No Comment — May 19, 2010, 1:57 pm

Still Crazier in Alabama

Political ads from Alabama have been getting national attention in recent days. Some of their features: violent language, brandishing of firearms, criminalization of adversaries. A good example is this ad by a candidate seeking election as state agriculture commissioner, which has the feel of a trailer for a violent Western:

But for sheer craziness, this report is hard to top:

An Alabama math teacher used the assassination of President Barack Obama as a way to teach angles to his geometry students. Secret Service officials questioned the Corner High School teacher after someone alerted them about the class session. The teacher was not taken into custody or charged with a crime. Corner is a community in extreme northwest Jefferson County, about 20 miles from Birmingham.

The high school’s principal insists that the teacher will not be fired. However, the Birmingham News reported today that after being visited for questioning by Secret Service agents, he was placed on leave.

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Nobody in academia had ever witnessed or even heard of a performance like this before. In just a few years, in the early 1950s, a University of Pennsylvania graduate student — a student, in his twenties — had taken over an entire field of study, linguistics, and stood it on its head and hardened it from a spongy so-called “social science” into a real science, a hard science, and put his name on it: Noam Chomsky.

At the time, Chomsky was still finishing his doctoral dissertation for Penn, where he had completed his graduate-school course work. But at bedtime and in his heart of hearts he was living in Boston as a junior member of Harvard’s Society of Fellows, and creating a Harvard-level name for himself.

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