OTHERIZATION AND US: A book would go, but the topic would stay!


Our own ugly yahoos emerge: If we all can agree to be honest for once, the event was a real nothingburger.

The event involved a decision by the ten-member school board in Tennessee's McMinn County (population 53,000). As best we can tell from the transcript of the school board's meeting that fateful night, the background goes roughly like this:

The nothingburger decision in question involved the eighth-grade social studies curriculum of the McMinn County Schools. At one point in the discussion, Steve Brady, an eighth-grade teacher and an "instructional supervisor," described the curriculum to the board in the manner shown:

BRADY (1/10/22) The curriculum that we use is called EL What does that stand for? 

I see some teachers here. What does that stand for? "Expeditionary Learning." 

So, the whole idea is that students go on these expeditions, and they will spend two months or so on these different expeditions, and that’s their modules. In eighth grade, that is four things. We do Latin America, we learn about food, the Holocaust and Japanese internment.

Brady's discussion of the Holocaust "module" went on at some length from there.

The conversation was a bit opaque. It was being conducted by people familiar with the procedures, and with the bureaucratic language, of the McMinn County Schools. 

Since no one knew that the conversation would soon be branded as one for the ages, no one was trying especially hard to explain various references for otherwise clueless outsiders. That said, Brady described an eighth-grade curriculum in which students spend several months studying the internment of Japanese-American citizens during World War II, then spend an additional several months studying the Holocaust. 

To our ears, that almost sounds like a strikingly "progressive" eighth-grade curriculum! Concerning the focus on the Holocaust, Brady later said this:

BRADY: This module helps students begin building their background knowledge as they prepare for high school. The task that students do at the end of this module, after they spend a couple months talking about the Holocaust, studying this, the project that they do, that shows they understand what went on.

That sounds like a very good idea to us! But then, within the next few weeks, the school board's decision on this night became a full-blown national cause célèbre—and the creepy crawlers of our own blue tribe came slithering out through the floorboards.

Please understand! The McMinn school board didn't decide to eliminate the eighth-grade Holocaust "module." The board didn't decide to eliminate the "module" about the internment of Japanese-American citizens—the parents and grandparents of some of the kids with whom we were lucky enough to go to high school out in San Mateo.

Instead, the board voted to remove one single book from inclusion in the Holocaust curriculum. That one book would have to go, but the Holocaust module would stay. 

The book would go; the subject matter would stay. Near the end of the board's discussion, board member Jonathan Pierce offered this account of his view as he called for a vote on the book in question:

PIERCE: I’ve got enough faith, from the Director of Schools down to the newest hire in this building, that you can take that module and rewrite it and make it do the same thing. 

Our children need to know about the Holocaust. They need to understand that there are several pieces of history, Mr. Bennett, that shows depression or suppression of certain ethnicities. 

It’s not acceptable today. We’ve got to accept people for who and what they are.

I’m just an old country school board member, and I think in our policy it says the decision stops with this board. Unfortunately, Mr. Parkison, we did not go through the complaint process that’s also in our Board Policies. But Rob, the wording in this book is in direct conflict of some of our policies. 

Pierce was concerned with the presence of what he called "vulgar language" in the book under review.

"I apologize to everyone sitting here," he said. But he said he could not "lay that in front of a child and say, 'Read it,' or 'This is part of your reading assignment.' "

In that way, Pierce explained his objection to the particular book which was under review. But he also said that McMinn County's eighth-grade children "need to know about the Holocaust"—need to know that "we’ve got to accept people for who and what they are."

That progressive curriculum would continue. One book assignment would change.

Briefly, and in total fairness, let's be clear about one point. Lesser beings like Jonathan Pierce will never be as intellectually and morally brilliant as we in our tribe routinely are. 

That simply isn't going to happen. They aren't as human as we are, and we all understand that point.

That said:

To our eye and to our ear, eighth grade kids in the McMinn County Schools are getting a rather progressive curriculum. Soon, though, the creepy crawlers would come up through the floor, offering their ugly assessments of "These People," variously described and scorned.

