Archives for category: Racism

Nancy Ackerman Will, a teacher in Traverse City, Michigan, updated my post today about the angry protestors at a recent board meeting, who accused school leaders of allowing critical race theory to “seep in” to the schools.

She posted this good-news comment:

I am an elementary music teacher for Traverse City Area Public Schools. I appreciate your article, but you should know that three days ago the TCAPS Board approved a revised Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging resolution with much stronger language to support our students. This time the meeting room was packed with people in support of the resolution, wearing red shirts in solidarity. Parents, grandparents, members of the faith community and students spoke in support of strengthening and passing the resolution.

I am pleased to say this was the end result. https://www.record-eagle.com/news/tcaps-board-passes-equity-resolution-7-0/article_64121fba-ee47-11eb-83b8-036d823f2f6c.html

Video of the 3 hours of public comment at the meeting and then two hours of the Board members crafting a final document can be viewed here: https://livestream.com/tcapslive/board/videos/224040779

The national frenzy over “critical race theory” (CRT) has been generated by a small number of conservatives in search of a hot-button issue that would outrage their base. They found that issue in CRT, which has caused conservative white parents to claim that their children are being indoctrinated by discussions of racism in school. Numerous Republican-led states have passed laws that ban teaching of CRT or anything that would cause students to feel guilt or discomfort. Such laws tend to outlaw any discussions of racism or slavery, past or present.

In Traverse City, Michigan, which is 90% white, debates about CRT have enflamed the community and spurred conservative white parents to oppose any effort to teach and learn about racism. The furor began when a black 16-year-old high school student learned from a friend that she had been “sold” in a slave auction in a private Snapshot group. This story by Hannah Natanson was published by the Washington Post.

The Snapchat group, titled “slave trade,” also saw a student share the messages “all blacks should die” and “let’s start another holocaust,” according to screenshots obtained by The Washington Post. It spurred the fast-tracking of a school equity resolution that condemned racism and vowed Traverse City Area Public Schools would better educate its overwhelmingly White student body and teaching staff on how to live in a diverse country.

But what happened over the next two months revealed how a town grappling with an undeniable incident of racism can serve as fertile ground for the ongoing national war over whether racism is embedded in American society.

Events in Traverse City would demonstrate how quickly efforts to address historic disparities or present-day racial harassment in schools can become fodder for a campaign against critical race theory, fueled by White parents’ growing conviction that their children are being taught to feel ashamed of their Whiteness — and their country.

The equity resolution was unprecedented in Traverse City, an idyllic lakeside vacation spot with a population of 16,000 that is more than 90 percent White and politically split between red and blue. The two-page document, inspired by nationwide protests in the wake of George Floyd’s death last year, suggested more training for teachers and adding overlooked viewpoints to the school system’s libraries and curriculum.

Although at first it drew vocal support — especially from families and children of color — it has since inspired equally vehement opposition, led by mostly White, conservative parents who contend that the resolution amounts to critical race theory in disguise. The theory, known as CRT, is a decades-old academic framework that holds racism is systemic in America, but which has become a catchall phrase conservatives wield to oppose equity work in schools.

In interviews, children of color in Traverse City reported enduring years of harassment in the classroom and on the playing field. Black, Native American and LGBTQ students said casual racism, sexism and homophobia form part of daily life. Some White children said they have witnessed this, too.

Conservative white parents say that teaching about racism is racist. They say, “Nobody here is racist.” Students who are not white disagree.

The local school board wanted to approve an Equity resolution affirming that “the school system condemned “racism, racial violence, hate speech, bigotry, discrimination and harassment.” It called for holding more “comprehensive” training for teachers, adding historically marginalized authors to school libraries and reviewing the district’s “curriculum and instruction [to] address gaps . . . from a social equity and diversity lens.”

But some outspoken white parents disagreed.

The real answer, these parents say, is for the district to focus on enforcing the strong anti-bullying policy it already has. And officials should sit down with the students who participated in the group chat and teach them the golden rule: to love thy neighbor as thyself.
“That’s how I was raised,” said Lori White, a 41-year-old mother of two who has lived in the area her entire life. “I’ve never seen any sort of discrimination. People in Traverse City are just kind.”

They say their hometown, although imperfect, is not a racist place, and they are not racist people. They say the Snapchat group chat is an isolated incident that is being weaponized by activists to paint an entire community as prejudiced, which they think is unfair. They say the school system is buckling to political pressure by pursuing initiatives like the equity resolution that inject race into every setting — when all that will do is spur more division.

