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Bookgate: Controversy at the Peel District School Board
The culling of "Euro-centric" and "colonial" books
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Earlier this week, Grade 10 student Reina Takatam, who attends Erindale Secondary School in Mississauga, ON, spoke to CBC about the disturbingly barren bookshelves in her school library. According to Takatam’s estimate, when she returned to school after summer vacation, “more than 50 per cent of her school's library books (were) gone.”
Following up on this story, which I call “bookgate,” I contacted a teacher who has been employed with the Peel District School Board (PDSB) for decades. To protect the teachers identity, I will refer to them as “Teacher X.”
The first insight I gained from Teacher X was that, while Reina Takatam did contact the CBC about the abundance of empty library shelves at her school, the truth is, many PDSB librarians and teachers were outraged and had also complained. As will be expanded in the following essay, the purging of books at PDSB was the design of radical activists who have been running things for years.
On September 13th, PDSB Director of Education, Rashmi Swarup, released a statement responding to the Bookgate controversy. It was controversial because the books that had been culled were published on or before 2008, and said to be “Eurocentric” and “colonial” and therefore “inherently racist.”
Swarup’s statement assured us that the “weeding guidelines” had been followed, and that “PDSB teacher librarians (had) not been given the direction to remove all books published with a publication date on or before 2008.” But lo and behold, a 51-page PDSB document with guidance on the weeding process for library staff surfaced (I accessed it on libraries not landfill - a group of parents in the Peel region concerned with the unnecessary culling of books). The document stated that “the previous timeframe for weeding library resources was set at ten years, but we have since decided to extend the shelf life to fifteen years.” Which would bring us to 2008.
The September 13th statement from Director Swarup appears to be untrue. A cover up. The “Motte,” while a landfill full of children's literature, is the “Bailey.” The reason is, the PDSB has been taken over by black radicalism, primarily a group of activists called “Advocacy Peel” (who are associated with Black Lives Matter).
Antiwhiteism, hiding beneath a veneer of “Antiracism” and “Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion” is happening at the PDSB and it needs to stop. It is concealed in the ideological jargon found throughout PDSB documents and communications. It masquerades as the type of boring administrative prattle people normally skim over. Unless you understand the language of social justice activism, which tangles itself covertly into the affairs of human association, you will mistake revolutionary pronouncements meant to utterly destroy our current way of life, for placidly innocuous managerial speak. Today’s post will help the reader disentangle the embedded covert activism and ideology at the PDSB and school boards across the country.
Before we go further, I should mention that the backstory on the PDSB, on Advocacy Peel, and on the explicit use of ideological language meant to obfuscate the disingenuous game of Motte & Bailey rhetorical manipulation played by activists, can be found in a two part essay called The Peel District School Board and White Supremacy. Alternatively, yesterday's post by a PDSB teacher, pseudonymously known to Woke Watch Canada readers as Igor Stravinsky, provides additional background on PDSB’s “equity-informed weeding” of books, and offers a critical analysis of how such policies came about. Also recommended is Igor’s article The Peel District School Board’s Anti-Racism Policy is a Disaster.
Analysis of the book culling guidelines document
From the PDSB’s book purge guidelines:
“The category of ‘Classics’ typically consists of Euro-centric texts that were penned long before the students' birth dates, and may not reflect the lived experiences of students within the Peel District School Board. Therefore all texts within a collection must be thoroughly evaluated…with the aim of avoiding the reinforcement of colonial ideologies that are inherently racist, classist, heteronormative and/or sexist.”
Even if this was a valid criteria on which to curate a library, must students share "lived experience" to be inspired by the fortitude of Mandela, the creativity of Picasso or the genius of Da Vinci? Lifetimes and continents span the distance between them and we, but they inspire because of what they gave to humanity.
In my essay, The magic of books we read to kids I take the opposite approach to selecting reading materials for children and adolescents. I prioritize older books, as does Woke Watch Canada reader, Cameron, who commented on the essay mentioned:
“One thing I feel I need to mention is that contemporary children's books aren't as good as the older ones. The subject matter is fine but the delivery is terrible. Kids books used to be more about alliteration and the overall flow of the text. I assume it's because kids can learn the art of communication a lot faster and better than they can learn the content, which takes time and maturity to grapple with. Why have we lost that basic understanding of human development?”
