By Ryan Tibbens
Check out the CONTEST at the end of this article!
A new teacher recently asked for advice, claiming 'impostor syndrome.'
This was my response:
"Fake it 'til you make it, and don't be too upset if you never really feel like you make it (just trust student feedback and results). Ask for help; beg, borrow, and steal. Then steal more. Make the kids laugh in class and nervous when the grades are due. Make parents and principals confident; make students curious and aware. Make time for yourself. Find your favorite beer or wine, and keep it on hand. Find your favorite students and build bonds, but never let them or anyone else know that you have favorites. Tell yourself you'll go to bed early, and don't be surprised when it's 2am. Tell yourself you'll get up early, and don't be surprised when kids arrive at your classroom door before you do once in a while. Specialize in something. Attend as many conferences and as much professional development as you can in the first five years and then semi-regularly after that. Watch 'The Dog Whisperer.' Get on a first-name basis with the main office secretary and custodians as soon as possible (they run the school). Always be yourself: kids sense phonies like bees sense fear. Oh, and apply for other, better jobs ASAP."
ENTRIES ARE CLOSED -- Are/were you a teacher, coach, classified employee, or school administrator? Were you an observant student? We're offering a $20 Amazon.com gift card to the person who submits the best ORIGINAL advice to beginning teachers. Keep entries under 200 words and appropriate for classroom discussion. ReadThinkWriteSpeak must receive at least eight entries to activate the contest and prize, so tell your friends. Contact us using the form below, email, or private messages in Facebook or Twitter. Top submissions will be posted and voted upon in mid-July. All entries due by 7/10/2019.
By Mikaela Wojick
Public education is flush with abbreviations and acronyms for nearly every aspect of school. My teammates and I actually joke about the sheer number of alphabet combinations in meetings, so much so that we keep a multi-year running list just to keep them all straight.
One specific acronym currently standing front and center in education is PBIS. After twenty years in teaching, I can honestly say that those four letters scare me more than most of the underlying threats to the education system in this country. This statement is coming from a veteran elementary teacher who unflappably performs through active shooter drills, pay scale freezes, and the ever-present over-the-top parent preaching about her ‘gifted’ child and how her ‘critical’ needs are not being met.
For those not in the biz, PBIS stands for Positive Behavior Incentive System. To most educators, there is little or close to nothing ‘positive’ about it. You see, for the past few years, this behavioral management system has been implemented in our schools and is designed to ‘reward’ children for behavior they should already be doing, reward them for just showing up and functioning as an average, decent student in school.
Yes. You read that correctly. We are supposed to be giving children external motivational tactics, in most cases ‘prizes,’ for being ‘good students’ in school. Let that sink in. I’m being asked to give a ‘bird-buck,’ which is nothing more than an oversized dollar bill printed on red construction paper, to a child every single time they are walking down the hall quietly so they don’t disturb others working. Or for pushing their chair in after leaving a lesson in the library. Or, my personal favorite, for placing used napkins and lunch trash into receptacles once lunch is finished. You know, so it doesn’t just get left on the lunch tables.
Yes, indeed. This is what public school has become. And it doesn’t end there! After all of these over-the-top achievers and out-of-the-box thinkers have accumulated their ‘loot,’ they can then spend them on things like extra recess, lunch in the room with a teacher, and the most coveted item in the room – an entire day sitting on… wait for it… the wheelie teacher chair!
What fun, right? I mean, it makes perfect sense for children to earn ‘extra recess.’ For all the people out there shouting that “our kids are obese; we need fresh air,” just stop it. I get it. My kids get an hour or more of outdoor recess time each day already. Period. Stay in your lane. Focus.
In actuality, the extra recess reward starts to become challenging for the teacher. The second it is ‘earned,’ students cash in, which requires said teacher to be outside supervising the student as they obviously can’t go out by themselves. Oh goody. Now everyone benefits from Johnny’s quick thinking to lay down a paper towel on the water spill… after he spilled the darn water in the first place, for the fifth time this week. Wouldn’t you be a repeat offender of dumb behavior if you knew you would eventually be rewarded for it?
Okay, maybe that reward doesn’t make sense, but surely this is more suitable: teachers giving up their one and only, protected thirty-minute break per day so they can eat in their classrooms on uncomfortable children’s furniture since their super-kind kids get their adult office chair on wheels during lunch. Right?
