At Least We Don't Have a Kook Like Marysville

There was an article a week ago in the PI about an argument among the Marysville School Board over e-mails sent by one member. It is so hard to believe that initially I thought the Onion got one thru.

A relatively new member of the Board, Michael Kundu (elected in November), had sent an e-mail to another Board member and the executive director of teaching and learning for Marysville, about the work of a psych professor at the University of Western Ontario as "evidence that certain ethnic groups possess biological advantages and disadvantages compared to others, in areas including brain sizes and intelligence levels."

The Board member, Michael Kundu, said in the e-mail:

"I think what is safe to draw from this is that there is a definitive factor played by racial genetics in intellectual achievement, but we, as a society, are striving to offset that foundation by increasing educational and social opportunities to 'offset' the racial achievement gap,"

Kundu wrote in the subject line "race and achievement (please circulate)."

He actually TOLD people to circulate the e-mail.

Naturally the NAACP and other groups were very upset. The head of the Snohomish county branch of the NAACP, Janice Greene, said:

Rushton "is a known white supremacist and that his pseudo-scientific theory has been effectively and consistently debunked by well regarded scientists."

The Board meeting where this was all aired went on for 4 1/2 hours as speaker after speaker came forward. (It did make me wonder if our School Board would allow that many speakers?) Many of the speakers talked about how expectations can affect minority achievement and how damaging this kind of "research" is.

How did Board members take this?

Board members Darci Becker and Cindy Erickson objected to the guest speakers' focus on race, with Erickson expressing concerns that students who didn't fall into certain categories could fall through the cracks, while Becker noted that her own child faces learning difficulties in spite of being white and economically comfortable.

"Diversity is not only about race," Becker said. "It feels like I'm being punished for being white."

Kundu, at the meeting, said,

...that he doesn't consider biology to be the only cause of the achievement gap, but even as he acknowledged Rushton's racism, he defended genetics as one of a number of possible influences, along with a student's family dynamics and relative economic prosperity.

"We don't know what's behind the achievement gap," Kundu said. "If we did, every school district would be making significant progress in correcting it. No one has the formula for it. A lot of people have elements of the formula, but this achievement gap has been around for decades. I'm saying almost precisely the same things as a lot of you."

But he left before the end of the meeting, accusing the Board president of "mischaracterizing" the e-mails and another Board member left, saying the president wasn't supporting Kendu. The president's reply:

"I was offended," Crenshaw said after reading the e-mail aloud. "I think it's racist. I saw it as my responsibility to speak up and let you know that people who are making decisions about your children could be this ignorant.

Holy mackerel! Now there's a Board with problems.


seattle citizen said…
Yikes. Good for the Board President for calling racism and calling it loudly.

One would hope that a recall vote on Kundu is already scheduled? Perhaps we can help our neighbors to the north by writing, protesting etc? That is SOOOO out of hand...
seattle citizen said…
This is rich, from the first paragraph of his inflammatory email (found here:

"One of the pitfalls of being a school director is that we are often the target of propaganda from a variety of non-credible sources; since our opinions often become reflected in policies adopted within our districts, it is important that we develop a judicious ability to make intelligent decisions about data that is presented to us as fact."

Turns out this guy wrote the email from his "seawolf" organization email, SeaWolf being some sort of marine environmental organization. He is also on the board of the Cascade Chapter of the Sierra Club.
seattle citizen said…
oops, I'm reading the thread I posted the link to, and don't see the place where he makes these inflammatory comments....more searching is in order
Charlie Mas said…
Should we be pleased and proud that our racists are more subtle and sophisticated than the ones in Marysville?

Our Language Arts standardized materials are very short on non-fiction, but The Mismeasure of Man by Stephen Jay Gould might actually be on the list.
Syd said…
What are you saying in that last comment Charlie?Are you saying the Mismeasure of Man is a good resource or no?
seattle said…
Are you serious Syd?
Kundu now says he shouldn't have used the word "definitive" about the research (although he seems to still believe it). Tribal leaders want him to resign but he says he won't. Look for a recall election.
Charlie Mas said…
Sorry I was unclear.

Yes, the Mismeasure of Man is a good selection and would make excellent reading for all minds capable of growth.

