Several readers sent me links to this news from Florida about on one county’s book-vetting initiative, designed to remove books from the classroom if they could corrupt students, turning them into Lefists or, god forbid, “grooming” them. But all schools in Florida, as per a new law, will eventually be experiencing this tsouris.
First, demarcated by the red dots, is Manatee County on Florida’s west coast. It’s not irrelevant to this story that Republican Ron DeSantis, who passed the “Stop WOKE Act” banning the teaching of CRT in Florida’s pubic schools, is the governor. (Though I suppose I could be described as “anti-woke,” I do not favor banning the teaching of CRT and certainly oppose this kind of censoring of schoolbooks.)
You can click on either story below. The first is from the Sarasota Herald-Tribune, and the second, which has more information, is from Judd Legum’s Popular Information website. I’ll cite quotes as being from either SHT or PI.
From Popular Information by Judd Legum:
What happened here? To comply with a new Florida law, the Manatee County school district told all school principals in the county, including those heading both public and publicly-funded charter schools, that they couldn’t have any books in their classrooms that had not been approved by a “censor certified media specialist”. Some of the books have already been approved by the schools’ libraries, but there may be other “dangerous” books in the classroom libraries. To have any book in the classroom, it has to be approved.
PI gives the criteria for approval (my bolding):
In Florida, school librarians are called “media specialists” and hold media specialist certificates. A rule passed by the Florida Department of Education last week states that a “library media center” includes any books made available to students, including in classrooms. This means that classroom libraries that are curated by teachers, not librarians, are now illegal.
The law requires that all library books selected be:
1. Free of pornography and material prohibited under s. 847.012.
2. Suited to student needs and their ability to comprehend the material presented.
3. Appropriate for the grade level and age group for which the materials are used or made available
Chapman says that school principals in Manatee County were told Wednesday that any staff member violating these rules by providing materials “harmful to minors” could be prosecuted for “a felony of the third degree.” Therefore, teachers must make their classroom libraries inaccessible to students until they can establish that each book has been approved by a librarian.
Thus the teachers have to check every book in their classroom library to see if it’s already in the district catalogue of books that don’t purvey WRONGTHINK. That means that teachers have to go through each book to do this cross-checking. If the book is not on the already-approved list, it has to be individually checked out and approved by a censor media specialist.
Note that all three categories are subjective. Does pornography rule out The Catcher in the Rye? Who can tell students that they can’t read a book because they can’t “comprehend it” or because it’s not “appropriate for them”?
Granted, we don’t want classrooms full of Hustler magazines, but the criteria above, being almost completely subjective, demand that someone be appointed to judge the appropriateness of books for kids. And the results will depend on the censor, of course. Would you want a censor for your kids’ books? If so, who you want, and what criteria should they use? Remember, public schools go up to twelfth grade in America, with the students being 18 years old. That’s old enough to handle almost everything. For crying out loud, I was reading all of this stuff at that age.
If someone’s going to decide, I’d prefer to leave it to each classroom teacher, for he or she knows their students and what they need.
It’s going to be a big job. Below we get an idea of who’s being the censor (from PI; my bolding):
Librarians in Manatee County are now expected to review thousands of books in classroom libraries to ensure compliance with the new law. Manatee County has 64 public schools and 3,000 teachers, many of whom maintain classroom libraries. Chapman said that every school in Manatee County has a media specialist but that the process could take a while because it is “one person” and “they are human.” Any book approved for K-5 students must also be included on a publicly available list.
Similar policies will be implemented in schools across Florida. Some Florida schools do not have a media specialist, making the process even more cumbersome.
That review must also be consistent with a complex training, which was heavily influenced by right-wing groups like Moms For Liberty and approved by the Florida Department of Education just last week. Any mistake by a librarian or others could result in criminal prosecution. This process must be repeated for any book brought into the school on an ongoing basis. But librarians and teachers are not being provided with any additional compensation for the extra work.
The teachers aren’t on board with this, of course. Here’s a photo of one classroom library that a teacher just covered up with construction paper rather than have every book vetted. Free the books!
Note that, according to the tweet below, the posters were made by the students, not by the teachers:
Here’s another classroom in a high school:
Photo of a classroom library at Bayshore High School in Manatee County, Florida after they banned all classroom libraries. Florida considers books to be more dangerous to students than assault rifles. This is truly a dystopian state. pic.twitter.com/CizSGR40ub
Jean Faulk, a history and journalism teacher at Bayshore High, had to remove books on democracy and writings from John Adams because they weren’t vetted in the district’s library system. Her bookshelves are now only lined with reference books, she said.
“This is totally a political move by the governor,” Faulk said. “It has nothing to do with the students.”
She said her school’s administration sent out a directive to teachers asking them to put away or cover up all books in classroom libraries. Faulk said the books from her classroom libraries would now go to other local libraries or Goodwill.
From PI, a future felon speaks:
One high school teacher in Manatee County told Popular Information that they would not comply with the new policy. The teacher has spent the year carefully curating books donated by parents or sourced from their personal collection. “I’m not taking any books out of my room,” the teacher said. “I absolutely refuse.” The teacher spoke on the condition of anonymity, fearing that speaking out about the policy could put their job at risk.
and a book libertarian speaks:
Stephana Ferrell, a co-founder of the Florida Freedom to Read Project, said the new policy followed “a pattern of fear-based decisions that prioritize staying in good favor with the Governor over doing the right thing for our students.” Ferrell said she blamed “the Florida Board of Education that passed this rule change last Wednesday without an ounce of consideration for its impact.” Now, “thousands of students are without classroom access to fun and engaging literature.”
Ironically, Manatee County is making thousands of books inaccessible to students just in time to celebrate “Literacy Week” in Florida, which runs from January 23 to 27. Only about 50% of students in Manatee County are reading at grade level.
This is a good argument for freedom of speech. For now we see what happens when right-wing governments have the right to censor, and it’s not pretty.
What’s the alternative, then? Do we allow every book in the classroom? Clearly that wouldn’t be either appropriate or practical. But I trust these decisions to be made by teachers rather than ideologues like DeSantis. And books should get the benefit of the doubt.
I’ve often written about how New Zealand’s government and school authorities are determined to teach the indigenous way of knowing,”Mātauranga Māori (“MM”), which I’ve often discussed, as coequal to modern science in science classes. While many (like me) maintain that MM should be taught in sociology or anthropology classes as an important part of national culture, I vehemently object to it being taught as coequal to modern science.
That’s because MM, though some of the entire system contains “practical knowledge” taken from observation and trial and error, also contains many things that aren’t science-y at all: ideology, morality, religion, legend and superstition. Teaching the two systems as coequal would not only confuse students about what science is, but also confer coequality where it isn’t warranted. Even if you just teach the parts of MM that encompass practical knowledge, it’s important to show how this differs from the systematic methods and tools used by modern science to find truth. The efforts of the NZ government and schools will, in the end, doom science in New Zealand. I’m not exaggerating when I say that this is my worry
(I’ll add that MM advocates, when they claim empirical knowledge, often do so unscientifically. Their remedies are often untested, and, regarding history they have claimed, falsely, that the Polynesians, ancestors of the Māori were the discoverers of Antarctica in the 7th century AD. [see also here]. This is untrue, and based on both legend and a mistranslation; Antarctica was first seen by the Russians in 1820.)
Because equating MM with other “ways of knowing” like modern science is a way of valorizing the indigenous people, and because there’s no government more “progressive” (in the pejorative sense) than New Zealand’s, efforts by me and others to stop the impending dilution of science with MM are almost surely doomed. It’s even worse, for criticizing what the government is doing is seen as anti-Māori racism. It’s not: it’s just distinguishing between a real way of knowing and a dubious “way of knowing”. As preacher Mike Aus said after he publicly renounced his faith at an FFRF meeting,
“There are not different ways of knowing. There is knowing and not knowing, and those are the only two options in this world.”
Thus, critics of teaching indigenous ways of knowing in science class critics are forced to shut up, for raising one’s voice not only leads to pile-ons and petitions, but has actually cost teachers their jobs. Today I’m posting a letter written by a critical teacher who dares not give their name for fear of being fired, but who’s sufficiently courageous to let their views be known, including a letter they wrote about the MM/science controversy to various government ministers (all anonymously, of course, as this person wants to keep their job!). The teacher was disturbed at a government lesson plan to equate modern science with Māori empirical knowledge, and I also show a bit of that lesson plane.
So. . . .
A friend of mine in New Zealand got a letter from a secondary school teacher who went to a meeting in they were given proposed government curriculum for integrating modern science (which they call “Western science”, abbreviated “WS”) with the indigenous “way of knowing”. The curriculum, which you can have by emailing me, is for “year 9” students, who are 13 years old.
The curriculum tries (but fails) to take the superstition out of MM, so that the part of MM that’s supposedly co-taught with “western science” is actually “Mātauranga Pūtaiao” (“MP”)—practical knowledge related to the natural world. The plan, an outline of the future curriculum from which I’ve taken excerpts, demands that we must consider MP equivalent to Western science (though they’re also claimed to be different in ways that aren’t explained). As you’ll see, though, they haven’t managed to keep the numinous bits out of MP, and they don’t attempt to show what’s unique about MP as opposed to WS.
Everything below is reproduced with the permission of the principals, and, as I said, I will be glad to send you the whole curriculum plan—an 11-page pdf—if you want to see it.
Here’s what the teacher wrote to my friend, who then forwarded the teacher’s letter to me with permission to see it and reproduce it here.
I have attached a curriculum unit plan to this email that was distributed last week to school teachers in my region during a teacher-only day dedicated to the curriculum re-alignment. It illustrates how a typical school is attempting to integrate mātauranga Māori in the science curriculum. Rather distressingly, it is quite political in how it presents the relationship of science to mātauranga Māori.
