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In Loudoun County, Virginia, a local judge has given five teenagers who vandalized a historic black schoolhouse with racist graffiti last year a novel sentence — and several nonfiction ones too. Rather than sending them to juvie or having them do some community service that amounts to busywork, Judge Avelina Jacob, following a suggestion by a prosecutor, is requiring the teens, aged 16 and 17, to read a book a month for the next 12 months and write a report on it. The catch is that they have to choose from a list of 35 books that all deal in one way or another with themes of oppression and hatred. Who knows whether it’ll work, but it looks like Judge Jacob is attempting to sentence these young twerps to empathy.

Among the books on the list are Elie Wiesel’s impressionistic memoir of surviving Auschwitz, Night; Maya Angelou’s landmark book about growing up in the Jim Crow South, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings; and Azar Nafisi’s story of women reading banned Western literature in Iran, Reading Lolita in Tehran. In addition to the book reports, the teens will also be required to visit the Holocaust Museum in nearby Washington DC and the Smithsonian’s Museum of American History’s exhibit on the Japanese-American internment camps during World War II.

In September, the teens had spray-painted racist and anti-Semitic graffiti on the Ashburn Colored School, a decaying one-room schoolhouse built in the 19th Century and used to educate black kids throughout Segregation; the teenagers were arrested in October and pleaded guilty to one count each of destruction of private property and one count of unlawful entry. Two of the kids are white and three are minorities; according to the New York Times, “At least one of the teenagers said he did not know the symbolism of a swastika.” Sadly, we don’t have any difficulty believing that — we can believe a kid might know only that it’s the thing you draw when you want the most offensive Fuck You possible.

The reading project was suggested to Judge Jacob by commonwealth attorney Alejandra Rueda, who told the Times how she came up with the idea:

“It occurred to me that the way these kids are going to learn about this stuff is if they read about it, more than anything,” Ms. Rueda said. “Yes, they could walk into court and plead guilty and get put on probation and do some community service, but it wasn’t really going to bring the message home.”

“I just thought maybe if they read these books, it will make an impression on them, and they will stand up for people who are being oppressed,” she added.

Ms. Rueda said she had been inspired by her own history growing up in Guadalajara, Mexico, in the 1980s, when her librarian mother handed her Leon Uris’s books Mila 18 and Exodus to learn about Israel and the Holocaust while she was participating in a model United Nations project.

So far, so good, we think, maybe, except that it strikes us as a lot easier to build empathy through reading if you’re already A) inclined toward empathy and B) a reader (with a mom who’s a librarian, for godssake). We’re not sure empathy can be mandated, but we’re rooting for Rueda and Jacob anyway. Beyond the book reports and the museum visits, the teenagers will be required to

write a paper about the impact swastikas and “white power” messages have on African-Americans and members of the broader community. The paper must include historical references such as Nazism, lynchings and discriminatory laws.

They must also listen to a recorded interview of Yvonne Neal, a Virginia woman who described her experiences as a student from 1938 to 1945 at the Ashburn Colored School, its official name in tax records.

Hell, we’re starting to think maybe the prosecutor and the judge may want to go beyond doing that as a sentence for five delinquents, and see if the local school system would offer it as an elective course. It’s a pretty good reading list, too, with a balance of fiction and nonfiction involving conflicts from South African apartheid (Cry, the Beloved Country) to the the rise of the Taliban in Afghanistan (The Kite Runner). If we were making the list ourselves, we’d trick the boogers into reading some literary comics, too, like Art Spiegelman’s Maus and John Lewis’s graphic memoir March, which only look like easy reads.

The old school building is owned by the Loudoun School for the Gifted, a private school where earnest kids probably devour good books and care about other people already, because that will help them get into a good college liberal upper-middle-class values; the school hosted a community event in October to paint over the graffiti. The Loudoun School had begun a project in 2014 to stabilize and restore the old building, and news of the vandalism finally put the project’s donations well over their funding goal, as awful things have a way of opening checkbooks.

Teachers at the Loudoun School helped Ms. Rueda develop the list of book choices for the vandals; we sympathize a bit with one English teacher who “balked at the idea of using literature as punishment” — clearly someone who knows that in 1984 the National Council of Teachers of English adopted an official resolution condemning the assignment of writing as punishment. (Coincidentally, the Times ran a heck of a nice essay on that very topic around the same time.) We’re not so sure we’d go so far as “balking” — especially not if there were a runner in scoring position — but we’ve got qualms. Is this really going to accomplish much beyond the judge and community feeling virtuous for pushing the vandals toward maybe giving a damn about others? It’ll be interesting to check back in a year and see if any of the young offenders actually do gain anything beyond a rote “Dear Officer Krupke: I am very sorry and had no idea I had hurt people’s feelings” sense of empathy from the experiment. We’d love to find our cynicism unfounded.

It may not turn them around. But it sure beats sending them down to volunteer at Trump campaign headquarters.

[NYT / NYT 1973]

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  • msanthropesmr

    I thought in Trumpz America we’d be forced to read the daily mail for punishment.

    • Jeffocaster in the desert

      His son is working for the Daily Mail. It’s a steady job but he wants to be a paperback writer.

      • MynameisBlarney

        A paaaaperbaaaack wriiiiter….

        • Ill-Advised

          If he really likes it, he’ll be read his rights. It could make a human of him overnight!

  • msanthropesmr

    Hey, since these kids obviously formed a fascist social club in high school that makes them eligible for the supreme Court right?

    • Jeffocaster in the desert

      Forget all this shit. What about that tube amp?

      • msanthropesmr

        Pfft. Cheapo

        • Jeffocaster in the desert

          HEY! Looks to be well made and gets good reviews………

          • msanthropesmr

            Transformers are too small for decent bass response.

  • MynameisBlarney

    That is probably the most fitting punishment for ignorant teenagers.

    • Latverian Diplomat

      I’m not opposed to the idea of punishments like this, but I can’t help but feel that the court went the extra mile to find an alternative to juvie because the defendants were white kids.

      • MynameisBlarney

        Probably true.

      • Teecha

        Only 2 of them, or so it says.

  • msanthropesmr

    I think one of the reasons I like reading here, is that I think Dok Zoom is real SMRT since I agree with him.

    • JustPixelz (((Ω)))

      Shhh. SMRT is practically illegal in Trump’s America.

    • Lance Thrustwell

      That right there be some foolproof criterionz.

  • Oblios_Cap

    Make them read Trump Tweets as an example of what not to do since that’s how assholes act..

    • dslindc

      I think that would be struck down as cruel and unusual.

      • Biel_ze_Bubba

        Also, “Do this and you can earn the GOP nomination for president.”
        Bit of a mixed message there.

  • monoglot

    Such thoughtful sentencing would not work when we get around to impeaching 45, though, as he cannot read.

  • JustPixelz (((Ω)))

    These must be the bad high school students Trump had in mind to rule on his Muslim ban.

  • Oblios_Cap

    They should be required to take some art classes. That is some half-assed graffiti.

    • MynameisBlarney

      Low energy graffiti, sad.

  • JustPixelz (((Ω)))

    Devos has already appointed two of them as Under-Secretaries.

  • Michael Smith

    Something tells me these kids won’t have much support from their friends and family for reading and reporting on these books.

  • mardam422

    They should be required to walk around for a year with a sign that says “I’m an asshole, ask me why”. But that’s actually considered cruel and unusual punishment. So….

  • Biel_ze_Bubba

    Another glimmer of hope: the Dakota Pipeline may get cock-blocked by some so-called federal judges. https://news.vice.com/story/the-decision-to-finish-the-dakota-access-pipeline-may-have-been-illegal
    Seems that the Army Corps of Engineers can’t just “change their minds” about stuff, without giving reasons. (Otherwise it looks arbitrary and capricious and politically motivated, and lord knows we can’t have that.)

    • Cock Blockula

      Glad to be of service…

  • OneYieldRegular

    “It is a mordant story of man and morals, and I really liked the part where the Reichstag blew up.”

