ANTHROPOLOGIES: Who decides what kids get taught?


Clarity can be hard: Clarity tends to be hard. 

In fact, just as a matter of fact, clarity can be very hard. This lesson is learned from a review of the first four paragraphs of yesterday's lengthy report in the Washington Post.

The report concerns the latest dispute about what should and shouldn't get taught in the nation's public schools. Hannan Natanson wrote the report. Dual headlines included, her report starts like this:

Her students reported her for a lesson on race. Can she trust them again?
Mary Wood’s school reprimanded her for teaching a book by Ta-Nehisi Coates. Now she hopes her bond with students can survive South Carolina’s politics.

CHAPIN, S.C. — As gold sunlight filtered into her kitchen, English teacher Mary Wood shouldered a worn leather bag packed with first-day-of-school items: Three lesson-planning notebooks. Two peanut butter granola bars. An extra pair of socks, just in case.

Everything was ready, but Wood didn’t leave. For the first time since she started teaching 14 years ago, she was scared to go back to school.

Six months earlier, two of Wood’s Advanced Placement English Language and Composition students had reported her to the school board for teaching about race. Wood had assigned her all-White class readings from Ta-Nehisi Coates’s “Between the World and Me,” a book that dissects what it means to be Black in America.

The students wrote in emails that the book—and accompanying videos that Wood, 47, played about systemic racism—made them ashamed to be White, violating a South Carolina proviso that forbids teachers from making students “feel discomfort, guilt, anguish, or any other form of psychological distress” on account of their race.

Obviously, a whole lot of "human interest" is driving this lengthy report:

Mary Wood's high school students had "reported her to the school board!" Six months later, on the first day of the next school year, Wood "was scared to go back to school!"

As the reader quickly learns, it was only two of Mary Wood's students who bellyached to the board. That said, this complaint led to the latest heated public dispute about what students should, and shouldn't, be taught in the nation's public schools—in this case, in the public schools of Chapin, South Carolina.

Based on Natanson's report, it seems clear that Mary Wood is a good, decent person. Obviously, that doesn't necessarily mean that she has perfect judgment—and by the way, clarity can be extremely hard.

Why do we say that clarity's hard? Consider the claim—the claim by Natanson, a Harvard grad—which we've highlighted above. 

The claim in question goes like this—but is this account really accurate?

A South Carolina [law] forbids teachers from making students “feel discomfort, guilt, anguish, or any other form of psychological distress” on account of their race.

Is that claim accurate? Is there really some such proviso in some South Carolina law? And by the way, can we even clearly say what Natanson is claiming in that somewhat muddy passage?

According to Natanson, it's against the law for a South Carolina teacher to make students feel distress on account of their race. But what exactly does that statement mean? 

Can a teacher ever make her students feel some particular way? How could a teacher make a student do that? What would that even mean?

Clarity can be hard. That said, it seems to us that Natanson, a 2019 Harvard grad, has started her lengthy report on this high-profile topic by misstating what the South Carolina proviso actually says.

The quoted proviso can be found in the Palmetto State's 2022 Academic Integrity Act. For our money, the proviso in question makes fairly good sense. As you can see by clicking this link, the proviso in question says this:

Academic Integrity Act

A student...may not be required to participate in...a course that includes the following concepts...

(7) any individual should feel discomfort, guilt, anguish or any other form of psychological distress on account of his or her race or sex.

Even there, we'd complain about a certain lack of clarity—but the key word there seems to be "should."

What is that proviso saying? To our eye and ear, that proviso says that no student should ever be told that he or she should feel discomfort, guilt, anguish or any other form of psychological distress on account of his or her race. 

To our eye and ear, that's what it seems to say. And we're sorry, but that isn't the way Natanson ended up paraphrasing what the proviso says.

To our eye and ear, it's a case of dueling paraphrase! To our eye and ear, the dueling parties are these:

Dueling examples of paraphrase:

Paraphrase 1: Teachers are forbidden from making students “feel discomfort, guilt, anguish, or any other form of psychological distress” on account of their race.

