WOKE, CRITICAL RACE THEORY
Ah, “intellectual honesty.” Nothing better than to admit what needs to be admitted… whether you like it or not.
Although a liberal, I recently joined my Republican acquaintances in their criticism of “excessive” woke (“woke” defined as… one who is “alert to injustice in society, especially racism”). The context ??? I joined my Republican acquaintances in criticizing the University of Michigan’s firing a Professor for showing his class a 1960s Shakespeare movie, Othello, starring Lawrence Olivier, disguised as a black man playing the part of a Moor. Black Face ???… maybe. Excessive woke ??? I think so. And, the Shakespeare movie, Much ado About Nothing, with Black Superstar, Denzell Washington, playing an Italian ??? White face ???… maybe. But, so what.
The U. of M. Professor should never have been fired, and the complaints of the “woke sensitive” students should have been a topic of classroom conversation and a learning moment… with differing views presented. Thereafter, the students’ complaint should have been dismissed with the comment that, “we all learn from each other,” and life goes on… the very point of a college education as students learn from teachers and teachers from students.
In the long run, sheltering students with excessive “woke”… works against the students’ need to learn “critical analysis” skills, and to practice those skills in classroom debate, and through preparing written essays in support of their positions. College is not kindergarten. Nor is High School. The students, the parents and the administrators, including the Superintendents and Presidents, need to grow, and need to understand the challenging crucible in which education flourishes i.e. endless exchanges of differing viewpoints… not sheltering students in their comfort zone with their security blankeys. Those students will one day go out into the world, and we grown ups do them no favor by sheltering them from it. For an other example of excessive woke in the classroom, see Footnote #1 below.
Yet, on a related subject, my Republican acquaintances won’t join me in condemning the attempt of Republican law makers to eliminate (or undermine) Critical Race Theory in the classrooms of America. Therefore, for the optimal education of our children and grandchildren, and for the good of the order… I am compelled to talk about “intellectual honesty”— that which keeps our confirmation biases in check, and that which requires us to admit what we don’t like to admit.
In Law School, I obviously learned the law… especially the Common Law (inherited from America’s English roots). But, as a philosopher, at heart, I was more interested in the “rationale” (aka the “reason”) behind the law. As I began to focus on the “rationale” behind the law, I was empowered. Empowered ??? Yes. Empowered when I realized that (in any given case) I could…
- Determine what the law was,
- Look behind the law to see what the rationale or reason for the law was, and then
- Make a valid argument that the Common Law (though seemingly applicable on its face) should not be followed (or should have an exception) in any given case where the rationale or reason for the law was missing or was inapplicable.
Back to “intellectual honesty.” Although a ‘liberal,” I employed intellectual honesty, and joined the Republicans in condemning excessive “wokeness,” especially in the classrooms of America. Why do I say too much wokeness is bad ??? Because the rationale or reasons for my position are based upon the fact that I know…
- Live’s liberties (including the 1st Amendment freedom of speech),
- Humankind’s knowledge (including the historical knowledge of slavery, White Supremacy, Jim Crow laws, second class citizenship, separate but equal, discrimination, etc.), and
- Critical analysis skill…
All depend on a full-throated, no-holds-barred debate…
- Within the rules of the Socratic Method of classrooms,
- Within the rules of Cross Examination of courtrooms, and
- Within the rules of Confrontation of the real-world broadening of the mind…
All utilized over the ages to get to the truth of the matter.
The bottom line. Although a liberal, I must be “intellectually honest.” Therefore, I look behind the labels, and beyond the partisanship (of what group I generally favor), and I use the rationale and reasons I mention above to condemn excessive woke in the American classroom… as a direct threat to students learning critical analysis skills. Now, what does this have to do with “Intellectual honesty” ??? Here’s the answer.
Republicans, not only agree with what I say about my opposition to excessive woke, but they also agree with the above rationale and the reasons I utilize to support my position of excessive woke. If the Republicans prize “intellectual honesty,” as I do, they must also announce to the world that the rationale and the reasons that condemn excessive woke also condemn (with the very same stroke of the very same pen) the Republican’s effort to artificially remove or curtail the subject of Critical Race Theory from the classrooms of America, and from the Great American Debate.
If intellectual honesty is to be achieved, there is no other alternative for the Republicans, but to denounce the elimination or curtailment of Critical Race Theory with the same breath they use to denounce excessive woke. I have no further questions, Your Honor.
Children of the Greatest Generation… 2011
Wealth Power Politics Jesus… 2012
Fightin’ Irish of Detroit, Fightin’ in the Streets, Fightin’ in the Courts… 2017
Footnote # 1
From the dictionary…
woke | wōk | verb past of wake 1.adjective (woker, wokest) US informal alert to injustice in society, especially racism: we need to stay angry, and stay woke
From the article…
Most of the students interviewed did not think Olsen or her curriculum was racist but that she had made several insulting and inappropriate comments. For example, Olsen said she liked Malcolm X because he was “articulate.”
“I think that would be insulting because it’s saying that, ‘Oh, wow, you’re really articulate,’ meaning that it could be seen that those people or people like him are not articulate,” a student interviewed for the investigation said.
Off the top of my head…
‘Woke” is not inherently bad. But, excessive wokeness can be very harmful to…
- The teacher who exercised her academic freedom, and now bows out of the debate out with an… “Oh, I am so sorry” apology and
- The students who are deprived of the academic debate and
- Education itself.
All of the above are losers… who have lost the opportunity to enhance their education
- By taking up the debate,
- Accepting the “challenges” that are inherent in the “confrontations” of the “Socratic Method” of the classrooms, and
- Developing the “critical analysis” skills that must be developed to be truly educated, and stand up to the world.
In the long run, sheltering students with excessive “wokeness”… works against the students’ need to learn “critical analysis” skills, and to practice those skills through classroom debate and through preparing written position papers in support of their arguments.
High school is not kindergarten. The students, the parents and the superintendents need to grow and need to understand the challenging crucible in which education flourishes, i.e. endless exchanges of differing viewpoints… not sheltering students in their comfort zone with their security blankeys. Remember, those students will one day have to go out and face the world, and it is our duty as parents and educators to prepare them for it… not shelter them from it.
The practical way out of this endless dilemma is to imagine two intersecting circles. The left portion of the circle (not intersecting the other circle) is wrong, all day, all night, all week and all year. The right portion of the circle (not intersecting the other circle) is correct, all day, all night, all week, all year. The common area of the two intersecting circles (i.e. where they intersect and overlap) is the gray area… a gray area that is debatable, i.e. “Reasonable minds can differ.”
If the teacher pushes the students into the gray area (where reasonable minds can differ), no one has the right to complain… no one. Just slug it out academically by marshaling the arguments for and against each position. That is precisely how students learn new ideas i.e. through competitive debate (the Socratic Method). And for reference, that is exactly how we get to the “truth” of the matter in a courtroom (over centuries of tried and true confrontation through cross examination). I have done that kind of confrontation through confrontation for well over 40 years. It works… by putting “wokeness” itself on trial, forcing “wokeness” to come up with counter arguments (oral and in writing) to convince those of different opinions of the (alleged) errors of their ways.
John, you are free to send to the Seattle Times (if you choose) or anyone else.