Saturday, June 27, 2009

Clarifying Clarence


Arne Duncan carries a lot of weight in Washington. He's the education go-to guy. If he were a neighbor ranting about schools at a barbecue, I'd just nod a few times then wander away--he doesn't listen, he makes stuff up, and I'm not sure of his command of the mother tongue.

I now have two people to avoid at barbecues--Justice Thomas.

In an 8-1 vote, the Supreme Court ruled that another student's accusation of having prescription strength ibuprofen (4 tabs' worth of the over-the-counter variety) does not allow school officials to conduct a strip search.

Clarence Thomas' response would have been the perfect sentence for Ms. Sciala, my 8th grade teacher who made us diagram sentences; she would have saved it for the final exam:


“Redding would not have been the first person to conceal pills in her undergarments,” he wrote. “Nor will she be the last after today’s decision, which announced the safest places to secrete contraband in school.”
The first (and screamingly obvious) objection, Your Honor--she did not have the pills. You can hide behind the pluperfect subjunctive (help me here, grammar sharks) of the first clause, but the "nor will she be the last" unveils your confusion. You appear to believe that she did, in fact, hide them in her netherlands.

Had you diagrammed your sentence ahead of time, you would have seen this. Ms. Sciala would be crowing. If this were a verbal response, all would be forgiven. But it's not. It's written.
“Preservation of order, discipline and safety in public schools is simply not the domain of the Constitution,” he wrote.

Um, no kidding, Mr. Thomas. When was the last time you set foot in a classroom of 13-year-olds? (What better ad for prescription strength Advil?)

You can substitute "public spaces" for "public schools" and still be mostly correct.

If you're argument is that the Constitution does not extend to public schools, well, you're wrong. If you want to say that children are not protected by the Constitution, that's sad but true, no argument there. But no one is going to peek at my pubes looking for a contraband prescription drug in the school--the adults in the building still have Constitutional rights.

The Constitution is a feisty document--you might consider reading it, Mr. Thomas.

One more point.

If you knew anything at all about our tadpoles at thirteen, you would have realized that putting a tablet of anything anywhere near the "safest places to secrete contraband in school” will turn on the yuk trigger in the vast majority of even the hard-core ibuprofen addicts.

And next time, consider using a word besides "secrete." It's creepy in this context.




Yes, I was trying to be cute, using the subjunctive. No, it didn't work.

3 comments:

John Spencer said...

Clarence Thomas (and for that matter Justice Scalia) is a major reason I vote Democrat rather than Libertarian.

doyle said...

Leslie still has not forgiven me for voting third party back in 2000.

Ah, well, if voting really changed things...still, Justice Thomas warrants a special place in the halls of incompetence.

Leslie said...

Um, actually I believe I did too.

Since I knew NJ was safe anyway.

If I'd lived in FL, probably not.