PC bans kids’ books: Slave chefs must go

If the main character of your children’s book is a slave, watch out, warns Meghan Cox Gurdon in the Wall Street Journal. It’s hard to satisfy the PC police.

A Birthday Cake for George Washington was criticized “for an excessively jolly portrayal of enslaved people,” writes Gurdon.

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“The picture book valorized Hercules, Washington’s chef, who is regarded as America’s first celebrity cook and who, in the story, dazzles his daughter by confecting a cake without sugar.”

The author is Ramin Ganeshram, a woman of Iranian-Trinidadian descent, and the illustrator and editor are African-American. That didn’t help. Scholastic pulled the book after weeks of criticism.

A 2015 picture book with an enslaved chef, A Fine Dessert, was called “degrading” because it showed a mother and daughter, slaves on a South Carolina plantation in 1810, enjoying making “blackberry fool.”

“In some images, the daughter is smiling,” notes the New York Times.

Critics especially disliked a scene in which the black cooks hide in a closet to “lick the bowl clean” after serving the white family. (You’d think this would imply that being a slave is not all fun in the kitchen. )

Author Emily Jenkins, who is white, apologized in an online statement on Reading While White. “I have come to understand that my book, while intended to be inclusive and truthful and hopeful, is racially insensitive,” she said. She pledged to donate her writing fee to the campaign We Need Diverse Books.

 If I were writing children’s books, I’d eliminate all slave characters, unless they’re escaping on the Underground Railroad. It’s not OK if they’re successful masters of a craft. It’s not OK if they’re humiliated. What’s left?

Warning to theology students: Jesus is crucified

University of Glasgow theology students receive trigger warnings before studying the crucifixion of Jesus, reports the Daily Mail. Those who believe they’ll be upset by seeing images of crucifixion can skip the lesson.

Ella: ‘What are you doing New Year’s Eve?’

Merry Christmas!

Principal: ‘Bah, humbug’ to ‘Christmas Carol’

Fifth-graders didn’t put on A Christmas Carol this year at Centerville Elementary in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. Why ditch a decades-long tradition?

Parents told WHTM that someone had complained about Tiny Tim’s big line: “God bless us, every one.”

Image result for christmas carol play tiny timNot true, wrote Principal Tom Kramer on the school’s website. “Producing and performing a play is not part of the written curriculum for fifth grade,” and “preparations had evolved to take 15 to 20 hours of instructional (educational) time to produce this play,” he wrote.

Fifth-grade teachers feared Centerville students might not be as prepared for sixth grade as children at other schools, according to the principal.

“In addition to focusing on high quality instruction,” Kramer concluded “our decision is rooted in the desire to be respectful of the many cultural and religious backgrounds represented by the students attending Centerville Elementary.”

So, they can’t find a way to make performing a classic story an educational experience. “Bah,” as Scrooge might put it. “Humbug.”

Exploring is our tradition

Disney’s Moana, set in Polynesia, is a “delightful” move that addresses “some of the central tensions of advanced modern life,” writes Greg Forster on Jay Greene’s blog.

Moana is raised in a closed, tradition-bound society but longs to explore and discover, which she can only do by leaving her island behind. We, living in an open, scientific society, long for stable sources of identity, meaning and purpose, which is why we like to watch movies that take place in ancient times and places, when people knew who they were.

Moana discovers that her tradition includes exploration. Her ancestors built the boats.

“We are explorers reading every sign,” sing her ancestors, but also: “We tell the stories of our elders in a neverending chain!”

“We set a course to find a brand new island everywhere we roam” but “when it’s time to find home, we know the way!”

“We know where we are, we know who we are!”

Moana’s traditionalist father “thinks safety is to be found by retreat into a closed system of tradition,” writes Forster. “But traditions themselves speak against this; they point outside themselves to the higher things that traditions exist to serve.”

The movie is doing well at the box office.

Incredibly loud and not even close


“I’m sorry Jeannie your answer was correct but Kevin shouted his incorrect answer over yours so he gets the points.”

Updating Thanksgiving

Jimmy Kimmel’s Thanksgiving Pageant is updated for modern sensitivities.

E pluribus Trump

Celebrating our various racial, ethnic, gender and sexual identities has prevented liberalism from “becoming a unifying force capable of governing,” writes Mark Lilla, a Columbia humanities professor, in the New York Times. “Identity liberalism” put Donald Trump in the White House, he argues.

On the campaign trail, Hillary Clinton “called out to African-American, Latino, L.G.B.T. and women voters at every stop,” Lilla writes. Those left out felt excluded.

Schools encourage children to “talk about their individual identities, even before they have them,” he writes.

High school history curriculums “anachronistically project the identity politics of today back onto the past, creating a distorted picture of the major forces and individuals that shaped our country.”

When young people arrive at college they are encouraged to keep this focus on themselves by student groups, faculty members and also administrators whose full-time job is to deal with — and heighten the significance of — “diversity issues.”

Lilla concludes: Teachers should “refocus attention on their main political responsibility in a democracy: to form committed citizens aware of their system of government and the major forces and events in our history.”

Lilla’s op-ed is “making white supremacy respectable,” writes Katherine Franke, a law professor who directs Columbia’s Center for Gender and Sexuality Law. She compares her colleague to Klansman David Duke.

Halloween is too scary for college kids

Is your Halloween costume racist? Does it “appropriate” the culture of another group (Native Americans, Latinos, zombies)?

At U-Mass Amherst, students can check the “threat level” of their costume idea on the “Simple Costume Racism Evaluation and Assessment Meter” (S.C.R.E.A.M.) poster.

“If one intends to represent a person on Halloween, the only way to get a ‘green’ threat rating is for the person to be of one’s own race,” reports Campus Reform. “If one represents a person of another race, the ‘threat level’ increases roughly in conjunction with the amount of makeup that one intends to use.”

The flyer also warns about “thing/idea” costumes that reflect “controversial current events or historically accepted cliches,” particularly if “these events or cliches relate to a person or people not of your race.”

One of the displays does give another point of view, reports Campus Reform.

“It’s not fair to ask any culture to freeze itself in time and live as though they were a museum diorama,” one poster quotes author Susan Scafidi. “Cultural appropriation can sometimes be the savior of a cultural product that has faded away.”

Novelist Lionel Shriver defended cultural appropriation at a Melbourne writers’ conference. “I am hopeful that the concept of ‘cultural appropriation’ is a passing fad,” she said. “People with different backgrounds rubbing up against each other and exchanging ideas and practices is self-evidently one of the most productive, fascinating aspects of modern urban life.”

I wonder if students will turn to creepy clowns as a safe costume choice this year. On the other hand, there’s a “moral panic” about the threat of clowns on campus, writes Anne Hendershott. Everything’s scary this year.