These are only three of the many awards Toni Morrison has won. Yet schools are pulling her books (amongst others).
Because with every action comes an equal and opposite reaction. Because the path to change is through the next generation. And, at heart, change is uncomfortable. It’s a discomfort that comes with a loss of power.
Let me be clear. These are not valid reasons. Learning should make you feel uncomfortable. You should wallow in your discomfort. You should watch the walls that you’ve built around yourself crumble down.
So you can rebuild yourself with better materials. Knowledge is not congruent with stagnation. Knowledge is the house that is always under construction.
Because, you see, learning is the action of remaking our knowledge base with stronger materials. Learning is active, you must constantly be building your house with better, and stronger, and newer materials.
And I’m not talking about “information I found on youtube” or “on some website that upheld my already firmly held, and stagnated, belief.” No. Those are bad building materials. They’re the rotted wood that causes your roof to leak. That’s lazy building.
Toni Morrison should be required reading. Toni Morrison is the type of author who writes something so gloriously beautiful that you can’t believe you’ve lived without that book, and those words, and that story for half your life.
So why would we want to stop children from experiencing that?
Fear. Adults are afraid of new knowledge. They are comfortable in their house, even if there’s not enough sunlight or the furniture needs to be replaced
There is the problem.
Children are constantly learning. They are building forts and toppling them down to build new ones in trees or on mountains. Adults…well many adults stop learning the minute they are out of school. They have old methods and old information stuck in their head, and they want to reinforce that old knowledge and protect it from new ideals.
So, adults remove choice from children.
Because that’s what this is. The removal of books is the removal of choice. The absence of information is still a method of control. When you don’t give information, it doesn’t mean it ceases to exist. It means you’re hiding it.
Not telling the full story is still a lie.
The removal of books is a method of control – don’t let anyone fool you into thinking it’s “for the children.”
On October 25, the New York Times released a visual story on their Instagram page with pictures and short blurbs of men and women who were making the choice not to get vaccinated. The stories discuss their reasons which ranged from hesitancy regarding the safety of the vaccine to fears about breastfeeding to religious reasons.
However, what they did not include were pictures and short blurbs about men and women who could not* get vaccinated. This is an important part of the puzzle and leaving out this piece of information glorifies the idea of choice, rather than the idea of social need.
Because you see, by choosing for non-medical purposes to refuse the vaccine, the unvaccinated are making a choice for those who can’t get the vaccine for medical purposes.
*The Times did release an opinion piece that went into more detail – but let’s be real, people get their news from social media
Barriers and Misinformation
Before I go further, I want to note that I’m very aware of the barriers that prevent people in the United States from getting the vaccine. Not having a car, living in a rural space, communities mistrusting medical providers for various reasons – I understand these. Additionally, there’s been a raft of misinformation – largely for political purposes – regarding the Coronavirus and Vaccines. I get it. Don’t at me.
Can’t is different than Won’t.
Recently I had a student break down in my class because his mask broke. He’s a student with underlying medical conditions already. As he descended into panic mode, he told me he was afraid he was going to die because he was only able to get one shot. He had a bad reaction to the first one, and the doctor said he couldn’t get the second. This wasn’t a choice that he and his family made – they tried to protect him. However, he’s only partially vaccinated because of necessity, not a choice.
The conversation regarding vaccination often revolves around those who are making a choice to remain unvaccinated. I think this is in an effort to humanize and understand the various reasons so many refuse the vaccine. However, there are people who actually can’t get vaccinated. Up until recently, that meant any child under the age of 12. It also means those who had an allergic reaction to the first shot, those who are undergoing chemotherapy, or those who have other underlying health conditions.
This is important because vaccination provides a shield for the most vulnerable people in the nation. While an unvaccinated person may feel comfortable taking risks with their own health and their family’s health; those who can’t get vaccinated are forced to remain in isolation. Telling the stories of the vaccine-hesitant glorifies that choice, and leaves out an incredibly important piece of the puzzle.
The unvaccinated are preventing children from going to school, preventing families from seeing their loved ones, and very literally may cause the death of another person.
