US Media Consumers Trapped in Both-Sides Multiverse [updated]

Jerry: I’m open. There’s just nothing in there.

SEINFELD S9 E3THE SERENITY NOW

If you want to fully understand mainstream journalism in the U.S., Twitter provided a few excellent examples recently.

The examples often come from the New York Times, a publication either viewed as the paper of record or a liberal rag, but mainstream journalism is consistently equally hollow regardless of outlet.

In a post from December 23, 2021, Twitter exposed the NYT’s use of passive voice, shading the public’s view of police killings by focusing on bullets:

That’s a magical agent-less bullet [1], much like the raging SUVs killing people as well:

Burying the agent, passive construction, is a common practice of mainstream media; for example, not saying aloud a key aspect of a story:

Refusing to acknowledge that the Critical Race Theory attacks are driven by white parents and white politics is distorting the public’s perception of this manufactured crisis in a similar way to the NYT’s coverage of police shootings.

But the primary go-to of the NYT and most mainstream journalism is reducing all coverage to “both sides” false equivalence:

In Enid, both sides in the mask debate believed they were standing up for what was right. Both cared deeply for their city — and their country — and believed that, in their own way, they were working to save it. And it all started as an argument over a simple piece of cloth.

First They Fought About Masks. Then Over the Soul of the City.

Of course, advocating for health and safety based on medical evidence is exactly the same as advocating for endangering people based on nonsense—as long as “both sides” are passionate.

Just like during the Holocaust, we might imagine the NYT’s coverage framing Nazi’s and Jews “believ[ing] they were [both] standing up for what was right.”

While, as I noted above, people tend either to oversell the NYT as having the “best” journalism or to demonize the NYT as absurdly “liberal,” the truth is that the NYT and most mainstream journalism are consistently hollow; “[t]here’s just nothing in there.”

If you pay attention to mainstream journalism, for example, you discover U.S. public schools suck, teachers don’t know what they are doing because teacher educators are clueless (especially when teaching reading), and , of course, poor people are incredibly lazy and horrible with money (notable is the NYT apparently cribbing from The Onion).

Why such baseless and hollow criticism of education and people trapped in poverty? My guess is the mainstream journalism is using deflection to cover for the essential hollowness of mainstream journalism.

And coincidentally, since my fields of experience and expertise include both education and writing (I taught and have written journalism), I believe journalism suffers a similar fate to education, especially elementary education.

Let me emphasize here that I strongly believe journalism and education are robust and credible fields of study, worthy of scholarship and suitable as majors for undergraduate and graduate students. However, when journalism and education are reduced to skills only, the problems noted above occur.

Being well versed in how to conduct journalism or how to teach is important, but not adequate.

Having been a so-called serious writer for about 40 years, I am certain I have the rhetorical skills to write authoritatively about any topic. But those skills would prove to be a mirage, a veneer with quite a few subjects about which I have no expertise.

As I have noted repeatedly about the “science of reading” movement, media coverage of how to teach reading is reductive and worst of all lacking historical context. The SoR problems are examples of Christopher Columbus journalism, a journalist approaching a topic as if they are the first to discover the topic while running roughshod over an existing field.

Being an experienced journalist and having a degree in journalism are of little real value if the journalist doesn’t also have the extensive knowledge of a topic that scholars have.

Ironically, the “both sides” approach, I think, comes in part from admitting a lack of knowledge by the journalist, who then reaches out to people who know the field. The mistake comes when the journalist has no knowledge that would allow them to evaluate who they cite—resulting in far too often journalism that is nothing more than false equivalence.

I was invited once to debate corporal punishment, and the people organizing the debate were perplexed they couldn’t find anyone who was pro-corporal punishment to participate, to which I noted that some topics do not have two sides. The person I was interacting with, a journalist, was completely disoriented by that concept.

People who are anti-racist are not morally or ethically equal to white nationalists or people who oppose anti-racism education; that “both sides” are passionate is a silly equivalence, a hollow equivalence.

Finally, let’s circle back to the Todd/Hannah-Jones exchange. Journalism and education have something else in common—disproportionate whiteness. Journalists are about 70% white (and incredibly under-representative of Black journalists at just over 5%), and educators are about 80% white (also under-representing Black educators at 7%).

Just as mainstream journalism defaults to passive constructions around police shootings, mainstream journalism rarely utters “white” because most journalists cannot see whiteness; whiteness perpetuates itself because it blinds white people to the facts of race.

The manufactured attacks on CRT as a subset of Trumpism are reinforced by mainstream media’s refusal to delineate for readers between credible and false claims. In the early days of Trump, we watched mainstream journalism struggle to call Trump’s lies “lies.”

The simplistic “objective/neutral” pose of journalists is one of the foundational flawed skills of journalism that stands in place of actual expertise.

Mainstream journalism does not suffer from a liberal bias, but mainstream journalism does suffer from a hollowness that is reflected in journalists defaulting to passive constructions and erasing the most essential elements of the topics they are covering.

Unlike Jerry on Seinfeld, journalists have yet to come to the awareness that when you confront their reporting “[t]here’s just nothing in there,” like, as the many Black folk I follow on Twitter noted, the meals white folk prepared at Thanksgiving.


[1] Updated coverage; note the passive voice in the subtitle:

Key information from the coverage:

Surveillance video showed the suspect attacking two women, including one who fell to the floor before he dragged her by her feet through the store’s aisles as she tried to crawl away.

Multiple people including store employees called police to report a man striking customers with a bike lock at the store in the North Hollywood area of the San Fernando Valley. One caller told a 911 dispatcher that the man had a gun. No firearm — only the bike lock — was recovered at the scene….

In bodycam video, armed officers entered the store and approached the suspect. The victim was seen on the blood-stained floor and the suspect was on the other side of the aisle. At least one officer opened fire, striking the man.

The 24-year-old suspect, Daniel Elena Lopez, died at the scene. Also killed was Valentina Orellana-Peralta, 14, who was hiding with her mother inside a dressing room….

LAPD officers have shot […] 38 people — 18 of them fatally, including the shooting Sunday of a man with a knife — in 2021, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Those figures mark a dramatic rise in cases where officers shot or killed people in either of the last two years — 27 people were shot and 7 of them killed by LA police in all of 2020. In 2019, officers shot 26 people, killing 12.

Los Angeles Police Video Shows Officer Shooting That Killed 14-Year-Old Girl

12-22-21: Nerdvana

What does it mean to be a nerd?

Not as vividly as today, slipping toward my last month at the age of 60, but in high school I was aware that I existed in different worlds, worlds that really did not overlap.

