USA Today defends firing of Chicago docents, and a new theory on why they were fired

October 25, 2021 • 12:15 pm

The article below at yahoo!news originally appeared USA Today. but I’m linking to the former site because the latter has all sorts of annoying ads, even with Adblock. And the headline made me laugh: of course diversity consultants would recommend that the Art Institute of Chicago should get rid of all its highly-trained volunteer docents, because they were mostly older white women of means, and that creates “inequity.” And, if you adhere to Ibram Kendi, a lack of equity is prima facie evidence of currently operating structural racism. This is what diversity consultants are paid to do. Better ask an ethicist!

The AIC plans to replace the fired docents with a smaller number of less trained paid workers, presumably more diverse. But if the AIC wanted more diversity, which is fine, what they did was go about it in the worst way possible. Click to read.

Now a lot of this article has already been covered on this site, but there are a few new comments which got me thinking, and also got the reader thinking who sent me this link.

Put together these quotes from the piece and see if you can come up with another theory of why the docents were fired—a theory that goes beyond their whiteness and class:

“Sometimes equity requires taking bold steps and actions,” said Monica Williams, executive producer of The Equity Project, a Colorado-based consulting firm whose clients include the Museum of Contemporary Art in Denver. “You really have to dismantle and disrupt the systems that have been designed to hold some up and others out.”‘

. . .As a result, Williams said she respects the AIC’s decision, saying more diversity among people who work in museums will strengthen the quality of art education.

“The stories that are told are based on a docents’ experience or expertise, which oftentimes comes from a white space and are not reflective of everyone’s experience,” she said. “So we need to really critically think about how stories get told and who tells them.”

Mike Murawski, a museum consultant and author of “Museums as Agents of Change,” said there has long been a tension between equity efforts and volunteer programs.

“Because of who is leading these groups, there are often gaps in the perspectives and experiences they represent in their work in educating the community,” he said. “So I think a lot of the systemic racism and colonialism that museums have always had in their institutions come through these types of programs.”

. . .But museum consultants say sometimes the way forward is not about making changes to programs.

Docent programs often have “long-standing legacies of how things are supposed to be” that can make them difficult to adapt, Murawski said.

That risks continuing “elements of white dominant culture, colonialism and racism that are systemic within museums,” he added.

“There’s just so many legacy structures and barriers baked into a docent program to begin with that it requires more than just a little editing to fix,” he said. “I think that these programs really need to be put on pause and fully rethought, then rebuilt from the ground up.”

The reader who sent me this link put two and two together (it’s not five!) and realized, as I did when I read it, that this is about radically reforming the whole system of presenting art to the public, so that it’s now viewed not from the artists’ perspectives, but through a lens focused on race and ideology. Remember that some critics of “Critical Theory” argue that its motivation is to overthrow the entirety of Western culture based on Enlightenment values and replace it with an authoritarian one. And so, like the Soviets did, they have to create a class of “approved” art that passes ideological muster. Viewing existing art as expressions of impure thought is the beginning of that.

The reader who sent me the link added this:

My suspicion is that the en masse firing is not merely to get rid of a wealthy, white group of ladies due to diversity issues.   Rather, it’s to bring about a reframing of how art is explained: from one based on aesthetics, formal values, and historical context,   to one based on identity, which might contravene actual meaning of a work of art.

And of course, those erudite docents could have challenged and argued with the pedagogy of the shift, given their knowledge of the collection.   So out they went.

You are, of course, free to broach your own theory, which is yours, or to disagree with ours.

51 thoughts on “USA Today defends firing of Chicago docents, and a new theory on why they were fired

  1. If a majority of the board or those that pay huge amounts to be yearly members were diversified, then this might be the correct move. I for one would not go to the museum anymore due to having no one trained well enough to really give credible information. I think in the next few years the museum will see its membership and those visiting the museum fall tremendously and it will be too late to get those highly trained individuals back. Just because someone is diversified and paid, does not make them learned in giving the correct spin on all that is in this museum, as it took 10-20 years of all these women to get the knowledge they have. Let’s see how long it takes for the museum to be in financial trouble making this move.

