Sunday 7 February 2021

Students Protest Firing of Arkansas Teacher Who Called Lawmakers Out for Being Fragile AF Over 1619 Project Curriculum


Illustration for article titled Students Protest Firing of Arkansas Teacher Who Called Lawmakers Out for Being Fragile AF Over i1619 Project /iCurriculum
Screenshot: 5 News Where You Live

A Rogers, Arkansas, educator has been fired for committing the egregious offense of...calling out Republicans from his state for being the fragile white nationalists that they absolutely are. Specifically, the now-former teacher from the Arkansas Arts Academy was terminated for sending a justifiably angry email to state lawmakers who have proposed a bill barring funding for any school that includes Nikole Hannah-Jones’ Pulitzer-Prize winning collection The 1619 Project in its curriculum. On Friday, students from the school gathered in protest of the teacher’s firing.

CBS affiliate 5 News reports that Josh Depner, who was a history/social science teacher at the Academy, wrote a letter to Arkansas officials who support House bills HB 1218 and HB 1231.

Here’s what Depner’s email read as reported by 5 News:

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.

Daaaayumn, son!

Depner was right, of course. The 1619 Project is every bit as much relevant history as the Caucasian-friendly husk of historical information that’s currently taught in schools. For Black people especially, it’s much more relevant as it is history taught through a lens of Blackness—and that’s actually the real problem for Republicans and conservative historians whether they’re willing to admit it or not.

Republican lawmakers—like U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) who “has filed similar legislation at the federal level blocking the 1619 Project curriculum,” as 5 News reports—are only following the lead of ousted and disgraced President Donald Trump’s push to withhold funding from schools that incorporate the project into their curricula. They also might be trying to get a little bit of revenge for President Joe Biden’s order to ditch Trump’s ode to white fragility, the “1776 Commission,” which was the most racist, slavery apologist white nonsense I ever had the non-pleasure of writing about.

But since Depner is  an educator in Arkansas, he knew he probably better apologize for his absolutely-correct-but-very-aggressive email. So he sent another email saying he is “sincerely sorry for how I addressed these concerns,” and that he is “regretful that I sent them from my professional address; the concerns are my own as a private citizen and I should have conveyed them through the proper channels.”

But his apology wasn’t enough to save his job and, apparently, it was the part about using his “professional address” that got him fired.

The school said that Depner’s email “violated their personal technology agreements and the educators’ code of ethics set for faculty and staff,” 5 News reports.

On Friday, Depner joined students from the academy in demanding that he be reinstated.

“He was fighting for what we deserve to learn as a society—as a nation overall,” one student told 5 News.

Depner was asked if he agreed with students that he should get his job back and he told the network, “Absolutely.”

“I’ve been with the school for three years,” he said. “I have an exemplary record. I have no documentation of ever being written up. In fact, on the day I was fired, I received a teacher of the year nomination from my principal that terminated me.”

Arkansas Arts Academy School Board Vice President Jeff Hunnicutt told 5 News in a statement that the school’s “administration and the board are actively working on the situation regarding Mr. Depner,” and that its “regularly scheduled monthly board meeting will be taking place this coming Tuesday evening, where we will be dedicating time to hear from the public on this matter.”

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