Editorial License

Rob Hammerton, music educator etc.

I’ll Take “Things Bestowed On Goats By Deities” For 500, Alex


First, I am trying not to turn this blog into a Presidential-candidate-critique-of-the-week.

Second, I have already blogged a couple of times about the wisdom of keeping children largely away from the political limelight, especially as regards political campaigning and advertising … so I am trying not to be repetitive in this subject area.

Third, I am trying not to generalize about the personal and professional qualities of the ever-expanding group of robber barons who believe that having run a business (sometimes into the ground) remotely qualifies them to run our federal government.

That said …

Today I go for the trifecta.


From The Guardian newspaper:

Carly Fiorina has been accused of “ambushing” a group of children, after she ushered pre-schoolers, who were on a field trip to a botanical garden, into an anti-abortion rally in Des Moines.

On Wednesday, the former Hewlett-Packard chief executive embarked on a day of campaigning across Iowa, in an attempt to boost her ailing presidential campaign.

The alleged ambush occurred when Fiorina hosted a “right to life” forum at the Greater Des Moines botanical garden. Entering the rally, before a crowd of about 60 people, she directed around 15 young children towards a makeshift stage.

The problem, one parent said, was that the children’s parents had not given Fiorina permission to have their children sit with her – in front of a huge banner bearing the image of an unborn foetus – while she talked about harvesting organs from aborted babies.

The kids went there to see the plants,” said Chris Beck, the father of four-year-old Chatham, one of the children Fiorina appeared with. “She ambushed my son’s field trip.”

Beck, who lives in Ankeny, north of Des Moines, said he was not asked if Fiorina could interact with the children, or whether she could take them into her rally. He said the first he knew of it was when his childcare provider told him the children had encountered the candidate at the botanical garden.

Taking them into a pro-life/abortion discussion [was] very poor taste and judgment,” Beck said. “I would not want my four-year-old going to that forum – he can’t fully comprehend that stuff. He likes dinosaurs, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Transformers.”

During the rally an anti-abortion activist, carrying a scale model of four-month-old foetus, joined Fiorina at the front of the room.

This is the face of abortion,” the activist told the crowd as Fiorina looked on. The foetus model was sucking its thumb.

In answer to a detailed series of questions from the Guardian, a Fiorina spokeswoman said in an emailed statement: “We were happy that these children chose to come to Carly’s event with their adult supervisor.”


Where to begin?

Teachers who lead field trips know that they have to be prepared for lots of eventualities that may not be predictable enough to be included on a permission slip letter to parents. Having a national political figure poach your students? I don’t think that should be one of those eventualities.

So I don’t blame the teachers for losing control of their charges, not one bit. I’d like to think that in their shoes, I’d have squawked pretty loudly before that event really got rolling, and would have demanded to have them back please pronto … I’d like to think this, but I’ve never been in that exact circumstance so I really don’t know how I’d react.

But who are these sociopaths that are running for office, or running their campaigns?

Who is this person who thinks it’s a great idea to grab a group of kids – any ol’ group of kids – hey, maybe that group of kids over there! – in order to make his or her campaign event look nice?


When I was in elementary school, which admittedly was in a much more innocent era, I replied happily to an invitation to come over to a friend’s house for supper one Friday evening. By the time the supper was over, it had turned into a progressive dinner (yep, we all got into cars and vans and went from house to house) which ended up at someone’s church somewhere, and, well, honest to God, we were listening to Scripture and singing hymns.

I did get home safely that night, after all was said and preached and done. I stayed friends with the classmate who had invited me, although I think it may be miraculous that my parents didn’t string up his parents by their thumbs.

But that night, I remember periodically thinking, “I don’t know some of these people, I’m not interested in what that guy’s talking about, I’m not sure what I’m doing here, and I’m not even sure where ‘here’ is.” Maybe I’d misread the invitation.

Couldn’t have been too different from any pre-school-age thoughts that may have been thought by those Iowa children, though.

I do know what I would have said to any available Fiorina campaign staffer afterward, or ideally Fiorina herself, if I were the pre-school teacher whose class was kidnapped in public for the sake of a campaign event about a topic (and featuring a wall-hanging) that was entirely inappropriate for pre-schoolers.

