What happened in that Florida school?


Charles Blow and the non-event: We continue to sing the praises of the New York Times.

It's now past 3 P.M. in the East—and as we noted in today's early edition, the Times still hasn't published a news report about a recent non-event.

The non-event took place in Florida. This is the way Charles Blow describes the non-event at the start of today's opinion column for the Times:

BLOW (3/30/23): This month, an elementary school in St. Petersburg, Fla., stopped showing a 1998 Disney movie about Ruby Bridges, the 6-year-old Black girl who integrated a public elementary school in New Orleans in 1960, because of a complaint lodged by a single parent who said she feared the film might teach children that white people hate Black people.

The school banned the film until it could be reviewed. So I decided to review the film myself.

According to Blow, one (1) elementary school "stopped showing" a certain film because a parent lodged a complaint.

As we'll note below, we aren't sure that actually happened. But even if some such thing did happen, we'd call it a non-event.

Why do we call it a non-event? We'd start by noting this:

According to the leading authority on such matters, there were 106,147 elementary schools in the United States as of 2017. (In fairness, only 73,686 were public elementary schools.)

You can pretty much take your choice between those two large numbers. That said, there's always something happening in one of these (many) schools. 

Almost always, a resolution of such kind is reached. Unless you have a script to recite and names to call, these are extremely minor events.

Blow does seem to have a script to push; you can see it in his language. According to Blow, the film at this one (1) elementary school has been "banned" until the school gets a chance to review it. 

Has the film really been "banned"—the film about the remarkable Ruby Bridges? Within our tribe, that word is very pleasing at present. Hacks Like Us like to use it.

That said, we think you're providing more heat than light when you say this film has been "banned." That said, our discourse has run on heat in the absence of light from the past many years.

To its vast credit, the New York Times still hasn't published a news report about this non-event. According to the Washington Post's news report, this seems to be what happened:

Every year, the school in question shows the film to its second graders, and perhaps to students in other grades, as part of Black History Month. 

The school in question showed the film last month, as it always does. The Washington Post's news report gives a bit of background, then takes things from there:

EDWARDS (3/28/23): In mid-February, North Shore Elementary sent a permission slip to parents asking whether their children could watch “Ruby Bridges,” which is standard procedure for movies rated PG, district spokesperson Isabel Mascareñas wrote in an email. Two families opted their children out, and on March 2, a teacher showed the movie to about 60 second-graders.

Four days later, one of the parents who’d chosen not to have their child watch the film filed a formal objection with the district. The parent listed several racial slurs in the movie that they felt were inappropriate for second-graders to hear, including the n-word. The parent also listed a scene where adults scream, “I’m going to hang you!”

The parent said the movie was more appropriate for an eighth-grade American history class and asked that the district remove it from the list of films approved for elementary schools.

Officials told the parent that because the class had already watched the movie, the school would not show it again this school year, Mascareñas wrote. Officials will review “the challenged material,” although Mascareñas said there’s no timeline on when that review will be completed.

Let's review! One (1) parent stated her view about the suitability of the film on the second-grade level.

Except on a planet where Charles Blow is king, there is zero reason why this parent shouldn't have done that. School officials are going to watch the film and see if they agree with this parent's judgment.

Except on the planet where Charles Blow rules, the film in question has not been "banned" in any normal sense of that word. Nor has the one (1) school in question actually "stopped showing" the film. 

According to that news report, the film had already been shown as part of this year's Black History Month by the time the complaint was offered.

According to that news report, the film wasn't going to be shown again until February of next year. By then, it's entirely possible that school officials will have watched the actual film and rendered their ultimate judgment.

At present, Hacks Like Us like to screech and holler and yell about non-events of this type. It lets us repeat the time-honored claim we love—the claim about books and films being "banned" by the reprobates we fashion as The Others.

Blow proceeds, all through his column, to slime the parent who lodged this objection, calling her the kinds of names our Yahoos like to employ. 

He never quite addresses the possibility that this parent could imaginably have a point about the use of this particular film on the second grade level

Is it possible that this this parent could possibly have a point? That is a matter of judgment! 

