Coming Soon: The Museum of Me

In another bow to ethnic division, on June 13, 2022, President Biden signed into law a bill (H.R.3525) authorizing a commission to build a possible National Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) museum in Washington, D.C.

Introduced by Rep. Grace Meng (D-New York) in May 2021, the bipartisan bill cleared the House on April 26 and the Senate on May 18, both by unanimous consent.

The signing was couched as a way to counter Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders remaining on the margins of American education, with little mention in classes beyond the topics of Pearl Harbor, immigration and the U.S.’s territorial interests in the Pacific. A museum would be key to combating the stereotypes and misconceptions that drive anti-AAPI discrimination, supporters say.

If built, an AAPI Museum would follow on the National Museum of African American History & Culture, which opened on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. in 2016.

It would also supplement the National Museum of the American Latino. Legislation calling for the Smithsonian to establish that museum passed in Dec. 2020.  “The new museum will be the cornerstone for visitors to learn how Latinos have contributed and continue to contribute to U.S. art, history, culture, and science.,” according to the Smithsonian. “Additionally, it will serve as a gateway to exhibitions, collections, and programming at other Smithsonian museums, research centers, and traveling exhibition services.”

At the rate things are going, today’s pandering politicians, who, as Blake Smith, says, eagerly “offer cultural victories instead of substantive ones,” will eventually advocate the creation of museums for every single ethnic group in America. Where they will be put in an already crowded mall is unknown. 

Some might argue that recognition of America’s diversity through such museums is a good thing. I’d offer a “Yes, but”… There’s no question that education about our multifaceted country can combat stereotypes and misconceptions, but excessive focus on identity is not such a good thing when it exacerbates divisiveness and encourage a splintering of the populace.

Oregon’s new K-12 Ethnic Studies standards, for example, were well-intentioned, but are a prime example of identity politics run amok. 

Kindergarten Standards, for example, include the following: *Describe how individual and group characteristics are used to divide, unite and categorize racial, ethnic, and social groups” and *Develop an understanding of one’s own identity groups including, but not limited to, race, gender, family, ethnicity, culture, religion, and ability.” Good grief!

Colt Gill, the Director of the Oregon Department of Education, clearly sees the K-12 education universe as nothing more than an assemblage of distinct and maligned minorities. This is the kind of identity politics that foments perilous division of our state and our country. Rather than emphasizing common values and interest, Gill’s identity politics stresses differences and creates a feeling of ‘zero-sum’ competition between groups. 

One problem with this kind of identify politics is that it leads to even more minority designations. “Once identity politics gains momentum, it inevitably subdivides, giving rise to ever-proliferating group identities demanding recognition,” says Amy Chua in Political Tribes.

And that leads to an AAPI Museum.

As for highlighting Asian Americans with a new museum, one problem is they are far from a monolith. Instead, they have a complex history and cultures.  Even the term “Asian American” encompasses dozens of ethnic groups of Asian descent. Just Southeast Asians, for example, includes Filipino, Vietnamese, Cambodian, Thai, Hmong, Laotian, Burmese, Indonesian and Malaysian. 

And what are craven politicians going to endorse next? A German Museum and an Irish Museum? The high immigration numbers in the 1800s were largely fueled by Irish and German immigrants.  A Hungarian Museum? The Hungarian revolution in 1956 led to a burst of Hungarian refugees coming to the United States, including some families who settled in my hometown in Connecticut. Maybe an Eastern European Museum?

The 1959 Cuban revolution drove hundreds of thousands of Cubans to the United States. Given their concentration in Florida, Gov. Ron DeSantis and other politicians seeking the Cuban vote could probably be counted on to endorse a Cuban Museum on the National Mall.

The way things are going, we’ll end up with a Museum of Me. Or a Museum of You.

The Oregon Department of Education’s Ever-Expanding List of Maligned Minorities

A just-released Education Update sent out by Colt Gill, the Director of the Oregon Department of Education, notes that his department and the Oregon Health Authority have created a toolkit centering on safety, health and belonging as schools transition to face covering optional policies.

