A story, to make a point:
My senior year at McGuinness — ’86 — there was this class called “Economics.
It dealt with economics but all kinds of other things, too. It was also a history class, a current events class and a how-things-really-work-in-the-real-world class
It was the smartest-kids-in-the-senior-class class.
I may have fooled them.
Everybody else, it seemed, made straight A’s. I was a B-to-B-plus guy, who took a lot of honors classes, propping up my GPA.
The class had not been offered previously and memory tells me the teacher, the great Anne Hathcoat, came to each student she wanted in the class to sell them on it.
It felt like college would later feel.
The work wasn’t overwhelming, but more involved, on a different level. It may have been, to use a word I’ve only learned in context since, like a “salon.”
For some reason, Hathcoat had to miss a week and was replaced by another teacher in the department, Ms. Crumley, who may have known we were an achieving class of serious thinkers, but had no idea how to deal with it.
She gave us a mountain of work. There was no discussion, nor collaboration. Nothing that previously made the class fun and unique. Every kid in the valedictorian hunt was in that class and and the instructor was out of her league.
We tried to engage her.
She shut us down.
Finally, we’d had it.
Friday, following a Thursday test, we no-showed, going to McDonalds for breakfast instead.
It was kind of great.
We knew we’d roil the school brass.
We were the kids who never got in trouble.
We were the kids who all the teachers liked.
We knew our absence would register.
The next week, Hathcoat back in the fold, we were brought to meet around a conference table in a room off the library.
Also present — I think, memory’s a fickle thing — were two assistant principals, Father Renee Vermillion and Gary Looper.
What I remember from that meeting, beyond learning we’d each receive detention and have to come in after school or on a Saturday, was a closing question to each of us. Did we regret our action, did we choose the wrong path, could we have chosen a better path?
As it went around the table, each of us expressed some level of regret, some sense, that if we had it to do over again, we wouldn’t do it over again.
All but one.
I told them we had no choice, I’d do it again, that we’d been disrespected and ignored the entire week and that the only way to make that clear was to do what we’d done.
I’m convinced my classmates were with me, but the pressure was real and who wants to tell a priest and other faculty that they, not us, were misguided?
That whole story came back to me as I began to ponder a question:
How long are middle and high school students, and teachers at all levels, going to put up with the gargantuan, sanctimonious, blowhard, embarrassment that is Ryan Walters.
Because last Thursday, Walters, our state superintendent of public instruction — in name only, of course — and his Kevin Stitt-picked state board of education passed new accreditation standards that may or may not be legal and if they’re implemented as Walters hopes them to be, and get the results Walters hopes them to get, a walkout, or several walkouts, may be in order.
Read all about it from NonDoc here, or The Oklahoman here, while I pull from both to summarize.
Yet, before that happens, enjoy this priceless quote from Tulsa Public Schools board member E’Lena Ashley, a Walters loyalist.
“We are causing a divide when we tell a little boy that he can’t be a little boy or a little girl that they can’t be what they were born to be,” she said.
Priceless because the number of people telling little boys they can’t be little boys and little girls they can’t be little girls is literally zero.
In all, the state board unanimously passed 11 rules, nine of them wholly uncontroversial, two of them entirely controversial.
One, there shall be no pornography nor “sexualized content” in our state’s public schools.
Here’s how NonDoc reporter Bennett Brinkman described the measure:
After defining terms such as “pornographic” and “sexualized,” the rule would require districts to submit lists of books available to students to OSDE each year, and it prohibits school libraries from providing “pornographic materials or sexualized content” to students. If schools willfully fail to comply with the rule, the district’s accreditation could be downgraded.
What could go wrong?
Two, adoption of the “Parents Bill of Rights,” a big fat non-corrupt-sounding way of saying, should Walters get his way, teachers will be required to report out their students’ private lives, to tell their students’ secrets to their students’ parents, to out them.
Oklahoman reporter Nuria Martinez-Keel summed it up in one sentence:
Under the parental rights rules, schools could face a demotion to their accreditation status if they fail to report a change in a student’s gender identity pronouns to the child’s parents.
NonDoc offered the actual language of the rule, that parents must be notified of “any information known to the school district or its employees regarding material changes reasonably expected to be important to parent(s) regarding their child’s health, social, or psychological development, including identity information.”
INCLUDING IDENTITY INFORMATION.
A few thoughts.
One, though non-adults are non-adults, they’re still entitled to their own identity, thoughts and secrets and their semi-private thoughts and secrets, too.
Two, parents are entitled to their children’s private lives, thoughts and secrets the moment they learn of them on their own or their kids tell them.
Three, everybody’s entitled to their own identity. It’s theirs. Presumedly, some people’s identity, or the language they use to express it, may change over time, and everybody’s entitled to that, too.
Four, parents are not always all they’re cracked up to be.
As The Oklahoman reported, state attorney general Gentner Drummond “warned this week that state agencies can’t enact administrative rules without first receiving a directive from the Oklahoma legislature.”
However, he warned it in a “non-binding letter,” explained The Oklahoman, so who’s to know what happens next.
For a moment, pretend the new rules become the new rules.
Said Nicole McAfee, executive director of Freedom Oklahoma, “I hope that you all know that you have the lives of transgender, two-spirit, nonbinary and gender-nonconforming youth before you, and if you advance these rules, there will be young people who will die.”
And to prevent that, a few conclusions might be reached.
Perhaps tens of thousands of Oklahoma students in solidarity with their targeted classmates will reconsider their own pronouns just to mess with Walters and his see-no-evil ilk, because one way make the rule a ridiculous farce is to mercilessly mock it as one.
If that doesn’t work?
What if 50 percent of Oklahoma’s high school students took a week off, went on strike, engaged in serious civil disobedience.
You can’t suspend tens of thousands of students, can you?
Should they do that, they might be joining their teachers, who did not sign up to work in a spy-state.
Because what happens when teachers, and maybe administrators, too, from school districts across the state take to the streets or simply announce, in concert, should they come to know them, they will not put their students’ well being in peril by revealing their secrets.
You can’t take accreditation away from every school district can you?
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Finally, before last Thursday’s meeting ended, something else happened. Allow NonDoc’s Brinkman to explain.
Besides the new accreditation rules, the board took a few other non-routine actions.
Walters was the subject of a recent op-ed from Clytie Bunyan of The Oklahoman, which criticized his “unabashedly racist” rhetoric and called for his resignation. Walters, who has also received more muted criticism from some Republican lawmakers, made his feelings known during his report to the board.
After calling out teachers’ unions for doing “all that they can to destroy public education,” Walters announced that he would pause his remarks to allow anyone who is “squeamish” to leave the room.
After waiting for three full minutes, Walters resumed his speech.
“Every one of you has been lied to,” Walters said. “You have been lied to by the radical teachers union. You have been lied to by the press. You have been lied to by Democrats and activists around the state.”
Such a crybaby.
If I were to leave the state, Ryan Walters would be at the top of the list of reasons why.