The voices of the medically vulnerable deserve to be heard. Large news outlets like The Atlantic and The New York Times should do better, and flip the narrative.
And, if you aren’t vaccinated. You should get vaccinated.
Wisconsin’s Senate has passed a bill that will allow 14-year-olds to work until 11 PM in the evening. They’ve done this in an apparent attempt to “fix the labor shortage” during a pandemic that’s seen the loss of over 700,000 men and women, many of them within working age.
I want to note, this bill has not been passed as a law, however, I want to talk about it because if it passes, this law will have ramifications greater than just “the parent for this kid is up late picking them up.”
First, let’s break down the bill.
On a school night, the bill would allow a 14-year-old to work until 9:30 PM, on a non-school night, the child could work until 11:00 PM. Federal law mandates children stop working at 9pm during the summer, and 7pm for the rest of the year. Children could still only work three hours on a non school day – but Federal law currently allows teens to work eight hours on weekends, and up to six days a week.
Apparently, proponents of the bill (in tourism no less) think that putting teens to work will solve the labor shortage. Obviously, they’ve never worked with teens.
In practice, what this means is they want children to fill low skill, low wage, menial jobs that adults don’t currently want to work, and they want to continue to pay the barest wages possible. For the record, I don’t know full motivations, however, I think the idea that it would “plug the labor shortage” is laughable. I love teens, I work with them, I have 4 of them myself, but getting them to do anything well is a labor of love. Might as well just do it yourself (or pay better wages and have an adult do it).
Obviously, this bill targets teens most in need of work. This means financially disadvantaged teens, or children who are working to help support a family. Yes, this happens, especially if students are citizens, but parents are not.
In practice, keeping a teen until 11 PM, or allowing them to work as early as 6 AM, will impact them socially, emotionally, and academically. They’ll be prevented from completing homework, lose sleep, which will affect their academic performance, and lose valuable social opportunities with friends and family.
All for what? So some hotel can pay a 14 year old 7.25 an hour to clean rooms? So that some restaurant can split tips with a 14 year old bus kid?
There are deep ramifications on an individual level for teens, but also on a societal level. Privileged students already don’t have to work, and if they do – they don’t have to start at 14. They have access to opportunities already. Putting 14 year olds at work until 11 PM will degrade the laws already in place that protect literal children from the greed of corporations. This means a widening of the gap that’s already created between rich and poor.
This is important, and it could set a precedent. It should be noted, and you should fight in your community for labor laws that protect children.
There’s been a lot of discussion in political circles about whether teachers ought to use a student’s preferred pronouns. There have also been a number of news articles about teachers refusing to use preferred pronouns, along with proposed legislation that could make it illegal for teachers to use any other identification other than the name and gender on school records.
For my part, I’ve never met an educator who outright refuses to use requested pronouns. I live in a red state and teach with conservative educators. However, I do know students who’ve encountered prejudice from their teachers when coming out, and many will only tell a few teachers while asking that the other teachers are kept in the dark.
I could focus on the dialogue surrounding teaching and the restriction of what we can and can’t teach and what we can and can’t call students. I’m not going to. I’m simply going to offer my opinion on the subject and hope that you’ll agree and/or be swayed.
School is a time that kids explore and define themselves. Home is sometimes unwelcoming to different sexual and gender identities and I believe school shouldn’t feel that way. My job is to be kind and make the students feel welcome. It costs me literallynothing to call someone by a preferred name (mark rather than Michelle) or pronoun (they rather than her).
This trend, to not call students by their preferred name or pronouns, is simply implying that students and children are undeserving of respect. Except- of course they are. They are humans with hopes and dreams, exploring their identity. They spend most of their waking hours in school, and it should be a place where they are respected.
I know many parents and conservative school board members would disagree. However, it will cost you nothing to respect a child. They may drop the pronoun later, or they may carry it with them their whole life. If it’s the later – then they’ll remember that you provided them a safe place by simply calling them “they” rather than “her”. That’s what matters.
Although this is a post that is specific to my personal state, I suspect that characters like the one I’m going to talk about today are present in every school board in every state. If you don’t already know, school boards are elected officials, with quite a bit of power to dictate what students learn – and don’t learn – in school.
