The Furies discuss public schools: On the front page of today's New York Times, we find a report which starts by mentioning one teacher in one British school.

His students are being exposed to garbage. That said, is this the best way for a teacher to teach? We can't say the answer is clear:

BUBOLA AND KWAI (2/20/23): As the seventh graders settled into a lecture hall at a school near London, the topic at hand was not human rights, historical events or different religions. “Andrew Tate,” a teacher said, pointing to a photograph projected on the wall. “What do you know about this man?”

Some boys giggled at the mention of Mr. Tate, a social media influencer famed for his misogynistic comments. One boy said he liked him because “he has a strong masculinity,” fast cars and a fit body. The teacher projected some of Mr. Tate’s claims, among them that women who are raped should bear some responsibility. A few boys agreed.

“He is wrong,” said the teacher, Jake White. “That is a load of rubbish.”

In schools across Britain, educators are mobilizing to fight back against Mr. Tate’s messages...Mr. Tate gained a following of millions with videos glorifying wealth and a particularly virulent brand of male chauvinism, before being barred last summer from many mainstream social media sites.

Assuming the accuracy of the reporting, it's sad to think that seventh grade boys living near London are being exposed to such garbage. 

That said, will their teacher's approach be helpful? Is there any good way to respond to such garbage? We can't say the answer is clear.

Also this:

In the Letters section of today's New York Times, four letters appear beneath this heading: "What’s the Best Way to Teach Reading?"

The first letter strikes us as technically accurate, though perhaps a bit dogmatic. That said, also this:

Almost surely, there is no single "best way" to teach reading. But given the fact that reading is in part a culture, we would say that the third letter makes an excellent point:

LETTER TO THE NEW YORK TIMES (2/20/23): Experts grapple with phonics and “effective reading instruction,” but the best way to encourage kids to read is to read to them. It’s a win-win when parents, grandparents or caregivers snuggle up with a child and turn the pages of board books or picture books or alphabet books or singalongs at whatever pace the toddler prefers.

“Goodnight Moon,” “Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?” and “Chicka Chicka Boom Boom”—I loved reading these classics to my daughters, and I love reading them now to my grandsons.

Librarians can help you pick out ideal age-appropriate books—our tax dollars at work. Going to a baby shower or birthday party? A bookseller can help you select something perfect that will outlast bibs or clothes. Books are gifts that children can open again and again.

In short, if we want our kids to read, let’s read with them, and make it joyful. And let them see you reading too.

Reading is, in part, a culture. There's no single way to teach reading in schools, but that letter makes an excellent point about the way reading can be passed on in the home if appropriate conditions prevail.

There's no perfect way to teach values. There isn't even a perfect way to teach reading! And as if that wasn't enough uncertainty, now we're involved in a great civil war, testing the way American history, or major parts of American history, can best be taught in the public schools.

When you turn to a daily newspaper—when you subject yourself to "cable news"—you may find that you're meeting on a great battlefield of that war. 

We refer, of course, to the current discussion, or pseudo-discussion, about the way important parts of American history will be presented in a new Advanced Placement high school course in African-American studies. 

More specifically, we refer to the discussion about the way such history will be taught to the higher-performing kids who qualify for the course, with the rest of our public school kids once again being left behind.

This morning, in the Washington Post, Nick Anderson presents a fascinating report about some of the ways that Advanced Placement course was changed by its authors, the College Board, in the course of the past year. 

When the final version of the course was released, some topics were IN and some topics were suddenly OUT. Anderson starts like this:

ANDERSON (2/20/23): A politically charged adjective popped up repeatedly in the evolving plans for a new Advanced Placement course on African American studies. It was “systemic.”

The February 2022 version declared that students should learn how African American communities combat effects of “systemic marginalization.” An April update paired “systemic” with discrimination, oppression, inequality, disempowerment and racism. A December version said it was essential to know links between Black Panther activism and “systemic inequality that disproportionately affected African Americans.”

Then the word vanished. “Systemic,” a crucial term for many scholars and civil rights advocates, appears nowhere in the official version released Feb. 1. This late deletion and others reflect the extraordinary political friction that often shadows efforts in the nation’s schools to teach about history, culture and race.