No. It is not. It is ridiculous. Bottom line, we should not, and I mean society in general, should NOT be praising kids for doing what they damn well should be doing anyway. These kids are ultimately becoming contributing citizens in society, one day, right? That’s the goal. Shouldn’t they be doing these things correctly in the first place? Shouldn’t they learn to be and do good just for intrinsic reasons rather than half-brained external rewards?
And we can’t forget the message this type of management program instills in the kids who could care less already. These are the ‘bad kids,’ according to PBIS supporters. Those kids continue to care less and less and less. And you know where this whole system of positivity derived from? It’s the teachers’ fault, if you ask administrators or directors. We were calling too much attention to Joey’s bad behavior by addressing it with a consequence. A punishment. It singles out those troublemakers out for being the jerks they are. Sadly, most administrative officials, the ones making classroom policies, haven’t stepped foot inside a classroom since the iPhone was invented.
We need to stop having ‘conversations’ with kids about their bad behavior and start dishing out warranted ‘consequences’ for said behavior. We need to stop ‘rewarding’ making good choices with ‘prizes’ and start instilling accountability in kids. PBIS is driving good teachers away, and sadly, no amount of ‘bird buck’ incentives is going to bring them back.... then what?
Compiled by Ryan Tibbens for educational purposes only
On this Juneteenth, 2019, the United States House of Representatives held hearings on reparations for slavery. This is not a new idea, but new voices made themselves heard and breathed life into an otherwise stale debate. This article serves as a brief, basic introduction to the new debate; it includes two video clips from today's congressional testimonies, an excerpt from a best-selling modern philosophy book, and a video of the book's author teaching class. Additionally, this article includes a new feature: reader surveys. There is one survey in the beginning; use it to indicate your beliefs now. The other survey is at the end of the article; use it to indicate your beliefs after considering the compiles sources.
Before launching into the sources, remember this: you can't reasonably claim pride in your community's past achievements if you won't also accept shame for the past failures.
Source #1) An argument in favor of reparations by Ta-Nehisi Coates.
Source #2) An argument against reparations by Coleman Hughes.
Source #3a) An excerpt from Michael J. Sandel's Justice, in which he discusses loyalty, community, and individuality. (Full text available here.)
~~ WHAT DO WE OWE ONE ANOTHER? / DILEMMAS OF LOYALTY ~~
It’s never easy to say, “I’m sorry.” But saying so in public, on behalf of one’s nation, can be especially difficult. Recent decades have brought a spate of anguished arguments over public apologies for historic injustices.
-- Apologies and Reparations --
Much of the fraught politics of apology involves historic wrongs committed during World War II. Germany has paid the equivalent of billions of dollars in reparations for the Holocaust, in the form of payments to individual survivors and to the state of Israel. Over the years, German political leaders have offered statements of apology, accepting responsibility for the Nazi past in varying degrees. In a speech to the Bundestag in 1951 , German chancellor Konrad Adenauer claimed that “the overwhelming majority of the German people abominated the crimes committed against the Jews and did not participate in them.” But he acknowledged that “unspeakable crimes have been committed in the name of the German people, calling for moral and material indemnity.” In 2000, German president Johannes Rau apologized for the Holocaust in a speech to the Israeli Knesset, asking “forgiveness for what Germans have done.”
Japan has been more reluctant to apologize for its wartime atrocities. During the 1930s and ’40s, tens of thousands of Korean and other Asian women and girls were forced into brothels and abused as sex slaves by Japanese soldiers. Since the 1990s, Japan has faced growing international pressure for a formal apology and restitution to the so-called “comfort women.” In the 1990s, a private fund offered payments to the victims, and Japanese leaders made limited apologies. But as recently as 2007, Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe insisted that the Japanese military was not responsible for coercing the women into sexual slavery. The U.S. Congress responded by passing a resolution urging the Japanese government to formally acknowledge and apologize for its military’s role in enslaving the comfort women.