And, in the wake of the pandemic, school boards have a lot of eyeballs on them. Over the past five weeks my state school board alone has heard arguments over masks, voted on anti-CRT legislation, and recently the most contentious school board members posted anti-LGBTQ propaganda.
That’s right, I’m talking about Natalie Cline. I’ll tell you this, I had to really be thoughtful in making this post, as well as consider whether it’s worth it. Natalie Cline has a track record of personally targeting educators. When she chooses to target someone, she has a mass of far-right followers who threaten, harass, and scare the individual she’s targeted.
Well, she’s been censured by the state, but I’m not sure it solves the problem. She was elected in the 2020 election, which means she’s been in her post for less than a year. During that time she’s caused controversy after controversy, and seemed to lob insults at every community who is not her own, insular, far-right, religious community.
Although Biden won the presidential election, locally elected posts have been filled with Natalie Clines: far right conservative politicians that scrambled their way into local politics. While the Democrats were focused on the Presidency, the conservatives were winning locally. This is a problem because local politics matter and local politicians are much more likely to make an impact on your day to day life.
Cline, for example, is part of a board who decides what your child does and doesn’t learn in school. If Cline had her way (and she didn’t) I wouldn’t be able to say the word “systemic” in my classroom. In fact, because of Cline, a fellow teacher straight up asked me if I taught CRT. Why? Because I was the history teacher. No other reason.
Politicians like Cline do nothing more than put stress on an already burdened system. Their cult of personality requires that they use incendiary language to inflame their cult of followers, causing local politics to spend time on ridiculous amendments and demands.
It’s like that one kid in class who always shouts out because they think they know the answer, but they never do. Except this time, it’s an adult who’s in an elected position with absolute power to bring the class to a screeching halt over nothing.
Our own local politician, Natalie Cline, is currently under censure. However, she’s elected and with us for the next three years. So far, Cline hasn’t succeeded in pushing through much of her agenda – but when the arguments over CRT wane that’s when she’ll strike, affecting the education system in Utah for years to come.
This is why I’m constantly screaming about local politics on my blog. It impacts you, your children, and the citizens your children grow up to be. Education matters. The Conservatives know it, and they’re targeting education laws because of it. We can’t let censorship into our schools. History, real history, deserves to be taught. If not, we will continue to perpetuate the very things we’re fighting against.
Don’t let the Clines of the world make you fear speaking out. Stand up for what you believe is right. Stand up for educators, stand up for children. Do it in your home, your office, your schools, your gym. Be vocal. This is no longer “feel good” politics. Disagreement is natural and correct. In fact, it’s only wrong when viewed from a lens of partisan politicians who believe any criticism is an attack on their character.
From the Pandora Papers to Facebook and Instagram being down for a number of hours, you may have missed the fact that there’s an oil spill off the California coast. Honestly, news like this mostly gets washed over now days. Oil spills, like the coronavirus, seem to be a necessary evil that we are willing to live with because we either can’t or won’t make the changes we need to stop the problems they bring.
But, there was an oil spill, and it is a big problem.
So let’s talk about it.
On Saturday, a pipe owned by Amplify Energy (based in Houston) somehow failed. What resulted was 126,000 gallons of “post production crude” to be spilled into the ocean. The company has had noncompliance violations in the past, and overall, is operating with equipment decades old. I mean, I’m not sure if you know this, but saltwater corrodes metal quickly. So, failure is not a matter of “if” it’s a matter of “when”.
Damage to wildlife
You may remember that the Pacific Coast already went through a massive heatwave that killed billions of sea creatures. This time, the oil has coated and destroyed ecosystems in a matter of days. One specific reserve impacted is the Talbert Wetlands. Aside from that, wildlife is washing up on the shores of California beaches, and there is an impact to human health as well. This is important, because people often don’t actually understand what “the ecosystem has been destroyed” means, but they do understand “can harm you or make you, personally, sick”. Which, is irritating, but the months since 2020 have really thrown human self-centeredness into sharp relief.
