Monday, April 25, 2022

How Critical Race Theory Now Stands for Everything Conservatives Fear

In the morally infected worldview of the American Right, the appellation Critical Race Theory has been expanded beyond recognition to include “Social and Emotional Learning.” The intellectual dishonesty implicit in this connection is staggering in its impact. Apparently, there is no limit to how low conservatives and Republicans will sink to attack policies and programs they find objectionable. They have taken a term 99 percent of the public never heard of, and even less understand, and turned it into a metaphor for the threat liberals pose to the nation in every dimension of American life, a threat so potent that it may require a coup to prevent. Make no mistake about it- such corruption of language is stock and trade of would be dictators. Treat anyone who buys into it with extreme caution.

Sunday, April 24, 2022

A Response to Restrictions on Teaching About Racism in Florida Schools

I just thought of one possible response to the legislation and executive orders restricting what can be taught about race in US History in Florida schools What if a group of teachers, students and civil rights leaders came together to produce a document which listed every single lynching that took place in the state of Florida, with dates and locations, along with attacks on black communities and assassinations of black leaders? In the latter category, there will be incidents like the widely publicized Rosewood Massacre (1923) where a prosperous black town was destroyed by jealous whites. But it is my guess that Rosewood was just the tip of the iceberg, and that if you go back to Reconstruction you will find multiple examples of mass murders of blacks who were deemed too wealthy or politically powerful This document, circulating on the internet, will prompt widespread public discussion of a portion of Florida history that has been kept hidden, and apparently can’t be a focus of instruction in Florida schools Florida friends, what do you think? There are scholars and community leaders who can help you get this information! Why not put it all in one place where it can prompt discussion and show that uncomfortable truth about Florida history cannot be suppressed *The Rosewood massacre was a racially motivated massacre of black people and the destruction of a black town that took place during the first week of January 1923 in rural Levy County, Florida. At least six black people and two white people were killed, though eyewitness accounts suggested a higher death toll of 27 to 150. The town of Rosewood was destroyed in what contemporary news reports characterized as a race riot. Florida had an especially high number of lynchings of black men in the years before the massacre,] including a well-publicized incident in December 1922.

Wednesday, April 13, 2022

Why Republicans are Winning the Culture Wars- An Epiphany

While trying to figure out why one of my most popular courses at Fordham- my Affirmative Action Seminar- was suddenly under enrolled, I had an epiphany. Students are so exhausted from the Pandemic that they want to avoid any course that adds to their stress. And since the material in my Affirmative Action Seminar is controversial- no matter what side you take- the best strategy may be to avoid it altogether If this analysis is true, we may want to explore its applicability to the campaign to ban controversial subjects from public school classrooms, whether they involve race, or questions of gender and sexuality. At first, I thought the campaign to ban discussions of the history of racism from public school classrooms was a non-starter, particularly since it was done through an entirely dishonest label "Critical Race Theory," which most teachers never heard of, much less used to guide their pedagogy But the campaign not only took off, it was the central issue in a key Gubernatorial race- Virginia- where the Republican candidate used it to great advantage. And Republicans are using it to great advantage in state after state, where they are adding LBGTQ issues to the Critical Race Theory narrative, and passing laws not only shaping instruction, but at times banning books. I have long wondered why sensible parents didn't rise up against the climate of hysteria these campaigns are based on, but what just happened to me at Fordham suddenly gave me a different explanation What if parents are so beaten down and exhausted by living through the Pandemic that they want to avoid any additional source of stress on their children and families. Given the polarized political climate, they see any attempt to discuss race, gender or sexuality as an added source of stress that they can do without. So they are OK with efforts to discourage curricular guidance which focuses on those subjects Does that make them racists or homophobes? Or just people who want to simplify instruction- and avoid controversy- in a time when they are worn down by multiple layers of stress. I will leave that conclusion up to you. But right now, I see no level of enthusiasm, in universities or the country, for tackling our society's most difficult and longstanding moral and political issues

Friday, April 8, 2022

Judge Jackson's Appointment and the Power of History

The importance of Justice Jackson's ascension to the United States Supreme Court cannot be fully appreciated without understanding the obstacles people of African descent faced throughout US history in exercising the most basic human rights as well as achieving full citizenship. Frightened legislators can try to push that history out the public schools, and even our universities, but they will not succeed. The story of Black people's impact on US History, which is being expanded by new research all the time, has been documented and preserved in hundreds of public archives and public monuments as well as thousands, possibly millions of books and articles. Without turning the US into a Putin-like dictatorship, there is no way of shutting down the evolving narrative of how the country was deformed by racism and white supremacy from the very time of its founding, and how the struggle against those undemocratic forces spawned some of the most powerful movements in US History. Those adding to this narrative through their research will not be silenced, nor will those seeking justice through new initiatives and new movements. History is more than a theory- it is the culmination of the thoughts and activities of all those who seek to understand and change the world they live in.

Monday, April 4, 2022

Pandemic Blues: Far Less Joy in Teaching Than 2 Year Ago

It has now been a full two years since COVID-19 struck and my students were sent home for the Semester. For me at least, nothing in the classroom has quite been the same. Even though I am teaching fully live this semester, at a University where classes are "mask optional," I feel far less joy when teaching than I did before the Pandemic Struck. Part of this is due to the effort it takes for me to stay healthy and motivated. Ever since I realized that my age made me vulnerable to this virus, I have been on a rigorous program of self care that involves stress reduction, healthy eating and a daily regimen of exercise and sleep. Thinking about my own body this much is, quite frankly, mentally exhausting. Making sure I am there for my students for every class and office hour, whether live or on ZOOM,requires constant vigilance. But the major contributor to my sense of demoralization and dread is the fragility of my students. Ever since the Pandemic hit, I can never be sure which of my students will show up in class, and what condition they are in if they do. Assignments are an even greater adventure. Not only are students out with physical ailments far more than usual, a growing number are facing mental health issues that make it difficult for them to complete their written work. Over and over again, I have watched students I care about just disappear from my classes, only to get a note from the Dean saying that they had to take a leave of absence due to undisclosed health issues. And those are the extreme cases. The overwhelming sense I get from my students, both from their body language and explicit comments, is that everyone is under stress and that teachers need to be careful not to put them under too much pressure. For me, one of the great things about teaching was getting lost in the material- bringing history to life for my students with just the right combination of stories, visual images, musical interludes and theoretical constructs, using language they had never heard before that might actually get them excited about what they were learning. But since the Pandemic, it has been difficult to get fired up with enthusiasm about what I am presenting because when I stand in front of a class, I never know who actually is going to be THERE, physically, or emotionally. Sometimes, I feel like I am going through the motions, teaching for myself, more than for a class, or more to the point, providing a model of endurance in conditions of extreme adversity. When everyone else is falling down, I want to show them, I will be the last one standing But that is no fun. Teaching at its best is interactive, spontaneous, filled with moments of discovery for teachers as well as students. Take those elements away and what you have is an extremely complicated, stressful job, that will wear you down quickly That is where I am at right now. I have no plans to retire, but if this keeps up for a few more years, I may have to reconsider. And the atmosphere certainly helps me understand why so many teachers are leaving the profession