WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 22, 2023
At best, one cheer for Joy Reid: What should high school students be taught in our public school? What skills / attitudes / points of view should they be encouraged to develop?
You're asking an excellent question! At one point in the current scrum about its new Advanced Placement course, the College Board offered some good sound and excellent advice.
Three cheers for the College Board! In a news report in mid-January, the Washington Post's Laura Meckler reported something the Board had said:
MECKLER (1/19/23): Revisions [to the AP course] will be made based on early experience, and the course frameworks “often change significantly,” the College Board said. Details of the class will be posted for interested parties to see in spring 2024. It will be available to all interested schools beginning in the 2024-2025 school year.
The College Board statement said that the class does not aim to push any point of view and depends on students immersing themselves in primary sources.
“The course is designed to encourage students to examine each theme from a variety of perspectives, without ideology, in line with the field’s tradition of debates,” the College Board said. “Students will encounter evidence, weigh competing viewpoints and come to their own conclusions. AP students are never required to agree with a particular opinion or adopt a particular ideology, but they are expected to analyze different perspectives.”
Meckler provided no link to the text of that "College Board statement." She didn't explain the form in which the statement was made.
That said, a similar outlook is described right at the start of the College Board's outline of its new course. You can find the relevant statements in the College Board's "What AP Stands For" section.
At any rate, three cheers for that College Board statement!
The Board's new course is a yearlong course in African American Studies—a realm which will inevitably give rise to a wide array of competing opinions, judgments and outlooks.
In the statement Meckler quoted, the Board said that its AP course was not intended "to push any [particular] point of view" on any particular topic. Students would end up reaching "their own conclusions," based on the examinations the course had encouraged them to conduct.
Three cheers for the College Board for articulating that point of view! We human beings are strongly inclined to push our own points of view on others. This can be especially true when adults encounter younger people.
We Adults Today! Consider what happened when Joy Reid interviewed three Florida high school students last week.
On February 15, Reid was broadcasting her program, The Reid Out, live and direct from Florida. On that day, she devoted her entire hour to the raging debate about the Board's new AP course.
Early in the hour, she spoke with three Florida high school honors students. According to Reid, the students had been selected to be lead plaintiffs in a lawsuit against Governor DeSantis, if the current dispute within their state should end up coming to that.
Below, you see the first Q-and-A in this interview segment. As we watched Victoria McQueen speak, we marveled, as we often do, about where such impressive young people can possibly come from:
REID (2/15/23): So talk to me, Victoria, about the importance of taking AP classes and why you would want to take this AP African American Studies class.
MCQUEEN: AP's have opened my eyes to an array of new information. When I took honors in middle school, and the friends I have in honors classes now, we go farther back in history, we go deeper into history. And if we had the option to take African American history at the AP level, we also would get that deeper knowledge that you don't get baseline, and that you have to find deep in the Internet to get that knowledge, because it's not easily accessible at our schools.
We were impressed by this young person's composure and sense of purpose. You can watch this exchange, and those that followed, just by clicking here.
At this point, Reid turned to Juliette Heckman, the second student on her panel. Reid is a good, decent person, but this is what she said:
REID (continuing directly): And Juliette, you know, Governor Ron DeSantis ostensibly is trying to protect you from that class. (Reid's emphasis.) Because he is concerned that if you, as a, you know, young white woman in America, were to learn about the horrors of slavery, for instance, or sort of, you know, the horrors of redemption after Reconstruction, that somehow that would make you uncomfortable, and he has decreed that to be illegal.
How do you feel about that? Does it make you uncomfortable to learn the sort of difficult parts of American history?
Reid wasn't cast in the role of a teacher here. She was working in the more familiar role of a "cable news" provider of scripted talking points.
That said, that was exactly the way we wouldn't want a history teacher to interact with a high school student:
Reid started by telling Heckman what her relevant identity is. She then churned a bunch of debatable and / or inaccurate talking points. After describing the state of the world, she finally gave Heckman a chance to speak.
We're sorry, but no. In our view, it's hard to justify the (very familiar) claim that DeSantis has decreed it illegal to discuss something in public schools which might make a young white woman uncomfortable.
That's a standard talking point, one which makes our blue tribe cable crowd glad. But according to the College Board, that is exactly the sort of claim which AP students should be led to evaluate on their own, without some adult telling them what they're expected, required or instructed to think.
Reid went straight to the role of telling a teenager "who she is" and what she's expected to think. This is what teachers shouldn't be doing, according to the College Board and according to everyone here.
Where do these questing young students come from? Also, how do they turn into the adult reciters of standardized points we see within our current warring tribes?
In part, the transition is caused when an endless succession of cable town criers bark out the requisite talking points of one of our warring tribes. With that in mind, we wish the College Boatd went farther than it currently does as it says that AP students shouldn't be told what they should think about particular issues.
(We wish the Board would even say something like this: Students will be encouraged to understand there will always be competing points of view, even within their own age cohort and perhaps within their own circle of friends, about the topics they will examine during their AP courses.)
By just her second exchange with these students, Reid was churning standardized points. In fairness, she's paid to do that every night when she speaks with other adepts on our blue tribe's cable channel.
It may not have occurred to her that she ought to have a bit more respect when she speaks with high school students—that the nation's sons and daughters should be beyond her command.
Joy Reid is a good decent person, but she's also a person person. According to experts, we humans are strongly inclined to divide into tribes, then to develop and recite strings of approved tribal dogmas and scripts.
Sure enough! Confronted with a trio of honors students, Reid couldn't get through her second question before she reverted to standard corporate "cable news" form.
It's often (not always) horrible on the red tribe's cable news channel, but it's often quite bad on our own. On our blue tribe cable channel, you'll never hear a dissenting voice or discouraging word from "our favorite reporters and friends!"
We wondered if those high school students actually know each other. Two were "black" and one was 'white." We wondered what relations were like between These Black and White High School Students Today in Florida's AP courses.
We also wondered what things were like among the larger number of kids, black and white and everyone else, who aren't enrolled in Advanced Placement or honors classes. There are a million things we'd like to hear from These Honor Students Today, but Reid ran straight to her mandated points, after telling Heckman how she fit into the picture based on her "identity" as Reid was prepared to define it.
So it goes in the human world as our current war drags on. And by the way:
Concerning that one talking point, three cheers for Laura Meckler! We cheer her for an extremely unusual thing she did in that Washington Post report.
Good lord! She actually quoted part of the law concerning the alleged fear that These Young White Women might feel uncomfortable in their history classes. Instead of churning a paraphrase, she quoted part of the Florida law:
MECKLER: Florida’s legislature has enacted laws limiting how teachers can talk about subjects including race. A measure signed last spring, for instance, seeks to ensure that students are not made to feel guilty for racist acts carried out by others. “A person should not be instructed that he or she must feel guilt, anguish, or other forms of psychological distress for actions, in which he or she played no part,” the law states.
As you can see, that highlighted statement differs from Reid's pleasing paraphrase of the relevant law. The difference extends on from there.
That said, cable news is designed to bring viewers back for more, and our blue tribe is happy with the paraphrase we have chosen.
"We must not be enemies," one president said. "We are not enemies, but friends."
Do those Florida high school students have friends who may hold different beliefs? Among their rising generation, is that sort of thing possible?
We would have liked to see Reid ask. Instead, it seemed to us that she stayed in a familiar lane.
Tomorrow: Skip Gates and Ron DeSantis!