Friday, February 20, 2009
One way I save time for blogging has been to note interesting links from lunchtime browsing at work so that I need not forage for material during blogging time the following morning.
Yesterday, I stopped by The Drudge Report and found the following interesting headline from the Phoenix area's East Valley Tribune: "Dobson Students Question Obama's Plan." I read it, found that, while the headline was music to my ears, the students, their participation in an advanced placement government class notwithstanding, were really just nitpicking about details at best. Far from being a story about independent thinking among America's youth, it was a snapshot of the very pathology that has gotten her to this point.
So I sat down this morning with the intention of dashing off a quick indictment of our concrete-bound, principle-poor, state-run, "progressive" educational establishment. I was going to throw in a zinger along the lines of, "What difference does criticism about the trains not running on time make, if the trains are all headed to the gulag?"
Instead, when I was about to start writing, I followed the link, only to be surprised by the fact that everything but the URL and the headline had been changed. [There is one exception. See story reproduced below.] Even the author's name was different. Now, instead of a story about a bunch of kids watching an Obama speech and saying "uh-oh", we have a puff piece about a class favorite getting to meet the President and spend "a boatload of time talking about basketball."
I have seen things a tiny bit like this on breaking news stories before. Personally, I'd put out a new URL for each update and link to previous versions, noting retractions if necessary. Up to a point, I can see why a developing story might need editing or updates as relevant facts come to light.
But even that for a mere Presidential photo-op? We're not talking about shifting winds and a wildfire here. And yet, far beyond a few updates, we see an entire story gutted and replaced by something completely different.
Your guess as to why the story -- but not its provocative headline -- got completely changed is as good as mine: especially considering that my point was going to be that the AP Government students did not really substantively disagree with Obama.
Below my initials are the two versions of the story I am speaking about. I do not normally quote entire news stories here, but under the circumstances, I must. I note that what I call the "original version" could differ in some details from what I read, but it is substantially the same.
Today: John Drake reports that, "[T]he original article seems to be back with a note attached: 'To our readers: Due to a technical error, this story was temporarily removed from our Web site. We apologize for the inconvenience.'"
== Original Version =====
[obtained this morning via Technorati from The Wave, all formatting except first hyperlink stripped]
STUDENTS QUESTION OBAMA'S PLAN== This Morning's Version =====
Thu Feb 19 2009 09:46:55 ET
EAST VALLEY TRIBUNE
A Dobson High School Advanced Placement government class with strong opinions about Barack Obama watched the president's speech Wednesday on a small, grainy TV in the corner of their classroom.
Some of the students attentively watched the speech, giving questioning looks and comments, shaking their heads and laughing at some of Obama's words. Other students listened, occasionally glancing up to watch, while texting on their cell phones, reading a book or finishing school work.
The gymnasium's events were shown simultaneously in rooms throughout the Mesa school, and teachers were given discretion on whether to show the speech, the students said. The students in the class were hopeful things will work out but questioned whether Obama's plan would actually work to dig the country out of its economic woes. They also expected a longer speech.
Senior Syna Daudfar took some notes during the speech and was among the most vocally opposed to Obama's words.
At one point, when he talked about the costs of his stimulus plan, senior Maaike Albach and Daudfar looked at each other and said, "uh-oh."
"Overall I think it's a good idea, but he's not addressing the issues of the economic crisis," said Daudfar, a John McCain supporter who added he leans more toward being a moderate conservative. "The spending bill he just passed is just progressing the Democratic agenda rather than addressing the economic issues in the country."
Daudfar thinks Obama's plan is backward and deals with the "less important stuff" first. "Bailing out businesses" and "providing better regulatory systems for giving out money to businesses" should have been first, he said.
"If businesses can't afford to hire people, then people won't be able to work and pay off their mortgages," he said. "It's kind of like putting money into a funnel." Albach, who is also a Republican, said Obama's plan sounds good but questioned how Obama can want to rely on "people's responsibility" when that is "what got us in this economic crisis in the first place."
"This puts us more into debt," said Albach, 18. "It's a horrible situation we're in."
Senior Brandon Miller wore a shirt with the words, "Hitler gave great speeches, too" above a picture of Obama.
Miller said he had been an Obama supporter "because of his speeches," but after debating the issues in this class and looking more into Obama's policies, his vote was swayed toward McCain.
He showed a video on his camera he had just taken of the president's minutelong motorcade and talked about what a "great experience" it was to watch it. Miller had also spent a couple of hours in front of the school, hanging out and watching the protesters.
"Even though I don't support him, I think it's cool he's here," said Miller, 18. "I just don't believe all the things he's telling us. His goal is just too big and broad."
Miller wanted to hear more about the costs and guidelines the stimulus bill entails.
Senior Katelyn Meyer, who also leans more toward being a Republican, said Obama's plan sounds good, "but it's easier said than done."
"I like the refinancing part, and I like the part about mortgages, but I'm afraid we're going to put the money in but won't see any effect," said Meyer, 18, who still thought it was "cool" to say the president was at her school, even though she didn't get to see him live.
The students also questioned why Obama chose their school for his speech since he wasn't talking about education and wondered how much money the district spent on beautifying the campus while district positions and services are being cut.