Paraphrase 2: Teachers are forbidden from telling students that they should “feel discomfort, guilt, anguish, or any other form of psychological distress” on account of their race.

We're sorry, but no—those aren't equivalent accounts of what the proviso says. And at this point, the deathless Gene Brabender instantly comes to mind.

In the summer of 69, Brabender was a hard-throwing right-handed pitcher for the Seattle Pilots, the forerunner to today's Milwaukee Brewers. 

According to the leading authority on Brabender's life and major league baseball career, Brabender "stood 6 feet 6 inches (1.98 m) tall and weighed 225 pounds (102 kg)." He'd been described by one teammate as "a hard-throwing country boy."

He was also a man with little respect for the finer distinctions of language. During that 1969 season, Brabender was a teammate of pitcher-author Jim Bouton, whose subsequent book, Ball Four, was later chosen as one of the 100 greatest books of the 20th century.

Bouton reported in his book that Brabender had little patience for nuanced discussion in the bullpen during long, boring major league game. He quoted Brabender making the angry statement shown below—a statement which identifies Brabender as one of the greatest students of human nature ever found on the planet:

"Where I come from, we just talk for a little white. After that, we start to hit."

Brabender wasn't in thrall to nuanced distinction. When the distinctions became too nuanced, he instinctively "started to hit."

Hannah  Natanson went to Harvard; Gene Brabender didn't. That said, clarity can be very hard, even for Ivy League graduates.

By our lights, Natanson started her report about Mary Wood with a muddy piece of paraphrase. In the passage posted above, you can see what Natanson wrote. In reply, we would say this:

Under the proviso in question, Mary Wood, a high school teacher in South Carolina, was (inferentially) forbidden from telling her ("white") students that they should feel guilt about what other people had done in the past.

Did Wood ever tell her students any such thing? We'll guess that the answer is possibly no, but Natanson never attempts to figure that out. 

Poor, poor pitiful us! We were only four grafs into this lengthy report, but we already had to stop and do a bit of googling! We googled up the South Carolina law which featured the proviso in question—and when we did, it seemed to us that it didn't say what Natanson said it said.

So it goes, again and again, in the affairs of our own human race! Clarity can be extremely hard—and given our deeply flawed human nature, all of us, red and blue alike, are strongly inclined to hit.

That's our first anthropology for the week. More anthropologies follow.

Tomorrow: The start of Coates' widely-praised book


  1. It's all so vague, unclear, and makes very little sense.. Like when you ask a Right-winger who hates "woke" to define what it means.

    1. What does it mean?

    2. It apparently means whatever right wingers want it to mean, which is the beauty-part of being so vague.

    3. You're playing dumb if you don't know what right-wingers mean by woke, or you simply have made no effort to find out. It's not complicated. Like any term the right-wing invents.

    4. Or in this case, hijacks.

    5. "woke" was originally a term meaning "Aware of racism and other social justice things" The word was hijacked by the right to mean "favoring social justice principles to excess." Usually it means giving more focus to social social justice principles than to the actual function. An example is using a transsexual to market Bud Lite beer.

      Conservatives have a slogan, "Get woke, go broke." The transsexual beer promotion is an example. It turned out that the typical beer drinker is not a big transsexual fan. The beer company lost a lot of business.

    6. Close, but woke was a term used by African Americans to refer to awareness of their own history. All African Americans are aware of racism because they experience it every day. The rest of your explanation is nonsense. Why wouldn’t transpeople drink beer like anyone else? Annoying bigots may lead to boycotts but that doesn’t make it wrong to advertise to any market segment.

      Breweries are pretty woke in CO where they sponsor music festivals that appeal to young people instead of rednecks.

    7. @1:12 Thanks for the correction on the history of "woke"

      Your argument on beer focuses too much on reasoning and intentions and not enough on actual results. One can argue that the transsexual marketing campaign ought to have worked, but the actual results were catastrophic for the brewery. They lost millions of customers.

    8. The Right doesn't call the Left "snowflakes" for nothing.
      The Right calls the Left "snowflakes", because every Right-wing accusation is really a confession.

