Yesterday morning on KQED’s forum, Trish Herrera Spencer, Tracy Jensen, John Knox White, and Kerry Cook all went head to head (well John Knox White and Kerry Cook over the phone) to talk about AUSD’s anti-bullying curriculum.
All in all it was an interesting listen, the funniest part was the email read by Michael Krasney by a “Dave” (soooo many Daves in Alameda) who sarcastically mentioned that if anti -Lesson 9ers (for lack of a better title) were successful in getting LGBT explicit curriculum out of the anti-bullying then he would sue to get kids to stop wearing Christmas sweaters (Christian indoctrination) and the lunchrooms from serving turkey sandwiches (meat eating indoctrination). Funny stuff, problem was Michael Krasney’s non-funny reading of it. But I redrafted it in my head with proper intonation and giggled.
The other funny part, not funny ha-ha however, were the softballs lobbed by Michael Krasney at Trish Herrera Spencer to “help” her out in a sense. After an email pointed out that despite the rhetoric currently being used by Trish Spencer and others and that their message has changed drastically from when Lesson 9 was first introduced to now, all signs point to the messaging being changed in order to exclude LGBT references. Michael Krasney immediately goes to Trish Spencer and asks:
“Trish Herrera Spencer, you’re not advocating — I just want the record clear on this — that LGBT discrimination be excluded from it, that you want just a more general approach to anti-bullying that would include and be inclusive with…correct?”
No, Michael Krasney, not correct, not precisely correct at all.
Well, it is correct if you are talking to the Trish Spencer that exists after the new curriculum was adopted that will be pulling together a book list that speaks about all protected classes individually and explicitly. Then yes, this Trish Spencer would much rather have a generic anti-bullying curriculum that speaks in general terms even though only less than 20 minutes ago she recounts the story about a Muslim girl who was bullied and the district not having any tools to directly address that type of bullying.
But, if you were speaking to the Trish Spencer that existed before Lesson 9 was adopted, then no, this Trish Spencer wanted to suspend all anti-bullying lessons until such a time there was an explicit curriculum that addressed all the protected classes, in her words, a curriculum that “goes to reducing bullying against all of our students and enumerating the six protected classes: religion, gender, LGBT, disability, race, ethnicity, and…um…uh…I’m not sure if I left one out…disability, and also disability. ” Of course that was before the community committee had taken the job for which they were tasked and recommended that an explicit curriculum be developed to cover all protected classes.
But of course, such a drastic swing from one side (explicit curriculum for all groups) to the other (generic curriculum) would be too hard to explain in an one hour show. Or too hard to justify without facing the reality of the major flip flop from one side to the other.
And on the subject of Trish Herrera Spencer, I have to say that was very uncomfortable with her characterization of some of the books that are a part of Lesson 9, she goes on to lambaste these books saying that they don’t portray African America students in the “best light,” particularly the Kindergarten book and the third grade book. She essentially says that the Kindergarten book is not the “best light” because when the two black kids in the book play with each other they have sad faces, but when they find white kids to play with they are happy.
The the other problematic book was the third grade book where the white father is wearing a suit, the Latino family is shown in casual clothes, and at the end there is a black family where the little boy says, “mother is dark skinned, but father is light skinned, and he’s in between” and because no other families talk about the shade of their skin, this is not portraying African American students in the best light.
Look, as a person of color who is pretty hyper sensitive to issues of race, I found the examples that Trish Spencer gave to be pretty lame. I can see where’s she heading on those two examples, but it smacks of really reaching. First of all, the notion that two black kids have to play with each other and be happy is pretty ridiculous. As the only Asian kid in my class when I lived in Kansas, I was pretty fricken offended when the year after I moved away and was still pen paling with an old friend at that time mentioned that a new Asian boy had moved to the school and that it was too bad I wasn’t still at the school because we could have dated. I guess the assumption was that because we were both Asian we would obviously want to hook up because our ancestors were from the same continent. Kids that find that they can be accepted into the wider community and have friends of all different colors does not reflect African American in a negative light. It just means that we are not all that different — personality wise — and that we can all be friends despite our differences.
The the thing about the clothing is just absurd. For all we know the white man wearing a suit could be a host at a mid-level restaurant making little more than minimum wage. And the Latino father (or mother) could be an executive at Google. Talk about reading way to much into appearance.
And then the thing about dark, light and in the middle. This is a much more complicated and complex issue that goes beyond just the African American community. I can’t think of one community of color that doesn’t have an ingrained and systemic issues about darker skin folks in their own communities being less attractive than lighter skin folks. (skin bleaching anyone?) That the book only touches on the issue within the African American community is not casting blacks in a negative light, but showing that even within one individual race there is diversity and that all shades are indeed something to be celebrated and that recognition is not a negative portrayal. Chris Rock touches on this issue, but around the subject of hair.
Anyway…in more AUSD new, staff is recommending approval of the Academy of Alameda charter application.