Nature is healing!
Now that vaccination rates are leading to more things opening up again, Americans are eager to start traveling, going to the beach, seeing movies, and, for some, showing up at public forums and accusing fellow Americans of trying to destroy America through socialism, or whatever is the rightwing panic flavor of the month. Case in point: a meeting yesterday of the Loudoun County (Virginia) School Board, which featured a packed auditorium and a lot of shouting.
I’m at a Loudoun County school board meeting. Packed room. A debate over critical race theory in schools has divide… https://t.co/tgavd21nWu— amna (@amna)1623183879.0
Hooray, we're able to gather together again!
There have been a LOT of angry feels in Loudon County lately. An elementary PE teacher was suspended after insisting at a recent board meeting that his religious beliefs would prevent him from ever using a hypothetical trans student's preferred pronouns (a judge has now ordered the teacher reinstated). A group of parents wants a supposed "dirty novel" removed from ninth grade English classes, too.
And a whole bunch of parents are super aggrieved over what they're certain is the teaching of "critical race theory" in the schools, although the district's interim superintendent, Scott Ziegler, explained at a June 2 board meeting that the schools aren't teaching CRT to students. Rather, as the Washington Post reports, Ziegler has
explained that the school system is about two years into racial equity work spurred initially by a pair of high-profile reports that found widespread racism was imperiling Black and Hispanic students' progress in the county. In response, Loudoun produced a 22-page "Plan to Combat Systemic Racism" that called for developing alternative forms of discipline, hosting teacher trainings to foster "racial consciousness" and forbidding students from wearing the Confederate flag.
But no part of the plan involved teaching students critical race theory, Ziegler emphasized repeatedly[.]
To make matters worse, Ziegler noted that social media is full of images in which the school system's logo gets photoshooped onto various texts allegedly aligned with CRT, as "evidence" that innocent children are being taught all sorts of terrible things that aren't actually being taught. At yesterday's school board meeting, the board voted to hire Ziegler for the superintendent post full time, possibly because he's already been going around putting out these dumb culture war fires already.
Fox News and other rightwing media have been all in on the CRT nonsense, too, and some parents are trying to recall the entire school board because of all the CRT that's supposedly oppressing white kids. It probably doesn't help a hell of a lot that the county's racial equity program involves an approach labeled "culturally responsive teaching," because look at how that's abbreviated!
Big surprise: Discussions of the alleged anti-white propaganda that's supposedly running rampant in Loudon County schools have been remarkably short on actual examples of curricular materials telling little white kindygartners they're personally responsible for slavery.
At last night's board meeting, 121 members of the public signed up to speak, and they were ANGRY. The crowd was quite unhappy, if not quite able to point to specific materials or lesson plans they had a beef with.
Couldn’t even get through the first 30 minutes of comments without crowd yelling, interrupting, clapping, some boos… https://t.co/AA1VtMCHhY— amna (@amna)1623185318.0
One parent objected to the schools "training our children to be social justice warriors" and "to hate our country," and another said they would "fight to the bitter end ... if you teach my children that they are racist just because they're white." Again, if any of the parents actually had examples of that happening, we haven't seen them, although I'll confess that when I asked for examples in that Twitter thread, I was assured it was everywhere. I'll save you the details, which were mostly links to rightwing fulminations about CRT, and one guy who said the book White Fragility is a "CRT textbook," though he was a bit fuzzy on which schools it's being assigned in.
This is all very reminiscent of the 2009 Stupid Season, when Democratic members of Congress went home to hold town halls and were met by people screaming about death panels and Obamacare is Hitler and the like. With Fox News and the rest of the wingnuttosphere whipping up the moral panic, expect to hear a lot more about the evils of critical race theory, even though it's mostly just the same old Culture War blatherskite in a shiny new-panic wrapper. Also, it's Marxism, and how can you people sit there and defend Marxism? Are you going to let George Soros burn your city to the ground like he did Seattle and Portland, which are both now just miles of ash from horizon to horizon?
In conclusion, we are very glad that in many parts of the country, vaccination rates are making it safe to go out again, and if you don't mind, we're going to stay mostly at home just like we did before the lockdowns anyway.
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They will never stop working the refs when the refs give in to their bad faith EVERY TIME.
Oh look, the people who screech about "cAnCeL cUlTuRe!!1!" are trying to squash free speech they don't like again.
On January 25, Stanford Law 3L (that's "third year law student") Nicholas Wallace sent a fantastic email to the school's listserv, promoting a fake Federalist Society event on January 6 called "The Originalist Case for Inciting Insurrection," featuring Josh Hawley and Ken Paxton.
