WEDNESDAY, JUNE 30, 2021
Also, Drum recalls the past, with anthropological insights: In Tuesday morning's New York Times, Michelle Goldberg joined the fray.
Goldberg discussed the ongoing dispute about the teaching of American history in public schools. Her column appeared beneath this headline:
The Maddening Critical Race Theory Debate
Goldberg said the debate has been "maddening." Subscribers had no way to know it, but the columnist was about to break every rule in the tribal book.
Readers of the Washington Post had already been told, in a series of columns, that the whole thing was just a "hissy fit" being staged by The Others. The central question was how we, the good smart people here in Our Town, should deal with all the "hot air" coming from a bunch of people so dumb that they can't even define the obscure academic framework known as "critical race theory!"
Over at the Washington Post, everyone had said it! Now, Goldberg decided to enter the fray—but at one point, the columnist broke every rule in the tribal book.
Is Goldberg allowed to say these things? This is what Goldberg said:
GOLDBERG (6/29/30): My own position is basically anti-anti-critical race theory, in that I disagree with some ideas associated with C.R.T., especially around limiting speech, but am extremely alarmed by efforts to demonize and ban it. There’s certainly some material that critics lump in with C.R.T. that strikes me as ridiculous and harmful. I’ve seen the risible training for school administrators calling worship of the written word “white supremacy culture.” There’s a version of antiracism based on white people’s narcissistic self-flagellation that seems to me to accomplish very little.
Is Goldberg allowed to say such things? Just consider what Goldberg said:
Goldberg said that she disagrees [sic] "with some ideas associated with critical race theory!" She said she disagrees.
Yes, that's clearly what she said. And after that, it got worse.
She said there's some material that critics lump in with CRT—i.e., some material which is specifically being criticized—which strikes her as "ridiculous," and also as "harmful." Plainly, this implies that some of the The Others' complaints may in some sense be valid!
The running dog didn't stop there! She said she's seen training for public school administrators which she regards as "risible. " Such risible conduct comes from the side of this non-debate which originates here in Our Town!
She even said there's a version of the antiracism at issue which seems to accomplish very little. Incredibly, she said these unhelpful formulations are based on the "narcissism" of some people who live here in Our Town.
This would suggest that somewhere, someone among The Others might have a reasonable complaint about something which may be happening in our public schools! As a prelude to these shocking statements, Goldberg had even offered this:
GOLDBERG: In a recent piece in The Week, Damon Linker criticized the left for being what he called “anti-anti-critical race theory,” sidestepping legitimate objections to what he described as a “pernicious” phenomenon.
Parents protesting critical race theory, he wrote, “do not want their children taught, in state-run and state-funded schools, that the country was founded on an ideology of white supremacy in which every white child and family today is invariably complicit regardless of their personal views of their Black fellow citizens.” He compared the anti-anti-critical race theory camp to leftists in the 1950s who, while condemning McCarthyism, dismissed justified concerns about Soviet Communism.
That someone as smart as Linker, author of an essential book on the Catholic right, would analogize Communism to critical race theory strikes me as a sign of a moral panic, but leave that aside for a moment...
Good God! Goldberg had even said that someone who seems to be very smart disagreed [sic] with Our Town's basic stance in the current debate. This very smart fellow seemed to think that The Others might have some legitimate concerns about the way their children are being portrayed in their public schools.
In the end, Goldberg found a tangential way to cast this smart person's presentation as part of "a moral panic." In this way, she may have reunited herself with The Tribe.
But is Goldberg allowed to say such ridiculous things in the first place? If she does, might this mean that the current debate isn't The Oldest Story in The Book, in which, as always, all the merit lies on Our Own Town's side?
Rather plainly, Goldberg had broken every rule in the tribal playbook. Rather plainly, she had suggested that the goodness and truth in the current dispute may not all rest with Our Tribe!
Throughout the course of human history, heretics have been burned at the stake, or dunked in the pond, or possibly pulled into four different pieces, for expressing such inappropriate views. According to major anthropologists, we're wired to behave in this unhelpful way:
We're wired to split into two warring tribes, then seek pathways to tribal war. All the merit lies on Our Side, each tribe will be wired to claim.
There's more to Goldberg's column than what we've cited so far. For now, let's move to Kevin Drum's new post, in which he recalls another dispute along these same lines—a dispute which started way back in 2014.
Back in 2014, "the folks who make up curriculum guidelines for the AP history course decided to update things," Drum writes. "This prompted dismay from conservatives and got a fair amount of press coverage."
We don't recall the incident. But Drum proceeds to offer an account of the incident by David Casalaspi, "a mainstreamish liberal who's an education policy analyst for the National Governors Association."
According to Drum, Casalaspi is "a mainstreamish liberal" and he's a policy specialist. But how weird! Drum provides this puzzling excerpt from the gentleman's later account:
CASALAPI (5/3/16): The maligned 2014 framework represented a first attempt by the College Board to produce a coherent narrative of American history which would encourage teachers to stop teaching history as a collection of trivia facts and instead teach the subject more thematically. In doing so, though, it pressured teachers to adopt racial and gender conflict as the dominant paradigm of historical development.
In this way, the 2014 framework listed “Identity”—with an emphasis on racial and gender grievances—as the first of seven “organizing themes” for the teaching of American history. Additionally, the framework was littered with references to “white Americans,” “white settlers,” “white pioneers,” and their racial biases. The concept of Manifest Destiny, for instance, was described as “built on the belief in white racial superiority.” And one of the only things students had to know about World War II was that the dropping of the atomic bomb and the internment of Japanese citizens led to the questioning of American values.
....I am a liberal, but I often found myself agreeing with conservatives on this issue because I am wary of any U.S. history curriculum that both infringes upon the free speech of teachers and proffers a narrative of history which encourages identity-building through the balkanization of student populations along racial and gender lines. The long-standing purpose of social studies is to help students understand each other as citizens, not as members of competing tribes of with irreconcilable cultures.
By our reckoning, Casalaspi "pulled a Goldberg" with respect to that earlier dispute. Even as he improbably claimed to be a liberal, he improbably said that he "often found [him]self agreeing with conservatives" about the proposed curriculum!
Improbably, he said the proposed curriculum "encouraged identity-building through the balkanization of student populations along racial and gender lines." Even as he posed as a liberal, the rather obvious running dog was pretending to believe that!
According to Casalaspi's peculiar account, The Others might have had some valid concerns back in 2014! As he continued, Drum said this about that:
"The curriculum was changed in response to complaints, and everyone seemed to be relatively happy with the final 2015 product."
By our reckoning, Drum almost seemed to be doing it too! He almost seemed to be saying that a dispute had broken out, a dispute in which The Others might not have been totally wrong!
In response to some of The Others' complaints, some changes had been made in the proposed curriculum. Everyone was pretty much happy with the final product—and yes, we're supposed to believe that!
Anthropologists came to us last night, discussing this presentation. Just look where Kevin took things from there, these disconsolate scholars all said!
They also commented on some of the comments to Drum's intriguing post. Our "human race" is wired this way, these top experts told us again, for what seemed like the ten millionth time.
Tomorrow: Ways to remain aligned with the tribe
Still coming: The current eighth-grader's tale