THURSDAY, MARCH 30, 2023
Charles Blow and the non-event: We continue to sing the praises of the New York Times.
It's now past 3 P.M. in the East—and as we noted in today's early edition, the Times still hasn't published a news report about a recent non-event.
The non-event took place in Florida. This is the way Charles Blow describes the non-event at the start of today's opinion column for the Times:
BLOW (3/30/23): This month, an elementary school in St. Petersburg, Fla., stopped showing a 1998 Disney movie about Ruby Bridges, the 6-year-old Black girl who integrated a public elementary school in New Orleans in 1960, because of a complaint lodged by a single parent who said she feared the film might teach children that white people hate Black people.
The school banned the film until it could be reviewed. So I decided to review the film myself.
According to Blow, one (1) elementary school "stopped showing" a certain film because a parent lodged a complaint.
As we'll note below, we aren't sure that actually happened. But even if some such thing did happen, we'd call it a non-event.
Why do we call it a non-event? We'd start by noting this:
According to the leading authority on such matters, there were 106,147 elementary schools in the United States as of 2017. (In fairness, only 73,686 were public elementary schools.)
You can pretty much take your choice between those two large numbers. That said, there's always something happening in one of these (many) schools.
Almost always, a resolution of such kind is reached. Unless you have a script to recite and names to call, these are extremely minor events.
Blow does seem to have a script to push; you can see it in his language. According to Blow, the film at this one (1) elementary school has been "banned" until the school gets a chance to review it.
Has the film really been "banned"—the film about the remarkable Ruby Bridges? Within our tribe, that word is very pleasing at present. Hacks Like Us like to use it.
That said, we think you're providing more heat than light when you say this film has been "banned." That said, our discourse has run on heat in the absence of light from the past many years.
To its vast credit, the New York Times still hasn't published a news report about this non-event. According to the Washington Post's news report, this seems to be what happened:
Every year, the school in question shows the film to its second graders, and perhaps to students in other grades, as part of Black History Month.
The school in question showed the film last month, as it always does. The Washington Post's news report gives a bit of background, then takes things from there:
EDWARDS (3/28/23): In mid-February, North Shore Elementary sent a permission slip to parents asking whether their children could watch “Ruby Bridges,” which is standard procedure for movies rated PG, district spokesperson Isabel Mascareñas wrote in an email. Two families opted their children out, and on March 2, a teacher showed the movie to about 60 second-graders.
Four days later, one of the parents who’d chosen not to have their child watch the film filed a formal objection with the district. The parent listed several racial slurs in the movie that they felt were inappropriate for second-graders to hear, including the n-word. The parent also listed a scene where adults scream, “I’m going to hang you!”
The parent said the movie was more appropriate for an eighth-grade American history class and asked that the district remove it from the list of films approved for elementary schools.
Officials told the parent that because the class had already watched the movie, the school would not show it again this school year, Mascareñas wrote. Officials will review “the challenged material,” although Mascareñas said there’s no timeline on when that review will be completed.
Let's review! One (1) parent stated her view about the suitability of the film on the second-grade level.
Except on a planet where Charles Blow is king, there is zero reason why this parent shouldn't have done that. School officials are going to watch the film and see if they agree with this parent's judgment.
Except on the planet where Charles Blow rules, the film in question has not been "banned" in any normal sense of that word. Nor has the one (1) school in question actually "stopped showing" the film.
According to that news report, the film had already been shown as part of this year's Black History Month by the time the complaint was offered.
According to that news report, the film wasn't going to be shown again until February of next year. By then, it's entirely possible that school officials will have watched the actual film and rendered their ultimate judgment.
At present, Hacks Like Us like to screech and holler and yell about non-events of this type. It lets us repeat the time-honored claim we love—the claim about books and films being "banned" by the reprobates we fashion as The Others.
Blow proceeds, all through his column, to slime the parent who lodged this objection, calling her the kinds of names our Yahoos like to employ.
He never quite addresses the possibility that this parent could imaginably have a point about the use of this particular film on the second grade level
Is it possible that this this parent could possibly have a point? That is a matter of judgment!
But as the Post notes in its news report, the film carries PG-rating. As we ourselves noted yesterday, this is what that means:
MPA Movie Rating System:
G – General Audiences
All ages admitted. Nothing that would offend parents for viewing by children.
PG – Parental Guidance Suggested
Some material may not be suitable for children. Parents urged to give "parental guidance." May contain some material parents might not like for their young children.
According to its official rating, the film in question "may contain some material parents might not like for their young children."
That may include the use of racial invective; other factors may be involved. At any rate, that explains why the Florida school had parents sign permission slips before their 7-year-old children were allowed to see the film.
The one (1) parent who voiced a complaint said that 7-year-olds are too young to see this film in a public school setting. Very loudly, Blow disagrees—but look at the way he reasons:
BLOW: What happens if this glove gets turned inside out and minority parents begin to complain about the teaching of other aspects of American history and culture?
What happens if they reject lessons or books about Thomas Jefferson because he raped a teenage girl he enslaved, Sally Hemings, and was the father of her children, including at least one born while she was a child herself. (For the record, I consider all sex between enslavers and those they enslaved rape, because it was impossible for the enslaved to consent.)
What happens if a parent objects to a school celebrating Columbus Day because Christopher Columbus was a maniacal colonizer who sold young girls as sex slaves?
