"A child's learning is the function more of the characteristics of his classmates than those of the teacher." James Coleman, 1972

Friday, July 23, 2021

Thoughts on AB-967

EdSource has a new article entitled How California plans to deter costly special education disputes, which discusses legislation intended to streamline some special education claims. I made the following comments, that still haven't made it through their moderation process.

To the extent that this provides families of students with disabilities another avenue to secure their rights, I applaud this. In the rare case that schools are actually operating in good faith, this will speed up access to services for students that need them most.

However, for all the charter school corporations and public schools that will use this to deprive students of their educational rights, there's this:
Gov. Code § 56845.9(a) "This article shall not be construed to… [a]bridge any right granted to a parent under state or federal law, including, but not limited to, the procedural safeguards established pursuant to Section 1415 of Title 20 of the Unites States Code."
As for Veronica Coates seemingly seething resentment towards attorneys working hard to help children with disabilities obtain their rights, she should consider the fact that if schools would merely follow the law, there'd be no need to file for Due Process.

Thursday, July 15, 2021

Students should follow their interests and take advantage of their talents. (Letter in Malibu Times, July 15, 2021)


Published in the Malibu Times, July.15, 


Arnold York points out how unusual it is for a terrific hitter like Shonei Ohtani to also be an outstanding pitcher (Publisher’s Corner, July 8). It is interesting that baseball neither demands nor expects this kind of diverse ability. In fact, baseball encourages early specialization. 


Youngsters generally know what position they will be best at, and coaches usually accept this. This is true of all sports: Some of us still remember how remarkable it was when over 40 years ago Magic Johnson filled in at center when Kareem-Abdul Jabbar could not play. 


Athletes are clearly better off if they discover early on what they are good at and specialize. Coaches know this: No coach would require all baseball players to be competent at more than one position. We don’t ask good shortstops to be good catchers as well. 


School doesn’t understand this. It insures failure and frustration when it requires that all students meet demanding standards in all subjects, which insures that students are not given the time and freedom to follow their interests and take advantage of their talents. Students and society are the losers.


Stephen Krashen

Monday, July 12, 2021

CRT: Who Needs a Theory When the Historical Facts Say It All, Part 2

Last update July 21, 2021

"Critical race theory is a practice. It's an approach to grappling with a history of White supremacy that rejects the belief that what's in the past is in the past, and that the laws and systems that grow from that past are detached from it," said Kimberl√© Crenshaw, a founding critical race theorist and a law professor who teaches at UCLA and Columbia University. --CNN

If you don't like the definition supplied by one of the founders of CRT, then maybe you should ask State Senator Brian Kelsey (R-TN), who says that he knows what critical race theory because he was taught all about it in law school. According to Kelsey, critical race theory "teaches that American democracy is a lie. It teaches that the rule of law does not exist and is instead a series of power struggles among racial groups."

Not to be outdone in the Republican race for the dumbest, anti-factual definition, Governor Ricketts (NE) said this in response to a caller asking for a definition of critical race theory:

So, the critical race theory — and I can’t think of the author right off the top of my head who wrote about this — really had a theory that, at the high level, is one that really starts creating those divisions between us about defining who we are based on race and that sort of thing and really not about how to bring us together as Americans rather than — and dividing us and also having a lot of very socialist-type ideas about how that would be implemented in our state.

Kelsey's lies and Ricketts' pathetic word salad would be amusing if it weren't for the fact that the goal of white supremacists has much less to do with critical race theory than it does to 1) censoring the factual presentation of history in schools and the media, and 2) using intimidation to force teachers, school boards, and administrators into self-censoring with regards to the teaching of fact-based history and the discussion of race and racism in the classroom.

It is critical for teachers and their unions to continue rejecting the kind of propagandized and sanitized versions of history that neo-confederate politicians and their billionaire fascist funders prefer to offer school children and college students.

As noted in Part 1, the slavery empire in the United States was built one law at time. Many of those laws were written and passed in Virginia (see Pt. 1 for important laws from the 1600s).  