Those worlds, in fact, were documented in two films of my youth, Animal House and Revenge of the Nerds. And the worlds, of course, are the tensions between nerds and jocks in formal schooling.

From about 1975 into the early 1980s, I was a compulsive comic book collector, and throughout junior and senior high school, I was on the schools’ basketball teams; I also was a serious golfer and ran track my senior year.

Wearing my father’s number 3, I spent much of my adolescence trying to be the athlete I believed he wanted me to be.

With 7000+ comic books safely ensconced in my comic book room at my home, where I could control who knew about my mostly closeted life, I graduated 8th in my class and more distraught that I had failed to secure a letterman’s jacket than proud of my academic achievements.

My school had arcane rules for lettering, the jacket only awarded to those who lettered in their junior year, the only year I failed to letter in basketball after lettering my sophomore year and in two sports my senior year. I wore my father’s letterman’s jacket occasionally—him a four-sport letterman and co-captain of the school’s first state championship football team.

I clung to the jock life desperately in high school, but the nerd life was who I was, who I am.

Although I became a serious cyclist a few years after high school, and continue today as a fairly accomplished recreational cyclist, I learned quite quickly that the embarrassment of being an outcast that came with being a nerd in school, suddenly flipped throughout college and into adulthood.

Oddly, to be honest, much of my nerd impulses are satisfied by my adult sports obsession, cycling. The two worlds seamlessly merged, and with little conflict—unlike the satirical clashes in the films of my youth.

From the science fiction obsession I adopted from my mother to the comic book collecting and compulsive efforts to be a comic book artist, I slowly throughout college morphed into being a writer and a teacher, followed by graduate school and the life of a scholar, which pulls everything into one neat and stable nerd pile.

In my 40s, I moved to higher education and found the space to merge all of my nerd life into my career, including doing comic book scholarship and blogging. Over the next two decades, with age, I returned to my nerd center, beginning again to collect comics just as the world has embraced all that nerdom in the form of comic books being adapted to film and series on streaming services.

I grew up with campy Batman (a wonderful work around to shift comic books to live-action), The Green Hornet, The Incredible Hulk, and The Amazing Spider-Man, the latter two a hint of the possibility of comic books as TV series that were far ahead of their time in terms of the technology needed to make that work.

Most of that pop culture/comic book/super hero world was simply only stuff that nerds could appreciate, love. While there was some momentum to these as well as popular success, this was still mostly the nerd world.

Young adulthood, career, graduate school, marriage, and fatherhood pushed my nerd life aside while pop culture continued to tip-toe toward today’s nonstop nerdvana seen in Marvel and Disney+.

I sit here writing on 12-22-21, recognizing that the Pop Culture Gods have blessed us with the last episode of season 1 of Hawkeye, the release of The Matrix Resurrections, and new comic book day (including the release of Moon Knight (v9) 6 amidst the buzz around Moon Knight coming to Disney+)—maybe the peak ever nerdvana.

My 15-year-old rendition of Marvel Spotlight on The Moon Knight 28 (1976)

In 2012, despite being a lifelong SF nerd, I came to the original The Matrix trilogy 13 years late; I found all three films on my cable package, and immediately consumed them with nerd-glee, baffled why and how I had allowed life to distract me from them when they were commanding pop culture.

I soon wrote a poem about this experience, alluding the Revenge of the Nerds and beginning then to think seriously about what it means to be a nerd.

The value and consequences for being a nerd shift throughout childhood and adolescence into adulthood because at its core being a nerd is about being fully human, passionately and nakedly fully human. While we are children, and especially teens, to being transparent is terrifying, and the result is many simply hide their passions, who they are, and resort to shaming and bullying those few among us willing to live the nerd life even as we know it costs during those delicate years of growing up.

Of course, we have always found each other, sought refuge in small gatherings, but I grew up before comic book stores and Dungeons and Dragons, well before gaming really took hold.

Nerdom was isolating for me—until it simply was my life, my passions finding their way into my careers.

I will find ways to bask in 12-22-21, this nerdvana. After I complete this blog post, I can head to my local comic book store, opening at 11 am. I will go cycling this afternoon, and we have committed to watching The Matrix Resurrections tonight. I am fretting over how to fit in Hawkeye, as I also fret over how and when Daredevil comes to the MCU (hints and leaks swirling around me).

Being a nerd is an attempt at being fully human, allowing our souls and our minds to care deeply, to love and embrace these other worlds imagined and brought into our real lives.

12-22-21 is also the first day after the Winter Solstice, daylight once again promising to expand and bring us another spring, hope and sunshine and warmth.

Nerdom is the human heart joining with the human mind and pretending we have souls, souls that can and will occasionally join hands, all creatures good and one.

Helping Students Avoid Meta-Essay Moves

Maybe it’s the multiverse?

Or possibly the ever-evolving and shifting social media world that encourages young people to be the center of their own images and videos?

Well, actually, this is not going to be yet another “kids today” post by an aging educator. In fact, I know both the problem I am addressing (meta-essay moves) and the reasons why students practice them (direct and indirect lessons in school-based writing).

One of my favorite examples to help students reconsider their assumptions about writing essays as students is the brilliant Since The Beginning Of Time, Mankind Has Discussed What It Did On Summer Vacation. It is a stand-alone master class in deconstructing the overstatement as the opening sentence of essays in school by students.

Despite covering this satirical essay by The Onion in class and despite my repeatedly emphasizing that students should never open with overstatements, students persist, turning in subsequent essays with the overstatement first sentence and the clunky traditional introduction (more overstatement) and then trying out a couple interesting paragraphs that match the lessons we conduct in class for engaging openings.

I mark that first sentence/paragraph and urge them to delete and focus on the better work following. And then, the next essay circles right back to the overstatement and clunky introduction.

This situation is but one of dozens of examples of students finding unlearning more challenging than new learning; many of my students earned A’s on their essays in high school, essays that began with overstatements and clunky introductions making grand proclamations.

Success is a powerful lesson for young people in school where grades are both the goal and motivation. However, artificial success is also a powerful deterrent for authentic learning—such as the inherent problem with using templates, the five-paragraph essay (equally as harmful for writing as training wheels for learning to ride a bicycle).

Another area I struggle to foster in student essay writing is avoiding meta-essay moves.

The classic example of meta-essay moves is the “This is what I intend to prove within the course of this essay” thesis approach (see The Onion satirical essay). I rarely have students still clinging to that (thankfully).