Other apology controversies involve historic injustices to indigenous peoples. In Australia, debate has raged in recent years over the government’s obligation to the aboriginal people. From the 1910s to the early 1970s, aboriginal children of mixed race were forcibly separated from their mothers and placed in white foster homes or settlement camps. (In most of these cases, the mothers were aborigines and the fathers white.) The policy sought to assimilate the children to white society and speed the disappearance of aboriginal culture. The government-sanctioned kidnappings are portrayed in Rabbit-Proof Fence (2002), a movie that tells the story of three young girls who, in 1931, escape from a settlement camp and set out on a 1 ,200-mile journey to return to their mothers.
In 1997, an Australian human rights commission documented the cruelties inflicted on the “stolen generation” of aborigines, and recommended an annual day of national apology. John Howard, the prime minister at the time, opposed an official apology. The apology question became a contentious issue in Australian politics. In 2008, newly elected prime minister Kevin Rudd issued an official apology to the aboriginal people. Although he did not offer individual compensation, he promised measures to overcome the social and economic disadvantages suffered by Australia’s indigenous population.
In the United States, debates over public apologies and reparations have also gained prominence in recent decades. In 1988, President Ronald Reagan signed into law an official apology to Japanese Americans for their confinement in internment camps on the West Coast during World War II. In addition to an apology, the legislation provided compensation of $20,000 to each survivor of the camps, and funds to promote Japanese American culture and history. In 1993, Congress apologized for a more distant historic wrong — the overthrow, a century earlier, of the independent kingdom of Hawaii.
Perhaps the biggest looming apology question in the United States involves the legacy of slavery. The Civil War promise of “forty acres and a mule” for freed slaves never came to be. In the 1990s, the movement for black reparations gained new attention. Every year since 1989, Congressman John Conyers has proposed legislation to create a commission to study reparations for African Americans. although the reparations idea has won support from many African American organizations and civil rights groups, it has not caught on with the general public. Polls show that while a majority of African Americans favor reparations, only 4 percent of whites do.
Although the reparations movement may have stalled, recent years have brought a wave of official apologies. In 2007, Virginia, which had been the largest slaveholding state, became the first to apologize for slavery. A number of other states, including Alabama, Maryland, North Carolina, New Jersey, and Florida, followed. And in 2008, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a resolution apologizing to African Americans for slavery and for the Jim Crow era of racial segregation that extended into the mid-twentieth century.
Should nations apologize for historic wrongs? To answer this question, we need to think through some hard questions about collective responsibility and the claims of community.
The main justifications for public apologies are to honor the memory of those who have suffered injustice at the hands (or in the name) of the political community, to recognize the persisting effects of injustice on victims and their descendants, and to atone for the wrongs committed by those who inflicted the injustice or failed to prevent it. As public gestures, official apologies can help bind up the wounds of the past and provide a basis for moral and political reconciliation. Reparations and other forms of
financial restitution can be justified on similar grounds, as tangible expressions of apology and atonement. They can also help alleviate the effects of the injustice on the victims or their heirs.
Whether these considerations are strong enough to justify an apology depends on the circumstances. In some cases, attempts to bring about public apologies or reparations may do more harm than good by inflaming old animosities, hardening historic enmities, entrenching a sense of victimhood, or generating resentment. Opponents of public apologies often voice worries such as these. Whether, all things considered, an act of apology or restitution is more likely to heal or damage a political community is a complex matter of political judgment. The answer will vary from case to case.
-- Should We Atone for the Sins of our Predecessors? --
But I would like to focus on another argument often raised by opponents of apologies for historic injustices — a principled argument that does not depend on the contingencies of the situation. This is the argument that people in the present generation should not — in fact, cannot — apologize for wrongs committed by previous generations. To apologize for an injustice is, after all, to take some responsibility for it. You can’t apologize for something you didn’t do. So, how can you apologize for something that was done before you were born?
John Howard, the Australian prime minister, gave this reason for rejecting an official apology to the aborigines: “I do not believe that the current generation of Australians should formally apologize and accept responsibility for the deeds of an earlier generation.”
A similar argument was made in the U.S. debate over reparations for slavery. Henry Hyde, a Republican congressman, criticized the idea of reparations on these grounds: “I never owned a slave. I never oppressed anybody. I don’t know that I should have to pay for someone who did [own slaves] generations before I was born.” Walter E. Williams, an African American economist who opposes reparations, voiced a similar view: “If the government got the money from the tooth fairy or Santa Claus, that’d be great. But the government has to take the money from citizens, and there are no citizens alive today who were responsible for slavery.”