    9. Which is basically the definition of projection.

      Which is a common habit among humans, irrespective of party affiliation.

      But we're trying to score political points here, I know. Common sense and logic are the first victims in that quest.

    10. Man kills shopkeeper in US state of California after disparaging Pride flag

      "Get woke, get dead", right David?

    11. Somehow, over a period of decades, victims were elevated over heroes. People being overly sensitive -- i.e., a snowflake -- is the result.

    12. DIC is my hero because he unabashedly lies about weirdly trivial things in order to better insert himself into the discourse, Zelig-style, which is a misguided notion, borne from loneliness and an unfulfilled need for attention.

    13. David in Cal,
      It's what led to January 6th (AKA SnowflakeFest 2021). People overly sensitive about black peoples votes counting in the 2016 Presidential election felt their "victimization" was paramount.

    14. @2:49 You will be happy to learn that Lizzie recently received a grant to work on her next book. It was going to be about her ancestors on her mother's side, that is, her black ancestors. But, she told me that she found one of them so interesting that the book will be about this particular individual.

      I hope a number of readers here will buy her book.

    15. What does the term "woke" mean to the left or Democrats? How does the left define it? Does the left make a claim to it, whatever it is? What's up?

    16. Is there a social justice movement that Democrats support? Does it have a name?

    17. Is there a group of people on the left that are dedicated to include more trans people in advertising, or to actively call for more inclusivity in general of trans and LBGTQ people?

      If so, what do you call that group of people?

    18. The name is not woke, if that is your point.

    19. So you've proven the weakness. The left has a moment for which they will not give a name! Unfortunately, the left
      Feels like they can just decree something and it's true and everybody has to follow it. They don't have to name what it is or legislate it or engage in any kind of political process about it. That's why it will always fail. That's why it's so ignorant. What does it matter

  2. "As the reader quickly learns, it was only two of Mary Wood's students who bellyached to the board. "

    It is highly unusual for students to be aware that a school board exists, much less contact it direct, bypassing school administrators and the teacher herself. That suggests to me that this is not student anguish, but a politically motivated attack by the parents of those two students. How else would they know to parrot the wording of the law in their complaints?

    Woods is right to be worried, but not about her students. It is the parents and activists pretending to be parents who she should fear.

    In my experience, when students like their teacher, they do not get upset about grievances, even if they mention them to the teacher as a point of concern or confusion. A good relationship means that the teacher is the first point of contact when trouble arises. That's why it is so odd that these students would immediately run to the school board. It suggests they disliked their teacher and wanted her to be punished. And that seems odd in the context of an experienced teacher in an advanced class like an AP course.

    When student actions don't make sense, and there is no explicable cause for what has happened, of course the teacher will be fearful. You cannot know how to prevent a recurrence if you don't know what set off the problem in the first place, and this teacher clearly understands her job is at stake. So, this is a great illustration of the chilling effect of such accusations.

    Somerby, having been a teacher, should understand this. Does he?

    Somerby complains that the law is vague and that the article is vague, but that is a dodge that permits him to avoid taking responsibility for what is going on in today's classrooms. The vagueness is on purpose and the article reflects the feelings of the teacher, who does not know what set off the complaints.

    And then Somerby brings up another old standby -- Ball Four by Jim Bouton. One single line about hitting. This teacher didn't hit anyone. If anything, she was attacked. I do not see the relevance of this next series of paragraphs and I do not see how it adds any clarity to our knowledge of Somerby's position on these new laws. What the hell is Somerby saying? That teachers shouldn't be concerned? That's nonsense. That liberals shouldn't complain? That's nonsense too. Does Somerby think the FL, SC and other states are sincerely wishing to protect students but did it too vaguely, because that is also nonsense. The intent is clearly to eliminate discussion of race from school, which is grossly unfair to black and white students both, who will be living in a multicultural society that they must learn to navigate.

    Why does Somerby never come out and say what he means?

    1. Like Louise Day-Hicks, we know where Somerby stands.

    2. Somerby has been misusing that line from Ball Four for years, in reality Brabender was a gentle giant, quotes from SABR:

      _“He was a big easygoing guy who gave me a lot of laughs,” says his teammate with the Baltimore Orioles, Hall of Fame third baseman Brooks Robinson.

