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Free Speech

Showing "20 Shocking China Facts You Don't Know" Video in Class Led to Firing of Minnesota Teacher,

though an arbitrator reduced this to a 40-day suspension.

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From a decision by arbitrator Stephen F. Befort in Peterson v. Indep. School. Dist. No. 244, Chisago Lakes handed down Sept. 21 but posted a few weeks ago on Westlaw (see also this article in the Chisago County Press [Jeff Norton]):

Jeremy Peterson is a continuing contract teacher employed by the Chisago Lakes School District. He has worked for the School District for seventeen years and primarily teaches 8th grade social studies and geography classes….

Peterson has received generally positive evaluations of his teaching performance. The only blemish on his prior record is a non-disciplinary letter of directives in 2012 which the School District issued in response to Peterson having shown students a video containing a political advertisement for a presidential candidate. The letter directed Peterson to refrain from expressing his personal political views to students and to demonstrate sound professional judgment in his future teaching activities.

During the 2020-21 school year, one of the last units taught by Peterson was on China. On May 27, 2021 Peterson showed a YouTube video toward the end of class that was titled, "20 Shocking China Facts You Don't Know."

The video presented information about China and its culture in a very negative light. The topics covered included such matters as eating cats, media censorship, and "leftover" women. The video presented information of dubious validity in a sensationalized manner that played on negative stereotypes. Peterson stopped the video after the 18th fact, sparing the students from information about virginity restoration and a dog meat festival. At that point, Peterson simply stated that the video was "interesting" and dismissed the class.

[The video appears to be this one: -EV]

A Chinese-American student in the class found the video to be particularly upsetting. According to the testimony of her parents, the student went to a study hall following the class where she broke down and cried. When the student's father picked her up from school later that day, the student stated that she had a "terrible" day and attributed it to the video about China. Upon arriving home, the student told her mother that the video made her feel ashamed, and she again began to cry. Later that day, the parents watched the video on YouTube and believed it to be inappropriate as a presentation to 8th graders. The student's father testified that it is not clear whether the incident will have any long-term impact on the student.

The student's parents filed a complaint about the video with the School District….

The school board voted to fire Peterson, among other things for "immoral conduct" (on the theory that, among other things, "it is discriminatory, reinforces stereotypes, and is highly sexualized" and "that the video was shown at a time when there was an uptick in hate crimes directed at Asian Americans"):

In summary, by showing the video to students in your classes, you engaged in immoral conduct and conduct unbecoming a teacher which requires your immediate removal from classroom or other duties. Your conduct in showing the video was discriminatory, it promoted prejudice and racism, and it was harmful to students in your class. Your conduct was also divisive and offensive to basic notions of human dignity and equity….

The arbitrator rejected the immoral conduct ground but concluded that a 40-day suspension was warranted for "conduct unbecoming a teacher":

The video inappropriately depicts China and Chinese culture in a slanted, negative manner. Peterson did not check to see if the sensationalized claims made in the video were accurate, and he did not engage in class discussion that could have presented a more balanced viewpoint. At bottom, the video perpetuates racial and ethnic stereotypes that promote Anti-Asian attitudes….

The video presented a sensationalized negative view of Chinese culture that was not fact-checked and which was of little or no educational value. Even more significant, the video perpetuates racial and ethnic stereotypes and promotes Anti-Asian attitudes….

Peterson testified at the arbitration hearing that he does not personally hold anti-China views. Two Education Minnesota witnesses testified that they know Peterson personally and he is not racist. Most telling, the record contains no other evidence of any previous racially tainted comments or actions by Peterson. Accordingly, while Peterson committed a very serious act of misconduct, the School District has not shown that he acted with a malicious racist intent….

The video that Mr. Peterson showed to his class certainly caused short-term distress in the Chinese-American student whose parents filed a complaint. Her father testified that it is unknown whether the incident will have any long-term impact on the student. More generally, Peterson acknowledged at the arbitration hearing that he likely caused harm by showing the video to his classes. Since Peterson played the video to five class section a year for five years running, several hundred students are potentially impacted, although the extent of any actual harm is unknown….