But what persists are meta-essay moves (bolded in examples below) around the use of sources in cited essays, for example:

  • According to The Journal for the Study of Sports and Athletes in Education, anything more than twenty work hours a week can result in problematic grades or psychological well-being (Fuller, Lawrence, Harrison, Eyanson, & Griffin, 2019).
  • Most of the sources used tended to use the definition of disparity provided by the institute of medicine (Cook, et al.,2012; Williams & Wyatt, 2015; Wang, et al., 2013).
  • Many articles and papers done on these topics jointly don’t go far enough when splitting up classes to paint an accurate picture of disparities faced by different persons at various levels of class with varying races (Braveman, et al. 2010).

I joke with students that I anticipate something like the following when I read their meta-essay moves in cited essays: “When I got the assignment for this paper, I searched online through the library and found sources that included research on the topic I am writing about.”

These meta-essay moves about integrating sources is grounded in MLA style (and some of my motivation for addressing this is helping students recognize different style expectations among citation style sheets) and in a less obvious self-consciousness and insecurity among students as writers.

I provide students resources that guide them in ways to revise and integrate sources in sophisticated ways that emphasize the patterns found in their sources; my refrain is “write about what you learn from the sources and not about your sources.”

Students often have had disproportionate experience writing cited essays as textual analysis, requiring extensive quoting and using MLA citation. When they shift to other disciplines and different citation style sheets, they tend to remain trapped in meta-essay moves and narrow uses of evidence (quoting only).

I have, then, added to concepts traditionally used when integrating source material—quoting and paraphrasing—what I call “synthesizing” (from my resource material):

Prefer synthesis of multiple sources and discussing the conclusions (patterns) from those sources—and thus, avoid quoting and simply cataloging one source at a time. Take care with proper APA parenthetic citation; note the use of commas, page numbers with quotes only, and the placement of periods, for example:

From the 1980s (a hot decade for rebooting origins, highlighted by Frank Miller’s Batman) and into the early 2000s, Captain America’s origin continued to be reshaped. Notable for a consideration of race is Truth: Red, White and Black from 2003, which details a remarkable alternate origin as a medical experiment on black men (echoing Tuskegee), resulting in Isaiah Bradley ascension as the actual first Captain America (Connors, 2013; Hack, 2009; McWilliams, 2009; Nama, 2011).

Ironically, of course, we almost never hear a word of protest about the abundant misinformation found in our U. S. history textbooks (Loewen, 1996; Zinn, 1995), primarily because the misinformation better supports the meritocracy myth our schools are obligated to promote for the good of the society.

Recent scholarship on this concern for diversity and the achievement gap among races and socioeconomic groups has shown that when we attempt institutional approaches to “critical issues,” the result is corrupted by the system itself, resulting in a widespread acceptance of the work of Ruby Payne (1996), work that has no research supporting the “framework” and work that reinforces the assumptions (deficit thinking) about race and diversity that are common in our society (Bomer, Dworin, May, & Semingson, 2008; Bomer, Dworin, May, & Semingson, 2009; Dudley-Marling, 2007; Gorski, 2006a; Gorski, 2006b; Gorski, 2008; Thomas, 2009).

Fostering in students more sophisticated approaches to cited essays is part of the transition from high school to college, but lessons from high school are incredibly resilient since my students often report they received A’s on those high school essays.

Yet, I persist because moving students away from meta-essay moves accomplishes two writing goals.

First, students are encouraged to recognize and avoid empty, filler text in their writing. “Many researchers have conducted studies on this topic” is a waste of text space, and frankly, that emptiness erodes any student’s credibility and authority.

Next, linked to the first point above, students need substantial writer/scholar moves to establish and develop their credibility and authority.

Again, students often admit they have written “research papers” by stacking up their sources and mechanically walking the reader thought those sources, one at a time, as if the essay is about the sources and not some authentic topic.

This is why they have the urge to write “my sources.”

The result is an essay whereby a student is a mere conduit for Source 1’s thoughts on The Scarlet Letter followed by Source 2, Source 3, etc.

My emphasis on synthesis of sources introduces to college students a fundamental move by scholars, reading source material to learn about a topic through identifying the patterns found in a body of research. Except when providing evidence (quoted text) during textual analysis, writers/scholars assert their authority through paraphrasing and original expression (synthesis is creating something new from assembled parts; the newness is the synthesis, even when the assembled ideas are not).

In short, paraphrasing/synthesis shows understanding in a more sophisticated way that simply selecting other people’s words.

Maybe students today are compelled to use meta-essay moves in the same way they post selfies on Instagram or videos on TikTok, and maybe there are valid reasons they want to keep themselves the center of their stories.

And while we do acknowledge the use of “I” as credible and common in scholarly writing, students must avoid the sort of meta-essays moves that erode their credibility.

At least until the Marvel Multiverse spills over into our daily world, and then, none of this will really matter.

Critical Race Theory: The Facts and Irony (for White People)

As nearly daily reporting highlights, the manufactured anger over Critical Race Theory (CRT) continues to influence directly and indirectly both public discourse as well as teaching and learning in U.S. schools.

Books are being banned, and state legislation is restricting curriculum and teaching (see here), often in response to outcries against the non-existent influence of CRT on education.

The anti-CRT movement is mostly a political event grounded in misinformation. The essential misinformation includes how CRT is defined and the misunderstanding that CRT is taught in K-12 curriculum.

Let me offer an analogy for understanding what CRT is and why “teaching CRT” is mostly a misrepresentation of the scholarly theory.

For scientists, particularly in the field of medicine, seeking ways to understand disease, an initial challenge was not being able to see microscopic viruses and bacteria. Those scientist had come to the conclusion that the illness being confronted could not be explained by the visible and assumed causes of that disease and its transmission.

In other words, they needed a different way to see the disease. Enter the microscope, a tool for seeing differently in order to understand a complex phenomenon (a disease and its transmission).

CRT is the microscope; in short, CRT is a theoretical lens that scholars use to focus on race and racism as a tool for better understanding a phenomenon that traditional explanations have not adequately explained.

To clarify, then, CRT is a scholarly tool (a set of claims about race and racism) that helps examine phenomena, typically related to institutional dynamics (U.S. legal system, policing, public education). CRT has its origin in legal studies, and at its core, CRT examines phenomenon under the assumption that racial inequities cannot often be understood by simplistic explanations such as individual racism.

As Adrienne Dixon explains for NEPC, CRT does influence some elements of legal and educational scholarship:

CRT is a theoretical framework that originated in legal scholarship in the late 1980s. The founding CRT scholars were dissatisfied with anti-discrimination laws and the legal scholarship that informed it because they felt it didn’t adequately address the role of race and racism and relied too heavily on incremental change. CRT was introduced to education in the 1990s to address similar dissatisfaction with research in education that scholars believed did not fully account for race and racism. Moreover, scholars felt that multicultural education had become co-opted and no longer had the potential to adequately address inequities in education writ large.

