Posts Tagged ‘education’

Anti-Government Activist Targets Labor Studies

April 28, 2011

The same guy who pawned a deceptively edited video of Shirley Sherrod off as news has now made a new video of deceptively edited talks by educators at the University of Missouri-Kansas City. Andrew Breitbart combed through 30 hours of video tape to find roughly seven minutes of what he claims is advocacy of industrial sabotage. Frankly, the video is so jumbled up and poorly edited, that it’s actually rather boring. But given that these sorts of shenanigans have had bizarrely serious consequences in the past, I want to help spread the real story behind this tactic. Below is a statement by one of the professors, Judy Ancel, regarding this attack. At the end I leave a comment challenge: leave a comment with something you heard someone else say today–but edit selectively (keep it rated PG, though).

Andrew Breitbart’s Affront to Democracy and Attack on Students’ Right to an Education

Statement by Judy Ancel

I am Judy Ancel, director of the Institute for Labor Studies at the University of Missouri-Kansas City. While my university prepares its response, I feel compelled to answer the attacks by Andrew Breitbart on my character. I am speaking as an individual and certainly not for UMKC. I am speaking out of my strong lifelong commitment to educating working people to better understand the world they live in. Labor education is a vital part of anyone’s education. All Americans, especially our youth, need to understand the contributions working people have made and make in building our communities and nation. Labor education gives them the skills and vision to make a better world.

My students and I are outraged at Mr. Breitbart’s invasion of our classroom and his attempts to intimidate us and my colleagues at the university. Mr. Breitbart’s chop shop manufactured videos from 30 hours of classroom recordings that were posted for the course, “Labor, Politics, and Society,” on the university’s Blackboard system. Presumably these were delivered to him by a student, in possible violation of the University Standards of Conduct and the Federal Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act. These videos were recorded for the use of students enrolled in this course, and for them only. Breitbart disassembled the material, and reassembled it; arranging them to give the appearance that instructors of the class advocate violence. This is in fact the opposite of the position both instructors took in class. Any examination of labor’s past would be incomplete without discussion of violence, (which for the most part was directed at workers) and analysis of its roots. At no time did my co-instructor, Don Giljum, nor I advocate violence.

There’s no doubt that Breitbart’s attacks are politically motivated, part of a broad agenda to weaken unions and the public sector as well as public education. His fabrications have been exposed numerous times in the mainstream media. Yet he and his echo chamber at Fox News continue to cause great harm to educators and other public servants.

On April 18th Breitbart announced his intentions on Fox News Sean Hannity show: “We’re going to take on education next, go after the teachers and the union organizers.” It is possible that his attack on the University of Missouri and labor education is his first assault.

Breitbart is a master of taking quotes out of context, deletion of what doesn’t serve his purpose, and remixing to achieve totally different meaning. For example he has me saying:

o Breitbart’s version: “Violence is a tactic and it’s to be used when it’s the appropriate tactic.”
o The real version: After students had watched a film on the 1968 Memphis Sanitation Workers’ Strike and the assassination of Martin Luther King, they were discussing nonviolence. I said, “One guy in the film. . . said ‘violence is a tactic, and it’s to be used when it’s the appropriate tactic.’ . . . “ The class proceeded to discuss and debate this.

Thus Mr. Breitbart’s editing has literally put words in my mouth that were not mine, and they never were mine.

Breitbart leaves out a crucial statement by Don Giljum in order to make it appear that he advocates violence. Giljum said, “I’m not sure as a tactic today the type of violence or reaction to the violence we had back then would be called for here, and I think it would do more harm than good.” A student then says “and it just legitimizes their dirty tricks.” Giljum agreed with him.

There are a number of other instances of very creative editing including:

o A change of clothes by Don Giljum from one sentence to another (more…)


Ode to April Fool’s Day

April 1, 2011

I’m a dream date for people who love April Fool’s Day. I’ve fallen for at least three pranks today already. (My favorite was the email from my Wisconsin State Assembly rep who said all 34 Democratic Assembly members have decided to go ahead and leave the state too.)

One April Fool’s prank in 1993 actually changed the course of my life. I was a religious studies major, planning to go on to get my PhD and become a professor (I mean, what else is a person gonna do with that degree?). I found religion such a fascinating topic, I could easily imagine spending the rest of my life studying it. I joined the Undergraduate Religious Studies Association (URSA), which published a monthly newsletter.

