Canceling Social Studies Education

From HuffPost:

“Republicans in the Texas House passed a bill Tuesday that effectively bans public school teachers from talking about racism, white supremacy or current news events.

‘The bill is written in kind of a clever way,’ said Democratic state Rep. James Talarico, a vocal critic of the bill. ‘You can talk about race in the classroom, but you can’t talk about privilege or white supremacy. It doesn’t outright ban talking about race, but the idea is to put in landmines so any conversation about race in the classroom would be impossible.’

The legislation also states that teachers don’t have to take professional training ― like cultural proficiency and equity training ― if it makes them feel any ‘discomfort, guilt, anguish, or any other form of psychological distress’ because of their race or gender.

‘The idea is to whitewash American history of any legacy of racism and white supremacy,’ Talarico told HuffPost. ‘The scope of this bill is very broad and is going to have a chilling effect on social studies and civics teachers across the state.'”

Let’s just get back to having kids memorize the states and their capital cities. And coloring maps. They always enjoy that.

What Are The Sins Of Your Past?

Times are changing. Adapt or lose your scholarship, your job, or whatever else you value.

Recently, a UCLA trackster, I’m embarrassed to say, got kicked off the team following the release of a phone call littered with racist and homophobic comments. 

A college football coach was just fired for a bevy of inappropriate behavior involving female students.  

What do these stories have in common? Both the dismissed trackster’s and fired coach’s offenses were committed before they were affiliated with their respective institutions. The runner was in high school when the phone call was made. Allegedly, the coach’s problems occurred 5-8 years ago at a different university. 

The following questions aren’t intended to simply forgive and forget, but I’m genuinely curious, what language in scholarship offers and job contracts enables athletic departments to rescind scholarships and allows employers to break work contracts based upon an athlete’s or employee’s previous behavior? And how far back can an admission’s office, an athletic department, an employer go? Doesn’t there have to be some statue of limitations?

I am not proud of some of my actions while matriculating at Cypress High School in Cypress, California, a few years back. Should I worry?  

Postscript.

 

When The Student Is The Teacher

Two to three months of not running due to injury now feels like two to three years as I seek to return to my previous level of mediocrity. On Saturday’s long run, I found myself eavesdropping in the back of the pack as two friends commiserated about how markedly their respective work cultures have changed. In simplest terms, an underlying “whose most ‘woke’ competition” has broken out in both their workplaces. 

The diversity leaders are attempting to teach their colleagues to respect differences, accept everyone’s social identities, and subvert traditional power dynamics. The participants are learning not to say how they really feel, lest they unwittingly stray from the liberal progressive path laid out before them.

Because the diversity leaders are focused on outcomes and not process, they’re plodding ahead completely unaware of the “go along to get along” self censorship that their work is whipping up. A phenomenon that makes meaningful change nearly impossible. 

As a long-time discussion leader, I’ve gotten very good at understanding this dynamic. And disassembling and reassembling it in my classrooms. But as an educator and fallible human being, I’ll never get that challenging work just right. At best, it’s always two steps forward and one back. Just like last week in one of my undergraduate classes. I flailed around a bit and then a student had the courage, and made the time, to enlighten me. 

In class, I suggested that as a country maybe we needed to recognize our limits and take some time to lower the temperature on conversations about politics and race, class, gender, and sexual orientation. “Pass the ball backwards” I suggested, before advancing up the pitch again.

My student gave me permission to share most of what he wrote me shortly after class ended. His fourth paragraph makes me think I did not communicate my message as clearly as I could have, but that does not take away at all from his overarching message:

“My takeaway from the conversation was that in the end, politics are simply politics, and one’s views reflect their level of education. This does apply in certain situations, but it is not applicable to basic human rights. As a white cishet (cisgender heterosexual) man, you do not experience these issues and therefore need to do more work to understand them. An important thing to remember is that the burden of your education on an issue does not fall onto those affected by it. As we have discussed in this class, most educators are white. I have had a very slim number of queer educators as well. Because of this, existing in these spaces made for white cishet people is exhausting. I am constantly expected to perform and have these conversations for people to convince them that I should be allowed to exist. Fighting constantly to be permitted to simply exist takes a heavy toll and as an ally in a privileged position it is your responsibility to do research and educate yourself on these topics rather than expect minorities to do the labor of educating you because for those minorities, those conversations can be dangerous.

As a white cishet man, you can have these conversations with certainty that you are safe. As a queer AFAB (assigned female at birth) person these discussions can put me at serious risk.