Beginning in 1705, however, the Virginia Assembly passed and the Governor approved the Virginia Slave Codes, which set forth an unambiguous legal justification for slavery.  Hoping to avoid potential revolts that might accrue from alliances between poor whites and black slaves, the Slave Codes may be seen as an attempt to assuage oppressed whites by providing, if nothing else, a legal foundation for white supremacy and black inferiority.  

Were the ancestors of today's bedraggled trailer park Tories those impoverished whites whose loyalty was bought by elites in 1705 with the legal promise and protections of white privilege??

The Virginia Slave Code (1705) 

By 1705, British settlers had lived in Virginia for almost 100 years. In the initial years of settlement, indentured servitude was widespread, African slavery was relatively uncommon, and race relations between blacks and whites were ambiguous, though not entirely equal. In the second half of the seventeenth century, however, the Chesapeake colonies transitioned to an economy dominated increasingly by slave labor. Virginia’s slave population grew from 150 in 1640, to nearly 3,000 in 1680, and by 1700 to13,000one sixth of the colony’s population. This transition occurred because: (1) the supply of indentured servants in Virginia dropped as England offered more economic opportunities for its poor; 2) England established more colonies in North America, which diverted some immigrants away from Virginia; and (3) wealthy Virginia planters feared an alliance of poor whites and black slaves. White-black coalitions were an ever-present threat to the plantersBacon’s Rebellion of 1676 had made that clear.  

As the slave population increased, so did the legal controls on slaves’ behavior and power, culminating in the extensive law of 1705. The Virginia Slave code mandated an inferior racial and legal status for blacks while simultaneously elevating opportunities for poor whites. Passed by the Virginia House of Burgesses, these laws denied blacks the traditional rights of Englishmen, including freedom of association, assembly, bearing arms, expression, and mobility, as well as protections against unreasonable search and seizure. The laws forbade non-whites from holding ecclesiastical, civil, or military office regardless of their status. Interestingly, the slave code also reinforced a tradition already prevalent in Virginia in which the children born of slave mothers would also be slaves. In effect, this made slavery . . . permanent and absolved white male planters from any punishment for the sexual exploitation of their female slaves. In numerous ways, this was a clear effort by whites in Virginia to consolidate power and perpetuate the institution of slavery.  

Be it enacted, by the governor, council, and burgesses, of this present general assembly, and it is hereby enacted, by the authority of the same, 

