Archives for category: Bias

The publisher of the many books written by Theodor Geisl (“Dr. Seuss”) announced that it was suspending publication of six books that contained demeaning drawings of Asian and African figures.

The books that will no longer be published are:

“And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street”

“If I Ran the Zoo”

“McElligot’s Pool,”

“On Beyond Zebra!,”

“Scrambled Eggs Super!”

“The Cat’s Quizzer.”

Having written a book in 2003 called The Language Police: How Pressure Groups Restrict What Children Learn, I have a long-standing interest in censorship of books, textbooks, and tests. In that book, I came down on the side of free speech and freedom of expression. I did not grapple, however, with the real dilemma presented by books that contained hateful images, even if they were not seen as such when they were first published. I was looking instead at organized efforts to cleanse publications of anything that might offend anyone, like a reference to a cowboy or a landlady or a man wearing a sombrero or an elderly person using a cane.

I wrote about campaigns to remove Huckleberry Finn from class reading lists, to revise Shakespeare to remove bawdy language, and to remove all gendered roles from books.

If I had the chance to revise The Language Police, I would express a different opinion today. I don’t think that children should be required to read books that contain images that are insulting to people based on their race, gender, ethnicity, or religion.

Dr. Seuss wrote wonderful books that did not contain objectionable images. His work will survive. I actually met Theodor Geisl (Dr. Seuss) at a dinner party at the home of Robert Bernstein, the publisher of Random House. He was not a racist or a sexist. The messages that I got from the books I read to my children were humorous, funny, anti-authoritarian, and very appealing to children. My sons learned to read because we read Dr. Seuss so often, again and again, books like “Cat in the Hat” and “One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish.” Those books taught them the playfulness of language. We also read “I Had Trouble in Getting to Solla Sollew,” which had a very important lesson about not imagining that there was some ideal place out there “where they never have troubles, at least very few,” and that it is best to confront the problems you have in the here and the now. I memorized the opening lines of “Happy Birthday to You” because of its wonderful, wacky rhymes. Another favorite “Yertle the Turtle” was an implicit critique of big shots who tried to lord it over everyone else.

So I write as a mother and grandmother who admired Dr. Seuss’s works. Those that contain racist and insensitive images dishonor him. Any offensive images should be cut out.

Republicans have suddenly become big fans of Dr. Seuss, who was a liberal Democrat and a passionate anti-fascist (Antifa). They say that withdrawing his books because of racist imagery is “cancel culture.”

Donald Trump Jr. has been especially vocal about the harm of “cancel culture.” He is suddenly a fan of liberal anti-fascist Dr. Seuss. Real “cancel culture” is trying to cancel the results of a national election because you lost. Real “cancel culture” is suppressing the votes of people who are likely to vote for the other party. The worst “cancel culture” is using your power to cancel democracy.

The wounded Republicans who decry “cancel culture” are worried that the white male dominant culture in which they grew up is slipping away. Trump Sr. said he would put an end to “political correctness,” so that it would once again be fine to make jokes about women and people of color.

Robert Kuttner of The American Prospect expressed his opinion in a Seussian poem:

Kuttner on TAP
If We Ran the Zoo
A lefty named Ted used his art to fight bigots
His books and cartoons were like tolerance spigots.
He located his parables on islands and zoos
And adopted the sweet pen name of Doctor Seuss.

Some of his Sneetches had bellies with stars
They dissed other Sneetches with none upon thars.
The north-going Zax dumbly blocked the way
Of the south-going Zax so that neither could play.

So many of his stories had the same takeaway:
No one is privileged, no race should hold sway.
Our kids grew up with Ted’s tales as teachers
Absorbing the lessons along with the creatures.

Some of his stories were merely in fun
But Ted Geisel’s great cause was to put hate on the run.
His wartime cartoons in the great conflagration
Attacked every brand of discrimination.

In The Lorax Geisel was an early enviro
On gender roles, he was also a tyro.
When Mayzie the bird got weary of egg duty
Horton pitched in and hatched a beauty.

