Gene Brabender meets the late Rodney King!

FRIDAY, JULY 2, 2021

The current eighth-grader's tale: It isn't easy—it isn't easy at all—to teach our nation's history to kids. We'd analyze the situation as follows:

Reciting tribal dogma is easy. Teaching our history is hard.

This morning, we linked to the current eighth-grader's tale—to his account of some of the teaching he says he encountered in his English class this past year. 

We think such stories are well worth considering. (For further context, click here.) Such stories align with the best parts of Michelle Goldberg's recent column—the parts of her column in which she acknowledged that even in this, The Best of All Possible Towns, we're sometimes inclined to do and say things which are ridiculous, risible, even harmful, sometimes based on our own narcissism.

According to experts, we're going to generate bad ideas. That's even true in Our Town, experts say!

At present, the teaching of history has become the focus of our tribal forever war. The Others recite one set of dogmas. In Our Town, we recite ours.

In Goldberg's column, she seemed to acknowledge the fact that Our Town will often go wrong in such matters. But by the time her column was done, she'd reverted to tribal belief:

The way we're doing this is good! The dumbness is all Over There!

Initially, Goldberg seemed to say that we can go haywire too. But, by the end of her column, she had reverted to tribal affirmation, based on some cherry-picked blather. 

To us, the full sweep of her column seemed to suggest that we should try to address overwrought behavior wherever it may appear. We should try to address "unbalanced curricula." We should also try to address objections which don't make much sense.

We should try to look for error wherever the error is found! But according to experts, that isn't the way we're wired to think and react during times of high partisan stress.

As we thought about Goldberg's column, we thought of the late Rodney King. "Can't we all get along?" he famously asked at one point. Plainly, he was implying that we could and we should.

We think his viewpoint made sense. We also thought of the late Gene Brabender, star of Jim Bouton's celebrated baseball book, Ball Four. 

Brabender was a big raw-boned right-hander with little tolerance for nuanced discussion. He was just a big farm kid from Wisconsin. Apparently, his nickname was "Lurch." 

When Bouton would try to engage in nuanced debate, Brabender had a short fuse. In recent years, anthropologists have said that he captured the essence of our shared human nature at one point in Bouton's famed book:

"Where I come from, we just talk for a little while," the big right-hander angrily says. "After that, we start to hit."

Unmistakably, that's the way Our Town's big stars tend to play the tribal game. It isn't attractive and it isn't smart, and it doesn't solve the question at hand: 

How do you teach a nation's brutal history to roomfuls of good, decent kids? How much do you tell them, and in what grade? How do you explain the (fairly recent) inexplicable behavior of people a great deal like us?

How do you answer questions like those? Despite the damn-fool dumbness pervading Our Town, those questions aren't easy to answer.

It's painful to watch Our Town in action as these episodes unfold. Truth be told, though it isn't our fault, we tend to be dumb and quite self-assured, and no, this doesn't help.


46 comments:

  1. "How do you teach a nation's brutal history to roomfuls of good, decent kids?"

    You teach basic facts, dear Bob. Major events, without dramaqueenery. Wars, revolutions, major territorial changes, major political changes.

    Frankly, we don't think it's all that hard, dear Bob.

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  2. “It isn't easy—it isn't easy at all—to teach our nation's history to kids. ”

    No one is saying it’s easy. There is a debate about how best to teach history, not about what is the easiest way.

    Adherents of a particular approach believe that approach is correct. Why shouldn’t they defend it?

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  3. Somerby says ‘We should try to look for error wherever the error is found!’ Suppose I have done that, and found the other side full of shit. Do I concede anyway?

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  4. ‘We should try to look for error wherever the error is found!’

    Does Somerby imagine that an admission of error by liberals will be met with a soul-searching by conservatives and a willingness to compromise? If so, he is majorly deluded. Conservatives are trying to outlaw any debate.

    Besides, why is it so obvious that liberals are in error here?

    And why is the onus solely on liberals?

    And what is the upshot?
    LIBERAL: ‘Yes, i the liberal admit to some sort of error in the discussion of the teaching of history.’

    CONSERVATIVES: ‘Good. Then we will proceed with our plans for a total ban your views. Are you ok with that? Doesn’t matter.’

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    1. So you advocate hiding and lying about mistakes. I love your virtuous Democratic values, courageousness and willingness to fight for what you believe in. ;)

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    2. Those are Hillary Clinton values. Shit runs downhill.

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    3. Sadly, mh represents quite well both the stupidity and the moral cowardice of current day Democrats.

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    4. 8:47, you sound a little confused about what mh said. Gratuitous mention of Hillary doesn't help your cause.