  • That all servants brought into this country without indenture, if the said servants be Christians and of Christian parentage, and above nineteen years of age, shall serve but five years; and if under nineteen years of age, ‘till they shall become twenty-four years of age, and no longer. . . . 
  • That all servants imported and brought into this country by sea or land, who were not Christians in their native country, (except Turks and Moors in amity with her majesty, and others that can make due proof of their being free in England, or any other Christian country, before they were shipped, in order to transportation hither) shall be accounted and be slaves, and as such be here bought and sold notwithstanding a conversion to Christianity afterwards. . . . 
  • That all masters and owners of servants shall find and provide for their servants wholesome and competent diet, clothing, and lodging, by the discretion of the county court; and shall not, at any time, give immoderate correction [excessive punishment]; neither shall at any time whip a Christian white servant naked without an order from a justice of the peace. . . . 
  • That all servants (not being slaves,) whether imported or become servants of their own accord here, or bound by any court or church-wardens, shall have their complaints received by a justice of the peace, who, if he find cause, shall bind the master over to answer the complaint at court. . .  
  • That no negros, mulattos, or Indians, although Christians, or Jews, Moors, Mahometans [Muslims], or other infidels shall at any time purchase any Christian servant, nor any other, except of their own complexion or such as are declared slaves by this act. . . . 
  • That there shall be paid and allowed to every imported servant, not having yearly wages, at the time of service ended, by the master or owner of such servant, viz: To every male servant, ten bushels of Indian corn, thirty shillings in money, or the value thereof in goods, and one well fixed musket or fuzee, of the value of twenty shillings, at least: and to every woman servant, fifteen bushels of Indian corn and forty shillings in money, or the value thereof in goods . . . . 
  • That in all cases of penal laws, whereby persons free are punishable by fine, servants shall be punished by whipping, after the rate of twenty lashes for every five hundred pounds of tobacco, or fifty shillings current money, unless the servant so culpable can and will procure some person or persons to pay the fine; in which case, the said servant shall be adjudged to serve such benefactor after the time by indenture, custom, or order of court, to his or her then present master or owner, shall be expired. . . . 
  • That whatsoever English or other white man or woman, being free, shall intermarry with a negro or mulatto man or woman, bond or free, shall by judgment of the county court be committed to prison and there remain during the space of six months, without bail or main prize; and shall forfeit and pay ten pounds current money of Virginia, to the use of the parish. .  
  • And if any slave resist his master or owner or other person, by his or her order, correcting such slave, and shall happen to be killed in such correction, it shall not be accounted felony; but the master, owner, and every such other person so giving correction shall be free and acquit of all punishment and accusation for the same, as if such accident had never happened; And also, if any negro, mulatto, or Indian, bond or free, shall at any time lift his or her hand in opposition against any Christian, not being negro, mulatto, or Indian, he or she so offending shall, for every such offence proved by the oath of the party, receive on his or her bare back thirty lashes, well laid on; cognizable by a justice of the peace for that county wherein such offense shall be committed. . . . 
  • That no slave go armed with gun, sword, club, staff, or other weapon, nor go from off the plantation and seat of land where such slave shall be appointed to live, without a certificate of leave in writing for so doing from his or her master, mistress, or overseer: And if any slave shall be found offending herein, it shall be lawful for any person or persons to apprehend and deliver such slave to the next constable or head-borough, who is hereby enjoined and required, without further order or warrant, to give such slave twenty lashes on his or her bare back, well laid on, and so send him or her home. . . 
  • That baptism of slaves does not exempt them from bondage; and that all children shall be bond or free, according to the condition of their mothers, and the particular directions of this act. 
  • Source: http://www.historianstevecampbell.com/uploads/4/4/6/5/44657359/virginia_slave_code_1705.pdf

Inspired by Virginia Slave Codes, Massachusetts passed its own version of a law to prohibit both marriage and fornication between whites and blacks. Notice that Massachusetts lawmakers eliminated the ban on fornication in 1786, thus protecting white officials from the threat of arrest.  At the same time, MA legislators extended the ban on marriage to include Indians.

Thursday, July 08, 2021

Why Don't Educators, Scholars, and the Media Pay Attention to the Research? Comments on Lichtman and VanPatten


Why Don't Educators, Scholars, and the Media Pay Attention to the Research? Comments on Lichtman and VanPatten

Stephen Krashen

Foreign Language Annals (in press)


Of course my initial reaction to Lichtman and VanPatten (Foreign Language Annals, in press) as well as to the reaction papers was satisfaction that there was so much agreement with my conclusions. However, because the focus was on hypotheses that are attributed to me, I was surprised to see that my work was hardly cited at all. In fact, throughout the entire collection, with one exception, there was only one item cited, Principles and Practice, published in 1982. Nearly 90% of my publications appeared after that and there are quite a few of them (n= 473).  

Moreover, many of my papers and books published since 1982 deal with the hypotheses and issues that are the focus of the papers that we are discussing here. My papers since 1982 provide a lot more evidence for the Input Hypothesis, including experimental results, correlational results with multivariate designs, and case histories, using different populations in different countries. There are studies in first language acquisition, second language acquisition among children, and second language acquisition among adults. In my opinion they provide strong evidence for the Input Hypothesis and its first cousin, the reading hypothesis. 

In addition, they cover other topics discussed in the review papers, eg. the role of output (including spoken and written output), the status of the comprehensible output hypothesis, the role of consciously learned grammar, correction, and the role of interaction. 