      _“Gene was always a happy kid” said Caryl [his sister]

      _Gene once broke an opponent’s jaw in a Home Talent game with a pitch that got away. He broke down and said he would never pitch again before the batter got up, put his arm around Gene, and consoled him.

      _Brabender had started at Whitewater State College (now the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater). He intended to obtain a teaching degree; he also had a minor in music

      Brabender was not a hick thug, but he was also not an anthropologist, and neither is Somerby, who has little understanding of human nature, which is inclined towards community and egalitarianism, not towards dominance through violence, which itself is an emergent trait from the kind of hierarchical society Somerby endorses.

  3. Natanson didn't attempt to find out whether Woods broke the law because that wasn't the point of the article. The point is that Woods is now feeling the constraint of a vague law without knowing how to fix what went wrong before, other than by modifying her curriculum to eliminate race. That is Natanson's point, not whether Woods did something wrong.

    That said, I do not know for sure what Natanson's point was, because the article is behind a paywall and Somerby quotes nothing from the conclusion where Natanson's point might be evident. He wants Natanson to discuss his, Somerby's, point instead, which is a frequent occurrence in Somerby's essays -- he wants to tell reporters and writers what he thinks they should have written about, instead of dealing with what they actually said. And that's unfair to the authors, who have the right to write their own essays, and who may even have been directed to write a specific piece from an assigned point of view by their editors.

    It would be fine for Somerby to want to see his own POV discussed, but then he never uses his essays to tell us what his POV us, other than that Cassandra says the empire is sliding into the sea (or whatever) which is gibberish.

    1. I think Somerby tells us his POV just fine. The national discourse is polarized into competing silos. Both sides are prepping for war. The media, the academic elites, and the liberal elites are failing us, so all is hopeless. The only thing left for a sentient person to do is "anthropology," that is, to explain why humans act in such a self-destructive way.

    2. George,
      Do you write nothing about the Right/ Republicans failing us in your statement, because you know they have no agency?
      If so, have you told Bob?

    3. Somerby thinks conservative elites are worse than liberal elites, but he's a liberal writing to liberals. I'm sure he thinks Putin is worse than both, but he's not a Russian so he doesn't write to Russians. He's a liberal writing to liberals.

      As Jesus said, get the beam out of your own eye before you pluck a sliver from the eye of your neighbor.

    4. "Somerby thinks conservative elites are worse than liberal elites..."
      As they say in the courtroom, "facts not in evidence".

    5. It comes down to some leftists can't hear any criticism of the left without demanding that you spend at least 10x more time criticizing the right in harsher terms.

      How do you they propose we make something stronger without criticizing it? Beats me.

      I think the simple explanation is they are playing politics 100% of the time, even in casual conversations. Which sounds like a crappy way to live. They're probably angry most of their waking moments.

    6. The teacher Mary Woods offered this advice when dealing with right wingers:

      Do not acquiesce. Be bold and do not back down.

      Somerby has a different, opposite notion. He may be a liberal, but what is pertinent is that he is a right winger.

    7. 3:31,
      Peddle that bullshit elsewhere.
      Fascism is a set of actions to be fought. Not a set of ideas to be debated.

    8. @3:31 -- you don't make something stronger by criticizing it. Criticizing is easy, anyone can do it. It is negative and unhelpful. What makes something stronger is suggestions for improvement. An analysis that focus on the strengths while suggesting alternatives for the weaknesses will result in a stronger version of whatever is being critiqued. The negative is easy. People do it because it makes them feel smarter than the person being criticized. It is much harder to come up with positive recognition and suggestions for improvement because the latter requires genuine creativity and that isn't something everyone can do.

    9. Why would Somerby think that only liberals read his blog when there are so many conservatives in the comment section? Why shouldn't he browbeat you guys as much as the left, if he truly believes conservatives are worse? You aren't making sense, George.

