“Turn over enough rocks you are bound to find a snake.”- Don Miller
My first real memory as a child is of a late spring/early summer Sunday family gathering. I distinctly remember little boy dress shorts, a dress shirt featuring a little boy bow tie, and colorful socks disappearing into my little boy shoes. It had to be Sunday and I couldn’t have been more than four or five.
Doing my best to be seen and not heard, I sat on a large rock in my grandparents’ front yard watching the adults being seen and heard. My biggest desire was to avoid being chastised for doing something wrong on the Lord’s Day and keeping my Sunday Best clean. I failed. I kept my clothes clean but did get chastised and it has corrupted my views on rocks since.
I saw my grandmother headed my way. There was a purpose in her step, and I briefly wondered what wrong I had committed and forgotten about. It turned out I was doing it, simply sitting on a rock.
Nannie exclaimed, “Boy, don’t sit on that rock. You don’t know, there might be a snake laying under it.”
I remember jumping up as if I had been shocked and becoming really shocked when the rock was moved, to find old Charlie No Shoulders was in fact lurking beneath me. Shocked and forever warped when it comes to rocks hiding snakes.
I can’t tell you how many rocks I have moved, first flipping them to make sure a snake wasn’t hiding beneath it, before carrying it to its new location. I don’t know how many times I heard my grandmother’s voice explaining, “You know there might be a snake laying under it.” I do know, since that day, I have yet to find another snake laying under a rock. Yet I still look.
This memory reminds me of today’s society and all the perceived ills that go with it. How much of our divisiveness as a nation, as a world, is due to social media, news sites, politicians, influencers, provocateurs, and opinionators flipping over rocks looking for snakes. If you flip enough rocks you are bound to find a snake or in today’s world, search hard and long enough, you are going to find something to support your particular cognitive dissonance.
If you find your snake, does this make your dissonance true? No.
I’ve never understood how the “exception proves the rule” but I do understand “the proof of the pudding is in the eating,” If I take bite after bite of pudding and it taste like banana pudding, even to the point of bananas and vanilla wafers being present, I should rightly believe it is banana pudding. The opposite should also be true because the lack of proof is in the eating.
It is the same with flipping rocks. You may assume there are snakes under every rock, but one snake doesn’t make it true that there are snakes under every rock.
What is my point? I see fingers pointing at educators maligning their “wokeism”, using descriptors like brainwashing. indoctrination, groomers, and accusations of teaching Critical Race Theory or its close kin, racist Marxism…that was tongue in cheek. Is there any truth to this finger pointing? Of course. Under some rocks there are teachers doing just that. Is that proof that the vast majority are? No. Most rocks have no teachers teaching anything other than what they are supposed to. The proof is not if certain aspects of CRT find their way into your curriculum. because some will.
I am a retired teacher who primarily, among other courses, taught history. I even used CRT when I taught science. That would be a cathode ray tube. Not funny?
I hope I used certain aspects of Critical Race Theory when I taught history. Blasphemous you say. Woke liberal! (Probably, at least left leaning and I can spell empathetic, and I am alert to injustice and discrimination in society). Groomer? (No, I need a beard and hair trim right now.) Indoctrinator (If it is about historical truth, yes. Yes, I am…if indoctrinator is a word.) Brainwashing (I wouldn’t know where to begin).
Historical truth? Do we teach it, or do we gloss over those uncomfortable areas? I believe that if I were teaching the period from Reconstruction through the Civil Rights era truthfully, I would find it impossible not to teach something that was in line with CRT or the recent Florida ban on teaching Advanced Placement African American Studies. I’d like to point out AP European History and AP Japanese Culture and History are still allowed in Florida. Am I looking for bigots under every rock? No, just in the Florida Governor’s mansion.
Does teaching that millions of African Americans left the South to travel North only to find ‘de jure’ segregation mean I’m teaching CRT? No, but I wonder if I would still find myself under the scrutiny of the Anti-Woke police if I taught redlining, a discriminatory practice in which services (financial and otherwise) are withheld from potential customers who reside in neighborhoods classified as “hazardous”. Could I be hauled off to where left leaning teachers are held prisoner if I dare teach that in 1923 a white mob razed a thriving black community in Rosewood, Florida. What if I dared to use the words “White Flight” when discussing cities in the late Sixties and Seventies?
I hear many of my right leaning friends say, “Just teach the facts.” I agree but what happens when you move past “who, what, and when” to “how and why?” How do I answer questions like “How or Why did Rosewood occur?” “Why was redlining used to segregate communities?” Answering questions like this will certainly require a teacher to toe a thin line.
I think a certain right leaning political group has created buzz words to send their minions on a crusade to look under rocks for snakes that don’t exist. Certainly, a few do, but that there is a nationwide cabal of educators attempting to indoctrinate your kids is propaganda from the right… unless it is to do their homework or treat their classmates with respect. Is making students aware of certain warts in history really indoctrinating or brainwashing them? I suggest if you have concerns, take the time to look at your state’s teaching standards or drop by your child’s class. I know it is much easier just to pass on the propaganda.
So, Nannie. Once again you taught me a lesson that has stayed with me through the years. I’m just not sure what kind of lesson. I won’t know until I find a rock with a snake under it.
It should be noted that history has shown that authoritarians target education in general and teachers in particular. It is a goal of authoritarian leaders to silence the intellectuals. Hitler’s concentration camps, Stalin’s gulags, and Pol Pot’s Reeducation camps were full of teachers, intellectuals, artists, novelists, musicians, and the other educated deemed to be menaces to their policies. There are reasons why schools are taken over by authoritarian governments. This is how future citizens should learn to think for themselves after all. Education that focuses on research and finding truth is scary for authoritarians. Or, as a former president once stated, “I love the uneducated.”
Don Miller writes in multiple genres. His latest novel is a fictional historical novel that focuses on The Great Depression and the labor unrest it triggered in the South in 1934. The novel is “Thunder Along the Copperhead” and may be purchased in paperback or downloaded at https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0BJYQ3SSV