Of course good Doctor Seuss lived in a time
When stereotypes were as common as grime.
Once in a great while, one crept into his whimsy
But against his good deeds the charge of bigot is flimsy.

So swap out some pictures
But please keep the text
And watch who you cancel
For you could be next.

My hunch, having met the real Dr. Seuss, is that if he were alive today, he would change the illustrations in the offending books. And he would applaud the decision to revise them. He was born in 1905; he lived in a time when racism was commonplace and acceptable. It is not any more. And it should never be again. And Dr. Seuss would agree.

As someone who graduated high school in 1956, this film reminds me of the world I grew up in.

Dana Milbank is a regular opinion writer for the Washington Post.

He wrote about the Republicans’ anti-Semitism problem. They refuse to denounce anti-Semitism. Bigotry multiplies.

For more than five years, I begged Republicans to reject the creeping anti-Semitism Donald Trump brought to the party, noting on the eve of the 2016 election that “when a demagogue begins to identify scapegoats, the Jews are never far behind.”


But I never expected I would see in my lifetime, in the United States of America, what occurred on the floor of the House this week. One hundred ninety-nine Republican members of Congress rallied to the defense of a vile, unapologetic anti-Semite in their ranks who calls for assassination of her opponents.


This is more than a Republican problem, it’s an American problem. You don’t have to be a scholar of 20th-century Europe to know what happens when the elected leaders of a democracy condone violence as a political tool and blame the country’s ills on the Jews.


Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (Ga.), who is quickly becoming the de facto face of the Republican Party, has suggested that the deadly neo-Nazi rally in Charlottesville, where white supremacists chanted “Jews will not replace us,” was actually an “inside job” to “further the agenda of the elites.”


She shared a video in which a Holocaust denier claimed that an “unholy alliance of leftists, capitalists and Zionist supremacists have schemed to promote immigration and miscegenation” with the purpose of “breeding us out of existence in our own homelands.”


She posed for campaign photos with a white-supremacist leader and then refused to renounce the man.
She approved of a claim that the Israeli intelligence service assassinated John F. Kennedy, and she speculated that wealthy Jewish interests — the Rothschilds, a target of anti-Semites since the 19th century — set forest fires in California using lasers from space.

This isn’t idle bigotry, for she “liked” a social media suggestion that “a bullet to the head would be quicker” to remove House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (Calif.), who has committed “a crime punishable by death.” She posted on social media about hanging Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, approved of a suggestion that FBI agents be executed, and posted a photo of herself with an automatic weapon next to three Democratic members of Congress, calling herself their “worst nightmare.”


On the House floor this week, she offered no apology and no direct mention of her anti-Semitic and violent statements. Using Christ-on-the-cross imagery, she condemned those who would “crucify me in the public square for words that I said, and I regret, a few years ago.”


But she didn’t regret them. She had tweeted the night before: “We owe them no apologies. We will never back down.” She retweeted an article featuring another QAnon adherent attacking the Republican Jewish Coalition. And several Republican colleagues gave her a standing ovation Wednesday night when she delivered a private speech that Republicans said was similar to the unrepentant one she gave in public on Thursday.


House Republicans refused to sanction her for her outrages, and on Thursday, all but 11 House Republicans voted against a successful Democratic measure to remove her from House committees.
“Marjorie Taylor Greene will be remembered for breaking new ground for her wild anti-Semitism,” Jonathan Greenblatt, head of the Anti-Defamation League, told me after the vote. Greenblatt, whose group has tracked all-time high levels of anti-Jewish incidents during the Trump years, wrote three letters to House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) about Greene since her nomination, and he urged McCarthy to remove her from committees. Greenblatt received no reply.

Greene’s ugly pronouncements about Muslims and Black people, and her harassment of school-shooting survivors and families of victims, are no less reprehensible. But the rallying around this unrepentant anti-Semite by Republicans is an ominous new frontier. The Republican Jewish Coalition said it is “offended and appalled by [Greene’s] comments and her actions.”


