Wednesday, March 01, 2006

CRC President Hits New Low

Last night, flipping through the channels, I came across the rebroadcast of the MCPS Board of Education's public comments from Monday, including comments by two people from the group of suers who opposed the MCPS sex-ed curriculum last year.

It was especially gratifying to see Michelle Turner, President of the Citizens for a Responsible Curriculum, get her stuff handed to her on a platter by the student member of the Board, Sebastian Johnson.

Ms. Turner's comments gave us a little insight into the mystery of what motivates those people.

She went before the board this week to complain about a diversity training program that MCPS offers. It includes a role-playing game where you pick a card that describes a type of person, and you play that person. The labels included male and female teenager, senior citizen, pre-teen, millionaire, bisexual male and female, lesbian, gay male, Muslim male and female, Jewish male and female, African American male and female, Hindu male and female, Hispanic male and female, Asian male and female, Immigrant, white male "redneck", and white female "hick".

Ms. Turner's complaint was about groups that were omitted.
... And why are white males and females the only ones coupled with derogatory terms? Are all white females "hicks" or white males "rednecks"? Why are Christian males and females or heterosexuals, ex-gays or middle age or middle income people not included in a "diverse" grouping? And what happened to Native Americans and the disabled?

This does seem like kind of a weird thing to complain about. Like, because you list a few, you have to list them all? What kind of world would that be?

I should mention that Monday's comments about diversity were presented to the Board on CRC letterhead. It is fascinating to think about how the CRC's new topic, that is, concern about somebody dissing white people, is related to their original mission -- to be "united in their opposition to the new sex-ed curriculum."

OK, so listen to how she closes her talk to the school board:
Here is a simple solution; forget all the different groups and settle for just one group: people deserving equal and respectful treatment. What do you think?

What do I think? I think what she really meant was: "Forget all the different groups and settle for just one group." Just what she said.

Let's not put words into her mouth. Listen to some things she and CRC say about gay people on their web site:
  • Truth: Agencies of the United States Government conclusively show that homosexual sex is far more dangerous than normal, heterosexual sex.
  • We've heard the myth (that homosexuality is completely normal and natural behavior) again and again.
  • These activists want our kids to believe that everything that used to be wrong is right, that everything that was considered abnormal is normal and that MCPS has the right to teach our kids these things whether we like it or not.
  • ... the Montgomery County Board of Education wants to normalize same sex couples.
  • ... it does not follow that we are obliged to recognize the homosexual lifestyle as normal and morally equivalent to heterosexuality.
  • Montgomery County's school board also proposed (before backing down in the face of protest) to teach kids that homosexual experimentation was normal.

Are you seeing a pattern there? There are two kinds of people: "normal" people like the members of the CRC, and, uh, the rest of the human race. When she proposes settling for "just one group," the casual listener might get the impression she means for that group to include all kinds of people. But in context, that interpretation is just not possible. She explicitly wants to exclude gays and lesbians from the group of "people deserving equal and respectful treatment". So -- who else?

We only know that the CRC's group of "people deserving equal and respectful treatment" excludes sections of our society, based on what kind of person they are. The CRC hasn't told us what other kinds of people would be cut from the team, but there is no reason to think that only sexual minorities fail to "deserve equal and respectful treatment." In the twenty-first century, there are some things you know just won't ... sound good ... in public, and I don't think the CRC will want to tell us exactly who else is left off their list.

But the best part was yet to come. Sebastian Johnson, the student member of the Board, asked if he could reply to her comments. Dr. Haughey, the Board President, suggested that they wait until after everyone had spoken, and then Ms. Turner could come back to the table to hear Mr. Johnson's response.

It turned out that, once again, Michelle Turner had no idea what she was talking about. She didn't actually know anything about the diversity training, and knew nothing at all about how the role-playing exercise was conducted or what that list of types of people was used for.

But Sebastian Johnson had actually taken the course.

Here is the exchange that occurred after the members of the public had addressed the board, and Ms. Turner was brought back to the table:
Mr. Johnson: I just wanted to provide a little background, because I had the fortune of participating in both the NASC and the MLW exercise, basically what the exercise is about, just to explain it.

All of the labels in the exercise are meant to be negative in the connotation. What you do is you get a room full of students together and everyone has a partner so two people would have the “lesbian” label; two people would have the “gay male” label. And what you try to do is you find your partner in the room and then you try to tell them, you know, what your label is without saying the word. So for instance, if me and Valerie were playing, if she was a lesbian and I had “lesbian” on my back, I would try to explain to her what we are without saying the word. And really what it’s supposed to do is to bring out in to the open stereotypes about people and to get a discussion going. And at the end of the lesson, the point is that labels are meaningless.

