As a teacher of English, one of my primary tasks is choosing materials. Which plays, short stories, books, essays and other accompanying materials are best for my students? While my school, and all schools, generally agree on certain titles for specific grades—Romeo and Juliet for 9th grade, Julius Caesar for 10th grade, etc.—individual teachers often have considerable discretion in choosing the rest.
As I’ve often written, my most important asset is class time. There are so many forces demanding more and more of those precious minutes every year. Mandatory, high stakes testing took away more than 1/3 of my school year, hence 1/3 of the curriculum in tenth grade, replacing it with test drills for a single test. Every curricular decision about how best to use the remaining 2/3 therefore took on great significance.
It should go without saying that everything any teacher uses in a classroom must be chosen with an eye to the precious and ever-diminishing time available. It should also go without saying that such materials must be the most professional and most effective materials currently available in a given discipline. Additionally, it should go without saying that these materials must be of clear educational value rather than trivial, navel-gazing introspection, and they absolutely must not be political propaganda. Unfortunately, apparently nothing goes without saying these days, as Fox News reports:
San Francisco’s public schools have been offered a classroom lesson plan that calls President-elect Donald Trump a racist, sexist man who became president ‘by pandering to a huge racist and sexist base.’
The union that represents city teachers posted the plan on its website and distributed it via an email newsletter to its more than 6,000 members. The school district has more than 57,000 students.
The Republican Party in San Francisco slammed the lesson plan. [skip]
The plan was written by social studies teacher Fakhra Shah, who said she hadn’t planned for it to spread citywide — that was a step taken by the teacher’s union. She wrote it at 2 a.m. Nov. 9, just hours after results came in, to help teachers at her school struggling with how to answer students’ questions and concerns about Trump becoming president.
This, gentle readers, falls into the category of “what the hell is wrong with you?!” Ms. Shah apparently believes American democracy is entire illegitimate, and sees nothing wrong with teaching that to her students. I’ll leave it to you to determine the truthfulness of her protestation she didn’t intend the lesson plan to be widely distributed
This was an attempt to help “struggling” students and teachers? And the way to do that is to entirely undermine faith in the American electoral system, and in the citizens of half the nation? Perhaps, gentle readers, I am not alone in wondering whether Ms. Shah would have written a lesson plan to “help teachers at her school struggling with how to answer students’ questions and concerns about [Clinton] becoming president,” should that have come to pass? Surely she would have called Clinton a hateful, criminal woman who became president by pandering to a huge anti-male, progressive base willing to excuse innumerable betrayals of national security, and never-before seen levels of deception of the American people, Congress and the FBI?
What’s that you say? It’s San Francisco? There likely wouldn’t have been a single teacher or student the least upset about the election of Clinton, and if there were, they would be afraid to speak up? What are you, some kind of huge racist sexist?
City education officials have signaled support for the lesson plan, claiming it’s entirely optional for teachers to use — not part of the official curriculum.
‘Educators are entrusted to create lessons that reflect the California standards, support students’ social and emotional well-being and foster inclusive and safe school communities,’ school district spokeswoman Gentle Blythe said in a statement that neither praised nor rebuked the lesson plan. ‘San Francisco schools serve diverse populations and teachers are encouraged to include multiple perspectives in lessons, she added.
Ah! I see. So in California schools, there are diverse and multiple perspectives on algebra, chemistry, grammar, home economics, carpentry, auto mechanics, etc.? This would go a long way toward explaining why California schools have such a poor reputation for student accomplishment.
I think a lot of people were lost for words, wondering, ‘What do we say? What do we do?’ said Shah, whose Latino, African American, white, Muslim and LGBTQ students are worried about a surge in hate crimes since the election.
Hmmm. It has always been my experience that kids take the lead of their teachers and other adults meaningful in their lives, but Ms. Shah, a social studies teacher, observes a fair and peaceful national election after which the winner delivers one of the most gracious, humble and inclusive victory speeches in the nation’s history, and she thinks people are dumbfounded. Oh yes, and as we have already discovered, the so-called “surge in hate crimes,” thus far reported seem to be almost entirely hoaxes. So naturally her solution is to destroy faith in democracy and call the president-elect names without any basis in fact. Mr. Trump’s supposed racism is based on his stance that federal immigration law should actually be enforced, and his sexism on a private conversation more than a decade old that flies in the face of his long history of employing and prompting capable women. One could point out Trump’s supposed sexism didn’t keep substantial numbers of women—a complete surprise to pundits and progressives alike—from voting for him. Ms. Shah doesn’t care much for at least half of America either.