Yet on Thursday, House Republicans rushed to her defense. “We’ve all said things we regret,” said Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), top Republican on the Judiciary Committee.


Rep. Chip Roy (R-Tex.) protested the proceedings by forcing a vote to adjourn. “We shouldn’t be wasting the time of this body attacking a member of this body,” he said.


Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.) disowned Greene’s rhetoric, but what he really found “sad” and “unprecedented” was that Democrats weren’t giving her “due process.”


Rep. Ted Budd (R-N.C.) informed Democrats that “today is really about one party single-handedly canceling a member of the other party because of something said before that member was even elected.”


Republicans have used similar gaslighting in their response to impeachment. Trump helped organize a rally, incited his supporters to attack the Capitol and refused to call for an end to their murderous spree as they rampaged in search of elected officials in their hopes of overturning the election. But Democrats are the ones doing something “unconstitutional” by holding an impeachment trial after he left office?


Insurrection? Sedition? Assassination? Move on, the Republicans say. These actions and threats are mere “distractions” from the real issues.

Republicans defended Greene with absurd parallels. They attacked Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) for past anti-Semitic statements — omitting the crucial distinction that Omar, after Democrats roundly condemned her words, said, “Anti-Semitism is real and I am grateful for Jewish allies and colleagues who are educating me on the painful history of anti-Semitic tropes. … I unequivocally apologize.”


Greene, by contrast, remained unrepentant. On Friday, she held a celebratory news conference, again refusing to recant, or apologize for, her violent and anti-Jewish words and gestures.


Would she apologize for advocating for the execution of Pelosi?
“

I don’t have to,” she said, calling for the journalist to apologize instead.


Would she disavow her endorsement of putting “a bullet to the head” of Pelosi?


Accusing the questioner of lying, she replied: “That’s your problem and that’s how we end news conferences.” She walked away.


In retrospect, it’s clear Trump led us to this point. In his 2016 campaign, he singled out prominent Jews as part of a “global power structure” that doesn’t “have your good in mind.” He elevated white supremacists, spoke of “blood suckers,” told Jewish Republicans they wouldn’t support him “because I don’t want your money,” and shared an image of a Star of David atop a pile of cash.


As president, he spoke of the “very fine people” marching among the white supremacists in Charlottesville. Anti-Semitic violence increased significantly: pipe bombs sent to favorite Trump targets such as financier George Soros, and the synagogue massacre in Pittsburgh, the deadliest anti-Semitic attack in U.S. history. Yet Trump continued, embracing the far-right, violent Proud Boys in a presidential debate.

As Thursday’s emotional debate drew to a close, Rep. Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.), the House majority leader, displayed a poster taken from one of Greene’s social media posts showing her with an AR-15 next to photos of two Muslims and one Latina — Reps. Omar, Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) — and Greene’s caption: “Squad’s Worse Nightmare.”


“They’re not ‘the Squad’,” Hoyer thundered. “They are people. They are our colleagues.”


He asked Republicans: “Imagine your faces on this poster. Imagine it’s a Democrat with an AR-15. Imagine what your response would be, and would you think that person ought to be held accountable?”
One hundred ninety-nine House Republicans looked at that invitation to assassination and voted to defend its author. God only knows what horrors they have unleashed.

Back in the 1980s, the culture wars were at full pitch, with ethnic groups competing with one another for time and space in the social studies and history curriculum. In 1987, Jesse Jackson led a demonstration of 500 protesters at Stanford University chanting, “Hey, hey, ho, ho, Western civ has got to go!” In 1989, the introductory Western Culture program was replaced by “Culture, Ideas, and Values,” which taught an inclusive approach to race, class, and gender.

The battles over inclusion and diversity were numerous. Ultimately, it seemed over the past twenty years, we as a society reached a new equilibrium. We (that is, in movies, television, the media generally, in sports, in politics, in government, in industry, and in the school curriculum) recognize that many different groups and individuals played important roles in forging this nation and continue to do so today. Inclusion and diversity are more than words, they are an ideal for which we continually strive.