What happens if parents object to books about and celebrations of Thanksgiving because the standard portrayal of the first Thanksgiving as a meeting among friends who came together to share bounty and overcome difference is a fairy tale?
What if they object to the Bible itself, which includes rape, incest, torture and murder?
With all due respect to the New York Times, that work is so dumb it squeaks. And yes, he really did include that part about objections to the Bible itself.
That work is also slightly inhuman. It comes from the place where humans scream, not from the place where humans employ their human discernment.
Blow's inquiring mind wants to know such things as this:
What happens if minority parents begin to complain about lessons or books about Thomas Jefferson?
Duh. Wouldn't that depend on what the books and lessons said? In fact, there have been many complaints about such lessons and books. Is Blow unaware of that fact?
Blow's inquiring mind also wants to know this:
What happens if parents object to books about Thanksgiving?
Duh. Wouldn't it depend upon what the book in question said? Isn't it likely that some such complaints could have the germ of a solid point?
In a similar vein, ponder this:
In Blow's view, Christopher Columbus was "a maniacal colonizer who sold young girls as sex slaves."
Let's assume that statement is accurate. Would a book or film exploring that fact be suitable in second grade?
People, it's part of our hemisphere's history! Why would we handicap our children by refusing to teach such facts?
In fairness to Blow, we assume that his perpetual anger is fully genuine. Presumably, it springs from the soil of our nation's brutal racial history, which stretches back to 1619, or perhaps to 1492.
Blow's anger is fully genuine, but so in his apparent disregard for the lives of others—in this case, for the lives of the 7-year-old children on whose needs and interests he can't seem to make himself focus.
Here's what we mean by that:
We've been thinking, in the past week, about NAME WITHHELD, a very shy kindergartner who used to stop by our fifth-grade class on a daily basis when we were a Baltimore public school teacher.
Her older sister, NAME WITHHELD, was a student in our fifth grade class. Evey day at 3 P.M., the very polite, very shy little girl would come to our room and her older, very impressive sister would walk her home from school.
Fifty years later, we still remember those daily visits from that beautiful, shy little girl. Her older sister was well cared for and very capable. From these recollections, we draw a certain conclusion:
Kindergartners aren't fifth graders! Partly depending on their ages, the "children" in our public schools are not all the same!
The things you'd discuss with a fifth grader you might not discuss with kindergartners, or even with a first grader. Everyone on the planet knows this, except for Loudmouths Like Us.
The Florida parent who voiced that objection had every right to do so. At some point, the school will assess her complaint, and this most recent non-event will have reached its end.
In the meantime, Hacks Like Us will holler and yell and shout our scripts and our insults. We'll massage the facts to improve the tale, the way tribal demagogues do.
In fact, the parent who voiced that objection to that film is development director for the YMCA of Greater St. Petersburg. We have no idea what her overall political views might be.
In Blow's column, we seem to be told, on no discernible basis, that this parent is involved in "the resurrection of a Lost Cause moment in which a revisionist history is crafted to rehabilitate Southern racists."
Blow has no discernible way to know what this parent's views may be—but so what? Hacks Like Us enjoy shouting insults. We love our Storylines, in which we are the very good people and everyone else is Them.
We've never seen the 96-minute film in question. We have no idea whether it's a good fit for second graders in a public school setting.
It's always possible that the parent may have the germ of a decent point. Or not! At some point, the school will decide.
We do know this:
Back when we were in Baltimore classrooms, we had discussions about our brutal racial history with fifth and sixth graders which we wouldn't have had with younger kids.
Our racial history is very brutal. For that reason, race is a very important and very painful topic.
Blow seems to be almost completely unable to reason in this area. It isn't so much that he lacks fundamental human discernment. In truth, he doesn't even seem to know that human discernment exists.
Like many other tribal shouters, he seems to say, simple-mindedly, that we need to teach our history, and we need to teach it all. We need to teach everything everywhere all at once! On every grade level!
BLOW: History is full of horribleness. We do ourselves and our children no favors pretending otherwise.
Learning about human cruelty is necessarily uncomfortable. It is in that discomfort that our empathy is revealed and our righteousness awakened.
So true! We do our second graders no favors by pretending that history isn't full of horribleness.
For that reason, let's teach our second graders all about the Holocaust! Shall we show them the photos of the piles of emaciated bodies Allied troops found, to their horror and to their disgust, as they liberated the camps?
Should we show those pictures to our first graders? The photos might make them "uncomfortable." But if they do, whose fault and whose doing is that?
We don't have any view about the suitability of this film for second graders in a public school setting. We do have a view about the people you see all over blue cable, who shout and scream favored Storylines in service to Marks Like Us.
There's nothing wrong with suggesting to a school that its instruction is inappropriate or unwise in some way. Stating the obvious, that is exactly what the New York Times has done, on a very large scale, through its 1619 Project.
There is zero reason why the Times shouldn't have chosen to do that. That is true whether you agree with their various judgments or not.
There's zero reason why that parent shouldn't have done what she did. But as hacks across the cable dial please us with recitation of script, a question does pop into our heads:
Is it possible that our nation's imitation of discourse is now coming, more and more, from a troubling realm? More and more, does that clownlike conduct come from a disordered realm in which the Yahoos R Us?
In the end, two cheers for the New York Times. To their credit, they haven't pimped a news report about a non-event!