    1. And if that happens to them, they will no doubt feel free to sell the more ‘problematic’ of their artworks to reduce the deficit.

    2. Well, of course, in post-modernist thought, there is no “correct spin” to anything except what serves the identity group currently in the ascendance. Donors and visitors now will not be supporting the historical mission of the AIC but instead what it is becoming. Definitely do not give them any money.

  2. art is explained: from one based on aesthetics, formal values, and historical context, to one based on identity, which might contravene actual meaning of a work of art.

    I would love to hear from an art museum docent on this – in my experience as a museum goer – they typically don’t tell you what you are supposed to think/get from a piece of art. So, is the new way to do more explaining of what you should get out of it?

  3. Sounds right to me. I saw comments about the docents being universally clueless rich white women. If you are planning to change your art and how your art is presented, a bunch of white docents are definitely going to be in the way.

    Cathy Young in The Bulwark (excellent article) recites an applicable anecdote:
    https://www.thebulwark.com/what-cancel-culture-is-and-isnt/

    In July 2020, the following month, Gary Garrels, senior curator of painting and sculpture at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, stepped down after staffers circulated a petition demanding his removal for “toxic white supremacist beliefs.” Garrels’s offense: He had concluded a presentation on diversifying the museum’s holdings by saying that white artists would still be collected and that a blanket rejection of their work would be “reverse discrimination.”

  4. I remain an unreconstructed New Critic with respect both to literature and all other art forms (visual art, music, etc.). For example, I find biographical discussion of artists mildly interesting but of little value. In the visual arts, what matters is visual impact. A painting has visual impact or it does not. If it does not, no words can save it. If it has visual impact, no words are necessary. A docent can assist by contextualizing the painting, but that is assistance, not impact. A docent can assist by helping the untrained eyes of visitors comprehend the skill that went into the creation of the painting. That is useful because it encourages greater interaction with the artwork, which might enhance the visual impact. But when we move away from contextualizing or assessing craftsmanship to this notion of deconstructing the implicit agenda in the work, we are, in my view, moving off into speculation. The painting gets lost in a fog of words.

    1. A docent can assist by helping the untrained eyes of visitors comprehend the skill that went into the creation of the painting.

      I can actually imagine a scenario where this could be done through the lens of race – for example, say a painting was done by an artist of color who couldn’t shop at the paint store because of segregation laws – and so had to create own paints out of xyz – thus giving it its particular palate. But it wouldn’t require that the docent not be an old while lady to get that point across.

      1. “But it wouldn’t require that the docent not be an old while lady to get that point across.”

        Right, but I suspect you would get many who would disagree. Some would claim that the old white lady wouldn’t know that side of the story, or couldn’t identify with the black artist, or simply that a black docent would have the advantage due to ‘lived experience’.

        1. Sigh. Where I volunteer we get a binder & training. There is probably about 6 hours worth (talking) of information in the binder, and our tours are 50 minutes. We have a structure of importance of information (what should always be mentioned) and then from there we can tailor our tour. I imagine the docents at this museum have even stricter guidelines, based on the length of their training. So they are not, presumably, winging it and telling their own life stories while they guide. Honestly, it shouldn’t be about the docent at all. You should be able to walk away enriched no matter who your docent it.

  5. I hope what I’m about to write does not come off as adversarial-I don’t mean it that way. I seriously want to know the position of the museums that are making this change.

    How does this jive with the notion that people cannot properly interpret or explain another person’s art if they do not share the background and experience of that artist? Should we relegate the old, white docents to only displays of European (or Eurocentric) art? Can a new, diverse crop of docents overcome this barrier and be appropriate voices to introduce museum-goers to all art – or just their own culture’s art?

    Am I applying the wrong standard here?

    1. ‘The notion that people cannot properly interpret or explain another person’s art if they do not share the background and experience of that artist’.

      What does that actually mean? That nobody is qualified to interpret or explain, say, Botticelli if they haven’t grown up as the son of a Florentine artisan? Or to interpret or explain Francis Bacon if they haven’t spent half their lives in gay clubs in Soho?