"These People" live in "East Bumfuck County," our own creepy crawlers now said. Our latest Otherization was underway, just as it ever was. 

Our creepy crawlers were happily engaged in our latest Otherization project. It's a heavily-scripted process—a ritual our own prehuman, dimwitted tribe has long performed and adored.

These are the ways we lose elections, and with those elections the world.

Tomorrow: Praising Arkansas' Pentecostals? Was Clinton allowed to do that?


  1. "...are getting a rather progressive curriculum"

    Would it be fair, dear Bob, to define "progressive curriculum" as 'maximum indoctrination with minimum facts'?

    Otherwise, why isn't it described as simply "school curriculum"?

    1. No that's not fair. Progressive curriculum is meant to give the students a more hands-on approach and teach them things that are more relevant to their lives.

      Now whether what's being done meets that standard is another question. But I don't think it's fair to try to drag the term progressive down based on whatever mistakes are being made in implementation.

    2. Sounds like the usual liberal claptrap. Who died and made you king to decide what's relevant to the lives of others?

    3. It's a simple enough idea, remove the focus from the teachers and focus on the students. You disagree with the philosophy of the approach?

    4. This ought to be an interesting dialogue. Let me get some popcorn.

    5. It's hard to debate with facile comments like "usual liberal claptrap".

      But I do believe the way progressive policies are implemented has led to this disconnect.

      Hand some of that popcorn over.

    6. Rationalist, most of us here ignore Mao. He is a troll, most likely paid. When you interact with him, you will get nowhere and you will clutter up the comments with a bunch of garbage that will make comments harder to navigate for those who are actively discussing things with real people. Please just ignore Mao. He won't go away, but there will be less scrolling necessary.

  2. Here's what dear Bob says:
    "That said, Brady described an eighth-grade curriculum in which students spend several months studying the internment of Japanese-American citizens during World War II, then spend an additional several months studying the Holocaust.

    To our ears, that almost sounds like a strikingly "progressive" eighth-grade curriculum!

    Somehow, it doesn't exactly sound like "a simple enough idea, remove the focus from the teachers and focus on the students".

    Personally, we simply can't imagine the rationale behind spending several months studying the internment of Japanese-American citizens (and non-citizens, incidentally). A half-day, perhaps? And, perhaps, two days on the Holocaust? What's there to talk several months about?

    1. How does this focus on the students?

      You get them interested in history by providing information that used to be suppressed in a feel-good, U.S. makes no mistakes sort of manner. This "cleansed" form of teaching history was boring for students, they knew the difference instinctively.

      My opinion? A half-day is too short, and several months is too long. But I'm not in charge.

      Here, I recommend this book to give you what you may perceive as a less liberal point of view on this subject:

      Lies My Teacher Told Me
      by James W. Loewen

    2. What "information that used to be suppressed"? And why that allegedly suppressed information would get them interested?

      Nah, this idea of spending several months "studying the internment of Japanese-American citizens" definitely sounds like sermonizing. Indoctrination.

      And even if indoctrination would indeed get them interested (which we doubt, frankly), indoctrination still ain't a legitimate function of government bureaucrats. In our humble opinion.

      If you want to entertain your children by thrilling revelations about the evils of the US government, get them to read Howard Zinn.

      Public schools, on the other hand, should teach the facts, and remain impartial.

    3. Public schools, on the other hand, should teach the facts, and remain impartial.

      Let's just agree on that then. Because it's what I'm saying too.

      If you need examples of what's been suppressed, sanitized if you will, it's all out there.

      You could start with Columbus.

    4. If by 'sanitized' you mean that ethnic (and other liberal 'identities') bullshit grievances were not amplified and trumpeted, then we definitely prefer it sanitized.

      Yes to historical materialism, no to liberal bullshit.

