Patterico's Pontifications

7/6/2021

David French and Kmele Foster Respond to My Criticism of Their NYT Piece — Mostly in a Nonresponsive Fashion

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 6:33 pm



Yesterday I wrote a post criticizing a New York Times op-ed by David French, Kmele Foster, Thomas Chatterton Williams, and Jason Stanley titled Anti-Critical Race Theory Laws Are Un-American. Reading that post will help you fully understand this post; I’ll summarize the main point of contention but I’m not repeating all my previous arguments here.

I managed to get a response of sorts from most of the authors. While I appreciate the fact that they responded to me, I’m a bit frustrated that not one of them demonstrated that they actually understood the point I made.

Here was my point. I agree with them that much of the language of these laws is vague. But I think they misrepresent the laws in one specific area. In brief, the laws they are criticizing all contain language essentially identical to this language from Texas’s law, which I will edit to remove extraneous bits: “No teacher . . . shall require, or make part of a course 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.”

I italicize “should” in the quote, because the op-ed not only never told readers that the word “should” was in the law, but replaced that word with words like “could” or “would.” From the op-ed:

The laws differ in some respects but generally agree on blocking any teaching that would lead students to feel “discomfort, guilt or anguish” . . Any accurate teaching of any country’s history could make some of its citizens feel uncomfortable (or even guilty) about the past.”

(Bold emphasis is mine.) The op-ed takes a law that says teachers can’t teach kids they “should” feel anguish for being white, and pretends that the law says teachers can’t teach kids about topics that “could” cause them anguish. The difference between “would/could” and “should” here is far from trivial. It’s the difference between a) banning teachers from telling kids that they should feel guilt for the color of their skin, and b) banning the teaching of history, like slavery, that could cause kids to feel guilt for what past members of their race have done to another race.

No sane person wants to ban the teaching of important historical truths, however difficult some of those truths may be. A lot of sane people want to ban shaming kids for their skin color. Those are two very, very different things, and the authors of the op-ed have taken a law that says a) and pretended it actually says b).

That’s my problem, and plenty of people on Twitter had no problem understanding it. But most of the responses I got from the authors elided this point. Kmele Foster suggested that I was splitting hairs:

He also made several other arguments, which boiled down to “but the laws are still vague!” None of them really addressed the should/could distinction, even after other Twitter users tried to explain it to him in fairly clear terms:

Well said, Damin. Jason Stanley was, in my view, also completely nonresponsive to my point:

No response to that last question.

David French came closest to addressing my points, and it is his arguments that I respond to in the balance of this post. Here’s the meat of his argument:

French makes two basic points here, as I understand it, and I will try to summarize those two points in my own words — but fairly, in the hope that he would agree with my characterization of his argument — and then respond to each. Let’s start with his first point.

“PART OF A COURSE”

First, French places special emphasis on the aspect of the law that bans making any of the concepts “part of a course.” Such vague language bans any discussion of the topic, whether it’s advocacy or criticism.

I find French’s emphasis on the “part of a course” language to be a pretty good argument. It’s just not the argument that he made in the op-ed. The op-ed does not discuss the “part of a course” language in the statute. The op-ed does not argue that, due to the “part of a course” language, a teacher who opposes making kids feel uncomfortable because of their race is not allowed to express that opposition in the classroom. You can read the op-ed as many times as you like; that argument isn’t there. And that matters, because this particular argument is quite distinct from the argument the op-ed actually makes: namely, that teachers can’t teach slavery etc. because it “could” make kids uncomfortable. The two arguments are logically distinct. They have different stakes and different possible responses. And, quite significantly, there is a fix in the works for the argument French made on Twitter. As Stanley Kurtz explains in National Review:

Texas House Bill 3979 initially passed the House. After it reached the Senate, a key fix was made. The original House version held that the various illiberal concepts listed (e.g., collective guilt by race or sex) should not be made “part of a course.” This phrasing could potentially prevent even discussion of the various concepts, which would indeed run afoul of our culture of free expression, despite being legally permissible. In contrast, my model legislation merely says that teachers should not teach the various illiberal concepts in such a way as to inculcate them. Anything can be discussed. The core concepts of critical race theory, however, should not be presented as worthy of assent and belief. In other words, students should not be indoctrinated with CRT.

I advocated for tweaking the House version along these lines early on. And in fact, when Texas House Bill 3979 moved to the Senate, the switch to “inculcate” was made. That change speaks to yet another concern of Foster, French, Stanley, and Williams. With the new language, the Texas bill would not bar any teaching that leads to student “discomfort, guilt, or anguish,” an excessively subjective standard. On the contrary, the law would simply prevent teaching students that they ought to feel guilt or anguish on account of their race or sex. Arguably, the current language already does this. Yet the addition of “inculcate” would make that clearer still. The problem is that the technical fixes of the Senate version were lost due to an unrelated procedural challenge in the final days of the session. At that point, the Senate bill was struck down by the parliamentarian. That meant the only way to pass a law before the session ended was to adopt the House version and leave the fixes for a special legislative session, which is now on tap.

