Much as everyone got a great laugh, and continues to enjoy the emanations and penumbras of Kellyanne Conway’s “alternative facts” excuse to Chuck Todd, there’s still the admonition of George Santayana to deal with.
Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.
When it comes to America’s past, the Civil War was kind of a big deal. And the losers carried this flag into battle:
TRIGGER WARNING: If you are desperately seeking something to be outraged about, and want to pretend it causes you trauma, you’re about to see it.
No, it was not the official flag of the Confederate States of America, but it’s the flag popularly associated with the South in the War of Northern Aggression. See what I did there? And like it or not, the Civil War happened. But should it be taught? Like in, oh, history class?
Woody Hart, 70, taught history at the Sutter Middle School in Folsom, California. In a class on the civil war, Hart displayed the Confederate flag to middle schoolers in his history class along with the union flag. That educational display reportedly led to Hart being forced into retirement.
At the age of 70, there is a good chance that Woody Hart is out of touch with current trends, particularly the peculiar sensitivities of the socially just. Then again, he’s probably been teaching middle schoolers for a while, and might be a bit closer to them than those who protect children’s delicate sensibilities from imputed or self-diagnosed Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, which will require a lifetime of therapy, three times a week.
This wasn’t Hart’s first transgression.
The teacher, Woody Hart, told his eighth-grade class, “When you hang one black person, you have to hang them all (as) that is equality,” according to a complaint filed by the family of Tyler McIntyre, 13.
Tyrie McIntyre said the Nov. 2 episode involving his son occurred during class discussion of a test on the U.S. Constitution. During the lesson, one student asked for a definition of equality, prompting a discussion and the analogy.
Neither context nor intent mattered, as far as the parent or school principal were concerned, and so Hart was given a stern talking-to. And then he went and did it again by showing students the flag when teaching about the Civil War. What was he thinking?
We recognize that regardless of context, to many of our students, families, and staff, the Confederate flag is a racist symbol of hate. Although this matter is under investigation, it is important to reiterate: Any employee who is found to engage in behavior that creates an unsafe environment for students will face full consequences, including the possibility of initiating termination proceedings.
In this case, the flag — which was found across the room from a Civil War Union flag, potentially in preparation of a history activity — was removed from the classroom before school began today. It is our schools’ responsibility to provide a safe learning environment for all children.
As Turley notes, context does matter. Or it should, given that this was a history class and Hart was teaching historical fact.
That some argue that the flag shouldn’t bother anybody, whether emblazoned on the top of a car or on a pole in South Carolina, fails the smell test. It’s not merely a symbol of southern pride, no matter how strongly you want to believe so. It’s a symbol of slavery. It’s nothing to be proud of, and as much as it was popularly accepted by good ol’ boys, the argument that it is properly offensive shouldn’t be controversial.
This isn’t to say you don’t have free speech, and if you want to be that jerk who flies the flag on your pickup, knock yourself out. But you brand yourself by doing so.
But that doesn’t change the fact that the flag existed and was flown by confederate soldiers going into battle. Unless, of course, you favor alternative facts, where the flag ceases to be a part of historical fact.
This is the divorce of context from fact, the elevation of politically correct sensibilities over reality. And it’s a trend that has manifested in ways that not only make no sense, but are every bit as “alternative” as that hysterically ridiculous quote from Kellyanne Conway that makes progressives roll on the floor laughing their ass off.
Consider the eradication of the word “master” at Yale to refer to the person in charge of a dorm. It had nothing to do with slavery, but was derived from the Brits’ use at Oxford. But it was the same word, so it had to be eliminated because it was traumatic. No, the word wasn’t so critical to Yale (and all the other colleges that used it and have since removed it) that it was worth a huge fight, but killing words, removing them from context and ignoring their derivation to arrive at the most childish conclusion, isn’t good. Without words, without definitions, we’re deep into Orwell territory.
But Woody Hart’s job was to teach middle schoolers history. Teaching kids is a good thing, right? Especially to those of you hating on Betsy DeVos. And how is one to teach history if the use of historical fact is off limits?
So laugh about alternative facts all you want, but bear in mind that yours are no better than anyone else’s. The confederate battle flag is a fact. So too is lynching. History is replete with unpleasant facts that will suffice for those desperately seeking a reason to be outraged over their hurt feelings. Without them, history is a lie. That’s your alternative facts.