  • Nounverb911
    • MynameisBlarney
    • OneYieldRegular

      I love this – like an alternate ending for Cesar Aira’s short story “A Thousand Drops,” about all of the molecules of paint on the Mona Lisa suddenly deciding to fly off in all directions and go on a road trip around the world.

  • alwayspunkindrublic

    Maybe they just should’ve been sentenced to learn how to read.

  • Lance Thrustwell

    This reminds me of the larger discussion around providing educational opportunities (and creating a humane environment) in prisons. If we make prisons pleasant, and provide significant training/education opportunities in them, at what point does prison cease to become a deterrent to crime?

    A little OT, but not too much I hope.

    • I’m not convinced prison has ever been a deterrent to crime.

      • Lance Thrustwell

        Yeah, I’m not sure about that either.

      • Shan McStroppyPants

        Stupid phone! Never mind!!

        • Lance Thrustwell

          . I hate them little phone keypads, and all the other smartphone thingamajigs & whosiwhatsis. Gimme a 1970’s wall-mounted Bell telephone with a 15-foot cord any day.

          • Shan McStroppyPants

            Are those better for posting comments on Disqus?

          • Lance Thrustwell

            Well, their performance would be consistent!

      • BloviateMe

        When I was but a young buck, some old dude told me a lock isn’t really meant to keep a thief out, it’s more meant to keep an honest man honest. There may some corollary there with prisons.

        • h4rr4r

          In that they are a way to teach honest men crime?

          Prison is not a deterrent and in this country no a tool for rehabilitation either. Prison in the USA provides basically slave labor and vengeance.

          • Shan McStroppyPants

            That’s what I’ve seen from knowing people who have been through “the system” in the U.S.

          • BloviateMe

            Not what I was going for, I was probably unclear. I meant the threat of prison may be a deterrent to keep an honest man honest, but does nothing to stop a criminal from being a criminal.

            And I don’t necessarily believe it, just blathering.

          • h4rr4r

            I think the faulty assumption here is that these are different men.

            Circumstance has everything to do with morality. I do not generally commit immoral actions, I break some laws but they are generally morally acceptable in my culture to break, if I had no way to feed my son or earn money without crime I would obviously commit crimes. Anyone who claims they would not is most likely a liar. Most people who commit crimes are similar. They are simply taking advantages of the options they have. As we limit those options available to those convicted of crimes, they are almost forced to commit more crimes. There are a small group that will always do immoral things, but they get elected president not tossed in jail for petty crimes.

      • Christopher Story

        I got one DUI when I was 20 and sat in jail for two weeks. That deterred my wreckless criminal behavior immediately. My two cents worth.

        • Years ago I was arrested in Baja California Norte for breaking into my own car (locked myself out). They kept me in jail for a few days until I could get a friend to come down from San Diego with a few hundred dollars “bail”. FWIW, it did not stop me from breaking into my own car.

          ergo ipso facto my skepticism re: punishment as a method to enforce “moral” behaviour. Religion might be considered a philosophical “moral prison” in a similar way vis a vis the reward for good behaviour (heaven) and the punishment for bad behaviour (hell).

          I’m not suggesting that prisons aren’t necessary, just that they may not be a deterrent for criminal minds.

    • Teecha

      It depends what you want prison to be for. Retribution or rehabilitation? Denmark is doing remarkable things in their prisons.

    • UncleTravelingMatt

      I’ve had many clients who got their GED while in prison. For most, doing so was required by the judge. I see no problem with it in theory, but I do not like the idea that inmates go to class during the day, just like they are in high school — that is to say their “job” is going to school. It strikes me as unfair that someone who dropped out of school and didn’t commit a crime has to go to classes and work while someone who drops out of school and commits a crime gets to pursue a GED more or less at their leisure.

      • Lance Thrustwell

        Right – there’s kind of the conflict in a nutshell. But on the other hand, providing educational opportunities for criminals undoubtedly lowers recidivism rates. So there’s a real conflict here between the ‘moral’ and the ‘practical’.

        • UncleTravelingMatt

          I like to hope that education lowers rates of recidivism, but the way those numbers are manipulated, it would be impossible to tell. At one point, Washington did not count people who re-offended in other States as repeat offenders. Idaho, in an effort to sell its short-lived “boot camp” program, didn’t count new offenses that weren’t in the same class of offense as the original (i.e. someone convicted of aggravated battery was not counted as a re-offend if they committed a burglary.)

      • Shan McStroppyPants

        At their leisure? Jesus. Jail/prison is not “at their leisure”. They may be working there for fucking NOTHING, their family members (if they have any) paying outrageous money for phone calls and basic necessities from the commissary and racking up other “fees” associated with being incarcerated. And STILL getting their GED.

        Thould have the opportunity to do that to better themselves because jail itself certainly doesn’t help with that.

        • UncleTravelingMatt

          No, in most States — Texas, as always, is an exception — inmates in educational programs subject to a judge’s jurisdiction or parole board decree do not generally have jobs because jobs would interfere with their classes which — much like substance abuse treatment or sex offender treatment — are given higher priority. Inmates who are not subject to conditions imposed by a judge or parole commission can go to school or not, as they choose.

          • Shan McStroppyPants

            If the educational program was ordered by a judge, they are still not doing it “at their leisure” while in prison. The phrase used to describe inmates time in jail or prison is the thing twinking my stroppy here. It sounds terribly condescending and I’m just going to stop before I get into banhammer territory.

    • puredog

      Ask Norway.

    • Alan

      Prison is not supposed to be a deterrent and all data suggests that it clearly isn’t. You lock people up to protect the people who aren’t locked up, not to dissuade people from committing crimes.

    • alwayspunkindrublic

      Looks like she could hide three or four fugitives under that hoop skirt!

    • JustPixelz (((Ω)))

      True fact: People never smiled (or said “cheese”) in old timey photographs because of the long exposure time of the film* so they had to sit motionless.
      _______________________________
      * it was actually glass plate. The “film” was the layer of chemicals.

      • OneYieldRegular

        Another fun fact: a lot of discarded glass plates from photographers like Matthew Brady who documented the atrocities of the American Civil War were picked up and used by farmers as panes for greenhouses. Talk about a Little Shop of Horrors…

        • Wild Cat

          Even worse, Brady used to arrange the battlefield corpses for “entertainment” and “drama.”

          We’ve always been sick, violent fucks.

          • Rags

            It was also common to photograph dead relatives, including babies, at the time so this might not be as ghoulish as it might first appear.

          • Wild Cat

            Your example is for sentimental reasons. Yes, people used to preserve things we’d do so now – hair, for example, of a loved one lost.
            Brady was producing a narrative of war romance, and war has no romance. Just rotting flesh and minds.

          • h4rr4r

            Until recently arranging the dead as though they were living was very common in photographs.

            We have only been become quite so concerned about this as the cultural value of human life has gone up. Other evidence of this is our very low murder rate, and the fact that most people find what is happening in the philippines is horrific.

  • Jeffocaster in the desert

    Having lived in Loudoun County. and knowing Ashburn well, it was probably the fucking developers like the Toll Bros (taking a Toll on your neighborhood) trying to get this in a land grab to build more disgusting McMansions.

    This place is the epicenter of decadence in the USA. Often cited as the richest county in the US, it is fed by the fat cat, government contractor welfare sucking, shitferbrains assholes that are part of the Military Industrial Complex.

    The kids are likely extremely spoiled little brats.

    Their Mommies and Daddies will likely hire tutors to do the assignments for them, so they can dream of the Ivy League schools they are going to. FUCK ‘EM ALL.

    • Jeffocaster in the desert

      And yes, I admit I worked for government contractor. For this I am ashamed.

    • Teecha

      One of the families took their offspring to the holocaust museum even before the court case- I read this in another report but cba to look for the link.

      • Jeffocaster in the desert

        Yes, I am extremely cynical. Having lived there for ten years or so……

    • JohnBull

      Nothing sucks worse than an anti-government, overpaid government worker.