What on Earth is wrong with a law that prevents teachers from “inculcating” children in the belief that one ought to (“should”) feel distress because of the color of one’s skin? I think it is far more illiberal to allow teachers to indoctrinate children with such a poisonous (and, yes, un-American) sentiment than it is to prevent teachers from engaging in the indoctrination of children in such ugly beliefs. As for the notion that this amounts to the institution of “speech codes,” Kurtz drives home the point that French and the other authors minimize: legislative authority over K-12 curricula is far greater than authority over university teaching, for good reason:

This brings us to an issue that Foster, French, Stanley, and Williams gloss over far too quickly. The authors act as though the authority of states over the content of K–12 education is a minor legal technicality. It is not. K–12 teachers do not have the academic freedom that college teachers do, and for a profoundly important reason. Primary and secondary students in public schools are a captive audience. Teachers cannot and must not be allowed to impose their personal politics on children and families legally compelled to use the public-school system (or shoulder significant financial burdens), especially when that involves outrageous and illiberal assaults on our most cherished principles.

With the revision that Kurtz says is coming, it will be even more clear that the legislature intends merely to prevent teachers from indoctrinating students in poisonous concepts, not to prevent teachers from merely discussing them.

USING FEELINGS AS EVIDENCE

This brings me to French’s second point: that “the text roots the violation in highly subjective feelings” and therefore “the experience of those feelings will become evidence of a violation.” Again, I will try to state this in my own words in a way that French would hopefully agree is a good-faith and largely accurate restatement.

Namely, I understand French to be saying that the law, by making explicit reference to kids’ feelings — like discomfort, guilt, or anguish — thereby sets up a scenario where parents can march into court and use their kids’ alleged anguish as evidence of bad teaching. This means that any uncomfortable subject that could cause such negative feelings could end up being banned. Therefore Patterico’s emphasis on the word “should” is misplaced because this overinclusiveness and reliance on standardless subjective feelings means almost any teaching “could” run afoul of the law.

Do I have that about right, David?

Here’s the problem: I believe this argument rests entirely on the rhetorical move that French and his co-authors made to conflate the word “should” with the words “could” or “would.” If you believe, as the op-ed authors (inaccurately) state, that the law bans “blocking any teaching that would lead students to feel ‘discomfort, guilt or anguish’” then of course the fact that students did experience such negative feelings would be directly relevant to the case.

But instead imagine a courtroom where the judge understands the law to be banning teaching kids that they ought to experience negative feelings for being white (or black, or whatever) — something that Kurtz’s proposed legislation would make clear. In that case, the question is all about the teacher’s intent. Now imagine two scenarios:

  • 1. A teacher walks into a classroom and tells Susie that all white people are racist, and that Susie, being white, should recognize her white privilege and apologize to her classmates for it. Susie does so and is not particularly traumatized by the event, as her woke parents have been telling her the same things for years.
  • 2. A teacher tells Johnny that in the United States, slavery used to be legal, and in fact, the Supreme Court of the United States once ruled that black people were not allowed to be citizens. Johnny, who is white, feels terrible and starts crying. Johnny says he can’t believe that people — people with the same color skin as he has — were so awful to black people. He says it makes him feel ashamed to be white. The teacher tells Johnny it’s not Johnny’s fault, and that no human being should ever feel ashamed because of the color of their skin — but that kids should know the true history of the country.

The teacher in scenario #1 violated the Texas law. It does not matter whether Susie or anyone else experienced negative feelings as a result. The teacher’s intent was to humiliate a child based solely on the color of her skin. Nobody should want a teacher teaching such things.

The teacher in scenario #2 did not violate the Texas law — at least, assuming that Kurtz’s fix discussed above is implemented. The teacher in no way tried to inculcate Johnny in the belief that he should feel shame for being white. That is an emotion that Johnny experienced on his own. Indeed, the teacher taught Johnny that this emotion was unnecessary.

Now, until Kurtz’s fix is made, the teacher in scenario #2 arguably did violate Texas law, for reasons that French described on Twitter but did not say a word about in the New York Times. Namely, by telling Johnny that “no human being should ever feel ashamed because of the color of their skin” the teacher arguably made “part of a course” the “concept” that an individual “should feel discomfort, guilt, anguish, or any other form of psychological distress on account of his or her race” — even though the teacher only made this concept part of the course in order to criticize it. This is why I think French’s argument to me on Twitter was valid — but if Kurtz is right, that flaw will soon be fixed by the Texas legislature. (The fact that it has to be fixed illustrates the dangers of writing sloppy laws on these topics.)

But let’s get back to the relevance of little Johnny’s feelings of anguish. Isn’t it clear that they are logically irrelevant to the teacher’s intent in Scenario #2? Isn’t it clear that Susie’s lack of anguish in Scenario #1 is equally irrelevant to that teacher’s intent?

This is why I think that French’s focus on “feelings” is a red herring. As long as judges interpret the word “should” to be “ought to” rather than “could” (as in: “how dare you teach my child that he ought to feel ashamed for being black [or white]!”), the feelings experienced by children would be relevant only to the extent that they tell you something about the teacher’s intent — which in most cases, they won’t. The only way to argue that feelings will be relevant evidence is to make the rhetorical move the op-ed makes: namely, ignoring the law’s actual language, and pretending that the law targets anything that might upset children.