Good God, woman. Have you not even a fraction of the sense God gave a goat?

Or are you so driven by optics and the wishes of rich campaign donors that you will do anything, say anything, use anything to drive your point home?

Or worse, both?

Give me my students back, and do not ever poison my eyesight with your presence again, you pathetic, sociopathic jackwagon.

And oh yes … by the way … my lawyers cannot WAIT to be in touch with your lawyers.

These people.


January 22, 2016 Posted by | current events, Famous Persons, news, teachers | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Grow Up

So of COURSE I’m going to react badly to an online article about a high school marching band being abused.

This is news?

The reacting-badly part, I mean.

Now is the time for all good marchers to come to the aid of their fellow musicians, blah, blah, blah.” Solidarity forever. Band nerds & geeks unite, and all that.

In addition, let’s be honest, this would not be the first time that a marching band – y’know, the folks who wear chickens on their heads and attempt to play instruments and wave flags and things … while on the move … in searing August heat and bone-chilling November frostiness? Not the first time a band has taken shots, good-natured or otherwise, from somebody somewhere.

Heck, I was in a band that had things thrown at it (and I wasn’t even a tuba player – they carry natural targets for projectiles, complete with built-in backboards). And I directed a band that had to worry about being target practice for our own team’s punter, who liked to warm up for the second half during the band’s halftime show – although that little practice stopped after I had a heated word or two with the athletic director.

Believe me … I know the drill.

This instance seems a little different to me.


The article was written by members of a high school student newspaper, and it might strike you as probably a shred lengthy, even if you’re one of those folks likely to agree with its sentiments. But that’s okay: I think young editorial writers can be forgiven a little youthful exuberance. They’re young. We were all young people, and as such, we all struggled with the balance between adrenalin and good sense. With time comes a certain amount of temperance. Hopefully.

(An aside: in this case, the two editorial writers were in fact members of the embattled high school band – so one could also consider that they may have been a smidge too close to the events for complete journalistic objectivity. Still, it is an opinion piece.)

The longer one continues on in life, though, the more opportunities one finds to develop the ability to temper passion with a sense of proportion and priorities. And here is where the problems began, at the high school represented and reported upon by that newspaper.

If you scan the linked article, you will notice immediately that a high school band in Annandale, Virginia reportedly suffered a completely wretched experience last week, at their last home football game appearance, at the hands of its own school’s alleged fans. The band took the field at halftime; and for a number of people, that was just too much to bear.

During halftime of this home game, at least one football player’s parent shouted “Get the damn band off the field!” … Language, please!

The football coaching staff and some players also shouted at the band director, with similar sentiments – with still more than four minutes left in the allotted halftime. Fans in the stands – presumably fans of the football team and not so much of anyone else there present – reportedly escalated their verbal assault on the band at that point.

After the game, in response to questions about why the band was being pressured to leave the field before its performance was complete, the high school’s principal and its director of student activities explained that the football team would have received an unsportsmanlike-conduct penalty if the band had remained on the field. Seems worthwhile to be avoiding that sort of thing. Your New England Chevy Dealers’ Keys To The Game: [1] avoid stupid penalties.

(The editorial writers suppose that for a team that was trailing by more than forty points at halftime, a 15-yard penalty assessed on the opening second-half kickoff might have been, um, the least of that team’s worries. However, I choose to let that slide for the moment. Stranger things than a forty-two-point football comeback have happened before.)


Here’s the moment in this story, though – at least as reported by the Annandale school newspaper’s editorial writers – that really got my attention.

[Annandale head football coach Michael] Scott resorted to his own measures by shaking the podium of junior Assistant Drum Major Douglas Nguyen, and then yelling at the other Assistant Drum Major, senior Noah Wolfenstein, to stop conducting and get off the field.”

Grabbing one of the conductors’ podiums and shaking it?

The equivalent action – the high school band director running onto the field and grabbing the sleeve of the quarterback just as he’s calling a play – would draw a pretty impassioned response, don’t you think? Certainly at least a 15-yard penalty … preceded by a gang-tackle of Biblical proportions … and probably followed by a hearing of some kind the next Monday morning.

Sorry, again, let me see if I got that right. Trying to shake some drum major off his podium?