As the debate heated up, the number of parents opposed to CRT in their schools increased, and the school board watered down the Equity Resolution, making it inoffensive.

More than 200 people then crowded into two rooms to listen to 55 people speak during a public comment session. The vast majority of speakers decried the equity resolution as critical race theory, according to public video of the meeting and the Record-Eagle.
By that time, school board members — wary of the building backlash — had already reworked the document. The second version lacks the line about applying a “social equity and diversity lens” to the curriculum. It also no longer suggests the district will add “marginalized” authors to their libraries, nor that Traverse City schools will give students more opportunities to learn about “diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging issues.”

Officials furthermore deleted the terms “racism” and “racial violence” from a list of things the school district condemns. Also deleted is a passage that stated “racism and hate have no place in our schools or in our society.”

The school board decided that acknowledging racism would spur divisiveness. Better to ignore it, pretend it doesn’t exist.

The debate in Traverse City will make it impossible to discuss racism and other forms of prejudice.

Bob Moses died on July 25 at the age of 86. He was noted for his intellect and courage. He was a leader of SNCC (the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee), leading a voter registration drive in Mississippi at a time when violence against Black civil rights activists were at risk of being murdered, and no jury would convict their killers. In 1964, he led the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party, which tried unsuccessfully to replace the all-white Democratic delegation to the Democratic National Convention. In 1982, he founded the Algebra Project, to teach algebra to underprepared Black youth. He received multiple honors for his work. He graduated from the elite Stuyvesant High School in New York City, Hamilton College (where he majored in philosophy and French), and earned a master’s degree at Harvard in philosophy.

One of his friends and admirers forwarded the following story:

It might be of interest that Bob’s first stop on his way South from the Bronx was the SDS [Students for a Democratic Society] office on east 19th street He said it was his first stop and affirmation of friendship and sncc sds solidarity


He was always a friend


He spoke at a University of Michigan commencement ceremony
He said “people don’t like long speeches and that are hard to remember. Mine will be short.

I want everyone here to accept as a common mission to guarantee quality public education to everyone in America as a matter of right guaranteed by the federal constitution” then he paused and then said “So you remember I will repeat: I want everyone here to accept as a common mission to guarantee quality public education to everyone in America as a matter of right guaranteed by the federal constitution.” Then he sat down.

It was stunning. The University president expecting a long something didn’t know what to say… having previously mis-introduced him as. author of “Racial Equations”

I found the address memorable and it might be well in memory of our friend to rededicate ourselves to the common mission to guarantee quality public education to everyone in America as a matter of right guaranteed by the federal constitution. Bob Moses, Presente!

Isabela Dias writes in Mother Jones about attacks on a Black social studies teacher who has been labeled a teacher of critical race theory.

In the first week of classes in August, Rodney D. Pierce, a social studies teacher at Red Oak Middle School in Battleboro, North Carolina, set the stage for his 8th graders by sharing a quote from James Baldwin: “American history is longer, larger, more various, more beautiful, and more terrible than anything anyone has ever said about it.” Pierce told the students they were going to learn about both the “beautiful and the horrifying parts” of the state and country’s past. “We need to talk about all of it,” he explained “because that is American history.”

The fight over how to teach American history to children—a long battle that has frothed into a particularly acute moral panic today—often comes back to whose history is being discussed. For Pierce, a Black teacher of many Black students, it’s impossible to avoid racism. For years, he has spoken openly about this in the concrete and the local: the town names, the monuments to Confederates, the horrific lynchings. He has gone above his mandate of teaching to the test because the test did not include the explanations of events that led to the world his students inhabit. He was rewarded by earning social studies teacher of the year in 2019 and has been tasked with helping write the new standards for the state to make sure others follow his lead.

But lately, Pierce’s “speak my truth and be upfront about it” approach has been drawing more backlash than ever before. In the past year, parents have complained to school administrators about a perceived political slant in his work. When he repeated something former President Donald Trump said verbatim, they accused him of lying. Some claim he has insisted on talking about slavery—and that this has made students disenchanted. “They’re really reaching for anything they can get on me,” Pierce says. “I started feeling like a target.”

