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South Carolina high school English teacher Mary Wood was reprimanded last school year for teaching a lesson on race. She began teaching it again this year.

Mary Wood walked between the desks in her AP English Language and Composition classroom, handing out copies of the book she was already punished once for teaching.

Twenty-six students, all but two of them White, looked down at Ta-Nehisi Coates’s “Between the World and Me,” a memoir that dissects what it means to be Black in America — and which drew calls for Wood’s firing when she tried to teach it last year in her mostly White, conservative town. Wood crossed to a lectern and placed her hands on either side of a turquoise notebook, open to two pages of bullet points explaining why she wanted to teach Coates’s work.

“That book that you guys have, it deals with racism,” she said on a recent Tuesday. “It’s going to be something with which you’re unfamiliar. That you need to spend time to research to fully understand.”

Wood stared at her class. She tried to make eye contact with every teenager. Anyone, she reminded herself, might be secretly recording her — or planning to report her.

Plus, both teachers believed the book, a Pulitzer Prize finalist, is superbly written: a master class in the deployment of rhetorical devices. There was no better way to teach children how to formulate their own arguments, they thought.

“It teaches kids a different perspective, [it] teaches kids how to write well,” Wood said in an interview. And “it’s the right thing to do.”

  • @rockSlayer
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    994 months ago

    Good. We need more activist teachers willing to teach the realities of race and racism. It would help if the teacher unions got more militant too.

    • themeatbridge
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      684 months ago

      This isn’t activism. It’s honesty.

      • @rockSlayer
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        814 months ago

        You’re correct that it’s honesty. Honesty becomes activism when the truth is banned.

        • themeatbridge
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          -54 months ago

          I associate activism with an agenda. Activist may or may not be dishonest, but if they are they justify is by the righteousness of their cause.

          Teaching children reality in school is not an agenda.

          • @[email protected]
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            74 months ago

            An agenda is a plan or program, often ideological in nature. If your ideology is that children should be taught the truth, then acting in accordance with that ideology is following your agenda. And if you act to teach children the truth in defiance of the prevailing agenda to teach them falsehoods, then that is inherently activism following said agenda.

            The concept of an agenda is not inherently good or bad. It is simply following what you believe in through pre-planned actions. Buckling your seat belt is part of an agenda. You take action in line with the ideology that a seat belt will prevent you from flying through the windshield in the case of an accident, because you believe that becoming a lump of meat on the asphalt is worse than whatever injuries you could get from wearing the seat belt. Other people may have opposing views (maybe they want to be crushed into lumps of meat, idk), and not wearing a seat belt is part of their ideology.

            The belief that somebody having an agenda is inherently a bad thing is yet another part of the anti-intellectual agenda to bully people into obedience by taking words with important meanings and rendering them into useless fear mongering that can be used as a lash against anybody who dares to speak out. The same thing that happened to “woke” and “politically correct.”

      • TWeaK
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        84 months ago

        It was also done explicitly within the bounds of the law.

        As school policy demanded, she had gained permission to teach “Between the World and Me” from Chapin High School’s new principal, a Black man. She had given every student’s parents a chance to review her curriculum. She had offered to opt out any child whose family disliked Coates’s book. And she had assigned a conservative voice pushing back on Coates.

        So I wouldn’t call it activism either.

        • Ech
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          34 months ago

          School policy isn’t “law” and can be threatened and changed given a shift in who holds power over the school system. Just because she currently has “protection” doesn’t mean she isn’t taking a risk with her actions. Policy and law also does nothing to protect her against an individual or group who may decide those regulations don’t go far enough and take “justice” into their own hands.

      • Ech
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        4 months ago

        What do you think making this distinction achieves? Cause it sure as shit doesn’t help spotlight courageous action taken in the face of adversity. What we don’t need is people dismissing the problems and dangers people like this face, trying to ignore them in the name of some perverse “neutrality”. That isn’t helping.

        • themeatbridge
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          -84 months ago

          Activism implies the advancement of an agenda. Reality and the acknowledgement of reality is not an agenda.

          • Ech
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            104 months ago

            When someone else is actively trying to hide or obscure it? It absolutely is activism. You insisting this shouldn’t be noteworthy only serves to dismiss the risk to their financial and/physical well-being that people like this willingly take on.