As Anderson notes—he presents a list of actual word counts—several other key words were basically OUT in the final version of the course, which was released this month. 

For better or worse, the word "womanism" is totally OUT. By Anderson's count, it was reduced from 15 uses in an earlier version of the course to the current none. 

Also for better or worse—there's no ultimate way to reach such judgments—the word "reparations" is basically OUT, reduced from 15 uses to one (1).

What isn't gone is the political fighting about what should be IN and what should be OUT, and about why such changes were made. We are now engaged in a great tribal war about this important general topic and—as routinely happens at times of war—an unhelpful Babel has rather quickly emerged.

As matters stand, there are some basic things we don't understand about this Advanced Placement course. (To review the College Board's "official course framework," you can just click here.)

For better or worse, the course seems to have reverted to a course in African-American history, rather than to the advertised course in "African-American studies." That said, we'll leave the basic things we don't understand for another school day.

What we do understand is this:

When we lapse into "a great tribal war," tribunes from all warring camps may tend to behave somewhat poorly. We'd say that's happening in this case. We don't think such conduct helps.

Now we're engaged in a great civil war, producing a bit of a Babel! And as you know:

When a journalistic / political Babel emerges, it's amazingly easy to see the bad faith and errors on the part of the Others. It can be hard to see the various ways our own tribunes may have misstepped.

We're inclined to regard Ron DeSantis as a demagogue and a bully. That said, we regard the journalists and professors within our blue tribe as being somewhat unreliable, if not perhaps a bit more so.

Beyond that, we regard the College Board as a profit-based, and somewhat political, corporate nonprofit entity. When a Babel breaks out among that array of parties, a whole lot of things can go wrong.

There's no perfect way to teach school kids values. There's no single way to teach reading.

There is also no one way to teach higher-performing high school students the basic components of our sprawling and frequently brutal history. But when a Babel starts to emerge, warring parties will tend to insist that perfect wisdom can be found on the side of their own infallible tribe.

It's very hard for a very large nation to function at a time of Babel. For better or worse, democracy struggles at such times, major experts will sometimes insist.

Tomorrow: Professors Gates and McWhorter and Ron DeSantis and the upper-end press corps oh my!


  1. tl;dr
    "Assuming the accuracy of the reporting, it's sad to think that seventh grade boys living near London are being exposed to such garbage."

    Tsk. But it's even sadder, dear Bob, that all Western children -- and adults -- of all ages are being exposed to liberal garbage. To your tribe's war-mongering, your tribe's racist hate-mongering, absurd tales of wimmin trapped into men's boddies, and so on.

    ...but hey, what can we do; it is what it is. If it's part of our life, we'll be exposed to it, sooner or later...

    1. Ha ha.
      Mao would like us t believe his problem with liberals is not that they believe black people should have equality.

    2. Yes, but Pigboy, whatever sad creature was in charge of your charge left you a functional illiterate, unable to make or express a point of view, left you to think redundant name calling and mean spirted
      frothing about was some sort of useful pursuit in life. To be fair, they did school you on how to occasionally to a computer link to other assholes. Dear Pigboy, could you not benefit humanity now by finding a short pier for a vigorous jaunt?

    3. Mao is Putin's finger-puppet.

  2. "Assuming the accuracy of the reporting, it's sad to think that seventh grade boys living near London are being exposed to such garbage. "

    Assuming the accuracy of the reporting, the seventh grade boys had already been exposed to Andrew Tate, judging by their statements that they liked him, admired his physical prowess, and agreed with his attitudes toward women.

    The point of the classroom discussion was to disabuse those boys of Tate's garbage. The classroom teaching did not constitute the garbage it was anti-garbage. Somerby appears to be confused about this. He is also unsure whether the classroom teaching will do any good. Is it better to ignore Tate's influence and do nothing to counteract it?

    And then there is the word "garbage". This strikes me as a tepid understatement when applied to Tate's attitudes, which are majorly harmful to women and underlie violence against women by men. Women are on the receiving end of this stuff, but Somerby has no empathy for their experiences, so he considers Tate's "garbage" more of an annoyance, something that might be better left alone, ignored, than actively addressed.