I couldn’t agree more. Classic literature - things written in the 19th century or older - are completely different from modern writing. The writing simply has more language in it. It has longer sentences that demand comprehensive machinery to untangle. It has more words, a richer spectrum of vocabulary. Marshall McLuhan described writing that occurred in the “electric age” as post-literate. The presence of electronic communications technology made writers engage with language and text somewhat differently, and readers became less patient with long sentences and flowery words. As a rule of thumb, the stuff I read with, and to, my kids, was mostly written before Thomas Edison patented the lightbulb.
But the PDSB would call my ideas regarding book selection for Canadian children as “colonial” and “white supremacist.” The PDSB thinks that European culture transplanted to North America from Britain, during the colonial period, is something Canadians should be ashamed of. That the presence of the works of English literary masters like Shakespeare, Milton, Dickens, Melville, Twain, Fitzgerald, Joyce, Blake, Hemmingway, and others may somehow cause harm to “historically marginalized communities.” They think works concerning colonial history, save for those that highlight the treacherous parts I’m sure, must be stricken from all PDSB library collections.
It appears to me as though the PDSB’s much vaunted student-centered approach, which empowers the obsession with identity and student “lived experience,” is a ruse. It provides the necessary administrative infrastructure to perform covert erasure of the history and literary tradition that has been a part of being Canadian since the British and French settlers founded the nation. In other words, a student-centered approach allows one to act on the sentiment of our Prime Minister who declared Canada a “post nation,” by dismantling and removing the cultural artifacts (including books) that celebrate the uniqueness of the Canadian dominion, the courage of the people, and the traditions and heritage attached to the Canadian experience. Because certain identities don’t have a direct link to the ancestral heritage of Canada, we must destroy that heritage, and deny it to those who are tied to that ancestry, or who may be interested in learning about it.
Another area in Canadian politics and culture that I write about consistently is aboriginal issues. The term “cultural genocide” crept into conventional use years ago. It mischaracterizes the efforts made by the early settlers and the generations that followed to assimilate the aboriginals into the norms of the modern world, so they could integrate, thrive and be independent. However, the removal of “Euro-centric” and “colonial” materials from PDSB libraries seems more like what the activists define as “cultural genocide,” than anything European explorers ever did to assimilate aboriginal people.
Is this what those who immigrate to Canada want? Would they actually prefer to settle in a post-nation with no core cultural heritage? I don’t believe they do. Activists speak for a tiny minority, and it makes no sense they are given such power to impose their unpopular ideas.
I can’t imagine moving to another country and expecting anything less than to be fully immersed into the dominant ethnic culture. And I can’t imagine Canadian immigrants wanting anything less. Why does the radical left push such anti-Western and anti-white hatred? It is, for example, possible to include a diverse array of authors and titles in school libraries, without branding Euro-centric material as outmoded colonial racism.
It appears to me as if the 51-page book purge guidelines were produced by the board, in partnership with the activists who call the shots. The process of book weeding is said to be in response to a directive of the Ministry of Education (Ministry directive 18), however the guideline document makes it seem as though the teacher librarians are responsible for whatever happens. In the entire 51 pages they do not provide the titles of any books that meet the criteria for purging. That would make the board culpable when parents and students inevitably complained. Instead, the teacher librarians are meant to subjectively determine and apply a highly convoluted criteria rooted in the tenets of critical race theory. This allows the board to effectively blame the teachers by claiming they misinterpreted the guidelines.
The board misinterpreted the Ministry of Education’s directive, and the teacher librarians misinterpreted the board's guidelines. Nothing to see here. Just a chain of coincidental miscommunication and misunderstanding, with the unfortunate outcome of all the books the activists don’t like having now been destroyed, their remnants left rotting in a landfill.
As mentioned above, the statement from Education Director Swarup is less than credible, however, Teacher X said “Swarup is not a radical person” and that it “feels like something else is in charge.” Then added “over the last ten years, the radicals have destroyed education at the PDSB.”