I have also included a letter I have written to government ministers that illustrates the potential for confusion to occur when local schools are left to interpret the implications of such integration without authoritative guidance from the Ministry of Education. I have written this anonymously, both for the benefit of the school from which the document originates as well as for the sake of my own career as a teacher. Within the teaching profession, there is considerable confusion over what mātauranga Māori is and how it relates to science.
Finally, here’s the letter the teacher wrote to government ministers (bolding is the teacher’s). It’s quite eloquent and clear.
I am a science teacher writing from a regional city on the South Island. This past week, my colleagues and I attended a government-funded day of professional development, the purpose of which was to discuss the re-alignment of the new NCEA science curriculum with other teachers from the region. Among the topics discussed were mātauranga Māori and its integration into the science curriculum. As part of this discussion, the host school that was facilitating the meeting distributed resources outlining how they were teaching (or intended to teach) mātauranga Māori and science. I have included a copy of the unit plan that was distributed during the meeting to illustrate the concerns I will outline below. Of particular interest is how the realignment of the curriculum could enable epistemic relativism to be introduced into what should be a world-leading system of publicly-funded education. The highly decentralized nature of the NZ education system, coupled with the vague wording of the proposed curriculum by the Ministry of Education, introduces the possibility that local schools will ultimately be left to devise science programs based on faulty premises and questionable interpretations of the relationship of mātauranga Māori to science. I have attached the unit plan presented by the host school of this meeting as evidence of this potential.
First among my concerns is the presentation of science in this school’s unit plan as a “western” knowledge system. This is peculiar (to say the least), given that science is a global endeavor drawing on a toolkit with contributors from many cultures and ages. To call science a “western” knowledge system is to ignore the contributions of many cultures from places such as India, the middle-east, China, and the Maori themselves. For example, Arabic and Indian scholars made fundamental contributions to the development of mathematics, which is the decision-making language of science. Labeling science as “western” makes as much sense as dividing mathematics into categories of “Arabic,” “Chinese,” or “Roman.” It may be true that over the past century many contributions to science have originated from a few countries in the so-called “west;” but that point has more to do with economic forces and the vagaries of historical chance, rather than cultural “ownership” over a methodology. Moreover, the Māori themselves used aspects of science (observation, pattern-seeking) as part of their exploration of Aotearoa [JAC: the Māori word for New Zealand]. Why can’t we simply celebrate the varied contributions of humanity to science and our knowledge of the natural world, rather than create an ideological division that does not exist in the first place?
The unit plan also makes the claim that both “knowledge systems” have equal authority. Again, this statement is based on a faulty premise and false dichotomy. To teach children that science is a “western” knowledge system is to undermine the idea of what science is. Ultimately, science is a collection of methodological tools and approaches that allow us to reliably distinguish and relate cause, effect, and chance. Put simply, science has predictive power in how humans relate to the natural world. In everyday life, no one practicing science (or using its products) cares about cultural attribution or the so-called “knowledge system” it arose from. If an idea or technique works in practice and has predictive power, it is accepted as part of our understanding of the natural world. To take an example from history: Polynesian, European, or Chinese sailors from centuries ago would no doubt have told us that there are two types of navigation: the sort that gets you where you are going and the sort that gets you dead. No one cared where your technique came from: if it worked, it was adopted. Categorically, scientific knowledge is either descriptive of our objective reality or it is not.
I would also draw your attention to the first lesson in the attached unit plan, whose focus is the subject of Maori gods and “their powers.” Now, I assume that this is a lesson on how people in the past have explained natural phenomena by appealing to supernatural explanations. As mātauranga Māori is a living knowledge system and is intended to be taught within the science curriculum, it no doubt has replaced such concepts with ideas based on naturalistic explanations. However, I cannot confirm this because the Ministry of Education has not provided teachers with an authoritative reference on how these two systems are similar or different. The document presented by our meeting facilitator claims that no one system has “authority.” If that is the case, science teachers need a clearly articulated vision of how these differences are to be taught in the classroom.
Thank you for your attention to this matter. I am sending you this letter and the attached example from a local school’s curriculum to illustrate the potential for confusion that has arisen from the inclusion of mātauranga Maori in the science curriculum. Is the Ministry of Education intending to publish and distribute a detailed and authoritative guide on how schools should integrate mātauranga Maori in relation to science? As illustrated by the material presented at the meeting I recently attended, there is considerable potential for disagreement without ministry guidance.I would ask that you raise this issue with the Minister of Education as a matter of urgency given the proposed timeline for the implementation of the new curriculum. Both teachers and students deserve clarity and a set of authoritative guidelines on how mātauranga Maori and science are to be taught together. Without such guidelines, teachers will be left to interpret how these systems relate and how to teach them as a single subject (as illustrated by the example unit plan I have attached to this letter).
It is unfortunate that I must write to you anonymously. In the present climate, my intent could be misconstrued or mischaracterized if I were to put my name to this letter. Furthermore, my career as a teacher could suffer if I were to air these concerns publicly.
A concerned teacher
Below are a few screenshots from the 11-page proposed document.
Here’s how the lesson starts: a “warm up activity” that teaches the 13 years old about “the Maori Gods and their powers”. Are they going to mention that there’s no evidence for the existence of these gods? If not, then they shouldn’t be mentioned, for this is not science but religion. But of course they won’t do that. Thus the confusion between MM and science starts at the outset of the course. Do they warm up the students by teaching about the “Western gods and their powers.” Of course not! Science is a godless activity, so get this stuff out of the curriculum!
Part of the level 3 assessment on page 10 says: “Understands that Māori have always been scientists, and that MP and WS are different.” Are Māori unique in this regard, i.e., did they alone among indigenous peoples came up with science, or does this apply to all indigenous people? The former is rather racist, while the second dilutes science to only that derived from observing the natural environment.
Note as well that they explain differences and similarities between science and the empirical bits of MM, but don’t say what those similarities and differences are. Further, they don’t explain “the importance of multiple perspectives.” Any perspective that is empirically correct is part of science. And just as not all “westerners” aren’t scientists, so not all Māori are scientists. This is gobbledygook in the cause of inclusion.
Week 5 includes the story of Maui and Aoraki, although it looks like the Youtube video link no longer works. The tale of Maui and Aoraki is in fact the creation myth of the Māori , describing how two of the several gods created the North and South Islands. Why is this in the curriculum? Is the curriculum also going to describe the Western Biblical creation myth as outlined in Genesis, complete with God, Adam, Eve, and a talking serpent?
“Whakapapa” is a numinous concept that relates to the connection of all things, both earthly and spiritual. That, too, doesn’t belong in a “science” curriculum, but in an anthropology class.
Below we see again the flat assertion—one that the teacher emphasizes above—that WS and MP, though not exactly the same (they don’t say how), are of equal “authority and status”. Can you imagine half of a 9th-form science class devoted to all of modern science, and the other half devoted to MP, which includes things like Polynesian navigation (not a Māori development) and when, exactly, the Maori pick their berries and catch their eels? Yes, the latter bits are “empirical knowledge” deriving from trial and error, but to give these things authority equal to all of modern physics, chemistry, biology, and mathematics is a fool’s errand. But such is the government of New Zealand, heavily “progressive” and pressured by the Māori and their sympathizers to give local ways of knowing a status equal to what “Western” science has given us in the last four centuries. This includes the claim that untested remedies involving herbs and spiritual chanting are just as good as modern medicine (see here, here, and here). (I hate using the words “Western” science, as the term is meant to denigrate modern science by implying it’s a “colonialist” enterprise.)
Have a look. If you want the entire curriculum (and some of it is okay), email me.
I feel sorry for nearly everyone involved in this sad tale: the New Zealand government, in thrall to the indigenous people to the extent that it will destroy science education; the Māori themselves, who will be given not only a false view of science but an education that will hold them back; the teachers, forced to teach ludicrous propositions and must keep their mouths shut about it; and all the people of New Zealand, who will be shorted on science education. In the end, that will hold science back in one of the countries I love the most. And that is ineffably sad.
If I could display one paper that vividly demonstrates the infiltration of ideology into biology education, it would be the one below, published last May in Bioscience. The article tells instructors in college biology classes how to teach the subject so that teachers do not “harm” the students by making them feel “unwelcome”, by implying that their behavior—particularly that related to sex and their gender—is “unnatural”, or by failing to represent the students’ identities while teaching biology.
You can read the paper by clicking on the screenshot below, or get a pdf here.
The gist of the paper is provided by its abstract:
Sexual and gender minorities face considerable inequities in society, including in science. In biology, course content provides opportunities to challenge harmful preconceptions about what is “natural” while avoiding the notion that anything found in nature is inherently good (the appeal-to-nature fallacy). We provide six principles for instructors to teach sex- and gender-related topics in postsecondary biology in a more inclusive and accurate manner: highlighting biological diversity early, presenting the social and historical context of science, using inclusive language, teaching the iterative process of science, presenting students with a diversity of role models, and developing a classroom culture of respect and inclusion. To illustrate these six principles, we review the many definitions of sex and demonstrate applying the principles to three example topics: sexual reproduction, sex determination or differentiation, and sexual selection. These principles provide a tangible starting place to create more scientifically accurate, engaging, and inclusive classrooms.
The principles, which I’ll give below with quotes, are designed to buttress the appeal to nature (closely related to the “naturalistic fallacy”)—the idea that a person’s identity is good because it is analogous to what we find in nature. Thus there is great emphasis on the diversity of sexual reproduction and a de-emphasis of generalizations (e.g. promiscuous males vs. picky females) that, the authors say, harm people. (My answer, below, is to teach that the appeal-to-nature fallacy is fallacious for a reason: it draws moral principles from biological facts, which is a bad way to proceed.) Although the authors claim to be avoiding the appeal to nature, their whole lesson can be summarized in this sentence:
Human diversity is good because we see similar diversity in nature.