    10. Pretty please, stop alienating potential voters by calling them racists and putting trans agenda and another bullshit in their face. Pretty please stop making unsupported claims that the other side can easily refute making us look so stupid! Pretty please! It would be simply lovely if you could arrange to do this so we can build a strong coalition that won't have to fret about losing elections to visibly insane circus barkers. Please! Pretty please!

      And if you could be so kind as to refrain if you could from nominating unappealing 80-year-olds who have always been friendly with oligarchs to lead us to The promise Land where we will eventually all sup.

    11. People are more and more upset with Republicans shoving the straight, white, male agenda down our throats.
      It's probably why they've only won the majority vote once in the last 5 national elections.

    12. Like all thinking people, Bob knows "the next Right-wing argument made in good faith will be the first", but he's not addressing the Right at this time.

  4. "Poor, poor pitiful us!"

    Somerby riffs on a line from a Warren Zevon song (without attribution). But since he raises the topic, there are others being driven out of their work by right-wing extremism.

    Consider Grammy-winner Maren Morris's exit statement about the impact of right-wing misogyny, racism, transphobia and homophobia on country music.

    "Morris also emphasized that "she resents music being used as a 'toxic weapon in culture wars."'

    "She added, "After the Trump years, people’s biases were on full display. It just revealed who people really were and that they were proud to be misogynistic and racist and homophobic and transphobic."

    Warren Zevon is unlikely to approve of Somerby's ideas recently, given that he too is not a bigot. He doesn't get the chance to make sure his music isn't part of Somerby's participation in the culture wars though.

    1. No need to say that Zevon died in 2003. He was still not a bigot.

    2. Normally people don't attribute things to dead people in the present tense.

      But! There's no need to make a correction of course as long as Somerby is labeled as a bigot. Har har.

    3. That was a correction, asshole.

    4. I blame Somerby for me calling the Right "bigots". He's the one who told me to listen to what they say.

    5. Oh sure, I always preface my corrections with "No need to say that." Har har!

    6. I get it, anyway. Politics before reason! There'll always be time for reason once the blue tide washes away all the scum, amirite?

    7. Well, 2:17, the Republican Party have rendered themselves scum, so I hope that they get washed away. I would say, as I have previously said, that I am talking about the political party, not its voters. Can you understand that distinction? Mine is also a reasonable, not purely political position, because of the current policies (or lack thereof) of the Republican Party and their devotion to grifting, corruption, anti-democratic practices and an insane (according to your humble blog host) presidential candidate.

    8. Liberals were intolerant of fascists in WWII, as well. Must be something in their DNA.

    9. >about the political party, not its voters

      It's a hell of a distinction and I totally agree!

      I don't think some of your fellow New Establishment Left commenters agree though. They have let us know before they have nothing but disdain and hatred for the voters.

    10. >insane (according to your humble blog host) presidential candidate [Trump]

      Again, your (perhaps not so fellow) N.E.L. commenters don't agree.

      From a recent comment above:

      >"Somerby thinks conservative elites are worse than liberal elites..."
      As they say in the courtroom, "facts not in evidence".

    11. Broadly speaking, those on the left tend to criticize systems and institutions, not individuals. They are interested in finding root causes of our society's issues, from which we can better solve those issues. This approach is in part informed by a better understanding of human nature and behavior.

      The right tends to focus on individuals, they need "heroes" and cults of personality, but they also are cunning enough to know how to use systems and institutions to benefit their goals of dominance.

    12. The ONLY redeeming quality of Republican politicians is their utter disdain for Republican voters.

    13. "Somerby thinks conservative elites are worse than liberal elites..."
      As they say in the courtroom, "facts not in evidence".

      Somerby 8/31/23: Fox and Friends is "comically awful undisguised propagandization."

    14. You need to present these quotes in context, George. Somerby often offers a token criticism of Fox before launching into a broader, more vitriolic and wide ranging criticism of the left. There is no balance. Just because Somerby says something negative about Fox, doesn't mean he thinks they are worse. He often goes on, as he did today in his other essay, to say that because of the left humanity is going down the tubes, or some such vague but awful fate. It is almost comical.

