‘If you want a great gay novel, write it’

More than 50 years ago, a Tulsa high school student wrote a novel about the conflict between “greasers” and rich kids. S.E. Hinton’s The Outsiders became a young adult classic. It was made into a movie in 1983.

Hinton wrote other young-adult novels featuring working-class Oklahomans in the ’60s and ’70s.

Now the author is under fire for not including openly gay and black characters, reports Heat Street.

Some readers think two of her Outsiders‘ characters are gay. Hinton says they’re not.

“Want a great gay novel,” she tweeted. “Write it.”

She added: “I am a heterosexual writer writing about heterosexual characters. Being attacked for being heterosexual.”

How am I supposed to know what a gay character goes through? Not writing about the black experience either. I can’t know that!

If she did feature gay or black characters, wouldn’t she be guilty of cultural appropriation?

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?

Walk on the bewildering side

Image result for harvard social justice placemat

College should be where things “get more complicated, not less,” writes Lyell Asher, a Lewis & Clark English professor, in The American Scholar.  Yet many students — and their teachers — avoid complexity and embrace “simplifications.”

Feeling offended implies an offense, and where there’s an offense there must be a culprit guilty of having committed it. No need to bother with the complexities of  context and intention—it says here that “impact” is what matters, that how I feel is what counts. No need to wonder whether an expression of hatred is real or a ruse, isolated or endemic—assume the worst and take the part for the whole.

But of course that’s the problem with homophobia, racism, sexism, religious extremism, and any other “ism” you care to mention. They’re shortcuts. Tell me your skin color, or your gender, whom you want to sleep with or marry, what god you worship or deny, and I’ll fill in the rest.

Last fall, before students went home on break, some Harvard staffers distributed Holiday Placemats for Social Justice in a campus dining hall: The mats offered talking points for family discussions on “race, student activism, and the refugee crisis,” writes Asher.

 . . . combining the proselytizing confidence of a fundamentalist religious tract with the marketing opportunism of McDonald’s, those placemats suggested that you could bear witness to the truth about everything from the Halloween costume controversy at Yale to the Syrian refugee crisis, all without missing a bite.

. . .  No need to think through these issues yourselves—we’ve done the thinking for you. Besides, it’s what everyone else will be thinking this fall.

Diversity talk is “long on the differences between groups, but short on the differences within them, and within each one of us,” writes Asher.

Yet these last differences—the “multitudes” and contradictions that Whitman found within himself—provide the surest route to human connection and regard, because only when we recognize and admit just how mysterious we are even to ourselves, can we begin to relate to one another with open attitudes of humility and uncertainty, rather than closed attitudes of judgment and fear.

Students need to learn the value of being frustrated and confused, writes Asher. Walk on the bewildering side.

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.”

Out, out, darn Bard: Lorde is come

Penn students removed a portrait of Shakespeare from a staircase in the English Department, replacing the Bard with a picture of Audre Lorde, a black, lesbian, feminist poet.

English faculty “voted to relocate and replace the portrait a few years ago in order to represent a more diverse range of writers,” reports the Daily Pennsylvanian. However, nothing was done.

““Students removed the Shakespeare portrait and delivered it to my office as a way of affirming their commitment to a more inclusive mission for the English department,” wrote Jed Esty, chair of the department, in an email to the student newspaper. “We invite everyone to join us in the task of critical thinking about the changing nature of authorship, the history of language, and the political life of symbols.”

What does that invitation mean? Anything?

 

To recruit diverse teachers, schools hire their grads

How can an inner-city school find teachers who understand the challenges of their disadvantaged students? A California charter network is hiring its graduates as teachers, reports Jamie Martines in The Atlantic. High school graduates are offered a job, once they earn their college degree.

Elizabeth Pérez, a new teacher joining PUC Schools through the Alumni Teach Project, and her mentor, humanities teacher Joe Garza, during a training session. Photo: Jamie Martines

Elizabeth Pérez, a new teacher joining PUC Schools through the Alumni Teach Project, and her mentor, humanities teacher Joe Garza, during a training session. Photo: Jamie Martines

“We need people who look like we do, who come from our neighborhoods and who understand what it is like to be the first, to become role models for future young people,” reads the letter students receive on graduation day, signed by the co-founder of Partnerships to Uplift Communities Schools (PUC Schools), Ref Rodriguez.

PUC Schools, a nonprofit charter network, runs 16 schools, primarily serving Hispanic students in the Los Angeles area.

Nationally, 18 percent of teachers are non-white, reports the Brookings Institution. A little more than half of public school students are Hispanic, black, Asian-American, Native American, etc.

