Morning Ethics Tune-Up, 2/22/22: A Very Special Episode…

1.  “What’s going on here?” I have not decided what exactly the article “The New Homophobia” in Newsweek (Flagged this morning by Althouse: Pointer for Ann!) means or portends: it is, after all, just one man’s opinion. However, I sense that it is relevant to the issues underlying the Disney vs. Florida controversy.


I learned about queer theory, an obscure academic discipline based largely on the writing of the late French intellectual Michel Foucault, who believed that society categorizes people—male or female, heterosexual or homosexual—in order to oppress them. The solution is to intentionally blur—or “queer”—the boundaries of these categories. Soon this “queering” became the predominant method of discussing and analyzing gender and sexuality in universities…


This might not be a concern if, by adopting these new identities, young people were merely playing with the boundaries of normative gender expression—something that gays, lesbians, feminists, most liberals and even many conservatives would welcome two decades into the 21st century. But many young boys do not stop at simply painting their fingernails and wearing dresses, and young girls do more than cut their hair short and play football. With increasing frequency, these children are given drugs to block their puberty, cross-sex hormones and irreversible surgeries, all the while cheered on first by online communities, then the mainstream media and now the current presidential administration…


Sure, the religious far right remains something of a threat, and I, like any other gay person, can still be stung by anti-gay slurs and can fear the threat of violence in less-accepting spaces. But today I am equally fearful of the radical activists I once longed to emulate, activists who push a regressive, anti-liberal agenda that reifies gender stereotypes, downplays the seriousness of long-term medicalization and ultimately seeks to abolish my identity—for without biological sex, there is no homosexuality. Today, the least-accepting spaces for people like me are, of all places, the halls of LGBT rights organizations, where the threat might not be violence but is nevertheless terrible stigmatization and shame…

My initial reaction? This is one more reason to keep teachers and schools—and Disney— out of the matter entirely.

2. Journalism! MSNBC news anchor Nicole Wallace hysterically compared such laws as the Florida Parental Rights in Education measure to Russian troops raping children. (Is there evidence that Russian troops are raping children?). She said in part on a broadcast this week:

The truth is dehumanization as a tactic for politics is from war. Russians get the soldiers to rape children by dehumanizing them…It’s being deployed in our politics, and …dehumanization has a cost right now….Kids will die.

I don’t understand how emotionally healthy, reasonable people can watch MSNBC. Talk about propaganda! Or hysteria. How did the Left become so invested in having grade school teachers instructing students in gender-reassignment surgery and the Wonderful World Of Homosexuality, as new show on Disney+will likely be exploring if it continues on its current trajectory?

Related guffaw: MSNBC’s Symone Sanders, previously a senior communications staffer for Kamala Harris, smugly predicted on “Meet the Press Daily,”  “My money is on the Disney lobbyists, honey. Do you think those state legislators down in Florida are going to bend to the will of the governor? No.” Right as usual, Symone! More razor-sharp analysis for MSNBC viewers.

3. Gaslighting! Relentless race-baiter Jamele Bouie, one of the Times’ more inexcusable pundits, weighed in with a column called: “Democrats, You Can’t Ignore the Culture Wars Any Longer.” Does he really believe that Democrats and progressives haven’t been fighting the “culture wars”—and winning!—for decades? How did the entire university culture become one of progressive indoctrination? How did teachers start believing it was appropriate to bring politics into public school classes? Where did the idea come from that group identification was more important in choosing employees, judges and Vice-Presidents than ability and experience? Here is part of his argument that could only provoke nods from the most brain-washed of Times readers:

Both the crusade against “critical race theory” and the slanderous campaign against L.G.B.T.Q. educators and education are as much about undermining key public goods (and stigmatizing the people who support them) as they are about generating enthusiasm for the upcoming midterm elections….Christopher Rufo, a right-wing provocateur who helped instigate both the panics against “critical race theory” and against L.G.B.T.Q. educators in schools, has openly said that he hopes to destroy public education in the United States. “We are right now preparing a strategy of laying siege to the institutions,” he said last November in an interview with my colleague Michelle Goldberg. In a recent speech, delivered to an audience at the conservative Hillsdale College, Rufo declared that “to get universal school choice you really need to operate from a premise of universal public school distrust.”