Most important, several recent papers include a discussion of Optimal Input, the idea that not all methodology that includes comprehensible input is of equal value. A number of papers present evidence supporting methodology that is consistent with Optimal Input, Story-Listening and Guided Self- Selected Reading, developed by Beniko Mason.  

The papers since 1982 also present evidence for the hypotheses as they apply to spelling, phonics, and phonemic awareness as well as the application of the theory to bilingual education and animal language. There are also papers on the impact of writing on problem-solving and creativity. 

The work of others impacting these topics was also not mentioned in any of the papers. 

Am I whining that my work was not honored enough? No. Scholars can make the same complaint about my failure to cite their work. In fact, I was unfamiliar with many of the citations in each of the papers in this collection. But there are good reasons why my work wasn’t cited more and good reasons why I had not read all the papers cited in the articles in this collection. It is a problem that concerns all of us and concerns the future of research in language acquisition. Professional papers in our area of interest are (a) much too long; (b) often very difficult to read and (c) the journals and books that include them are much too expensive. 

I suspect that these factors are the reason scholars are not familiar with a great deal of the research literature and why information about research results has not “trickled down”to practitioners 2 or to the general public, the media, 3 and to other scholars. It has not trickled anywhere. 



When we ask the time, we don't want to know how watches are constructed. Georg Christoph Lichtenberg (1742-1799)

A study of length

Clearly, many journal papers today are written to get published, not to be read, and often read like dissertations.  In my opinion, they contain a lot of unnecessary information. 

Journal papers are intended to report on current progress in the field. They are aimed at specialists. Scholars should assume that readers are somewhat familiar with the topic under discussion. They are not textbooks for those new to the field, nor are they supposed to be critical reviews of the literature. 

Introductions should only orient the reader to the problem the author is dealing with and not provide a detailed review of every study done. 4 Conclusions need contain only a brief summary of the results and the usual (but brief) “apologies” for possible flaws in the study. Also, journal papers should not include more than a short statement about what studies should be done next. This should be obvious from the introduction and results. 

In preparing this paper, I listed all the journal papers and book chapters cited in the four other papers that made up this collection that seemed relevant to the topic, and that I had not read. They totaled about 2000 pages. This would take me weeks or even months to read carefully, and I am generally up-to-date in my professional reading (I am retired, and have much more free time than most people.) This could, I estimate, be cut to 20% or even 10% of that total.  (I have found that it is a mistake simply to skim papers.) Authors can make life much easier and more efficient for readers by not making papers unnecessarily long and by including only sources that are clearly relevant.



I suspect that a great deal of academic writing is deliberately hard to read and understand. This happens for one or both of these reasons.  

(1)           More respect from colleagues:

Kohn (2003) suggests “ …that scholarship is valued by other academics in direct proportion to its inaccessibility “ (Kohn 2003). It may, in fact, be the case that comprehensible academic prose even disdained by some academics: “It has been my experience with literary critics and academics in this country that clarity looks a lot like laziness and ignorance and childishness and cheapness to them. Any idea which can be grasped immediately is for them, by definition, something they knew all the time.  (Vonnegut, 1982, p. 320.)

(2)           Avoiding risk

Hedges ( 2010) accuses academics of deliberately writing dense, long papers and publishing them in obscure journals and books, with “no attempt to reach wider audience or enrich public life” (p. 125) in order to avoid risk: “As long as academics write in the tortured vocabulary of specialization for seminars and conferences, where they are unable to influence public debate, they are free to espouse any bizarre or ‘radical’ theory” (p.125). 

It is also a way of avoiding criticism. Here is an experience that occurred at an Acoustical Society Meeting I attended when I was a graduate student that illustrated the power of dense language to deflect criticism. Phonetics researcher Peter Ladefoged decided to shorten his presentation from 12 minutes to seven, in agreement with a resolution that passed by the society the day before. Instead of reading his paper, he presented it in plain talk. Because it was clear and jibberish-free, his presentation stimulated far more comments and, most interesting, for more criticism, than any other presentation I attended at the conference. 