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    5. Just to see an advocation against admitting errors reminds one of exactly what Hillary did in 2016 when she refused to admit her vast and ignorant errors and the vast and ignorant errors of her campaign, instead placing the blame on phantoms like Russia etc.

      Why ever hide the truth if you are principled and truly believe in what you are doing and did? Just to see mm advocate against admitting errors shows a weak, unprincipled, unconfident, losing position. Stand firm in who you are and in what you believe. Don't cower in shame from your mistakes because of perceived external reactions.

      His advice is the advice of a weak loser. Try to grow a pair.

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    6. Reminds me that the NY Times spent 2016 pretending to care that Republicans were pretending to care about Hillary Clinton's email protocols.

      For those playing at home, here again is the list of political reporters and Republicans who cared about Hillary Clinton's email protocols:


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    7. Yes exactly! Blaming mistakes on everyone but themselves. 'No it's the New York Times, it's Russians, it's Comey, I did everything perfectly!' Yes, we agree. That's my point. Democrats now operate completely from a position of fear. The comments here are a great example. Any type of criticism is instantly batted away with accusations of disloyalty or dishonesty or even more paranoid and ludicrous accusations all of which never, ever address or examine the criticisms themselves. That seems to all come from Hillary Clinton. Not looking at criticisms and instead finding scapegoats. And you know the sad part is that the rank and file Democrats buy it up so ignorantly. They have been trained for years to do it themselves as you see in the comments here. This is such a weakness of character. And a weakness of courage. It's very sad to see

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    8. "Any type of criticism is instantly batted away with accusations of disloyalty or dishonesty."

      Holy Liz Cheney, I didn't realize the Democrats were so intolerant.

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  5. It doesn't seem likely that Brabender, the large raw-boned farm kid from Wisconsin, is a liberal. Bill farm kids with a low tolerance for discussion tend to vote for Trump.

    Rodney King had brain damage following his beating by police after a drunken car chase. He didn't like it that people were rioting in his name, but he wasn't calling for Republicans and Democrats to get along, much less bigots and activists. His was an inchoate plea to end violence, not discussion.

    Somerby likes to take things out of context and he doesn't care what the original meanings were, as long as the surface meaning of the words he has "borrowed" suit his purposes. Ball Four was not about politics.

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  6. Hey, here's a news flash:
    There are good teachers and bad teachers. Some know how to teach sensitive subject matter and some don't.
    Also, not meaning to be too cynical here, but that letter from the eighth grader seems a little bit too Foxy to not be questioned – if you get my drift.
    On another point, I haven't checked out history curriculum since my kids were in high school a couple of decades ago, but there wasn't much CRT being taught then, and I doubt if there is now in my small, rural Midwest community of downstate red counties.
    Thinking back to my high school days, if reconstruction and Jim Crow were taught at all, it was very briefly.
    About the only thing mentioned about reconstruction was that the carpetbaggers and scalawags were opportunists who were trying to steal the land from the rightful owners (the plantation lords) and that the federal government allowed a bunch of unprepared recently-freed black people to vote and hold office and that ruined things for everybody. It was only after the troops were withdrawn and white people were put back in power that things began to straighten out.
    It was much later in college before I began to learn how the white people used violence and the threat of violence to regain the upper hand.
    You should be able to teach our country's history without traumatizing fragile white boys (like that letter writer) and still get the point across that white men have benefited mightily overall by the treatment of Blacks, Native Americans, women and the various waves of immigrants, including the current influx of Hispanics.

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    1. Fragile white boys. Yes, whenever someone criticizes the way they are being taught, they are "fragile." Perfect argument to silence dissent. If you criticize, you're a racist. Avoids discussion, a lazy, ideological argument. Aimee racism with no proof.

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    2. Assumes racism with no proof.

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    3. It really isn't the students criticizing the way they are being taught, but conservatives who object to being characterized in a bad light in front of their children. Those adults are certainly fragile, in my opinion. If you prevent minorities from being represented in history in an accurate manner because it will make you look bad or feel bad, you ARE a racist. Racists really don't like being called racist when they are doing racist things, but that doesn't make them any less racist.

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  7. You’ve just got to love the part of Ms. Stangel-Plowe’s letter of resignation where she describes the head of Dwight-Englewood School standing on an auditorium stage and telling his facility that he wishes he could fire all them in order to hire teachers who aren’t white.

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    Replies
    1. I wish we could fire you and get a commenter who isn't white instead.

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    2. If only that were true...

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  8. That supposed letter from the supposed eighth grader was posted at a website called https://www.fairforall.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/06/student-letter-to-dana-stangel-plowe-4.pdf.