Critical race theory in quotes: it doesn’t exist! What “slander campaign” against LGBTQ educators? This is another popular false narrative: telling teachers not to teach about sexuality in lower grades is really an attack on gay teachers. None of the laws, proposed or otherwise, mention the sexual orientation of teachers at all. Is Bouie implying that gay teachers are more likely to bring sexual orientation into classrooms where the subject doesn’t belong? Wasn’t that assumption part of the basis for illegal and unethical discrimination in the hiring of gay teachers? A gay teacher is as likely to be professionally responsible and teach what he or she is supposed to teach as a non-gay teacher. Its public school teachers who cannot be trusted. Bouie quotes Rufo’s “to get universal school choice you really need to operate from a premise of universal public school distrust” as if it’s some mad conservative fantasy. Any parent who blindly trusts public schools is irresponsible and a fool.

4. About those rejected math text books…After Republican Florida Governor Ron DeSantis’ office announced Monday that the state’s education department rejected 41% of the math textbooks for reportedly including “indoctrinating concepts,” much was made of the fact that no specifics were released, thus fueling accusations that what was in the rejected “woke” math books was appropriate content. Now excerpts from many of those textbooks have been released. This is representative of content in the rejected math textbooks published by Big Ideas Learning, from the company’s marketing material:

I’d reject it too. What does “social awareness” have to do with math?

Here’s a math problem as presented by another publisher:

Uh-uh. Mathematics is not the place for woke linguistic manipulation. There is no reason to trust the textbook or the school that would select it. And what is this chart doing in a pubic school math book?

That is a bar graph that purports to measure racial prejudice by political identification, indicating that conservatives are more racist than liberals. The data is from  much-criticized Race Implicit Association Test, but even assuming that the data is accurate, it does not belong in a math text book.

23 thoughts on “Morning Ethics Tune-Up, 2/22/22: A Very Special Episode…

  1. Any parent who has the means to get their kids out of all public schools – even the ones in states fighting against the woke hive – is ethically obligated to do so. There’s a quiet rebellion happening in Texas (and probably a lot of states, but I’m only paying attention to here) against public schools. We got ours into a classically styled charter school after a few years of disappointingly non-rigorous academics (and they were in a select program that was supposed to be *more* rigorous). This was a struggle for us because for awhile I felt like cutting and running was actually an unethical form of abandoning the kids whose parents didn’t have the ability to get out. But frankly, there was little we could do to alleviate the troubles facing those kids that we couldn’t still do with our kids in a better situation.

    After the first few weeks at their new school – the classwork they’d been doing had me realizing that even *my* public education when I was younger was lacking.

    I hope the state of Texas recognizes soon this restive attitude towards public schools and the flight out of them and starts addressing the problems.

  2. 4. I for one am outraged. Julien is being mocked. He’s GAY and they’re mocking him for scoring fewer goals because he’s gay? This is unacceptable. Plus, he’s French! This sort of xenophobia is toxic and Republican and can’t be allowed.

  3. 1. Anyone who’s just now learning about the vicious, pedophilic Michel Foucault, the father of critical theory and deconstructionism, hasn’t been paying attention. That’s like not knowing who Karl Marx was.

  4. I take issue with the reference to the “Belize jungle,” as it is a racist dog-whistle that implies that people from Belize are primitive people.

    I do not really have a problem with the word problem. It is in the nature of a word problem to apply mathematical thinking to a real-life example. Not only did it ask you to perform a simple mathematical operation, it also made you think about concepts about more and “fewer” (the fact they got that word right is to their credit), and the relationship between those numbers.

    What about that word problem struck you as “woke linguistic manipulation”?

    The Chart? Yes. Horrendous.


