Segregation now

In Nevada, an elementary school librarian taught third graders about discrimination by segregating black and white students. Trouble ensued.

One perturbed parent gave a detailed account of what her crying 9-year-old child told her after school Tuesday, saying (Lora) Mazzulla began class by seating black children at one set of tables and everyone else across the room.

“All the African-American children were given board games to play, and everyone else had to put their heads at the table, and they weren’t to look up or speak,” said Stacey Gough, whose daughter Amber is a third-grader at Manch. “She told them that she believes in everything that Martin Luther King (Jr.) had to say and she wanted the white children to know what it was like to be black back then.”

Mazzulla then allowed the black children to taunt their white classmates, Gough said her daughter told her.

“The black children were making fun of the white children, and saying things like, ‘You deserve this for what your ancestors did to us,’ and the teacher was letting them,” Gough said.

The school is near Nellis Air Force Base, which means the children of men and women serving their country are being taught to resent each other and revel in their status as victims. But they’re not being taught enough about history to understand why the librarian, who is white, thinks they should be treated differently on the basis of skin color.

Meanwhile, Gough said her daughter remains upset because it has provoked ongoing taunting at the school between children of different races.

The worst part of the incident, Gough said, is that her daughter has developed a skewed vision of what the color of someone’s skin signifies.

“She never saw another child for being part of another race until yesterday,” Gough said Wednesday. “Now she’s afraid that the black kids hate her for something she doesn’t know anything about.”

My daughter couldn’t categorize people by race till she was in middle school. I felt sad when she got the knack of it.

About Joanne


  1. I think the problem here is that the librarian, not a school psychologist, decided to do this foolish little exercise. Libary schools seem to be attracting people who get their mission confused with social work or professional activism or some other field. If this had happened to my kid, I’d be baying for this woman’s blood–and her job.

  2. The problem is that anybody decided to engage in this foolish behavior.

    Reducing the past to this little pastiche of Maoist re-education camp is the work of… I can’t find words to express it. What in the world made a librarian, of all people, decide that this was her job?

    In the business world, we are constantly confronted by recent graduates of the humanities schools who are convinced that simply doing their assigned job is beneath their dignity. No, they were deputized with the mission of saving the world by the college professors, and they won’t settle for anything less. Like, doing their assigned job.

    Oddly, I work in the arena of virtual reality, with a particularly emphasis on creating behavior modelling demonstrations. This is an exceedingly tough job. Amateurs should stay out. The professionals are having a hard enough time doing it with a full production staff.

  3. A burning cross, with her nailed on it, seems appropriate…..

  4. This librarian should be fired yesterday, no ifs, ands, or buts. What did she think would come of this, if she thought at all? I wonder if the school system will defend her – it would be interesting to see a follow up story.

  5. Richard Aubrey says:

    IMO, the librarian was performing a public service.
    “You’ve got to be carefully taught,” as the saying goes.
    Clearly, the kids’ parents were failing at the job, possibly a matter of being military families.
    So the librarian stepped in.
    Hang the b****.

  6. “My daughter couldn’t categorize people by race till she was in middle school.” I figured it out when I was 4 – a few days after we moved into a neighborhood where whites were the minority.

  7. LibraryGryffon says:

    I can unfortunately attest that Library School does seem to attract a large number of social worker wannabes. (We find info for people, we’re fulfilling a need! We do tend to be helpful sorts overall.) Plus some people who just don’t think.

    When I was in library school in ’91 (Gulf War I), during a discussion at a school social event I mentioned that whatever else was going on there were certain similarities with Hitler, as in if we let Sadaam have Kuwait, he’ll think he can just keep on going, and no one is ever going to do anything serious to stop him. One of my classmates looked at me like I was some sort of trogledyte, and pointed out that we shouldn’t have been involved in WWII either….

    Right now my daughters see skin color as just a distinguishing characteristic, as in “Susie has glasses”, and “John has red hair”. Hopefully they’ll be able to keep looking at it that way.

  8. a good friend of mine, who grew up in a heavily indian-american (that’s india-indian, not native american) part of california that had basically no other minority groups. said he was at least 10 before he figured out that “black” didn’t apply to indian-americans. he just figured that’s what “black” people were.

  9. Oddly enough, I think I know where this woman got her idea. There’s a documentary about an elementary school teacher from somewhere in the midwest, I believe, who had pretty much all-white students. To help them understand segregation and discrimination, she divided them up by eye color. For half the day, the blue-eyed students got treated significantly better than the brown-eyed; for the second half of the day, she reversed the situation. Supposedly, her students remembered what they felt and learned from this activity (& the discussions & lessons that followed) long after they left her class – it was very powerful. Okay, fine. This librarian made a big mistake in using race – rather than a more neutral characteristic like eye color – to demonstrate her point. She should never have encouraged taunting, and she should have reversed the situation so that all students would experience both sides of the coin. And she should have been aware of the many risks of this lesson. A little common sense can go a long way…
    Here is a link to a description of the documentary:

  10. Here’s another link which gives more information about the blue/brown eye activity – apparently, several movies have been made of this story, and I think the one that I saw was “Eye of the Storm”:

  11. aschoolyardblogger says:

    I remember the blue eyed, brown eyed piece also. This was an idea that originated in some teaching magazine in the 70’s. I can’t remember how it went but there was a sort of recipe for teaching non-discrimination. When you try and teach something like this you can never be quite sure of the outcome over time.