In areas where our work impacts the public, and our conclusions are contrary to public opinion (e.g. issues such as bilingual education, phonics and grammar teaching) scholars can continue to earn the admiration of their colleagues and get tenure and salary increases without harsh rebukes from the popular media. 

Long papers full of jargon make it difficult even for people like me, those who have a great deal of experience in reading scholarship and who have plenty of time to read. Teachers have neither. Unnecessarily long and dense papers exclude them from the discussion, a profound loss to the profession. 



My work covers several fields and when subscriptions were cheaper, I used to subscribe to about 20 journals. If I did not have access to a university library and had to pay for subscriptions to all of them, today this would amount to a lot of money; some journals in our field now charge $100 per year. Others, happily, do their best to keep expenses down and offer reasonable subscription rates, even giving discounts to junior and retired faculty). Individual copies of articles are generally available, but the usual cost is about $40. The journal/publishing company gets the money, not the author. 

Today we can obtain many journal articles illegally through services such as researchgate and Sci-Hub.  Elsevier has been trying to sue Sci-Hub but it is doubtful that this will have a major effect.  (https://www.nature.com/news/us-court-grants-elsevier-millions-in-damages-from-sci-hub-1.22196). But the research appears in places other than journals. Most of the edited collections related to this discussion are very expensive; even soft-cover versions can cost $50. 

Please note that this analysis applies only to journals and books needed to fully understand just a few reports focused on a few ideas. It is a small fraction of what a competent scholar needs to be aware of and understand. 

Cost, of course, is not a problem for those with easy access to a first-rate university library, but this is a small percentage of the people who need to read and understand professional literature. 


We can solve all three problems at once: the long articles and the dense prose, and the cost. The solution is publishing in open-access papers that are clearly written and without unnecessary prose.

Open-access means that there is no charge for the reader and no charge for the writer. Open-access journals are available on the internet and can be accessed and downloaded by anyone.  Articles are refereed in the usual way.  

Thanks to the efforts of a few scholars, e.g.  Timothy Gowers of the UK and Albert P’Rayan of India, we appear to be gradually moving toward reporting all scientific progress in free, open-access publications. 

 University libraries, including the libraries serving to University of California, are starting to cancel subscriptions to some journals due to the substantial increase in costs (Resnick and Belluz, 2019; Napolitano, 2020). 

 But there are barriers: 

1.    * “Prestige-obsessed” scholars who insist on publishing in expensive closed access journals (Resnick and Belluz, 2019) and 

2.     *  University committees who do not value open-access and who are responsible for hiring and promotion. 

Short, clearly written articles, of course, make the work of these committees much easier. It is nearly impossible, under current practices, to read candidates’ work, even if committee members are familiar with their area, because of the length and writing styles so prevalent in our field. 

These barriers will disappear as more scholars try to write concise and clear papers, and make them easily accessible. The change will happen when highly respected senior scholars, less concerned about tenure and promotion and not job-hunting, go this route. 

My experience tells me that length and complexity are still a serious problem.  I am regularly asked to review papers for journals, and I am happy to do this: It is a professional responsibility. About six years ago I adopted a new policy: I will not review papers that are longer than five pages.  The invitations continue to come regularly, but I have not reviewed a paper for the last six years. 


1.    (1) I think “trickle up” is more accurate. Let’s remember who(m) we are working for.

2.   (2) We are told that teachers, unlike professionals in other fields, don’t read professional journals and don’t keep up with research and theory. In one study Marsden and Kasprowicz (2017) reported that over half the classroom teachers they surveyed reported never having read an original research report. The average number of research papers read during their entire career was nine. Non-school based education professionals (e.g. university-based teacher educators, consultants and advisors) reported doing more reading of research papers but 27% reported having never read about research in a journal. 

3.     (3) e.g. McQuillan and Tse (1996), who show that over a ten-year period media reports were generally unsupportive of bilingual education while research reports were generally positive over the same time period.

4.     (4) I have therefore not included a list of my papers published since 1982 in this paper, along with detailed descriptions. Links to many of them can be found in sdkrashen.com. Highly relevant is Jeff McQuillan’s work at backseatlinguist.com, and Beniko Mason’s at beniko-mason.net. 