A gregarious 42-year-old father of three and self-described history buff, Pierce was born in Maryland, and raised in the rural eastern part of North Carolina by his maternal grandmother, a descendant of enslaved people. He remembers sitting in his grandmother’s living room in Roanoke Rapids as a child with an encyclopedia, questioning the accuracy of depictions of ancient Egyptians as white. As a student, Pierce admired the work of Black poets like Paul Laurence Dunbar. He was inquisitive, interpretive, and analytical. “His favorite word was why,” says Charlene Nicholson, his former 6th grade English language teacher and longtime mentor. “He would always think deeper.”

Pierce has been teaching social studies for six years; the past two at Red Oak. Located less than 30 miles west of Princeville, one of the first incorporatedAfrican American towns in the country, the school sits in an affluent and fairly conservative area of Nash County. Although still predominately white, Nash has shifted in the past decades. The Black population has grown. It has become more Democratic. Pierce says he still sees “Trump-Pence 2020” signs outside the Dollar General store across the street from the school. But Biden won there, even if just by 120 votes. More than 50 percent of his students are Black and 10 percent are Hispanic, which informs his teaching philosophy of “inspiration and empowerment” and challenges him as an educator and historian. As a Black teacher talking about racism and slavery in a racially diverse community, Pierce is both the object of admiration and disapproval. “The last thing I want to do is alienate a kid,” he explains. But if he ignores race, what would his Black students think happened?

“It always goes back to local history to me,” he says. As part of an assignment, Pierce asks the class to research the historical origins of the names of towns in the Tri-County area of Nash, Edgecombe, and Wilson, including Battleboro, which was initially established by Joseph Battle as a settlement along the Wilmington and Weldon Railroad, the longest in the world at the time and the “lifeline of the Confederacy” during the Civil War. In another, Pierce shows students news stories about Ku Klux Klan activities in nearby Rocky Mount—from a 1966 picket line outside a dry cleaner where a Black employee refused to clean the Klan robes to a 1992 rally. In another, he talks to them about the 1970 bombing of a formerly all-Black school in reaction to imminent integration. In the fall, he plans to discuss the Black rights group Concerned Citizens of Battleboro, who led the 1994 boycott of local white-owned businesses to protest law enforcement harassment. All of it, Pierce says, is about showing students their own community is part of history and making sure they are able to see themselves within the content and the curriculum.

Unfortunately, many parents don’t want their children to be taught the truth.

Dias recounts North Carolina’s history of fighting racial equity. After the Brown decision, the strategy to keep the races segregated was school choice.

Even now, the state is trying to censor discussion of the past, because it might make some students (and their families and elected officials) feel guilt and discomfort. They don’t want to revisit the past.

Dias writes:

In May, the North Carolina House voted along partisan lines to move to the Senate the “Ensuring Dignity & Nondiscrimination/Schools” bill prohibiting public schools from promoting concepts such as that an individual should feel “discomfort, guilt, anguish” or bear responsibility for actions from the past based on their race or sex; and opposing the characterization that the belief that the United States is a meritocracy is “inherently racist or sexist.” In support of the legislation, the Republican State Superintendent of Public Instruction Catherine Truitt vouched to eradicate CRT from classrooms, saying, “There is no room for divisive rhetoric that condones preferential treatment of any one group over another.” Democratic Rep. James Gailliard of Nash County called it a “don’t-hurt-my-feelings bill” that reproduces “discrimination, fanaticism, bigotry….”

There is no more glaring example of North Carolina’s ability to deliberately bury its history than the education of the Wilmington Coup. In November 1898, a mob of heavily armed white supremacists overthrew the Fusionist city government, burned down the local Black newspaper’s office, and killed and banished dozens of people. The port city, before then, was a symbol of Black achievement and hope. For years, the coup has been considered “lost history,” despite its importance in cementing “white rule for another century” in North Carolina. The current social studies standards, which outline learning goals for K-12 students, do not include it. Instead, it is ultimately up to school districts to determine what goes in the curriculum and to educators like Pierce, who wasn’t introduced to it until he was in college, to teach it.

“That kind of history is important particularly for African Americans because it lets us know there was a time when racial and domestic terror were waged on us and the state didn’t want us to know about it,” he says, pointing to a special commission established in the mid-2000s to finally set the record straight.

But please don’t tell the students.

The North Carolina General Assembly is considering legislation that ostensibly bans discrimination in the state’s classrooms. But the real purpose of the statute is to ban discussions of racism. Among other things, it prohibits teaching anything that might cause students to feel “discomfort,” and it prohibits diversity training.