It was written for lay people, not scientists and the science may not have been precise, but the idea comes through loud and clear. It is, to a significant degree, a response to "The Bell Curve", a psuedo-scientific book that tried to make the case that Black people are somehow genetically less intelligent than White people. I would also recommend Guns, Germs and Steel for a sort of natural history of "civilization".
Syd said…
Oh thank goodness. I wasn't sure from the context. I think Stephen Jay Gould's books are a wonderful introduction to scientific method for young readers (or anyone really). The Mismeasure of Man is a good resource for countering these really simplistic arguments about race, gender, and intelligence.
Jet City mom said…
Love Stephen Gould- also Bill Bryson and recommend The Great Human Diasporas: The History of Diversity and Evolution by Luigi Luca Cavalli-Sforza for back history to Guns/Germs/Steel.
dan dempsey said…
Kook like Marysville .. eh?

No we have much more harmful kooks.

Good intentions are not enough and may in fact mask the kookiest of behaviors.

The continually growing math achievement gaps are hardly beyond control if instructional planning was rational but no.... We have kooks in Central Admin and sprinkled throughout UW CoE etc.

"Teachers have been very ill-served by an Education research community that trains and advises them based on hokum. Whole language and Discovery math are two examples. Meanwhile ed school training is sadly deficient in teaching elementary teachers math and science. This is an expected result from using unsound experimental methods to determine what works and for which groups."

"The main beef I have with the recent book by Ravitch is she totally misses the role played by the broken Ed Research community. I think this is probably because she is accustomed to think the Ed Research folks actually know how to do research. Given her background there is no reason for her to think otherwise. It is all just one huge mess, compounded by teachers, administrators and foundations unknowingly taking junk research and expecting it to work. The Gates foundation did this in spades with their small high schools initiative."

Thanks to David A. Orbits for the above.
Here is Dave's Seattle Math Report


In regard to effective efficient instructional techniques:
Visible Learning, Project Follow Through, NMAP give clear indications of what works and the SPS does something entirely different. Now Seattle has one really harmful set of KOOKS.

Marysville is lucky by comparison if they only have a few.
dan dempsey said…

About that possible Marysville recall, look for at least one incidence of misfeasance.

Without citing at least one incidence of misfeasance, or one of malfeasance, or at least two violations of oath of office it is not possible to get a recall petition through the elections office and past a judge.

Believe me I have been checking and NOT for Marysville.

seattle citizen said…
Dan, Public opinion can have as much sway as an actual recall petition. If this guy were held to the flame, publicly, for long enough, surely he might take a hint and hit the road on his own?
Dan, I'm thinking their oath of office (or somewhere in the description of the job) it says something about discrimination or something to that effect. I would think his fellow board members would help him see how he needs to leave.
kprugman said…
Marysville also teaches intelligent design. These idiots are worse than Pagans. They're not educators, they are butchers and they're moral hypocrisy is all over the place up there.
dan dempsey said…
OK this one is of interest from Bethel SD near Tacoma.
Vice President of School Board is stripped of vice-presidency for criticizing the Bethel Superintendent.
Courthouse News Service
Tuesday, June 15, 2010

School Board Member Loses Retaliation Claims


(CN) - The First Amendment does not protect a school board member from being stripped of his vice presidency for criticizing the district superintendent, the 9th Circuit ruled, because it "does not ... immunize him from the political fallout of what he says."

Members of the Bethel District School Board voted to remove Ken Blair as vice president "because of his relentless criticism of the school district's superintendent," the ruling states.

Blair sued, claiming he was retaliated against for exercising his First Amendment rights to free speech and petition.

A federal judge ruled against him, concluding that the board's action did not prevent him from continuing to speak out, vote his conscience or serve his constituents as a board member.

On appeal, a three-judge panel in Seattle agreed.

"Disagreement is endemic to politics, and naturally plays out in how votes are cast," wrote U.S. District Judge Franklin Burgess, who participated in the panel ruling.

"[T]he First Amendment doesn't shield public figures from the give-and-take of the political process."
Judge Franklin Burgess
google Frank Burgess died recently at age 75.

Totally awesome dude ... Gonzaga grad ... led nation in scoring basketball in 1960-61

Wonderful story of persistence to become a lawyer and Judge

Ken Blair :
"because of his relentless criticism of the school district's superintendent,"

---- Will Ken come to Seattle and train our board members?

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