In his determination to cover all his bases, he says the goal of the toolkit is to create safe, supportive, welcoming schools, particularly for “students who experience disability and those who are Black, Indigenous, Latina/o/x/e, People of Color, Tribal members, and/or are members of the LGBTQ2SIA+ community.”

Good grief! 

Gill clearly sees the K-12 education universe as nothing more than an assemblage of distinct and maligned minorities. This is the kind of identity politics that foments perilous division of our state and our country. Rather than emphasizing common values and interest, Gill’s identity politics stresses differences and creates a feeling of ‘zero-sum’ competition between groups. 

In a Medium article, Benjamin Morawek posited that there are two types of identity politics.

“The first kind is what I call inclusive identity politics and it is synonymous with the term “common-humanity identity politics” used by Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt in their book, The Coddling of the American Mind. This kind of identity politics, they explain, mobilizes identity “in ways that emphasize an overarching common humanity while making the case that some fellow human beings are denied dignity and rights because they belong to a particular group. This is the identity politics of the civil rights movement and a shining example of its use is Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech.”

 “… the second kind of identity politics, exclusive identity politics, calls for the value of marginalized groups based on the very identity that makes them different,” Morawek wrote.  As Oberlin College professor Sonia Kruks said in Retrieving Experience, “The demand is not for inclusion within the fold of ‘universal humankind’ … nor is it for respect ‘in spite of’ one’s differences. Rather, what is demanded is respect for oneself as different.”

One problem with Gill’s identify politics is that it leads to even more minority designations. “Once identity politics gains momentum, it inevitably subdivides, giving rise to ever-proliferating group identities demanding recognition,” says Amy Chua in Political Tribes.

Gill’s reference to “the LGBTQ2SIA+ community” illustrates this point. 

The Oregon Department of Education says this  “…means a term that encompasses multiple gender identities and sexual orientations including Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Questioning, Two-Spirit, Intersex, and Asexual. The plus sign (“+”) recognizes that there are myriad ways to describe gender identities and sexual orientations.”

“Originally LGB, variants over the years have ranged from GLBT to LGBTI to LGBTQQIAAP as preferred terminology shifted and identity groups quarreled about who should be included and who come first,” Chua wrote. 

“How can we come together on anything big…when we keep slicing ourselves into smaller factions?”, wrote Carlos Lozada in The Washington Post. “Down this road lies, ultimately, state breakdown and failure,” warns Stanford University political scientist, Francis Fukuyama, in Identity: The Demand for Dignity and the Politics of Resentment.

At some point, the left is going to tie itself up in knots trying to categorize everybody. In the meantime, the country will slowly break down into warring factions and we will all pay the price.

More to read

Teaching Race in Kindergarten: Oregon’s new standards for social science exchange colorblindness for racialism. This is not progress.

Oregon’s New Ethnic Studies Standards: Identity Politics Run Amok

Oregon’s New Ethnic Studies Standards: Identity Politics Run Amok

The Oregon Ethnic Studies Bill signed into law
Gov. Kate Brown signs ethnic studies bill

Say it ain’t so, Colt.

Colt Gill, appointed by Governor Brown as Deputy Superintendent of Public Instruction, serves as Director of the Oregon Department of Education.

Oregon HB 2845, signed into law by Governor Kate Brown in June 2017, called for an advisory group to create recommendations for ethnic studies standards. A panel of K-12 teachers aligned the recommendations to 2018 social science standards for use in the classroom. After engaging with the public, the Oregon Department of Education made adjustments to the standards. 

The new standards were approved for classroom use in March 2021. School districts will be required to address the ethnic studies standards beginning in the 2026 – 2027 school year.

The theory behind the new standards was that commonly used textbooks and classroom lessons had too narrow a focus of the history, politics, and human geography and that students would benefit from a more complete and inclusive understanding of U.S. and Oregon history. 

So far so good.

Then not so good.

The Kindergarten Standards with Ethnic Studies, yes kindergarten, start off with the following:

Civics and Government

* Engage in respectful dialogue with classmates to define diversity comparing and contrasting visible and invisible similarities and differences. 