    What is this so-called garbage: (1) accusations of rape, (2) accusations of human trafficking, (3) jailing for those crimes and forming a criminal organization in Romania, (3) he was removed from the show Big Brother for attacking a woman with a belt, (4) he says women belong in the home and are the property of men, (5) he said that if a woman accuses him of cheating he would hold a machete in her face and grab her by her neck, (6) he said he moved to Romania because it was harder to be accused of rape there, (7) he calls himself the "king of toxic masculinity", (8) he said he likes 18 year olds because younger women are easier to imprint.

    This is criminality, not "garbage." And softpedaling this is another example that suggests Somerby himself may be sexist.

    1. This is what is meant by Somerby "defending" these guys. Today, Somerby questions whether it is a good idea for London schools to counter the impact of Tate's propaganda on young boys. Just as Somerby has questioned whether Trump should be impeached for his wrongdoing and thought that Rittenhouse shouldn't have been prosecuted for his youthful indiscretions.

    2. Somberly has a certain point in that, if you try dictate too hard to a certain sort of young person what to think you will just push them harder towards the forbidden fruit.

    3. I doubt that is true of anyone but young sociopaths. Schools still need to teach values, regardless of the impact on rebellious youth, who tend to rebel in small but irritating ways that will not result in actual harm to themselves. Regarding youth crime as "rebellion" is ignorant of the causes of such crime.

      No one is pushed by liberal ideas into becoming a right winger. They go there willingly, propelled by their own needs. Notice that MTG and other Republicans have no fear that their extreme statements will push their supporters to become lefties. They know their followers crave red meat. Our own supporters on the left are the same -- they want strong statements of liberal and progressive values, not Somerby's wishy washy refusal to say anything meaningful because "anything is possible" and "who's to say what is right or perfect?"

    4. anon 10:49TDH calls what Tate preaches "garbage." That's the same to you as "soft-pedaling" what Tate preaches. It seems to me that calling something "garbage" is a rather harsh way of characterizing it. No matter what TDH says, and no matter how seemingly reasonable, there you are denouncing him, day after day. To me, you seem to be an irrational and obsessive, not helpful at all.

    5. Which would you rather roll in , garbage or shit? If you picked garbage, then you do understand what I meant about Somerby going easy on Tate’s crimes against women. The man is a sex criminal who hates women but Somerby can’t see why schools would try to keep boys from imitating him!

    6. I see 4:51, big problem here because he called it garbage instead of shit, because shit is worse to roll in than garbage - you're right on top of things.

    7. The problem is that Somerby minimizes the severity of his criminal behavior and the problem that creates when kids copy him because they admire his bravado and kickboxing skills. You really don't want boys behaving in any way like Tate toward girls. If you don't feel that way, then you are part of the problem too. In your defense of Somerby, you neglect that this is very BAD for our society because it encourages crimes against women, including human trafficking (which is the term for men kidnapping women and locking them in a cellar for sex) and rape and domestic violence (men beating up women to control their behavior).

      Somerby doesn't seem to recognize that this is truly horrible behavior that needs to be discouraged by telling boys explicitly that however charismatic they might find Tate, he is a bad guy because of his crimes. You defending Somerby while Somerby minimizes Tate's actions is bros supporting bros, and that is also part of toxic masculinity in our culture. Don't be that guy, AC/MA.

    8. Homicide is the #4 cause of death for women 1-19, and #5 for women 20-44 (suicide is #3 for this age group).

  3. "More specifically, we refer to the discussion about the way such history will be taught to the higher-performing kids who qualify for the course, with the rest of our public school kids once again being left behind."

    Students are not typically selected for AP courses -- they self-select by choosing to enroll in them. Students regard such courses as harder work than a regular course, so left alone, they will avoid them. It is often parents who insist their kids enroll in them.

    The idea that our society is choosing who to give such opportunities to, is correct mostly at the school level, where some schools offer many AP courses and some offer none at all. That is where the injustice occurs.