My thinking: The video is shallow, and pretty foolish. How much perspective to seventh-graders get, for instance, from learning that there is a "bra technology studies" degree available at a Chinese university, especially in a context that seems to cast this in a negative light? It also encourages students to view foreign countries as a basis for mockery rather than for serious understanding—and that's especially educationally poor idea when it comes to understanding our foreign adversaries.

This having been said, nothing in the video suggests hostility to Chinese-Americans; the criticisms are of China, and possibly some facets of Chinese culture (such as the openness to the death penalty, which may be a cultural feature and not just a governmental one, or the eating of cats by what is apparently a tiny fraction of the population). The school's theory appears to be that criticizing a foreign country and its government is somehow inherently improper.

What then of a teacher who does want to present class materials that reflect badly on China, including eminently substantive materials? Indeed, say he does "personally hold anti-China views," in the sense of thinking that China is oppressive and dangerous. Perhaps the school or an arbitrator may distinguish that case, on the grounds that those materials were of more than "little … educational value." But I doubt any teacher can have real confidence in that: Indeed, if the worry is that silly criticisms of China are bad because they "perpetuate[] racial and ethnic stereotypes and promotes Anti-Asian attitudes" (regardless of the teacher's purposes), substantive criticisms seem likely to have even greater effects.

Consider a quote from a school board member (actually, the one who voted not to fire Peterson, but apparently to impose a more limited form of discipline):

The big thing, though, is that we all learn from this and need to be sensitive to all students in the classroom. We need to be kinder and more sympathetic. We want the students in the Chisago Lakes School District to be comfortable…. As a teacher and a school board member, I've always wanted Chisago Lakes students to be welcome and to create a safe environment. I'm confident that will occur and I do believe that Mr. Peterson is ready to get back and work with developing positive relationships with the students in his classes.

I appreciate the value of making students feel comfortable—but that can't lead to a prohibition on criticizing countries with whom the students may feel a connection. And exactly the same quote could of course be used with regard to any statements that portray China negatively, whether those statements are educationally shallow or deep.

This is also part of a broader trend that I've seen where criticisms of China—indeed, in context clearly criticisms of the Chinese government—have led to punishment or demand for punishment on the theory that they may offend some Chinese-Americans or might unintentionally encourage violent attacks on Asian-Americans. Recall Emerson College's conclusions that a student group's "China Kinda Sus" stickers are forbidden "discriminatory conduct"; or the University of San Diego Law School's investigation of a professor for a blog post critical of China; or the attempts to tar the theory that COVID spread from a Wuhan lab leak as "racist," which apparently contributed to social media platforms' banning (for over a year) posts asserting that theory.

This strikes me as quite wrong. Foreign countries, whether China or Israel or Russia or Mexico, are proper subjects for discussion and for criticism. Such commentary shouldn't be stifled simply because some people who feel a link with the country are offended by it, or even because a tiny fraction of the listeners will wrongly use the criticism of the country as an excuse for attacking people who are seen as ethnically linked to it.

I should note that this isn't a First Amendment argument in this context: Courts have generally concluded that K-12 public school teachers have no First Amendment right to dictate the content of their classes, and if a school wants to say "no criticism of China" or even "criticism of China may get you fired, if we concluded it has 'little educational value,'" that wouldn't be unconstitutional. But it would be a bad idea, I think; and it is  an especially bad idea when it leaks out of K-12 schooling and into higher education and elsewhere, which we have already seen.

NEXT: Sexual Assault Claims and Pseudonymity

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  1. These stupid people that just can’t resist the urge to inject their politics into places where they don’t need to be. Take stupid chances, get stupid rewards.

    1. How about shocking facts about America—we had a Jesus loving president invade two countries and spend $5 trillion slaughtering hundreds of thousands of Muslims. That same Jesus loving president stood with Big Pharma for two years and prevented distributing life saving anti-virals to Africans. That Jesus lover also stole the 2000 election. Oh, and the Jesus lover killed more Americans than Osama Bin Laden and Saddam combined and he tortured detainees to boot!

