, the blog search engine Technorati was tracking more than 112 million blogs worldwide.

[Note: The primary sources of infauxmation used in this column are the venerable Oxford English Dictionary and Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Please note that the Wikipedia policy on neologisms, as referenced in the article on neologisms, is to avoid neologisms, which ignores that all words were once neologisms.]

 

Gary D. Gaddy is a neologist of the superial rankitude. (GaryGaddy.com is his planet in the Blogosphere.)

A version of this column was published in the Chapel Hill Herald on Friday March 19, 2010.

Copyright  2010  Gary D. Gaddy


Authored by Gary G. Gaddy at 8:01 AM EDT
Updated: Wednesday, March 17, 2010 5:30 PM EDT
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Friday, March 12, 2010
Chapel Hill's problem is Chapel Hill

THE PROBLEM WITH CHAPEL HILL is often it doesn't seem to know that it is the problem with Chapel Hill.

(By Chapel Hill I don't mean the all the town’s citizenry.  By Chapel Hill I mean the town's political establishment and the governing bureaucracy.  Don't get me wrong, many of these people are well-meaning.  But don't get me wrong on this either. Well-meaning is a pejorative.  Well-meaning is synonymous with blithely wrongheaded.)

Chapel Hill doesn't seem to understand that while taxes and regulation are necessary -- if we are to have any government at all -- they are a necessary evil.  They don't seem to understand that the private property in Chapel Hill does not belong to the town; it belongs to the property owners.

Briefly, in the aftermath of Hurricane Fran in 1996, Chapel Hill police restricted access to the town at the town limits.  I thought it was an appropriate move for Chapel Hill, making Chapel Hill the state's only gated municipality.  But, it was unnecessary anyway.  The town has built a barrier much tougher to breach: a massive wall made of land-use taxes, fees, rules and regulations that take a special ladder constructed of dollar bills to get over.

Periodically, local governments study the cost of housing in Chapel Hill.  These taskforces, study groups and advisory boards work hard to figure out why housing costs so much here.  A small mirror would be a lot simpler.

Currently, Chapel Hill assesses a $6,092 impact fee on every new single-family home.  This is a horribly regressive tax (0.6 percent on a million dollar house but 6.0 percent on a $100,000 house -- if such a thing could be built in Chapel Hill).

Eleven years ago, the Chapel Hill Fire Department had 56 members, only one of whom owned a home in Chapel Hill.  Chapel Hill's solution?  “To keep more firefighters, and other workers, in town,” the town "would require developers to build a certain percentage of affordable homes in each subdivision," reported WRAL.com.  This rule, as implemented, requires 15 percent of the homes be “affordable” whenever a developer needs a special-use permit.

This, of course, has worked wonders for keeping housing costs down in Chapel Hill.  There is nothing like additional costs and extra regulations to reduce development costs.  While such a zoning ordinance can extort a handful of affordable units from the few developers willing to deal with its strictures, put together with a time-consuming and complicated approval process, it raises, quite obviously, the cost of the other units in the same development.  Further, these additional costs and restrictions keep some developers from even entering the market.  Reduced competition and a reduced supply of housing lead directly to higher prices.

How much higher?  A 2006 study in 50 metro areas of growth-management land-use policies, such as those in Chapel Hill, showed "smart-growth" policies added more than $100,000 per home.  Not so smart, it seems to me.

So, what does Chapel Hill now propose?  An ordinance which would make the affordable housing set-aside rule apply to all housing developments.  Given such an "affordable housing" set-aside, developers will, and have, targeted higher-end homes.  The evidence?  According to City-Data.com, the average price in 2008 for all housing units in Chapel Hill was $411,506.  Is that affordable enough for you?

As the economist Walter Williams has noted, "Politicians love visible beneficiaries and invisible victims."  While a few dozen, easily countable, modest-income homeowners will get their "set-aside houses," we have no way of directly counting the far more numerous modest-income homeowners, who would “rather be in Chapel Hill,” who had to buy houses in Mebane, Butner or Saxapahaw and now make long daily commutes to their Chapel Hill jobs.

Chapel Hill says Chapel Hill is the Southern Part of Heaven.  It says so right on the town's website.  It certainly might be so, because, you know, Chapel Hill does have many neighborhoods where the driveways could be paved in gold.

 

Gary D. Gaddy served on the Orange County Commissioners Affordable Housing Advisory Board from 2005 to 2010. During his tenure the price of local housing did not go down.