 *Develop an understanding of one’s own identity groups including, but not limited to, race, gender, family, ethnicity, culture, religion, and ability. 

History

* Identify examples of unfairness or injustice towards individuals or groups and the “change- makers,” who worked to make the world better. 

Historical Thinking

* Make connections identifying similarities and differences including race, ethnicity, culture, disability, and gender between self and others. 

Social Science Analysis

* Identify possible solutions to injustices 

The questionable guidance continues for later grades. First grade standards, for example, include: 

*Define equity, equality and systems of power” 

*Describe how individual and group characteristics are used to divide, unite and categorize racial, ethnic, and social groups.”

How, in heaven’s name, do 5-year-olds conduct “respectful dialogue” over “visible and invisible similarities and differences.” How and why should they “develop an understanding of one’s own identity groups,” and identify racial, ethnic and cultural differences?

How and why should 1st graders “define…systems of power”?

“In reality, the point of the exercise is to make children hyper-sensitive to racial differences and encourage them to internalise an identity-based consciousness,” Prof. Frank Furedi wrote in Spiked. “The main objective of this curriculum is to introduce youngsters to an identitarian worldview. When small children are exposed to topics suitable for mature adults it is clear that indoctrination rather than education is taking place.” 

Did anybody outside the education establishment read these standards before they were adopted?

Is this really how Oregon parents want their children taught?

Oregon’s new K-12 instructional mandates will erode quality education

Oregon’s already underfunded and overwhelmed K-12 teachers are getting ready to deal with the addition of  more labor-intensive, complicated and questionable  instructional mandates imposed on them by politicians.

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It began with the passage of legislation in the last session requiring all Oregon school districts to teach about the Holocaust and genocide beginning with the 2020-2021 school year.

Claire Sarnowski, a freshman at Lake Oswego’s Lakeridge High School, came up with the idea of mandating Holocaust instruction after hearing Holocaust survivor Alter Wiener tell his story. Sarnowski approached state Sen. Rob Wagner, who agreed to introduce a bill.

It all sounded so simple and straightforward at the outset, but the final legislation was a classic example of mission creep.

The legislation went far beyond mandating that students be taught about the Holocaust and genocide. Employing the coercive power of government, teachers are going to be required to address a slew of  social justice topics: the immorality of mass violence; respect for cultural diversity; the obligation to combat wrongdoing through resistance, including protest; and the value of restorative justice.

Do we really need teachers encouraging a hodgepodge of demands from children, resistance to authority and protest by K-12 students rather than learning and dialog, particularly when adults are using students as part of a cynical political strategy?

Tom Nichols, author of The Death of Expertise, wrote in The Atlantic  that too often faculty and administrators are engaged in “a shameless dereliction of duty” when they embrace student activism.

“Student activism can be an important part of education, but it is in the nature of students, especially among the young, to take moral differences to their natural extreme, because it is often their first excursion into the territory of an examined and conscious belief system, ” Nichols wrote. “Faculty (and administrators), both as interlocutors and mentors, should pull students back from the precipice of moral purity and work with them to acquire the skills and values that not only imbue tolerance, but provide for the rational discussion of opposing, and even hateful, views.”

Oregon teachers probably aren’t too enthused about another little – known new classroom instruction mandate either.

Starting this year, Oregon schools are required to teach tribal history and the Native American experience in class.

Senate Bill (SB) 13, enacted in the 2017 legislative session, called upon the Oregon Department of Education (ODE) to develop a statewide curriculum relating to the Native American experience in Oregon, including tribal history, tribal sovereignty, culture, treaty rights, government, socioeconomic experiences, and current events.

“When Governor Brown proposed SB 13 during the 2017 legislative session and subsequently signed it into law, it was because she deeply values the preservation of tribal cultural integrity and believes that honoring the history of Oregon’s tribal communities is critically important to our state as a whole, and to future generations of students,” said Colt Gill, Deputy Superintendent of Public Instruction.

The legislation stated that the required curriculum must be:

(a) For students in kindergarten through grade 12;  (b) Related to the Native American experience in Oregon, including tribal history, sovereignty issues, culture, treaty rights, government, socioeconomic experiences and current events; and (c) Historically accurate, culturally relevant, community-based, contemporary and developmentally appropriate.”