    15. "Oh sure, I always preface my corrections with "No need to say that." Har har!"

      This comment engine has no way to go back and edit what you have posted if you later notice an error, even if it is immediately. "No need to say that..." means that you do not need to point out that Warren Zevon is dead, because I already know that and did not mean to be using the present tense.

      If you are going to be an ass about such things, you might as well engage in spelling flames too and ridicule the typos that often occur when trying to type on the tiny keyboard of a cell phone. But don't think you are contributing anything useful here.

  5. In defense of the reporter it is good to know what kind of granola bar the teacher packed.

  6. Teachers decide what gets taught in their classes because they do the teaching.

  7. The difference between the two paraphrases is awfully subtle. If a teacher uses material that makes some students feel uncomfortable, one could argue that the teacher has implicitly told the student to feel uncomfortable.

  8. The point of all this is that Ms Wood was told to stop teaching Coates’ book out of fear that it violated the stupid law that is vague enough that Somerby gets to quibble pointlessly about its “true” meaning.

    This is what Tess Pratt, the chairwoman of Chapin High School’s English department, said:
    “On the day that I took Ta-Nehisi Coates’ books out of the hands of Ms. Wood’s students, I silenced his story. Even though this was a decision that was not mine, I will regret that moment in front of those students for the rest of my life, because it was wrong.”

    1. What do you think Somerby’s point is other than that it is up to journos and other leaders to plow through murkiness and babble and inform the public.

      Lest we all start to hit,

      According to Bob, Natanson incorrectly paraphrased the SC bill from jump.

      Our problem is that her piece is behind a firewall and all we can do is assume things.

    2. What do you think the point is to you pretending to be a woman, other than to manifest the wounds of your soul.

      Somerby has been incorrectly using the the Brabender quote from the jump.

      The problem is, if Somerby did not lack integrity, he likely would not even have a blog, such as it is.

    3. Anonymouse 4:05pm, will it ever hit you someday that your last observation means you’re playing yourself for a putz?

    4. mh's link says the teacher had the students watch two videos on systemic racism before reading the book. IMO it's quadruply wrong to teach systemic racism.

      1. It's no longer true. Yes, some racism still exists, but not enough to prevent a black person from achieving any goal. And, there are offsetting benefits to being black. E.g., my author cousin Lizzie, who is less than 50% black didn't try to pass as white. On the contrary, she chose to identify as black.
      2. It's bad for white students, because it makes them feel guilty.
      3. It's bad for black students, because discourages them from succeeding and gives them an excuse for failure.
      4. It promotes racial animosity and divisiveness.

    5. It is intersting that DIC/Cecelia obviously think leaning into a lie is some kind of burn, it well embodies the pathology of right wingers.

      Of course Cecelia, who pretends to be a woman, misunderstands 4:05's "last observation", and of course DIC repeats the bizarre lie that Lizzie Skurnick is his cousin (she is not) while apparently misunderstanding what systemic racism is.

      Here is more context, from the New Republic:

      "While preparing for the book, Wood played two short videos for the class, one depicting pretty elementary metaphors for structural inequities throughout American history and another that explores manifestations of systemic racism like mass incarceration and predatory loans. The videos detailing historical and social facts of America were apparently too much for a couple of students.


      “In this culture, EVERYTHING may be considered controversial,” Wood wrote. “To prevent conversations about experiences which exist outside of heterosexual, caucasian norms is both biased and discriminatory and completely antithetical to the development of critical thinking and civil discourse, which is the entire point of an AP Lang course.”

      “There is an odd juxtaposition where we are trusted to protect students from armed intruders but subject to ridicule from community members who proclaim we are indoctrinating children,” Wood said to The State. “Until we cease to lend a space for vilifying teachers, more of us will leave the classroom.”

      Wood’s case echoes that of Wisconsin teacher Melissa Tempel, who has been set to be fired for publicly complaining about her school district banning her students from singing Dolly Parton and Miley Cyrus’s song about rainbows and unity."

      Mary Wood is quite impressive, intellectual, and well-spoken, the school and the state is fortunate to have her.