    Guess who’s on the board of advisors, among others:

    https://www.fairforall.org/about/board-of-advisors/
    Megyn Kelly
    Andrew Sullivan
    Bari Weiss
    And...

    Chris Rufo

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    Replies
    1. Where could she have gone to get this story out?

      CNN?

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    2. The "story" is a fraud. It doesn't deserve to be out masquerading as news.

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  9. The school where that eighth grader supposedly attended was a private school.

    That isn’t exactly relevant to the ongoing debate, which concerns public schools.

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    1. In a discussion (which you claim to want) where everyone is wondering what CRT looks like as applied, what’s happening Dwight-Englewood is entirely relevant.

      If you scroll down from Stangel-Plowe’s letter of resignation, you’ll see that the tenets of CRT that were yesterday ascribed to arcane academic theory are alive and well at a posh school full of our future leaders.

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    2. Private schools get to teach a lot of things. My niece attended a private religious school where she was taught that yoga is of the devil. That is why the GOP laws don’t cover private schools.

      Perhaps parents who pay big bucks can remove their children from a private school if they object to the curriculum. That’s the free market ain’t it?

      And that is why the debate is about publicly funded aka public schools.

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    3. Your argument that what has happened at Dwight-Englewoid is not relevant to a discussion regarding public schools is specious and would be even if you hadn’t spent the last few days saying the topic had been stymied by legislation against it.

      The Florida legislature was very specific in its guidelines:

      “Instruction on the required topics must be factual and objective, and may not suppress or distort significant historical events, such as the Holocaust, slavery, the Civil War and Reconstruction, the civil rights movement and the contributions of women, African American and Hispanic people to our country, as already provided in Section 1003.42(2) F.S. Examples of theories that distort historical events and are inconsistent with State Board approved standards include the denial or minimization of the Holocaust, and the teaching of Critical Race Theory, meaning the theory that racism is not merely the product of prejudice, but that racism is embedded in American society and its legal systems in order to uphold the supremacy of white persons. Instruction may not utilize material from the 1619 Project and may not define American history as something other than the creation of a new nation based largely on universal principles stated in the Declaration of Independence. Instruction must include the U.S. Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and subsequent amendments.”

      https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.abcactionnews.com/news/state/history-curriculum-standards-take-center-stage-for-fla-dept-of-education%3f_amp=true

      You had five editorials in a week at the WP. You have a school engaged in a small controversy over CRT now.

      Let’s see how many news orgs bother to question, parents, teachers, school honchos, and students in order to facilitate our national dialogue.

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    4. Indeed, dear mh, they can remove their children.

      Which is entirely irrelevant to dear Bob's point about damn-fool dumbness pervading Your Town.

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    5. Cecelia, there’s no national dialogue once a law has been passed to settle the issue. The discussion is over.

      And my point about private schools is that they can teach any damfool thing they want. How many religious schools teach that abortion is murder, or that liberals are evil totalitarians? (Also things my niece was taught). There are far more such schools doing that than those doing something like this Dwight... school is purported to have done. In general, public schools don’t replicate the ideological bent that private schools are allowed to do, so, no, it isn’t specious to suggest that it is a weak argument to extrapolate from an isolated case of a private school to ALL public schools, including colleges.

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    6. Those editorials are in response to conservative complaints, not because there is widespread use of CRT in public schools.

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    7. mh, I’ve been under the impression that there are more states in the Union than eleven.

      If CRT fails to find a place in ANY state it won’t be the fault of Fox News.

      Can there be a CRT-lite? What is Critical Theory if not the supposition that western culture is endemically and inveterately predicated upon white supremacy? How would public schools mitigate that principle in the way that private schools need not?

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    8. Anonymouse 5:57pm, my point in mentioning the editorials was in answer to mh’s suggestion that there had been little public discussion on the issue.

      Addressing the fears about the theory would be part and parcel of a dialogue.

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    9. Cecelia, instead of making up garbage about what you think CRT must be, why not look it up? There is a summary on Wikipedia. Reading it might cause you to understand that what conservatives are attributing to the schools has nothing to do with CRT.

      Why should public schools mitigate the idea that our society (not all of Western culture) is predicated upon white supremacy if that happens to be true? Schools should be teaching true and accurate versions of history, not concealing the ugly parts to spare conservative feelings.

      It is a bad idea for private schools to bend the truth to suit ideology (religious or otherwise) because they disadvantage their students and handicap them in higher education. Schools that do not teach evolution, for example, are unable to get their graduates accepted in the University of California system because they do not have adequate preparation for college level courses in science and social science. They don't have to believe in evolution, but they must know what it is. Similarly, students need not believe everything they hear about racial history but they must know that such history exists in order to function in college level courses. Note that part of this dispute is about AP courses in history, which earn college credit at many schools.