Taxing today’s citizens to pay reparations for a past wrong may seem to raise a special problem. But the same issue arises in debates over apologies that involve no financial compensation.
With apologies, it’s the thought that counts. The thought at stake is the acknowledgment of responsibility. Anyone can deplore an injustice. But only someone who is somehow implicated in the injustice can apologize for it. Critics of apologies correctly grasp the moral stakes. And they reject the
idea that the current generation can be morally responsible for the sins of their forebears.
When the New Jersey state legislature debated the apology question in 2008, a Republican assemblyman asked, “Who living today is guilty of slaveholding and thus capable of apologizing for the offense?” The obvious answer, he thought, was no one: “Today’s residents of New Jersey, even those
who can trace their ancestry back to . . . slaveholders, bear no collective guilt or responsibility for unjust events in which they personally played no role.”
As the U.S. House of Representatives prepared to vote an apology for slavery and segregation, a Republican critic of the measure compared it to apologizing for deeds carried out by your “great-great-great-grandfather.”
-- Moral Individualism --
The principled objection to official apologies is not easy to dismiss. It rests on the notion that we are responsible only for what we ourselves do, not for the actions of other people, or for events beyond our control. We are not answerable for the sins of our parents or our grandparents or, for that matter, our compatriots.
But this puts the matter negatively. The principled objection to official apologies carries weight because it draws on a powerful and attractive moral idea. We might call it the idea of “moral individualism.” The doctrine of moral individualism does not assume that people are selfish. It is rather a
claim about what it means to be free. For the moral individualist, to be free is to be subject only to obligations I voluntarily incur; whatever I owe others, I owe by virtue of some act of consent — a choice or a promise or an agreement I have made, be it tacit or explicit.
The notion that my responsibilities are limited to the ones I take upon myself is a liberating one. It assumes that we are, as moral agents, free and independent selves, unbound by prior moral ties, capable of choosing our ends for ourselves. Not custom or tradition or inherited status, but the free
choice of each individual is the source of the only moral obligations that constrain us.
You can see how this vision of freedom leaves little room for collective responsibility, or for a duty to bear the moral burden of historic injustices perpetrated by our predecessors. If I promised my grandfather to pay his debts or apologize for his sins, that would be one thing. My duty to carry out the recompense would be an obligation founded on consent, not an obligation arising from a collective identity extending across generations. Absent some such promise, the moral individualist can make no sense of a responsibility to atone for the sins of my predecessors. The sins, after all, were theirs, not mine.
If the moral individualist vision of freedom is right, then the critics of official apologies have a point; we bear no moral burden for the wrongs of our predecessors. But far more than apologies and collective responsibility are at stake. The individualist view of freedom figures in many of the theories of justice most familiar in contemporary politics. If that conception of freedom is flawed, as I believe it is, then we need to rethink some of the fundamental features of our public life.
As we have seen, the notions of consent and free choice loom large, not only in contemporary politics, but also in modern theories of justice. Let’s look back and see how various notions of choice and consent have come to inform our present-day assumptions.
An early version of the choosing self comes to us from John Locke. He argued that legitimate government must be based on consent. Why? Because we are free and independent beings, not subject to paternal authority or the divine right of kings. Since we are “by nature, all free, equal and independent, no one can be put out of this estate, and subjected to the political power of another, without his own consent.”
[Sandel continues by making connections to the philosophies of Immanuel Kant and John Rawls.]
Source 3b) A recording of Michael Sandel teaching his "Justice" course at Harvard, this segment addresses many of the topics and texts mentioned above in 'Source 3a.' This is the most popular course in the history of Harvard University and is fully available online for free at JusticeHarvard.org as well as his Harvard webpage and YouTube. Both the book Justice and the class are strongly recommended.
By Ryan Tibbens
Kyle Kashuv is everywhere this week. Everywhere except Harvard, that is.