            In short, you’re not in anyway benefiting the truth, and are in fact diminishing the efforts being made to preserve it.

    • @[email protected]
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      14 months ago

      But most of the teachers unions in places like this don’t support her.

      Not all teachers are educating kids. :(

  • @[email protected]
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    914 months ago

    Last spring, two students in that year’s English class had complained to the school board, alleging that “Between the World and Me,” which contends racism is embedded in American society, made them ashamed to be White.

    What a pair of awful little shits.

  • @the_q
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    4 months ago

    deleted by creator

  • FuglyDuck
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    424 months ago

    Not all heroes wear capes.

    Well. She might. I dunno.

  • Flying Squid
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    394 months ago

    I love what she’s doing. That said-

    “That book that you guys have, it deals with racism,” she said on a recent Tuesday. “It’s going to be something with which you’re unfamiliar. That you need to spend time to research to fully understand.”

    I doubt they’re unfamiliar with racism, what with being raised by white conservative southerners. They probably heard the N-word a thousand times before they could say it themselves.

    Of course, they’re very unfamiliar with being at the receiving end of racism, something that Ta-Nehisi Coates can teach them a lot about.

    • @grue
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      394 months ago

      I doubt they’re unfamiliar with racism, what with being raised by white conservative southerners. They probably heard the N-word a thousand times before they could say it themselves.

      Hi, white southerner here. FYI, that’s really not how it works. Regardless of whatever behavior they’ve grown up with, they most likely don’t think it’s “racist;” they think it’s “normal.” Hell, they might even “have a black friend” who is “one of the good ones” and are perfectly polite to any well-dressed, middle-class, Carlton-from-Fresh-Prince-of-Bel-Air-esque black person they occasionally interact with. It’s just all those other “criminal” “hoodlums” from the “inner city” that they have a problem with, and they’ll swear up and down that the reason is anything but race (absolutely refusing to understand the concept of institutional racism, or indeed, cause-and-effect in general).

      • Flying Squid
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        74 months ago

        That was kind of what I was saying, I was just saying it more facetiously. They are familiar with racism because they’re steeped in it and it’s so pervasive that they don’t even know it. But what they’ve never done is experienced it.

        • @grue
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          134 months ago

          But that’s not it, though. They are unfamiliar with racism by definition, because they define it as something only other people do.

          • Flying Squid
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            34 months ago

            I think we mean ‘familiar’ and ‘unfamiliar’ in two different ways. I understand what you’re saying and by that measure yes, they are unfamiliar with it. I just meant ‘familiar’ in the sense that it’s something they’ve done plenty of times themselves whether they are aware of it or not. By that measure, it is not unfamiliar to them, it is just unrecognized.

            Either way, my real point is that they have most likely never been the object of racism and that’s what they will benefit from learning about by reading this book.

    • @MicroWaveOP
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      194 months ago

      Looks like she thinks the kids might lack exposure because they’re rich:

      Both teachers knew that most teens in Chapin — a wealthy town where the median income is above $100,000 and large homes line pretty Lake Murray — had never read anything like Coates’s searing account of growing up Black in Baltimore. They had not spent their childhood, as Coates wrote he did, “naked … before all the guns, fists, knives, crack, rape, and disease.” They had never memorized “a list of prohibited blocks,” unsafe due to guns and violence.

      • Flying Squid
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        54 months ago

        I was being a little facetious. The teacher obviously meant that they had never been the object of racism. I was just saying that because they’re white, white and Southern, they probably have plenty of racist relatives. So they’ve experienced racism, they’ve just never been harmed by it like someone on the receiving end.

        • @MicroWaveOP
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          4 months ago

          It’s all good. I figured that was what you were doing. I just wanted to encourage more people to read the full article (which I think is fantastic) by sharing relevant quotes from it.

    • queermunist she/her
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      24 months ago

      They probably heard the N-word a thousand times before they could say it themselves.

      A lot of them don’t even think that’s racism.

      • Flying Squid
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        74 months ago

        Which is exactly why they need to read this book.

        • queermunist she/her
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          04 months ago

          Absolutely! However, the bigger obstacle is right there in the article; “Twenty-six students, all but two of them White”.

          We need to forcibly re-desegragate schools and break up the white school districts that were created by the more modern intersections of race and class. As long as we have 24-to-2 classes we are never going to save enough white kids from growing up to be racist.