The explicit aim of this pedagogy is not just to teach biology but largely to advance the authors’ social program. As they say (my emphasis):
At their most harmful, biology courses can reinforce harmful stereotypes, leaving students with the impression that human gender and sexual diversity are contrary to “basic biology” or even that they themselves are “unnatural.” At their most beneficial, biology courses can teach students to question heteronormative and cisnormative biases in science and society. On a larger scale, by encouraging an inclusive and accurate understanding of gender and sex in nature, biology education has the power to advance antioppressive social change.
My response would be “at their most beneficial, biology courses teach students what biology is all about, to inspire them to learn biology, and to learn the methods by which we advance our understanding of biology. It is not to advance antioppressive social change, which, of course, depends on who is defining ‘antioppressive’.”
Here are the authors’ six principles. The characterizations are mine:
1). Diversity first. The authors strongly believe that educators should teach about the diversity of nature before giving generalizations. So, for example, instead of discussing the prevalence of maternal over paternal care in animals, or of the preponderance of decorations, colors, and weapons in males of various species compared to females of those species, you should show the wonderful diversity of nature: you talk about clownfish that can change sex when the alpha female dies, about seahorses, in which females are the decorated se (but for good reasons that conform to a generalization), and discuss some groups of humans in which males give substantial parental care.
This is done explicitly to be “inclusive”:
Recent work focused specifically on undergraduate animal behavior courses has demonstrated that presenting diversity first does not negatively affect learning objectives (Sarah Spaulding, University of Louisville, Louisville, Kentucky, personal communication, 9 April 2019).
That’s some reference, eh?
I would argue that the great generalities should be taught first, and the exceptions later, whose interests rests largely on the fact that they are exceptions. Gaudy female seahorses are of interest mainly because in seahorse reproduction, the males get pregnant (they carry eggs in their pouches), there are more females with eggs than males to carry them, and therefore, in a form of reverse sexual selection, the males are choosy instead of the females, who compete for males to carry their eggs. It makes little sense to me to teach the exceptions before the rules, or the diversity before the generalizations, unless you do so to advance an ideological program.
Although the authors say that teaching generalizations first itself perpetuating the appeal-to-nature fallacy by implying what is “normal”, they themselves perpetuate the same fallacy by pointing out exceptions that are said to correspond to biological phenomena, too. Here they are discussing their “teach diversity first” principle:
A second potential concern is that this principle, if it is simplistically applied, will perpetuate the appeal-to-nature fallacy—that is, the argument that anything found in nature is inherently good (Tanner 2006). This is problematic, because it can suggest that students need examples of specific behaviors or biologies in nature to validate human experiences or, alternatively, that anything found in nature is justified in humans. We emphasize that presenting diversity first should only demonstrate that we should expect diversity, including among humans, but this does not present a value argument. Rather, it combats the incorrect assumption that nonbinary categorizations, intersex characteristics, same-sex sexual behavior, transgender identities, gender nonconforming presentation and behavior, and so on are unnatural, which is, itself, often used against LGBTQIA2S + people in an appeal-to-nature argument (e.g., Newman and Fantos 2015).
Note that they are using the appeal to nature fallacy: diversity is good because it is seen in nature. Thus LGBTQIA2S+ should not be demonized because sexual diversity occurs in nature. But these brands of diversity are not are not comparable. As I wrote when reviewing Joan Roughgarden’s book Evolution’s Rainbow:
But regardless of the truth of Darwin’s theory, should we consult nature to determine which of our behaviours are to be considered normal or moral? Homosexuality may indeed occur in species other than our own, but so do infanticide, robbery and extra-pair copulation. If the gay cause is somehow boosted by parallels from nature, then so are the causes of child-killers, thieves and adulterers. And given the cultural milieu in which human sexuality and gender are expressed, how closely can we compare ourselves to other species? In what sense does a fish who changes sex resemble a transgendered person? The fish presumably experiences neither distressing feelings about inhabiting the wrong body, nor ostracism by other fish. In some baboons, the only males who show homosexual behaviour are those denied access to females by more dominant males. How can this possibly be equated to human homosexuality?
So Zemenick et al. do advance value argument—an argument designed to shows “diverse” students that they are not abnormal and should not feel bad about themselves. While I agree that we shouldn’t denigrate students for their sexual orientation or gender identity, or any other trait, you don’t need to teach in a way to validate the identity of all students While the authors do give caveats about saying that teaching diversity first “does not present a value argument”, in fact it does.
2.) Present the social and historical context of science. This is another way to prevent students from being “harmed” by infusing biological history and data with ideological lessons. One example:
There are still numerous issues with testing for and reporting sex differences in scientific research, prompting calls for increased training in this area (Garcia-Sifuentes and Maney 2021). Furthermore, it is increasingly recognized that testing for only binary sex differences excludes and harms many others that fall outside this binary (Reisner et al. 2016).
Would that harm still be done if the teacher notes that more than 99.9% of individuals conform to the “binary sex difference”? We should not tailor what we teach to the goal of affirming everybody’s identity. That is therapy, not biology.
3.) Use inclusive language while teaching. This has the same goal as above, to avoid words that make some students feel “excluded”:
Culturally loaded sex- and gender-related terms are often used in biology classrooms without careful thought and discussion. This is especially true of familiar terms, such as male, female, sex, paternal, maternal, mother, and father. Students and instructors alike may fail to notice that these terms imply and affirm cultural norms around sex, gender, and family structure that can be inaccurate and harmful. We therefore suggest, whenever possible, using inclusive, precise terminology that does not assume sex and gender binaries or traditional, nuclear family structures.
. . .Encouraging students to develop an inquiring attitude toward culturally loaded biology language may reduce the harm of these terms and help students develop important critical-thinking skills (Kekäläinen and Evans 2018).
For sex- and gender-related biology terms, we believe it is imperative to provide definitions that are as inclusive, accurate, and precise as possible.
They don’t mention that precisely defining terms like “biological sex” may not be “inclusive.” In fact, every time I give the biological definition of sex, based on gamete type, I get considerable feedback for having “harmed” people. But biology is not, and should not be, a form of social work.
4.) Show the iterative process of science. This is supposed to emphasize that science is “nonlinear and iterative”, though I’m not sure what they mean. Regardless, it has an ideological aim:
Showing the iterative process of science allows students to see how biological models often begin simple and general, to the exclusion of sexual diversity. As models are developed further, with more data and collaboration, they are often refined to encompass more complexity and diversity. For example, past sexual selection theory emphasized how sex differences in gamete size (anisogamy) and differential reproductive investment can drive the evolution of sexual dimorphic behaviors and morphology (box 4). Despite evidence suggesting that humans may be only weakly sexually dimorphic (Reno et al. 2003), early evolutionary models of animal behavior contributed to biological essentialist ideas about human males being inherently highly competitive and human females being driven primarily by the need to rear young.
Well, we may be “only weakly sexually dimorphic” compared to, say, gorillas, but we’re a lot more sexually dimorphic than chipmunks. The fact is that human males are indeed inherently highly competitive and risk-taking—a result of sexual selection in our ancestors—and human females more infant-rearing-oriented than males, largely but not entirely a result of natural selection (there is, after all, social pressure for females to conform to those roles).
The solution to this whole mishigass is not to restructure biology courses in a Rawlsian way to avoid “harming” the most easily offended individual, but simply to teach the biology you think is important, point out that there is variation, that some of that (like the ornaments of female seahorses) actually proves the generalizations, but, above all, tell the students ONCE or TWICE that they should not draw any lessons about “right versus wrong” or “good versus bad” from biological knowledge, for that makes morality liable to change when biological knowledge changes. Yes, perhaps you can buttress the identities of gay people by saying that female bonobos engage in genital rubbing to strengthen bonds, but does it also buttress bullies and aggressors to tell them that chimpanzees also engage in deadly intra-group warfare? For every variant that buttresses someone’s identity, I can point out a variant that exemplifies something we don’t want people to do.
5.) Present students with diverse role models. They mean “individuals from marginalized groups” here, presumably racial groups rather than individuals in the LGBTQ+ categories. While I have no beef against role models, their absence is not the main reason why minority students drop out of STEM programs. The reason, for which we have plenty of data, is that those students aren’t well prepared for the courses, don’t do well, see a lack of success in their futures, and switch to other majors. But Zemenick et al. emphasize the “look like me” aspect:
One reason students from marginalized groups leave STEM majors is a lack of relatable and supportive role models (Hurtado et al. 2010). Role models inspire students, provide psychological support, and help them adopt a growth mindset about intelligence (Koberg et al. 1998). For students from marginalized groups in particular, relatable role models can help them perform better (Marx and Roman 2002, Lockwood 2006). Therefore, a simple way to support LGBTQIA2S + students—who leave STEM majors at higher rates than their straight peers (Hughes 2018)—is to expose them to relatable role models from diverse backgrounds and identities.
I suggest that you check out the Hurtado et al. reference to see the evidence for “relatable and supportive role models” playing a major role in minority students dropping out of STEM. I can imagine that students who feel supported might tend to stay in STEM, but what the authors are suggesting is to beef up teaching so that more importance is given to the work of minority scientists:
Despite the importance of relatable role models for marginalized students, most scientists featured in biology curricula are white, heterosexual, cisgender men, and, as a result, marginalized students often do not see their identities represented (Wood et al. 2020). Instructors should be intentional about introducing their students to biologists from diverse backgrounds and identities, and there are several approaches instructors can take to integrate this into biology courses. For example, instructors can complement or replace content about historical scientists with content about diverse contemporary scientists, or they can assign a small project in which the students research relatable role models.
What Wood et al. (2020) does show, as we’d expect from history, a lack of minority representation in the history of science. Though that representation is at odds with the kind of people doing science now, remember that textbooks concentrate on important discoveries of the past, and those involved mainly white heterosexual cisgender men. But that’s not because textbook authors are bigots. As the participation of minorities in science increases, so will their representation in future textbooks and instruction.