    5. Well when I was taught history in grade school and high school, granted some time ago, there was no mention at all of Japanese internment camps. There as no mention that Columbus brought disease over, wiping out the native americans, etc. etc.

      I don't know if you classify those as liberal bullshit or not.

      I understand what you are against, I think.

    6. The internment of the Japanese, as well as some Germans and Italians, during WWII is a fact worth mentioning. Though not particularly surprising, considering the scale of the conflict.

      Your "brought disease over" thing sounds like bullshit, the way you make it sound. Wiping out the native Americans? Also bullshit.

      Europeans colonized the two American continents, as it was customary at the time. From the materialistic point of view, Columbus is nothing. If not Columbus, it would've been Schmolumbus. And if you want to virtue-signal by blaming someone, why not Ferdinand and Isabella? That'd make more sense.

      Anyhow, Europeans colonized the Americas -- that's the story. Had, instead, "native Americans" colonized Europe, they would've wiped Europeans out just the same. But they were underdeveloped and they lost.

    7. Europeans brought deadly viruses and bacteria, such as smallpox, measles, typhus, and cholera, for which Native Americans had no immunity (Denevan, 1976).

      These infections were disastrous. OMRF reports that their impact was more catastrophic than the Black Death in medieval Europe, which is estimated to have killed 25 million people in just five years, between 1347 and 1352.

      Of the estimated 250,000 natives in Hispaniola, Columbus' first stop in the Americas in 1492, new infectious diseases wiped out a staggering 236,000 indigenous people by 1517 — nearly 95% of their population.

      As to the rest of your post, not in scope with anything I said. I simply said the above should not be withheld when teaching history. I didn't say or even imply the other stuff you bring up.

    8. I don't understand your issue with "native". Is indigenous different somehow?

      Or we should erase original inhabitants from history and only acknowledge the "winners". LOL

    9. They didn't "bring" viruses. They came, viruses were in them, they didn't even know about the viruses. The natives probably had their own viruses, dangerous to Europeans.

      What's the point of this? A hundred years before that, half of the Europeans died from the plague. Is it important to you what 'identity' "brought" it? Asians? If so, what of it?

      Sorry, we just don't get it. Are you suggesting that people from different continents should never ever meet, and you blaming Columbus for... eh... for what exactly?

    10. Mao makes no sense, touts historical materialism then dismisses colonialism. It is comical, the lack of understanding. What a faceplant.

    11. Mao - the issue re. the spreading of diseases which wiped out the natives is that it is a fact and it was not taught in schools. The paranoia and blame and gyrating rationalizations are all in your head.

    12. So, it has nothing to do with Columbus, then?

      You just think, for some reason, that it's important for the school curricular to point out that a bunch of natives -- specifically of that particular regions -- died from diseases. Is that it?

      Sure, we have no problem with that. It could be part of a general discussion of serious epidemics.

    13. Yes, I do. Sorry you're upset about it sweetie.

    14. Great. Too bad you're not the one we were having the conversation with.

  3. “These People" live in "East Bumfuck County," our own creepy crawlers now said. “

    Specifically, that “creepy crawler” was Kevin Drum. We’ll let him answer for himself, since I assume he doesn’t speak for all liberals.

    “Lesser beings like Jonathan Pierce will never be as intellectually and morally brilliant as we in our tribe routinely are. “

    Liberal objections to the banning or removal of a book have nothing to do with the intellectual or moral capacity of the person who wants to remove the book.

    This idea, along with creepy crawler Drum’s use of “Bumfuck”, seems a convenient straw man that Somerby uses to attack liberals. The impression he gives is that the objections to the banning of this book are based on liberal condescension, and that these liberal objections therefore are not made in good faith.

    Also, it isn’t clear what Somerby means by “progressive” education-as opposed to what, reactionary education? Maybe it should just be called “education.” Now there’s a thought.

    It’s also rather silly that Pierce doesn’t want the kids exposed to “vulgar language”, in a course dealing the extermination of 6,000,000 Jews.