District officials noted this week that the landscaping project completed over the weekend at Dobson was already in the works and was just expedited by the president's visit. Funding came from voter-approved bonds.
New sod was laid in front of the school Tuesday, and Daudfar said, "The joke at the school is they're going to take it away when he (Obama) leaves."
AP government teacher Jeff Sherrer said his students "feel very strongly about the issues, maybe more than the general population." He thought at least one of his students was outside protesting, and he had planned to take his students outside as a class project to show them what was going on but didn't get the chance.
"These kinds of kids really get into it," Sherrer said. "During the election we had lots of debates on the issues."
[obtained by following the URL above, all formatting and images stripped, "smart" punctuation replaced]
Dobson students question Obama's plan== End This Morning's Version =====
Comments 54 | Recommend 46
Hayley Ringle, Tribune
February 18, 2009 - 2:59PM
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Students inside Jeff Sherrer's advanced placement government class view President Barack Obama's address via closed circuit television on the campus of Dobson High School in Mesa. Feb. 18, 2009.
[Begin photo cation: This photo caption is all that remains of the "original version" above. --ed] Students inside Jeff Sherrer's advanced placement government class view President Barack Obama's address via closed circuit television on the campus of Dobson High School in Mesa. Feb. 18, 2009.
Tim Hacker, Tribune [End photo caption. --ed]
Matt Gehrman looked -- and sounded -- like a proud papa after President Barack Obama's speech at Mesa Dobson High School Wednesday morning.
When asked about the students' response to the president's visit, the principal paused, the grin on his face growing.
[Links to related stories omitted. --ed]
"My kids are awesome," he shouted, and pumped his fist. "From the kids in the press to the kids on stage singing to volunteers, every step of the way the kids represented us the way I want people to view teenagers."
Gehrman was with a small group of school officials -- including Mesa Unified School District Superintendent Debra Duvall -- who got to meet with the president before his speech. For being an "all-around good guy," Gehrman brought with him 17-year-old Casey Benford, a member of Dobson's varsity swimming, baseball and basketball teams, to meet Obama.
"It was an amazing experience," the high school senior said afterward. "I can't tell Mr. Gehrman thank you enough for letting me accompany him."
The teenager said that after introductions, he and Obama talked about school sports, with Obama offering to "find a ball and play a game of H-o-r-s-e."
"It's nice to know such an important figure in our lives can joke around with a 17-year-old from Mesa, Arizona," Benford said. "I was in awe. It's so weird seeing him in real life, shaking his hand."
The buzz was still going Thursday, Benford said.
"I know in my government class that's all we talked about today. We talked about what we thought about his speech in general, his visit," Benford said. In fact, the students talked about the visit in most of his classes, Benford said. "It's still a huge buzz."
Benford didn't tell many people about getting the chance to meet the president before Wednesday, he said. But several on Thursday came up to talk to him about it when lessons were done in classes.
Soon, he may have a picture to share as well.
Gehrman said Obama suggested a group photo, shot by a White House photographer before the speech.
"It was interesting. We met him outside the boys' locker rooms, of all places on our beautiful campus we could have been," Gehrman said. "Then there were all the processes and all the rules. It's very protective. Then he comes around and he's so warm and gracious and wanted to take the time to talk to us."
"We spent a boatload of time talking about basketball" with Benford, Gehrman said after Wednesday's event.
Obama is known to relax with a game of hoops with friends.
Benford said even his girlfriend pointed out that the experience is something he'll one day be able to share with his own kids.
"Some of my friends were giving me a hard time, 'why you?' But I guess I expected it. A lot of it is 'Casey you're so lucky,'" Benford said. "I'm just really grateful for it. I guess I didn't think about it. ... Now I get to have a story like that for the rest of my life."
High school senior Katelyn Wiley, 17, was also in awe. She got a call Tuesday night from the principal that she would be able to join the press corps at the event. She is student manager of the school's newspaper, The Mustang Roundup.
Standing up against the metal gates about 30 feet from Obama, Wiley snapped photos of the crowd, the president during his speech, and folks reaching out to shake Obama's hand afterward. She even got to interview Gov. Jan Brewer before Obama spoke.
"I asked her what she was expecting to hear, but I don’t know what she said. I was too nervous," Wiley said. "It was such a whirlwind. It went by way too fast. I just took pictures and stood in awe of being in such close proximity to essentially the most powerful man in the world."
Dobson student Najja Porter, 17, was one of those students who rushed up to shake Obama's hand.
"I'm really excited. I thought it was really fun," he said.
While some students waited in line for tickets to the event, others received tickets unexpectedly.
Hannah Minard, 17, a senior, said she received a phone call Tuesday afternoon that her marine biology class of 16 students got randomly selected for tickets.
"It was so amazing to see the president," Minard said, after the event.
Isaac Martin, 10, missed classes Wednesday morning at St. John Bosco, a private Catholic school in Ahwatukee Foothills, but said it was worth it. At the speech with his dad, Isaac also got to shake the president's hand.
"It was really cool. I shook his hand. It was really awesome," Isaac said.
His dad, David Martin, said it was a "good civics lesson" for his son.