Sounds admirable, but like the Holocaust legislation, it’s a classic example of mission creep.

First, the curriculum won’t be a limited add-on to current lesson plans. Instead, it will roll out as an extensive, complex set of 45 lessons in five subject areas, including English, social studies, math and science, for fourth, eighth and 10th grade classrooms.

It’s also a new responsibility for the Oregon Department of Education, which has never before been responsible for creating curriculum, and one more subject matter mandate imposed on already overloaded Oregon teachers.

Furthermore, it has the potential to become a tool for indoctrinating students in progressive social justice trends du jour.

According to OPB, The South Umpqua School District, which serves 1,500 students from Myrtle Creek, Tri-City and Canyonville, is already planning multiple days of teacher training sessions that will “expand beyond the tribal history and culture lessons to delve into racially sensitive topics, such as cultural appropriation, implicit bias and microaggressions.”

The basic idea of cultural appropriation is that a particular group, nationality or ethnicity who developed a practice should be the only ones allowed to practice it. Others insult the originating group if they practice it as well.

Too many Oregon adults have already disrupted lives by screaming cultural appropriation. This is not what we should want Oregon children to embrace.

burritos

Two white women were forced to close down their Portland pop-up burrito shop, Kook’s Burritos, in  2017 after being accused of cultural; appropriation.

“…the worst aspect of cultural appropriation is that it is inconsistent with the cultural development and enrichment that a free society promotes,” wrote Mike Rappaport in Law & Liberty. “In a free society, people from different cultures bring their practices to the wider society and they are followed by others in that society, making possible a richer and improved culture.”

Author Cathy Young made a similar point in the Washington Post, arguing that cultural appropriation protests ignore history, chill artistic expression and hurt diversity.  “Appropriation is not a crime,” she wrote.  “It’s a way to breathe new life into culture. Peoples have borrowed, adopted, taken, infiltrated and reinvented from time immemorial.”

Filling the heads of Oregon children with the frightening specter that they are burdened with implicit bias would be unwise, too.

Implicit, or unconscious, bias is the idea that the assumptions, stereotypes, and unintentional actions we make towards others are based on identity labels like race, religion, age, gender, sexual orientation, or ability. Because our implicit associations are stored in our subconscious, we may act on our biases without even realizing it.

The problem is that the implicit bias concept is of questionable validity, based on unproven suppositions and oversold as a solution to diversity issues. But buying into the concept of implicit bias is easy because it feels open-minded and progressive.

However, “almost everything about implicit bias is controversial in scientific circles,” Lee Jussim, a professor of social psychology at Rutgers University, wrote in Psychology Today. “It is not clear what most implicit methods actually measure; their ability to predict discrimination is modest at best, their reliability is low; early claims about their power and immutability have proven unjustified.”

Research suggests that implicit bias training can raise awareness, but there’s not much evidence it actually changes behavior. As John Amaechi, a psychologist and organizational consultant, puts it, the implicit bias concept has become “a ‘get-out-of-jail-free’ card for too many.” Implicit bias training, he says, is too often a “simply a way that organizations can achieve a level of plausible deniability” that they are addressing diversity issues.

And then there are microaggressions, well-intentioned comments or minor slights a speaker may not perceive as negative.

Several years ago, University of California President Janet Napolitano went so far as to tell faculty that saying “America is the land of opportunity” or “Everyone can succeed in this society, if they work hard enough” or even  “America is a melting pot” were microaggressions. That’s because they delivered an inaccurate message that the playing field is even or that people of color are lazy and/or incompetent and need to work harder.

Teaching Oregon children about the horrors of microaggressions will turn them into perpetual victims hypersensitive to casual remarks. In other words, into carbon copies of a lot of today’s misguided college students.

What might be better would be to require that students spend 9/11 every year watching the videos recorded on that terrible day in New York City. Hours of it, the scenes on the street, the footage inside the buildings, and the aftermath. Then, a discussion about the heroism of the average American and the fact we have enemies who want to destroy us.