      1. Are you going to be okay?

        1. $5 trillion down the toilet…but slaughtering those Muslims felt good at the time. 😉

    2. I agree, but I don’t remember them firing any teachers for showing political films like ‘An Inconvenient Truth’ to their students.

      1. Did you see Florida’s resiliency spending proposal? It’s $300 million. I’ve lived in several cities at high risk for climate change and if you drive around during a King Tide you can see exactly what needs to be done to mitigate flooding from sea level rise. So my guess was $20 million for one medium sized city for flood mitigation which needs to be done regardless of sea level rise because King Tides are annoying and flooding happens fairly regularly in coastal cities and getting your car flooded because you happen to be driving at the exact wrong time is super annoying. Resiliency is very manageable while preventing climate change is asinine.

          1. Remember when our economy was going down the shitter and George Xi Bush took a victory lap at the 2008 Beijing Olympics??? He made China great again!!

        1. Sure low lying areas close to the ocean need to spend money, especially places like Florida built on limestone that was formed from previously submerged limestone.

          But there really isn't any convincing evidence that global sea level rise is accelerating. Seas were 400ft lower at the apex of the last ice age, were up to 18 feet higher during the meltwater surge and now according to NASA's satellite record is now at 3.4mm a year, or 13.6" a century.

          The problem is more subsidence and people building in vulnerable areas than sea level rise.

  2. "nothing in the video suggests hostility to Chinese-Americans; the criticisms are of China, and possibly some facets of Chinese culture"

    Come on. If a teacher showed a video on '20 Shocking Facts About Israel' and it was full of 'shallow' focusing on behavior that pertains only to 'apparently a tiny fraction of the population' there and 'encourages students to view [Israel] as a basis for mockery' it would be a bit obtuse to say that it suggests no hostility to Jewish Americans.

    1. The issue of the criticism of Israel as often antisemitic in the context of schools is actually a pretty common topic, commonly seen far more than criticism of China.

      Unfortunately, many of the same people irate at criticism of Chinese government as fomenting anti-Asian attitudes also defend criticism of Israel as totally separate from antisemitism. It's often another left-right tribal issue.

      I'm glad you recognize singling out Israel by teachers is far more often than not very antisemitic, as I similarly recognize this teacher's video was shallow and foolish (although well short of a firing offense).

    2. Yes, it would be obtuse. (I'm assuming that the Shocking Facts About Israel were about things unique to Israel, such as their treatment of Arab West Bank residents, and not things like "an astonishing 80% of baby boys born in Israel are subjected to genital mutilation within eight days of their birth").

      1. BTW, I pulled that percentage out of the air. I have no idea how many baby boys in Israel get circumcised within eight days of birth. But presumably it is some number higher than the percentage in the U.S.

    3. And if it were a post here no one would care.

      If it were shown in a university class, Bernstein would make a post demanding that the teacher be fired, and the Academic Freedom Alliance would write a letter in defense of the professor.

  3. Well, at least he didn't have them read a Toni Morrison book or have one in the library, then we'd know action *really* needed to be taken!

    *Did EV cover that school speech issue at all here?

  4. "Foreign countries, whether China or Israel or Russia or Mexico, are proper subjects for discussion and for criticism."

    100% agree.

    And at the same time, what the teacher presented was not a discussion item or criticism.

    It was sensationalism and tabloid header fodder, "20 Shocking China Facts You Didn't Know."

    With all that though, I think 40 days is too harsh (and firing is just dumb).

    A heartfelt, regretful acknowledgment of a poor decision and a promise to do better should have been enough.

    1. Agreed here. It strikes me as indefensible, but if he had a long record otherwise with little blemish it's too harsh of a punishment. Institutions turn to firing and harsh punishment far too quickly these days imho.

    2. And at the same time, what the teacher presented was not a discussion item or criticism.

      It was sensationalism and tabloid header fodder, "20 Shocking China Facts You Didn't Know."

      That was the title of the video, not the entire syllabus topic. I'm not sure what your basis is for the claim that it wasn't a discussion item. (Maybe that's in there if I click through and read, but I don't care enough.) I'm probably giving the guy too much credit, but speaking generally, there's nothing wrong with showing something slanted (but not false) and then discussing it, in the context of studying a topic from multiple angles.