Critical Race Theory: What It Is. And What It Is Not. A Q&A With Adrienne Dixson

To clarify about the widespread misinformation about CRT, here are some key facts:

  • CRT is a theoretical lens used by scholars to understand phenomenon impacted by race; CRT is not taught in K-12 education (or undergraduate education), and may or may not have influenced any text or curriculum that addresses systemic racism.
  • CRT centers race in the spectrum of theories that fall under the label “CRT,” and thus, since Marxism centers social class (and often takes a color-blind stance), CRT and Marxist theoretical lenses are in tension. In short, calling CRT “Marxist” is misleading at best, and simply false as worst. [1]
  • Very few students, even graduate students, are assigned readings and lessons that examine what CRT is and how to use it in research. Most students will only ever experience CRT examined formally in graduate courses (law school, graduate education), and even then, CRT remains mostly in elective courses. [2]

Now, let me explore why the attacks on CRT by white conservatives is ironic.

Let’s start with Ta-Nehisi Coates, whose writing is at the center of one of the most dramatic consequences of anti-CRT legislation—a teacher in Tennessee being fired for teaching an essay by Coates.

Coates gained much of his fame as a contemporary writer on race while working at The Atlantic; one of his most powerful pieces examined the Donald Sterling controversy, an NBA owner who lost his ownership because of documented racist behavior.

Sterling represents, according to Coates, oafish racists, individuals who express and act on explicit racism (think David Duke). The oafish racist, the individual racist, as Coates explains, is likely far less common in the U.S., but also far easier to identify and address.

As a CRT scholar would acknowledge, oafish racists pose no problem to scholars; however, racism and racial inequity persist in ways that cannot be linked to individual racist behavior (more below). CRT, then, would be a useful framework for trying to explain what Coates labels as “elegant racism”:

Elegant racism is invisible, supple, and enduring. It disguises itself in the national vocabulary, avoids epithets and didacticism. Grace is the singular marker of elegant racism. One should never underestimate the touch needed to, say, injure the voting rights of black people without ever saying their names. Elegant racism lives at the border of white shame. Elegant racism was the poll tax. Elegant racism is voter-ID laws.

This Town Needs a Better Class of Racist, Ta-Nehisi Coates

Here are a few examples of just exactly how CRT is useful and even necessary for understanding situations exposing racial inequity.

First, consider the death of Tamir Rice, a 12-year-old who was identified by a police officer as a “‘Black male, maybe 20, black revolver, black handgun by him.'” Rice was shot and killed in just seconds by that officer.

The shooting and killing of Rice fits into a large body of research showing that Black people are shot and killed at much higher rates than other races (for example, Black people shot 2.5 x more often than White people):

For legal scholars who have concluded that this racial rate inequity cannot be explained by simply identifying individual police officers as racists, CRT provides a process for understanding how and why the police officer shot and killed 12-year-old Rice.

Part of that explanation is systemic racism that influences everyone (regardless of race); Black children are viewed as older than their biological ages:

The social category “children” defines a group of individuals who are perceived to be distinct, with essential characteristics including innocence and the need for protection (Haslam, Rothschild, & Ernst, 2000). The present research examined whether Black boys are given the protections of childhood equally to their peers. We tested 3 hypotheses: (a) that Black boys are seen as less “childlike” than their White peers, (b) that the characteristics associated with childhood will be applied less when thinking specifically about Black boys relative to White boys, and (c) that these trends would be exacerbated in contexts where Black males are dehumanized by associating them (implicitly) with apes (Goff, Eberhardt, Williams, & Jackson, 2008). We expected, derivative of these 3 principal hypotheses, that individuals would perceive Black boys as being more responsible for their actions and as being more appropriate targets for police violence. We find support for these hypotheses across 4 studies using laboratory, field, and translational (mixed laboratory/field) methods. We find converging evidence that Black boys are seen as older and less innocent and that they prompt a less essential conception of childhood than do their White same-age peers. Further, our findings demonstrate that the Black/ape association predicted actual racial disparities in police violence toward children. These data represent the first attitude/behavior matching of its kind in a policing context. Taken together, this research suggests that dehumanization is a uniquely dangerous intergroup attitude, that intergroup perception of children is underexplored, and that both topics should be research priorities.

The Essence of Innocence: Consequences of Dehumanizing Black Children

So here is our first example of irony: While anti-CRT advocates attack CRT as itself racist and argue CRT labels all White people as racist, CRT actually poses that the killing of Rice is not dependent on a racist police offer, but unexamined and unaddressed systemic biases against Black children.

Again, ironically, training for police officers informed by CRT is the most effective mechanism for helping police officers recognize unconscious bias (viewing Black children as adults) and then change their behavior (resulting in fewer lives taken).

Finally, consider a couple more phenomenon and the need for CRT as a tool to understand and address these inequities.

Consider this report from Brookings that identifies racial inequities between education and income (a racial gap identified in a large body of research):

Perry, Barr, and Romer, then, confront a problem that cannot be explained simply by the impact of individual racists on income:

Our research reveals that the median earnings for Black workers in the manufacturing industry are a staggering $25,629 less than the median for non-Black workers. This racial earnings gap is so large that it is even more pronounced than the earnings gap between workers with degrees versus without. And education does not make up for the racial income gap [emphasis added]; our analysis shows that the median Black worker with a college or trade school degree in the manufacturing industry still makes $875 less than the median white worker with no degree.

Three lessons for boosting postsecondary education and wages in Black-majority cities

Next, consider racial inequity in terms of education, detailed in a report from The Education Trust:

Black students are more likely to attend schools that have high percentages of novice teachers in almost every state across the country. For example:

• In Mississippi, about 25% of Black students attend schools with high percentages of novice teachers, compared to 7% of non-Black students.

• In Maryland, nearly 40% of Black students attend schools with high percentages of novice teachers, compared to about 20% of non-Black students.

• And in eight states (Arizona, Florida, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, and Texas), 30% or more of Black students attend schools with high percentages (greater than 20%) of novice teachers.

Not only do Black students have more novice teachers, but they also have more first-year teachers. On nationwide average, schools serving the highest percentages of Black students have 8% first-year teachers; whereas, schools serving the lowest percentages of Black students have 5% first-year teachers. In 25% of states, schools serving the greatest percentages of Black students have at least twice the percentage of first-year teachers as schools serving the fewest.

