The Women of Anderson County Deserve Better

I received a letter from Anderson County teacher, Rebecca Potter. It reads as follows:

On August 18, Ben Carlson of The Anderson News published an Opinion Editorial titled “Getting to the bottom of what children are being taught” which included an open records request for curriculum from Anderson County Schools (ACS). He was hunting for Critical Race Theory (CRT) material. 

Two days later, he published the school district’s response on his newspaper’s Facebook page and told the community to “do their own research,” using our school system in an attempt to proliferate his own political beliefs. He then blocked many who disagreed with him — including several teachers who tried to express their concern — from commenting on the newspaper’s Facebook post. This is censorship.

Mr. Carlson misrepresented what we teach, erroneously tying CRT to social emotional learning (SEL), which has been around for decades. 

Teaching our students to be kind to everyone in the classroom, regardless of race or gender, is hardly CRT.

We believe every student has value. We do not tolerate racism in the classroom. We teach the truth of history, science, literature, and humanities. We teach our students how to think, not what to think. 

Parents can see what we are teaching. From preschool to high school, assignments and lessons are available to parents. We use technology such as Google Classroom, Infinite Campus, and teacher websites to share information with parents. We make ourselves available to parents through phone calls, emails, and meetings. We encourage our parents to be involved. Many of us are parents ourselves with our own children in ACS.

To our ACS Parents: It is an honor to work with your children in the classroom every day.

To Mr. Carlson: If you want to “get to the bottom of what children are being taught,” as you wrote in your headline, why didn’t you ask teachers? 

###

According to education.ky.gov, 77.59% of Kentucky public school teachers are women. There are approximately 200 teachers who work for ACS. Statistically, the majority of ACS teachers are women. 

In the same August 18 edition, Mr. Carlson again seemed to address the women of Anderson County when he wrote of his CRT allegations in his Opinion column, “I’m sure the handful of people in this county who fancy themselves the local version of the Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez-led “Squad” will bristle mightily …” and “I’m mindful, too, of the local Squad and it’s [sic] acolytes …”

Who is this “local Squad and its acolytes?” Does he have a list? Who are they? And why does he connect them to New York Rep. Ocasio-Cortez, a woman who, last I checked, does not represent Kentucky?

If you read The Anderson News, it seems there is a woman, or women, targeted almost weekly. If it is not our woman school superintendent, it is a local woman doctor, a former woman county attorney, a former-former woman county attorney, one of the two women magistrates, a woman school board member, etc… 

I do not know Rebecca Potter personally, but I understand her plight. Until recently, I had never had a conversation with Magistrate Meredith Lewis, but I have often joked (in a frustrated, not funny, way) to my husband after Fiscal Court meetings that Lewis must be the only magistrate because she is the only one who gets constant newspaper coverage.

A journalist’s job is to report facts and to hold those in power accountable. Men far outnumber women on our combined Fiscal Court, Board of Zoning, Planning Commission, and School Board, so why is it only the women who draw Mr. Carlson’s scrutiny?

I will posit Mr. Carlson does throw the occasional bone to a female voice, but they lean to women who agree with him ideologically. For example, why publish two, front-page articles about the anti-mask occupational therapist and outright dismiss the view of a pro-mask woman doctor? Could it be because Mr. Carlson personally does not believe we should be wearing masks to prevent the spread of Covid-19, and he is using the therapist to make his argument? 

For more than a year and a half, other than running ads by the Health Department, The Anderson News has not encouraged citizens to wear masks to protect the vulnerable, nor to get a Covid-19 vaccine. Or, as he derisively calls the vaccine, “the jab.” Why?

Unlike most newspapers — local, regional, and national — Mr. Carlson has yet to publish stories of Anderson County families who have lost loved ones to Covid-19. There have been no articles about long-haulers who continue to suffer and could use community support. The Health Department lists 53 dead due to Covid-19, but we have yet to see Covid-19 listed in our newspaper as anyone’s cause of death. Why?

Which brings me to the front page of last week’s paper with the headline, “Magistrate’s allegations fall flat.”

This is misleading. It is Mr. Carlson’s opinion that the allegations fell flat, not fact. Mr. Wiedo received a legal opinion. In a court case, facts are always in dispute and are determined by a jury, i.e., the people of the community.

In the October 27 issue of The Anderson News, I asked 3 questions, one of which was: Why were two professional women with decades of experience — on a lawyer, one a doctor — not contacted for comment before publishing negative articles about them?

I await answers to these questions. The public awaits answers to these questions.

These are the big stories, but there are small ones, too. The Anderson News recently pointed out that former county attorney Tiffany Azzinaro had changed her registration to Republican. There are men in this county — current elected officials, even — who have changed their party registration. Why are the men not similarly reported?

I was talking about all of this with an elderly man in town, a man born and raised here, and he said to me, “These old boys have had their way a long, long time, and they don’t want no women beside ’em, much less in front of ’em. They want women to stay right back here,” he waved his arm behind his back, “out of their way, that’s what they want.”

When I asked ACS teacher Rebecca Potter why she sent her letter to me and not to The Anderson News, she replied, “Because I was fairly sure it would be a waste of my time. I doubted it would be published or taken seriously.”

The women of Anderson County — and the 23,000 residents of Anderson County — deserve to be taken seriously.