IN CONCLUSION

I want to again repeat that I don’t think French, Foster, Williams, or Stanley intend to mislead anyone. I think they are making arguments in good faith. I have followed the careers of the first three for a considerable period of time, and I respect them. I am frustrated that they are seemingly brushing off my criticism — but then, how often do people pen a New York Times op-ed and then immediately concede that they messed up the analysis in part of it?

My objection here is that, as to this specific provision, the authors put their considerable credibility behind a leftist critique of the law that is misleading. We have read everywhere that the laws in question could ban teaching the country’s history of discrimination, slavery, and Jim Crow because it might make current students feel bad. That’s the argument that the authors echo and it’s not what the law says.

I wish they would acknowledge that.

63 Responses to “David French and Kmele Foster Respond to My Criticism of Their NYT Piece — Mostly in a Nonresponsive Fashion”

  1. I also wish someone would acknowledge the existence of this post!!!

    🙂

    Patterico (e349ce)

  2. It’s a good post.

    I don’t think they want to acknowledge your argument as it weakens theirs and turned the question into an objective person instead of a subjective one.

    But I don’t see them fighting against discriminating against white children at all. I don’t think that even comes into their consideration when it’s an argument against racist educational programming.

    NJRob (259e99)

  3. Acknowledged, and bravo on the two scenarios, as they very clearly illustrate the point.

    I think that even with the Texas law as it stands, the only way to reconcile this language:

    “(h-2)In adopting the essential knowledge and skills for the
    social studies curriculum, the State Board of Education shall adopt
    essential knowledge and skills that develop each student ’s civic
    knowledge, including an understanding of

    (7)The history of white supremacy, including but not
    limited to the institution of slavery, the eugenics movement, and
    the Ku Klux Klan, and the ways in which it is morally wrong;”

    with this language:

    “(h-3)For any social studies course in the required
    curriculum:

    (4)A teacher, administrator, or other employee of a state agency, school district, or open-enrollment charter school may not:

    (B)require or part of a course, the concept
    that:

    (i)one race or sex is inherently superior to another race or sex;
    (ii)an individual, by virtue of the individual ’s race or sex, is inherently racist, sexist, or
    oppressive, whether consciously or unconsciously;
    (iii)an individual should be discriminated against or receive adverse treatment solely or partly because of the individual ’s race;

    [and so on…]”

    …would be to interpret the latter as “make part of a course” to endorse those concepts, or to inculcate them. Because how can you teach about the KKK and white supremacy without talking about the concept that one race is superior to another?

    I will agree, however, that the fix Kurtz describes should remove any doubt as to the meaning.

    CNH (c129c5)

  4. Bravo, Patterico. Both yesterday’s post and today’s addition are fine pieces of work. I’m a little surprised that David French didn’t acknowledge his error. I thought he was the type that was above pride. Maybe he’s just too busy to carefully read your analysis.

    norcal (25df9b)

  5. CRT: America’s Flight 401.

    DCSCA (f4c5e5)

  6. We have rules that DO rely on the effect an action caused, such as sexual harassment rules in many workplaces. An act that offends someone is treated differently than the same act that does not.

    Under such rules, the two scenarios above would be reversed, and we would be talking about the “reasonable child standard” or maybe the “reasonable racist white boy standard” depending on your perspective.

    Kevin M (ab1c11)

  7. BTW, I think you meant “slavery used to be LEGAL” in scenario 2.

    Kevin M (ab1c11)

  8. Still, is it certain that a Court would be looking for a magic word test? A teacher could guide a one-sided discussion…say about racial wealth inequality….where there is a fairly clear implication as to what one should conclude…..yet does not explicitly point to the white student and say “you should feel guilty as a white person if you don’t support reparations”….would (or should) the statute be triggered if the student and his/her parents complain? What if you ratchet back the in-class discussion so that the student wrongly perceives it as being one-sided….let’s say the teacher personally does not even support reparations but is trying to induce the students to think more critically (Socratic method) and make better arguments against it….would a court not have to consider more than “was there an explicit command to feel guilty?”

    What if the “should” element comes about through proxy? For instance, what if students in the classroom arrive at the conclusion that white kids should feel guilty….and peer pressure assumes a prime role and other students claim “you should feel guilty whitey”….whereas maybe the teacher even says “now stop that”. Does it matter? The white student has been shamed by his/her peers, should the statute be triggered even if the state’s teacher does not agree with the shaming?

    Will the gray areas cause teachers to not even want to bother? Will it chill legitimate consideration of polarizing topics….because some student might believe guilt is being implied? I would go back to, what is the curricular guidance from the school board and is the discussion in the spirit of that guidance. What is or is not allowable in that guidance. My sense is that some of these statutes aren’t really giving practical clear unambiguous guidance like that to the teacher…but just muddying the water. I think this was French’s original point…but I certainly could be reading into it…..

    AJ_Liberty (a4ff25)

  9. Great post that addressed a few of the things I was trying to understand about these laws. Thank you for taking the time to write it.