Children do better when they see authority figures, such as teachers, who look like them, says Michael Hansen, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and the director of the Brown Center on Education Policy.

A March 2016 study by Johns Hopkins University showed that black teachers are more likely to have higher expectations for their black students; white teachers, for example, were almost 40 percent less likely than their black counterparts to expect black students to finish high school.

A school’s graduates have “deep roots in the local community and may be more likely to stay in the job, which can help address the chronic problem of high teacher turnover at many urban schools,” writes Martines.

Mastery Charter Schools, which runs 22 schools in Philadelphia and in Camden, New Jersey, is recruiting and training its alumni. Mastery runs its own residency program with Relay Graduate School of Education.

Near Baltimore, the Howard County Public School System “awarded 11 of the district’s 2016 graduates full four-year scholarships to attend McDaniel College,” writes Martines. When they graduate, students are expected to teach in Howard County for at least three years.

Why poor blacks don’t want to be professors

Most science professors are white or Asian males, reported Ed Yong in The Atlantic.

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Furthermore, women and underrepresented minorities are less likely than white and Asian men to be interested in faculty careers.

Readers responded: So what? It’s patronizing to assume that “women and minorities are wrong about their own interests and priorities,” one wrote.

A postdoc recalled trying to persuade two black female lab techs to go to graduate school.

They told us that we were women in our early thirties who couldn’t afford to buy houses or have children, who spent our nights and weekends working, who didn’t have retirement savings, and who were still struggling to get permanent jobs. Why on earth would they want to be like us?

A black scientist who left a Harvard immunology lab for Big Pharma said the biggest issue is pay. After three years at the lab, he earned $32,000. He started in the pharmaceutical industry at $70,000; after a year, he was earning $90,000 with shorter hours.

OSU attacker was studying ‘microaggressions’

Abdul Artan, who tried to kill his Ohio State classmates with a car and knife, had a group project due this week on “microaggressions,” reports Robby Soave in Reason‘s Hit & Run. Born in Somalia and mostly raised in Pakistan, Artan came to the U.S. as a refugee with his mother and siblings two years ago.

Abdul Artan was interviewed by Ohio State's Daily Lantern at the start of the school year. He said he was afraid to pray publicly. Photo: Kevin Stankowiecz

Interviewed by a student journalist at the start of the school year, Abdul Artan said he was afraid to pray publicly.

Artan, “who reportedly became radicalized after learning about injustices committed against fellow Muslims,” was enrolled in  class called Crossing Identity Boundaries.

“The assignment, worth 15 percent of his grade, required students to find a dozen examples of microaggressions on social media and explain which identity groups were the victims, according to the syllabus,” writes Soave.

The purpose of the class is to promote “intercultural leadership” and transform students into “actively engaged, socially just global citizen/leaders.”

. . . According to the syllabus, the point of the microaggressions project is to make students “recognize the role of social diversity” and “demonstrate an appreciation for other points of view and cultures.”

A friend claimed Artan “loved America.” However, in his final Facebook post, Artan vowed to “kill a billion infidels” to save a single Muslim, called radical cleric Anwar al-Awlaki a “hero” and complained about the treatment of a Muslim minority in Burma.

He was shot and killed by a campus police officer. All his victims survived.

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.

All equity all the time: Something’s missing 

Education’s center “is two standard deviations to the left of the American public,” argues Rick Hess in Education Next. Most people in education don’t engage with conservatives or even see them.

“Equity” is “the organizing principle of K-12 school improvement,” he writes. Other virtues, such as “liberty, personal responsibility, and community,” which can conflict with equity, are ignored.

“The fierce conflict between the reform’ camp and the union-establishment” is really “between two wings of the Democratic Party,” he writes.

The “reformers” have mostly been passionate, Great Society liberals who believe in closing “achievement gaps” and pursuing “equity” via charter schooling, teacher evaluation, the Common Core, and test-based accountability. And their opponents have been the Democratic Party’s more traditional, New Deal wing. Other than occasional guest appearances by the likes of centrist Republicans such as Jeb Bush and Lamar Alexander, this has mostly been an intramural fight.

The key to making sense of this is that when Republicans have gotten into the ring — by overhauling collective bargaining (in Wisconsin) or passing universal Education Savings Accounts (in Nevada) — it’s generally been met with unified opposition from reform and union Dems.

Those on the left “frame every policy and debate in terms of race, ethnicity, and gender,” writes Hess. They see “talk of colorblindness or religious freedom” as “an excuse for implicit bias and oppression.”

Those on the right “experience calls for diversity and inclusion as efforts to police speech, suppress religious freedom, and condemn dissent,” he warns.

Underestimating the other guys — or not even knowing they’re out there — can have bad consequences.