WEDNESDAY, MARCH 16, 2022
It seems to have happened in Byram: The Washington Post's Alyssa Rosenberg is a good, decent person. She's fighting the latest round of the culture war in her latest column—or at least, so she seems to believe.
Headline included, her column starts like this:
‘I Need A New Butt!’ belongs in schools. Kids need the gross, rude and absurd.
The latest round of the renewed culture war over books in schools might well be the silliest yet.
Toby Price, an assistant principal in Byrum, Miss., was fired this month for reading “I Need a New Butt!” to a group of second-graders. His superintendent, Delesicia Martin, said he’d caused “unnecessary embarrassment.” With all due respect, she ought to butt out—and rediscover the purpose of children’s books.
According to Rosenberg, Price shouldn't have been fired. Also, she wants Superintendent Martin to butt out.
That said, is this really "the latest round of the renewed culture war over books in schools?" In fact, it doesn't have to be that—unless you're committed to acts of war.
For starters, let's start with this. As best we can tell, this incident didn't happen in Byrum, Mississippi at all!
According to the Census Bureau (and Wikipedia), and according to the Hinds County Schools, the town in question is actually Byram, Mississippi—and this might be a place whose cultural values differ slightly from Rosenberg's, and even perhaps from yours.
Granted, that shouldn't be allowed. Rosenberg graduated cum laude from Yale. The superintendent graduated from Southern Mississippi, then got her doctorate from Nova Southeastern. Also, her professional photos seem to suggest that the superintendent is black, although we'd be inclined to let her settle such issues herself.
This latest round in the culture war took place at Gary Road Elementary School, right there in Byram-not-Byrum. With respect to Byram, there's this:
According to the Census Bureau, Byram's 12,666 people (2020 census) were 28.8% white, 69.6% black.
According to Niche, the students at Gary Road Elementary are 89.9% black, 7% white. Also according to Niche, 86% of the kids receive free or reduced price lunch.
In short, we offer you this:
Gary Road Elementary is a lower-income, majority-black school full of good, decent kids. And uh-oh! In some regions of the South, many people—even including the people you may think of as black—may have cultural values which differ from those which prevail in places like Lexington, Mass.
Granted, that shouldn't be allowed. But until we can gain full control of the culture, that's the way it will have to be.
For ourselves, we don't know why Toby Price got fired for reading that book. We're rarely happy to hear that someone got fired or lost a job.
On the other hand, we don't know what parents in the community would think about this matter. It's possible that the superintendent simply made a strange decision. It's also possible that her decision would more or less align with community values.
We don't know any of that. We may know several things:
We know that this isn't "the latest round in the culture war" unless you're absolutely determined that it has to be—or unless you're addicted to such acts of war.
Now we'll take a guess:
We'll guess that many people who have been pimping this incident thought they were having the usual fun at the expense of the Southern white crackers our vastly more intelligent tribe simply loves to deride.
So it was with all the fuss about McMinn County, Tennessee and the graphic novel Maus. So it may have been here. Our dimwitted tribe simply loves to play this familiar, dimwitted old game.
We also know that the community in question seems to be Byram, not Byrum. It looks to us like the AP may have made an initial mistake, with everyone else following suit.
(For what it's worth, the town of Byram seems to think that its name is Byram, not Byrum. Then too, they're just a bunch of hayseeds and hicks. They may be wrong about the name of their town, along with everything else.)
At any rate, it looks to us like the AP may have made a mistake, and everyone else followed suit. Why did everyone follow suit? Easy!
Everyone followed suit due to a general disinclination to seek additional information about the school, the school district or the town within which this event took place. In other words, due to the widespread journalistic disinclination to know what you're talking about.
Earth to tribe:
Everyone doesn't share our infallible cultural judgments about every possible matter. We agree that this shouldn't be allowed, but that's the way it is.
As best we can tell, it's Byram, not Byrum—and no, this isn't a war.
It "may be the silliest yet," she said. Our guess? We can get even dumber!