• In Louisiana and Mississippi, for example, schools serving the greatest percentages of Black students have almost three times the percentage of first-year teachers as schools serving the fewest.

See Getting Black students Better Access to Non-Novice Teachers

The Education Trust finds a similar disparity for Latino students.

In all three phenomena above—racial inequities in police shootings, income, and access to non-novice teachers—CRT allows a tool for examining and addressing these problems that begins with the claim they are not the result from individual racism, but from systemic (and complicated) dynamics that everyone participates in.

For White people, then, CRT informed research on racial inequity that can unpack and identify the dynamics creating systemic racism can then be translated into policy and practices that eradicate those inequities—all without blaming individuals as racists.

Understanding and incorporating CRT as a tool for research and policy, then, is not a process for condemning all White people as racist, but a pathway to racial harmony.

Being White is not a self-condemning status, then; however, refusing to acknowledge systemic racism and the need to find policies that create equity is a choice, one that perpetuates racism regardless of anyone’s beliefs about race.

The ultimate and ugly irony is that White refusal to understand and embrace CRT is self-defeating, harmful to everyone regardless of race.


[1] See “Claim 2” HERE.

[2] As a critical scholar who identifies with Marxist educational theory, I must emphasize that although I have completed every level of formal education through a doctorate, I have never once been assigned any CRT text or lesson. Further, my understanding and study of Marxism have primarily been on my own, beginning with Marx’s non-economic writings (which I read by choice as an undergraduate after finding the book at a used book sale).

Resources from NEPC

Understanding the Attacks on Critical Race Theory

Critical Race Theory: What It Is. And What It Is Not. A Q&A With Adrienne Dixson

NEPC Review: How to Regulate Critical Race Theory in Schools: A Primer and Model Legislation (Manhattan Institute, August 2021)

Conservative Wet-Paper-Towel Commentary and the So-Called “Liberal” Media

Robert Pondiscio and Frederick Hess, both from the conservative American Enterprise Institute, are about as credible as a paper towel, a wet paper towel.

Not Bounty, of course, but those other paper towels.

Yet, here is an interesting fact.

The so-called “liberal” mainstream media love to provide inordinate space to Pondiscio and Hess, particularly when the topic is even remotely about education.

For example, The New York Times allows them to hold forth on book censorship in Texas. Hess offers a flippant comment that captures the veneer of being reasonable at the core of conservative wet-paper-towel commentary:

“It’s just enormously problematic to rule out particular works,” said Frederick Hess of the American Enterprise Institute, who has written favorably of the battles against critical race theory. “I happen to think ‘1619’ is a shoddy work, but so what? Let kids read critiques and wrestle with it.”

In Texas, a Battle Over What Can Be Taught, and What Books Can Be Read

Gosh, that’s mighty kind of Hess to allow “kids” to read some “shoddy” history!

But Pondiscio is granted the last word, and again, he takes the pose of moderation, although like Hess, it is couched in a nasty little swipe: “He sees antiracist education, such as grouping students in racial affinity groups, as lapsing into parody.”

Ah, yes, what a joke antiracist education is!

From Pondiscio to Hess and the entire array of high-profile know-nothing conservative pundits, like David Brooks, mainstream media is awash in wet-paper-towel commentary from conservative (mostly male, mostly white) pundits who benefit from presenting as harmless “experts” who remind us of Ward Clever or Ronald Reagan (actor, not politician).

When Ward Cleaver Caused Social Anxiety - JSTOR Daily
It's Golden Again in America: Ronald Reagan and Hollywood | Film and  Digital Media

But don’t let the reasonable pose fool you. These wet paper towels not only don’t hold water very well, but also don’t place a coffee cup on them or you’re going to have a mess on your hands.

Behind the smiles and the hair cuts, however, is something insidious, and the only real way to identify that is to admit conservative commentary is mostly built on lies.

Consider the process in a full Op-Ed by Pondiscio, Drawing the line between censorship and age-appropriateness.

First, note that his commentary is allowed a very reasonable headline, as if the censorship movement across the U.S.—and even calls for book burnings—are merely about misunderstanding a very reasonable issue facing our schools, age appropriateness (glossing over, of course, the implication that teachers and administrators don’t already consider age appropriateness).

Next, as the comments above in the NYT show, Pondiscio proceeds to weave a puppet show of reasonableness that isn’t reasonable at all [1].

Early in his commentary, Pondiscio assures us he is bored with the canon war (apparently itself a bit of a joke like antiracism education!). Where does his concern lie?:

The more challenging front in the censorship wars is over new and comparatively obscure works targeted at readers, from small children to young adults, which cannot claim canonical status. These new works are being published, promoted and defended on grounds of “authenticity and inclusivity.” To question them — to draw a line — is to risk a charge of ignorance, bigotry or worse.

Drawing the line between censorship and age-appropriateness

“Obscure works”? “Targeted at readers”? (Side question: Are there books not targeted at readers? Those readerless books?)

It gets even more fun:

Publishers of young adult novels have been falling over one another in recent years to bring out controversial texts on themes of sexual abuse, racism, domestic violence, gang life, school shootings and other “realistic” subjects, in widely read books such “The Hate U Give,” “Thirteen Reasons Why,” and “The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian.”

Picture books for little kids are even more discomfiting. I’m old enough to remember the controversies that attended “Heather Has Two Mommies” (1989) “And Tango Makes Three” (2005), which sought to normalize gay and lesbian family structures.

Drawing the line between censorship and age-appropriateness

“Falling over one another”? “Discomforting”? “Normalize gay and lesbian family structures”?

Pondiscio seems to think he is Ward Clever surrounded by his doting and clueless family.

And, boy, things suddenly stopped being a joke, right? To Pondiscio, antiracism education is “parody,” but the real problem (not racism!) is “[t]hat normalizing impulse now goes to lengths that give pause on grounds of age appropriateness even to parents who think of themselves as progressive.”

Jesus, how did the U.S. fall under the spell of “normalizing”? And why are these “progressive”parents confiding in a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute?

You see, Pondiscio is playing a slightly softer version of the conservative Red Herring strategy behind attacks on Critical Race Theory: Make an outlandish and unsubstantiated claim, and then quickly shift to attacking that claim with more outlandish extremism:

Instead, we must reaffirm that you’re not a homophobe if you don’t want your child exposed to an explicit illustration of oral sex as in the graphic novel “Gender Queer.” Neither are you a closet white supremacist if you question the wisdom of exposing young children to the racially charged picture book “Not My Idea. A Book About Whiteness,” which concludes, “Whiteness is a bad deal. It always was.”