Okay. Deep breath. Let’s take a step backwards, just for the sake of wide-angle context:

Never mind the parents in the stands; you can’t really legislate away their opportunity to say foolish things. The First Amendment, and that sort of thing. We’ve all read stories about out-of-control sports parents.

Never mind the football players; they’re either caught up in the moment, or, as was reported in the article, some of them may have been a bit embarrassed by the whole incident.

But do pay attention to this: a little research reveals that the football coach is a member of the high school’s faculty.

Hopefully, at some point in his teacher training, this person was made to understand (or maybe not) that a teacher is always on stage? … that a teacher is always in a position to set an example? And at some point, it was made clear to him (or perhaps not) that grown adults, whether they’re in front of children or not, ought to be able to express their frustrations in grown-adult ways?


Open letter to the coach: sir, you are allegedly a leader of student athletes. You are allegedly a role model for them. You are allegedly a member of an organization whose mission is to educate students and to prepare them for the world of the 21st century (whatever the current educational buzzword-generating organizations deem that world to be), and for life as grownups.

And you’re grabbing a band conductor podium and shaking it, to get a band to stop playing, for the reason that … what? You want to avoid a penalty? Or that it’s your team’s field really? Or that your team is getting stomped, so you don’t see why anyone else should have a good time? Or that your team has gotten its collective self beaten every time they’ve taken the field this year but once, and it’s getting on your nerves?  Or that sports naturally trumps music, in all instances?

O… -kay. What’s done is done.


But, friends: it may well be that this high school football team is being coached by a child.

November 13, 2013 Posted by | arts, band, current events, education, football, journalism, marching band, music, news, sports, teachers | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Report: Sense No Longer Common

Overshadowed by other current events of this past weekend was this little, sad, appalling, probably inevitable postscript to last week’s plane crash in San Francisco: the story of the Bay Area television station that ran what it thought were the names of the ill-fated Asiana Flight 214 flight crew, which turned out to be some yahoo’s idea of a joke. I won’t list the fake names here. Follow the link if you’re curious. At best, the names are someone’s idea of clever puns. At worst, we’re knockin’ on the racist door again. And in any case, even if the joke were not offensive, this is a newscast we’re talking about here, and–

Sorry.  I was about to type “the news is no place for foolishness.” Seems like that’s almost all there is, in the news, lately.


The following things have happened since:

[] The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) summer intern who confirmed the names when the TV station called him … has been sacked.

[] The NTSB revealed in a subsequent statement that the person who made the mistake was indeed a summer intern who was only supposed to answer phones and pass media inquiries along to the appropriate people. Instead, he “acted outside the scope of his authority.” The NTSB also insisted that “appropriate actions will be taken to ensure that such a serious error is not repeated.”

[] The TV station apologized, and said it had confirmed the names with the NTSB.

[] There have been no reports of any sackings at the TV station.


I got thinking about this a little – both as a former journalism guy and as a human whose senses have probably not quite yet deserted him.

Okay, so, a few things:

Note for the NTSB intern: If a TV station calls you, wanting to confirm information … they actually don’t mean you.

Another note for the NTSB intern: If you think they do mean you, your self-image is inflated out of all proportion. Even if every other human in the office is on lunch break. Interns who exhibit an ego are not interns for very long.

Note for the TV station reporter who called the NTSB: to whom did you think you were speaking, exactly?

Another note for the TV station reporter who called the NTSB: Always. Have. Multiple. Sources.

Question for the TV station reporter who called the NTSB: Did you not perceive that this had to be a joke, before you called anybody? Read the names again. Out loud. Then go watch the LPGA (up to here with really good Korean players at the moment) and see if you spot any names that sound like tasteless puns. Hint: no.

(And if one did spot a name that came off sounding like that? It didn’t get invented strictly for your English-speaking “Beavis and Butthead” amusement. Grow up.)

Question for the TV station staffer who creates the onscreen graphics: did you not [1] read the names out loud, [2] perceive that those names were unquestionably not serious (tasteful or not), and [3] address the following nuanced interrogative in the general direction of the newsroom: “awright, jackasses”…?

Question for the TV station general manager: by any chance, are you hiring?


If not, why not?

July 15, 2013 Posted by | current events, journalism, media, news, television | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment