MINOT, N.D. — A teacher from Wahpeton, N.D., is on administrative leave after a classroom discussion about the death of George Floyd turned into a re-enactment of the man's tragic and unjust death.
The news went not just national, but international, featured even as far afield as The Daily Mail in Great Britain, thanks to the global public's unquenchable and ignoble desire to be offended.
But was this classroom discussion truly offensive?
"In a phone interview Friday morning, [Superintendent Rick] Jacobson said the incident was not part of the teacher's lesson plan, but arose spontaneously when students were talking about former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin's murder conviction in the death of George Floyd," David Olson reports. "The discussion quickly progressed to where at least one student began to physically demonstrate the student's understanding of how Floyd was handcuffed with his hands behind his back, at which point the teacher stopped the discussion, according to Jacobson."
Am I the only one thinking that doesn't sound so bad?
Some students — or, perhaps more accurately, their busybody parents — were offended. The social media outrage machine engaged. Now a teacher's life may well be upended because a classroom discussion about a trial at the center of a national debate about policing perhaps went a bit too far off-topic.
According to school officials, none of the students, who are fifth-graders, actually touched each other. Nobody's safety was in jeopardy. The classroom discussion was, at worst, perhaps a bit much for fifth-graders.
Is that really the stuff of international news? Who would want to be a teacher in this environment, where a challenging classroom discussion might result in you becoming an international scapegoat?
And then there's this: "As a district, we do not support or tolerate any activity that would make students uncomfortable in the learning environment," Jacobson wrote in a statement about the situation on the school district's website.
My friends, that is the problem.
We've lost our ability to have uncomfortable conversations.
Our nation is divided because it's not comfortable to talk to each other.
Everything from social media algorithms to political messaging to the business model of cable news is centered on confirming what certain audiences want to believe.
Even book publishers, including one with a deal to publish a book by former Vice President Mike Pence, are frequently under pressure, often from their own employees, to cancel controversial offerings from controversial authors.
We all say we want to live in a free society, but how many of us still understand that the price of admission to that sort of society is accepting that you're going to hear and see some things that make you uncomfortable and even angry?
Not many, it seems, judging by what's happening in Wahpeton.
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Rob Port, founder of SayAnythingBlog.com, is a Forum Communications commentator. Reach him on Twitter at @robport or via email at email@example.com.