      1. “Peterson did not check to see if the sensationalized claims made in the video were accurate, and he did not engage in class discussion that could have presented a more balanced viewpoint.”

        “The video presented a sensationalized negative view of Chinese culture that was not fact-checked and which was of little or no educational value.”

        1. Negative is in the eye of the beholder.

  5. Looked like a perfect good teaching aid video to me, if followed up by a lesson / class discussion to do with things like - how would you work out if these claims are true ?

    "20 Horrible Things About Israel" would do just as well.

    Also "20 Horrible Things about America" - though an MSNBC or CNN news broadcast would be fine too.

    1. Not for 8th grade.

      But yeah, showing 16-17 year olds bits from 6-8 different "[number] shocking things about [anything]" videos as a lesson on learning to ignore stupid shit might be good. There are 1000s of those videos to pick from.

      Follow it up with similar-toned news snippets from all the cable news networks to teach them how to not be emotionally manipulated by media.

    2. Looked like a perfect good teaching aid video to me,

      I disagree. I only watched a bit of it, but to the extent not intrinsically harmful cultural practices are described as "shocking" or in a negative way, I think it's a terrible video.

      Apparently they spend a lot of money on pets, and like to dye them to look like wild animals. Shocking!!!

      So they have a dog meat festival, or some people there eat cats. What if someone in India listed the fact that beef is a huge part of the American diet as a shocking fact about the US?

      In fact, deriding cultural practices can easily be interpreted as insulting by a Chinese-American. These are not political actions by the government.

      And the damn thing really stretches a point. Mao, it tells us, wanted to send ten million Chinese women to the US to help our population grow. That's it. Nothing happened.

      Look, this guy needed to be fired because the video is moronic. I don't think anyone who takes it seriously ought to be teaching. That it's also offensive is just another count.

      1. Fired, no. Given some days on the beach without pay? Yes. While some of the items are reasonable items for discussion in middle schools. Many have as their only aim insulting Chinese people independent of the government.
        Hey, I use those throw away wooden chopsticks. They are vastly preferable to the straight thin steel rods that I was given to use at a top Korean university cafeteria

  6. It appears lathering the bigoted right-wing rubes involves directing attention toward Jeremy Peterson but not toward Matthew Hawn.

    This is part of a pattern that evokes the viewpoint-driven distinction between comments that are vanished or censored at the Volokh Conspiracy and those that are not.

    It appears Prof. Volokh is -- like Prof. Vermeule and other movement conservatives who prefer to work at strong, liberal-libertarian mainstream institutions rather than at downscale, conservative-controlled schools -- fortunate he was hired before his employer knew quite what it was getting into.

    I hope our better law faculties are learning in this regard.

    1. Always consistent. You're always a complete dope.

      1. Am I to understand that the average right-wing racist, superstitious bigot, and right-wing Volokh Conspiracy fan doesn't like me?

        I will attempt to console myself with a resounding victory over the clingers in the culture war.

        1. Rev. Arthur L. Kirkland

          1. That must make being defeated in the culture war by people like me sting a bit more for clingers -- is that why right-wingers are all so cranky and dispirited these days?

  7. Prof. Volokh,

    I find myself in disagreement with this statement: "Indeed, if the worry is that silly criticisms of China are bad because they "perpetuate[] racial and ethnic stereotypes and promotes Anti-Asian attitudes" (regardless of the teacher's purposes), substantive criticisms seem likely to have even greater effects."

    It seems to me that substantive criticisms of China would have lesser--not greater--effects on those who might feel discomfort. Taking one example of the video as described, what could be the rationale for criticizing a cultural practice of eating cats, other than to conclude that the practice is inferior? On the other hand, a "substantive" criticism of the CCP's policy of, for example, imprisoning Uighurs could be defended on its own terms. That CCP policy is obviously worthy of disgust, which can be pointed out without making cultural value judgments.

    If the video were titled "20 Despicable Chinese Policies," and it discussed censorship, genocide, discrimination, state surveillance, etc., that would be an obviously relevant, "substantive" video. A video talking about cat eating, dog meat festivals, etc. can't really be defended as a criticism of policy, so it seems the remaining justification would cause greater harms than would a substantively defensible video.

