Commenter Calls Me ‘A Dangerous Presence in the Political Discourse’

by Christopher Paslay

Instead of addressing my arguments, “social justice advocates” attempt to bully me out of the debate. 

Several days ago I posted a blog headlined “Inventing Racism in America’s Public Schools” which explored the notion that there are folks, mainly on the political left, who exploit race and racism in education for their own benefit; the Philadelphia Public School Notebook went on to link the piece in their January 23rd “Notes from the News.”  The blog also talked about the existence of racism in public schools, data on achievement and discipline, and linked no less than 17 sources as evidence—a book on racism, a speech by U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, five education policy reports by Princeton’s Educational Testing Service (ETS) that spanned 25 years of American public education, an interview with a NYT bestselling author on racism, eight newspaper articles, and two public school related websites.

My conclusion was that although episodic racism still exists in isolated cases in classrooms, systematic racism is dying and other causes of the racial achievement gap—such as culture and home environment—should be explored.

Geoffrey Winikur, a White Philadelphia public school teacher, social justice advocate and facilitator for the Philadelphia Writing Project, publicly commented on my blog that I was “a dangerous presence in the political discourse” and claimed I made my arguments “without offering a shred of evidence.”  I guess 17 sources, including five from ETS covering 25 years of public education, isn’t “evidence.”  Winikur also said, “I love it every time you write a new article, because I know I’m in for a good laugh.”  Yes, a highly intellectual response to my arguments indeed.

This, of course, is nothing short of bullying—the kind of thing that happened to Samantha Pawlucy at Carroll High School last fall, the young lady who was asked to remove her Mitt Romney T-shirt by none other than her own geometry teacher because, allegedly, the teacher claimed “this is a Democratic school.”

Ben Shapiro analyzes this topic in his recently released New York Times bestselling book Bullies: How the Left’s Culture of Fear and Intimidation Silences Americans.  In his introduction he highlights how on March 10, 2011, President Barack Obama led a White House conference on the crisis of bullying:

The strategy here was simple. Obama and his friends in the media and on the organized left picked the one thing all Americans can agree on: bullying. They strategically placed President Obama at the head of the anti-bullying cause. Then came the brilliant gambit: they appropriated bullying to apply only to anything remotely conservative.

The Tea Party? A bunch of bullies. Religious people? Bullies. Global warming unbelievers, defense hawks, venture capitalists, fans of voter identification or traditional marriage, opponents of affirmative action, right-to-work advocates, supporters of Israel, haters of Glee? Bullies. Those who dislike President Obama? They were the biggest bullies of all. Liberalism and anti-bullying, it turned out, were—miracle of miracles!—one and the same.

Their twisted logic was deceptively easy. Liberals claim that they are all about protecting victim classes from bullies. Conservatives oppose liberals. Therefore, by definition, conservatives must be bullies. And bullies must be stopped.

The irony here is that the true bullies are the ones who callously attack those who disagree with their worldview, like Winikur’s statement that I’m “a dangerous presence in the political discourse.”

I’m not sure why fighting for colorblindness in society—judging people by their core values and not their skin color—is dangerous.  I’m not sure why treating minorities as equals and not as enslaved and oppressed is so worrisome.  I’m not sure why teaching young people that they are the captain of their own ship and not the victim of a corrupt system is a cause for alarm.  Or why the notion that there exist universal human values that transcend race, gender, sexuality and culture—values such as honesty, respect, integrity, loyalty, and hard work—is “Eurocentric.”

The lack of manners from disapproving social justice advocates didn’t stop with Winikur.  Another commenter wrote, “You’re doing what’s called ‘blaming the victim’ and it’s lame.”  The irony of this statement is that the issue of “blaming the victim” was addressed in the video interview I included with my blog post by NYT bestselling author of The End of Racism Dinesh D’Souza.  Interestingly, neither Winikur nor any of the other commenters took the time to click on the link and watch the video (one did, however, reference an article in The Daily Beast that smeared D’Souza because he had the audacity to respectfully challenge President Obama’s policies in a recent documentary titled “Obama’s America: 2016”).