You see, Kashuv survived the Parkland school shooting and went on to become a conservative activist and rising star in Turning Point USA, a conservative political group (believed by many to be a white nationalist organization). His was a singular but confident voice that did not blame the NRA nor call for greater gun control after the shooting. He earned excellent grades (weighted GPA of 5.345, unweighted GPA of 3.9), graduated second in his class, and scored 1550 on his SAT and was admitted into Harvard University.
And then, in May 2020, a former friend revealed racist, derogatory, and generally dim-witted comments and messages written by Kashuv in private message groups. It turns out that, in addition to being an excellent student and conservative political activist, Kashuv is (was?) a racist and a douche bag. When that information went public, Harvard re-evaluated his acceptance and revoked it. After a series of letters, emails, and messages back and forth, the school indicated that the decision was final.
Predictably, a media frenzy ensued. Many people applauded the decision; after all, there should be no place for that kind of racism in modern America. Many others condemned the decision; of course, everyone makes mistakes, and people can learn and improve and apologize. And apologize he did. Nearly every media outlet in the country offered its take on the situation: The Atlantic, NPR, Breitbart, Vox, even Education Week in addition to the Times, Post, Tribune, and the rest. Here we are now.
Everyone sees this as a matter of progress, of just deserts, of political correctness, or of censorship. The debate is all about should and shouldn't, good and bad, right and wrong, left and right, new and old.
But maybe the real debate should be Harvard itself, not just Kashuv's college plans. Harvard is a private institution (despite massive government subsidies), so it has more freedom in establishing admissions criteria than do most public schools. To all the conservatives who think this is horrible, terrible, the end of free speech, etc. -- how is this different than the Colorado baker who refused to make a wedding cake for a gay couple? Those who championed the free market and the private business's right to choose should be applauding Harvard. Then again, those who decried the baker for not serving everyone equally might need to reassess their views on Kashuv's rejection. Kashuv committed no crime, engaged in no violence; in fact, his stupidity was generally limited to private conversations in which friends were trying to be outrageous, meaning no one would ever have known if someone didn't leak the info. We can argue all day about the friend's motives or moral imperatives or whatever, but that, like Kashuv himself, isn't the source of the current conflict.
The problem is Harvard. Once a small, Puritan school, Harvard is one of the wealthiest and most powerful educational institutions on the planet. It is the oldest college in the United States and issues one of the most desirable degrees anywhere. Harvard influences every major industry, every branch of government. Though it shed its Puritan ties long ago, Harvard seems determined to enforce some nebulous modern morality. The school recently fired Ronald Sullivan, "the first black faculty dean to preside over a dorm at Harvard" and a world-class defense attorney, because of his role as attorney to disgraced movie producer Harvey Weinstein. Yet Harvard once held slaves, supported Apartheid in South Africa, excluded female students, and engaged in a wide variety of questionable investment, admissions, and research practices. Just recently, the school was sued for using racial quotas to limit Asian-American admissions; this was not the first time the school had used demographics to sway admissions. In the 1970s, students began "divestment" movements to force the university to cut financial ties with oppressors, abusers, and political ne'er-do-wells: apartheid, tobacco companies, Sudanese genocide, fossil fuels, and more. The Harvard Management Company repeatedly refused to divest, stating that "operating expenses must not be subject to financially unrealistic strictures or carping by the unsophisticated or by special interest groups." Does the university stand by that language today? Are finances steering their decisions in these intensely public debates?
But now Harvard has revoked an admission offer because a student used racial slurs and offensive language in private messages when he was 16. Kashuv survived the Parkland shooting and claims that the event forced him to reassess his values and goals; he claims to be an entirely different person than the teen who made the terrible, racist jokes two years previously; he has admitted to his mistakes and apologized. What is Harvard saying by revoking the admission offer? Is Harvard suddenly affected by some higher morality? Is use of the 'n-word' literally unforgivable? Is the rejection politically motivated? While the motives, aside from some vague morality, are unclear, one thing is certain -- this is not about academics. David Hogg, another survivor of the Parkland shooting, will be attending Harvard next fall despite his 1270 SAT score (the bottom 25% of those admitted had an average SAT score of 1460 out of 1600; Kashuv scored 1550). If one of the most academically selective institutions in the world is allowing academics take a backseat to personal behaviors or ideologies in the admissions process, then Harvard has created its own new problem. Cancel Culture has reached the most elite institutions, and now we, as Americans, need to figure out how to proceed -- Can people be forgiven? Can (or should) we tolerate non-violent bigotry? (See this related article from Read.Think.Write.Speak.)
