WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 9, 2022
Miscarriage and screams during labor: We feel we can state this with absolute certainty:
The New York Times' Margaret Renkl is a thoroughly good, decent person.
We say that because we've read her columns in the New York Times. Her columns reek of good human values, sensibly presented and explained.
On the other hand, Renkl's new column starts as shown below. The column originated in Nashville, where Renkl lives. To our ear, it reinforces something we told you yesterday:
RENKL (2/9/22): Tennessee school boards, you may have heard, have been busy lately striking long-beloved, award-winning classic literature from their social studies and language arts curriculums. The Williamson County School Board recently took a hard look at more than 30 texts, restricting the use of seven and striking one altogether: “Walk Two Moons,” a Newbery Medal-winning, middle-grade book by Sharon Creech that follows the story of a 13-year-old girl whose mother is missing. According to the group Moms for Liberty, who lodged the formal “reconsideration request” that caused the school board to take up the issue, “Walk Two Moons” is inappropriate for fourth-grade readers because it features “stick figures hanging, cursing and miscarriage, hysterectomy/stillborn and screaming during labor.”
We're unfamiliar with Walk Two Moons, which apparently features "stick figures hanging, cursing and miscarriage, hysterectomy/stillborn and screaming during labor.”
Personally, we've never seen the book. But on the basis of that description, is it really so strange to think that someone might be inclined to find the book unsuitable for use in fourth grade?
Just to be clear, we're not asking what you might think about a book of that description. We're asking if you find it strange that someone, somewhere, might find that subject matter a bit advanced for children who are 9?
To us, that reaction wouldn't seem strange at all, but here's how Renkl reacted. Remember, Renkl is plainly a good and decent person. There's little real about about that:
RENKL (continuing directly): Well, may God save all American children from the knowledge that women in labor are apt to scream.
That ridiculous complaint didn’t get much national play last week because the media was still busy decrying the news from McMinn County, where the school board had just voted unanimously to remove “Maus,” a Pulitzer Prize-winning graphic novel about the Holocaust, from its eighth-grade curriculum...
Renkl doesn't strike us as the sarcastic type. Has she ever been sarcastic before, by which we mean once in her life?
That said, she quickly turned to stark sarcasm in reaction to the Moms for Liberty, who had lodged that "ridiculous complaint" about that use of that book.
Something there is doesn't love a wall, Robert Frost once insisted. Also, something there is doesn't let a judgment by a conservative group escape our own withering sarcasm.
We love to ridicule such lesser beings; it's an amazingly basic part of our tribal DNA. We're smarter, better and more moral than such ridiculous lessers, and we're rarely especially bashful about making such basic facts known.
We're convinced that we're the superior people. As we told you yesterday, The Others are very much able to see us when we behave in these ways.
When we told you these things yesterday, you may not have believed us. Today, after Renkl ridicules this particular group of lessers for this latest "ridiculous complaint," we're willing to rest our case:
If you can't see how unattractive these reactions are now, you'll never be able to see it.
Renkl is a good and decent person. We think her reactions in that passage are unattractive and deeply strange.
She goes on to offer mostly sensible assessments concerning the mandated flap about Maus, which she seems to think has been "banned" in some way. (We love the term "book-banning.") That said, to our own fine-tuned inner ear, she says several things along the way which will strike "the lesser breed" as an act of "Northern condescension" from someone who lives right there in the Volunteer State.
(As you know, we're quoting Chekhov.)
We liberals are seldom shy about volunteering our haughty opinions on matters of this type. Often, our manifest dumbness is put on display in the process. Consider something Art Spiegelman said to Walter Isaacson last week.
Spiegelman is the author of the highly-regarded Maus. As we noted yesterday, no one admires Art Spiegelman's work any more than Art Spiegelman does.
The school board in McMinn County didn't think Maus was age-appropriate for use in their eighth-grade curriculum. As he spoke with Isaacson on Amanpour & Company, Siegelman made little attempt to accept the board's assessment as a well-intentioned, minor difference in community values.
Instead, he hurried to tell us how stupid Those People plainly were. Eventually, he also said this after Isaacson gently chided him:
ISAACSON (2/4/22): Let me push back on something you just said, which is that the parents are not really well educated enough and that they don't really know what would be good for their children. Isn't that a problem if we're not trying to balance the fact that parents should have some say and that we're seeming contemptuous, parents who want to say, "I need some control over what's being taught to my kids?"
SPIEGELMAN: Well, obviously, that's a very American attitude. But I believe the way it's done, for instance, in France, which is the other culture I'm sort of exposed to regularly because of my wife and my friends in France, is public education is about educating people so that they could participate in their great democracy experiment. And therefore, one has to learn to trust the teachers or hire teachers that are trustworthy.
It's not about trusting children. It's about trying to make sure they're not exposed to anything outside of the very narrow focus that's being offered to them. And this includes people who are triggered by reading about the slave Jim in "Huckleberry Finn" and being exposed to a bad word.
This is better taught in a school than having them come across the word and think that Mark Twain is writing about it in 2021 and exposing them to the N-word. It's in a context in which Jim is the most human and fully developed character, in some ways, in all of "Huckleberry Finn."
So, I'm just a First Amendment fundamentalist and believe it's best taught with more talk. That one exposes children to things. These things could be taught, should be taught, all of it, including the ugliest parts, as well as the most beautiful, without trying to whitewash it and hide the actual histories that children and young people and adults need to be exposed to.
Isaacson gently suggested that Spiegelman might consider being less "contemptuous" toward parents whose values may differ somewhat from his. Parodically, he responded by saying that they do it much better in France—and then by going where our tribe routinely goes when we launch this mandated pseudo-discussion.
Having left the people of Bumfuck for dead, Spiegelman set his sights on "people who are triggered by reading about the slave Jim in Huckleberry Finn and being exposed to a bad word." It's amazing how often we liberals move on to this standard position when we get going on our mandated "book-banning" kick.
As we noted yesterday, we love to deride the lessers of Bumfuck for their retrograde views. We often move on to the way other such lessers are "triggered" by being exposed to the N-word in Huckleberry Finn.
As we noted yesterday, Spiegelman seems like a genial person whose words can be rather harsh. Tomorrow, we'll consider one of the reasons why sensible people may shy away from teaching Huck Finn in certain public schools. We're routinely amazed by the cluelessness our self-impressed tribe routinely displays on this topic.
The world is a somewhat complex place—until we of the master tribe start exposing our obvious brilliance. At any rate, these are the ways we lose elections, and with those elections the world.