Hedges, C.  2010. The Death of the Liberal Class. New York, Nation Books.

Kohn, A.  2003; Professors who profess. Kappa Delta Pi Record 47.1. https://www.alfiekohn.org/article/professors-profess/

Marsden, E. & R. Kasprowicz. (2017). Foreign language educators’ exposure to research: reported experiences, exposure via citations, and a proposal for action. The Modern Language Journal 101(4): 613-642.

McQuillan, J. and Tse, L. 1996 Does research matter? An analysis of media opinion on bilingual education, 1984-1994. Bilingual Research Journal, 20(1), 1- 27.

Napolitano, J. 2020. University research should be free to all. Inside Higher Ed. July 31, 2020 https://www.insidehighered.com/views/2020/07/31/universities-should-commit-opening-their-research-everyone-opinion

Resnick, B. and Belluz, J. 2019. The war to free science. Vox. https://www.vox.com/the-highlight/2019/6/3/18271538/open-access-elsevier-california-sci-hub-academic-paywalls

Vonnegut, K. 1981. Palm Sunday. New York: Dell Publishing Company.

Wednesday, July 07, 2021

Do American schools teach reading all wrong?


Do American schools teach reading all wrong?

Sent to the Economist


The Economist (June 12) claims that “study after study” shows that the way most American children are taught to read is “all wrong,” and that the winning method (“the best way to teach children to read”) is phonics, “systematic and explicitly taught.” This means teach all the rules of phonics in a strict order to all students. 


In support of this conclusion, the Economist cites The National Reading Panel, convened by the US Dept of Education and the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development in 1997. They panel “found that “phonics, along with explicit instruction in phonemic awareness, fluency and comprehension, worked best.” The Economist did not mention the many criticisms of this report, which appeared in major, well-respected journals and books for over 20 years. 


The case against systematic, explicit phonics is strong. First, many of the rules of phonics are complicated. Few of us can state complex phonics rules, but we have no trouble pronouncing words based on these rules. Nearly all readers of this letter can pronounce the word “bomb” correctly when we see it in print, but few of us know why the first “b” is pronounced but the second is not. Even fewer of us know why the second “b” is not pronounced in “bombing” but is pronounced in “bombastic.” Most of us can pronounce the three ‘c’s correctly in “Pacific Ocean,” but few of us can state the rules. We acquired these rules by reading, not by study or instruction.


Second, studies have also shown that explicit and systematic phonics instruction helps children improve in pronouncing words presented in isolation on a list but has little or no impact on tests in which children have to understand what they read. 


Also in support of phonics, as well as phonemic awareness instruction, the Economist reports that Mississippi’s “success” on reading tests is because of an emphasis on phonics and instruction in phonemic awareness, starting in 2013.  Not mentioned is the fact that special instruction in phonics was provided only for students identified with having reading problems. Yet, reading scores for good readers improved just as much as scores of poor readers. Perhaps these good readers improved for the same reason scores in Mississippi have gone up in general since 1998, with significant increases between 2005 and 2008 without extra emphasis on phonics. 


The new policy in Mississippi also forced third graders who did not show satisfactory improvement to repeat third grade. Thus, those who were low scorers were not tested along with other fourth graders at the end of the year, because they were held back and were not yet in grade four. Not including these low scorers produced the illusion of improvement in grade four. 


I had a public disagreement with the National Reading Panel concerning the efficacy of instruction in phonemic awareness. I pointed out to them, in a note published in the Reading Research Quarterly, that the data supporting phonemic awareness instruction was based on very little data.  Panel members actually agreed with me, and said only that if we had more data the results might be different.


The Economist has not done its homework. 


Stephen Krashen, PhD

Professor Emeritus

Rossier School of Education

University of Southern California



Some sources: 


The effect of explicit intensive phonics instruction:

Krashen, S. 2009. Does intensive reading instruction contribute to reading comprehension? Knowledge Quest 37 (4): 72-74. https://tinyurl.com/jc6x8mk


Disagreement about phonemic awareness: 

Krashen, S. 2002. Phonemic awareness training necessary? Reading Research Quarterly 37(2): 128 (Letter).