Here's the solution. It's easy. Harvard should publish its guidelines for morality the same way they release average GPAs and SAT scores. As a private institution, Harvard has the right to decline any student who doesn't fit their criteria and mission, but to help applicants and avoid future problems like this, the university should state clearly what is or is not acceptable behavior. Directly and indirectly, Harvard influences much of American life, and if the school seeks to affect our national morality, maybe they could do everyone a favor and just say what they believe (and what they think everyone else should believe too).
By Chloe Abbott
Once again, it's June, and we have plunged into Pride Month. For a solid 30 days, we can expect parades, rainbow-colored everything, and a general feeling that "wow, things have gotten so much better." To many, this month will be a refreshing celebration of what it means to be gay and trans. While the Stonewall Riots of 1969 may be the origin of Pride as a protest, Pride is now a triumphant march, waving the rainbow flag as a trophy, not a war flag.
I go to D.C. Capital Pride every year, which takes place in Dupont Circle, a historically gay community that was once ravaged by crime and the AIDS epidemic with very little police or public health intervention to assist. Now, every year at Pride, not only do police guard the parade itself, but they march at the head of the parade, throwing beads and dancing just like the rest of the revelers. That alone looks like progress. The people who once would not protect the community now participate in as well as protect that community. To a non-LGBT person, this is the ultimate triumph for LGBT people: “Look, a whole month in your honor! Pride is a huge event in so many places for so many people! Gay marriage is legal as well, meaning so many couples can legally tie the knot! This is what progress looks like.”
I’m not launching into a tirade about how conditions around the country are inconsistent for gay people (but they are, as the Bible Belt alone still sports a distinctly homophobic and transphobic attitude, not to mention the homophobia around the country in other religious groups and amongst many minority communities). This isn’t much of a talking point, as any non-LGBT person who sees progress also knows that, of course, there are still going to be people struggling. That’s why we still have not just Pride, but charities and homeless shelters specifically for young gay and trans people. Saying plenty of gay people still have it difficult isn’t a shock, I would hope. Even more so, I would hope it is no shock to say that trans people are still at square one in terms of public acceptance. I think many people’s real reactions are of confusion: What is the LGBT community? How long is the acronym, and how many terms are there? What does it mean to be trans? What pronouns do I need to remember, or is it even worth my time? Is it against my religion or not? What is it that these people do? Even a truly good supporter of the gay and trans community likely has confusion and questions that they are too afraid to ask for fear of being labeled homophobic/transphobic. This is an unacceptable state for our allies to live in, and if our allies are confused, then just imagine how moderates feel.
The overwhelming response when someone says or tweets a homophobic/transphobic idea is to tell this person to apologize and “educate themselves.” This key point, of “educating themselves,” is a problem for me. People who tweet homophobic ideas probably feel like they have educated themselves and are staring down at a weird, unexplainable social phenomenon with no logic to its motives. I think that people who “educate themselves” without knowing the proper resources or communities will find the worst sources possible and not understand the difference. It’s entirely idealistic to expect that someone who does not know better should have the tools in their back pocket to know better, but just doesn’t use them. Sure, plenty of people may revel in their own ignorance, purely enjoying trolling people, but more often than not, the moderate audience who does not understand LGBT politics does not understand LGBT politics. Telling anyone to “educate themselves” does nothing to actually guarantee that they will learn anything. All it guarantees is a defensive response and a shutdown to actual information out of frustration and further perceived victimhood: “I can’t say anything these days without a mob coming after me.”
Maybe you’re thinking, “It’s not a mob! It’s expecting accountability!” I argue that the other side does not know what your definition of accountability is. There is an information gap between LGBT people who want the general public to know their terminology, know what acceptable behavior is, and know how to have a respectful conversation about it, and the general public who doesn’t understand the terminology or what acceptable behavior is, and therefore cannot have a respectful conversation about it without some background.