A version of this column was published in the Chapel Hill Herald on Friday March 12, 2010.

Copyright  2010  Gary D. Gaddy

 


Authored by Gary G. Gaddy at 11:21 AM EST
Updated: Friday, March 12, 2010 11:36 AM EST
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Friday, March 5, 2010
It's little ol' me versus the killer deer

I AM AT WAR WITH THE DEER.  Over the years I have killed two of them – but, understand, they were trying to kill me first.  Back when it was my car against unarmed deer, my car won.  So, the deer upped the stakes, resorting to biological warfare.  (This is not a joke, they really did.)

Deer are dangerous.  It is not just shrubs and flowers that they harm; they maim and kill humans daily.  Really.  For the public's safety, not just pleasant greenery, the Governor's Club, and Duke Forest, should continue to cull the growing herds which roam their lands -- as should Chapel Hill and about every other community in North Carolina.

Here's why.  Nationally, collisions between deer and vehicles cause more than 150 fatalities each year, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.  In 2009 State Farm insurance estimated that an average of 100,000 collisions between deer and vehicles occur in the U.S. each month   One of these encounters, which cost on average $3000, occurs every 26 seconds, at a cost of over $3.6 billion every year.  Crashes reported to police involving deer in 2008 in North Carolina numbered almost 20,000, nearly 10 percent of all vehicle accidents. And many more such wrecks go unreported to police, including some leading to fatalities.

Further, this problem is worsening.  Over a five-year span, deer-related crashes increased 27 percent, while total crashes decreased by seven percent, according to UNC's Highway Safety Research Center.  In urban areas it’s even worse.  Mecklenburg County has had a 92 percent increase in deer-related crashes since 2002.

Then there is deer-borne disease.  It is no coincidence that the first detailed description of Lyme disease appeared in 1764 after a visit to the Island of Jura (Deer Island) off the west coast of Scotland.

Lyme disease is one of the fastest-growing infectious diseases in the United States.  Cases reported to the Centers for Disease Control in 2008 numbered over 35,000.  Many more are unreported or even undiagnosed.  Delayed or inadequate treatment can lead to serious symptoms, which can be disabling and difficult to treat.  Late treatment occurs commonly since many people do not recognize the common disease indicators (flu-like symptoms such as headache, muscle soreness, fever, malaise and bull’s-eye-patterned rash) as Lyme disease.

The deer-borne Rocky Mountain spotted fever is a serious even life-threatening disease with over 1000 cases reported in the U.S. each year, and North Carolina having one of the highest rates.  Despite the availability of effective treatment, an estimated 30 to 50 Americans die each year from Rocky Mountain spotted fever.

Thankfully deer-tick-borne diseases can be dramatically reduced simply by culling the deer population that the ticks depend upon for reproduction.  Currently there are an estimated 21 deer per square mile for the entire state of North Carolina.  For some local areas, the numbers are much higher. Researchers estimate there are as many as 80 deer per square mile in parts of Duke Forest, making my backyard a dangerous place.

By lowering the deer population to 8 to 10 per square mile, the tick numbers can be brought down to levels too low to spread tick-borne diseases.  In one study, when the deer population was reduced by 74%, ticks decreased by 92%.  Furthermore, as deer density decreased, and ticks decreased, so did the risk of Lyme disease.  When deer were reduced from about 77 to about 10 deer per square mile, after two years of controlled hunting, the risk of humans contracting Lyme disease was reduced by more than 90%.

An estimated 10,000 white-tailed deer inhabited North Carolina in 1900; there are now 1,100,000.  While for the state as a whole the deer population has been slightly decreasing of late, deer populations are rapidly increasing in many urban and suburban areas where hunting as a management tool has been hindered.  Hunting is the most effective way to cull the deer population, according to Jon Shaw, a North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission biologist.

Bowing hunting, properly done, is safe and effective, even in urban neighborhoods.  If bows and arrows don't work, I recommend Uzis and AK-47s.

 

Gary D. Gaddy has tested positive for Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, both likely contracted in his backyard.

A version of this column was published in the Chapel Hill Herald on Friday March 5, 2010.