  • Martini Ambassador

    I can only imagine how the punishment of forced book-learnin’ must annoy Betsy DeVos. Hopefully, she’ll exert her new power and put a stop to this injustice.

  • JohnBull

    Only in America does it take a judge to teach empathy.

    • Jeffocaster in the desert

      “so called”

  • memzilla Ω

    Dear Future Inventors:

    When you finally invent the Krell Mind Machine from Forbidden Planet, make sure to write the empathy software for it that the Krell forgot to.
    . https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/13dcb3fe3bc21c1aa2186853f15b5cc603572acbbb3fe95c8db1d8da563b7d68.png

    • Latverian Diplomat

      Lack of empathy wasn’t the problem. The Krell were quite enlightened.

      The problem was that even the most advanced minds have deeply buried dark desires.

      • Biel_ze_Bubba

        At least they’re buried, unlike in Republican minds.

        • Bub the Hoohah! loving Zombie

          Yeah. If Morbius had been a Republican, they would have figured out what the invisible monster was in about 30 seconds.

      • memzilla Ω

        Better empathy software. Problem is, the Krell were running it on Windows instead of Linux.

        • Latverian Diplomat

          Krell libelz! Pretty sure they were Mac people. :-)

          • Bemused

            Orphaned their olds, did they? Tsk.

  • Iron Monkey

    Do two qualms equal one balk/

    • Latverian Diplomat

      I could never figure out those Roman coin systems.

      • Iron Monkey

        Denarius, denarii–let’s call the whole thing off.

    • Spotts1701, Resistance Pilot

      No, but three qualms will get you a box of Alka-Seltzer.

  • snigsy

    The sentence assumes they can read and write.

  • MynameisBlarney
  • OneYieldRegular

    If this had happened over in Langley, they could have called it “The Langley Schools Reading Project.”

  • Teecha

    I like this idea. Often teenagers are just thoughtless and ignorant. They don’t realise the full extent of their actions or their impact on others. It’s why we have rules about when we allow children to do things, like drive, drink, join armies, have sex, get married, have jobs and so on.

    When you give (the overwhelming majority) of young adults the time and resources to learn about a thing they don’t know about before, they are able to develop themselves into much nicer people. As a response to this crime, I think that having them learn the importance of the place and the significance of the swastika is valid and useful.

    Every year I teach kids about nazism, and there are always a few silly boys who draw a swastika on their hand or book. It’s an opportunity for me to teach them why this is unacceptable, and I’ve never had a student who didn’t remove it, and express remorse for their foolishness. It has been over 70 years since WWII ended, and most children don’t have any living relatives who were involved in the war, and so its not something that they know much about- aside from the occasional game or film they might watch. Which is why we teach it in school.

    When you send kids to secure units, they just learn how to be criminals. I prefer restorative justice* to help kids sort themselves out.

    *obviously, very serious crimes require custodial sentences. But children and teenagers are not adults, and that needs to be taken into account when the criminal justice system deals with them.

    • BrianW

      I think you’re on to something here. For most kids, I suspect that the Nazis are nothing more than a bunch of bad movie tropes. Black uniforms, sadistic medical experiments, etc. Yet, the fact is that they ARE movie tropes because they DID all those things.

      • Teecha

        If they do know about those stereotypes, from film and so on, they don’t have the mental or emotional maturity to process what actually happened. It’s tricky stuff to teach.

        Fucking hell, I’m an adult and I find it hard to deal with the truth of what happened. I went to Dachau this summer and learning about the experiements done there was very distressing. Mind, not half as distressing as being a victim of them.

  • resistance_fighter_rosenbomb

    I do hope at least one of these kids actually does the work, but having gone through high school in the age of the internetz, I know how easy it is to plagiarize.

  • MynameisBlarney
    • Alternative Pony Ron

      And of course the cloud cover will be total here for the next four days.

  • Jeffocaster in the desert

    Another interesting thing about this is the school is in the historic part of Ashburn, the REAL original village area. (not the fucking made up one the fucking asshole developers created) When there was a move to create a Historic District there, the locals got up in arms because they wouldn’t be able to develop the land if they want to, rather than preserve this interesting oasis in the suburban sprawl.

    • Vagenda of Rebel Scum

      Why do developers name things after the stuff they destroyed? If Sauron had gotten the ring, he would have named housing for the Orcs “Rivendell”.

  • goonemeritus

    Huh – my kids are less awful than some other kids. I credit the years of parenting my ass off for this surprising outcome.

    • Jeffocaster in the desert

      I don’t know how my kids turned out so great. Between their crazy Mother and me…..One of them is even a Wonkette non-commenter.

    • Duke

      My kids are busy parenting me.

      • Vagenda of Rebel Scum

        I’m getting there too. Wanted to tell one “Goddammit you’re patronizing me. I can get up and get my own stuff”.
        I don’t know how she got to be so bossy and controlling. Must be from her Dad.
        Why do people roar with laughter when I say this…?

    • MynameisBlarney

      *narrows eyes*

      Sounds like commie talk to me!

    • Vagenda of Rebel Scum

      That’s great. Big sigh of relief getting them past the teenage years when they can go to the dark side.
      One of mine was a model student in high school but developed some real problems when they went off to college and had no supervision.
      They seem to be past that now. I just wonder if we are ever truly out of the woods.
      Sorry, didn’t want to rain on your parade, just make an observation.

      • Teecha

        My dad always says ‘it doesn’t get easier, it just gets different.’ I’m nearly 40!

  • puredog

    Sigh. You can lead a boor to culture, but you can’t make him think. Maybe one of the defendants will profit by this exercise. One can only hope.

    • NastyBossetti

      For what it’s worth, when I was a kid, I said a few terrible things because I only understood them in a very narrow context (that context being that they were mean things you could say about people). It only took someone pointing out the broader implications of my words ONE time, and I felt like a huge piece of shit and stopped. I just didn’t know what I was saying. So I have hope, assuming they actually do the work.

  • Rick Hill
    • Biff52

      Wait–we can post pix again?

      • MynameisBlarney

        Nope. Can’t comment either.

    • The Wanderer

      All the MAGAts.*
      (*pronounced “maggots”)

  • Jenny

    This is kind of timely for me because I’ve noticed my son and his friends being “casually racist”.

    I have called him on it but I remember being his age, pushing boundaries. I remember how fucking awful boys that age were. Never will you find a place of more wtf than middle/early high school where kids conveniently forget empathy for the sake of coolness.

    This list of books and similar museums are going to be on my weekend to do list for them.

    • Rick Hill

      We made all kinds of jokes when I was a kid. I don’t think we even associated it with racism because I didn’t actually know a black kid till I was in seventh grade. Also, I haven’t made dead baby jokes since the fourth grade.

      • Lance Thrustwell

        And I assume you’ve kept your baby-killing under a reasonable threshold since then?

        • Rick Hill

          Well…I don’t think it’s something to joke about. That’s progress, right? Assides, fetuses don’t count, do they?

          • Lance Thrustwell

            Oorgh. No comment.

          • Rick Hill

            That’s not what you said at our last Wonkette fetus fry.

          • Oblios_Cap

            We told lots of Polack jokes. but to fair, they were Commies at the time.

          • MynameisBlarney

            We told the “What’s grosser than gross?” jokes a lot.

          • (Major_Major_Major)ly_Pissed

            I had forgotten those gems.

          • janecita

            We told a lot of Gringo jokes, but to be fair we were living in Commie Cuba.

          • MynameisBlarney

            I’d actually like to hear some of those lol.

    • MynameisBlarney

      As a former awful boy, it’s not only for the sake of coolness, it’s also to prevent ones self from becoming a potential target for bullying.
      Of course, all that depends entirely who your friends are and what they’re like.

      • Jenny

        Maybe. They’re also being influenced by the internet with it. Kids my son’s age LOVE watching older guys on youtube playing video games. They don’t watch television shows anymore, they watch dudes who are barely self aware themselves. Even the ones promoting themselves as family friendly drop racist and anti semitic phrases for laughs.