    It is wrong of Somerby to think of any opportunity for higher performing kids as elitist. This is the mistaken egalitarianism that results in gifted kids, high IQ kids, being denied an appropriate education in public schools. Such kids exist and they too deserve to have their educational needs met, not subsumed by a focus only on those who are struggling.

  4. "Also for better or worse—there's no ultimate way to reach such judgments"

    This is untrue. There are a variety of ways to decide whether it is good or bad to leave out certain words such as womanism and reparations. This is how Somerby evades responsibility for expressing an opinion himself, although his framing of this argument as a culture war over how American history should be taught (when it is actually about racism in our society) and his focus on certain topics instead of others does reveal his implicit attitudes on this subject.

    The development of this AP course followed the same procedure as for other AP courses, and yet this result occurred. If those procedures were good enough for deciding what to include in an AP calculus class or an AP English literature class, they are good enough for deciding on an AP African American studies course too. That there is meddling in the content shows the impact of racism and needs to be resisted. This isn't the dilemma Somerby pretends it is. It is very clear that conservative efforts to rewrite history should not be allowed to continue our legacy of racial discrimination by "disappearing" parts of black history.

  5. "When a journalistic / political Babel emerges, it's amazingly easy to see the bad faith and errors on the part of the Others. It can be hard to see the various ways our own tribunes may have misstepped."

    How can Somerby say that a Babel has broken out, when the right has been deleting words, not adding them?

    And what are the missteps of our side (tribune is the wrong word to use in this context)? Does Somerby think that African American Studies are wrong for an AP course, or does he think that words like "systemic" and "reparations" are a misstep? He doesn't actually say. He just says the Others are wrong, but we are worse, without any explanation at all. Was it wrong for those African American Studies scholars to have included what they did? It is part of their field and they should know what is being discussed in it. Not Somerby, apparently, since he offers no arguments of his own (except possibly that these words upset the right and thus must go, although he implies this without saying so explicitly).

  6. "There's no perfect way to teach school kids values. There's no single way to teach reading."

    This doesn't mean we should all stop trying.

    No one has said that the argument over phonics has anything to do with being the perfect way to teach. The right is using an old gripe to attack public schools and the left. It is an obsolete issue being raised anew for political purposes.

    It might make sense if Somerby were to claim that politics should be kept out of all of these arguments, but that isn't what Somerby has been saying. He pretends the opposition is valid, when it isn't. And that puts him on the side of the right wing, because he is justifying their complaints. Meanwhile, he dismisses the criminal, Tate, as spouting garbage instead of hate speech. That is a seriously wrong understatement that shows no regard for women. And he minimizes the acts of a criminal who is in jail in Romania while his crimes are investigated. That shows no regard for the law or the well-being of people, and suggests he is identifying with Andrew Tate, as he did with Roy Moore, Trump and Rittenhouse. Such criminals do not deserve Somerby's empathy.

  7. There is a single way to teach reading: systemic phonics.

  8. What is a Babel?

    Babel definition: "a confused noise made by a number of voices"

    Neither side is confused in this dispute. Taking away words, instead of adding them, makes this less of a babel, literally speaking.

    Why does Somerby use this metaphor of babel to describe a straightforward conflict in which one side wants to teach African American history and the other side does not? The sanitized course presented by the AP might be regarded as a compromise, but the right has rejected it, which is what DeSantis did when he eliminated that course and is now talking about doing away with all standardized test from the College Board entirely. DeSantis is punishing them for wanting to teach ANY African American history, not for missteps in course content (as Somerby claims).

    This is a fight over the segregation of African American history from the mainstream white history of America, in our classrooms. Is that a good thing? Somerby seems unsure, in a situation where no actual liberal would be confused.

    I believe that Somerby uses the word Babel because his goal is to confuse the issue by pretending DeSantis has actual concerns, when the reality is that this is just another political stunt. And it isn't the College Board that is political, as Somerby claims, but DeSantis and his crowd. There is no Babel here -- there is a blatant attack on education by the right. This is evidenced by the fact that no compromise would be acceptable to DeSantis -- they will not tolerate teaching students about black history.

    Phooey on Somerby's Babel, whose only purpose is to camouflage the right's perfidy.