Copyright  2010  Gary D. Gaddy

 


Authored by Gary G. Gaddy at 8:05 AM EST
Updated: Friday, March 5, 2010 9:09 AM EST
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Friday, February 26, 2010
"Are you stupid?" A gaffe of Olympic proportions

VANCOUVER, via satellite -- It would have gone down as one of the great gaffes in sports history, if it had been in a sport that anyone cared about.  It would have been right there with the World Series grounder that went through the legs of Red Sox first-baseman Bill Buckner.  It would have been right next to Dallas Cowboy Leon Lett's premature celebration for his presumed Super Bowl touchdown.  It would have been right along with the non-existent timeout that Michigan's Chris Webber called in the waning seconds of UNC’s NCAA basketball championship victory.

And, actually, it will -- in the Netherlands.  I am speaking, of course, of Dutch speed skater Sven Kramer's Olympic-record, gold-medal winning performance that never happened – officially – in the 10,000-meter final at the 2010 Winter Olympics.

For those of you who didn't see it live (that is, for the non-Dutch in my reading audience), Sven Kramer, 23, is the current Dutch, European and World All-Around Speed Skating Champion, and reigning world champion and world-record holder in the 5,000 meters, 10,000 meters and the 4,000-meter team-pursuit event.  Kramer had already won the gold medal in the 5000-meter event.

This is big in Holland.  The Dutch claim their children learn to walk and skate at the same time.  Speed skating, especially long track, is the Dutch national pastime as well as the national sport.  (Think baseball, basketball and football rolled into one for Americans.)  Kramer's star-crossed 10,000-meter race was seen by 5,168,000 viewers in the Netherlands, which has a population of 16,443,269, meaning 31% of the country was viewing.  (By comparison, the recent Super Bowl was seen by over 106 million people, 35% of the U.S. population, making it the most watched program in American. TV history -- but half of those were watching for the commercials.)

How big is Kramer, the son of a Dutch Olympic speed skater, in Holland?  In 2007 Kramer dated Dutch supermodel Doutzen Kroes, who is currently one of the Victoria's Secret Angels. 

How big does Kramer think that he is?  As noted by the Fourth-Place Medal blog, Olympic reporters planning to interview a gold medalist should make sure they know which gold medalist they're talking to.  A young female TV reporter learned that lesson the hard way last weekend.  She began her interview by asking gold medalist Kramer, "I need you to say your name and your country and what you just won here."  To which Kramer responded, "Are you stupid?"  The reporter continued, "For tape identification purposes."   To which Kramer exclaimed, "Hell no!  I'm not gonna do that!"

About the reporter’s questions.  They were asked to make sure the recording was properly identified, that is, to prevent a stupid mistake from happening; something Kramer may be becoming very familiar with these days.

Here's what happened in the 10,000-meter speed skating final.  Kramer completed the grueling 6.21-mile circuit in what he thought was an Olympic record and gold-medal winning time.  But he was wrong.  He had made a mistake but even the broadcast commentators did not realize it when it happened, saying that what they saw, his skate hitting a lane-dividing cone, was not a disqualifying error.  But what Kramer actually had done -- when his coach told him to -- was change from the outer lane to the inner lane of the rink -- but on the wrong lap.

Here's how Kramer explained it after the race.  "I wanted to go on the outer lane, then just before the cone,  Gerard (his coach Gerard Kemkers) shouted, 'Inner lane!'  I thought he was probably right,” said Kramer.  "I should have gone with my own thoughts but I was brought into doubt. This really sucks. This is a real expensive mistake. This really sucks,'' Kramer concluded.

Before the 10,000 meter race, journalist Jerry Brewer said, "With a legitimate shot at three gold medals, Kramer . . . could be the face of these Games."   Although his reasoning may have been flawed, Brewer now looks like a prophet.

 

In 1968, Gary D. Gaddy, in an 880-yard track event, was knocked to the ground by a competitor, but got up and finished fourth anyway -- but was disqualified just after the race for, supposedly, cutting off the runner who knocked him down.

A version of this column was published in the Chapel Hill Herald on Friday February 26, 2010.

Copyright  2010  Gary D. Gaddy

 


Authored by Gary G. Gaddy at 8:00 AM EST
Updated: Friday, February 26, 2010 10:28 AM EST
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Friday, February 19, 2010
Inflating Carolina: Achieving a workable solution

GRADE INFLATION IS SUCH A PROBLEM for the University of North Carolina that I can’t even find a list of UNC's recent valedictorians.  Why not?  Probably because printing it out would cause a nationwide paper shortage.  Earnestly, after decades of grades lofting into the stratosphere, is there anything our university (and others) can do to reverse grade inflation, or at least to compensate for the progressively more meaningless and misleading GPA?