    Time123 (9f42ee)

  10. Re 5:so what is/was Americas Flight 447 (Air France, 2009)?

    urbanleftbehind (773f95)

  11. Will the gray areas cause teachers to not even want to bother? Will it chill legitimate consideration of polarizing topics….because some student might believe guilt is being implied? I would go back to, what is the curricular guidance from the school board and is the discussion in the spirit of that guidance. What is or is not allowable in that guidance. My sense is that some of these statutes aren’t really giving practical clear unambiguous guidance like that to the teacher…but just muddying the water. I think this was French’s original point…but I certainly could be reading into it…..

    These are some of the concerns I have. It seems like a lot of risk to solve a problem that doesn’t seem very wide spread. Also, i expect the fight over CRT will be completely forgotten in few years, but bad laws will remain on the books.

    Time123 (9f42ee)

  12. Excellent points Patterico.

    HCI (92ea66)

  13. Time, I agree. Are there some extreme cases in liberal bastions that are concerning (and from a leadership position at the NEA)? Certainly and I think shining light on those cases is appropriate…make school boards respond to public pressure and provide correction. However, the more and more polarized we become, the more and more we fall prey to conspiracy thinking and imagining that the unwashed other side is coordinating the take down of the country. Many want to believe this is a sinister Marxist plot to indoctrinate your kids…to become good little soldiers in toppling capitalism and patriotism. It’s fear…..and fear works….it mobilizes people and gets them politically activated….the same way BLM distorts the whole police violence question…and the Left distorts the gender wage gap. The message should be that parents should understand what is going on in the classroom…..meet your kids’ teachers….and talk to your kids about what they are learning. Local, local, local….and the hammer of government should be the last resort….

    AJ_Liberty (a4ff25)

  14. Dan McLaughlin of the National Review did link and referenced Patterico’s original blog post rebutting the NYT article in an article in the NR Corner. I just read it a few minutes ago.

    https://www.nationalreview.com/corner/important-reading-on-the-critical-race-theory-in-schools-debate/?utm_source=recirc-desktop&utm_medium=homepage&utm_campaign=hero&utm_content=related&utm_term=first

    HCI (92ea66)

  15. I tried to make this could/should distinction with Nic previously. It seems like this distinction is denied outright under the theory that it undermines the criticism of the laws.

    I don’t this you’ll get much of a response since this is either intention or a function of cognitive dissonance.

    frosty (f27e97)

  16. As much as I admire French and company, and Patterico, for tackling this difficult subject, I think it would be more useful to consider the problem from the opposite direction. We should spend more time discussing what should be taught, than what should not be taught.

    An example from my local monopoly newspaper: The Seattle Times usually does not even mention Lincoln’s birthday on the day that once was a national holiday. Since they can’t say anything wholly nasty about Lincoln, they choose to say nothing at all.

    But they love to run stories about the less admirable people and events in our history. To celebrate the end of World War II last year, they ran three articles. One was larger than the other two combined — the one on Japanese-American internment. (As I recall, the article did not mention that, during the Reagan administration, the nation formally apologized and paid $20,000 to each internee, or that George H. W. Bush extended the program later.)

    I can not imagine the newspaper giving any coverage to far more important World War II events, such as the Bataan Death March, or the Manila Massacre.

    Jim Miller (edcec1)

  17. @Patterico: Bravo my man. I have my own issues with the op-ed writers, but I too believe they’re trying to approach this in good faith.

    I think they’d have a much better argument advocating for better written laws in preventing CRT indoctrination, than trying to avoid having that conversation that there are CRT adherents whom are trying to indoctrinate the public with this poison.

    whembly (ae0eb5)

  18. AJ, I think it’s great branding on the part of the right also. They’ve picked a term that sounds somewhat scary, isolated it from it’s original context, and redefined it as some vague and bad thing. Examples from the left would be “Assault Weapons Ban” and “Gun Show Loophole”. All sound a little scary (loophole, Assault, Critical) all of them are vaguely understood if not ill defined. All can be used to motivate the base and demonize the opposition. Take a look the reaction from the right to Charlie Sykes attempt to discuss CRT in terms it’s or go along proponents would recognize.

    The point of this is the conversation around CRT. I’m not intending to turn this into a gun control conversation and my own opinion is that the Assault Weapons bad is silly and the the Gun Show loophole is a solution in search of a problem. If someone feels strongly otherwise we can take it to an open thread.

    Time123 (9f42ee)

  19. Time123 (9f42ee) — 7/7/2021 @ 5:40 am

    Also, i expect the fight over CRT will be completely forgotten in few years, but bad laws will remain on the books.

    You’re assuming they are “bad” laws using some definition that seems very subjective. Leaving that aside, so what? You’re thinking in a few years everyone will come to there senses and see that teaching acceptable forms of racism really is ok and that these laws will then be a hindrance?

    frosty (f27e97)

  20. BTW, I think you meant “slavery used to be LEGAL” in scenario 2.

    Yes, of course, thank you!

    Patterico (e349ce)

  21. AJ_Liberty (a4ff25) — 7/7/2021 @ 4:55 am

    You’re trying very hard to blur should back into could.