Drawing the line between censorship and age-appropriateness

The Big Reveal is that Pondiscio isn’t Ward Clever; he is Eddie Haskell.

Ken Osmond (Eddie Haskell) 1943-2020 – PowerPop… An Eclectic Collection of  Pop Culture

Here is the essential problem with both the conservative/Republican attack on books and curriculum, and conservative wet-paper-towel commentary trying to justify erasing free speech and academic freedom.

Including Texas, but all across mostly red states, books are being banned (not checked for age appropriateness), removed from classrooms and libraries so that no one has access to them. These attacks are not about assigning books, but about deciding for parents and students what books can be read.

These attacks are not concerns about age appropriateness (legitimate) or parental rights (debatable). This is fear-mongering around “normalizing” (remember, that thing more dangerous than racism!).

Access to books in children’s homes, classrooms, and schools is one the most important aspects of developing literacy, and limiting access to books in classrooms and schools will disproportionately and negatively impact children living in poverty.

The real parodies—ones so dark they aren’t funny—are Pondiscio, Hess, Brooks, et al., who, like Eddie Haskell, are allowed to offer their veneer of reasonableness in mainstream “liberal” media to promote their wet-paper-towel commentary.

There isn’t enough Bounty in the world to clean up that mess.


[1] As a frame of reference, here is an actual reasonable claim in my own commentary on book censorship (published in The Greenville News, SC):

While there is certainly a place for examinations of age-appropriate texts being taught in public schools, and parents have the right to offer input about the books their own children read, book banning is an act of removing everyone’s opportunity to choose what they read and what they learn.

The current purge happening across the U.S. is not limited to individual student and parent choice, but banning books from school libraries, while targeting the most vulnerable students and authors.

Banning books is “purposeful erasing of history”

On Transitions and Students as Writers

Two decades ago, I left K-12 teaching for higher education. After 18 years as a high school English teacher, I found myself wearing a wrist brace, my right hand overwhelmed by year upon year of hand writing comments on about 4000 student essays a year.

I still hear from my high school students, many on their 30s, 40s, and even 50s. They remain kind and praise my class for helping them become successful student writers, and thinkers.

Although I moved from the field of English (and I always primarily saw myself as a composition teacher who happened to teach literature) to education, I have been fortunate to also teach first-year writing as well as an upper-level writing/research course. Much of my schedule now includes writing-intensive courses at the undergraduate and graduate levels, even though I no longer teach literature-based courses.

One confession I must admit is that the transition from K-12 to higher education allowed the physical toll of teaching writing to 100+ students each year to alleviate, but the cumulative almost 40 years of teaching writing is wearing me down psychologically.

I am tired, and I am occasionally exasperated.

But I persist because I still feel the urge to teach, to teach better, and to learn along side my students. Fall 2021 has been another round of important lessons for me because I have been teaching two first-year writing (FYW) seminars in conjunction with a literacy course in our relatively new MAT program.

Both my FYW and graduate students are in transition, and both have overlapping challenges with those transitions.

One of the first activities we do in FYW seminars is to discuss a handout I created just a few semesters ago, Checklist: Making the Transition from Writing in High School to Writing in College [1].

Also relatively new for my FYW students is our final essay assignment; a few semesters ago because of the stress of Covid, I revised Essay 4 by combining it with the reflection I used to require for the final portfolio assignment.

The new assignment is as follows:

Essay 4 Assignment

Submit a showcase essay (approx. 4 pages) reflecting on what you have learned as a writer and what you see as the key weaknesses you need to continue to address. Include direct references to your essays (examples) and any significant connections to Warner or Style (quotes and page numbers are encouraged; include proper citing and references page if needed). Take great care to show in the essay the key elements about writing and essays you have learned in this course.

When this fall’s students submitted Essay 4, I read essay after essay that actively reflected that students have not learned many of the key concepts of writing in college that we emphasized throughout the semester. Something that all teachers of writing will recognize occurred: After students demonstrate “learning” through revision of one essay, they revert and fail to apply that learning in the next essay.

Scholars of grammar, for example, have identified that phenomenon with surface features (see Connie Weaver here and here), but this is also common as students are learning and making significant transitions as students as writers.

My FYW students were struggling with the transition from successful high school students/writers to writing as college students; my MAT students faced moving from being very successful undergraduates to performing as graduate students.

One reflection from a FYW student included a key observation, I think:

Students learned in high school several practices that actively work against their ability to make transitions, their understanding that at each level of education, the expectations change and evolve.

This student’s comment highlights the importance of students in K-12 having rich and authentic experiences with feedback and revision (I recently posted about the problem with students viewing feedback on their writing as “negative”). But the comment also reveals the problem with grades trumping a student’s ability to focus on growth and engaging in an assignment once a grade is assigned.

For both my FYW and MAT students, making the transition to different expectations and different requirements for scholarly writing (specifically moving from MLA to APA) has (too) often resulted in antagonism and paralysis.

I am having some difficulty separating the source of why my students struggled this semester because I am suspicious that some of the challenge lies with the cumulative effect of Covid fatigue.

For example, my FYW students typically submit more than 90% of their writing assignments on time although I do not grade or deduct for late work. This semester, however, only 8 of 22 students submitted all essays fully and on time (although 21 of 22 did complete all work fully ultimately).

None the less, I am certain that a key problem for both my FYW and MAT students has been that their experiences with writing in school and with the writing process (or lack there of) were static (template- and rules-based) instead of developmental and conceptual.

For example, as I have noted before, students in my FYW often acknowledge that they were taught MLA in high school as a monolithic only way to cite that would continue through college. When I note that most of my students will never again use MLA, and will certainly be required to use discipline-specific citation style sheets among their college courses, they are often angry and frustrated.

While teaching my FYW students, I am preparing them for the demands of disciplinary writing and ultimately for writing as scholars in potentially any field once they declare a major; I also anticipate that several of my undergraduates will move to graduate degrees, where scholarly writing includes even greater demands.

I ask my FYW and MAT students to rethink how they integrate sources in their scholarly writing by moving them away from over-quoting (noting that textual analysis requires direct quoting, but many style sheet in several disciplines discourage quoting) and away from walking their reader through one source at a time (many FYW students admit this is how they have written all of their “research papers”) and toward synthesizing source material in sophisticated ways that create an original scholarly essay in their own voice and with own authority.

My writing-intensive courses are demanding, and some of the responses this semester have included very open frustration and even anger as well as some signs that those demands are beyond students’ capacity to engage fully and effectively in the process.

I have a few thoughts on why—beyond the recognition that Covid-fatigue is certainly part of the problem.