Trumpism revived an old and toxic element: White Supremacy. His praise of groups like the Proud Boys, his refusal to disavow them or even the Ku Klux Klan, allowed such groups to come out from under a big rock of infamy and crawl back into the edges of the mainstream.

The resurgence of hate groups and their open advocacy of violence against others is a direct rebuke to what seemed to be (at least for a time) the triumph of multiculturalism and inclusion.

Once you open this spigot, it is hard to turn it off, and the demands for group recognition and flow in many directions.

Consider the heated reaction to the Black Lives Matter movement. Critics called it racist, when in fact it was a demand for the recognition that systemic racism is deeply institutionalized and needs to be confronted and changed. The widespread and multiracial protests that followed the murder of George Floyd energized allies of racial justice and angered the newly awakened White Supremacists.

When loosely organized and disorganized groups began pulling down Confederate statues, that caused a backlash. Trump refused the Defense Appropriations Bill because it included a provision to rename military bases named for Confederate generals (who were, after all, traitors to the United States). Congress overrode his veto, not necessarily because they disagreed with him, but because they wanted the armed forces to get a deserved pay raise.

In San Francisco, the school board voted 6-1 to strip the names of prominent individuals from 44 school buildings, which led to an outcry because some of the names that will be removed are George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Robert Louis Stevenson, Paul Revere, and Dianne Feinstein. The school district, which has more than 57,000 students enrolled, is changing the schools named after historical figures linked to “the subjugation and enslavement of human beings; or who oppressed women, inhibiting societal progress; or whose actions led to genocide; or who otherwise significantly diminished the opportunities of those amongst us to the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,” according to the text of the resolution.

For starters, it is always a bad idea to name a building for a living person. There should be a rule against it.

Schools that will be renamed include: Abraham Lincoln High School, George Washington High School, Dianne Feinstein Elementary, Roosevelt Middle School, Jefferson Elementary and Alamo Elementary. Lincoln was chosen based on “his treatment of First Nation peoples,” teacher Jeremiah Jeffries told the San Francisco Chronicle in December 2020. Washington and Jefferson were slaveowners. Feinstein, a former San Francisco mayor, was listed for reportedly ordering a Confederate flag to be replaced after it was torn down, according to the Sacramento Bee. The news also comes more than a year after the school board voted to cover a controversial mural depicting images of slavery and dead Native Americans at George Washington High School.

The board was partially motivated to draft the resolution after the deadly “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, in 2017. “This resolution came to the school board in the wake of the attacks in Charlottesville,” said San Francisco Board of Education President Gabriela López. “And we are working alongside the rest of the country to dismantle symbols of racism and White supremacy culture. “San Francisco is not the only city to take pass such a resolution.

In recent years, city councils and school districts nationwide have renamed buildings and removed monuments dedicated to Confederate leaders who fought to preserve slavery and White supremacy in America. In September of 2020, the Equal Justice Initiative (EJI) identified more than 240 schools across the country that bear the name of a Confederate leader. More than 30 schools in the US have been renamed since 2014 in order to eliminate any link to Confederacy, according to the EJI.

San Francisco Mayor London Breed said she endorses the move to rename the schools but wonders why the board was not making plans to reopen the schools.

The board has invited suggestions for new names for the schools.

I suggest that they be called by numbers, not by names. Why not High School #1, Public School #2? That way they will never offend anyone and their names will live forever.

I went to a junior high school in Houston named for a Confederate general, Albert Sidney Johnson Junior High. The name and the school are long gone. Good riddance! (I still remember the marching song, however, which was catchy.)

But it gets wilder still in North Carolina. There, the newly elected Lieutenant Governor Mark Robinson, who is African American, accuses the schools of indoctrinating students and calls for changing the state social studies curriculum so that it does not acknowledge systemic racism. Lt. Governor Robinson has collected nearly 20,000 signatures to endorse his views. His petition says:

THE NORTH CAROLINA STATE BOARD OF EDUCATION will vote Thursday, Feb. 4, to adopt new state social studies standards, kindergarten through high school.