        • MynameisBlarney

          It was in my case.
          The kids in rural NC school didn’t take kindly to to folks what had sympathy and understanding for those different than them.

          • Oblios_Cap

            I really didn’t hear a lot of either growing up on army posts, but when in Jr. High in public school in Va .and High school in N. FL, I certainly did.

        • janecita

          OMG, I’m so glad you said that, I thought that there was something wrong with my 10 year old son! He watches these idiots play games on YouTube all the time, my husband and I were starting to get worried!

        • DrBigHead

          I also suspect that the current rants against “PC culture” have a lot to do with this apparent increase in “casual racism”. I can remember when “being PC” simply meant “don’t be an asshole”.

          • And now, someone saying, “what I’m about to say isn’t PC” is like the prologue of a book where the main character is an asshole.

            At the same time, there’s a fun little turnaround among Trumpers happening. An acquaintance of mine was giving me a hard time about my criticisms of Trump and Co. She said I was just being mean. I said I just wasn’t being PC. She got madder.

          • Shan McStroppyPants

            Good.

          • Vagenda of Rebel Scum

            I hate the expression and try never to use it. I agree- it means “I want permission to sound like an asshole”.

          • And even worse, that phrase no longer means, “I want permission to sound like an asshole”. Now it means, “I don’t need your fucking permission to be an asshole.”

          • Shan McStroppyPants

            Or “I don’t CARE if I sound like an asshole.”

            I’ve worked in construction for a long time and there are a lot of asshole guys. Even the self-professed “liberal” ones. They would try to excuse awful jokes or comments by looking at me and saying “No offense intended” or similar. I’d just shrug and say “I’m not offended if you insist on making yourself look like a dick.”

        • AustenFuego

          I shamefully admit to being a 40 year old that watches other people play video games instead of TV. It can be horribly shocking when you are watching someone live streaming to thousands of people (mostly young boys/men) and have them drop racist and misogynistic language.

          For me it is an instant close screen but the the rest of the crowd seems to eat it up. I watched one guy I had previously enjoyed play a YouTube video where a guy “comically” ranted about how women needed to just shut up and make him a “sammich.”

          The streamer was hooting and laughing and my jaw was on the floor. This wasn’t some teen, this guy IS A MARRIED ADULT MAN who is cracking up at demanding sandwiches from women.

          I guess my advice is to find out who your kids watch and plug your nose and watch some yourself…if they lean toward that kind of content it won’t take you long to find out and talk to your kids about it.

    • Shan McStroppyPants

      In middle school, my son had a particularly awful friend who wouldn’t stop using homophobic slurs around me until one day when I threatened to make him get out of the car. My son, having been ejected a couple of times himself already for his own mouth, confirmed that I was dead serious. It might not have helped the other boy’s maturity level but at least I didn’t have to listen to it.

      • wide_stance_hubby

        I once lost my cool around my nephew and his buds and out came the ‘F’ word. The look on their faces was so good, I had to leave the room asap so they did not see me laughing.

        • Shan McStroppyPants

          Ha! I’m such a misanthrope regarding other road users that I had to tell my kids “You aren’t allowed to say those words unless you’re driving!” It just delayed the inevitable but at least they understood when it wasn’t appropriate.

          • Driving brings out the worst in human nature, which is why we should massively fund transit and cycling. I have a friend who is the leader of a Sufi Muslim group, who is the kindest, most loving and caring person in the universe, and when she gets behind the wheel of a car she’s all like MOVE YOUR ASS! or the Persian equivalent.

    • Vagenda of Rebel Scum

      You have more influence than they let on. It will make a big difference even if he doesn’t admit it.
      Had one of my teens essentially tell me my opinion was crap, then later heard them quoting me over the phone when they thought I wasn’t listening.

  • Teecha

    I’m really glad comments aren’t allowed here, or I’d be getting depressed about how little hope many adults have about teenagers.

  • Msgr_MΩment

    I know why the caged bird sings

    Pining for the fjords?

    • I was going to write the same thing. I’m glad I didn’t. People would say I was just parroting you.

    • John Resistant Tovarich Smith

      If they nailed his feet to the perch, he would have never left.

  • Jennaratrix

    I hope the teens were also required to help paint over their graffiti (I didn’t read all the links in the article, so if that was mentioned, I missed it).

    • starfanglednut

      Yeah, I think they should get both the book-reading punishment and some traditional punishment. Cover all bases.

  • elviouslyqueer

    Trump tweeting that the “so-called judge’s” reading remedies are “cruel and unusual punishment” in 3…2…1…

  • Sardonicuss

    …and this book “Human Empathy for Dummy’s (budding sociopath edition)”

  • Treg Brown
    • Jenny

      That kid’s eyes are like oh no wrong answer, what is going to happen now?!!?

      • Treg Brown

        And was never from again…

      • Bub the Hoohah! loving Zombie

        “Don’t put my mommy and daddy in the Gulag please sir!”

      • MynameisBlarney

        20 years hard labor in Siberia!

      • JohnBull

        Worst job of all: toilet matron at the port-o-jons at Vykhino subway station.

      • chortlingdingo

        I was also thinking that the kid looks terrified.

        • Mavenmaven

          His parents are more terrified.

    • Bub the Hoohah! loving Zombie

      Can someone computer edit Donnie’s head on that kid?

    • An Outhouse for the Resistance

      The Russian border ends at Sarah Palin’s back yard.

  • janecita

    I might still be an optimist, because I believe that this is great punishment for these kids. Who knows, maybe these books will destroy their misguided hatred and racism, let’s be hopeful!

    • MynameisBlarney

      Education is damn near the only thing that can.
      Can’t destroy ignorance without it.

    • NastyBossetti

      I am with you.

    • teele

      Unfortunately, I’m pretty cynical, and book reports are available for purchase online. I would be much more hopeful if they were required to read and write their reports in a supervised setting.

      • Good_Gawd_Yall

        I wonder what the parents think about the sentence. If they support it, and really make the kids do the work, and maybe even discuss the message behind the books, this could work. If they’re raising kids who think it’s fun to spray swastikas and white power on a black schoolhouse because they learned that at home, it won’t. Period.

  • MynameisBlarney
    • shaar dula

      I’ve wanted a ctrl+f in real life since 1998

  • Wild Cat

    Can one impose empathy? Can the state litigate empathy?

    • shivaskeeper

      It can’t be imposed, but the way to it might be shown.

    • Shan McStroppyPants

      Maybe it will suffice if it’s just the equivalent of teaching them not to shit their pants in public any more. We made good strides with that until Trump came along.

    • kbbaldwin2

      Care or ELSE you little twit.

  • Warned_and_Persistent

    Betsy DeVos smiles and says another schoolhouse we needn’t redecorate.

    • Wild Cat

      I thought when she saw anything wooden, she thought of paddles and crucifixes for her S&M Christianity.

  • bookish

    Morning Brief, The Soufan Group.

    FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 10, 2017
    COURT ASSERTS JUDICIAL ROLE IN NATIONAL SECURITY
    The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit unanimously rejected an effort by the Trump administration to lift a nationwide injunction on an executive order temporarily banning U.S. entry to people from seven Muslim-majority countries. The president responded by telling reporters that the ruling was “a political decision” and said his administration would win an appeal “in my opinion, very easily.” The Justice Department is likely to file an emergency appeal to the Supreme Court.

    In its ruling, the three-judge panel firmly reasserted the judiciary’s role in reviewing national security policy. “Although the courts owe considerable deference to the President’s policy determinations with respect to immigration and national security, it is beyond question that the federal judiciary retains authority to adjudicate constitutional challenges to executive action,” the court said. (NYT, WSJ, Reuters)

    Related:
    Lawfare: How to Read the Ninth Circuit’s Opinion
    Washington Post: Trump Gets a Powerful Lesson in Role of Judiciary

  • MynameisBlarney

    Aaawww…seems the poor GOTP’ers are getting worried…

    You SHOULD be fucking worried you goddamn derpherders!

    http://www.democraticunderground.com/10028625093

    • Martini Ambassador

      Now is not the time for complacency. We must keep the pressure on, full blast.