In 2007, when grade inflation last came up for discussion at UNC, some professors and students opposed any system that rations grades, including quotas like those implemented at Princeton University and mandatory departmental averages like at Wellesley College.

“My old boss called these the power tools.  It’s amputation for a small injury,” said UNC professor Andrew Perrin, one of those who studied grade inflation for the faculty. “But it does have the advantage that it is very transparent, and it’s easy to explain to the outside community," Perrin added.

Happily, there exists a better, if more complex, system for ranking students.  A proposal made to UNC several years ago is back: add the Achievement Index to students’ grade reports, a measure that filters out variations in grading among different academic departments and among individual professors.  It is a great idea.

As the Daily Tar Heel describes it, the Achievement Index is a “strength of schedule” analysis.  The Achievement Index (AI) measures a student's performance against their classmates’ performance given those classmates' grades in other courses.

The Achievement Index was developed by a biostatistician, Valen Johnson, as a method for combining the information from grades earned across college courses; where the overarching goal is to measure each student’s academic performance while factoring out differences among individual instructors' grading practices.  (Further information on grade inflation is available in the book "Grade Inflation: A Crisis in College Education" by Valen E. Johnson, and a briefer synopsis of the technical aspects of the AI can be found by Googling "Primer on the Achievement Index".)

The basic concept is this: an A in a class where everyone got an A tells us nothing.  An A in a class filled with classmates whose grades in other courses were poor is less of an accomplishment than a B in a course filled with classmates with A's in other tougher courses.  Put differently, an A in a crip course is not as telling as a B in a killer -- as every college sophomore knows.

And research shows the AI works better than the GPA -- even using the exact grades now used to calculate the GPA.  In 2007, UNC’s faculty Educational Policy Committee studied the validity of the AI with two tests comparing pairs of UNC students enrolled in the same class at the same time. GPA and AI were assessed by examining whether GPA ranking or AI ranking better predicts these students’ performance in the very same class.  In 61% of 22,000 cases where students in such pairs earned different grades in the same class, the higher grade was earned by the student who ranked higher on AI but lower on GPA.  

Likewise, based on 14,000 pairs of students in exactly the same class, where one student would have received a degree with distinction using AI (but not GPA), the AI-honor student earned a higher grade than the student with a GPA-honor almost twice as often.  So, clearly, for both assessments, the AI is a better, more valid measure of academic performance.

In the spring of 2007, UNC's Educational Policy Committee recommended that Carolina list their AI on students’ transcripts along with their GPA, that UNC award graduation honors based on AI and also use AI to determine class rank.   After what was described as "a spirited debate," the faculty governing body voted 34-31 against adopting the Achievement Index.   We can hope, in the meantime, at least two faculty members have gained some common sense.
 

Gary D. Gaddy’s nephew, Benjamin Gaddy, was one of 129 valedictorians at North Carolina State University in 2007.  He had a 4.0 in electrical engineering.  Who do you think should have been THE valedictorian?

A version of this column was published in the Chapel Hill Herald on Friday February 19, 2010.

Copyright  2010  Gary D. Gaddy

 


Authored by Gary G. Gaddy at 8:01 AM EST
Updated: Friday, November 5, 2010 10:01 AM EDT
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Friday, February 12, 2010
Inflating Carolina: The root of the problem

CAROLINA, AND ABOUT EVERY OTHER COLLEGE in America, has a problem with continually inflating grades, having become an institution where all the students are above average -- almost literally.  As the Daily Tar Heel said last fall regarding grade inflation: "The numbers are striking.  So striking that many people don’t believe them."

Between the late 1960s and now, the overall grade point average at the University of North Carolina has risen almost a point.  In 1967, the average GPA was a 2.49.  Last fall, it was a 3.21. This trend has made grades nearly useless, or worse, for distinguishing among students’ abilities. The most common grade given out at UNC is an A, and 82 percent of all grades are either A’s or B’s.  Once upon a time C meant average.

In a UNC report on grading, Donna Gilleskie notes that, in addition to grade inflation, UNC is experiencing grade compression, which means the best students cannot be distinguished from each other.  UNC is also experiencing grade inequality as different departments and different instructors assign different grades for similar performance.

Grade inequality makes grade comparisons between students in departments not just difficult but completely misleading.  For example, the average GPA, using a scale where an F is 0.0 and an A is 4.0, in the UNC math department for the fall of 2008 was a 2.62, while the average in the School of Education was a 3.72.  (I worked on university campuses, including UNC, for a couple of decades, and, just for the record, students taking education courses are not smarter than those taking mathematics.)