    1. People like Volokh and the other conspirators are caught up in trivial surface-level analysis like the use-mention dichotomy that do not involve taking a holistic approach to the content and the context.

  8. Regardless of the educational merit of the video or the way the teacher used it, though, if a student "cried" after seeing the video, the student is the one who needs help.

    "[T]he extent of any actual harm is unknown"

    No, it isn't. There isn't any.

    1. Exactly; why doesn't the school fire You Tube?
      It was their video that made the poor sensitive brainwashed idiot cry, not the teacher.

    2. Maybe go back, become a seventh grader (female for extra credit), and sit in a classroom made up of a bunch of kids who don’t look like you and watch a video that says people who do look like you are crazypants crazy people who abuse and eat your favorite pets and learn weird subjects and do other weird shit? Then come back and tell us who needs help.

    3. Kids haven’t learned to ignore stupid shit yet.

      But also, we don’t know any child cried. We’re being told that.

  9. Wait a minute!
    If there was anything wrong in that video, You Tube would have deleted it, right?

    1. Depends, is it forbidden by/in China?

  10. The video is silly but also I'd say inappropriate for classroom use. If this video has been used for the last 5 years I wonder why no one knew about it before.

    I suspect that a lot of the anti-anti-Chinese activity on college campuses is actually due to the influence of the Chinese government.

    I also wonder whether the family in this case has close ties to the Chinese Government. Most of the Chinese-Americans I know don't have much use for the current government, but most of their families have been in the US for generations.

    1. Are you making the claim that people who are sympathetic to Chinese immigrants must be agents of the Chinese Communist Party and not, you know, your average kind American citizen?

      1. I think the claim that, China, or domestic politics, or anything woke, or hell, anti-gay in the past, was all pushed by a drumbeat from people with larger political motives.

        Concern for the little guy affected is part of the calculation and manipulation by the astroturfers.

  11. I wonder how he would have fared had he shown a video about "20 Shocking Things About White People." Probably be named Teacher of the Year.

    1. Ha you're right. These things don't need taught. Same as CRT

    2. People get fired for crap like that too all the time, you just don't see EV posting it here because it doesn't confirm his political leanings.

      1. Clingers gonna cling.

        As long as legitimate, mainstream law faculties are willing to put up with it, in some cases.

      2. Can you point to a few examples?

  12. “Israel is a proper subject for discussion and criticism. So today we’re going to watch a video on the Rothschild family and the hoax that some people call ‘the Holocaust.’”

    1. Israel is indeed a proper subject for discussion and criticism. Of course, if it's the only foreign country you discuss & criticize, maybe there's something wrong with you...

      I don't think there's anything wrong with teaching kids about the Rothschild family. Now, if you teach them wild conspiracy theories about them, that's a different story.

      I don't see how this Minnesota teacher did anything remotely similar to telling kids that the Holocaust was a hoax.

  13. I just don't think it's as hard as you seem to to distinguish material with legitimate pedagogical value from this pretty thinly veiled attempt to stir up racial and xenophobic paranoia. And if you don't those Asian-American kids got taunted about eating cats after class, you're fooling yourself.

    1. That's a feature for bigoted right-wingers -- they figure they have plausible deniability to cloak their bigotry in this context, and don't even need to pull out the superstition card.

  14. It does appear the video was not appropriate for a class of 8th graders, especially considering the lack of discussion, and the focus on cultural stereotypes.

    40 days is likely too harsh.

  15. I think we need less politics in school. You don't really need to teach politics. History yes which may expose some negative cultural aspects.
    With all that free time maybe they can teach kids how to read, write add and subtract?

    1. I think we need less politics in school. You don't really need to teach politics. History yes which may expose some negative cultural aspects.

      U.S. public schools used to teach pro-American civics. Kids would learn respect for the Founding Fathers, the Constitution, the flag, etc.
      These days, they teach "anti-American civics": the Founding Fathers were horrible racists; the Constitution is worthless; the flag isn't worth saluting; etc.