    6. ‘“On the day that I took Ta-Nehisi Coates’ books out of the hands of Ms. Wood’s students, I silenced his story. Even though this was a decision that was not mine, I will regret that moment in front of those students for the rest of my life, because it was wrong.”’

      Would Tess Pratt think that she had “silenced” Coates’ story if the teacher, Ms. Woods, had approached the book from the standpoint of suggesting that the author and black peoples in general were angry and self-pitying due to their race?

      I doubt it. It’s understandable that Pratt might wish to defend her colleague, but she’s also responsible to students and to her administers. Her statement discounted that.

    7. The teacher, Mary Wood, was not offering her personal standpoint on the book. Were a teacher to misuse a book to push racist notions, the teacher would be removed, not the book. Your question makes no sense.

      She had taught the book the same way the previous year without any issue.

      Here are the complaints from two the high school students, although it is doubtful they originated from the students themselves:

      “These videos portrayed an inaccurate description of life from past centuries that she is trying to resurface. I don’t feel as though it is right because these videos showed antiquated history. I understand in AP Lang, we are learning to develop an argument and have evidence to support it, yet this topic is too heavy to discuss,” one student said.

      “I was incredibly uncomfortable throughout both videos, and was in shock that she would do something illegal like that,” another student wrote. “I am pretty sure a teacher talking about systemic racism is illegal in South Carolina,” they added.

      The school administrators were acting in the context of a neighboring district being sued by legislators for violating the new law, and that there are current legislative proposals that would ban teaching that material, thus providing the intended chilling effect.

    8. To paraphrase Mitt Romney and the Roberts Court: 501(c) political groups cos-playing as "concerned parents" are people too, my friend.

    9. Anonymouse 5:15pm, the notion that black culture has cemented its power and moral authority via the cudgel of grievance would be the mirror image racism of the argument that our society has institutionalized white supremacy.
      That’s why I used it as an example of something Pratt would not defend.

      I don’t know how Woods handled Coates book recently or in the past and I have not seen the videos she showed on structural inequities.

      I have said that such subjects do not automatically confer some infringement upon the SC bill. I don’t know what the school board saw and why they arrived at their conclusion.

      My contention was with Ms Pratt’s comment which was disrespectful of her employers and the students who complained. AND indicative an ideological bias. That’s not her job.

    10. It is telling that conservatives consider themselves to be in a power struggle with "black culture". Where is the search for truth about our shared history?

    11. Conservatives are not in a power struggle with “black culture”, anonymices are whiter than the driven snow.

    12. 7:46,
      Conservatives are too busy suppressing the votes of black people to get in a power struggle with "black culture".

  9. Anonymouse 4:45pm, where did you get the notion that I am simpatico with David, when I expressly said Bob was making a point about the lack of clarity in our national discourse and that most of us hadn’t read the piece because it’s behind a firewall?

    1. I'm taking you to court little lady.

    2. Cecelia, you can’t be simpatico. You’d be simpatica.

    3. It was a typo. Cecelia meant to write she and David are simpletons.

  10. Note the competition to be the biggest victim. Coates and the structural racism videos say that all blacks are victims. Then two white students contact the school board and claim that they are victims. Now, the newspaper report says that the teacher is really the victim.

    1. When someone actually is a victim, why would you object to them being treated with consideration and remediation of the wrong done to them?

      I doubt those videos say anything about ALL blacks. Yes, there is pain enough to go around. But it is fair to ask whether becoming educated, even if it is emotionally painful sometimes, is really making someone a victim or helping them. You don't seem to ever think about that. Students have been claiming victimhood for generations over the amount of homework assigned to them. But it is up to adults in the room to figure out whether those claims make any sense.

      If the teacher decides to leave the field, then the teacher is a victim (assuming she loved her job, as many teachers do) AND the students are victims, because she was a good teacher and they have lost her services. School administrators and taxpayers will suffer because of the costs and turnover of dealing with a teacher shortage.

      Trying to convince anyone here that bad things don't happen to real people from time to time, is a losing proposition. We all live lives into which some rain falls regularly. Yes, we get wet. The solution is not to pretend we all stay dry, but to encourage resilience in dealing with adversity -- but you don't do that by pretending that bad things don't happen to good people.