Furthermore, you need to understand how much more drastic this is with our current administration. Almost immediately after Trump came into office in 2017, his administration removed the official pages on civil rights and LGBTQ+ rights from the official White House website. Earlier this year, the Trump administration removed nondiscrimination protections in healthcare for LGBTQ+ people. Even more recently, with Amy Coney Barrett’s appointment to the Supreme Court, there has been new potential for marriage equality to be taken away. This is only an incredibly short list of ways that the Trump administration has directly impacted my rights. These conversations are so sensitive and are not as simple as disagreeing. If I meet someone who disagrees with my basic human rights, I am meeting someone who thinks that I do not deserve healthcare as a trans person and as an AFAB person. In a more extreme situation, as is with our vice president Mike Pence, someone disagreeing with me could mean that they believe I should be in a conversion therapy camp or worse. I do not have the privilege of agreeing to disagree because that disagreement can mean the loss of my life.

The human rights that do exist in our country today did not come from accepting or dismissing bigotry. The Americans with Disabilities (ADA) Act of 1990 came to be because of disabled people protesting and restricting access to federal buildings, public transport, and other such things. The civil rights movement consisted of endless protests, sitting in the front of busses, and countless other acts. Women’s suffrage was fought for with protests and marches. Child labor laws came to be because of people fighting for children’s rights and safety. In Martin Luther King Jr.’s words, a riot is the language of the unheard. The expectation to be silent and accept mistreatment in hopes that we will be kindly gifted our rights and safety is ridiculous. This is why these conversations are not as simple as disagreement. I cannot sit and agree to disagree with someone’s opinion if their opinion is that I do not deserve basic human decency and rights.

To close this email, I want to reiterate that I do not mean this to seem like I am telling you exactly what you need to think or believe. My main objective with this is to hopefully bring you more perspective on why this mindset could be harmful. If you wish to discuss any of this further, I would be glad to discuss it over email. I appreciate you having a class environment in which I feel comfortable bringing up these issues and having this conversation.”

My second reply to him:

“Follow up question. Or more accurately, I’d like to practice active reading/listening to see if I understand correctly. Are you saying that some people (or maybe many people since 73m voted for T) are irredeemable and therefore personal safety has to take priority over dialogue? If so, I better understand why because of your thoughtful explanation of your lived experience. But as an educator working with students across the political spectrum, it’s difficult for me to conclude that.”

And his reply to my reply:

“I wouldn’t necessarily say that people are irredeemable, but more so that people that choose to not listen to minorities cannot be educated by them regardless of how much effort those minorities put into the conversation. The burden of those conversations can’t fall on the people affected by it because those people are being silenced, and therefore it becomes nearly impossible to change bigoted people’s mindset unless more privileged people educate themselves and use their voices.”

Obviously, I can’t tell my speedy running friends not to self-censor themselves, but my student has convinced me that opting out until “cooler heads prevail” isn’t an option for me. That doesn’t mean I have a failsafe roadmap on how to proceed. All I know for sure is I have to remain open to being taught by my students, and other people whose life experiences are markedly different than mine, and continue “getting more comfortable being uncomfortable”.

 

This Is How You Start A Personal Essay

“When I entered the job market, in 2017, I was mistaken for a prostitute.”

Carlyn Ferrari in ‘You Need to Leave Now Ma’am’.

“I learned to present a highly curated version of myself. I smiled. I made small talk. I exchanged pleasantries. I suppressed the urge to remind colleagues of my expertise during meetings, knowing that my tone or dissenting opinion would be perceived as angry, intimidating — or worse — insubordinate.

I listened as my first-generation students and students of color cried in my office and talked about how they felt they didn’t belong. Though it broke my heart, I treasured these visits. I had more in common with these students than my colleagues. Like me, they were brought in to “diversify” the campus. They had no support and neither did I. Every time they spoke their truth, I felt like a fraud for hiding mine.”

Pressing Pause On A ‘National Conversation On Race’

Everyday brings more examples. People regularly write, speak, and/or behave in ways a majority of people would deem racially insensitive, if not outright racist. What should we do about that?

It seems like we’ve decided to make the consequences so severe that the racially insensitive have no choice but to suppress their racist tendencies. Dox them, ostracize them, fire them from their jobs.

Conservative Republicans, who not always, but often are racially insensitive, are quick to label this “cancel culture” which only adds to their persecution complex and makes them even more defensive on subjects of race.

Personally, at this time of heightened racial consciousness, I’m most interested in what militant black men and women are thinking. The more militant, the more I tune in.