  9. Somerby said the other day that even though he views him as a demagogue and a bully, that DeSantis isn’t always wrong.

    But Somerby didn’t really explain why he thinks DeSantis may have been right about the AP African American course.

    And if “There is also no one way to teach higher-performing high school students the basic components of our sprawling and frequently brutal history”, he also hasn’t explained why professors and liberals shouldn’t push back if they feel DeSantis’ view is wrong, or actually hurts high school students trying to learn about African American history.

    1. I read the Post article that TDH discussses. According to the article, the changes made by the College Board to the course was not the result of DeSantis complaints.

    2. That doesn’t really address my comment though, AC.

    3. Yes, I didn't address it. I don't recall what TDH said about DeSantis maybe being right about the course, or why, or if that's something he actually said - and don't want to spend the time looking it up - so I can't comment on your question. Maybe my point was that according to the WQAPO, deSantis, right or wrong or somewhere in between, apparently didn't impact the end product. Not everyone might agree, but I recommend studying ancient history, modern history, American history, world history and if you want, black history- they all "intersect" - and this study is hopefully from a critical thinking viewpoint.

  10. “What isn't gone is the political fighting about what should be IN and what should be OUT, and about why such changes were made.”

    There is political fighting because DeDantis politicized it. But there is also fighting because people feel that fundamental principles are at stake, and not purely matters of partisan politics.

  11. In a democracy, there will always be competing ideas. Debate should be encouraged. The hard thing is compromise.

    It seems to me that the College Board has compromised here, whereas DeSantis has not, since he rejected the course.

  12. So the word “womanism” is out. Good. It belongs in the same waste basket with “Latinx.”

  13. I strongly approve of changing the syllabus to African-American History, rather than Studies. I wish they would change the name, as well as the content to "History".

    Frankly, i don't even know what African-American "Studies" consists of. Nor do I know what Jewish-American Studies or Italian-American Studies consists of.

    At worst, the word "Studies" invites the nonsensical leftist stuff that thankfully was removed. At best, the word "Studies" invites giving prominence to stuff that isn't terribly important, except that it involves African-Americans.


    1. Meh. In our humble opinion, "race"-based "history" isn't any better than "race"-based "studies". Any way you look at it, it's just ethnocentric/racist bullshit.

    2. Jewish American studies would honor important historical figures like Roy Cohn and Meyer Lansky.

    3. Anti-semitism looks like this comment.

    4. David, there are some people who are not curious about anything that doesn't pertain to themselves. Donald Trump is one of them, but there are many others who never read books, don't watch documentaries on TV, or like Somerby, fast-forward through "boring" parts of films. If you don't have any interest in the history of Jews in the US or worldwide, that is not a sign that no one should be given the chance to learn about them -- it is a sign of your own lack of curiosity. You probably do not enjoy travel either, or trying new restaurants. It is OK to be that way, but don't generalize from yourself to everyone else, and especially not to what kids should be taught in school, which is the time and place to both develop and learn how to satisfy curiosity.

    5. @5:27 you don't realize that you just agreed with me. I said teaching the HISTORY of African Americans or some other group was fine. My objection was aimed at teaching black STUDIES.

    6. This is one of those special cases where David is not wrong.

    7. The only difference between black history and black studies is that the former involves the past while the latter involves the present and incorporates such fields as sociology, political science, economics, pop culture, the humanities, and linguistics, not solely history. Ethnic studies tend to be interdisciplinary but focused on one ethnic group. The right's tendency to define it as propagandistic or unnecessary reveals their unwillingness to consider the current situation of minorities in our country. It is evidence of bad faith, in my opinion. And I am doubling down on the lack of curiosity of anyone who isn't interested in other people in our multicultural society.

    8. Black American children and non-Black American children have much more in common than differences. We live in the same communities, speak the same language, watch the same TV shows, play he same sports, root for the same sports teams, (mostly) pray to the same Christian God, go to the same schools, learn the same subjects, etc. It's a sin to promote classes that focus on racial differences. It promotes divisiveness and racial animosity.

