John Leo

Rachel Corrie, a young American woman accidentally flattened by an Israeli bulldozer during a protest in Gaza three years ago,  is a hero to Palestinians and the anti-American left. When she died, a photo of her burning an American flag sealed her high status on the left. Her honors included many vigils, memorials, buildings named for her, at least two plays, an annual pancake breakfest and  the Rachel Corrie Award for courage in the teaching of writing. Why helping people learn to write should require courage is not explained.

I have been planning for some time to write about America’s peculiar awards, prizes and  memorials, and  the flourishing of Rachel Corrie awards is  a good excuse to list some of them.

Stanford University gives the Allan Cox medal each year for faculty excellence in guiding student research. Cox was a professor of geophysics and dean of the school of earth sciences at Stanford. He committed suicide in 1987 while under investigation for sexually molesting the son of a former student. The molesting allegedly went on for five years, starting when the boy was 14.

One of the most elegant prep schools, Phillips Exeter Academy, gives an annual Edmund E. Perry Award for "diversity and cultural awareness." Perry was an outstanding black student at Phillips Exeter who was shot to death in Harlem while trying to mug a plainclothes cop.

Convicted cop-killer Mumia Abu-Jama has been honored as a commencement speaker (via audiotape) at Antioch College, Evergreen State University, Occidental Univresity and  the University of California-Santa Cruz. Warren Kimbo confessed to shooting  a fellow black panther in the back of the head. After his release from prison, he was accepted at Harvard, then  served as a dean at Eastern Connecticut State University . Susan Rosenberg, an advocate of "collective violence" against the U.S. government, was caught with nearly 700  pounds of explosives in 1984, and went to prison  to begin serving  a 58-year term. She was pardoned by Bill Clinton, then  hired as a writing instructor by Hamilton College in upstate New York, the  institution that gave us Ward Churchill.  Her course was in "Resistance Memoirs: Writing, Identity and Change."

Bard College  notoriously maintains a chair in social studies named for Alger Hiss, the Communist spy, traitor and perjurer. This is perhaps the stupidest honor given anywhere in America. The University of Washington’s  Harry Bridges Center for Labor Studies is named for the late and powerful labor leader,.who was a Communist, a perjurer and an apologist for Stalin.

Last year the Borough of Manhattan Community College in New York announced a new scholarship named for Ho Chi Minh and another honoring Joanne Chesimard, the former Black Panther and convicted murderer of a New Jersey police officer. Both scholarships were quickly  renamed after protests.

Stanford law school paid Lynne Stewart, the lawyer who had been indicted for aiding Islamic terrorists, to speak and mentor students at a conference. After loud complaints, the school withdrew the word "mentor" from her conference title, but let her conduct mentoring and deliver her lecture anyway. Since then, she has been  convicted on all five counts of conspiring to  to aid terrorists and lying to the government.

Jeffrey Eden, a 17-year-old Rhode Island student, created a  high-school art project comparing  President Bush and Adolf  Hitler, complete with three swastikas, little toy figurines and several slogans. One slogan was "Hitler’s own justification was his own hatred."

The Bush=Hitler artwork was just what some people wanted to see. It got an A from his teacher and a silver key at the Rhode Island scholastic art awards.

Villanova University installed a memorial plaque honoring a professor who killed her Down syndrome baby and herself in 2003. After protests, including some from parents of Down children, the plaque was removed. A spokesman said, "At no time did  the university nor anyone associated with the university intend to devalue the sanctity of life."

And we have the awards that many Austrians and other Europeans wanted to bestow on Tookie Williams, the unusually vicious multiple murderer who was executed in California late last year. He was nominated for a Nobel Peace prize, and when Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger denied Williams clemency, a drive began to remove Arnold's name from an Austrian sports stadium and dedicate the building to Tookie instead. Awards are the new frontier of moral confusion.


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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