The NRP responds: Ehri, L., Shanahan, T. and Nunes, S. 2002. Response to Krashen. Reading Research Quarterly 37(2): 128-129.

Right-Wing UNC Names Online Gambling Exec to Board of Trustees

When domestic policy advisor for George W. Bush was named Secretary of Education, the demolition of American public schools was proceeding on a schedule set by the cynically-impossible demands built into No Child Left Behind, which Margaret LaMontagne Spellings had helped to design. After both Bush and Spellings left their miseducative mess for Team Obama to make ever worse in 2009, Spellings kicked around among the elites of the corporate education reform movement for a few years before she received her next assignment from the right-wing billionaires in charge of the GOP.  

When Tom Ross was fired as President of the UNC system in 2015 for his links to progressive causes, Spellings was picked as his successor by the the state's powerful John Birchers.  Everyone knew by then that the UNC system would never be the same highly-respected academic institution that it had worked so hard to become.  

Even though Spellings has been put out to pasture from her position as political waitress to the UNC Board of Governors, the Board of Trustees, now controlled by the North Carolina Trump Party legislature, has been seeded with know-nothing conservative businessmen--you know, the kind that would deny tenure to an eminently qualified black scholar and Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist (read Nicole Hannah-Jones's statement here).

Among the new team members named to the UNC Board of Trustees this year is Malcolm Turner, an executive for the online sports gambling site, DraftKings, Inc.  He should be lots of help this fall during Board meetings that focus on finalizing members' parlay cards.  Wonder if he knew what the betting line was on whether or not Hannah-Jones would accept the Board's efforts to humiliate her?  

Whatever the line was, I would have bet against it.

Thursday, July 01, 2021

CRT: Who Needs a Theory When the Historical Facts Say It All, Part 1

  •  1607: Jamestown, the first British North American settlement, was founded in Virginia.   
  • 1619: The first African Americans arrived in Jamestown, Virginia.
  • 1640: Virginia courts sentenced a black run away servant, John Punch, to "serve his said master . . . for the time of his natural Life."

One of the major tenets of critical race theory (CRT) acknowledges

. . . that racism is a normal feature of society and is embedded within systems and institutions, like the legal system, that replicate racial inequality. This dismisses the idea that racist incidents are aberrations but instead are manifestations of structural and systemic racism.

Of all the elements of CRT, this one seems to explode more heads among Republican authoritarian cultists than any other, and to send them rushing pell-mell to the nearest school board meeting to disrupt, bully, or intimidate school board members and administrators.   

For the most part, school officials have, heretofore, complied with the demands of common sense and their elected or professional responsibilities to allow educators some say in whether or not to teach history or to teach the malicious fictions preferred by cancel culture white supremacists who can be found in congressional office suites, corporate board rooms, at editorial desks, and trailer park laundromats.

While critical race theory is despised, denied, and subjected to lies by those who both know what the theory really says and by those who remain clueless, careless, or, otherwise, uninterested in truth, the facts of our history cannot and will not be dismissed or eradicated as long as there are those who act to keep alive democratic principles.

And even though K-12 and even undergraduate history curricula are most often entirely deficient when it comes to sharing with students fact-based historical narratives that include the raw racist truths that are central to the American story from Colonial days to the present day, educators will not be cowed by racist liars, nor will scholars bow to censorious demands of white vigilantes who are egged on and funded by elected or self-appointed fascists.

So let's begin our incomplete historical survey of values, codes, and statutes that built the legal fortress that has protected racist oppression, white supremacy, and racial inequality in America from the 1600s to the 21st Century.

