Leonard Kaplan, a University of Wisconsin-Madison law professor under attack for comments he made about the Hmong, defended himself in a detailed letter to his dean Monday, saying the allegations against him "do not correctly reflect the statements I did make or my purpose in making them."...Read the whole thing. It's an excellent account.
The controversy stems from a Feb. 15 class on legal process attended by about 15 students.
[Names deleted], who were in the class, and [name deleted], who was not, filed a complaint with Kenneth Davis, the dean of the law school, accusing Kaplan of creating "a racially hostile learning environment by promoting racial stereotypes and misinformation about the Hmong community, their cultural practices and their history."...
Kaplan said he was discussing how governments fail to respond to poverty and the challenges of a multicultural society. He made the case that the difficulties many Hmong encountered upon their arrival in this country were aggravated by the government's failure to accommodate them....
He said he referred to Hmong men as "warriors" to express the status they held in Southeast Asia, not to suggest any inherent violent tendencies.
"I noted that many of the first generation of Hmong men died prematurely and that a possible explanation is that some Hmong suffered from a loss of meaning as a result of their changed status in the U.S."
"I never said, and I never implied, that Hmong women were better off with Hmong men dead," Kaplan said.
And here is an opinion piece published in the MJS, written by Marc Kornblatt, a Madison resident (who wrote this before the Kaplan response came out):
The controversy swirling around a University of Wisconsin-Madison professor and his Hmong students makes me think of the new TV show "Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader?" If someone had managed to record the professor's class, the producers could play the video on their program and a contestant could respond to the following:Teachers -- and administrators -- need to demand that students think. This is an excellent opinion piece, but I do want to take one step back from what Kornblatt says, because I wince at the use of the word "smart" here. Much as I love pop culture references, I don't think the problem is that our students aren't smart.
What did the professor say? What was the professor's point? What does the professor believe? You have until the next commercial to answer.
Forgive me if I hurt anyone's feelings, but I'm trying to make a point about interpretation and analysis. Neither a lawyer nor a psychologist, but a former journalist who now teaches fifth grade, I work at a Madison school where as many as 70% of the students are poor and the majority are of color....
To form an intelligent opinion, let alone pass judgment, one needs to hear all sides. That's what I tell my fifth-graders....
That's because many people with more money who don't look or talk like you assume you're ignorant, lazy and/or dangerous. So you have to work hard to break the stereotypes to succeed. But you still might not make it because our country's playing field for whites and people of color is not level.
Do I believe the stereotypes? No. Do I talk about them and teach my students how to analyze them? That's my job.
It's tough stuff for a fifth-grader, but so far no one has complained to me. (And believe me, my students know how to complain.) None of their parents has taken me to task yet, either, but someday one might. I can imagine a child misinterpreting me and telling his or her parents that I'm a racist.
The problem lies with those who purport to be teachers who hear that students are unhappy and respond to those feelings instead of demanding that students observe clearly and analyze a situation accurately and with a proper concern for the truth. The question isn't are the students smart, but do the teachers teach.
NOTE: I've deleted the student names that originally appeared here. I didn't like using the students' names, and only had them because they were in the newspaper article I was commenting on. Obviously, the names are still available in the linked newspaper articles.