"Fake News!!!!!! #######" --- Makes you cringe, right?
When someone says this phrase, seriously, I have to admit I can never take that person at face value again. To me it's indicative of someone who has bought into manufactured outrage. A puppet. A parrot.
That may be a harsh take, but there it is. It's a phrase that tells me everything I need to know about you: you haven't done any research that would allow you to contribute anything to the conversation other than shitting out a buzz phrase rooted in creating a sense of distrust due to the unease of what's being said. You see, it doesn't actually invalidate the information, nor offer any counterpoints. It's an empty phrase that betrays those who squawk it by revealing they have no cards with which to deal.
I bring this up because recently, a woman who plans on running for school board this November, asserted I created fake news after I shared a post relaying information regarding the "Night" situation we've been discussing on my page and elsewhere. I'd like to take a moment to address the accusation, as I spend a lot of time verifying information to the best of my ability before I share it.
You see, if you've been around my page for a while, you might recall the "vaccine post heard 'round the Conejo." Two years ago I shared a story from an anti-vaxxer on my page. I didn't thoroughly vet the source. It was early in the morning. I was about to dive into a full day of interviews, hadn't yet had my coffee, and this story, which was going viral, popped up in my newsfeed from a mom group I was in at the time. I half-read it, thought: "that's a sad story," and I, without little thought, shared it on my page.
Hours later, I would open my Facebook up to a flurry of messages from friends sharing utter disbelief for my betrayal of the vax community. How dare I share this story! People listen to me, I was told. I needed to be a better "news source" I was told. It went on and on and on. It was overwhelming and I wasn't prepared for the backlash. I tried to save face, poorly. I should have just admitted my mistake. Some who I had considered friends went on to bash me on their personal pages and in secret groups. All of this was over a half-blind, poorly thought-out share. I deactivated my page briefly, and then fully for a week after reading a slew of truly horrible things being written about me from those who were singing my praises in the minutes before the share.
And so, what that taught me was, I do have a responsibility in taking accountability for what I share. I do have a responsibility to know the source or sources, to ask the questions, and to do my best to be as transparent as possible with information, and also to make sure the information is accurate, as far as I can deduce. And since that time, I'd say I'm quite confident in the posts I write, the research I perform, and ultimately what I put out on my page for consumption. And I always very directly state if I've been wrong if new information is presented. It keeps me accountable.
You may disagree with every opinion I have. That's ok. You can vehemently be opposed to how I live my life and my takes on current issues, both locally and nationally, but, when you wipe all of that away, the facts will still remain.
Now, regarding "Night" and what is and isn't true. I don't think anyone who wasn't in the articulation committee will ever really know without some level of uncertainty. Certain teachers have chosen not to comment, while other teachers have doubled down on what was said at that meeting regarding a teacher stating they would not teach "Night" due to multiple opt-out requests they had received. I believe the teachers and individuals within the district that I spoke to. I believe they are confident in the information they were relayed. I think it's unfortunate that perhaps due to timing, a change of heart (or a persuasion of heart), that by the time NCAC published their first release, followed by their second corrected release, the information, at that time was no longer accurate. I believe that because of this, the district was able to put out a statement that wasn't false, but also didn't accurately capture the entire incident. I understand the district's take. I also wish there was more transparency. The important thing is that the book is being taught, and that the district did not, and has not pulled the book from curriculum.
You may be wondering why I pursue these incidents with the persistence I do. I am raising two girls here in the Conejo Valley, who as of right now, I plan on having receive their education in the CVUSD. I believe that actions and policies our board makes now will have a heavy effect on how the quality of our district's public education is perceived, the funding we will receive (when connected to the amount of students attending school within the district), and ultimately, a long-term effect on the overall quality of education my daughters will receive.
Literature censorship, whether it be soft or hard, in any way, is something I will always speak out against, at every opportunity. I am the person I am today because of the books I've read... but more importantly, the time I took listening to others' stories and childhoods and experiences... none of which I was introduced to or exposed to while growing up here in my safe, white, middle-class, conservative, republican bubble. I have no complaints but one about my childhood. It was idyllic in every way except the absence of exposure to diversity... something I learned much later in life. And it was a hard lesson to learn.
I can't help but wonder how our future generations would be benefited by being exposed to more literature that reflects real accounts and real stories from those have have had different experiences and upbringings. Don't get me wrong, I love the classics. "The Count of Monte Cristo" was one of my favorite books in high school. But you know the one that resonated with me the most? "Catcher in the Rye." Sure, it's still about a white guy, but, it was the way in which the story was told... this window into someone else's experiences, thoughts and reactions in a raw way, that left an impact. Imagine if we valued more of these contributions, both fiction and non-fiction into our curriculum. Most won't have the opportunity I had, to travel throughout the country for a decade, learning about all different types of people and being forced to listen... to really listen. This is where literature is absolutely instrumental in helping shape and guide our future generations in embracing other cultures and lifestyles. This is how, for many, they will learn that not everyone has had the same opportunities, experiences, or hardships as them. It's the first step in creating a bridge toward unifying people under the common understanding that we're all different and we all have something valuable to offer.
So, I will continue to comment about it. I will continue to ask questions. If they're the wrong ones, then guide me toward the right ones. I am not too prideful to stand down or re-examine my opinions when presented with reasonable counterpoints and/or information.
But don't, for the sake of your own desperate agenda, suggest I create or foster "fake news" to further a point. That in and of itself would be the biggest disservice I could do to myself, and the credibility of my page, which I take very seriously. And I imagine you must as well, since you read it.