    I would also ask Somerby to evaluate the importance of that “one book” to the course. Was it tangential or was it central? Somerby doesn’t name the book or deal with this question.

    He also fails to note the current context in which this incident occurs, involving widespread and in some cases statewide efforts to ban books or otherwise control teachers that are more egregious perhaps than this one.

    1. mh, you are ever the sophist, nitpicking the significant point TDH is making here. No matter how ridiculous the woke meme, you deflect and/or hide your head in the sand. I don't know if you are being disingenuous or clueless. Here one small school district in Tennessee, which seems to go above and beyond what we liberals would like them to do by spending weeks in teaching 8th graders about the holocaust and the Japanese internment, has decided to remove 'Maus' from the 8th grade curriculum (apparently because the book depicts nude mice and has profanity). The school committee noted the atrocity of the holocaust. Yet, this seemingly innocuous occurrence has been flogged in a continuous loop as an outrage by the entire 'liberal' pundit establishment as another despicable example of book banning and suppression of teaching about the holocaust by demonic MAGA lunatics. TDH shows here how ridiculous this response has been from the standpoint of sanity.

    2. AC/ MA and Bob Somerby,
      Relax. It'll never work, see Glenn Youngkin trying to ride a bullshit story about CRT being taught in preschools to the Virginia Governorship.
      Oops, I'll come in again.

    3. uh AC/MA you keep lying about testimony in the Zimmerman trial, you have no standing to accuse someone of sophistry.

      Martin did not pound nor pummel, there were no witnesses to claim as such.

      Lying comes so easily to you, maybe you really are a lawyer...nah.

    4. Ac, how do you respond to Somerby’s accusation that liberals are objecting to the banning of this book because we look down on people like Mr Pierce? That is at the heart of Somerby’s argument. Not exactly a nitpick, is it? Most liberals object to the idea of banning an important book, not because Pierce is a hick and “beneath” us. I find Somerby’s contention contemptible.

    5. mh, I reread TDH's post. His big thing is how this is an example of how' liberals' "otherize" the "other side." His point is that "our side" should maybe look in the mirror, that it would be better to somehow bridge the huge divide, and also how "we" come across as unjustifiably self-righteous. There has been outpouring of outrage all over the place in 'liberal' opinion leaders about the 'banning' of his book. What TDH prints here exposes this as being terribly dishonest. That's my concern, and perhaps you should recognize that this is an issue. This happens all the time, TDH (among others, you ought to try reading Matt Taibbi for example). I think TDH's issue is that we distort what the school board and Mr. Pierce said so often, in the process of 'otherizing' them.

    6. uh, anon 6:23. You're accusing me of not just 'lying' but lying "easily" !!!?? You sure are a piece of work. Take a look at the Trial of George Zimmerman on Wikipedia, where there is a fairly detailed summary of the testimony of all the witnesses at the trial. One witness, Jonathan Good, a neighbor, testified that he saw one male on top of another male, the person on top making "downward arm motions multiple times" that "looked like punches". Your right, he didn't use the word "pummeled" but pummel is a fair description of what Good testified. Good identified Martin as the one on top, and Zimmerman as the one yelling for help. Good's testimony wasn't of the highest caliber in my view. There was other evidence, and all in all the case against Zimmerman wasn't the strongest. You seem to be all into glibness, without any particular concern for truth or objectivity.

    7. AC/MA, the downward motions don't equate to beating Zimmerman's head on the ground, and there were no bruises to justify that account of things. Somerby regularly expands this to a near-death experience. You should be more cautious about following Somerby's lead.

      Being pummeled isn't that big a deal, especially given that Zimmerman showed no significant injuries after the event. I think he was let go due to the peculiarities of the stand-your-ground law, not because he was guiltless. Men get into such scuffles regularly without anyone shooting anyone else. And this was a kid not an adult that Zimmerman was engaging. He had the greater responsibility to defuse the situation.

