The Birminghamster
For October 8, 2003 "Our governor can't beat up your governor." - Vol. IV No. VII published every other Wednesday

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  Mountain Brook Library To Add White Guilt Section

governor - librarian

Eminently Guilty
Mountain Brook(KW) This September marked the fortieth anniversary of the bombing of the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church in Birmingham. In order to commemorate the event, the city of Mountain Brook has announced plans for a new White Guilt wing that will be added to the already opulent Emmett O’Neal library. While Hoover's white guilt wing, which opened last year, features books denouncing the effects of urban sprawl on the American landscape, the Mountain Brook collection will highlight volumes that emphasize the negative role played by white elites during the Civil Rights Movement. Head librarian Pride Dansby explains, "We realized there was a need when we discovered the sheer number of civil rights memoirs written by people who had absolutely nothing to do with the movement."

The requirements for being included in the collection are simple. The author must be white and the work must have been written as an attempt to assuage personal feelings of guilt or remorse. One book, a collection of short stories, features an introduction by Howell Raines. In it, he states, "I’m really, really, really sorry." The library also hopes to rectify decades in which the many contributions wealthy whites made to civil rights went unheralded. Dansby explains, "Many people don’t understand how integral Town and Gown Theater was to the civil rights movement." Author Diane McWhorter, for one, proudly recounts her role in the civil rights struggle. "Although I never actually met an African American, I did on occasion observe them from a distance. As such, I feel a real kinship with those four little girls."

Many of the stories are poignant and beautifully told. One novel, by Sena Jeter Naslund, details how the author overcame her revulsion to African Americans by moving to Montana. The centerpiece of the collection, however, will be a copy of To Kill a Mockingbird. The book is Harper Lee’s heroic memoir of how her brother Jem broke his arm one summer while fighting off the Klan. Dansby admits that the decision to add a White Guilt section was years in the making. "I feel that our greatest contribution to the civil rights movement is acknowledging that it actually took place."

Bear Shrine Violations on the Rise, Ethnic Restaurants Major Target

shrine inspector

County official

Irondale() If you think you haven't seen a Chinese restaurant in Birmingham with a decent health rating, you're not alone. In fact the Jefferson County Health Commission, the agency responsible for ensuring that our restaurant food is safe to eat, reports that not a single Chinese eatery in the county received anything above a 75. What The Birminghamster has learned, however, is that a substantial portion of that rating comes not from the level of cleanliness and food storage practices, but from the size and position of the restaurant's Bear Bryant shrine.

Most barbecue establishments are models of unhealthy food preparation practices, but since most have a sizeable Bear shrine, complete with signed photographs, they receive extra points on the cultural heritage section of the form. Ian Lee, proprietor of Chan Lee's Chinese Buffet on southside thinks that the practice is unfair. "The Bear Bryant doesn't look good with my golden Buddha and watercolor prints. Besides, my Bolivian waiters like to put up all those Che [Guevara] pictures." Health Commissioner Sydney Buckelew says that the importance of the Bear shrine has been blown way out of proportion. "Sure we look for a shrine, and pay homage to it if necessary, but that isn't the only thing a restaurant can do to receive heritage points." Buckelew was unable to give specific examples of Bear shrine substitutes, but did say that a copy of the ten commandments probably wouldn't hurt.

Alabama School of Fine Arts Shifts to Test-Prep Curriculum

art for the masses

Standardized Instruction

City Center(JM) In line with a nationwide trend toward instructional standardization and accountability, the Alabama School of Fine Arts has decided to move away from their current liberal approach to arts education and embrace a performance-based model for assessing achievements. Up until this year, the school's mission has been "to nurture impassioned students by guiding and inspiring them to discover and fulfill their individual creative abilities in an atmosphere distinguished by the fusion of fact and feeling, risk and reward, art and science, school and community." In their Tuesday meeting, the School's Board of Directors retracted that mission statement and issued a new 'Statement of Educational Mandates'.

Topping the list of new requirements is the adoption of quantitative measurement of school performance. Beginning this fall, ASFA students must score an average of at least 75% (Promising) on the Art Test administered by the Art Instruction Schools of Minneapolis, Minnesota, a nationally recognized and accredited center for arts instruction. "We selected the AIS Test mainly because it's the most widely known and trusted test for artistic ability in the United States," said Candy March, the Director of Curriculum and Instruction at the Downtown Birmingham school, "It also didn't hurt that AIS agreed to provide the test materials at no cost." Besides providing a scientific measure of the effectiveness of art education at ASFA, the test is also an opportunity for top-tier students to earn scholarships to receive instruction from the famed distance-learning institute, which counts Charles Schultz and Eva Sakmar among its distinguished alumni.

According to March, teachers in the classroom have shown enthusiastic support for the new mandates which replace a "namby-pamby culture of permissiveness" that pervaded the school in its early years. "With the new 'Draw Tippy' curriculum, we know exactly which skills need to be developed and we can measure progress toward perfection on a weekly, or even daily, basis," said second-year visual arts instructor Paige Applewhite. "It's exactly what we need to break through the impenetrable morass of 'self-expression' that gives us the same bleak and unpolished canvasses year after year."

State Superintendent of Schools Ed Richardson also supports the move toward greater accountability. "In a climate of scarce financial resources, it is important that we have a way to measure the effectiveness of every single education dollar. The AIS Test Program and Scholarship Contest provide a proven and efficient method of maximizing the return on art instruction expenditures before they are wiped out altogether by next year's budget cuts."