      • MynameisBlarney

        Damn right!

        • starfanglednut

          We need to be identifying vulnerable repubs in the senate, and campaigning for them hard.

      • kareemachan

        YES!

  • Cock Blockula

    A bazillion upfists for the Officer Krupke reference, Doc!

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j7TT4jnnWys

  • Martini Ambassador
  • kareemachan

    Everybody (in the article above) is avoiding the obvious question: CAN THEY READ?

    • The Wanderer

      Excellent point.

    • proudgrampa

      That was my first reaction to the story. But maybe the judge checked?

  • chicken thief

    Jeff Sessions has hired the kids to repaint several federal buildings.

  • arglebargle

    Another sportsball pun? That’s two days in a row, Dok. Maybe you need a timeout.

    • Mehmeisterjr

      Maybe the judge should have added “Catcher in the Rye” to the list.

      • chicken thief

        Maybe Homer, also too?

        • Mehmeisterjr

          You thought you could slide that one past me? You’re stealing my thunder.

          • proudgrampa

            You crazy, punning kids!

          • CindyinEncinitas

            And every one a hit!

    • chicken thief

      Never baulk at adding a sportsball pun, is my rule.

      • Mehmeisterjr

        That is way outta left field.

  • bookish

    Remember awhile back when there was a phase at protests, of protestors using laptops to project huge slogans onto buildings? Can anyone post an instructable for how that is done? Thanks.

    • Zippy W Pinhead

      the best way would probably be a Leko or Source Four light with a custom Gobo. It takes a lot of lumens to throw an image of any size against a wall. An actual projector would have to be at least 10K and those things aren’t cheap. The bigger ones require 240v. Find a local concert lighting company and ask what it would cost to rent an appropriate light- hopefully they can get it in LED so you can plug it into a wall without blowing a circuit

      • CindyinEncinitas

        God, you’re the best.

    • Fartknocker

      Or you could go old school and have an airplane drop leaflets saying IMPEACH TRUMP with a DOD Psychological Operations logo on it. That would be beautiful but could cause a slight legal issue.

      • C4TWOMAN

        Mmmm.. maybe include a discount at the local hippy store so people will picks them up?

  • Nockular cavity

    “Gee, Officer Krupke: Sieg heil!”

  • chicken thief

    OT, but there may be some good news for America! From a PPP poll….

    “Just three weeks into his administration, voters are already evenly
    divided on the issue of impeaching Trump with 46% in favor and 46%
    opposed. Support for impeaching Trump has crept up from 35% 2 weeks ago,
    to 40% last week, to its 46% standing this week.”

    http://www.publicpolicypolling.com/main/2017/02/americans-now-evenly-divided-on-impeaching-trump.html

    • JohnBull

      I’m not ready to trust polls just yet. The last one that was supposed to mean something kinda left me a bit cynical.

    • Vagenda and Pee-ara

      It’s odd that 53% of Americans disapprove of Trump, but 90% of Republicans approve of him, and 46% want to impeach him. This math is not adding up to me!

      • Rick Hill

        republicans only make up something like 24% of registered voters.

        • Vagenda and Pee-ara

          I think Republicans are 50% of voters, but only 24% of the public. If they were 24% of voters, they’d never win any elections, which would be sweeeet.

          I wish the people who don’t vote would get off their asses and toss these bums out on their ears.

      • chicken thief

        Logical consistency has never been required to be a True ‘Merkun Patriot.

        • JohnBull

          No kidding. Here in Iowa we have higher minimum wage in a couple counties and we’re about to lose it. Local control! (unless the repubs in charge don’t like the local control.)

      • CindyinEncinitas

        English major. Don’t ask me.

  • Angela Ruzzo

    This raises three questions in my mind: 1) can you learn empathy; 2) can you learn empathy from reading books; and 3) will the NYT run a follow-up article in a year to let us know the answers to #1 and #2.

    • NastyBossetti
      • Angela Ruzzo

        Yes, I read that, and I believe reading can improve empathy. But I have always wondered if it can CREATE empathy where none exists. This might be difficult to prove.

      • C4TWOMAN

        Voluntary reading forces you to use reflective parts of your brain. It doesn’t mean you’ll agree with what you’ve read, but you’ll be more likely so understand the otherside.

    • Thaumaturgist

      In some circles, “time” is a badge of honor, like those ribbons the troops wear on their chests. Doing book reports?

    • C4TWOMAN

      The value here is simply being forced to low down and think about consequences. I don’t know what their backgrounds are, but being wound up and hyped for any reason, leads to bad judgement.

      • Scrofula

        True–but also being a group of 16yo boys IS the def. of bad judgment.

        • C4TWOMAN

          Impulsive bad judgement and criminal behavior are wildly different. It sound trite but most teens bad judgement don’t invole hate crimes. None of my friends or myself were involved in criminal activity–not counting bending rules or getting away with petty shit–getting your legal friend to buy booze and staying out late on a school night when you have a test. That is normal teen bad judgement–frankly things adults do, but less frequently because they’ve learned.

          Attacking people or destroying property for no reason–that’s not being a teen. That’s rage and disordered thinking. Being a teen might aggravate it, but it’s not the cause.

          • Scrofula

            I was being snarky. But kids have been vandalizing property since property was invented (and there’s always been little swastikas scratched in bathroom stalls). I’m not defending them, but it COULD be they found a random empty building and painted it like every other spare surface on earth.

          • C4TWOMAN

            I get your point. But they picked a target they knew would piss people off, not a freeway over/underpass no one but the nightwatch man would care about. So I think there’s an intent there.

          • Scrofula

            Maybe. And I’d ream them either way. But I laugh thinking these were a group of more nerdy amateur taggers who were too scared to go under the overpass at night and picked a building in the open for their first tag-job, wound up picking a historical landmark. I mean, how did they even get caught? The local skateboarders are laughing their asses off at them.

          • C4TWOMAN

            True dat!

      • Angela Ruzzo

        I wonder if it is possible to teach empathy to teenagers. I often think that IF it is possible to learn empathy, the lessons must start in early childhood. I base that on my own personal experiences, which might not be valid for other people. It is a complicated subject and difficult to study and test accurately. It seems to me that actual personal experience of other people’s suffering does the best job of developing empathy.

        There was a lot of hype about 20 years ago concerning a local program that took teenagers involved in car accidents to hospitals and morgues so they could see first-hand what happens to people who are injured in such accidents. There was never any follow-up article saying if this program worked or not.

        When my nephew got his first car at age 16, he received several tickets for running red lights and stop signs. He was not wound up or hyped, and he was an intelligent boy from a prosperous upper-middle class background who had traveled the world extensively. His problem was he was 16. I sat down with him and had a LONG talk about his grandmother, who had been totally and permanently disabled when someone ran a red light and hit her car. He had seen his grandmother’s injuries up close and personal, but nobody had told him how they were incurred, and he had not known her before the accident so he sort of took her condition for granted. He was not personally involved in caring for her. He didn’t have any more red light tickets, but whether I influenced him or not, I couldn’t say.

        • C4TWOMAN

          I have to say I generally have a dubious opinion of age focused judgements. I had to raise my self in many ways, and know many people in similar situations. The amount of incompetent and/or gullible adults we were surrounded with no one wants to believe. We had to learn good judgment fast unless we wanted to be in juvie, because those adults knew how to manipulate the system. Our plan was stay clean, get out, join miliarty, whatever. At 18 escape and never look back.

          So when I hear about “teens” or “kids” or “brain development” stuff, my back goes up because I know this is used to further marginalize at risk teens, some of which are working their asses off, and I have zero faith adults responsible for intervening have improved significantly over the years.