Look, this blog is not going to change the oil industry overnight. However, as our climate disaster worsens, and as people look towards new energy, oil is being phased out. However, I predict that spills like this will not only continue to happen, but happen more frequently. Why? Because companies are still trying to make the big money, and they are doing it with less funding and less compliance. I can’t point my finger at any specific thing, but it’s clear that companies may be willing to bend the rules to make money. Shit like “an oil spill has now killed wetlands we’ve been preserving for decades” will keep happening.
And this matters, because we need healthy ecosystems for our world to heal from everything we’ve put it through. If you’re sick, you need time to recover. With that recovery comes a host of other things, diet, sleep, vitamins, medicine. You’re not (or shouldn’t) go out and binge drink the day after you’ve left the hospital.
Except, that’s what this oil spill is. It’s just making our planet sicker than it already is, and it’s happening because of aging and outdated equipment that’s not kept up amidst a declining planet.
So what do you do? I mean, vote right? Do your best to cut back on oil products (that means plastics too my friends). To the best of your ability (I know we are all so tired) stay informed about climate issues. Why climate? Because even the coronavirus came out of human interference on animal life. All this trauma that we’ve experienced since 2020 we can tie to climate change. Honestly, it’s a privilege that some of us have been impacted by it for such a short period of time.
I’ll do another blog post on oil impacts to indigenous lands, but you can also begin educating yourself on this topic.
If you’ve been a part of the interwebz at all then you know that the way history is taught in k-12 schools is underattack. I’ve already created a few blog posts that discuss the attack on history and here I am again, singing another song. This time it’s a ballad.
School boards and/or state legislatures are attempting to ban certain language in a history classroom. This is an insidious move, because language matters, and the way we speak about the past matters. By attempting to ban specific language, Conservatives imply to their base that “systemic racism” and “equity” either doesn’t exist or are an attempt to make white people feel bad.
Do you teach CRT?
Before school started, a colleague straight up asked if I teach CRT. I asked them to define what they meant by CRT. This person said “well, like, do you teach about systemic racism?” and I said “yes, because racist systems have and do exist in history.” Then, I said “why don’t you define what you mean by the terms “systemic and racism'” They couldn’t define the terms.
This is a problem, because Conservatives are spreading fear about language to a base that doesn’t even understand the language being used.
So let’s break it down.
One word that makes every “banned” list is the word “systemic.” Of course, systemic simply means affecting all parts of a system, whatever that system may be. In a historical sense, it usually means the system of laws that define our nation.
And see, here’s the thing. We do have systemic racism built into the very fabric of our laws. This is true now, as well as historically. Banning the word only bans the history, which perpetuates bias and…wait for it…more systemic racism.
If you’re saying, yes, but what laws?! Well, that’s a long answer, but I’ll give you a run down. I wont even talk about the slave codes or the 3/5 compromise. Let’s talk about citizenship and the rights of citizens.
Ok ok ok, that was so long ago right? Well yes…but…we know that the Reconstruction Amendments didn’t fix racism, instead it was woven into laws in different ways. For example, Black men were segregated during war time until Vietnam. Often, this meant that Black families couldn’t benefit from the service acts that came after WWII.
These are just a smattering of real, impactful, lasting laws that were made by this country that directly impacted citizens. These laws weren’t based on birth, rather they were based on heritage and skin color.
So…they are examples of systemic racism!
One thing that Conservatives don’t want to feel is guilt for the past. Another thing they don’t want is the education of demonstrable truths. You see, if teachers educate students in straight facts about the laws in our nation, then the students might grow up to tear those laws apart, resulting in a loss of privilege for Conservative politicians and their base (white liberals I’m eyeing a lot of you too).
The strategy to teach a Conservative history of the United States is not new. However, this is its current iteration. Just like book banning, the banning of language is an attempt to hamstring teachers from teaching about the darker parts of our American past. Here’s the problem with that attitude…we can’t continue to “progress” if we don’t change.
And there’s the crux of the matter. Change means the loss of power and priviledge. It also means discomfort and reckoning with actions of the past. Redlining was legal until 1968, and it still exists outside of the law through “standard practices.” This is not a long ago past, this is our present. Until we fix the laws that treat citizens unequally, we will never be a United country.