The bill begins:

A BILL TO BE ENTITLED
AN ACT TO DEMONSTRATE THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY’S INTENT THAT STUDENTS,
TEACHERS, ADMINISTRATORS, AND OTHER SCHOOL EMPLOYEES RECOGNIZE THE EQUALITY AND RIGHTS OF ALL PERSONS AND TO PROHIBIT PUBLIC SCHOOL UNITS FROM PROMOTING CERTAIN CONCEPTS THAT ARE CONTRARY TO THAT INTENT.

Public school units shall not promote that:
(1) One race or sex is inherently superior to another race or sex.
(2) An individual, solely by virtue of his or her race or sex, is inherently racist,
sexist, or oppressive.
(3) An individual should be discriminated against or receive adverse treatment
solely or partly because of his or her race or sex.
(4) An individual’s moral character is necessarily determined by his or her race or
sex.
(5) An individual, solely by virtue of his or her race or sex, bears responsibility
for actions committed in the past by other members of the same race or sex.
(6) Any individual, solely by virtue of his or her race or sex, should feel
discomfort, guilt, anguish, or any other form of psychological distress.
(7) A meritocracy is inherently racist or sexist.
H324-CSBE-35
(8) The United States was created by members of a particular race or sex for the purpose of oppressing members of another race or sex.
(9) The United States government should be violently overthrown.
(10) Particular character traits, values, moral or ethical codes, privileges, or beliefs should be ascribed to a race or sex, or to an individual because of the
individual’s race or sex.
(11) The rule of law does not exist, but instead is a series of power relationships
and struggles among racial or other groups.
(12) All Americans are not created equal and are not endowed by their Creator with
certain unalienable rights, including life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. (13) Governments should deny to any person within the government’s jurisdiction
the equal protection of the law.
Public school units shall (i) notify the De

Justin Parmenter was curious about the hundreds of letters that parents wrote to the Lieutenant Governor about the need for this legislation, and he filed an open records request to gain access to them. Many were avowedly racist.

Many of the 506 complaints to Robinson’s task force come from North Carolinians who appear deeply concerned about what they perceive as a move away from a white Christian-centered system of public education.

These submissions include recommendations to cancel Black History Month, pleas to stop making white students feel guilty by teaching so much about slavery–which one individual remarked “is getting old”–and suggestions to end hiring practices aimed at increasing diversity of school staff.

They provide a helpful lens to understand the real motivation behind moves across the country to restrict classroom discussions on race and various types of oppression under the false pretense of fighting the boogeyman “critical race theory.”

While the outward tactics and messaging of this movement may be a bit more subtle than in years past, its underlying sentiment feels very familiar.

Katherine Stewart’s new book The Power Worshippers describes the hostility of evangelical Christians to public schools. I reviewed her book along with two others in the New York Review of Books. One of the most interesting insights in her book is that white evangelicals at first tried to mobilize public opinion to protect the tax-exempt status of segregated private schools and universities. When that didn’t work, they found another issue that did: abortion.

But they have never given up on their goal of public funding for religious schools that were free to discriminate and the elimination of public schools.

Last year, no one mentioned “critical race theory.” This year it has become an all-purpose cudgel with which to bash the public schools.

CRT has been used to accuse the public schools of “indoctrinating” students. Like “indoctrinating” them to believe in human equality, justice, and the dignity of all people? CRT has become a rallying cry for those who say that schools teach “socialism,” which is ridiculous unless you happen to think that programs like Social Security and Medicare are “socialism” (ask those who make this claim if they are willing to give up either of those benefits). If any schools “indoctrinate” their students, it is the religious schools seeking vouchers.

Here is the sort of stuff that is being used to organize and provoke outrage among white evangelicals.

Public schools are meant to unite us as a diverse people, to teach us to be good citizens, and to prepare our children for the future. Whatever is taught should be based on fact, in history and in science, not faith or theology.

Paul Butler is a professor at the Georgetown University School of Law.

In the Washington Post, where he is a contributing columnist, he writes that the disparate treatment of Nikole Hannah-Jones illustrates critical race theory. At the heart of CRT is the belief that systemic racism persists, despite legislative and judicial actions to banish it.

According to some leading critical race theorists, integration — thetraditional progressive route to racial justice — does not actually work for minorities. In this view, white supremacy is so embedded in most American institutions that people of color will never be accepted as equals — even when they are formally Reade entry.