Some students expressed concerns that since I am an active, professional writer, I am asking them to perform as “writers” beyond what they can or even want to do. Here, I need to make a better case that we are in a writing-intensive course in college because they will have to perform as writer/scholars throughout undergraduate and graduate education.

The more difficult problem, one we do not acknowledge enough, is that 3-months of writing instruction is unlikely to be long enough for students to demonstrate what they have learned.

Once again, John Warner’s The Writer’s Practice was a hit with FYW students, and as Warner emphasizes, when anyone is learning to write, there is no finish line. As I have noted in previous semesters, students do hear and appreciate Warner’s message that learning to write is about progress, and not perfection. However, putting that to practice is extremely hard for students legitimately concerned about what grade they will receive in a course.

Finally, what I heard my FYW and MAT students say often is that they struggled to see the substance behind some of the concepts my courses stressed; students were trapped inside viewing many of the requirements and lessons as “just formatting”; therefore, I made a list connecting those requirements with the substance—hoping that in the coming semesters, their writing will eventually demonstrate the learning that some of their current work does not:

Key Concepts for Writing in College

1. Openings/introductions should be specific and compelling. Avoid overstatements and huge claims, and be sure to include a clear and specific focus/thesis (can be multiple sentences and/or questions you will answer).

2. Take care with your word choice/diction. Prefer specific and clear language. Make sure the diction/tone of your word choice matches the seriousness of your topic. Concrete and specific word choice is always preferred.

3. Your writing should have purposeful structure and organization. Use subheads to provide that structure and organization. and keep those subheads balanced (more than one paragraph and about equal in length).

4. Make fewer claims and always provides evidence for your claims; develop the evidence and explanations/elaborations. Any time your evidence is from a source, you must fully cite.

5. Focus on purposeful sentence and paragraph formation; length variety shows purpose.

6. Integrate sources into your writing in sophisticated ways, focusing on the content of the sources (write about the patterns found in your sources, and not the sources). Avoid using one source at a time, and recognize that one source is not proof your claim is true.

7. Create a compelling closing that does more than restate your opening. Recognize that the closing is after your reader has read your essay. Give the reader vivid and specific language, and emphasize what the reader should now understand better or do with the new knowledge/understanding. your closing is the last thing in your reader’s mind; make it count.

8. Edit and review your essay submissions for formatting and citation expectations (every discipline has different citation expectations; be sure to refer to a credible style guide). Run spelling/grammar check before submitting and never submit an essay with spelling/grammar alerts active on your document.

On the last class session of my FYW seminars, we discussed this list, and I emphasized that they should review each final version of their four essays within these parameters before submitting their final portfolio/exam.

Today is exam day, and I will soon find out what they can demonstrate.

Just as my students must remain grounded in the understanding that learning to write is a journey, I too must assign their grades recognizing they are on that journey—and for me too, teaching others to write is a journey.


[1] Checklist: Making the Transition from Writing in High School to Writing in College

Writing Process and Drafting

  • Writing a couple quick drafts the night before an essay is due is not drafting, and likely will not be effective in college (even if you received high grades in high school for doing this).
  • Drafting from an approved, direct thesis (common in high school) may be a less effective writing strategy than other drafting approaches, such as the following: (1) “vomit” drafting (free writing as much as you can to create text you can reorganize and revise) or (2) discovery drafting (writing with a general idea of your topic and focus, but allowing yourself to discover and evolve your topic and focus).
  • Planning for several days to draft is necessary, and establishing a routine for revising that commits to one revision focus at a time (diction and tone, paragraphing, etc.) is often effective.
  • Read and use as models published academic and scholarly essays along with public and creative nonfiction essays in order to increase your toolbox as a writer.

Essay Writing

  • A five-paragraph essay with a one-paragraph introduction (and direct thesis), three body paragraphs, and a one-paragraph conclusion that restates the introduction is inadequate in college; the form is simplistic (most topics have more than only 3 points) and guarantees you will under-develop your discussion.
  • Write to a clear audience (not your teacher or professor), recognizing that academic writing often has a well-informed audience and that a public audience can range from being poorly informed or misinformed to being highly experienced and knowledgeable.
  • Avoid overstatements, especially in the first sentences of the essay and in the last few sentences. Overstatements include “since the beginning of time” (or suggesting long periods of time such as “throughout history”), “many/most people argue/debate,” and “[topic x] is important [or unique or a hot topic].”
  • Your word choice (diction) creates the tone of your essay; many scholarly/academic topics are serious so take great care that your diction/tone matches the seriousness of your topic. The relationship between your tone to your topic impacts your credibility as a writer.
  • Always prefer specific, vivid, and concrete over vague or general; “anger” instead of “how he felt,” for example: “John was upset that he couldn’t control his anger” is more effective than “John was upset that he couldn’t control how he felt.”
  • Rethink the essay form and paragraphing not as a set number of sentences but as important and purposeful parts of engaging your reader/audience while establishing your credibility. Your essays should have a multiple-paragraph opening the engages and focuses your reader by being specific and vivid, several body paragraphs with purposeful paragraph lengths (sentence and paragraph length variety are effective), and a multiple-paragraph closing that leaves the reader with specific and vivid language that parallels the opening (framing) but doesn’t simply repeat your initial thoughts.
  • Learn to use the tools available in Word (or other word processors): formatting using menus (and not simply inserting spaces, returns, and tabs), running your essay through the grammar and spell check (be careful not to leave your essay with the colored underlining when submitting an assignment), and saving your text files purposefully (include your last name and assignment type in the file name) and in an organized way on your computer system (making sure you have a back-up process for all files).
  • Most academic essay writing is built from claims, evidence, and elaboration; however, the types of evidence required varies a great deal in writing among the many disciplines of the academy (history, sociology, economics, physics, etc.). For example, direct quotes are often necessary as evidence when writing a text-based analysis (examining a poem or an essay in philosophy), but many disciplines (social sciences and hard sciences) expect evidence that is data or paraphrasing/synthesis of concepts and conclusions from multiple sources at a time (synthesis). When writing a text analysis, quotes are necessary, but your own claims and elaboration should be the majority of the essay, and take great care to integrate quotes with your own words (avoid stand-alone sentences that are quotes only and be careful to limit block quoting).; writing about topics or making arguments should limit quoting.
  • Academic citation (MLA, APA, etc.) is different among the disciplines (you may not use MLA again after entering college, for example), and expectations for high-quality sources also vary among disciplines. Some fields such as literature and history require older sources, yet social (sociology, psychology, education) and hard (physics, biology, chemistry) sciences tend to prefer only peer-reviewed journal articles from within 5-10 years. Across most of academia, however, journal articles and peer-reviewed publications are preferred to books and public writing.
  • File formatting impacts your credibility as a writer; set your font preferences to one standard font and size (Times New Roman, 12 pt.) and maintain that formatting throughout a document (only using bold or italics as appropriate for subheads or emphasis), including headers/footers.
  • Always submit essays with vivid and specific titles and your name where required on the document itself.