I wonder here, as I alluded to above, whether this problem applies to LGBTA+ people, also seen as “marginalized.” I doubt it, for gay+ people are pretty well represented in science (though I have no data on this issue!), and do we really want to talk about the sexual orientation of famous scientists as a way to avoiding LGBTQ+ people? The key here is that “represented” means “looks like”, and that directly implies race is the important factor, not other criteria for marginalization.
6.) Develop a classroom culture of respect and inclusion. I certainly think that all students should be respected in class: treated as future colleagues whose questions and views should be handled with respect, even when the students are wrong. As I tell my students, “There is no such thing as a stupid question.” One should cultivate an atmosphere in which no student should be fearful of expressing their views, asking questions, or challenging the teacher. But this is simple civility in pedagogy.
But that’s not what the authors mean:
Instructors can work to make all students feel welcome by building professional relationships with students that are founded on respect and nonjudgement. To develop and nurture such relationships, instructors must confront their unconscious biases, such as homophobia, transphobia, or interphobia, through education and self-reflection. Consider attending LGBTQIA2S + sensitivity training, often offered by campus pride and GSA (gay–straight or gender and sexuality alliance) centers.
. . . By developing an awareness of how LGBTQIA2S + identity affects students’ experiences of the biology classroom and by engaging with students empathetically and authentically, instructors can create meaningful and inclusive learning experiences (Dewbury and Brame 2019).
Somewhere along the line, the authors of this paper have forgotten that the purpose of biology class is to teach biology as it is understood today, not to coddle the identities of students. My solution, once again, it simply to say at the beginning of the class, and perhaps reemphasize it, that we are to draw no moral or social lessons about humans from the facts of biology, though biological facts can serve to prop up or militate against some moral views (like those based on utilitarianism). To quote Hitchens, the teach-biology and denigrate the “appeal to nature” view is enough for me, and I don’t need a second. I don’t believe, and there is no evidence adduced, for statements like the following:
Biology classrooms represent powerful opportunities to teach sex- and gender-related topics accurately and inclusively. The sexual and gender diversity displayed in human populations is consistent with the diversity that characterizes all biological systems, but current teaching paradigms often leave students with the impression that LGBTQIA2S + people are acting against nature or “basic biology.” This failure of biology education can have dangerous repercussions. As students grow and move into society, becoming doctors, business people, politicians, parents, teachers, and so on, this misconception can be perpetuated and weaponized. Our hope is that this article helps to combat that scenario by stimulating the adoption of accurate and inclusive teaching practices.
Which professors are teaching in a way that makes students feel that they’re acting “unnaturally”? I would claim that the authors are offering a solution to a non-problem.
I agree that all topics should be taught accurately, but if some students feel “non-included” by facts taught in a civil manner in college biology, that is not up to the instructor to fix. Again, a two-minute explication of the fallacy of the appeal to nature is all that’s needed, not a schedule of “LGBTQIA2S + sensitivity training.”
The whole problem with this form of pedagogy is seen in the “author biographical” section of the paper, which I reproduce in toto:
Ash T. Zemenick is a nonbinary trans person who grew up with an economically and academically supportive household to which they attribute many of their opportunities. They are now the manager of the University of California Berkeley’s Sagehen Creek Field Station, in Truckee, California, and are a cofounder and lead director of Project Biodiversify, in the United States. Shaun Turney is a white heterosexual transgender Canadian man who was supported in both his transition and his education by his university-educated parents. He is currently on paternity leave from his work as a non–tenure-track course lecturer in biology. Alex J. Webster is a cis white queer woman who grew up in an economically stable household and is now raising a child in a nontraditional queer family structure. She is a research professor in the University of New Mexico’s Department of Biology, in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and is a director of Project Biodiversify, in the United States. Sarah C. Jones is a disabled (ADHD) cis white queer woman who grew up in a supportive and economically stable household with two university-educated parents. She is a director of Project Biodiversify, and serves as the education manager for Budburst, a project of the Chicago Botanic Garden, in Chicago, Illinois, in the United States. Marjorie G. Weber is a cis white woman who grew up in an economically stable household. She is an assistant professor in Michigan State University’s Plant Biology Department and Program in Ecology, Evolution, and Behavior, in East Lansing, Michigan, and is a cofounder and director of Project Biodiversify, in the United States.
Why is this there? What purpose does it serve except to signal the virtue (or social consciousness) of the authors? Most important, what on earth does it have to do with biology—or with this paper?
Here are some stories from a Leftist schoolteacher, writing on Wesley Yang’s Substack site, telling us that in a “Blue city in a Blue State”, wokeness had gotten to the point where it’s damaging the very people that the Woke profess to be helping. This is just one person’s tale, of course—and the person is unnamed—but Yang says he checked the correspondence to and from this teacher and has no doubt that the narrative is true. As Yang says in the introduction,
There is something poignant about the dilemma he describes, about being unable to communicate to his fellow leftist peers the awful magnitude of the moral abdication to which he is witness and party precisely because it is so extreme that all will dismiss it as right-wing propaganda. It is a dilemma widely shared across a range of liberal institutions in which conscientious actors see destructive practices being entrenched and immunized against critique by the same dynamics which they find powerless to resist because the specter of right-wing reaction makes any self-criticism impossible.
Click on the screenshot to read.
Halfway through the article the teacher gives his liberal creds: he’s an anticapitalist leftist, supports abortion and demand, and “unironically use[s] phrases like ‘systems of oppression’ and ‘the dominant culture’.” As he says, he can’t be dismissed as a “conservative crank.”
The anonymous teacher reports that he was teaching eleven students enrolled in a public summer school course that recruited students between ages six and twelve. He was teaching at one grade level, and although the ethnicity of the students isn’t specified, the program apparently had a mix of both black and white students.
Eventually of the eleven students in his class, eight remained enrolled but didn’t show, and he wound up teaching just one. One kid in the class! Amazingly, there was no penalty for non-attendance.
You’d think that the missing students could be kicked out and replaced with other students, including minorities, sitting on the waitlist, but you’d think wrong. Here’s the story/ What the teacher wrote for Yang is indented and the bolding is his (he’s identified as a man):
Early on, an administrator confessed that this sort of setup could lead to “attendance issues,” which I took to mean some kids showing up late or even skipping class once in a while. Nine of the eleven students in my grade level were absent the first day. The next day, it was ten. By the end of the week, I had one student consistently attending and a few who had been officially withdrawn by their parents – but there were still eight children on my roster who were technically enrolled while having never once shown up.
At this point, I took a look at the waitlist to see if there were any students I could bring in to replace them; the games and activities I’d planned needed more kids anyway, and I knew the waitlist was where families who actually wanted their children to attend usually ended up (students who were just referred by teachers had priority placement). On my lunch break, I walked into the administrator’s office and asked them when I could expect the half-dozen or so children on my grade’s waitlist to be let in.
Immediately, I was informed of something truly absurd: The district is not allowed to remove any student from the program on the basis of non-attendance. A child remains enrolled in my classes until a parent explicitly states they’d like them removed, even if they have never once actually shown up.
Now, when I say the district is “not allowed” to do so, I don’t mean they’re forbidden by some state law or local ordinance. Rather, the district actively embraced this policy as part of their larger equity and racial justice overhaul, and even bragged about doing so in public-facing materials. Their explicit position is that requiring attendance for any district program unfairly victimizes children of color, as does factoring in attendance to any student’s grades during the regular school year. The administrator I spoke to seemed baffled that I would even ask. “I’ll let you know if any parents pull their kids out,” he told me, “but otherwise, your class is technically full.”
How patronizing can you get than “requiring attendance unfairly victimizes children of color”. That is, of course, the soft bigotry of low expectations.
But it gets worse. The teacher had the good idea of dismissing the no-shows, who were clearly never going to come to class, and replace them with kids on the long waitlist, kids who (see above) presumably had a greater motivation to go to class. The effort failed on both counts:
As an extra dose of insanity, we can’t even request that the parents of a non-attending student remove their child from the program; doing so, I was told, could “make them feel disrespected” and “communicate to them that their children are not welcome.” We just have to wait and hope they make that decision on their own, risking the occasional hint on a daily absence call that most don’t even pick up.
Over the past week or so, some of the chronically absent have finally been unenrolled. But as the program reaches its halfway point, the number of students who have never once attended but remain on the roster is still larger than the number of students on the waitlist. Today, as I write this, more than a dozen children whose families have actively sought out our help are still sitting at home, unable to attend “full classrooms” of four or five students – who are themselves struggling without peers to work with!
To most people, this sort of policy is absolutely inexplicable. How could it possibly benefit racial justice or equity to keep classrooms half-empty, excluding students who want to attend in deference to those who don’t? The whole thing sounds like the sort of outrageous Kafkaesque fantasy a conservative would invent to satirize the ultra-woke and their bigotry of low expectations. Butthat’s precisely the problem. After all, what options do you have when so many of the people in charge of our schools have priorities so disordered that merely describing them, no matter how dispassionately, will earn you accusations of strawmanning?
This is insane. It’s considered “disrespectful” to boot a child who never shows up to class? What kind of world is this? And, of course, as the teacher points out, the net result is that minority students in the school district get a poorer education than they would have otherwise. The tacit policy is that “avoiding disrespect” is more important than “giving kids a leg up in their education.”
It is things like these that apparently prompted the teacher to speak out. He recounts two other episodes that he considers equally “crazy”. I’ll give just one:
I once attended another meeting – lots of meetings when you’re a teacher! – where we were working to approve a new weekly schedule for students. When I said I was concerned that it would require leaving some sections of the curriculum untaught, a colleague said that might actually be a good thing, because most of our students are white and their test scores dropping slightly would help shrink the racial achievement gap in our state. Again, to clarify: I don’t mean my colleague had a a more nuanced approach to testing that a dishonest interlocutor could twist to sound like that. I mean my colleague literally spoke those words. (To be fair, one other teacher did speak up and challenge them this time, albeit very politely.)