This is not a random inequality; this is a perverse, inverted distribution of grades where the highest grades are given in the most vacuous courses, which leads students searching for better GPAs to take easy classes from easy graders.  This does not lead to the optimal educational experience for them, needless to say.

And it is now easy to find easy. Googling "Pick-A-Prof" gets this description of their service: "View official school records to see how many A's professors give before you register."  Students have long found crip courses from pushover profs -- albeit with poorer, hearsay data.  I have often counseled students that they can get a great education simply by taking classes from the professors everyone else is avoiding "because they're too tough."   In my experience, they are generally among the best teachers on campus.  But for many this would be GPA suicide.

While the Vietnam War and the draft once drove grade inflation, the main driver now is the relationship between easy grading and student evaluations -- combined with the omnipresent desire of students to get high GPAs.  Having students evaluate teachers is a good thing, in my view, but there is one major problem: these evaluations are used in tenure and other hiring decisions, and students give higher evaluations to courses (and professors who teach them) in which they think that they are getting higher grades.

And in return, whether consciously or not, faculty give high grades because students' perception of what grade they are going to get in a class is the primary factor in their course evaluations.  In 2000, UNC's Educational Policy Committee found that instructors who awarded an average grade of 2.7 suffered, holding all else constant, a 32-percentile-point disadvantage in student approval compared to those who awarded a 3.6 average grade.  It just happens the second bout of grade inflation began in the late 1980s, at the time that the UNC mandated student course evaluations for all faculty.

As a consequence, for a faculty member, giving higher grades thus means a higher chance of getting tenure or getting promoted.  Since higher grades cost teachers nothing, there is an incessant pressure on faculty to increase grades (and thus their evaluations).

So, is it inevitable that UNC remain LWSU -- Lake Wobegone State University?   You’ll see when you come back next week to find out what UNC can do about spiraling grades.


Gary D. Gaddy graduated from Furman University in 1975 mit fast ein drei punkt fünf auf Deutsch.

A version of this column was published in the Chapel Hill Herald on Friday February 12, 2010.

Copyright  2010  Gary D. Gaddy

 


Authored by Gary G. Gaddy at 8:00 AM EST
Updated: Thursday, February 11, 2010 9:25 PM EST
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Friday, February 5, 2010
The New York Times v. Citizens United v. FEC

YOU MAY HAVE HEARD ABOUT the recent Supreme Court decision, Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission.  Some of the organs of the major mass media, which I won't mention by name, but the New York Times comes to mind, decried the court's decision.

"With a single, disastrous 5-to-4 ruling, the Supreme Court has thrust politics back to the robber-baron era of the 19th century.  Disingenuously waving the flag of the First Amendment, the court’s conservative majority has paved the way for corporations to use their vast treasuries to overwhelm elections and intimidate elected officials into doing their bidding," said the New York Times.

New York Times Company, you should know, is a corporation which publishes two national and 16 regional newspapers; owns eight network-affiliated television stations, two New York radio stations and more than 40 web sites -- and published on October 23, 2008 an endorsement editorial entitled "Barack Obama for President."

The Supreme Court decision, Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, overturned significant parts of the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002, commonly called McCain-Feingold, that had banned the broadcast, cable or satellite transmission of “electioneering communications” paid for by corporations and unions in the 30 days before a presidential primary and in the 60 days before the general election, but the law notably exempted new technologies, like YouTube, and old ones, like newspapers.

Citizens United, a conservative advocacy group and a nonprofit corporation, produced for broadcast “Hillary: The Movie,” a scathingly hostile look at Hillary Clinton not unlike Michael Moore’s take on George W. Bush in “Fahrenheit 9/11.”

Two basic questions came before the court in this case: Is the film the kind of “electioneering communication” that McCain-Feingold says may not be broadcast in certain time windows before elections?  And if so, is the law itself constitutional given the First Amendment?

On the first, I say, of course.  On the second, personally, I don't know much about precedent, stare decisis, or any other technicalities involving the constitutionality of any particular law -- but I do know how to read, and this is how the first amendment to the U.S. Constitution reads: "Congress shall make no law  . . . abridging the freedom of speech."  And I do have a notion of what that means.  Here's my take: "Congress shall make no law … abridging the freedom of speech." 

Now, one cannot be rigidly absolute in the interpretation of this simple sentence.  The famous counter example to the absolutist free-speech position is that you can't yell "Fire!" in a crowded movie theater.  But this is not that.  It is a documentary.  The theater is not likely to be crowded.