But as the Post notes in its news report, the film carries PG-rating. As we ourselves noted yesterday, this is what that means:

MPA Movie Rating System:

G – General Audiences

All ages admitted. Nothing that would offend parents for viewing by children.

PG – Parental Guidance Suggested

Some material may not be suitable for children. Parents urged to give "parental guidance." May contain some material parents might not like for their young children.

According to its official rating, the film in question "may contain some material parents might not like for their young children." 

That may include the use of racial invective; other factors may be involved. At any rate, that explains why the Florida school had parents sign permission slips before their 7-year-old children were allowed to see the film.

The one (1) parent who voiced a complaint said that 7-year-olds are too young to see this film in a public school setting. Very loudly, Blow disagrees—but look at the way he reasons:

BLOW: What happens if this glove gets turned inside out and minority parents begin to complain about the teaching of other aspects of American history and culture?

What happens if they reject lessons or books about Thomas Jefferson because he raped a teenage girl he enslaved, Sally Hemings, and was the father of her children, including at least one born while she was a child herself. (For the record, I consider all sex between enslavers and those they enslaved rape, because it was impossible for the enslaved to consent.)

What happens if a parent objects to a school celebrating Columbus Day because Christopher Columbus was a maniacal colonizer who sold young girls as sex slaves?

What happens if parents object to books about and celebrations of Thanksgiving because the standard portrayal of the first Thanksgiving as a meeting among friends who came together to share bounty and overcome difference is a fairy tale?

What if they object to the Bible itself, which includes rape, incest, torture and murder?

With all due respect to the New York Times, that work is so dumb it squeaks. And yes, he really did include that part about objections to the Bible itself.

That work is also slightly inhuman. It comes from the place where humans scream, not from the place where humans employ their human discernment.

Blow's inquiring mind wants to know such things as this:

What happens if minority parents begin to complain about lessons or books about Thomas Jefferson?

Duh. Wouldn't that depend on what the books and lessons said? In fact, there have been many complaints about such lessons and books. Is Blow unaware of that fact?

Blow's inquiring mind also wants to know this:

What happens if parents object to books about Thanksgiving? 

Duh. Wouldn't it depend upon what the book in question said? Isn't it likely that some such complaints could have the germ of a solid point?

In a similar vein, ponder this: 

In Blow's view, Christopher Columbus was "a maniacal colonizer who sold young girls as sex slaves." 

Let's assume that statement is accurate. Would a book or film exploring that fact be suitable in second grade? 

People, it's part of our hemisphere's history! Why would we handicap our children by refusing to teach such facts?

In fairness to Blow, we assume that his perpetual anger is fully genuine. Presumably, it springs from the soil of our nation's brutal racial history, which stretches back to 1619, or perhaps to 1492.

Blow's anger is fully genuine, but so in his apparent disregard for the lives of others—in this case, for the lives of the 7-year-old children on whose needs and interests he can't seem to make himself focus.

Here's what we mean by that:

We've been thinking, in the past week, about NAME WITHHELD, a very shy kindergartner who used to stop by our fifth-grade class on a daily basis when we were a Baltimore public school teacher.

Her older sister, NAME WITHHELD, was a student in our fifth grade class. Evey day at 3 P.M., the very polite, very shy little girl would come to our room and her older, very impressive sister would walk her home from school.

Fifty years later, we still remember those daily visits from that beautiful, shy little girl. Her older sister was well cared for and very capable. From these recollections, we draw a certain conclusion:

Kindergartners aren't fifth graders! Partly depending on their ages, the "children" in our public schools are not all the same!

The things you'd discuss with a fifth grader you might not discuss with kindergartners, or even with a first grader. Everyone on the planet knows this, except for Loudmouths Like Us.

The Florida parent who voiced that objection had every right to do so. At some point, the school will assess her complaint, and this most recent non-event will have reached its end.

In the meantime, Hacks Like Us will holler and yell and shout our scripts and our insults. We'll massage the facts to improve the tale, the way tribal demagogues do.