The tricky thing is, background is hard to find from the sources we want. Looking up LGBT topics on YouTube, Reddit, Twitter, or Tumblr gets you a lot of misinformation from both sides of the discussion. If you simply look up the word “transgender” on YouTube, you get some decent looking videos, but more common are videos of “DESTROYING trans arguments” and odd debates of “Are there more than two genders? Trying to find middle ground.” There are no definitive answers to be found with search results like these. Someone who wants to educate themselves will only be more confused when your results range from Stephen Colbert interviewing the man who lifted the transgender ban in the military to Ben Shapiro “destroying transgenderism and pro-abortion arguments.” There is nothing to steer a confused person in the right direction, and the most dangerous videos often have the catchiest titles. Even worse is that YouTube’s algorithm will keep recommending similar kinds of videos with increasingly radical opinions. By asking someone to educate themselves without giving them any foundational information, you are sending them off to chase a rabbit hole and, if they don’t know any better, plunge deep into it.
So maybe Tumblr is a better bet? After all, a lot of young gay people found their community on Tumblr. Tumblr led the way for the first generation of young gay and trans people to feel more comfortable open and out in a society changing its mind. Emboldened youth spread the gospel of tolerance and gay rights to me and many others in the early days of popular social media, and it has become a site known for liberal politics and lots of LGBT users. The problem is that Tumblr has been horribly wrong about a lot of LGBT issues. Not because anyone was stupid, but because the leaders of this new generation of gay kids were actual children: children who did not understand the vast history behind gay and trans people, rather just understood their own experiences.
Most people’s impression of Tumblr politics is that a bunch of people believe there are hundreds of genders and orientations, and that anything can be oppression if you play victim enough. This has unfortunately been pasted onto liberal politics as a whole, with “Did you just assume my gender?” as a strawman liberal argument to be mocked. I can’t completely lie and say this reputation of Tumblr alone wasn’t at one point relevant, but it is a fallacious argument because, again, it was the logic of children who very quickly realized that most trans people do not get offend that quickly or that aggressively. The rapid adding of letters to the acronym LGBT was a result of young gay people trying to combine both the concept of inclusion in liberal ideology and the concept of fulfilling a role that being a young person instills in you. “Bisexual doesn’t fit me, because I’m an individual with specific tastes!” When you’re pubescent and desperate to find your role, you create your own to feel special. This is not the pattern of adult LGBT people and never has been. Adult LGBT people have always understood that they are individuals, even under whatever labels fit their orientation or gender. I remember having a lot of conflict over who I was as a gay person because of how I felt forced into specific representations of gayness and gender. I grew out of this conflict as I grew out of young teenhood, much like anyone else with any other identity confusion in late-middle and early-high school. The fact that non-LGBT people’s general understanding of gay culture is that of puberty and middle school is deeply troubling to me.
There is no blame to be assigned because you cannot hold middle schoolers accountable for disrupting the messages of a long-oppressed minority or for seeming juvenile. In fact, if anything, blame should be put on anyone who pointed to this era of young teenagers and proclaimed this was the new wave of dumb liberal ideas to watch out for. But maybe they didn’t know the difference because, when online, anonymity makes it difficult to tell who’s an adult and who is a child. Instead, we must address the consequences head on. LGBT people are not here to get rid of gender. That would be dumb, and very few people believe in this, just like any other extreme ideology. They are not here to get rid of straight people, either, or masculinity, or femininity, or privacy in bathrooms. If your impression of a gay or trans person is someone who aggressively hates straight people and demands special privileges, ask yourself, “Does this sound like adult behavior, or like a middle schooler who just learned what a protest is?” If it sounds like a middle schooler, then you should second guess your assumption, because it likely is the work of a middle schooler, and they’ll likely improve their outlooks. There are people who haven’t, but they become, and remain, the strawmen for a movement that largely does not share their views.
So. What can we say this pride month to help the general public better understand gay and trans people? The answer is to actually respond to people. When someone says something objectively wrong, or ignorant, or makes a mistake, be direct, polite, and speak without condescension. Accept that you are not going to change people’s minds with one Twitter thread; just plant the seed so that they know where to begin if they so choose to pursue real answers. We need to get comfortable with engaging people who hold troubling opinions or say troubling things. Public perception of gay and trans people needs to become more mature to combat a juvenile understanding of what we want. We don’t just want our Pride festivals and RuPaul’s Drag Race and Queer Eye, and we certainly do not want to talk about Caitlyn Jenner (unless you want to hear why we do not care for her). We want gay people to be able to adopt children and not be seen as a fashionable entertainment commodity, trans people to be understood and safe from assault. Remember that the majority of America is moderate and interested enough to ask questions, but maybe not enough to seek good answers. Instead of demanding them to seek answers (“Educate yourself!”), maybe we should offer up our knowledge and experience and history as the insight that they don’t know, but that they really, really need.