      BTY IMO it serves politicians to focus on these differences. They can structure their campaigns around these differences. Bit it's bad for the rest of us.

    9. It would be fine with me if African American history were integrated into regular history classes and books. Until that happens, these separate classes are remedial education for those who missed that material.

      Your assumption that everything you do is the same as what black children and adults do may not be correct. There are TV shows watch mainly by black people while there are others that white people watch and black people do not. That has changed a bit with the inclusion of more black actors into white movies and TV shows, but have you honestly ever watched a Tyler Perry movie? Are you seriously not aware that there are predominantly black churches, separate Baptist churches, AME churches, and that the LDS church for example is neary all white, still? We do not go to the same schools and black children are still being shut out of gifted and advanced courses (such as AP) in many areas of the country. Black people play basketball and football, but not so much hockey or golf, and watch accordingly. Ask McWhorter about black English and ebonics, then tell me we speak the same languages. Pretending that these differences, which are important to people, do not exist is just dishonest (or ignorant). If you are ignorant of the cultural differences, then you need to take a class, badly. Kids who attend school together do get exposure to each other's cultural differences and do participate (more white fans buy hiphop than black ones). But adults may not have had such experiences. Teaching people about their differences in an affirming environment can do a lot to reduce animosity and bigotry. Pretending that we are all the same, or only emphasizing the sameness, is a big lie that won't take hold because the differences are important to each of us. I put mayo on my hotdogs and hamburgers and am never going to like barbecue -- it isn't me. But that doesn't have to mean I hate those who eat grits or collard greens. Stop trying to erase differences, David.

    10. @7:23 You don't have to tell me about cultural differences. I grew up in an immigrant Jewish family. Most black American share the Christian religion with most whites. That means they share holidays like Christmas and Easter. Most black American children have parents whose first language is English. Not so for me.

      Would I have been helped by greater emphasis on my differences with most Americans. Hell, no! Focusing on my similarities helped me succeed in a Christian, non-immigrant society. Focusing on differences would only have made me less employable.

      I was helped by the timing. Major insurance companies, like INA where I started, didn't allow Jews to become corporate officers until around 1970. If I were a half a generation older, I could not have gotten the job I got.

      Today's black children are also helped by the timing. Sixty years ago, a black job applicant at INA would have been sent to the mail room. Today, black applicants for an actuarial trainee position are not only permitted, they're very actively recruited. Opportunities for blacks are terrific. The last thing young black Americans need is things that hamper them from taking advantage of their opportunities.

    11. It is better to end bigotry than to force everyone to be the same.

    12. If opportunities for blacks are wonderful now, why isn’t that reflected in the stats? You are such a liar.

    13. @11:54 On average, Asian American students are to 5 years ahead of black students. Blacks have higher level of drug usage than Asians. Blacks have higher levels of criminality than Asians. That's why Asians do better than blacks. It's not racism or lack of opportunity.

      Why do blacks do worse than other groups? One can only speculate. I suggest the main cause may be Democratic government programs designed to hold blacks down by encouraging dependence. YMMV.

    14. David,
      If that was the case, whites would be doing worse, since they make up the far majority of people on government assistance.

    15. David in Cal,
      In your humble opinion, why are white people better at accepting government assistance than black people?

    16. Blacks are doing worse than other groups?
      I'm staring to believe the corporate-owned, Right-wing media may have been lying about the "economic anxiousness" of rural white voters.

    17. David, it is hard to keep up with your lies. You told us on previous occasions that you hid the fact that you were Jewish in order to get your foot in the door at that white shoe insurance company.

    18. Hmmm. So blacks are more "economically anxious" than whites, yet they didn't vote for Trump.
      It's no wonder the corporate-owned, Right-wing media pivoted to Russia as the reason Republican voters elected a bigoted, grifting, self-admitted sexual assaulter as President.

  14. TDH: "There is also no one way to teach higher-performing high school students the basic components of our sprawling and frequently brutal history."

    Sure, but the issue here is do Americans want their kids taught about the frequently brutal history of the USA? Or do many of them, who tend to vote Republican, want a flag-waving, whitewashed, John Wayne movie version of history taught?