Calling All Shakers for the Teaspooning Assist

by Shaker Christina

Some background: All year, The Girl has been coming home with stories of her ultra-wingnut, Mormon English teacher arguing her political views to the class.* Today, I finally had enough and despite The Girl's wishes for me to leave it alone, I wrote the teacher an e-mail.** E-mail ahead:
Mrs. Inappropriate English Teacher Person,

I am The Girl's mother. I have heard about the "discussion" that you had in class this morning and the, quite frankly, racist overtones of the power point and the lack of any counterpoint from those who are supposed to be educated in these issues in order to provide said counterpoint. I have heard of other such discussions in the past and have honored my daughter's wish to leave it alone. However, there is a limit and I've reached mine.

I understand that the discussion centered on Islam and "how they rape their women, they stone them and veil them, and otherwise oppress their women. Their culture is worthless. We should change them."

Let me take this point by point.
[ed. Here I inserted an exhaustive xkcd-style rebuttal with links, numbered and bulleted, about all that was wrong with the above statements. I have spared you. You’re welcome.]
I'm very disturbed by the political discussions in an English class, not to mention how one-sided they are. My 17 year old daughter seems to be the only voice of dissent in the discussion according to reports and, being 17, doesn't have the knowledge or the skills to argue the truth effectively. I'm disturbed that these kids will be going out in society soon, and God help the Afghans, might join the military and be given a gun after being taught that Muslims are less than. These little discussions have real world consequences.

I understand that abortion is next on the agenda. Please allow me to direct your attention to the history of septic wards in every hospital, the history of forced birth for white woman and forced sterilization and abortion for black women, the difference in maternal mortality rates between countries with liberal abortion laws and those that ban abortion, not to mention simply the idea that a fully-formed human being loses the right to control her own body and organs in favor of a clump of tissue completely dependent upon her organs and her nutrition. Oh, I could go on, but I'll spare you. I'm sure you are already aware of these points and will counter-argue the prevailing beliefs shown by the students in order to foster critical thought.

Thank you for your time and attention,
Christina [Smith-Farmer]
She answered back with a fairly reasonable response. The Girl tells me that it's pretty much BS and the things she says she said in class are, perhaps, a bit short of true and perhaps leaning more to "truthiness".

Still, the teacher asked for books that are "similarly well-written, that offer additional information and well-researched points of view, [she] would appreciate [my] input. [She] revise[s] the list every year and [is] looking for information that is accurate and will give the students real issues to discuss and write about." I would like to give her what she asked for. That is why I need you, Shakers. The following two books are the ones that are problematic:
Hirsi Ali, Ayaan. Infidel. New York: Free Press. 2007. Ali is the Somali-born former member of the Dutch parliament who faced death threats after collaborating on a film about domestic violence against Muslim women with controversial director Theo van Gogh (who was himself assassinated). Even before then, her attacks on Islamic culture as "brutal, bigoted, [and] fixated on controlling women" had generated much controversy. In this suspenseful account of her life and her internal struggle with her Muslim faith, she discusses how these views were shaped by her experiences amid the political chaos of Somalia and other African nations, where she was subjected to genital mutilation and later forced into an unwanted marriage.

Levitt, Steven D. and Stephen J. Dubner, Freakonomics. New York: William Morrow, 2006. Economics is not widely considered to be one of the sexier sciences. The annual Nobel Prize winner in that field never receives as much publicity as his or her compatriots in peace, literature, or physics. But if one has the notion that economics is dull, or that economists are concerned only with finance itself, Steven D. Levitt will change some minds. In Freakonomics (written with Stephen J. Dubner), Levitt argues that many apparent mysteries of everyday life don't need to be so mysterious: they could be illuminated and made even more fascinating by asking the right questions and drawing connections.
Infidel is not objectionable because of its controversial subject matter, but because it's offered without any alternative or complementary material, which effectively turns one woman's experience into "women's experience" for an audience mostly unsophisticated enough to discern the different. The part that is problematic about Freakonomics is the part that correlates Roe v Wade and lower crime rates. ***

I know Shakers are among the most well-read folks around so if you know of a non-fiction book that will counter the arguments of the books above, I would love to begin an(other) exhaustive, xkcd-style list (see above) of such. Please leave them in comments.

In the interest of full-disclosure, this is a high-school junior level AP English course in Texas. So, for example, Dorothy Roberts' Killing the Black Body, while certainly fitting the criteria laid-out above, would be beyond the ability to comprehend for the intended audience.


*Nikki has 6 other teachers, two of them history/social studies teachers and I have no idea what religion they are or what their political leanings are. I continue to ask, "Why do I know this about her, then?"

**I'm a Bad MomTM and terribly embarrassing to my children. Life sucks, that's how it goes. I'm just doing my part for the psychology industry. It’s an investment in our future. Think of it as delayed economic stimulus. I am a patriot after all.

***How have these guys made so much money by serially committing cum hoc ergo propter hoc logical fallacies, I’ll never know. I weep for logic, science and mathematics, y’all.

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