And this is the problem with Woke initiatives that lower academic standards—for giving students credit for a course they don’t attend is just one way to lower standard. Other ways are eliminating AP (advanced placement) courses, eliminating standardized tests, using “holistic admissions” that includes “personality scores” (the way Harvard kept out Asian students); the methods, both in practice and on tap, go on forever.
“But,” you might say, “These tactics increases the representation of minority students in schools.” Well, it can (though it didn’t in this case), but it also while lowers academic standards at the same time.
This, then, is a dilemma if you want both minority representation and standards that will provide a good education. I constantly ponder this dilemma, trying to think of forms of affirmative action that keep academic and professional standards high—ways to increase equity while retaining meritocracy. The ultimate solution, of course, is what I call “equality of opportunity for everyone”, but that starts in youth, and by the time kids are in school, they’ve already missed it, for it depends on socioeconomic and cultural factors, as well as government policy. Solving this will take tons of will, money, and research, and there’s no quick fix. (There seems to be no will, either.) Even John McWhorter’s three-part solution (teach kids phonics, don’t assume that everyone has to go to college, and end the “war on drugs”) will work only very slowly.
It’s a tough problem and as I think through it I may post here from time to time. But this much I know: what the teacher describes above helps neither equity nor academic quality. And that is all this kind of performative effort does. Its main accomplishment is to make a bunch of “elite” people feel better about themselves while actually ignoring the goals they profess to care about.
In May of last year I described the situation at Lowell High School in San Francisco, which had decided, for reasons we all know, to drop the merit-based admission system adopted in favor of a lottery system. Previously, Lowell was San Francisco’s best high school, the sixth best in California, and #82 in the national rankings.
You already know what happens when a school like Lowell prioritizes equity above merit in admissions. I quoted a yahoo! article at the time:
San Francisco’s Lowell High School, regarded as one of the best in the nation, is seeing a record spike in Ds and Fs among its first batch of students admitted in fall 2021 through a new lottery system instead of its decades-long merit-based admissions.
Of the 620 first-year students admitted through the lottery, nearly one in four (24.4%) received at least one letter grade of D or F in the said semester, according to internal records obtained by the San Francisco Chronicle. This marks a triple increase from 7.9% in fall 2020 and 7.7% in fall 2019.
Principal Joe Ryan Dominguez attributed the rise in failing grades to “too many variables.” Last month, Dominguez announced his resignation from the school district, citing a lack of “well organized systems, fiscal responsibility and sound instructional practices as the path towards equity.” [JAC: Donguez took over only last fall!]
The lottery system was born out of a long, contentious battle that began in the wake of George Floyd’s death. Proponents of the new system argue that the merit-based system was racist as it resulted in an underrepresentation of Black and Hispanic students, while opponents say it would harm Asian students – who make up the majority of Lowell’s population – and undermine the benefits of a competitive academic environment.
Discussions regarding a long-term policy are still being held. Outgoing District Superintendent Vincent Matthews has proposed an extension of the lottery system, while critics such as Members of the Friends of Lowell group and Lowell’s own Chinese Parent Advisory Council continue to lobby for the return of the old system.
The San Francisco School Board, which introduced the lottery system at Lowell, saw three of its members removed in February after a recall election initiated over misplaced priorities, including what many felt were “anti-Asian” policies.
The school’s principal resigned after only one year on the job.
Now sf.gate reports that the year of trial has resulted in a return to the system of merit-based admissions (click on screenshot):
Lowell High School will return to academic-based admissions, the San Francisco Board of Education decided Wednesday evening in a 4-3 vote.
Don’t take this news for a harbinger of The Death of Wokeness. The events summarized in the headlines and described below simply mean this:
1.) If there is an Achilles heel of Wokeism, it is their attempt to control the ideology dispensed in schools.
2.) Among all groups, Asians (both East Asians and those from the Indian subcontinent) are the most resistant to wokeness in schools, for attempts to get rid of meritocracy, and standardized admissions tests, as well as the strengthening of affirmative action—all signs of the Successor Ideology—have differentially hurt Asians more than any other ethnic group.
Click on the screenshot to read the story from The Associated Press:
The details: There was a special city referendum to recall three school board members. It was the first such referendum in decades, and the turnout wasn’t high, But it was high among Asians, many of whom registered to vote just so they could recall three of the seven San Francisco school board members (all Democrats). Only three were eligible for recall—the school board President Gabriela López, the Vice President Faauuga Moliga and the Commissioner Alison Collins. They all went down by substantial votes. Their replacements will be appointed by city Mayor London Breed (there will be a regular election in the fall), and she’d better be careful:
“The voters of this city have delivered a clear message that the school board must focus on the essentials of delivering a well-run school system above all else,” Mayor London Breed said in a statement. “San Francisco is a city that believes in the value of big ideas, but those ideas must be built on the foundation of a government that does the essentials well.”
Well, at least her first sentence made sense! And Mayor Breed is reported to have been one of the biggest supporters of the recall! She presumably realized what the Board was doing to the national reputation of her town.
Now, why were the voters upset? Three reasons:
First, the school board wasted a lot of time during the pandemic squabbling about renaming 44 public schools on ideological grounds, including those named after George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Daniel Webster, and even Senator and former SF mayor Dianne Feinstein (see my posts here and here, with the full list or proposed renamings at the second link). The Board had approved the denamings, but now that plan appears dead:
One of the first issues to grab national attention was the board’s January 2021 decision to rename 44 schools they said honored public figures linked to racism, sexism and other injustices. On the list were Abraham Lincoln, George Washington and trailblazing U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif.
The effort drew swift criticism for historical mistakes. Critics said it made a mockery of the country’s racial reckoning. Angry parents asked why the board would waste time renaming schools when the priority needed to be reopening classrooms.
After an uproar, the school board scrapped the plan.
Second, and in a more minor issue, deposed member Alison Collins, who is black, was accused of (get this) racist tweets:
Collins came under fire again for tweets she wrote in 2016 that were widely criticized as racist. In them Collins, who is Black, said Asian Americans used “white supremacist” thinking to get ahead and were racist toward Black students.
Racism against Asian Americans has come under a renewed focus since reports of attacks and discrimination escalated with the spread of the coronavirus, which first appeared in late 2019 in Wuhan, China.
Collins said the tweets were taken out of context and posted before she held her school board position. She refused to take them down or apologize for the wording and ignored calls to resign from parents, Breed and other public officials.
Collins turned around and sued the district and her colleagues for $87 million, fueling yet another pandemic sideshow. The lawsuit was later dismissed.
But Collins’s tweets had angered the already ticked-off Asians, and the final straw was this:
Third, the board decided to get rid of meritocratic admissions to Lowell High School, an elite public “magnet school” that attracts the most talented students from across the city. Most of those turned out to be Asian. Here are the 2015-2016 data given by Wikipedia:
Lowell’s main entrance:
Presumably in a desire to achieve “equity,” the board voted to move admissions to Lowell to a lottery system. That, of course, would completely destroy the school’s reputation. From Wikipedia:
I’m not sure what will happen now about entrance requirements; presumably they’ll go back to the pre-2020 system.
The three deposed members defended themselves:
Collins, Lopez and Moliga had defended their records, saying they prioritized racial equity because that was what they were elected to do.
Well, we’re not sure what they were elected “to do”, though these members may be woke. But now liberals, Democrats, and others realize what the Woke “do” when they have power, and it isn’t pretty. Here are a couple of beefs from parents:
The city of San Francisco has risen up and said this is not acceptable to put our kids last,” said Siva Raj, a father of two who helped launch the recall effort. “Talk is not going to educate our children, it’s action. It’s not about symbolic action, it’s not about changing the name on a school, it is about helping kids inside the school building read and learn math.”
And from East Asians:
. . . many Asian American residents were motivated to vote for the first time in a municipal election. The grassroots Chinese/API Voter Outreach Task Force group, which formed in mid-December, said it registered 560 new Asian American voters.
Ann Hsu, a mother of two who helped found the task force, said many Chinese voters saw the effort to change the Lowell admissions system as a direct attack.
“It is so blatantly discriminatory against Asians,” she said.
In the city’s Chinese community, Lowell is viewed as a path children can take to success.
Now the readers who sent me the links to this news were ebullient, and I too am happy that Wokesters who pulled such boneheaded moves are gone now. As in Virginia, where Republican Glenn Youngkin won because voters thought his Democratic opponent rejected the idea that parents should have a say in their kids’ educations, people don’t seem to realize that politicians shouldn’t muck around too much with the educational system. Yes, we need to teach more about the fraught history of America, but we shouldn’t make kids feel guilty because of their race, we shouldn’t divide our kids by what we teach them, we shouldn’t ditch admissions standards or regular standardized testing to see how kids are doing, and, above all, stop renaming schools, for that seems to parents like a huge waste of time and energy that should be spend on educating kids.
But before you go celebrating this vote, remember who’s really in charge of education. It’s not the school board, but the teachers. And for sure many teachers in San Francisco are woke, and will go ahead and teach what they want. It’s up to the kids and their parents to keep a keen eye on what’s happening in the classroom.
These incidents are becoming so common that they’re like the old “dog bites man” stories. In fact, when a school decides not to cancel a controversial book or remove it from a library or a reading list, that becomes a “man bites dog” story.
This book is in the former genre, as reported by Kirkus Reviews (click on screenshots). . .