UNC demonstrated that point after its journalism school offered Hannah-Jones, an investigative journalist for the New York Times, a prestigious professorship. The MacArthur “genius” learned that her initial appointment would be without tenure. She said she knew of no “legitimate reason” why “someone who has worked in the field as long as I have, who has the credentials, the awards, or the status that I have, should be treated different than every other white professor who came before me.” After a threatened lawsuit and huge public outcry, the university’s Board of Trustees voted 9 to 4 to extend tenure to Hannah-Jones….

Hannah-Jones’s rejection of a majority-White institution whose leaders clearly did not value her worth — and her embrace of a Black institution that did — embodied critical race theory’s foundational principles….

In a classic article published in 1976, Harvard professor Derrick Bell argued that during the Jim Crow era, Black students might have been better off if they had sought more resources for segregated schools rather than access to White schools. Bell’s premise was that actual integration would never happen, even if it were legally mandated, because of “massive white hostility.”

Critical race theorists described the heavy toll of desegregation efforts, including placing Blacks in hostile environments, in a way that resonates with Hannah-Jones’s explanation for her decision: “At some point when you have proven yourself and fought your way into institutions that were not built for you . . . you have to decide that you are done forcing yourself in….”

I have no beef with Hannah-Jones for declining a job at a journalism school that is literally named after the White man who, as he so delicately put it, “expressed my concerns” about her hiring. But, for now, I am okay with working at a university that in its early years was financed by the sale of enslaved people. I love my students and respect my colleagues, and have been part of the community’s efforts, still incomplete, to make reparations for that travesty. Sometimes, helping majority-White spaces be less racist and more inclusive feels transformative. Other times, it feels like an intellectual version of my great-grandfather’s job; he cleaned outhouses — i.e., shoveling White people’s excrement.

Much respect to Hannah-Jones for providing another example. Much respect to critical race theorists for keeping us focused on the crucial question: whether any approach can achieve racial justice in our flawed and divided country.

The Washington Post wrote about the teen who inspired Zaila Avant-Garde, the first African American to win the national spelling bee. A 13-year-old girl from Akron, MacNolia Cox, was among the first Black Americans to make it to the national spelling bee, 85 years ago. Her story says a lot about her determination, but also about the racism and segregation that she had to endure when she went to the championship bee in Washington, D.C. (Zaila is not only a spelling champion; she holds three Guinness World Records for her basketball skills. Watch the video. She’s amazing.) I had never heard of MacNolia Cox, but Zaila had, and she knew anything was possible.

About 3,000 people jammed into Union Station in Akron, Ohio, on the evening of Sunday, May 24, 1936. A military band played. A young man led some of the crowd in cheers; others burst into song. They were all awaiting the arrival of an unlikely hero: a tall and slender 13-year-old Black girl named MacNolia Cox. The shy eighth grader was Akron’s spelling bee champion.

A month earlier, MacNolia had stood on the stage at the city’s armory with 50 other children — the top scorers on a written spelling test. After 24 rounds, there were two spellers remaining. After 37 rounds, there were still two. Finally, MacNolia emerged victorious. With the proper spelling of “sciatica” and “voluble,” MacNolia became one of the first two Black children to qualify for the National Spelling Bee, held annually in the nation’s capital. The other was 15-year-old Elizabeth Kenney of New Jersey, who was also bound for Washington.

John S. Knight, the publisher of the Akron Beacon Journal, which sponsored the regional competition, fretted over MacNolia’s win.
“Washington is a segregated city,” he told Mabel Norris, the 21-year-old White reporter assigned to accompany MacNolia, her mother Ladybird and MacNolia’s White teacher, Cordelia Greve, to the competition. “You will have all kinds of difficulties,” he said.

But MacNolia wasn’t thinking about any of that when she boarded the Capitol Limited with a new suitcase filled with new clothes, all gifts from the city’s Black community to a family that could not afford such indulgences. For 30 days, while she diligently studied, MacNolia had been celebrated by Black communities across the country, by churches, social clubs, academics and politicians, even by vaudeville celebrities. Band maestro “Fats” Waller and tap dancer Bill Robinson brought her onstage at the RKO Palace in Cleveland. Her name was mentioned in the same breath as Marian Anderson and Jesse Owens — and now, this send off.

“This is the most fun I’ve ever had in my life,” MacNolia declared with a wide grin.

“Bring back the championship,” hollered one person in the crowd.
“I’m going to try,” MacNolia promised as she settled in for her first train ride.