          That said, I think you have a good point. By ones teens thought processes and values are solidifying. my personal experience is the last big window to radically change ones world view was puberty, 12-13. That’s when i developed my own philosophy and privately stopped believing in Catholism. There were a lot of other firsts, but my value system has not significantly changed since then. New information may change my opinions on things, but the reasoning behind it is the same.

          I think the most we can say is IF someone is having a problem, it starts to become obvious to other people in the teens, about the time someone has the physical capability of doing serious harm.

          • Angela Ruzzo

            You make good points. It is very difficult to separate one’s judgement on this point from one’s personal experience. I was raised by empathetic parents who had suffered discrimination in early life, and they shared this with me. I saw global poverty first-hand when I was only 5 years old, and my mother suffered a disabling disability when I was 17, when I had to become her caregiver. I was what they call a “good kid” – smart, articulate, socially conscious, responsible. All my close friends were the same.

            But I vividly remember my mindset at age 15 and 16. I think of it as a short period of temporary insanity while I tried to make the values and priorities I had developed from age 10-14 work in the real world with real problems. I was rejecting my childhood Catholic teaching. Nixon was lying to us. The Viet Nam War was ending. I was becoming a militant feminist and pondering my sexuality. I had to get good grades in high school so I could get a scholarship to college. My 16-yr-old brain was under attack from every direction. I was lucky – I didn’t make any mistakes, but looking back I can see occasions when I narrowly avoided doing so. Perhaps I was lucky because nobody bought me a car when I turned 16. I had a bicycle. Different times.

          • C4TWOMAN

            Hello fellow ex Catholic!

            I really never felt out of control. I had energy sure, and could be manic. But there were obvious environmental causes . Maybe because I had to focus so hard on survival. Or maybe because in comparison to the adult(borderline, adult child, with narcissist traits) anything looks stable. And it could be down to temperament: if stressed, even to this day, I withdraw until I have more information. I was labeled shy and withdrawn for years because of that. Nope, its a rational(to me) response to a constant threatening situation. And it kept me on the right side of the law, which is invaluable when idiot not-parent is trying to project their bs and claim I’m “rebellious”.

            Or it is possible it is normal to be a little crazy at that age and for survival reasons I had to suppress it. I still suspect it’s overblown by media because I had friends later in high school who came from stable supportive families. Maybe level headed kids are simply attracted to other level headed kids, no matter the background?

            So, like you say, we all filter this through our experience.

          • Angela Ruzzo

            I really do think we are all a little crazy at that age. I think it is totally normal. We keep switching between “child” and “adult” at a dizzying speed and without the experience we need to control it. I had wonderful parents who were excellent role models, and I had a fantastic school with superb teachers, and my house was full of books, and I had friends who were similar. I was lucky, I suppose, but I knew many people my age who weren’t so lucky. They were trapped in negative patterns by early pregnancy or juvenile pranks or abusive/absent parents.

            Yes, I think level-headed kids are attracted to other level-headed kids. All my high school friends had similar backgrounds to mine – stable homes, intelligent, educated, rational parents who were good role models and who encouraged education.

            Fifteen years ago I lived briefly with a man who was divorced, with a 13-year-old daughter who lived most of the time with her mother. She wanted to have sleep-overs at my house, and I said OK. She invited 6 friends. Not ONE of the parents made the slightest enquiry as to who I was, where I lived, what kind of person I was, what kind of home I kept. None of them had met me, including my boyfriend’s ex-wife. They just sent their daughters to the home of a complete stranger and didn’t even ask my address or phone number. I was shocked. My mother vetted all my friends before she let me spend the night at their homes, and she always knew exactly where I was. I actually found this comforting.

          • C4TWOMAN

            Re the brain: it’s just part of the body. We’ve always know it takes about 25 years to finish growing. Everyone focuses on height, that stops for most much sooner. But look at pics of your face at 17, then again at 25. It is an academic over sight that it somehow “fell out of people’s brains” that the brain wasn’t included in this common understand for years. Like everything else, muscle development, etc, you have to USE it for it to develop properly. That requires competent adults around to guild young adults, like training wheels. Just shutting them out or down doesn’t work(not saying YOU said that. It just seems to come up with this issue). Cuz you know if a teen wants to do something, they’ll find a way….

            What I do agree with is our self concept switches between dependent child who wants to be protected and Grr, out there super action figure adult–because remember “grownups” are lame and boring. Actually, my self-concept stopped being a child much earlier, but I can still see moments when I yearned for it.

            It wasn’t all bad. Sane adults drifted in and out, so I got to see what it was supposed to be like. I’m one of the lucky ones. Because I could force myself to be calm and extrapolate consequences, no one ever got into my head. I was never sexually abused and by the time I knew that assault could happen, I was ready and willing to kill. Creepy kid turned into scary kid, but never on the wrong side of the law. I forced myself to gradute highschool because I knew that GEDs simply didn’t have the same cred(no offense to GED holders, but you know you’re judged and I had enough shit to be going on with). I signed up with the military at 17. So yep, we sure have different life experiences, lol!

            I really think there needs to be more research. In previous eras what we call teens were living adult lives. I don’t mean child bride bullshit, but by 15-16 people were working like adults and doing fine. Obviously part of that is a less complex economy. But it’s also emotional maturity. Obviously there are problems with too many or inappropriate challenges growing up. But I’ve often wondered if having too few of the right challenges artificially retards emotional maturity, too. The rest of my thoughts are too unformed to be productive.

            Thank you for the chat…I’m so late doing errands now. This is Wonkette’s faults!!11!

          • Angela Ruzzo

            There definitely needs to be more research. And I have never understood why the brain is not treated as if it was part of the body. It is the most important part of the body. It interacts constantly with the body, and vice versa, in thousands of ways. It depends on the body, and the body depends on it. You cannot separate one from the other. They are ONE.

            Another question is why is dental care excluded from all health insurance policies? Makes absolutely NO SENSE to me. Insurance companies can treat mental illness and dental disease differently because Congress said they can, not because it makes biological sense.

            There have been recent studies on the sleep needs of teenagers. Their parents complain that they sleep their lives away. Turns out the mid-to-late teens is a time of rapid brain growth and constant brain activity, and teenagers NEED more sleep.

            I think teenagers are capable of much more than the average adult thinks they are. But they need to be given responsibility in stages, so they have a chance to learn from each stage, and they occasionally need some feedback and guidance. There are many lessons to learn about keeping a job – punctuality, dependability, reliability, courtesy, team work, etc. They are going to make mistakes, better they make them with a safety net.

            My mother was taken out of school and put to work 10 hours a day in a factory when she was 13. It did not kill her, but it was not healthy. She was never a teenager. When I was 14 I wanted to get a job babysitting, and she wouldn’t let me. She said “I want you to enjoy your teen years.” I said “I want money for records and going to the movies with my friends.” So she increased my allowance from $2/mo to $5/mo, which was enough for me to do both things, but she wouldn’t let me get a job. I got my first job the summer after I graduated high school, and boy was it a learning experience!

          • C4TWOMAN

            100% agree with all the above! Especially the bit about dental care; I’ve often thought that. If I was to guess, it’s because historically dentists , at least in N Europe, weren’t really considered part of the medical profession so much as the barber down the street who also pulls out rotten teeth. BUT, OTOH surgeons also had their origins with barbers, and they got into the hoity toity medical club, so it is still baffling…

            Re: sleep studies IIRC not only to they need more sleep, but their sleep patterns are normally weird-staying up late and sleeping in. So it’s not all just lazy skivving! I train with heavy weights and there’s something analogous to both the very young, teen and very old: anyone doing hard athletic training needs more sleep. There are freaks like the guy who was a professional bodybuilder who also ran his own business and did all of it on 3 hours of sleep(!)–but most of us are not him and never will be!