The (CL.B.1) standard states: “Explain how individual values and societal norms contribute to institutional discrimination and the marginalization of minority groups living under the American system of government.” 

The proposed standards are political in nature and paint America as being systematically racist. These divisive standards consistently separate Americans into groups in an effort to undermine our unity. The proposed standards indoctrinate our students against our great country and our founders. The standards are not age-appropriate in the elementary grades. Will you stand with Lt. Governor Robinson in rejecting the current standards the State Board of Education is planning to vote on?

There may be a moral to this story, but I am not sure what it is.

My takeaway: Tell the truth as best you know it. Respect other people. Listen to them. Don’t try to push your views on others who disagree. Pay attention to historians. Rely on reputable sources. Teach the conflicts and debates. Don’t die on the wrong hill.

Rebecca Klein, education editor of Huffington Post, reviewed the textbooks written for and used in Christian schools and found that they repeated the lies of Trump and the far-right. Because of vouchers, many of these Christian schools receive public funds.

Klein wrote:

Christian textbooks used in thousands of schools around the country teach that President Barack Obama helped spur destructive Black Lives Matter protests, that the Democrats’ choice of 2016 nominee Hillary Clinton reflected their focus on identity politics, and that President Donald Trump is the “fighter” Republicans want, a HuffPost analysis has found.

The analysis, which focused on three popular textbooks from two major publishers of Christian educational materials ― Abeka and BJU Press ― looked at how the books teach the Trump era of politics. We found that all three are characterized by a skewed version of history and a sense that the country is experiencing an urgent moral decline that can only be fixed by conservative Christian policies. Language used in the books overlaps with the rhetoric of Christian nationalism, often with overtones of nativism, militarism and racism as well. 

Scholars say textbooks like these, with their alternate versions of history and emphasis on Christian national identity, represent one small part of the conditions that lead to events like last week’s riot at the U.S. Capitol, an episode that was permeated with the symbols of Christian nationalism. Before storming the Capitol, some groups prayed in the name of Jesus and asked for divine protection. They flew Christian and “Jesus 2020” flags and pointed to Trump’s presidency as the will of God. The linkage between Christian beliefs and the violent attack on Congress has since pushed evangelical leaders to confront their own relationship with Trump and their support for the rioters...

Representatives from BJU Press and Abeka did not respond to inquiries about how many schools use their products. However, a 2017 HuffPost investigation found that about one-third of Christian schools participating in private school choice programs used a curriculum created by these two publishers or a similar company called Accelerated Christian Education, amounting to around 2,400 schools. The number of schools using these company’s products that do not participate in a voucher program likely amounts to thousands more. (Voucher programs allow students to use taxpayer funds to attend private schools.) 

HuffPost’s previous investigation of these textbooks found that they also dismiss evolution as junk science, characterize Nelson Mandela as a “marxist agitator” who helped drive South Africa to “radical affirmative action,” and suggest that Satan hatched the idea of modern psychology. Many of the schools that use these books also ban LGBTQ students and families, and the books repeatedly condemn homosexuality. At one point in an Abeka textbook, slavery is described in purely economic terms, saying that “slaves seemed to be better investments than indentured servants.”

“I absolutely thought of these textbooks when watching what played out last week,” Wellman said. “It’s the anti-science culture, anti-elite, the identification of Christianity with military culture.”


Donald Trump invited rightwing extremists, white nationalists, and conspiracy theorists into the mainstream. This is his legacy. They used to hover in the shadows or under a rock. No more.

People say about the terrorists who stormed the Capitol, “This is not who we are.” Not quite right. These haters are part of who we are.

This report from the Anti-Defamation League names names. We will living with these anti-democratic forces for years to come.