Historically, there have been repeated calls by progressives of all colors for a “national conversation on race”. As a life-long educator, that strategy is my preferred one, but I’m not hearing militants make many, if any references to “conversation”.

Maybe that’s because conversation requires slowing down in order to address mutual defensiveness. Instead, activists are accelerating demands for long sought for changes which makes total sense given our collective attention deficit disorder. How long until the media spotlight shifts? In essence, strike now for legislative protections against state-sponsored violence; strike now for the removal of Confederate statues, flags, and related symbols; strike now to destroy white supremacy in whatever form.

As a pro-conversation educator, I’m out of step with the times. Which is okay. Just know I’ll be committed to the conversation long after the spotlight shifts.

 

Tuesday Assorted Links

1. Unbundle the police?

“It’s an unacknowledged peculiarity that police are in charge of road safety. Why should the arm of the state that investigates murder, rape and robbery also give out traffic tickets? Traffic stops are the most common reason for contact with the police. . . . Many of the police homicides, such as the killing of Philando Castile happened at ordinary traffic stops. But why do we need armed men (mostly) to issue a traffic citation? Don’t use a hammer if you don’t need to pound a nail. Road safety does not require a hammer.”

2. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar writes as well as he played basketball, and I contend, he may have been the best ever. #UCLA.

“I don’t want to see stores looted or even buildings burn. But African Americans have been living in a burning building for many years, choking on the smoke as the flames burn closer and closer. Racism in America is like dust in the air. It seems invisible — even if you’re choking on it — until you let the sun in. Then you see it’s everywhere. As long as we keep shining that light, we have a chance of cleaning it wherever it lands. But we have to stay vigilant, because it’s always still in the air.”

3. When it comes to Presidential leadership, Mexico just can’t win.

“The numbers were startling: In March, Mexico’s government said, the country’s emergency call centers were flooded with more than 26,000 reports of violence against women, the highest since the hotline was created.

But Mexico’s president brushed aside his own cabinet’s announcement, suggesting, without evidence, that the vast majority of the calls for help were little more than pranks.

‘Ninety percent of those calls that you’re referring to are fake,’ said the president, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, when asked about the surge in calls at a recent news conference. ‘The same thing happens with the calls the metro gets about sabotage or bombs.'”

For shit’s sake. This from a leftist populist, who won the presidency more than a year ago by promising to transform Mexico into a more equal society. Fool me how many times?

Why America Can’t Escape Its Racist Roots

Orlando Patterson, Professor of Sociology, Harvard.

“. . . sociologists have argued that while some whites may have liberal views, a lot of them are not prepared to make the concessions that are important for the improvement of black lives. For example, one of the reasons why people have been crowded in ghettos is the fact that housing is so expensive in the suburbs, and one reason for that is that bylaws restrict the building of multi-occupancy housing. These bylaws have been very effective in keeping out moderate-income housing from the suburbs, and that has kept out working people, among whom blacks are disproportionate, from moving there and having access to good schools. Sociologists have claimed that while we do have genuine improvement in racial attitudes, what we don’t have is the willingness for white liberals to put their money where their mouth is.

One of the fundamental aspects of the American race problem is segregation. The black population is almost as segregated now as it was in the ’60s. That is the foundation of a lot of problems that blacks face, but it also explains and perpetuates the isolation of whites who grow up in neighborhoods where they don’t see blacks or interact with them. That reinforces the idea that blacks are outsiders and don’t belong.”

And Chris Rock says, “Being a cop is a hard job, it’s a hard fucking job. . . . But some jobs can’t have bad apples. Some jobs, everybody gotta be good.”

 

 

Catching Up With Anti-Liberty University

If this Dustin Wahl Twitter thread is any indication, maybe Jerry Falwell’s spell on Anti-Liberty University is more tenuous than meets the eye.

Wahl, a 2018 A-L-U graduate, uses his grandfather’s pic as his profile pic.

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Related. ‘Does not reflect the God of the Bible’; LU professor resigns after Falwell’s mask tweets.

Dr. Christopher House:

“As an African American man and Christian pastor, I am horrified and appalled that the president of the largest Christian university in the world would knowing and intentionally use images that evoke a deep history of racial terror of people of color in the U.S., specifically individuals who look like me, for the purposes of making a political statement to the Governor of Virginia.

I was brought into LU to generate the kind of dialogue that challenges the ideas, narratives and ideologies that underlie the very images Falwell intentionally used to make a political statement to the Governor of Virginia. Falwell did so at the expense of Black people and Black pain. This is abhorrent, evil and sickening! This does not reflect the God of the Bible!”

A-L-U’s tax exempt status is a travesty.