      Great art is universal, and speaks to people across time and geography. Sometimes its context needs explaining to those who don’t share it. That explanation can be undertaken by anyone with the necessary training and empathy. To insist that it can be done only by those who share the artist’s background is to condemn it to one narrow culture instead of making it available to all.

      1. It is often noted that artists themselves are usually very poor explainers of their own art. Even when they give an explanation, there’s a good chance that it is something they came up with post facto and, therefore, should be taken with a grain of salt.

      2. Steve, I’m sure downhousesoftware agrees with you. He’s simply pointing out that the argument traditionally used by the woke to de-legitimize “white”, “male”, “privileged” etc. viewpoints also means that the newly diverse docent core the diversity consultants have in mind will be similarly unqualified to pronounce on art created by “white”, “male”, “privileged” etc. artists, since they haven’t shared either the cultural background or the lived experience of those artists. Sauce for the goose etc.

        1. I suspect that after the docents, the next thing to be discarded will be said “art created by “white”, “male”, “privileged” etc. artists”.
          What will remain of the European cultural heritage? Let’s hope that at least Dumas and Pushkin will be spared because, while being cis-gendered males, they have some black ancestry.

  6. I have no doubt that ultimately the goal is to present art through a racial lens. The DEI and CRT movement is about presenting everything through a racial lens. It may be, therefore, that the dismissal of the docents was not about providing racial balance, but about eliminating a “white” view of art. Frankly, we don’t need an Art Institute for that. Since the mantra would be the same for all art produced by white people (as well as any racial or ethnic group identified as “white”), they could just put each painting in an El station or bus shelter with the same generic card explaining why it is representative of colonialism and white supremacy. Like the Caliph Omar who ordered the Library at Alexandria burned: Everything in it either disagrees with the Koran, and is therefore blasphemous, or agrees with it, and is therefore superfluous. (Buy old books for your grandkids!)

  7. Your reader’s explanation is undoubtedly correct. The attitude is represented clearly enough by Mr.
    Murawski: “…elements of white dominant culture, colonialism and racism that are systemic within museums,” The next step is obvious. Recall how many pioneers of visual art—from Rembrandt to Monet to Picasso—are guilty not only of whiteness, but of making art that is not part of the struggle for
    Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. Out they will have to go, to be replaced by an entire new canon of militant art based exclusively on Social Justice. Our wokesters are engaged in a campaign to
    replace art by militant art, Biology by militant Biology, mathematics by militant mathematics, and so on.

    On a related matter, I cannot resist pointing out that “The Simpsons” anticipated aspects of the AIC story in episode 714, aired I believe in 2018. In this episode, the mayor announces that the Springfield Museum of Fine Art will be closed down, and “the docents will be released into the wild.” Homer Simpson steals an abstract painting by Joan Miró, which endlessly fascinates him. Homer finds it difficult to articulate the feeling he gets from contemplating great art, but then the correct word suddenly pops into his head. “Transgender!”, he blurts out. “No,” Lisa reminds him, “you mean transcendence”.

      1. I don’t want to blow anyone’s mind here – but guess where Mr. Groening went to college…


        The Evergreen State College, in Olympia, WA.

        1. Groening attended Evergreen State from 1972-1977. Evergreen was then conventionally regarded as a hippy college—very, very different from the bastion of wokery it became 40 years later. I can report that Evergreen had some excellent Biology back then (including outstanding,
          undergrad-involved bacteriophage research). The Evergreen atmosphere in those ancient times also permitted something that is simultaneously Matt Groening’s strong suit and the gravest of microaggressions in wokedom: a sense of humor.

  8. The USA (in particular) seems to be progressing slowly through a Fahrenheit 451 style social change. Statues pulled down, debates cancelled, the possible restructuring of museums. There have already been a few book burnings, but nothing irreversible – yet.

  9. Docent programs often have “long-standing legacies of how things are supposed to be” that can make them difficult to adapt, Murawski said.

    I suspect that there’s a bit of age discrimination going on here—as in, “let’s get rid of all the old people who can’t ‘adapt’ to our new ideology.”

    We need to keep naming and shaming the Art Institute. Let’s show them that accountability culture goes both ways.