Nancy Bailey deconstructs Joseph Epstein’s much-reviled critique of Dr. Jill Biden’s right to be called “Dr. Biden.” She believes that its true message was an attack on teachers, the teaching profession, education schools, and public schools.

She writes, in part:

Belittling University Education Schools

Dr. Biden’s criticism indirectly attacks the University of Delaware and their education school, a public university. Tucker Carlson said, Dr. Jill has an education degree from some school in Delaware, and you’re supposed to find that highly impressive. 

Colleges of Education could always improve, but for years nonprofits like Relay Graduate School of Education, and more, have been jockeying to replace them.

By disparaging teachers’ main producers, our public universities, and these schools are in danger of closing; they promote a privatization agenda cast by corporate America.

Five Weeks of Training v. A Doctorate

These accusations against Dr. Biden are a push to get rid of teachers, a profession dominated by females, or reduce the profession to Teach For America types, a revolving door of volunteers, who, while well-meaning, rarely commit to teaching as a professional career.

TFA involves a five-seven week coaching session, used by those who want to privatize public education. TFA Corps members move into educational leadership positions while never gaining the knowledge necessary to understand children and how they learn.

Parents Want Good Teachers

Cheapening the teaching profession drives down wages and demeans teaching, making it look like little training is required, certainly not a doctorate!

The reality is that the world revolves around teachers and how they teach, which is getting the spotlight, especially now during this pandemic.

Last year, the Orlando Sentinel reviewed the websites of the state’s voucher schools and discovered that scores of them publicly admitted that they do not admit the children of gay families and do not hire gay staff. The legislature then refused to require that voucher schools stop discriminating against gays; mustn’t trample on their freedom to be bigots.

Some voucher schools removed the language from their websites, but continue to fire gay teachers.

https://www.orlandosentinel.com/opinion/scott-maxwell-commentary/os-op-gay-teacher-fired-florida-scott-maxwell-20201023-mnfwdiqejrd2blf4cermulgeji-story.html

The voucher schools, apples of the eyes of Betsy DeVos and Jeb Bush, skim $1 billion a year of public funds that should have gone to public schools or used for public purposes, where discrimination is prohibited.

Steve Hinnefeld, a regular commentator on education in Indiana, regrets that Amy Coney Barrett was not asked about vouchers during her hearings.

He notes that she served on the board of a Catholic school in Indiana that received state voucher funds and that openly discriminated against same-sex families.

Barrett served from 2015-17 on the board of Trinity School at Greenlawn, a South Bend Catholic school, the New York Times reported. Trinity had a policy during Barrett’s time on the board that effectively prohibited same-sex couples from enrolling their children in the school, according to the Times.

That would seem to cast doubt on Barrett’s claim in her confirmation hearing that she had “never discriminated on the basis of sexual preference” and would not do so. It also raises policy questions about whether publicly funded institutions should practice discrimination.

Trump and Barr have warned about the dangers of a group called “Antifa.” I had never heard of them and don’t know anyone who belongs to this group. I did a small amount of digging and learned that Antifa means “anti-fascist.”

That confused me. How can it be wrong to be anti-fascism?

Hitler and Mussolini were fascists.

We fought a world war from 1941-1945 to save the world from fascism.

During World War II, there were pro-fascist people in America.

The current American fascists are the Ku Klux Klan, white supremacists, neo-Nazis, and armed militias like those that stormed the Michigan State Capitol to protest public health measures to protect against the spread of the coronavirus. Fascists threaten their fellow citizens with military-type assault weapons. Fascists use extra-legal means to subvert the rule of law and to intimidate people of color and those who oppose them. Fascists want to make America a white a Christian nation where none is welcome who is either white nor Christian.

I oppose fascism. I support the efforts to suppress fascism.

I support the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. I believe in democracy and the rule of law. I believe in equal justice under law for all. I believe in pursuing the goal of equality of educational opportunity. I know we are far from our ideals and values. I believe in pursuing them, not abandoning them.

I am a proud anti-fascist.

Are you?