Monday, June 03, 2002

More Powerful Schools (MPS)

Dan Bernstein wrote his Sunday column for the Riverside, California Press-Enterprise about Michael Catellier, who bought his son a black t-shirt in a motorcycle store with the letters SMP, which he took to mean Standard Motor Products.

His sixth-grade son, Matthew, liked the shirt so much he actually wore it to Raney Intermediate in Corona for months. Then, a few weeks ago, school officials told him to leave the shirt at home. SMP, he was told, could mean "Smoke More Pot." Or "Sex, Money, Power."

The elder Catellier: "USA could mean `Use Some Alcohol.' Should I let the school know?"

An Internet "acronym finder" yielded 45 "most common definitions" of SMP. No. 1? Sine Mascula Prole (Latin: Without Male Issue). Also-rans: Symmetric Multi-Processor; See Me, Please; Slow Moving Person; Special Milk Program; Statutory Maternity Pay.

Sex, Money, Power ranked 12th. Smoke More Pot, 22nd. New York-based Standard Motor Products didn't even show.

The Raney Intermediate principal defended the decision by arguing that it is what the kids think that matter. So Dan Bernstein took his own poll:

Convinced that the subversive nature of SMP was widely known, I conducted my own survey to prove that, as usual, I was out to lunch. I arrived at Riverside's Central Middle School brandishing a sheet of paper bearing the letters SMP.

I beelined to a knot of 20 students bunched around picnic tables and basketball hoops. The first student I polled said he thought SMP had something to do with bikes.

"So Many People?" ventured another. Everyone else gave me vacant stares and shrugs. Ask the eighth-graders, someone advised. I did. They shrugged, too.

Bernstein concluded that Mathew's Dad could appeal to the PTA, "But I have to wonder if he feels strongly enough about this to get mixed up with the Palestinian Terrorist Alliance."

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