          • This is the “social-emotional learning” garbage that was pushed by Common Core, and it’s political correctness incrementalism, like trigger warnings et all. No, its trivial, but that’s the insidious part of the strategy, and it’s been very effective. “Oh, it just isn’t worth fighting about” allows the ratchet to keep clicking.

            • Third, though I’d like to see the textbook in question before making a final judgement.

              The problem, as written, appears to merely ask students to make the cognitive step of recognizing “more” and “fewer” as opposites/inverse. Nothing wrong with that.

              Typically in math textbooks there will be several variations of the same problem. If all the variations ask students to change “less” or “fewer” to “more”, then maybe you have a point. If, as I suspect, (and hope), there are examples going both ways, then no.

      • When I saw the words “Higher Order Thinking” my mind went straight to logic when I read that math problem #7.

        7. Higher Order Thinking
        Julien scored 8 goals this season.
        He scored 9 fewer goals than Nicole.
        How many goals did Nicole score?

        Write this problem using the word more.

        Julien Scored 8 goals this season.
        Nicole scored _______________

        My first reaction to the entirety of that math “problem” was, who’s the fucking idiot that wrote that?

        There are multiple things going on in this one single problem which is unfair to students at the perceived grade level that that kind of question would likely be used, which would likely be elementary school grades between 3-5.

        First is the question How many goals did Nicole score?” that must be answered “17”.

        Second there is the fill in the blank that is assumed the student must fill in and the correct thing to fill in there is “17 goals”.

        Then there is the statement that the student is to “Write this problem using the word more.”

        Well there are multiple ways of accomplishing that task.

        First the student could write…

        Julien scored 8 goals this season.
        He scored 9 fewer goals than Nicole.
        How many more goals did Nicole score?

        …or the student could write…

        Nicole scored 17 goals this season.
        Nicole scored 9 more goals than Julien this season.
        How many goals did Julien score this season?

        …or we could take the statement to “write this problem using the word more” quite literally and write…

        More of this problem.

        “Railroad crossing watch out for cars”, can you spell that without any “R’s”?

        Of course I can, t-h-a-t.

  5. I’m cautiously waiting to weigh in on the Disney/Florida train wreck. Something in my brain didn’t like it to start with, the ending of the special district. I think we really need to understand how it was used and what the new reality will be before we say that it actually “hurt” Disney. It’s entirely plausible that it helps Disney. I’ll try to research more about it in the coming days and see what I can make of it.

  6. #1. Show me even a whiff of evidence of significant use of “drugs to block their puberty, cross-sex hormones and irreversible surgeries” and I’ll pay attention. Perhaps the most anti-trans person I know is himself gay: “they’re faking it.” This appears, at first blush, at least, to be an example of the same phenomenon.
    #2. I agree with you on this one. “My side” doesn’t need loonies.
    #3. Politics have been part of education since the beginning of time. It’s just that it used to be called “patriotism,” which was fine. It was stuff like What to a Slave Is the 4th of July that was “political.” And “critical race theory” is in quotation marks, I suspect, because in the Humpty Dumpty world of politics, no one knows what it means,.. or, rather, it means whatever the speaker says it does. I have a friend who’s a musicologist–it drives him crazy when Tchaikovsky is called a classical composer. It doesn’t bother me, but I see his point. Just because discussion of the real causes of the Civil War is indeed part of CRT, that doesn’t mean that someone who talks about slavery is advocating for the universality of CRT. But it sure sounds scarier if we put it that way.
    #4. First example: pretty much useless (unless it subsequently ties in to concerns about math phobia, which is plenty common enough), but pretty much benign. Second example: I honestly can’t find anything wrong with this. What’s the problem? That the girl outscored the boy? That “more” and “fewer” are opposites? I can’t see anything here that could possibly be described as “woke linguistic manipulation.” Third example: yeah, problematic, but I’d want to see more than just the chart in order to have an informed opinion. Chances I’d ultimately agree with you: 80%.
    Variation on the theme: a teacher a couple hours to the west of me was suspended and threatened with firing (the case is ongoing) because she put rainbow stickers on her classroom door. Were her actions inappropriate? Yeah, probably, but no more so than a lot of things that no doubt didn’t get teachers into trouble. The kicker, though, is that the district is claiming the stickers “endangered students.” It appears that homophobic kids are a particularly fragile lot.

