Friday Shares (1-27-23) – When Things Fall Apart

The end of this week came with the video released in Memphis showing five police officers brutally beating a black man, Tyre Nichols, who later died of his injuries. A couple of articles I read as I try to learn more about this man whose life was ended prematurely due to another case of unnecessary violence by police against a black person in this country:

Tyre Nichols’ killing by police — why is this still happening?

Tyre Nichols remembered as beautiful soul with creative eye

Learning for Justice has reposted its resources for Discussing Race, Racism and Police Violence which was first created in 2014.  It outlines how to facilitate conversations with students while also not adding to the trauma black students may be feeling. 

Other relevant reading/listening connections

When Things Fall Apart : Throughline : NPR

This week’s Throughline podcast episode was certainly timely.  The episode noted the following “In the United States, polls indicate that many people believe that law and order is the only thing protecting us from the savagery of our neighbors, that the fundamental nature of humanity is competition and struggle.”

The episode goes onto share the Two Wolves story which is often attributed to the Cherokee: “An old man says to his grandson, there’s a fight going on inside me. It’s a terrible fight between two wolves.  One is evil, angry, greedy, jealous, arrogant and cowardly. The other is good, peaceful, loving, modest, generous, honest and trustworthy. These two wolves are also fighting within you and inside every other person, too. After a moment, the boy asks, which wolf will win? The old man smiles – the one you feed.”

The episode also highlights Veneer Theory, a theory based on the belief that humans are basically selfish and evil and need “civilization” to save them. The episode offers the contrasting points of view of 17th Century philosopher Thomas Hobbes and 18th Century philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau. Hobbes was a proponent of a strong government and did not think human beings would be able to refrain from killing each other, or from devolving into a state of mutual destruction without such a government. Author Rebecca Solnit noted the following:

“Hobbes’s idea that somehow you need authoritarian structures to control people corresponds really well to imperialism and colonialism, people who saw themselves as civilization imposing order on chaos.”

Jean-Jacques Rousseau, on the other hand, believed the lives of human beings in the state of nature was actually pretty good. Dutch historian Rutger Bregman summed up Rousseau’s thinking as follows:

“We were quite healthy. We had lots of exercise. We had a varied diet, and it was pretty peaceful as well. But then everything went wrong when we gave up our liberty, and we invented private property, and we settled down in villages and cities, and we created this thing called civilization.”

Ultimately, as we hear the varying narratives about incidents and events where there are various points of view (i.e. the murder of a black man by police), what wolf is being fed? Can we have a full view without knowing our country’s history and without having a good sense of our own identity and privilege?  

Speaking of history

The news out of Florida this week was that Governor DeSantis is looking at limiting what topics we can allow our students to learn about. This article from NPR gets into the discussion about the proposed ban on African American Studies in the Sunshine State. NEA President Becky Pringle summed things up with the following statement:

“When we censor classes and whitewash lesson plans, we harm our students and do them a deep disservice.”

Getting back to the Throughline episode above, what wolf does this narrative feed?

News Literacy is more critical than ever

As I watch some news outlets try to rationalize the killing of Tyre Nichols, I am struck by the irony that this past week The News Literacy Project just completed their fourth annual National News Literacy Week.  This non-partisan organization has amazing resources to help educators guide students (and adults) in being savvier about what they are reading and watching. This probably should have been mandated for all students back in 1987 when the FCC abolished the Fairness Doctrine.  Here is a list of resources for students (and adults) that can help us all better meet the main objective of the News Literacy Project and “determine the credibility of news and other information and to recognize the standards of fact-based journalism to know what to trust, share and act on.”

Concluding this week’s writing with the following reminders that resonated from yesterday’s webinars from the News Literacy Project:

Opinion Journalism should meet the following standards:

  • Credible opinion pieces are based on verified facts and employ sound, logical reasoning.
  • Opinion journalism does not seek to avoid bias or ignore opposing views.

Common Propaganda Techniques

Simplification – Making a complicated idea seem very simple.

Exploration – Manipulating emotions rather than weighing facts.

Exaggeration – Making its cause seem stronger or more popular than it is.

Division – Attempting to broaden and exploit the gap between “us” and “them”

Get the entire poster on Common Propaganda techniques from Newseum.

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