Cancel Culture and the Teaching Profession

Matthew Hoy
By Matthew Hoy on February 9, 2021

Unlike some on the right, I'm not a big fan of cancel culture regardless of its origin.

There's this story out of Arkansas about a high school history teacher who got fired over an email he sent to state lawmakers over a bill they were considering prohibiting use of the fraudulent 1619 Project curriculum and another somewhat related one. While I'm sure there's not much Josh Depner, formerly of the Arkansas Arts Academy, and I agree on I don't think he should've been fired for disagreeing with the potential move by the state legislature on deciding history curriculum.

Having said that, Depner's initial email, which I'm sure was the one that prompted his dismissal (rather than the apology email that followed), would make it very easy to understand why just maybe you don't want him teaching your children.

Dear Fascist White Supremacists,

I teach U.S. History. Within my curriculum, we address marginalized groups within American Society.  Your recent bill is an appalling attempt to FURTHER whitewash history. It is absolutely nothing less than an attempt to codify white supremacy in Arkansas schools. Stay the f*** out of my curriculum. You want a say in what is taught? Get your f***** teaching license and come teach. Otherwise, f*** off. None of you have any f****** business dictating my curriculum, or even THINKING about doing so. I WILL continue to teach about marginalized groups regardless of the outcome of your cute little Fascism project, though I was happy to hear it has no chance of passing. Speaking of no chance, I can't wait to contribute to your opponent when you are up for re-election.  If you are running unopposed, maybe I'll even primary you.  I am a school teacher, after all, not a money-grubbing, small-time government crook.

Teaching about diversity and social conflict between groups does not promote division. It reckons with it. It is absolutely fundamental to drawing meaning out of a social studies class. If you were f****** stupid enough to write this bill, be sure to send your own children, grandchildren, etc. to the b******* backwoods private schools that teach creation science instead of evolution.

Stick to politics. Stay out of education.

It's unclear whether the asterisks were added by the news outlet or were there in Depner's original missive. Regardless of which is the case, this is not something that's going to win anyone to your side. It also betrays an ignorance of what the basis of the 1619 Project is as well. The central, now disavowed, claim of the 1619 Project was that the American Revolution was fought to preserve slavery. Full stop. It's ahistorical drivel that would probably shame even Howard Zinn.

The two bills in question are HB 1231, which prohibits use of the 1619 curriculum, and HB 1218, which prohibits segregating students based upon "race, gender, political affiliation, social class, or other distinctions within programs of instruction."

The prohibitions in the latter bill are certainly reflective of mainstream conservative educational policies, and only seem to bar the segregated struggle sessions that are the core of critical race theory nowadays.

(b) A public school shall not allow a course, class, event, or activity within its program of instruction that:

(1) Promotes the overthrow of the United States Government;

(2) Promotes division between, resentment of, or social justice for a:

(A) Race;

(B) Gender;

(C) Political affiliation;

(D) Social class; or

(E) Particular class of people;

(3) Advocates the isolation of a group of students based on a particular characteristic instead of the treatment of students as individuals, which may include without limitation isolating a group of  students based on the following:

(A) Ethnicity;

(B) Race;

(C) Religion;

(D) Gender; and

(E) Social class;

(4) Violates state or federal civil rights laws; or

(5) Negatively targets specific nationalities or countries.

I mean, this is the sort of law that would've gotten the Klan marching in protest 60 years ago.

So, it wasn't a good thing to fire Depner for his political positions. If you want to sack him, sack him because he seems to be a bit of a jackass, and because I suspect he would have a hard time explaining why a law that prohibits isolating students based on their race, ethnicity, religion, gender or social class is "codifying white supremacy."

2 comments on “Cancel Culture and the Teaching Profession”

  1. I’m reasonably certain there is some sort of “Professional standards” clause in his contract. I’d’ve fired him based on his unprofessional behavior and abjectly failing to meet the standard of conduct expected of a professional.

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