The students at Stanford's Federalist Society chapter responded by asking to speak to the manager. Rather than take the loss after Wallace's hilarious email, three of the Stanford FedSoc officers complained to the administration, claiming Wallace had "clearly impersonated the Stanford Federalist Society" and "defamed the student group, its officers, Senator Josh Hawley, and Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton." The students also said they, "as officers of the organization, feel that our individual reputations have been harmed," but I'm pretty sure that line was actually meant for Donald Trump, Josh Hawley, Ken Paxton, and all of the other far-Right loons who tried to stage a coup earlier this year.
Honestly, if the FedSoc letter to the administration had also been a parody of the Federalist Society, it would have been hilarious. Unfortunately, it was all too real — and almost prevented Wallace from graduating with the rest of his class. Apparently the law students in the Stanford Federalist Society didn't see what a self-indictment it was for them to point out that people might think an email saying things like, "Although widely believed to conflict in every way with the rule of law, violent insurrection can be an effective approach to upholding the principle of limited government" and "riot information will be emailed the morning of the event" was promoting a real FedSoc event.
This week, civil rights group Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) got involved, sending a letter to Stanford about its fuckery. Stanford is a private school, so the First Amendment doesn't apply the way it would to, say UC Berkeley, but California law and Stanford's own policies do. In 1992, California passed the "Leonard Law," which requires secular private colleges to follow the same standards as public schools. (California is the only state with a law like this on the books.) Stanford's policies also say that students can't be disciplined for speech that is protected by the First Amendment.
Wallace's email is clearly protected speech, and it's shameful that it took anyone at Stanford Law more than 20 minutes to come to that conclusion. Parody and satire are protected speech and not defamatory, as courts keep telling Devin Nunes. But instead of stamping the whiny FedSoc letter "LOLNOPE, return to sender," Stanford decided, in the middle of finals, to make Wallace navigate the school's judicial process and to tell him that he wouldn't be graduating.
Thankfully, FIRE's letter and a piece at Slate stirred up a whole lot of rage at Stanford — and last night, the university capitulated, saying Wallace would graduate on time. After the announcement, Wallace sent out another listserv email, this time thanking his fellow students for their support and saying he hopes "to work with Stanford in the little time I have left to make sure that no other student is subjected to an abuse of process in this way again, and to develop better protections for students' freedom of expression," adding a post-script that this email was not satire.
Nicholas Wallace just sent this around to the Stanford law-talk listserv: https://t.co/QaGMHugD7E— Mark Joseph Stern (@Mark Joseph Stern)1622683923.0
Causing trouble on the listservs is part of going to law school in the 21st century, and Nicholas Wallace played his part masterfully. This former Northwestern Law listerv troll says A+ trolling abilities — and keep fighting for what's right. (And if this is all it takes to almost not graduate at Stanford Law, I wouldn't have lasted three weeks.)
Thank you for keeping Wonkette keeping on! We love you!
The CDC shoulda seen this coming.
Even though the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said pretty darn clearly that people who aren't vaccinated against COVID-19 should continue social distancing and wearing masks indoors, Republican state leaders have rushed to ban schools and cities from mandating masks at all. It started, as bad ideas so often do, in Texas, where Gov Greg Abbott on Tuesday prohibited schools from requiring masks, because whether or not to behave safely should be up to the individual. Strangely, the state's speed limits and traffic laws remain in place, if only to generate revenue through fines.
Since then, Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds has signed a state law prohibiting mask mandates from being put in place by cities, or by school administrators at any level, proclaiming in a statement that Iowa was
putting parents back in control of their child's education and taking greater steps to protect the rights of all Iowans to make their own health care decisions. I am proud to be a governor of a state that values personal responsibility and individual liberties.
In addition, Montana's state school superintendent, Elsie Arntzen, issued a memo Wednesday requiring that all school mask mandates be ended by the start of the 2021-22 school year, and urging schools to wind down mask requirements for the remainder of the current school year, too. Arntzen's memo calls attention to a February executive order issued by Gov. Greg Gianforte telling schools to follow "guidelines and best practices" from the CDC and the state Office of Public Instruction (OPI), Arntzen's agency.
This is particularly weird, since in the very same memo, Arntzen directly contradicts the CDC by calling on schools to stop masking.
With the poetic indifference to public health typical of Republican officeholders, Arntzen's memo proclaimed, Teacher Gorbachev, Tear Down These Masks!
