Discover more from Wonkette
Why Is A Florida High School English Teacher Trying To Ban Books? Could It Be ... She's Racist?
No, that can't be right.
Back in the early '80s, when all the fundies were warning about the dangers of "secular humanism" being taught in American schools, I recall that a Moral Majority newsletter for parents warned that children should never confide in teachers, and to be especially suspicious of teachers in English and Social Studies classes, since the most dangerous radicals always end up teaching those subjects.
As a BA in Education student majoring in English and minoring in US history, I was of course elated.
But not all high school English teachers live up to the stereotype of being granola-chomping, Birkenstock-wearing vegans with Gaia/wiccan/Mondale for President bumper stickers on their Subaru wagons and Toyota Prii. Take Vicki Baggett ( please! ), a high school teacher in Escambia, Florida, who has filed challenges demanding the banning of nearly 150 books from school libraries in Escambia County.
Independent journo Judd Legum interviewed Baggett for his Popular Information newsletter, and by gosh, she's on a mission from Ron DeSantis to purify Escambia County school libraries of anything that would make white children feel bad, or that promotes Teh Ghey, or that she considers "pornographic" — including of course Kurt Vonnegut's classic Slaughterhouse-Five , presumably because there's a drawing of tiddies in there, plus soldiers saying the fuck word and a creepy guy who says creepy animal torture stuff that distresses poor Billy Pilgrim. (Also an American POW who says "I think I just shit my brains out" and we find out that was Vonnegut himself.)
So yeah, one of my favorite books is porn, which says a lot about how dangerous English teachers really are.
Among the many many books Ms. Baggett demanded be removed from all school libraries is When Wilma Rudolph Played Basketball, a 32-page picture book for early grade readers. It's about the childhood of the future Olympic gold medalist sprinter Wilma Rudolph, who as a child had polio and was told she'd never walk without a brace. Nevertheless she persevered, and went on to win three gold medals at the Rome Olympics in 1960.
As a child, Rudolph experienced the same racism any other Black child in Jim Crow Tennessee in the 1940s would have experienced. Baggett submitted a formal challenge to the book, claiming on the form that its purpose was "race-baiting" and that the book is unfit for any grade level because it "opines prejudice based on race." Legum reproduces the form, which at least is a public record because Florida schools aren't censoring books using secret Star Chambers yet.
You see, the book accurately depicts young Wilma Rudolph seeing her mother cleaning white people's houses, and Wilma thinks, "There is something not right about this [...] White folks got all the luxury, and we black folks got the dirty work."
Wilma's thoughts are a direct quote from Rudolph's 1977 autobiography (now out of print), not an embellishment by author Mark Weakland, but why did he have to include it anyway? Simple, Baggett explained to Legum: to make white kids feel guilty, which is wingnut-talk for "empathy."
Baggett told Legum in an interview that
the book "trashes and puts down those who are not black." She describes the book, which is a true story of Rudolph's experience, as "very anti-white." [...]
Baggett didn't dispute the book was accurate but insisted it would make white students "feel uncomfortable" because "they are being white-shamed." She said the book was inappropriate because "not all whites treated blacks like this." Baggett added that "not all blacks do drug crimes, like a lot of people say."
See? Not a racist bone in her body! Heck, you'd have to look at Donald Trump, the least racist person in the country, to find anyone less racist than Ms. Baggett.
She filed the complaint against the book because she believed it violated the public schools portion of Ron DeSantis's "Stop WOKE" Act, which, like all those cookie-cutter anti-"Critical Race Theory" laws, forbids teaching children that they "must feel guilt, anguish… because of actions, in which the person played no part, committed in the past by other members of the same race, color, national origin, or sex." Sure, the law only applies to classroom instruction, but Baggett believes it covers library books too. The book doesn't explicitly say modern white children "must feel guilt or anguish" because of segregation 80 years ago, but a white child might feel bad for young Wilma Rudolph, so the book is clearly illegal propaganda.
Pressed on whether her interpretation of the Stop WOKE Act would allow any instruction about historical prejudice, Baggett suggested that When Wilma Rudolph Played Basketball might be appropriate for children starting in fourth grade. This directly contradicts what she wrote on the form, which states it is inappropriate for all grade levels.
We also learn that Ms. Baggett posted a photo of a Confederate flag — with no comments — on Facebook on June 24, 2015. We rather wish Legum had pointed out the context: It was right at the time that a bunch of woke liberal communists like then-Gov. Nikki Haley of South Carolina and even those radicals at Walmart were calling for the removal of Confederate flags from public view. For some reason, for the first time in history, that flag was associated with a bad thing that happened a week earlier; namely, a white power guy's massacre of nine worshipers and clergy at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston.
BigotBaggett explains to Legum that she had
posted the flag because "everyone in my clan fought in the Civil War" and she was not "ashamed of that." Baggett added that she was a member of the Daughters of the Confederacy , which has been designated as part of the Neo-Confederate movement . As recently as 2018, the group's website stated: "Slaves, for the most part, were faithful and devoted. Most slaves were usually ready and willing to serve their masters."
Again, a week after the Charleston murders. It's context, for fuckssake. Also, ahem, her clan. Did Legum ask how she spells that?
The nice lady who is offended by anti-white racism went on to explain she didn't think her students might conceivably feel uncomfortable about the Facebook post, because after all, "my best friend is a Black woman," and also her students "know me very well." We bet they do!
I for one would like to know about any conversations she and her best friend might have had regarding the events of June 2015, but I have a feeling Ms. Baggett may not be in the mood for any follow-up questions about anything ever. Call it a hunch.
As part of an Escambia School District committee's review of the complaint against the book, advisory councils at each of 11 elementary schools in the district reviewed Baggett's challenge. All 11 agreed the book was appropriate for use in elementary schools and said nice things about it like
"This book details the true struggle of prejudice faced by the main character," "There are no questionable elements to this book," and "Biographies of successful African-Americans are important to have as part of a diverse library collection."
That said, the full committee hasn't yet ruled on the challenge, and even if it turns down the challenge, Baggett can appeal to the full school board, which Legum notes "appears sympathetic to her point of view. The board has already sided with Baggett after her challenge of a different book, The Perks of Being a Wallflower, was rejected by the school district." (That's a Wonkette-gets-a cut link, if you're interested.)
There's much more, like Baggett's complaint against the Gay Penguin Book, which she also considers "indoctrination" that will make children think about same-sex people falling in love, and that's illegal under Don't Say Gay. There's also her accusation that a bunch of high school library books ( Wallflower, Slaughterhouse-Five, the graphic novel version of The Handmaid's Tale, and others) violate Florida laws against child pornography, which they most certainly do not.
Baggett believes that any of her colleagues involved in selecting those dirty dirty books for school libraries "can and will be prosecuted" as felons under Florida child porn laws, so she has big dreams of her own, just like Wilma Rudolph. Go read the whole thing, etc.
We'd call here for Ms. Baggett to be fired because bigots like her are unfit to teach in any school, but then DeSantis would probably appoint her to the state board of education.
Yr Wonkette is funded entirely by reader donations. If you can, please give $5 or $10 monthly so we can keep indoctrinating you with TRVTH.