Hours later, near the Maryland border, MacNolia and her mother were ushered from their berths into the Jim Crow car.

The stories Mabel Norris wrote for the Akron Beacon Journal from Washington in May 1936 describe a fairy tale. Young MacNolia was whisked around the capital, seeing all the sights and even meeting President Franklin D. Roosevelt. The Beacon Journal did not seem to think its readers wanted to hear the rest of the story.

Norris did not mention the segregated train cars, and she described MacNolia’s accommodations in the city as “one of the finest tributes to the Akron district champion.” MacNolia and her mother were staying in great comfort, as the guests of a prominent Black surgeon, T. Edward Jones, who lived near U Street, the city’s “Black Broadway.” But they were doing so only because they were not welcome at the Willard Hotel where the other White competitors stayed. MacNolia could not understand why, and her mother was at a loss to explain.

On the night before the competition, the 17 finalists were invited to a banquet at the Hamilton Hotel. Mabel Norris waited by the elevator for the pair to arrive, until she felt a tap on her shoulder. The spelling bee champion, in a white frock, stood behind her. Mother and daughter had not been allowed to use the front entrance to the hotel. Instead, they were directed through the kitchen and up the backstairs. In the banquet room, a two-seat table had been set apart from the head table where the White children sat.

But MacNolia seemed undaunted as she crossed the stage at the National Museum auditorium in her blue organdy dress and blue socks just before 10 a.m. on the morning of May 26, 1936. “As cool as a cucumber,” Norris wrote. “The least excited and nervous of the group.” Spelling, certainly, was the same no matter if you were Black or White…

There were 10 spellers left when the competition began airing live on the radio over the Columbia Broadcast System; Elizabeth Kenney had been the 11th. “P-R-O-M-E-N-A-D-E,” MacNolia spelled.
There were just five left when MacNolia got the word “Nemesis.” “Oh, no!” Cornelia Greve exclaimed. She flipped through MacNolia’s dictionary, filled with red check marks for the words the girl had studied, but there was no mark next to “Nemesis.” She had believed proper nouns would be excluded from the word list.

MacNolia looked up at the ceiling again and started to spell “N-E-M- … ” she began.

Mable Norris jumped up in protest as MacNolia finished the word, spelling it incorrectly. Norris, too, believed the word violated the contest rules. “No capitalized words shall be given,” she reminded the judges. Nemesis is a Greek goddess who exacts retribution against those who show hubris.

After a long, heated argument, the judges huddled to consider Norris’s objection. Norris walked over to the CBS announcer and made her case on the air: It was discrimination, she told the national audience. The judges were uncomfortable with the idea of a Black winner, she said, a charge the judges would deny.

MacNolia’s retelling of the next moment, published in “Whatever Happened to MacNolia Cox?,” a biography written by her niece Georgia Lee Gay, is unemotional: “It was supposed to be spelled with a capital letter and was not part of the official list, so the judges ruled me out of the contest.” MacNolia did not shed a tear when she was eliminated, but Norris remembered crying for her.

A Black girl’s triumph

MacNolia Cox returned to Akron to a welcome as grand as her send-off. She was feted with armfuls of roses and chauffeured in a car parade in her honor. The procession ended at her school, where MacNolia was introduced to hundreds of cheering classmates. The city’s former mayor wrote a poem that underlined her achievements: “A child whose forebears sold for gold / On slavery’s auction blocks / Has brought renown to our old town. / All hail, MacNolia Cox.”

But the attention soon faded. Gay wrote that the opportunities and college scholarships that were promised in the months after the bee never materialized and MacNolia was left scarred by the prejudice she experienced. “In some ways, she felt she would have been better off to have never won the Beacon Journal bee,” she wrote.

MacNolia Cox — then MacNolia Montiere — died in 1976 at the age of 53. Her obituary mentioned the Beacon Journal bee, but her story has now faded for most but her family — and one 14-year-old Black girl from Louisiana.

As she stood on the National Bee Stage on Thursday night, Zaila Avant-garde told reporters, she thought of MacNolia and what she had endured 85 years earlier. Then Avant-garde looked down and calmly spelled the winning word — M-U-R-R-A-Y-A — becoming the first African American to win the Scripps National Spelling Bee.

Fred Klonsky writes here about Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene’s recent visit to Illinois. She came to support a member of Congress who is running for re-election and shares Greene’s extremist views.