We cannot enter another school year subjecting our students to any additional loss of instructional time. We also cannot perpetuate the notion that masks will be a permanent feature in our state's classrooms. I encourage you to evaluate your policies and work toward removing masks wherever possible.
She also wrote that OPI
strongly recommends that school districts across Montana rescind, or allow to expire, any existing face covering mandates, and develop policies that make the wearing of face masks and other coverings optional, voluntary, and a matter of family choice.
You will not be surprised in the least to learn that no, Arntzen doesn't actually offer any medical or other reason for ending masking in schools. It just needs to be done, because. Freedom 'n' things.
We should note this isn't Arntzen's first rodeo without a bandanna, either. Last August, she complained loudly when then-Gov. Steve Bullock extended the state's mask mandate to include schools, claiming her office hadn't been consulted. Bullock's office responded that the superintendent and her staff had been included in weekly meetings, and that when asked for input on a masking recommendation, she had refused to suggest any guidelines. She countered that Bullock, a Democrat who was running for US Senate, was "putting politics into a pandemic" because he had endorsed her Democratic opponent. Yeah, that's how Democrats mostly approached the pandemic, for sure, using policy for the sake of settling personal scores.
Yesterday, the Montana chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics responded to Arntzen's memo with a letter to Gov. Greg Gianforte calling on him to keep school mask requirements in place for what's left of the school year, and possibly into the fall, because if you're going to say schools should follow CDC guidelines, then follow the damn guidelines.
The pediatricians' letter reminded Gianforte of his call for schools to follow those "school guidelines and best practices recommended by the CDC" and by OPI, then cites Arntzen's call this week for mask requirements to go away. The doctors gently remind Gianforte there's a bit of a problem following both agencies' directives, now isn't there, chief?
The CDC's statement this month that fully vaccinated people may resume most activities without wearing a mask applies only to people who are FULLY VACCINATED.
And no, the CDC hasn't yet recommended that school personnel or students stop wearing masks. Beyond that, the letter notes, not even the CDC's recent approval of the Pfizer vaccine for kids 12-15 would make any difference to masking in schools, since it's so recent that kids now getting vaccinated won't reach full immunity until after the end of the school year, and the vaccine will probably not have been approved for kids under 12 until some time after school begins again in the fall.
The letter closes, in bold type,
We empathize with the desire to return to normalcy, however since most school-aged children will not have the opportunity to be vaccinated, we unequivocally recommend that Montana schools continue to require masks at this time. We believe that increasing vaccination rates among our children will decrease COVID-19 and allow them to remain in school, while removing the mask mandates in school will have the opposite effect. If our goal is to improve the mental and physical health of our children, let us encourage vaccination while maintaining mask use in schools.
"You pillock," the pediatricians did not add, but could have.
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Cancel culture only affects white dudes whose editors are sick of their shit.
For all the blather we regularly hear from wingnuts who think that Twitter is violating the First Amendment (It can't! It's not the government!), the political Right has been awfully quiet about an actual case of a government entity interfering in an academic hire for political reasons. In April, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill proudly announced that its Hussman School of Journalism and Media would be hiring journalist (and UNC alum) Nikole Hannah-Jones for the university's prestigious Knight Chair in Race and Investigative Journalism. The job traditionally comes with tenure, as a recognition of general outstandingness of achievement in the journalistic field.
Hannah-Jones has a long career in investigative journalism, and in 2019 made a huge splash in media and culture for organizing the New York Times Magazine's "1619 Project" and writing the lead essay for the project. That essay earned her the 2020 Pulitzer Prize for commentary, and the eternal hatred of rightwing media, because the 1619 Project suggested that American history should be viewed primarily through the lens of slavery and the oppression of Black people, when any white fool knows America is the best country ever, founded by God to eventually elect Ronald Reagan and Donald Trump.
So yeah, that's why Hannah-Jones was denied tenure. The UNC-Chapel Hill Board of Trustees, after a lobbying campaign, refused to approve a tenure recommendation that had been approved at every level of UNC Chapel Hill's faculty and administration, effectively killing it. Oddly, Donald Trump Jr. hasn't said a word about out of control cancel culture.
Since the board's decision meant it couldn't offer Hannah-Jones tenure, UNC's Hussman School instead hired her for a five-year appointment as a "Professor of the Practice," with the option of considering her again for tenure at the end of the appointment. Maybe by then, the idiocy over the 1619 Project will have blown over. Or maybe universities will have been burned to the ground; times remain weird.