. . and the St. Louis Post-Dispatch:
We learn from this that Toni Morrison’s first novel (1970), The Bluest Eye, hasn’t just been taken off school reading lists, but actually removed from a school library. Since the book (which I read and liked, but didn’t see as a classic) deals with childhood rape and abuse, clearly you shouldn’t ask elementary school kids to read it but removing it from a high school library is a different thing altogether. That is a form of censorship:
From the SLPD:
A national campaign to ban books with themes dealing with race and gender scored a victory Thursday when the Wentzville School Board voted 4-3 to pull “The Bluest Eye” by Toni Morrison from the district’s high school libraries.
The board rejected the recommendation of a review committee of district staff and residents who said banning the book “would infringe on the rights of parents and students to decide for themselves if they want to read this work of literature.” The book is not part of the district curriculum.
Across the country, the push to restrict teaching about race and gender equity includes library books that conservative parents and lawmakers say are divisive and serve to indoctrinate students with a leftist ideology.
“The Bluest Eye” tells the story of a young Black girl growing up during the Great Depression who longs for blue eyes because she feels ugly and oppressed because of her skin color. Morrison, who died in 2019, said she wrote the book in the late 1960s to show the psychological damage caused by racism.
The novel, which includes passages about incest and child rape, frequently lands on the American Library Association’s annual list of most commonly banned books.
Wentzville School Board member Sandy Garber said she did not consider her vote against “The Bluest Eye” equivalent to banning but protecting children from obscenity.
That is a distinction without a difference. You can ban books as a way OF protecting people, and that’s what’s going on here. But it’s useless, especially for the intended targets. Obscenity, for instance, will be familiar to every kid with ears and an understanding of language. Note, too, that the book is being banned from high school libraries; that is, made inaccessible to kids between the ages of about 15-18. I suspect those students don’t need “protection” from their parents, no matter how laudable the motives.
But wait! There’s more:
“By all means, go buy the book for your child,” she said at the board meeting. “I would not want this book in the school for anyone else to see.”
Amber Crawford, a Wentzville parent who filed the challenge against “The Bluest Eye,” posted advice for challenges in other districts to the St. Charles County Parents Association’s Facebook group, including links to excerpts so they won’t have to read “the whole garbage book.”
At least two conservative groups with chapters in Missouri — Moms for Liberty and No Left Turn in Education — have led the campaign against diversity and equity initiatives in schools.
No Left Turn in Education features more than 75 books on its website that it deems inappropriate because they “demean our nation and its heroes, revise our history, and divide us as a people for the purpose of indoctrinating kids to a dangerous ideology.” Nearly every book on the list features either Black or LGBTQ characters.
What are they protecting kids from here? Books about discrimination? Do they want to pretend it doesn’t exist? Not all books are getting banned, though: the article has one or two heartening tales of someone actually defending controversial work! But, by and large, censorship is not only rife, but increasing. And in this state, it’s largely by the Right:
While the book ban in Wentzville is unique in the St. Louis area, several other local school districts have encountered recent challenges to library books. Last month, the Lindbergh School Board voted to keep “Gender Queer” by Maia Kobabe in the high school library, and a review committee in the Rockwood School District rejected similar challenges to “Gender Queer” and five other books.
After a challenge to the memoir “All Boys Aren’t Blue,” the Francis Howell School District’s review committee voted 11 to 1 in November to keep the book in school libraries because it “shared a positive message of hope for individuals in society.”
Local school districts have rules allowing parents to restrict their children’s library privileges based on individual books, authors or themes. The policies for book challenges are similar, involving a review committee and subsequent vote by the school board.
The challenges are related to proposed bills in Missouri and dozens of other states that would restrict the teaching of critical race theory and other “divisive” topics on race and gender, said Heather Fleming, founder of the Missouri Equity Education Partnership and a Francis Howell parent.
“The whole point and purpose of this is to have a chilling effect on equity and equity education in our schools,” Fleming said. “We know this is about a story about a Black woman instead of scenes that are too mature, because we’re not banning Shakespeare.”
I’m not in favor of bills restricting teaching CRT, and i’m certainly not in favor of telling your kids, if they’re of an appropriate age, what they can and cannot read. I can’t remember my parents ever telling me that I couldn’t read any book, and I was a voracious reader who chose my own books.
The kicker is this: the same school district that banned Toni Morrison’s book also banned, at the same time, three other books. From Kirkus (I’ve added links to the books):
The other three books removed by the board have also seen their share of bans as well. All Boys Aren’t Blue has been taken off library shelves in multiple states, and Heavy, a Kirkus Prize finalist in 2018, was recently banned by a Kansas school district.Fun Homehas been a frequent target of censors; it made the ALA’s top 10 banned books list in 2015.
Now of course I don’t favor indoctrinating kids by giving them an entire diet of Woke books about “identities”, for to me that’s propaganda rather than learning. But surely there’s room for children to hear that there are people in the world who are different from them, and who face their own brand of troubles. And of course they must discuss them.
And is there ANY valid reason to remove books from a high-school library if they are not simply deaccessioning books due to space limitation?
When I was thinking of a list of “identity” books that I would definitely assign to high school students, especially in Chicago (because it takes place here), it would definitely include Richard Wright’s Native Son (1940), which was both a bestseller and remains a classic not just of black literature, but of American literature. Surely, I thought, as it’s about the friction between blacks and whites, and neither a book about CRT nor even a valorization of blacks, but simply a graphic portrayal of the racism ubiquitous in America at the time, it couldn’t possibly be ban-able. I was wrong. I looked on Wikipedia and saw this about Wright’s book:
The novel has endured a series of challenges in public high schools and libraries all over the United States. Many of these challenges focus on the book’s being “sexually graphic,” “unnecessarily violent,”and “profane.” Despite complaints from parents, many schools have successfully fought to keep Wright’s work in the classroom. Some teachers believe the themes in Native Son and other challenged books “foster dialogue and discussion in the classroom” and “guide students into the reality of the complex adult and social world.” Native Son is number 27 on Radcliffe’s Rival 100 Best Novels List.
The book is number 71 on the American Library Association’s list of the 100 Most Frequently Challenged Books of 1990–2000. The Modern Library placed it number 20 on its list of the 100 best novels of the 20th Century. Time Magazine also included the novel in its TIME 100 Best English-language Novels from 1923 to 2005.
So it goes. You might find solace in these musings of Stephen King:
For a long time some of my Jewish friends, including observant ones, have told me that there’s a resurgence of anti-Semitism in American, sometimes implying that it would get so bad that they were considering moving to Israel. I’ve always poo-pooed this apocalyptic idea, thinking that Jews are now part of mainstream America and, although a minority (about 1-2%, many of them nonbelievers), we weren’t a denigrated minority.
Well, things have changed since the ultra-progressive Left has taken over, and since there’s been a resurgence of white nationalism on the Right. The Left’s activities are ongoing, as with the “progressive” members of Congress voting for BDS initiatives, issuing anti-Semitic or anti-“Zionist” tweets, and showing increasing valorization of Palestine—an apartheid country if ever there was one. Right-wing anti-Semitism seems to be on the ultra-extreme right, and erupts as sporadic demonstrations, like the one in Charlottesville.
Whoever is responsible for this trend, the result is that we hear more about anti-Semitic incidents all the time. This isn’t just a news bias, since the mainstream media itself, like the NYT, aren’t especially pro-Jewish (they’re pro-Palestine); and the number of Jewish “hate crimes” is increasing. Jews are, in fact, on a per capita basis the religious group most targeted by such crimes:
According to the FBI data, 8,263 hate crimes took place in America in 2020, an increase of nearly 9% compared to the 7,287 reported in 2019. Of all reported hate crimes, 1,174 targeted victims due to their religion and 676 of them—54.9% of all religious bias crimes—targeted Jews. 53% of hate incidents targeting Jews involved the destruction, damage, or vandalism of property; 33% were instances of intimidation; 6% were simple assaults; 4% were aggravated assaults; 1% were instances of burglary or breaking and entering; and 1% were instances of larceny or theft.
This article below from the Washington Post (click on screenshot) might be an isolated incident, as it’s unique to my knowledge, but it might also display how far the rot has spread. (The article is reproduced almost verbatim in the Times of Israel as well.)
I’ll summarize what happened, and will put quotation marks around quotes from the pieces.
At Watkins Elementary school in southeast Washington, D.C. a group of third graders (~9-10 years old) were in the library doing a self-guided project. But the students were coopted by a school librarian who forced the students to reenact scenes from the Holocaust. Here’s what the students were forced to do:
One student, who happened to be Jewish, was told to play Hitler. At the end of the mock Holocaust, the student was told to pretend to commit suicide.
Other students were asked to pretend to be on a train to a concentration camp
At least one student was told to act as if he were dying in a gas chamber
Some students were told to pretend they were digging their classmates’ mass graves, and then had to pretend to shoot their classmates.
This is the most offensive part:
The instructor allegedly made antisemitic comments during the reenactment. The parent said that when the children asked why the Germans did this, the staff member said it was “because the Jews ruined Christmas.”
Can you believe that?
Although the instructor told the students not to say anything about this little exercise, the kids told their parents. The good news is that all hell broke loose, because some of the students were Jewish. The principal of the school, one M. Scott Berkowitz (probably a Jewish name as well) apologized in an email to the parents without naming the staff member (I now have her name; see below).
“I want to acknowledge the gravity of this poor instructional decision, as students should never be asked to act out or portray any atrocity, especially genocide, war, or murder,” Berkowitz said in the email.
The incident was reported to D.C. Public Schools’ Comprehensive Alternative Resolution and Equity Team. The staff member is now on leave, pending a school investigation.
“This was not an approved lesson plan, and we sincerely apologize to our students and families who were subjected to this incident,” a spokesperson for DCPS said.
The entire class met with the school’s mental health response team after the Friday incident, according to Berkowitz’s email.
The good news is that the school didn’t blow it off. But they shouldn’t have anyway; it’s only “good news” because Americans are becoming increasingly anti-Semitic.
Anti-Semitism is especially distressing when it’s among the black community (Farrakhan and the Nation of Islam are the worst offenders). Historically Jews and blacks have been friends, with Jews forming a large proportion of white civil rights activists in the Sixties.