      1. Whining, disaffected, old-timey clingers are among my favorite culture war casualties.

        And the target audience of a White, male, stale-thinking, right-wing blog.

  16. To me, this is the money quote:

    Peterson did not check to see if the sensationalized claims made in the video were accurate, and he did not engage in class discussion that could have presented a more balanced viewpoint.

    In that case, he had no business showing it to his students in class.

    1. Agree exactly. He was at the very worse reckless. And the school board was entitled to assume Mr. Peterson intended everything in the materials he himself brought in. “I didn’t look at it before showing it” is no excuse. If a. building collapses, the architect is not entitled to present, as a defense, that he just took some plans off the internet and never personally checked them. That’s his job, his duty. Same here.

  17. This is also part of a broader trend that I've seen where criticisms of China—indeed, in context clearly criticisms of the Chinese government—have led to punishment or demand for punishment on the theory that they may offend some Chinese-Americans or might unintentionally encourage violent attacks on Asian-Americans.

    That is a tone-deaf interpretation of context. Actual racists will celebrate it, and will exploit it. To fix the problem, narrow it a bit, and demand that the criticisms of the Chinese government (or any government) be specific, explicit, and plainly limited to the government.

    1. Is "United States uses too much military force?" a criticism of the government, country or citizens?

      1. When it's a supposed democracy like the US, then it's a criticism of all three. In an autocratic regime like China, I'd say just the government.

  18. The problem here is not that this was offensive to Chinese, but that it was a very poor, sensationalist piece, almost cartoon-like. China is an ancient culture with many admirable things about it. Of late, it has been dominated by an autocratic regime that does bad, sometimes very bad things. It is fair to criticize those, but not in a way that is a caricature. That's poor educaiton.
    So, yeah, he should be fired.

    1. China, when it is not broken up into warring states or anarchy in between dynasties, has always had an autocratic regime in charge.

      1. Almost the entire world, for all its history, has been like that.

        Corruption is not an unfortunate side effect of government.
        Government's purpose is corruption. Anything beneficial is the unexpected side effect.

        They just have to hide it better in the west.

        1. Hard for me to disagree with anything you've said. The only caveat I would make is that failure to organize leaves you at the mercy of those that do, therefore, it's better to have your organized corruption in charge than someone else's.

          Government's are stationary bandits I would say, rather than roving ones.

  19. This would have been a great opportunity for the school to teach students that we are not responsible for the actions of people who look like us, our ancestors actions, or even the actions of ancestors government. Shame the school decided to reinforce the concept of collective guilt instead.

    1. You're blaming the entire _school_ for the guilt of one _teacher_ that was punished.

  20. The punishment (even the 40 day suspension) may have been too harsh. But I think the teacher was out of line here.

    For one thing, I think school boards are entitled to insist teachers present scholarly materials, not YouTube videos of uncertain provenance. And I think that they are entitled to ensure that what is taught about anothet country is taught in a measured way.

    This was not criticism of China’s government or discussion of serious social problems. It was propaganda holding Chinese people up to ridicule in trivial, baiting ways.

    I agree that this was wholly out of line. To use an analogy to rules of evidence, the tendency to incite prejudice greatly outweighed any probitive value.

    I see this as totally different from presenting a research article or serious work of literature containing a racial slur. To me, the fact that it was, taken as a whole, trash is more important than isolated words.

    I see a big difference between presenting defenses of slavery and Ku Klux Klan propaganda in a history class as evidence of what people thought about African-Americans, and presenting them in a contemporary cultures class as objective facts about how African-Americans are. This was the second, not the first.

    1. I don't think the punishment was too harsh. The guy was grossly negligent.

  21. If you’re going to criticize China by, say, pointing out that they eat cats, you should probably put that in context by pointing out that they eat weird shit in lots of places and that’s not unique to China.

    Just like when you teach that white people enslaved black people, you should teach that slavery and other atrocities were common throughout history, and no one has a unique claim on being oppressed or oppressor.