    2. You make a lot of good points, @7:12. Here's my POV

      The news article and the teacher dramatized the teacher's situation. Being scared to go back to teaching in the classroom sounds terrible. One's heart goes out to the poor teacher.

      But, here's another way to frame it. This teacher was using a short book and two videos that some people consider to be inappropriate. In fact, they may violate state law. The book and videos constitute a small part of all the material she uses for this class. Going forward, she can use all of her other material. She just won't be able to use these three items.

      Looked at this way, the restriction doesn't look like a big deal, and the news article looks overly dramatic.

    3. Anonymouse 7:12pm, for starters, why would l make assumptions about anyone being a victim or victimizer?

    4. It deprives black people of participation in a societythey too are part of. That is wrong to do, law or no law.

  11. " was only two of Mary Wood's students who bellyached to the board..."

    And "only two" was sufficient to earn the teacher a reprimand for a perfectly reasonable assignment.

    Right here we have an excellent example of why laws like the ones in South Carolina and Florida are dangerous. Sure, they may be worded in a way that carefully proscribes a teacher from telling students what they *should* feel. In practice, though, even in the absence of evidence a teacher has violated this dictate, teachers are at risk of reprimand because a student--or a student's parent--objects to an assignment of "woke" reading material.

    So Coates is too risky to assign. How about Toni Morrison? Alice Walker? Ralph Ellison? MLK? Malcolm X? If Coates' very reasonable and personal observations are too strong for fragile students' self esteem, these others are likely out of bounds as well.

  12. Postpartum abortions, third grade teachers grooming 8 year olds, and the idea that teaching about the history of institutionalized racism will make teenagers feel guilty and self loathing are all republican fantasies to gin up the MAGA base. It is difficult enough to get a teenager to feel guilty about his/her own activities let alone those of Americans predating them by decades and centuries. Especially considering that these are unlikely to be DAR descendents, rather multi- generation descendents of immigrants that faced their own set of injustices. These kids have largely incorporated black culture into their daily lives and are more than happy to call out their parents for outdated perceptions regarding race and gender. Republicans fomenting distrust in our public school teachers based upon a non existent issue is one of several reasons for low morale in the educational sphere in Florida, where teaching the wrong book is a third degree felony. It is open war on teachers.

    A few years ago I was visiting Berlin and spent an afternoon at the Holocaust museum. A tour guide explained that apart from memorializing those murdered by the Nazis, the museum was there as a reminder of the sordid past that Germany should never forget. There was no talk of how the youth in that country would be made to feel guilty about the atrocity remembered at that memorial. It seems the Germans have more psychological resilience than the snowflakes conjured up by republicans in this country. Thank god that our children are not the fake versions of their generation that phoney republicans, appealing to MAGA constituents and racists who would like to ignore history would make them out to be. Here in the city of Jacksonville the city council, majority republican, continues to debate the appropriateness of still standing monuments depicting racist traitors to this country.

    1. Unamused, how many Americans died fighting the scourge of slavery and later gave their lives to fighting segregation?

      We don’t have to tell our kids that they harbor some latent poison based upon their melanin level. We tell them that all people, everywhere, must push back against every kind of tyranny.

    2. "We tell them that all people, everywhere, must push back against every kind of tyranny."

      And when we do, Cecelia will be right there, telling us how intolerant we are of the Right.

    3. Anonymouse 8:10am, someone has to.

    4. Well, that's pretty weak sauce you're peddling, but thanks for the reminder about the Civil War. Followed by Republican propaganda, without any evidence, that school teachers badger white kids into some guilt ridden state about their race. That presumably scars them long term, or why would they be making such a big deal about it. I'll take Kendrick Lamar over Mrs. Pritchard's junior year American history class, as a source of influence, thanks. At some point Republicans will realize that our youth do not watch Fox and are not buying Republican dogma about climate change, sexuality, assault weapons, women's rights, and what they think about popular culture. Which is good because they will have lost a whole generation with their bullshit.