In fact, the parent who voiced that objection to that film is development director for the YMCA of Greater St. Petersburg. We have no idea what her overall political views might be. 

In Blow's column, we seem to be told, on no discernible basis, that this parent is involved in "the resurrection of a Lost Cause moment in which a revisionist history is crafted to rehabilitate Southern racists." 

Blow has no discernible way to know what this parent's views may be—but so what? Hacks Like Us enjoy shouting insults. We love our Storylines, in which we are the very good people and everyone else is Them.

We've never seen the 96-minute film in question. We have no idea whether it's a good fit for second graders in a public school setting.

It's always possible that the parent may have the germ of a decent point. Or not! At some point, the school will decide.

We do know this:

Back when we were in Baltimore classrooms, we had discussions about our brutal racial history with fifth and sixth graders which we wouldn't have had with younger kids. 

Our racial history is very brutal. For that reason, race is a very important and very painful topic.

Blow seems to be almost completely unable to reason in this area. It isn't so much that he lacks fundamental human discernment. In truth, he doesn't even seem to know that human discernment exists.

Like many other tribal shouters, he seems to say, simple-mindedly, that we need to teach our history, and we need to teach it all. We need to teach everything everywhere all at once! On every grade level! 

BLOW: History is full of horribleness. We do ourselves and our children no favors pretending otherwise.

Learning about human cruelty is necessarily uncomfortable. It is in that discomfort that our empathy is revealed and our righteousness awakened.

So true! We do our second graders no favors by pretending that history isn't full of horribleness.

For that reason, let's teach our second graders all about the Holocaust! Shall we show them the photos of the piles of emaciated bodies Allied troops found, to their horror and to their disgust, as they liberated the camps?

Should we show those pictures to our first graders? The photos might make them "uncomfortable." But if they do, whose fault and whose doing is that?

We don't have any view about the suitability of this film for second graders in a public school setting. We do have a view about the people you see all over blue cable, who shout and scream favored Storylines in service to Marks Like Us.

There's nothing wrong with suggesting to a school that its instruction is inappropriate or unwise in some way. Stating the obvious, that is exactly what the New York Times has done, on a very large scale, through its 1619 Project.  

There is zero reason why the Times shouldn't have chosen to do that. That is true whether you agree with their various judgments or not.

There's zero reason why that parent shouldn't have done what she did. But as hacks across the cable dial please us with recitation of script, a question does pop into our heads:

Is it possible that our nation's imitation of discourse is now coming, more and more, from a troubling realm? More and more, does that clownlike conduct come from a disordered realm in which the Yahoos R Us?

In the end, two cheers for the New York Times. To their credit, they haven't pimped a news report about a non-event!


  1. tl;dr

    "With all due respect to the New York Times, that work is so dumb it squeaks. "

    It's not dear Bob. The New York Times does perfectly good war-mongering. Perfectly good hate-mongering. And it provides perfectly good shit for feeding and exciting your brain-dead tribesmen.

    "That work is also slightly inhuman."

    Now, that's for sure. No question about that...

  2. Bob: All attention for Ruby Bridges, zero for Ruby Freeman.

  3. Since Bob has, let's face it, all but decided not to do his
    job anymore, let's offer up a thought in muted tribute.
    This morning the The Morning Joe peanut gallery were
    having quite a guffaw fest over a recent Trump talk over
    how he saved farmer's from the death tax. A good
    giggle was had by all, and indeed, Trump was verbally
    stumbling around in a fashion that would shock those
    who lost their grip on the turnip truck a few hours
    before. This is news so old it might put Mao to sleep,
    forcing him to slump forward and have to readjust
    his drool cup.
    It had something to do with the old saw that Trump
    had saved family farms from the inheritance tax, a
    long ago debunked talking point that hasn't much been
    around since W was making life as comfy as
    possible for the have-a-lot class. It's pretty much on
    the war on Christmas level of poo poo ca ca.
    Yet, with our "liberal media" on the case, this
    academic point was totally lost on the Morning Joe
    yucksters. This is how it works out from time to
    to for "our tribe" on the "one true network."
    If you bet that Bob would be paying enough
    attention to take note to this sort of thing,
    you would likely loose the Farm.

