CRITICAL MATTERS: Goldberg's retreat!

THURSDAY, JULY 1, 2021

The winding road back to the tribe: We'll offer two cheers, or maybe just one, for Michelle Goldberg's latest column.

If we were grading her column on the curve, her column would rate an A-plus. With respect to the current red-hot dispute about critical race theory and public schools, Goldberg did the sorts of things which very few opinion writers in Our Town have done.

Good lord! Goldberg suggested that the infallible people who live in Our Town may not be completely infallible with respect to these critical matters! As we noted yesterday, she broke every rule in the tribal playbook, offering such thoughts as these:

She said she "disagrees [sic] with some ideas associated with critical race theory." She said there's "material that critics lump in with C.R.T. that strikes [her] as ridiculous and harmful."

She said she's seen (antiracist) training programs for public school administrators which she regards as "risible." Before she was done, she even said this:

"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 that? In these ways, she was doing what few other thought leaders in Our Town have been willing to do:

She was suggesting that there's a limit to the wisdom Our Town's thought leaders bring to this roiling debate. She was even suggesting this: 

Some concerns being voiced by Others may even have some merit!

Goldberg suggested that all the wisdom in this dispute may not be found in Our Town! Given the embarrassing way Our Town's other leaders have been performing, this was astonishing conduct.

Soon, though, she wriggled off the hook. Let's examine the way she did that.

Having voiced her criticisms of Our Town, Goldberg erected a stable of straw men. You can see the transition right here:

GOLDBERG (6/29/21): 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.

But I’m highly skeptical that many public schools are teaching that “every white child and family today is invariably complicit” in white supremacy...

“Every white child and family today is invariably complicit in white supremacy?" Are "many" of our public schools teaching that doctrine in some explicit way? 

We'll guess that most of our public schools aren't! But how would some such general assumption invalidate The Others' complaints and concerns?

As she continued, Goldberg claimed that conservative activists are merely "cherry-picking or inventing lurid anecdotes to try to discredit the whole project." In some unknown number of cases, that may well be true.

That said, she offered no examples of this lurid cherry-picking. Instead, she turned to a cherry-picked example of her own:

GOLDBERG: At my own kids’ fairly progressive Brooklyn public school, they were assigned an age-appropriate book about police shootings, “Something Happened in Our Town,” which I appreciated because it helped me explain last summer’s demonstrations to them. They have not, to the best of my knowledge, been ordered to confess their white privilege.

Goldberg is aware of no problem at her own kids' public school. To the best of her knowledge, her kids "have not been ordered to confess their white privilege," she now sarcastically said. 

Her own kids haven't been frog-marched away and forced to confess! In some unexplained way, this reinforced her suspicion that white kids aren't being explicitly proselytized in "many" public schools.

Before long, she was cherry-picking another example—a silly example Time magazine had already cherry-picked. Her column ended like this:

GOLDBERG: A recent Time magazine cover story about the battle over critical race theory featured a Missouri mother worried about the discussions of identity in her son’s ninth-grade classroom. The example she showed a reporter was an English assignment asking students to reflect on the “assumptions that people make about people in the different groups you belong to.” This is not exactly a Maoist struggle session. The sort of antiracist education that’s sparked a nationwide backlash isn’t radically leftist. It’s elementary.

According to Time, a Missouri mother had been perhaps a bit overwrought concerning her son's instruction. According to Goldberg, the teaching to which he'd been exposed "wasn't exactly a Maoist struggle session." 

Somehow, this showed there was no nationwide radically leftist instruction occurring. Werewolves of London again!

Goldberg's children hadn't been forced to confess their white privilege. A ninth-grade kid in some Missouri school hadn't been exposed to a Maoist struggle session. 

On the basis of these pointless examples, Goldberg was somehow able to evaluate what's happening in schools nationwide. Obviously, this doesn't make a lick of sense, except as a way to reestablish fidelity to the tribe, and to its prevailing dogma in the current dispute.

Initially, Goldberg had broken every rule in the book! She said our own thought leaders have behaved in ways which are risible, ridiculous—harmful. 

Some of this conduct, she had said, involves Our Town's narcissism—its impulse toward self-flagellation. She had said this version of antiracism accomplishes very little. She had cited, by name, a very smart writer who thinks there is a problem.

Especially given the current context, this was remarkable conduct. In a slightly different world, it might have led Goldberg to suggest that we try to eliminate various types of imperfect judgment and practice when it comes to the way we teach our frequently brutal history in our public schools.

"At times like this, that simply can't happen," top anthropologists tell us. "Examples will be cherry-picked, and the wisdom of the tribe's central view will once again be confirmed."

Meanwhile, what about the eighth-grade kid we've been trying to get to all week? What about that eighth-grader's tale—the story he recently told about about his history class?

We'll try to get to that kid tomorrow as we continue with Goldberg's column. We'll also look at the way Kevin Drum found his way back to the tribe—but regarding Goldberg, there's this:

As Goldberg's column unfolded, she had made one other attempt to be fair to The Others' concerns. She spoke to an expert who does believe that "left-wing overreach" and "unbalanced curricula" can be found in some or many schools.