    1. You just couldn’t help yourself could you? You had a moment of clarity but you couldn’t leave it alone.

      1. That was too much clarity. Please limit your clarity to small politically correct and government-approved portions.

  22. Teacher deserved to get suspended. Those videos might as well be pornography. They’re created with the same ethic. Only a complete fool shows a "[number] shocking things about [anything]" video to schoolchildren in class.

    1. They (the "shocking", "top 10", whatever videos) are definitely excrement, to say the least.

  23. The school board might have done better by conducting a broader investigation into Mr. Peterson’s work. How many other times did he just take stuff off the internet and present it to fill time and let him play Solitaire in the back without even checking if it had any educational value first?

    If this was far from the first time, the school board should have focused not on supposedly immoral conduct, but on deriliction of duty and inadequate performance as an educator. And that would be so even if the other filler material wasn’t especially offensive.

    That would have been much more solid grounds for firing him than taking a single isolated instance and characterizing it exclusively in moral rather than educational adequacy terms.

    1. "How many other times did he just take stuff off the internet and present it to fill time and let him play Solitaire in the back without even checking if it had any educational value first?"

      If they started firing teachers for that...

      Of course, the school is supposed to be monitoring the teacher's performance, and had indeed given him positive performance reviews.

      They'd look pretty stupid if they went back and said, gee, we just realized this teacher hasn't been doing anything all these years.

      1. True. But if he really has been doing this for years, ones hopes there are school board members conscientious enough to risk looking stupid and solve the problem rather than keep quiet and let it keep continuing.

  24. I have lived in China for a year and have travelled often for various work assignments until early 2017. That being said, some of those things were true, some false.

    Sinkholes? Really? We have sinkholes right here in the good ol' USA.

    However, I have been offered dog meat, and there was this fantastic piece of ass - er, donkey. The fact is food culture differs throughout the world and the reason people eat what would seem weird to Westerners is that when you are starving (such as during the Great Leap Forward, or the Cultural Revolution), you'll eat anything you can get your hands on.

    The most shocking thing about that video was that it did not even address the Xingjiang atrocities, the crackdown on freedoms in Hong Kong, the general suppression of religion, the Tibet situation, or Tiananmen Square uprising. THOSE would have gotten the video pulled by YouTube, no question.

    But most of that stuff was factual, such as the local pollution, and the gender imbalance (in fact, it had gotten so bad, there was a proposed law forbidding Chinese citizens from marrying foreigners).

    1. Next you'll be telling us that those letters to Penthouse Forum are fake.

    2. Phew! Thanks for virtual signaling your conservative victimhood there in the second-to-the-last paragraph. You totally saved yourself there.

      Oh... and this: https://youtu.be/kMKvxJ-Js3A

      1. I don't get it. How is mentioning the various atrocities committed by the (Communist) Chinese government against their own people "virtual signaling your conservative victimhood"? Are you disputing that they happened? Or are you disputing that YouTube censors videos critical of the Chinese government?

      2. So, if I understand you correctly, you approve of all those topics?

        Forget liberal v conservative. I think that you believe starving approximately 100 MM people is fine in your worldview. How sad.

      3. This sub-sub thread on Chinese atrocities and YouTube censorship is a perfect encapsulation of everything dysfunctional in politics today.

        Not that things were ever super functional.

      4. Shawn_Dude

    3. The video is from before the problems in Xinjiang were more than just rumors and HK wasn't an issue yet.

  25. I remember learning about foot binding in China from an NPR-affiliated station c. 1999. I guess that makes the station's owner (Boston University) guilty of hate speech.

    1. How are people this stupid?

      1. It's a common refrain that leftists are humorless. This is not true of course, are there are lots of left comedians and comediennes. That said, it was obviously a snarky joke and didn't merit such an insult.

        1. Please, people post shit like that seriously here all the time.

          1. Well, admittedly sarcasm is hard to differentiate in the written word, unless it's hyperbolic. And much humor is subjective. And there is some "rule of the internet" (don't ask me the number) that says (I paraphrase) that it's impossible to engage is satire because someone has taken that position for serious.

            However, I think this blog is a hair more sophisticated, but maybe I'm wrong. On a side note, this place's greatest feature is that it's to niche for paid shills to infiltrate, so the wild hot takes tend to come from the known regulars.