When I think about final grades in a writing-intensive course, here are some guiding principles:

  • A work: Participating by choice in multiple drafts and conferences beyond the minimum requirements as well as revising and editing beyond responding only to feedback; essay form and content that is nuanced, sophisticated, and well developed (typically more narrow than broad); a high level demonstrated for selecting and incorporating source material in a wide variety of citation formats; submitting work as assigned and meeting due dates (except for illness, etc.); attending and participating in class-based discussion, lessons, and workshops; completing assigned and choice reading of course texts and mentor texts in ways that contribute to class discussions and original writing.
  • B work: Submitting drafts and attending conferences as detailed by the minimum requirements but attending primarily to feedback without revising/editing independently; essay form and content that is solid and distinct from high school writing (typically more narrow than broad); a basic college level demonstrated for selecting and incorporating source material in a wide variety of citation formats; submitting work as assigned and meeting most due dates; attending and participating in class-based discussion, lessons, and workshops; completing assigned and choice reading of texts and mentor texts in ways that contribute to class discussions and original writing.

Just in Time: Wonder Woman Historia: The Amazons

[See repost: Wonder Woman Historia: The Amazons…arrives just in time]

The oversized format and stunning cover by Phil Jimenez and Romulo Fajardo Jr. suggest something special from DC Black Label, but the black text-only first page signals Kelly Sue DeConnick’s Wonder Woman Historia: The Amazons has arrived just in time:

Wonder Woman Historia: The Amazons (2021-) #1 - Comics by comiXology
Interior preview page from WONDER WOMAN HISTORIA THE AMAZONS #1 (OF 3) CVR A PHIL JIMENEZ (MR)

Available December 1, 2021, Historia Book One on its first page speaks into a darkness begun in the waning days of the Trump administration, a ham-fisted attack on the 1619 Project that has escalated into state-level legislation by Republicans across the U.S. banning books and canceling the teaching of history.

The “Some say…” reply of “Some are liars, fabulists” can be read as a critique of the Trump-poisoned Right today. But the most powerful lines speak to the exact source of why conservatives in 2021 are seeking to control what children are taught and how, echoing the essence of Critical Race Theory and vilified historians such as Howard Zinn:

History, young one, is written by the victors. In the bitter battle between the Amazons and the Gods of Men…

The Amazons lost.

There is no objective version. Neither this one, nor that.

But this…this is our story.

Wonder Woman Historia: The Amazons (Book One)

The creative team of DeConnick (writer); Jimenez (artist); Hi-Fi, Arif Prianto, and Fajardo (colorists); and Clayton Cowles (letterer) remind me of J.H. Williams III and Kelly Thompson’s run on Black Widow—although in many ways, Historia proves to be dramatically unique.

Occasionally calling a work a feminist read on a topic can seem reductive, or insubstantial—how many feminist reads [1] has there been of Wonder Woman?—but in a world darkened by censorship and the looming threat of overturning women’s reproductive rights nearly 50 years after Roe v. Wade, a feminist manifesto is not just in time, but essential.

“For the Institutions of Men Care Not for the Weal of Women“: Just in Time?

After a beautifully rendered introduction of Goddesses, the narrator admits, “The subjugations and abuses of not-men by men are too numerous to catalog in a library…let alone a book.”

This powerful refrain not only sets the focus of Historia, but carries an eerie weight in a time of book censorship—books ripped from classrooms and libraries, school board members calling for book burnings—as well as the threat of of the State denying women reproductive rights, “the subjugations and abuses of not-men by men” and the women who do men’s bidding.

Next, an admission more sober: “For the institutions of men care not for the weal of women. You don’t have to be the Queen of Gods to recognize injustice.”

Book One moves from introduction to an exchange between Hera and Zeus, where Hera requests the elimination of not humankind but all men.

“The history of men is a chronicle of crimes against women,” Hera proclaims to protestations that history too includes “tales of love and beauty,” followed by:

“Herodotus 1.93. Every daughter of Lydia will work as a prostitute until she has raised sufficient money for a dowry and can secure a husband.”

Wonder Woman Historia: The Amazons (Book One)

To which, Aphrodite counters:

The indignity lies not in the commerce of love, goat…

…but in the irony of whoring yourself to many to earn the privilege of whoring yourself to one.

Wonder Woman Historia: The Amazons (Book One)

The arguments are an excellent dramatization of concepts such as justice as well as privilege. Hera, indignant, asks, “Do you mean to suggest that women have done something to deserve this station?” Zeus concedes, condescendingly, “You’ve made your point, girls. Women do suffer—historically and undeniably—at the hands of men. But their world is not justice.”

Finally, the main narrative of Book One focuses on childbirth and vividly portrays Hera’s protestations—in short, “Hell is a state of being,” and we can add for women.

An unwanted girl is birthed, an excessively bloody event confirming:

In every birth, there is risk and pain. This is true of creatures, ideas, and tragedies.

Mortal births are particularly gruesome. They enter the world unprotected, screaming, suited for inevitable suffering.

Wonder Woman Historia: The Amazons (Book One)

But the birth itself is not the only “pain”; Hippolyta is tasked with discarding the unwanted baby girl.

DC First Look: Wonder Woman Historia: The Amazons • AIPT

After leaving the baby in the river—”‘The Gods will decide, as they decide the fates of us all. They will choose wisely. Yes.'”—Hippolyta balks on that faith and runs until collapsing in hopes of saving the child.

This tale of the burden of women and the inescapable fate of women as self-sacrificing builds to her being saved by the Amazons, setting up Book Two in a dramatic final page:

Wonder Woman Historia: The Amazons review: Every page of DC's comic is epic  - Polygon

Historia is beautiful and compelling as another contribution to the long history of Wonder Woman, but this is a work that speaks to “not-men” and “men” in the U.S. during the final month of 2021. It is a call to confront the “the institutions of men [that] care not for the weal of women.”

Just in time?


[1] Thomas, P.L. (2018). Wonder Woman: Reading and teaching feminism with an Amazonian princess in an era of Jessica Jones. In S. Eckard (ed.), Comic connections: Reflecting on women in popular culture (pp. 21-37). New York, NY: Rowman and Littlefield.