We give Goldberg a lot of credit for doing that. It flew in the face of the propaganda being peddled everywhere else Our Town was discussing this topic.

In the end, she wriggled on back to the tribe. But that will happen every time, several top scholars have said.

No one had made her kids take a pledge. Somehow or other, this told Goldberg that the schools, nationwide, are alright.

But what about that eighth-grader's tale? Why don't we cherry-pick his story? Why don't we highlight his tale?

What about the eighth-grader's tale? In Our Town, do we love our ongoing tribal war more than we care about him? 

Tomorrow: The eighth-grader's tale


34 comments:

  1. So many pixels you spend, dear Bob, on Goldberg's dembot bullshit. It's as if you too haven't made up your mind about your cult's liberal-hitlerian propaganda onslaught.

    So, have you or haven't you?

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  2. The question is not whether a reasonable person would find the caricature of CRT presented by Republicans "risible," but whether that portrayal is accurate and true, whether that version of what is happening in our schools is real.

    Michelle Goldberg is not a teacher and not an education expert and has had little first-hand experience with how school curriculum is developed and what it consists of, or even what teachers do in today's classrooms. That leaves her ill-prepared to dispute the strawman concocted by the right to attack liberals and distract the conservative base from Republican malfeasance.

    Goldberg should seek out more information, not just concede that ridiculous examples presented by the right are somewhat ridiculous. Are those things actually happening? Goldberg should want to know and should do the work of finding out.

    So should Somerby. Instead, he lauds Goldberg for jumping on the conservative bandwagon, instead of performing like an investigative journalist (or even an informed citizen). There are lots of criticisms of the conservative attack on CRT. Goldberg could have considered them, and so could Somerby.

    If I were to call Biden a ridiculous figure for wearing a clown nose to bed each night, the question shouldn't be whether it is ridiculous to do that (yes, it is), but whether the President in fact does wear a clown nose to bed.

    Somerby and Greenberg seem to accept conservative bilge hook, line and sinker. That makes them suckers. Because Somerby seems to be doing this deliberately and not as a dupe, he is conning "the rubes" (as he used to affectionately call his readers) and perpetrating a fraud. But what else is new?

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    1. Whether Somerby is a sucker or not, anyone who believes he is a liberal is a sucker. Somerby is a hardcode malignant Trumptard, and there is no point in taking anything he takes seriously except as further proof of his Trumptardism.

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    2. I mean hardcore malevolent Trumptard.

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  3. Somerby is majorly obsessed with this topic, just like Fox News.

    I will reiterate what I said on an earlier post: you can disagree with ‘CRT’, (whatever you think that means) and you can debate the way history is or should be taught in schools (up to and including colleges). You can even accuse liberals of making fools of themselves or being ‘tribal’ (the horror!). But you at least ought to come out in favor of a debate.

    But the Republicans are not interested in a debate or a discussion. They are passing laws to simply outlaw any ‘liberal’ (or what they believe to be liberal) views. That is authoritarian and borderline fascist. Somerby won’t even mention this, much less denounce it.

    Drum’s example from yesterday, of the 2014 debate about the teaching of history shows what a discussion looks like. A proposal was made, objections were made, and a compromise was reached. That is the way things should work. Now, the GOP is simply shutting down the discussion and outlawing the things they disagree with.

    I could cite, as Somerby could if he were interested, the examples of Republicans hounding teachers, in Idaho, where a state official maintains a website where people can rat out teachers who get ‘out of line’, suggestions that teachers wear body cams, the bill in Florida that represents a kind of loyalty test to Republican-approved values, the activists, rather than parents, who show up to complain and denounce teachers at local school board meetings, the laws threatening significant funding cuts to schools, including colleges, that don’t toe the line.

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    1. mh, CRT is not an easy subject to debate. That can’t be done here without the oft repeated claim that the theory is merely an esoteric idea of cloistered academics, so high up in the Ivory Tower that they routinely suffer from nosebleeds.

      CRT could be the perfect representation of Meinong theory- if you can think it, it exists. I say “could” because that may or may not be true. Which is the utterly the case with all things CRT.

      State legislatures cut to the chase and went straight to debating whether public schools should teach kids that American society is wholly structured upon white supremacy and that all people with white skin are duty bound to account for this.

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  4. CRT is a criticism of the GOP's only ideology
    Of course they are going to cry baby about it.

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  5. Why has Somerby named today's essay "Goldberg's retreat"?

    First, she has not retreated, so the title makes very little sense.

    Second, there is a well-known Southern song called Bonaparte's Retreat (which is not about Napoleon). Is this a Somerby dog whistle to that song? There is the fiddle tune Bonaparte's Retreat which is played at dances, and this song bout that tune, with the following lyrics:

    "Met the girl I love in a town way down in Dixie
    Beneath the stars up above, she was the sweetest girl I ever did see
    So I held her in my arms and told her of her many charms, I
    Kissed her while the guitars played The Bonaparte's Retreat"

    Is Somerby signaling to the good ole' boys that he is one of them? It would seem so, since there is no other interpretation that makes any sense. Is this reaching? Not given Somerby's penchant for obscure references and song lyric nostalgia. Unlike Dylan lyrics, there is no liberal cred associated with this song. Is Somerby finally coming out?