  12. “She told them that she believes in everything that Martin Luther King (Jr.) had to say…”

    I seriously doubt that King would have approved of this stupid stunt. It had absolutely no chance of improving relations between black and white kids, or of any constructive outcome whatever.

  13. From the article:

    “Orfield, the Harvard professor, said it would be a mistake to punish Mazzulla.

    “‘Let’s not sanction the teacher for trying. Let’s give her new skills for trying to do this in a better way,’ he said.”

    I think he needs to clarify exactly what she was trying to do. It looks to me like something that needs to not be done at all. Isn’t there enough racial tension in this country already?

  14. YogSothoth says:

    I like the concept behind the blue-eyed/brown-eyed idea but I wonder if something even more race neutral might be even more effective. I’d have probably used left-handled/right-handed myself because I’m guessing the ratio of lefties to righties is race and gender invariant (I don’t know this but it seems a reasonable supposition). Eye color does correlate at least to some degree with race (after all, if you are white I’m thinking your odds of being blue-eyed are higher than if you are black) so while I do think handedness might have been a more optimal choice I’m still reasonably impressed by the innovating thinking demonstrated by the author of the original idea – good stuff ;-).

  15. If Ms. Mazzulla is not fired, perhaps as a second act she can extend a range of preferences to her minority students, such as grading their papers easier, giving them longer at recess, letting them leave for lunch earlier and stay later, etc., etc. I’m sure that would generate great feeling of inclusion, equality, and togetherness … just as it does on college campuses.

  16. jeff wright says:

    > Clearly, the kids’ parents were failing at the job, possibly a matter of being military families.

    And just what would being military families have to do with this story? Is it your thesis that military parents fail more often at educating their children than do non-military parents?

  17. Jeff, no, but liberal social-worker types are apt to believe that.

  18. Richard Aubrey says:

    I guess I’m showing my age, Jeff.

    “You’ve got to be carefully taught” is a line from South Pacific about how bigotry is passed on. “It’s got to be dinned in your dear little ear.” Damn, those guys could write.
    The military families hadn’t taught their kids bigotry, so the librarian felt obliged to take care of it.
    Race relations are notably good in the military, compared to civilian life.
    I am not persuaded she had benevolent motives. I have met people who, for some vile reason, seek to promote racial tension. And messing with kids’ minds is a kind of power which can corrupt.
    I would withhold any judgment as to her lack of same, versus an attempt to promote racial difficulties.

  19. Anonymous says:

    > I guess I’m showing my age, Jeff.

    Aren’t we all, Richard. Clarification most welcome. I’d forgotten South Pacific. Thank you.

    Actually, I don’t think the librarian had any malign motives. Just another “well-meaning” person in a world full of them. What would we do without them.

    Have a good weekend.

  20. jeff wright says:

    Sloppy. That was me above.

  21. Richard Aubrey says:

    I may be overstating the case, but I think most adults can be presumed to be smart enough not to completely eff up things in their vocation by doing something obviously and clearly and transparently stupid. Most education in any field of endeavor includes seven really stupid things not to do. This absolutely has to be one of them for teachers.
    If I’m wrong, maybe this moron is really not trying to make trouble.
    If she has the IQ of a cherrystone clam, or better, then I reserve judgment as to her motivations.

  22. Wacky Hermit says:

    Richard, you can’t be getting too old, because I’ve been a big “South Pacific” fan for a long time, and I’m not all that old.

    I knew about race from a very early age– my toy bunny, which I’ve had since I was 3, was always “anthropomorphized” in my mind as a person with dark skin. I knew there were people of different races because my mom went out of her way to expose me to people of every type, and to explain to me that there was no difference between these people and other people except the accident of skin color.

    But I didn’t realize that people of different races expected to be treated differently until I moved to L.A. and attended the public schools. There I discovered that “black” students expected me to never look them in the eye, but to lower my head as I passed, I suppose in shame for some act my ancestors supposedly did. Well, I have the genealogical records to prove that throughout the period of slavery, my ancestors weren’t even in America. When blacks were being oppressed during Reconstruction in the South, some of my ancestors lived in New York City and the rest were living on an island in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. What did I ever do to have to show shame?

    This librarian needs to study the history of her own damn country, and do a little genealogy. Maybe then she’d realize that none of us are “purebloods” and many of us owe nothing to the descendants of former slaves except the normal respect we give to all human beings.