    And ironically, I’ll paraphrase a comment that I think you made to me. You’re applying a standard to the law as written that is never applied. You’re expecting the law up front and as written to work out all of the details and situations that are questions of fact and would need to be decided on a case by case basis.

    frosty (f27e97)

  22. There are people on the center-right who have been clear-eyed about the bad faith that has taken over a large part of the GOP and the conservative media recently, but some of those critics then seemed to take the position that whatever is riling up the conservative base these days must be bogus and whatever is done by officials in response must be an overreach starting from bad faith or an anti-democratic or racist impulse. French may have allowed that premise to cloud his view of what the language of the laws in question actually says.

    Radegunda (33a224)

  23. Frosty, your comment 21 get’s to the heart of my concern. In practice how will this likely be applied? I can parse the language but am lack an understanding of precedent that would help make that clear. Patterico seems to feel that ‘should’ will set a high bar for what is prohibited. I hope he’s right.

    When is saw the law is bad i mean that it seems overly broad to me (though I could be mistaken) I also think it’s aimed at a problem that isn’t very serious. In a few years when the ability to use CRT to motivate the OAN viewership is gone they’ll move to some other moral panic.

    I think accurately teaching history is good.
    I think emotionally abusing children is bad.
    I think these laws are a solution in search of a problem, if not entirely performative.

    I think laws should focus on the emotional abuse.

    Time123 (9f42ee)

  24. 16. Jim Miller (edcec1) — 7/7/2021 @ 7:28 am

    The Seattle Times usually does not even mention Lincoln’s birthday on the day that once was a national holiday.

    It never was a national (federal) holiday.

    In 1983 Lincoln’s Birthday was observed in 23 states (in Oregon and Delaware on the first Monday in February, and in Arizona – as Lincoln Day – on the second Monday in February, and the rest on February 12 – maybe shifted to a week day)

    Sammy Finkelman (51cd0c)

  25. Time123 (9f42ee) — 7/7/2021 @ 8:58 am

    I’m not really sure I agree with the concern. The difference between could and should, like the difference between may and must and can and shall, are not unknown in a legal context. This is only really a problem for people who’ve gotten into the habit of redefining words to fit an end goal.

    As to the future, I’m pretty sure if we ban it and the ban is successful people will move on to other issues. That’s the point. If we ban it and the camel is still trying to get its nose in the tent then we keep at it. But it going away is the point.

    Whether it’s over broad or vague isn’t persuasive for me. We’re well past vague being an issue and I’m not sure there’s value in trying to enumerate all of the cases. We don’t do that with libel laws, we don’t do it with torts, etc. We might do it with drug laws but I think we leave a lot of the details for environmental regulation up to the executive. We’ve got some sketchy specific tax laws buts that’s a different problem.

    I’m still trying to understand the harm. Even as written teachers can still create the situations the NEA and Project Zinn people want to create and the country is full of DA’s that won’t prosecute BLM rioters. I don’t think those teachers have anything to worry about.

    frosty (f27e97)

  26. Frosty: “You’re trying very hard to blur should back into could.”

    My examples show how a teacher can create a sense of discomfort and racial guilt…purposefully or accidentally…without explicitly telling a student what they need to feel (ie., by implication or by reactions from other students). It’s not at all clear that a Court will necessarily adopt a narrow magic-word test. Rather, I would think a court would want to determine whether a reasonable adolescent or teen was being unduly pressured on account of his/her race….and whether the adult in the room facilitated it. Again, I’m skeptical that a judge would simply ask the teacher whether he/she told the student that he/she should feel bad about his/her race….and a negative answer would end the inquiry. Do you believe that a teacher who willfully distorted the case for reparations in order to shame white students…but who nonetheless did not directly tell those white students that they should feel guilty….would not or should not be answerable to this law? I think a well-seasoned first amendment attorney like David French would have a general sense of that….

    AJ_Liberty (ec7f74)

  27. #24: Sammy – Right you are. But it has been a holiday in most places I have lived.

    And I would like to think that you agree with me that the Seattle Times should celebrate Lincoln’s birthday.

    (What especially interests me about their decision to ignore Lincoln’s birthday is that it is, almost certainly, against their financial interest. There’s story from the 1930s about a writer who was looking for a sure best seller. He was told that books about Lincoln, doctors, and dogs always sold well. So he wrote a book on Lincoln’s doctor’s dog.

    The newspaper does often cover doctors and dogs, but they ignore Lincoln. I think, if they were to put Lincoln’s birthday on the front page next February, along with the full text of his second inaugural, they would sell many extra copies.)

    Jim Miller (edcec1)

  28. AJ_Liberty (ec7f74) — 7/7/2021 @ 10:32 am

    I think there’s an issue of intent. Teachers who intend to cause the results the law is targeting are in violation of the law. But could/should isn’t the magic word test.

    I don’t think appeals to authority are the best foundation for a position and I don’t consider French an authority.

    frosty (b189e9)

  29. “I don’t consider French an authority”

    “French has served as a senior counsel for the American Center for Law and Justice and the Alliance Defending Freedom, has lectured at Cornell Law School and spent much of his career working on religious-rights issues. He served as president of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE).” So an actual lawyer with considerable experience with first amendment law…..and education rights no less… is not an authority on the first amendment? The law always has subjective aspects to it, but it’s hard to argue that someone who has lectured and written books on the subject is not a bit better informed than the ordinary internet commentator, no?