    • 1. Isn’t this a “whiff”? I’d say no such treatment of minors is ever appropriate. In fact, I think its a violation of the Hippocratic oath. No?

      3. I agree that patriotic “indoctrination” has always been part of the educational process. It’s also societally responsible within limits. It is in society’s interest to raise the next generation to be supportive of their nation. It is suicidal to raise the next generation to hate, fear, and distrust their nation. Balance and perspective is required, and no, I don’t see that teachers are qualified, as a group, to do that.

      4. The problem is that this is more Maoist langauge games. “Less” is a bad word, because it implies failure. More is positive. No it’s not a big deal, but it’s a tell. That lesson has nothing to do with math. Thus the book authors and the book itself is untrustworthy.

      I once had a three hour seminar rejected for legal ethics CLE credits because the materials included a section the bar saw as “government ethics.” The bar was mistaken, but it’s point was valid: a legal ethics seminar had to be all about legal ethics. Math is even easier. There’s no reason for little lessons like “use nice word ‘more’ instead of mean word ‘fewer'” to shield the vulnerable from feelings of inadequacy to be in a math textbook. So don’t include it.


      • Jack wrote, “4. The problem is that this is more Maoist langauge games. “Less” is a bad word, because it implies failure. More is positive. No it’s not a big deal, but it’s a tell. That lesson has nothing to do with math. Thus the book authors and the book itself is untrustworthy.”

        Wait a minute, I don’t know of a 21st century progressive “Maoist” that would say that “more is positive”, to progressives more is a negative, think equity. 😉

      • I don’t know, Jack.

        We probably will not agree on this.

        But, final thought: when I was in grade school, we went over the math symbols “>,” “” and “<," no?


        • Somehow, my comment got crunched. The idea was that we used greater than, less than, and equal to symbols.

          My thought was that this word problem related to the ideas behind these mathematical symbols.

          Your comment would suggest that those symbols are now out of touch with the New Maoist Order.

          If they still teach these symbols, would that not go against your argument?


          • I don’t think they did suggest it was preferable to use ‘more’. It seemed to be testing the ability to reverse the direction of the comparison.

            I mean, the wording is awful in other ways, as Steve explaind above, but I really don’t see an indication of woke thinking IN the quoted text. Unless there was some context missing from your quoted snippet?

            Is it baggage associated with the phrase “Higher Order Thinking”?

            • How is the ability to reverse the comparison a math issue? An English issue maybe…I don’t get the eagerness to mitigate this one. If a student doesn’t know “more” is the opposite of less, then math is beyond him. To me, the meaning is clearly, “When stating such facts, always use the positive adjective rather than the negative one.” And I assume if that was the example used for that textbook, it’s one reason the book was banned. Why else would that section be flagged?

  7. 1. ‘I mean it’s ugly. I mean, look at what’s happening now in Florida. Christ, they’re going after Mickey Mouse,’ Biden said.


  8. This author gets it exactly right. Without biological sex, there is no male, no female, no gay, and no straight. The best argument for continuing to see gender dysphoria as a mental illness is that accepting the claims of the transgender person requires us to be at war with reality. The mentally ill are not the problem because often they can’t help themselves. The anorexic needs outside intervention to help her see that she needs to eat.

    If the claims of gender ideology are true, then we have look at people who claim to be transabled as legitimate. If our bodies do not limit our identities in any meaningful way, then anything goes. That’s why so many conservatives are freaking out about the moves of our society. The issue is just not being compassionate to transgender people. The issue is that we are opening the door to a world that no one wants to live in, not even transgender people.

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