    1. On his 10/12/21 podcast Michael Shermer interviewed (lobbed softballs at) conservative Christian historian and “American Exceptionalism”/”Manifest Destiny enthusiast Mary Grabar, who obviously had an axe to grind regarding Zinn, particularly regarding his private life, as if that impugned and was somehow relevant to his competence as a historian. I soldiered on listening to the whole podcast, in vain waiting for (Shermer to press) her to give specific examples of where Zinn gets it wrong (in, e.g., “A Peoples’ History of the United States”) and specifically how she knows that.

  10. At a recent event I got into an argument with someone who was of the view that all public art should be sold and that there was no need for art galleries. Given this person is something of a major figure in museum design and the like one had too take them seriously.
    In New Zealand there is effectively no national art gallery as the very good collection is kept locked away and never displayed.

    1. I imagine it pays well too, for now at least, because the ground-breakers do take a lot of negative hostile push-back from the established Way of Doing Things. But once all these old guard have been fired or cowed into silence, the job must get much easier….and with so many nasty people unfit for other purpose rushing into the market, surely over-supply will drive down salaries?
      Unless, like anyone else in the consulting racket, they keep inventing new theories to trade on the illusion of novelty.

  11. It’s also really disappointing to see a once middle-of-the-road respectable paper like USA Today become an organ of woke agitprop in the manner of the Washington Post or the New York Times. American journalism has become a stampede of lemmings.

  12. When the announcement of the purging of docents was announced, I assumed from the start that the museum had commissioned an equity/diversity study, and is acting on their advice.
    Of course, one wonders what the Equity Project was paid for this. I could not find that info readily, but I noticed that they pay their executive staff pretty well.
    The museum president made 589K in 2017, 787K in 2018, 904K in 2019, and 976K in 2020.

    I wonder if there is a plan to diversify their donors and contributors?

    My suspicions about where this will eventually lead is that the museum will focus on hiring diverse public staff, and showcasing diverse artists. These activities will need to be funded, so assets will need to be sold off. As the legacy collection shrinks, the museum will draw fewer customers and donors. They will need to sell even more assets, or take out loans on the real estate or collections.

    Besides which, when a woke person sees “La Grande Jatte” or “Woman at the Piano”, all they see are representations of Whiteness and colonialism. Those Rodin bronzes are only marginally less offensive to them as a statue of R. E. Lee or Lincoln.

  13. Thanks, Max, for retrieving the information on the AIC’s executive salaries. The museum president’s 589K is 2017 was not exactly negiigible, but we can assume that his 66% raise from 2017 to 2020 was meant to keep pace with counterpart institutions, like the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. I would bet that the AIC board quickly hired the Equity Project when they discovered that the LACMA and other equally fashionable institutions were all hiring their Diversity Consultant firms. The astronomical executive salaries and the no doubt large fees to Diversicrat consultants are the current analogue of the waistcoat and breeches expected of the nobility at the court of Louis XIV.

  14. I have been following this in the news. Artnet dot com article is titled “How a Group of Midwestern Museum Docents Wound Up at the Center of a Right-Wing Media FIrestorm.” Is it accurate that this is an issue between liberals on one side and right-wingers on the other? Do others get to define me, a liberal, as right-wing now, because I think this was poorly handled by the AIC? Then there is this quote from Steinberg at the Chicago Sun Times: “Maybe Chicago high school students being shepherded through the galleries will be less closed to what they’re seeing if they aren’t chaperoned by Aunt Bee and the Mayberry Ladies Art Appreciation Society.” I am horrified that a person’s subject matter expertise and teaching skills are degraded because of their age, gender, and skin color. It’s open season on old women. But- equity!
    And yes, the plan is much more than the elimination of the existing docents. The way art is presented and interpreted will change.Employees will be selected who agree with the new pedagogy. The way we look at art can and will indeed change over time. The power struggle over what will this change to, and who gets to determine the viewpoint, is what we are seeing here.

  15. I’m now wondering how diverse the diversity consultants are. Perhaps the watchers need watching?

    “The stories that are told are based on a docents’ experience or expertise, which oftentimes comes from a white space and are not reflective of everyone’s experience”

    Does this mean docents should be hired who more accurately reflect the artists’ experience? I assume part of the point of viewing art is to enter into the artist’s view of the world. I wonder if the diversity consultants realize that the viewpoint of, say, a male renaissance artist is just as different from that of an elderly white American woman as that of a young non-white American woman.

