SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 19, 2022
Nicolle Wallace fakes it on schools: It was Thursday afternoon. midway through the 4 o'clock hour. Nicolle Wallace kick-started two segments of "cable news" fakery as shown:
WALLACE (11/17/22): Outrage today, from Virginia educators and Democrats, over what they are calling politically motivated changes to elementary school curriculum proposed this week by Governor Glenn Youngkin's new school board.
Just one of their proposals, according to reporting in the Washington Post, included removing Martin Luther King Jr. from holidays that students in kindergarten should learn about.
After lots of criticism, it appears they have added that back in, but here's one they're yet to reverse. From the Washington Post, "the new guidelines delete a suggestion from the previous version that kindergartners be taught 'respect for diversity' by learning how to work collaboratively with 'people of diverse backgrounds, viewpoints and experiences.' "
Thanks to the Internet Archive, you can watch the whole thing here.
For the record, we never taught kindergarten ourselves. (Fifth grade was as young as we got.) In part for that reason, we aren't real sure about this:
Should kindergarten kids be taught about the holiday which honors Dr. King? If so, what should they be taught?
Also, should kindergarten kids "be taught respect for diversity by learning how to work collaboratively with people of diverse backgrounds, viewpoints and experiences?" Should kindergarten kids be taught that, whatever on the face of the earth that word salad is supposed to mean?
In the encyclopedic Post report from which Wallace was quoting, reporter Hannah Natanson notes that the original K-12 guidelines for the state of Virginia totaled 402 pages in all. The new, Youngkin-affiliated guidelines are, at least at present, just 52 pages in length.
You have to drop a lot of material to get from 400 pages to 50. Natanson included this account:
NATANSON (11/16/22): The new version is shorter partly because it no longer offers “curriculum frameworks,” suggestions for instructional resources, student activities and lines of classroom inquiry that were included in the old version of the guidelines. An Education Department spokesman said the agency will release a separate “curriculum frameworks” document in late summer 2023, and it will undergo a separate board approval process. The framework document may include some of the content present in the old guidelines but deleted from the new version.
In a fact sheet circulated among legislators by the education department over the weekend, staffers wrote that the old guidelines were clunky, “inaccessible” and “difficult for educators to understand and implement”—while the new version will “restore excellence, curiosity and excitement around teaching and learning history.”
Is it possible that the original, 402-page documents really was difficult to understand and implement?
Answer: Of course that's possible! Anyone who has ever dealt with such materials will understand that fact.
That, of course, doesn't mean the new, Youngkin-affiliated proposed guidelines are better. It means that blue tribe members should be careful about accepting the kind of propaganda which comes at them from soft-core propagandists like Wallace, who used to offer her propaganda in favor of the war in Iraq and in favor of referendums which sought to ban same-sex marriage.
The impulse to peddle propaganda hasn't appreciably changed. The propaganda is pure blue now, but it's propaganda all the same.
In the course of the two segments which followed, Wallace didn't display the slightest sign of having the first idea what she was talking about. Lucky for us, she was able to throw to Heidi Przybyla, one of our favorite reporters and friends, who was introduced as shown:
WALLACE (continuing directly): Joining our conversation is Heidi Przybyla, an investigative correspondent with Politico these days. We miss her from when she was here.
She's reported extensively on how state legislatures have been trying to change what can be taught about race and history in schools. Donna and Alicia are still here as well. [Edwards and Menendez]
Heidi, take me inside what's happening, not just in Virginia, but where conservatives are trying to reach into curriculum.
For starters, let's state the obvious—conservatives have every right "to try to reach into curriculum," just as liberals do.
In some cases, conservatives' ideas may be quite bad. On other occasions, such people may have a valid point. It could even turn out that they seem to be right about something!
If you think there are no dumb ideas floating around in our own blue tribe concerning what should happen in schools, you've been living on the dark side of Neptune lately. But let's not worry our little heads about such possibilities! Wallace will keep us blue tribe rubes from confronting such unpleasant notions.
Wallace will keep us on message! During her second segment with Przybyla, she even pleasured us with this, pretty much out of nowhere:
WALLACE: It's hard to fathom that the depths of depravity on the right would extend into all the areas they do, right?
Given Wallace's know-nothing status in this area, that struck us as a truly repulsive remark.
At the time, Wallace's panel was discussing some recent actions by the newly-elected, conservative school board of Berkeley County, South Carolina.
The panel had made zero attempt to present the possible pros and cons concerning the school board's actions. Instead, their pseudo-discussion was pure propaganda—sloganeering all the way down.
For ourselves, we struggled with a voluminous social studies curriculum back in the 1970s. When we read about the Viginia guidelines, we find ourselves wondering thusly:
Are there textbooks and other materials which will let Virginia's fourth and fifth graders have extensive reading experiences concerning the voluminous material they will allegedly be taught?
To what extent will students be able to read and reason and debate and write about these various topics on their own? Or will they simply be lectured to by their teachers, droning in front of their classrooms?
Thoughts like those will never intrude on a cable news pseudo-discussion. Meanwhile how much did Przybyla actually know about the great debate in Virginia? The analysts came right out of their chairs when this exchange occurred:
WALLACE: Heidi, just finish this sentence for me. The goal of not teaching students all the continents is what?
PRZYBYLA: Look, I'm just reading this myself—
WALLACE (chuckling): I know!
PRZYBYLA: —and I don't, I don't want to make a sweeping statement that they couldn't learn about the other continents. But they would just have a Eurocentric—that was what I took away from reading the article, OK? I'm not the original reporter on it.
She only knew what she'd read in the Post! Wallace knew even less!
It's very, very, very hard to create a K-12 social studies curriculum. Also, people who have strong beliefs will often get out over their skis when they create 400 pages of such material, a great deal of which may be hard to interpret and implement.
Especially in such sensitive areas, people may tend to get carried away on both "the right" and "the left!" If you still don't understand that fact, it's possible that you've ingested too much propaganda during these cable news years.
Wallace is extremely good at what she does, but what she does isn't journalism. Blue tribe members are propagandized when they watch her TV show, just as the red tribe frequently was when it followed her work in the past.
Way back in the age of Roots: We go all the way back to the late Dr. Sam Banks, one of the nicest people we've ever met—and the creator of a stupendously unteachable social studies curriculum back in the 1970s.
Dr. Banks was widely loved in black Baltimore. In our (frequent, brief) interactions with him, we quickly saw why. That said, the curriculum he had lovingly built was completely unteachable, in several major ways.
Dr. Banks was a spectacularly courteous person. He believed, very deeply, in what was then called multiculturalism. That said, his curriculum, as devised, couldn't be taught in real schools.
It called for the use of a million different books at each grade level. Few of those books were in the schools; even the richest public school system couldn't afford to buy them. Also, almost all of the assigned books were too hard for public school kids, often by as many as four or five grade levels.
Dr. Banks wanted kids to learn about the history of all us Americans, but he had gotten way out over his skis. He had devised a gigantic, sprawling, heartfelt curriculum—a curriculum which couldn't be taught.
Wallace and her panel showed few signs of knowing what they were talking about in Thursday's public school segments. They did know what our tribe's bumper stickers say, and they recited each one.
Virginia's kids deserve better than this. But in a time of tribal war, does anyone care about them?