    AJ_Liberty (ec7f74)

  30. “I don’t consider French an authority”
    So an actual lawyer with considerable experience with first amendment law…..and education rights no less… is not an authority on the first amendment?

    I think we all know that the aspersion against French’s qualifications to discuss the First Amendment, or any other issue, has nothing to do with his actual knowledge of the issues in question.

    Radegunda (33a224)

  31. American culture is averse to any sort of critical thinking/theory (including critical race theory), so I disagree with the authors of the op-Ed that a legislative prohibition is “un-American.” It is very American.

    Leviticus (fb2b46)

  32. Here’s an example of anti-CRT activists labeling a book about and by one the first black children as CRT and advocating that it not be taught. There’s no evidence presented that any of the children were abused or harmed by the teachers. This gives some credence to the concern that the anti-CRT advocates aren’t being entirely honest in their explanation of what they oppose.

    https://www.tennessean.com/story/news/local/williamson/2021/06/11/wit-wisdom-curriculum-williamson-county-schools-critical-race-theory-criticism/5192703001/

    Time123 (9f42ee)

  33. CRT is un-American. Laws enacted to ban it are not.

    Colonel Haiku (2601c0)

  34. Time, here is the 3 hour event that your link highlighted a minimal amount of quotes:

    https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=9vleR5pSUA0

    I haven’t listened to the whole thing. Only enough to see the bias in the link you posted.

    BuDuh (7bca93)

  35. Jim Miller (edcec1) — 7/7/2021 @ 10:55 am

    There’s story from the 1930s about a writer who was looking for a sure best seller. He was told that books about Lincoln, doctors, and dogs always sold well. So he wrote a book on Lincoln’s doctor’s dog.

    I think that story is about what would be a best seller. But then someone did write a bppk with that title, but it was about publishing.

    http://www.metaphordogs.org/Dogs/entries/lincolns.html

    Lincoln’s doctor’s dog. An archaic reference in the publishing industry to the notion that the way to ensure a book is a bestseller is to write about Lincoln, dogs, or doctors. This prompted one author to title his book which is about publishing in the 1930s Lincoln’s Doctor’s Dog.

    Another person wrote another book with that title a little over a year ago – it is a farce.

    There was also the claim – this could be over a century ago maybe – that the most frequently published topics for vpks were about Lincoln and Napoleon.

    Sammy Finkelman (51cd0c)

  36. My apologies. The author of your link mentioned the “CRT 101” event just prior to the quote he used. He then noted that those quotes came from a different meeting. I will search for that meeting before posting any more.

    BuDuh (7bca93)

  37. Time123 (9f42ee) — 7/8/2021 @ 7:49 am

    Thank you for the link, Time123. I found the article to be more of an example of how one-sided the issue is reported. It is quite effective in its purpose to persuade rather than to evenly report; a hallmark of today’s journalism on every side.

    It is evident that you were quite persuaded by the piece by the very words and assumptions in your comment:

    There’s no evidence presented that any of the children were abused or harmed by the teachers.

    The need for this evidence seems like a strawman that implies these serious accusations were made, and if they were made, why not say so? Would it have caused the reader to ask if any evidence was presented that none of the children were abused or harmed by the teachers? Indeed, how would a request, by a commenter, for evidence that no children were abused or harmed by teachers be viewed?

    This gives some credence to the concern that the anti-CRT advocates aren’t being entirely honest in their explanation of what they oppose.

    This is an interesting take. What about:

    This gives some credence to the concern that the CRT advocates aren’t being entirely honest in their explanation of what they teach.

    This thought is not likely to occur to few (I am one) readers, since the purpose of the article is to supersede it by placing the opposite burden in the mind of the reader.

    My position had always been to support Parental rights, especially with regard to their children’s education. This is a just position for both liberal and conservative parents.

    felipe (484255)

  38. Sammy Finkelman (51cd0c) — 7/8/2021 @ 8:33 am

    Hah! Great comment, Sammy.

    felipe (484255)

  39. Oops! II left out an important word!

    This thought is not likely to occur to [A] few (I am one) readers…

    I blame my keybord, it sometimes does not register an ” .”

    felipe (484255)

  40. @32 abuse is the bar?

    from the link: “The district had to apply for a waiver to use “Wit & Wisdom” with K-2 students”

    political materials, and that’s what these are, are not appropriate at these grade levels

    they’re only appropriate when kids are able to think for themselves, rather than be a captive audience to those in authority

    that would be high school, and maybe just grades 11 and 12

    seriously, what is the point to using these with k-2 children when they can’t possibly absorb the principles involved, other than to get a head start on right think?

    JF (e1156d)

  41. JF, if you read the article you’d see that the waiver was because the book didn’t have a phonics guide.

    Time123 (eb65d0)

  42. Filipe, longer response coming. You ask some good questions.

    Time123 (eb65d0)

  43. @41 i did read it

    do you think political materials are appropriate for k-2 children?

