Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Skowhegan Elementary Teacher: Many Teachers Want Mascot Retired, But Board Does Not Listen To Us

As the adult child of an alcoholic, I experience stress around listening to excuses. Ironically, for the last 25 years I've worked as a public school teacher and listening to excuses is part of the job. 

This condition of mine made it challenging to go door-to-door in Skowhegan last Sunday. 

My canvassing partner and I listened to several versions of stuff white people say when they are excusing their own failure to show up for racial justice. 

The gist of what they told us went something like this: I am in my [white privilege] comfort zone and I won't do anything that might take me out of that zone. 

Of course no one actually used the words white privilege. Its tremendous power rests on its pervasive yet invisible nature.

The person who articulated it best shared that they only leave online political comments under a disguised name. They gave the example that they are against Trump, but if they had a bumper sticker that was anti-Trump, someone would trash their car. This person also thought the mascot controversy was fairly new and was quite surprised to find that Native people have been requesting that it change since 1990. They characterized the eventual retirement of the "Indian" team name as inevitable, but they weren't sure if it would take another 5 or even 10 years. And they certainly weren't going to help hasten the process even though they freely admitted it would be the right thing to stop being offensive in the 21st century.

I don't see why this is a problem, is what several of the less politically aware folks told canvassers. Many others stated that they were of two minds, that they could see both sides, clearly feeling that this was the perfect excuse not to get involved.

We hope the mascot will have retired by spring, and we await the February 28 school board meeting with interest.

However, if the pretendians are still around come spring, then we'll canvass again. As we did last Sunday, we'll offer information on the local history of Native people, why the American Psychological Association found Native mascots harmful to all students, and copies of lovely posters reminding us that we are on indigenous land.

Summary of Door Notes Sheets
Skowhegan canvass Feb. 10, 2019

FOR CHANGE: 7 (39%)

  1. Support, concerned with how we get there
  2. Support, has high school kids
  3. Saw both side, no kids
  4. Yes!!!
  5. Yes!!!
  6. Thinks stay same, a middle school kid
  7. Didn’t open door, wants to keep mascot, gave public comment
  8. Hadn’t heard much, in support of change, not interested in being involved
  9. No opinion, no convo
  10. 50/50, went to the high school, receptive, took our handouts
  11. 50/50, thinks we should educate, we’re doing good work, husband’s school in Sanford changed name. Did not want to sign anything or take papers. Seemed a little defensive/cautious. Doesn’t think mascot was initially meant to upset anyone.
  12. Not down to talk
  13. Supportive / but attached to name. The longer we spoke the more he was convinced. “If we change this, we’ll have to change more.” Thought mascot was degrading but not name.
  14. Sympathetic, not willing to take action.
  15. Didn’t know much about the controversy, talked about pride, took historical info & Hope’s essay
  16. Haven’t given it much thought, don’t see why the controversy is “so ugly”
  17. Did not engage
  18. In favor of change, Skowhegan elementary school teacher, said many teachers want change but school board doesn’t listen to staff

I find #18 particularly compelling. MSAD 54 school board directors, are you listening?

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

An Infographic Worth A Thousand Words On Retiring The Skowhegan Pretendian Mascot

Glad to share this infographic presentation of events around retiring the Skowhegan "Indian" mascot created by Eden Dyer of Students for Democratic Socialism at Southern Maine Community College.

Dyer shared her work with these links to sources for her information:

If I get a snow day tomorrow I will report back on our door-to-door canvass in Skowhegan last Sunday. It was interesting, educational and rather depressing.