For April Fool’s Day of my junior year, we made a mock newsletter in which we poked fun at the department, ourselves, and the professors. We were not a spiteful crew, but we had a fun time with phony interviews, make-believe book reviews, and doctored photos. It was all good-natured, so we were pretty shocked when a couple of the professors were outraged. “How dare you make light of my life’s work?” and “Maybe you don’t see the value in this, but I can assure you others do.” That sort of thing.

James Hart, professor of phenomenology--whatever that means...

Their responses were so egotistical that I began to wonder what it does to a person to devote one’s life to an obscure area of study which, in the larger scheme of things, just doesn’t matter that much. (more…)

Macy’s Day: Interview with Kim E. Nielsen

August 30, 2010

Kim E. Nielsen’s latest book, Beyond the Miracle Worker: The Remarkable Life of Anne Sullivan Macy and Her Extraordinary Friendship with Helen Keller, provides a rich account of the woman most of us know only as the person who taught language to a deaf-blind girl named Helen Keller. But Macy’s life was extraordinary in its own right. She lost her mother early and was sent with her younger brother to a monstrously disease-ridden and abusive almshouse. Her brother soon died, leaving the vision-impaired girl alone in the world. Through a combination of luck and pluck, she landed a spot at a renowned school for the blind. After graduating with no other employment options, she reluctantly accepted the position of governess to Helen Keller. The two women soon became famous and they would remain the most steadfast of friends for the rest of Macy’s impressive and difficult life. Nielsen is also the author of The Radical Lives of Helen Keller and Un-American Womanhood: Antiradicalism, Antifeminism and the First Red Scare. She is the editor of Helen Keller: Selected Writings. She teaches history, gender studies, and disability studies at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay.

I’m always curious about people who write biographies about really famous people. Some people might figure that the territory has already been covered. Can you say why you write about Helen Keller and now Anne Sullivan Macy?
Well, I read biographies all the time as a child. That’s the source of my love of history. It gives you facts and context but also satisfies a love of gossip. When I feel like I have to work but don’t want to, I read biographies because it doesn’t feel like work.

But I initially wrote about Helen Keller out of naïveté. Now I realize that she’s one of the most written about women in the universe, and didn’t understand that choosing her as my subject might present some obstacles in my career. But I fell into writing about her and I love it.

Then I finished writing my books on her and swore her off. I told my husband I would never speak Keller or Macy’s name again! [Laughs] I started a completely different project. Then nine months into this other project—and I don’t want to get too mystical—I was haunted by Annie. She had such an important story and no biography had been done of her since 1933. Even then, no one ever focused on her as a person of her own. She was always just an accessory to Helen. (more…)

Is Our Children Learning?

March 13, 2010

I lived in Texas for almost a year during my early twenties.  I could not perceive any danger that the populace was disrespectful towards the conservative movements of the 1980s and 90s. By and large, people believed that women should defer to men, that capitalism is next to (or perhaps even equivalent to) godliness, and that keeping one’s guns is the best way to enforce these beliefs. Moreover, any advances made by Latinos or African-Americans were often perceived by whites as the product of some political trickery. So unless there has been a radical shift to the left in the Lone Star State since I lived there, it’s hard to see any legitimate purpose to the Board of Education’s party-line votes to amend the social studies and economic curricula for the state. Instead, the move seems to be intended to further alienate the millions of Texans who hold minority viewpoints.

The new standards would offer some justification of McCarthy's anti-communist witch hunt. Above, poet Langston Hughes is called to testify about his political leanings after writing a poem that criticized Christianity's role in oppression.

Some highlights of what’s to be included or emphasized more favorably include:

  • A challenge to the validity of the wall of separation between church and state
  • Study of Phyllis Schlafly, the NRA, the Heritage Foundation, and the Contract with America.
  • Credit to Republicans for advancing civil rights
  • Justification for McCarthy’s red-baiting and the House Un-American Activities Committee
  • The importance of personal responsibility in regards to suicide, sexual assault, and eating disorders

Here’s what’s out, de-emphasized, or cast unfavorably: (more…)