My sister, Mary Alice Haug, was a wonderful teacher, partly in high school but mostly during her many years with the English Department at SDSU. She's a Democrat and pretty liberal, but I think even her more conservative students over the years -- and at SDSU there were many -- would tell you she treated them fairly and with respect, and didn't allow her personal political beliefs to slant or diminish the quality of her work or their standing in her classroom.
She's retired now, living with her husband, Ken, in Minneapolis, to be closer to their daughter, son-in-law and two grandchildren. These days, my sister has the time to do her own writing, rather than teaching someone else to write. She still reads relentlessly. Researches ravenously. And she also does some social-media commenting.
Speaking of which, she made a comment on my post below this one on Gov. Kristi Noem's apparently pathological -- or perhaps just hyperbolically political - rhetoric against the use of critical race theory to inform curriculums in South Dakota schools. I thought her comment was worth a post of its own. This one.
In her comment, she even includes some wise words from our mutual friend, former SDSU English prof Chuck Woodard.
So here it is, from my sister, and from Chuck:
"In teaching his Native American literature courses, Chuck Woodard told his students, ”You are not responsible FOR history, but you are responsible TO history.” That explains, in a nutshell, the necessity for The 1619 Project. It’s a powerful example of seeking historical truth that might spark a similar project on Native American history. If you haven’t listened to the podcast you have no authority to criticize or in the case of Governor Noem to dictate that teachers can not pursue grants to study any history that puts America in a bad light."
Well said, sis. My guess is that during your many years of teaching, you touched — accurately, respectfully, fairly — on some of the racial realities addressed in the 1619 Project. I’d guess most good teachers have. At least I hope so.
So Gov. Noem. Please consider what my sister said here. Please consider what Chuck said here. Please listen to the 1619 Project podcast by the New York Times. Please do more reading and thinking on critical race theory and see if the Tucker Carlson version really seems like the truth.
And, as a personal aside, governor, please use more care on this and other sensitive issues with your rhetoric and, especially, the executive orders and laws such rhetoric can produce. You're a smart woman. I know it. You’re much smarter than you often seem to be when you tweet snotty, Corey Lewandowski-style nonsense and toss rhetorical grenades willy nilly in the general direction of the 2024 primary.
You can be a thoughtful and perceptive woman. I've seen it and heard it, out on the reservations as you reached out to kids in danger of suicide and pushed for better IHS health care for tribal people. I saw it and heard it up in Meade County as you helped devastated ranchers recover after Winter Storm Atlas. And I saw it and heard it back in your northeast South Dakota farmhouse more than a decade ago in a conversation we had about the farm-accident death of your father and your decision to leave college and come home to take over for him.
I heard from you introspective, adult words and insightful perceptions about the difficulties and complexities of life, politics, and governance. What I saw and heard stuck with me, and I must believe that some part of that remains in you.
Yet in your overly simplified political actions and shallow, transparent rhetoric of today you rarely show any of that depth and thoughtful consideration and often veer dangerously close to Marjorie Taylor Greene and Mike Lindell territory.
And surely you don't want to end up living there, do you?