Teaching these days is a potentially dangerous occupation. One must always be aware that virtually every kid in every class is carrying a video camera and audio recorder in their pocket, and they’re sneaky about using them. I do not teach or say anything I would not want parents or any member of the public to hear, but sometimes, shining light on a teacher’s curriculum is a good thing indeed, as it recently was in, of all places, at Norman North High School in Norman, Oklahoma. Local station KMOV reports:
There are startling accusations against a teacher in Norman, OK, after a student says he delivered a lecture claiming all white people are racist.
The video from the teacher caused a student to pull out her cell phone and start recording. She asked that her identity not be revealed.
‘He pulls out this globe with a bottle of White-Out and marks over a country or a piece of a country and puts his name on it,’ the student said. ‘So, he was basically comparing what he had done to the globe to what we did to America.’
The conversation continued after the video ended and the teacher’s theory on healing the racial divide surprised those listening.
‘To be white is to be racist. Period,’ the teacher said.
NOTE: The media account is a bit unclear. The teacher played a video that showed someone putting whiteout on a globe (screenshot heading this article). His comments followed the playing of that video.
Hmmmmm. If that’s acceptable in the classroom, why not these statements:
“To be black is to be stupid.”
“To be Hispanic is to be lazy.”
“To be female is to be hysterical.”
“To play the race card is to admit one has no argument.”
OK, so the last one is true, but I presume, gentle readers, you get the point. It is acceptable for teachers to express opinions labeled as such, however, one may not present lies as absolute truth. Period. How do I know the teacher’s statement was a lie? It’s impossible. There is no way to prove it, but worse, people making such statements will accept no evidence to the contrary, and all it takes is one white person–out of billions in the world–not a racist to prove them wrong. To them, however, their statement is non-falsifiable.
This is the standard for curriculum. If it cannot be falsified, if it can’t be proved by appropriate and valid evidence to be false, no teacher should utter it.
You will notice, please, that I saved the racial argument for last, for it is the least important. If the assertion that all white people are racists is acceptable in schools, so are the assertions that all blacks are stupid, all Hispanics are lazy and all women are hysterical. They are obvious falsehoods, but if falsifiability is not a determining factor, that really doesn’t matter, does it?
The student said she was instantly offended.
‘Half of my family is Hispanic, so I just felt like, you know, him calling me racist just because I’m white. I mean, where’s your proof in that?’ the student said.
The teacher’s lecture continued with an admission that he was also racist.
‘Am I racist? I say yeah,’ the teacher said. ‘I don’t want to be. It’s not like I choose to be racist, but do I do things because of the way I was raised?
Here I’d like the opportunity to put the teacher under oath and ask a few pertinent questions. What, exactly does the teacher do that makes them a racist? Doesn’t actual racism require affirmative acts, or is it a matter of thought crime? Is the teacher suggesting that racism need not be manifested in acts, or even in conscious thought or awareness of racist leanings? If that’s the case, I can easily be accused of being a space alien. Just because there is no outward observable evidence of it, nor do I have any awareness of my true space alien nature, doesn’t mean it’s not true!
The teacher’s statement also seems to suggest all white people are genetically racist, or at the least, have been taught to be racists by our parents and anyone else having a hand in our upbringing. That they too never demonstrate racism, and remain blissfully unaware of the slightest racist tendency or thought obviously doesn’t matter. Because of the actions of a few in the distant past, the mark of racism stains us all
Oh, I just had a thought: can black people be racist, or are they genetically incapable of it?
The student said she felt like he was advocating other students to pick on white students because of their skin color.
That would seem to be a reasonable conclusion. The girl’s father is likewise reasonable:
Why is it OK to demonize one race to children that you are supposed to be teaching a curriculum to?’ her father asked.’ [skip]
‘Norman Public Schools said the teacher was sharing a perspective that has been shared at a university.
Well, that settles that. As we all know, universities these days are extraordinarily careful to present all information without bias and with the utmost professionalism. Local station KFOR has the Normal Superintendent of School’s statement:
Racism is an important topic that we discuss in our schools. While discussing a variety of philosophical perspectives on culture, race and ethics, a teacher was attempting to convey to students in an elective philosophy course a perspective that had been shared at a university lecture he had attended. We regret that the discussion was poorly handled. When the district was notified of this concern it was immediately addressed. We are committed to ensuring inclusiveness in our schools.’ – Dr. Joe Siano, superintendent of Norman Public Schools
Back to KMOV’s coverage:
The student said she’s concerned about the message being taken literally.
‘You start telling someone something over and over again, that’s an opinion, and they start taking it as fact,’ she said. ‘So, I wanted him to apologize and make it obvious and apparent to everyone that was his opinion.
Again, this young lady seems far ahead of her teacher. Notice Mr. Siano is trying to explain the teacher’s bald assertion away as merely one of several perspectives he picked up at a university. From all I’ve been able to find on this issue, that’s not what happened. The teacher labeled all white people racists and did not make that assertion as an opinion, but objective truth.
Such statements, presented as truth, are wrong in every way. They do not represent the best information available in any discipline. They are not falsifiable, and they are politically inflammatory to no good or professional end.
But don’t teachers have First Amendment rights? Of course they do. But if they wish to be employed as teachers, they must work within the professional parameters of their discipline, and they must work within the socio-political parameters of their community. There is no right to be employed by any school. Statements like that might be greeted with cheers in some urban schools and communities, but not in Norman, Oklahoma.
I have no doubt that there are many things I dare not broach in the classroom, nor do I have the slightest inclination to do so. I also have no doubt that should I bring up those things, you, gentle readers, would be seeing video or hearing audio of me all over the Internet, likely posted long before I was fired.
Perhaps the teacher was trying to make a point about unconscious racism. However, one doesn’t heal racial wounds, to whatever degree they exist or don’t exist in a given place, by breaching one’s professional responsibilities or smearing any race.