Since none of the commenters took the time to even listen to what D’Souza had to say before smearing him, I’ll include his quote about “blaming the victim”:

“For a generation, people have said you cannot point at these problems because to do so is blaming the victim.  When Daniel Patrick Moynihan wrote his report on the Black family in the sixties, the illegitimacy rate for Blacks was 25 percent.  He said it was a national tragedy and people said ‘you’re a racist, stop talking about it.’  And he did.  He hasn’t said a word about it since, and the illegitimacy rate for Blacks today is close to 70 percent.   So when these problems are ignored, they metastasize and become far worse . . .”

Another objection made by Geoffrey Winikur (the White uber-liberal teacher who publicly commented that I was a dangerous presence in the political discourse) was one of cultural relativism, that my idea of “colorblindness” was really an effort to push America back to a Eurocentric state.  This was not only a humongous misinterpretation of what I argued constituted colorblindness (I don’t know how judging a person by their actions and values instead of their skin color is “Eurocentric”), but Winikur didn’t bother to click on the link to the D’Souza interview either, which already addressed this objection.  To quote D’Souza:

“That’s the legacy of cultural relativism . . . which says in effect that all cultures are equal and no culture can judge another by its own standards, and cultures should not impose values on each other.  I argue that this relativism played an important historic role . . . relativism was a way to undermine the old racism, which was based on a hierarchy . . . but it’s created a new problem.”

The new “problem” D’Souza explores is one of the functionality of culture, and how relativism has come to hide the dysfunction of some cultures.  Although it may be argued that no one culture is inherently better than another and that one culture cannot judge another by its own standards, things such as quality of life and manageability of life do exist.  I don’t think anyone would disagree that certain cultures in America as a whole have a better quality of life and have lives that are more manageable and functional than other cultures.  The racial achievement gap is one example.  The wealth gap is another.  So are homicide rates within cultures.  So are incarceration rates.  Out-of-wedlock birth rates, quality of nutrition, literacy rates, dropout rates, and the rates of college graduation are still other examples.  (To read the ETS reports on this click here, here, here, and here).

To suggest that all cultures are equal in terms of quality and manageability of life is ridiculous.  To suggest that the differences in quality and manageability of life among cultures is primarily the result of racism is also ridiculous.

In 2009, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said Americans were “a nation of cowards” because we were afraid to talk about race.  What he seems to have meant by this was that not enough Americas were willing to talk about how White people oppress minorities.  I’d like to take Eric Holder up on his proposition.  Let’s talk about race in America, but let’s really talk about it—dirty laundry and everything.

But to truly talk about race would mean many folks, like Geoffrey Winikur, would have to address opposing arguments head-on and refrain from attempting to demonize those they disagree with.

Tragically, with the exception of publications such as The Philadelphia Public School Notebook—who have recently had the courtesy and open-mindedness to link my articles in their “Notes from the News” to open-up the much needed avenues of discussion (I’d like to publicly thank them for this, by the way)—it doesn’t appear as if honest and frank talk about race and racism in America is going to happen anytime soon.

Daily News publishes ‘myth of racial inequality’ commentary



Today, the Philadelphia Daily News published my commentary on the myth of racial inequality in the Philadelphia School District, which originally appeared on this blog on July 10th.

If you missed this one (or want to give it another read in the pages of the Daily News), click here.  Feel free to leave comments below.




Christopher Paslay


Eye on The Notebook: Do Phila. teachers really view minority children as criminals?




by Christopher Paslay              


In their recent editorial, “Changing the odds,” the Notebook discusses ways the Philadelphia School District can close the achievement gap between white and minority students.  In addition to having engaging teaching staffs and building strong bonds between schools and surrounding communities, the Notebook talks about overcoming racism.


Perhaps the hardest barriers to overcome are the fears and prejudices that run through our racially divided society, the Notebook writes. Black and Latino children – boys in particular – are so often viewed as dangerous or even criminal. Schools cannot uphold high expectations and successfully serve communities of color when the school staff is afraid of the communities they serve.


