An Oklahoma high school teacher informed his class, “to be white is to be racist, period.” The lecture was recorded by an offended female student in the classroom using her cell phone. Here’s the report from local station KFOR:
The student who recorded the lecture tells KFOR, “Half of my family is Hispanic, so I just felt like, you know, him calling me racist just because I’m white… I mean, where’s your proof in that?” She added, “I felt like he was encouraging people to kind of pick on people for being white.” The school gave KFOR this statement about the incident:
Racism is an important topic that we discuss in our schools. While discussing a variety of philosophical perspectives on culture, race and ethics, a teacher was attempting to convey to students in an elective philosophy course a perspective that had been shared at a university lecture he had attended. We regret that the discussion was poorly handled. When the district was notified of this concern it was immediately addressed. We are committed to ensuring inclusiveness in our schools.” – Dr. Joe Siano, superintendent of Norman Public Schools
One of my concerns with campus call-out culture is that it doesn’t remain on campus. At least in college you can assume students are mature enough to reject silly concepts like safe spaces and trigger warnings. But inevitably this sort of junk humanities trickles down to high schools, just as it seems to have done here. Students in high school are much less prepared to stand up for themselves when being presented with absolute messages like “to be white is to be racist” by an authority figure. It’s impressive that one student recognized there was a problem and said something about it. Her parents should be proud of her.
It’s also worth pointing out that the explanation from the school seems both misleading and vague. It states that the teacher was discussing “a variety of philosophical perspectives on…race.” But that’s not what we hear in the audio tape. The teacher in question seems to be offering just one, extreme perspective. At the very least he’s endorsing one perspective as the correct one. And what exactly did the district do to address this? The fact that the statement doesn’t really say suggests the answer is ‘not very much.’