    2. Not by 1999 standards. In 1999 "Free Tibet" was a thing. Go back and watch PCU for a timecapsule of leftism.

      Today, all it would take is if he said the Chinese word "um"....which in Chinese that sounds an awful lot like the country in Africa, Niger.

      1. For the record, it’s “na ge”

  26. To all to the folks who didn't have to attend school during the advent of "listicles" and then click bait: you should be very, very happy.

  27. Theres actually a lot of wild stuff about China even if you limit yourself to what they grudgingly admit. Crumbling infrastructure and buildings that make Detroit look like the ritz, absurd pollution, insane cutthroat culture, wacky scams left and right. Its so extreme someone like Mr. Norton or Eugene who is not familiar with China would see it as 'dubious' and 'sensationalized' due to the carefully manicured surface image the CCP presents. But its backed up by tons upon tons of footage and corroborating documentation that would make Kenosha blush, much of it official.

  28. Make you a deal: No materials for 8th-graders that present negative images and material about China -- And no materials for 8th-graders that present negative images and material about the United States. So no 1619 stuff, no CRT stuff, no White Racism stuff. OK?

  29. Skimmed the video provided by EV as the one in question.
    Typical of clickbait top 10, 20, 50 etc. style videos. Most 'facts' are at best presented in a manner that significantly distorts the underlying truth. Many could be applied to American society without substantive alteration illustrating similar negative truths here.

    Seems like a dumb thing for a teacher to present to his class, especially as there did not seem to be any attempt at tying this into a reasonable educational aim, such as how to identify BS, or deconstruct truths from truthiness.

  30. I wonder if Professor Volokh would feel this way if a teacher showed students a "silly" video about Israel, making fun of the "silly" side whiskers Orthodox rabbis wear, or the prayers that Orthodox Jewish men recite thanking God that they were not born women, or the notion that non-Jews are "unclean" in the sight of God. Those silly Jews!

  31. Meanwhile CRT is basically teaching 20 evil things you should know about white people in every school without any issues....

  32. In a discussion about possible bigotry towards some Asians

    From the arbitrator, "The video inappropriately depicts China and Chinese culture in a slanted, negative manner."

    "Slanted." Ouch. Does this mean that the arbitrator is/was biased?
    Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?
    [sarc.]

  33. Anybody showing a "20 shocking facts (you won't believe number 14)" video doesn't deserve to be teaching period.

  34. People's feelings are hurt by criticism! Better shut it down.

    ""immoral conduct" (on the theory that, among other things, "it is discriminatory, reinforces stereotypes, and is highly sexualized""

    Holy moly. Has this schoolboard ever turned on the TV or browsed the Internet or caught a glimpse of any media of any sort in recent years? I didn't see anything sexualized in the actual video (but the thumbnail is).

    The video is pretty dumb. But it's no more discriminatory toward Asians than a CRT teaching is toward whites. And it's of no more "dubious validity" than CNN or Facebook's fact checkers.

    "substantive criticisms seem likely to have even greater effects."

    Imagine if the teacher had shown a better video. Imagine it was a devastating, incisive and well-researched expose of China's genocide, concentration camps, mass executions, involuntary organ harvesting, forced abortions, pollution, dog and cat eating and slaughter methods, censorship policies, likely creation of the COVID-19 virus in Wuhan, or any one or more of these or other topics. By the logic of the school board, that would have been even worse!

  35. I find myself comparing these facts to Jobathan Kozol’s firing from the Boston Punlic Schools in 1965. Why an I upset at Jonathan Kozol’s firing but consideravly less upset about this?

    I find myself thinking “serious educational purpose” is a defense and Jonathan Kozol had one and this guy did if. Yet how can I defermine if someone’s educational purpose is serious or not?

    And yet one has to. One has to distinguish between schools and teachers that actually teach something and those that merely warehouse children for purposes of sucking on the government’s teat.

    1. Jonathan Kozol was fired for teaching poems bu Langston Hufhes, particularly the “Ballad of the Landlord,” to black schoolchildren. The administration was absolutely horrified and fired him on the spot.

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