Oh Sh*t, Dallas Teacher Did A Critical Race Theory To The Texas Wingnuts!
Back in September, a rightwing Texas group decided that the state's stupid law banning the teaching of "critical race theory" in schools was a good step, but it fretted that despite the law, the Dallas Independent School District probably had a lot of teachers secretly indoctrinating students. The outfit, calling itself "Save Texas Kids," suspected plenty of teachers were still teaching American history, or even using novels by Black people that might be critical of our perfectly fair and equal nation that is dedicated to equality as long as you aren't too loud about it.
So it did what any patriotic group might: It went full East Germany, and emailed teachers in the Dallas ISD to encourage them to snitch on any colleagues who might be breaking the law by teaching CRT, and any faculty who might be telling them to, even though critical race theory is an area of study in graduate programs and law schools.
Save Our Kids president Natalie Cato (no relation to the Institute or the Roman historian, as far as we know) also asked school employees to report coworkers who promoted "predatory gender fluidity," although as far as we can tell that's not illegal even in Texas, even if the state has banned transgender kids from being on school sports teams that match their gender identity.
As the Daily Beast reported in September, Cato insisted in her email that that she's fine with kids learning about "the horrors of slavery and the evils of the 'Jim Crow' system," but that stuff's all in the past now, and in fact, she said, making up things Martin Luther King Jr. never actually said, just 40 years after the Civil Rights era, America "elected our nation's first black President which Dr. King said would be the ultimate evidence that America was NOT a racist nation." Again, no, King never said anything remotely like that. He did, however, have some choice words for white moderates who wanted Black people to stop making such a fuss about race all the time.
Oh yes, and in the great tradition of American Busybodyism, Cato doesn't live in the district where she was asking teachers to inform on each other. She just cares about quality education, we bet. As all patriots know, American democracy depends on having an informed-upon citizenry.
Last week, there was a follow-on development: Save Texas Kids sent another email to Dallas public school teachers, this one thanking them for all the "hundreds of reports" (we'll assume Cato's lying there) on their dangerous America-hating colleagues who teach that racism is a problem in the USA. The letter also called for the immediate firing of one Dallas teacher for DOING CRT CRIMES.
Identifying the targeted teacher by name, the letter claims the teacher, who works at Dallas's arts magnet high school, Booker T Washington High, had broken Texas law by "not only slandering members of our group but also appearing to violate Texas law through her admitted instruction of illegal Critical Race Theory."
OMG, what did that horrible AP English teacher do? Did they read from Satan's Own Bible, the 1619 Project? Suggest that "systemic racism" exists? Blame a white student for all the sins of US history (which, by the way, weren't all that bad because enslavers took good care of their property)?
Specifically, she made an assignment out of reading and critically analyzing our letter from last month. We are thick skinned, and don't mind criticism. But this was not criticism. This was a clear attempt to indoctrinate children with a political ideology. The assignment had the clear insinuation that students should harshly critique the content of our message. Judge for yourself, images of her post are at the end of this email! [...]
Save Texas Kids is filing a grievance against Ms. _____ and demanding that DISD immediately terminate her for illegally teaching CRT.
That's a new one on us. Somehow, teaching rhetorical analysis by examining the communication strategies in the group's snitch letter is itself a form of Critical Race Theory, somehow. I had no idea doing rhetoric was so dangerous!
Mind you, that letter (full text on Twitter) was certainly ripe for analysis as an example of dishonest argument and propagandistic techniques! We bet the kids learned a lot by looking at it. For instance, there's this completely objective, non-emotional "definition" of what CRT is and how it's supposedly taught:
Schools are being compelled to teach the racist doctrine of "Critical Race Theory" or "CRT". You've probably heard those terms before, but you might not know what it is and how it seeps into the classroom. It is the idea that America is a systemically racist country built on hate. It is the idea that all white children are evil oppressors even if they don't know it. It is the idea that black children are oppressed and are inferior and are therefore incapable of competing with white students on equal footing.
Well gosh, kids are there any logical fallacies there?
Happily, Daily Beast contributor Steven Monacelli was able to get a copy of photos of parts of the rhetorical analysis assignment that had been attached to the second email. This is good stuff! The rhetorical strategies and logical fallacies are highlighted and labelled; for instance, the line "the racist doctrine of 'Critical Race Theory'" is identified as a definitional fallacy, because calling CRT "racist" already prejudices the reader against CRT. It's not clear whether that's the teacher's writing, or the student's; we suspect it's the student based on the example that follows.
Another part of the lesson has a student apply a little analytic rubric called SPACECAT, in which students identify the text's Speaker, Purpose, Audience, Context, "Exigence" — the circumstances prompting the writing — Choices, Appeals, & Tone:
For instance, under "Appeals," the student writes,
Cato uses pathos [appeals to emotion] throughout the majority of the email. She does this to not only guilt people into helping, but scare people into fearing CRT. One example of this is when she is saying gender fluidity will potentially cause young kids "severe psychological trauma if not worse." No parent or teacher wants their kids to go through this, so they pay attention on how to stop it.
That's actually pretty fair analysis!
There's not the slightest hint of CRT in having students read and analyze a text; if the lesson was supposed to "indoctrinate" the students, it didn't work, since if anything I think the kid goes a little too easy on Cato's methods, and doesn't seem especially bothered that the email urges district employees to report on each other — then again, that's a common enough method of enforcing discipline among students, so perhaps the kid doesn't know just how creepy the tactic is.
We suppose that since Texas's anti-CRT law requires that controversial topics be taught with a "balanced" perspective, this lesson might, in isolation, run afoul of it; presumably that problem could be fixed by having students read and analyze an article opposing Cato's position, which we suspect wouldn't leave Save Texas Kids any happier.
The real challenge would be finding an anti-rat-on-your-coworkers letter that's equally badly written as hers, the end.
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Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.