Tribal war comes to Loudon County!

MONDAY, JUNE 14, 2021

The Others must always be wrong: The way Our Town is conducting our tribal war becomes more and more depressing.

For one example out of many, consider Robert McCartney's essay in today's Washington Post. In print editions, the mocking headline says this:

White Fragility on Display in Loudon [County]

It's on the front page of today's Metro section. In the course of his rumination, McCartney displays the essence of total war:

The Other Side must be totally wrong. They can't ever have a germ of a sensible point. Everything they say must be wrong. In the end, our team will always be pretty much right.

At issue is a "racial equity initiative" which was adopted two years ago by the public schools of Loudon County, a large Virginia suburban county outside Washington. According to McCartney, complaints about this program are hopelessly dumb. He starts his essay as shown:

MCCARTNEY (6/14/21): How can we combat racism in America if many White people see any attempt to remedy it as a threat and an insult?

That question was front and center last week in Loudoun County at a rowdy school board meeting featuring outraged complaints from scores of conservative parents and activists.

They objected to a racial equity initiative adopted two years ago by the school system in the affluent Northern Virginia suburb. The effort, ordered by the state attorney general, aims to improve treatment of students of color, who are a majority in Loudoun.

The project has led to racial sensitivity training for teachers, the dropping of a pro-Confederate high school mascot and a formal apology for Loudoun’s history of segregation.

According to McCartney, the conservative parents who complained last week "see any attempt to remedy [racism] as a threat and an insult." After mocking some of the comments made by "the mostly White parents," McCartney set about showing how silly their complaints really were.

Their complaints don't super-silly to us. Here are the two examples McCartney finally offers of their "exaggerated concerns:"

MCCARTNEY: For instance, a website opposed to the equity project points to a brief video of a Loudoun teacher in a college-level English class asking students to describe what they saw in a photo showing a Black woman and a White woman standing back to back. When one student said he saw “just two people chillin’,” the teacher faulted the student for refusing to acknowledge the racial difference.

“I think you’re being intentionally coy about what this is a picture of,” the teacher said at one point in a back-and-forth over the photo.

The teacher was more forceful than he should have been, but his comments hardly constituted totalitarian brainwashing as conservatives allege.

The website also cites a slide, allegedly shown to second-graders, asking students to answer the question, “How can you be an anti-racist leader?” A suggested answer: “I can be an anti-racist leader by always being an upstander and doing the right thing. I can always fight for what is fair.”

That’s an outrage only for people who don’t think the schools should try to fight racism.

Let's start with that second example, the one allegedly involving second graders. Just to get started, Good God!

Second-graders are very young! It's one thing to teach them how to sound out words, or how to work with fractions. It's a very different thing to be telling someone else's seven-year-old 1) that he or she should strive to be "an anti-racist leader," and 2) the way to go about becoming such a person.

Teaching values to someone else's kid has always been a tricky proposition. It's especially tricky now as our society  increasingly descends into Babel—as we divide into an increasing number of political and demographic groups with different views about where basic justice and wisdom lie.

A second-grader is somebody else's kid! Teachers need to be very aware of that basic fact. 

McCartney seems to have no sense of this basic state of affairs. To McCartney, if Loudon County calls it "anti-racism," it simply has to be the right thing to tell second-graders to do.

It's tricky when a public school system starts teaching values to very young kids. And no, teachers won't always display the best judgment when asked to do such things.

This returns us to that first example, the example drawn from the "college-level" high school English class. 

In that instance, McCartney was willing to concede that the teacher was "more forceful than he should have been," but he set an extremely low bar as he assessed this audiotaped incident. The teacher's comments didn't "constitute totalitarian brainwashing," so the whole thing was really OK!

Was the whole thing really OK? In fairness, no one died in the incident!

That said, McCartney links to the site which (he says) was dumb enough to voice concern about the teaching involved in this incident. At that site, this transcript of the classroom exchange appears, along with the audiotape:

TEACHER: Tell me what this seems to be a picture of. 

STUDENT: It’s just two people chillin’. 

TEACHER: Right, just two people. Nothing more to that picture? 

STUDENT: Nah, not really. Just two people chillin’. 

TEACHER: I don’t believe that you believe that. I don’t believe that you look at this as just two people. 

STUDENT: It truly is just two people though, is it not? 

TEACHER: I think you’re being intentionally coy about what this is a picture of. 

STUDENT (chuckling): What am I being coy about? It’s two people standing back-to-back in a picture. 

TEACHER: Yeah, and that’s all you see? Two people? 

STUDENT: I’m confused on what you would like me to speak on. 

TEACHER: I don’t think you are. I don’t know why you do this. I’m not trying to call you out, but you...you act as if there’s nothing noticeable about this apart from the fact that there’s two people. 

STUDENT: Well I’m confused. Are you trying to get me to say that there are two different races in this picture? 

TEACHER: Yes, I am asking you to say that.

STUDENT: Well, at the end of the day, wouldn’t that just be feeding into the problem of looking at race, instead of just acknowledging them as two normal people? 

TEACHER: No, it’s not. Because you can’t not look at, you can’t look at the people and not acknowledge that there are racial differences. 

