March 13, 2013
Vol: 20 No: 11

Dr. Wes

Today’s students don’t learn about current affairs class, they hear about it on the news

By Dr. Wes Browning

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Sometimes the news all seems to converge on one point, like sunlight on an ant about to be fried with a magnifying glass.

One such convergence occurred the first week of this month. It started with news about Center School, which operates in the Seattle Center House. The school’s race and social justice curriculum was shut down on the basis of one complaint — that a single student felt somehow intimidated by the way the curriculum was presented.

There are some ebbs and flows already hidden in that piece of news, even before we get to the others, that are delightfully twisted. For example, the Center School has been more white than most schools in Seattle, drawing students mainly from white neighborhoods nearby. This has been a source of controversy in the past.

On the other hand, the race and social justice curriculum at the school is a good effort to at least try and awaken the predominantly white student body to racial problems. For example, it might call attention to the fact that Seattle has a history of red-lining, limiting where African Americans could live. This history creates the very whiteness of the very neighborhoods the students come from, and it helps to explain why so many of them are so blindingly white and/or bright, shiny pink. Good to know, right?

But for some reason, one student has found the discussions of race intimidating. It appears there was a quick finding that the race curriculum was presented in an intimidating way, it was closed down, and then a committee was formed to conduct interviews, investigate and judge whether the curriculum could resume.

Teach on, Seattle School District, show how it’s done. First, find the accused guilty. Sentence. Then prosecute. Then sentence more.

Sounds like the definition of prejudice. But let’s not judge the school district too hastily.

While we were all mulling over the ironic possibilities of that story, the headline “Feds probing Seattle schools’ treatment of black students” came at us, telling us that the U.S. Department of Education has reason to suspect that Seattle schools discipline black students more harshly than other races of students.

When I was in high school we called news like that “current affairs” and we studied up on it in current affairs classes. This is old people’s terminology for “race-and-social-justice-among-other stuff curriculum.” It would in fact seem to belong in a race curriculum, I think. They should have that or something like that, so students can have a class to learn about such things, and not be clueless about the world, because it’s important for high school kids to get an education.

Otherwise they should stop calling them schools and call them teenage day care centers, or young people warehouses.

I skipped over another of the converging stories because I think it sort of fits wedged in between those other two. An odd, probably mentally ill man entered a class at Seattle University uninvited and unwelcome, and disrupted it with scary, intimidating behavior.

The real thing: actual intimidation. He was running up and down aisles knocking tables over.

It really is nice to have a reminder like that of what real intimidation looks like. I wonder if the intimidation experienced by the student subjected to the nasty unpleasant race and social justice curriculum came anywhere near that of the man in the trenchcoat at SU. Did the Center School curriculum shout and overturn tables?

Some accusers matter more than others. The right student can shut down a race curriculum with unspecified and unanswerable charges of intimidation. But in the case of countless specific complaints of racial discrimination, it will take an investigation by the U.S. Department of Education.



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