February 01, 2004
The continuing education of Cecile Dubois

Yesterday I got an email from Jackie D alerting me to the nonsense that Cecile Dubois is having to put up with at a her school for the crime of disagreeing with affirmative action, and I did a posting about it on Samizdata. Jackie has also written about this on her blog.

I'm not any sort of qualified or professional teacher, but surely encouraging or even tolerating mockery of an individual pupil by the rest of the class merely because of what that individual has said crosses some sort of line.

I agree with the Samizdata commenter who said that the teacher is not likely to change her opinions about affirmative action merely because of all this transatlantic hullabaloo, but that isn't the point. The point is that education is not just about learning things, but about learning how to learn things. And one of the ways you learn how to learn things is you learn how to argue about things. You do this by mustering factual evidence, by examining and criticising assumptions, by examining and criticising false deductions being made from these assumptions, and so on. You learn the truth about things by learning how to be reasonable about things. If you are a good teacher you do all this yourself, and thus set a good example to your pupils. As it was, Cecile was the one setting the example. I think this not because I happen to agree more with Cecile's opinion about affirmative action than with that of her teacher, but because Cecile seems to have been the one doing the rational arguing, while the teacher was using only ridicule and intellectual gang warfare.

Speaking of intellectual gang warfare I wish I hadn't called this teacher as a quote Grade A Bitch unquote. That was very unreasonable and impolite.

The comments at Jackie D's are particularly worth reading because they don't just blow off steam, the way I did at Samizdata, but also hint at what is going to be done about it all. Cecile and Cathy are "going over to the principal's house for a small party today …". I sincerely hope that all is settled reasonably satisfactorily and that Cathy is able to proceed with her studies at school without too much further grief.

As Jackie D says, Cecile impressed and charmed all of us who met her in London last December, and Cecile's various comments yesterday and today impressed me some more. Some fairly harsh things were said about the appearance of her blog, about the difficulty of reading it, and so forth and so on, by some other Samizdata commenters, things which under the cicumstances could have been phrased a whole lot more politely. This wasn't at all what I had in mind when I asked people to comment on Cecile's predicament in a way that was supportive and encouraging. I mean, you're in a fight with your teacher and they're calling you a racist, and then some guys on a faraway blog tell you that your blog needs a redesign and you need to get a grip on html and your text is all too jammed together, etc. etc.

That's the trouble with bad situations like this. Tempers rise (including mine I'm afraid), invective is exchanged, others perhaps feel that too much fuss is being made rather too fussily and fuss some more.

But now get this. Whatever Cecile may have thought about these impolite complaints about her blogging arrangements, all that she actually said in reply was: you're right guys, my blog could use some improvement along the lines you say.

Classy. Whatever seems to happen to Cecile, or to be said to her or about her, she just keeps right on learning.

On Samizdata I called her Cecile du Bois, following Jackie. I now suspect that the correct spelling may be Dubois, and will go with that from now on unless authoritatively instructed otherwise.

Meanwhile here is a picture of (L2R) Cathy S, Jackie D and Cecile D, which I took at the Samizdata blogger bash last December:


Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 03:12 PM
Category: BiasBlogging