  16. “There’s just so many legacy structures and barriers baked into a docent program to begin with that it requires more than just a little editing to fix”

    This is why this ideology is so pernicious: it allows people to feel that the end they claim to be pursuing is so overridingly important that it justifies any means to get there.

  17. It seems belatedly very obvious now that art museums are very much on the chopping block drastic revision. Its not just the old guard of docents, but much of the collections will go into storage as well.

  18. For those claiming to be on the left and who still doubt that at the root of wokism is a will to bring about some form of radical collectivist revolution by attacking all of western civilization’s institutions and values, please read some of the quotes candidly provided by these lovely “consultants” and then tell me that the greatest threat we’re facing at the moment is the republican party…:

    “You really have to dismantle and disrupt the systems…”

    “The stories that are told are based on a docents’ experience or expertise, which oftentimes comes from a white space…”
    “So we need to really critically think about how stories get told and who tells them.”

    “…sometimes the way forward is not about making changes to programs. That risks continuing elements of white dominant culture, colonialism and racism that are systemic within museums,” he added. “I think that these programs really need to be put on pause and… rebuilt from the ground up.”

    It’s all there.

    For those who cherish western civilization (and we all should), there cannot be any higher priority than to oppose these vicious attacks that are either based on jealousy and envy or self-hatred.

    1. You’re right about the Woke wanting to overthrow everything. Of course, they aren’t going to be able to do that. Not even close. Most of us here are fighting Wokeness because it is unfair to the people they target, it’s destructive to education, and does very little to fight racism. On the other hand, the Right is trying to rig elections and have an unacceptably high chance of doing so. They are much, much more dangerous.

      1. “On the other hand, the Right is trying to rig elections and have an unacceptably high chance of doing so. They are much, much more dangerous.”

        I think this is a profound mistake made by many people on the left.

        In all western countries that I know, there is a strong oversight of electoral processes by the judiciary. The constitutions and laws of advanced democracries, including the US, make it almost impossible to “rig” election. I don’t know what you have in mind but clearly, despite Trump shaninagans, he never had any real chance to remain in power. The fear that the right would somehow find a way to steal elections and remain in power despite the people voting against them seems to me to be highly irrational. In fact as irrational as the idea (held by many on the right) that the democrats “stole” the election in 2020.

        And by the way, to ask voters to present an I.D. for voting has been a routine and mandatory practice in Canada where I vote for many years, whithout anybody ever suggesting that this was anything else than an obvious and necessary measure to ensure the integrity of the process. So the strong opposition from the democrats to this idea is very puzzling seen from my point of view…

        In the meantime, the wokes are destroying huge and important aspects of our culture and institutions, which are the most important things we have.

        1. Are we so sure the judiciary will be fair? First, there’s bound to be confusion as to what exactly is true in the 2024 election. The misinformation campaigns were just getting started in 2020. They will be way more efficient and pervasive in 2024. Even if we assume judges aren’t biased, are they really immune from misinformation? After all, a third of Americans thought the 2020 election was stolen. It will get much worse.

          Is it really ok for voters to have to rely on the last bulwark of the judiciary? Are we going to dismiss the 2020 attempted coup because the wall held?

          Your take on voter id is either uninformed or disingenuous. There’s nothing wrong with voter id per se but it’s which ids are accepted that’s the issue. The GOP are deliberately choosing to accept id types so as to disenfranchise voters they suspect will vote for the opposition. They have told us this is what they’re doing in numerous open mic blunders and sometimes in deliberate statements to conservative audiences.

          The Woke may want to change the world but they won’t be successful. They’ll cause some damage for sure but they’ve shown no ability to really change anything really important. Getting a bunch of docents fired is nasty but that’s not going to change the lives of most of us. It is their limited effect that allows them to do what they’ve been able to do. Their tactics don’t scale up.

          1. “Are we so sure the judiciary will be fair?”

            I can see no reason to doubt it would. Why do you ?