    8. "...due to the peculiarities of the stand-your-ground law..."

      One of the peculiarities is it doesn't work if the killer is black.

    9. anon 10:50, you are speculating. Note that I never said anything about Martin beating Zimmerman's head to the ground. You seem to ignore Good's testimony. You seemed biased, wanting to believe the version that supports the narrative you favor, as opposed to being disinterested in the manner the jurors were supposed to be. Perhaps you might want to read the detailed summary of all the evidence, arguments etc in the Wikipedia article. And maybe Zimmerman was really guilty. It's possible. The standard is guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, not innocent beyond a reasonable doubt. By that standard, the guilty can be found not guilty, and a lot of times, the innocent are found guilty. I suppose if person X is lying on the ground and person Y is on top of me punching me, and person x shoots person Y, it's not beyond the pale that person x will be found not guilty of murder. It doesn't do to harp on talking points in support of a guilty verdict, and to ignore contrary evidence.

    10. I am not speculating. There were photos taken of Zimmerman after the incident. I am aware of Good's testimony, but you seem to be extrapolating beyond what he said. Good's testimony doesn't mean Zimmerman's life was actually in danger.

      My feeling about Zimmerman is that he initiated the interaction with Martin and he is thus responsible for everything that occurred thereafter. Martin was a minor. Zimmerman had no authority over him whatsoever. He should have let the police handle things. I have no interest in the legal aspects because they involve Florida law. I consider Zimmerman morally guilty. A kid, whatever his crimes, should not be accosted on the street by a stranger and forced to interact with him, regardless of what was said or done by Zimmerman. Martin, a kid, may have been sufficiently frightened to do things he might not normally have done. He may have "pummelled" Zimmerman out of fear he was being molested by a gay man, or for fear he was being abducted. This is all Zimmerman's fault.

    11. All this was for the jury to decide and they did. It was a tragedy no doubt (just like all thiese black guys getting killed by each other). Things aren't always cut and dried. I suppose if you got the story on a lot of criminal or civil cases you might think that on some of them the outcome should have been different. Here, the jury heard the evidence, listened to the witnesses etc and made their decision. Seems to have been a fair trial. You might believe the way you do based on your biases - but most people have biases to some extent, me included. That's one reason for 12 person juries, tends to cancel out individual biases though not always.

    12. The OJ Simpson trial showed me things aren't always cut and dried.
      Agree that this was a tragedy (just like all these cops harassing and killing black people).

  4. “Praising Arkansas' Pentecostals? Was Clinton allowed to do that?”

    Won’t Somerby be surprised when he finds out which Arkansas groups hated Clinton the most.

  5. Illustrates how our pathetic media choose a favored narrative and run with it. This was an infinitesimally minor story. A single school district removed a single reading from a single class syllabus, and the media made it bid national news. Ridiculous!

    1. Are you aware of GOP efforts all over the country to ban books and dictate curriculum and control teachers that this single incident is a part of?

    2. Tu quoque fallacy

      Do two wrongs make a right or should one side step up and lead by example?

    3. I responded too quickly. Sorry, multi-tasking too much.

      Ignore my previous post.

    4. mh - Yes, conservatives are trying to ban CRT materials, which they believe are inaccurate. Liberals are also working to ban communications, such as the recent attack on Joe Rogan and Spotify. Note how liberal censors apply a theory of chain wrongdoing. A guest said some allegedly false things about covid. Liberals attack not only the guest, but Joe Rogan, whose show he appeared on, and Spotify, who carries Joe Rogans's show.

      Here in the real world, liberal censors are a lot more effective than conservative censors, because of the left leanings of Facebook, Twitter, etc. These platforms may reach a hundred million people. Very popular conservatives have been banned. A former President was banned. There's no comparable analogy in the other direction.

    5. I am still laughing at David's,

      "the left leanings of Facebook, Twitter, etc."