            Your mum sounds like an awesome lady. it’s understandable why she had that reaction, but it’s also not good to have to learn all about the job market in a crash course 1 year before legal adulthood. I didn’t have a”proper” job until I was also out of high school, but I had informal ones, like doing gardening/yardwork. In fact I remember one lady said I did a better job than her grand sons who were about the same age(13-14). While I was always a good worker, it was a crash course in working with people you don’t know and balancing socializing vs getting the job done.

            IMO this is a serious problem with economically depressed communities. If there aren’t jobs, young adults don’t learn certain life skills, like you say, in an environment where they can screw up but still have a roof over their heads. So even when they get a job, they have trouble keeping it and either don’t know why or don’t know how to fix it.

          • Angela Ruzzo

            I had a 20-hr-per-week Work Study job all through college. Boy did I learn a lot. It was invaluable training for a real job after college, but even at my first real full-time job I still had things to learn, like good customer service – something that is now a dead skill. My first week of full-time work was totally exhausting – I had never before done the exact same thing for 9 hours in a row, 5 days a week, and the realization that I would have to keep doing it for the next 45 years was a real shock. But I got over it. The trick is finding a job you like that you do well with a supportive team and a good manager. Easier said than done.

    • Scrofula

      Yup, who’s gonna read these reports?
      They’ll all violate and wind up losing their Saturdays for the next year.

      • Angela Ruzzo

        I was thinking I was missing an important point #4, and you nailed it. Who will read the reports?

        • Scrofula

          It’s the problem with these feel-good alternative sentences. Maybe in a rich small town they have the resources for that, but certainly not for everyone. The poor kids still go to juvie.
          And when the kids just hand in a Wikipedia print-out, what do you do? It’s a probation violation, and the sentence is doubled? TWO books a month?
          I’m being Debbie Downer, but it’s just one of those too-nice stories that can’t work out.

          • Angela Ruzzo

            I once worked at a large public library, and all the senior staff were asked to be judges at the local junior high school Science and Social Studies Fair. I judged about 80 entries total in both areas. Every entry had a poster board AND a written report. Every single report was lifted word-for-word from the Web. The kids were so dumb they left HTML codes in the reports. When questioned about their projects, the vast majority were totally clueless and could not answer questions. They were not learning anything.

          • Scrofula

            That’s sad. I once “judged” an elementary school science fair. I worked at a biotech company nearby, and came in with my lab coat, goggles, and a gas mask. They were young enough to be impressed (OMG a real scientist!). A lot of them had parental help, but could answer questions. It was fun (and everybody wins! They actually had a handout with a list of positive words.)
            Anyway, I’m sure it varies. I bet as kids get older they’re more likely to bullshit it.

          • Angela Ruzzo

            I was reluctant to say that this Fair I judged took place in Louisiana. The educational system there varies between 49th and 50th ranking in the nation. I have no doubt my experience would have been different where I live now. I’m glad yours was more positive.

          • Scrofula

            It was a wealthy suburb surrounded by corporate office parks; I drove home over the hill back to Oakland. Pretty sure it’d be a different story there.

          • Angela Ruzzo

            Some day you should drive the River Road along the Mississippi from New Orleans to Baton Rouge. It used to be a scenic drive (except you can’t see the River due to levees). Now it is one chemical plant after another, with sickly brown or yellow dust all over the neighboring towns and the road. This dust won’t wash off, and children are breathing it. It gets into the River, from whence many communities draw their drinking water. There are more such plants along the Gulf-side roads, spilling pollutants into the water. Nobody does anything about it. Instead, the state taxes the corporations and builds beautiful new schools and libraries, filled with people who are being poisoned.

          • Old Man Yells at Cloud

            This is why judges get law students to be clerks. They are cheap educated workers and they really want a letter of recommendation from the judge.

        • kbbaldwin2

          And who shaves the barber?

    • CindyinEncinitas

      Isn’t exposure to another’s experience the first step toward empathy? If you can’t see the other person’s experience how can you see yourself in the other person?

      • Angela Ruzzo

        That’s true, but quite a few people don’t learn very well from reading. Some people have quite serious reading comprehension disabilities. My own brother was a very poor reader because of this. First-hand personal exposure is always best.

        • CindyinEncinitas

          Oh. Sometimes I think I’ve lived my whole life through books. I have been able to travel and see beautiful, fulfilling love and heroes prevailing and all kinda enriching, good stuff and my eyes and heart have been opened to the struggles and triumphs of people in faraway places I will never see.

          • Angela Ruzzo

            Me too. I have lived many lives through books. My best friends are books I have already read, which I enjoy reading again and again. But about half the people I am acquainted with have not read a book since high school other than the Bible, if that. Some of them are highly educated people. I think a person is either born a Reader, or they aren’t.

    • Resistance Fighter MausFeet

      1 – Absolutely (some people) 2 – Absolutely (some people) and 3 – probably not?

      It won’t work for all the kids, but it might open the heart and minds of one or two, which is pretty good. I’m also desperately looking for good new somewhere today though, so there’s that.

  • A sportsball reference on MY wonket? You’ve changed, Dok!

    • Rick Hill

      Do we know this is actually Dok or did Kid Zoom fill in?
      http://www.dailyfailcentral.com/sites/default/files/fail/a1Mz6Yw_700b_v1.jpg

    • Thaumaturgist

      MY Wonket? Do we have to go *special ad-free* to sign up for MY Wonket? Do you get stickers? When is the roll-out?

    • Mike Steele

      That was a truly funny diversion:)

    • JustDon’tSayPeriod.Period!

      Spring training starts next week. And we did bassetball and feetsball yesterday.

      • Pitchers and Catchers show up on Valentines Day for the Jays. Finally, I can stop caring even a little bit about hockey!

        • JustDon’tSayPeriod.Period!

          Pfft, I stopped caring about hockey after the last strike/lockout. Too many other forms of entertainment took their place too easily.

        • Pitchers and Catchers on Valentine’s Day?

          Are we still talking about the sportsballs?

          • Little from column a, little from column b…

          • Zyxomma

            Not how I read it.

          • r m reddicks

            Let me check with Mr. Goodbar.

  • The Librarian

    As a librarian Mom, I approve this sentence.

  • Mavenmaven

    I’m sure their lawyer is arguing that reading an actual book is worse than hard labor.

  • LucindathePook

    Mr. Pookstein and some of his buds were as very immature young lads into playing Nazi and fascinated by swastikas and such. One of his teachers made them read and write about the at that time not-too distant-Holocaust. Cured them in short order, that, and seeing neighbors with numbers on their arms in Skokie.

  • catnmus

    I also wonder about the reading aspect of it, and how they feel they will be “graded” on the material. I think they should have an option (or maybe an actual REQUIREMENT) to do an oral presentation to the judge. They could write a book report and just read it out loud, or explain what they read and what they got from it.

  • Saxo the Grammarian

    Reading actually *fosters* empathy. I’m OK with this sentence.

    • dshwa

      Neil Gaiman goes on about that at length in his collection “The View from the Cheap Seats.” Highly recommended.

  • C4TWOMAN

    Welp, it’s basically an extension of doing lines. I’m for it. Nothing like a tedious time consuming punishment as a deterrent. Also too, awareness might bloom.

    Now why does that last pic remind me of this?

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jah71XURbIg

  • WhiskeyTangoFoxtrot

    I like this idea of “sentencing” people to read.

    • Villago Delenda Est

      “Anything but that…ANYTHING!” – Donald Trump

      • WhiskeyTangoFoxtrot

        HAHAHAHAH!

    • Hardly Ideal

      I’m guessing it’d need the additional stick of more mundane and unpleasant punishment if they fuck up their reading assignment.

      • natoslug

        You read the book, or you get smacked in the head by the book. Please let it be hardcover editions . . .

  • Hardly Ideal

    “At least one of the teenagers said he did not know the symbolism of a swastika.”

    A teenage kid in 2017 doesn’t know what the fuck a swastika stands for? With the entire Internet at his disposal and the normalization of white supremacy?

    Man, kid. And I thought I was a fuckup at your age.

    • C4TWOMAN

      Also too, he’s lying.