      It would be better if you avoided the term CRT because when you use it you are signaling that you adhere to conservative demagoguery and are not interested in discussing school curriculum, but only interested in partisan objectives (owning libs, distracting from Republican political problems). And when you continue to use the term CRT, after it has been explained to you that such a term is irrelevant, you demonstrate that you are incapable of learning or participating in an actual discussion, but only interested in scoring points.

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    10. Anonymouse 6:26pm,I don’t think you’ve read a single thing I’ve written here or read any posts from mh as well.

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    11. She says, while ignoring everything I said about CRT...

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    12. ‘Can there be a CRT-lite? What is Critical Theory if not the supposition that western culture is endemically and inveterately predicated upon white supremacy?’

      You should have refrained from attempting to answer your own question, because it gives the impression that you aren’t open to dialogue.

      My understanding is that CRT is merely a way of examining race, racism, and white supremacy in a society, such as our own, where those were undoubtedly significant factors and which left a legacy that is still with us. White supremacy is a pernicious ideology, it is still with us, and needs to be resisted.

      But I don’t think that’s what the issue is. The discussion about how to teach history today is about being more open about the injustices of the past, including a greater honesty about racism and white supremacy. If you don’t teach that, how will students learn that it is wrong and should be resisted? But as soon as this suggestion is made, conservatives are off and running accusing liberals of some vast nefarious plan to indoctrinate the youth and they label it ‘CRT’, because they always need a bogeyman.

      I still don’t see a connection to what that private school was supposedly doing. Or do you think every school administrator/teacher is under orders of the liberal collective?

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    13. "My understanding is that CRT is merely a way of examining race, racism, and white supremacy in a society, such as our own,..." blah, blah, blah.

      Examine away, dear mh, keep examining 24x7, if you're so inclined.

      But shouldn't the rest of us, including our children, be left alone to do whatever we want too?

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    14. mh, the subject really started with the 1619 Project. That project champions the idea that the founding of the country was predicated upon slavery.

      That set off a controversy among historians, not just politicians.

      Within the discussion of the 1619 Project , CRT was referenced and it was off to the races from there.

      CRT seems to be impossible to discuss because dissent from it is made tantamount to trying to suppress the actual horror of slavery, and post-slavery injustices, or else the theory is turned into the Antifa ghost- something said not to exist or to be meaningful or relevant, even as it is seen, referenced, photographed, denounced, applauded almost daily.

      You aren’t truly opened to a national discussion of the matter if the first thing you do is to tell doubters of the theory that they don’t know what it is, while you’re pushing an ephemeral version of it being lessons that explicitly detail historic wrongs and modern day injustices and the eternal struggle against institutionalized corruption.

      You say, “My understanding is that CRT is merely a means of examining race, racism, and white supremacy in a society such as our own, where those were undoubtedly significant factors and which left a legacy that is still with us. White supremacy is a pernicious ideology, it is still with us, it needs to be resisted.”
      (As an aside- It’s interesting that when I say that using the words “inveterate” or “endemic institutional racism” one Anonymouse idiot or another will bang out their specious paragraphs that eternally and invariably boil down to saying ‘You don’t know. Shut up.’ )


      Well, the devil is in the details, bro. It’s also in the thoughts and feelings of CRT’s supporters (and that is what they are) when they get provoked by doubters and then start letting it all hang out.

      I’m sorry, but people truly do understand when they’re being casted as the beneficiaries of endemic, basement-to-roof institutional racism, or casted as the victims of it.

      The people complaining that there is no true…accurate…relevant discussion of CRT, or of what it is that American kids need to learn about their history and society, are the same people who rush to make the subject as intangible as possible when anyone tries.

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    15. Also the book White Fragility comes across as a little too subjective and strange for a lot of people (of all colors). To have that book championed by the left makes them look like weird bullies which contributes to pushback of "CRT" or whatever you want to call it and the ruling left in general.

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    16. 12:49,
      And yet they call liberals "snowflakes".
      I'm starting to think all these Right-wing accusations might just be "projection".
      What say you?

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  10. ' Truth be told, though it isn't our fault, we tend to be dumb and quite self-assured, '

    Certainly Trumptards like you are dumb and self assured. But it is your fault that you're a Trumptard, since you chose to become one and defend Trump, Roy Moore, Ron Johnson, Devin Nunes and Matt Gaetz voluntarily.

    ReplyDelete
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  12. So you advocate hiding and lying about mistakes. I love your virtuous Democratic values, courageousness and willingness to fight for what you believe in.
    https://www.congdonandcoleman.com/

    ReplyDelete