Susan King, the dean of the Hussman School, was certainly excited to make the announcement, saying Hannah-Jones's appointment was
the story of a leader returning to a place that transformed her life and career trajectory [...] Giving back is part of Nikole's DNA, and now one of the most respected investigative journalists in America will be working with our students on projects that will move their careers forward and ignite critically important conversations.
But any celebrations of what should have been a lifetime appointment were a bit premature, as NC Policy Watch explains.
Last summer, Hannah-Jones went through the rigorous tenure process at UNC, King said. Hannah-Jones submitted a package King said was as well reviewed as any King had ever seen. Hannah-Jones had enthusiastic support from faculty and the tenure committee, with the process going smoothly every step of the way — until it reached the UNC-Chapel Hill Board of Trustees.
And that's where things fell apart, thanks to the rightwing outrage machine, which included pressure from groups affiliated with the UNC Board of Governors, which is controlled by the state legislature and in turn appoints each campus's board of trustees. Hey, forget Hannah-Jones's Pulitzer and her MacArthur Foundation "genius" grant, she said nasty accurate things about the Founders, and so she's dangerous. One conservative North Carolina group, the "Carolina Partnership for Reform," published an unsigned editorial complaining that "This lady is an activist reporter — not a teacher," and insisting, on the basis of pure paranoia, that students in her classes would be forced to accept her radical anti-American beliefs in order to even get a passing grade, because that's just how the Left is: "They can't get up and leave if they disagree. They must sit there and accept her beliefs if they're to get a good grade. Think about that."
Weirdly, an actual UNC J-school prof who invited Hannah-Jones to teach his feature writing class as part of her tenure evaluation didn't see anything of the sort. John Robinson said he thought she was "an excellent teacher," which for all we know means the wingnuttosphere will come gunning for him, too.
"She assigned the students a story to read and she engaged with students on what made the story work and what didn't work. Then she engaged with students about careers in journalism. She's a UNC alum, so that interests them."
Robinson described the class as just what a journalism course should be — a give and take, not a one-sided lecture.
"She pushed back on some of the students' opinions and they pushed back on hers," Robinson said. "It was a vibrant learning experience."
Aha, see! She did challenge their opinions, and Robinson probably covered up all the Marxist propaganda she no doubt insisted was better.
One anonymous member of the board, clearly disgusted by Hannah-Jones's treatment, told NC Policy Watch the Trustees had withheld approval of tenure for one reason only: "Politics." The board member also said that the Board of Governors had actively politicized university governance in North Carolina:
The Board of Governors has decided not to reappoint certain trustees they felt were not on the right ideological page, the trustee said, and have even engineered the ouster of chancellors with whom they disagreed. They have defunded academic centers and discontinued programs with which they were at political odds. Trustees across the system know that track record when they're making these kinds of decisions, the trustee said.
"This is a high profile hiring decision and the last thing anyone should want is us going to the Board of Governors with this and they disagree," the trustee said. "That is not going to be good for anybody. That is when negative things are going to happen."
Another trustee agreed, noting that some members of the board had made up specious reasons for denying tenure to Hannah-Jones. The Knight Chairs are funded by the Knight Foundation to give the nation's most important, accomplished journalists the chance to train future journalists. The chairs are by definition for working journalists. So of course the board pretended Hannah-Jones should be disqualified because she's not an academic:
"There was some discussion about 'She is not from a teaching background, she is not from academia, so how can she just get a tenured position?'" the trustee said. "But if you look at the previous Knight Chairs, if you look at Penny Abernathy for instance, these are people who come from the world of journalism. That's the idea. That's what the program is and it's always been that way. So that argument doesn't really hold water."
UNC faculty and students have protested the board's decision, calling for it to be reversed; an online statement by some 40 faculty members said that denying tenure due to political pressure was a dangerous precedent that "unfairly moves the goal posts and violates longstanding norms and established processes." The letter also said that, if anything, Hannah-Jones actually "surpasses expectations for a tenured position."
And what about the usual culture warriors who fret that cancel culture is out of control, and stifling freedom? Andrew Sullivan, who once demanded that Hannah-Jones disprove the stereotype that Black men have great big tonkers, explained on Twitter that the political intrusion into higher education wasn't the least bit scandalous. Hannah-Jones hadn't been "cancelled," you see, because she still got a five-year job, now didn't she?
Never mind that since 1980, Knight Chair appointments have always included tenure. She'll get another chance to prove that she deserves something that for all others is a matter of course, so don't you go saying she's been treated unfairly, because the real oppressors are people who think systemic racism exists, the end.
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