New Hampshire Bullshittin'

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I no longer subscribe to my local newspaper, Foster's Daily Democrat (published as Seacoast Sunday on Sundays), but I occasionally peek at the online version to see if it's gotten any better.

It hasn't.

Today's front page contains an article headlined "NH teachers push to end 'divisive concepts' law". Its byline: "Ethan DeWitt/New Hampshire Bulletin".

What's that? The New Hampshire Bulletin bills itself as "an independent, nonprofit news organization dedicated to keeping the people of the Granite State informed about the issues that matter most." Noble! But what I would imagine matters most to my local paper's publisher: their content "is free to readers, and other news outlets are free to republish our stories with proper attribution."

Otherwise my local paper would have to pay their own reporters to generate content. For them, the NHB is an irresistible bargain!

For the suckers paying ludicrous subscription rates for news stories they can read for free online, not so much.

Here's today's example at the NHB site, with a slightly longer headline than in the paper, but with the same thrust: "Teachers, public school advocates push for repeal of ‘divisive concepts’ law."

At issue: the legislation passed in 2021 titled "Right to Freedom from Discrimination in Public Workplaces and Education" it consists of two sections added to New Hampshire law, which you can read here. A summary (with associated links) is available from the state Department of Education here. (The department favors the law.)

As you might guess from the headline, the NHB story is slanted. Opening grabber reveals the traumatic uncertainty faced by one Milford teacher:

Persuasive research papers are a yearly assignment in David Scannell’s English classes, and grading them is part of the job. But last school year, the Milford High School teacher faced a new challenge.

The New Hampshire Legislature had passed a law in 2021 barring public school teachers from advocating for certain positions around race, gender, and other protected classes. Now, Scannell was unclear how to handle some of his students’ assignments.

Or at least he claimed to be unclear. What's the problem?

One had asked to write an essay arguing in favor of affirmative action, Scannell recounted at the State House Thursday. But the new law appeared to prevent teachers from advocating for affirmative action.

If Scannell gave the final paper a good grade, would he be falling afoul of the new law? And knowing that future conundrum, should he approve the student’s topic in the first place?

Apparently Scannell feels he wouldn't be able to show that he graded the student's paper on objective criteria.

Hint to Scannell: this isn't hard. Use a rubric, made available to your students ahead of time. (Why is it my job to tell public school teachers how to do their job?)

Now, let's be fair. People favoring the existing law are quoted. I count 366 words devoted to their arguments in the 1370-word article.

And somewhere mid-article, it's admitted that the legislation is called "divisive concepts" only by opponents of the law. ("Oh, and we also used it in our headline. Oops.")

Still, there's little doubt on which side the article is advocating.

We can go to NH Journal to provide equal time: NH Dems Determined to Bring Race-Based Instruction Back to Classrooms. A slice:

Prime [repeal] sponsor Rep. Peter Petrigno (D-Milford) appeared in support of the bill during a public hearing before the Education Committee in Representatives Hall. He repeated the critique made both in the legislature and in court that the law is too vague and teachers are uncertain about what content they are allowed to teach.

“Teachers wonder if they can refer to the KKK as an inherently racist group.” How is an elementary teacher who is celebrating [Martin Luther King] Day with her student supposed to respond when her first grader asked, ‘Why were some White people so mean to Black people?'”

In fact, the law — which can be read in its entirety here — does not apply any restrictions on descriptions of any organizations, from the Ku Klux Klan to the Nation of Islam. And as for the Martin Luther King Day example, the law explicitly states, “Nothing in this section shall be construed to prohibit discussing, as part of a larger course of academic instruction, the historical existence of ideas and subjects identified in this section.”

The article also notes the current lawsuit looking to invalidate the law.

Last Modified 2024-01-14 4:58 AM EDT