This story must begin with the ending, which you will only read here. You will only read it here because Rush Limbaugh and Todd Starnes, speaking for Fox News, have spoken and written lies about an elementary school teacher in Tennessee which they do not appear to be willing to retract.
Here, then, is the official statement from the Elizabethton Superintendent of Schools.
In response to yesterday’s coverage by Fox News of an occurrence involving a sheet of paper taken home by a third-grade student at Harold McCormick Elementary School, the following is an accurate clarification: First, when this circumstance was first brought to my attention yesterday afternoon in a phone message, I immediately called the school Principal and obtained the details. I then call the individual at Fox back and relayed the specific information I had just gotten. The Principal quickly had done a thorough investigation and found the following (all of which was given to Fox News, prior to his national news report): 1) the sheet in question was not a hand-out sheet distributed to the students; 2) the sheet had been generated from internet information (on Mount Rushmore for a classroom history lesson) for the purpose of providing background material for a teacher observation; 3) the location of the sheet was on a separate teacher table adjacent to the teacher’s desk; 4) the student (without permission) took the sheet from a “ton” of discarded teacher’s material on that table; then, the student took it home and gave it to the parent.
I was able late yesterday afternoon to obtain the sheet (via fax) and saw why it was, in fact, discarded by the teacher as material to utilize in her presentation. Now, the thought that we as public educators would deliberately distribute such material is absolutely absurd! What was reported (which had been rebutted prior to the airing) was misleading and totally incorrect. I can only think it was shown for its sensational effect. Sadly, regardless of any follow-up report, our System has been defamed (possibly permanently). Should you need more information or if you have questions, please call or e-mail me.
Here's what happened: The teacher was preparing a lesson plan on Mount Rushmore, and printed out information from the Internet, where you're just as likely to see something from the John Birch Society as you are from the Nation of Islam. That teacher appropriately curated the material and put the discards on a table adjacent to her desk.
Nothing on that image is untrue. Nothing. However, I can see where parents might view it as inappropriate for third graders. As a parent of three myself, it's a handout I'd be fine with in 7th or 8th grade, but doubt third-graders are at a reading level where they could comprehend what is actually being said there.
However, this is Tennessee, which isn't quite over the Civil War yet in some areas, and so white mommy was shocked when her child brought this home. We cannot have the little darlings learning the truth about real American heroes, can we? (See Howard Zinn's essay on Unsung Heroes -- his suggestions for better people to memorialize than warmongers and slave owners.)
Cue Todd Starnes, Fox News, and Rush Limbaugh to stir the controversy. The first two love to slime public school teachers; the last one has a children's book to pimp that conveniently overlooks all questions of race.
Starnes wrote his piece for FoxNews.com after the Superintendent had responded to him. Breathlessly claiming the teacher had indeed sent home a Nation of Islam handout with a third grader, Starnes wrote:
Alexander told me the handout was never meant for public distribution. He said the child took the handout from the teacher’s work station without her permission. He said the teacher had been preparing for a presentation on Mount Rushmore and had discarded the controversial handout.
“It was not an authorized handout,” Alexander said.
Julie West is the president of Parents For Truth in Education, a Tennessee-based group that is opposed to Common Core.
At this point there is no indication the Nation of Islam assignment was connected to Common Core. However, West said she is alarmed by whatever happened at Harold McCormick Elementary School.
“The fact that students were cautioned against allowing their parents to see anything is deeply troubling,” West told me. “The only reasonable explanation is they don’t want parents to know what it is their children are learning.”
Well, no. There's another reasonable explanation, which is the one the teacher gave. It was printed, she discarded it, and it wasn't used as part of the lesson. Therefore, it was not intended for their children to learn and Helicopter Mama who expects her child to share absolutely everything that happens in school with her is mistaken about what was taught to her son, while giving him no consequences for taking material which was not for his consumption nor was it for him to take home.
In comes El Rushbo, full of bluster and venom (From his 10/28 show):
This is a story from Fox News: "School's Nation of Islam Handout Paints Founding Fathers as Racists." Get this, now. "The mother of an eight-year-old wants to know why a Tennessee school teacher gave her child a handout from the Nation of Islam that portrayed the presidents on Mount Rushmore as being racists."
This is Todd Starnes writing at Fox News. "Sommer Bauer tells me her son was given The Nation of Islam handout at Harold McCormick Elementary School in Elizabethton. The handout asked 'What does it take to be on Mount Rushmore?' The handout then explains that George Washington hailed from Virginia, a 'prime breeder of black people.' Of Theodore Roosevelt, it was alleged he called Africans 'ape-like.' There were also disparaging remarks made of Thomas Jefferson ... and Abraham Lincoln. She said her jaw dropped when she followed the link to a website that was listed on the handout. Imagine her surprise when up popped the Nation of Islam home page."
This is Calypso Louie's group. "'It raised a number of red flags,' she said. 'They are basically saying our Founding Fathers are racists.'" Well, Ms. Bauer, let me tell you, it's not just in your school. This is taught in many universities. It's taught in many public schools. Not only were the Founding Fathers racist, the country still is racist. It was founded in racism.
"Sommer told me she reached out to the teacher for an explanation -- hoping it was an honest mistake. 'At first, she did not recall which paper it was,' she said. 'Later in the day, she found the paper and told me she didn’t like what it said -- and said she must have printed it by mistake.' The teacher also told Sommer that her son was not supposed to take the Nation of Islam handout home. It was supposed to stay in the classroom." No doubt!
So they're passing out Nation of Islam literature as American history, which touts the presidents on Mount Rushmore as being racist and prime breeders of black people. So this is just another in a long stack of reasons why there's actually a mission behind the Rush Revere Time-Travel Adventures with Exceptional Americans series.
And again, there is nothing untrue on that handout. If anything, it gives students something to consider when they lionize dead guys who did things we reject as a society today.
Frankly, I think it would be a good thing if kids -- especially white kids -- learned that black people have legitimate grievances that haven't been repaired, while white folks enjoy the privilege of being able to reject those grievances.
Whatever issues the parent has with that material, taking it to national news and Common Core-hating TeaBirchers to slime public schools is evil.
But then, so are Starnes and Limbaugh. There's never a bad time for those whacks to stir a little race discontent wherever they can.