    JF (e1156d)

  44. 35. 38. And then there’s the American Heritage piece from June/July 2003 entitled Lincoln’s Doctor’s Dog (Volume 54 Issue 3). It’s about a stray dog that followed Lincoln’s carriage to the White House in mid-October 1861, until his owner, Dr. George Suckley, a New Yorker who was the chief surgeon of Brig. Gen. Philip Kearny’s 1st New Jersey Brigade, which Lincoln had visited, read in a newspaper called Willis’s Home Journal about a dog that sounded like it might be his that had accompanied Mrs. Lincoln. He had actually earlier sent a friend to the White House to inquire about it because he had seen it chasing after the Executive carriage, but that person had been told no when he asked if a pointer had been seen in the vicinity. He went to retrieve. This was after about two weeks.

    The following ensued:

    https://www.americanheritage.com/lincolns-doctors-dog

    Usher to Pres.
    Mr. President, a gentleman is outside who says you have stolen his dog.
    Show him in.
    Good morning, Mr. President.
    Good morning, Sir.
    I came after my black dog, Sir. He followed you about a fortnight ago, and is now here. I will not part with jet on any consideration. …
    President (looking as if he had been caught sheepstealing)
    Well (drawled), I don’t want to take anybody’s dog, or property. If he is your dog you must have him—but the children are very fond of him—and—and—you’ll probably lose him again!
    Mr. President, I don’t want to part with him—but sir I’ll propose a Compromise.
    What Compromise?
    I’ll give you a pup—one of his own children as black as himself.
    The President laughed —or rather uncoiled — straightened himself to his full length, & chuckled. Probably of all the compromises that ever were made in the private offices of our Presidents none ever equaled this.

    He made me let Jet stay there two or three weeks longer, promising to take good care of him. At the expiration of the time I shall visit his Excellency with the compromise, which I now have with me, fattening, and learning. He is a perfect little facsimile of the old dog; very sagacious & tractable, and, altho’ but two months old, already fetches sticks.

    In late December, Suckley rode to the White House to repossess Jet and deliver the compromise. Alas, the pointer had run away, apparently seeking his master. “I am put out with the President,” Suckley wrote home. “He has lost Jet, & in consequence I will not give him the pup.”

    Suckley would not see Jet again, for within days he was ordered to Cumberland, Maryland, to reorganize the scandalously deficient hospital there. But he sent the promising pup to his family’s farm in Rhinebeck. During four years on the front lines, the doctor was promoted to the rank of colonel and became one of General Grant’s personal surgeons. Afterward he returned to New York, where he spent a happy retirement. Still, he may have regretted not having left the “Compromise” with the President. In February 1862 Willie Lincoln died of a sudden fever, and as his father struggled through the griefs and anxieties of his last years, he might have found respite in the antics of a smart, romping pup.

    Well, if he had the dog everything else might have been different, too and Willie might not have contracted the fever..

    By the way, there’s no reason to suppose that when the dig ran away from a second home, he was going back to the first one.

    Sammy Finkelman (51cd0c)

  45. JF, Can you specify what about this book isn’t appropriate in your view?

    Time123 (9f42ee)

  46. 1968, 5th grade. Breaking the hearts of the lady librarians at the Logan Square branch of the Chicago Public Library, who were not supposed to let me check out Mickey Spillane, Gavin Lyall, Ian Fleming, or even Nero Wolfe books, but could not bring themselves to say no to me, either.

    nk (1d9030)

  47. Filipe, I think the CRT discussion has a lot of miscommunication in it and the term is being used to mean very different things. The examples in the OP of what’s wrong with ‘crt’ is trying to make a student feel bad because their race. Trying to make someone feel bad, or inflicting emotional distress, is a form of abuse. To get around the arguments about terms I’m trying to focus on something we can hopefully all agree on; it’s bad to emotionally abuse students. Evil CRT would be an example of emotion abuse centered around race. But making a student feel bad because their hair, clothes, or wherever would also be bad.

    Unless I missed it in the article the school isn’t trying to teach CRT (whatever that means) they’re trying to teach US History. Specifically a recent and painful part of US history: the desegregation of schools. A group that opposers CRT is also opposing this, but I haven’t seen a great explanation of why this book is inappropriate. It seems like the autobiographical account of a one of the first black students to be part of desegregation could be a good way for students to engage with the history beyond a just memorizing dates and places. In fact there are quotes in the article that this has been well received by students and an effective educational tool.

    Time123 (9f42ee)

  48. @45 i thought my question was pretty straightforward

    if you don’t think the material is political, then you can just say so

    i guess we should have k-2 children read about the holocaust, vietnam war, 9/11 and roe v wade

    JF (e1156d)

  49. JF, I don’t think desegregation is a political issue today. I think we can all agree that we don’t want public school segregated by race. Again, what about the book do specially object to? Is it just telling kids that segregation happened?

    Time123 (9f42ee)

  50. @49 lots of things happened in history of great importance that can’t be done justice by the mind of a k-2 child or the mind of a k-2 teacher who has a captive audience at a cognitive disadvantage

    it, among countless others, is not an age appropriate topic

    JF (e1156d)

  51. An excellent, relentlessly fair and relentlessly honest assessment. I am myself skeptical about these laws for reasons I think Patterico fully explains (better than the four authors of the Times piece did actually) while also defending them if properly written. The attacks on these laws rarely delve into their language at all, so the Times piece in doing that at least gave Patterico a basis for challenging the four writer while also detailing the flaws in such laws when poorly drafted. Most of the criticism of the laws is meant to deflect to the utterly bogus contention that the supporters of the laws want to thwart teaching about racism, slavery, etc. This is laughable really to anyone who knows anything about history curricula in the schools as developed over the last three or more decades. I’ve been in the business of doing just that for that long and can fully attest to the overwhelming presence of attention to all aspects of race and America’s past. The issue is not thwarting the teaching of such matters. It is the effort to force children to adopt horribly self-destructive attitudes and feelings about themselves and those around them.

