I’m going to write about something I really don’t want to; it’s somewhat outside of the topics we typically cover here at OA. But sometimes, when you see something that’s wrong, you just have to speak up. And what I’ve seen out of Boys State in the last 24 hours has left me stunned and almost speechless (almost), especially as an Arkansas parent.
We wrote earlier this week about the published list of speakers from Arkansas Boys State. It included two far-left speakers, including VP Parker, who is the Director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion at Arkansas Children’s Hospital.
When I wrote that story, there was definitely a part of me that thought, “This looks bad. And it sounds inappropriate. But surely it can’t be as bad as it looks on paper. Maybe Parker will tone down his divisiveness for this young audience.”
But, having watched the video, I can say it was worse than I expected.
Now, before you keep reading, I just want to assure you that there is no indoctrination happening in Arkansas. None. Nada. Zilch.
Indoctrination has been so far removed from our state that the word has even been taken out of local dictionaries. Our state’s educational institutions only talk about good things, no bad things.
This must be true because you and I have been assured repeatedly that this is the case, including a few hundred times on Twitter this week.
So remember that absolutely no indoctrination occurred whatsoever at Boys State – none at all. It’s not even up for discussion. There was none, because a few Republicans also spoke. And therefore, nothing bad at all could’ve been said, I have been promised.
So please keep that in mind — there was no indoctrination at Boys State this week.
Nothing divisive and nothing any parent would not want their kids to be subjected to without their knowledge. It’s not even possible.
Now, what did happen at Boys State this week?
Well, on Wednesday, attendees — high school kids — were subjected to a session called “Inclusive Leadership 101,” led by Mr. Parker.
You can watch it in its entirety here, starting at the 6 minute mark.
While I want to remind you that there was absolutely no indoctrination that occurred, there were some…notable things that stood out. And some things that I as an Arkansas parent, in all seriousness, find highly concerning.
At one point early on in his remarks, Parker quickly shows a sentence on the screen – for about 9 seconds – and asks selected participants to “count the Fs” in the slide he had shown them.
Then, he goes on a tirade about how, drawing some strange moral equivalence between “counting the Fs” and serious matters like religion and interracial marriage.
According to Parker’s optical illusion exercise, if kids can’t “count the Fs,” how can they possibly make judgments about things like interracial dating, religion, and same-sex love?
After all, as Parker declares, they “can’t count Fs!”
This is fascinating, given that the Left has spent much of the last century screaming at conservatives about the “separation of church and state” and the importance of keeping “indoctrination” out of schools. I am now learning that indoctrination is "okay" so long as it’s sowing division and liberal thought — although, as I've been told, there is no indoctrination occurring in this performance.
As you can hear in the full video, Parker also instructed the audience to respond “There it is” every time he says “Whoomp!,” in an apparent effort to generate psychological agreement (akin to a pastor asking for “amens” from his congregants).
According to Parker, he once went shopping for Christmas cards (hold up, can we still say “Christmas”?) and the only cards he could find that had “people like him” on them were significantly more expensive than the other cards, which presumably had white people on them:
We can all believe Parker actually had this experience while also pointing out that, well, there are lots of factors that affect the price of different greeting cards.
Parker did not mention any of these; that actually would’ve been a helpful economics lesson befitting for these impressionable kids.
Instead, he gave kids the impression that the only factor affecting the price of these Christmas cards was the color of the skin of the people on the cards. Not only is this almost certainly untrue, but it’s a way to drive a wedge in between the kids in the room rather than an effort to build unity.
At one point, Parker wandered into the crowd and singled out one of the students. Still upset about his Christmas card experience, Parker lets the audience know how different he and this young man are.
According to Parker, it’s very upsetting that some people in the room are “living a life that you don’t even understand their experiences, because you don’t live the same life they live.”
Of course, as far as I’m aware, no one on earth – regardless of age, gender, skin color, or other variables – lives the same life as anyone else because, well, we are all different people. I suppose it’s a defect of human nature.
And of course Parker had already told the group he was able to purchase cards that “looked like him”; he just (allegedly) had to pay more for them.
But once again, Parker chooses to zoom in on differences between the people in the room, with no mention of commonality or shared purpose. It’s all about sowing division and pointing out differences.
Most offensively, in one of his rants about diversity, Parker suggests attendees should be more understanding about the use of the ‘N’ word in music because, well, some people come from “different lived experiences.”
I’m not sure what the takeaway is supposed to be from this part of his session, but I've spent several hours contemplating it and I've yet to think of a scenario in which the use of this despicable word would ever be appropriate, regardless of “lived experiences" – or why this is anywhere near a suitable topic of discussion with school-aged kids.
Again, I’m sure Mr. Parker is a fine person. But it remains unclear to me what value “Diversity, Equity and Inclusion” training is bringing to the patrons of Arkansas Children’s Hospital. After watching the videos, it’s also unclear what value his remarks brought to the young men at Boys State.
(Also, can we even call it “Boys” State anymore? Isn’t that “gendered” language offensive? Perhaps the leaders of Boys State can discuss this at their next leadership meeting. )
Matters of race, religion, and sexuality are important subjects that should be seriously discussed – but not from an ideological viewpoint that seeks to create more division around these sensitive subjects. People are individuals, not monoliths. Putting people into certain categories or classes is the literal opposite of tolerance.
These subjects should be handled within homes and families, not crammed into the impressionable minds of Arkansas youth through a civics program like Boys State – especially not without having any counterviews presented.
I don’t dismiss Parker’s personal experiences or any discrimination he may have faced in his life. I also don’t seek to silence him or suggest that he’s not entitled to his own opinions. But I do find his comments to be highly provocative, likely exaggerated, and inappropriate for this audience. As an Arkansas parent, I can assure you that, had my son been in attendance, there would be phones ringing off the hook right now.
I stated at the beginning of this article that we typically don’t cover topics like this at OA. But at the same time, this type of division is in fact a generational problem of its own, one OA is on a quest to solve. My true hope and vision for this great state is very similar to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s:
Those are the values I’m teaching my kids; that’s how I was raised. Those values – loving our neighbors, helping those in need, and finding value in all human life, regardless of background or status – are true Arkansas values.
And I wish the folks at Boys State had taken steps to ensure these true Arkansas values were shared with their attendees. I hope in the future they will work to develop their program to be one that emphasizes community, unity, and integrity, not divisiveness that focuses on our differences.
If Boys State truly seeks to create good citizens from its attendees, the doctrine of DEI from Mr. Parker flies in the face of that goal.