She campaigned in the most conservative part of the state, where the Ku Klux Klan was popular in the 1920s. Note the sponsors of one of their rallies, whose rally brochure is portrayed on Fred’s blog. Ford Motor Company was one prominent sponsor. There was no shame attached to being an outright racist and anti-Semite and all-around bigot at that time.

Fred described the setting as follows:

It turns out that Effingham and nearby Sangamon County – home of our state capital in Springfield – once held giant Ku Klux Klan rallies, including at Illinois the state fair grounds.

It was common for Klan rallies in the area to draw tens of thousands of locals.

I’m not picking on downstate Illinois. In the 1920s Chicago had the largest KKK membership of any metropolitan region in the United States.

According to WBEZ journalist Dan Mihalopoulos, Greene spoke for nearly an hour, and true to form, she spent most of her time mocking other members of Congress. She ridiculed another Illinois Congresswoman because she has a transgender daughter.

Greene peppered her speech with other bigoted comments about “the great Chinese pandemic” and Muslim members of Congress and their allies, who she called “the jihad squad.”

The Midwest director of the Anti-Defamation League said it’s time to end the politics of hate, but it’s unlikely that Greene has any other mode of expressing her views. That’s who she is.

In this post, Jan Resseger reviews Joanne W. Golann’s Scripting the Moves: Culture & Control in a No-Excuses Charter School. What she describes is a culture of behaviorism and strict control.

Resseger writes:

Joanne W. Golann’s new book is all about schools that insist their teachers follow the guidance of Doug Lemov’s Teach Like a Champion instead of Paulo Freire’s Pedagogy of the Oppressed, but whose principals and teachers have convinced themselves they are liberating students from oppression.

Lured by the promise that their middle school will put them on the path to college, many of the students in Scripting the Moves: Culture & Control in a “No-Excuses” Charter School quickly become angry and disgruntled as teachers assign them demerits for failing to sit at attention or whispering or speaking as they walk in straight lines marked by squares on the hallway floors. At Dream Academy, teachers are driven obsessively to “sweat the small stuff.” School leaders warn teachers that the whole system might collapse if anyone loses control.

Golann explains that, Dream Academy, the pseudonymous name of the school where she conducted her ethnographic study, typifies to one degree or another no-excuses charter schools managed by many of the huge charter management organizations, beginning with KIPP, but also including Achievement First, Aspire, Democracy Prep, Green Dot, IDEA, Mastery, Match, Noble Network, Promise Academies, Rocketship, Success Academies, Uncommon Schools, and YES Prep.

Anyone with the most rudimentary, university-based, public school teacher certification training—including philosophy of education, educational psychology and learning theory—will likely find it shocking to read what Golann describes observing in her year-and-a-half ethnographic study. Yet Dream Academy exemplifies the kind of schooling so many families are choosing—based on a promise that college admission will follow…

Golann explores Dream Academy’s failure to work with students to develop critical thinking and the kinds of study and interactive skills they will need if they do go on to college: “Dream Academy was successful in getting its middle school students to think about college and in getting its high school graduates to apply to, and be admitted to, college. But… Dream Academy’s rigid behavioral scripts did not encourage students to develop the types of cultural capital that higher-income students use to gain advantages in college. Cultural capital, which I have defined as tools of interaction, comprises the attitudes, skills, and styles that allow individuals to navigate complex institutions and shifting expectations. These tools include skills like how to express an opinion, be flexible, display leadership, advocate a position, and make independent decisions.” (p. 58)

Finally Dream Academy teachers’ obsession with minute behavioral infractions undermines trust and generates anger and antagonism: “No-excuses schools ‘sweat the small stuff.’ Under a sweating-the-small-stuff approach, authority is exercised over ‘a multitude of items of conduct—dress, deportment, manners—that constantly occur and constantly come up for judgment.’… (A)s teachers took on the role of disciplinarians, they became enmeshed in a racist system that perpetuated stereotypes of Black and Brown bodies as needing to be controlled rather than one that humanized students as individuals to be understood, cared for, and respected. It is unlikely that belittling and shouting at students, for example, would be acceptable at an affluent White school, yet these practices are common at no-excuses schools, which serve almost exclusively Black and Latino students.” (pp. 86-99)

The term “sweating the small stuff” is the title of a book written by David Whitman and published by the Thomas B. Fordham Institute in 2008. It praises several no-excuses charter schools for their strict discipline and paternalistic control of students. The next year, Whitman became Arne Duncan’s chief speech writer.