This article (and several other sources) give the librarian’s name as Kimberlynn Jurkowski, and at first I thought she was of Polish descent. But her LinkedIn page, showing undoubtedly the right person (a “library media specialist” in Washington, D.C.), reveals that she’s black. (How did she get the surname Jurkowski?)
And she’s got a history that could charitably be described as “checkered”:
The librarian — identified as Kimberlynn Jurkowski — was accused in a tutoring scam in New Jersey that defrauded the Atlantic City school district of thousands of dollars and had her teaching licenses suspended for three years by the state Department of Education in 2017.
. . . A former Hamilton, Atlantic County resident, Jurkowski faced charges of theft by deception and fraud for allegedly billing the Hamilton school district for tutoring services for her two children that was never performed, according to the state’s order of suspension.
The Hamilton Township school district paid the cost of the tutoring to Bridges Education and Counseling Services, and its owner, Mildred Spencer — a friend of Jurkowski, according to the ruling.
In December 2013, Jurkowski and Spencer were accepted into a pretrial intervention program for first-time offenders for six months, and Jurkowski was forced to forfeit her employment in the school district, according to the Department of Education ruling.
So how did Jurkowski get hired as a school librarian at Watkins Elementary School? Did they not do a background check? Somebody at Watkins Elementary has some ‘splaining to do!
An addendum about local bigotry, from both papers. First, from the Post:
Other local schools have reported incidents of bigotry in recent months. At Woodrow Wilson High School in Northwest Washington, several swastikas, the n-word and the phrase “white power” were scrawled on the wall of a men’s bathroom early this month, according to reporting by student journalists at the Beacon, the school’s independent newspaper.
And from the Times of Israel:
Last month vandals broke into a fraternity house at George Washington University in Washington, DC, and desecrated a Torah scroll, tearing it apart and covering it with detergent.
I just noticed that the New York Timeshas a short piece on the incident, and names the perpetrator, as well as mentioning Jurkowski’s LinkedIn page, but doesn’t mention that she’s black. Is race relevant in a case like this? If a white librarian had asked black children to reenact scenes from slavery, wouldn’t the paper mention that the librarian was white? Had the librarian been an anti-Semitic white supremacist, you could have bet that every report would have mentioned that.
My guess is that it was just terribly inconvenient to mention the race of the perpetrator, which goes against The Narrative. The NYT has a history of omitting the race of the people who attacked ultra-Orthodox Jews in New York City over the last several years, though nearly all the attackers were black. When there’s a pattern like this, race does become relevant.
Suddenly I am inundated with emails from disaffected Kiwis who take issue with the New Zealand government’s and academia’s new push to teach mātauranga Māori , or Māori “ways of knowing” as coequal with real science in high-school and university science classes. Many of these people are worried that the country is being swept with an ideology that “all things Māori are good” (tell that to the moas!), and that such an attitude is going to affect not just science, but many parts of life. It’s one thing to recognize and make reparations to a people who were genuinely oppressed for so long, but that doesn’t mean that that that group should be valorized in every way, nor that their “ways of knowing”, which include creation myths and false legends, can be taken as coequal to science and taught in the science classroom.
I’ll divide this post into three bits.
A. Is mātauranga Māori really going to be implemented in this way, or simply taught as what it is: an agglomeration of practical advice (some of which can be considered “science construed broadly” if it’s verified), legends, myths, and statements now know to be outright false?
Documents suggest that yes, the coequality is indeed the plan.
This page, “What’s changing?“, details how the curriculum will be tweaked, setting out a list of changes that will be made (this plan was apparently approved in 2020, two years after a public consultation that apparently few were aware of). I quote:
The NCEA Change Programme is a work programme led by the Ministry of Education to deliver the package of seven changes aimed at strengthening NCEA:
One of my correspondents singled out this goal (I quote):
” Explore how mauri is an essential part of the natural and human-constructed world and how it is essential to maintain or restore mauri.” – Mauri, insofar as I understand it at all, being a nebulous concept usually translated as “life force”.
The other alterations of physics, meant to fit into Māori “ways of knowing”, are obscure and worrying.
And on the chemistry and biology page, under “What is chemistry and biology about?” and “Big ideas and significant learning”, you will find not a single mention of evolution, the most important and most unifying area of biology. Why else would evolution be excluded unless to placate the Māori view, which is one of creationism? This omission is stupid and offensive.
B. What is the New Zealand Royal Society up to? As you may know if you’ve followed this, seven professors from Auckland University signed an innocuous (to rational folk) letter protesting the trend to make mātauranga Māori taught coequally with science in science classes, a move equivalent to teaching Biblical creationism in evolution class. You can see the letter, published in the weekly magazine “The Listener” here or here. Two of the signers, Garth Cooper and Robert Nola, are FRSNZs, meaning “Fellows of the Royal Society of New Zealand”, a high distinction (Michael Coarbilis, another FRSNZ and signer, died on November 13).
The Royal Society, miffed by the claim that science should be defended as science, and not infused with myth and “other ways of knowing”, put up an objection to the letter and began an investigation of the two surviving FRSNZs. Their statement, which makes the Royal Society look like a joke, is still up:
Note the insistence, by a body presumably dedicated to promoting truth, that “The recent suggestion by a group of University of Auckland academics that mātauranga Māori is not a valid truth is utterly rejected by Royal Society Te Apārangi. The Society strongly upholds the value of mātauranga Māori and rejects the narrow and outmoded definition of science outlined in The Listener.”
This would be funny if it weren’t a ridiculous implication that truth is what any group maintains is truth. Further, the RSNZ is insisting that mātauranga Māori is a “valid truth.” They really should take this statement down, for it’s an embarrassment.
Meanwhile, the RSNZ’s investigation of Cooper and Nola continues, itself an embarrassment. Read the letter the two signed and see if you think they should be shamed and punished for it by the very Society that lauded them as eminent scholars.
Richard Dawkins also wrote to the then head of the RSNZ objecting to their statement above; you can see Richard’s letter here and his letter to the New Zealand public here. This letter, as well as the ones I and other readers and Kiwis wrote, have had no effect. If I know the signers, Cooper and Nola will not truckle to the clowns who issued the RSNZ statement above. For its own reputation, the RSNZ should drop the investigation immediately.
C. What is the University of Auckland up to? There may be good news here. But let’s review history first. Earlier this summer, Vice-Chancellor Dawn Freshwater issued a statement explicitly criticizing The Listener letter and its seven signers, making their identities easy to find. Two of her statements from Freshwater’s official announcement of July 26:
A letter in this week’s issue of The Listener magazine from seven of our academic staff on the subject of whether mātauranga Māori can be called science has caused considerable hurt and dismay among our staff, students and alumni.
Note the “hurt and dismay claim”, which at the very outset puts her statement in a context of emotionality rather than reason. And there was more:
While the academics are free to express their views, I want to make it clear that they do not represent the views of the University of Auckland.
The University has deep respect for mātauranga Māori as a distinctive and valuable knowledge system. We believe that mātauranga Māori and Western empirical science are not at odds and do not need to compete. They are complementary and have much to learn from each other.
This view is at the heart of our new strategy and vision, Taumata Teitei, and the Waipapa Toitū framework, and is part of our wider commitment to Te Tiriti and te ao principles.
Now it’s not even clear if the University of Auckland even has an official view about science vs. mātauranga Māori, yet note that Freshwater characterizes the latter as “a distinctive and valuable knowledge system”, maintaining that “mātauranga Māori and Western empirical science are not at odds and do not need to compete.” That is an arrant falsehood. For one thing, mātauranga Māori is creationist, which puts it squarely at odds with evolution. I won’t go on; you can find for yourself many other ways the two areas are “at odds” with each other.
The Vice-Chancellor should have said nothing about this issue, but chose to denigrate the letter and its signers. She got plenty of flak from the public and press for that announcement.
Since then, I guess she’s had second thoughts, as she’s just issued a new statement. Click on the screenshot to read it:
Here’s part of her statement, which in effect pretends that she never denigrated The Listener letter and its signers. Now she calls for calm and reasoned debate:
The debate that initially started as about the relationship between mātauranga Māori and science in the secondary school curriculum in Aotearoa New Zealand has intensified and extended over recent weeks, with a number of overseas commentators adding their opinions.
Unfortunately, the debate has descended into personal attacks, entrenched positions and deliberate misrepresentations of other people’s views, including my own. This important and topical debate deserves better than that.
I am calling for a return to a more respectful, open-minded, fact-based exchange of views on the relationship between mātauranga Māori and science, and I am committing the University to action on this.
In the first quarter of 2022 we will be holding a symposium in which the different viewpoints on this issue can be discussed and debated calmly, constructively and respectfully. I envisage a high-quality intellectual discourse with representation from all viewpoints: mātauranga Māori, science, the humanities, Pacific knowledge systems and others.
I recognise it is a challenging and confronting debate, but one I believe a robust democratic society like ours is well placed to have.
In this commitment to action, I acknowledge the University of Auckland’s particular responsibilities in this debate as a custodian of academic freedom and free speech. Seven of our academics wrote the letter in good faith to The Listener in July 2021 that sparked the debate in the first place, and many of our academic experts have contributed to the discussion since then.
While the open-minded exchange of facts about “the relationship between mātauranga Māori and science” has potential to be a good debate, I am not optimistic. For one thing, the “indigenous way of knowing” can be slipperly, varying widely depending on who’s interpreting it. It would be lovely if they got Richard Dawkins to defend science along with some of the signers of the letter. And, as one of my Kiwi colleagues said, “I think this is good news, but productive discussion is unlikely unless [Freshwater] discourages the ongoing use of terms such as racism and cultural harm to describe those who challenge the notion of equivalence.”