"Achieve an Informed and Common Sense Opinion on the United States' Dealings in the Middle East: An Anthology" -- Compiled by Ryan Tibbens for educational purposes ONLY
On this Flag Day, we should all consider what our flag stands for, not just here in the United States, but around the world too. We should better understand how actions taken under that flag and paid for by American citizens affect peace, prosperity, and geopolitics around the world. This 'article' is more of an anthology, a compilation of reliable sources and literary connections, designed to inform discussions of American involvement in the Middle East.
Before you ever suggest raising taxes for public services or cutting social safety nets to save money, you should better understand how our federal government effectively gives away our prosperity, often to countries that support our enemies. You should also try to understand why these decisions make sense to those who wield power in our government and major industries.
Let's start with a trailer for a GREAT documentary. (Go watch the whole movie -- it is currently available on Amazon Prime.)
Why We Fight, a fantastic documentary (2006) by Eugene Jarecki, addresses the threat of the military-industrial-congressional complex using strong research, purposeful rhetoric, and an impressive set of interviews with ranking government and private sector leaders. Jarecki's discussion (argument?) builds on a foundation created by President Dwight D. Eisenhower in his Farewell Address.
Next, let's take a look at geopolitical dynamics in the Middle East, with extra attention paid to the two biggest players -- Saudi Arabia and Iran.
Vox has several well-researched introductory videos on YouTube that create solid foundations for further study or (the beginnings of) informed discourse. They have also compiled a few maps (some animated) to further clarify the historical and cultural complexities of Middle Eastern politics, for example:
Perhaps the most urgent item in this brief compilation is the video of Senator Rand Paul speaking before the Senate on June 13, 2019 (yesterday) about the government's plans to sell arms to Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, and Qatar. With a determination and repetition that are both rhetorically effective and somewhat annoying by the end, Paul points out the complete lack of common sense in our approach to Middle Eastern foreign policy and arms sales. Our president and legislators seem to believe that the best path to peace in the Middle East is sending in more armaments, weapons that often end up in our enemies' hands to be used against our own young soldiers. Using the context from the previous two videos, think carefully about Senator Rand Paul's words.
Remember, we are talking about millions, billions, sometimes trillions of dollars -- and that is a lot more money than most of us can even imagine. As President Eisenhower pointed out, we could build scores of schools, hospitals, and highways with that money; we could uplift the American people. President George Washington gave similar warnings in his farewell address -- that a standing army will lead to wars and that foreign entanglements will ruin our republic. We continue to ignore good advice from two strong presidents, two of our nation's great military leaders, instead wasting tax-payers' dollars on misguided military interventions and arms sales.
How can we make sense of all this nonsense? George Orwell explained these processes clearly in his book within a book, "THE THEORY AND PRACTICE OF OLIGARCHICAL COLLECTIVISM by Emmanuel Goldstein," contained in Part 2, Chapter 9 of 1984. In this section of the book, Winston, the protagonist and active opposition to the Party and Big Brother, finally gets to read from "the book." In this block of text, Orwell demonstrates his social and political clairvoyance by describing the world in which we live today.
In this writer's opinion, this is the most important source in this anthology; unfortunately, it also requires the most reading. However, if you've made it this far, it is my sincere hope that you will finish the job and read a few extra pages -- your outlook on American politics and "defense" spending will never be the same. The link above contains the full text (as well as the entire novel); you can also read here on Read.Think.Write.Speak. by clicking on the "Read More" link just below the Amazon ads.
The next time a politician claims that "we can't afford" domestic programs or that "we need to raise taxes to fund public services" or that "cutting defense spending endangers all Americans as well as democracy around the world" or any such nonsense, remember what George Orwell, Rand Paul, George Washington, Dwight Eisenhower, and objective history have to say about those lies.
Because no one else