Before this decision came down, the law applied to communications “susceptible to no reasonable interpretation other than as an appeal to vote for or against a specific candidate.”  The net effect, according to Citizens United's president, David Bossie, is censorship. “I can put it in as many theaters as I want across the country,” he said of the documentary, but since he can't spend money advertising it, “I just can’t let anyone know about it.”

At the first Supreme Court argument back in March, Fred Wertheimer, a lawyer supporting the FEC's case, seemed reluctant to answer questions about the government’s regulation of books, but when pressed, said, “A campaign document in the form of a book can be banned.”

“Governments are often hostile to speech,” wrote Justice Anthony Kennedy. “But . . . it seems stranger than fiction for our government to make . . . political speech a crime. Yet this is the statute’s purpose and design.”

I agree with the court and with Floyd Abrams, the noted First-Amendment lawyer, who in opposing the law, said, “Criminalizing a movie about Hillary Clinton is a constitutional desecration.”  How the New York Times can't see that is beyond me.


Gary D. Gaddy based the facts of this column almost entirely on New York Times coverage, which is, in his opinion, even without legal exemption, protected by the First Amendment.

A version of this column was published in the Chapel Hill Herald on Friday February 5, 2010.

Copyright  2010  Gary D. Gaddy


Authored by Gary G. Gaddy at 8:00 AM EST
Updated: Thursday, February 11, 2010 9:27 PM EST
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Friday, January 29, 2010
The Devil and the Reverend Dr. Robertson

I MAY BE STEPPING IN THE VIPER'S NEST, but here I go.

Following the earthquake in Haiti, televangelist Rev. Pat Robertson made this statement: "They (the Haitians) were under the heel of the French, you know Napoleon the third and whatever, and they got together and swore a pact to the Devil. . . .They said, 'We will serve you if you will get us free from the French.'  True story.  And so the Devil said, 'OK, it's a deal.'  And they kicked the French out. . . .But ever since they have been cursed by one thing after another."

Since then Robertson has gotten almost nothing but scorn and derision for his comment.  Even Al Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, called the comments "embarrassing" and the result of "theological arrogance matched to ignorance."  Mohler mostly faults Robertson for presuming to know the mind of God -- which, looking carefully, this statement by Robertson does not do.  (I have more of a problem with Robertson quoting the Devil.  What was his source on that?)

Robertson also did not say God has cursed Haiti. He said "ever since they have been cursed by one thing after another."  This statement seems undeniable in the figurative if not the literal sense.  If ever there was a nation cursed, Haiti would be it.

Notably, while this "pact with the Devil" may never have occurred (it has many earmarks of a legend), many Haitians believe it did.  Boukman Dutty, the acknowledged leader of the Haitian revolt, was a Voodoo priest.  According to journalist Edward Fudge, "a report commissioned by the Haitian Ministry of Culture and submitted in 1999 included evidence of such quantity and detail . . . that [the event’s] authenticity is well confirmed."

Still, let us step back from Robertson's statement, so full of inference and implication, to several possibilities and the questions they engender.

Either there is a spiritual world or there is not.  Either there is a God or not.  Either there is a devil or not. Most Americans believe in all three. (Even for the most controversial, according to polls by Harris and Gallup, about two-thirds of Americans believe in the existence of the Devil.)

So, I infer, most of us think there is some sort of spiritual war going on around us.

When we sing and pray "God bless America," those acts imply there is an alternative.  That is, God may not bless America.  Most Americans believe he has and hope he will continue to do so.

Now, if God can bless, presumably he can withhold blessing.  If he can protect, he can withhold protection.  If someone doesn't believe that why would they expend their breath praying?

As to the spiritual state of Haiti, Lynne Warberg, a photographer who has documented Haitian Voodoo for more than a decade, says this: "One common saying is that Haitians are 70 percent Catholic, 30 percent Protestant, and 100 percent Voodoo."  More technically, according to AP reporter Michael Norton, in 2003 an estimated 70 percent of Haiti’s 8.8 million people practice Voodoo to some extent.  And in April 2003 an executive decree by then Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide sanctioned Voodoo as an officially recognized religion.

I don't know what God or the Devil has been doing to Haiti, but if spiritual choices have material consequences, then the whole world, Haiti included, makes more sense than if they don't.

I can't be certain who cursed Haiti; I do know who has been trying to bless it: Operation Blessing International, a charity that operates in 105 countries, according to its website.