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    1. "It would seem so, since there is no other interpretation that makes any sense. Is this reaching?"

      Hahahaha!!

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    2. "Not given Somerby's penchant for obscure references and song lyric nostalgia."

      Ha ha ha yourself.

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    3. Anonymouse8:07pm, you know there is one other interpretation for Somerby’s use of the word “retreat” that actually does make sense and isn’t at all “obscure”

      “Retreat- an act of moving back or withdrawing.
      "a speedy retreat"’

      Tricky bastard, isn’t he?…

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  6. So many of these anecdotal grassroots parent complaints turn out to be ginned up by Republican party operatives posing as concerned parents. Akin to Project Veritas.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Project_Veritas

    https://www.thedailybeast.com/fox-news-concerned-parents-on-critical-race-theory-are-actually-just-gop-activists

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  7. "training for school administrators calling worship of the written word “white supremacy culture."

    That's why I would teach slavery by letting the kids reenact it. Real flagellation was a big part of it. Let's let the Black kid whip the white kids of our own woke Anony-mush commenters. A nonwritten experience that would really make an impression, even better than woke-whites lying on the street pretending to be dead-George Floyd.

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    1. Hold a class election where everyone who gets the most votes gets an A. Then don't let the white kids vote.

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    2. Have the white kids shot by cops, but assure they are unarmed first.

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    3. The schools should work with the local police force, and choose a random white student to be choked to death by a cop each week, if you really want to teach them.

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    4. Since the corporate media says it's a fact that all cop shootings are race-based. We need to root out the anti-white cops who killed 457 whites last year, compared to only 241 blacks. They need to show every shooting on the nightly news and reenact them in classrooms during current events time.

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    5. I'm really surprised that no woke-white has offered to let a black cop kneel on his neck. Call it emotional reparations. Maybe one of these Anony-mushes will volunteer and prove they are truly woke. After all, talk is cheap.

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    6. Why do white supremacist-types crawl out of the woodwork whenever Somerby writes an essay like this?

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    7. Zosima,
      I'm surprised you aren't satisfied with the complaints of blacks against police brutality. (Sarcasm)

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    8. Zoisma,
      Good luck with that. Whitey threw a temper tantrum on January 6th, when black votes were counted in an election. There's no way they'd walk a foot in the skin of a black man.

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  8. Is "white privilege" really absent from CRT? I'd be surprised if that was true. I hear such things on MSNBC, bug advocates for CRT all the time.

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  9. An emphasis on literacy is part of the legacy of white supremacy because slaves were forbidden to become literate. Anyone trying to teach a slave to read would be jailed (or beaten or lynched). That gave white people a big social advantage and in commerce and voting. Later, during Jim Crow years, literacy was made a precondition to voting, not simple reading but tests of literacy that most white people could not pass either (but were not asked to do). Today, literacy is used to screen out applicants to colleges and special programs (such as magnet schools in NYC) because it is a basis for test questions. The lingering cultural differences coming from the lack of literacy for generations of black families (because parents generally teach kids both reading and the value of literacy in the home) present an obstacle to success for black kids in public schools.

    No one is suggesting that literacy is bad or that schools should not teach it. But, it is a white supremacist tool for oppressing black people and that needs to be recognized so that the practice of using unfair tests to screen out black students from opportunities doesn't persist and isn't entrenched in teaching practices, such as tracking and use of materials culturally unfamiliar to black but not white students.

    When Republicans mock statements about white supremacist uses of literacy tests, they demonstrate ignorance of American history. Literacy is a positive goal for all students, but the use of literacy to discriminate is wrong and needs to be changed. And that is far from risible. Somerby should understand this, but he chooses instead of align himself with the forces of evil. Because he is not only a Trumptard but also an asshole.

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    1. So whites invented "a white supremacist tool" that gives Asians and Jews a way to jump ahead of them? That's pretty stupid don't you think? Whites seem to me to be a race of bumblers. Look at how they slaughtered millions of their own kind during the World Wars. They are best avoided by moving to Asia or Africa.

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    2. Gloucon, Jews have a religious tradition of scholarship and literacy. Asians have a tradition of testing as a means of entry to civil service jobs and upward mobility that goes back to the Sui Dynasty (581-618 CE). Instead of forbidding literacy, whites just made laws against their entry into certain professions and schools. These were not changed until the 1950s. It isn't as if they were welcome while blacks were not. Your sarcasm doesn't conceal your ignorance.

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    3. Glaucon X,
      Agreed that white men "succeed" in society, despite them being bumblers. It really show the folly of the idea the U.S. economic system is based on merit.

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    4. Whites created a "a white supremacist tool" and it blew up in their faces and ended up helping non-white races, I think that's hilarious.

      Delete

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