    Jonathan E Burack (ffe4d6)

  52. The only thing you really need to know is that when someone calls something “Critical..theory” they are referring to unsupported lies, because if they were not, it would not be necessary to use fancy terminology.

    Sammy Finkelman (51cd0c)

  53. JF, Can you specify what about this book isn’t appropriate in your view?

    Having completed the 3 hour “CRT 101” video I posted at 8:23, I now know that every book in the series plays a part in a greater lesson plan. I think everyone should watch the video. It will help you decide whether or not you want to get pigeonholed into having to argue within the terms set up by Time’s extremely biased source.

    I choose to not argue this one as well. Minds appear to have already been made up.

    That being said. I do highly recommend the video. It answers a lot of questions.

    BuDuh (7bca93)

  54. @50, the material went through multiple reviews. Feedback on it has been positive (per the article) but you don’t like talking about it and think it’s ‘political’ so you don’t want it taught. Kind of seems like CRT = History that JF would like to ignore.

    Time123 (9f42ee)

  55. AJ_Liberty (ec7f74) — 7/7/2021 @ 1:10 pm

    it’s hard to argue that someone who has lectured and written books on the subject is not a bit better informed than the ordinary internet commentator, no?

    It’s really strange how you consistently misrepresent things. Did I say anything relative to the ordinary internet commentator? I also don’t consider random people on the internet authorities but more importantly I don’t think appeals to authority are good arguments or persuasive.

    You’re theory is that we’ve all got to take his opinion as the truth based solely on faith in his authority?

    His opinions stand by themselves and can be judged on their own merits. You’re thinking plebeians can’t question his opinions? I guess that works well when he agrees with you. Again, this is the problem with appeals to authority. They let people do what you’re doing here, i.e. pick an authority that’s saying what you want to hear.

    You’re free to pick any authority you want and let them do your thinking for you.

    frosty (f27e97)

  56. “It’s really strange how you consistently misrepresent things.”

    Oh this routine again…..sigh…

    AJ_Liberty (ec7f74)

  57. Thank you for your thoughtful response, Time123. Many people have given this matter much thought -as well they should. But the issue must not be a matter of academic consensus, especially when it is so opposed by parents whose children are to be the mandatory learners of this material.

    In fact there are quotes in the article that this has been well received by students and an effective educational tool.
    Time123 (9f42ee) — 7/8/2021 @ 10:27

    Let us set aside, for the moment, this particular interpretation of children’s lauds, because it sounds just as self-serving as the opposition offering up their own quotes. These sentiments might be given weight if the quotes had been from the parents, instead of their children. Children would love junk-food, exclusively, for lunch instead of a balanced meal.

    Parents have always been drivers of nutrition in schools, both public and private. How much more should schools listen to the concerns of these children’s parents when the matter concerns the content of the subjects taught? The very reason these children are compelled to learn the subjects taught, is because they are so ill-informed that they cannot make educated guesses on important matters, much less important decisions on their lives.

    I am only on the side of parents. If it were liberal parents objecting to the teaching of “values of the Republic” I would be just as vocal.

    felipe (484255)

  58. Patterico, I apologize that not one of my comments, so far, is on topic! I found both of your posts to be quite correct. And I echo the praise contained in the comment by Jonathan E Burack (ffe4d6) — 7/8/2021 @ 11:59 am

    I take your writing, too much, for granted. Sorry.

    felipe (484255)

  59. i guess we should have k-2 children read about the holocaust, vietnam war, 9/11 and roe v wade
    JF (e1156d) — 7/8/2021 @ 10:50 am

    Ouch! Quite right. The opposition to teaching the Shoah in 2nd grade would contain strange bedfellows, indeed. From deniers to survivors and mindful humans in between. The subject is too important, too horrible, to be inflicted on the innocent.

    felipe (484255)

  60. @54 ah, i see

    emphasizing age appropriateness is a sneaky plot to silence those topics for all ages

    you totally smoked that out

    JF (e1156d)

  61. What makes you think the book selected isn’t age appropriate?

    Time123 (9f42ee)

  62. @61 the topic is inseparable from race, as 9/11 is inseparable from religion, and the holocaust is inseparable from ethnic identity

    what age do you think children are able to comprehend race, ethnicity and religion in these contexts?

    what topics are not appropriate for k-2 kids, and why?

    JF (e1156d)

  63. AJ_Liberty (ec7f74) — 7/8/2021 @ 1:44 pm

    Oh this routine again…..sigh…

    Well, the strawman, ad hominem, goalpost moving, etc. keep happening. I’ll stop pointing them out when you stop doing them.

    You could always try a more honest approach. For example, you could try a valiant attempt to defend arguments from authority. Or you can try to double down with snark.

    frosty (f27e97)


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