    6. Spotify can not be held accountable for paying Joe Rogan a fortune to spread misinformation about COVID on their platform.
      Do you know how many Right-wing feelings that'll upset? Think about it. Do you really want to hear the incessant cry-baby whining from people who call Liberals '"snowflakes"?
      I know I don't.

    7. David is a perpetual victim. He is surrounded by "leftists" everywhere. I am shocked he has managed to survive so long.

    8. David you could also hyperfocus on Nazi behavior to say oh they just gassed this one jew on this one day at this particular time. And was he even really a jew? Is jew even a thing? I suppose anything is possible, maybe we are all jews. This is the kind of nonsense Somerby writes.

      Context matters, Somerby pretends that it does not, because when you consider history, context and trends, not isolated events, Somerby's views are exposed as shams.

      Another thing Somerby does is to pretend to always take right wing statements at face value, while questioning the motives of those on the left. For example, he does not even bother to question the obvious propaganda from board member Jonathan Pierce, who is not a "lesser being" but is a conman selling snake oil; Pierce is the one playing up the country bumpkin act - Somerby did not even bother to read the transcript.

      Dishonest Somerby does not tell you that the couple of words and the naked animal picture were offered to be redacted but that this was not good enough for he right wing school board. (He also never told you that in VA a student can opt out of an assigned book if they were offended.)

      Dishonest Somerby does not tell you this is not just some book, it is a pulitzer prize winning, groundbreaking, and historically significant book that contains less vulgarity than To Kill a Mockingbird.

      Dishonest Somerby does not tell you that another board member let slip what is really going on by saying "My bigger concern is that this is probably the tip of the iceberg of what is out there." Another board member said "My problem is with the curriculum" and that he was concerned about the politics of those who developed the curriculum.

      Dishonest Somerby does not tell you there were no parent complaints.

      Dishonest Somerby does not tell you that a few month ago in Tennessee a school board fired a teacher for assigning an innocuous Ta-Nehisi Coates essay.

  6. David in Cal,
    I'm still waiting for you to link the recent "many studies" you pulled out of your ass, showing how the police are shooting unarmed white people at a high rate.

    1. Start by reading this entire article

    2. Then, there's this
      “The police fatally shot nine unarmed blacks and 19 unarmed whites in 2019, according to a Washington Post database, down from 38 and 32, respectively, in 2015."

    3. David being a cop is not dangerous, not even in the top ten, yet they kill about 1000 or more people each year and send about 50,000 people to the hospital each year. Image if teachers killed 1000 students each year, would we all be supporting qualified immunity for teachers?

      While killing all those people and injuring 50k people each year that do not even solve any crime. They protect the property of corporations and the wealthy, that is all they do. Not a good trade off. Crime is related to relative inequity and apparently toxic chemicals spewed by those same corporations. It is important to note that studies show that poverty in and of itself is not the main factor in crime, but that inequality is.

      David, not long ago, you posted some studies about home schooling that turned out were bunk, as was pointed out in responding comments; it turns out home schooling is not better and usually worse than public schools (if right wingers want to home school, more power to them). You never apologized for spreading misinformation, dare to be properly informed before spouting off David.

      By the way, black murders are dwarfed by white suicides. David, why are your people so sad? Why do you not care?

    4. Feeling sad and depressed results from the feeling that things are bad and there is nothing you can do about it, and it will always be that way. These are the feelings of powerless, helpless people. Feeling angry results from the same circumstances but with a feeling that something CAN be done about it, and an object that is to blame for what is happening. So anger is empowering and motivates action toward change.

      Anger may motivate murder whereas sadness, depression and helplessness may motivate suicide (including murder-suicides) as an escape. If you look at the relative situations of black and white people, black people can blame the system and may learn to externalize blame against people around them. White people are part of the system and the system supposedly works for them, so they may be more likely to blame themselves for their failure to thrive, not others, so they internalize and feel there is no use in struggle, so they seek escape (death) under intolerable circumstances.

      See Seligman's work on learned helplessness and learned optimism.

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