The student wanted to say he was looking at a photograph of two normal people. The teacher wouldn't accept any statement which didn't go straight to their "race."

According to the teacher, "You can’t look at the people and not acknowledge that there are racial differences." Just to get started, Good God!  

That was ghastly teaching and ghastly intellectual work on any conceivable level. That said, we wouldn't blame the teacher for that. He was plainly being asked to engineer a type of conversation he wasn't equipped to handle.

Teaching reading and math is easy; teaching values is hard. Teaching values is a potential imposition, in a way teaching math is not.

In Our Town, we don't seem to know that! In Our Town, the Reverend McCartney is patrolling the aisles. He knows what everyone should think and believe, including your second-grade child. And our teachers know that you should see and mention race ahead of everything else! You should instantly mention everyone's race in every situation!

What is the overall nature of Loudon County's racial equity initiative? We have no idea.

The problems may be few and far between. On the whole, the program may be excellent.

That said, McCartney is demonstrating the basic essence of tribal war. According to prehistoric rules, nothing said by one of The Others can possibly have any merit at all, and nothing done by one of Ours can possibly be wrong.

The Post and the Times are increasingly full of such unhelpful, unintelligent work. On a basic intellectual level, Our Town has never been super-sharp, and today it's sinking quite fast.

The last part of that exchange: That transcript omitted the last exchange on that audiotape. Continuing directly from above, the Student and Teacher say this:

STUDENT (continuing directly from above): But if we're going for—let's say, if we're looking for equality in all this, why would we need to point out things such as that?

TEACHER: Because those things, those differences, are real things.

That teacher's a hundred miles over his head. We feel sorry for the kid.

Is this happening all over the county? We have no way of knowing, but teaching values is tricky, challenging, hard.


35 comments:

  1. "STUDENT: It’s just two people chillin’. "

    Oh, very good, dear Bob, this is vert good indeed.

    we feel that this post, this transcript of the classroom exchange, is the most powerful rebuttal of your silly notions of a 'horrible culture', 'humyn failure', and all the rest of your tics, your usual bullshit.

    As you can see, the culture is fine and healthy, humyn nature is fine, and it's just that your liberal-zombie cult is emitting sickness all over the place.

    And this kid, he the exact equivalent of Andersen's "the Emperor has no clothes" kid. Very good, and thank you, dear Bob.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You were funnier when you pretended you didn't LOVE the Establishment.
      This warmed-over John Birch shtick is Cecelia-level unfunny.

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    2. Anonymouse 5:31pm, you need to see about your chronic hiccups.

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  2. "The Others must always be wrong"

    The Others ARE always wrong when they disagree with what rational, normal people believe.

    ReplyDelete
  3. "Teaching values to someone else's kid has always been a tricky proposition. "

    This is what the schools do. They make upright citizens out of children by teaching sound values. Children learn how to stand in line, how to share toys, how to speak kindly to others, and any number of behaviors important to socialization toward participating in a group.

    For Somerby to pretend that there is something outrageous about teaching values is ridiculous. For example, when I was a student, we were all strongly urged to bring dimes to school to contribute to the Red Cross (in 2nd grade, 7 year olds). The class tried to reach 100% participation. Is this indoctrination or is it how school works? There are many examples of this kind of thing, ranging from returning library books on time to sitting quietly and not making wise cracks during show and tell.

    Treating those of other races kindly is a good lesson, in my opinion, and Somerby cannot justify opposition to it by suggesting that schools shouldn't teach values because nearly everything a school does with children is value-laden. And he knows that, since he worked in an elementary school himself. It is disingenuous to object only when race is involved.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Evidently, “teaching values” now means brow-beating a kid and calling him coy for having decided to make race and gender incidental in first encounters.

      Delete
    2. The student is obviously being coy.

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  4. First of all, the link that Somerby provides to the “transcript” is a link to a youtube video. The video cuts off after one minute and 47 seconds. There was obviously more to the discussion that some shadowy organization called “fightforschools” chose not to make available.

    And the link in McCartney’s story to their website (https://fightforschools.com/news/f/teacher-bullies-student-for-colorblind-approach-to-race) takes you to an empty website. I couldn’t find a transcript a link, nothing.

    Somerby needs to act more like a media critic here, and less like a conservative apologist. I would argue that McCartney didn’t do enough research here. Who is this group “fightforschools”? Who runs it? Who funds it?

    Also, he quotes several conservatives at the Loudoun school board meeting saying things like this:
    “We can’t find one race to be the scapegoat for every bad thing that’s ever been done.”
    “You are now teaching our children to be social justice warriors and to loathe our country and our history.”
    “I will do everything I possibly can to fight to the bitter end until you prove to me that you are not teaching my children that they are racist just because they are White.”

    But is that what is really being taught around the country? Is there evidence of any of that in the truncated video that Somerby finds so appalling? No, there isn’t. And Somerby doesn’t take the time to research this, although he did research the racial composition of that Mississippi school.

    I don’t disagree that parents have a right to speak out about unwanted indoctrination in the schools, but they don’t have a right to invent grievances, which I suspect is happening here.