    1. You may not know, this blog was supposed to be about objective media analysis.

    2. But it was always his hobby, never his job.

    3. That we know of. Anything is possible.

  4. 1. Somerby suggests that if an event is not covered by the NY Times, maybe it didn't happen:

    "...we aren't sure that actually happened..."

    2. Even if this is one event in one of 106,147 schools in the US, it is an action taken under a new, controversial law allowing parents to ban items for all other students, not just their own.

    3. Because this is a new Florida law, shouldn't the relevant number of schools be the number of FL schools, not nationwide? This is how Somerby puts his thumb on the scales to trivialize an event he has already decided is a non-event.

    4. Further trivializing the event, Somerby says "In fairness, only 73,686 were public elementary schools. Note the word "only". Yet 73,686 is 20,000 more than half the nationwide public schools, and that difference is itself almost half of the total nationwide elementary schools. So the word ONLY does not really fit the size of the difference, but it does fit Somerby's agenda as he tries to show that 1 school doesn't matter.

    5. And if one school doesn't matter, does one parent of one child matter? Why would a law be written to benefit that lonely parent at that one trivial and lonely elementary school showing one movie?

    I think this whole exercise in sophistry is a non-event itself. This is how Somerby runs the rubes, without having to do any research at all, such as finding out how many elementary school in Florida might be affected by the new law, or explaining why a local event in FL should matter to New Yorkers sufficiently to put FL local school news in their local NY paper. The NY Times certainly covers local NY school issues, and national news, such as that Biden had a belly laugh at DeSantis's expense or that this Ruby Bridges incident upset black people sufficiently to cause Blow to write an op-ed about it. Because racist incidents in FL affect a lot more than 76,000+ black people in that state, even if this is just the first state where the law has been applied in a racist manner.

  5. The parent who got the film banned was one who opted out their own kid. Why does it seem fair to Somerby that other kids, including black ones, should be denied the opportunity to see the film by a parent whose own kid wasn't required to see it?

    Officials will review the film and there is no timeline for doing that. In other words, it could be reviewed never, which amounts to it being banned, since it cannot be shown again until it has been reviewed.

    Somerby says there is zero reason why the parent shouldn't have complained. I think the fact that neither she nor her kid saw the film is one reason. Another is that she is asking for it to be banned for other people's kids.

    Somerby thinks that because the film hasn't been reviewed, it hasn't been banned. I think that because the film is on a list of films that need reviewing, it cannot be shown and that means it is banned, if only temporarily. It cannot be seen. If a teacher wanted to show it tomorrow, he or she couldn't do it. That means it is banned.

    Should a parent who has not seen the film and who has not stated a specific concrete objection (e.g., explained why it is not appropriate for the grade where it was shown), be able to have a film removed like this? I don't think that a parental judgment should supersede that of a teacher and the administrators who made it part of their yearly curriculum for observing Black History Month. And I think a school should take some action to make sure the parent is objecting because of some age-related inappropriateness and not just because the parent dislikes the idea of a month devoted to Black History, or because of its civil rights content. In a state full of racists, with a racist past, evaluating that possibility is also necessary. Not just giving the parent the benefit of the doubt, as Somerby does. Somerby does not know this parent at all, and thus has no ideas what the motives behind the request to ban the film might be.

    1. Somerby endorses moral panic when it serves the Right, like during the last election for governor in VA, but when it cuts the other way, Somerby says “shush your whining”.

      Somerby wants his tribe to win, right wingers, that’s what motivates his nonsense blog posts.

  6. Somerby presents the film rating system, but that does not apply, since the parent in question already had the child opted out of viewing it. Each parent was notified and had that opportunity. A parent can buy a ticket for their kid at any movie theater, when the film has a PG rating. That means the rating is not an excuse to remove the film from the curriculum.