            “Even if we assume judges aren’t biased, are they really immune from misinformation? ”

            I would trust someone who’s job is to be a judge to have at least as good (if not better) judgment about the available information as anybody else. Do you think you are more immune to misinformation than judges ?

            “Your take on voter id is either uninformed or disingenuous”

            Well, I’m not aware of all the details since I’m watching this stuff from another country so I may certainly lack some relevant information.

            “There’s nothing wrong with voter id per se but it’s which ids are accepted that’s the issue.”

            Which type of ID is being proposed exactly ? Over here, it’s a short list of standard official documents like driving license, passport, social security card, etc…

            “The GOP are deliberately choosing to accept id types so as to disenfranchise voters they suspect will vote for the opposition”

            Again what type of ID are disenfranchise voters unable to produce ? If someone is either too dumb and/or too disorganized to maintain at least one official document to formally identify themselves, I don’t think the person has a case to claim discrimination. There are basic rules to engage in public life, including voting, and if someone is unable to play by these simple basic rules, they can’t claim to be victim of anything else than their own incompetence.

            “The Woke may want to change the world but they won’t be successful. …they’ve shown no ability to really change anything really important”

            I think you’re grossly underestimating the extend of the damage they have already inflicted on our societies and institutions. For example, the academic world and the media ecostystem have become completely dysfunctional and no longer capable of fullfilling their fundamental missions. If that’s not terribly important, I honestly don’t know what counts !

            “Getting a bunch of docents fired is nasty but that’s not going to change the lives of most of us. It is their limited effect that allows them to do what they’ve been able to do. Their tactics don’t scale up.”

            We’ll have to agree to disagree I’m afraid. For me, it is precisely this kind of betrayal of basic moral principles such as the end cannot justify the means, treating people like individuals and not members of groups, that one can never be guilty of one’s parents’ or ancestors’ crimes, etc… that is the most worrying of all by far. When these principles are violated, like when the docents were fired, we all suffer greatly from this moral decay. Whether we realize it immediately or later…

            1. Perhaps you’ve slept through the battle to put conservative judges on the Supreme Court and on other courts. Are you suggesting that those conservatives are wasting their time?

              Many poor or young voters, especially in the city where there is mass transit, don’t have a driver’s license. They are much more likely to vote Democrat so that’s a problem. Student ids have been suggested but the GOP doesn’t want to allow them as they don’t do well with college students. They are also cutting down voting hours so that those who can’t take time off work (ie, poor people who often vote Democrat) can’t vote. It has been proposed that Election Day should be a holiday for everyone so that they can vote, but the GOP is against that for similar reasons. There’s plenty of literature on this. Are you suggesting even the GOP are wrong on this even though they’ve admitted that that is their intention? Some GOP politician claimed that if they made it easy for everyone to vote, Republicans would never win office again.

              I still can’t see how the damage the Woke are doing matches up to attempts to overthrow the government. That’s not remotely reasonable. If you are going to stick with that, then we’re done.

              1. “Perhaps you’ve slept through the battle to put conservative judges on the Supreme Court and on other courts.”

                I’m not sure I’m following you here. Do you suggest that no judge with conservative opinions should sit on any court ? Do you suggest that conservatives in general wouldn’t uphold democratic rules if those rules were violated ? Do you suggest that only liberal judges appointed by democrats are capable of upholding democracy ? Do you suggest that only liberal judges should sit on important court ?

                If none of the above, then what’s the problem exactly ?

                About the ID issue, are you saying that driving licenses is the only ID that has been proposed as acceptable ? If so, that would clearly be ridiculous and people are right to complain. As for student ID, I agree with the GOP. I don’t think that this qualifies as an appropriate ID, it is certainly not approved for voting here in Canada.

                Anyhow, even if the GOP is trying to jerry mander the system for their own advantage, I know of no other political party that doesn’t try to manipulate the rules of the system in a way that would possibly increase their chances to win. There’s a long history of these sort of games in any western country and I struggle to see how that is anything other than ordinary politics (sadly). Certainly not something worthy of supporting a party that can’t bring itself to publicly condemn the immorality of CRT and the woke ideology. After all, people rightly ask Trump and the GOP to condemn (repeatedly) white supremacism, which of course was done multiple times.