And we learned about the pyramid of diversity. I don’t remember all of it but I know it ranges from tolerance through acceptance of people from different cultures, and a society where labels are meaningless. So I think that the workshop and the intent of your testimony actually would go hand in hand but I would definitely encourage you, you can talk to Karen Crawford. She’s the person in charge of the Student Affairs Office so she can definitely give you some more insight on what the purpose of the diversity training is, what it’s all about. And I know I definitely think that I am a better person and leader because of the training. And...

Michelle Turner: So these words, these are supposed to be negative?

Mr. Johnson: They’re not...

Michelle Turner: Muslim, Jewish, Hindu?

Mr. Johnson: They’re supposed to bring out negative stereotypes. So if my back says Muslim, the point is that the kids are supposed to say, you know, “Oh maybe you’re a terrorist.” And then you’re supposed to say, “Hold on! Why did you associate Muslim with terrorist?” So you can have that kind of discussion and debate and get people to realize that sometimes they’re prejudiced when maybe they’re not meaning to be. So really, the intent of the workshop is to move towards that kind of inclusive society where stereotypes don’t mean anything. But the intent wasn’t to exclude certain groups or to make one group better than the other.

Michelle Turner: OK. I would think that there would be a better way to teach respect and acceptance.

Mr. Johnson: I just wanted to give you some background.

Dr. Haughey: I’m sure folks are trying to develop better ways. Thanks for being with us today.

[some intervening discussion]

[Board Member] Pat O’Neill: I’d like to respond to Mr. Johnson. You know, I think there is great value to having a student member of the Board who lives and breathes and participates in activities and actions directly that are implemented by the Board. Because sometimes people who want to view our actions in a very negative light can do that if you just read a document. And I think he did an excellent job of articulating the activities and I’m very proud of him. I know he’s not in the room...

Dr. Haughey: I wish he were here to hear it.

Pat O’Neill: But also in responding to the Sherwood students [who had addressed the Board during public comments] as I was thinking about the need for teachers to have diversity training, students to understand diversity, I wish that in the greater context of Montgomery County there was the opportunity for many to experience diversity training and in particular tolerance training because clearly that is missing from many adults in this community.

I wonder what adults she might have meant?

Oh, hey, I just thought of one.

It turns out that Michelle Turner took up the Board's time complaining about a training exercise without even bothering to find out what it was about. Somebody showed her that "white males and females [were] the only ones coupled with derogatory terms" and that this list did not include "Christian males and females or heterosexuals, ex-gays or middle age or middle income people" and she just knew that her white Christian identity was under attack, in the same way her marriage is under attack if two guys fall in love and get married.

As for her comment that "there would be a better way to teach respect and acceptance" -- I've gotta say, first of all, she was just hearing, for the first time, what this way was, and was in no position to judge. And second of all, the President of the CRC is not the person to be giving advice on how to teach respect and acceptance.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jim, I participated in a very similar session with my church youth group back in the early 70's.

There is a better way to teach about diversity, but this method is excellent. The experience of having people say stupid, insensitive and ignorant things to you, things that have nothing at all to do with who you are or what you believe, is very powerful. You realize what it is like for the muslim co-worker who stops conversations just by walking into the room, or the gay kid who plans to go to engineering school and keeps getting questions about hairdressing.

Sadly, we carry unexamined ideas around with us and use them as if they are accepted knowledge and everyone should be fine with them. The diversity exercise we did gave us the experience of being on the receiving end of those comments.

March 02, 2006 9:22 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Woops, I meant to say, MAYBE there is a better way to teach about diversity.

I stress, this is an excellent exercise.

March 02, 2006 9:24 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well Michelle Turner criticizes MCPS sex ed when her children have never taken it.

Did anyone expect her to actually know what she was talking about in the diversity issue?


March 02, 2006 10:36 AM  
Blogger andrea said...

Jim, Jim, Jim, you didn't really think Michelle hadd looked into this before she decided to complain, did you? It's like the CRCers who seem to think that the entire curriculum is the outline posted or (at Board meetings) the one who said there is no discussion of STIs and one who said there should be pictures of STIs. This was not based on taking the class(or asking their kids- who didn't take it) or finding out that there is a very large textbook that every student gets along with a website for the text with more info. I read through a lot of the textbook- and looked at the photos of lesions and a really gross mouth sore -I didn't go to the website for more info on that. I read info about lots of STIs(in my day- we only heard the "word" VD). I did miss the sentence "Sex is dirty, save it for marriage" but perhaps in the next edition, if Precious gets her way.

Ms Turner's take here was wrong and simplistic-but you know a little knowledge is a dangerous thing.

March 02, 2006 12:37 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

For those who wish to see more examples of CRC's desire to promote respect for all, take a look at this item from their website:

March 02, 2006 9:35 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

That sure is an interesting article the CRC has posted.

There's no list of the "three hundred scientific articles on homosexual parenting" he claims he reviewed.

There's no information about the "seminars with several reputable experts in the mental health and family law professions" he claims he attended.

There's no bibliography yet six experts agree.

Pure BS!

March 03, 2006 4:29 PM  

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