Below is a list of activist terms found in the PDSB book purge guidelines. All of these terms should be understood in the way the activists intend. They are innocent and often nice sounding, but carry hidden meanings (Motte & Bailey). Until we can unravel what the illiberal subverters (black radicals/woke progressives) at PDSB are actually saying, we will forever be one step behind, scratching our heads and wondering how the current crazy thing ever became a thing at all. Just like we did with the previous crazy thing.
Here is a list of activist terms used by the PDSB to sneak their destructive and deviant ideologies into school policy. The following can be found within the first three pages of the 51-page guidance document:
Implicit bias, student centered, equitable, equity-informed, inequities, Euro-centric, lived experience, colonial ideologies, inherently racist, heteronormative, sexist, diverse, culturally responsive, anti-racism, anti-oppression, anti-colonial, critically conscious (critically examine) , systems, dismantle, culturally relevant, affirm identities, harm, oppressive, inclusive, deficit-thinking, over-represented, power & privilege, microaggressions, historically marginalized, marginalization.
And here are a few lines (within the first three pages) that deserve scrutiny. What is really being said here? :
“If our goal is to promote success and well-being for all students, then our learning environments and experiences must be rooted in their identities and experiences.”
I don’t think most parents have genuinely considered the implications of the obsession with identity and “lived experience” (a term repeated in the document 35 times), or the related concept “the student-centered” approach. These are not things regular parents ask or advocate for, these concepts and methods are from the machinations of activists, and it is imperative that we scrutinize the meanings of the terms used to describe their programs, and exactly how they intend to practice these approaches, before they are afforded the opportunity to transform irreversibly the culture of education in Canada.
“A particular focus on amplifying black, indigenous, 2SLGBTQ+, Muslim, LatinX, Jewish, and South Asian identities…as well as other historically marginalized identities.”
Even worse than an obsessive focus on identity, the activist position is always sure to list all of the acceptable identities - claiming they have been historically marginalized and so therefore are oppressed. White people are always absent from the list of acceptable identities, the implication being that the historically marginalized were, and still are, oppressed by white people. In a sense, the antiwhiteism is not really hidden at all, however, documents are long, jargon-laden and full of boring bureaucratese, so in another sense, hidden in plain sight.
“We cannot layer new inclusive and exciting resources alongside racist, oppressive and colonial resources!”
The word “colonial” appears 23 times in the book purge guidelines. “Oppressive,” 31 times. Below I’ve listed the most used activist terms found in the guidance document. Many of them terms that Charles Pincourt, author of Counter Wokecraft, would call “crossover words.”
“Woke Dog Whistles” are used because they are “seemingly harmless and can hide in plain sight…their woke meaning is camouflaged by the use of crossover words…(which) have multiple meanings. One is its commonplace definition…the other meaning is the woke definition.”
All of the terms listed below are meant to sound innocuous, while simultaneously transmitting and forwarding the activist program. These all require scrutiny. They are listed along with the number of times they appear in the 51-page guidance document:
Identity/Identities = 67
Racist/Racism = 54
Equity/Equitable = 47
Lived Experience(s) = 35
Anti-racist = 33
Oppression/Oppressive = 31
Diversity/Diverse = 29
Inclusive = 23
Colonial = 23
Affirm = 14
Social = 11
Culturally responsive = 10
Folx = 2
LatinX = 4
And finally, here is a paragraph plucked from the same guidance document that I would love to see parent groups bring to the attention of the media and the Ontario Ministry of Education - like they did with bookgate. Once you unpack the antiwhiteism embedded in the activist language found throughout the book-purge guidance document, and of course, analyze several other examples of publicly available PDSB documents, is it possible to conclude that the following is anything less than the radical activism of antiwhiteism? :
“In Peel, we must acknowledge that society operates in white supremacist structures where socially constructed hierarchies of different (sic) privilege some and marginalize others. This reality is reflected in the disproportionalities and disparities in educational outcomes for Black, Indigenous, and marginalized students. This power structure has created barriers for marginalized learners. As a Peel library staff, it is our responsibility to disrupt and eliminate the racist and oppressive practices and content in our library learning commons so that students have the opportunity to interrupt the cycle of inequality and oppression.”
In other words, the history and cultural heritage attached to white people must be erased, because white people are racist. Who ordered this? Only a radical activist could have.
Thanks for reading. For more from this author read Do white people have ethnic interests?
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