    Somerby’s readers deserve better than his uninformed judgment that the conservative critics at that board meeting have some sort of clearly valid point here.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. If there’s more to the exchange between the teacher and student, I hope it’s teacher easing up and allowing this student to take a non-racist approach rather than an anti-racist one.

      Anything other than that is a militant ideological approach.

      Teachers shouldn’t be at war with their own students.

      Delete
    2. And the police shouldn't be at war with the citizens.
      Do you want to tell them?

      Delete
    3. It's okay. I'm not black, so I might not get shot by a cop for it.

      Delete
  5. “A second-grader is somebody else's kid! Teachers need to be very aware of that basic fact.”

    KID: “Mr Somerby, my parents said that the blacks were enslaved because they were inferior to whites and didn’t deserve to be free citizens.”

    SOMERBY: “Who am I to argue with your parents?”

    THE KID: “Jesus, what a cop-out you are , Mr Somerby. “

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. So you’ve moved the scenario from the reality of an actual student adhering to the concept of color blindness, to a pretend one of outright racism.

      How would a mature teacher respectfully handle your pretend scenario:

      Katie, black people are not inferior to white people. No one in this classroom will be treated differently because of their skin color. I care for all of you and I am so HAPPY I get to be your teacher.

      Delete
    2. And, Katie, tell your Republican parents to please not vote.

      Delete
    3. A pretend ending for a pretend situation.

      The actual student was so much smarter and reasonable than his real live teacher.

      Delete
    4. No, that student was not. We don't live in a color blind society. A student who doesn't notice that is not smart about anything social, and might possibly be autistic.

      Delete
    5. If the pic had been of a white couple would the student be required to say that this is a picture of two white people?

      Would he have to also include their sex is his description in order not to scolded by his instructor?


      Delete
    6. Why would the race of this couple be any more notable than their hair color?

      Delete
    7. Who tried to suppress the votes of redheads?

      Delete
    8. And who tries to suppress the votes of black people?

      Delete
    9. The Republican Party.

      Delete
    10. The Republican Party.

      Delete
  6. So, you show a student a Georgia O'Keefe painting and ask what they see. They don't want to describe anything sexual so they evade the point. Or maybe they really don't understand that there can be such a thing as symbolism? Is it good teaching to let them ignore the content?

    Or you are discussing a poem in which there is an obvious metaphor. If the teacher fails to elicit or point out what is being referred to in that metaphor, that is bad teaching too.

    In a racialized society, the unwillingness of a student to see that race is important in such a photo is important to call out and I do not believe that teacher was being heavy-handed or doing something wrong by asking the student to reach a bit more and see what was being said by the artist who took that photo.

    If you see a couple walking down a beach, hand in hand, and one is white and other is black, they are not just depicting a couple, but the inter-racial nature of the relationship is important too. A teacher who fails to point this out, even when the student denies seeing it, is not doing a proper job.

    Somerby's claim that he "doesn't see color" is ridiculous. He is in fact saying that he doesn't want to see color or that he wishes we could ignore color, but he sees it, and so does this student.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The teacher was being utterly heavy-handed.

      If the pic had been of a Georgia O’Keefe, the instructor’s manner was the equivalent of demanding that an “unseeing” student see a labia in a flower petal.

      That’s not the approach that should be taken and more significantly, your analogy is poor.

      Race s not a characteristic that represents some human characteristic. It is a human characteristic. Race is not representative of human anatomy, it is human anatomy.

      If the teacher had wanted to instill the idea that the picture was representative of a something abstract or figurative such as the variations of beauty and of nature, or a concept such as unity, he certainly would not have found “two people chillin” to be anything other than a great place to start.

      Delete
    2. If a photographer wished to portray a black and a white child holding hands, to symbolize inter-racial harmony, how would they get that message across in class if the student refuses to see the images selected by the artist?

      Delete
    3. If the artist asked the queston and the answer was two people chilling he could have easily started there and by doing that had a more willing reception to any other question.

      A picture of a black child and a white child holding hands would be representative of the student’s
      opinion of “Well, at the end of the day, wouldn’t that just be feeding into the problem of looking at race, instead of just acknowledging them as two normal people.”

      Delete
    4. Hopefully, dear Corby, the students, normal students, will be smart enough to ignore any and all liberal-hitlerian race-mongering messages.

      And hopefully they will stay immune to liberal-hitlerian brainwashing during the whole course of their lives.

      Delete
  7. Here are quotes from an 8th grade textbook used in Louisiana:

    https://www.dailykos.com/stories/2021/6/14/2035192/-The-sad-story-of-southern-slave-owners-as-told-in-8th-grade-history-books

    "With more than 1,000 acres and 150 slaves, the family's future seemed secure. However, in 1861, after Louisiana's secession from the United States in January and the beginning of the Civil War in April, the lives of everyone on the stone plantation changed."

    ""They were able to reclaim their planation but, due to emancipation (the freeing of the slaves), lost all of their property in slaves. The family had to face the new reality of planting and harvesting their fields with freed people who, Kate regretted, now demanded ‘high wages’.”

    Those poor, poor slave owners! How their lives changed!

    ReplyDelete
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