Note that Freshwater criticizes the “personal attacks and misrepresentations” of views, including her own views. She was probably blindsided and stung by the response to her “politically correct” statement, not realizing that, to rational and science-minded folks, comparing mythology to science is like kicking a wasp’s nest. I am guessing that she’s ascribing the attacks and misstatements to the “science” side alone; if she didn’t mean that, she should have said that there was bad behavior on both sides. For example, here are two prominent academics who agree with Freshwater but who were not very polite. Joanna Kidman is a well known sociologist of Māori descent who is a full professor at Victoria University at Wellington, NZ. Note that “OWG” stands for “Old White Guy”. As a commenter below notes, this is ageist, racist, sexist, and probably ableist.
Richard Dawkins, OWG in excelsis, argues, with numerous factual errors about indigenous knowledge, that @royalsocietynz shouldn't follow up on complaints made about its fellows 😂 In other, related, news, OWG barks at moon. https://t.co/GSIRBddXRq
Siouxie Wiles wasn’t very polite, either, characterizing her critics as “dinosaurs”. Wells is a British microbiologist and science communicator who is now a professor at Auckland and was named the 2021 Kiwibank New Zealander of the Year.
I am listening to a talk by @WellingtonUni economist Peter Fraser & it is just the antidote I needed to all the emails I’m getting from the dinosaurs outraged by the fact that I have publicly supported my incredible Māori colleagues and their scholarship and world view.
Todd Somerville, the Director of Communications at the University of Auckland, sent me a letter of complaint about my original post, saying that I characterized Freshwater as “a woke and fearful woman”, which he said was an ad hominem remark. I removed that characterization to lessen the rancor as well as to placate the angry Somerville, who defended Freshwater’s statement at great length (I suppose that’s his job). But I wonder if Todd Somerville has also written to Siouxie Wiles and Joanna Kidman, criticizing them as harshly as he did me for their own ad hominem remarks, including denigrating Richard Dawkins as an “Old White Guy”. You can’t get much nastier than that! Somehow I doubt that Wiles and Kidman have been chastised.
I have no idea why Scientific American is publishing editorials that have absolutely nothing to do with science. Yes, they have gone woke, and yes, they’re circling the drain, and while they of course have the right to publish what they want, they’ve abandoned their mission to shill for the progressive Democrats.
The latest shrill editorial is a critique of CRT implying that those who oppose its teaching in schools in whatever form, and are in favor of anti-CRT bills, are white supremacists. If you don’t believe me, read the article below. First, a screenshot from Jesse Singal, who rightly mocks the editorial staff of Scientific American:
If I'm an editor at Scientific American, one of a small subset of mainstream publications devoted solely to, well, science, I definitely want to jump in with an aggressive take on each and every culture-war controversy. Very very good for the brand.https://t.co/CZAF4I6AbR
I myself am against anti-CRT bills because how CRT is interpreted differs widely among people. As the authors note correctly, these bills are sometimes construed as meaning that schools can’t teach anything about racial inequality or the genocide of Native Americans. I think school should teach that, but also that they should not set race against race, which, as we know, some schools are doing.
So, contra this editorial, I think there is something to be concerned about: woke teachers, of which there are plenty, propagandizing their students and spreading divisiveness. I’m not going to give all the examples that I’ve posted on this website, including the new curricula at NYC’s private schools that have angered (liberal) parents, California’s original draft of its ethnic studies curriculum that was pretty much anti-Semitic (that’s okay, it’s fine to diss the Jews), and the class where students had to paint their skin colors, or another where they compared their skin color to a chart that was, in effect, a way to measure how oppressed you are. If you think there’s not a problem, look what happened in Virginia. You can’t have your woke ideology and Democratic governance too—not with the sentiments of most Americans being what they are.
So yes, I’m in favor of teaching the very unsavory bits of American history, and are opposed to state laws that, designed largely by Republicans, are meant to prevent such instruction. But what you cannot do is say that CRT is never taught in classrooms, nor that all parents who oppose what’s going on in schools are racists and white supremacists. As Andrew Sullivan wrote last week:
And when the Democrats and the mainstream media insist that CRT is not being taught in high schools, they’re being way too cute. Of course K-12 kids in Virginia’s public schools are not explicitly reading the collected works of Derrick Bell or Richard Delgado — no more than Catholic school kids in third grade are studying critiques of Aquinas. But they are being taught in a school system now thoroughly committed to the ideology and worldview of CRT, by teachers who have been marinated in it, and whose unions have championed it.
And in Virginia, this is very much the case. The state’s Department of Education embraced CRT in 2015, arguing for the need to “re-engineer attitudes and belief systems” in education. In 2019, the department sent out a memo that explicitly endorsed critical race and queer theory as essential tools for teaching high school. Check out the VA DOE’s “Road Map to Equity,” where it argues that “courageous conversation” on “social justice, systemic inequity, disparate student outcomes and racism in our school communities is our responsibility and professional obligation. Now is the time to double down on equity strategies.” (My itals.) Check out the Youtube site for Virginia’s virtual 2020 summit on equity in education, where Governor Northam endorsed “antiracist school communities,” using Kendi’s language.
A main reason Youngkin won in Virginia is that parents didn’t like this kind of instruction—a curriculum over which they had no say. Maintaining, as the article below does, that Democrats should just “keep it up” is a recipe for disaster down the line. This piece could have been written (and indeed perhaps was written) by “progressive” Democrats. And it doesn’t belong in a magazine about science, any more than an article about the nuances of string theory belongs in The National Review or New York Magazine.
Again, click to read:
Some quote from the Sci Am piece (indented):
The recent election of Glenn Youngkin as the next governor of Virginia based on his anti–critical race theory platform is the latest episode in a longstanding conservative disinformation campaign of falsehoods, half-truths and exaggerations designed to create, mobilize and exploit anxiety around white status to secure political power. The problem is, these lies work, and what it shows is that Democrats have a lot of work to do if they want to come up with a successful countermessage.
But in his campaigning, he and others misrepresented what critical race theory (CRT) actually is: a specialized intellectual field established in the 1980s by legal scholars Kimberlé Crenshaw, Neil Gotanda and Stephanie Phillips that emphasizes the unique historical role that legal systems play in upholding and producing racial inequalities in the United States.
The authors need to grasp what Sullivan says above. These authors are promoting a false view of what’s happening: that no aspects of CRT is seeping into public schools.
And here the authors claim that the anti-CRT movement (even the kind of watered-down CRT mentioned above) is motivated solely by white supremacy and racism:
Conservative anti-CRT rhetoric and the accompanying bills introduced and enacted by Republican state legislatures across the country comprise a disinformation campaign designed to manufacture white grievance in the service of white power. These policies reveal the need for researchers and scholars concerned with the quality of democratic debate to treat white supremacy as a disinformation campaign and to incorporate an honest accounting of America’s racial history and legacy of present-day inequality into all levels of education.
. . .Elections never depend on a single factor, and it’s not unusual for the party that captures the presidency to lose ground. That said, the perceived success of conservatives’ anti-CRT campaign will likely further legitimate explicit appeals to whites like those famously used by former President Trump. This will likely have long-lasting consequences. It further organizes U.S. politics around hardened racial and ethnic coalitions: a majority-white Republican Party and a multiethnic, multiracial Democratic Party. The Republican Party promises to maintain white people’s status at the top of the social hierarchy, while anti-CRT rhetoric conveys that this is justifiable.
I am a Democrat and am wary of the racial polarization of schools as it’s happening in many places, as well as ideological propaganda fed to kids. Not everybody who voted for Youngkin was a white supremacist, for crying out loud! Read Sullivan’s article, “The Woke meet their match: parents.” But wait! There’s more!:
This disinformation campaign must be directly confronted. Rather than dismissing manufactured concerns over critical race theory as fake, Democrats should embrace the robust teaching of America’s racial history in our public schools and make an affirmative case for why it matters for American values of fairness, equality and justice. Democrats should then focus on articulating how attacks on critical race theory are meant to divide people of all races who otherwise share interests. Rather than dismissing these attacks on CRT as isolated incidents, Democrats should mount their own sustained and coherent campaign to argue affirmatively for diversity, equity and inclusion programs and complementary efforts such as the 1619 Project.
Conservatives are unified around anti-CRT rhetoric. Now it is time for Democrats to form the same united front, to own that racism is real and to call out conservative legislative efforts designed to outlaw the teaching of racial inequality for what they are: a fitting example of how legal systems uphold racial inequality in the United States. This, of course, is exactly what CRT is trying to point out.
The last sentence, about legal systems upholding racial inequality, is absolutely debatable and should not be taught without careful parsing about what you mean by “legal systems.” The problem here is that this kind of facile and dubious assertion is already causing divisions among Americans and playing straight into the hands of Republicans. In the editorial above, the authors are staying “stay the course, full steam ahead”, while every other sensible Democrat is saying, “Wait! What happened? What can we do about it?”
The authors don’t seem to get out much, and really should pay attention to what Sullivan says here:
And if the culture war is fought explicitly on the terms laid out by the Kendi left and the Youngkin right, and the culture war is what determines political outcomes, then the GOP will always win. Most Americans, black and white, simply don’t share the critique of America as essentially a force for oppression, or want its constitution and laws and free enterprise “dismantled” in order to enforced racial “equity.” They understand the evil of racism, they know how shameful the past has been, but they’re still down with Youngkin’s Obama-‘08 impression over McAuliffe’s condescending denials and the left’s increasingly hysterical race extremism.
Instead, the authors take the stance of the Kendi-an left.
But why is Scientific American publishing this kind of debatable (and misleading) progressive propaganda? Why don’t they stick with science? As a (former) scientist, I resent the intrusion of politics of any sort into scientific journals and magazines. If I want to read stuff like the above, well, there’s Vox and Teen Vogue, and HuffPost and numerous other venues.
I wonder how long Scientific American will last. . . . .