The text below is from a PBS documentary series, Africans in America: America's Journey through Slavery, Part 1. Part 1 documents the "terrible transformation" from indentured servitude to slavery in the British colonies prior to the American Revolution.  The documentary clearly traces how the vast slavery empire in America did not arrive on these shores in any way fully formed or pre-ordained but, rather, evolved as one inhumane law at a time was written to give legal protection to white landowners who placed their own avarice and greed over the Christian principles that they espoused, even as their actions made such principles a mockery in the face to God and man.

The transformation from indentured servitude (servants contracted to work for a set amount of time) to racial slavery didn't happen overnight. There are no laws regarding slavery early in Virginia's history. By 1640, the Virginia courts had sentenced at least one black servant to slavery . . .

Three servants working for a farmer named Hugh Gwyn ran away to Maryland. Two were white; one was black. They were captured in Maryland and returned to Jamestown, where the court sentenced all three to thirty lashes -- a severe punishment even by the standards of 17th-century Virginia. The two white men were sentenced toan additional four years of servitude -- one more year for Gwyn followed by three more for the colony. But, in addition to the whipping, the black man, a man named John Punch, was ordered to "serve his said master or his assigns for the time of his natural Life here or elsewhere." John Punch no longer had hope for freedom.

It wasn't until 1661 that a reference to slavery entered into Virginia law, and this law was directed at white servants -- at those who ran away with a black servant. The following year, the colony went one step further [Act XII] by stating that children born would be bonded or free according to the status of the mother:

Virginia, December 1662: Whereas some doubts have arisen whether children got by any Englishman upon a Negro woman should be slave or free, be it therefore enacted and declared by this present Grand Assembly, that all children born in this country shall be held bond or free only according to the condition of the mother; and that if any Christian shall commit fornication with a Negro man or woman, he or she so offending shall pay double the fines imposed by the former act.
The transformation had begun, but it wouldn't be until the Slave Codes of 1705  that the status of African Americans would be sealed.  . . . [see upcoming posts at this blog]

The shift from indentured servitude to racial slavery in the British colonies is evident in the development of the colonies' laws.   

Maryland, 1664: The first colonial "anti-amalgamation" law is enacted (amalgamation referred to "race-mixing"). Other colonies soon followed Maryland's example. A 1691 Virginia law declared that any white man or woman who married a "Negro, mulatto, or Indian" would be banished from the colony forever.  

Virginia, 1667: Christian baptisms would no longer affect the bondage of blacks or Indians, preventing enslaved workers from improving their legal status by changing their religion.

Act III. Whereas some doubts have risen whether children that are slaves by birth, and by the charity and piety of their owners made partakers of the blessed sacrament of baptism, should by virtue of their baptism be made free, it is enacted and declared by this Grand Assembly, and the auhority thereof, that the conferring of baptism does not alter the condition of the person as to his bondage or freedom; that diverse masters, freed from this doubt may more carefully endeavor the propagation of Christianity by permitting children, though slaves, or chose of greater growth if capable, to be admitted to that sacrament.

Virginia, 1669: What came to be known as the "Casual Killing Act," this law allowed for the killing of any slave who "resists" his master.

Act I. Whereas the only law in force for the punishment of refractory servants resisting their master, mistress, or overseer cannot be inflicted upon Negroes, nor the obstinacy of many of them be suppressed by other than violent means, be it enacted and declared by this Grand Assembly if any slave resists his master (or other by his master's order correcting him) and by the extremity of the correction should chance to die, that his death shall not be accounted a felony, but the master (or that other person appointed by the master to punish him) be acquitted from molestation, since it cannot be presumed that premeditated malice (which alone makes murder a felony) should induce any man to destroy his own estate.

I want to admit, too, my own education left me with an thoroughly incomplete picture of our past and that many of the facts that I share above and will share in subsequent posts came to my attention only as I dug them out for myself during the past quarter century of research and teaching.  

So if some of the facts presented in this series are new to you, please don't feel that your own education is any more deficient than the society at large.  You may be assured that almost everyone in America has been similarly miseducated about our racial history.  Sadly, the majority on the U. S. Supreme Court, as well as a sizable segment of our population, would keep it that way. Don't allow it.