We’re calling him out,’ she said. ‘If he’s our president, I have the right to hold him accountable and ask him to take a stance that is anti-hate and anti-racist.
Mission accomplished, Ms. Shah. He’s had that stance all along. Perhaps Ms. Shah and her worried students might be better served by noting that the people committing all the election-related violence these days are members of the progressively favored victim groups about which she claims to care.
The plan encourages teachers to let students express their concerns and to offer them hope and tell students that they can keep fighting. ‘We can uplift ourselves (and) fight oppression here at school even if we cannot control the rest of the country,’ she said.
There’s oppression at her school? Why are progressive schools located in progressive cities in progressive states such cesspools of violence, racism, sexism and oppression?
San Francisco is diverse, with many students whose families are in the country illegally and who say they’re worried by Trump’s calls for deportation. Shah warned teachers that some students may use inappropriate words to express their fear and anger.
‘I know that they might curse and swear, but you would too if you have suffered under the constructs of white supremacy or experienced sexism, or any isms or lack of privilege,’ she wrote.
One of Mr. Trump’s worst offenses is actually suggesting the law ought to be enforced, just as other nations enforce their immigration laws, Mexico being an example of a rather more serious approach to such things. This, to Ms. Shah and others of her ilk is radical, unconscionable, and representative of various “isms.” There is, of course, a certain way to avoid having to worry about facing consequences for not obeying the law, a method apparently beyond the imagination of Ms. Shah and her students who must deal with the technicality of being in the country ”illegally”: don’t break the law.
And is there a great deal of exposure to the “constructs of white supremacy” going on in San Francisco? It seems unlikely in such schools, considering the propagandistic coddling represented by teachers like Ms. Shah, that any student is experiencing a “lack of privilege,” with the possible exception of white students that actually have faith in America, or that may have supported Mr. Trump.
There is a time and a place for using words that match action,” [local teacher’s union president] Blanc said. She praised the plan’s advice for students — ‘to stand up and defend themselves, and speak out for themselves and make a difference.
Well of course! Encouraging students to engage in the most vile obscenities, particularly aimed at the democratically elected President of the United States and about half of the inhabitants thereof should be a mandatory goal for all schoolchildren. And kids cursing and stoking irrational fears and hatred must be psychologically healthy, or else Ms. Shah and those like her would never suggest it. It will certainly make a difference in the levels of obscenities and anxiety filling the classrooms of San Francisco schools. Somehow, however, I doubt those sentiments will amount to much elsewhere. I also doubt they will contribute to what, for San Franciso particularly, and California generally, is commonly known as “learning.”
Fortunately, there appear to be at least a few rational people in California:
It’s inappropriate on every level,’ said Harmeet Dhillon, an RNC committeewoman from California. She called it ‘inappropriate propaganda that unfairly demonizes not only the campaign that Donald Trump, the winner, ran, but also all of the people who voted for him.
What a huge racist sexist! But what about white kids, or kids of any color or sexual orientation that don’t agree with Ms. Shah, or at the least, don’t imagine they’re about to be exterminated? The good folks at Legal Insurrection explain:
Here’s a video report [take the link] from KPIX News in San Francisco. When asked, Fakhra Shah says students who support Trump will be safe to speak their minds, adding that they’ll be asked to explain how he’s not racist. Sounds fair, huh?
Well of course it’s fair! I’m sure Ms. Shah will also ask them to explain how they’re not racist and sexist, how their parents aren’t members of the KKK, how they’re not stupid, and dumb too, and all manner of other ists, and why they want to kill Mexicans and Muslims, and Mexican Muslims, and step on puppies and kittens. I’m sure Ms. Shah will give such students a completely fair hearing, and won’t belittle their concerns.
How about it gentle readers? Is Ms. Shah using class time appropriately?