                “I still can’t see how the damage the Woke are doing matches up to attempts to overthrow the government. That’s not remotely reasonable. If you are going to stick with that, then we’re done.”

                If you can’t see how wokism is far worse than anything the GOP has proposed in at least the last forty years, than indeed I agree that we’re done here.

  19. Jealousy is obvious, but I do not detect :”self-hatred” in much of this stuff. The president of the AIC, paid nearly 1 million bucks/year as an ornament of Western civilization, certainly doesn’t hate himself, or he would try some other line of work. No, his concern with the excessive whiteness of his museum’s volunteer staff is an affectation, simply following a current fashion. One is reminded of how the president of Smith College, also paid close to a million, expressed such deep concern that the poorly paid, low-level college staff might, conceivably, harbor symptoms of spectral implicit bias. Mouthing woke clichés about the offenses of Western civilization is like the powdered wigs that were the height of fashion amongst the upper crust of an earlier society.

  20. This seems like another place where ‘the pipeline problem’ was worth fixing, but not at the expense of firing well qualified and experienced volunteers.

    I get the desire to broaden the docent workforce so it’s not overwhelmingly wealthy white retired women. So work on your recruitment and outreach program with the goal of having a wider social and cultural variety of volunteers. There’s always lots of HS kids looking to pad their college applications with extra curriculars, for instance. You could rebalance all four of those demographics in one fell swoop with a good and successful HS outreach program. With the added benefit of the kids learning art and history, and the docent workforce’s outlook on the art/exhibit being constantly exposed to new thoughts, new ideas.

  21. Just a quick note about the gerrymandering issue raised in the to-and-fro around Post 23, and some other thoughts about the differences of perception and opinion.
    Canadian electoral boundaries for the whole country are (re)drawn by an independent non-partisan commission of the federal civil service. Registered political parties may (and do) petition the commission for drawing the lines in a process that all parties have access to but the final decision is the commission’s, not the party in power at any level. This eliminates partisan incentives to gerrymander, as you can tell from a glance at our electoral map.

    Canadian Supreme Court justices are appointed by the government of the day, with no further confirmation by political entities. The process is not explicitly partisan although it is assumed that the government takes any known political affiliation into some account, and this will usually be Liberal, since the Liberal Party wins so many elections they have been called the Natural Governing Party, A vacancy on the Bench arouses nowhere near the frenzy that a vacancy on SCOTUS does.

    Because voter registration of citizens is done automatically through the tax system, voter-registration drives (or suppression of same) are not a thing with us. With no primaries, registration is not tied publicly or secretly to a party. No official ever knows your party affiliation, if any.

    The provinces and counties have no role at all in running the election or reporting the results. The whole thing is run by the non-partisan federal civil service, the same across the country. (Paper ballots entirely.) So the rules of voting (acceptable ID, etc.) are not controversial and there is no opportunity to block certification of the results, once the Chief Returning Officer signs off on them..

    And while the Prime Minister has come to wield almost untrammeled power in our system (at least when he has a majority), the process of selecting him is entirely beyond the control of voters. Even as party leader — chosen by party members through a largely secret process — he runs as a candidate for a local seat just like everyone else. The PM is by unwritten tradition the leader of the party with the greatest number of seats but if for some reason the result is not clear — say all the other parties with collectively more seats refused to support his party in the House — the choice would go to the Queen’s representative in Canada, the Governor-General. There is no judicial or partisan input into this process. It is entirely a British tradition of residual royal prerogative. If the House refused to support her choice, the G-G would dissolve Parliament and force another election.

    At many levels the Canadian method of running federal elections lessens the opportunity for partisan activity to affect, deny, or hijack the results, paradoxically because much of it is un-democratic. About all we can do as a party is strive to be more successful getting out the vote of people likely to support us than the other parties are at doing the same. None of this is to suggest that our system is inherently better, just to point out that there are some things we are reasonably comfortable with, because of what underlies them, that Americans could, also reasonably, never accept because of the different directions your system took after 1776 before we even existed.

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