    Somerby doesn't address this fact. Instead he mocks Blow's suggestion that black parents might have different concerns about parts of the curriculum that have different meaning for black parents and children. He doesn't address Blow's points at all -- he just dismisses them. I assume Somerby doesn't know that a Utah parent has already objected to the Bible because of its salacious and disturbing content.

    Somerby suggests there would have to be many such complaints, for them to matter, and yet only one complaint from a white parents was enough to get this Disney film banned. How many black parent complaints would equal one white parent complaint? Three, five, dozens? How can Somerby suggest this without seeing how offensive it is to say that several black parents are needed to equal one white parent complaint-wise.

    And no, it doesn't matter what the book would say, just as this parent presented no specific objection to anything in the film itself. Then Somerby attempts to justify Thomas Jefferson and Christopher Columbus as history, without acknowledging that the same argument applies to Ruby Bridges.

    Then Somerby diverges into his own anecdotal evidence about kids of an entirely different age, viewing entirely different material. As if that were relevant or any kind of argument addressing what Blow said or the law itself.

  7. Watch out when Somerby starts talking about beautiful shy little girls, especially polite ones, with their impressive sisters. He remembers them 50 years later. Of course he does.

    The kids in question were not in first grade or kindergarten or in his class. He doesn't know how they reacted to Ruby Bridges. Does Somerby imagine that kids who are young don't know that they are black while many of their classmates are white? Does he not know that their parents may have discussed race-related topics with them. Shouldn't they know what happened to a young girl their age? Blow raises that point -- that the girl in the film endured the events depicted but the concern is for the reactions of white kids.

    Laughably, Somerby points out that the "Development Director" for the YMCA may have special insight into what is appropriate for 2nd graders. Does he not understand what a development director does? Nothing involving children -- lots involving business and finance. And yes, by taking advantage of the provisions of this new law (how did the parent know about it?), she is participating in whitewashing FL history to make racists look better than they deserve.

    Blow is correct that empathy makes us feel bad when we see upsetting things. Children need to develp empathy so that they don't grow up to become monsters as adults. If a white child feels no pain when watching what was done to Ruby Bridge, something is wrong that needs to be addressed, because even toddlers feel empathy. Learning to put yourself in others places is part of developing empathy, and you do that by watching films and imagining what it might be like to be Ruby instead of themselves. You don't avoid such experiences because they may be emotionally upsetting. You help kids work through them and understand how it relates to their own lives and how it affects our society and our individual actions. More of this might prevent bullying and racist acts committed by kids later on, including their recruitment into white supremacist organizations as teens and young adults.

    Somerby is looking at this incorrectly. Sparing kids pain is not the job of an educator. Even learning involves distress, when math is hard or you don't make the team or someone calls you a name or you don't get an invitation to a party. Growing up is hard. Teachers are supposed to help kids with their struggles, not wrap them in bubble-wrap so they are never challenged and thus have no chance to learn coping skills or life lessons that build character and resilience. I am so glad that Somerby is no longer a teacher. He doesn't understand the job at all.


  8. This shit is confusing, we must say. Liberals hate it when the word "nigger" is even printed on paper, let alone uttered aloud.

    That's why they ban Mark Twain.

    ...and then suddenly not show a movie with "nigger" in it to small children is a crime against humynity.

    ...'em liberals, are they brain-dead or what?

    1. Mark Twain isn’t banned but the word is deleted or modified when it is gratuitous.

  9. The second amendment is evil.

  10. Trump has been indicted.

    1. Yay yay yay yay. Guess Stormy took Trump down after all.

    2. Here’s a wise comment:


  11. I object to the Bible.

    1. It’s important to have a justification of slavery, sexism, homophobia, and abusive indoctrination of our children; don’t shoot the messenger.

    2. I’ll say this for the Bible: it doesn’t establish a right to keep and bear arms.

    3. Fair enough; don’t stone or crucify the messenger.

    4. One need to look no further than the way Maddow keeps a wad of snake meat under her desk at all times.

      For whom is it wadded?

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