Beginning before the earthquake, Operation Blessing partnered with a Haitian charity to help fund a fish-farming program that will provide food and income for nearly 100 families, worked with the Haitian ministry of health to provide every school-aged child in Haiti with anti-parasite medication and basic hygiene, and conducted a pilot project with Lifesaver USA to distribute portable, family-size water filters to villages lacking clean water sources.

Further, Operation Blessing was set to start a hatchery for Gambusia – tiny fish that eat mosquito larvae – as a sustainable method of mosquito control and has two ongoing projects focused on providing clean water to hospitals. (Incredibly, even before the earthquake none of the general hospitals in the country had clean, running water.)

Since the earthquake, Operation Blessing set up a medical clinic and is installing a water purification plant in the national soccer stadium as well as delivering hospital equipment to Dr. Paul Farmer's Partners in Health.

Did I mention that Operation Blessing is a ministry founded by Pat Robertson?  So, that’s what he's been doing to bless Haiti.  What about you?

 

Gary D. Gaddy went to grad school in Virginia Beach where he spent a lot of time not believing everything Pat Robertson said.

A version of this column was published in the Chapel Hill Herald on Friday January 29, 2010.

Copyright  2010  Gary D. Gaddy


Authored by Gary G. Gaddy at 8:00 AM EST
Updated: Wednesday, January 27, 2010 8:51 PM EST
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Friday, January 22, 2010
Coaches association expels Duke's Cutcliffe

WACO, Texas -- Meeting in emergency session, the executive committee of the American Football Coaches Association voted unanimously to expel Duke University head football coach David Cutcliffe from its ranks for "conduct unbecoming a collegiate head football coach."

"He is making us all look bad," said Edward Spitzenmaus, the executive director of the AFCA. "Coach Cutcliffe's actions have disrupted the entire football hierarchy, a set system which his willful actions have damaged, hopefully not irreparably," said Spitzenmaus.

"A coach at a place such as Duke simply cannot turn down an offer from a place such as the University of Tennessee, not without grave consequences to college football as a whole," added Spitzenmaus.

According to football analyst Mel Kiper, Jr., “When the NFL's Seattle Seahawks fired their coach Jim Mora, after one season's tenure, Cutcliffe should have known that day that he would be changing jobs.  The coaching carousel is pretty predictable really.

"Here's the way it goes. Mora's gone on Friday. University of Southern California's Pete Carroll is hired by Seattle on Tuesday; the same day Tennessee head coach Lane Kiffen is hired by USC to replace Carroll.  Cutcliffe should have been picking out his suit for the press conference in Knoxville on Wednesday. 

“Instead he was 'mulling over the decision.'  That was OK, playing hard to get is a standard part of the salary negotiation process -- but announcing on Friday that he is staying at Duke, that is nigh unto unforgiveable," said Kiper.  “The man didn’t even ask Duke for a raise,” a clearly befuddled Kiper added.

The ripple effect of Cutcliffe's "inexplicable inaction" is still being felt, said Myles Brand, the president of the NCAA, in support of the AFCA's decision.  "How do you think Lane Kiffin felt when Cutcliffe refused to leave Duke?  Kiffin was willing to sacrifice his family, putting his responsibility to the larger system above personal factors," said Brand.

As analyst Kiper explained Kiffin's sacrifice, "When he took the USC job, Kiffin didn’t have time to tell his brother-in-law, David Reaves, one of his assistant coaches.  Reaves found out Kiffin was gone while sitting in a restaurant watching TV.   Kiffin gets it."

"Cutcliffe obviously doesn't.  He was talking to his wife and his child, and, God help us, 'praying about his decision,' when he should have been negotiating with the Tennessee AD.  The man has no sense of propriety," Kiper added.

Since it was founded in 1922, the improvement of the coaching profession and the sport of football has always been among the top priorities of the American Football Coaches Association.

 

RoyHasGotToGo.com re-activated

CHAPEL HILL -- Following three consecutive losses, and four losses in the past five games by the University of North Carolina men's basketball team, Nathaniel Naibobb has announced that he has re-activated the RoyHasGotToGo.com website.  Naibobb says he expects traffic to be brisk.

The site, which was de-activated in April 2009 following UNC's national championship win, promotes itself as "a place for those disgruntled with Roy Williams to become more disgruntled."

"Oh, sure, the yea-sayers are going to say that Coach Williams has the best winning percentage among all active Division I head basketball coaches -- but who wouldn't with the players he has had?" asks Naibobb.

