Jen Tafuto, an elementary school teacher in Manchester, Connecticut, posted a two-minute video on Twitter in which she announced her resignation from her position. She explained, ‘After six years as a teacher in Connecticut, I decided to resign from what I thought would be my forever career because I felt more like a political activist than a teacher in my own classroom.’
Her announcement, originally posted by 1776ActionOrg on August 30, quickly drew a lot of attention in the media. Fox News, RealClearPolitics, USA Today, the Daily Caller, a local Hartford station and a great cloud of bloggers too. Tafuto resigned because she was forced to teach an ‘anti-racism’ curriculum in which she was ‘pitting students against each other based on the color of their skin’. In her clip she reads a prepared statement from a teleprompter, which is a bit unfortunate. When you see her in subsequent interviews off-script, her distress at having to push ‘critical race theory’ on her seven- and eight-year-old students comes across more naturally.
In the original video she says that among the classroom prompts she was expected to use was, ‘I wonder why many white people didn’t want black people to have an education?’ In her interview with Samantha Renck at the Daily Caller, she explains, ‘Obviously I taught academics throughout the day but we had this block that was designated for “equity”. And in this block we were getting “read-alouds” to read to our students and prompts, questions, thought-provoking conversations starters that were just not [right] for seven- and eight-year olds.’ One such prompt about teachers failing to make ‘black boys matter’ felt like a ‘kick in the gut’. Tafuto regarded this forced pedagogy as a challenge to her ‘moral integrity’.
She need not have wondered, since that’s exactly the point of critical race theory. Tafuto, who is white, was feeling demoralized because she was being cast as someone whose motives in teaching non-white students were inherently illegitimate.
Tafuto joins a growing number of teachers who have broken ranks with the teachers union and their radicalized fellow teachers to complain about the subversion of American schools. The trend has caught the attention of no less than the godmother of 1619-ism, Nikole Hannah-Jones, who has a sideline as a fast-draw Twitter assassin. Hannah-Jones’s nom-de-Twit is ‘Ida Bae Wells’; as Aunt Ida she expresses her disdain for Tafuto:
‘So you entered teaching to willfully deny the history of this country and the lived experiences of your students? Fact check: 7 and 8 year-old Black kids already know they are being judged by their skin color and good educators don’t pretend otherwise but help explain why.
‘This is just so tiresome and it’s a game, the game they’ve long played that says that actual racial inequality is not the problem, talking about it is.’
Tafuto says nothing that remotely fits this caricature. But Hannah-Jones’s tweet is a useful condensation of several rhetorical moves favored by the anti-racist enforcers. ‘Lived experiences’ is a favorite device for accentuating and elevating racial difference in situations where it has little or no relevance. ‘Tiresome’ goes along with the oft-used ‘exhausted’ as a way to deflect the substance of any criticism of the anti-racist agenda. ‘Game’ and ‘long-played’ reinforce the writer’s ennui. It is as if to say, ‘Who can be bothered to answer these whiny complaints from white people? They should just get out of the way.’
And since Tafuto is in fact getting out of the way, Hannah-Jones continues:
‘I appreciate her doing the right thing and resigning. I would not want someone who thinks like this teaching my child.’
The ‘this’ in that sentence represents Hannah-Jones’s relaxed assumption that it is self-evident where Tafuto goes astray. It takes several more tweets from Hannah-Jones, however, before we clueless outsiders are clued into what ‘this’ is. Possibly it is Hannah-Jones’s sneer-word for the idea that people of different races can and should be treated equally. One reader suggest that Tafuto must be ‘TFA’, which stands for Teach for America, that presumptuous group of mostly white graduates of elite colleges who seek to improve education in troubled schools by going into teaching. I have no idea whether Tafuto participated in that program, but it is a handy put-down for well-spoken white teachers, and Hannah-Jones picks it right up:
‘And if she was TFA, very, very high chance she was teaching Black and Latino students while ardently objecting to the realities of their lives.’
‘Realities of their lives’ swings back to ‘lived experience’. What does Hannah-Jones know what the realities of the lives of Tafuto’s students? Perhaps Hannah-Jones knows as much about those contemporary Americans as she knew about the African captives who arrived at Jamestown in 1619, and about the American Founders in 1776: which is to say, precious little. Hannah-Jones, as a rule, has little use for facts and evidence, as has been demonstrated yet again by Mary Grabar’s new book, Debunking The 1619 Project: Exposing the Plan to Divide America. (Welcome to the table, Mary. There is plenty for all.) But Hannah-Jones does stand as a peculiar kind of American success story, the celebrant of national self-hatred. Tafuto is a teacher who cannot bear to teach children to hate their own country and divide themselves on the basis of race. We can hope that she lands a position in a school that has decided to teach pride in America instead of racial resentment and loathing of the national heritage.