John Leo
Polls keep showing that American Indians aren’t really offended by college team nicknames such as warriors, braves, Indians, Seminoles, and Fighting Illini. But many sportswriters, campus “diversity” officials, and now the National Collegiate Athletic Association think they ought to be. So the NCAA says it will ban from championship play all college teams with “hostile or abusive” nicknames and mascots. It apparently took this action without consulting tribal leaders. “It’s like history-they left the natives out,” said Max Osceola, a member of the tribal council of the Seminole Tribe of Florida, which approves the use of the Seminole mascot and nickname long used by Florida State. “They have nonnatives telling natives what’s good for them.” Here we are confronted by the dreaded social disease of nannyism, the irrepressible urge toward do-good coercion. The nannies are all around us now, attempting to ban smoking in outdoor areas, including New York’s vast Central Park, working to eliminate one schoolyard game after another, including dodge ball (too violent), tag (hurts feelings by turning kids into targets), and just about any game with winners and losers (competition douses the cooperative ethic, and losers can be traumatized for life).

California has banned genetically modified fish from home aquariums, and San Francisco set strict rules for doghouse construction. Alabama banned sex toys. A California legislator introduced a state bill to prohibit use of tanning machines by those under age 18, unless they have a doctor’s prescription. A New York assemblyman sponsored a bill to require every car in the state to come with a device that would allow driving only if the motorist blew into a tube and passed a Breathalyzer test. The test would have to be repeated every 30 to 40 minutes, or the car would stop. In North Dakota, a state bill would make it illegal for people who are just turning 21 to drink before 8 a.m. on their birthdays. The goal is to keep the young from rushing out at midnight on their birthday to get drunk. It’s a good idea to stop glamorizing smoking in movies, but the nannies want more. Stanton Glantz, a researcher opposed to tobacco, wants smoking to earn a bad rating for films, maybe an R for explicit inhalation.

Nannyism is a progressive affliction. When the nannies get something from the public, they always want more helmets for tots riding tricycles, for example. Now that the sensible rules against drivers’ use of hand-held phones have caught on, the campaign against hands-free phones has begun. “Inattention blindness,” we are told, is the real villain, and a recent study says that all drivers who use phones-hand-held or not-are four times as likely as other drivers to have serious crash injuries. The logic of this is to ban radios and smoking in cars, and perhaps babies, dogs, and talking passengers, all of which can be distracting. Drive-through fast-food windows would have to close, too.

Candy and cake. The obesity police also want more. Advising people to watch calories and fat is praiseworthy. Taxing “bad” foods out of reach is not. And now we hear calls to force restaurants to serve smaller portions and candy makers to halt “supersize” packaging. (If chocolate bars were smaller, apparently snackers would never think of buying two.) California’s textbook review process routinely eliminates references to food considered bad for your health, including ketchup and butter. A photo of a birthday party was dropped because the cake seemed unhealthful. A bill in the Texas Legislature would have required a printed obesity warning under each menu item. Some people, as Michael Kinsley pointed out years ago, won’t be content until every french fry carries a warning label. Some schools prohibit children from selling candy in school, because sweets are regarded as just as toxic on school property as moments of silence, which, as we all know, are church-state violations.

Hidden nannyism would include all sorts of political uplift, including term limits and congressional hearings on steroids in baseball, which is the Major Leagues’ problem, not Washington’s. Last week in a New York Times op-ed article, two men from something called the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning called for behavioral standards in schools (good) and a federal law mandating “systematic classroom assessments of children’s social and emotional growth” (not good-parents do that, not your friendly local school). Let’s hope nannies can learn to control themselves.

Otherwise, we may need some coercive but kindhearted anti-nannyist legislation.


John Leo

John Leo is editor of MindingTheCampus.com and a former contributing editor at U.S. News and World Report.

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