    • Teecha

      They know it’s a bad symbol used by nazis. But I can well believe that they didn’t understand the seriousness of it and what it stands for.

      • Hardly Ideal

        I guess I can believe it, but my point is they shouldn’t have any excuse to not know. I mean, we live in a time where I can learn about fuck near anything just by repeatedly stabbing my phone with an outstretched finger.

        • I don’t remember where I saw this, but it springs to mind:

          “I have in my pocket a device capable of accessing the sum total of human knowledge. I use it to find pictures of cats and argue with random strangers on the internet.”

          • Old Man Yells at Cloud

            and porn!

          • kbbaldwin2

            Prefer my porn on a larger screen, thank you.

          • Old Man Yells at Cloud

            Hence proving the old adage about doing it until you need glasses :)

    • natoslug

      He thought it was a German symbol of heritage, not hate, not unlike our own unAmerican treason flag, the Stars and Bars (not to be confused with the combinatorial mathematics of the same name).

    • akryan

      He’s lying. He damn well knows what it means. He just figured if he played dumb about it he’d get a lighter sentence.

    • Platos_Redhaired_Stepchild

      He’s lying to save his ass. Little jerk is pulling the toddler’s ” i dint know any better’ at far to late an age.

    • richardgrabman

      Unless he was a recent immigrant from India, it sounds implausible. I have known adult Indian immigrants (including one who was holding public office) who wore swastika jewelry, and just never thought about it, unless it was brought to their attention. Yeah, I know, the Hindu swastika goes the other way, but who gets into that kind of esoterica, unless they want to make excuses for what’s the symbolic equivalent to an obscene word used in polite discourse?

      • Lily

        I don’t buy that. The swastika has been around for 5,000 years and was used as a symbol in Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism and other religions. To expect Indians to give up the symbol—one that lives on in contemporary culture—because the Nazis bastardized it, is not esoterica. Maybe few people know this, but it would be better to restore the actual meaning to the original swastika, so that no one is caught off-guard. The people from India who wear their jewelry shouldn’t have to apologize for it.

  • natoslug

    Is there any way that empathy training could be required for elected office?

    • Stulexington

      It’ll be extremely difficult to keep the right from turning it into a religious test but it’s a very good idea.

  • natoslug

    Will this be on their permanent record?

  • Bitter Scribe

    I’m glad they weren’t assigned to read “Exodus,” considering how the Arab characters in that book are basically portrayed as subhuman.

  • If they are 16 and 17 and do not understand the significance of the swastika, yeah, I do not see this project impacting them much at all.
    But hey, hope it works!

  • Holly Palmer

    To Kill a Mockingbird would have been at the top of my list of required reading.

  • timpundit

    Look at all the diversity of the people helping paint it. Like Mr Rogers said, in disasters always look for the helpers.

  • akryan

    Nice theory in an after school special kind of way. Won’t make a fucking difference in how the kids see the world. If they want to teach the kids how to empathize with minorities then they should have thrown the book at them and sat their asses in juvie for a term far out of proportion to the crime they committed. Ain’t no black kid convicted of vandalism that would just be sentenced to do book reports.

    • Querolous

      Is copy/paste forgery still an issue or is there an app for the judge to use?

  • I don’t know if this will work for those kids, but I may adopt it for my homeschooled kids — this looks like a pretty well-planned and focused course, all ready to use.

    I suspect that the judge is going for rehabilitation here as opposed to just punishment. Literature seems appropriate for that.

    • NewLarry

      Isn’t rehabilitation supposed to be the goal of ALL sentences?

      • Supposedly, but I don’t think most of the sentences out there actually amount to attempts at rehabilitation.

    • Jeffery Campbell

      Please don’t home school your children.

      • Because I always make big decisions about my children’s education by doing what random strangers on the internet say, I’ll definitely take your advice.

        Oh no, wait. The opposite of that.

        • Jeffery Campbell

          That’s is your prerogative Ms. Cheryl, and you may be well qualified as a pedagogue. In my experience, most people who are home schooling their children are not and are doing so out of a desire to either shield them from other children or enforce religious bias into their education or both. If that is not your approach, then I sincerely apologize. But I believe you to be the exception.

          I want well brought up children such as yours to be educated in well functioning public schools so that other less fortunate children will have the benefit of knowing them.

          • I’m an atheist and I have no issue with other children. It’s the adults in the school system I object to. I got tired of so-called science teachers introducing the subject of evolution with a wink and phrase like, “I’m required to teach this, but you don’t have to believe it — it’s just a theory”. I got tired of constantly fighting for services for one kid who was very gifted and another who was developmentally delayed, neither of whom were served very well by our local schools. I wasn’t interested in sacrificing my children’s education to a sub-par system just for the socialization — my kids socialize with those kids just fine in the neighborhood, in the nearby parks and playgrounds, and in the libraries, children’s museums, and local events that I make sure that we go to. The private schools near here are all religious, and too expensive anyway.

            My oldest is 16, in his second semester of college now, and on the Dean’s List. My middle child couldn’t read by the third grade and was coming home crying and calling herself stupid. And homework was a multi-hour stressful nightmare because she was miserable enough in class without being forced to relive it all at home. With 6 months of one-on-one work, she was reading fluently, and now she actually reads for pleasure instead of crying and hating it. She’s also learned how to code and speak French. I’m pretty sure if I’d left her in school she’d still be a struggling reader who hated reading. I’m satisfied that we’re doing the right thing for now.

          • Jeffery Campbell

            That is indeed a happy result and I congratulate you and your children. I believe that what you have accomplished, a 16 year old in college and a French speaking coder, is very much the exception. You are clearly doing the right thing by your own children as you should.

            In the meantime, the other less fortunate children are subjected to religious indoctrination (atheistic, winking or otherwise) and a sub-par education. I think we should be concerned about them too and trying to figure out how to replicate your successes on a larger, more public scale. And not with private, charter, religious or other (Betsy DeVos-led nonsense) schools.

          • I am in total agreement with you there. I can only homeschool because I happen to already work from home and because researching and learning is more or less my job anyway — teaching myself how to teach my kids wasn’t really far out of my wheelhouse. Lots of people aren’t that lucky, and I wasn’t that lucky myself for a long time. Public schools are what most people have to work with, and I want them to be better. I want people who have a choice in the matter to have a good reason to consider choosing the public schools in their area, and I want people who don’t have a choice to feel comfortable with what they have. That’s why I voted for Hillary, why I send money to local politicians who want to fund and support the schools instead of turning them into Bible School, why I sent my senators letters and emails and phone calls about not confirming Betsy Devos. I’m just not currently supporting the schools by putting my kids in them. I think my kids have a better chance of becoming adults that can be part of the solution by staying out of the schools we’re currently zoned for right now. If I moved or if something changed with the schools here, I’d reconsider it — believe me, homeschooling was the court of last resort. It’s a lot of work! But I needed my kids to be challenged when they needed it, to not be left behind when they were struggling, and most of all not to hate learning, and our schools just couldn’t seem to give them that.

          • Jeffery Campbell

            I like you.

  • Jamoche

    So he’s doing the job that their teachers should’ve done? Coundown to Betsy DeVos complaining about judges overstepping their bounds in 3, 2…

    • davej1s

      I think you are confusing “teachers” with “parents” here….

  • Christopher Boscarino

    My English department offered an elective “Comic books as Literature” course. Maus was in there, but so was Eisner’s “A Contract with God”, and many many others. We had a few students from other majors who thought they were getting an easy elective. They were wrong. :)

    • Jeffery Campbell

      I wish I could share your enthusiasm. I put “graphic novels” on the same literary axis as coloring books for adults.

  • Jerry Noneofyourbizz

    Better hurry. I’m sure the Ministry of Truth has everyone of those books on their Burn List.

  • Zyxomma

    That last line just slayed me, Dok. If you do check back on the teens, please report.

  • Chris

    It will be interesting to see the outcome of this.

  • Uhclem49

    The article failed to state the consequences of not following the judge’s orders.

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