The curious part of this editorial is that while the Notebook warns against the dangers of stereotyping, they are in effect stereotyping themselves.  The majority of Philadelphia public school teachers do not view Black and Latino boys as dangerous and criminal (I don’t know of a single teacher that does), nor are they afraid of the communities they serve. 


To make such a sweeping generalization is both hypocritical and irresponsible.   


I’m not the only teacher who was put-off by the editorial.  A woman named Jamie Roberts recently commented on the newspaper’s website about the offensive nature of this article. 


She wrote, As a Philadelphia teacher working on her second Master’s degree, I’ve always considered my reading comprehension pretty high, but I found myself re-reading your editorial repeatedly, convinced I had to be misinterpreting it.


Are you actually suggesting the struggles of Latino and African-American boys in our schools are because of white racist teachers? And if so, are you serious?


I have spent most of my teaching career in predominantly African-American and Latino schools and in every case, the staff – which is always multicultural – has tried to create an aura of respect and safety within the school building. Never have I heard a colleague express fear of any student – although often we express concern on behalf of students, who step out of the schoolyard every afternoon and into an environment that is often quite dangerous. It is that environment that creates the circumstances that cause boys to struggle . . .


Notebook Editor Paul Socolar rebutted this comment by stating Roberts “missed the point”.  Socolar went on to say, Somehow, once the phenomenon of racism is named, we notice that something short-circuits, everything else we said is forgotten, and some readers respond that the Notebook thinks the whole problem is white racist teachers . . . 


In effect, the Notebook neither apologized for misrepresenting teachers nor did they admit to oversimplifying the problem.  They held to their position by stating that racism against minority students undoubtedly exists, and that “to acknowledge its existence is not a condemnation of all teachers.”


It’s not surprising that the Notebook is unable (or unwilling) to recognize the stereotypical nature of their editorial.  The writers and staff of this publication are too wrapped-up in the politics of race to see the forest through the trees.  They state that they regularly talk to Philadelphia parents and students about racism (and in effect get one side of the story), but this hardly qualifies them as an authority on the day-to-day challenges facing teachers inside overcrowded, and often times under-resourced, classrooms.


A second look at Editor Paul Socolar’s rebuttal to Philadelphia school teacher Jamie Roberts’ comments furthers this point. 


There is a vast amount of literature from all different political perspectives about how many urban students (not just in Philly) experience a lack of respect and low expectations from many of their teachers, Socolar wrote.  Even George W. Bush spoke about this problem.   


Although reading books on urban education might provide some background understanding of the issue, it’s not the same as standing in front of 33 urban teenagers and teaching them on a daily basis.  And quite frankly, I don’t believe that many minority students experience a lack of respect and high expectations from “many” of their teachers.  Do Black and Latino children ever feel disrespected?  Certainly.  But not on the scale the Notebook and other political publications would lead us to believe; it might be wise for the Notebook to stop using “political” perspectives to draw their conclusions. 


And since when is George W. an expert on teaching in the inner-city?


While we’re focused on stereotypes, let’s examine the issue of safety in Philadelphia.  Is it wrong for teachers to be concerned about their well-being in high crime neighborhoods?  Are the 350 annual homicides committed in the city simply fantasies conjured in the imaginations of bigoted educators?  Most certainly not.  Just ask the mother of Faheem Thomas-Childs, the 10-year-old third grader who was killed by a drug-dealer’s bullet outside Peirce Elementary in February of 2004.


How ironic is it that a publication that bills itself as “an independent voice for parents, educators, students, and friends of Philadelphia public schools” doesn’t even have a single Philadelphia public school teacher contributing to the newspaper?  Sure, the Notebook’s writers and bloggers include an education lawyer, a doctoral student, an educational policy maker, a principal, a member of a parent group, and an education beat-reporter, but no teacher.  Imagine that.


If the Notebook truly wants to comprehend and solve the District’s problems, they must bring a more balanced approach to their paper.  They must also stop insulting educators with their biting innuendo, and treat Philadelphia public school teachers with more professionalism and respect.