  23. Richard Aubrey says:

    Perhaps she didn’t come up with this by herself. Perhaps she was feeling charged up by some class in multiculti studies (all cultures are perfectly wonderful except ours which is perfectly vile) she took in college.

  24. I asked my daughter, when she was about 3, what color she was. Surprised, she regarded her forearm for a moment, front and back, and responded, “I fink I’m beige.” After that, she would occasionally remark that a person was beige or “bwown” and I thought that was kind of nice, because beige and brown are on the same continuum of color. Black and white are polar opposites.

    Well-meaning or not, teachers don’t need to do this kind of thing. Collective guilt gets crammed down white kids’ throats enough as it is. As one result, when my daughter had to read “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings” for school, her initial reaction was “Here we go again.” I had to convince her that the book was not about “white people are evil” to get her to actually get past that and think about the story. And we haven’t raised her to be that way; she has figured it out on her own.

  25. Linda Davis says:

    What planet was the librarian from? I hope she’s not planning a reenactment when they get to the unit on the Holocaust…..

    L. Davis

  26. As a librarian, I was taught the importance of inclusion for all library users and potential users. If our profession is to be criticized, I’d rather it be called too inclusive than exclusive. And I recommend that the idiot in question get fired.

    To paraphrase a bumper sticker: Why do we have to discriminate to prove that discrimination is wrong?

  27. jon, as a librarian, can you think of any reason why running such an exercise should have been part of this librarian’s job description? Don’t librarians do things like maintain the books and media collections, make recommendations, show kids how to find books and do research, and read to the little folks? Or is that totally old-fashioned?

  28. Laura,
    It is unfortunate, but a librarian’s job is whatever the school says it is. If the school says, do something about Black History Month, the librarian does something. If it were me, I’d pull out the biographies and other books that make up the Black experience and display them in an obvious place. Maybe I’d prepare a few bibliographies. But I can’t imagine I’d engage in some sort of ridiculous exercise with discriminatory underpinnings.

    I’d love for a school librarian’s job to be shelving, collection development, and user studies to discover ways to make a library better serve its goals. But somewhere along the way, school librarians aren’t about libraries any more. I’m not entirely sure what they do, but it goes beyond the traditional ideal.

    By the way, I work at a law school library, so my knowledge of the school librarian job description is second and third hand. I would love to be wrong.

  29. This is SUCH bullshit, even the media calls it an “unusally black history lesson” if it was reversed it would be “a racist human rights violation”. This story will quickly fade, if it was reversed the school would have been burned down by now. That FUCKING PC bitch needs be made to put her head down while all the parents get to spit in her bleeding heart liberal face.

  30. I still remember a “lesson” from seventh grade that was similar to the blue eye/brown eye thing.

    Each day, a smallish percentage (perhaps 10%?) of the seventh graders were singled out to be “blueys” – that meant they got a blue asterisk painted on their face for the day, marking them as being worthy of being discriminated against.

    The students really got into it. A bit much, in fact. I remember I was a “bluey” on the first day. I was not a popular kid to begin with so this just gave the other kids sanction to torment me. I remember being tripped in the hall, having my homework stepped on and torn, and the teachers did nothing – in fact, they PLAYED INTO the whole mess, berating me for being a typical “sloppy bluey”.

    It was a pretty brutal lesson but an unnecessary one for me – I was taught to treat people with respect AT HOME and didn’t need a round of school-sponsored harrassment to show me how awful it is to be discriminated against. Hell, as a smart/not-pretty/fat kid, I got that lesson every day of my stinking life.

    I wonder what it would teach a kid who actually had discriminatory leanings. Probably “be mean to them before they can be mean to you”.

  31. Richard Aubrey,

    I’m not sure what you meant by your earlier post about military families, but as someone who spent most of her childhood on military bases, I assure you that I didn’t get my racial “training” until I went to school OFF base. As someone who has experienced this first hand, you might want to rethink your prejudices.

  32. That was not the best sentence construction, but you get my point.

  33. I have no doubt that this librarian doesn’t have kids. She surely would not want her own children to learn this way, would she?! Or, maybe she would. And as far as the military comments above, I have been with the military for 9 years now, and my children are very accepting of all diversity, racial or cultural. I think it is part of the military to accept and appreciate, considering we live in the midst of other countries, other cultures and yes, other races. I hope the administration at her school counsels her about her lack of guidance in a poorly contrived effort to educate the children.

  34. Richard Aubrey says:

    I guess I was unclear. I meant that military families don’t teach bigotry.
    Thus, the librarian probably felt she had to.
    Radicals, either the real kind or the wannabes who got some wild idea from a radical professor, believe in balkanizing the country so as to ruin it.
    Creating racial tension where it otherwise wouldn’t exist is part of the program.


  1. Segregation As A Teaching Method

    In case you missed it, rush over and take a look at Joanne Jacobs’ discussion of segregation in a Las Vegas school — not “real” segregation, but segregation as a teaching method. Many of the comments to her post are