"Take John Calipari, head coach of the soon-to-be number-one-ranked University of Kentucky Wildcats.  If you give him credit for the two final-four seasons worth of wins that were vacated for NCAA-rules violations, his record may be just about as good, maybe better," Naibobb observed.

"UNC’s national championship was great and all that -- but I can't count the sleepless nights I’ve spent since then thinking about underclassmen going pro, recruits who got away, and games missed because of injury.  We fans deserve better." said Naibobb.

The Tar Heels, who were ranked in the preseason poll in the top 10 for one primary reason (jersey color), now teeter on the brink of extinction at number 24.

 

Gary D. Gaddy has figured out a way for Roy to tell the Tar Heel twins, Travis and David Wear, apart.  One of them wears "43" and the other doesn't

A version of this column was published in the Chapel Hill Herald on Friday January 22, 2010.

Copyright  2010  Gary D. Gaddy

 


Authored by Gary G. Gaddy at 7:04 AM EST
Updated: Thursday, February 11, 2010 9:32 PM EST
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Friday, January 15, 2010
Some players who have gone pro early

AS THE NEW SEMESTER BEGINS, my thoughts turn to today, January 15, the deadline for eligible college football players to declare for the National Football League draft.  (Happily, for me, Tar Heel football fan, all of  the University of North Carolina football team's underclassmen who were draft-eligible have declared they are staying for another year.  Whether the decisions are smart ones for them, only a year will tell.)

Anyway, this annual day of decision inspired me to write a column on some of the players who have gone pro early that you may not have heard about.

Edwin H. Land (founder of Polaroid Corporation and developer of the Polaroid Land instant camera) left Harvard University after his freshman year. Land was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest award given to a U.S. citizen, for his work in optics.

Michael Dell (founder of Dell, Inc.) dropped out of college at 19.  But don't say that college didn't help him.  He started his computer company in his college dorm room during his brief stay at the University of Texas at Austin.  As of 2009, Forbes estimates Dell's net worth at $12.3 billion.

Steven Spielberg (co-founder of DreamWorks and director of, among other movies, the Star Wars series) was denied acceptance to film school and dropped out of California State University, Long Beach.  Four of Spielberg's films each became the highest-grossing film made at the time of their release.

Bill Gates (co-founder of Microsoft and the richest man in the world), like Land dropped out of Harvard but after his second year. As he later noted, “I realized the error of my ways and decided I could make do with a high school diploma.”  In 2009, Gates was ranked as the world's wealthiest person and is perhaps the world's greatest philanthropist.

But please do understand that not every successful entrepreneur has been a college dropout.   Some never made it to college.

Henry Ford (the founder of Ford Motor Company and the father of mass production) never graduated from high school.  Ford created one of the most powerful companies in the world, and in doing do amassed one of the world's largest fortunes.

John D. Rockefeller Sr. (the founder of Standard Oil, the first multinational corporation) was a high school dropout who became the first American billionaire and, perhaps, the richest man in history.

Thomas Alva Edison (the founder of General Electric, currently one of the largest publicly traded companies in the world, and holder of 1,097 American patents) never got far enough to even drop out of high school, dropping out at age 12 to join the railroad, quitting quit formal schooling after his teacher called him addled.

But just in case you think, based on the preceding list, that dropping out of school guarantees success in life, consider also that Ben Affleck, Christina Aguilera, Jennifer Aniston, Christina Applegate, “Stone Cold” Steve Austin and Dan Aykroyd (to sample only those celebrities whose last names begin with the letter "A") also never finished college.  So, dropping out of college doesn't guarantee any worthwhile contribution to humanity -- other than a fat wallet -- but it does seem to assure the dropout fame, whether justified or not.

***
For my educated readers who are not so sure that I should be promoting dropping out of school, which I am not, in a town which has as its major industry the University of North Carolina, I have non-rhetorical question: Do you know how to get a Carolina graduate off your porch?  Answer: Pay for the pizza.

Gary D. Gaddy, who graduated from college with a lucrative degree in German, was, at one time, a college dropout, taking an 18-month sabbatical in the middle of his first senior year at Furman University.

A version of this column was published in the Chapel Hill Herald on Friday January 15, 2010.

Copyright  2010  Gary D. Gaddy

 


Authored by Gary G. Gaddy at 8:01 AM EST
Updated: Thursday, January 21, 2010 7:08 PM EST
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